Bali hut temporarily secured

26 06 2012

The insurance assessor/builder came out today to assess the damage from the storm two weeks ago. I was particularly concerned about the instability of the Bali hut, especially as the forecast for today was for another front of 125 km/h winds (later revised down to gale force…). He was equally concerned about its safety — he said it could be saved as long as it didn’t fall over and got straight on to his carpenter guys to come out and stabilise it. While we were standing near it and the wind was whipping around, that entire structure moved in about a 20 degree arc — 10 degrees one way and 10 degrees in the opposite direction. Scary stuff!

A structural engineer still has to come out and assess its condition and report back to the insurance company etc., but at least the guys got the stakes and support beams in this afternoon before the worst of the weather hit. It’s not pretty, but at least it’s a lot safer than it was. And it’s much less likely to do any further damage as a result of falling over. The builder reckons it should be able to be saved, but we have to wait for the structural engineer to give his assessment.

Bali hut temporarily secured

Bali hut temporarily secured


Community Quilts 1 and 2

26 06 2012

After a lot of haranguing (in a good way!) over the years from a quilting friend of mine, I’ve finally joined WAQA (West Australian Quilters Association) and have volunteered to quilt some community quilt tops made by other members. These quilts will all go to various charities and organisations, such as the Royal Flying Doctor Service, children’s hospitals, emergency relief, etc. My role is to sandwich the (supplied) finished top with batting and backing fabric (also supplied by WAQA), do the quilting, then attach the (supplied) binding and label.

I’ve now completed quilting my first two community quilts – one last weekend and one this weekend. Both were quite large quilts (large lap or single bed quilts), and each took about a day to quilt and bind.

With the first quilt I did something different – I quilted from the back, using the yellow feature thread in the bobbin (rayon) and the bobbin thread (Deco-Bob) in the top. I’ve done that before with my sewing machine, but not with Bee, my Handi Quilter Sweet Sixteen. I had a hard time trying to decide how to quilt this quilt, until I hit upon the idea of following the flower motifs on the backing fabric. I quite like how it turned out! And quilting ‘upside down’ wasn’t a problem.

Quilt 1 - backing

Quilt 1 – back

Quilt 1 - front

Quilt 1 – front

With the second quilt, I also had some difficulty deciding how to quilt it, then I decided on a ‘cathedral windows’ look around each square and flames in the borders. I didn’t use any rulers or markings – it was all free motion, including the stitch in the ditch, on Bee. I was pleased that I got reasonably even (but definitely not perfect!) arcs without using a ruler. I used the same thread for the main top and the border — a variegated Superior Rainbows thread (colour 845) in pinks, oranges, and purples, and a taupe Deco-Bob thread in the bobbin.

Quilt 2 - front, showing border

Quilt 2 – front, showing border

Quilt 2 - back, showing border

Quilt 2 – back, showing border

My initial set of quilt tops was six — so four more to go in this batch! I must say that it’s great practice for both the stitching side of it, and for deciding what quilt motifs to use.

Our magnificent Tuart tree is now gone

19 06 2012

Our magnificent Tuart tree was a casualty of the storms last weekend. Three huge limbs snapped off like matchsticks. I got hold of the tree guys who had trimmed this tree earlier this year (Kings Tree Care) to arrange for them to come and saw, chip/mulch the fallen branches. I sent photos of the remains of the tree to the arborist but he said that it was unlikely that they’d be able to save it. So with great reluctance I decided to get them to cut it down to the stump. Such a shame. This tree was likely decades old, perhaps even 100 years or so old, maybe more.

Here are photos of the tree before it was pruned in February 2012, after pruning, and then a few photos of its last remaining minutes on this earth.

Tuart tree before its trim

Tuart tree before its trim

Tuart tree after its trim

Tuart tree after its trim

Tuart tree after the storm

Tuart tree after the storm

Tuart tree nearly gone

Tuart tree nearly gone

Just a stump

Just a stump

A few days later, the stump grinder guy turned up and ground out the stump.

