Category Archives: Neighbourhood pleasures

Yarn bombing

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Sometimes a person spins a yarn but there isn’t anything sensible to knit it into.  Perhaps there isn’t really enough of it, or it was an experiment.  Or it’s badly spun.  or too… something… to ever be a garment.  This is banana fibre and wool dyed with madder exhaust, being knit on an evening in Warrnambool a while back. Not enough for anything I can think of.  What to do?  Well, the title of the post gave it away.

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I’ve been working my way through all kinds of leftover weirdness in my stash (and needless to say, creating more weirdness as I go).  One fine day over Easter I went for a walk with these.

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Here is the banana fibre.

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This is combing waste from spinning sock yarn.

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All those short ends and grass seeds, so troublesome in a sock, won’t bother anyone now! While I was applying this one to a pole, a local sculptor pulled up on his mozzie bike and had quite a chat about what I was doing and what he was doing and the importance of treating one’s neighbourhood as a shared place for beautification, care, thought and cleaning up.  I’d seen his sculptures around and he’d seen my “beloved tree” banners.  Now we’ve met.

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This is lock spinning over a core, leftover from knitting a tea cosy (another good use for weird wools). Now it is over by a tram stop.

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Badly spun coils that won’t hold together for long unless felted.

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Now adorning a pole… where they will felt in the weather.

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Core spinning–it made a great tea cosy, but there were just a couple of metres left!

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Indigo dyed carding waste.

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What even is that?? Well, now it’s a blur of colour as you ride your bike past!

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Leftover strips of indigo dyed worn out t shirts the main parts of which are slowly awaiting conversion to their next life (cut out and partly stitched).

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Close up…

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This one is at a tram stop.  I wonder how long it will last? Finding out is part of the fun of yarn bombing…

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It’s that time of year…

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…the time of year when the calendars get turned into envelopes.  I was a bit surprised to find that we had three calendars kicking around the house.  Admittedly, one of them had been on the wall for two years with scant attention to the dates because the pictures are glorious but the seasons are for the other side of the planet.  The seed saving envelopes are especially good looking this year…

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And since I had the Trees for Life calendar, which I loved all year long, I now have seed-themed envelopes as well as envelopes for seed-saving. Somehow that’s a happy thing! If you are longing to make your own, there is a tutorial above under the How To tab.  Enjoy!

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A little guerilla gardening

This morning I went out in the grey dawn for a little guerilla gardening, wearing a flour-bag shirt that has been dipped in indigo!

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Evidently I was in a hurry, and so the blurred image… ruby saltbush and a type I have not identified yet, that I call scrambling saltbush.  It’s already fruiting in the pot.  The days over 40C killed so many plants at home and in the neighbourhood that I have not been planting for weeks. I’ve just been weeding and picking up rubbish and thinking about autumn.  The season of cuttings and root division.  The season when the plants that are in pots now might be able to make a go of life in the big wide world.

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I took the seedlings to a site a street over where a big ironbark came down in a storm.  The trunk was cut away and removed but much of the crown of the tree as well as the root mass has been left as it fell or was cut.  I’ve begun carting it away.  The conversation I had with a neighbour I don’t really know when I was doing this recently was very funny.  I was strolling down the street towing a big green bin on wheels.  This is the way “green waste” (anything that can be composted) is collected in my council area. It gets chipped and composted commercially.  He said to me “most people take a dog out for a walk” and laughed a bit at my taking my bin for a walk instead.  I decided to maintain the mystery (I am not sure people really want full disclosure at times like these) and joked back.  He was still there when I towed it back up the street full of dead branches, so I made a joke about whether the bin enjoyed the walk as much as a dog would have.  I thought maybe I had a better time than the bin.

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I had started planting out one end of this site before the tree came down, so I planted some more, and continued moving branches off plants and shifting big branches back toward the driest area where nothing will grow.  Then picked up the rubbish, removed an old yarn bomb that had descended to the ground and begun to rot away, and came home again.  Off to work in the Very Hungry Caterpillar shirt.  I think the print is so cheery no one notices the size of the shirt (or if they do, they are way too polite to say anything about it). I can live with that!

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41C in Adelaide

It’s 41C in my town the day I am writing. Things are much worse in other parts of Australia–where it has already been above 40C for over a week. And here’s what I did to prepare for 41C.

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Step 1: recommit to action on climate change.  This country (among others, some already going under the sea) will not be habitable for future life unless we succeed, and there are some rather specific signs of inadequate action both here and in other first world nations right now.  If in doubt, ask the Climate Council.  You know: scientists who know their stuff and know how to communicate.

