Old Respect

Have you ever been to an old cemetery?
Have you read the headstones? The ages and causes of death? Their storys are facinating and an insight into life in your very own community from another time.

We are privileged to have a lovely old one right near the river and park.  The headstones are wonky. The metal is rusty. The trees are in a state of autumn and it felt serene.

I went there to create some rubbings for an upcoming art idea. The light was incredible for about half an hour and I took photos as well.

The center of the concept I am working on is 'Respect'. I couldn't think of a better place to start looking at respect in our town. A place where there are no heroics to be honored, just stories to tell.

Out of the Coffin - Art Workshop

Are you a bit like me? You don't really think about death, dying and what happens to your earth body afterwards?

I often have slight panics about the dying thing but mainly because I would hate to have my life taken away from me before I had fulfilled my full potential. Now I have children I worry more about their life than my own. I realise these are things that are mostly out of my control and I do not let my mind wander there.

Even though I was bought up in a christian family I do not have the certainty in an afterlife or even reincarnation. I am the kind of person that can't blindly believe in such things without fact. Living life as well intentioned as possible is my only goal. To help people and to grow myself.

When I booked in this workshop at ArtsCape I was unsure if I would have any connection to the subject. I would have rather not let my mind wander into those places anyway.

I attended the workshop hesitantly. I was happy to be spending the time with some lovely local artists whose work I admire, so I went.

I was surprised with the workshop conversations. They were not dark or fear inspiring, they felt open and down to earth. The conversations centered around the possibilities of natural burial and natural burial grounds.

We were shown skills on how to make string, a simple thing you must think. The string is something to do while the thinking happens. It is a beautiful and natural way to create something so organic and original yet so thought inspiring.

It is a way to weave your thoughts into an object. The string can be made from any materials and I find it so beautiful and earthy. I will be borrowing the technique to use in my own art and to share with others.

I made my string from sewing pattern paper, wool, twine, feathers, other paper and hand written notes.

The artists at the workshop were making their own shrouds and woven bags to be buried in when they pass. What a beautiful idea - to be buried in your art and something so personal. Their recent exhibition Paper Garments for the Grave had similar themes and if you get the chance of it coming close to you then please go and see it. You may also go to one of their up coming string making workshops (events here).

Even if you don't like to think about these things (like me) I am certain you wont feel intimated by the topic after spending time with these lovely ladies. Do yourself a favor and be open to the thoughts of your own passing.

Soil - More than just dirt

So you want to grow your own veggies at home? Are you put off by the digging and constant weeding? I may just save you hours of back breaking work if you just take the time to read this post. It will be worth it I promise.

I'll start by telling you the story of my dirt patch. 

Soil is the foundation of any good vegetable growing. It is something that must be built upon year after year to get the best results from your garden.

When we bought our house many years ago we discovered a dis-used vegetable patch a fair way in out in a paddock. The location meant that easy access to it was not going to happen. There would be no trips out to the garden in my slippers to pick some quick herbs. I decided on a better location a short distance from the kitchen. Once I started learning the permaculture principles a few years later I understood that I had made the best choice for its location. As little time spent between walking from kitchen to garden is ideal. Planning of your gardens location is essential if you get to make a fresh start at your house.

The problem with our property is that about 1/2 a meter down you hit gravel. We learned a huge lesson on its strength when trying to bury a cow one day. The first year in the garden I dug directly into the ground. It was back breaking and not very pleasant. I composted flat out trying to create some lovely soil and realised how much I would need to get the soil to a reasonable level. I was discouraged.

The next year I had almost given up until I realised I needed to build on top of the dirt already there. I needed to work the soil in the same spots to improve with each year I worked it. We build some large vegetable patches using some wood boards as the cost was significantly less than (my much lusted after) sleepers. We ordered top soil to fill up the boxes. When it arrived it was also at a low grade quality and full of weeds. I did not know then, but I do with every new bed now, that I should have placed a thick load of newspaper/boxes/magazines directly onto the freshly cut grass or earth you have chosen before you place down the wooden boxes or underneath the soil. This suffocates the weeds and stops them from being regular visitors in your veggie patch by growing up through your soil.

