Wasting less while travelling

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The last few months have included some travel for various reasons. I think it’s obvious that air travel raises my carbon footprint and should be avoided when possible. But perhaps I’ve already mentioned that my life is full of contradictions?  I’m trying to do what I can, when I can. When I went to Brisbane I was lucky enough to be able to buy vegetables and fruit at the local farmers’ market.  It was luck!  I had no idea it would be close to where I was staying.  I’d selected accommodation so I’d have less traveling each day I was there, and so I could travel by ferry when I needed public transport. In another spot of luck, I’d been saving my peelings and pits in the fridge for a few days trying to figure out whether my only option was to put them in the bin, when I realised I was walking distance from New Farm community garden.

I was convinced a community garden would have a composting system I could sneak my scraps into, but imagine my delight to discover a community composting hub! I went back a couple of times because it’s mango season and there I was making cold rolls for dinner and eating a mango every day.  And because the community garden was brilliant. My other travelling with less waste discovery was in Melbourne, where the lovely out-laws took us to Coburg Farmer’s market. There was live music, there was delicious food–and there was a no single use policy on cups, plates and utensils.  So there was a serious washing station with clearly explained steps, and lots of people large and small using it.

My other big carbon footprint management strategy is to protest when travelling whenever possible.  Brisbane is the heart of opposition to the Adani coal mine–which is a bad idea on so many fronts–Indigenous owners oppose it, we already know we need to keep existing reserves of coal in the ground to have a hope of keeping climate change to tragic rather than catastrophic levels, the water this mine will take is shocking, coal will be shipped out right by the Great Barrier Reef–you know what I’m saying.  I’m saying Stop Adani!

It’s also good to see what people in other places do–I caught up with an activist I met over 20 years ago and we talked up using music in protest (and did some singing, of course). And it was fun being deputised by my beloved and her parents to be the one going out to save the world while they stayed home providing loving care and being unable to get out much, respectively.  They needed to check that I would make sure I came home again.

I managed to come home both times–and there were some very funny stories of members of the family opposing Australia’s involvement in the Vietnam war, and being arrested during the Premiership of Joh Bjelke-Petersen, when the right to assemble and the right to march were themselves the things people were protesting to achieve, because they were criminalised by Joh.

And in closing… some photos of fabulous Brisbane wildlife!

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End of year guerilla and dye gardens

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My last guerilla gardening act of the year was to go for a walk in the neighbourhood and scatter the seeds that had not made it into my spring plantings. Maybe they won’t grow but at least they have the chance, and I’m keeping my saved seed turning over.

The seedlings are doing well. Hard to believe the one on the left will become a huge tree and the one on the right will become a spreading prostrate wattle!

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In the dye garden, everything has been doing well. We’ve had only one really punishing day of 42C so far this summer –so things are looking good for now. The daylilies have bloomed beautifully.

The Japanese Indigo came up well, and now the task is to keep it alive through summer.  This time I planted some in pots to see if it does any better than in beside the vegetables. The tiny marigolds in the centre picture are flowering now, and a friend from the Guild has given me some dye marigolds that grow to two metres.  They have managed the vegie beds so far! The madder, on the right, is rampant.

The kangaroo paws have done well. The birch trees are barely holding on because brushtail possums are eating their leaves so enthusiastically.  The tansy is big enough for me to use it this year.

Our Eucalyptus Scoparia has suffered from the possums even more than the birches!  But it is still alive and we are trying our third strategy for keeping the possums at bay.  I have enough woad to create woad vats this summer!  And I’ve saved seed from the dark hollyhocks.

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And–this year I’ve seen skinks and geckos but also this wonderful creature!  Something is working well in our backyard.

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Finishing

I have a pile of projects that need to be finished.  But this week I finished someone else’s project. My mother-out-law has entered a stage of life where pain and confusion are her almost-constant companions.  She let me know that she had a denim skirt cut out in the chest of drawers.  Twice. I talked it over with my beloved and we decided that I would offer to finish it for her.

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She was delighted!  Happily the skirt was not denim but perhaps chambray.  I couldn’t immediately follow the way she had cut it out but decided in the end that she had adjusted the pattern (and it worked very well, by the way).