Stump ground out

Stump ground out

Just a gaping hole where the tree used to be

A gaping hole where the tree used to be

Storm hell

16 06 2012

A week ago, life was just tonking along as usual. Saturday had arrived and despite it being winter, it was fine and sunny with enough wind to get the laundry dry. Sunday was looking similar. I nearly suggested to my husband that if the weather was good on Sunday, we should go for a drive, perhaps to have lunch at a local brewery or winery and enjoy the cooler weather and the green countryside.

Well, Sunday came and the weather didn’t look so good and the forecast wasn’t good either. As the day wore on, the forecast was for stronger and stronger winds, the sky got gloomier, the rain squalls started, and by early afternoon a pretty big storm had set in. I was in my sewing room watching the winds whip at the big Tuart tree out the back — the winds were from the north-east. Not long after I looked up again and saw that the winds were howling in from the west. The power fluctuated and then went out (~2:10 pm), so I left the sewing room to deal with the computers. They are all on UPSs but that storm was really raging so I figured it would be prudent to shut them all down anyway, including the server. We were being hammered with howling winds and driving rain.

After I’d shut down the computers and turned off the UPSs, I went back to the sewing room to turn off my sewing machine and iron (just in case the power came back on and I forgot them!). I glanced out the window to try to gauge the strength of those winds and saw that three huge branches off the Tuart tree were now on the ground! Those limbs had circumferences bigger than a man’s thigh. I couldn’t tell if they fallen on and broken the back fence — and I sure wasn’t going to go outside to look.

(This is the same magnificent tree that we’d had pruned some months ago — it was decimated…)

After this nasty storm had passed (it was about 90 minutes of banshee howling winds and horizontal rain… and no power — not a 90 minute period I’d ever want to experience again as it sounded like jumbo jets were about to land on our metal roof), it calmed down to a dull roar and I went outside to assess the damage. The house looked like it had come through unscathed, thank goodness. However, the Tuart tree branches had snapped like matchsticks.

The branches had landed parallel to the back fence, and I still don’t know whether the fence has been damaged (the tree loppers come tomorrow and until they clear the branches and the associated masses of leaves, I won’t know if we can claim the tree removal on insurance — it seems I can claim it if the fence has been damaged, but not if it hasn’t).

On walking back to the house, I noticed something else. Our gazebo (which I call our Bali hut) was on a distinct lean backwards. This is a substantial structure — the stirrups to which the poles are bolted are set into concrete, and it has a roof base made of steel girders. My concern with the Bali hut was that all reports indicated we were in for another major storm, possibly worse than the one we’d just experienced, on Tuesday night. I didn’t think it would stay standing under another onslaught of 120 km/h winds. If it fell backwards, then it would land on a concrete pad, and a retaining wall, possibly damaging both thus adding to the damage. (Update 26 June 2012: It took two weeks, but at last this structure has been temporarily stabilised.)

We still didn’t have power, and when I tried to call Western Power on the landline, I found we didn’t have landline either (copper connection). Mobile reception was almost non-existent too. I was able to get a couple of text messages out and receive a couple, but couldn’t make or receive calls or access the internet from my phone. We were stranded. Had a roof lifted or blown off, I had no way of contacting the SES or 000 for assistance. That was a worry.

We went to bed early on Sunday night — with no power and with it being winter, there wasn’t really any other option. Our house is all electric, so we had no way of cooking a meal (cold meat and salad sandwiches for dinner!). We don’t have a gas BBQ as summertime (when we’d most likely use a BBQ) is the time for mosquitoes carrying the Ross River Virus and we don’t want that! (we live close to an estuary where Ross River Virus-carrying mosquitoes live).