I finally had some veggie patches I was happy with. The maintenance, especially the sorrel and the twitch, was rampant. I spent the next two or three years digging and weeding trying not to let it beat me. It was hard, back breaking work. About this time I began working for Bill and Lisa Mollison on Tagari farm. I learned how to use thick boxes/magazines/newspaper (anything that will break down) on top of the soil and to mulch directly over it. To plant out the beds you either water it down to soften it and wait a week or punch right through it and plant into the soil below. The boxes smother the weeds and stop them from smothering your vegetables as they grow. 

I usually mulch each bed twice a year. I now just dig over the loose beautiful soil prior to mulching and pull a few weeds that may be lurking. It does not require any back breaking work and generally the weeds are under control.
The paper material breaks down under the mulch on top and creates a kind of compost system directly in your vegetable patch. The increase in worms are testament to that. My soil is now soft, fluffy, dark and rich.

I have had discussions with other organic gardeners and there is speculation that the chemicals contained in the boxes/magazines have potential to build up in your soil. I feel that it is still better to have them than the weeds. After the boxes break down I just pull out any lurking plastic that may have been on the boxes in the form of tape and pop it in the rubbish.

Recently I have taken to building other wire compost catches on top of the garden beds to quickly throw all the garden compost in them. I can move them easy and there is no wastage from moving the compost soil from another place.

I often add ash from the fire and dig out the chook house to add some more goodness to the soil. Beware of adding too much chook poo as it can burn your garden from its richness. It is best to dig it though sparingly or put the chook poo on top of the soil and let the sun and rain break it down a bit more before digging it through your soil. A worm wee farm or cow poo tea to further fertilized you garden is also a bonus.

I am about to double my garden space and put up a hot house frame I was given. I am going to be building new patches in old spud boxes and other moveable patches. The septic tank lurks beneath in the new area and there needs to be access to it should there be a problem. Plus I am not really keen on building on soil fertilized by our own waste.

The garden is ever growing and evolving. It is nice that it is now 'working' and the chore of growing your own food is no longer a chore. These things do not happen quickly but they do not need to be hard work either.
How is your soil going?

Art Openings

Last night was the opening of out Heritage Festival event - Conflict and Compassion.

We had three pots of different soups - loads of beautiful damper from the bakery next door, a brilliant display from the councils collections and the local Historical Society and a projection on the wall outside. The weather was cold but pleasant.

To be honest I am completely disappointed. Everything was set to be a very special night and only a handful of people managed to show up. I did a huge amount of advertising and I can guarantee that not one attendee was there becasue of what I had produced.

It is well know how hard it is to get people from our town out of a night time.  It is also well known about how hard you have to work to get people to interact with the arts. Sometimes it makes me so disheartened to continue in community arts work. Next year is our ten year anniversary of the opening of ArtsCape and we are STILL struggling to engage.

This year has been fantastic for ArtsCape and its programs and I literally have no idea how we can do better. We are a community run initiative however in all things community you often find that only a small part of that community actually do the work.

Yes this is a bitching post. Yes I do feel I am entitled to it.

I can't keep writing - this will only get more negative.

Heritage Festival at ArtsCape

Recently I have been working with the local council to get this event happening at ArtsCape.

We are planning to run an outdoor event in an Tasmanian autumn - yikes.

I'm hoping that people will embrace their Tasmanian nature and enjoy the crispness of the season (that's a nice way to say freezing bloody cold - if you please). I figure that Dark MoFo has started the trend so why not run with it.

On the night we will be showing two films about locals that were involved in the war conflicts. The committee is organising some hot soup and there will be damper available also. If you bring down a warm blanket to drape around your shoulders (or puffy jacket if that's your thing - not mine but up to you) I think it could be an awesome experience.

