13 October, 2009

Paper wasps


Have you ever made paper? Went to a few lessons while we lived in Z├╝rich. Soak the raw/recycled plant fibre overnight. Whiz it thru a dedicated blender. Don’t want traces of printer’s ink or plant toxins in your next pot of soup? Then the fun bit. Sieving out sheets of paper.



We were taught to use cardboardy sheets of raw paper fibre, specially sold for the purpose in Swiss handicraft shops. But, if you make a point of collecting paper for recycling, especially the heavy quality stuff – no longer valid business cards, extra wedding invites, coloured paper. Then you can produce wonderful handmade paper in subtle or vehement colours with interesting textures.

We used dried onion skins (the papery brown bits) – and that paper still smells of its onions, so many years later. And I tried the dry, wilted flower fibres from Pohutakawa, New Zealand Christmas tree (you could use a bottlebrush for instance). Soaked overnight, made a wonderful mellow pink paper, with wine red flower threads scattered thru it. One of our class mates was going to try with cow pats, which had been through the winter wash and freeze cycle. Here in South Africa tourists can buy paper made of elephant dung.
Now imagine doing all that, in your mouth, with your teeth and jaw muscles. As the paper wasps do! Puts a new spin on – do you really need to print this out, on paper??? Also shows you how much water is used. And the waste water which is then contaminated with fibres and chemicals.

We had a large nest built behind the glass of the living room sash window. This is a wildlife friendly house and garden, so we left them in peace. And they only complained if we got too close for their comfort. Our bug book says they shut down in winter. Field guide to insects of South Africa, by Mike Picker, Charles Griffiths, Alan Weaving. New edition 2004. Published by Struik

So we waited, planning to remove the empty nest then. But they haven’t read their guidebook and went busily ahead building a basement granny flat. Enough is enough. So we moved the nest, away from the living room. Now they have satellite TV. Were relieved that they found the nest again. Or perhaps it is just the youngsters doing what grammar/genetics taught them.
There was a little nest on the outskirts of town. And the new main city is established in the safe, distant, outside corner of the window.

Pruned the roses relatively late, but now we can pick again. Laid back Pearl of Bedfordview and over the top Elizabeth of Glamis. Both generous floribundas, that keep the flowers coming!

15 comments:

  1. Very interesting ... I had no idea (do I dare ask ... what does elephant dung paper smell like)!

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  2. Joey, I have only seen the paper for sale. We do have a lump of elephant dung from the Ungardener's days as a tour guide. That smells of nothing much. Like hay or lawn clippings. Fresh would be different. But I guess like a cow-pat.

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  3. Wow, you made your own paper, I guess we all could and maybe should, even if it's for special occasions, recycling (good for environment), special one off card (good for receiever's self esteem). My Nana used to write letters to Canada from N.Ireland on onion paper, dead cheap to post! I can't find it anymore. As kids we ate lots of coloured rice paper. God I love paper, I know it = the loss of a tree but paper and pen is heaven. Though blogging is damn good too!

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  4. Carrie, I love paper too. Especially luscious texture of hand made paper. So I leapt at the opportunity to learn to make it. Love paper art as well.

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  5. Another paper lover here. I have a passion for the right pen that fits my hand, too. The feel and sound of onion paper always made me giddy, but it's hard to find these days. Petal and grass paper feels wonderful to the fingertips. My son once made paper for a school project stretching a silk stocking over a wire hanger, unbeknownst to me. The paper turned out pretty well, but that was the end of the stockings.

    Thanks for visiting my blog and the comment about white text on a black background. More to think about.

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  6. I remember using onion skin paper to write home to the family when I lived in Switzerland. This generation is all email and cell phones. They won't be able to pore over old letters. Sad really.

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  7. Teresa, are you following me? Thanks!

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  8. Interesting and most amusing where it led too.
    I had fun making paper with my daughter a few years back.

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  9. Paper wasps are one of nature's wonders. Great photos of their life in the hive. Yes, I leave mine in peace also. Their hives stay put and grow.

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  10. I'm a fan of wasps too. But I'm always interested in finding humane ways to keep wasps and other wildlife from getting into places where people may feel that they have to harm them. (You can see which side I'm on in this particular battle!) So I perked up my ears the other day I heard an interview on the CBC in which the person being interviewed (didn't catch his name but he was being presented as an authority) claimed that putting up a fake wasp's nest will discourage wasps from building a nest in that area. I haven't had a chance to check this out for myself yet, but it makes sense that wasps might not want to nest too close to other wasps.

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  11. Wild Flora - I guess our satellite nests were all part of the family?

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  12. Hi there from Val at Pencil and leaf.. just to let you know I have just found a little paper wasps nest under our balcony.. Its small enough not to bother them at the moment... I am hoping they will go away in the colder weather but think like yours they might not!They are very pretty! also today I found an abandoned nest on a leaf. Just a few cells but might try Wild Flora's remedy!

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  13. Dear Elephant's Eye,

    You say, almost in passing, that you moved your paper wasps' nest.

    HOW DID YOU DO THAT?

    We've got a nest that suddenly took up residence in the lampshade/lightfitting of the main lamp hanging in our lapa by the pool. Serves us right for not using the lapa often enough. However, with a New Year's resolution now committed too, we are too scared to take advantage of the lovely space it offers on summer evenings as the moment we switch the light on, the poor wasps catch a fright (and fly around madly = not good) - I thought about leaving the light on all night to chase them away, but I'm afraid this will fry the larvae . . .

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  14. Wilky - we moved the nest, in winter, quietly and carefully, with gloves. Not me, the Ungardener!

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  15. Is your Ungardener available for hire . . . ? ;-)

    Thanks (though it sounds very much like this is very much easier to say than do!) . . .

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