Our hot water system is an electric storage one with a big tank, so as we didn’t know when the power would be restored, we had short showers or ‘duck splashes’ to conserve as much hot water as possible. Batteries for torches were becoming an issue — we had a couple of spares, but they wouldn’t last long if we were without power for several days as was predicted (we found the battery-operated transistor radio, so we could hear what was going on in our region).

It was still windy on Sunday night, so I hunted out my Qantas ear plugs and put them in to minimise the noise so I could sleep. I woke up several times during the night checking to see if the power was back on. It wasn’t.

On Monday we awoke to no power. It was still wild and woolly outside but the need to find phone reception to let my family know we were OK was becoming critical as was another source of light than just small torches. I heard on the radio that our closest shopping centre (some 8.5 km away) had power and was open, so I decided to take advantage of a short break in the weather and head there to make calls, and stock up on some supplies — after figuring out how to manually lift the automatic garage door. I figured that Cathedral Ave, the road that hugs the estuary, would likely be out of action as a result of storm surges, high tides, or fallen trees, so I went via the highway. In the 2 km to get to the highway, I came across road crews clearing a massive tree that had fallen across Cathedral Ave.

It was a white-knuckle drive into town — the wind was still really strong and there were bits of trees, whole branches, and entire trees down and blowing around. At the shopping centre, I was able to get a wind-up LED torch (no reliance on batteries, which was just as well because the were no torch batteries or candles to be found), send a couple of texts (I couldn’t make or receive calls though or access the internet), and some food supplies, then made the hair-raising drive back home. I was glad to be back in one piece. Still no power.

We played euchre, Scrabble, Jokers and Marbles, and I hand-stitched the binding on a quilt I’d finished making on Sunday before the power went out. We listened to the transistor radio, and I turned off my phone to conserve battery power (earlier in the day I had started the car in the garage to recharge the phone battery). Meantime, the weather still howled around us, with the occasional break. We heard that some 170,000 homes were without power across the south-west. Assuming two people per house, that’s some 340,000 people (out of a population of 2 million) without power… about 1/6 of the state’s population.

I’d had some cabling guys scheduled to come on Monday to rearrange the server and PCs in the office, and they turned up. They got to work — in the dark, with torches. But of course, they couldn’t test anything without power. So they left around 4 pm, intending to come back in the morning, when we hoped that the power might be back on.

We had cold meat and salad sandwiches for dinner again on Monday night, and no showers. And I had to toss out the entire perishable contents of our deep freeze and two fridge/freezers. Even though we’d been without power for nearly 30 hours at that stage and it was winter, the frozen foods were starting to defrost.

We went to bed about 6 pm (it had already been dark for more than an hour and we didn’t want to waste battery power unnecessarily). I put my ear plugs in again to minimise the drumming of the wind on the bedroom windows at the front of the house, so I didn’t hear the beeps of the UPSs starting up when the power finally came back on at 9:30 pm Monday night, some 31.25 hours after it went out on Sunday afternoon. My husband woke me up and we made sure that everything that could be recharged was set to do so (security alarm system, phone batteries, UPSs, and the hot water system was back on). There was no point turning on the PCs or server as the recabling still wasn’t complete. Besides, we didn’t know how long the power would stay on for.

Tuesday morning was the calm before the next storm. We still had power, so everything was recharged — and we had hot water for a shower! The cabling guys came bright and early and finished the job and we were able to test that everything worked fine. I was able to get some text messages to my main client to say I couldn’t work on Tuesday and Wednesday was doubtful if the storms were as bad as Sunday, as was expected. We had a lot of running around to do… Several plants had fallen over in the first storm and needed to be staked to save them, so we needed to get into Bunbury to get star pickets and other stuff to stake the small trees with, we needed to get torch batteries and hopefully a lantern of some sort. I figured that the usual places would be all sold out of batteries, so we went to the Bunbury Cash and Carry (I’m a member) where we found torch batteries and the last battery-operated fluoro lantern they had! Bunnings had run out of batteries the day before, as we found out when we went there to get the star pickets etc. And we saw several people buying generators (yes, we will get a generator too — I don’t want to have to go through 31+ hours of no power or communication access again, ever). I also needed to call my insurance broker and start the process of insurance claims (the landline and mobile came back after the power was restored on Monday night).

