Monthly Archives: January 2016

More summer preserving

The harvest is continuing round our place.  One friend dropped a bag of figs and grapes on the front doorstep.  I took a bag of plums over to hers on a run!

2016-01-25 10.58.25

Then I went to visit another friend who is house-bound after surgery, taking a care pack of salads and mains.  She asked me to deal with her nectarine tree.  It was so heavily laden!  I collected a huge bucket of fallen spoiled fruit (things such as this are known at our house as ‘chicken happiness’).  Then I picked fruit for my friend and another visitor, and then two more buckets.  Then I cleared fruit out of her neighbour’s gutter!  The tree was still covered in unripe fruit.

2016-01-23 18.25.19

I shared nectarines with two other households and then put our share in jars, since we have a young nectarine tree which is bearing enough to keep us in fresh fruit.  Oh, and there were more plums. Just one jar this time.

2016-01-26 09.47.28

There was also a handover of a HUGE bag of frozen hibiscus flowers from a dedicated friend, bless her heart!  They had to wait a couple of days, and then I decided it was time to use the only dependable looking big jar I had for them.  I wasn’t sure they would all fit, but in the end, with defrosting and squeezing … they did.

2016-01-25 13.10.40

In went fermented citrus peel water and aluminium foil water (thank you to India Flint for yet another ingenious use of kitchen discards that are neither worm happiness nor chicken happiness)… fabric, threads, and so on… (last week’s batch are here for size comparison).

2016-01-25 19.42.02

I filled another, smaller jar with kino from an E Sideroxylon I had been saving, and another (slightly less) large jar, albeit with a rusty lid which might not seal, with my mother’s dried coreopsis flowers. That was all the dye pot would take for processing.

2016-01-27 19.02.17

Three more for the pantry shelf.  It is so interesting to see such a deep green already developing in the hibiscus flower jar…







Filed under Dye Plants, Natural dyeing, Neighbourhood pleasures

Holiday sock knitting

There came a point in our Late December-early January holiday travels when I turned to my beloved and admitted that I might run out of sock yarn.  Is this the time for a confession?  I pre-wrote posts that could auto-load while we were gone.  And I brought back a pile of knitted goodies which might take some time to show and tell.

But back to the holiday yarn shortage.  I had all the sock yarn I owned with me, except a mighty skein of handspun sock yarn that is finer than 4 ply (fingering).  I have lost my nerve on that for the time being.  I had reached the end of the sock yarn in my stash. I did have a lot of yarn with me, bound for things other than socks, but still.  I suspect I am harder company in the absence of sock yarn, because my beloved insisted on acquiring more as a Christmas gift, and fast!

2016-01-02 14.47.37

Pretty soon I had worked my public transport app skillz and got us to a yarn shop in Melbourne.  We left with three balls of sock yarn.  Nothing local or naturally dyed about it, ahem. Here the first sock is out at a lunch of kedgeree.

2016-01-05 13.01.25

What a fun knit the first pair were… holiday time is knitting time, so they were finished in Coogee at a friend’s house in super quick time. Needless to say the second pair were cast on without delay.

2016-01-07 15.32.03

And now this pair have gone to live with one of our treasured friends.  You have to love people who get a text message asking if they want a pair of hand knit socks and demanding to know the length of their foot who respond enthusiastically and with the required information.  You know, because socks are such urgent stuff.  In midsummer!

2016-01-13 16.59.53


Filed under Knitting

New year’s guerilla gardening

2016-01-14 17.42.31

Some of the guerilla plantings from last year are coming along very well indeed!  Shrubs are looking shrub like.  Ground covers are bushing out.

2016-01-14 17.23.03

I made two trips with silver leaved saltbush plants (two trips doubles the amount of water I can apply, and there is a parched planting nearby).  This is prime growing time for saltbush so hopefully they will take off!

2016-01-14 17.38.25

I have continued adding to this area. I think it is looking great, and I have larger plants in seedling form that I can add now that they will be protected.  There is another spot in the neighbourhood where a house has been bought and sold and the new owner really likes the plantings I have made beside his driveway.  He has given them little sticks so that no one can miss the fact of their existence, and my beloved has seen him watering them–and had a chat!  They are really growing well now.  And all of this is a comfort because last week the council came through weeding and tending, and the next day an entire planting of twenty or thirty plants began to wilt in the way that plants that have been poisoned do.  I have no idea why they decided on poison after almost a year in which they have come by several times.  The plants were getting to a nice solid size… and perhaps they were judged to be too big.  I guess a guerilla gardener has to take casualties in her stride and keep propagating…

2016-01-14 17.37.48


Filed under Neighbourhood pleasures

Seasonal preserving

Here in the wide brown land it is high summer and stone fruit is in season.  Settle down, all you folk in midwinter on the far side of the planet!  There has been an outbreak of illness and surgery in my extended family, and it was with regret that my father informed me that their blood plums would be ripening while my parents were away visiting and supporting those in need.  I draw your attention to the basket, evidently made by either my grandma or my grandpa on Mum’s side.

2016-01-11 15.31.02

My parents can really grow things.  Fruit, flowers, vegetables, ferns, natives… these plums are enormous!  They already had more than they could use, so I pulled out my Fowlers Vacola bottling outfit and set to work.  I think I now understand that this is what folk in North America call canning.  As a child, I was amazed to think people in the US had a way to put things in cans at home.  North American supplies are now available here along with those from Italy and other parts of Europe.  But this is what I grew up with.  I now understand it was quite an Anglo-Australian thing.  Friends with families from other parts of Europe sometimes used different processing and preservation methods and sometimes just used jars from anything consumed in their household to bottle fruit.

