Monday, June 11, 2018

Garden Report: Spring Growth while I wasn't looking

While I have been away the garden has been at work doing what it does best - growing.
I have officially declared the Gravel Bed Garden test a success. Plants are growing and flowering profusely, much to the insects' delight. I will continue planting according to the plan.

I have left several parsley plants to go to seed.  I am hoping to transplant lots of parsley seedlings next spring.

The Globe Artichoke plant has come back again this year, evidence our winters aren't too cold for a lot of hardy plants. I have planted 2 more mainly because they provide a mulch cover for soil I haven't planted yet and supply a lot of biomass when they die back. I'll leave this top bud to flower because it will look magnificent standing tall in the bed and the insects will enjoy visiting it. We hope to catch the other buds before they open and enjoy eating them. Everyone will be happy. 

Wikipedia says, 'The jostaberry is a complex-cross fruit bush in the Ribes genus, involving three original species, the black currant R. nigrum, the North American coastal black gooseberry R. divaricatum, and the European gooseberry R. uva-crispa.'
I have planted 2 shrubs and they are doing well. I am looking forward to tasting jostaberries for the 1st time.

The potato patch is telling us it is ready to harvest. This is a self-sown patch grown from potatoes I inadvertently left in the ground after the last harvest.

I bought a number of Borage (Borago Officinalis) plants as annuals. Here in our garden they are happy and acting more like perennials by growing back each year. The insects visit the flowers constantly. With the last of the flowers, I am now cutting these large plants back and placing them on the soil as a mulch layer. They will start to grow back again in a few weeks.

Swiss Chard/Silver Beet is another plant I am experimenting with leaving to go to seed. The plant is over 6 feet tall and I'm not sure it has stopped growing yet. I am waiting for its seeds to mature before harvesting them.
There was lots of action in the garden beds while I was away. It is time to give the plants some attention which I am very happy to do.

Tuesday, June 5, 2018

Pathways Exhibition by Vancouver Island Surface Design Association - VISDA

During the Vancouver Island Surface Design Association (VISDA) 'Pathways' exhibition in the Portals Gallery, Duncan, a member sat in the gallery each day.
When it was my turn to sit with the exhibition I had a lovely day. 

When I wasn't talking to visitors I had time to look at every work, then I had knitting to get on with.

'Memories of Place: A Chromatic Narrative,' Sarah McLaren, left.
'Life is s Spiral Pathway, Not a Straight Line,' Donna-Fay Digance, right.

'River' Laura Feeleus, left.
'Deer Trails,' Jean Cockburn, right.

Sunday, March 25, 2018

New Work - Geography of Memory, Beginnings

This new work began when the Vancouver Island Surface Design Association put out a call for entry. They were looking for an interpretation of 'Pathways' in a 60" x 12" format.
Sarah McLaren and I had been focused on colour for many months and were both inspired by the colour work of Jean-Philippe and Dominique Lenclos. This couple research the colours typical to a specific place in the world.

New Zealand Forest
Sarah and I have both lived in a number of different places over our lifetimes. We decided to show our memories of those places through colour with each inch of the work representing one year in our lives.

I began by making a life-size sketch then started sampling. My visualisation of this work was so clear my first sample was enough at this stage of my design process to be able to move on to the next step.

I made the base for the ground from a mix of upholstery fabrics heavy enough to support all of the stitching I had in mind.

Next step - deciding on the colour scheme, which was easy because of my strong colour memory of each place I have lived.
Picking the right ground fabrics took a little bit longer even knowing most of them would be covered they still had to be right. 

The base fabrics are bonded to the upholstery fabrics in the right proportions.

Painted bondable webbing ... match each place's colours.

Ironing the painted bondable webbing in place.

Adding snippets of threads, yarns and fabrics to build up the complexity and texture of each section.

Selecting the right coloured nylon scarf from my stash.

Bonding the snippets and nylon scarves in place using parchment paper to stop the iron's sole plate from getting gunked up.

I sprinkled a few granules of 007 Bonding Agent to make sure thicker areas of snippets stuck well. It takes a higher heat setting on the iron to make these granules melt but once they have they stick very well and become invisible.
This is an old and well-used method for building a ground before stitching begins. I learnt this during my City and Guilds days and still go back to it because it is so effective and versatile.
Next step - the stitching. 

Tuesday, February 27, 2018

Backyard Project: Pattern Language #106 Positive Outdoor Space & #173 Garden Wall

I am making good progress filling the gabion baskets with rounded river rock to make a garden wall defining the edge of the guest patio. 
We are not sure if we will put a board on top to make it a seat or not. If we did it would add another Pattern, #243 Sitting Wall and so strengthen the other patterns.

