I'm A Table

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I'm A Table


Hello! My name is Katie and I live in Australia. I'm a full-time public servant, and part-time crafter, artist, reader, and dreamer. More recently a gardener and bonsai enthusiast too. Oh, and why am I a table?
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Works in Progress

KNITTING & CROCHET
Marimo Balls


Antimacassar


So Retro Cushion


Mini (Test) Monster


Trock Monster


Ball Monster


S's Knitted Dino


Smooshy Stripey Scarf


Autumn Sky Shawl
:RETHINKING:


Chequerboard Scarf
:ON HOLD:


Geometric Cat Toys
(Set 3)
:ON HOLD:


Polkadot Coathangers
(Set 3)
:ON HOLD:


Babbi Blanket
:RE-THINKING:


HorseHead Filet Wallhanging


My First Entrelac! Headband
:ON HOLD:


Snow Elf Baby Jacket
:RE-THINKING:


Your Chequered Heart Baby Blanket
:RETHINKING:


Baby Bum
:ON HOLD:


Rambunctious Roy
:ON HOLD:


Frankenstein's Toyster
:ON HOLD:


60s Cardigan
:ON HOLD:


Katia Tank Top
:RETHINKING:




LONG TERM
Grannyland Blanket


Squares Couch Rug


Branwell the Brachiosaurus


Rainbow Rug AKA The 20-Year Afghan




SEWING
Gingham Embroidery Table Mat
:ON HOLD:


Sausage Dog Xmas Ornament
:ON HOLD:


George & Mildred Softies
:ON HOLD:


Embroidered Bar Mat
:ON HOLD:


Ex-Poncho Cushions (2)
:RETHINKING:


Sewn Hand Bag
:RETHINKING:


Purple Velvet Dress
:RETHINKING:




OTHER
Kimono Lady Needlepoint


Kumihimo Bracelet #1


Mori Brooch
:ON HOLD:


Hama Bead Two-Way
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WISH Journal
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Kitty Needlepoint
:ON HOLD:


Island Embroidery
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Yarn Picture
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December 12th, 2014



Here's a little Christmas present I bought for myself. Well ... if it didn't happen to be Christmas, I would have made up another excuse! The Lammily doll has been designed to be the most realistic-looking doll available. The artist who designed Lammily wanted an alternative to the increasingly skinny and unrealistic-looking fashion dolls on the market. Actual data on the average measurements of young women was used to shape every part of the body. I first heard about Lammily in the culture section of my preferred TV news and, thanks to the power of the internet, the purchase was made practically before the end of the next ad break. And now she has finally (i.e. 10 days later) arrived!





What a neat package! It's smaller than I thought it would be. The doll box fits inside the packaging with no room to spare. There's no waste of packing materials. I like that!



The front of the box has a beautiful illustration of Lammily with her suitcase. There's a lovely message to all the crowdfunding supporters on the back of the box. The door opens up to reveal a booklet slipped inside. The booklet tells a lovely story of Lammily's journey throughout the world, doing lots of interesting things, including eating croissants and fixing a bike. I can't imagine certain other dolls doing that!





The flap that the booklet was attached to opens up to finally reveal the Lammily doll. She's dressed in the same denim shorts and shirt from the booklet illustrations (and from all of the pictures I've seen of her online!). I like it much better than the bikini some dolls come in, and the ombre on the shirt gives it a trendy touch. The clothes fasten with velcro. As a kid, I always struggled with press studs, having to slip my fingernail in between them to pry them apart. The fabric they were attached to inevitably got ripped. Then again, I never liked doll clothes with velcro fastenings, either. Just call me fussy. The velcro on Lammily's clothes is softer and less stiff than I remember from my old Barbie dolls, though.





Lammily's shoulders, wrists and ankles are ball-jointed. Her knees and elbows have snap joints. Her hair is extremely soft, lovely to the touch. The expression on her face is friendly and quietly confident.

There's only one slight concern I have with the doll, and that's the feet. I had to be very careful taking the shoes off. The ankle joint moves at the slightest touch -- a couple of times when I was posing her, I suddenly found one of her feet had turned completely backwards, which was vaguely disturbing. A bit like the foot exorcist!



