Thursday, November 1, 2012

A change in the air

I chose awesome (obviously).
After some flip-flopping about lots of different things, I decided Melbourne had too much to offer right now (on so many fronts), and couldn't be ignored. Plus, coming home in October gave me the chance to spend 10 days with various family members on the US east coast (and in autumn - eeep!) on my way home. The photo above is from a walk in Ithaca.

What next? I'm not entirely sure. Probably not journalism, the industry's just too dire these days for me I think. I'm throwing my CV out there a great deal right now, but also very seriously looking at a Master of Urban Horticulture. We'll see. But there are so many exciting developments and fresh things going on in my life that I know it's going to be an incredible year, and a particularly wonderful summer. Just remind me of that in a few weeks time when my Canadian bank account is drained and no job has materialised!

Monday, September 17, 2012

Escapes and escapism

I do hate when blogs I follow trail off with no further clues on what's going on in a blogger's life, so while I'm not really feeling the blogging right now, it does seem only fair to give a bit of an update. Plus I've been doing some fun stuff! In May this year I quit my job to head off on a three month overseas adventure, and then unexpectedly (but happily) found myself wrapping up not just my job but also my relationship of more than five years and our shared household. Which while sad, suddenly meant that I was free to extend the adventure. I headed off to Canada with two of my closest friends, Matt and Mark, to drive 3000 kilometres in an unreliable $400 van, and then spent 16 days canoeing the Yukon River.
It was an incredible journey; we were on the river just as spring was arriving and each day would bring fresh, hyper-colour green tree growth and more sunshine as we made our way from Whitehorse to Dawson City. We were pretty sick of canoeing by the end of the trip, but to have such an experience with good friends was unforgettable.
Once that section of the trip was over Mark headed home, while Matt and I continued on for two months of roadtripping through northwestern USA. I don't think I've had a grin plastered on my face for so many days straight in my life. We stopped each night in small towns and state or national parks, did a mammoth amount of thrift store shopping, drank a lot of coffee and ate a lot of diner breakfasts, listened to a lot of music, talked a great deal, and played countless games of backgammon in campsites.
After Matt left I stayed on in Canmore, Alberta, to see whether living in a mountain town might be fun for awhile. And it is, but the pull of home is very strong as well. It's incredible to look up at the mountains and get out and enjoy them with wonderful new friends, but I miss friends and family from home, and big city life, and there are many more jobs that excite me in Melbourne. So now I'm at a crossroads, with a foot in each camp and a new decision every six hours about what I'm doing next. It's hard to make a choice when you're choosing between awesome and awesome, and to figure out whether you're opting out of making serious decisions or making the most of the opportunities you have.

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Adventures in urban agriculture

How incredible are these public herb and fruit gardens? They're right on a busy riverfront path in the centre of Brisbane. Full of lemongrass, basil, chillies, thyme, papayas, and (a real novelty for a southerner) pineapples.

It's somewhat amusing that I'm up in Brisbane for a media conference, where there's been lots of discussion about using technology to report news, and I'm busy blogging herb gardens from my phone - hardly breaking stuff, but certainly what I felt compelled to share here! (As an aside, the state library here is incredible! Highly recommend a visit.)

Sunday, November 20, 2011

Mushrooms can save the world

I had thought that while I'm always learning about a gardening incrementally, I'm probably not likely to have any more blow my mind kind of lessons about the subject. I was so wrong.

A wee while ago I was at a compost workshop which was pretty interesting, but the most exciting thing I learned that day was after we'd finished the workshop and were talking about inner city community gardens, soil contamination and how to fix it. Apparently, a great way to clean up contaminated sites such as old petrol stations is by planting mushrooms.

The speaker said there are some groups in the US that decontaminate petrol stations by using human hair (which is very absorbent) to mop up any remaining oil and they impregante the hair with oyster mushrooms spores, as this is the type of mushroom which sucks up the most heavy metal contaminants. Once the mushrooms have grown everything is bundled off as hazardous waste.

The idea also came up in an amazing Ted talk, about a mushroom burial suit to speedily dispose of your body:


It's a topic that some people are super into, and I haven't even touched on mycelium. (Which people get even more excited about!) There's an info-dense website called Radical Mycology for anyone who wants to read more about the idea.

Sunday, October 16, 2011

The waiting game

I am having a huge amount of fun at the new community garden. Lots of chatting to people, building ramps, scheming about the future, turning compost, all the good stuff. But I can't help feeling there's something missing.


Because we're growing everything from seed it is taking a lot longer to really feel like things are progressing. I guess when you start from scratch all over again you suddenly notice it more than when you already have plants to hang out with in the garden and you're just adding to them. But things are getting going now, so fingers crossed it won't be long until we have a box bursting with vegies!

At least the communal salad box that I tend is starting to put on a show. Rocket and lettuce seedlings are getting going, and radishes are looking promising.

If you ever need a gardener pick-me-up, just grow radishes. They are so quick that you feel like you must be doing something right!

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Act your age!

Occasionally I feel like I live an overly sedate life for someone in their mid-twenties. For instance, last weekend there was the choice of bee keeping workshop or the offer of some tickets to Parklife.

I'm happy to say the bee keeping workshop was able to be put off for another weekend, and instead I wandered around a freezing cold festival site, still feeling older than my age because I had decided to opt for jeans and a jumper rather than hot pants and a crop top on a day with a top of 16 degrees. But at least I saw some awesome music! Lykke Li in particular was one to get excited about, but others I liked included Kimbra, Gossip, Santigold, and Example.

Photo by Karen Roe

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Landscaping with Pallets

I'm normally terrible at taking photos before I start a project, which is always somewhat disappointing because then I don't have a reminder of how far a garden or any other project has come since I started it. So this time I'm going to try to show the start as well, and while it might not be pretty, hopefully it will at least be interesting to watch a guerrilla community garden changing and taking shape.

So this is the view as it was on Saturday morning:

The closest garden box is ours, but I'll give more details on it another time.

We had decided to build a second entry point to the garden down at our end, and luckily someone pointed out that a ramp was far better for wheelbarrow access than the stairs I'd been happily plotting. So one friend did the major grunt work and dug out part of the bank to make a rough ramp.

But another friend and I were too excited to leave it at that, so we decided to build a retaining wall from pallets, which is the main building material at the site. So we cut a pallet into three sections of varying sizes and then dug a trench area for them.

We whacked them in place, chucked in some plastic lining and scoria, gravel and earth, and voila! The perfect start to our ramp and beautification of our end of the garden.

The same view, but with a ramp!

And the great thing about a community garden is that others continue to chip in. When I went to drop off our compost this evening I noticed that someone has driven in star pickets in front of the wall, and used some astro-turf that was lying around to cover it.