***On other matters I just received word that I gained a grant to put together a team of young people to complete a digital media exhibition to be displayed at Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery under the Make Your Mark program. We have big plans. Big tall plans. Expect to be blog spammed about it. It is such an amazing opportunity for the young ones interested in perusing arts as a career. Lucky ducks.***


The garden is looking sparse. The tomatoes have been pulled before the first frost happened. I have millions of green tomatoes. I refuse to make more pickles even if they will be green tomato pickles. The few that have turned on the window sill have been transformed into tomato paste and stored in the freezer.

How to make tomato paste you might ask? Easy...

Trim tomatoes - put in large heavy pot - sprinkle with some salt. Reduce tomatoes for hours on slow heat till they look like a paste. Store in freezer or pasteurize. Ta-Da.

Whilst we are on the topic of Tasmanian food and gardens...

I have been reading (and nearly finished) this beautiful book from Michelle Crawford (Hugo and Elsa Blog). I have girl crush. Everything she is writing, about food and about our beautiful state is spot on how I feel. It is like having a conversation with a good friend, a warm hug on a cool day or tea and crumpets in the middle of winter.

The pictures, the recipes and the writing are full of love, Tasmanian love.

I'm afraid to say I almost completely ripped out the herb spiral. The oregano and mint was out of control and now have been gathered up nicely into pots buried in the ground to stop their escape and possible re-infestation.
A Tee-pee out of some Tea-tree and gum has been constructed in its place with some recycled bricks as a path leading into the center. The strawberry's have been divided and replanted around the base. Some climbing peas have been planted around the base in the hope of covering the Tee-Pee.  The little girl claimed it as her own instantly and a sign was made with the name she chose.

I'm sure it will look lovely once the newness wears off.

With a baby teething and crawling there has been lots of early mornings.

There is something about the autumn Tasmanian light that I love. Its mist, its glare and its crispness.

I can't get enough (well I could if the baby would let me sleep instead of course). It really is a magic place.

Making in May

 I got to the women cave. It was very exciting. I cleaned and sorted some things out and I also got to sew!!

The first photo is of a cot quilt I made for my little man. At the top right of the photo you will see the backing fabric and binding.
The top was constructed by simple squares and a border in denim. The top squares included thrifted and new fabrics, lino prints and silk screen segmants that I made a while ago.

I am starting to run low on my hand printed fabric. It must be time to make some more.
I used a thrifted wool blanket for the center. It's so soft and warm. It is defiantly perfect in its imperfection. A precise quilter I am not.

I have been on the hunt for the perfect pattern. Sadly I do not think this is my perfect pattern but it was fun and simple to make. The pattern features an elastic section in the back and on the sleeves so it is less sack like. The patch pocket was made from two doily's from the stash.

Now to wait till I finish feeding the baby and I get to wear my beautiful new wardrobe as many things I have made or bought lately are not breastfeeding friendly. 

I made this poncho from a pattern in Golden Hands. The pattern is meant to fit adults but I knew as soon as I was cutting it that the 6 year old would be better suited to it than an adult. Plus she really likes pink and I do not.

I made the poncho out of a thrifted wool blanket and lined it in a vintage flanelette sheet. I added some embroidered flowers, hand made tassels and blanket stitched around the neck line.

It's so nice to have some woman time. Oh woman time I have missed you. Heart.

Conflict and Compassion

This month at ArtsCape I have been helping to organise this event.

It's going to be a fantastic outdoor screening at our community art space. The committee is going to be putting on some soup and damper to keep patrons warm on what is most likely going to be a cold night.

Think big screen projection - outside - watching original films sipping on a mug of hot soup. I suggest you might want to rug up or bring a blanket for complete comfy viewing.

Inside the building we will have a complimentary arts display from the Waratah Wynyard councils collection and from the historical society.

Definatly something to look forward to.

**On my last post I was surprised to receive a huge positive feedback to something that I felt was a bit ranty and words spewed out then put together in really no real logical order. I still forget that people read what I write and I thank you all for that. Thankyou to everyone that supports what I do and me as a person. It makes me forgot the not so positives for a little while. Big love x**

On writing sometimes...

Confession - I yell a lot.

