Guerilla gardening is like every other kind of gardening I know–there is no end, it just keeps going on and on. Except that the garden is a lot bigger! This morning (mid April), my friend and I went out to our shared project, a spot we have been sheet mulching for some time because there are many square metres of it and it is charitable to say it’s weedy–it’s quite exciting to see weeds have started to sprout there because it means that something else could grow. But nothing other than weeds has been growing there in many years, and sometimes not even that.
We began with my cardboard stash, and added onto what we have previously done (my friend has added some to our shared efforts without me!) on top of that, our first few sacks of leaves from the nearby car park where E Leucoxylon is in full bloom, and the late dry heat of summer and autumn has led to plenty of fallen leaves. Then we went to the local guitar shop, where they put all the boxes outside and are happy for folks to take them. We stripped out staples and tape again and added on. Then more leaves!
Next we headed home to collect soil (our test hole shows a liberal layer of bricklayer’s sand and a lot of gravel), water and plants. We sang the tree planting blessing over the first tree ( E Scoparia), and added some ruby saltbush for good measure and protection.
While we were there, a woman pulled over on her bike. She is older than me, and I see her cycling in my area really often, always in a dress, frequently going at a very fast speed. What a role model! She said she had formed the impression that the two of us had taken responsibility for this area of the rail corridor and she was wondering if some ruby saltbush that are coming up at her place might be a good fit. Absolutely! We said. So it appears we are now a team of three (in a very loose sense). We hope that rain is coming, and I have lots of plants to put in. Meanwhile, yesterday a friend dropped by with a stack of pots from her day job, that will be perfect for propagating. Might be time for cuttings…
I love a good bundle… in this one, silky merino shows its capacity to take up eucalyptus dyes again. In this dye pot, a cowl that was ready for a dye bath, and a garment that had shrunk enough that I decided to turn it into other items…
My partner had requested a deep, narrow cowl that could be pulled up over her head and ears under her bike helmet. Her friend had made one from cotton knit, so I copied its dimensions. You can see all that remains of the neckline in the image below.
I have accumulated scraps of knit fabrics that are precious–lovely, but also in some cases, expensive. And you know, I always want to use the last scrap, no matter what the fabric is! Anyway, I had the thought that I could attempt the Fingerless Gloves Master Pattern from Natalie Chanin’s Alabama Studio Sewing + Design.
Unfortunately, I fell at the first hurdle, enlarging the diagramme provided by 317%. It was during the period when I was not going out, so when I could not arrange this I guessed my way through it. The first one was too small. It had to go to a very petite friend.
Soon, though, I had a workable pattern and found this was a great use for leftover fabric from my run of undergarments.
So, I started turning them out! I used up a long sleeved t shirt and a pair of leggings that a friend had given me to use, once she had worn them out. Perfect linings for two layer gauntlets!
Once my leftovers were gone, I had the thought that some of my long sleeved home made tops that have shrunk too much to be dignified… could be transformed into these.
It was quite liberating to give up those shrunken tops, which I have been wearing under other things, for years in some cases. I kept the hems where I could.
And, that’s not really the last of it! I’ve not taken photos of some, and others I have made more recently. Some have been made more recently still… I pieced some together from smaller parts! But it might be enough for now.
I have been astonished to realise that one of my friends who feels the cold profoundly has forgotten about the part where you wear a close fitting garment against your skin.
As a child, this was the way I was always dressed in winter–with a sleeveless underthing below my other layers. We called this garment a singlet. So I asked my friend whether she was wearing wool against her skin and her eyes popped. I went home and went to the dye pot with some knit silky merino. It dyes like a dream. I sewed the main seams with the overlocker and then hand finished the hems.
Here is the view from the back.
I made it nice and long, the better to keep her warm. She was so astonished by the difference this made, that I got a message asking how long she could wear it without washing it! So I made some more.
These two are both dyed with E Scoparia, but the two trees have very different leaves, as you can see. My friend’s beloved sent me a message to say she loves these so much she had created a gallery and hung them on the wall, and she is wearing them every single day. And feeling so warm!
In this period a clean up in the front room turned up a wool knit singlet bought from a chain store. Now, did a different friend buy it and give it to me to dye? Did I find it in an op shop and save it for later? Neither of us could remember, but here is the outcome (and I yes, gave it to her).
The lovely Marion from Beautiful Silks sent me two sets of blanks for “moko trews”–trousers for the grandbub. One layer in cotton (the lining) and one in silky merino (the outer).
They were just so glorious! I dyed the outers and set about constructing them. It took a little while and then they were just SO cute!
Into the very slow mail service they went. Weeks passed. At the time, this was not surprising.
Australia Post says they were delivered and left in a safe place, but apparently not, because they have utterly vanished. And so, my friends, has a second parcel.
