Sunday, 21 December 2008

A day in Kyoto

This week two boxes arrived from Japan, part of the treasures we'd posted home on our recent trip. To unpack not only the purchases we'd made and the things we'd been given, but the maps and brochures of some of the places we'd been, brought back so many memories. It was the day we'd spent in Kyoto with our friend, Ryoko's father Tsugio, that was the stand-out experience.

Tsugio knew we were interested in seeing some Japanese gardens so he organised a day with typical Japanese efficiency and punctuality. We had first to get permission to visit two Imperial Palace garden. This involved presenting our passports at the office and much Japanese talk and gesticulation! However, we were soon sped off in a taxi to the first garden, nestled in the foothills of the nearby mountains.

Shugakuin Imperial villa and gardens were the creation of the ex-emperor Gomizumo-o in the mid 1600's. There were three villas, each in its own enclosed garden, set in an estate of rice paddies and vegetable gardens. We ascended the hill from one to the next, along paths lined in small pines. Each of the villas had a separate enclosed garden with stream, stone bridges and lanterns and an impressive gate entrance. The highest villa was the ex-emperors own and he visited one day a year in autumn, to gaze from this window at his dragon-shaped pool and write poetry!The day was glorious and, though we were given no time to linger, the experience was unforgettable. The maples were fiery red and eagles soared overhead and fished from the dragon pool.

Then it was back to the Imperial palace in Kyoto to view the Sento Imperial Palace gardens. These were far more formal and elegant. They are centred around two lakes, joined by a canal. They are a strolling style of garden on a grand scale, and, though very impressive, lacked the inspired feel of Shugakuin. Nonetheless there were some wonderful features, especially this fabulous wistaria-covered bridge that spanned the connecting canal. Monet, eat your heart out!

There were gardeners working in the gardens. This lady was sifting leaves from the gravel paths using a small brush and bamboo scoop.
Our next garden took us from the exclusivity of a small group with guide and minder to the bustle of the general tourist traffic. We wanted to see the famous Zen garden of Ryoan-ji. Tsugio took a deep breath and whisked us there. We were thrust into the midst of hordes of Japanese high school children and American tourists, all talking loudly and somewhat ignorantly about the experience around them! We removed our shoes and padded across sock-polished boards to sit on the steps and contemplate the raked gravel and stones of the little Zen garden. We did our best and the garden is wonderful and enigmatic and so different. In the end, though, the mob drove us away and we explored the rest of the garden complex. These gardens are largely deserted but were serene and beautiful, laid out around a twilight lake covered in water lilies. The trees were magnificent, shading the paths and defining the walks. What other people missed!
Then Tsugio produced bus passes and we proceeded to the nearby Golden Pavilion. Again it was a tourist Mecca and we followed the throngs to the viewing spot. It is a stunning sight! Who cares if it was reconstructed in 1942 (when Tsugio was a boy), burnt down by a disaffected monk! Again it is a stroll garden dating back to the 1220's. Like most Japanese gardens there is a feeling of seclusion and calm, in spite of the many people.

Finally Tsugio took us to a Japanese restaurant for dinner. This was no ordinary cafe. It was once a city villa with garden centred around a small river that runs through Kyoto. The rooms all look out on the garden and once we'd finished our sumptuous meal, we had time to don the plastic mules provided and shuffle down the paths and cross the stone bridges in the lantern-lit dark. It was like an up-market fairyland!

Thursday, 18 December 2008

All is forgiven

Remember when I drastically pruned Rosa "Shropshire Lass?" Well, early summer is here and she is now flowering her heart out. She is such a lovely creature!

I'm careful about colour placement in my garden - some may say obsessive, even. I loathe pink with yellow or orange. But Shropshire Lass transcends all this somehow. She has the palest flowers - white, flushing pink with a peachy tinge. They flutter all over the shrub like butterflies. And though she is surrounded by yellow and orange and golden flowers, she never gives me a moment's unease. She only flowers the once ... but what a display!

Friday, 28 November 2008

Sheer indulgence

So we've been to Japan again. Three weeks have we indulged ourselves, and our feet barely touched the ground! This is the land of the best - THE BEST - trains in the world, the most efficiently run railways there are ... and what do all Japanese do when on such paragons of the train culture?
They all fall asleep!!

Saturday, 4 October 2008

The end of an era.

Today was a sad day. Yesterday we took our last guinea piglets to Launceston to the pet shop and today Drew took his last pig in her cage up to a new home.

