Wednesday, April 22, 2009

micro drawing

Download "75 ways to draw more" from Michael Nobb's site. He has very generously given instructions to put together a little gift of a booklet with a final instruction to read it over a pot of tea. Very enjoyable it was too.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Such a procrastinator

Time and time again, I've settled myself down with notebook and pen, ready to get down a line or two. I get out one of the few books of poetry I own, usually 'Ariel' by Sylvia Plath, less often- ' 101 poems by 101 women.' I read a few pages then connect to the net. There are pages bookmarked for William Carlos William's poems and a Google search- "How to begin writing poetry". The list includes- "10 tips to help you improve your poetry.", "How to write poetry: some exercises to start you off", "A comprehensive resource for writing poetry."
I pick at my clothing, meticulously lifting each pill off the fabric,then pull up my sleeve to study the watch that is there. Carefully, I replace the cap of my pen and snap the elastic around the covers of the Moleskine. The laptop is closed, 'click.' It's time to return to the vacuum, the sink. To return to being a listening ear, the holder of the ladder as the light bulb is changed. It's ok, it's all safely locked there inside me still. One day, something will break the pattern, shock me out of it, let me get on with it.

Sunday, April 19, 2009

'Being an artist was only a childhood dream.'

I've been working in my art journal in a new way lately. It's purely for me, I have to keep reminding myself that no one else will look at it, and even if they do, it doesn't matter. This doesn't sound much of a revelation, I know, but for some reason I've never done this. Not through years of a fine art degree, not for all the ensuing years after that. I suppose I'm of a very self conscious nature and deep down, would never put something on paper I wasn't comfortable with sharing. After many years of dissatisfaction with my art it all ground to a halt. I told myself things like "Art is not very useful anyway.' and ' Being an artist was only a childhood dream.' No wonder making things became so hard.
Not too long ago, I felt like I was having some kind of crisis. There began a gnawing unsettledness, a dissatisfaction that grew more and more everyday. It was very weird because I could feel it inside me but I had no clue why I had this physical sensation. One morning I woke up very early, my head was swirling with ideas about painting and colour and pen and ink. It suddenly all came to a head and the message was there- 'I feel like I'm not expressing myself, my real self.' and I realised then that my years of being a wife and a mum were contributing to this sense that I was holding myself back. I don't want to share my journals in their entirety online, but I'll quote this that I wrote in my diary that day- " drawings lately have been fun and pretty, just like pen drawings I post to my own blog are 'fun and pretty' but strangely unsatisfying. I would like lots of people to read and comment on my blog, but this means making things that please people is feeling empty to me.
I realise I don't write like I used to or make drawings like I used to (in my journal) because I'm self censoring. I expect the kids will read my diaries and look at my drawings one day, and I'm afraid they'll be shocked."
It was a shock to me that I had been living like that for the past 10 years or so, I guess the idea of being the perfect mother and wife had taken root inside me that long ago and over the years established itself to the complete detriment to my artistic ambitions or even worse- to the detriment to my own integrity. That day, I had an idea, I simply decided that the journals could all be all locked in a safety deposit box and my children could access it only after they had become adults themselves. I felt comfortable with the idea of them reading my intimate writing because I thought once they had their own adult experiences, I could at least discuss why I had written or drawn certain things- I could explain myself and appeal to their understanding.
Since that day, I have been writing and drawing completely uncensored and am so surprised at the lightness I have gained. It's like discovering the meaning of life, except perhaps I've discovered the meaning of being an artist.
I certainly don't believe I'll never show any work again, but I feel like I've finally found a way to inject the public work with my own essence, which I suppose is why some art is so authentic. I believe art is never wrong, whatever reason a person chooses to draw what they do, I believe, is the right reason. It is just such a surprise that for me, I seem to have been missing the most important part of my own reason for making things.

