Planting further afield

Well. A field, it certainly is not. But today I decided to hitch up my bicycle trailer and guerilla plant further from home. A couple of kilometres away, actually… a place by the tram line I sometimes run past and where there has been nothing but weeds growing for years.

A bike and bike trailer parked by the tram line with two watering cans and two buckets of seedlings in the trailer.
My bike and trailer with a double decker set of buckets

I managed to get two bucket loads of plants in the trailer by putting the ground covers on the bottom layer and adding tools to keep the top bucket from crushing them.

One bed was empty except for the remains of weeds. I reassembled the edging on the bed where it had fallen or been pulled apart and began. I planted three acacia paradoxa seedlings in the bed beside it (also a pretty sad sight but with some native plantings still alive). I was feeling pretty pessimistic about their chances in life and questioning my decision to plant somewhere where I haven’t done as much observation as usual when a gentleman walked up and asked if I was planting. I wasn’t sure of the alternative interpretations at this stage, but soon we were chatting about what I was planting and his past in Trees for Life. I have grown for Trees for Life too, so we chatted on.

Broken edging on the raised bed
Broken edging on the raised bed

He said he’d do some weed management! He thought he could add some stakes! He’d considered planting native grasses in this area. He lived nearby. He used to have that same trailer (we had both bought them from the chap who used to make them himself, in the 1980s). The chances of these seedlings making it to any size at all have just risen immensely!

So–in went seaberry saltbush (rhagodia). I lost some water going over bumps and when bike and trailer were travelling at different speeds downhill, but most of it was still in the watering cans to give the new plantings a drink.

Prickly wattle

I also planted ruby saltbush… and picked up rubbish. In fact, I made several stops on the way home. I do find cups, plastic lids for cups and bottles, straws and such but a staggering amount of cable ties and gaffer tape too, and today I found those plastic soy sauce fish in two different locations. Go figure. Hoping next time I run past these little plants will be bigger!

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Guerilla gathering

Finally we are getting autumn leaves and not leaves that have fallen in the dry heat of summer, so I’ve been out collecting them from the gutters and byways.

Collecting ruby saltbush seeds…

Bladder saltbush seeds, now being collected from third generation guerilla plantings.

In my wanderings I found these around the bike path–it looks to me like another rebel for life has decided to commemorate the plants that died over summer. This one was between the railway and the street.

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More autumn guerilla planting

I started the day with a run, and on the way home picked up a plastic bag. A charity has delivered them all round the neighbourhood, requesting they be filled with second hand clothing. Many have made their way onto the street empty, however–so I stopped this one going down a drain and half filled it with rubbish in only a few blocks. I know litter picking isn’t romantic, but I hate all the rubbish and it does give me satisfaction to remove some of it. A certain would-be politician who is spending some of his many millions trying to buy his way into office is currently contributing more handbills than he should to the litter stream (we are a week out from a federal election). But also lots of straws, single use cups and lids, free newspapers in their horrible plastic bags, and bottle caps.

Far better than litter picking is planting though! This time, prostrate wattles, Indigofera Australis, scrambling saltbush and a silver leafed saltbush.

Out into the street (in a hurry I guess, the photo is all wobbly!)

Some became understorey in an area where almost all the Department of Public Transport and Infrastructure plantings died. Others I planted in an area where council has installed a watering system, and recent works on the gas main in our street resulted in loss of more plants…

I picked up some more rubbish! And then home again. On my way home a chap asked me whether I was in training for some kind of event. What kind of event???!! I couldn’t help wondering, but I think he was just nonplussed by my hauling a wheelbarrow around the place, so I didn’t ask.

I just want to brag for a moment. My beloved discovered during the first rains that the transparent panel in our garden shed roof is now full of holes. I suspect the fact it is on the possum super highway through our backyard at night has hastened the holes. Well. I replaced it all by myself (with a drill bit from a friend and some help from someone with a bigger car getting the new panel home). So here you have the view of the broken panel from the ladder; the view of my neighbour’s bamboo patch from inside the shed with the panel removed; and the ladder view of the finished job. Far from perfect but perfectly functional. I feel proud! I even texted my Dad to tell him since he has taught me a lot and surely was responsible for the gift of that power drill in the first image in the 1990s, bless him.

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Autumn guerilla plantings

I am sorry to say there was a considerable loss of the spring plantings from last year, and I lost a lot of seedlings this summer too. However: there is nothing to do but press on!

This week, after finally seeing some lovely rain, I started planting out once more. The first round was mostly ruby saltbush. It is tough and hardy and easy for me to propagate, and it forms a great pioneer planting, creating a context in which it can be safe enough for other plants to thrive. It stops fallen leaves being blown away and allows new soil to form. It creates habitat. And it protects other plants from passersby and dogs.

Most of the saltbush went up against a fence. I planted it previously with great success and then it was all poisoned! The second partial planting is a good size now so I’ve added more.

I also planted ‘wren bush’–the seed was given to me by a friend who doesn’t know its real name but observes that superb blue wrens love it. If I ever see a superb blue wren in my neighbourhood, I’ll need to start a festival in its honour. Some of these plants also have lemon scented gum (Corymbia Citriodora) seedlings in them, donated by my neighbour’s tree which showers our place in stamens and seeds.

