Wednesday, 30 September 2009

Tuesday again!

I am here in Santa Cruz,  trying to decide what day it is, let alone what time of day!
It is still Tuesday here,  and I arrived in Los Angeles this afternoon slightly before I left Sydney.  After getting through immigration, fingerprinted and biometrically measured,  I went on to San Jose,  so tired that I can hardly remember the journey.  I have been to Fiona's school and to the supermarket...  I have eaten dinner and and I can hardly stay awake!
More tomorrow....

Tuesday, 29 September 2009

Jonathon's place, yesterday (Monday)

Jonathon with guitar and books....

The kitchen is tiny,  but has this beautiful window with wrinkly glass... the view is the back of another building!

Dinner at Govinda's last night, and this morning I'm off to the airport, Los Angeles airport, San Jose and Santa Cruz!   It's hard to imagine that one can whizz around the earth so easily.

Monday, 28 September 2009

Nick's studio, yesterday

Sunday was a busy day again.   Nikki hired a car (a Rav4) and I drove to a hardware shop to buy concrete mix, paint, a ladder, and all of the paraphernalia needed to clean, fix up and make "liveable" Nick's new studio space.  We also picked up a second-hand door to replace the seriously damaged one that opens onto the back yard.

The car full of hardware goodies....

And then the work started....  painting....

the concrete patch along the edge of the room....

and then the door repairs.

By the end of the day,  we were all exhausted, I think.  I was anyway, but here are some of the results...  fuzzy photo,  but it suits the mood!  Nick,  in his newly renovated studio,  with Frank waiting for the next instructions!

Home again,  and Jonathon arrived, burrito in hand.   He and I went out for a coffee and a glass of wine while Nick continued with his assignment that is due this week!  This morning,  the car is returned,  Nikki is off to work,  Nick is on his way to artschool,   and I'm going to meet Jonathon shortly.

Saturday seems a long time ago...

The floor of the vestibule of the Mitchell Library building has a 4 x 5.5 m marble mozaic reproduction of the map made by Tasman in 1644.  The original is hand drawn on Japanese paper and was given to the library  by Princess George of Greece in 1931.  The mozaic was made to commemorate the occasion, but I don't know whether it was done at the time or later.

It's so difficult to photograph the whole thing,  but the compass is easy to show...

This is the floor that someone had told me about (thanks Cathoel)  and I'm glad I found the right place.  
I walked back to Martin Place to catch the train.  With fewer people than a week day, the city looked very sad.  The trees are spindly and sick looking... no so much from a lack of water, as we expect in Kapunda,  these are tall and spindly as if they are trying to get to the light.   They look so sad.

I found a weed.  Imagine anything surviving here!

Then down into the train station....

Martin Place...

Even the plaform was relatively deserted.   Such a  huge amount of infrastructure and trains still run every 10 minutes, even on the weekend.  (A bit different from our half hourly weekday trains and on weekends, many fewer.)  

Saturday, 26 September 2009

State library of NSW

I have come to visit the library to see the floor that a friend recommended that I find... and it is really beautiful.  I'm glad I came.
The floor has a map of Australia that is a mozaic all over the foyer... hard to photograph,  but I'll try later.
The library building that I'm in holds the collection of Australian history... from explorers and their lives to cooking books... a comprehensive collection, for sure.  (They also have free internet access.)

I can download the pictures that I took at the gallery and let you know what I've seen.  (It's good to sit for a while, after walking all over the city, it seems.)

First of all,  I went to visit the three Morandi paintings that are still in the same place as before.  I would have hung them with the lightest one above one of the others... it worries me to see them like this.  Individually though, they are good to see.  the earliest one is 1947 and the newest is 1952.

These three paintings are some of my favourites, and I can only wonder what sort of person sits at home painting the same pots and bottles over and over (though I have been known to paint bottles and pots as well... it's just that I do other things too.

There was also a great collection of prints from the romantic period,  and those are fantastic also.  I used to spend a lot of time with the 17th century Italian and Dutch prints in the print room of the Adelaide Gallery  so I felt very "comfortable" looking at these and imagining how they were done.

The following chunk of concrete reminded me of Nick.  He has one piece of concrete at home now,  but in fact this one reminded me of the pieces that I had to get rid of when he moved out and left me with them.  I had a whole house to empty by myself,  and the concrete was memorable.  (These pieces are very large... normal steps size...  they must weigh tonnes.

I also regularly visit this painting when I get to Sydney,  and it is all the more poignant as I am reading Marilyn French's history of women in the world.  This is a 22 year old woman in 1541, fairly wealthy and looking a bit the worse for wear... but this was the time when women had no control over their lives at all.  The lack of control presumably led to depression then,  just the same as it does now.

There were some interesting drawings by Lloyd Rees.  I never cease to be amazed at the detail in these drawings.  This one is done with ordinary pencil.

Then to Elioth Greuner's landscaapes in Australia...
This first one is fairly typical of his subjects... and I like the "backlighting" and how he manages it.  One of the French impressionists (Pisarro, from memory) did this sort of painting also, with the back lighting... and I really like the light as it is here...

