Monday, January 31, 2011

Backyard textures

In the backyard this morning, I've been shoring up the plants for another 40 degree day, squeezing pots of herbs in underneath the table to give them shade, setting up the picnic umbrella over the trug so my seedlings don't fry and watering in the early hours so it has a chance to soak in rather than evaporate. It's baking out there, even at 9am, but the gorgeous morning light made me notice the textures of the garden.
 The wall of our next door neighbour's garage makes up part of our fence and the mineral blue of the bricks makes it one of the prettiest parts of our yard.
 The hairy leaves of the new cucumber plants make me itchy just to look at them, but the fast unfurling of the new leaves makes me feel like I have greener thumbs.
The clotheline is old, with fraying yellow rope holding two of the arms in place, but I love the rusty colours and the strange warping you can feel under your hand when you turn the handle.

 The leaves of the middle plant feel somewhat prehistoric, as if dinosaurs brushed past leaves like these many, many years ago.
Our poor lemon tree. As old as the house itself and infested with gall wasp, but still trying valiantly to fruit and flower every year. By the time they ripen, the lemons are dessicated inside and only good for zesting.
 The rosemary at the laundry wall has gone from demure shrub to riotous bush in six months. It's pushed over the outdoor tap and we lose loops of hose behind the fragrant greenery. Whenever I water, I have to wrestle with the rosemary and end up smelling like Sunday lunch at my grandmother's.
 The curly leaf parsley is someone else's lost project, buried beneath a cacophony of ugly, miscellaneous plants. It went to seed a few weeks ago and is now threading through the rosemary bush.
 New shoots on the ivy that covers the garage. Somewhere in here there are the previous tenant's Christmas lights, prayer flags and children's toys. I think they hold the garage up.
The weather beaten picnic umbrella that is now shading the trug's seedlings. It lifts out of its base whenever there's a breeze ripping through the backyard and spirals away. I've shoved some of the wood sticks into the base with it to try and hold it in.

Friday, January 28, 2011

Getting screwed with one's pants on

Well, there's my best-laid plans down the toilet. My loathing for university HR and bureaucracy knows no bounds.

Monday, January 24, 2011

Oh, book proposal, how you frustrate me

It's now the tail end of my leave and I'm gearing back up for work, trying to get some things done, mostly so  many weeks from now someone, somewhere may want to publish more of my work and I can tell other people about it, and they may want to give me my job permanently. I've been playing with this book proposal all week. I've finished the sample chapter and am now trying to wax lyrical in the synopsis/rationale and detailed table of contents without saying 'this book' to many times and without beating myself up over using explains, focuses, details, explores, elaborates, furthers or concerns so many times.

I'm trying one Australian publisher before I send it over oceans and seas.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

There can be only one (thinning the seedlings)

I wandered into the backyard this morning, pulling off my socks so they didn't get wet on the dewey grass. I've been putting off examing the trug and pots for a little while because I knew I was going to have to start thinning the herd, so to speak. I'd planted several seeds in each of the holes as directed and it seems as if all of them sprouted, so the less viable options need to be thinned out so one will have enough space to grow. When they're so small, though, it's tough trying to decide which is the strongest, the fittest, has the best chance of life. Once you've pulled out the unwanted ones, what do you do with them then? I was tempted to throw the cucumber plants into the grass along the back fence to see if something will take root, but those things grow quicker than weeds.

 One of the beetroot winners.
 The beetroot losers. Those little red stalks seem like such a waste lying there.
 One of the two basil winners. I think the pot's big just big enough for two. Was tempted to leave a third but would end up suffocating out the chives,which haven't made an appearance yet.
The basil losers.
One of three cucumber winners. Actually, probably one of two. The third, which I replanted seems to have shriveled in the heat of the day.
The cucumber losers. Interesting how big these suckers are given that all of these seeds were planted on the same day. Last year, half the crop was levelled by a week of 40 degree days, a quarter were touch-and-go but rallied, and the last quarter took off without looking back (some of last year's crop grace the blog banner). Here's hoping today's survivors start sending off the creeping tendrils soon and start inching their way up the support sticks I've put in beside them.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Walking through the evening

Strange to call it evening, given how light it still was, but it was late and still light when LH and I went walking through the neighbourhood.

The creek is still coffee brown and full, and further down is rushing over the man-made weirs. A few weeks ago it was clear enough to see the stones at the bottom and fish amongst the weeds. If the weather stays gentle for a while, it'll come clear again.

 The plastic bags and other detritus in the weeds and trees will probably stick around for much longer. Maybe someone will organise a group for Clean-Up Australia Day. I was surprised when they didn't last year, so perhaps they like to leave the debris as flood marker, as flags for remembrance.

 Love the forethought of cementing in the water bowl for the dogs that visit the little duck pond park. The tap sticks though and needs to be jiggled and twisted before the water turns off. Probably wastes more than it saves in the long run, but it's sweet, nonetheless.

 Back into the urban/suburban sprawl, where a tiny, greying, ankle-biting dog stood his ground for just a few seconds before giving way to LH's own growled warnings. We'd unknowingly walked into his little dead-end cul-de-sac and ran the brave little dog gauntlet twice, backtracking to a side street that would get us all the way home.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

Surprisingly Australian

While on holidays I've been churning through quite a few library books. The problem here is that I've been through each of the libraries in my Council's catchment area several times and am starting to run short on the sort of books I know I'll like just from glancing at the imprint, the spine, the cover and the blurb (I judge, so sue me). It's a much more tedious process to choose something, anything, once I've exhausted all these possibilities so this week I snuck into the library in a neighbouring Council area and crossed my fingers that my old library card would still work. If they'd asked if my address was still the same, I wouldn't have been able to lie, so thankfully I got the surly librarian who didn't interact with me any further than putting out her hand for my card and handing me my receipt.