I struggle to write deep things on my blog when I feel all is not right. As you can see I haven't blogged about anything real for a while and I find it hard not to be all shouty/stabby/angry in a blog post without feeling like I am pointing fingers rather than releasing feelings. The written word is far harder to not put someone off side when often you are just releasing rather than accusing.

I read an article here about Highly Sensitive Parents.  I think I related so much to the article because it mentioned smell as a big thing and it suggested not to watch the news, which I have avoided for years. Some of the things mentioned were issues I hadn't even considered to be a part of my mental health... but were truly a factor.

Skimming on social media and viewing the inane things that cloud my mental space can do a lot to ruin my day. Getting caught up in the selfishness of community members by not vaccinating their kids or constructing tax free lives can make me come apart with the inward lookingness of people. The loss of consideration of community astounds me. Mostly from people that do these things to change the world. I wonder if they have considered they maybe changing it for the worse?

As an artist that is interested in living sustainably I often find myself put in situation which I am expected to produce the stereotype of people that are categorized as such. I turned away from the word permaculture for a few years after leaving Bill Mollison's farm due to the perception (from other permies not Bill Mollison) that to be a true permaculturalist I would have to reject modern medical advancements and the trend towards hocus-pocus and other 'spiritual' things. As an artist I often feel the expectation to talk the artist garble which I cannot buy into if I don't believe it with my whole heart, I just can't say the words.

I like thinking people. People that will not take a wife's tale, a google search or a tradition as fact. By all means I like a discussion but there must be fact to make me change my mind. I will not believe in something just because of hear-say or a blog told you so. I am a skeptic... and I believe I am well rounded person of general knowledge (except for sport - I can never win trivial pursuit becasue of the sport). I live with passion but will not force my ideas on others if they don't agree. In fact - most of my good friends and I have the best discussions because we are willing to listen and are not forced to think exactly the same. Some people don't understand that becasue I feel a certain way means that I will not enjoy spending time with them. In fact it's the opposite. Variety - the spice of life - and all that.

Where am I going with all of this?

I guess this is a whole heap of words and ideas that have been clouding my mind. I am looking outwards of my cozy home where I am lucky enough to be a stay at home Mum and seeing many things I am frustrated with that I cannot change. I go between wanting to be a recluse and trying to ignore the world or wanting to be instigator that can change the world for the better.

This see-saw is hard to deal with. I do not want to care - I do want to care.

I want to be a full blown artist but often find I spend my time helping others, running programs for others and struggling to make personal time for meaningful personal projects. Perhaps I consider them not as worthy as community work. I often get frustrated with myself for saying yes. I get frustrated that people do not help or get involved. I may not be creating things that the community want to be involved in and I also have to recognize that.

It feels good to release these words. No finger pointing here I promise.

I have no answers and the see-saw will continue. However it is very important to realise that the community we engage with relates directly to personal mental health. Your community may be the people you shop with in the supermarket, people you attend an exhibition opening with, your family or the social network you use. I just ask lightly that we all try to do something community minded this week. Tell someone their hair looks nice or say thankyou and I will try to be a little less shouty this week ... ok I will try tomorrow because today is already ruined.

Mural Fest at Sheffield

This year we were lucky enough to have some time off as a family to attend Mural Fest in Sheffield during the festival week.

We watched this years murals being painted. We walked amongst past years winners. The little girl painted her own mural in the fantastic kids mural area. We had lunch at the pub, and we spent the last hour on a beautiful little steam train where we saw people that really enjoyed what they are doing.

The weather was beautiful and the organisation of the festival is great. The town itself has a lot of murals to view all year round but it is always nice to be there in the festival week.

I worry for the steam trains future and really wish there were more volunteers to keep it going long into the ever after. It upsets me that people in a community can be so complacent about letting those that work the hardest work hard. I guess its the same in every community.

It was a great day out and it goes a long way to show how arts can invigorate a rural community that may have dies had it not been for those murals and the following festival. I highly recommend it next year or go and enjoy the murals and the town anytime of the year.