Monday, April 23, 2012

The socks have landed *

Oh I have happy feet now!  Both socks finished, and very comfortable they are too.  Now I can turn my attention to other things, including fingerless gloves for darling daughter.  Socks: it's been an adventure but I am going to leave the knitting of you to others who are faster than I.

* other suggested titles included "The Joy of Socks", but even I thought that was a bit much.

Sunday, April 15, 2012

Suitably covered

You may remember that I came upon a 1727 bible at a local auction centre and bought it for the costly sum of $30. I would love to have the skill to restore it but until I acquire such skills I need to preserve it 'as is' and my blogger friend Carol from Barnacle Goose Paperworks advised me to create a clamshell box to protect it while I save up the money for extra training. So here it is:

The book cloth is an open weave in a soft shade of turquoise that beautifully picks up a colour in some hand-marbled paper I brought back from Venice a few years ago. The book cloth was a gift from my friend Willis, who apparently found it at a tip shop! How appropriate to have discarded book cloth for a discarded book.

You can see from the photos that I made the outer case of the clamshell box comes very close to the edge of the cover - this is intentional! The bible is heavy and I don't want the box to warp if it is ever stored upright; as it is, the book will rest against the bottom edge of the clam shell which will rest against the shelf.

I've also made a tab and a tray: I realised that as the bible currently has no back cover I didn't want to be putting my fingers against the fragile back page every time I wanted to lift it out of the box, so instead there is a loose tray that rests inside the clam shell, on top of a ribbon tab. When you open the box you can gently pull up the tab, which in turn pulls up the book on the tray and makes it easier to handle.

There's enough room in the box to fit the re-bound bible (if I ever get that far!), and to wrap it in acid-free tissue and include a sachet of dessicant, so I think I've done all I can for now apart from choosing a special place for it on my crowded shelves.

Friday, April 13, 2012

Not the sock addict

Ever the masochist I decided to knit myself a pair of socks. Why? You may well ask, but it boils down to two reasons: firstly I'm buggered if I'm going to be defeated by a knitting pattern and second, because I thought it would be interesting.

I have now completed one sock and I am pleased to report that my Swiss friends (are all Swiss people avid sock knitters? I don't know) tell me that I got the pattern right, AND it fits. And since both my feet are more or less the same size I entertain great hopes that the other one will too (if I ever get it finished).

If these were to be sold on the open market I think they could be the most expensive socks ever, this side of Himalayan hand-sheared baby-goat stomach-fleece with added spider gauze... I'm not the world's fastest knitter and what with that fact, general blindness (if I have to look closely at the pattern I have to take my glasses off - it all adds time), and the requirement to consult more than one pattern for the tricky bits I think we're talking 10 hours hard labour per sock. If we go with a general (un)skilled pay rate of $20 per hour we're already talking $200 per sock plus materials. If any of you covet my socks I will be VERY HAPPY to part with them for the heavily discounted sum of $300 plus postage...

At the bottom of one of the patterns I consulted there was the highly optimistic sentence: "welcome to the new addiction of sock knitting". I think not.

Sunday, April 08, 2012


Now that my Nexus gallery show is behind me and the school holidays have started I can get back to the garden which is suffering slightly from weeks of neglect. Oh well. All you can do is put on your wellies and gloves, grab a fork and get stuck in, which is what I have been doing. Before I take you off down the garden you might like a look at the gorgeous exotic Tacca Chantrieri flowers ("Black Bat Flower" or more colloquially "Cat's Whiskers") that have popped up in our shady palm/bromeliad planter next to the veranda. You may remember us planting it up in November last year: now the small plants we put in are big plants and they seem to be enjoying themselves!

Down in the veggie garden things are a little out of control. We had a big mouse problem (they ate all but four of our pumpkins * sniff *), but they were eaten in turn by some large pythons which moved in. Unfortunately for the pythons I had carefully netted everything to keep out the wallabies... When I went down to the garden last week it was rather whiffy as a two-metre long python had met an untimely end caught in the mesh around the watermelons... I've learned my lesson and will start using metal mesh which is less likely to result in death for snakes. It's not that I'm a snake lover but I do appreciate the drop in rodent numbers that accompanies the arrival of a friendly python! In fact I know we have a few around now as I came upon a little hatchling - about 50 centimeters long - blinking at me from its perch wrapped around the sprayer handle a week or two ago.

I hope it grows up to be a very successful rodent-hunter and stays around our garden. On the other hand, I will be quite happy if the red-bellied black snake Toby decided to 'play' with on our back steps at 10pm the other night disappears. We don't have many snakes around the house and the more we get on top of the paddocks and the long grass, the fewer we'll see (I hope).

One of the big challenges about living on our block is that we have a LOT of land to maintain, but this year we seem to have worked out what we need to do - and we have the right tools and equipment to do it. Dearest husband is getting a lot of exercise almost every day, hauling the walk-behind-slasher we were given by friends down to the orchard and adjacent areas and keeping the grass down. Thanks to his Herculean efforts our orchard now looks like an orchard with short grass and thriving trees. Our mandarin even has once tiny baby fruit on it! Mind you, we got a bit too enthusiastic recently: after watching garden TV and studiously noting down the ingredients for various DIY insecticides we failed to shake up the white oil ingredients sufficiently and nearly suffocated our citrus trees because we didn't realise we were spraying them with almost pure oil... Dearest husband realised next day and managed to wash some of it off, but I'm not sure if one tree will survive. I doubt if it has scale insect now, though.

I've spent a few hours over the last couple of days digging over what was the potato patch, gathering up the last tiny spuds and replenishing the soil. I've also ripped out the tomato plants and cut back the rampant sweet potatoes. The aubergines, peppers and chillis are still doing really well, and we have some more fruit ripening on the watermelon vines as well as spring onions, leeks, the last of the carrots, parsnips, chicory and some Tuscan kale, but I'm about to plant broccoli, more tomatoes, spinach and I've already put in some lettuce which are enjoying the autumn sunshine. We've also got a few raspberries and longberries which is amazing considering how little attention they've been given, and the dahlias are still flowering their little tubers off after 6 months in bloom! Probably time to cut them back and feed them... they must be exhausted.

I'll leave you with pictures of the delicious aquatic ginger flower that's in the pond next to our bedroom window (I can smell it from bed! Mmmmm), and some unidentified seeds that came in a pod in a truckload of wood. I wonder if they're from the Black Bean tree (Castanospermum Australe) which is a BIG tree of 40+m and grows in this part of the world, but the photos I've seen of the seedpods show a much darker brown pod and rounder seeds. Do you know what they are? I'd like to try germinating the seeds but I'm not sure if/where I should plant the resulting saplings. I'm doing well with germination at the moment: I have 8 Pandanus sp. growing from seed and have recently taken cuttings of lavenders and gardenias which have all survived.


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