Sunday, October 31, 2010

What you can do for $75, part #2

You know what, my chook's gone! It's always the quiet ones you have to watch... the bloody thing managed to squeeze out of the smallest gap around the top of the cage, and has flown the roost, so to speak. Drat.

I can add that to the litany of bad fortune that has befallen me this week, including (a particular low point...) notification that once again I haven't made it to the cut for the Bundanon Trust residencies. * sigh *

What can you get for $75 these days?

Well to my pleasant surprise it seems you can buy quite a lot for $75. This morning we achieved:

3 pots of pennyroyal
2 pots of French sorrel
2 pots of Corsican mint
1 pot of sweet potato
1 pot of Ceylon spinach
1 pot of Feverfew
1 pot continental flat-leafed parsley
1 Thai green aubergine

1 tube of toothpaste
1 Curly-Wurly
1 packet of Mentos (chewy sweets)
2 sausage sandwiches from the sausage sizzle stall at the markets


3 pullets!

The dark grey one on the right is darling daughter's hen, called Lolly; the brown one is dearest husband's and we've called her Livia as a sort of tribute to Stanley Livingstone the explorer since she has already managed to escape once; and the black-and-ginger one peaking out from under the others is Miss Henny-Penny and she's mine.

Our chook shed isn't built yet, but they're small enough to live in the spare guinea-pig hutch at the moment with daytime forays into our weedy banks, courtesy of the wire pen, pictured above. Toby the dog has taken up residence alongside, for chicken-guarding duties!

Monday, October 25, 2010


What happened?!

I left my kale leaves in the cool room for too long! Aren't the colours lovely?

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

The Golden Book

I've probably made you yawn before with the fact that I'm on the Board of Directors of my daughter's school, and I've probably mentioned that it's a Steiner school. Long-time readers of this blog will also know that I'm not an anthroposophist (i.e. a follower of Steiner Spiritual Science) no, no, no, but that as a family we love the unique character of this particular Steiner school. Recently there's been a small debate about how to motivate children to try hard. I was sitting with a group of women who all contribute their Wednesday mornings to the group effort of making handmade items to sell at various school events as a fundraiser, and we were discussing our school's approach(es) compared to other schools.

There were several different views but one conversation that predominated was about how the constant use of reward-based motivational systems sometimes leads children to expect praise for every single little thing they do, which is counter-productive because it doesn't lead them to try really, really hard to achieve something. I don't want to get into a big debate about it, but it was interesting because recently our new Principal proposed the idea of a Golden Book, a book in which the names of children who have made an exceptional effort (not necessarily in an academic area) are recorded as a way of acknowledging their achievement publically. At first I found it slightly 'off' in that it didn't seem to resonate with the steadfastly non-competitive character of Steiner education, but one of the teachers suggested I looked at it as a balance to the inevitably punitive policies about discipline and welfare. We have plenty of ideas about how to punish unacceptable behaviour, but how do we balance that with publically recognising good behaviour, beyond the obvious praise from teachers? As a parent - and not one with well-thought-out views on these things - I found it interesting.

Even more interesting is the fact that I've been commissioned to make the Golden Book! And I decided to have a little fun with what could otherwise have been a very straightforward case-bound book with ruled page by trying out The Secret Belgian Binding for the first time.

As someone who once lived in Belgium, how could I resist? And it is a gorgeous binding, inside and out.

I've ruined the otherwise ordered and evenly spaced inside cover by making the stitching over the spine irregular, which is mirrored inside.

If you're interested in discovering its secrets you can do no better than to look HERE for very easy-to-follow instructions. I, meanwhile, have been making a pile of sketchbooks to sell using this method of binding and incorporating inlays of polished pebbles and sea glass... In fact, if you're wondering why I'm suddenly showing up on your blog comments as "Rhubarb" rather than "SCB" it will all be revealed shortly, but you can get a sneak peak at things HERE.

I forgot to take photos of the text block in progress but never mind. The process of lacing it into the spine can get a bit tricky but you end up with a lovely robust spine on an intriguing binding. And I had extra fun setting up a jig so that I could slot in each sheet of heavy paper and rule it quickly and easily.

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Mostly finished

Well here it is, mostly finished! I came back from town today to find that Warren, our builder, had kindly helped dearest husband to move my etching press from its exile in the garden store back to its rightful place in the studio. I gave it a celebratory spray with a restorative rust remover (fortunately the rollers are fine but everything else has been affected by the moist, salt-laden sea air) and will clean it off tomorrow.