On a lighter note, I found this link on the 'Creativity web' site about recording ideas. It's very extensive. I particularly liked the suggestions to use-
  • perspex sheet and wax crayon, useful for the shower and swimming pool.
  • stick sheets of butcher's paper behind the toilet door and hang a pencil on string. Encourage visitors to your home to add graffiti.
Because you never know when a great idea will strike!
Thanks for listening.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

What I know about creativity

  • it may not always appear useful, but it is essential.
  • it's hard to maintain when it is done solely for the purpose of pleasing others.
  • it is impossible if you listen to everyone else's criticism.
  • it may appear ugly or offensive to some, but that doesn't mean you should stop doing it.
  • it can bring you joy, confidence, satisfaction, self knowledge, pleasure amongst other things.
  • we are human, we need to create.

Friday, April 10, 2009

Doodling on Good Friday

It's Good Friday, a beautiful Autumn day. I put a rug out under a scarlet and golden leafed tree and drew in my journal with Boxhead snoring softly beside me. My husband came out with a hot cross bun and a cup of coffee and I told him of my idea to put a tipi up on our property. I'm dreaming of sitting under a tall cone of canvas, listening to the wind rushing past, and the flapping of fabric.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009


I'm such a bad vegetarian. I have a reputation amongst those who know me as a bit of a health freak. In the past, I've been a raging vegan, an organic food zealot and a staunch advocate for locally owned business. The thing is, it's all a projection of 'How I Would Really Like To be' rather than my less than ideal, nasty self. It's like I have an Evil Twin, always lurking behind the furniture, sidling along next to me, ready to leap out and stuff rags in my mouth and bind my hands with gaffa tape then push me into the cellar.
Last Sunday, I left the kids and husband at home and took the train into the city with the intention of secretly buying Easter eggs. It makes me despair to see those huge displays in the Department stores of Celebrity endorsed, hugely overpriced Easter egg packages. Oh! How it prostitutes the whole spirit of Easter! But there I go again, up on my high horse on one side and down grovelling for some slick product in the mud on the other.....sigh*
The moment I got off the train, with my head feeling light, dizzy with anticipation, I hoofed it down to Starbucks. The Evil Twin had a craving for second rate coffee from a big name American franchise and a hankering for Food Court anonymous meats. There was no thought of buying chocolate to brighten my darlings' faces on Easter morn, instead frantic from too much choice I heaped a plate with unidentifiable flesh cubes slicked in unnaturally bright coloured sauces at the All You Can Eat Chinese buffet. The spirit of my ideal self hovered above moaning and renting her hair in anguish.
Eventually I got around to purchasing the necessary props but I was panicked that I had not left enough time for a last ditch gorge at the Ramen bar. On the train, speeding over the flat, grey landscape, the memory of my weakness began to fade and was all but gone by the time I stepped into the cool, wet air of my little country town. As I walked along the silent roads, back to my organic garden, I heard a voice, whispering but forceful- you haven't heard the last about that Ramen Bar......Mwah! Ha! Ha!

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Not much to ask for

This would make a darn fine Mother's Day present, don't you think? A real tractor though......not just a drawing of one, ok?

Tuesday, March 31, 2009


A small but enduring memory.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

In which Boxhead the cat takes a guinea pig

The other day, it was a gorgeous Autumn day, mild and sunny. We went out and played on the front verandah, the guinea pigs cavorted in their hutch. I asked Hana to put some extra straw in the Guinea pig's compartment. I thought to myself "she knows how important it is to check that the hutch door is closed....", then I went up to the backyard to clean the chook pen. Only a moment later I saw Boxhead the cat out of the corner of my eye, he followed the wall and then around the corner, crouched low, moving fast. It didn't register at first, my confused brain slowly processed the fact that he had something in his mouth- something white and furry and small..... Close behind, came Kobe. One look at his distressed expression and it all became clear. Boxhead had taken Whitey.
In moments of urgency like this, I have been known to leap into action with amazing alacrity..... Well actually I freeze and shriek just like I do in my anxiety dreams where my body is flooded with adrenalin yet heavy and sluggish like half set concrete. I did this, but finally managed to force myself to move, after Boxhead I went, weaving after him bent in half, grasping at his fur. I launched and tackled him to the ground where finally he dropped Whitey who fell and lay twitching. The tears came, I thought Boxhead had broken the backbone for sure.
I cradled her little body in my hands and went to return her to her box. As I lowered her down, she limped out of my hand. I put her in a darkened room and went to find and comfort Hana who had gone down to the end of the yard. She sat there, head on her knees sobbing and crying. What I said to comfort her, I was sure were empty reassurances.
An hour or two later I looked in Whitey's box, she lay on her side, still as stone and my heart sank. But as I gazed down on her, her eyes widened suddenly and she leapt up and scrambled under the straw! Later on I took her gently and went over limbs and body, there was an indentation behind her neck where Boxhead's one remaining fang had pressed almost fatally but the skin remained intact. Today, I'm happy to say she is nervous but back to normal.