There has been a lot of hype surrounding the Lammily doll, with comparisons between her and certain other dolls on the market. She surely looks different to the dolls I played with as a kid. Yet somehow, she looks familiar. It occurs to me -- she looks more like me. She has the same sturdy, strong legs as I do. Her waist looks more like a person's. Her hair (aside from not having a fringe) is a lot like mine. She doesn't wear crazy, bright blue 80s makeup. ... Well, I've been known to do that on occasion, but not every day! ...



It's hard to say what the effect of playing with unrealistic-looking fashion dolls had on me as a kid. I knew I didn't look like them. I never wanted to look like them. My main interest was making clothes and accessories for them, so I viewed their bodies more as shapes to be decorated, rather than human beings in miniature.

Having said that, when I viewed the video on YouTube showing why Lammily was created, I shed a few tears. So perhaps the effect goes deeper than I realised.

When I grew a little older, I became disillusioned with Barbies, but still remembered the fun I had making outfits for them. I always told myself that if a realistically-proportioned doll was ever produced, I would get one and take up the hobby again. And now here she is. I'm not sure yet what I'll call her though.




This YouTube video has an unboxing, review and some discussion on Lammily and body image.
This blog post has pictures of Lammily with no clothes on (for the easily embarrassed, don't worry, she has plastic undies embossed on), and shows her full range of movement, and comparisons with other dolls.


December 1st, 2014

My November …

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My November has just flown by. Several changes on different fronts will be happening in my life soon, and I've been preparing for them. Apologies for remaining annoyingly vague for now, but I want to see how things work out before talking about them.

What I've been growing ...
At this time of year, the garden changes every day. Ripe oranges are ready to pick from the tree, but right next to them are new baby oranges giving the promise of more later on.



This is the olive tree that Husbandy-One and I planted. Isn't it cute? It's even growing tiny, tiny little flowers. Hopefully that means there'll be tiny little olives. On our walks around the neighbourhood, we've noticed many vigorously-growing olive trees in peoples' front yards, so we figured it would be a fairly safe bet to plant an olive. I have to admit, I think I've become a little bit addicted to planting trees! It was so much fun.



What I've been observing ...
This sunset was so beautiful, I couldn't help attempting to take a photo of it, power poles and all.



Another bad shot ... driving through the country, I saw some cool trees.



What I've been painting ...
Just a quick photo of my painting area. I was doing backgrounds in my art journals.



Since I started art journalling again, I've noticed the same patterns re-appearing that were present last time. I have a lot of fun mixing colours and laying down backgrounds (some so beautiful that I don't want to put anything over the top!). I've also had a lot of fun with glueing in collage elements. But I don't feel like a page is "complete" until there's some kind of drawing or other fine detail work on it. A few days ago, in search of inspiration, I went back over works by some of my favourite artists (this is why Pinterest is tops). By happenstance, I saw that one of my favourite artists, Tascha Parkinson does online drawing classes, but not only that, the first in the series is on sale! I'd like to say that I signed up immediately, but it was bedtime, so I slept on it. Happily, I was still just as enthusiastic the next morning. I'm currently waiting for the invitation to the course to arrive in my inbox.

November 24th, 2014

Pop for Poetry

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This is an impromptu post (hence the terrible photo taken on my ipod) about Pop for Poetry.



If you're on a Melbourne train and you see a balloon, take it! I found a poem inside mine. On this dreary Monday morning, it was exactly what I needed. Instead of worrying about what was in store for me this week at work, I started thinking about blog posts I'll write. Perhaps I'll even start writing zines again!
Maybe!

November 5th, 2014

My October

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Unfortunately there's not much to account for in October. I was sick and I also had to work extra hours. I had a blog post written and all ready to release into the wild, but I had a setback with the project that went with it. Even though it was a small project, I lost the motivation to finish it. When I'm tired, the little voice that says it's all pointless is harder to ignore. On the bright side, being sick brings feverish dreams. Drawings and art journal pages of various designs floated through my head while I was asleep, and I managed to capture a couple of them, or at least make notes for when I have time.

