Tuesday, August 24, 2010

Northern plains shoe update

I've been wearing the northern plains shoes on and off for a couple of weeks now - pretty much around the house.
I have some before and after pics now...

Top, before
Top, after
Front, before
Front, after
Wearing, before
Wearing, after
Wearing and pointing, before
Wearing and pointing, after
Side, before
Side, after
Back, before
Back, after
You can see that the leather of the shoes has started to lose it's structure as it moulds to the shape of my feet.  The shape is starting to become informative of the experience of wearing through the marks and creasing and the breaking down of the material.  To really test the moudability of the leather and get a more intensive evidence of wear in the leather I will make another pair based on this pattern, but fitted more closely to my individual feet.  The imprint on the underside of the shoes will help to guide the fitting process as it shows the point of contact the foot has with the ground. The heel section definitely needs to by narrower so that the blocky shape of the heel will start to soften and mould - at the moment the corners are hanging away from my heels.  Take 2 coming soon!

old worn boots

For my work in the food garden I found and my old blundstone boots in the bottom of the wardrobe (not the wardrobe garden, my wardrobe inside!), and have given them a revival.  They are leather with stretched out elastic and being about 15 years since I wore them a lot, they kind of feel like they're moulded to feet that were a slightly different shape - not super comfortable.  They clearly show the evidential/informative marks of lots of wear.

Monday, August 23, 2010

The Studio incorporating The Workroom & The Patch

I'm focusing now on The Patch where most of the veggie growing happens - I plant a few things in the wardrobe garden and throughout the rest of the garden, but The Patch is the most intensive.
The Patch and The Workroom will make up my Studio, and I'm hoping that there will be some "cross pollination" across the two areas.

The Patch is fenced against my dogs who like to dig, chase rats and eat tomatoes!  I have it roughly divided into 4 quarters with a mulch path as a divider, which gets replenished when required.  Last year I put in a drip water system which is connected to the water pump and 2,250L tank which gathers water from The Workroom roof - so there is a nice synergy between the two areas already .  It needs some repair - I think the dogs pulled the drip line apart in one corner trying to stick their heads through the mesh fence.  I need to put up some finer gauge mesh too - Gemma has jumped through the fence on one occasion that I witnessed when there was a rat in The Patch!

These 3 pics are the views of The Patch from the gate/opening back towards the workroom, and across beds 3 and 2, then across beds 4 and 1.  These are the views which I will continue to take pics from as the work progresses.  Hugo likes to run in there when the gate is open!

Last Thursday/Friday I cleaned up 3 of the four quarters of the rampant self sown parsley and replenished the path - a bit of revival and reshaping happening.  The 3 pics are the same views as above after the tidy up.  There's some new artichoke plants sprouting in bed 1 (artichoke is a perennial - dies down in autumn, re sprouts in late winter).  More about the artichoke later.
The weeds and parsley are left on the surface of the soil as a green mulch and will break down quickly when the warmer weather comes and add to the organic matter.  Nothing is wasted in The Patch, all remnants are useful.

The quarters are numbered from 1 - 4 as I am going to practice crop rotation according to Peter Cundall's gardening book (Cundall, P 2007, The practical Australian gardener : seasonal tasks using sensible organic methods, Penguin Books, Camberwell, Vic.).  They are numbered according to the chart from the book.  I have been doing this for 1 year, so this season the numbers will move in an anti clock wise direction, 4 will become 1, 1 will be 2, 2 will be 3, and 3 will be 4.  I get a bit confused and have to keep looking back at the book!  The first year was pretty unorganised though and it was only beds 3 and 4 that I really stuck to with some tomatoes, cucumbers and zucchini's.  The artichoke that I mentioned earlier was a problem as it grows too big in that spot, and I didn't relocate it in time last year - it needs to be moved asap before it starts it's spring burst of growth.

Crop rotation is based on the idea that certain groups of plants like similar conditions, and that they leave beneficial things behind for the next group.  It is a perfect demonstration of gleaning remnants!

