Sunday, November 7, 2010

Replacing Plants

Some of my garden is dying.  Mostly the plants are slowly fading, drooping a little more each day.  This, I believe, is normal, and can be attributed to the shock of being transported across town and plunked down somewhere foreign.  I still have hope that some of them will revive themselves, and I better understand now why we planted so many in the first place.

But early last week I went out one morning and noticed that a couple of my Impatiens looked drastically different than I remembered them looking the day before.  They were crispy, and completely dried out, as if something sucked the life out of them.  I watered them extra and kept watch.  Only a few days went by before you could look out from the living room window and not see any green where they had been.  They were completely dead.  And two more right in front of them were beginning to look crispy as well.

But--I had a clue.  These four Impatiens were the only plants in my entire garden to receive full sunlight for about an hour each day.  Everything else got filtered light through the tree.  Ironically, this little patch of sunny space was the part I was least concerned about.  Plants need sun, most of my garden receives very little, this patch receives a little more than the rest, therefore plants in this spot should grow better.  Apparently not.  And it's not like Impatiens don't like sun, everything I read about them just said that they're okay with shade too.  But I guess overhead Australian sunlight is just too much to handle.

Today I finally took out the dead Impatiens (which was not hard, they basically disintegrated in my hands) and planted a few Geraniums and what I think is a species of Daisy from the back garden that I remembered Allie saying liked a lot of sun.  So we'll see.  The skeptic in my says in another two weeks I will have killed off another couple of plants and will need to go to the garden store to get one of those desert hardy plants that I saw advertised.

Not sure if you can tell, but in the back are two barely recognizable Impatiens.  One of the front two was salvageable, and I moved it to a shadier spot in the garden.

 One of the dead Impatiens.

The new plants.  The possible Daisy thing is on the left.  If anyone knows what it is exactly, I'd be much obliged.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Bus Tour!

While you all were dreaming about your Halloween costumes Dan and I spent our October 31st on a bus tour offered by the historical society where I volunteer.  We traveled north for about an hour, stopping at the Bindoon historical society and museum, and then continued north to a restored early homestead from the 1850's.  Apart from the flies, it was really enjoyable, but not always for the "correct" reasons.

But it would be easier to show you.  The museum was housed in a large shed, and was donated in its entirety by two local residents, who I think just needed to clean out the attic/garage. 

There was some farm equipment and an old car,
but the museum consisted mostly of random things.  Like these wrenches,
and lots of toy dump trucks,

as well as gauges.  Though here, I was most interested in the labels being stuck on to the gauges with scotch tape.

I did like this twist on a common sign however.

After spending some time exploring the other buildings on the property, we continued on to the homestead. 

The people who own the property don't live there, but use it to store their other collections.  It was weird to go in to the bedrooms and see early American quilts adorning the beds, but still enjoyable.  What stuck out the most to me was how different 1850's farmhouses in not-so-outback Australia look like compared to the farmhouses in Midwest US.  There's no where near as much wood here, and there was no infrastructure at that point, no trains, no roads, barely any people, so everything was really basic.  The barn on the property was built by what they call ticketed leave men, who were English prisoners sent to Australia to both get them out of England, and to help build up Australia.

On that semi-serious note, I'll leave you with one last photo from inside the homestead that cracked me up.  It's a (poorly) drawn colored pencil image of a kangaroo.

Planting new things

Almost two weeks ago Allie and I planted my garden.  I still don't know what half of the plants are called.

I met Allie at the gardening center near her house where we stocked up on animal fertilizer, soil improver (which really looked just like good-quality soil), spray stuff to keep in moisture, and mulch.  So many steps to just make the soil habitable here.  Then we went to Allie's house and I got a lot of cuttings from various plants in her garden.

Side note: Gardens here aren't like most gardens I've encountered in the mid-west.  Growing up my dad's garden always seemed to be specifically designed.  There were a lot of plants, and they were in multiple places, but it always seemed to be ruled by order, not chaos.  Here English Cottage gardens seem to be the norm, with people planting a WIDE variety of things, and seeing what happens.  Then, after a decade or so, you have a garden that is absolutely breathtaking, but entirely random.

