Thursday, September 12, 2019

Garden Report: New Garden Bed with Path Construction Before the Rains Start

Here on Vancouver Island, we are waiting for the rains to start after our dry season. By waiting I don't mean we are lying around waiting. I have a whole list of garden jobs timed for just before the rains start.

On the list is a path through a garden bed to a tap and hose. Last year Ron installed the hose reel on a stand which is now so easy to use. The soil he dug up then went crazy producing a deep-rooted plant and quack grass. I am always on the lookout for grass because it is banned from the garden beds in the backyard. Shovel by shovel I have spent several weeks sifting out all the roots and grass from this area. Also, as is usual, I removed all rocks in the soil. It was slow going and I hope I don't see either of those two plants here again.
Next, I dug a trench and placed in it a layer of the rocks I had removed from the soil. I get a checkmark here for following the permaculture principle of using what you have.

I reused paper grocery bags to make a pattern of the paver size I was planning on using. I needed to know how many pavers to bring up to the bed.
At this stage I consulted the resident civil engineer for advice on materials and fluid mechanics. Phew, I got the go-ahead. I was on the right track.

The next path layer called for smaller gravel. We have a little gravel pile leftover from making the main garden paths. Another checkmark earned.

I started putting as much gravel in the wheelbarrow as I could manage to lift up the stone steps to the path level. This was hard work. I was getting tired but I was determined to finish the project before the rains were forecast to start at 2:30 pm.

I requested more muscle power with the heaviest tasks.

Five pavers were needed.

We selected five of the best pavers leftover from reworking paths and the new guest patio. 

 Another permaculture checkmark earned.

The gravel had to be leveled to ensure the pavers were stable and didn't move when walked on and well supported so they didn't break. The notches in the pavers will not be noticed once plants have grown over and softened the edges.

While the stronger of us worked with paver placement...

I dug out bucketsful of soil and took them up the steps to another bed to use later. I had been advised the soil level needed to be lower than the path so the water would drain off and away.

Arrgh, the rain started two hours earlier than forecast. I planted the north side and got thoroughly soaked. Against the rock, I planted a new perennial garlic bed. The large flower heads will look elegant when walking up and down the steps. In front of the garlic are broccoli plants I started from seed about a month ago. Next to the broccoli, following the path, I planted another 'best buddy', beet/beetroot seeds, quite densely because the thinnings, leaves roots and all, are delicious. These winter vegetables apart from being our food will protect the soil over the wet winter. Once the crops have been harvested I will plant more perennials in their place come spring.
Wet through I gave up before I planted the other side of the path because there is still a lot of extra soil to move before I can plant it out. I'll get that done once there is a break in the rain.
 I don't like the way the large rocks look like they are sitting precariously on top of the soil. I will put tall plants in front of them to hide the bottoms of the rocks. 
I look forward to planning over the winter months which plants will go where in this bed and in the others. 

Saturday, August 24, 2019

Have you ever thought about who designed this plastic chair?

The ubiquitous garden-variety, plastic chair...

...and its variations found throughout the world.
I have come across this chair in almost every place I have travelled to. It is inexpensive, light, portable, stackable and weatherproof making it accessible to so many people. It has enabled people around the world to sit in comfort alone and in groups, up off the floor to dine, learn, work. We have all seen this chair but have you ever thought about who designed what has become a universal commodity?

Vienna, 2003, Brian Jungen 

Brian Jungen is a Canadian artist who understands the universality of the white plastic chair and has used it in a series of 3 powerful works.

Don't worry that you don't know the designer because that is the way he likes it. He wants to remain anonymous and for you to just enjoy living with his designs.

That is why this poster of an exhibition of Maia and Pierre Paulin's designs caught my attention when we were travelling in the Cevennes region in southern France. We were learning about the history of the silk industry in an old silk factory now the Maison Rouge Museum when we came across a room full of Mid Century Modern furniture.

Tulip chair, 1950, Pierre Paulin

It was the French designer Pierre Paulin who designed the white plastic chair and many other iconic chairs and furniture. This room was a treasure trove of his and his wife, Maia 's work.

 Orange Slice chair, 1960, Pierre Paulin

It was fun to walk through the museum and recognize chair after chair and realise I had never before put them all together as one designer's work.

Ribbon chair, 1966, Pierre Paulin

I wondered why this small regional museum had such a large collection of Paulin's chairs and furniture. I did a bit of research. Paulin was born in Paris and worked internationally but it was in the nearby Cevennes Mountains National Park he 'retired' and continued to design.

 Tongue chair, 1968, Pierre Paulin

Maybe the furniture in this exhibition had come from his home nearby where his wife Maia continues to live.

 Banquette Amphis or the Osaka sofa (1967), Pierre Paulin

Pierre Paulin left the spotlight of international design several times in his career and worked for many years in his wife's design company, where he designed utilitarian things such as razors and irons.

Pierre Paulin's portable iron design, a first.

He has been quoted as saying "Objects should remain anonymous."
I wonder how many of the everyday products I use were originally Pierre or Maia Wodzislawska designs?
I need to rewatch some James Bond movies to do some Paulin furniture spotting.