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There was some ribbon apparently intended as the interfacing for the waistband. I was really not sure it was appropriate, but since it was her choice, I adjusted the width of the waistband to fit and went with it.

The feature pockets were a must!  I figured them out in the end after some initial puzzlement.  Sometimes you just have to follow the instructions and trust them and wait for the penny to drop (for understanding to arrive).

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Once the skirt was all but complete, it was an overnight hang prior to hemming as the skirt was cut on the bias.  I have not encountered her strategy of weighting the hem with pegs before!  A second try-on was out of the question on the day so we chose another skirt with a length she liked and similar fullness, and I matched the hem to it and machine sewed it in hopes of being able to complete the skirt.

I didn’t actually manage to hang it straight to take this picture–and although pronouncing herself delighted she did not try it on. But–whether she ever wears it might not be the main thing as we accompany her through this stage of her life.

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Socks and true confessions

At some point in the #tuffsocksnaturally project, I had a point of anxiety where I just couldn’t imagine being able to spin enough sock yarn to keep up with my constant sock knitting. A person with more capacity for consistency might decide on knitting something else.  Or focusing on spinning more. I didn’t do that this time.  The future is unwritten so I’ll see how it unfolds and aim to move in a positive direction!  Instead, I decided on harm minimisation and bought some all-wool sock yarns from a destash on Ravelry.

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I managed to buy some undyed yarn, but while I’ve avoided yarns containing nylon, AKA plastic, I haven’t completely avoided chemical dyes.  So, there’s an ongoing project.  These socks for my beloved are shown above, on some form of public transport or another.

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Here, having a superb hot chocolate with my daughter and a pretty serious conversation if I remember right!

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Random streetscape…

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On our way to a climate action protest (by train).  Sock and backpack in foreground, banner for our climate action choir in its vaguely indigo-dyed bag laid along the bench!  And here they are, done, dusted and ready for winter which feels very far away here at this time of year.

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Festive greetings!

Dear and patient readers, I hope that you have been enjoying the festivals you celebrate and the holidays that you are able to arrange. I am sorry to have been absent so long–it has been a time of massive transformation at our place and other commitments have needed to take priority. I am hoping I might now be entering calmer times.  However–there has been some making going on in between things… One of my sister-out-laws was my Kris Kringle this year–in that family, there is a cap on the amount you can spend on a gift and you are responsible for a gift for just one person. It’s a very sensible arrangement that results in a small number of carefully chosen gifts, that I wish I could convince my family to take up. My sister-in-law requested a eucalyptus-dyed shawl.  What a pleasure it was to create that!

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My favourite neighbourhood eucalyptus tree contributed the leaves, and the shawl is made from wool–ever the perfect match, as India Flint says. I also dyed a smaller silk and wool scarf that seemed to me perfect for a dear friend.  You can see how much more readily the wool takes up colour (left) than the silk blend (right).

This gift made it into the mail in plenty of time, which was lucky because our plans were eclipsed by events in my partner’s family that have seen us spending time in Brisbane providing all manner of care to her beloved parents rather than at home hosting my family’s end of year celebration. Needless to say there as been a little quiet sock knitting involved…

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Tuff Socks Naturally in PLY! Magazine

Dear Readers,  the open, collaborative project that is #tuffsocksnaturally– spinning, dyeing and knitting tuff socks without nylon– has led to an article by the wonderful Rebecca Marsh and myself in PLY Magazine.

PLY is a rather fabulous magazine run by Jacey Boggs, whose spinning know-how, fabulous art yarn spinning videos, book and craftsy classes the spinners among you may well have learned from.  I know I have. I listened to her extraordinary podcast years ago and appreciated her blog while it lasted–both since eclipsed by Ply. Should you wish to look into Ply and read our article–needless to say it is available online here–and digital copies are one of the options for those of us far from North America, where the magazine is published. We are in the Sock Yarn Issue, Winter 2018.  Winter in the other hemisphere, Australian friends!! I write from a sweaty location in sub tropical Australia where knitting socks at this time of year (because needless to say I am knitting them) even turns the heads of knitters in this heat.

