I do follow people who do lovely mending. I read their books and follow their blogs or instagram accounts. I admire Tom of Holland. I appreciate Katrina Rodabaugh. I’ve enjoyed Jessica Marquez and Hikaru Noguchi. I love that mending is coming back into regular use, at least in some circles. But I am definitely not an upscale mender of my own clothing. My own clothing gets worn out in places I’d rather not show off. My gardening jeans get worn fulsomely, and because my back is a weak point, I kneel in the dirt to garden and dress accordingly.
It follows that you wont be getting styling advice from me!
On the left leg here, you can see indigo dyed thread (look closely) which was the first mend of the knees. The white thread is a second mend. And I seem to have taken this photo in the driveway as I set out guerilla gardening some months back, having recently completed a second mend on the right leg, because the fabric had worn through there.
I’m not entirely sure why I’ve stuck with these so long and mended them so much. I often decide that if I’m up for the job then I’ll do it and who cares why. These jeans are like a catalogue of my hand mending skills over a period of time (definite improvement, in case you are wondering). They are comfortable because they are stretch jeans, something I bought at the time and might not choose again. They are also a cotton polyester blend, which I remember being appalled at when I first washed them and realised–I had been too naive to read the label back then. So the longer they stay out of landfill the better–but the bottom end of my jeans drawer has plenty of contenders for gardening jeans in it. Just not quite yet. I am not yet ready to lose these.
And in this picture, a quiet celebration of guerilla gardening success. Ruby saltbush that has made it through a scorching 40C + heatwave, between a concrete path and a corrugated iron fence. Council have begun to trim it like a hedge, bless them. And bless you, ruby saltbush.
Autumn’s cuttings and seedlings are ready for planting around the neighbourhood.
One of my dear friends died recently, and on the day of her funeral I decided I’d go out and plant. Somehow it seemed right. Here they are ready to go.
I planted them along a corrugated iron fence, where some have lived, some have been poisoned, and some have been pulled out. Here’s hoping these make it! Then as usual, litter picking, weeding and home.
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!
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.
Another early morning foray into the streets. More dianella revoluta to add to a massed planting where so many plants were stolen in three separate events the week they went in.
Over several years I have planted saltbush into the gaps to keep the weeds down (now the saltbush is mounting a takeover bid!) and progressively propagated new plants to replace the ones that were stolen. This morning they went in like this, barey a spear shaped leaf above ground:
Some of those planted in the last two years look good:
And the original plantings are really successful.
Here is the mound of saltbush removed (half to the chooks and half to composting):
And at that point I decided it was prudent not to plant anything more and head home to deal with that pile of saltbush, recycle some rubbish and give the chooks something tastier. Dandelions, for example!
I have all kinds of plants that I planted as seed in spring that are waiting for cooler weather to go into the ground. Saltbush are the hardiest, and in a break in the summer heat I decided to plant these out.
They are mostly going into areas where other plants have died or been cut down–there was the loss of another dead tree recently and unfortunately it was carried out in such a way that not only did the dead tree get cut down, but its understorey was also lost. Council don;t re plant and by listening to their workers and asking questions I’ve understood that they won’t. So I’m planting these sections as things die or get killed, trying to protect the earth here and create an environment in which larger plants can go in.
Once I plant and water, I weed and collect rubbish. And then it’s time for breakfast and work!
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.
Early one morning this week I went out with an Olearia, a ruby saltbush or two, and some bladder saltbush plants. Really, I wanted to do some more weeding, still hoping to stay ahead of the poisoner on my culvert plantings, which are still small and therefore vulnerable.
I’ve planted out some areas in the neighbourhood with ground covers and small shrubs in an attempt to stop car drivers from perceiving the root zones of large trees as places they can freely park. Several large eucalypts have died in our area in the wake of works that had large heavy machinery parked right up against their trunks. I want to stop that happening again, and crowd out the places people park illegally during the Royal Show (when pressure on parking is at its peak for the year), doing lots of damage to shrubs and saplings as well as ground covers. The Council eventually responded to calls to put in barriers that would prevent some of that parking, and I’m building on that protection and gradually reducing the zones people and dogs choose to walk through and enlarging those where plants can grow and birds, animals and insects can get on with their lives. We have plenty of roads and paths already to my way of thinking. These saltbushes should grow to further reduce a throughway on this corner.
Then it was weeding, litter picking (gardening gloves mean I can pick up anything!) and home to breakfast and work.
The last few weeks as our autumn has begun to set in, have been weeks of pain and disability. I’m on the path to recovery faster than could have been expected, but there are some things that it doesn’t make sense for me to do, and gardening is one of those things. The plants that have grown from seed through the warm moths are ready to go in the ground. What to do?
Depend on your nearest and dearest, that’s what! Here are two lovelies preparing to plant in the neighbourhood. I came for the ride, there were jokes about my supervision, (and later on there were jokes about my elves) and I was the one greeting passersby while they worked and I made string. Who can believe the matching outfits?
There are more plants that made it through summer in this unpromising patch than you can see in this image, but my friends planted more. Lots of saltbush to stabilise and create some ground cover.
You can see at the top of the picture that some made it through the heat and have grown over summer, when many plants here died when there were two days over 40C back to back. Hopefully these new plants will have time to sink some deep roots before the next wave of hot weather comes along.
Here we have some saltbush going in nearby in another patch that is weedy for part of the year and desert the rest. They join the two plants that made it through summer in this spot. Fingers crossed for success!