Category Archives: Neighbourhood pleasures

Guerilla garden hacks of our time

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!

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Guerilla Gardening continues

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!

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Return to guerilla gardening

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**

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Gardening jeans mend

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.

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Around the house

It won’t come as a surprise to hear that I reckon collective political action is what we need at this point in history. The science says we are now in such profound trouble on the climate emergency front that small scale individual actions, even multiplied many times, aren’t going to sort this out. We need to join together, get active and get vocal.

As I write, large parts of this country are on fire and in drought. Remote Aboriginal communities are living through record breaking temperatures without decent housing or airconditioning, or even guaranteed water supply. Daily life for many people here and all over the world, is hard. And our government has done all in its power to block progress on climate action in Madrid, as well as continuing to support coal, oil and gas mining at home.

Meanwhile, my quiet suburban life is an incredible privilege! While recognising the crucial role of collective action–we are all living day by day, and at that level ethics and educating ourselves form crucial parts of our daily lives. So here are some things I’m doing at home. I love hearing about what other folks are up to, so feel free to suggest!

Eat your weeds! Above are dandelion and sow thistle ready to be added into a silverbeet pie. Delicious, nutritious, easy–and motivating if you’re not a lover of weeding.

Litter picking. For me, this has become an end use for plastic bags that have gone past the point of being used in the kitchen, but have come into the house somehow. I pop one in my bag, along with a pair of gloves if that’s the main purpose of my walk, and pick up the trash I find around the neighbourhood. Sometimes I do it on my bike. Just stop at a messy spot and collect whatever is there.

[I digress to give you an image of a dung beetle. I was so excited when I saw it!! Surely the emblem of the litter picker if there is one…]

Compost it. I deal with our rubbish as close to our house as I can, and when the occasion arises, compost the street leaves dropped on our street, ditto for bark. The worm farm will accept natural fibre items that are beyond repair and reuse. I give a decent burial to the victims of cars and other sudden deaths in our suburb. I know what happens next will not be prettier as surely as I know that leaving a glass bottle in the street will likely lead to smashed glass unless I put it in my recycling bin.

Use it up! I’ve been working harder at making sure the wilted sad fruit and veg get their chance to be delicious dinner. Here, the no longer crisp apples become roasted stuffed apples, delectable (also super easy).

On the use it up front, I’m a maker of stock and have returned to what I used to do at the lowest ebb of income in my life–turning peelings, tops, celery leaves, sad and wilted vegetables and such, into the stock that makes risotto or lentil stew or whatever you fancy, sing.

More using up–as my beloved is on a gluten free diet, I’ve been making GF sourdough bread at home (YES!! Totally Possible). At times the freezer holds quite the collection of stub ends, crusts and such. I’ve discovered I can turn them into crumbs straight from the freezer, and since I make things like spinach pie with no pastry these days, I top them with these crumbs (yes, direct from freezer to dinner via food processor), a sprinkling of nutritional yeast and a drizzle of olive oil for a tasty, crunchy topping.

Sharing! I had some serious time on the couch (nothing life threatening–fret not) in the last while and I have been using the local free libraries and book nooks to swap books I’ve read for ones I haven’t, and keep books and magazines circulating. I’ve read books I would never have bought. I now find there are three book nooks like this one (in Penola! where I dropped in a book picked up in Mount Gambier and took away a historical novel) walking distance from my house.

BYO. I know you all do this too. Keep cups and all that. This is me at a stop on a long distance road trip. If I have access to two of these thermos things, I travel with breakfast in one (porridge or “bircher” muesli depending on the weather) and something hot and decent for lunch in the other. Often I grab cutlery from the drawer at home, but if the occasion seems likely to risk losing cutlery we want to keep, we have plastic cutlery that we had no choice about at some stage, saved for just such cases. I often attach it with a rubber band for simplicity’s sake.

Make your own. Sorry, not a food stylist! I know you do this too. I’ve had a breadmaking breakthrough and I love saving plastic that used to come into the house with double wrapped GF bread in particular, by making my own and making for friends.

But above all, take to the streets, and your phone, and your keyboard. Don’t be alone with your fear and despair, or with your longing for something to happen. Gather with friends. Make new friends. We need all of us to take action in defence of life on earth now.

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From little things…

This morning I felt quite unwell and scaled back my expectations of the day. But, I decided on a quiet stroll to the Farmers’ Market nearby as a pleasant undemanding outing. I’m blessed to love walking distance from this weekly market. I love that it sells local produce; I love that packaging is much less of a feature here than at a supermarket. I love that there are small organic producers selling here. It’s spring, and on the way I saw another woman walk up to a bottlebrush and run her hand over the flowers with evident pleasure–we had a lovely conversation about their beauty and she said she had seen streets full of jacaranda but never a whole street where the street trees are bottlebrush. A sister!

