In the time since I studied an online version of The Alchemist’s Apron with India Flint, in which I was introduced to the use of a rusty-object-solution iron mordant in a way that I understood freshly… there has been some time where I still felt no interest in using it. I have created some very black items with it, and some not so great prints. And then, there have been times when I thought that perhaps, I could put some effort into coming to grips with it and build my judgement. This apron was a turning point for me, where I began to see I might be able to do exciting things with it. And, I love any approach to textile dyeing where the main components are found, free and non toxic–which is why I enjoy India Flint’s approaches so much. Over time I have done quite a few experiments, including some where I created my mordant on holiday from found local objects and any leftover parts of lemons we happened to have, and combined it with the leaves available where we were staying and some calico from the local op shop. Ah, the pre-pandemic age. Maybe not my best work… but the time scale was ambitious!
What often happens as I accumulate various bits and pieces of bundle dyed fabric is that over time, a thought about what they could become forms. At first, I thought a shirt would be perfect. I asked a sewing friend and I don’t think she liked the idea as much as I did–after all it would be a grey shirt. I reconsidered. More months passed, and one day I was at The Fabric Store trying to get fabric in a specific colour for a beloved niece, and there it was, hanging on the wall in the perfect colour of a beautiful linen: The Lucie Robe. The kind of sample garment that must sell a lot of patterns and fabric, I reckon. I thought about the 20 year old terry toweling dressing gown hanging at home (a gift from my beloved now well past its best), and how many times in the last year I’ve thought I should try to make a new one. I considered the glorious (and of course, expensive) linen and then thought… I might use my iron mordanted cottons instead.
I did have to do the epic jigsaw-cum-collage that is assembling a pdf pattern. But then it was done and I was off, cutting out where the shapes of the dyed fabric worked for a pattern piece; patchworking together enough fabric for larger pieces as needed. Bits of old sheet and cast off calico, fast becoming a garment.
Somehow even the not so glorious bits work, I think–and what if they don’t? This won’t be out on the streets.
I like the E Nicholii leaves from the tree I planted myself! I also like the generous, elegant pockets.
But for me the bit that pulls it all together is the rose-leaf collar. I’m a fan. When I saw it, I had to check whether this was a silly whim. I did all that thinking about whether I really need another pattern, and even more than that–whether I need more fabric. I don’t need more fabric! But I am very happy about having chosen this to make with the fabric I already had.
The last of autumn’s ruby saltbush went out into the world. I had in mind a spot where I would plant it, but rail infrastructure crews were busy right there. So I changed my mind.
I put some rooted but not potted Ngarrindjeri weaving rushes into the creekbed while I was out. They are likely to do better there than potted on at this time of year, I decided. Then it was veldt grass out (a more knowledgeable person has identified one of the awful weeds of our neighbourhood for me!) and ruby saltbush in, along a fence line where I have been progressively planting saltbush and nature has been progressively creating soil as more leaves are trapped in place and break down into new earth. Perfect.
The council decided to mulch one of my guerilla gardening sites where loads of their plantings died once summer and have never been replaced. I was glad to see most of them unscathed. These saltbush have grown a lot since they went in!
In other guerilla gardening news, a nearby propagator has started offering me plants for this purpose! I scored pots destined for landfill as I returned from my run one day and separated out these little darlings to grow them on a bit more before planting.
There has been a fair bit of guerilla weeding going on. A gentleman on a bike stopped just to ask me what weeds I was pulling this morning!
Here are the little bulbine lilies in their new bigger homes in the propagating area, where I hope they will get big enough to plant out soon!
Goodness me, it’s been a while, gentle readers. It appears I stopped writing posts some time ago, with some still unfinished. So when this one seems to have been written in a different season–that is because most of it was!
I have had quite an amazing period of exchanges of gifts of late–and I’m struggling to remember when it began. Last week I got a query about whether I would like some bitter mandarins to make marmalade. I said yes! And left limes and lime marmalade in return.
That night I received a gift of onion and potato rolls. Delectable! I already had sourdough rising, so the next day I gifted the same friends a loaf of olive and rosemary bread. Next day, I got a message from someone who wanted to know if I would pick up second hand pots for re-use. They were in self isolation after visiting family, so I left limes and some more marmalade (I think we have made 5 batches of marmalade lately so we have plenty!) As I stepped out of my house to go on this delivery, I saw a little pot with seedling bulbine lilies from a nearby gardener who is excited to find I am a guerilla gardener. I’ve since potted them on, and will plant them around the neighbourhood in due course.
Next, I went to the Farmer’s Market, and had a chat with friends I’ve made quite a few pairs of slippers for. They gifted me a couple of grapefruit and some home-distilled hand sanitiser! That takes the cake, right? That night I scored a ponytail palm in a pot from someone in the local Buy Nothing group. I took them marmalade too, not that they were expecting it! And then the next night I got a call from a friend whose daughter needed a heater in a hurry. I bought this one second hand in the 1990s but hopefully it will do the job. That got hauled away this morning…
And this evening, I took a cowl in a bag around to a friend who had agreed to get it to someone else, who lost their cowl and was missing it terribly. I took mandarins and mandarin marmalade, and after a tour of the garden, walked home with a home grown bok choy and a green oak leaf lettuce.
