Succulenting

When I planted out the Unexpected Succulent Bed I found a lot of my potted succulents were very root bound. So I set to repotting or rejuvenating the ones that didn’t end up in the ground.

This used to be a bonsai, but the main plant died and the secondary one took over. I decided I liked it, so it only needed trimming, topping up of the soil and some cuttings added:

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Lot of plants were simply moved to bigger pods. However, I did get a bit creative with this one, putting three pots together to make a tiered arrangement:

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And, of course, I planted lots of cuttings:

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I have lots of empty pots now, too, but with my love of succulents I expect I’ll eventually fill them up.

The Land Scaped

A few months back I sat down with Paul to work out if we could get the kitchen garden done before Spring. We figured we could, so I called the landscapers to quote on the structural work. We’ve had these guys in four times before, so they know this place well. When they found out that the concreter kept making dates to do the crossovers for the garage then not turning up, they offered to quote for that as well.

The quote was very reasonable, so we gave up on the concreter and got both jobs done. However, there was a lot of work to do clearing out the kitchen garden. Pots and garden beds to move, the temporary cat run to dismantle and fake turf to remove.

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One of the lingering structural problems we had was that this area still got boggy in winter. I decided that the wettest area may as well become a garden bed, so I got them to bring the rock edge (which I hadn’t finished building) out further from the retaining wall.

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We were going to have toppings in the flat area, but they suggested gravel instead, as it would drain better. When they were done, Paul constructed the new cat run, recycling old tennis court poles. I’ve been helping put the cat mesh on. It’s looking great and the cat now has three of the pine garden beds to poo in.

As this work was being done, we got chatting with the landscapers about our long-term plans. We didn’t yet have a driveway. The original idea was to do a concrete one, but we’d have to wait until the water company puts in sewerage – and at the rate that’s happening, it could be years. The cost of the slab for the garage had eaten into our budget considerably, too.

So we got the landscapers to put in a topping driveway and finish the garden bed at the corner. It gives us something to drive on to access the garage, but part of it will be dug up again when we connect to the sewerage.

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I wanted to plant a tree in the garden bed, to replace one I’d had to cut down, but didn’t want anything that would shade the house. So I bought a weeping cherry.

Turns out there is a lot of water in the ground around under the driveway, so in places it’s quite spongey. The landscapers think that the stormwater pipes might be blocked further down the slope, so when we get a lot of rain they slowly fill up and the water finds it’s way out in front of the house. We’ll probably have to replace the stormwater pipes, but since having trenches dug is expensive it’ll have to wait until the sewerage connection happens.

Lastly, we wound up with this garden bed along the garage as a way to deal with water run off. The front is all gravel, but I had the rest filled with a mix of sand, gravel and potting mix and mulched with stones. It has become the Unexpected Succulent Bed.

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That’s all the major, structural landscaping done now. Hopefully from now on there’ll only be small jobs to do, that we can tackle ourselves – though there’s enough of those on my to-do list already to keep us busy for years!

We’ve Got to Move It, Move It

Paul finished his Batchelor of Photography a few weeks back. During the final few weeks he was franticly busy and I had a head cold, so when it was done we spent a few days relaxing and recovering.

Then we got stuck into all the things we’d been putting off. Like chasing up the concreter, who still hadn’t filled the ‘moat’ between the old tennis court slab and the new garage foundations. The garage went up in January, so we haven’t been able to put our cars in it for coming up on six months.

As I expected, the concreter didn’t turn up. Again. But Paul had also got the inspector in to see if he’d give us the offical go-ahead to use the garage anyway, and he did. In the meantime, I’d done some careful calculations and reckoned we could get the kitchen garden tidy-up done in time for spring. I’d hoped to be growing veges last spring, and didn’t want to wait another year. I invited the landscaper around to quote on the construction work, and when he heard of our concreter problems he offered to quote to finish the job. The price was very reasonable, so we’re going ahead with both projects.

All this means we had a lot of moving of things to do. For the kitchen garden that meant clearing the space. The contents of the gardening shed went into the garage:

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The succulents went onto the deck, sheltered from frost. The herbs were set aside, ready to go into the herb beds when they’re in. Pallets and a trestle table were moved, lots of plastic pots were cleaned and, if of the right plastic, thrown in the recycling bin, wood for the fire was moved into an old rustic shelving unit that was in the gardening shed, and scraps of wood too big for the old garage were moved to the new one.

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When you move things, you find things you’d forgotten about. There was an old terrarium in the garden shed. A friend’s nine-year-old daughter, Miranda, is a bit of an expert of these, so I invited her and her mum over for a ‘Terrarium Day’ so she could teach me, and the result was fantastic:

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I also found seven pavers, which was exactly the amount I needed to put stepping stones in a topping pathway, so we didn’t walk as many stones into the house or garage.

