In December, I’ll be running a workshop hosted by the lovely Susan Schuller. Perhaps some of you would like to come?
In December, I’ll be running a workshop hosted by the lovely Susan Schuller. Perhaps some of you would like to come?
Local readers may like to come along to a mending circle at the Sustainable Communities SA One Planet Market in November. Please do bring your mending and get some of it sorted out–and by all means bring mending questions for me to help you problem-solve. This won’t be a speech so much as a hands on session–and look at all the other fun things that will be going on to attract you…
One day this week, I went out to do some guerilla gardening before work. I still have creeping boobialla (I promise, that is what it’s called!) propagated from cuttings in autumn that need to be planted out before it gets any hotter. As I walked down the street with a bucket in one hand, steering my bike trailer with the other, I was thinking about a couple of salt bush I lost in the last week. The grey-leaf bladder salt bush that had violas growing beside them. One day I walked to the train and there were two holes where they had been. I hope they went to a new location where they are thriving, but the holes were small. That same week, a whole row of sheoaks that had been doing well were poisoned, and I felt if I’d weeded them out that might not have happened. So I was feeling a bit sad about all of that, and remembering that persistence is what makes this whole business work. And that if I’m caring for Kaurna land in the period between colonisation and the return of sovereignty, that responsibility and privilege is no less because sometimes it doesn’t go the way I hoped.
So I planted my ground covers. And pulled out some weeds, and collected some rubbish. And I started to cheer up. I noticed how even though I’ve lost plants on this patch, some are thriving. This rhagodia is the biggest, but there are pigface spreading and saltbush growing up.
Then I realised that the ruby saltbush has begun self sowing. This blurred photograph is just so exciting! There were quite a few seedlings coming up here, where I planted ruby saltbush that were torn out or poisoned–and they had enough time to leave seed behind to sprout.
So I went home again quite cheered up.
And then a little later, my partner was out on the street and I went out to see what was happening: she was chatting with a council worker who was out weeding and watering in our street, in one of the places I recently put in more plants. Clearly the woman from the council had noticed all this, and she started asking if I was also the one spreading the quandong seed and such… and she turned out to be a wild food specialist outside her day job. Too good. Happiness is remembering the project is shared with many people, and noticing when the earth begins to heal itself.
Dear reader, you know how socks go in my life. I knit them at bus stops and train stations, on public transport, and oh, goodness! I knit them in meetings. In my new job, there are more meetings for the day job than ever. I am all in favour of well run meetings. They can be forums for collaborative decision making about things that matter. But, well, I have my flaws and some days the flow of wool and colour through my fingers is just a pleasure and other days it stands between other people and my impatience.
Things are challenging in the place where I am lucky enough to have a job while many other people are currently much less confident about their future. So when I could see grafting the toe of the rainbow socks coming into view, I wound a new ball of sock yarn before bedtime just to make sure I could keep fingers entertained and brain engaged prior to use of my mouth the next day at work. Here’s the cuff emerging on the train!
This sunny day on the bus, I must have been going somewhere very serious indeed, because I can see I’ve abandoned my backpack for my satchel. Below, I am knitting down the heel on a cold day. It rained that day and the smell of the eucalypt India Flint used to dye that coat rose up!
And finally, here I am ready to graft the toe. Yes, on the bus. I remember one of the first times I grafted a toe, I took two different knitting books on a train journey to Port Adelaide and read each description of kitchener stitch a lot of times before making an attempt. Now, I can do it in the middle of a meeting or on public transport.
And finally, the socks, finished and ready for recipient… whimsical cables…
Wool and silk yarn, dyed with legacy logwood from my Guild where it was left by someone who no longer wanted it or needed it. An astonishing colour to be able to get from wood!
Some time ago, I bought two pieces of tapestry (the embroidery kind, not the woven kind) at the Guild trading table, where the cast offs of members go to find happy new homes. It’s one of my failings in the acquisition stakes. There are some things I look at and think–someone dedicated many hours of their life to creating that, and here it is in a thrift store or a garage sale, discarded completely. Sometimes that is enough, they have to come home with me. Finally I had an idea, and I acquired enough $2 pairs of jeans to make it happen–because woollen tapestry is heavy stuff! I made denim surrounds for the tapestries, which, judging by their shapes, might have been intended to cover a seat back and perhaps a stool. Then I worked out some linings, and sewed on patch pockets!
Once I started actually figuring out how to convert them to bags I think I understood how they came to be discarded. They had biased in some way that meant they could not possibly have worked out in their intended applications. the rectangular one was a trapezoid. The one designed for a shaped seat back was not symmetrical. I can only imagine the heartbreak of having stitched these only to discover they were not going to work.
It’s a bit odd even in this context–but unquestionably, it can work as a bag.
In the end I realised I had a third tapestry. It had been reduced from $5 to 40c in an op shop in Warrnambool (country Victoria). I bought it thinking the frame could be re-used. But the badgers? I am not going to hang them on my wall. So I deconstructed the frame ready for its new life and here is the new destination of the badgers. Where will they go next?