I made some more baby shoes–graded up in size, insulated for warmth, and hand embroidered, with nice stout soles. Let’s overlook their defects…
I very much hope that these two parcels ended up with people who could use these items so lovingly made and involving such a kind gift to me… and not just in someone’s bin by the side of a road. I wish they could at least have left my cards to the dear ones that I have now not seen in person for months, whose comfort I’ve been trying to raise in times of challenge. But I guess I’ll never know.
My last guerilla gardening act of the year was to go for a walk in the neighbourhood and scatter the seeds that had not made it into my spring plantings. Maybe they won’t grow but at least they have the chance, and I’m keeping my saved seed turning over.
The seedlings are doing well. Hard to believe the one on the left will become a huge tree and the one on the right will become a spreading prostrate wattle!
In the dye garden, everything has been doing well. We’ve had only one really punishing day of 42C so far this summer –so things are looking good for now. The daylilies have bloomed beautifully.
The Japanese Indigo came up well, and now the task is to keep it alive through summer. This time I planted some in pots to see if it does any better than in beside the vegetables. The tiny marigolds in the centre picture are flowering now, and a friend from the Guild has given me some dye marigolds that grow to two metres. They have managed the vegie beds so far! The madder, on the right, is rampant.
The kangaroo paws have done well. The birch trees are barely holding on because brushtail possums are eating their leaves so enthusiastically. The tansy is big enough for me to use it this year.
Our Eucalyptus Scoparia has suffered from the possums even more than the birches! But it is still alive and we are trying our third strategy for keeping the possums at bay. I have enough woad to create woad vats this summer! And I’ve saved seed from the dark hollyhocks.
And–this year I’ve seen skinks and geckos but also this wonderful creature! Something is working well in our backyard.
Dear and patient readers, I hope that you have been enjoying the festivals you celebrate and the holidays that you are able to arrange. I am sorry to have been absent so long–it has been a time of massive transformation at our place and other commitments have needed to take priority. I am hoping I might now be entering calmer times. However–there has been some making going on in between things… One of my sister-out-laws was my Kris Kringle this year–in that family, there is a cap on the amount you can spend on a gift and you are responsible for a gift for just one person. It’s a very sensible arrangement that results in a small number of carefully chosen gifts, that I wish I could convince my family to take up. My sister-in-law requested a eucalyptus-dyed shawl. What a pleasure it was to create that!
My favourite neighbourhood eucalyptus tree contributed the leaves, and the shawl is made from wool–ever the perfect match, as India Flint says. I also dyed a smaller silk and wool scarf that seemed to me perfect for a dear friend. You can see how much more readily the wool takes up colour (left) than the silk blend (right).
This gift made it into the mail in plenty of time, which was lucky because our plans were eclipsed by events in my partner’s family that have seen us spending time in Brisbane providing all manner of care to her beloved parents rather than at home hosting my family’s end of year celebration. Needless to say there as been a little quiet sock knitting involved…
Hello dear Readers, I have designed a knitting pattern. You can, should you wish, download it from Ravelry here. You see it here in handspun coloured merino with eucalyptus-dyed wool contrast. But allow me to explain.
Last week I joined the thousands of Australian school children who went out on strike demanding climate action. Their speeches showed more understanding of climate change than anything coming out of our federal government, which is still supporting coal mining and oil drilling on a massive scale. The school students had more clarity than our state government, which has only partially, temporarily, banned fracking because it destroys farmland (and thus costs votes though these things certainly do matter in their own right)–not because of the impact of burning fossil fuels on global warming. I sing with a posse of climate singers who were out on the weekend telling the good people of our city about the issue and giving people the chance to write to the leader of the opposition about this issue.
And yet, on this day when world leaders are meeting in Katowice, Poland, to talk about what to do about this–there is just no coverage in my country of this critically important meeting. My government is not on track to meet the inadequate targets set in Paris. And the high pitched screaming sound between my ears when I lie awake in the middle of the night worrying about climate change is not quietening down.
It may not succeed. But it has to be attempted, because scientists have been patiently explaining and then explaining in tones of increasing panic, and then explaining with tears as they set out the loss we already face: and governments are not listening nor acting. Fossil fuel companies are continuing to fund political parties here and elsewhere. The current federal government is not even close to having a rational policy on climate. And nowhere are there signs of action being taken that comes close to responding to the grave threat every life form on earth now faces.
So, dear friends, I have decided to commit to being an organiser for Extinction Rebellion. And I also decided to design a beanie, watching all those English folk out being arrested and protesting in the chill weather of their winter as we head into the searing heat of our summer. I knit it in the week a tornado hit a town in our state for the first time in my memory. If you have questions about Extinction Rebellion, I hope you will roam their www site, find them on social media, and go here scroll down and watch their briefing on climate change and what we can do about it. This is an invitation to act with courage in times that demand no less. Let’s step up, for the love of life.