What I've been sorting ...
At the start of the month, I started to become thoroughly annoyed with not having a hobby room. I decided to institute 30 Days of Unpacking, but soon after that, I came down sick. I told myself that the 30 days didn't have to be consecutive: it's still going to happen, just a little slower than planned. Here's a small peek into what I have to tackle to make it happen:



What I've been drawing ...
Late in the month, as I sat trapped on a train that didn't move for 90 minutes, with an ipod that was about to run out of battery, I thought to myself, "if this isn't the time to draw, then when is?" This is a little character that I first dreamed of a few months ago. His name is Yallo.



What I've been looking at ...
While I was inside recuperating, this happened:



And this:


And this:


While I was engaged in the mind-numbing cycle of work, train, eat, cough, sleep, amazing things were happening right on my doorstep. Now that I'm feeling better, I want to make sure to appreciate them more.

What I've been reading ...
I finished Bertrand Russell's The Conquest of Happiness: A modern-day interpretation of a self-help classic.



The concepts in Russell's 1930 book of philosophy are broken down into convenient bite-size pieces of a few pages each. Every chapter ends with tips on how to put his wisdom into practice in the 21st century. Russell's work is less in need of updating than many others - he writes on topics much thought of now, but hardly mentioned in his age, like love, sex and friendship. I found it food for thought and most of the tips were useful. I'm sure Russell would have laughed at the concept of 'self-help', though.

I found this book for free on iBooks, but I think it's on Smashwords, too.

October 15th, 2014

Regular readers may remember that way back in the deep, dark past (i.e. New Year's Day of this year) I created my first saikei. This is what it looked like when I first put it together.



This is what it looks like now:



The pickle plant really took to its environment, and grew steadily until it took over most of the pot. Perhaps I should introduce it to Crazy Potato! The Japanese Box just sat there looking surly for many months. I don't blame it really. I did cut off half the root ball after all. I finally noticed some new growth on it a few weeks ago, so I thought it was time for it to graduate to its own pot.

Prising the plants out of the pot. I don't know what all this white stuff is. ...Anyone?...
I decided not to take my gloves off halfway through like I normally do.



It was hard to separate the two plants. The roots were very entangled, but I think most of them belonged to the pickle plant.



I put the Box into its new pot first. It only just fitted but unfortunately I had no bigger pots, so this one would have to do for now. The mossy stuff that I'd dug out of the garden didn't fit, so I pulled it off and stuck it back in the garden where I'd originally found it. It'll be interesting to see if it survives.



I decided to re-pot the pickle plant back into the same pot, as I didn't have any other suitable ones. I left the weed traveller plant with it, as it was so entwined with the pickle plant and I didn't want to damage it trying to separate them. Plenty of 'pickles' were already falling off as it was!





Then I attempted to wire the Box plant.
Ergh. Unfortunately the average noob bonsai enthusiast doesn't get much of a chance to wire trees, and I drew a blank as I was sitting there. I also only had one roll of wire -- a fairly thick one -- so I only did the thicker branches.



The next day I had a change of heart and re-styled the branch on the left until it was nearly vertical again. I figure, if tree survives, I'll have plenty of time to correct any regrets later.

October 5th, 2014

My September

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In an effort to post more regularly, I've decided to start a, sort-of, monthly update. There's no official name for it yet.

What I've Been Making....
I don't think I've yet introduced my GrannyLand blanket. Or it could be called Granny Galore. I'm not sure yet. I probably should decide soon -- I started it back in March. Granny squares are just so easy to work on, and I deliberately sized them so that one ball of wool would make 4 without worrying about running out of a colour. Two reasons why it's the project I work on when I'm tired and it's hard to bring myself to do anything else.



What I've Been Drawing....
This is my Leftovers Journal. It's A5-size, half the size I normally work with. I bought it as a place to put all the 'leftovers' -- the smears of paint, bits of collage paper and images that don't fit anywhere else. I don't view it as a 'real' journal, and its come to play an important role. All the new techniques, colours and shapes that I want to experiment with seem to appear here first, before trickling their way down into my other journals.



The other thing I've started recently is 60 Things. It's inspired by Diced Imagery, which is in turn inspired by Rory's Story Cubes. I roll dice (a D6 and a D10 -- yes, I have some geeky tendencies!) to determine which of 60 pre-listed topics I will draw. This day I rolled the number for dinosaur, and just happened to have a figurine handy (more evidence of geeky tendencies). I'll show more drawings in my next update.
And yes, my dining room table is half art-journalling station and half plant-nursery at the moment!



