Spring Gardening

At this time of year having an acre to look after is overwhelming. Though most of the landscaping is done, and I’ve designed for easy maintenance, there’s no such thing as a no-work garden. Especially in a wet and sunny Spring.

When it comes to weeding for most of the year, I go around in circles anti-clockwise: kitchen garden, then poolside garden, then courtside garden, then front garden, and back to the start. But lately we’ve had a lot of rain followed by enough sunshine to send plants into a growing frenzy, so it’s been more a matter of tackling what seems like the most out of control area or, if all areas need urgent attention, whichever interests me most.

Kitchen garden:
I regret not getting our wicking beds made and filled before we went overseas, but it took a while for the company to assemble the kits and those last weeks were hectic. We’ve only just finished them, and I haven’t yet planted anything. I also wanted to plant some citrus trees, but I should have done that in early spring. Now I plant them now there’s a chance summer will kill them off. Oh well. Next year.

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Poolside:
Aside from a spectacular display of bottlebrush and some unexpected lilies springing up, not much is happening here. Now that I’ve removed the ivy and defeated the blackberry, onion weed had sprung up. I’ve been cropping it to the ground, because if you pull them little latent bulbs left on the roots are activated, and next year you get many more plants. Cutting them gives them no chance to draw energy back in.

Courtside:
The natives plants are doing well. I’ve been fighting onion weed here, too. The embankment belonging to the neighbour has been getting weedy, so I’m spraying it. They don’t do anything to maintain it. The alleyway on their side is an absolute mess, with weeds up to my shoulder. We’re spraying that, too.

Front:
Now that the ‘back’ garden is tamed we’ve been tackling the front. It’s mostly trees and grass, and I’m keeping it that way for now. We’ve been weeding and mulching under the trees, and trimming the lower branches. It doesn’t sound like much work, but the scale of this place is deceptive. What I think will take me an hour takes three with two or three people. Fortunately, we have a friend who hires herself out as a garden helper, who is happy to settle down and get weeding.

For the smallest bed, we tried digging a “Victorian” style garden edge – which is just a trench cut straight down on the grass side and sloped on the mulch side. I like it, so I’m going to put one around the rest of the front beds.

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The biggest tree we have is a huge Chinese elm. It puts on leaves rather late, so the extra sunshine underneath means it gets pretty weedy. So far we’ve spent over 20 hours, with the help of our weeding friend, weeding, pruning branches and mulching. This was the pile of branches before we mulched them:

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To get the mulch under the tree we put down a ‘slip and slide’ of builder’s plastic weighted down with bricks:

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We need a lot more mulch under there, so we’ll be doing a lot more mulch sliding and raking in coming weeks.

In a month or so it’s going to be too hot to work outside and the ground too hard to dig. Then gardening will be mostly a matter of keeping everything alive (well, except the weeds, but their growth will slow down too) and maybe harvesting some veges from our new beds.

Spring Painting

I’ve started going to two art classes a week recently – painting and life drawing. My teacher is retiring at the end of the year, so I’m absorbing as much of her wisdom as possible. Fortunately, her niece will be taking over the class next year. Annie has been working alongside Carol for the last few months, so she will be familiar with all the students once she goes it alone. Her teaching style is bound to be different, but we get along well so I’m looking forward to working with her.

I finished Jane’s portrait a month or so back.

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Though I did a photo shoot with a writer friend, the only photos that came out well were in a pose too close to a previous portrait. So I revisited him and did another shoot, and came up with two more choices. Here it is with underpainting and one session of oils applied:

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Because I had to do a second shoot, I had one class with no portrait ready to start on. So I stole some photos of cats from friends’ Facebook feed and painted a mini portraits on a 10cm x 10cm canvas. I did one of Peri Peri years ago. They’re fun and quick to paint, and I’d like to do a whole lot more of them.

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Spring Weaving

I’m liking how this sampler is turning out, with the colourful rows followed by reversed, black and grey rows, and that it’s reversible.

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I made a small mistake in the first few rows, but it’s a sampler and if I do think of something to make out of it those rows with probably end up in a seam.

