This year has been a lifetime peak in terms of preserving, fermenting and such. I’ve been brewing ginger beer all through spring and summer, and it is still going now, at the start of our winter. That’s my second starter, since given away on the Buy Nothing group.
I made mint jelly. I didn’t know it was really apple jelly + mint (nor did my mother, who used to make her own mint sauce)! Here it is before the mint was added.
Bread and butter pickles (pickled cucumbers and onion with dill and mustard seeds). This is a new one on me but I must say I like it! I’ve made sauerkraut and something that gestures toward Kim chi as well.
I dried my own prunes! (some of them were crunchy due to inexperience). I also dried sliced red plums, which I’ve been adding to porridge.
I had a gift of local big, fat olives. I’ve never preserved these before, but now that I make olive and rosemary bread above all others, we use a lot of olives, so why not? I have kilograms in brine at this stage…
While we were collecting leaves in the street (for mulch and compost, both of which required explanation to disbelieving neighbours) I asked the crabapple tree owner if he wanted the fruit from his tree. There were not enough for a lot of crabapple jelly, but certainly enough for me to want to make it again! And all this, after the passata making, the apple and pear preserving, and the jam and marmalade making. Too good. It is amazing to have so much delicious food coming our way.
My beloved ran in the Mothers’ Day Classic fun run this year. It’s a fundraising run for breast cancer research, which is great. However, as with many such events we have participated in, it comes with a lot of marketing merchandise. We are not fans of acquiring stuff we don’t want or need. So at an in person event, we have become quite good at bringing anything we need with us, so that if it’s on offer in a wasteful way (like water that comes in zillions of plastic cups) we bring our own. And we are better and better at saying “No Thanks!” to offers of merch. Under pandemic conditions though, all this came in the mail with no way to turn it down! What to do? I first trued offering it on our local Buy Nothing group. No interest at all. Then, I gave the backpack to a friend who swims a lot. Perfect for the pool. The ribbon/sash went to a kindergarten teacher. Anything capable of being recycled, to the right bin. Then I turned the scarf into four hankies. The best I could do. At least it’s cotton!
Three cheers for the roll hemming foot, and the return of the humble hanky.
It has come to my attention that I have a lot of readers in my home town. Darlings, this is a special message for all of you. Some fine folks in England have begun having street mending actions under the hashtag #stitchitdontditchit. Not to be confused with the punk mending phenomenon known as @dontditchitstitchit (still mending, quite different, also awesome, and perhaps the originator of both hashtags? Hard to know on the internets).
#stitchitdontditchit folks are holding socially distanced street mending events across England and beyond on 15 June. Let’s join in! I’ll be outside H & M in Rundle Mall at 1 pm on 15 June with my folding chair, a sign that says #stitchitdontditchit and a friend or two or three, and my mending. Maybe you will make it four! Come and mend, come and hang out, learn how to sew on a button–please yourself!
I suspect the folks who read this blog don’t need to have the connections between fast fashion and the climate crisis explained to them. But in case you know anyone who does, the Climate Council has written a great Explainer. And even Wikipedia says that H & M is the second biggest clothing manufacturer in the universe (behind one that does not yet have an outlet in our town, that I know of). So, see you there if you can and want to. It will be fun!
The grandbub is not a bub anymore. Her outdoor lifestyle and high level of energy continue, and mix and clash styling is in the genes!! The very fine and extremely generous Marion from Beautiful Silks sent another Moko Trews for me to assemble, so these have been added to the wardrobe!
Then there was the matter of the hat. I could not resist these zebra finches and a very nicely matching wattle print when I was accompanying a friend to the fabric shop (ahem).
There is no doubt that there is a lot of faffing in making a hat! This one has a heavy duty drill layer of leftovers from overall construction inside. The pattern is from Justine Online.
I may even have done a better job of following the instructions this time! It never fails to amaze me, to attempt a pattern and come across an entire section of the pattern I skipped over or missed completely…
I am just so happy with the outcome!
The “koala hat” in the first picture has gone out into the universe seeking independent adventures (AKA “lost”), so just as well I made a new one!
The last month or so has been peak seed collection time for me. I’ve been wandering the neighbourhood saving seeds from council plantings and from previous generations of my own guerilla gardening. There are a lot of different salt bushes–this one I still have not been able to identify, but it is certainly thriving in our suburb.
Here are three successive years of planting in the same patch, the most recent one planted in the last few months. Just in case you wonder whether anything lives–it sure does! The second year plants are fruiting (see below left), but the much bigger third year bushes are not. Intriguing! I am not sure what specific saltbush this one is. Below, from top left, unidentified saltbush (feel free to help me out if you can), two images of bulbine lily (bulbine bulbosa), which has begun to self sow! Ruby saltbush (enchylaena tomentosa), ruby saltbush again (but with orange berries), blue bush (maireana brevifolia, I think), and bladder saltbush (atriplex vesicaria)
These seeds will mostly be dried and saved for propagation and guerilla planting in Spring. But I have also been direct sowing some, and have planted others that might sprout now. Seeds are the best form of magic ever.