What I've Been Growing....
Meet Crazy Potato. He's shy at first, but when he gets to know you, he shows his affection by suddenly attempting to take over your whole house. I swear, as soon as the daytime temperatures hit 18oC and above, this thing began to grow at a rate of about 20cm per day! I'll show you Son of Crazy Potato and more growing exploits soon.



What I've Been Reading....
I'm afraid my reading habits have been rather shameful lately. Blogs and Wikipedia articles have been my standard fare for most of this year. I blame the internet for my shrinking attention span! A few days ago I started reading a book -- an actual one, with paper and covers and all. It's been both challenging and refreshing to sit down and concentrate on one thing for up to an hour without the temptation to switch to another browser tab after every few sentences.
The book I'm reading is The Chinawoman by Ken Oldis. It's a true-crime/history piece about the murder of a high-class prostitute in Gold Rush Melbourne and the relationship between the police and the local Chinese community. I'm enjoying it so far.


September 1st, 2014



It was Saturday afternoon, it was a quiet, rainy day at home. Husband was industriously playing away on his Xbox, and we were getting a little peckish, so I decided to make Okonomiyaki. The great thing about Okonomiyaki is that you can add whatever you like to them. Even the name reflects this: okonomi means "what you like". So as long as you have flour, you can make them with whatever is to hand. This is what I managed to find in the fridge:



Fresh and frozen vegetables, herbs and some chorizo. Chorizo and other specialty sausages are very expensive here, but occasionally the supermarket has the 2-kilo bag half-price, so we always snap up a bag whenever we see it. We're into cooking, buying in bulk and preserving food, so we have a big freezer:



Doesn't look too dirty, phew! On the right-hand side of the crisper drawer, you can see the acorns I'm hibernating from my last post. Next, I cut up all the fresh vegetables and the chorizo. It turns out that I didn't need too much of the frozen veggies after all -- I just added a little for variety.



Mixing up the batter. I just used plain flour, milk and water for the batter. We were out of garlic, so I added some horseradish paste instead.



The first batch was a bit of a failure unfortunately. They stuck to the pan!



For the second batch, I turned the heat down and used rice bran oil instead of olive oil in the pan.



Much better!



And of course, what is Okonomiyaki without toppings! I collected together all the ones I thought would taste good: mayonnaise, sweet chilli sauce, Japanese barbeque sauce, parsley, squeezy sour cream (it's a new product meant for topping Mexican dishes, but who cares?), seaweed flakes and some leftover chutney from last week's Indian takeaway.



Well, the result might not look so appetising, but we both at it very fast!



August 10th, 2014

All About Acorns

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I placed my first order with 4 Seasons Seeds recently. There are a large range of seeds on offer, from interesting vegetable varieties to ornamentals, but I was most interested in the 'Trees and Shrubs' section. I spent such a long time perusing the website that in the end I ran out of time and made my order in a hurry. I accidentally ordered Pin Oak instead of Trident Maple. I was saving Pin Oak for a later time as the process of sowing them involves stratification, which sounded a bit too advanced for a noob like me. When the parcel arrived and I saw acorns in it, I didn't know what to think! But I'm embracing it as a chance to learn.



I have to apologise in advance because the photos in this post aren't very aesthetically pleasing (though pictures of peat moss might appeal to some!).



The parcel from 4 Seasons Seeds arrived very fast and was well-packed. The other seeds I ordered were Japanese Birch and False Spirea (also accidental!). The owners had kindly added a free packet of Hungarian Lilac. I also ordered some peat moss pellets and small plastic pots for my propagation operation.



So what is stratification? Thankfully there was a cheatsheet included that explains everything. Because oaks grow in cold climates, they are used to a period of snow and freezing every year. In autumn, the acorns drop to the ground and lie under the snow until spring. In fact, the acorns will not sprout unless they go through this period of cold first. To make the acorns sprout in warmer climates, or out of the proper season, the grower needs to put them in the fridge for at least 30 days, and anywhere up to 90 days. I envisaged our whole fridge filled with little pots of dirt! Thankfully though, the cheatsheet said that all I needed to do was put them in ziplock bags with some moistened peat and put them in the crisper section.