He has decided after all these years - and pigs - that it is time to give up his guinea pig keeping. It started all those years ago when Shannon went to Japan and left her Elspeth in his care. He bought Twistie as a mate for her and dozens of litters later it is all over.

Here are some of the memories.
Twistie's offspring were Abyssinian types with longer hair and crazy cowlicks! There were fabulous colour combinations and patterns.
And finally, the last pair that he kept, The Stig and Easter Bunny. All their offspring were smooth haired and solid coloured. When the Stig died unexpectedly, Drew rather lost heart and made the decision not to get another male. So when Sally, who has one of the Stig/Easter offspring already, was happy to accept the offer of Easter Bunny and her cage, it was time to say farewell to the cavy connection.

The garden seems a little quieter now.

Thursday, 4 September 2008

In the pink ... or not.

It's been a cold winter this year and I've relished my nightly open fire and my sinful electric blanket at night. Come the equinox each autumn I also slip into my old faithful pyjamas. I bought them as separates and while they don't fulfil Drew's ideals of sexy nightwear, they've been a comfortable and discreet beige and taupe outfit. The knit top has short sleeves and scoop neck. I don't need the extra warmth around my neck. The pants alas have suddenly developed extra unwanted ventilation, so I took the opportunity of a trip to Devonport to replace them.

I mean, how simple is that? I sidled past the lingerie shop with its racks of long nighties and frilly little numbers and made a beeline for Sussan. There I was confronted with the colours of the season - pink and mint green. Now of all the colours in the world, the ones I can't wear are green, pink and yellow! So although I trawled through all the racks on special, there was nothing in my size that I could wear or even want to wear.

So what is it with pink? Why are we thrust into wearing it - from birth in fact? I guess it suits some people but it's such a helpless, ineffectual colour. I even find it difficult to place in the garden. It's hideous with red or orange or even most blues. It's such a fifties and sixties colour. In fact when we moved to our house at Riverside when I was in my teens, the 40s house was painted out in pink and pale green! Gran had one room repainted and we had one wall in pink, one in primrose and one in aqua. The other wall was polished blackwood cupboards. Eeeyuk!! I guess that's part of the reason for my cringe of pink, and, yes, pale green. It's all tied up in the angst of my adolescence!

But I have a favourite joke:
A man (from the sub-continent?) applies for a job at a call centre. The challenge is to use green, pink and yellow correctly in a sentence.
His response: "The phone rings, 'Green, green.'

I pink it up.


He got the job!
In the end, I did find a pair of pj pants at el cheapo Best and Less. They're dark blue with owls all over them.

And, yes, the owls are pink!

Thursday, 21 August 2008

The adventures of Shropshire Lass

I've always had a soft spot for my Rosa 'Shropshire Lass' ever since I rescued it as nothing more than a stick with a few miserable roots at one end and a couple of leaves at the other, languishing in a bargain bin on a late Spring Launceston street about 20 years ago. I could find out nothing about it at the time other than it was a David Austin rose so, in my ignorance, I planted it in the corner of a new garden bed I had created. Gradually it thrived and by year 2 it produced its first flush of large single blushed flowers hovering over the bush like scented butterflies. I knew by now that she flowered only once but I still didn't know that she was not a bush but a large shrub - and a wickedly thorned one at that.

And so it proved. She began to throw out long trailing arms, ensnaring the unwary visitor and as, at the time, I was a participant in the Open Gardens Scheme, something would have to be done. So Fer kindly helped me dig it out and we moved it to a choice new spot in the middle of a new bed where she could grow and flower unhindered. We had to cut her back of course and for two years she was very ugly and stunted and produced only one or two butterflies. Then she took off and she has been a miracle every November/December producing a breathtaking display.

Then this winter I looked at what she had become ...

She was overwhelming, choked and tangled, full of dead and spindly wood, and smothering everything around her. No more pussy-footing around - it was time to prune!

I know you're supposed to prune once-flowering roses after they've flowered but in this position everything else is growing around it and it's just too difficult to get at it so it has had to be now. It has taken me two days - agonisingly prickly days - but at last it's complete - and what a transformation!

She's had her revenge. I'm covered with scratches and embedded rose thorns and I have a bloodshot eye where she poked me in the corner with one of her freshly pruned stems. But I know she'll forgive me and the butterflies will fly again in early Summer.

Monday, 18 August 2008

Taking the line of least resistance.

