Category Archives: Eucalypts

This week in guerilla gardening

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This morning, I went out with some saltbush I’ve grown from seed and some other plants a friend has grown and given me for guerilla gardening.  She comes from a coastal area and is growing plants well adapted (and mostly endemic) to her local sandy soils.  They are thriving in sandy areas of our suburb.  So the saltbush went in under a large river red gum in our neighbourhood, the better to protect the root zone of this giant tree.  Then I trundled around to a spot in the neighbourhood where the pattern of what will grow is very different to the rest of the patches I’m working, partly because the new beds created here in the wake of major infrastructure works are very sandy.

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In went several of these native hibiscus, an olearia, a kangaroo apple and a rhagodia (seaberry saltbush).  Out came weeds, alive and dead, and feral tree seedlings.

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The tiny E Scoparias that my friends and I planted months ago are thriving here but still small.  The council has planted a random eucalypt and a Manchurian Pear since we put them in, and they were much bigger–but they left the E Scoparias to live, bless them.  Let’s see how it goes.

Where previously nothing grew, now there are a lot of boobiallas (myoporum), some good sized olearias, a few saltbush and a couple of feijoas as well as the trees.  One saltbush is loving it here and has set fruit.

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As I finished watering the new plants in and set off to weed invasive grass out of a very successful patch nearby, one of the cyclists whizzing past called out ‘good work!’  It was a good way to start the day: kneeling in the earth and planting things that might help it heal.


Filed under Eucalypts, Neighbourhood pleasures

Summer festival of mending 3

I have a rather lovely woollen blanket that came to me from a op shop (thrift shop) years ago.  It came with a lot of little holes that haven’t stopped it being a great warm blanket.

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I have had it in mind to mend them or embellish them for years.  This time I have actually done a little mending.

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I even blanket stitched some of the unravelled edges.

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Well.  Someone enjoys it!  She is a visitor who spent some weeks with us but has now been on a road trip to her new home in Tasmania with her usual people.

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It did seem funny to be mending a woollen blanket when we are verging on summer… I give you a local eucalypt in full bloom!

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Filed under Eucalypts, Sewing

Birthday gift

It came to my notice that a niece who was shortly to visit us also has a birthday approaching. I put on the dye pot.

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I went out to visit a favourite tree.

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I had ordered the scarves with this kind of occurrence in mind, so I pulled one out and pulled out the new silk thread as well.

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In they went (and so did the stems that were left from the leaves I’d used)!

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The transformation is always amazing in the dye pot.

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But the contents are even better fun!

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Shown here wet from the dye bath…

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And here hung out to dry.

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Yes, she does like it….! And we took her out on a walk to see the tree that contributed its glory to her gift.

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Filed under Dye Plants, Eucalypts, Leaf prints, Natural dyeing, Neighbourhood pleasures

Beloved trees

My very local tree loving friends and I have had a plan for a little while to plant more trees around here, and we decided to plant E Scoparia.  An opportunity came to buy some, so my friends bought some, and they were on special for $1 each!

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We took them, and some saltbush and boobialla… and even parsley.

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While we were out planting, and singing the tree planting blessing, this little banner went back onto its tree.

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It had been home for a wash and reapplication of string. It had fallen down or been pulled down.

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It is a huge tree!

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One of us had to climb it.

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When it was all over there was another shared lunch (I am blessed with generous friends!) and chicken happiness, and bit less rubbish in the neighbourhood.

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Filed under Craftivism, Eucalypts, Neighbourhood pleasures

Bundle of beautification

I am still thinking about the difference between my toleration of ugly but functional things–and observing friends and companions at Tin Can Bay who instead, make everything within reach more beautiful. I have a perfectly functional merino underlayer that is a fairly ordinary shade of mauve, and as I wear it every week at this time of year, I have had it in contemplation.  I finally decided that the time had come, only to find a little ladder.  That was quickly mended with logwood dyed thread.  This picture gives a fair sense of the colour of the garment.