Friday, July 26, 2019

Articulation's Current Exhibition Connected Heritage, Gimli, Manitoba

The exhibition is on all summer at the New Icelandic Heritage Museum in Gimli Manitoba.

 Research for this body of work began with a study session covering Winnipeg, Gimli and the Inter-Lake area of Lake Winnipeg. I posted earlier about the trip here and here. When we Articulation members were back in our respective studios, we got to work sifting through all our research materials narrowing down a mass of images, stories and information to a focus which caught our imaginations enough to want to go deeper while being guided by the "Connected Heritage" concept the group had settled on.

While out and about exploring I was enamored with the boats and the unique way of fishing. The Icelandic people had brought with them their way of fishing and learned from the First Nations people how to adapt from the sea to an inland lake. Other settlers such as the Ukrainians and Scots also contributed their knowledge to make InterLake fishing the unique industry it became.

And I loved everything about the Icelandic horses. I watched all of the movies I could find where they starred and I found several documentaries on them.

But as is usual for me after an Articulation Study Session, once I got home and into my studio, my interest was piqued by a different subject. Part of my ongoing research involved reading about the history of the Icelandic people and I focused on their unique DNA heritage that has been studied in great detail. A long isolated human population with written records going back centuries can tell geneticists a lot. This knowledge can be applied to the benefit of other populations, for example, understanding the origins of genetic diseases enables diagnostics tests and drugs to be developed.

I became intrigued with the way a group carries its genetic identity with them no matter where they settle and their cultural identity is carried in their material possessions.
Recent genetic research has confirmed what the sagas have been saying for generations. Genetic research has come up with the statistics. Seventy-five percent of the males in the founding population was Scandinavian, mainly Norsemen. Fifty percent of the founding females were Celtic from the western coastal areas of the UK. It seems the bachelor Norsemen picked up Celtic wives before heading across the sea to settle in Iceland.

The Icelanders brought this genetic heritage with them when they settled in the Canadian Inter-Lake area. They also brought their cultural identity embedded in the few possessions they brought with them.
I decided to work with well-worn woolen blankets, essential items they may have brought with them. I projected an image of an old woodblock print onto the blanket then cut the image away suggesting how their cultural identity is embedded in their material culture.

Stitching the design

Cutting out the design to show the backing blanket

Blanket stitching around the design lines

Genetic research has noted people of Icelandic descent are very likely to have blue or rarer green eyes: 89% of males and 87% of females, with green eyes being more common in the women.


 I illustrated this genetic trait by colouring the male's eye blue and the female's green. This genetic trait is still very evident in the current population.

Each Articulation member explored a different aspect of the Interlake population. Visit Articulation's Blog here to see what others have worked on.
If you find yourself in Manitoba this summer, I do hope you can take a trip out to Gimli to see this very interesting exhibition and to take in the sights in this unique town.

Tuesday, June 4, 2019

Garden Report: Spring in the Backyard

The bird's cherry tree will have a bumper crop this year.

A month before the Famers' Almanac predicted April 14th as the last frost day, I set up my potting area.

 I filled the soil-bin with a yummy mix suitable for sprouting seeds.

I planted seeds in reused plastic pots, egg cartons and cut down paper tubes in anticipation of finding the most successful potting container.

Once planted the trays were moved to the Propagation Room to be bathed in the weak early spring sun while being protected from frost by the glass. The sides of the room are open to cool breezes which slows germination rates but it also serves as a hardening-off area once the seeds have sprouted.

I call this the Propagation Room but what really goes on is seed germination and it is a place to safely store plant purchases. I manually water every day but if I find this inconvenient I could get a sprinkler system installed. In the meantime, I enjoy checking daily on what is happening.  Recently I went away for a week but before I left I moved every plant out to a fallow bed that is watered by the automatic sprinklers. I came back to a happy bunch of plants.

The strawberries and peonies have been magnificent this spring.

Yarrow in the 2nd apple guild is loving its sunny location.

Two years ago I planted a trial asparagus patch. It has proven to be most successful. This spring I filled the bed with more asparagus roots/crowns and their companion plants. Now we have to be patient and wait a couple more springs before we can harvest the spears.

The results of my seedling container experimentation. 
I liked the way it was easy to unroll the paper tube and pop the plant, with soil, into the hole without disturbing the side roots. But the tray of tubes became unstable in the now soggy egg carton lid tray and it took a lot of care to not drop the tray.
The roots of the plants in the egg cartons quickly grew into the carton pulp and had to be torn off before planting. My Garden Guru sister recommends not planting with the egg carton attached because the paper pulp takes a surprisingly long time to break down and in the meantime, it restricts root growth.
The reused plastic pots were ideal for the larger seeds, though I have been advised to wash the posts to sterilise them between uses to avoid passing on pathogens.

This spring it has been evident the beds are beginning to mature. I have moved a few shrubs to more suitable locations but this year I am focusing on establishing the herb layer in the beds.