It's August now and the last month of winter. It's time to get all that pruning and weeding done before everything starts to sprout. I've spent the last two weeks working my way around the garden cutting back, moving, transplanting and mulching as I go. But there always remain the hard tasks...

The current trend for using grasses in the garden has not left this gardener untouched! After a disastrous encounter with Miscanthus sinensis 'Zebrinus' which grew so massive that I had to take an axe to it, I've fallen in love with Miscanthus transmorrisonensis - so graceful and magic. But pruning these grasses invariably leaves a bunch of stubby stems on a dead looking plant and the grass doesn't always want to flourish afterwards.

Last year I burnt a clump of foxtail grasses and the result was decisive. Within a few days the clump sprouted again and performed better than before. So I tried it on the Miscanthus. Fire is so exciting! I know it's not PC to burn stuff, what with global warming and all that, but it proved to be the most effective way of treating the rather overwhelming clump. It has now been reduced to a cleaned up tuft brimming with potential.

Now ... where are my matches ...?

Sunday, 3 August 2008

Pheobe's Garden

This is the final quilt in the series I've made for my niece's 5 children. Pheobe is the middle child and the quietest and least easy to get to know. The only thing I could find out about her is that she likes frangipanis. I'd always admired the medallion style quilt and I thought it was a good chance to make one.

I managed to find a fabric which had some frangipanis printed on it. There weren't a lot of them but it did have some butterflies printed on as well. It also provided me with a colour scheme for the quilt. I used a Cynthia England pattern to piece two larger butterflies for the central block: I later embroidered details onto them to give more definition. I found the medallion style quite challenging to make - so much bias work! Some parts bulged but thankfully it did"quilt out." the quilt is machine pieced and hand quilted using a poly/wool batting.

Tuesday, 15 July 2008

Ferry interesting

I'm now tackling the second piece of my intended opus and I'm focusing on my memories as a child of travelling on the trans-Derwent ferries in Hobart. My aunty Francie was living in Bellerive at that time and the ferry trip was the quickest and best way of crossing the Derwent. For some reason I want to make a piece of work celebrating these memories.

But which ferry to portray? The waters still held many of them in my early lifetime. My favourite was the Cartela (mainly because it began with the letter C and I had a preference for the letter C!) But Cartela was an excursion ferry and ranged far and wide up and down the Derwent. It was a special occasion to travel on the excursion ferries. The main timetabled ferries plying the Hobart-Bellerive route were the Derwent and the Rosny, double-ended and fast. When I knew them they'd been converted to diesel, as had the excursion ferries, their towering smoke stacks replaced with streamlined little modern caps. But at peak hour and holidays out would come the old back up ferry, SS Reemere. I'll never forget, on a bitter winter crossing, escaping my mother and finding my way to that big opening in her side were one could gaze down at the steam boiler and the men working her. The sensations of heat, sounds, the smell of burning coal, the flash of polished brass and the grime of grease and coal dust are indelible memories. I stood beside the men and other fascinated children and gave my heart to the steamers in all their grimy glory.

So that is why I'm using the Reemere as my inspiration even though she was less than pretty. You can see from the pictures that she went through three stages of development, from her construction in 1909 to her second phase, probably after purchase by the Reemere Steamship Co in 1926, to her final stage in 1942. Sadly she was later converted to a fishing boat and after an aborted attempt to restore her, she's ended up on a lake in NSW, possibly as a house boat.

Finally, here is a gratuitous shot of the Cartela in her glory days.

Wednesday, 9 July 2008

Winter woes and wonders

My first piece is finished! I can't unveil it yet but here's a teaser! (It's actually based on a photo of me aged about 3 years old.) Once I got started on the piece which has been planned for two or three years, the process has been quite enjoyable, though it's been hard work and frustratingly difficult to find the consecutive days to keep the flow going. The weather's been so cold and I've developed my first head cold of the year.

To cap it all, we had a switchboard meltdown last Thursday at the Primary School and the electrician had to turn the power off. And off it has remained till yesterday - Tuesday - afternoon. On Monday we expected it to be fixed but the school remained in darkness and it was so cold. Two classes were sent to rooms in the High School and two to the Community Complex. The other classes huddled and had a lot of Phys Ed! The poor old switchboard, which dated back to the 1960's, was apparently just too old and bits kept disintegrating. Our new swimming pool is on a separate switchboard so they ran an extension cord up to the office and we were able to get the phones functioning, the PA and a heater for Rachael. But no computers, no photocopiers and no laminator. It has been all rather boring, especially when you can see all that work piled up and waiting to be done. I'm going to be snowed under tomorrow when I go.

