Thursday, July 28, 2016

Backyard Project - Planting More Trees

Sammy, the owner of Pacific Ecoscapes , is asking me where I want the tree planted in the Gravel Bed Garden.

It is the focal point of the bed so its position is important. I have been holding off from planting more in this bed until I can what the tree looks like. 
We discuss where it could go and settle on its location.
Sammy has to scrape back the gravel, cut a hole in the filter cloth, and dig out the soil below before settling in the tree.

Strawberry Tree/Koumaria/Koumara/Pacific Madrone/Madrona (Arbutus unedo)
We considered many different trees before settling on the Strawberry Tree. It needed to suit the site - sunny, hot, dry thin well-drained soil. It needed to be multi-functional to fit with the permaculture philosophy - edible fruit for birds and me, lots of summer biomass (falling leaves) to act as mulch on surrounding beds over the hot months, falling fruit to feed the soil, a high resting place for birds and a shady spot underneath for me, tannin-rich bark for me to use as a fabric dye. All of these functions made it the winner. Design-wise it is a smaller version of the larger nearby Arbutus (Arbutus mensiesii).
It is an evergreen but like its cousin the Arbutus, it drops half its leaves over the summer. The guava-nectarine tasting fruit takes a year to ripen so the tree has ripe fruit and the next season's flowers both at the same time over late autumn into winter giving birds food into the cold months.

Sammy brought the feijoa/pineapple guava trees for the hedge. I have been growing in pots fig cuttings collected during a Gaia Organic Master Gardener pruning lesson. The soil in the new bed is not yet ready to plant in so Sammy left the plants in their pots and placed them within the hedge area. It is good to be able to better visualise what the hedge will look like.

Fig - Dessert King 
This has proven to be the best cultivar for our climate. Our summers support a plentiful very sweet brebus crop but there are not enough frost-free days to mature the 2nd crop.

Feijoa/Pineapple Guava (Feijoa sellowiana)
This yummy fruit bearing small tree will make up most of the hedge. The green fruit ripens and falls in the autumn. It has soft spiky scarlet flowers which will give the hedge a punch of colour.

Sammy brought and laid some top soil for the 2 meadow beds in front of the studio.
He also planted a native apple tree out the front by the letter box.
So lots of new planting that I now have to keep watered while we wait for the irrigation system to be installed.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Permaculture - Soil Building Techniques - composting, fertility crops

Ron holding one of the new compost bins.

The black bin has a secure screw-on lid.

Ron cut the bottom out and cut holes in the sides.
It will be placed bottom side down in a small hole in the garden bed. Soil life can enter through the side holes and bottom and we will feed it with kitchen scraps and scoops of soil from the top. 
There are 2 of them - one to fill and one to leave to compost. When the composting has happened we lift the bucket up and move it to another location. The new compost is then chicken-scratched into the soil in-situ.
With permaculture gardening, the area is divided up into zones. The beds nearest the house are in zone 1 - the 'Fluffy Slipper Zone' because one can hop outside in slippers to harvest the most accessible plants. These compost bins are in our Zone 1 - Kitchen Beds where the soil is being kept rich and damp. Continually making compost within the bed helps to keep the soil fertility level up.

Ron came back from a shopping expedition with 2 bags of chitting potatoes. He said they were free to a good home. The sprouts were long and pale so there may not be enough energy left in the potatoes to support new growth. I planted them anyway because it is all good organic matter for soil building and if some do grow into plants it is a bonus. I am thinking of them as soil fertility plants but we may get to harvest a few potatoes as well.

Some of the potatoes had small shoots so I cut them up and planted those too.

Now to wait and see what happens.
 Gardening involves a lot of curiosity tempered by patience.

Sunday, July 24, 2016

VISDA 'Current Threads 2016' Artists with their Work

Judi MacLeod 'White Lady,' white linen, manipulated white cotton, hand and machine stitched
Judi led the this year's Current Threads exhibition committee. She led the hanging and compiled the artist statement binder among many other tasks.

A close up of 'White Lady' because my poor photography didn't really show any of the texture.

Committee member Sarah McLaren with her 'Van Gogh in Yellow,' cotton, silk, tulle, organdy; edge turned machine applique, free motion embroidery.
Sarah organised an elegant afternoon tea on the gallery verandah during the artist reception.

Committee member Dale MacEwan beside her work 'Nature's Patterns' (bottom - Karen Selk's work on top).'
Dale manipulated and printed on cotton 2 of her rock pattern photos then machine stitched into them.
Among the many tasks Dale worked on were registration and the show sitting schedule.

