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.
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.
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.
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!
One day this week, I went out to do some guerilla gardening before work. I still have creeping boobialla (I promise, that is what it’s called!) propagated from cuttings in autumn that need to be planted out before it gets any hotter. As I walked down the street with a bucket in one hand, steering my bike trailer with the other, I was thinking about a couple of salt bush I lost in the last week. The grey-leaf bladder salt bush that had violas growing beside them. One day I walked to the train and there were two holes where they had been. I hope they went to a new location where they are thriving, but the holes were small. That same week, a whole row of sheoaks that had been doing well were poisoned, and I felt if I’d weeded them out that might not have happened. So I was feeling a bit sad about all of that, and remembering that persistence is what makes this whole business work. And that if I’m caring for Kaurna land in the period between colonisation and the return of sovereignty, that responsibility and privilege is no less because sometimes it doesn’t go the way I hoped.
So I planted my ground covers. And pulled out some weeds, and collected some rubbish. And I started to cheer up. I noticed how even though I’ve lost plants on this patch, some are thriving. This rhagodia is the biggest, but there are pigface spreading and saltbush growing up.
Then I realised that the ruby saltbush has begun self sowing. This blurred photograph is just so exciting! There were quite a few seedlings coming up here, where I planted ruby saltbush that were torn out or poisoned–and they had enough time to leave seed behind to sprout.
So I went home again quite cheered up.
And then a little later, my partner was out on the street and I went out to see what was happening: she was chatting with a council worker who was out weeding and watering in our street, in one of the places I recently put in more plants. Clearly the woman from the council had noticed all this, and she started asking if I was also the one spreading the quandong seed and such… and she turned out to be a wild food specialist outside her day job. Too good. Happiness is remembering the project is shared with many people, and noticing when the earth begins to heal itself.
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.
I am gradually filling out spaces where the tree was recently felled as it looks like the trunk is there to stay.
Here’s one I planted earlier (foreground), in case you’re wondering if any ever grow!
Then over to the culvert. Ruby saltbush at the top edges.
There are some steep banks, so I am hoping the scrambling saltbush is up to the job.
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.
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!
I walked up to a tram stop where I have planted a lot. I spoke to the poisoners last time I was there and weeded to try and help them not to poison saltbush of various kinds, boobialla and wattle… One of them told me that ruby saltbush don’t absorb the poison. How I wish that were true, but it doesn’t appear that way to me I have had many turn black after the poisoners pass through. When I went back recently to catch a tram I could see lots of weeds and few plants. Some of the larger ones, rhagodias in particular, had made it and were doing well. This time I arrived to find the whole bed deep in mulch. The mulch was only a few days in place, and all over the plants. Three cheers for mulch, three boos for burying the living. I spent time excavating sedges, boobialla, correas, pigface (the large one thriving here drove my decision to plant the bed out with these highly recognisable and quickly spreading plants)… and everything else I could find. I managed to find a few leaves sticking out and dig some plants out that way. Others I found by accident, parting the mulch to plant other things!
In went the sea figs. Then home again, collecting a lot of rubbish after the Royal Show and the storms of recent weeks.
I scored some promising rusty stuff, and had a chat with a chap smoking a cigarette by the road who clearly knew what guerilla gardening was, asked me if that was what I was doing, and was generally approving and cheerful toward my project. I put a few more plants in along the route home, and then it was time for clean up.
Once I got started on the rushes, I wanted to keep planting and there have been some breaks in the rain. Today I noticed a leak from one of our rainwater tanks. It was near the top, from the overflow pipe, suggesting there is water up above the overflow outlet in that tank which is struggling to escape. That has never happened before, and is evidence of HOW MUCH RAIN we have had. You know what I’m saying: planting time is upon us.
Here is my bike trailer load of plants bound for a bed alongside the tram stop on the nearby main road. When I got there, there was another woman already at work cleaning up, who said she picks rubbish up there twice a week (she also cleared the paving and all manner of improvements). She was impressed that I was doing my own planting and propagating and suggested I might want to join the adopt a station programme, which apparently provides plants. Clearly she works up and down the pubic transport corridor, because she knew the best planted stations, where work for the dole are active and where the lavender is growing so well anyone could pick it. It was fun speaking with another close observer of these often unloved spaces. She had noticed the reduction in rubbish and weeds from my efforts!
This time I had rhagodias from my generous friend (this is a sandy site where I hope they will do well), creeping boobialla that has come on strong since the cuttings went in months back; some little wattles and yet more ruby saltbush.
I put them up into the bed and climbed up after them.
In they went!
There are previous plantings that look dead in these beds, but perhaps they will come back… and in among them, there were some struggling knobby club rushes and…
Can you tell? In the foreground, a small patch of the Ngarrindjeri weaving rushes!
In the meantime, I finished all my grey handspun in an airport a few days back and I am now creating more so I can finish! More soon… it would be so good if this jumper could be complete before the cold weather passes!
Continuing the mending theme, I’ve been out doing a little earth repair in the way of guerilla gardening. This time I planted rhagodia (seaberry saltbush), and an olearia gifted by a friend. These plants are native to the area she lives in, and as well as having them in her garden and the nearby scrub, she has them coming up in inconvenient places in her garden. When that happens she pots them up for me! Bless her heart.
Here they are ready to go out into the wider world… in which masses of fungi had sprung up very recently. They are so pretty and delicate and so numerous!
As I planted the shrubs, a cyclist pulled over and hailed me by name. She turned out to be a friend of the woman who gave me these plants. I had to love that sweet coincidence! These plants have gone in beside the train tracks where a couple of dead trees have recently been removed and the gaps are creating openings for weeds and for travellers who don’t care for tender little plants the way I do.