Monday, 30 June 2008

Winter is here

It's been a dismal weekend weather-wise for the last of the financial year. I've started stitching for my long anticipated solo exhibition but I guess I can't show you what I'm making. Got to leave the surprises till the unveiling!

However, the sun made a futile attempt to break through this morning and I took its photograph. It was only a fleeting moment though and it has been murky ever since. It's not an omen - and I'm not superstitious! My exhibition will happen!

Wednesday, 18 June 2008

Masked Owls

School holidays have come and gone, but for the two rather dismal winter weeks I was beavering away on this piece, created for a friend. She wanted a sculptural piece that was a native Tasmanian creature, so what better than an owl? I'd had enough of stitching Boobook owls so I wanted to try the Masked Owl (Tyto novaehollandae). The Tasmanian sub species is interesting because the female is larger and darker than the male, and is in fact the largest Tyto (masked) owl in the world! So here was scope indeed. I envisaged the larger female posturing on the top of a stump, accompanied by her quieter consort.

Technically the work is supported on a hidden satin-covered box (Apost mailing tube) and mounted on a handmade felt "cosy." I adapted the pattern I'd created for the Boobook owls: Masked Owls have different proportions - shorter bodies, longer legs and larger wings. And, of course, the mask face is fascinating to embroider. Most of the work is stitched on the Thug, my trusty Bernina 950, which had recently been serviced making it a learning curve all over again, trying to get the tension variations I was used to! The stump is stitched over two layers of woven interfacing and took two days to work. When I finally pinned it in place, it was obvious that I'd gone overboard on the colour blending and the whole effect was distractingly stripey! I had to go over the entire surface with a blending colour to tone it down enough.

Assembling the work took a whole day. The legs and wings are supported with tie wire armatures and the finished piece is surprisingly sturdy. The open wings of the female posed many challenges; I would, if I'd had more tome, have stitched a line of fuse wire down the leading feather to stiffen it a little as it's sure to curl over time.

It was such a challenging piece to work that it is now difficult for me to appreciate it fully as a finished sculpture, especially as I finished it only the night before delivery. Sound familiar, Tara?

Saturday, 14 June 2008

The road to Hobart

Yesterday, Friday the 13th, we drove to Hobart. Far from experiencing any sort of bad luck, we had a most enjoyable day. We took the Xtrail (together with its expensive new radiator) and drove over what is now designated as the Highland Lakes road - the Lake Highway for all diehards!

It was a delightful drive and it was snowing very gently and magically at Miena at the southern end of the Great Lake. So when we stopped for a wee moment, I took these photos.

Further on, as we left the alpine country, the road was blanketed by a woolly carpet. Thousands of sheep - Cormos just like we used to have- returning from their summer grazing and covering the bitumen with a continually moving and bleating ebb and flow. I wished I could have taken the definitive photo but it wasn't to be.

Monday, 9 June 2008

Finished at last

About a month ago Tara brought home an Afghan rug she had found at an Op Shop. She said that as she'd missed out on laying claim to one of the two Afghan rugs I'd crocheted in my prime, she had to get one for herself. If I repaired and restored it for her it would have my input as well as the unknown hand/s who had made it. Sound reasoning, I thought! I can never resist a challenge.

The rug was in a somewhat sorry state. The squares were joined on the diagonal and there had never been a stabilising border crocheted around the outside. Whether it was sun damage, old age or insects, (though I suspect it was mainly the first) it would require much unpicking and reworking. She also brought me a bag of left over wools she'd got from the Tip Shop. The black edging on the quilt was crocheted in what appeared to be Bluebell 5 ply which is rather thin on the ground these days.

The problem with the unpicking was that the very neat lady who'd done the bulk of the crochet had carefully and thoroughly sewn in all the ends of each colour round instead of just crocheting over them like a nice sensible woman. When it wasn't necessary to hoard a particular colour, I just had to carefully cut it away instead of unpicking. Certain wools were very fragile - what looked like 4 ply crepes in pale pink, blue, lemon and mauve. I had very limited colour to replace them - a red, a blue which was rather too bright, a tealy colour and a saxe blue tweedy mix. The centre and one side were particularly rotten. I repaired nearly 40 squares and then crocheted two rounds around the outside in black 8 ply (one ball of which turned out to be indigo - colour blind in my old age!)

Then I carefully washed it.