I had collected up the rounded river rock from various locations around the previous garden and stacked them up along the side of the house. This rock had been brought in to the site by the previous owners. It is not natural to this environment but a permaculture principle is to use what you have. 
I have chosen to use it to make the guest patio a positive outdoor space.
Pattern Language #106 says the problem is 'Outdoor spaces which are merely "left over" between buildings will, in general, not be used.' p. 518.
'There are 2 fundamentally different kinds of outdoor spaces: negative space and positive space. Outdoor space is negative when it is shapeless, the residue left behind when buildings - which are generally viewed as positive - are placed on the land. An outdoor space is positive when it has a distinct and definite shape, as definite as the shape of a room, and when its shape is as important as the shapes of the buildings around it.' p.518.
In the previous post, here, I described how the gabion baskets' stepped form echoes the house shape while defining the edge of the guest patio and enclosing the space. The patio has 2 entrance/exits to give the feeling of sitting in a space which is 'partially enclosed and partly open - not too open, not too enclosed.' p.521. This pattern is particularly important for smaller spaces while they still need to open out to larger spaces. In this case, the patio opens out to the forest.
Pattern Language gives a lot more detail on this important outdoor element and links it back 'to our most primitive instincts.' p.520. where when we are sitting we have a need for protection while at the same time needing a view to seeing what is approaching.
Come spring I will start planting along the outside edges of the gabion baskets transitioning the garden to the Garden Growing Wild pattern #172 - more on that later.

Pattern Language #173 Garden Wall
Problem: 'Gardens and small public parks don't give enough relief from noise unless they are well protected.' p. 806. 
About the only negative of the convenient location of our place is we can hear traffic noise from the nearby highway. We are lessening the impact of highway noise with careful design, plantings, fences and walls. My studio building blocks a lot of the noise from reaching the backyard.
'People need contact with trees and plants and water. In some way, which is hard to express, people are able to be more whole in the presence of nature, are able to go deeper into themselves, and are somehow able to draw sustaining energy from the life of plants and trees and water.' p. 806. Pattern Language goes on to explain how people 'must be shielded from the sight and sound of passing traffic, city noises and buildings. This requires walls, substantial high walls, and dense planting all around the garden' p.806. while still allowing people to be in touch with nature.
The high walls have been built and the intensive planting will continue this spring.

Wednesday, February 21, 2018

Backyard Project: Designing with the Step Motif and Form

The gabion baskets defining the guest patio edge make a stepped form to echo the  patio paver placement and the house walls.

An image taken during early construction days shows the stepped form of the house envelope.

The stepped line was continued with the shed placement.

I became aware of the stepped motif during a study of the Art Deco design period that happened almost simultaneously throughout many places in the world. It was the first universal design style and used the stepped motif on architecture, garments, interior design, graphic design, product design....

 1920s dress with silk devore burn-out in a stepped pattern.

This NZ Art Deco period house illustrates the stepped form at its simplest.

The side view shows a stepped roof line.
I carried out some tests on different people using flash cards to find out the minimum number of connected lines needed to be recognised as a stepped motif. Result - 4.
While researching an essay on the Art Deco design period I focused on why the stepped motif appealed at this time and was used so extensively. I found the form and motif seemed to give a feeling of being uplifted and instilled hope. 
With the Backyard Project design, I worked with the vertical and horizontal stepped motif forms in the house architecture by mirroring and echoing them in the garden structures. I don't yet know if there is an uplifting feeling in the garden yet because it is still at a busy stage where I am focused on soil building and planting. Maybe by next summer, I will be able to gauge the feeling in the garden. 

Saturday, February 17, 2018

Backyard Project: Gabion Baskets on the Guest Patio

Sammy constructing gabion baskets along the edges of the guest patio.

They arrived as flat panels that he joined with spiralled lengths of steel.

He placed a steel rod across the centre middle of every basket...

 ..twisting the ends to tie them in place.

Previously he had leveled the ground and spread a foundation of coarse sand.

Next step - filling the baskets.

Sammy was very clever putting pieces of broken pavers in the bottom before adding the stones. It is a great way to dispose of waste cement and have it serve a purpose.

Sammy put the first layer of stones in all of the baskets. 
Now it is my turn to fill them to the top. It is the perfect job after spending several hours sitting in front of the computer screeen.

Saturday, February 10, 2018

Backyard Project: Winter Activities While Waiting for Warmer Days

The last of the flowers bloomed through late fall.

A pleasant surprise was to see the Russian Tea plant flowering in the cooler late fall weather.

We  kept squirrel-busy cutting and storing firewood a few steps away from the fireplace.

The off-cut, untreated, paint-free construction wood had been cut to fit the fire box. We stacked it in a satisfying pile under the propagation table. With plenty of firewood, we looked forward to the cold weather and sitting in front of a fire.

This winter we had a number of significant snowfalls, something that doesn't happen every year.

The cherry tree while still in full leaf and under the Douglas-fir canopy was sheltered from an early snowfall.

The exposed young medlar tree couldn't cope with the wet snow weight. It and the other fruit trees had to be staked.

We took several trips out to Vancouver Island's west coast to enjoy the wild weather.

And now the soil is stirring and the new growth has started.
It feels like it has been a short winter and the garden is enticing me outside more often these days.