Mentally, I planned my garden to contain just a few species of plants, as it is really small, and I wanted it to be low-maintenance and easy for the next tenants to take it over.  The only thing I really knew was that I wanted Impatiens.  When I arrived at Allie's house, and she started taking me around her garden, my mental plan went right out the window.  She offered about twenty different species, hardly any of which fit into my "plan".  It was entirely overwhelming.  In the end I took almost everything offered, and we dug up parts of plants that Allie's garden was sure not to miss, put them in pots with some dirt, and hauled them back to my house.

That was all before lunch.

After a break, we prepared the soil as best as possible to receive the new plants, and got to planting.  It's now, I'd say, a combination of my original plan and chaos.  I was able to pick up some Impatiens, so those are scattered throughout, as well as a couple different kinds of Daises, Geraniums, long leafy things that look very similar to the ones I pulled out of my garden in the first place, and several other types that I do not recall the names of.  But let me just show you pictures.

It still looks a little sparse, but hopefully in the next few weeks things will get over the shock of being transplanted, and start to grow.  I had some extra Impatiens so we planted them around my little tree and in the spare planter where I dumped all the potting soil from my failed Impatiens experiment.

I could never have done this much work in one day on my own.  As it was we worked for about nine hours.  I hope things will take to my soil, Allie warned that some of them may not, and I've never been responsible for a garden before, much less one in less than ideal soil.  Though the process was overwhelming, I'm so glad I had Allie's help.  And in the end I only bought the Impatiens, (plus the fertilizer and stuff) and those cost less than $10.  Definitely worth it.

Sunday, October 24, 2010

Undoing my front garden

This weekend I spent a lot of time working on my front garden. On Monday, Allie, a friend from the historical society and an avid gardener, is taking me to a gardening center to get fertilizer, mulch and whatever else I need to improve the sandy Western Australian soil.  Then we're going to her house where she's going to give me some plants from her garden.  (I'm still not sure why she doesn't need them, but Yay for free plants!) 

Both my front garden and back garden are really small, shaded for most of the day, and have to compete for soil space with trees.  So far I've not had much luck in figuring out how to add color to my spaces, but I'm hoping Allie will have some good ideas.  But let me show you what my front garden looked like before this weekend.

It's L-shaped, with a tree in the corner.  (Funny fact about my tree:  When we moved in it looked completely dead and barren and really ugly, but as soon as spring hit it started sprouting leaves like crazy.  Now, the foliage is so dense that barely any light gets through to the soil below.  I'm not sure which is worse.) 

I got the landlord's approval to do basically what I wanted with the garden awhile ago, and was just waiting for my Impatiens (my fine with shade and sandy soil Impatiens) to grow before I dug up anything.  But that was a bust (see previous post), so yesterday I pulled up all the leafy green plants, and today I hacked the mostly dead vine-thing down to the branches that still had growth on them.  I also attempted to turn over the soil, but I kept encountering large roots.  I don't want to harm my annoying tree, or the vine-things, but I have no idea how any other plants are going to survive in my soil with the existing root structures.  But maybe Allie will offer insight with that too.

The after photos:

All those sticks on the patio came from the vine.  About 2/3 of the thing was dead, and seemingly had been for a long time--the branches were really brittle.  So now the vine looks lopsided, but it'll hopefully grow better.

Growing Impatiens with growing impatience

About a month ago I bought Impatiens seeds, potting soil, plastic cups, and trays to set them in.  I cut holes in the bottom of the cups so the soil could drain, and I faithfully set them out in the sun (per the instructions on the back of the seed packet) and kept the soil moist.  This is what they looked like on day one:

The seed packet informed me that Impatiens have a sprouting period of 14-21 days.  So, after 30 days, this is what my little seeds looked like.