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I have mended this top quite a bit due to the monster season of m*th activity a year or two back.  The darns are in various colours, some quite tasteful.  These ones are still pale blue and pale purple, as they were after early washfastness testing in 2013.  I dyed these threads with plum pine.

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Others are a lot more random!

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Having darned over breakfast, I set out to plant boobialla and saltbush, with a plan about collecting dyestuffs.

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I feel sorry fr these plants going into such sad looking land…

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But I have not lost a single plant in this patch and if they all grow it will make such a difference.  Those that went in a few months ago are much bigger already.  Someone stopped as I planted and said ‘You are such a good public person!’

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Plants in, weeding done, I headed out to this E Scoparia.  It’s a beauty with particularly slender leaves. The people whose fence it overhangs don’t like it tickling their hair as they pass and resent it hanging over their fence.  So hard to understand!  I selectively cut to minimise their struggle with it when I want to use this plant. I make it shorter over the footpath and then trim the lowest hanging parts over their fence.

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Home again, home again!

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The tree is in flower, but the flowers are small.  Love those pliable red stems.

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I settled on a pot full of dried E Cinerea leaves.  This rainwater tank finally has rain in it again.

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Then for the bundling part…  I always think I’ll be neater this time, and then make the usual scruffy bundle.

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Some time later, the leaves have  had  a head start and in goes the bundle.

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Well, I think this is an improvement!  Here is the front.  The logwood didn’t really survive the dye pot very well, which works. The eucalyptus dyed threads have stayed their previous colours, but now blend in. The indigo dyed thread is still blue!

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And this is the back.  No regrets from me!

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Filed under Eucalypts, Leaf prints, Natural dyeing

Whimsically cabled socks

Socks take a little while to knit.  Maybe 20 hours or more of knitting for a pair in 4 ply (fingering).  To be honest, I’m not sure.  Needless to say, I don’t sit down and time myself knitting them. I don’t knit them on a whim, they way I do hats, which just sit about waiting for the right head to come by.  I want them to be well received and they need to fit in more senses than one.  So, a little while back, there was a tracing of the foot.  Then I checked the preferences of the intended recipient, ordered BFL/silk sock yarn, and dyed it with eucalyptus.  To get a good strong colour, I dyed the 100g of yarn in four dye baths.  These socks have travelled, because in those hours of knitting, socks-in-the-making are my constant companions, which is one of the lovely things about them.  I enjoy the knitting, and I enjoy holding the intended recipient in my mind for the time the knitting takes. Here is the first sock, and that week’s reading for theory reading group.

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They came with me to hospital to visit a complicated relative who had a near death experience, twice (she is still alive).  They may not have brought her comfort but they brought me comfort.  The second hospital visit was so dim I did something quite inappropriate and had to rip back a bit.  They have been to some high level meetings.  They came to a very informal meeting with a workmate which was interrupted by another knitter (otherwise, a total stranger) who was beside herself to see socks being knit right there in front of her eyes.  My workmate is a generous man who didn’t flinch!  I have walked along knitting them from my bag.  They have been fondled lovingly by the odd stranger.  I was getting to the heel of the second sock when I went to Sydney.  Here we are in a cafe reading political theory (with relish).

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In front of a sculpture at a university in Sydney where I attended part of a conference where my beloved did a wonderful job of presenting.

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In a hotel room with a banksia cone.

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Waiting for a bus outside central railway station in Sydney.  Ask not what the other people waiting thought of my photographing a sock.  There is a lot going on outside Central at night and no one blinked.

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Almost done at Coogee Beach.

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Maybe you wanted to see Coogee beach?  Glorious!

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Toe grafted and ends darned in, in the Sydney airport.

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Here they are in better light after a nice steam press!

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I hope that they will be snug and long lasting… (non knitters: that is a reinforcing heel stitch you see there).

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And I hope that the whimsy of these cables will tickle India‘s fancy the way it tickles mine!  This design was suggested by one of my nearest and dearest, who first told me about India’s work years before I first saw it.  He was the first to have a whimsically cabled pair of socks made by me… and now there are two such pairs!  It is an absolute delight to be able to turn the generosity back toward someone who has been so exceedingly generous to me.