This project was such fun–and only partly because socks are the best knitting projects.  Mostly because Rebecca from Needle and Spindle is a fabulous, creative, generous, and wise collaborator.  It has been a privilege to work with someone so gracious, experienced and farsighted. You can read her post about our article here.  Without her, my spinning Suffolk would have been a preoccupation of mine without all the fun of discussion, social media, and collaborative exchange.

Meanwhile, I am knitting down leg 2 of one pair of socks and headed for the outrageous cochineal pair of tuff frankensocks-to-be depicted above.

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Extinction Rebellion, climate change, and a beanie

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Hello dear Readers, I have designed a knitting pattern.  You can, should you wish, download it from Ravelry here. You see it here in handspun coloured merino with eucalyptus-dyed wool contrast. But allow me to explain.

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It is a big time in the life of the world, with even conservative estimates by scientists telling us that we have less than 12 years to take emergency level action that could keep global warming to below 1.5C.  Even 1.5C warming will have, and is already having, massive impacts on the earth and all who depend on the earth for life. Including you and me. It isn’t as though I’ve been sitting around. I’m doing the little things that depend on my being one straw in a very, very big haystack for impact (online petitions, postcards, letter writing, voting).

Last week I joined the thousands of Australian school children who went out on strike demanding climate action.  Their speeches showed more understanding of climate change than anything coming out of our federal government, which is still supporting coal mining and oil drilling on a massive scale.  The school students had more clarity than our state government, which has only partially, temporarily, banned fracking because it destroys farmland (and thus costs votes though these things certainly do matter in their own right)–not because of the impact of burning fossil fuels on global warming. I sing with a posse of climate singers who were out on the weekend telling the good people of our city about the issue and giving people the chance to write to the leader of the opposition about this issue.

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And yet, on this day when world leaders are meeting in Katowice, Poland, to talk about what to do about this–there is just no coverage in my country of this critically important meeting.  My government is not on track to meet the inadequate targets set in Paris.  And the high pitched screaming sound between my ears when I lie awake in the middle of the night worrying about climate change is not quietening down.

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My heart soared when I saw that a new group in the UK called Extinction Rebellion have served their demands on their government, and that they are framing the climate and ecological emergency like the existential threat that it is.  On their first Rebellion Day they blocked all the bridges across the Thames River and brought central London to a standstill. This is a strategy of escalating nonviolent civil disobedience designed to compel the governments that are failing their people and the future of our world to take emergency level action.

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It may not succeed.  But it has to be attempted, because scientists have been patiently explaining and then explaining in tones of increasing panic, and then explaining with tears as they set out the loss we already face: and governments are not listening nor acting.  Fossil fuel companies are continuing to fund political parties here and elsewhere.  The current federal government is not even close to having a rational policy on climate.  And nowhere are there signs of action being taken that comes close to responding to the grave threat every life form on earth now faces.

So, dear friends, I have decided to commit to being an organiser for Extinction Rebellion. And I also decided to design a beanie, watching all those English folk out being arrested and protesting in the chill weather of their winter as we head into the searing heat of our summer.  I knit it in the week a tornado hit a town in our state for the first time in my memory.  If you have questions about Extinction Rebellion, I hope you will roam their www site, find them on social media, and go here scroll down and watch their briefing on climate change and what we can do about it.  This is an invitation to act with courage in times that demand no less. Let’s step up, for the love of life.

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Preparing for Gion Festival

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We were in Kyoto during Gion festival time.  The Gion festival runs over weeks and embraces two parades as well as numerous smaller events, nights of street carnival, days with observances to be made, blessings to be received, shrines to be moved from place to place–and so much more. Some of the preparations were of course mundane, as in the case of this banner, placed in preparation for a neighbourhood to build its float and then fundraise for the maintenance of its neighbourhood float and celebrate in style. One night we came past this banner and there were matching koi t shirts for sale as well as food and drink.