Alas, more squares collapsed and the edge waved and lumped. I set about unpicking and repairing again. Twelve squares later I set off around the outside again. but it was no good - the 8 ply was too thick. Then in Devonport I found a bin with some odd 5 ply wools - and there was definitely some black. So I unpicked the border on did it properly this time. Above is the finished result!
And to finish, here's Shannon's cat Leon, making use of one of my creations!

Monday, 2 June 2008

Farewell to an old friend

It's been a delightful tree, one of the first I planted when I started gardening. This Malus floribunda was showing signs of distress when this photo was taken a few years ago. When I embarked on a major overhaul of this bed last year, I lavished a lot of attention on it, removing huge suckers and pruning and reshaping. The bay tree on the right of the picture had blown down so I removed roots, masses of bluebells, lily-of-the-valley, rose suckers and prairie grass and created a Japanese style area with azaleas, small Miscanthus grasses and small conifers. And the crab apple was the main feature. This last spring it flowered magnificently and looked a picture.

And Miki loved it!

The other day, as autumn took its grip and moved inexorably towards winter, the base of the tree suddenly sprouted fungus. Now I'd seen the program on root rot fungi on Gardening Australia and recognised it immediately as the dreaded Armillaria or Honey Fungus. My tree was doomed.
So we spent the Sunday afternoon chopping down and poisoning the stump and now I shal have to cross my fingers that the other plantings don't succumb to the fungus' dreaded creeping underground fingers. According to my garden encyclopaedia, Armillaris is a native fungus with only limited effect on native plants but is very potent on the apple family. I had planted Malus "Ionensis" nearby. Is that too doomed?

Sunday, 1 June 2008

Marcel takes on the world!

While Tara is abroad, I'm minding her bantam rooster, Marcel. He's some fancy breed which I can't quite remember (Belgian?) and he's very personable. However, he has spent most of the past two weeks up in the rafters of the chook pen, keeping out of the way of the other roosters. Yesterday I was trying to set up a temporary fence to keep the chooks out of my garden, when who should appear to watch the process but Marcel. And he was in no hurry to return the way he had come.

But then Miki materialised and even a cocky little rooster was prepared to beat a dignified retreat!

Tuesday, 20 May 2008

The pear tree

The pear tree is gone!!

This iconic tree which graced the small paddock known as the Old Yard, has been destroyed by the new broom which has likewise swept away the cherry trees which grew on the rocky bank nearby. It's rather hard to believe that the tree which had outlasted many Badcocks including Drew's father, has been uprooted by the cousin who is relentlessly modernising what used to be the back part of our farm.

I'll always associate this tree with Tara who has used its image as a symbol in those wonderful photos taken by Alan of Photobat.
The soil has been ripped up and Drew found some more shards from the Old Yard's former history.

Monday, 12 May 2008

Mothers Day

Last year it was Quamby Bluff but Drew decided that we should go further afield this year and we tried for the Walls of Jerusalem (Have X-Trail, will travel). So with Fer and Ant and Ant's parents, Cynthia and John, we set off at a well prepared and steady pace.

It's probably 18 years since I last did the walk and there have been a few changes since. The first ascent up to the trappers hut is the same but where we once took a gentle path up the valley floor, we now had to climb up and over a rocky spur before we reached Solomons Jewels - the series of glacial tarns that bespangle the plateau before you reach the Walls themselves. Still, it was worth the climb. The Jewels are glorious, the reflections superb and the fringing pencil pines magnificent. We lunched at one of the last tarns but decided that we did not have enough daylight to reach Herod's gates. John had carried up 2 little fuel stoves so there was soup and tea or coffee to go with our sandwiches and the sparkling burgundy with which we toasted the occasion.

We turned and walked back and the mist started to rise up from the valleys but it was only the track that was any problem. It's quite stony and rugged and the steep downhill sections can be excruciating on the knees. However, we made it safely down and had enough time and daylight for refreshments before the trip home.

Saturday, 10 May 2008

But she was beautiful!

Well, Agfest has come and gone and Big Del was finished in time and shipped off to take her place. She didn't win any of the prizes but she was beautiful and one of the more eye-catching cows on display. She was runner up in the People's Choice award but that was scooped by Hagley Farm school who reportedly sent 8 classes to Agfest, all armed with the prepared voting slips for their cow, Pic-cow-so.

However, most people loved Del and every time I went past her, she was being stroked, examined or generally interacted with. My favourite sight was towards closing time when I saw two weary farmers with elbows resting on her head, discussing the days finds. I wished I'd gotten that photo!

C'est la vie!