Actually, it's the exact same photo, but you get the idea.  My impatiens were a monumental failure.  Of 75 seeds, after 1-2 weeks longer than they're supposed sprouting time, only two seeds have done anything.  Yesterday I decided I'd had enough, and gave up on all but the two.  And it's not like any activity could be going on under the soil, because Impatiens are supposed to be sewn at most 1mm down.  I could still see several seeds just sitting there, inert.  So now all my gardening hopes and dreams rest on two little sprouting seeds. 

Sunday, October 17, 2010

Regency Corset

Before I left California, I completed the mockup for my regency corset. I had decided to use the 1800-1820 Regency Corset pattern by Mantua-Maker , but knew from reading about other people's experiences that it was probably going to need some alterations.

I knew that in order to create an accurate corset mockup, I would need to practically create an entire corset. You can't really know how a corset will fit until it is boned and laced. So, I used old scraps of ribbon to create boning channels, and punched holes in the back panels to lace it up. Thankfully, my cotton canvas held up and none of my holes ripped out.

Back panel with pink cotton velvet boning channels

If I remember correctly, the next two photos are of mockup one. As you can see, I still needed to adjust the bust gussets, and the hip gussets. The Mantua-Maker pattern calls for two hip gussets on each side, but I found that the corset fit much better when I made them smaller and added a third gusset along the back seam.

In the end I was really glad that I took the time to make my mockup as "real" as possible. I think the corset is going to fit a lot better because of it, and I knew I wouldn't need to worry so much about fit when I was working on my actual corset.

From my mockup pieces I drafted new pattern pieces, and from there cut out my beautiful white coutil from Lacis. Then I stopped sewing for three months while my sewing machine made its way to Australia.

Two weeks ago I got my machine back and was finallly able to start sewing again. After taking a day to get back into my mindset of three months ago, not the easiest task, I put together a corset. I'd like to think it would be done by now, except I seemingly forgot to buy an awl on that last Britex spree, so I couldn't make the holes for my eyelets. Also, with all my alterations to the original pattern, a couple of my bones needed to be an inch shorter than the ones I had. Other than the binding along the bottom and my eyelets, though, the corset is complete.

I was able to use a "fancy" triangle stitch on my new machine to reinforce the base of my gussets.

Regarding my new sewing machine--the best possible graduation gift from my parents--It's fantastic! I was incredibly fond of my previous machine, but there's no way it could have handled eight layers of coutil. This one punched right through with no complaints. My only problem is the technology. There are too many buttons, and too many options, neither of which are well explained in the instruction book. But it's made for some fun experiments.

Early this week I hope to receive my new bones and the awl so I can start handsewing--what I'm sure will feel like--a billion eyelets.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Animals fall from the sky here.

A couple weeks ago I was out on our front patio painting side tables a very lovely shade of blue, when I heard two small thumps. After looking around, I looked up and saw that two little lizards, maybe about 4 inches long, had fallen onto our plastic awning thing from somewhere, perhaps the roof. Neither one moved for awhile and then they both started scrambling up the plastic, seemingly unharmed.

Later, I heard another, with a slight smack sound, thump. This time, a lizard had fallen all the way down to the patio (thankfully missing my still-drying furniture pieces). The odd thing was that I had no idea where it had fallen from. The little thing would have had to make a monumental leap off the roof to land where it did, and nothing else seemed to be above where it landed. By the way, the lizard seemed fine--at least it disappeared when I looked away.

So...flying lizards. Not too weird, yet.

Yesterday: I was walking down our alley (yes, we have an alley, and I love it) when I noticed a dead fish lying on the ground. And this wasn't a fish fillet or parts of a fish. He had his head, and his silvery scales and everything. Eight inch long fish, just lying there, with no bodies of water anywhere near by.

So...flying (or at least falling) fish.

I figure that as the falling animal of September was the tiny lizard, and so far in October we had a fish 5 times the size of the lizard, in November I'm expecting something the size of cats to start falling from the sky.

Hello and Welcome

So I told a bunch of you I'd be doing this thing, called a blog, so here it is. Finally.

I suck at long distance communication, as you all know, so I'm hoping you'll read this and it will somehow make up for my lack of individual emails. Probably not, but I can dream.

Anyway, Hello. and Welcome.