Tag Archives: E Camaldulensis

Needle books on the Murray River

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We went for a birthday holiday on a house boat on the Mighty Murray River.  I’ve never been on a house boat before and it was pretty funny to be in something with six bedrooms, but on the water!  We set out on a sunny day and it was just lovely.  And then, hours before sunset, the sky turned dark.  The river was anything but calm.  My capable companions decided it was time to find a mooring, and that the green tinge in the distant clouds was a sign of hail even though it is November.  And we moored just in time for powerful winds, amazing rain… the whole thing.

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Eventually things calmed down and for those feeling nauseous, that part subsided, and the sun set over beautiful river red gums.

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Last week I finally stitched these two little eucalyptus dyed needle books together with madder-dyed thread and they were in my sewing tin along with everything else, so they found new homes among my companions.  Here they sit on the obligatory holiday puzzle.

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It wasn’t all wild weather… there were naps and songs and stories and birthday cake and lots of delicious food and company, and beautiful views.  There were so many birds… cormorants, pelicans, ducks and ducklings, superb blue wrens, raptors of various kinds… fabulous!

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On our return we discovered that every single car (and a lot of houseboats) had been hit by hail the size of golf balls.  In November.  We’d had a summary phoned in on our first night out, but it was quite a sight in person.  After a safety check, we drove home slowly, with the light dancing off all the cracks from 17 major hits on the windscreen. Too many dents in the car to count! Just as well there were needle books to keep things a little bit sensible in between times.  A person needs evidence of the ordinary in these challenging times.

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Filed under Natural dyeing, Sewing

Beloved tree banners

I am a tree lover.  If you’ve been visiting for long, you already know this about me. This week these banners went out into the world.  Framed by eco-prints and embroidered with eucalyptus dyed silk thread… perfect for the job, I think.

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The first went to a river red gum we managed to save during railway works in the neighbourhood.

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It is immense.

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But the second banner went to a much larger tree.  This one has been here since the Kaurna people were the only people living here: since before colonisation.  It is now in Wilberforce Walk, and it is threatened by flood mitigation works which will widen Brownhill Creek, in which it stands.  It has a massive trunk.

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Friends and neighbours have been at work on making sure this tree stays safe.  We have been writing letters and submissions. We have been lobbying.  One ingenious friend has commissioned a beautiful painting of this tree by local artist Laura Wills which he is planning to give to Council.  Other ingenious friends had a famous eucalypt specialist come and examine the tree to assess its age and state of health and write a report.

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This banner has been requested several times by various other people who love this tree, and now it is in place.  I don’t think it can hurt for passersby, or the Council’s arborist, or whomever might be charged with deciding how to treat this tree, to know that it is beloved.  It has been wonderful to meet with so many people who love this tree after years of visiting it and treasuring it myself.  Along with the other tree lovers: in this case, friends, neighbours, insects, honeyeaters, sulphur crested cockatoos, bees and tawny frogmouths.

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Filed under Craftivism, Natural dyeing, Neighbourhood pleasures, Sewing

Beloved trees

My very local tree loving friends and I have had a plan for a little while to plant more trees around here, and we decided to plant E Scoparia.  An opportunity came to buy some, so my friends bought some, and they were on special for $1 each!

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We took them, and some saltbush and boobialla… and even parsley.

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While we were out planting, and singing the tree planting blessing, this little banner went back onto its tree.

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It had been home for a wash and reapplication of string. It had fallen down or been pulled down.

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It is a huge tree!

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One of us had to climb it.

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When it was all over there was another shared lunch (I am blessed with generous friends!) and chicken happiness, and bit less rubbish in the neighbourhood.

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Make way for the seedlings!

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In the spirit of experimentation, I have been planting seeds and seeing what happens.  There are resources available on propagating native plants, but they are not so detailed that it is possible for me to draw on other people’s experiences of propagating bladder saltbush in my area (for example)… and I have been trying things out in order to learn.  A couple of weeks ago I planted seed of 4 different types and to my surprise, ruby saltbush (top left) and bladder saltbush (bottom right) are coming up in numbers!

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It is a sign.  It’s time to keep planting out!  The little patches of disturbed soil in the picture below are the places I have added to plantings made by a contractor.  My trowel tells me that the contractors are not planting where there is too much rock or bluemetal below.  We will see how the saltbush take to it.

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Next stop, the park, where we planted quandong trees some years ago.  The quandongs didn’t take to it, but the fine leaved boobialla we planted to be their host (quandongs are parasitic, to simplify, and need a host plant)–have gone really well.  So here I am coming home with lots of rubbish, empty pots, and cuttings.