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The clean up has given me some other ideas, but I’m holding off following through with most of them. I still have lots of other garden jobs that need doing, including lots of plants in pots that need to go in the ground and a couple that need moving, which ought to be done in winter. I’m sticking to a general rule that I can’t buy any more plants until I’ve planted what I’ve got.

Textile Talk: 1year1outfit

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Last night I went to the Victorian Handweavers & Spinners Guild to hear Nicki of This is Moonlight and Rachel of ReduceReuseRecycle talk about Fibreshed and 1year1outfit.

Your ‘fibreshed’ is the area within 500 km of your home, and all the products grown, processed and made within. Nikki describes the 1year1outfit on her blog as:

One Year One Outfit is a challenge to make a locally sourced outfit in a year. Anyone interested in garment making is welcome to join in. Most participants record their findings through social media and use the tag #1year1outfit to keep in touch with the group.

The outfit must be made from natural fibres sourced from your fibreshed, dyed with non-sythetic dyes, and be constructed to last.

After seeing the flyer, I investigated the various sites and Facebook pages related to the challenge. It became pretty clear that it would be very difficult for me to participate, because I can’t wear animal fibres against my skin and no silk or plant fibre is being spun in my fibreshed, and I don’t spin. It might be possible if I moved away from fabric. A quick search online brought up a leather tannery using ‘natural’ methods in Melbourne. I could even try basket-making techniques using locally-grown plants.

The talk was very interesting and I learned more that what I’d found out in my investigations. I think the most exciting is that there are now ‘mini mills’ where small batches of fibre can be spun. They didn’t say if those mills were spinning silk or plant fibre, but I imagine it requires different machinery.

Today my thoughts had shifted to a video I saw recently of Hmong women weaving hemp. I found it again and another that showed how they attach strips of hemp together before spinning it – a method that appeals to me because it does not involve drafting. I got lost in researching plant fibres, and how to make cord and baskets with Australian native plants.

It all reminded me how I’d like to make baskets out of materials I’ve grown. And that I need to get those lomandra seedlings in.

And how there’s still so much work to do in the garden.

Oh – and I nearly forgot: the talk will be repeated on Sunday August 28th, at 2pm. I highly recommend it.

Projects of 2015

January:

First project finished in 2015 was the Bunny Mink Scarf with inlay.

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It was a good month for weaving. We finally got the pedals on the table loom, which made weaving much faster.
However, the next rigid heddle project, the Memory Scarf, was tortuous to weave.

February:

Paul and I put together a pair of Bedside Bookcases.

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Not a project, but it felt like one: I left Pinterest. And never looked back except with relief.

March:

I twisted my ankle badly, which is probably why the only project I managed for the month was the Stitchy Shirt.

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April:

I made a Shoe Modification ready for my trip to Europe.
A little less work and more down time on this trip, so I managed to stitch a
Beetle Pendant while I was travelling.

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May:

I made a Flamingo Pendant as a thank you present for a friend.
A post-trip bout of finishitis took hold, where I finished the Ribbon Scarf

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Fair Isle Beanie
… and Paua Ruanna Collar.

June:

A simple tweak turned my stiff I-cord Scarf into a relaxed, loopy scarf.

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I finished the Silk Stripe Placemats.
Some knitwear and scarves were spruced up on Overdyeing Day.
I went a little overboard making a Gingerbread House.

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July:

Giving up on altering it yet again, I turned the Origami Bolero into the Origami Bolero Scarf and the sleeves of the Gift Yarn Jacket into the Gift Yarn Scarf.
After a sudden and intense love affair with a pin loom, the Neon Blue Blanket was born.

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More weaving produced the Silksation Scarf.
And I replaced the sleeves of the Gift Yarn Jacket to make it the Blue Sleeves Jacket.

August:

Craft Day among friends was Refashioning Day (dress & two tops) for me.

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I tried a little simple knitting to make Capucine.

September:

With the leftovers I made a Capucine Cowl.
An experiment with circular weaving resulted in the Tapestry Hat.
And my determination to try weaving with fine yarn meant I finally produced the Scary Tea Towels for my Mum.

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Then I lived up to my blog name and, perhaps triggered by all the landscaping preparations, became a little obsessed with jewellery-making, refashioning old pieces to make the Washer Necklace and Tiger Tail Bracelet.

October:

I finally used some paper beads to make Paper bead jewellery.

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But the weaving continued, with another pin loom project, the Hunky Hank Shawl.
Colourful beads suggested to me a Tinkle Bracelet for a friend.
While for myself I made Seed Bead earrings & necklace, though by then the landscaping was nearing its end and the jewellery-making obsession had run it’s course.

