Friday, January 30, 2009

Joost's edible rooftop - dissapearing

Corn, nectarines, parsley, bay leaves and a grand facade, from Joost's 'Greenhouse' roofgarden.

This photo was taken in December, the day I went to see the world Homeless soccer cup at Melbourne's Federation Square. I've only felt patriotic 3 times in my life, and this was one of them. To my left, regular Aussies cheering 'Go Mohammad!' , and to my right, just sprung into being, a temporary cafe/gallery/rooftop farm, created from discarded things by Joost, Melbourne's recycling floral artist.

Cecilia trying to spy on the honeybees

I went to Joost's Greenhouse again yesterday, its last scheduled day of existence. It had gotten though the 43.3 degree day with dignity. Some plants had obviously already done their job, and were looking forward to retiring, but there was still much deliciousness left - I figured It was now okay to gorge on the tiny tomato's, the parsley, and some silverbeet.
produce from the rooftop decorates the cafe. Note the irrigated background wall of strawberries

Its probably all deconstructed now, the bar stools and soil and plants gone...somewhere else.
That all these elements ever gathered here is a miracle and a dream.
Everything here was rescued from the rubbish bin. There were redundant fire hydrants as bar tables, banners for long-gone events had a new life as upholstery. Even the margarita glasses had a jam-jar type of background.
Cubbyhouse builders grow up, then do what it takes to convince the adults who run our city to let them build the worlds coolest cubbyhouse, one that pays for itself. Extreme Permaculture, without even bothering to use the world. Its something some people just know. Thank-you Joost.

Monday, January 26, 2009

Gardenpartying: Permaculture party for pot-plant wrapping

Paul Bongiorno, actor/actrobat/permie,
and Myriam Lewis, wall painting restorer

It was fun. It was delicious. And today was just the rehearsal. I got all these new ideas for how to make the next pot-wrapping party, Feb 15th, enchanting.

Illustrators know, every new thing needs a first draft. Parties too.

Sharon Macaulay the town planner, Sandy The Mosaic teacher/artist

Holding it in place with old elastic,
so we can straighten up the hessian stylishly before wiring it on.

Finished result, with dark and light pink gauze ribbon,
matching the hessian's pink stripe.

People went home poised to transform things, with some ready-cut hessian.
Of course you can't do something totally new in one go, by yourself (you can, but the odds are against it) . I'm looking forward to their photos.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

How to wrap plastic pots in Hessian

Someone requested the full instructions for hessian pot wrapping, so here they are:

Hessian-covered pot plant illustration by Cecilia Macaulay

If you have a Goth theme for your balcony garden, black plastic pots are perfect. But if you had some other theme in mind, they might be spoiling the party, visually, anyway.
But plastic does have its virtues: its cheap, light, keeps moisture better than terracotta, and, well, its already there. Permaculture is about finding ways to get What you Want from What You Have. Here's the tried and tested method for modestly covering your pots with hessian, for a harmonious Balconyscape.

First, you find the hessian. A quick trip to the yellow pages is always a good place to start, or make friends with a farmer.
$1 per bag is a fantastic deal, and thats about all they will ask for, for a bag thats already done its duty, hauling coffee or potatoes.
Canvas would work too, but I love the rugged earthiness of hessian, and the illusion it gives that the plants are just growing up out of nature. It smells wonderful, reminding me of my grandpa and his farm.

Cut strips so that they are as tall as the pot, with a generous overhang. Fold both top and bottom under, and place some wire under the top fold, to act as a 'drawstring'.

Get a mate to help you hold the hessian in place, while you secure it with wire.
Since pots are tapered, your fabric may need to be pleated here and there to fit around snugly.

Because it can be hard to get the 'draping' right the first time, for big pots I make a couple of loops of elastic to hold things in place and then twist the wire on last.
Make sure the excess fabric at the bottom is tucked under neatly, with its 'hem' raised clear from the drainage holes or pooled water.

The overlap at the top will also be carefuly tucked in. Tighten the wire and twist the two ends together. The result is like a trampoline spring cover - it doesn't touch the soil and get wet, but hides the black plastic rim.
If you like, cover the wire with twine or ribbon, or leave as is. Rusty looks good with hessian.

They were designed for my undercover balcony garden, but I now put them out in the rain too. Eventually they will compost down to soil, returning to their original home after what was, you must admit, a full and glamorous life for a scrap of humble fabric.