2016-01-11 16.32.39

I love that food preserving is becoming hip at the moment–a bit–but when I was a child it was viewed as a necessity by my family, along with making jam.  Now, this kind of equipment is readily available second hand and cheaply.  For my parents it was a huge outlay and we had the smallest, most basic kit available.  I scored the next model up (bigger but still basic) for a few dollars at a garage sale, something that could have saved my mother hours of what she clearly experienced as drudgery.

2016-01-11 18.42.08

Well, this time she can have some glowing ruby jars of stewed plums without any drudgery at all, bless her.  And while I was on the project I decided to clear the freezer out a bit and do a round of dye jars using India Flint’s Stuff, Steep and Store Method.

2016-01-16 19.34.28

Hibiscus flowers, daylily flowers, hollyhocks, and clean, scoured avocado peel (fresh from lunch).  Into the jars with pre-mordanted silk embroidery thread they went.

2016-01-16 19.42.03

In the whole scheme of summer preservation, I also collected mizuna seed, woad seed and some ruby saltbush seed and set up to save them.  There was such an abundance of woad seed, and purple dye is so amazing, I put up a jar of that too.  I am looking forward to trying the agrimony seed that Wendi of the Treasure has sent when the time is right.  And to opening these jars in the future!

2016-01-22 15.37.53


Filed under Natural dyeing

More summer socks

Sock knitting is an all year sport for me, and has been for years. And so, the procession of summer socks continues.  This yarn from Aotearoa/New Zealand is a lovely soft mix my beloved particularly appreciates.

These were finished before the holidays began, and duly handed over despite the first heat wave topping 40C!

2015-12-22 11.22.48





Filed under Natural dyeing

Transformation: Table cloth to shirt

2015-12-21 13.15.50

I have a thing about tablecloths.  Linen tablecloths, especially. I have turned them into shirts for years.  My favourite was a shirt made from two cloths in the same design (jugs and glasses with lemon slices) in two different sizes and colours.  I loved it so much I wore it into shreds.  Right now I have a plain white shirt made from a damask tablecloth with a chrysanthemum design on it, and a sleeveless shirt (tank?) made from a ‘Beautiful Western Australia’ tablecloth which is so well worn and washed now that it is disintegrating and it is getting harder to figure out what the landmarks and floral emblems on it are (and the pictures are really tough to work out).

2015-12-21 13.16.06

Just the same, this is the top I want to wear when it is reeeally hot.  And it had been 44C here at the time of writing.  This time I chose a linen tablecloth from the stash (with just a few holes!) and settled on worn out cotton kimono interfacing.

2015-12-18 15.50.58

I have never loved interfacing, and now that I have worked my way down through the stuff I have inherited making bags, I have very little left.  I’m waiting to see if I can resist buying it and use natural fibres instead, which must have been what people did in the past, where they interfaced at all.  This is a low drama experiment.

2015-12-21 13.19.52

I like it!  This is New Look 6666, no doubt long discontinued.  Now I have checked the envelope, I see the shop it was purchased from closed years ago, and there is a good chance that I bought it second hand in any case.

2015-12-21 13.27.37

It’s simple to sew and has a nicely faced finish that makes it very comfortable.  I have adjusted it slightly to make the neckline less wide.  So, hopefully, here is my new very hot day favourite shirt.

2015-12-21 13.20.03



Filed under Sewing

Transformation: Towels to yoga mat

We have some well and truly pre-loved towels in this place.  My beloved calculates that these are close to 30 years old.

2015-12-13 15.26.28

I regard them as quick drying, even if they are fraying at the edges!  I use them at the beach, or at exercise group.  Other people pull out a plastic yoga mat and I pull out one of these.  This winter, they were thinner than previously and when it was wet, other women in the group felt sorry for me.  One offered me a spare yoga mat.  I just don’t fancy it, though I am grateful for her generosity.  The more times I think ‘plastic is forever’ the less I want unnecessary plastic in my life, on top of all the plastic there already is and has been.

2015-12-18 14.19.48

I decided to just stitch the two thinnest towels together and bind the edges to deal with the fraying.  I chose a nice thin fabric for the binding. I think I made a shirt out of this… over twenty years ago… but there was enough left for binding.  So I practised up my binding skills.

2015-12-18 14.44.54

Stitched on the first side…

2015-12-18 15.04.47

And machine stitched the second edge down.  So… it will dry more slowly, but hopefully everyone can relax about my yoga mat now!


Filed under Sewing

Propagation for the guerilla garden

There have been a few questions about how I propagate plants for guerilla gardening.  So here it is, with pictures!  I collect seeds, often from public plantings, and then I plant them.  Preferably in spring.  For plants I haven’t tried before, spring is my first choice to grow from seed.  I plant close to the surface, because so many seem to me to come up at the edges of garden beds, beside rocks… some of them are coming up without being buried.

2015-12-20 16.58.01

I was originally planting seed direct into each pot.  However, I’ve had a lot of success with pricking them out, something I have never bothered with doing for vegetables!  So in the front here you can see tiny nitre bushes that have been pricked out at two leaves.

2015-12-20 16.58.08

In the front here there are wattles that have gone a little further.

2015-12-20 16.58.11

From there I just let them grown until they are big enough to hold their own if planted out into the world of passing dogs and foot traffic and the council poisoner.

2015-12-20 16.58.30

I am really pretty amazed at what I have been able to grow so simply.

2015-12-20 16.58.48

And now for quite unrelated eye candy of eucalypts flowering in my neighbourhood, and some bee happiness.

2015-12-21 14.07.05

So glorious!

2015-12-21 14.08.25


Filed under Neighbourhood pleasures