November:

A simple solution led to me finally finishing the Art Necklace.

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I started 50 Cards by Christmas 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8-9, 9-10.

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December:

While way on a solo writing retreat, escaping the beginning of the new garage foundations work, I made some Inkle bands.
For the New Year, I bought myself a Katie Loom!
And I embellished a cardigan:

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Overall, it feels like I got less craft done this year than usual. RSI and a sprained ankle held me back in February and March, and I was away for most of April and part of November. Then there was all the landscaping and garage preparations and ongoing tasks that ate up mornings and weekends.

Thanks to the latter, I was exhausted by the middle of November and behind schedule with work. I reconnected with both writing and craft during my solo writing retreat week. In fact, I learned something useful. Because I wanted to avoid a sudden increase of typing, which would lead to RSI, I did craft in the mornings – weaving and card-making which didn’t work my hands too much. By the afternoon I was relaxed and my mind had been working over the story while I crafted, so the writing went well. Since I’ve been home, I’ve been doing the same, with varied success. I can’t help that the garage build and various chores are a distraction, but I can avoid spending mornings stuffing around on the internet – which just adds to the wear and tear on my hands and back. It is hard to switch into work mode, however, when the craft project sucks me in and I don’t want to stop.

A lot of refashioning, modification and reusing of materials were part of projects in 2015. When I did try something new, it was in weaving mostly, and also a few jewellery projects. In both I finally tackled and/or finished a few very long term projects – the scary tea towels and art necklace.

I only finished one portrait this year thanks to starting classes two months late, though the second is close to finished. That’s disappointing, as I was aiming to do four.

This year’s aim with the house was to take a break from big projects and stick to small ones while the pool fence, landscaping and garage preparations were done. The pool fence was ridiculously stressful and complicated. The actual landscaping was fast and stress-free, but the preparations before and pre-mulch preparations afterwards took up far more time than I’d expected.

The garage project is slow and ongoing, but mostly Paul’s task so I’m free to chase the work deadline and craft in 2016. I’m in a much more optimistic frame of mind than I was six weeks ago. In fact, the silly season, which I usually find distracting, stressful and a bit lonely, felt like a welcome break and opportunity to get everything back on track.

Happy New Year!

My Garden Rocks

We got the landscapers back in for a bit of rock tweaking recently. When they built the retaining wall there were a few rocks left over. They put them behind the old tennis court wall rather than install a sleeper garden edge there, as we’d originally planned. It seemed a good idea at the time. It’d cost more to take the extra rocks away.

But afterwards I realised the rocks would be difficult area to mow up to, and it was, really, a waste of good rocks. I called them and discussed a better place for them – at the front, next to the end of the drive.

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When the soil in front of the house is dug out to extend the driveway it’ll go in behind them, to extend the existing garden bed, which doesn’t have any existing edging so it’s a constant fight keeping the grass out.

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We’ll need to bring in a few extra rocks to link these to the new and old driveway, too. That won’t happen for a while. The driveway can’t be done until the sewerage is connected because that’ll go under it, and that can’t be done until the sewers go in along the street. Which was supposed to happen last month, but now apparently will happen in January.

That’s fine. We’re in no hurry. The rocks at the front will look odd for a while, but eventually it will all come together.

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Where the rocks were, there’s now a sleeper garden edge. Any soil from the drive that’s left over can go in here.

While the landscapers were working, we got some garden chores done. Along with tackling blackberry shoots, spraying weeds, repotting plants and filling the green waste bin with tree trimmings, we topped up the garden bed in the cat run garden with some soil from the front, then brought in some of the fake turf to place around it.

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The hope was that the cat would use the bed for his toilet rather than the one patch of ground beside it, which has been getting very smelly, and attracting flies. Thankfully, it seems to have worked.

Stress…… Relief

Last Friday morning WeBlow blew 45 cubic metres of mulch on the garden.

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This means I can ignore the garden for six to seven months, apart from tackling weeds. There are still smaller jobs around the garden to do, but nothing on this scale.

What a absolute, profound relief.

After some work gigs on Friday and Saturday, I spent Sunday sitting in a chair, aching with exhaustion after sleeping for 12-13 hours. Thinking back over the last three months, we’ve done a heck of a lot of physical work. We’ve done it on weekends around social occasions and on weekdays in the mornings, pushing my usual morning work and domestic tasks into the afternoon and shrinking the time I have to write and putting me behind schedule.