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On the way home, I stopped to admire one of the beloved neighbourhood trees and listen to the birds that were there at the same time.

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I am still not sure whether putting the cut ends in honey helps them take or not.  But I have lovely honey from friends who run a bee centred beekeeping operation and are such sweethearts… so honey it was.

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So many cuttings! Oh.  I forgot I needed to make way for the seedlings!  I guess I have to keep planting….

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And also, that I need to face that the time has come to mend the fingertips of my favourite gloves.   The dirt is gettting into my fingernails in a very big way!  I mended one gappy fingertip by hand and that was so hard I put a thin layer of cloth beneath the other one to catch remaining soil and stitched it on my machine.

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We are all part of one another

I was out gardening before work again a few mornings back. The weather is changing, the first of our chooks is moulting… some things need to happen now and soon!

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The vegetable and flower seedlings have been growing quickly.  In went rocket, lettuce, kale, broccoli and hollyhocks. Not quite done, but well on the way.

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The native plants have continued to sprout and grow, with ruby saltbush still the big success story. The biggest went into the ground this morning.  Here they are in a bucket ready to travel.  Those I planted earliest in the season are quite a good size now.  In the site where council watering has helped them on, only one seedling was lost.  In the drier site (further from home), about half have made it.  Many non plussed cyclists passed as I planted.

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One woman with a dog stopped to thank me and express her concern about all the newly planted natives that died when cars kept parking on them.  We talked about what could be done.  I was planting in a spot where over several nights someone stole the plants out of the ground–about 12 in all! So we talked about that, as she passes with her dog every day and notices things I also notice.  She spoke of the bunting and how she had been maintaining it.  It’s good to know and to remember that for every person who tears it down there might be several like this woman stopping to maintain it and being made cheerier by seeing it and understanding they have company in loving trees and plants.

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Then it was clean up time.  People dump stuff in the common land.  Why is it so?  Well, I extracted the plastic sack that was coming apart from its contents (old horse manure and sawdust, could be worse) and took it to the bin.  If only those degradable bags were capable of decomposing in the sense that dead plant life decomposes.

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Then I towed all the dead branches someone had piled around the base of one of my beloved trees home.  Happily our ‘green waste’ bin for council collection is almost always empty.  We’re big mulchers.  We have worms and chooks and compost systems.  So the green bin is there for rescue missions, and its contents can go to be composted by council.

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Last time someone dumped in this spot, They left a huge pot in several pieces.  Only one small piece was missing, so I heaved it home and glued it together.  It seems to be holding, so one big ugly plastic pot that is doing a great job of holding a plant, got placed inside.  Definitely an improvement.  While I did these things I thought about what it means that people dump things on common land here.  Is there something about this site I could change, that would make this a less favoured location, for example.

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I have been thinking a lot about the injunction in Indigenous law to recognise that we are interconnected–earth, animals, plants, sky, humans, stars, wind… I’ve been wondering what would follow for non Indigenous people if we tried to live by the core principles of Indigenous law in this country (as best we can understand them–and recognising this will always be partial) instead of thinking of Indigenous principles as a curiosity.  A bit like a religion you don’t really understand but that you can acknowledge exists and holds meaning for others. This is preferable to outright hostility, and growing up in this country I have seen that hostility and disrespect for Indigenous Australians since I was a small child.  But it is still pretty impoverished as a way of thinking our relationships to the land, its people and its law. Continuing with this thought experiment, I was trying out in my mind what it would mean to think of this tree as a relative in some profound sense. I am sure it would mean I wouldn’t choose this spot as a place to put rubbish. Respect would surely be part of that relationship. I have been thinking about relationships and what they can mean. I wondered whether I could draw strength from that tree as well as plant an understory that might protect it a little and clean up the mess passing humans leave. I thought that I could and that I do.

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If we are all part of one another (and this is something I believe on many levels), surely it follows that I don’t get to pick and choose.  I have often thought one of the profound things about Indigenous life prior to colonisation is that an Indigenous relationship to land is a profound and permanent thing: each person who belonged to a place would have expected to live there for their entire life and die there.  Something so profoundly unlike contemporary Western lives lived with the capacity to leave your relatives, your place of birth, everyone you have ever known and choose not to return.   If there was no picking and choosing, if we are all interconnected: what is my relationship to these people who leave what they don’t want on the commons of our suburb?  What obligations do I have to them?  How should I think about them?  I don’t have any answers, but some days I think I might be on to some decent questions.  That I’m wondering in a productive direction. I hope so. So I gathered more saltbush berries and kept thinking.