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These are not just any old floats.  They are kept in pieces in the neighbourhoods they represent throughout the year, assembled on the street and displayed, and then paraded through the streets. They are part of a tradition centuries long, and many parts of the floats, as well as the treasures that decorate them, have long histories. Many are assembled as they always would have been, with heavy wooden structures held together with ropes made of plant fibres.

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Some are very large and some relatively small, and almost all now dwarfed by buildings standing in the streets, while in photos I saw in museums–you can see these floats towered over the city buildings even at the time photography had come into existence.  Surely when these floats originated, they would have towered over every building in the city.

Because of the heat, I walked past groups of men building these structures and intermittently lying down in the shade to rest. Every single part of the float has significance–historical, local, spiritual, literary.  The interpretive signs that were eventually erected for the ignorant (such as me) offered a small introduction to stories about what the float represented and the way this might be changing though time.

The balcony you can see in each large float is a space for the Gion Bayashi musicians to sit and perform during the parade.  As we walked in the still very warm evenings, we came upon rehearsals of Gion Bayashi musicians which we could hear from the street and sometimes see through an upstairs window.  Eventually we came across a rehearsal in the float itself.

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And, all over Kyoto, an air of expectation.

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Kyoto Imperial Palace

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On one of my first few days in Kyoto, I went to the Kyoto Goen National Gardens and the Kyoto Imperial Palace, which is set within them. On my way there, I walked past the Goo Shrine.

At this stage I had not yet understood that I would see shrines everywhere I went. This one caught my eye because of all the statues of boar.  I was immediately puzzled.  Clearly in my mind a wild boar is only ever a threat.  I soon came to understand that fearsome, potentially lethal beasts can protect you from your enemies!  This was a whole new thought for me, generated at this shrine which commemorates a wounded warrior who escaped his pursuers with the help of 300 wild boar, and was healed by a miracle.

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I walked on to the Imperial Palace in its immense grounds. First there came the Muku Tree, beside which an ancestor was killed many, many years ago. I loved the fact that this tree was the thing being commemorated, and was astonished by the way the tree was being supported. And there it stands, right by the Imperial Palace.

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It was a punishingly hot day in which I took much less pleasure in this wide stretch of gravel with no sign of shade, than I might otherwise have done.  But the imposing scale of the Palace is undeniable.

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Some parts of the Palace were inaccessible because they were under repair or renovation. In Kyoto it was always evident that the past is constantly under repair. Nothing is exactly as it would have been hundreds of years ago.  In many cases entire buildings  have been completely rebuilt after fire, flood or war, in this country where fire has been such a major issue for so much of human history. When we were there flooding was extremely recent, with many loves and homes lost. Typhoons were coming, and we sat through a small earthquake in Tokyo.

The gardens were spectacular and so were the exteriors of the buildings, which eviently contain major works of art I didn’t have the chance to see.

The sculpting and protection of trees and shrubs was very striking here too.  In the image below right you can see a tree entirely supported by a circular structure. Should you wonder whether I come from a culture in which this is done–I cannot find an English word that could describe this structure and the closest practice to this I can think of would be espalier–or perhaps creating a hedge.

And there you have it–another world heritage listed site from Kyoto full of beauty and wonder.

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Spinning optim

Quite some time ago, Kylie Gusset, amazing dyer and originator of the fabulous Tonne of Wool project had a sale of some of her last optim fibres.  It was a lucky dip arrangement in which I did not choose the colours.

In my recent period of being unwell, I found myself spinning down through the stash of rovings I still have–I just wasn’t up to fibre preparation.  One day I discovered the optim, which I had completely forgotten–and I believe there was some Ms Gusset merino in with it.  Why have I kept them for years without spinning them? I think I might have been saving them until I became a better spinner.  I am not sure what this view of myself and my capacities is all about, but it’s time to give it as little rope as possible, because my spinning is fine.  Even when it’s less than exquisite, it’s still fine… and will only get better through practice in any event.  I have listened to women at my Guild who still think they don’t spin well enough after fifty years of spinning.  It seems so obvious that this makes no sense at all, when I listen to them (and I have of course seen their spinning)!

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Once I got started, I just kept going… and pretty soon I had a lot of bobbins…

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And then, a whole lot of skeins. And they look fine to me!

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