Friday, March 27, 2009

art journaling again

It's been awhile since I played in an art journal. Can't sit at art during the Summer for some reason. For relaxation I've been cutting stencils, I had a look at Mary Anne Moss's blog- Dispatch From LA, and was pretty excited to find that she is running an online course she calls "Pure Experimentation Stencilry- the online course". I couldn't wait for it to begin though, so I've been sitting at the kitchen table with my new specs on, scalpel in hand crying out warnings to approaching children that "This is VERY sharp". Finally, a way to guarantee more personal space!

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Additions to the zoo

Boy! It's been a long time since I last blogged. I must admit, this year's fire season knocked me for 6. It's our first Summer in the countryside and what an introduction.... We weren't affected by the fires but our town Macedon was flattened by the Ash Wednesday fires in 1983 and everyone felt our number was due to come up again this year. Anyway, I've finally calmed down enough to write again.
The kids and I bought an A frame hutch kit last week which we whipped up in no time, it was so exciting we had to go out the next day and find something to put in it. We have two guineapigs called Wompy and Whitey now. They are absolutely adorable! Unfortunately, they don't live in the hutch we built. They've always lived indoors and the great outdoors freaked them out, to make matters worst we discovered the terrier from next door madly digging his way in. So the littlies are now living inside with us. Hana is pleased she gets to cuddle them lots. Well, truth be told, I get to cuddle them lots too!
Lovely old Boxhead, our 20 year old mog, is interested enough to spend the odd hour staring into their safe house, but his only real interest these days is chasing the sunny spots around the yard.
There has been a couple of really lovely Autumn days that I've spent out in the garden, wandering about with the chooks on their supervised visit. Our neighbour has appeared several times at the door with a chook under his arm trying to be understanding about finding the little culprit hoeing her way through his garden. So each day I amble about with them out in the yard.
I've built another garden bed under the Eucalypts. A neighbour said I would never be able to grow anything under them so I took it as a challenge. I've put down heaps of mulch and chook poo and the first bed looks so fertile with green healthy plants bursting out of it's borders. In contrast, the garden bed that the owner's of our rental property made, with trucked in topsoil and neat sleeper edges grows sickly, wilting veg that call to every pest in the district. Mind you, I planted some heritage tomatoes in there, they are tiny and not too numerous but the taste is explosive! When they're done, the chooks are going in with a few bales of mulch to do their damage. If only they knew my plans, they'd be apoplectic with excitement!

Friday, February 20, 2009

Zucchini and the end of the World as we know it.

Ahh, zucchini! What an accommodating plant- it springs up quickly and before you know it, huge lush leaves, saffron yellow flowers and fruit that go from fingerlings to logs the size of a forearm overnight.

I thought I might list a few links in this post. Our lifestyle has changed immeasurably in the past year. One of the deciding factors to make a change has been the desire to create a Permaculture forest which is a reality now we have bought our 15 acres. Our block is a typical farming block, it was used as grazing land and as a result the ground is quite compacted and hard. Some grass still struggles through but effects of the drought are showing. Everytime I go there, I am filled with excitement because I can envision what it will look like eventually, in contrast to it's current state. In years to come I'm hoping it will be bursting with fruit trees and garden and bushland.
To really get an understanding of Permaculture principles, I am slowly but surely trying to do my Permaculture Design Certificate with the aim of producing a plan for our land. You can read about Permaculture at this site- Permaculture Visions which is the group I am doing the certificate with.