I started out by soaking the peat moss cocoons in water until they were nice and moist and plump. Then I 'planted' an acorn in each one, pushed it down inside and squeezed the top shut.



I put 6 cocoons in each plastic bag. Halfway through, it occurred to me that treating them this way might make it very difficult to check if the acorns were germinating or not. So I switched to a different method. I peeled the mesh covering off about 5 peat moss discs and put them in a plastic bag with some water. Then I worked at them with my hands until they were wet all the way through. I put 6 acorns in each bag and squished away until they were well covered with peat moss. It occurred to me at some point that with this method it might be just as difficult to tell if the acorns have germinated, but experimenting is always fun.



Once I'd done 4 bags that way, I realised that all-up, there were 55 acorns in the 20-acorn bag that I'd purchased. Even assuming that one in two acorns won't germinate, that's a generous amount. After peating up 48 though, I was a bit over it and decided to save the rest for craft supplies.



Then into the fridge the baggies went. Now it's just an (im)patient wait to see what happens!


The desired result:


August 2nd, 2014

The first time I heard about cat cafés was when I was in Japan in 2008. Wandering around the Tokyu Hands department store, we just happened to come across the Neko Bukuro ('Cat's House') on the top floor. A place in the city where people can go and relax by playing with adorable cats - surely it's a dream come true! Having a love for all things cute and furry as well as all things Japanese, I was itching to go inside, but Husband in his sage wisdom didn't let me. I'm highly allergic to cats and at the time I had not yet had my allergy injections, nor did I have any hayfever tablets on me. So we passed it by and I vowed to return one day.


▼ Winter and Ruby asleep on the much-loved sheepskin rug.



Unfortunately I haven't been able to travel back to that part of the world yet, but I was heartened when I started to hear about Cat Cafés opening up in other parts of the world - China, France, U.S.A., Canada - surely Australia would be next?? When Husband told me last week that a cat café was opening in Melbourne very soon, I became embarrassingly excited and made a booking as quickly as humanly possible! Then it was a very long week until finally the café opened and the day of my booking came.


▼ Something distracts Winter from grooming Ruby.



▼ One of the many play towers stands in an alcove.



Through pouring rain, Husband and I battled our way to the café, located on the fringe of the CBD near Queen Victoria Markets. The café is in a two-storey building, a beautiful heritage building which by the looks of it used to be a pub and small hotel. Due to Australia's Food Handling Laws, which are stricter than in other countries, the cats must be kept separate from food serving areas. Therefore the café proper is downstairs, and the rooms where the cats live are upstairs. However, patrons are allowed to take their food and drinks upstairs if they wish, and staff are available to take orders so that patrons don't have to leave the cats to refill their drinks, etc. The downstairs café area is minimalist, with pre-packaged foods and a vending machine serving about 20 different types of coffees, teas and soup. There is an extensive range of cat-themed items on sale, including handicrafts made by locals, which I thought was a lovely touch. The brightly-coloured cat beds, scarves and other items on sale gave the café a fun, inviting look.


▼ Sherlock is fast asleep in the hidey-tube with just one ear poking out!



Husband and I arrived a bit early, and we vended ourselves a coffee while we waited with anticipation to be allowed upstairs. A maximum of 15 patrons are admitted into the cats' area at a time, for the safety of the cats and a more relaxed experience, and we were required to wash our hands before entering. (The hand-washing facilities are also available on leaving if patrons wish to use them.) The cats' area covers the whole top floor of the building. Four rooms provide plenty of space for the cats to roam around and the patrons to relax. For the humans there are comfy couches and café-style chairs and tables, as well as several bookcases filled with books and magazines (many cat-related, but not all!). For the cats, there are plenty of play towers, sleeping beds, cushy rugs and hidey-tubes, with toys scattered throughout. The decor includes cat-themed posters, and shelves covered with grass-like green shag carpet for the cats to perch on. Soon we forgot about the cold and wet outside as we settled in and watched the cats peacefully napping.


▼ One of the smaller rooms with welcoming decor.



▼ Lottie observes the other kittens playing.