Many thanks to this year's Current Threads exhibition committee for doing an excellent job showcasing VISDA members work so well.

During the artist reception, I managed to catch 2 other artists with their work.

Susan Duffield 'Ragged End of Life' - stitched textile fragments mounted on painted canvas.

Louise Slobodan 
Top - 'Ancient Pathways' - a collagraph printed on rust printed muslin with stitching. 
Below - 'Arbutus Landscape' - Photographs printed on rust-print cotton with hand and machine stitching.

The exhibition is on for another week. I would recommend you visit if you are in the area.

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Vancouver Island Surface Design Association's 'Current Threads 2016' exhibition at Tulista Gallery, Sidney

Laura Feeleus 'Heartfelt'

VISDA's annual exhibition is on at CACSP's Tulista Gallery in Sidney.

Works by Lori Mudrie, Terry Phillips, Donna-Fay Digance

The exhibition is on until Sunday 4:00 pm July 31st.

Works by Barb McCaffery, Margie Preninger

There will be an Artists' Reception on Saturday 2 to 4 pm July 23rd.

Works by Bryony Dunsmore, Sarah McLaren, Jo Ann Allen

Many of the artists will be in attendance. It will be a great opportunity to talk to them about their work. 

Works by Sarah Mclaren, Morag Orr-Stevens,

As this is an annual event for VISDA we are already working on our 2017 exhibition.

Jo Ann Allan 'Song of the Earth' 

Any work a member finishes between now and the date of the next exhibition is eligible to be shown.
We are working on several exciting ideas for next year's venue.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Backyard Project Update - What happened while we were away

While we were away Sammy and his crew continued to work on the Backyard Project.

They mulched the hugelkultur beds with straw to slow down evaporation from the soil as we enter our dry season.
Sammy cut more rounds from logs and extended the gardener's paths around the perimeter of each hugelkultur bed.

They started construction on another garden room - the fruit hedge. 
This room begins on the south side of the path next to the Gravel Bed Garden.

They made a lasagne bed composed of many layers of different materials. It will be left for the soil organisms to do their work breaking down these materials to make a rich soil. Once the soil has cooled down the trees and shrubs can be planted.

In the Cut Flower Bed, the peonies and irises are at their peak.

The alliums are moving into the seed-head stage which I enjoy as much as the flowering stage. I leave them in the garden until the stems are getting dry then cut them. I bundle up the stems and hang them in the garage to dry further.

In spring time the rate of change in the garden speeds up.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Art Nouveau and Art Deco - On the Lookout for Art Styles While Travelling

After flying across the Pacific from New Zealand we endured a 10-hour layover in San Francisco. We occupied ourselves with: finding a short term hotel room - no such place; a shower - closed for renovations; a place to sleep - the meditation/prayer room but that didn't last long because the dark quiet room was intoxicating when in a jet-lagged state and lying on the floor, as opposed to sitting cross-legged, was forbidden.
The many exhibitions within the airport were a welcome distraction and kept us moving.

Curtain panel, c. 1900 - 1910, USA, cotton
The SFO Museum was established by the Airport Commission in 1980 to humanise the airport environment, share some of the unique cultural life of San Francisco, to provide educational services for the travelling public, and to keep jet-lagged people occupied.

Centrepiece, 1900, Loetz, Austria, glass, bronze
We didn't find all 25 galleries but what we did find certainly worked for a while to distract from our basic needs for sleep, personal hygiene attention, and moving the body. 

Jardiniere, 1903, Austria, bronze
When I travel I am always on the lookout for expressions of different art styles in architecture, interior design, and artworks. I am particularly interested in the more recent styles that encompassed more than 2D paintings and sculptures.
The rebellious Arts and Crafts movement at the end of the 19th century in Europe morphing into the Art Nouveau period was the beginning of taking 'art' off the walls and plinths for Europeans.
The motifs on this jardiniere are typical of the period - dragonflies and plants, particularly the stems and leaves caught up in the hair of languid women. 
What do you think of the women with their mouths open forming the feet of the dish?

Octopus Chatelaine c. 1900, William B. Kerr & Co., Newark, New Jersey, silver
I had not noticed the octopus motif being used before but with its curvilinear legs it would have been seen as having great design potential if more designers of the time had been familiar with sea life.