Saturday, August 21, 2010

Fruits and something to do with labour

I've continued mapping my food producing garden.  Over the 7 years I've been in Carnegie, I've been gradually been adding more fruit trees, and have been gradually been reaping the "fruits of my labour".  The ideas from the last GRC and my abstract apply to the whole garden, but especially to the fruit trees.  Here's what I said back then:

Renovation encompasses the possibilities of revival, reshaping and replacement.

Revival brings new life to the outdated, focusing on what is worth polishing and blowing the dust off, to be brought back to functional use.

Reshaping can render the useless as useful again through conversion and adaption of what exists, be it subtle or drastic.

Replacement guts out the non-redeemable to solve the problem, or performs a complete shift to ask what the problem in fact is.

All of these things have certainly happened in various degrees with the trees in the garden.  There was one tree that had to be completely removed because of rot, and other old trees have been reshaped and adapted.

 I've numbered the trees on the map starting with the established trees.

(1) This is my favourite plum tree which makes the most beautiful jam and sauce - it is something like a damson, but not sure of the exact variety.  No good for eating raw, but fabulous for preserves.  I like the idea of making the same kind of jam that the previous dweller of the house and garden did with plums from the same tree which they may have planted.

(2) This is a massive plum tree, unsure of the type but it has small, sweet, yellow fruit.  Not bad to eat, but mostly pip, it makes quite sickly jam.  The possums get to eat most of the fruit.  I really like the tree for it's beauty alone and keep it for that reason.

(3) and (4) Fig trees - some generic kind.  They look nice but I can't work out what's going on with the fruit.  It seems sappy and strange, but I think I've never managed to get a ripe one, I think the birds eat them first.  I'm not familiar with figs, but I think I should try netting some to see what they're like.

Lower Citrus Grove
When we first moved in the first thing I did with the garden was to plant an orange and lemon tree.  I just whacked them somewhere down the back of the garden, which really is a bit too shady and cold, but I have persevered and created a little citrus grove down there, and the trees should grow up towards the light.  The pic below is taken from the back fence looking back towards the house.

(5) A Lisbon lemon - the original one I planted which had a terrible start!  It fell over in the wind, was ring barked by possums, and got bad gall wasp.  I've been cosseting it the last year or so and it is starting to come good

(6) Washington Navel Orange - planted at the same time as the lemon.  It had the same bad start, but is getting pretty good now.  It had fruit for the first time this winter and I've worked out that middle of august is when it starts to get sweet!

(7) Ellendale Mandarin - planted a few years ago, it has it's first 2 fruits this winter.

(8) A Lemonade tree - a fruit which is like a sweet lemon.  Only planted last season.

North wall citrus
The best place for citrus is the north facing wall at the back of the house as it acts as a heat sink and citrus love warmth.  It is also a great place for the clothesline, so I've espaliered two of the trees against the wall behind the line (I'll take the washing off the line for the next pic!)  There used to be a passionfruit vine there, which I persevered with for a number of years, however, it was not productive anymore and it kept overgrowing the clothesline!  The citrus were all only planted last year, but they are doing very well and grown a lot already.

(9) Valencia Orange - this replaced an old hibiscus bush that grew out of the control and as always covered in the hibiscus bugs.

(10) Meyer Lemon - one of the espaliers

(11) Imperial Mandarin - second espalier

(12) Tahitian Lime - Planted in a little spot I created at the end of the patio - it has been in for 2 years.  It's not going so well as I planted a lemongrass in front of it, not realising how big it would get in a spot it liked.  The lemongrass is massive and the lime is suffering.  One of my tasks soon will be to move the lemongrass.

The Apples
I've planted dwarf apples along the fence to create a sort of hedge (shown in the pic), and each side of a garden arch with the plan to grow the trees in an arch shape.  I got them last year via mail order from Woodbridge fruit trees - more info on the heirloom varieties here.  I have early, mid season and late varieties.  I'll be interested to see how they grow this season.

(13) Summer Strawberry

(14) Pomme de Neige - aka snow apple

(15) Caville Blanc d'Hiver

(16) Sturmer

(17) Sugarloaf Pippin

(18) Esopus Spitzenburg

The Plummy Group

I have planted 3 trees as a trio where you plant more than one tree in the hole and treat as one when you prune them - like a graft but each variety has it's own root system.  This was to replace the old rotten plum tree.  They've been in for 2 years.