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Plant loving action with galahs

One of my beloved tree banners came down a while back, so I have laundered it and decided to re-apply it.  The leaf print border has faded very much over the months it has spent in the full sun and weather, but the eucalyptus dyed silk thread I used to stitch the lettering onto it has remained a good strong colour.

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As I stood holding string, arms spread wide, I looked up in appreciation of the tree and realised we had supervision, or at least, company!

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One of the women who was part of the government department managing the infrastructure project that took hundreds of trees from our neighbourhood organised dozens of bird boxes.  She negotiated a collaboration between primary school children, who painted the boxes (this one has a frog on it) and scientists, who are studying the birds in our area by checking on these boxes (hence the number on its base).

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It looks like these galahs have been taking advantage of her foresight and dedication.  I had noticed galahs in our neighbourhood, and an even more unusual pair of yellow tailed black cockatoos who have been passing through, but did not realise these galahs might have taken up residence here. Wonderful!

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Another part of what has happened in the aftermath is the roll out of revegetation.  There is an area nearby where lots of plants have gone in, but at critical times, like when the farmer’s market is operating, cars park on the smaller plants or simply ignore the larger ones and bend them over.  Last week someone dumped garden waste on two more.  I have collected all the garden waste over two visits and the plants have survived that… but we don’t want any more to die.  In fact, as you know, we’ve been adding to the existing stock, quietly…

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So this week I decided to get onto the project.  I pulled out the bunting I’d used to protect my plantings in another spot during the royal show, ironed and mended, and when we had fellow plant lovers visiting–all of us went down with tools and gloves and created what I hope will be a friendly reminder that this is a garden and not a parking lot.  The ‘no standing’ signs in the next street over haven’t stopped people parking there… but hopefully this will help some of the low growing plants survive to get big enough to be visible from a car and let people know the neighbourhood cares for this patch.

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A little light neighbourhood commentary, and more bees

Since I’ve been a dog aunty, I’ve been walking the neighbourhood even more than usual. It has given me lots of opportunities to see the local bird boxes in use. That is a rainbow lorikeet sitting on top of the box.

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And this, I believe, is the lorikeet wondering what I am up to down there.  Or perhaps the lorikeet is watching the dog!

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This morning, I went to check on a swarm at our friends’ house, and to look in on their chooks.  There have been three swarms in their neighbourhood in addition to those at our house over the last couple of weeks, so our friend the beekeeper has been a regular visitor.  Passing through the same park on the way home… I was admiring the activity of the bees who have moved into a big river red gum (E Camaldulensis) that leans to one side near the creek.  I don’t know if you can see them in this picture–but this is the entry to their home, viewed from below.  In the past I have seen musk lorikeets wing their way out of the same hollow.

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This is one of the trees I tied a handmade banner to a while ago.  You can see it here, dwarfed by the immensity of the tree.

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When I got closer, I realised that someone had added their own commentary to the banner.  In a good way!

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A funny thing happened in the night… and a sign of hope

When I came home from my run early this morning I realised there had been action overnight.At the scene of the loss of three immense trees only too recently, I saw this.

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And this.

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Here’s the close up.

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This raised my curiosity about yesterday’s losses.  I didn’t think I had the heart for it, but in the end I went to see.

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Heartbreaking to see the space where those trees stood.

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But the commentary was to the point.

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Thanks so much for all your kind comments since the past post.  I read them as they came in and appreciated them very much but didn’t have the heart to answer them all for a minute.  Given how devastated I felt yesterday, I thought my friends might need cheering up.

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Attentive readers might recognise this parcel! Some of that string is made from the same pair of pants that went onto the feature panels…

On an altogether happy note, during the big infrastructure works in our neighbourhood, one of the Department of Transport and Infrastructure employees who cares about the state of the environment decided what she might be able to do in the face of so much tree felling and habitat loss was get bird boxes put into any tree of any size on public land in our area.  She initiated a project in collaboration with local schools whose students painted the boxes.  they have been in place for a while and have been checked once or twice already (we have become vigilant and therefore approach men on ladders who are looking at trees to check what they are doing, these days).  Today as I left home I saw a woman peering up into a nearby River Red Gum (E Camaldulensis) we managed to save.  She took a photo of one of my Beloved Tree banners, but she also took several at what struck me as an unusual angle.  This afternoon I saw why.

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It is an overcast and rainy day, and this is the best photo I could get.  But that is quite unmistakably a rainbow lorikeet who has taken up residence in one of the bird boxes and felt safe enough at that great height to look down on me without budging a millimetre.  Best thing.