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Step 2: water plants deeply.  Freeze water for the worm farms.  Ensure ample water and shade for the chooks (hens).  Put water in the fridge.  Make sure cool air can get into the house, if there is any, during the night. Invite friends who can’t cool their homes to come over.

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Step 3: wash fleece, because wool drying weather this good should be taken advantage of.  Dye fleece with heat-activated “cold pad batch” dyes and place in the right spot to maximise the heat it will get on the big hot days.  I have mixed up the last of these dyes I own and given away my fixative.  It’s been fun but I’m committing to plant dyes and just seeing out the chemical dyes I already have.

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Step 4: harvest woad.  Could you tell that was woad steeping in hot water in the first picture?  Extract pigment.  That second image of the blue froth with a coppery blue swirl in the middle? The most exciting thing that has happened when I’ve tried to extract pigment from woad to date.  I’ve read high summer is the best time to get blue from woad, and–this is high summer.  Add woad to indigo vat.  Rebalance Ph.  Do your best to create conditions for reduction. Stir carefully. That’s where things are at in image 3. Image 4 is some hours later. Keep warm overnight.  Place vat in a sunny spot first thing.

And on the day… stay inside except when tending living things and hanging loads of washing.  Check as the temp of the indigo/woad vat rises to 35 and then 45C.  Enjoy the sound of the inverter for the solar panels as it cranks out power from the sun.

 

 

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Lime marmalade

Dear Readers, it seems this post was overlooked when written, and here it is somewhat belatedly!

When life sends you limes?  You know you’re having a pretty good life, I think!

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I had saved pips from some variety of citrus and kept them in the freezer.  You can see them here in the mesh ball, contributing their pectin to the mix, as our limes are seedless.

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After lime slicing and then lime cooking by mood lighting… the finished marmalade seems like a fitting end to the last lime season.

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Summer in the guerilla garden

It had been a cool summer up to the point when I wrote this post.  Quite unlike a usual December in these parts.  So I have been making the most of it and planting away. This time, rhagodia (seaberry saltbush), enchylaena tomentosa (ruby saltbush) and two other varieties I have not identified–one upright silver leafed variety and one that scrambles on the ground.

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I am gradually filling out spaces where the tree was recently felled as it looks like the trunk is there to stay.

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Here’s one I planted earlier (foreground), in case you’re wondering if any ever grow!

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Then over to the culvert. Ruby saltbush at the top edges.

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There are some steep banks, so I am hoping the scrambling saltbush is up to the job.  2016-12-06-07-25-37

Next, some serious weeding.  There is one local patch where most of my losses are to the poisoner.  And, I am trying to avoid the poisoner’s attention arriving at the culvert plantings. I think weeding is the answer for now. It is the best thing I can do to ensure these plants get big enough to make it.  Once the low growing plants are established, I can consider putting in larger ones.  or trees.  I am having sheoak sprouting success right now.

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And now for a gratuitous picture of two maned wood ducks with their ducklings, running downhill toward water as fast as those teeny legs can take them.  Some days walking to the bus is the best part of the working day!

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Propagating

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A guerilla gardener needs a propagation plan. Mine starts in the chook run, sieving compost and soil turned every day by our six little helpers.

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Then to the endlessly recycled pots, on the potting bench my dad made from an old kitchen sink.  It’s a great height and has a handy drain down into a bucket below.  My bucket can sit in the sink with pots on the sideboards and everything is well.

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This week I planted more saltbush seed, soaked these prostrate wattle seeds in boiling water and planted them, and pricked out the seafoam statice seedlings in the foreground above.  Then, inspired by Rebecca from needleandspindle and PIP magazine, I made some gardener’s hand scrub!  Just what a guerilla gardener needs…

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This week in guerilla gardening

As the weather begins to really start to warm, I am increasingly keen to get plants into the ground if I can. I still have weaving rushes (sedges) that need happy homes.  There tubestock pots have become less and less happy.

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Careful observation makes me think the place where they might have enough soil moisture to make it through the summer is in the culvert I have begun planting out.  I added them to edge of the channel, where there is some clay that is still quite wet. Those further up the bank were planted a few weeks ago and have grown quite visibly.  I spent some time trying to increase the water holding shaping of the bank, as you can see water just runs down it despite my efforts.

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Here is the other side of the bank, complete with mystery plants.

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I also planted this scrambling saltbush.  One of them had a stray sheoak seedling in with it.  Fingers crossed!

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A few boobialla up on the top of the banks.

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And here is the bigger picture.  You can barely see my plantings, just the mystery plants, about 30-40 cm high.