Hopefully, being planted in cool damp weather, they will grow up in time for summer heat.
Later the same week I went out with more plants and added them into areas where plants died in summer or gaps look like they might need filling. Out they went to be planted beside fences…
These three were pulled out by the roots next day! Perhaps someone thought they were weeds? Happily their neighbours were all left intact.
Some of those planted a year ago are really large now! It’s exciting to see these plants thriving round the neighbourhood, while I’m propagating more for the future.
This time, I went out ready to plant seaberry saltbush (rhagodia candolleana) as well as ruby saltbush (enchylaena tomentosa). I decided to take the benefit of a long weekend and go further afield than usual. There is a local tram stop where most of the understorey plantings that might ever have gone in have died. And, there is a plan afoot to upgrade the tram fencing which might well result in plantings along the tram line being dug out. The evidence that digging is imminent was parked by the tram stop, actually!
Here is the best part of the site. Some things are holding on for dear life.
There are some trees still here too. And plenty of empty space where native plants could be growing. I planted the larger seaberry saltbush toward the platform. Some of the soil is very sandy so this plant might be happy here!
I weeded, collected rubbish, and had a chat with a few passersby, one of whom is clearly a regular tram user who said he’d keep his eye on the plantings, bless him! He wanted to know where the water I was using had come from and was clearly very surprised to think I had brought it with me. But needs must, and I have a bike trailer.
You can see all the little disturbed and damp spots where new plants have gone in, about 20 in all. Homeward bound, I collected all this from the site itself and then, since I had gloves on and a receptacle to hand, I picked up all I could manage or stow in a nearby bin on my way home . To care for land is a special thing, I’ve decided.
This morning, I went out with some saltbush I’ve grown from seed and some other plants a friend has grown and given me for guerilla gardening. She comes from a coastal area and is growing plants well adapted (and mostly endemic) to her local sandy soils. They are thriving in sandy areas of our suburb. So the saltbush went in under a large river red gum in our neighbourhood, the better to protect the root zone of this giant tree. Then I trundled around to a spot in the neighbourhood where the pattern of what will grow is very different to the rest of the patches I’m working, partly because the new beds created here in the wake of major infrastructure works are very sandy.
In went several of these native hibiscus, an olearia, a kangaroo apple and a rhagodia (seaberry saltbush). Out came weeds, alive and dead, and feral tree seedlings.
The tiny E Scoparias that my friends and I planted months ago are thriving here but still small. The council has planted a random eucalypt and a Manchurian Pear since we put them in, and they were much bigger–but they left the E Scoparias to live, bless them. Let’s see how it goes.
Where previously nothing grew, now there are a lot of boobiallas (myoporum), some good sized olearias, a few saltbush and a couple of feijoas as well as the trees. One saltbush is loving it here and has set fruit.
As I finished watering the new plants in and set off to weed invasive grass out of a very successful patch nearby, one of the cyclists whizzing past called out ‘good work!’ It was a good way to start the day: kneeling in the earth and planting things that might help it heal.
I mentioned a while back that I let out a squeak of glee when I got my copy of India Flint’s new book Stuff, Steep and Store… and it was only a matter of time before I’d try it out.
I’m trying out the following. I can’t pretend to think they are especially well suited to this method but there it is… time will tell, as it always does!
Brown onion skins, aluminium foil, E Scoparia dyebath with vinegar (I hope I wrote some fibre or other on the label!!)
E Scoparia leaves, bark and dye, aluminium foil, silk thread, vinegar
Dyers’ chamomile flowers, aluminium foil, silk thread, water and seawater and finally
Red onion skins, silk thread, copper and vinegar water, seawater.
Entertainingly enough, while India Flint says she has been inspired in this dyeing process by years of food preserving (and that’s evident from the book)… After my first batch of dye jars I was inspired to pitch a round of food preserving to my beloved. We put up a dozen or so jars of white peaches and yellow plums for later enjoyment. I am not sure why this is called ‘canning’ in the US, but in Australia it’s usually called ‘bottling’ because it is done in glass jars. I have a massive collection. I have been the receiving point for others’ Fowlers Vacola preserving kits for so long I now gift or share them with friends who are not so well endowed. Perfect, really!
Since filling these jars I’ve been on a seaside holiday. I set the blog to load scheduled posts while I was gone… and being lazy at the beach is the reason for slow responses to comments lately. WordPress and my phone have an on-again-off-again relationship, which doesn’t help. Since I was by the sea and pedalling around the neighbourhood, I collected seeds of hardy native plants for later propagation and planting in the abandoned waste parts of my own neighbourhood. Plantings on public land just call out for seed collection, don’t you think?
One plant, the seaberry saltbush (rhagodia spp, probably rhagodia candolleana), was in such profuse fruit that I collected enough to fill a small jar we had finished using.
I can confirm that rhagodia fruit ferments quickly in heat like we’ve had lately (41C today)… and began to do so before I managed to get it home and process my jar properly. Ooops! That really should not have been a surprise. The fruits are smaller than a currant but very pretty…
Another experiment, since if anyone else has tried dyeing with this plant I don’t know about it and have only a foggy memory of the Victorian Handspinners reporting they got some colour from saltbush fruit (saltbush is a big family). I happened to have embroidery thread with me… and into the jar it went with chocolate-bar-foil. And now we wait.
To see how others are working with this process, visit the delectable ‘pantry’ India Flint has set up, or if you’re so inclined, have a look on facebook.