Sunday, 30 June 2019

Hello Winter!

Winter (one of my three favourite seasons) has returned, and I'm glad. To be honest, it probably started a couple of weeks ago, but Australian winter is quite mild and sometimes we can slip into it without even noticing. I've observed that a lot of the time, only every second day is really wintry, alternating with lovely sunny days. Here's a montage to illustrate. The photos were literally taken one day apart:

So what do I love about Winter right now?

A cheese toastie and a bowl of soup are the perfect lunch in Winter. (The bread is gluten-free as I'm still unfortunately gluten intolerant.) I also like noodle soups, we've made pea and ham soup a few times, and I want to try making minestrone with gluten-free pasta.

Sharick will do anything to soak up some warmth in Winter, even to the extent of lying on my computer, which he's certainly not allowed to do! Not only does it exude warmth on its own from the CPU, but in the mornings my desk is in the sun from the side window. I'll have to try to wean him off it, because he's done all sorts of strange things from pressing the keys randomly!

Additional snuggling:

Winter is a dormant time, but a lot still goes on in the plant world. Even before they've lost their leaves, the buds on the deciduous trees are already forming. It's a relief to get up close to my fruit trees and see them, and know they're not dead, just asleep. The usual Winter life is there too: the mushrooms. Plants that get enough warmth, like my indoor succulents and chilli, still grow quite vigorously. And of course the combination of rain and sun causes the grass to go bananas.

Bonus photos taken last Winter. I no longer work near this park and I miss visiting it so much!

Thursday, 13 June 2019

Flashback: I Grew Potatoes!

Last year I grew potatoes. I mentioned it in one of my previous posts, but I didn't make a full post about it because I'd lost half of the in-process photos. Yesterday I found them again on my computer, plus it's the right time of year to start growing them again, so I thought I may as well share it now.

I started out with four normal potatoes from the supermarket. There are special seeding potatoes available from nurseries but I'd read that you can use normal ones too, so I decided to try that. (I felt like I was bucking the system a little bit!) I'd also read that some supermarkets use a sprout inhibitor spray on their potatoes to stop them from sprouting so they can be on shelves for longer. If that was the case, there was nothing I could do about it, but I got some unwashed potatoes as I thought they might be less likely to have been sprayed. Thankfully, it wasn't a problem.

I put the potatoes in an egg carton so they had plenty of air and didn't touch each other. It's best to put them in a place that does get sunlight or at least daylight, not in a dark place as I'd assumed before I started. I put them on my indoor plant trolley and waited. It took nearly a month before I saw any signs of change. When the potatoes sprout it's called chitting. As the sprouts grow bigger, the potato itself shrinks and goes wrinkly.

After about 2-3 months, the potatoes were ready to be planted out. (Apologies I can't remember the exact timelines as it was last year!) This would have been in early Spring, around September. I'm not sure if the sprouts are a good size or too big and I should have planted them earlier, to be honest.

I used a Tatey Bag that I bought from Digger's Club, but you can use a sturdy garbage bag, or a barrel or even an old tyre. The bag has drainage holes in the bottom. As per the instructions, I filled it halfway with compost, then folded down the edges of the bag for maximum sunlight.

I placed the potatoes on the compost and added a little more so they were just covered, with the sprouts poking out. It was a little difficult as the sprouts stuck out every which way and I couldn't decide which way was up!

The sprouts started to grow quite quickly and within a month or so I had some decent potato plants growing. The compost provided all the nutrients they needed, and I just needed to water them regularly. To get the maximum amount of potatoes, you're supposed to add more compost or straw regularly. This encourages the plants to grow taller and put down more roots and hence more potatoes. That's why the bag is folded over -- you can unfold it in stages as you add more straw.

The instructions say to keep repeating this process until the leaves start to turn yellow. Then it's time to dig up the potatoes. However, one day in late Summer (around February) I went outside and the plants were all brown! I wasn't sure if the plants were supposed to do that or if they'd just died. It was hard to keep them watered and safe from the sun as the summers here are very hot. To be safe, I decided to harvest them straight away. I started digging down but it was easier (and more fun!) to just tip out the bag and go through it to find the potatoes.

As you can see I got a small potato haul! By volume it's probably about the same as what I started with. All it cost me was half a bag of compost and a small amount of straw. The potatoes were very fresh and tender. I ate them boiled until just done and they had a different taste from storebought potatoes -- a fresher taste, though that's hard to describe for potatoes! I was also pleased that they were all different sizes. Supermarket potatoes tend to be all the same size, or there are normal size and mini size. It was strangely satisfying to have ones of many different sizes all together, especially the tiny fingernail-sized one!

I would definitely like to try growing potatoes again. Things I might do differently are:
✷ try growing 3 potatoes instead of 4. The instructions say you can grow up to 4 potatoes per bag, but I want to try less in case they were crowded last time.
✷ add straw more regularly. I wasn't very conscientious with this and only added two or three times. I'm sure I could get more potatoes if I did this more often.
✷ protect the potatoes in hot weather better. I could make sure I water every day, and move the bag to a more sheltered spot on very hot days.