From my illicit visit, I came away with a nice sack full of books. I was especially pleased to find a copy of Jacqueline Carey's Naamah's Curse (the second in her third trilogy from this world). I've been waiting for it to come out in paperback so I can get a copy that matches the rest of my set, but in the meantime was very happy to read it, however it came. Also grabbed Steve Hockensmith's Holmes on the Range. Cowboys playing detective. Promises, promises.

But the surprise pick has been Marianne Delacourt's Sharp Shooter: surprising because it was both much better than its cover and Australian. Okay, it had the word 'Monaro' in the back blurb and on much closer inspection was published by Allen & Unwin, so I should have twigged onto the Australian part but surprising nonetheless.

I'd just inhaled Janet Evanovich's Wicked Appetite (and Sizzling Sixteen not long ago), so was after more of her brand of story: a feisty, flawed gal with an unusual skill or profession, landing in trouble and solving crimes. After a slow few chapters, this one delivered. Tara Sharp ticks the boxes on feisty and flawed (recently fired, mouthy, insane driver of said Monaro) as well as the unusual skill or profession (parlaying her ability to see auras into a social skills seminar series and consultancy business). The landing in trouble and solving crimes part just seems to follow. On top of this, the love interest is actually interesting and the acquired sidekick/bodyguard memorable (although no Lula in the laughs department). It's also set in Perth, which... well, it works. The cover is pretty awful (the orange and pink, the pouty kickboxer, the wheel-smoking Monaro and what's with the suited silhouette on the front and back cover?) but the inside rocks.

Tried the library catalogues and Borders this afternoon for the sequel, Sharp Turn, but no-one has it in stock. Onto the rest of the pile until I find it.

Growers' Market

LH and I cycled to one of the local growers' markets this morning. There's a complicated cycle of Saturdays, Sundays, parks and carparks that means I can never remember where the market is or when but I heard about this one on the radio.

We rode there along the creek cycleway, looking at all the signs of recent flooding: coffee brown murky water, plastic bags and other debris in trees, and all the grass halfway up the banks plastered down in one direction.

We did a lap of the stalls, picking up glasses of fresh squeezed juice and little samples of Victorian versus Tasmanian cherries, menindee sultanas, organic pistachios, sourdour chunks with olive oil and salad dressings, dried and fresh apricots and a gorgeous cup of pure frozen fruit mush.

The second lap we picked up these little bits of tastiness, somewhat limited by what we could carry and what wouldn't perish on the ride home. The cherries were especially tempting after missing out on them over Christmas. Without any markets on, the only cherries on offer were of the poor flavourless supermarket variety. These taste like blood-red sunshine.

The bag of cherry tomatoes, the garlic and the gorgeously vibrant spanish onions may end up roasted and served with whatever we're having for tonight's dinner. The beetroot, I'll roast as well, then skin and have with natural yoghurt or sour cream. The bread, ham and cucumbers have already been ravaged for lunch. The cherries and strawberries will be heaped into bowls and pinched from the fridge by the handful until they're gone.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Cymro and 20 Bees Buzz

Doing research on Ceridwen, her cauldron and the weird tale of Gwion Bach, I found The National Library of Wales. More particularly I found the archive of magazines made by Welsh prisoners of war between 1943 and 1945 when they were being held in the Stalag IVB camp near Muhlberg, Germany. Very curious artefacts. The Cymro ('Welshman') magazines hold such a strange concoction of articles, poems, stories and illustrations to keep up the readers spirits and national pride: 'Wales and the Welsh', 'Memories', 'From Knappin to Rugby', 'The Welsh Guards', 'Arthur's Gold'.

News on camp life is, tellingly and frustratingly, sparse. The small nagging reminders about choir rehearsal or hygeine are more riveting than they should be but the magazines are really from the inside looking out, by men dreaming of home. One person from each hut was responsible for collecting stories but in the second issue, dated May 1944, the editor encouraged all readers to contribute. "Don't forget to hand your articles, short stories, poems, critcisms, etc, to your hut representative. Also, carefully comb those letters for news from home. The rest of the Club wants to know it as well" (p.1). These aren't war diaries, which is perhaps what I was curious for. These are insights into what men think about when they're in captivity, what they hope for, what they think will keep their bunk mates going for another day.

The Library also has the only two issues of '20 Bees Buzz', the English weekly mag created by prisoners of Hut 20B in the same camp. The play on words delights me more than it should.

Three days in the rain (watching the flood)

I planted seeds three days ago and it has rained every day since. Looking out the back door over the damp and dreary yard, I saw these, emerging from the waterlogged trug. Elsewhere in my new, awkward wooden garden, even smaller seedlings with vibrant red stems are peeking up through the flooded soil.

The news in the north is looking far more grim, frothing brown water all over the television, the newspapers, my google homepage, the news sites. The photos and footage are not so much 'breaking news' as heartbreaking. Heads barely above the water. White knuckles holding onto trees and telephone poles. A family marooned on a disappearing white car island. 

Several times today I've seen the worst one: a baby with her name written in marker on her arm. Just in case. There are far too many just-in-case scenarios in that one picture.


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