There have been several forays out into the neighbourhood lately. I’ve planted cistus (rock rose) after my first season of successful propagation, as well as some of the regulars, carprobutus (pigface), boobialla and so on. My beloved and I also made a special trip to deal with a lot of tree branches that had been cut ow torn off and thrown into one patch, on top of living plants. Some from the trees in the patch and others perhaps from further away. We filled our own green waste bin to capacity (the council collects this and it goes to commercial composting) and then cut up what was left and distributed it as mulch. At one stage while we were chopping up dead branches, a gentleman I often see walking his dog when I’m out and about stopped and said this was the Council’s job. We had a chat about how Keeping Australia Beautiful was everyone’s job (this was the theme of an anti littering campaign we clearly all remembered). In this final image, a place where the council has planted and even paid a watering system, and nothing has been growing on the front edge of the patch except weeds for over a year. Now, groundcovers. That’s better!
The springtime brings on fleece washing, carding and seed planting, apparently!
I’ve spun up all kinds of tragic fleece dyed last year, lawnmowing crossbred sheep’s wool, alpaca, blends, cochineal dyed fleece, natural fleece… there has even been some eucalypt dyeing (the orange skein in the foreground).
I’ve spun batts created from logwood exhaust and woad exhaust and where did that even come from? batts.
Anonymous roving from my friend’s stash. Alpaca gifted from another friend. Local fleece blended with dark grey alpaca with far too many burrs in it. Possum and wool blended together.
My winter of knitting was lovely indeed but I am loving being back to spinning as well, so it seems…
The guerilla gardening is going on–with seeds sprouting and plants that have grown slowly through the cold months or those which were propagated from cuttings in autumn going into the ground as I am able.
Bladder saltbush (atriplex versicaria) in the foreground–I have been gradually creating some drifts of silver foliaged plants in this spot, as well as the ruby saltbush (enchylaena tomentosa) you can see growing in the background. There is a place here where people walk through the bed and not along the concrete paths, and I’d like more vegetation, while there is plenty of concrete already. I am hoping eventually to crowd out the path people and dogs are using through the bed at the moment, so that one day it will cease to seem the obvious pathway.
Some of my seedling eucalypts finally went into the ground!
Pigface (carprobrotus edulis) is a winner even in very dry places.
I’ve had to laugh abut how I’m spreading some of the plants in our garden into the neighbourhood. This bladder saltbush went in at least 6 months ago. I don’t think there is any risk of violas becoming a serious weed around here however!
And here’s a task for the weekend–entire branches ripped and cut from nearby trees and dumped on top of other plants. I don’t know why or or by whom, but I think I might just remove these myself (and plant a more prolific understorey so that this does not appeal as a place to dump things). On the up side, every time I plant here now, there is so much soil compared to even a year ago. Things are moving in a positive direction!
One of my darling friends has hit a rough patch in life. Maybe the last she will have to face, but you know how hard those things are to predict. You may have detected this from the knitting in hospitals that I’ve mentioned a few times. But now we’ve passed that stage. Her family decided to move her to a nursing home nearer where they live, and far from where I live. It’s one of those tough situations where my friend isn’t able to make big decisions for herself at present, and she has been fragile and struggling for too long. It’s likely she will not be able to live independently again, and supporting her from far away has been very hard for her family, while many of her friends have struggles of their own that make it difficult for them to visit her. Some of them are no longer very mobile themselves. In this way she will be nearer three generations of her family and meet great grandchildren she has never been able to see.
I met her at handspinners’ guild, and when I first met her she was knitting a complex Aran sweater for one of her sons (her sons are about the age of my parents, some of them are older). In recent years she has knit the same distinctive hat over and over again, and then sometimes I’ve driven her to Guild and she has enjoyed the company and sat with her knitting in her hands. She has been unable to spin for a few years now, and couldn’t face knitting in the recent times I’ve visited her in hospital wards and nursing homes.
Finally one of her sons and one of her daughters-in-law came here to clear out her beloved and now empty home. They were overcome by the task of figuring out what to do with her fibre stash and it was something I could do to help, to figure out how to manage that. I spoke with her a couple of times about what she would like to happen but she couldn’t bring herself to care much. Those wishes that she expressed to me or to her family, were all honoured. I met that part of her family, we shared a little of our mutual grief and some of our happy experiences of our shared human treasure, and then I took away fabric, spinning equipment, wool in every stage from raw fleece to rovings and batts to spun yarn, and so much more. Like the inside of her home, everything was impeccably organised and meticulously stored.
I’ve organised for equipment to go to people who can use it or to the Guild for resale. Yarns have gone to knitters–the vibrant rainbow-dyed yarns she favoured creating in the last few years to people who love colour; the mohair collection to someone who delights in mohair; fleeces were sold at the Guild to people who will appreciate and spin them; and equipment for all manner of crafts she enjoyed over the decades has been passed on to people who will use and enjoy it. Her sewing machine is in the shop for repair prior to rehoming. The electric spinner she never really made friends with has gone to someone else who is finding treadling harder and more painful (just as she did) and who can return to loving spinning as I result, I hope.
In the meantime, I’ve found myself spinning all kinds of fibres from her stash, starting with small quantities of things that didn’t seem sensible to try to re-home. I’ve also been knitting hats from smaller quantities of her undyed handspun and some of the small balls of rainbow dyed yarn that didn’t fit into the packs that went to people who love to knit. It has felt like a way to hold her in my mind in these times when she is suffering and yet hard to reach. She has suffered a further injury and is back in hospital far away and in such difficulty she is hard to understand on the phone. So, here’s to Joyce, her sense of humour, her enjoyment of wool and her love for a snug hat.