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Filed under Eucalypts, Knitting, Natural dyeing

Winter dyeing

I had some rather pallid silk embroidery thread. That bag it is sitting on came from an op shop and has been through eucalyptus dye pots so many times it is a very deep shade now!

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I had some white and tan polwarth fleece.

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Eucalyptus cinerea leaves… I have sacks of them and decided it was time to get them moving!

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With wool going in a bit later…

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Then a gift of E Nicholii leavea arrived from a fried whose keen eye and quick wits diverted council prunings from going directly to mulch.  Thanks!

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Here they are after some serious cooking.

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My tour of the dye stash also uncovered these, sitting in a bag I used to use for gleaning the neighbourhood.  Perhaps I could use it again if it wasn’t storing these leaves…

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I thought I remembered them being unexciting.  They are clearly ironbark leaves, but presumably I confused my ironbarks.  I wasn’t sure and decided to try them out.

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There has also been E Scoparia bark dyeing.

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And here we have, fresh from the dye bath (a day later): E Nicholii at the top left; the unexciting ironbark, and E Scoparia bark at the bottom.

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Later still, some of that polwarth fleece sitting on the piano like a fluffy flame…

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First pass through the carder…

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Second pass… ready to spin!

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And now I have some thread with a bit more colour in it, too!

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Filed under Eucalypts, Fibre preparation, Natural dyeing

Retreat to Tin Can Bay 3: On how one thing grows out of another

In the tropics, there is abundant evidence of one thing growing out of another.  Of one thing being transformed by and into another.  It makes vivid what is always true–that these processes of transformation are constants.

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This is a strangler fig which is gradually growing around and supplanting the tree it is growing around, on and in.

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Here, a tiny seeding grows out of a pocket in the side of a huge tree.  Who knows where that will lead?  It isn’t hard to understand why so much magic and mystery has been attached to transformation and shape changing through so many cultures.  The way that fungi and insects and still smaller creatures help convert dead trees into soil is a thing of wonder to me.  No less that one tree can become another or that a tree can become so much mistletoe or so many wasp galls that the tree ceases and something else takes its place.  I am constantly impressed by watching confusion transform into understanding and ignorance change shape into new forms of knowledge.  I think these are the things that hold my love for teaching safe in the face of the difficulties that face my students and myself.

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I was constantly delighted by the ways that India and Roz think beyond mere function–and many of my companions on retreat clearly have the same approach.  It shed light on the places where I tend to focus on function and not even to consider whether the same function could be achieved with greater beauty.  And not necessarily through the application of immense effort.  Why should things not be lovely as well as functional?  It’s not the first time I have noticed this tendency of mine, but it continues to intrigue me and I clearly feel a strong pull back to the spare and sombre.  Some of it comes from all that childhood training about being neat and tidy and about skilfulness involving doing things in the ‘one right way’, I’m sure.  I come from a family history of thrift that was not leavened by loveliness a great deal.  Love, yes.  The evidence of love and generosity in my family is beyond question.  In times of great hardship I think it must have been these things precisely that held people together.  Loveliness, not so much. I don’t think this has been the aim for the makers I grew up around.  I can feel I share their lack of confidence in their ability to make things glorious as well as sharing their confidence that I can make things that will do the job and last.

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I have been so interested by watching my own horizons expand (creaking with the effort) over the years.  I notice that others don’t share my perceptions of the things I make.  But I also notice that others are on completely different journeys.  I have spent long months and years watching in fascination in the way that the internet now makes possible (and that books make possible in a  different, slower way), the unfolding of textile processes and finished objects that I find wonderful–intriguing–beautiful–but that break so many of the rules of ‘good sewing’ and ‘good mending’ I learned.  India Flint is one example–in comparison to the straight lines and carefully symmetrical curves of traditional dressmaking, her garments look more like ‘an artists’ sketch’–full of flowing line, gesture and movement–as one of my friends recently said.  I have linked to a post with a picture of several dresses hanging in space–scroll down to see what I mean…

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Jude Hill is another example.  Whatever happened to properly finished edges and using matched clean, fabrics here?  This is quilting unlike anything in an instructional manual–and I have been enjoying slowly taking one of her online classes, which is also very unlike a traditional manual. The link is to a blog post where she speaks about her current thinking on a quilt that I have been watching develop over a lengthy period, with a profound sense of awe.  And also speculates aloud about why and whether it is important to call some forms of textile work and stitch ‘art’.

