Sunday, September 28, 2008

Technoratty at the 2008 Fringe Festival

Technoratty illustration by Cecilia for the Fringe Festival 9x5 auction

Here is my contribution to the 2008 Melbourne Fringe Festival. It took me almost three days to work out how to draw it. Lots of non-drawing things happened in those three days though.
Coincidentally, one of them was inadvertently making rat soup.
As part of preparing for a long travel, I decided to eat everything in my cupboards. This lead to some color combinations that an illustrator really should know not to do.
Purple cabbage and chicken wing soup.
It was a soup so ugly, it could only be eaten by candlelight.
Delicious though.
"Whats that rat-thing in the soup?', asked my mother. Blue-stained chicken.

But my technological Rat illustration, its pretty nice. The drawings created by the other artists, the real professionals, they are are amazing.
Click here to see the exhibition of rat illustrations of every level of quirkiness, sexiness, and wit. But if you vote, vote for mine too, so I can feel part of the gang.

Thursday, September 25, 2008

Making sexy time for peaches

Making sexy time for peaches
The problem with being a groovy urban peach is that on the seventh floor, you miss your chances for wild dating. The pollinating bees that are meant to come and rustle about in your blossoms just don't think to come up that far.
Bees rustling up blossoms
No bees may mean no fruitfulness, no peaches for summer. So my sister's new balcony peach tree got to spent a day hanging out with a lovely white bush in my back garden, one already popular with the bees. I sent mine out too, just for company of course - a first floor balcony pulls the bees no trouble.

White butterfly with white blossoms, playing hide and seek
Dog walking has been a rich source of single urban mingling, but I'm thinking, from now, productive balcony gardens might open up a whole new field of neighbourly connection.

Sunday, September 21, 2008

Container Peach trees for balcony gardens

My sister Katie and I went to Plantmark, the wholesale plant heaven, to choose the ingredients for the edible balcony garden she is creating.
When she saw these densely-blossomed peach trees, she said we really should get them.
I said we really shouldn't.
I said those traditional fruit trees like peaches and apples are prone to too many diseases, too much trouble, just stick with figs and persimmons. Trusty and delicious.

Katie DeAraujo with little
strawberries, passionfruit, peach & lime, herbs & salad, and more.
And a very hungry sister taking the photo, wondering about lunch...

But I took another look at how beautiful they are, remembered how wonderfully, presumptiously wrong I have often been about things I've not tried, and dashed back for them at the last minute.

Enlightened by this site on container peach tree care, I'm starting to think peach trees may be HAPPIER grown in balconies: They will be under close surveilance, so can be tended swiftly and intimately when predators and ailments strike. The fruits and blossoms are safe from possums. You can control their water, so it recreates their conditions in their native China: A deluge once a week, with water sitting in a tray, then let them dry out a bit till next time. Liquid Fertilizer every 10 days, so you could make a rhythm of it and feed them after each Alfresco Sunday Brunch.

I've got some neem oil to organically treat the leaf curl fungi that was (predictably) having a go at some baby leaves. We will just take it on as a challenge. But there is one problem: how are the bees going to make their way up to the 7th story and make sure the pretty miss gets pollinated, so we can enjoy her peaches?

And peach care advice gratefully welcomed.

The bike repair joint at CERES , with its celestial protection construction.
We popped in to the wholefood cafe, by the Merri Creek, for a delicious late lunch, and enjoyed strolling though the perpetual CERES creativity. Plenty of healthy blossoms here

Tuesday, September 16, 2008

How to create a Vertical Garden, plus Gallery of Quirky Green walls, Tokyo

Friendly little Vertical Garden by pioneer Patrick Blanc

Somebody wants vertical gardens in their building, and has given me the opportunity to make it. Now I have to figure out how its done, double-quick, and find a capable co-creator before the chance disappears. So here is my research on how vertical gardens of all kinds and costs can be created, with a few photos of green walls that got me excited on my last trip to Tokyo.
First you ask Patrick Blanc, the enthusiastic Frenchman who got it all started. He generously shares all he knows in this ABC Gardening interview with Patrick Blanc
Part of Cecilia's design for Grandma Monica's Permablitz 2006:
no-bend vertical(?) veranda gardening.

According to Patrick, they are lovely eco-systems, becoming the home for all kinds of creatures, even frogs. They purify and ionize the air, making the area quiet and calm. Indoor gardens use plants that thrive in low-light forest floor ecosystems, and can have supplementary lighting.

They are made from a 1cm thick PVC sheet attached to a structural frame, with an air gap from the wall. On top of that is stapled a polyamide felt, which becomes the growing media. Plants are slotted in here, letting their roots run over the fabric, sometimes for meters, instead of in soil. Every three hours, the automated watering system turns itself on, delivering the plants their food and drink in the one go.
Each square meter of garden takes 3 liters of water per day, says Patrick. He got quite excited when he spoke about the work he is doing in the Middle East, where he talks about how he can run his gardens of the water discharged by air conditioners, taken from the air. "Usually people eat plants, but here, plants are eating people, living of the evaporated water from our breath".