The Pinwheel Tea Towels are growing:

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I ran out of yarn two squares short for The Gamppa Rug, and one of the colours is discontinued. So I bought what I hoped would be the right colours on eBay. The dark brown is pretty close, but the lighter brown is a bit redder, but from a distance not so easy to pick as a different colour.

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I’ve started sewing the squares together.

Spring Spinning

I recently finished spinning up a pack of sample blends from Owl of Athena called the “Humbug Fibre Blend Sampler Pack”. All were lovely to spin. Some were a bit challenging for me, as a new spinner, being quite slippery. I had a few moments when the singles lost cohesion and came apart, both in the spinning and plying. But I learned to compensate by giving them a little extra twist.

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Which was a valuable lesson, as I’m now spinning some silk and alpaca together. Both are slippery, and the silk has a short staple (right term?).

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It’s quite challenging, and I suspect the fibre I spin after this will be an easy one, so I can relax again.

Textile Bazaar 2016

I just realised I haven’t shown off my purchases from the Textile Bazaar a few weeks back. Well, here they are:

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Two temples, one handmade ($5) one manufactured ($25). Both are too big for the pinwheel tea towels, which I need one for, so I was going to cut the handmade one down to fit. But it turns out to be a good size for if I weave the full width of the floor loom, so I decided to keep it as it is and have ordered a smaller temple.

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I bought this book for $1. There was a bit of a crush by the book bins, so I didn’t take a close look until later. It is hilarious.

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All I can see is a Hypnofrog eye, or if I turn them 90 degrees, the Eye of Sauron.

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A friend who likes sharks was rather intrigued by this one.

The technical information is useful, however, and I do like the idea of breaking free of convention. But maybe more along the lines of less rigidly symmetrical stripes and zig-zags or kaleidoscope-like patterns.

I also bought some 8/2 cotton and a skein of thicker orange cotton, but they’ve already disappeared into the stash.

2016 You Suck… Mostly

I hate to judge something as arbitrary as a year, but – aside from a few bright spots – 2016 has been a bit sucky. Not a disaster. Not terrible. Though premature deaths of people I admired, political stupidity and callousness and awful things happening out in the wider world have certainly added to the feeling of gloom.

Sucky:
The new garage sitting empty for six months because the concreter never turned up to finish the job.

Sudden worsening of my back, perhaps due to a compressed disc in my neck.

Which meant I could only work an hour a day and delivered a book four months late.

This meant I couldn’t do more art classes before my teacher retired at the end of the year.

Structural edits for the book are, for the first time, not straightforward and likely to take until December to complete.

Ongoing drainage issues around our house.

Not Sucky:
Painting doesn’t hurt my back.

Only being able to work an hour a day means I can still go to more than the one art class per week.

My portrait of Lucy made it into the Moran semi-finals (but not the finals)!

The landscaping looks great and has improved some of the drainage issues.

If I was the sort to believe ‘the universe’ was trying to tell me something, I’d conclude it was urging me to give up writing and pursue a fourth career in portraiture. I’m not sure I want to, though. I’ve turned art into work before, by working as an illustrator, and it took a lot of the fun out of it.

Traveller Pendant

This was the craft project I took along on our trip to Norway and Denmark. It’s a line from a poem by J. R. R. Tolkien. I finished it just before the last weekend.

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It’s a bit wonky, but I don’t mind too much. Stitching on trains and planes, with low lighting as well as constant rocking and shaking doesn’t make for neat stitches.

I’d also taken some small pieces of felt and a vague idea about stitching circles onto black cloth. But the tiny pair of scissors in my travel embroidery kit are really only good for snipping thread. Cutting neat circles was not going to happen. That was okay – by then I had nalbinding to do!

Looms In, Looms Out

Last weekend I joined Ilka White and her weaving students over lunch, to catch up on our progress (or lack of it, in my case) since attending her classes. I brought the renovated loom in to get Ilka’s opinion on how to thread the shafts. It was well worth doing, as she suggested a different, better way than what the loom originally had.