Cat Café Melbourne has a total of 13 cats at the moment (the maximum allowed by license is 15). All the cats are sourced from shelters, so it’s likely they're having a much better life than they might have otherwise. We saw 8 cats on the day; a few were sequestered in the private area due to having colds. When we arrived, most of the cats were asleep. Only Lynx, one of the oldest and biggest cats, was awake, sitting in the middle of the hallway where all were forced to step over him. He was definitely king of the castle! A little while later, pretty Lottie woke and was playing catch-a-mouse with a couple in the far room, but Husband and I sat near sleeping Ruby and Winter, snuggled up together on the sheepskin rug.


▼ Lynx hogging the walkway.



▼ Braveheart asleep in the hidey-tube.



▼ Waldo wakes up.



I had a special moment with Ruby as one of the staff told me she doesn't mind being picked up and held while she naps. She purred as she snuggled up against me, and let me know when she wanted to get down with a quiet 'mew'.


▼ Me and Ruby (sorry for the bad pic!)



There was a sense of camaraderie amongst the patrons that really impressed me. Everyone seemed relaxed and happy. Some chatted quietly, others just sat and admired the napping cats from afar. After a while, most of the cats woke and started either wandering around or playing, and the sense of excitement among the patrons was contagious. Crawling around on the floor or lying on one of the shag rugs was perfectly acceptable behaviour, and cries of 'awww!' and 'oh he's so cute!' could be faintly heard throughout the rooms. Just before we were due to leave, Sherlock crawled out of the hidey-tube and started living up to his name by investigating a couple of nearby cat lovers.


▼ Lynx near the entrance to the cat's private room; Lexi emerges from under the couch.



▼ Ruby, Lottie and Braveheart playing with one of the many toys.



All too soon our hour was up, and we had to say goodbye to the cats - for now! I was smiling all the way home, and couldn't help giggling when I thought about the playful cats and how they made us and our fellow patrons so happy. The day we visited, the café had been open for only 2 days, and I was impressed with how smoothly everything ran, and how much thought had been put into the whole operation. I will certainly visit the cats at Cat Café Melbourne again.


Entry Cost: $10 per person for 1 hour with the cats
Opening hours: 10am - 9pm, every day of the week
Bookings: Cat Café Melbourne


▼ Shy Lexi starts to become curious.



▼ Winter grooms Ruby while she plays with a mouse toy.

May 11th, 2014

Autumn Garden Update

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It's been a while since I felt like blogging. For a long time I didn't feel like doing anything much, but that's starting to change now. I've been doing some craft and even some art, but I'll start with a garden update. It's late autumn now here in Australia, and the stress of extreme heat is definitely behind us. The two larger ferns are recovering, though sadly the small one didn't make it:



I love the way the branches unfurl, like a dancer's hand reaching out. Even plants that I thought were goners for sure have started flowering, like the Begonia:



I didn't even know this was a Begonia until I happened to come across a very similar-looking photo on the internet. Apparently this is the time of year to prune shrubs like the fuchsia, once they stop flowering. But it still keeps on flowering and flowering!:



I'm not complaining though: fuchsias are one of my favourites. I gave it my special attention during the heat, and it pulled through, so I'm very happy. Nearby, the nectarine is starting to lose its leaves:



This is something I'm still getting used to. Most native Australian plants are evergreen, so I have to keep reminding myself ... not Dying: Deciduous! Meanwhile, some of the roses are continuing to delight me:



I'd read that some roses are repeat-flowering, but this is just getting ridiculous! I think it'll be pruning time soon, though. And check out what else is growing ... soybeans!:



I'll post some photos of the whole veggie patch soon. As well as soybeans, we have tomatoes, capsicums, sweet potatoes and hopefully onions, all in different stages of growth. I can't tell you how exciting it is to put things in the ground and see them getting bigger and thriving. I can draw, I can crochet, but there's no more satisfying way of capturing simplicity than this for me right now.

From the simple to the infinitely complicated, to my bonsai:



It's grown a lot since I re-wired it. Unfortunately one evening I found it had blown over with some strong winds that we had a few weeks ago. This had bent the wire out of the shape that I'd set it in, but I managed to re-bend it to something resembling the original. Who knows, I might even blow that branch away in future and work on another one. In that way, bonsai is the same as any other art.

Lastly, here's a shot of our brick paving, lit by the late afternoon sun. I love how the new growth peeking out from the cracks forms a green grid amongst the weeds, giving them a wabisabi type of beauty.