I watered them in despite the rain and then picked up litter and walked home. Here is my wheelbarrow with some of the previous plantings in the background.

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More mending adventures

My mending adventures just keep rolling. In between the boring old mending that I do regularly–stitching fastenings back on, repairing falling hems, re-stitching seams that have popped… these mends are much more fun.

I did also take up these hiking pants for my beloved (by about 6 cm). They have those zip-off legs that allow you to convert the pants to shorts, and a complex arrangement down by the hems. In the end I took them up just below the zippers and the change did not show at all.

There have been stretch pyjama mends…

Torn dress mends…

Mending of beautiful pillowcases so soft and buttery and thin I used most of an old linen shirt in an effort to keep them going…

Hand stitched patch on a floaty fine dress.

Now replaced!

Worn, exquisitely soft quilt cover mending. I used a hand stitch I learned in Girl Guides (for canvas tent mending) to pull the edges of this tear together, then applied a reinforcing patch on the inside and machine stitched it into place.

It’s piling up a little…

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Mending adventures

One day, some time after the conversation that triggered it, the mending arrived. A LOT of mending! In fact, I’ve taken to calling this “a big mending commission” just for fun. Friends handed over their mending pile and I’m working my way down through it gradually.

Black jeans with ripped knee..
Finally, I get to mend jeans knees!
Black jeans with patch.

There is darning (and in this case, I took in the side seams and sleeve seams–gulp). First the side seams…

Then the actual darning.

Lots of jeans patching…

Skirt zipper mending….

Serious feature patching: on small jeans I rip out the side seam, apply the patch, turn the edges on the right side, stitch in position and then re stitch the side seam.

And yes! There is more! For another day…

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A belated Australia Day post

Dear friends, this post is not about craft. Just so you know in advance.

Australia’s national day is January 26, so this post is well past its original date.  I was overtaken by events in January. But I was also overtaken by my own feelings on this subject and having revisited this post several times since, still find it hard to choose what exactly to say.

‘Our’ national day is supposed somehow to commemorate the claiming of this continent as part of the British Empire and also to celebrate our nation and people. This is a tough balancing act. Impossible in a colonised country, I would say. On the date commemorated, the colonising power had only the vaguest idea of the coast and knew even less about the interior.  Of the hundreds of first nations and language groups–they knew almost nothing. Indigenous Australians were never conquered: at the point of colonisation most had never encountered anyone British.  They never ceded sovereignty over their lands. The few places where efforts at treaty were begun were abandoned by the colonisers.

Although it was bloody and violent, in my own lifetime this process has often been called ‘settlement’ by non Indigenous Australians; and almost never referred to as a war. So non-Indigenous and white Australians (I speak as a non-Indigenous white person) have a long history of not  being able to speak the names of what our ancestors did here. Those whose families arrived here more recently sometimes find this just as difficult: but in recent decades and since the end of the white Australia policy, more people arrive here from countries which have themselves been colonised, so this may yet change.

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I had just a small number of days at home around the date. We are currently having an intermittent national debate about whether to change the date of Australia Day. Doing so would at least acknowledge the pain of Indigenous people who are now expected to tolerate ‘the nation’ being celebrated on a date representing colonisation and dispossession. Some prefer to call it Invasion Day. Some call it Survival Day. This graffiti was amended by a racist response, and then a riposte, and then obliteration–all in the course of a week.   January 26 is not a date I celebrate, and this year I got up and ran as usual. I know I was planning   a blog post, but all that I have of my thoughts are some images.

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This first is one of my guerilla plantings of carprobutus, after we had a heatwave that went all the way to 47C. That is not a typo, and Adelaide was not the hottest place in the state. When I was planting this, a gentleman came past apparently bent on persuading me of the futility of my endeavours. I told him I really thought this plant could make it and that was why I had chosen it. He responded by almost claiming I was cheating–so tough is this plant. Just look at it here. Sometimes when I am at a railway station or beside a road, I am looking at ugly (though–often important) infrastructure, and the blighted land that so often surrounds it, regularly poisoned, covered in rubble, a repository for rubbish all too often. I think about the fact that once, and not so long ago, none of this was here.  In this place, now a suburb, was dense forest of which no visible clue now remains. This land, and not only places that are still forest or desert or scrub, was once revered as the mother by people who had not faced colonisation.

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A little further on, the intense heat has killed trees. This is not exceptional–our city is scattered now with full grown trees that have died since that heat wave. Here is part of the landscape I run through, near where the graffiti above appeared. Care for land is central to every account of Indigenous life and law and ethics I have ever encountered from a person or in a written account. Nothing like the city I live in could spring from this ethic. Nor could the inaction on climate change that has us already facing 47C. IMAG2248

From here, I run into the parklands and then into the cemetery. Here too, vegetation is scorched. Right through the suburbs, even now there are shrubs and trees covered in crisp leaves like these. If they were not regularly watered, these plants could not live here at all.