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These are a few of my favourite trees

The ‘Beloved tree’ banners are out in the neighbourhood.  A bunch of us put up the first couple, and I pedalled around attaching the rest on Mother’s Day.  This one is on a massive ironbark.

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It stands beside the tram bridge in Goodwood.

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This one is dwarfed by a huge E Camaldulensis in a park beside Brownhill Creek.

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This trunk has survived a lot of depredations, whether human, animal or insect.

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I’ve tried to capture a sense of its canopy…

 

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But it is hard to show all there is to see when you stand beneath its curved limbs and beside that massive trunk.  Needless to say it isn’t all about what you can see, in any case.

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This is the place where lorikeets sometimes nest.  I’ve seen them wiggling their way in through the hole they have nibbled out of the pace where a branch used to be, as well as flying out at speed like small, feathered, green comets.

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This next tree is an E Sideroxylon. It stands outside the Le Cornu warehouse on Leader St.

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I used to be able to reach its lowest leaves, but the chainsaws took off the lower limbs some time back.  It is still magnificent.

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The light wasn’t great for it, but since there is at least one appreciator of industrial buildings reading, here is a shot of the background. I oriented my banner toward pedestrians.

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Next, one of the largest E Cinereas in the neighbourhood, standing outside what seems to be a disused office in Leader St.  Perhaps people work there but are not interested in the garden!

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It has suffered the chainsaw too, losing a truly huge bough.
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Still glorious.

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Still vast.

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Finally, my old friend on the corner of Laught and East Sts.  I thought this was an E Scoparia at first, but while the leaves give amazing colour, the bark produces a different result than other E Scoparias I’ve dyed with.  Name, uncertain. Beauty, obvious.

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This time I was spared conversation with the tree hater who lives opposite this tree and can only see it as a source of litter.  I was on the bike, so picked up a bagful of fallen dried leaves.  When I have more carrying capacity I take fallen twigs and whatever bark or wood is lying beneath it in hopes of mollifying the tree hater. 

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Fabulous.  I must say that visiting all these beloved trees and wrapping my arms around each one… I did feel like a tree hugger.  And proud!

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Filed under Craftivism, Dye Plants, Eucalypts, Neighbourhood pleasures

Tree loving craftivism

While I was in Melbourne, I found Sarah Corbett’s A Little Book of Craftivism.  Yes, it is literally small, but inspiring out of proportion to its size.  It is about the work of the craftivist collective, together with proposals about how the reader might engage in their own craftivism.

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For those who might be wondering… one definition of craftivism: ‘Craftivism is a way of looking at life where voicing opinions through creativity makes your voice stronger, your compassion deeper & your quest for justice more infinite.’ More at the link.

I loved this little book from the beginning. This is activism of a gentle, slow kind.  It isn’t the only kind of activism the world needs.  But every social movement needs a variety of approaches–I’ve participated in many–and gentle is one of them.  This book is packed with organising wisdom, clear instruction, pictures that inspire and make you wish you had been there and examples of projects from the small to the enormous that offer plenty of scope for DIY.

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For a view of the book and its content, click here.  For a brief review with links to multiple other reviews and ways to purchase online other than through amazon, click here.  To purchase from the craftvist collective itself, click here and check the sidebar.

Did I mention finding this book inspiring?  I think it’s one of the highest compliments that you could pay to a book of its kind to say that I immediately wanted to go out and make some of the projects in this book and could immediately see places that could happen to good effect. Not only that, I tried my ideas out on my nearest and dearest and then created them.  My ‘mini protest banner’ is a little different to the cross stitched versions in the book–but nevertheless the same concept.

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I took:

  • a calico sack from a local business for my banner background (I offered to take the offcast bags from a shop and they accepted)
  • some not-so-glorious leaf print experiments for backing
  • some leaf-printed collars and cuffs for my frame
  • some eucalyptus dyed silk thead and
  • some secondhand bias binding… and…

Before long I had made two banners.  We hung the first one today. One of my friends offered the view that every day was a good day for this kind of event (I guess we’re friends in part because we agree on things like that!) so we had cool drinks of water and cherries and chat and then went out to admire the tree and tie on.  The 6 year old present wants to make more banners, which is additionally promising.

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This banner celebrates a river red gum (E Camaldulensis) that we managed to save from being cut down last year, with help from other local people and our local MP, Steph Key.  It has a legally mandated 3 m exclusion zone around it to protect the root zone, but this is not being observed very well lately and I want the people responsible to know that we care.  I had to measure the tree to be sure I had stitched on enough tape:  3.6 m (11′ 9”) around the trunk, well above the ground.  To give you a sense of its size… and the relative size of the banner (which is in the picture), I give you the full view.

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