Sunday, March 24, 2013

Another snowy story

This time I'm stitching in the Arctic, thinking about the melting Greenland Ice Sheet.  It's shades of cream and white- what ever odd balls of wool I can get a hold of: every one a different texture and weight. Mostly I think of what I am making as ridges of stragusi (wind hardened snow) but sometimes they seem more like ice floes floating on the warming water.

I want to make a big afghan to cover my new big bed, in my Polar themed bedroom.  I started out thinking of granny squares, but not so colourful since the room is entirely blue and white, but monochromatic granny squares seem much less charming.  After too many hours of trial and error, I finally came up with this project of irregular strips because I had enough white/cream wool to start it off. I will probably hook them together with shades of blue to represent the melt.

To tell the truth I needed a portable, modular project which could keep my hands busy while I listened.  I have trouble not fidgeting, and keeping my attention engaged in meetings or classrooms but if I'm doing something simple, like crochet, I can stay present, retain information and think clearly.  It actually works even better for me than taking copious notes.

Now that I'm finished March's intensive two week training, I'm still grateful to have a project that is easy and portable since most of my projects at the moment tie me to my studio and require intense concentration. I've got Jury Service coming up in April, and this crochet will be my way of surviving the tedium of the selection process. Unfortunately I'm pretty sure no judge would allow me to stitch while actually hearing a case, even though it would make me a better juror.

Saturday, March 09, 2013

Watering in a drought

I'm hanging out for some decent rain on  my garden. A couple of days of drizzle to soften up the ground followed by a couple days of steady downpour to soak in deep would be great, thank you.  The official declaration of drought in the Waikato earlier this week was accompanied by a total ban on sprinklers which is fine by me because I have only ever hand-watered my garden.  My watering routine is time consuming, but water-conservative. 

A young lemonade tree that was mostly dead when I rescued it from a neglected pot. Planted with nasturtium and chamomile, dug up twice the the neighbour's dog and yet thriving in this dry.
I try and water all my pots and the raised bed almost every day but most of the vegetable beds are watered only every 2-3 days.  Heavy mulch seems to be keeping everything just moist enough to stay alive on this regime. I stopped watering the flowers  at all  a couple of weeks ago and they are struggling but would be winding down this late in the summer anyway. The beds I planted on top of layers of wood and half-rotted compost seems to be the best at retaining moisture- just as promised in the permaculture resources that inspired me.

The young fruit trees planted six months ago get watered once every 2-3 weeks.  They are also heavily mulched and most of them were planted on some chunks of rotten wood at the base of the hole to act as water sponges for just these kinds of dry conditions.  The trees aren't growing much in this dry, but neither are they dying.

My never-watered (and slightly weedy) succulent garden with pebble mulch and the washing machine water diversion hose running along the wall to reach the fruit trees in the front yard.
So if I don't use a sprinkler or irrigation, where do I get my garden water from? First of all I divert as much household water as I can from going down the drain.  Only when I have run out of diverted grey water do I turn on the hose and hand water the rest of my edible plants.

I start off by showering with a couple of buckets at my feet.  I can get up to half of my pot plants (tomatoes, peppers, strawberries, herbs etc) with my shower water. This water includes a little  diluted  mild vegetable soap and the baking soda and cider vinegar with which I wash my hair, it all seems fine on the garden.

Then I take kitchen rinse water outside to more of the pots. The nutrient-rich rinse water from milk cartons and soaked saucepans also seems to agree with my plants which are continuing to thrive and produce food.

Washing machine water running out on to bark mulch at the base of the young apple tree
On the rare occasion I fill my bathtub (and sometimes this summer a cool bath is what I crave more than anything at the end of a hot sticky day) I do not drain the water but ladle it out in buckets - up to 24  and slosh them onto my fruit trees and the vegetable garden.

The latest, and most sophisticated diversion, is from the washing machine. Rather than try and capture buckets of rinse water being pumped from the machine into the tub (which I have done on occasion-its even more of a hassle than emptying the bath) I now poke the hose out the laundry room cat door to flow into a bin squatting unattractively on my front steps.  A pipe inserted at the base of the bin channels the laundry water out into a hose which I can direct towards each fruit tree in turn. This means a deep soak for each tree every 2-3 weeks.

Washing machine hose diverted to a collection barrel with pipe for directing water into a garden hose.
Despite this years endless dry, I can remember last winter where it rained every day for months on end.  Our all or nothing precipitation will only become more extreme as climate change tips over into post-Arctic-melt chaos. So I am putting my mind to other, more efficient ways to capture winter rains and store them for slow release in summer droughts.  I will be setting up as many Hugelkulture-type beds and rain water collection barrels as I can manage.

Sunday, March 03, 2013

From the top down

Felting the contour edges in bush-green tones.
I've picked up a project again that I started last year and then put aside for other more pressing things.  In the interim I've lost my passionate commitment to the original concept, but the piece is big enough for me to take it quite a bit further before I have to decide exactly what it 'means'.

Felting  needles in action
The 50 metre contour lines are those of Mt Te Aroha, as are the mottled tone greens of the New Zealand bush.  The way I make a mountain (or any landscape) from blankets is to work from the top down, finishing each contour before adding the next one below.

Over-stitching with mixed strands of DMC cotton.
There's a lot of colour mixing to do before I felt and stitch the blankets together.  I blend five shades of dyed wool into combinations of two or three to get the subtlety of many different plants sitting in light and shadow.  The thread is even more work- I separate six stranded DMC cotton into pairs and single strands and them mix six colours into various combinations to stitch as three strands.  After all that finicky preparation I eventually apply the wool and threads more or less at random.

Looking out across the mountain top