It's almost time for the cycle to start again!

Friday, 7 June 2019

101 Things in 1,001 Days : Year 1 Update

I can't believe it's been one year since I started my second 101 Things in 1,001 Days challenge already. It feels as though I've done more than I did at the one-year point the first time I did the challenge, but I can't really be sure. I've completed 11 items -- that's ten percent. I guess it's not too bad. Here are a few highlights:

read Ulysses by James Joyce - this book is considered to be one of the hardest to read in the English language, and I can see why. It's so beautiful and complex that I couldn't even attempt to review it. I would never have read it if it weren't for the Reading Ulysses with Conner Habib course. The course is run once a year to coincide with Bloomsday, which (actually coincidentally) is next week, on the 16th of June.
UPDATE: The course is now available year-round!

finish making a blanket - yes, it's true, I have several blankets in progress, one of which I started when I was 14, and until a few months ago, had never actually finished one. If you read this blog at all, you'll recognise it as the one I made for my first solo art exhibition. I cherish it not only for the art in it, but the craft in it.

get another tattoo - as with my other tattoos, I decided to get one design at first, but then changed my mind in the end. I got a candle in remembrance of all the forgotten people, all the people who have had violence done against them, who should be here but aren't. I chose a rose, poppy and peony for the flowers. The artist told me she usually does one flower showing from the back as her signature style, and I agreed to that. It only took 3 hours, and, I have to confess, it hardly hurt at all.

watch 50 new movies - I finished this one very early, thanks to Netflix. I guess I'll increase it again next time, assuming we still have Netflix then!

do nanowrimo - but isn't NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month) in November? Yes, it is. But I still haven't finished my story, so I consider it to be 'In Progress'. I'm pleased to say that I'm up to the final editing stage though. After those few final tweaks, all that remains is formatting it (after figuring out how it needs to be formatted), creating a cover image, and then uploading it to some self-publishing site (after I choose which one/s). I can't say when it'll be done, but I'll be sure to let you know when it is.

go to 15 exhibitions - It seems I'll finish this point early, too. I've been to 12 so far, big and small, from paintings to jewellery. It's been very inspiring! I want to make it a regular occurrence, if I can. I saw an original Frida Kahlo! A Yayoi Kusama! And so much more.

go to 30 new restaurants - since Husband and I started having regular lunches with our foodie friend, this point has been easy to work towards. I/We have been to 25 so far, from Korean to Colombian.

donate 101 items (new) - I recently replaced a point I no longer wanted to do with this one. So far I have donated 15 items. 11 of them were books I gave to the Melbourne Central Little Library. I bought a box of 25 random children's books from an op shop for a bit of light reading, so there will be plenty more to donate soon.

Saturday, 1 June 2019

My April & May

I didn't post an update for April, because it wasn't very varied -- I spent the first half working, and the second half crocheting! I finished up my job just before Easter and put all my efforts into finishing the art piece for my exhibition. I wrote about that a few posts ago, so I won't go into a lot of detail here.

The exhibition came, and the exhibition went. I'm talking like it just happened, but I made it happen! I did all the work. (Lately I'm trying to be more aware of when I'm downplaying myself, and give myself more credit when it's due!) Perhaps I'll write more about the whole experience later. After the installation, I concentrated on other art projects, which I talked about in this post.

Yeah, I did that! And it's in a window in front of an art gallery!!!

What I've been trying ...
I tried Lucet braiding for the first time -- and I made it into a video! Lucet braiding is an ancient craft, known to be practiced by the Vikings and is probably even older. The fork-shaped tool creates a braid that's strong and slightly springy. Watch the video to see if I master the craft or not!
(The answer is, um, not really!)

What I've been reading ...
After waiting months, I finally began reading Lord of the Rings. It's on my 101 Things in 1,001 Days list to re-read this classic, and I was waiting until Winter (or late Autumn at the very least) to begin. I read The Hobbit first, of course, and I'm currently about to begin the Council of Elrond section, if you're familiar with the story. When I first began reading, I became completely obsessed with Hobbit foods and collected a large treasury of recipes. But that's a post for another time!

What I've been playing ...
I've been absolutely obsessed with a site called Chicken Smoothie since I discovered it at the start of May. It's just one of those sites where you collect things (pets in this case) and hang around on the forums. The average player seems to be quite a bit less than half my age, but I don't care, I'm enjoying it! It's run by a couple from New Zealand, and the pets and other elements are all designed by independent artists, so I feel like I'm not only having fun, but supporting a small business. I collected my first Unicorn yesterday!

Pet's name: Bunilla
Adopt virtual pets at Chicken Smoothie!

What I've been eating ...
I went to brunch at a French restaurant called Bon Ap' in Fitzroy. It was a simple spread, with bread, cheese and ham, but every element was such high quality and it came together into a memorable feast. Words can’t describe how wonderful it was.

Selections from Instagram
It seems my cat has started watching Youtube....