I am obsessed with water. It makes me despair when I see precious water go unharvested. At first, I focussed on water harvesting with rainwater tanks and as you know I've been investigating water recycling plants for our new house but as I find out more about Permaculture, the more I realise that it's not just about filling tanks and dams. The Australian landscape can't hold water at the moment, our presence on this land has slowly degraded the soil, and often the soil is unshaded by groundcovers and prone to baking and erosion. It's going to be the most important experiment of my life to see if I can turn our patch around to be able to hold moisture in the soil to safeguard against drought.

I've been watching some incredible stories on Youtube about this very topic, some excellent one's to watch are Geoff Lawton's story about creating an oasis in the desert of Jordan called "Greening the desert." And this rather emotional story of Peter Andrews who managed to create a property rich in water through his exceptional understanding of landscape.

Another issue that I am concerned about is that of food security , of course it is a terrible reality for many people in Third World countries. I am proud that there are people out there going to these places and helping others help themselves. This is a lovely article about an Australian by the name of Bill Mollison who actually came up with the whole concept of Permaculture. This article mentions the work that he is undertaking around the world to help these very people regenerate land and grow their own food.

I don't think we are immune to the problems we see in under developed countries. My turning point came after Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans in 2005, I couldn't help imagining that if a place like that could descend into chaos after a natural disaster, what would happen to Melbourne if say, terrorists struck, or it flooded. I think we got a tiny glimpse of what could occur after the last heat wave when public transport almost ground to a halt, and we had power outages. With the terrible bushfires in Victoria nearly a fortnight ago now, apart from the appalling loss of life, Melbourne's power was under threat when a fire threatened to take out a power plant. I hadn't really thought about that aspect before, but could you imagine food spoiling in freezers and refrigerators? Maybe electricity powered water treatment plants failing? Hospitals? I don't like this feeling of teetering on the brink.
As I was growing up I was so exasperated with my mother because of her compulsion to horde. Our toilet had 72 rolls of spare loo paper, we had 20 cans of condensed milk at a time. I think Mum would look at her piles and feel secure. I guess when I was young, I didn't really understand the world Mum had come from and how it affected her for the whole of her life. Mum is Japanese, and she grew up in wartime. She was pulled from school regularly to help farmers keep up a food supply, she saw the flash of the bomb and the deprivations that followed after war and surrender. Now I find myself circling my little garden patch several times of day and feeling a sense of security when I see edible things in there. It seems selfish, but not if everybody is growing or producing a little bit of food, we would be there to help each other.

Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Gotta remember the good things in life.

Victoria has been through hell with the bushfires. I feel the weight. But then I spy chooks and kids alike having fun in the sand, it's gotta make you smile. Life continues it's momentum.

Out at the property, we met the Biolytix rep last week to get a quote for a waste water treatment plant. I'm excited to think that our precious tank water will be used once in the house and then reused once it's treated with filters, microbes, bugs and worms in the garden. We will have greenery! This Summer has made me a little nervous about water. We'll be self sufficient in water when the house is built, this means that our water will be fresh from the sky, no more chlorinated cack coming out our pipes but we will be at nature's mercy as to whether there will be enough for us.
Years ago I was horrified that Queenslanders were going to drink their treated poo water, now I wouldn't think twice about it if we were to do it here in Vic. Black water that has been extensively treated is purer than some of the potable water in various countries around the World, and who knows what poos or dies in our catchment reservoirs.
We went out to the property on Sunday night. Phil has been wielding the brushcutter against the gorse again, he's conceded it's too much for one man. Perhaps one man and a couple of goats will do the trick. I absolutely can't wait to have some livestock! I love the chooks but Ruminants are my thing!
Sunset at Ashbourne rd.