I have not one but two tables (Ikea in the UK from years back: trestles with a laminated beech wood top, so strong and height-adjustable) around which I can walk and work, AND carpet, AND my lovely chair to sit on (Sara sighs a happy sigh! ).

Observant printmakers may have noticed the mezzotint plate lurking on one of the tables... yes folks, it's printmaking for masochists, but there's nothing equal to the velvety blackness of a well-rocked mezzotint plate or the subtlety of the shadows it produces and I wanted to try thunder clouds and lightning and it seemed a good idea at the time! 4 hours in and my biceps are swelling... Luckily my trusty mini hi-fi system is still working after 10 years and a lot of time in a box so I am listening to Philip Pullman's quartet The Ruby in the Smoke, The Shadow in the North , The Tiger in the Well and The Tin Princess which must be at least 30 hours of listening so I've got a fair way to go before I'm bored.

It's wonderful to get stuck into some work! On the to-do list at the moment: getting to grips with the secret Belgian binding and the making of a new line of sketchbooks, of which more anon; a commission for darling daughter's school; Italian prints; finishing the St Mark's Square horse collagraph; and some monotypes. Did I also mention that I've got a big show next year and some work for BookArtObject to do? I'm going to have fun.

Monday, October 04, 2010

The rain came down and the floods came up

I am feeling a trifle damp!

Dearest husband and I are holed up in our house, on our hill, watching the flood waters rise. Darling daughter - luckily - spent last night sleeping over at a friend's house, well away from the flooding, and as we packed an extra pair of undies I've just been on the phone negotiating an extra night's stay! Someone did manage to get through to us this morning in a 4WD but he said he'd driven through water and it was rising; apparently it's due to peak at around 2pm this afternoon which I guess must be high tide. The usual problem is that the local creeks feed into Coffs Creek which in turn feeds into the mangrove flats and thence out to sea, but if there's a high tide the water flowing down the valley gets pushed back into the (wholly inadequate!) storm drains and we all get flooded in.

At this point I could easily get diverted sideways into a rant about the stupidity of local town planners over the years or the corrupt practices of our local council on planning issues, or how about the amazingly short-sighted Local Development Plan that envisages hundreds of extra homes being built up this valley, concreting over the natural drainage and forcing more run-off into the overwhelmed drains? Or how about this: the RTA's plan (although they won't admit it - allegedly it's still for "public consultation") to run a small diversion of the Pacific Highway through the bottom of the valley, despite it's proximity to the (sinking) coastline and the inadequate drainage... but I won't.

Instead I'll point out that as part of our environmentally sensitive response to our piece of land we've put all the flood mitigation/drainage works that we can think of (and afford...) such as culverts, new dams, rocking (i.e. areas of rock in the path of the run-off to slow down the flow of water to reduce erosion), tree planting, swales, rainwater tanks and a choice of porous driveway materials to soak up the rain rather than concrete that would simply move the water off to somewhere else. What we can't do anything about is Coopers' Creek which runs across the dirt access road where it crosses the bottom of the valley: it flows through some lagoons at that point, and through a massive culvert under the road, but the creek drains an entire valley system and with three days of non-stop rain there will be too much water for the culvert so the dirt road will flood, and further down the valley where it joins the Pacific Highway the road is flooded again for exactly the same reason.

In the 24 hours to this morning we officially had 176mm or almost 7"; the previous 24 hours was 150mm or approximately 6" but I can tell you that the orange bucket you can see in the photo is about 14" or 350mm high and it sat out in the open all day yesterday and filled up to the brim during daylight hours! I suspect the discrepancy arises from the fact that the Coffs Harbour weather station isn't situated anywhere near here and I think we got more rain than the official report.

Rain aside, we're doing OK now that the leaks have been sorted out. Our builder came up yesterday and cursed a bit when he saw that the roofers had placed an open-ended down pipe from the upper roof directly on the join between the lower roof and the walls. Not surprisingly considering the volume of water we're talking about, the water found a path around the flashing and started coming through above the windows in our hall, which isn't what you want when your house has been finished for less than two months! Once he'd finished muttering Warren went up on the roof and diverted the down pipe temporarily, which has immediately resolved the problem.

Meanwhile of course the solar system isn't receiving much sunlight, but luckily we did a run to the petrol station yesterday and filled the generator and then refilled the diesel cannisters so we should be OK. Darling daughter's happier at her friend's house than she would be at home today, and we've got enough food, wood and diesel to last us a few days. Hopefully the rain is forecast to ease off by this evening so we're hoping life will return to normal tomorrow.


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