(19) This is the remant left from the rotten tree that had to be removed.  It grew as a sucker and I'll let it grow.  It's an old European Plum called Prune d'Agen.

(20) Mariposa plum - planted as a pollinator.

(21) Flavour Supreme Pluot - a cross between a plum and apricot.  This was recommended by Wes Flemming when we saw him give a talk about bare rooted trees.  It needs a pollinator, hence the Mariposa.

(22)  Moorpark Apricot.

The Others

(23) Nectazee Necterine - a dwarf standard i.e. a ball on a stick.  Has been planted for 2 years.  I didn't get around to treating it for curly leaf this winter, so it will be NQR again this year.

(24) Sunset Peach - another dwarf standard.  I can already see curly leaf on it, but the blossoms are nice!

(25) Stella Cherry - to be trained over the arch like the apples

(26) Simone Cherry - for the other side of the arch.  Both the cherries have only been in 1 year

(27) Doyenne du Comice Pear - a heirloom variety of pear.  Planted last year as a duo with the other pear.

(28) Williams Pear - a pollinator for the Doyenne.

(29) White Sapote - no idea really what this fruit is, but is supposed to grow well in the shelter of other trees.  Looks good so far!

(30)  Panama Red Passionfruit - I'm planning to grow this up the wall of The Workroom and even over the roof.  It was planted last year and is looking terrible - all the leaves are being eaten by something!  I have to start giving some serious TLC.

(31) Panama Gold Passionfruit - ditto!

So, that's it.  It's a massive amount of fruit trees I've squeezed into my little yard.  I can't wait for the years to come when they start to become more productive! 

Friday, August 20, 2010

Wardrobe garden

Something I forgot in the previous post on the house and garden map which you might have noticed - the wardrobe garden.

This was an old wardrobe in very bad condition which was in the garage before we converted it to The Workroom.  It was over sized to be collected by the council in rubbish collection, so I decided to put it on it's back and fill with soil to make into a raised garden bed.  I put holes in the back (which is now on the ground) for drainage.  It has been ok, but the soil I got to fill it was pretty bad quaility, so it needs lots of building up with organic matter.  I'll give it a red hot go this season and try growing some summer veg that needs some shelter - it gets a bit of shade.  As you can see at the moment it has major weed probs - it's a job that is in the cue.  Oh, and there's a bag of pea straw in there too!

A start in the patch and beyond

My food producing garden has been stagnating over the winter and needs some serious attention.  The only thing I did recently was to plant some broad beans (my fav veg alongside asparagus, mmmmm) and peas a couple of months ago.  They sprouted and were promptly dug out by blackbirds (they think that the growing seeds are worms moving) and eaten by either snails, earwigs or slaters (encouraged by the excess debris from the summer).  I've taken some pics to show my starting point and will document the changes over the coming months.

To get your bearings, here's the overall plan of our (my hubby's and mine!), semi-detached house in Carnegie in the south east of Melbourne, and the garden at the moment. 

This is the view of The Patch and the side of the The Workroom taken from the step of the back door.  I'll be tracking changes here in the coming months, this will be the pic that I'll be taking before every "patch" session.

I'll include more detail in coming posts, but the one other part of the garden relevant to the house n garden map is the avocado's in the front garden.  These are inspired by Jackie French who advocates growing avocado hedges in suburbia, here when talking about growing avo's to feed the chooks, but I've also read it somewhere in one of her many inspiring gardening books.  I planted these grafted avocado's last year in late spring, and really didn't water them enough for them to do very well, but then they take a while to establish and I'm planning on putting a water tank at the front of the house to make it easier this summer.  The intention is to keep them cut to the height of the fence to create a hedge.  They look very sad, but hopefully we will see an improvement soon!

A veggie offset

I've been looking at redirecting my practice, with the aim of creating a practice with a future. One way of doing this is suggested in Design Futuring by Tony Fry, where a small architectural practice, among other redirective strategies, established a small urban farm as part of their practice (p 229 - 230).

