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.
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).
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.
I love the humble hanky. The way it accompanies me through life in a pocket, ready to assist when pollen is too much, when I’m moved to tears, when the wind is chilly enough to make eyes water or when genuine misery leaks out of me. The way it supports me through illness time after time. The way it saves me from single use napkins, means I never find a tissue that has gone through the washing machine, and rescues entire trees from being turned into tissues. I love the way it can be called upon to wipe up spills, deal with sticky fingers at unexpected moments, prevent chafing, or (if clean) wrap a small item at short notice.
The latest festival of the hanky was generated by a friend whose hanky collection had shrunk to zero. But needless to say it didn’t stop when I’d made a collection for him. Soon I had some made from cotton voile and some made from muslin that had a past life wrapping a baby. Then a fine cotton scarf which has been in the cupboard unused for over a decade became four lovely hankies. Then the main parts of a striped shirt that belonged to a friend, who gifted it to me, which had a superpower of making people in shops address me as sir for many years–was converted from a very worn thin shirt to some lovely fine hankies.
And then some fine cotton I’d dyed… and some brand new fine cotton voile… and there it stopped for the time being. And now I have so many opportunities to share the hanky love…
Over summer I worked on my indigo dyeing skills. In case it isn’t obvious–there will be some time travelling blog posts, because there is a lot I did over December and January that we haven’t discussed, my friends. Here is my Indigo fructose vat on day 1. The indigo vat went quite well but I felt I still didn’t manage to extract all the blue from it. Most weekends I dream of cranking it back up, and fail to manage the time.
This is my latest attempt at a fermentation woad vat. It does look promising! I used all of this summer’s woad harvest (admittedly it was small this year) and one of the hottest weeks of summer and still failed to get the vat to reduce. I do think constant heat is the thing I really need to sort out for this method–but Jenai Hooke gave me a gift indigo ball at summer dye camp which might kick start the process when I am ready to try again!
I dyed washed fleece and some fabric, but the main project for the indigo vat was to dye some knitting a dear friend had done. She describes herself as having a midlife crisis which she is managing, in part, by knitting a lot, I mean A LOT of beanies. In the last six or twelve months she has scaled up to knitting gauntlets (arm warmers) and sharing the love of those. She gave me natural white knits and asked if I would indigo dye them and at last I’ve done it. They are, she said, knit from wool from sheep who grazed in the fields of France where many fascists died. I think these are for herself. Since I put them in the mail, I have received a great photo of her wearing them, grinning spectacularly and with a message saying she is taking them to Berlin. Berlin! The rest of my pile of beanies has headed out into the world too. Some to a climate activist I know who is studying in Canada and finding the snowy winter and the prospect of climate catastrophe very challenging (she can choose one and gift the others), and a big pile to my dear friends in Tasmania. When I saw them recently, one of then was wearing a very stretched out eucalyptus dyed beanie that only I could have spun and knit, and clearly wears beanies all year round. And, they know a lot of cash strapped people in Tassie who might feel the same need. I figure they will know what to do with a pile of hand knit happiness.
Local readers may like to come along to a mending circle at the Sustainable Communities SA One Planet Market in November. Please do bring your mending and get some of it sorted out–and by all means bring mending questions for me to help you problem-solve. This won’t be a speech so much as a hands on session–and look at all the other fun things that will be going on to attract you…
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.
Eventually things calmed down and for those feeling nauseous, that part subsided, and the sun set over beautiful river red gums.
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.
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!
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.
There has been some more bundle cooking for my friend. She handed over these massive bundles–they are bedsheets. We’d walked over to visit with a bale of straw for our friends’ hens… and walked back with the bundles and cartons of fabric. I spent time helping a friend clear out her Mum’s sewing room recently and since then have been finding new homes for sewing machines, yarn, fabric and a wide array of other items. Some of my fellow guildies were delighted to take possession of tapestry bobbins…
Here are the parcels going into the pot, packed with dried leaves. My friends have an E Scoparia at the end of their street, and that’s what was inside the bundle… leaves and some bark, too!
Some time later…
And being unbundled!
One had remarkably little in the way of distinct leaf prints. I am amazed that there was enough dye in those leaves to colour so much fabric. Unrolling…
Flapping about over the lawn, wet from the dye pot…
The second one had some prints in closest to the centre of the bundle.
Glorious! A third immense bundle has gone home with my biggest pot, for some time on a gas burner. I love that big pot but it just doesn’t work with my electric burners. This is going to be one fabulous set of sheets!
Do you remember these red slippers? I knit them with a friend in mind, but it has been a long while since she let me know she’d worn through the last pair. I have knit dozens and dozens of these Fibertrends clogs and sometimes I can’t face knocking out another pair!
Today I took them to the farmers’ market where my friends run a stall selling their locally grown fruit, vegetables, nuts, herbs, wine and vinegar. They are an extraordinary couple whose Food Forest is a wonder and a delight as well as a place of education and inspiration in our local area. When she saw the slippers, her face lit up! And an exchange of gifts immediately began. I love this part of crafting–being part of a gift- and joy-economy instead of one that’s all about dollars. All this, after a delivery of locally grown greens and delicious tempeh had already been left on our doorstep by our nearest and dearest!