Art Deco shop front in Ngatea, New Zealand
My favourite art style is Art Deco, a style that flourished not only in Europe between the world wars but it was the first style that spread around the world. It may have been halted in Europe once WWII started but it continued to develop elsewhere. I love to find Art Deco gems in unexpected places.
It was the first style to unify people rather than separate them. Art Deco concepts were freeing providing a spring point for many different cultures to interpret.
Another reason why I find the Art deco style so fascinating is that it was the first style that permeated all material culture at all economic levels, from grand hotels to this modest shop front (above), from costly wood inlaid furniture to a mass produced milk jug. Everyone could identify with and express themselves through the style.

Monday, July 4, 2016

Whakaari/White Island New Zealand

While in New Zealand, we did a unique trip. We went out to Whakaari/White Island, New Zealand's most active volcano. There had been several earthquakes and a volcanic eruption the week before so we wouldn't have been surprised if our tour was cancelled.

The first challenge was to get over the bar and out to sea.
No problem. Just a gentle swell.

Here we are outfitted in our safety gear - a hard hat, to be worn at all times and a gas mask around the neck, to use at leisure (when feeling overcome by the fumes).
The sea stayed calm for the journey and no one was seasick (as in 'threw-up').
According to our guides, it was already a good day.

Next challenge - getting from the RIB to the rust poles they called a ladder by timing the swell and the step/stretch/leap just right.
The sea co-operated with only a smooth light swell.

We were supposed to be listening to our guides giving us the safety briefing but most people were already hooked to their cameras.
And most of us had our masks on already. The acidic air caught in the throat, made eyes water and noses run. We were handed boiled sweets/lollies to suck on as relief for our acid etched throats.

Steaming fumaroles and boiling mud.
This what our guide warned us about. "Stick to the trails and don't stand on a mound - it could be a thin crust of ash covering a fumarole." (My Spell check wanted to know if I meant 'funeral.')
With the most recent eruption happening last week there was grey ash everywhere and steam continually drifted through our group. It was difficult to see where the actual path was.
Peoples' cotton t-shirts were getting bleached.

The centre of the island is now a lake of acid.
This is a colour picture/photograph - not a black and white. 
If we saw glowing white steam we were instructed to move away because it was sulphur dioxide.
I Googled it - 

What are the most important things to know about sulphur

 dioxide in an emergency?

Emergency Overview: Colourless gas. Suffocating odour. VERY TOXIC. Fatal if inhaled. Corrosive to the respiratory tract. A severe, short-term exposure may cause long-term respiratory effects (e.g., Reactive Airways Dysfunction (RADS)). CORROSIVE. Causes severe skin burns and eye damage. May cause frostbite. SUSPECT MUTAGEN. Suspected of causing genetic defects.
Sulphur was mined on the island until last century when and eruption killed all 10 workers.
The remains of the operation are a fascinating study of corrosion.
The strongest materials are eroding the fastest - steel and concrete while wood and rubber seem to be being preserved.

Rusted equipment

Steel and wood.

The last challenge - getting across the sea to home.
No problem - the sea was mirror calm. So calm albatrosses couldn't get the lift they needed to take off from the water and were marooned until the breezes started up again. 
A bonus was seeing literally hundreds of sea mammals - dolphins, porpoise, whales.
Such an amazing trip. A 'must-do' on any NZ trip.

Saturday, July 2, 2016

Kaipara Coast Sculpture Gardens Exhibition 2016, New Zealand

While in New Zealand recently we visited the Kaipara Coast Sculpture Gardens to see the 2016 exhibition.
This was one of my favourites.

After walking along the hydrangea avenue one sees at the end Janette Cevin's 'Hydrangeas'.

Large-scale hydrangea paintings with their glossy highly decorative metal surfaces covered in acrylic and resin are larger than life and draw the viewer in.

Audrey Boyle's 'Kareao (Supplejack)' is made of steel to mimic nature.

Jane and Mario Downes 'Taraxacum Forest' is also made of steel and mimics nature in an overblown scale.

Marlyne Jackson's 'Beneath the Willow Tree'

Reminiscent of yarn bombing, Marlyne works to express the struggles of recent immigrants...

...making a new life for themselves.

Margaret Johnston's 'Sleep Out' is like a miniature Janet Morton installation...

...until one gets up close to it. 
Margaret remembers childhood summers spent sleeping in a pup tent in the back yard and playing beside the sea. She feels sad about how these activities are now polluted by the huge amount of dumped waste from the telecommunications industries. She knit the tent from this waste.
"What are we doing to our land?"