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All of which is to say that my ideas and practises keep growing from one thing into another, even if that is a very slow process.  I have been re-reading Eco-Colour and noticing how many things I have slowly taken up since I first read it…I have also been noticing that India reasons from cooking practises to the development of dyeing practises and I have tended to take a breadmaking approach, in which something apparently labour intensive and time consuming can be broken down into many small steps with long intervening periods in which I just let the dough or the dye do its own magic, or simply rest. In case you are wondering what these images have to do with it… I think they show sand transforming into sedge, mangrove and spectacular pink flowering plants… Sand always seems so unpromising as a place for a plant, and yet plants adapt to do exactly this, grow in sand.  It reminds me of the ways that limitations and constraints generate unique forms of art and creativity.  That even extreme poverty can generate something as ingenious and beautiful as boro.

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The diversity of creativity was evident in our little retreat crew.  But also in the landscape.  Here is a little more of Tin Can Bay.  The crumbling remnants of vegetation leaving a pattern as the tide recedes across sand.

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High tide had left a wave of mangrove leaves and other decaying plant life a little further up.

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We each make our mark in our own unique way.The wind, the water… and… I am not sure if you can see the pinprick-tiny footprints of an unknown being that passed this way.

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Even those that live in the sea can leave evidence of where they have been

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And of course… so can everyone that crosses damp sand!

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Scribblers on the sand.

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Scribblers on bark.

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So many scribblers, human and otherwise… including me, of course.  Some new people have decided to follow the blog recently–welcome to the newcomers!  Thanks for stopping by in this usually sleepy nook of the internet.  I warmly encourage you to join the conversation in the comments should you wish.


Filed under Eucalypts

We are all part of one another

I was out gardening before work again a few mornings back. The weather is changing, the first of our chooks is moulting… some things need to happen now and soon!

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The vegetable and flower seedlings have been growing quickly.  In went rocket, lettuce, kale, broccoli and hollyhocks. Not quite done, but well on the way.

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The native plants have continued to sprout and grow, with ruby saltbush still the big success story. The biggest went into the ground this morning.  Here they are in a bucket ready to travel.  Those I planted earliest in the season are quite a good size now.  In the site where council watering has helped them on, only one seedling was lost.  In the drier site (further from home), about half have made it.  Many non plussed cyclists passed as I planted.

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One woman with a dog stopped to thank me and express her concern about all the newly planted natives that died when cars kept parking on them.  We talked about what could be done.  I was planting in a spot where over several nights someone stole the plants out of the ground–about 12 in all! So we talked about that, as she passes with her dog every day and notices things I also notice.  She spoke of the bunting and how she had been maintaining it.  It’s good to know and to remember that for every person who tears it down there might be several like this woman stopping to maintain it and being made cheerier by seeing it and understanding they have company in loving trees and plants.

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Then it was clean up time.  People dump stuff in the common land.  Why is it so?  Well, I extracted the plastic sack that was coming apart from its contents (old horse manure and sawdust, could be worse) and took it to the bin.  If only those degradable bags were capable of decomposing in the sense that dead plant life decomposes.

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Then I towed all the dead branches someone had piled around the base of one of my beloved trees home.  Happily our ‘green waste’ bin for council collection is almost always empty.  We’re big mulchers.  We have worms and chooks and compost systems.  So the green bin is there for rescue missions, and its contents can go to be composted by council.