On our way home from Bunbury, we went through a tremendous rain storm, then, as we turned into the area where we live, we saw this:

This was some 6 hours before the next big storm was due to hit….

We got home, quickly changed into some work clothes and got into the garden to stake all the prone plants before the next rain squall hit. We’d only been back inside for about 5 minutes when the power went out again… This time we were better prepared and had the radio, lantern, torches, batteries etc. at the ready in case it was to be another long haul. More cards…

Just when we assumed we’d be in for another power-less night, the power came back on, some 2.5 hours after it had gone out. I quickly cooked dinner long before our normal dinner time, as I didn’t know if we’d have power through the night (we did, thankfully). We settled in front of the TV, fully expecting the power to go out at any time. Meantime, the weather forecast of the storm crossing our area of the coast around 8 pm was spot on — the wind was absolutely howling (squealing like a banshee!) and the rain was drumming heavily on the metal roof, drowning out the TV. It kept up like this for an hour or so, then died down for a bit, then started up again just before we went to bed. Scary stuff.

My ear plugs got another workout! But we didn’t lose power overnight. I was dreading what we would find next morning as I fully expected the Bali hut to blow over. Surprisingly it was intact, though it may have leaned back another degree or so.

By Wednesday mid-morning, except for the evidence of destruction, you wouldn’t have known about the ferocity of the past 3 days — the wind had calmed right down, the sky was clear, and it was a gorgeous day. We had power, landline phone, mobile, and internet connection and all was good. However, nearly a week after the worst storms in the area for decades there are still some homes without power. I feel for them — our 31+ hours without power wasn’t something I’d like to repeat, so I can’t imagine how they are coping after six days.

So what did we learn from this storm:

  • Underground power doesn’t mean you’ll be immune from extended power outages. Presumably something went down further down our line, thus preventing all power into our estate, which has underground power. Until ALL the power lines are underground, trees falling on power lines, or power poles blowing over will be an issue.
  • You can’t rely on landline phones for communication. We heard from one of the cabling guys that because we live 8+ km from the exchange and are therefore on a RIM exchange, it’s got a battery backup and when the power goes out for an extended period of time, the backup fails too.
  • You can’t rely on mobile phones for communication. Like the RIM exchanges, if the mobile towers lose power and battery backup, they won’t be of any use until someone gets a generator to them.
  • The SES and other volunteers that helped out families who had lost roofs etc. in this storm were just AMAZING. They risked their own lives in some of the most inclement weather to help out others.
  • The Western Power, FESA, telecommunications etc. workers who got the infrastructure working again in the most inclement conditions were equally as AMAZING. They had to work in truly dangerous conditions, with live wires sparking around them.
  • ABC Radio Southwest was an absolute lifeline for information about the storm, its aftermath and what services were up or not. While we couldn’t contact the outside world, we could hear about what was happening elsewhere via ABC Radio. The messages they broadcast were timely, accurate, and made you feel like you weren’t alone.
  • The infrastructure couldn’t cope. There’s something wrong with the construction and maintenance of the infrastructure when whole estates, suburbs, towns etc. are without power and telecommunications for days, not hours. Cost-cutting over many years and lack of will (political?) to invest in infrastructure has led to the delay of programs such as underground power, timely replacement of power poles, etc.
  • We will be getting a petrol-powered generator. Not this week, but soon, once I find out more about them and what will be best for our needs. I never want to be without power for that long again, not in an all-electric house.
  • Solar panels would’ve have made no difference. We have thought about getting solar panels, but until there’s an effective and affordable option for battery backup/storage or for such a system to provide your own house with power before it supplies the grid, I can’t see us doing it. Had we had solar panels, they wouldn’t have made the slightest bit of difference as our power still would’ve been subject to the vagaries of the grid.
  • Finding out how to contact emergency services for assistance when you have no telecommunications is a priority. Without landline or mobile communications, had we been in a situation where we needed help, we had no way of letting anyone know. And driving in such a storm — assuming we knew where to drive to for help — would’ve been too dangerous.
  • Our lungs aren’t looking forward to the next few months as property owners burn off storm debris. I can pretty much guarantee that every fine day between now and late spring will be smoky as property owners burn off the fallen branches etc. from these storms. Our tree branches will be mulched by a wood chipper — short-term noise, but no smoke. If there was some other way that property owners could deal with their green waste, maybe they wouldn’t be tempted to burn off. Bunbury City Council is offering a green waste extra verge pickup collection, but the shire I live in isn’t. My shire is offering two extra tip passes, but that requires you to have a trailer or truck to transport the green waste to the tip yourself, and many people don’t have that facility. So they’ll burn the fallen branches. Which means polluted air.
  • Ear plugs are essential for helping me get to sleep on dark and stormy nights. Thank goodness I’ve kept my Qantas-provided ear plugs! Though I think I’ll upgrade to some industrial ones next time I’m in a store that sells them.
  • A spare supply of batteries is essential.
  • Insurance companies have all sorts of ‘gotchas’ in the claims process. For example, we can’t claim tree removal as a result of the storm unless the fence was damaged (no damage to the fence = no claim). We can’t claim for all the frozen food I threw out as they don’t pay on an extended power outage, only on motor burnout/fusion of the freezer appliance. Until the insurance assessor/builder assess the Bali hut in another two weeks, I’m not sure what can be claimed for it or not.
  • Western Power’s $80 ‘compensation’ for a power outage of 12 hours or more is pathetic. $80 won’t pay for the spoiled food I had to toss, and it won’t even make a dent in the money I didn’t earn on Tuesday when I couldn’t work as a result of the power outage the previous two days (I’m a contractor who gets paid by the hour, so if I don’t work, I don’t get paid). However, my situation is just a drop in the ocean. I really feel for the retail businesses, especially those who deal with food. Not only have they lost all their food, but they’ve lost customers either directly as a result of losing power and telecommunications, or indirectly because customers couldn’t get to them or assumed they would be without power too. Some small supermarkets have tossed tens of thousands of dollars worth of food. Had the entire south-west been on underground power, then many of these losses could have been averted. And there wouldn’t have been over 100,000 Western Power customers now claiming compensation. This comes back to lack of will, foresight etc. by political leaders in spending money on decent infrastructure and expecting antiquated systems to last forever. With three or four-year terms for politicians, no-one is prepared to bite the bullet and commit to the massive expenditure required over many years to ‘get it right’. So we’ll continue to have patch jobs done on infrastructure; as a result, this situation WILL occur again.

Below are few photos of the destruction in my neighbourhood:

Boomer cards

10 06 2012

It’s really hard buying birthday cards these days, especially for guys — the cards are either unsuitable (yachts, golf, car, and beer themed aren’t suitable for someone who doesn’t sail or play golf, isn’t interested in cars, and who prefers red wine!), or are just plain rude or gross (such as cards themed around bodily functions, getting drunk, getting laid, ogling big-breasted women, etc.).

So it was with delight that I found a card suitable for a baby boomer male! The first card below I found in a local store; the second was sent by a friend in the US. Both were just perfect for the recipient! And both were clever without being sentimental mush or smutty.

Card 1 (front):

Card 1 (back):


Card 2 (front):

Card 1 (back):

2012 FMQ Challenge: June (part 2)

9 06 2012

I did three more practice pieces for the June FMQ Challenge. As I mentioned in my last post, I wanted to try doing a zentangles in a single colour thread (Madeira rayon embroidery thread, 40 wt, colour 1001).

