Thursday, 23 May 2013

Apple Blossom


Today's post is just a quick one, here is my apple tree in its full glory.

Notice Buzz in the corner, he was either telling me that there was a baby starling in the tree or he thinks the flowers are pretty tooooo.

Unfortunately, too cold for the bees to visit today, on Sunday when it was warm the honey bees came for tea so hopefully, they will have pollinated the flowers so I will get apples.  Last year, only 3 apples due to the cold weather when the flowers were out and the bees were tucked up in their hives.

If you want your tree to be covered in blossom, summer prune it in late June.  Look at all this year's new growth, cut off 2/3 of each stem of new growth just above a bud, this is called spur pruning, it encourages the tree to  put all its resources into producing side (spur shoots) which is where next years blossom grows.  If you don't  spur prune, new shoots just keep growing long and leggy and hardly produce any blossom bearing side shoots, then the next year if they do produce any apples (you might get the odd one), they bend the long whippy branches down and they can break off.

Hope it warms up soon, the bees need all the help they can get.


Sunday, 12 May 2013

Essex Miniature Sewing Machine


 I was at an Auction a little while ago and came across this little beauty and thought it would do for a dinky machine to take away in our motorhome when we go on holiday, I had visions of doing small patchwork projects.  It doesn't take up much room and more importantly, it doesn't weigh very much.  My Singer Featherweight is small but needs to travel in its box to protect the lovely paintwork from chips which means that there is no-where in the motorhome to store it so I thought that this little beauty was the answer so put a bid on it and won it.  Yippee I thought, not knowing anything about these machines, thought it was ideal.

Here it is alongside the Featherweight. Its slightly smaller but now I have them both together there isn't much in it.  This Featherweight was made in 1957 but the design is much older than that.  This is Essex is the Mark II version which went into production the same year so they are the same age but miles apart in design.

I had to search the internet to find the instructions on how to thread and use it.  This is when I found the technical hitch in my plan.  It's a chain stitch machine, which means that if you don't finish the end stitch properly, all your stitching can pull out very easily which also means, that you can't cut over the stitching when you square up your blocks like you can with stitching sewn by a conventional lockstitch machine like the Featherweight so it is useless for quilting.  So its it now decorating my sewing room looking pretty.  I really must do more research before bidding!

If you would like information and instructions on this machine, here is the link

For those who don't know what a Singer Featherweight looks like, here's mine


Sunday, 5 May 2013

How to catch lily beetle


Well, cos the weather has been good I have been gardening non stop, including my own garden so today's post is a gardening one, just for  a change.

I love lillies, I mainly grow them in pots at the front of the house so that their scent is around the front door but have a few in the back garden.  Last year the ones in the back garden got lily beetle, for those of you who don't know what they look like, here's a picture.

Red lily beetle

In all my gardening books, they tell you to pick them off and dispose of them (they mean squish).  What the books don't tell you is that they are devious little gits.  Being red they are so easy to spot, they sit quietly on your lillies for all to see, they are telling the birds with their red colour to leave them alone cos they probably taste horrible.  But, and there is a but, as soon as you touch the plant they drop like stones belly up in the soil, their   bellies are the same colour as the soil so are impossible to see even with my glasses on!  So to catch the little blighters make sure that you put a hand below it before you attempt to get hold of it with the other, this way if it drops before you get it, it falls into the hand below.  There was a programme about them on the telly and the expert said that they also have an alarm call which warns the other beetles so they all drop at the same time.  They over winter in the soil and emerge when the weather get warmer so now is the time to be on the hunt for them.  When their grubs hatch on the plant they are covered in a brown slime so they look like a messy bird poo, make sure that you remove (wear gloves) these as well otherwise you will have no lillies left, between the grubs and the beetles.  On the plus side, they don't move around much so once the hand is below them, they are easy to catch, they are extremely red so easy to spot (unless you are colourblind).  I haven't got a clue how they got in my garden, I have been growing lillies for years without any problem, none of my immediate neighbours have lillies, I presume they fly but haven't seen them doing it.

Years ago, I taught Buzz to sniff out slugs and snails for me so in the summer months when its dark we go out on slug hunts. He is really good, when he sniffs one out, he stares at it until I get it and then hunts for the next one.  He also finds other creatures for me, frogs, toads, hedgehogs and once even a ferret that had its head stuck in the fence.  Buzz never touches them, just lets me know they are there by staring at them and then looking at me until I tell him he's a good boy and make a fuss.  The lily beetles are so tiny, I don't think that this will work for them!

I haven't got a photo of Buzz finding a snail for me but I do have one when he "found" next doors pig, it was at the other side of the fence, Buzz is fascinated by it

Happy hunting