If you are in Melbourne on Australia day (Monday 26th January) you might like to join us for a pot-wrapping party and amusingly high tea. If you actually do a pot-covering project, Id love to have a report and see some pretty pictures.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

how to cover a black plastic pot in Hessian

If you want to give your tired old pots a Happy New Year, this might be the way to go.
I just drew this picture today, to go on the invites for my Australia Day Garden Party. Does it work? All feedback is useful (a bit more contrast between the pot plants and background plants would have been good...)
For how to wrap pots, look at my pot-wrapping story. Has anyone got any other good ways to change the look of pots for plants? I'd love some more ideas.

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Help my doves and I - dovecote and cage to create

Design by Tage Anderson, Denmark. Photo by Bent Rej

I just got two doves, beautiful just like angels are beautiful.
These aren't my doves.
I can't show your my doves photo, because they are in a cage so tiny its kind of obscene.
They have been there two days already.

Does anyone in inner city Melbourne have a large bird cage they can lend me short-term?
Or is there anyone who would like to join me in making a proper structure this week?

I have just bought a metal arch structure, which I plan to cover in dovewire. Of course, I will settle for chickenwire.
But there is a terrible and clever cat after my lovely doves. I must not fail in making the door secure, but I don't even know how to make the door a door.
As always, I'm up for bartering my Permaculture skills for practical construction help ( balcony design, container gardening, decluttering, blog creation, Japanese translation, sign writing...)

Not that I'm clueless about cage making.
Once, in Tokyo, I came up with 19 bunny hutch designs. My Japanese rabbit came up with 20 methods of escape.
Here is young Cecilia, trying to figure it all out

Tokyo 1998 Cecilia and Muffley

Cage design Tage Anderson, Photo Bent Rej

The aim is that after spending a few weeks in the big cage, they are happy and know that my garden is their home.
Then they can fly free, and return to their raised, cozy dovecote when they wish. Thats the next construction job.

Dovecote by Joe Polaischer, Rainbow Valley Farm New Zealand. Photo by Cecilia.

Myriam Lewis my wondeful WWOOFer, from Holland, packing the ornaments from the 'tree' today.

The dead cherry tree in my courtyard gets plenty of costume changes. Post for a raised dovecote could be its next incarnation. Its lustourous bark is very beautiful, suited to refined gentleness of these birds.

If you have any good dove ideas, my birds and I would be glad to hear your comments.

Sunday, January 4, 2009

Australia Day Garden Party Invitation

Cecilia's balcony garden, with black plastic pots all dressed up in Hessian

I've planned a fun day for Australia Day next, next Monday afternoon (Jan 26th).

Here is the program
*Learn the tricks to cover any unbeautiful-yet-useful pots with hessian (see below for how-to)
*Learn how to set up sucessful productive worm composts, and trade composting stories.
*See a passive water catching balcony garden in action.
*Afterwards, enjoy making connections with other Creatives over an amusing Perma-culture high tea, professionally catered for so that we can relax with our Devonshire scones and cucumber sandwiches. Petticoats optional.
Would you like to join us? If "Yes" please email Cecilia(at) with some information about yourself, and I will send you info in return: where, what cost, what to bring and what you might take home. Next you will be hosting a creative day for your own neighbors, and before long, the world will be transformed. We will have a similar event for Valentines day Sunday, Feb 15th.

Cecilia's living room, and the pre-transfomation courtyard
(sunday 25th we are holding a permablitz dovecote design day. Come!)

A nook of Cecilia's Vast Inner-city back garden, with compost and composter

Fold the hessian and thread through wire to act as a drawstring.

When you pull it tight, the hessian stays out of the wet soil, yet it covers the black pots rim impeccably.

You can do this without coming to a workshop. But you probably won't. Humans are copying creatures, and the best way to do something new is to sit beside somebody who is already doing it. Then hold workshops of your own for your mates.

Balcony fishie went for walkies

I underestimated my new goldfish. Day Two in their ingenious passively-filled new pond, and they decided the in-flow pipe for water was a good place to hang out. Then merrily they swam away from their pond, into the downpipe, and....
Well, the didn't come home that night.
I kept running to the garden downstairs, to check for something flapping and golden. Nothing.

One whole day fishless and perplexed, and the next day, they are back, swishing around like there is no tomorrow. Which would'nt really worry these rascals at all.