I've been thinking about exploring this idea in my research for a while now - but this has been a longstanding activity of mine anyhow.  I've been growing my own food in a rather haphazard way since being inspired by Jackie French around 15 years ago.  The idea of growing your own as part of redirective practice, alongside my continued reading of ideas about sustainability and overconsumption (most recently watching The Population Puzzle by Dick Smith), has prompted me to take the plunge and start including my veggie/food growing as part of my research activity.
I'm thinking of the veggie growing as an "offset" for some of the "defuturing" activities/materials embedded in my practice, similar to a carbon offset.  I'm not sure how I'm going to measure this - at the moment it is just a concept.  It's the antithesis of "the externalisation of costs" that Annie Leonard talks about in "The Story of Stuff"

This is where people and materials are wasted within the production system, whereas I would introduce into my production system, a practice which nurtures, nourishes, and partly replaces having to buy into the industrialised food system and it's associated wastes.  My feeling is that creating an ethical design practice needs to go further to create a "quality based economy" and "environment of care" (p. 218, Fry 2009)
Having said that, for the past two and a half months, I've been buying organic food - meat, fruit n veg, and groceries that do have a lesser footprint.  It's something I've been thinking about for a while but seeing the doco Food Inc. and reading Michael Pollan has really put a bomb under me!

So I've decided as an experiment to include a half hour in my garden everyday which I have a full research day at the home studio.  I'm suspecting there will be some other flow on's from the experience other than just the concept of the offset - more on this later and garden pics to come!  

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

North American "northern plains" moccasins

One of the suggestions from GRC (graduate research conference - where we present our work to a panel of critics), was to look at some ethnographic sources, American Indian/Inuit cultures etc. to see how the skin of animals was traditionally used.
I'm going to experiment with a couple of examples of garments/shoes from the book:
Robes of White Shell and Sunrise (Conn, R & Denver Art, M 1974, Robes of white shell and sunrise : personal decorative arts of the native American : [catalogue of an exhibition] Denver Art Museum, November 9, 1974-January 19, 1975, Denver Art Museum, Denver.) - thanks Sue!

The first example is a pair of moccasins cut from one piece of leather - one piece for each shoe that is! (p. 30 - 31)

I photocopied the pattern onto an A4 sheet, then used a grid to grade it to my size, using the length of my foot as a guide.


The book says that the moccasins are made from buffalo leather. “Since these moccasins are cut from soft, flexible leather, they soon take on the exact shape of the wearer’s feet” (Conn 1974, p. 30) I chose a side of thin vegetable tanned leather that is mouldable, while still having a firm grain that will hold the shoe shape – it’s a bit like belt leather but a thinner split.


 I needed to work out a way of sewing the shoe together. The original picture looks like it's an overcast stitch, but I was having a look at a leather craft book and decided to use something fancier.


I found this example of “woven stitch” on page 31 – 33 of “Leathercraft by Hand” (Faulkner, J 1976, Leathercraft by hand, Pelham Books, London.) It is quite simple as the holes are punched in a square formation and 1hole used twice as part of the “weave”.

Here’s my punched holes: 

I used a 3mm wide kangaroo thronging that I happened to have at home to lace/sew the shoe together. I’ve never done this before so it was an interesting process. I butted the edges together rather than overlapping like in the leathercraft book.


One side of the centre back seam ended up too long – I didn’t prove/check the pattern as I wanted to use the proportions exactly from the book. The shoe has turned out too large around the foot, so if the size was reduced to make this seam fit, it would improve the fit.

The shoes are a little hard to put on as the cut area which forms the tongue doesn’t quite allow enough room to put the foot in, and the end of the split also becomes a weak point. This weak point tore a little on one of the shoes when first putting it on.

I’m going to wear the shoes as much as I can to see how well they mould to my feet as a test of the properties of the leather. They might not be tight enough for the experiment to work – I may need to make another pair to test further.
I wore them at home all day today and they are actually very comfortable. Updates coming soon!