It’s been stressful, too. First waiting for a planning permit, then preparing the site for the landscaping, then preparing the site for the mulch. Plans were made then constantly altered. Each day I either pushed us both to get out and do the work, or if sickness or inclement weather prevented us I used that time planning and organising. So many times I felt a bit desperate as I realise each job is going to take two, three or four times as long as I’d estimated. We did 8 to 10 hours of raking and digging over the embankment, post-landscaping, about that much just sweeping the muck off the court surface, and at least double on other tasks all together. All the while I was only too aware that the only way anything could be done by each project deadline was by taking time away from important things, like visiting my parents and work.

We also had a housewarming, two birthday parties and two dinner parties in that time. I guess we didn’t have to, but the housewarming happened early on, it would have been a shame not to celebrate Paul’s 50th, and I’d arranged the dinner parties when I’d given up on getting the permit. Thankfully we have good friends who offered to help out during the 50th, which made it less exhausting. It’s going to be a long time before I feel like having people over again, I suspect. Not because I don’t want to see my friends, but just thinking about the hour and a half of dishwashing I did after the last party makes visiting friends them rather than inviting them here far more appealing.

Now the organising and stressing falls to Paul, as the garage build begins. The concreter is one of these “we’ll start some time next week” kinds of tradies, which would drive me nuts. But Paul doesn’t seem bothered.

I slept for 9 1/2 hours last night and I’m feeling more rested, though I haven’t a lot of energy. I’m off to Supanova at the end of the week, which I’m looking forward to. Two of those to get through and I’m done with publicity and can concentrate only on writing.

Though there’s Christmas to get through. Actually, I think this is the first time in decades that it feels like I’ll be less busy rather than more – and I might not mind working through the holiday season so much either. It’s going to feel like a holiday, compared to the last year and a half!

The Best Laid Plans

I took two weeks off recently, starting when the landscapers started work and 3000 title pages of my next book arrived to be signed. So not really a holiday, but a break from the writing routine. My mind needed it. My body… well, I don’t know.

Recently I asked my doc to investigate pain I’ve been getting in my hip and lower back, that my physio couldn’t explain or treat. An MRI later and it turns out I have a perineural cyst. The good news it isn’t life-threatening. The bad news – at least according to Doctor Google – is they don’t go away. I’ll be seeing a neurologist in a few weeks to get the official lowdown.

General advice out there is to avoid prolonged sitting or standing. I’ve found that I’m quite comfortable while being active. In fact, I’d noticed for a while now that I get very fidgetty when I try to sit and work. I want to be active, and I figured that was a good thing.

At the beginning of my break I injured my right hand while sweeping, so to ensure I’d get the title pages signed I had to avoid using my hands as much as possible. So no using hands, no sitting or standing for long periods… I nearly went out of my mind with boredom by the end of the first week.

I had to find something to occupy my mind. Once the landscapers were done I could leave the house, so I went to the Horticulture and Gardening Show on a very humid Friday. The next Sunday we headed to the Royal Botanic Gardens to take portrait reference photos of another friend. I’d forgotten how fabulous the gardens are and now want to go back and wander around some more. The following, much cooler Friday I joined friends on an op shop crawl.

Trouble is, all that activity was also wearing me out. My body started begging for a rest.

By the end of the second week I’d figured out that I could occupy my mind with researching plants for the courtside garden. This involved sitting at the computer, but also lots of getting up to grab books or photograph things, and not a lot of typing.

First I took six photos of the courtside garden and got Paul to create a panorama. Then I went virtual plant shopping. Once I found a suitable plant that I liked, I’d find it on Google Images, take a screen grab, open the file in Photoshop and delete the background. That would be inserted into a layer of the panorama file at around the right size, with a label added. Then I was able to duplicate and move the plant around.

This is what I ended up with after a couple of days:

Courtside Plant Plan

It’s very roughly done, but it doesn’t have to be fancy. It just has to give me something to play with between now and next autumn, when planting can begin.

Turf Out, Rocks In

A couple of weeks ago we had landscapers here. They removed the rest of the tennis court surface.

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They removed our old rotting sleeper wall and the brick drain below it, and cleared the weeds and dead plants in the garden bed.

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That’s my kind of weeding.

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And they built a new rock retaining wall at the edge of the court slab. Some of the rocks were pretty big:

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The final result looks amazing.

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Though a visitor decided it needed an extra little something:

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We now have a pile of bricks to clean…

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And a garage to build.

On the gardening front, this ticks off most of the items in the first part of the to-do list – “A Garden With No Structural Issues”. We’re in the process of digging swales into the courtside garden bed, which is the last item.

The second part of the to-do list is “An Easily Maintained Garden”. We’ve covered the poolside garden with plastic in the hopes of solarising all the weeds before the mulch goes on, including hundreds of little blackberry seedlings coming up. I’m hoping well have this and the courtside bed covered in mulch by December. Then the garden goes into summer mode: watering and weeding only. It’ll be too hot and dry to do anything else.