Friday, February 6, 2009

She cracks

It's funny how one can go along thinking things are going wonderful and then all of a sudden whilst doing the dishes- a mini breakdown happens on one. There I was scrubbing the pans when all of a sudden I felt totally overwhelmed. As the tears rolled down my cheeks, a lightness came upon me, I realised the problem was that I was donning too many hats. Here I am in my new identity as a gardener, a student, a landscaper, an inhabitant of a bushfire prone area, a home educator, a carer for frail parents- but I haven't shed my old City self. Something has to give.
This week I have a special 50th birthday celebration of an old friend to attend and a medical appointment for my father but after that, I put my foot down! Two weeks are crossed off for-

  • new seeds to plant
  • a new garden bed to be defined
  • the compost heap needs attention
  • fruit trees to be purchased
  • the wastewater treatment options for the new house need to be addressed
  • an alpaca farm needs to be visited
  • Permaculture Design Course homework
  • tomatoes need to be canned
  • working on photography with my son
  • swimming with my daughter
  • sitting on the verandah with my Significant Other
  • organising protective clothing in case of bushfire
  • absent mindedly wandering around the garden
So there you have it, I have confessed- "I'M NOT COPING!"

Wednesday, January 28, 2009


Look, I know we've heard it a million times today but......Man, it's HOT! Got out early this morning to wet down the garden. See above- this is my very technical Greywater recycling system. It takes about 50 litres of water to do the garden, and our tanks off the shed ran out weeks ago. When the kids have a bath, the garden rejoices- there's 50 litres right there! Now before you tell me not to put greywater on the food garden- I only use the warm up water from the shower ie. that precious clean, drinkable water that dissappears down the drain while I wait for the shower to get hot- on the food crops. Greywater comes in different qualities too, warm up water of course is as pure as our water treatment plants make it, bath and shower water have only small quantities of soap compared to water volume so this is not too bad, water quality wise. Laundry water comes next providing you have used a low sodium and phosporous detergent. No-no water is anything from the toilet or kitchen sink. We don't use toilet water for obvious reasons, (although in many old cultures Humanure was routinely used....but us modern people seem to be a bit icky about it.) Kitchen water has grease and fats and detergents and just isn't good for soil.

Syphoning water from buckets to the watering can and then carrying this all over the garden is pretty labour and time intensive but I'm getting pretty strong! Also, some of that time is spent sitting at the outdoor table waiting for the watering can to fill while I listen to the birds and feel the cooler morning air on my skin while watching the chooks peck about my feet. It's pretty satisfying using my water twice too.
Another activity done at the table is potting up the seedlings. These babies still have a long way to go, but it's exciting to think that in months to come we will have silverbeet, radishes, basil, beetroot, celery, beans and other scrumptious goodies popping up in the garden.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

Chooks- mark2

Meet Jennifer2 and.....
Clarissa2. Larger more robust chookys than my previous poor unfortunates.
This is Chooky Pentridge though they seem happy enough to be in there. Not quite my dream of free ranging happy hens but better than the alternative. They've popped out 3 eggs so far and are unbelievably friendly. The kids and I regularly sit inside the compound with them and while they were pecking at my toes today I noticed they have quite long pointy tongues.
We've made more seedballs, this is an experimental batch made with birdseed so if they work, the chooks will enjoy the produce. I have already thrown some vegie seedballs in the garden but they're still sitting there quietly, hasn't been enough rain to make them burst into life. I did read they can lie dormant for quite some time, which is the whole point of the exercise I suppose. Seedballs are supposed to be a good way to sow seed in drought conditions because they will just sit until the conditions are right. I hope they work, I've ordered some covercrop seed, enough to sow over a quarter acre. We'll throw those on the site of the old dam at the block.
We made a classic error when we bought our land, we purchased it in Spring when it looked lush and fertile, over the past couple of months despite a good fall of rain, the ground has hardened into a claypan, the dam is down and the grass has turned golden and dry. I am still filled with hope, we're in a cool climate- once the Summer is over I think we'll be better off rainwise than other parts of our state.

Sunday, January 11, 2009


There's a danger when well meaning city folk such as myself move to the country. A danger that we will inadvertently kill poor innocent creatures through our ignorance. I kept the two fat ladies in their coop for a week like I was told, before letting them out yesterday during the day. They gleefully chased bugs and made nests under the tomato plants, at least they had one day to experience the pure essence of Chookiness..... I let them out this morning, I came out to water the garden a little later only to find two small, still bodies outside the door to their coop. I suspect a dog. They were too little to free range. I am mortified and absolutely filled with remorse.......

