Upcycling My City Square Yarn Bomb

Upcycled Yarn BombMy friend Claire asked if I could make her a scarf out of my City Square yarn bomb. The piece was quite grubby when it came down and some of the stitches had been cut through (a hazard when removing a yarn bomb with scissors, even with the most careful handling).

I found ten whole squares of the same motif, hand washed them with some liquid soap and stitched them together in a row. I backed the crocheted strip with fleece to make a nice warm scarf. That’s 26 cm of the yarn bomb successfully upcycled. Only 368 cm to go!

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Illegally Dumped Rubbish

Not long after the two television sets appeared on my street, an assortment of sofas, tables and chairs were also dumped. Unfortunately, it rained on and off that week so the unwanted furniture was quickly rendered unusable.

Yellow tape appeared round all the offending items, stating “Illegally Dumped Rubbish – Under Investigation”, which just made the unsightly pile of junk even more of an eyesore.

I’m very grateful for my free TV and my free heater, but I do think that if you set something out on the kerb, you have a responsibility to bring it in again if no one takes it. There’s no excuse for just leaving rubbish on the street because the City of Melbourne will collect hard waste for free once a year, you just have to phone to arrange a collection time. Perhaps they should put more energy into advertising this, instead of plastering yellow tape all over the place.

The unwanted furniture on my street has since vanished and all that remains is a torn off strip of tape fluttering on the ground. It was so ironic, I just had to take a photo.

Earthship Daylesford

At the weekend I moved in with a new HelpX host in Sailors Falls. The name of the town was definitely an attraction. It sounds like the title of a Daphne du Maurier novel; the kind of place where you might fall in love with a rum smuggling pirate. Sailors Falls is in an area of Victoria that’s renowned for its New Age, alternative atmosphere – so says the Rough Guide!

My host, Ostii, is a part time yoga instructor, full time eco warrior. He runs early morning yoga classes from his living room but is taking a two week break at the moment. I’m a little disappointed. I like the idea of being awoken to the gentle sound of om-ing first thing in the morning.

On Sunday we went to Daylesford tip to help build the wall of an earthship. An earthship is a ‘radically sustainable home made from recycled materials’. The wall in Daylesford was started when earthship pioneer Michael Reynolds came to lead a workshop in their construction. Since then, a dedicated group of volunteers has been adding to it. It’s labour intensive work: the wall is made from discarded tyres packed with sand. Tyres are the material of choice because they can’t be recycled and there are ever growing mountains of them in tips around the world.

At first I wondered why the group at Daylesford tip even bothered; they’ve only got planning permission to build a wall and not a full house. They’re so determined to do it properly, packing the sand right into the tyres, filling up every gap, even though they know their wall will never have to support a roof. But as I listened to them talk about the importance of environmentally friendly building methods, I began to understand their motivation.

It is notoriously hard to get planning permission to build an earthship (although one of the Daylesford volunteers told me that Brad Pitt managed it when he was supporting the people of New Orleans after the devastating Hurricane Katrina) but nothing will ever change if nobody builds that first wall. One day, someone might see the wall in Daylesford tip and it might change their idea about what they think a house should be made of. It might inspire them to build an earthship themselves, or to build something, anything, out of reclaimed materials. It might just interest them enough to tell a friend. So the wall has to be well built and not sagging from incorrectly placed or packed tyres, otherwise who will bother to stop and stare and realise the potential?

That evening, a friend of Ostii’s told me that there was an earthship in Fife, which is where I’m from. I texted my mum to let her know because I thought she might be interested. I got a reply straight away to say, yes, it was in Craigencalt, an ecology centre a couple of miles from my house where my brother used to work. Apparently he knew all about it. How about that? I travelled half way around the world to find out about something that was practically in my own back yard.

Gumnuts and the Scourge of Blackberry Bushes

Given the title of this post, you might think that I am going to tell you about another favourite children’s book. But no, I actually want to talk about these peculiar looking knobbly things which I spotted in a bowl in the kitchen the other day. I asked Karoline what they were and she told me they were gumnuts from the gum trees in the garden. She had collected some to see if they were ready to give up their seeds.

Australia has big problems with non-native plants that have been introduced and, away from their natural environment which keeps them in check, have spread like wildfire, choking out the native plants. The seeds of gum trees are very fine, those little hair like things that you can see around the gumnuts, and it’s difficult for them to penetrate the thick European grass to implant in the soil. Karoline and Peter collect seeds from their gum trees and give them to volunteers who grow them in plant pots. The resulting seedlings are returned to Karoline and Peter for them to sell locally. It’s cheaper than buying young gum trees from a nursery and the added advantage is that these seedlings are ideally suited for the local soil. Because not only are there hundreds of species of gum trees, but even within species there are genetic variations which means that seedlings from local trees will fare much better than seedlings from the same species of tree from another area of Australia.

As well as being involved in this tree planting scheme, Karoline is also a member of the local Landcare Group. There are Landcare Groups all over Australia, run by ordinary members of the community who care about the local environment. Karoline’s group recently received funding to help clear the blackberry bushes from an area of land along the creek. This is because blackberry bushes, an entirely inoffensive, even welcome addition to a British garden, are a scourge in Australia. They spread rapidly over large areas forming impenetrable thorny thickets which wreak havoc on native vegetation. The term blackberrying here does not mean picking some delicious fruits to make jam, it means tearing out and destroying blackberry bushes. That’s right. In Australia blackberries are evil. It takes some getting used to.

Karoline told me, and I believe that she’s right, that the area where she and Peter live has benefited from the arrival of humans. They’ve reintroduced native vegetation, removed weeds and generally made sure that the land is at its best. The one bit of inadvertent disruption they have caused, through building dams to provide the properties with water, is an increase in the population of wild kangaroos which now have a plentiful supply of water to drink.