In one of the patches I garden, there has been flooding in one part and drought in another for an extended time. I noticed it quite some time ago. I couldn’t figure out why, and chose plantings accordingly (as both flood and drought had caused the original plantings to die off).
Recently I figured out the problem.
It’s a nice, clean cut. I can’t see any way this can have happened, other than someone cutting it, with a tool, in two places. Mind you, that might be my limited imagination.
A friend helped me understand the way the watering system was constructed in a way that made me understand that I could fix it. Now maybe I should just have called the council. But actually, I call them pretty regularly to report things like this, and this time I couldn’t bear to. Instead, today I put my tools in my bucket, took a feed sack, and went to sort it out myself. Not pretty, but I used what I had. Not perfect, but surely an improvement. I just removed the century clips the way Dad taught me, subbed in a generous length of garden hose, and tightened up the clips again. Let’s see how the cycle of flood and drought goes now!
A little gentle, socially distanced guerilla gardening has continued over the last while.
Sedge planting went first–in co-operation with others who have a more authorised relationship with the Council. There was a man playing his clarinet in the park the day these went in beside Brownhill Creek.
These are Cyperus gymnocaulos, Ngarrindjeri weaving rushes. Do follow the link to hear Aunty Ellen Trevorrow share her wisdom about the rushes and the basket weaving, its deeper meanings and Ngarrindjeri weaving traditions. The Aunties gave all of us who did a workshop with them years ago some starts, and these rushes are propagated from plants I’ve established from those starts.
These saltbushes went out into a new spot I’m gardening where a lot of the original planting died a long time ago. Here’s where they have gone into the ground…
And here’s the traditional shot of what I brought home!
Then more saltbushes… in a different part of the same area.
Here they are tucked in alongside the watering system. It seems to me part of the watering system has died and part of it is flooding an area of the planting area–and that is contributing to what has died and what has lived, so I’m planting drought tolerant species in the very dry area and those that might enjoy the water in the spot where the water struggles to drain away, and we will see how that goes.
But wait! There’s more!
This time sheoak as well as saltbush…
This roll of very quiet planting has been driven by the welcome arrival of rain. So heavenly. I have just a few plants left now and need to get cuttings in for next planting season!
This is my second attempt at this post, having lost the first when it was complete but not scheduled… so this is the crisp and fast version!
I’ve had a long break from every kind of gardening with a protracted recovery from an injury–but now I am decisively on the mend I’m doing little gardening often. Gleefully propagating and planting! So today, out to a new patch planted by Council and provided with a watering system, where a lot of plants have died and not been replaced. It’s not the best time, but that passed some time ago and these plants can’t thrive in pots forever either.
I found a little message from the universe as I contemplated the crispified NZ flax at this site that was so lush until we hit 40C. Count me among those trying to care for creation, whether it resulted from the actions of deities and spirits or whether it arose from the big bang and evolution. This garden mixes plants from different parts of Australia with some from Africa and one from Aotearoa (New Zealand) and that seems quite wrong to me. But–Council has provided for my future flax weaving ambitions and I am glad this garden is there and growing to maturity despite some losses.
In went dianella revoluta, two species of tall saltbush and a Eucalyptus Nicholii that was irresistible at the hardware shop for $A3. Long may they live and thrive. And then, litter picking, watering, weeding and home for breakfast. **Save draft** **LOL**
I do follow people who do lovely mending. I read their books and follow their blogs or instagram accounts. I admire Tom of Holland. I appreciate Katrina Rodabaugh. I’ve enjoyed Jessica Marquez and Hikaru Noguchi. I love that mending is coming back into regular use, at least in some circles. But I am definitely not an upscale mender of my own clothing. My own clothing gets worn out in places I’d rather not show off. My gardening jeans get worn fulsomely, and because my back is a weak point, I kneel in the dirt to garden and dress accordingly.
It follows that you wont be getting styling advice from me!
On the left leg here, you can see indigo dyed thread (look closely) which was the first mend of the knees. The white thread is a second mend. And I seem to have taken this photo in the driveway as I set out guerilla gardening some months back, having recently completed a second mend on the right leg, because the fabric had worn through there.
I’m not entirely sure why I’ve stuck with these so long and mended them so much. I often decide that if I’m up for the job then I’ll do it and who cares why. These jeans are like a catalogue of my hand mending skills over a period of time (definite improvement, in case you are wondering). They are comfortable because they are stretch jeans, something I bought at the time and might not choose again. They are also a cotton polyester blend, which I remember being appalled at when I first washed them and realised–I had been too naive to read the label back then. So the longer they stay out of landfill the better–but the bottom end of my jeans drawer has plenty of contenders for gardening jeans in it. Just not quite yet. I am not yet ready to lose these.
And in this picture, a quiet celebration of guerilla gardening success. Ruby saltbush that has made it through a scorching 40C + heatwave, between a concrete path and a corrugated iron fence. Council have begun to trim it like a hedge, bless them. And bless you, ruby saltbush.