So I set out and decided to litter pick on my way. A few weeks back I bought three kilograms of rhubarb from the farm gate when I was out and about, and it came in three rhubarb–length bags with holes punched in them. They’ve gone to the litter picking bag stash rather than into the re-use for food stash because of the holes. One had already been used to pick litter when I was out on my bike. So I put the other two in a calico bag with my garden gloves and set out. I filled one bag on my way there. In my neighbourhood, I pick up a lot of cigarette butts, bottle lids of all kinds, advertising, confectionery packaging, fast food containers, straws, cable ties and tissues. The tissues make me want to continue with the [making and sharing] hanky project! On the way there I also picked up a beer bottle. In my experience it is always a mistake to leave a glass bottle on the street because the next time I see it, it is usually shattered. I arrived at the market, put my litter bag in the bin and the bottle in the recycling. I got a lovely smile from a woman pushing a child in a pram just as I arrived–looked to me as though she could see what I was doing and wanted to share her approval.

First stop, cheese. I ran into a friend and complimented him on his photos of the School Strike for Climate, which massive here as in so many parts of the world. The woman running the stall joined in the conversation, and when my friend said we just have to keep the momentum building, she said she thought there was an event coming Monday week–and what do you know? She was referring to one of the events for the Extinction Rebellion Spring Rebellion–which is a global week of action–and I’m part of the organising team for our city. As he stepped away, I told her I was an organiser and we had a chat about what she might do, and about the local group near where she lives. That was very cheering!

Next I bought some seeds for my spring garden and had a lovely chat with the seller who also had a gorgeous selection of flowers.

Then I decided on a treat from a stall that sells apples and delectables featuring apples and other home grown fruit. I have been bringing my own bag to this stall for years, and the couple who run it have always expressed their delight when I bring my own bag. When I buy a tart or brownie from them I bring my own container and they love that too! It’s so nice to have people respond positively, especially as some folks will refuse to co-operate in this strategy. Many will embrace it, however, and I now use it for sushi, cheese at the Central Market, one of the few places I can still find cheese being cut from a block and not pre-packaged, and all manner of things that need a container but don’t need a single use container. This stall provides paper bags, and has moved to cardboard trays for squishy fragile delectables, but clearly the owners are still hoping for a non-single-use strategy, so we talked over some of the possibilities, including just advertising that you can bring your own tub.

And then I walked home and filled another bag with litter. But I felt quite heartened by today’s chat. It made me think, yet again, that you do not know the ripples your efforts might have. I often think that individual efforts, while educational and ethically significant, are not especially impactful–and that is one reason I focus my effort on activism when I am able. Yet the apple-store woman said she had been prompted to go further in her quest for less waste by my bringing my own tub week in, week out. Our conversation held one new idea from me and one new idea from her own imagination. The cheese-store woman is one step closer to coming along to an Extinction Rebellion event because she has had a warm conversation with a customer. And the neighbourhood has less plastic going into the storm water system.

For those who don’t recognise it–the title of this post is a reference to “From Little Things, Big Things Grow” by Kev Carmody and Paul Kelly, two giants of Australian songwriting. It is a tribute to the movement for Indigenous land rights in this country, and in particular to a key leader of the Gurindji: Vincent Lingiari, who led the walk off at Wave Hill, a key moment both for land rights and sovereignty. It was also a key moment for the right of Indigenous Australians to be paid equal wages in a period when some white landowners were still “paying” Indigenous Australians in rations–just one appalling practice in a lengthy history of exploitation which has continued into my lifetime.

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First guerilla gardening of Spring

Autumn’s cuttings and seedlings are ready for planting around the neighbourhood.

One of my dear friends died recently, and on the day of her funeral I decided I’d go out and plant. Somehow it seemed right. Here they are ready to go.

I planted them along a corrugated iron fence, where some have lived, some have been poisoned, and some have been pulled out. Here’s hoping these make it! Then as usual, litter picking, weeding and home.

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Still more guerilla gardening

Two buckets full of seedlings in pots, two watering cans and some tools in a blue wheelbarrow.

Oh yes. More saltbush (some of them very stunted but still alive). More wren bush. A Eucalyptus Scoparia seedling and some sheoaks.

In they go!

And by the way, previous plantings are now sending out their descendants!

And, home again with more autumn leaves destined to mulch my yard rather than go down the drain or into the street sweeper.

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Planting the Correas

I have had more success with propagating correas (from cuttings) than previously, and so–the correa alba babies go out into the big wide world.

I have planted them in a spot the council has installed a watering system. The parent plant for all these cuttings almost died in the 47C heat of summer.

Here’s hoping they make it!

Muddy jeans, a bucket with empty pots and tools in it.

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Guerilla sedge planting

I have been propagating Ngarrindjeri weaving rushes (Cyperus gymnocaulos) from the plantings I made in a local culvert, which are now quite established. Here are little starts I’ve planted in pots.

Sedge starts sprouting in little pots--about 24 pots in a styrofoam box.

I’ve decided in consultation with friends to plant them in Brownhill Creek.

A culvert exit with gabion walls, and a lot of weeds growing in leafy, rocky creek bed.

Where it has been rerouted to suit human infrastructure near us, there is suitably wet ground and it has just been getting weedier and weedier since rerouting.

Weeds growing in a creek bed which runs under a bridge, with gabion walls and concreted sides.

So out I went with a bucket in each hand, and some tools.

Then planted them at the edges.

And in they went–about twenty on this occasion–and then it was all litter picking, all the way home.

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