So, I invested in some sock yarn a while back. It’s Onion nettle sock yarn, a blend of wool and nettle fibre, available in Australia through Say! Little Hen. It’s a totally plausible #tuffsock blend, though it is imported from Europe, so the fibre miles on this yarn, where I live, in Australia–are considerable. The colours are lovely and the yarn is soft and lovely to knit. These socks are my customary “whimsical cable”, knit to the length of the recipient’s foot. Here I am, knitting on them outside the watch house after some of my friends had been arrested doing civil disobedience at the head office of SANTOS. If you’d like to know, in brief, why we do this: this article summarises some of the reasons for people’s current opposition to SANTOS. As climate activists, we understand burning fossil fuels as a key driver of the climate crisis. I was waiting for the police to release my friends for many hours, so it was good to have a sock as one of my companions!
This pair eventually went to a fellow rebel and friend, who sent me a lovely photo of her feet snugly clad in wool and nettle fibre, in a skirt she’d made!
Sad to report, the nettles I harvested at another friend’s house a while back, I have finally abandoned. I failed to ret them successfully, and I have also read a dependable source (from Europe) whose assessment of the minimum size of nettles that it is worth processing is, well, more than twice the size of those I can usually find. When I was in Europe a couple of years ago and did a lot of walking, I could not help but notice that nettles were often growing by rivers and creeks. By this, I mean to imply that even by European standards, in parts of Europe with rivers and creeks that run all year round… they were well watered. I live in a very dry place and nettles are not growing wild by creeks where I live. Nor are soils here rich. So it may be I won’t be creating nettle blends from local blends, ever!
My beloved has her own unique sense of style. Surf shirts have always been among her favourites, and in recent weeks I’ve mended a couple of soft, well worn rayon surf shirts whose buttons have pulled right through the fabric, or have worn into holes in random places. In the past I made a surf short complete with an underwater scene includign sharks (needless to say, chosen by her good self). Her friend inherited a substantial quantity of fabric, and thought of Sal when she saw this high quality cotton fabric with its classic hibiscus and frangipani print.
This is my go-to short pattern, McCall’s 9579 in M. And if I might say so myself, my best ever attempt at pattern matching (the vanishing pocket). It was chosen as part of her outfit for a recent big celebration in her family. Need I say more?
Guerilla gardening is like every other kind of gardening I know–there is no end, it just keeps going on and on. Except that the garden is a lot bigger! This morning (mid April), my friend and I went out to our shared project, a spot we have been sheet mulching for some time because there are many square metres of it and it is charitable to say it’s weedy–it’s quite exciting to see weeds have started to sprout there because it means that something else could grow. But nothing other than weeds has been growing there in many years, and sometimes not even that.
We began with my cardboard stash, and added onto what we have previously done (my friend has added some to our shared efforts without me!) on top of that, our first few sacks of leaves from the nearby car park where E Leucoxylon is in full bloom, and the late dry heat of summer and autumn has led to plenty of fallen leaves. Then we went to the local guitar shop, where they put all the boxes outside and are happy for folks to take them. We stripped out staples and tape again and added on. Then more leaves!
Next we headed home to collect soil (our test hole shows a liberal layer of bricklayer’s sand and a lot of gravel), water and plants. We sang the tree planting blessing over the first tree ( E Scoparia), and added some ruby saltbush for good measure and protection.
While we were there, a woman pulled over on her bike. She is older than me, and I see her cycling in my area really often, always in a dress, frequently going at a very fast speed. What a role model! She said she had formed the impression that the two of us had taken responsibility for this area of the rail corridor and she was wondering if some ruby saltbush that are coming up at her place might be a good fit. Absolutely! We said. So it appears we are now a team of three (in a very loose sense). We hope that rain is coming, and I have lots of plants to put in. Meanwhile, yesterday a friend dropped by with a stack of pots from her day job, that will be perfect for propagating. Might be time for cuttings…
It seems that hats are one of the sources of intergenerational conflict. Wearing one is essential in the Australian sun. But throwing them off insistently is a regular pastime of small people. So finding a hat that is comfortable, fits well and stays on is an important endeavour. I made this one for the grandbub’s second birthday. The lining is part of a high quality shirt, part f which was passed on to me through a Buy Nothing group once its life as a short was over.
The outer is left over from her favourite pair of pants, and the interfacing is from another very much loved shirt whose time for reincarnation had arrived.
There is a nice piece of hat elastic keeping this hat in place firmly but comfortably, and it can be adjusted. And her mother loves the striped lining! This is the adjustable, reversible fisherman’s hat from Justine Online. This is my first effort at a hat and Justine guided me through it successfully, hooray!
A local friend has started a guerilla gardening project in which I am the support crew. Lovely! The first step is sheet mulching. This patch is beside a railway line that carries local trains and interstate freight. It has been barren and weedy for many years. We cut the weeds down.
We each brought cardboard from our favourite places. We removed staples and tape and laid it out to smother weeds. And then, we went out collecting leaves to hold it down, cover it, and complete the weed barrier.
Here we are, pleased with our efforts!
Here I am another day, ready to go again with my bike trailer, two feed sacks full of leaves and more cardboard.
As the weather cools and we get some rain, we will be back in this spot planting. I love the scale of my friend’s ambition here!