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It’s interesting running through the cemetery.  It has me thinking about all manner of things I otherwise might not. For instance, about the imperial war graves.  So many of them.  Yet these are only the graves of returned servicemen from particular wars, who died after returning from those wars. These very numerous graves are therefore not the total picture.  They do not recognise the frontier wars, for instance. They gesture toward the carnage of war which is in reality so much worse than this, and they make the violence that created what we know as Australia today, invisible.

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The remainder of the cemetery is relentlessly sectarian. Mostly Christian, with strict divides between Christian sects as well as between Christian sects and other faiths. I run past the Druse and Jewish sections as well as Catholic, Protestant and Orthodox graves. If there is an Indigenous section in this cemetery it is well hidden. But you can see how dry the unwatered parts of the cemetery are here.

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Weeds in all their destructiveness, on the other hand, are everywhere. This is one of my nemeses, weed-wise, caltrop that punctures feet and tyres alike (yes, I pulled it up!) I have studied weeds and colonisation both, in different ways, and there are some key ways in which the damage of colonisation is out in the open to be seen, and yet, is not seen.  In this way it is rather like weeds–many of us do not know where they came from and the damage they do is not always as easy to see as in the case of caltrop. They have changed the ecology of this ancient land.

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Prisons were unknown to Indigenous peoples prior to colonisation. What cruel irony, for this place to have been made a penal colony first of all, and in the present for Indigenous Australians to be so over represented in Australian jails. This is the old Adelaide jail. A horrific place even in the 1980s when I visited someone there, and appalling even in the visitors’ area as distinct from the cells. Historically, people were sent here for the crime of being poor, among others. It is now being partially redeemed by a community garden within the grounds where those put to death for their crimes were buried without the requirements of their faiths as part of their punishment–an idea that horrifies even my atheist sensibility.

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In short, I can think of nothing to celebrate about colonisation. In all honesty, I am no fan of the concept of the nation. When it comes to our national anthem, which celebrates Australia as “young and free” when in reality this continent is ancient and so are the cultures of the original peoples whose cultures and ancestors have been here since time immemorial–I think this song by Tiddas expresses it best.

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I’ll consider celebrating Australia Day when we are telling the truth, acknowledging the suffering and loss of the past and present, and rectifying the injustices of colonisation. And in that spirit, I give you a revegetation site where once stood weedy, neglected, abused land. Australia: we can do so much better.

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Beloved trees

This tree has had several beloved tree banners in the last few years. This one is well and truly eucalypt dyed at this stage, and the fact that it is made of biodegradable fabrics is showing too.

I had been planning a new banner for a bit, and found companions for the ceremony one fine evening. So we added a new one.

So now it has two banners!

And the tree is as glorious as ever. Long may it stand.

river red gum

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Seasonal tasks for the guerilla gardener

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A long, record breakingly hot summer has come to an end–almost.  So I’ve been out in the streets, saving eucalypt leaves that have fallen in the heat of summer, and that would be headed into the drain if there was enough rain to wash anything down a drain. I’ve taken it as a bit of a project to gather what I can, prioritising leaves destined for waterways and sewers when they could be mulching my garden instead. And that bag? Each time, I take a bag with me.  I have a little stack of them that have held greasy filthy fleece and that will not be washed and re used in the kitchen–and they are being used to pick up rubbish.  Because when you’re out in the neighbourhoood with gardening gloves on, you will never be better prepared for the job. And because, when you come from  a colonising people and live in a colonised country, opportunities to care for this place are opportunities to take up.

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Saltbush are fruiting and all kinds of native plants are seeding so it’s seed collection time too, and when what I hope is the last of the big heat passes, I’ll be planting out seedlings and taking cuttings.  I’ve made a start on planting out sedge offsets into pots already (but you know, I didn’t think of taking a picture).

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Adelaide has had the Fringe, the Festival and WOMAD recently and I had a dip into all of them (well, maybe not the Festival proper). I got to see Pussy Riot! And Yothu Yindi! And Reverend Billy and the Church of Stop Shopping! And so much more–but these acts in particular had me enlivened about the importance of doing things that are not expected.  In places where they may not be welcomed.  And yet are so important. Somehow that seems like cultural guerilla gardening to me, planting seeds where they may and may not germinate.  I take my inspirations where I find them and with gratitude.

And meanwhile, I gather leaves and pick up rubbish! And since I didn’t post this draft when I wrote it… still more… and several barrow leaves of falling autumn street tree leaves too.

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More pink socks!

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I had enough cochineal dyed yarn for a second pair of socks, and in a moment where I just didn’t have time to wind more balls, I cast on.

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I knit quite a bit on one of our long and lovely walks.  That is my beloved striding out ahead of me making the bridge undulate ever so slightly!

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There was quite a game of yarn chicken going on at the end–for the non knitters, this is where the knitter messes with their own mind trying to outwit the ball of yarn in an effort to make it last to the end of the project.  There are just a few metres left here.  Though in all honesty, these socks are yet again not quite the same length despite my best efforts!

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And now they are on their way to a friend whose last pair wore through without warning at an inconvenient moment–a report of which reached me when I was about one and a half of these socks in!  Long may her feet be cosy and her legs be strong.

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