Friday, 12 April 2013

A stroll around my autumn garden

It's mid-April - Easter is over and Anzac Day is still to come.  In Canberra, Anzac Day is the day you put your heater on.  Certainly it's been blessedly balmy and my garden is looking Very Autumnal, which is just delightful.

I am particularly fascinated by the autumn leaves.  I planted the trees not only with microclimate in mind, but also because I wanted a spectacular autumn show.   This year they have come up trumps.  Here are some of the leaves I found today whilst strolling around the garden:

From left to right: Ornamental pear (Pyrus manchuriensis), Honey locust (Gleditsia 'Sunburst'), Claret ash (Fraxinus 'Raywood'), Japanese Maple (Acer Palmatum 'Senkaki'), Chinese pistachio (Pistachia chinensis), and an unknown ash variety that was here when I moved in.  

I was also surprised by the delicate beauty of that ubiquitous bush, Viburnum Tinus 'Laurustinus'.  In my garden, these viburnums are wonderful, somewhat unappreciated work horses that cope with drought and shade, screen fences and add shape and structure without detracting from feature trees.  I recently discovered that Viburnums are also quite fire resistant, as my viburnum hedge recently prevented by house going up in smoke when my neighbours' garage burned down and took half the fence with it.  I lost two viburnums in the blaze, but the rest of the hedge, while singed badly, has come back better than ever.  They are no longer taken for granted!

Today, my viburnums were celebrating their understated gorgeousness.  

The cerise bud clusters open into dainty white flowers . . .

 . . . and, on the same bush as the flowers, were these deep blue berries.  What a remarkable plant.  

Elsewhere in my garden I have a glut of tomatoes - the last of the Tommy Toes and - finally! - the Romas are coming all in a rush.  

The ones in the yellow colander are today's crop.  I am picking the Romas as soon as they start to change colour and bringing them inside to ripen, as I am worried I will lose them if the cold weather comes to stay.  (It would be annoying to have a glut of green tomatoes: there's only so much green tomato pickle a girl can eat!)

And the old man Banksia has put out a prodigious amount of its bottle-brush flowers . . .

Every winter the black cockatoos come and there is usually a family of wattle birds residing there.

What a lovely rewarding thing is a garden.  That deep connection, so hard to describe, between human beings and the land, touches the very soul.  Have a happy day.


Thursday, 4 April 2013

Woohoo - my new slow combustion wood heater!

Things have been a bit topsy turvy here for a few days.  I have been moving shelves and their many (too many!) contents out of the lounge room to make way for a slow combustion wood heater.  Most of the stuff ended up on the dining room table . . . !

And here is my fire!

It's a free standing Turbo 10, which sits on a rather nice corner hearth that just goes on top of the carpet.     I chose this particular model of wood heater because it can go closer to walls than other models, and I have a small house where space is at a premium.  You can see the firebricks lining the cavity.  The authorised installer is just finishing putting the flue thru the ceiling and roof now - I can hear noises above me.

I have wanted a wood heater for a long, long time.  In fact, this longing is part of the childhood dream cottage - you know, the one with roses climbing around the doorway and a cat on the mat!  Somehow I never let it go, and now my cosy fire is a reality!  I'm inordinately excited - can you tell??

Up till now, I only had electric wall heaters that cost a fortune to run - and Canberra is very cold in winter.  We regularly get heavy frosts and overnight temperatures of between -5 and -10 Celsius.  Leccy is set to go up astronomically and I really had to do something to keep us warm without breaking the bank.  I am rather glad that my heating will no longer be at the mercy of the local power corporation.  I hasten to add that my wood heater will be 'green' - they tell me that wood heating is more green than electricity, which is generally coal-fired.   (Most of the pollution problems with fires in the past related to the burning of coal and coke).

I will post more pics of my lovely fire once the furniture is rearranged and everything is cosily in its place!   I still have to order wood, and put in a new power point, and . . . lots to do, so see you anon.


Monday, 1 April 2013

Cool denim throw rug

Ah, the simple pleasure of starting a new project.

This time, the decision on what yarn to use was also simple.

It was time to use up some yarn that had been hanging around for a while, namely, this lovely denim mix.  (I had bought this yarn for a project that never got past the planning stage.)

And after months of fiddly gingham, I was looking for a nice, relaxing project.  That's when I recalled seeing Bella Dia's Vintage Vertical Stripe Blanket!

Due to the flexibility of the pattern, I am able to use 8 ply yarn (with a 4mm hook) rather than the prescribed 10 ply.  10 ply or 'aran' is harder to come by here, I don't know why.

So that is that - I am embarking on another throw rug!  This time, I am planning to give the rug to my younger daughter, who adores the colour blue.

Instead of the constant colour changes the pattern calls for, I have decided to make the rug predominantly blue denim (denim goes with everything, right?!), but with a mixture of contrasting stripes in cool-toned colours.

For the contrasting colours, I have chosen mostly blues, greens and purples, but with the odd ruby, plum, cream and taupe:

Some of these yarns come from my stash, but I did have to go and buy some of the others this morning  . . . ironic I know, given this is supposed to be a stash busting project!  I particularly like the deep blue-green at the back far right.

Here is my Work In Progress so far:

I can't tell you how simply lovely it is just getting into the comforting rhythm of this pattern.   I will  post the finished project when the time comes!

Note: The pattern states that you should leave the yarn end for darning in later.  Hmm, that does not appeal to me At All.  You may have gathered from my gingham rug post that I am not a big fan of weaving in the ends all in one boring sitting!

So, I have come up with a way to circumvent all that end-weaving.  In this pattern, you stitch into the spaces between the stitches, leaving a little gap between the rows.  Because of this slightly gappy stitch,  I don't want the ends to be obvious after I have crocheted over them.  So, in addition to crocheting over them after turning, I am hiding them on the row after that, as follows:

You will already have crocheted over your two ends while completing the previous row (here, I crocheted over the cream and blue ends with the blue row).

Turn and commence the next row as usual (here, the next row is ruby red).

In the picture above, I have now almost reached the end of the ruby row, and here are the blue and cream yarn ends that I had crocheted over with the blue.

While the cream yarn end is not very obvious, the blue can be seen laying over the top of the cream row.  I want to hide this blue end.  So I am going to include that blue yarn end when I stitch over the blue treble.

In this photo, I have done my 'yarn over hook' in the ruby, and have picked up the yarn end.  I am about to put the hook into the space under the blue, to complete the treble (dc) stitch (in this pattern, you stitch into the spaces between the stitches).

On completion, the yarn ends you crocheted over do not show through the gaps in your work, and you don't have a massive weaving chore waiting for you at the end of the project - all you have to do is carefully snip any protruding ends!