He delights in live-giving things. That must be what gave him his pioneering energy.

He says they don't have to be expensive, that the frame is about $500, the plants about $350, and the rest of the cost is labor.

You can see commercial green walls made by the Aussie Vertical Garden creators Fytowall.
They say complete walls can cost as much as $2,000 per square meter to install. They have spent years experimenting with what will work and what wont, and that is part of what you pay for.

Here are some samples I spotted in Tokyo on my last visit:
Vertical Garden in Omotesando, Tokyo 2007
with Cecilia triumphant on discovering the trick to the pots...

...Semi pots!
Irrigated individually,
and just think of the money you save on plastic.

Green Wall on a shoestring.
Ivy climes a mesh of net, sitting in regular pots on the ground.
If resourceful, you could almost make this one for free.

Earth-planted green wall with natural security system of rose thorns.
This could also provide petals for jam and salads, and rosehips for vitamin C.
Omotesando, Tokyo

ladders can extend the reach of your garden wherever you are.
A vessel at the top could gravity feed the lot.

Maybe underground car parks can just skip the cement render,
with lit plants directly into the soil as railway tracks do.

Their entire building is less than two meters wide,
but their garden aspirations are grand.
Dogenzaka, Shibuya

Morning glory shoots up from saved seed,
ravishing the mesh over this humble house in a few weeks,
then wanes as autum approches.
The mesh is rolled up until next spring.

I'm still trying to work out the connection between permaculture, being self-reliant, and vertical gardens.

On the down side, most city people only have to walk 10 steps to find a perfectly good bit of neglected land we could adopt and grow things on, for the asking. We don't need to go to the expense of gardens on walls. They are dependent on high-technology and fossil fuel (for lighting). They are only easy to harvest from at certain levels. They use chemical nutrients. The death of a pot plant is easy to get over emotionally, but a $4,000 dead vertical garden would take a greater psychological toll. Last but not least, I don't know how to make them.

On the good side, they bring green where no green has gone before. This can become ecosystems homes for critters, it can even give us the feeling we are growing our own food. It follows the permaculture principle of 'use vertical space'. If stage 4 water restrictions do hit Melbourne, the only gardens we will be allowed to water will be indoor gardens, so we had better start getting good at it.

If you can help with mine, I would be so pleased to hear from you.

Thursday, September 11, 2008

Non-Toxic AND Poetic: Persimmoned timber decking to hide the air conditoners

Cecilia Macaulay with Kaki shibu persimmon at Fuji Eco-Park Japan November 2007
Here I am using Kaki shibu, or bitter persimmon juice for the first time, to marinate my mushrooms. The mushrooms are timber, and the astringency of persimmon juice has been used for centuries by the Japanese to preserve wood, fishing nets, and other precious perishables.

The color deepens over 10 days, as the wood gets 'pickled'.

Here is persimmon juice come all the way to Elwood, Australia, to be part of our newly-completed Amazing water reclaiming Permaculture courtyard. The air conditioner and water heater rest in the shade of willow fencing and recycled timber deck, all tastefully finished in non-toxic, satiny persimmon juice. What was once a blot on the landscape is now a place for trays of delicious things, as food and wine is ferried from kitchen to courtyard table.

Here is the x-ray view: Water heater and air conditioners, their days of nakedness now at an end. Shaded from Summer sun, so they work more efficiently. This was an unasked- for Permaculture blessing, discovered as the landscape man researched how much ventilation they would need to work well under cover. I just wanted them out of sight, and moving them was too expensive.
I love the micro- garden that the Landscaper cut out of the bricks, so a lilac-flowering creeper can cover the willow, and blue-flowering rosemary release fragrance as you brush by. He thoughtfully arranged it to be irrigated with the waste 'white water' emitted from the heaters and coolers. Mechanical beings and Natural beings, taking care of each other.

The process all started with astringent persimmons, somewhere in Japan. Someone fermented them, and then the obliging guys at Fuji Eco-Park sent over a batch just for us.

Radiant Permablitzer Pauline Farrugia planes the discolored surface of some Recycled Blackbutt Timber (grown long ago in Western Australia) The markings are like a semi-precious stone, but it stains easily if unprotected.
Raimond Barbaro, Permablitz treasure, OnGuard

Raimond working with quiet passion, deep into the night.

What would we have done without Raimond? Thank-you for beautiful work, accompanied by your of witty wise conversations and observations. I will be thinking of you in your new life in Singapore, surrounded by an abundance of panting, willing airconditioners.

And of course, thank-you Permablitz, and all the creative, enthusiastic people that turned up to make the design real.