Monday 24 November 2008

time out

gazing at this most delicious of roses i often wonder why David Austin named it 'Jude the Obscure'. despite adoring red roses in my misspent youth this delicate buttercream rose with its rich applebutterrose fragrance is now quite my favourite

if i were the Little Prince this is the one rose that would be blooming on my tiny planet...

it dawned on me too that even though i can make lovely marks on cloth using leaves and plant dyes it would be nice to be able to splatter about with watercolours and make marks on paper resembling what i felt about the rose rather than the cyclopean image that is produced by the camera (nice though that is)

so when a watercolour workshop was advertised by the Art Gallery of South Australia recently i signed up. led by Arthur Phillips  it began at the Gallery (in Adelaide) and then wandered up to The Cedars near Hahndorf in the Mount Lofty Ranges for the second day.

where we pottered about happily on the property now owned by the grandchildren of South Australia's best-loved watercolourist, Hans Heysen. his purpose-built studio is pictured above.

i spent the day happily settled by this lovely pond, puddling watercolours on my page, with Arthur making the odd friendly noise of encouragement. i won't sear your eyeballs with the result. suffice it to say the indulgence of taking a day out from work (which given i work from home isn't easily left behind) to spend four hours observing the light changing across a small pond, watching the zebra finches bathing and hearing the frogs chirpings cease every time they were in danger of becoming a reptilian lunch was truly good for the soul.

and it's good to be a student every now and then...constant teaching is a bit like pumping water out of a dam...sooner or later there's nothing left [unless it rains]

i had a fabulous day but jonniecat didn't give a hoot...

Wednesday 19 November 2008

how do you bury a cow?

our lovely if slightly mad Jersey GinGin breathed her nembutal-assisted last yesterday afternoon, after a ten-day long battle to survive being bitten by a brown snake.
we'd been hopeful, given seven out of ten large animals have been known to overcome the venom. our vet administered intravenous vitamin C (considered best practice for cattle) and we lugged honey-water and food to her a couple of times a day.

but yesterday morning she gave me a sad weary look that indicated she'd had enough. drinking was becoming a struggle and she couldn't even get a wad of cud up to chew.
so rather than leave her to gradually fade away covered in a million insidious flies, we called for help.

if i'm ever struck with the big C (not the vitamin) or other debilitating condition and if it comes the time when there's no hope for recovery and everything is ghastly...i hope somebody calls the vet to me too. intravenous nembutal seems a fairly gentle way to depart on the next big adventure.

later that evening all the other cows gathered around, singing a low and mournful song. this morning i buried her. so i can tell you now how a cow is buried. one spade-full of dry earth at a time. it took me an hour and a bit. mounding up, as opposed to digging down, given the bone-dry state of the land.

worst of it is, the next big wind we get will probably undo my work...dry dusty soil doesn't have a lot of staying power.   

Sunday 16 November 2008


my first thought on being tagged (by Darlene) was of the "oh dear, must i?" variety...however after a calming cup of tea i'm going to 'fess up. here goes, then.

seven little known facts about me...

1. english is not my first language
2. my favourite stitch is running stitch
3. the only athletic event i have ever won was the egg and spoon race in Grade 3 at Shelford Girls Grammar (i still have my blue ribbon)
4. when i was little i wanted to be an Indian (not the subcontinental kind, but the First Nation American kind who rode palouse ponies bareback)
5. i write poetry....but each poem takes at least three years to edit to my satisfaction
6. the new crescent moon (known in our family as a "cradle-boat moon") is my favourite
7. i abandoned dreams of a thespian career after being cast as the witch in three consecutive productions at school (there seemed to be few other roles for one of dark skin and dark hair)

and now to pass on the baton

over to you!

oh, and in case you're wondering, the picture above shows my dog Kip doing what she does best...bringing in the sheep

and a postscript... with thanks to Helen (see link above) who worked out what the system was despite my completely forgetting to post the instructions. silly me. here they are (copied from Helen's page)

The rules of this Tag are:

1. Link to the person who tagged you.

2. Post the rules on your blog.

3. Write seven little known facts about yourself.

4. Tag seven people at the end of your post and link to them.

5. Let each person know they’ve been tagged and leave a comment on their blog

6. Let the tagger know when your entry is posted

Thursday 13 November 2008

heysen exhibition

it's been a bit of a roller-coaster ride here this week....beginning with sheep-shearing (still haven't finished pressing up all the wool yet...nine bales and counting), then frocking up for the 'petroglyphs' performance....then another farming challenge as our Jersey cow, Gin Gin was bitten by a snake (lots of nursing still required, but seems to be on the mend) and this morning the discovery of a cracked pipe (part of the main irrigation system). bit of a mixed bag, all in all.

so it was with some delight that i accepted an invitation to attend a media launch at the Art Gallery of South Australia today.  the 40th anniversary of the passing of the artist Hans Heysen is being commemorated with a truly magnificent exhibition of his work.

i found the picture (above) of his wife working at her sewing particularly delightful. 

not only did Heysen have a sure hand when it came to painting, he was also a conservationist with a passion for eucalypts...purchasing pockets of farmland in the Mount Lofty Ranges in order to save his favourite trees from the axe. if you can't make it to South Australia to see this exhibition in person, at least buy the catalogue by'll be guaranteed hours of happy browsing and dreaming 

Tuesday 11 November 2008

interior design new york...

i'd been wondering about the rush of enquiry from north-east USA and i think i may have worked it out...found a friendly article on my work here 

there's a bit of poetic license here and there, but no more than usual...

Sunday 9 November 2008

it's an ill wind

when i was a wee thing one of my favourite books was "Little House in the Big Woods" by Laura Ingalls Wilder. Pa (her father) was often quoted as saying "it's an ill wind that doesn't blow somebody any good". i was minded of this today.

my mother (a pretty impressive gardener with all fingers in green, not just the thumbs) had coaxed a crimson flower from a recently acquired tree paeony. sadly a vicious toddler tornado decided to rip off all the petals. not to be outdone (and knowing my propensity for making strange brews) Mama diligently gathered the petals for me.
here's what they did when i wrapped them in a fragment of silk...

pictured: fresh petals on the petal-dyed silk. to see the original flower in all its glory, visit the blog of the dedicated gardener here

Wednesday 5 November 2008


this evening i had the pleasure of watching my favourite dance company "Leigh Warren & Dancers" perform in a return season of petroglyphs, which premiered in 2005 (and was the first of my costume collections for the company)

costumes hang in the space, some to set the scene, others for on-set changes

it's fantastic to see one's work come to life on the dancers' bodies. this work is particularly moving as it is performed in promenade with the audience milling about between the dancers - somehow it feels as though one is assisting at a ceremony (and the music, by Australian composer Brett Dean, is fantastic)

here's a bit of the 2005 version

Sunday 2 November 2008

ecological day - a thought

now i'm NOT trying to upset readers from the sub-continent or be culturally insensitive...but here's a thought. if the plastic non-biodregradable rubbish that drifts around India were instead collected and used as a building material the environment could become much more pleasant for all concerned.

just as straw and old rope is traditionally mixed with mud to give strength to adobe housing, so too plastic could be shredded and mixed with mud to give strength to mudbricks.

salvaged plastic waste could also be used to stretch concrete when pouring concrete slabs. admittedly neither of these two solutions is ideal - but images such as that above are common in India. the advent of plastics pushed the traditional recycled paper packaging (that Asia had down to a fine art) aside. the streets of Indian villages and cities abound with scenes such as the one pictured.

and yes, I am aware that Australia doesn't have all the answers either. here at Hope Springs we try to re-use, recycle, re-invent or reclaim as much as possible but there are still too many things that do end up heading for the landfill.

plastic waste is an insidious problem....and apparently at least 3/4 of the worls's crude oil is guzzled by plastic production. i say wrap your goods in folded bags made from old telephone book paper, avoid plastic as much as possible and direct the few oil reserves we have left to transport needs rather than packaging...