I also tried a variegated thread for a zentangle, this time in a black, white and grey King Tut thread (Superior Threads, Egyptian cotton, colour 978).

And finally, I did some more bird feathers, stitching quite closely to get the effect of tight feathers. The thread I used for these feathers was a soft pink, white and blue variegated thread (Superior Threads’ Rainbows trilobal polyester, 40 wt, colour 818). As plenty of pink and grey galahs live in my area, I was trying to emulate their gorgeous colours.

I was much happier with the zentangle I did in the white thread, OK with the black/white/grey one, and very pleased with the pink/white/blue feathers.

Now, back to the quilt I’m making…

2012 FMQ Challenge: June

8 06 2012

This month’s free motion quilting (FMQ) challenge tutorial was from Cindy Needham. I really enjoyed it, and ended up spending HOURS doing some really fine/close stitching as a result. I’m getting better!

Her tutorial started with a basic geometric shape — a 1 inch square — and checkerboarded it with straight stitches (done free motion though, not with feed dogs). My first attempts were about 6 lines per square, but with practice I was able to stitch closer and closer lines until I ended up doing about 12 lines per square.

Next, she got us to practice going diagonally across the 1 inch squares. I found that starting with the centre diagonal and stitching back to the corner was easier to do as I had more control over the ‘straightness’ of the lines. If I stitched from the corner out to the diagonal, the largest diagonal line ended up wonky!

After that, I did some variations on the diagonal, like stitching from different sides to create the illusion of a diamond. Again, all these spaces are 1″ square.

Once I’d done the straight stitching, I moved on to the curves, S-shapes, paisleys, pebbles/bubbles, and feathers. All these pieces were done on an old piece of plain purple cotton, stitched with an Isocord butter yellow thread (40 wt polyester; colour 0640 ‘Parchment’), on my Handi Quilter Sweet Sixteen. I’m loving the Isocord thread — it just flows really nicely in my Sweet Sixteen and doesn’t shred or break like some other threads.

The little pebbles on the left below are about 1/8 to 1/4″ wide — they are quite tiny.

After I’d finished the practice pieces, I was a bit over the purple fabric at this stage, so I switched to an even older piece of dark grey fabric (gabardine?). I marked some basic geometric shapes then free-motioned some feathers within those outlines (Isocord ‘Mountain Dew’, 40 wt, polyester, colour 6010). I then completely filled the backgrounds around the marked shapes with a really close cross-hatching (those stitches are less than 1/8″ apart) in a matching ‘Gun metal gray’ embroidery thread (Floriani, 40wt polyester, colour PF487). I really liked that effect — the feathers ‘popped’ nicely. And I particularly liked the effect of the lime green against the dark grey fabric.

I particularly liked my ‘bird feathers’ — I’ve done these before and just love the feel and sway of creating the S-shapes of the feathers coming off the spine. And I particularly liked the effect of Superior Threads’ King Tut variegated thread for these (color 931).

Next were some zentangles. I’ve drawn a few zentangles — mostly on long flights to/from the US! But I’ve never stitched any before. I tried various threads and colours to see how they went.

I wasn’t as pleased with the multi-coloured free-form zentangle — I think it would’ve worked better had I used a single thread colour — perhaps cream or white against the dark grey, or maybe black thread on cream fabric. Next time. The space was 6.5 inches square.

The last zentangle I tried was based on a zentangle I drew when I was flying back from the US in March. Again, this didn’t work as well as I’d hoped. The background colour fabric had a lot to do with it, but also this design just may not play as well when stitched, as versus drawn. Again, it’s inside a 6.5 in square.

Above is the drawing that inspired the stitching of the last one.

As I said earlier, I really enjoyed this tutorial and can see myself doing more of these sorts of designs. Maybe this weekend?? 😉 [I did some more — pictures etc. here:]