Monday, January 5, 2009

New arrivals at the zoo.

Happy New Year! My New Year's resolution is the same this year as every other year- Do not eat so much chocolate, cakes and bickies. I also resolve to finish my Permaculture Design Course before the house is built, which means loads of time but my track record for finishing any kind of course is dismal at best.
We have some new arrivals at Bruce st. Mr Krabbs came from our dam, he enjoys interior decorating and stays up most nights re-arranging his lodgings, he has impressive nippers and his favourite food is carrot.
Phil did a magnificent job making me a chook tractor and here it is with it's new inhabitants- Clarissa and Jennifer. They aren't quite the Two Fat Ladies just yet, they're only 8 weeks old- I have high hopes for them however. I had imagined they would be great little workers, converting food scraps to fertilizer and popping out glorious free range eggs, (not till Easter though, they're just babies at the moment.) But they've turned their beaks up at kitchen scraps and just hang around the wire waiting for me to deposit slaters. I can see there is a danger they shall become cosseted divas and I will work for them instead of the other way round. One thing is for sure, they'll never have to worry about ending up in the oven, they'll enjoy retirement one day. By the way, they will free range eventually, they're locked up at the moment until they settle in and I can gauge how Boxhead will take to them.
I enrolled in a Permaculture Design Course online last week. The usual course in a 72 hour live in type arrangement which would have been impossible for me to do at this stage. I'm hoping by the end of it, I will have a scaled plan on paper for planting and landscaping for our property on Ashbourne rd. Here's a link to the wikipedia entry for Permaculture. My vision is for groves of fruit trees along the front of the land and about an acre of food producing garden surrounding the house, a native tree and wildflower garden over the effluent disposal area. At the back of the property will be the alpaca paddock.
Because there are no services to our block we will live off rainwater (Ha! whatever that is.....haven't seen much of it before) we also have to treat effluent onsite, ie- sewerage. We're planning on a worm composting toilet, they look just like normal loos except everything goes to an enormous writhing tank of worms that process the waste and the resultant converted water goes to a dedicated irrigation area. My poor mother will never be able to go to the loo at our place imagining all that going on beneath her! Phil is not happy that we have to put aside 420 square metres for this purpose, you can't drive on it or run stock there, but I think there could be an absolutely superb display of native vegetation.
Phil is also not pleased about the tender green gorse bushes popping up almost everywhere. We have an informal agreement that I have 5 years to grow cover crops to choke out the weeds and improve the soil before he moves in with the chemical treatments. This farming business is bringing out our differences alright! He's the modern man, science is his weapon, I'm the airy fairy permaculture, natural farming, conservation minded one. I give him credit for indulging me though, it's just weeds seem to bring out his killer instinct!
Through my permaculture research, I came across the theories of a man called Masanobu Fukuoka. He believed that conventional farming takes from the soil causing it to become lifeless and compacted which then requires more intervention and fertilization. I think even the most contemporary farmer these days knows this now. Lots of Australian farmers are taking up practices such as no or low- tillage and using cover crops to improve the soil. The benefits are the soil retains much more moisture when cover crops are slashed and left as mulch cover, not tilling the soil keeps the organisms and worms in place, and both practices keep the land from eroding.
Fukuoka San also sowed crops with seedballs that he made with clay, compost and lots of seed, they were rolled into balls and cast on top of the ground. Because the seeds were encased in clay, they were protected from birds and insects, the clay when wet from rain retained water and the seeds were able to sprout without being sown in the ground. There have been many projects around the world where schools and individual groups have made these balls with native seeds and revegetated urban and rural areas. You have to be careful when using these balls, it's best to use native plants, the seedballs can erupt with vigorous growth, there is a danger that if a plant that is unsuitable for an area were sown, it could take over the surrounding bush.
My idea is to slash the grass and weeds that are growing at our place and then re seed with cover crops ( I'll use pasture seed as this has been grown on our property before.) Hopefully there will be more pasture and less weed by next Spring. I made a few test seedballs the other day, Hana and Kobe are keen to get their hands in some gluggy clay to help me make the hundreds of seedballs we will need. I'll keep you posted!