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Since I was intending to sell the loom in the Textile Bazaar, I left it there. However, during the week one of her students, who she’d put me in touch with a while ago, contacted me to ask if she could buy it.

So that loom didn’t end up in the Bazaar. I still intended to put the Dyer & Philips one in as well as the Ashford Table Loom and its base. However, when I found out that the Guild’s commission was 30%, I realised it wasn’t going to make sense to sell the bigger loom at the Bazaar.

It all comes down to maths. With the Dyer & Philips loom, I got it free and the only parts that cost me money was $40 for the heddles. I hadn’t spend a big chunk of time fixing it up either. Add $20 for commission and I’ve got my money back.

With the Ashford Table Loom, I bought it new and spent money and time making the stand. It now costs $1025 for a new one. For an item that’s in excellent condition, I’d hope to get 2/3 to 3/4 the current price of a new one. If I reduce the loom to 3/4 the price of a new one, then add 30% commission, I’d be asking for more than a new one costs. Even if I reduce it to 2/3 the price of a new one, I’d still be expecting someone to buy a second hand loom at the new price.

The stand makes it more complicated. An Ashford stand for this loom costs $615, but of course mine is handmade and not particularly attractive (though I’d wager it was much sturdier). I would like to get something for it, but with commission forcing the asking price below 2/3 of new as it is, I’d have to give it away for free.

So I wound up taking just the D&P loom in for the Bazaar. Which sold to a weaver I follow on Instagram. Hello Mary!

In the meantime, I’ve been weaving. Thanks to edits being two weeks late to arrive, and Sunday’s lunch, I had lots of time and enthusiasm last week. I decided to get both the Katie and floor looms warped. I’ve put some 8/2 cotton onto the floor loom to weave tea towels in a pinwheel pattern:

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And warped up the Katie with a doubleweave sampler:

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I’ve made a few more squares on the pin loom:

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And I’m eyeing the Knitters Loom, thinking maybe a hand-manipulated lace scarf would be an interesting contrast to the other projects. I’m even thinking of warping up the little inkle loom. Just how many weaving projects can I get in motion at once?

Hmm. Time to get that Ashford Table Loom advertised before it winds up with another ‘test’ project on it.

The List of Lists

Holidays can be like punctuation marks in the flow of daily routine. Sometimes they’re a like a comma – a small interruption after which life continues in the same vein. Sometimes they’re like full stops – things begin anew but on the same or similar subject. Sometimes they’re like paragraph returns – a shift in direction. And sometimes it’s like an entire chapter finishes and another begins.

The new problem with my neck that began at the beginning of this year forced me to find a new routine. I had to work out what I could and couldn’t continue to do by trial and error, and found that I needed to restrict sitting and typing/weaving/whatever to an hour at a time, once or twice a day.

Since what I do for a living involves sitting and typing, that meant lots of changes. But I had a deadline, which kept moving as I discovered my limits. Eventually I knew I’d finish just before going overseas, and a lot of things I needed or wanted to do were pushed onto the ‘when we get back’ list.

Now that we’re back, I’ve been considering all those things, and all my to-do lists. Last week I divided everything into six categories that fit across my computer screen: work, general, house, garden, art and craft. (I use a program called Stickies.) It allows me to not just prioritise within a category, but across them. And when one task is held up, I can consider spending my time on high priority tasks in other categories as well as in the same one.

It’s been working really well. When bad weather meant I couldn’t tackle many of the more important tasks, or items further down, I moved across the lists until I found something I could do. That turned out to be renovating a loom I’d rescued from the Guild. Knowing I really couldn’t do those other things means I could work on it guilt-free. I didn’t stuff around wasting time in the house or on the internet.

As a result I’ve got the loom finished in time to put it up for sale at the Guild’s Textile Bazaar next Saturday. I’ll be bringing in the Ashford Table Loom on the homemade stand as well as the Dyer & Phillips loom. Hopefully they’ll find new homes and I’ll make back the money I spent on them with a little extra for my time… to spend at the bazaar!