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Last time someone dumped in this spot, They left a huge pot in several pieces.  Only one small piece was missing, so I heaved it home and glued it together.  It seems to be holding, so one big ugly plastic pot that is doing a great job of holding a plant, got placed inside.  Definitely an improvement.  While I did these things I thought about what it means that people dump things on common land here.  Is there something about this site I could change, that would make this a less favoured location, for example.

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I have been thinking a lot about the injunction in Indigenous law to recognise that we are interconnected–earth, animals, plants, sky, humans, stars, wind… I’ve been wondering what would follow for non Indigenous people if we tried to live by the core principles of Indigenous law in this country (as best we can understand them–and recognising this will always be partial) instead of thinking of Indigenous principles as a curiosity.  A bit like a religion you don’t really understand but that you can acknowledge exists and holds meaning for others. This is preferable to outright hostility, and growing up in this country I have seen that hostility and disrespect for Indigenous Australians since I was a small child.  But it is still pretty impoverished as a way of thinking our relationships to the land, its people and its law. Continuing with this thought experiment, I was trying out in my mind what it would mean to think of this tree as a relative in some profound sense. I am sure it would mean I wouldn’t choose this spot as a place to put rubbish. Respect would surely be part of that relationship. I have been thinking about relationships and what they can mean. I wondered whether I could draw strength from that tree as well as plant an understory that might protect it a little and clean up the mess passing humans leave. I thought that I could and that I do.

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If we are all part of one another (and this is something I believe on many levels), surely it follows that I don’t get to pick and choose.  I have often thought one of the profound things about Indigenous life prior to colonisation is that an Indigenous relationship to land is a profound and permanent thing: each person who belonged to a place would have expected to live there for their entire life and die there.  Something so profoundly unlike contemporary Western lives lived with the capacity to leave your relatives, your place of birth, everyone you have ever known and choose not to return.   If there was no picking and choosing, if we are all interconnected: what is my relationship to these people who leave what they don’t want on the commons of our suburb?  What obligations do I have to them?  How should I think about them?  I don’t have any answers, but some days I think I might be on to some decent questions.  That I’m wondering in a productive direction. I hope so. So I gathered more saltbush berries and kept thinking.

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Filed under Eucalypts, Neighbourhood pleasures

Plant loving action with galahs

One of my beloved tree banners came down a while back, so I have laundered it and decided to re-apply it.  The leaf print border has faded very much over the months it has spent in the full sun and weather, but the eucalyptus dyed silk thread I used to stitch the lettering onto it has remained a good strong colour.

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As I stood holding string, arms spread wide, I looked up in appreciation of the tree and realised we had supervision, or at least, company!

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One of the women who was part of the government department managing the infrastructure project that took hundreds of trees from our neighbourhood organised dozens of bird boxes.  She negotiated a collaboration between primary school children, who painted the boxes (this one has a frog on it) and scientists, who are studying the birds in our area by checking on these boxes (hence the number on its base).

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It looks like these galahs have been taking advantage of her foresight and dedication.  I had noticed galahs in our neighbourhood, and an even more unusual pair of yellow tailed black cockatoos who have been passing through, but did not realise these galahs might have taken up residence here. Wonderful!

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Another part of what has happened in the aftermath is the roll out of revegetation.  There is an area nearby where lots of plants have gone in, but at critical times, like when the farmer’s market is operating, cars park on the smaller plants or simply ignore the larger ones and bend them over.  Last week someone dumped garden waste on two more.  I have collected all the garden waste over two visits and the plants have survived that… but we don’t want any more to die.  In fact, as you know, we’ve been adding to the existing stock, quietly…

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So this week I decided to get onto the project.  I pulled out the bunting I’d used to protect my plantings in another spot during the royal show, ironed and mended, and when we had fellow plant lovers visiting–all of us went down with tools and gloves and created what I hope will be a friendly reminder that this is a garden and not a parking lot.  The ‘no standing’ signs in the next street over haven’t stopped people parking there… but hopefully this will help some of the low growing plants survive to get big enough to be visible from a car and let people know the neighbourhood cares for this patch.


Filed under Craftivism, Eucalypts