Much of my garden isn't very photogenic, but things like this make it so!

March 10th, 2014



I'm glad that I've been monitoring my bonsai regularly, because the wire on my Callistemon Salignus sapling has been cutting in after only 2 months on. I'm hesitant to label any of my plants 'bonsai', but there are plenty of other terms out there that I can use: 'pre-bonsai', 'potensai', even 'tachiagari' ('starting-out'). In some ways, this plant is a tachiagari, as it's only a few years old, barely past sapling stage, and very much looks like a young plant. But it could also be classified as a 'pre-bonsai', as it's already in training. I like to categorise things, if you haven't noticed already!



I was actually pleased that the wire on my Callistemon was starting to cut in already, because I'd done such a newb job with it (my first ever wiring), that I was relieved to get rid of it!

Noob Lessons Learned:
1. Use the right type of wire!
2. Try to avoid creating an Alphabet tree!




Several weeks after wiring my tree the first time, I read a post on styling which said to try and avoid making regular 'S' shapes with the branches. Mine wasn't quite that, but it did have a disctinctive and embarrassingly unnatural-looking 'C' shape. (Hence the 'Alphabet tree'.)



This was my chance to make amends, much sooner than I thought I'd be able to. Having used the wrong type of wire (steel: much stiffer than aluminium), it was very difficult to get off. I nicked the trunk in a few places. Oops. That's possibly inevitable if the wire has cut in. That's what I'd like to think, anyway. (Red arrows point to where the wire has cut in.)





Installing the new wire was comparatively easy, even fun (correct wire, did I mention that?). I only lost one leaf, and I didn't poke myself in the face/eye with the wire even once. I feel quite proud of myself.
Next it was time for styling!



I have to admit, I really felt like I had no idea what I was doing from that point on. It's one thing to read blog posts or watch videos on styling, and nod sagely and say, "ah, I see what you did there." It's an entirely different thing to sit in front of a blank canvas and try to create a work of art from it. Especially when that work of art has a mind of its own and could turn out completely different from what you see in your mind's eye. Or won't bend the way you want it to without damaging it. And especially when that work of art is something you'll be working on for the rest of your life, and the decisions you make now could drastically affect what you have to work with in the future. (No pressure at all, then!)

Pushing all of that aside, I bravely dove in and did this:



I listened carefully for cracking noises, just like the blogs say, but having no real plan in mind, I kept fiddling with it and had to stop myself from re-positioning it too many times. I'm not completely happy with the outcome, but I didn't want to do any more in case I damaged the tree too much. I gave the trunk a sharper bend (red arrow above) instead of the gentle curve it had before, to give it a more dramatic story. I angled the rest of the trunk downwards, with some 3-dimensional movement both back-and-forwards, and up-and-down. I should have bought some finer wire as well so I could have styled the smaller branches at the same time. Never mind. It's okay.

Noob Lessons Learned:
3. Have a sketch or at least an idea in mind before you start fiddling with the branches!






FYI - this specimen has had no pruning and no root work done on it yet, so on second thoughts I'm wavering on calling it even anything as prestigious as a 'pre-bonsai'. Perhaps I'll come up with my own terms so I can neatly categorise everything.

March 3rd, 2014



Today is just a quick update to tell you about my sweet potato. A few months ago, I saw in Gardening magazine that you can grow your own sweet potatoes from the tuber. So I decided to give it a go. I wish I'd taken photos right from the start, but that's life. One half of the potato didn't take (it went all shrivelly), but the larger half is going spectacularly well.



It's been on the kitchen windowsill, where it lapped up the sun, even on the 40oC-plus days. The magazine says that when the shoots reach 20cm, I should snap them off and place them in some water to grow roots. So that I did.




The shoots are different lengths, so hopefully that means we'll have a small but steady supply of sweet potatoes instead of a glut. According to the magazine, I should plant the shoots out when they have well-developed roots and each one should grow 5-6 sweet potatoes. Nature is so cool like that! I'm not sure yet if I'll put them in the veggie garden or pots. Husband and I prepared the bed quite shallow, as we were only planning on growing non-tuberous plants (cucumber, capsicum, etc). We have some pots that may be deep enough, but I'm not sure. I could always try both. That's why it's called an experiment!




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