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Gnaphalium affine (jersey cudweed)?  Helichrysum luteoalbum? Pseudognaphalium luteoalbum? One source suggests the last two are are the same plant… and that the common name is Jersey cudweed. Thanks for your suggestions! I will keep looking and accepting clues.  Meanwhile, the mystery continues…

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Guerilla gardening continues in spring

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Yesterday I was out and about before work in the cool morning after some rain during the night.  In one spot, I added some tiny saltbush to continue closing the gap between established plants and a pathway.

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On the other side of the path, the same process.  I gave these some little sticks in honour of the neighbour who lives nearest.  He approves of the planting and thinks sticks help.  I am never entirely sure–sometimes they just attract unwanted attention.

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A tree was felled here just recently and the predecessors of these boobiallas were taken out in the hubbub.  I have been unsure how long to wait to discover whether the trunk of this massive ironbark will be collected.  While the canopy of the tree was taken away after it was felled (over two days)… the trunk is lying there and has been for some time now.  The longer I leave it, the smaller the chance of preventing parking on this area will become for the year ahead.  meanwhile the truck is stopping bike and foot traffic through this patch, which creates an opportunity for plants to grow undisturbed.

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The tree had died, and since heavy machinery was parked on its root zone right up to the trunk for two years, I have to say parking might be part of what killed this tree and the one that used to stand beside it. Perhaps I am wrong–but this made me more inclined to plant and try to fend off more soil compaction here.

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A few more ground covers facing the road where some were lost in the flood. In case you might think there is no progress, look at the size of these ruby saltbush planted in the last year, on the same site.

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Then, some weeding.  The last thing I want is for the poisoner to take out these little plants unawares while poisoning the weeds. Then I went round to the new site by the culvert and weeded there. The unidentified plant is doing well and flowering. It is not curry plant.  That really is what my parents have in their front garden, and there are similarities.  But the smell is really distinctive, and missing here.  All clues accepted, dear readers!

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On one small saltbush, I found these little critters.  I hope they won’t take too much… I was rather charmed to find signs of life in this unpromising spot, personally.

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And then home again with weeds galore.

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This week in guerilla gardening

This morning there was a little outing.  Planting at a culvert beside the local train station with cyclists whizzing past and runners raising eyebrows.

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It’s interesting working so close to the train line.  I moved into this neighbourhood because of the public transport, and the lucky find of a place we could afford, discovered when I took a wrong turn on my bike coming home from work.  The place was for private sale with a handmade sign and we had given up on finding anything in this spot.  I appreciate the public transport, and rail freight too, a great deal.  But some days I also reflect on the spectacularly ugly way we do these things here. I live in hope that the future will find better ways and that these trains will be powered more sustainably soon.  I put in more weaving rushes on the banks of the channel, and some saltbush above it.  There was a whole purple towel just inside the fence for the railway, but well past the end of the path.  Curious.  It can join the dyeing towels.

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And then there was weeding.  The best way to keep the poisoners at bay!  Several of these plants have come up.  This one is in bud.  Does anyone more knowledgeable know what they are?  I think my parents have them in their garden, where I think they give off a curry (fenugreek, perhaps) kind of scent in midsummer.  Wandering about on the interwebs, Mum and Dad probably have Curry Plant (Helichrysum italicum) and … this may not be the same plant, but I can’t readily identify it as [locally] native or a weed.  Identification is a work in progress. Maybe the recent flooding rains have borne seeds here, as I have seen it nowhere else nearby. The plant growing in this reveg site I am working on also comes up in the older graves on the West Tce cemetery, where they have recently been poisoned along with the sow thistles.  Poison, even in cemeteries.  Friends, let me push up weeds if needs be, when the time comes.  Weeds may be plants growing where they are unwanted but routine and repeated poisoning is not a great alternative.

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It’s one of the things I love about guerilla gardening, and thinking of it as caring for Kaurna land in some small way, that I understand more and more of the small ways of the place around me.  Both its suffering under trash and poison and the way plants grow and spread and long to live and small creatures find ways to get by or thrive.  The previous round of plantings have survived and begun to grow.

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I weeded out the things I recognise to be weeds (less fumitory, more prickly lettuce and flax-leaf fleabane this time).  I left the unnamed plant.  It may be native and is a handsome, hardy, silver leaved plant in any case.

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On the weekend I weeded on my way home from the train station and there was a broken bucket to pick up and use, into the bargain. Chicken happiness, neighbourhood weeding, and trash turned into recycling, surely the trifecta of the guerilla weeder.

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Then there were weedy poppies alongside the railway line. Beautiful.

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And shirley poppies at home in abundance.

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With bee revelry into the bargain.

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One landed on my thumbnail to inspect me.  I am not allergic but even so it gave me a start, then I blew gently on it, and off it went.  Blessed are the bees and those of us lucky enough to be able to appreciate them.

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