This detail from a painting (it's a different painting,  below) shows the brush strokes... I can see them on my camera screen, anyway,  so I can see how he did this...  Van Gogh used some of the same last minute light brushstrokes too...  I'll have a play with some paint when I get home again.

Nick and Nikki's place in Sydney

Kapundagarden is becoming a travel diary for a while,  I think.
I am enjoying Sydney,  and with news of rain at home (Kapunda)  I'm hoping that the garden will be enjoying it all.  John will have less to do,  except clean the mud out of the back verandah where the dogs walk it in.

Back to Sydney...
Here are some photos of Nick and Nikki's place in what feels like the village of Kings's Cross.
The kitchen window...

...and the view of the fountain from the bathroom window....  you can hear the sound of it all night.

This is Frank (named after my father) who waits patiently at home for Nick to take him to the park.

Here, below, Nick is busy doing assignments and applying for an honours programme at The National Artschool.   He is doing his homework, with Nikki on the keyboard!

Last night, just as dinner was being prepared,  Nick found the time to do some running repairs to the plumbing!    Life's good, isn't it!

The sky in Sydney was a little bit dusty when I woke up  this morning... not dark,  but definitely orange coloured and the wind is gusty.   I think it was stormy in South Australia again yesterday,  and I suppose it was blowing dust inland again...  Broken Hill was the first place that the dust was so bad a few days ago. This is the same red dust that we sometimes see  (in Kapunda) the summer when a north wind blows... and it's often at this time of the year too...  the equinox seems to be when the winds are the strongest.

Friday, 25 September 2009

On the way to San Jose

Well,  Sydney so far!   It's good to catch up with family members (Nick, Nikki and Jonathon) here...  I'll have a few days before I'm actually "on the way to San Jose."

I don't often take photos of my journeys,  but I couldn't help but be impressed with the gulf coast of SA... this is the view that I had of Adelaide as we left to fly inland towards Sydney.

Further along, a photograph of the Murray River.  It seems so sad that the river is becoming such a disaster area.  It no longer runs out of the mouth any more and the water is so salty at the end of the river that it is being dammed to prevent the salt continuing upstream.... I wonder where the next dam will be.  The only solution now is to follow Derrick Jensen's plans (Endgame) to blow up all of the dams and locks that have ruined all of the rivers.

Once we were further across the country, there were still only glimpses of the land between the clouds.  I couln't help but notice how brown (red-brown) the land was, with only circles of irrigated green near channels of water being taken from the few rivers...  so sad.

And here is the obligatory tourist picture from the window of the aircraft as we landed.... the harbour, the bridge and the opera house,  of course...

Today I will go to the city, visit the art gallery and have a very self indulgent day.  I am already missing my "kapundagarden" and hope the rain has been enough to sustain the food growing there.

Wednesday, 23 September 2009


Today I went to my last meeting before my big trip!

This was the AGM for Carer's Link Barossa,  where I was re-elected to the board.  John and I stayed for lunch and then came home (via the fodder store to buy chicken pellets to last while I am away.)

This afternoon,  I prepared some paintings for three exhibitions that will happen while I am away.  John will need to deliver an assortment of work to different galleries... the furthest is in Burra.... and one of those will be transported on to Peterborough for  a "mental health week" exhibition.  This painting has been a challenge... it is titled "concrete buddha".

There are also three paintings for an exhibition about flowers....

... though in fact I made paintings of still life old bottles that I have here,  all with calendula flowers, as that's what is in the garden.
The third exhibition is all about still life subjects around the house...

... preserved tomatoes, vegetables and seeds saved from the garden.
(Sorry about the crappy photographs,  I need to find out how to take pictures of paintings...  but at least you can get the idea... the ones in three's are quite small anyway.)

Meanwhile I have been packing... and preparing to go out for dinner this evening... to the North Kapunda/Sir Sidney Kidman Hotel...  to catch up with my mother before leaving for Sydney tomorrow morning.

I am almost packed.

Tuesday, 22 September 2009

Food factory?

The photographs below are from a glasshouse that is built near here....  about half an hour's drive.  This glasshouse is about 16.2 hectares in area altogether and produces hydroponic tomatoes all year round.  This glasshouse is in Mallala.

I have just returned from a Development Assessment Panel meeting where an even larger glasshouse project was proposed.  There were to be 8 glasshouses, each 116m x 245m and 6.9m tall.  That is about twice the size of the Mallala project.   These glasshouses are made of prefabricated panels imported from the Netherlands.  It was to be heated,  cooled and ventilated artificially... reverse osmosis water to be used for nutrient carriage and tomatoes to be grown, picked and trucked to wherever necessary all over the country.
The meeting lasted for several hours.  The proposal was defeated.  I am exhausted.

Monday, 21 September 2009

Spring yesterday, storms today.

The weather prediction for today was for rain and storms.  This morning was ok,  cold,  but intermittently sunny and clear.   Suddenly, just after lunch time, the wind began and within little while the electricity went off.  It stayed that way for some hours.  The wind was loud and the sky was dark...

I drove to Freeling for a meeting and the roads were awful...  heavy rain,  lots of traffic and a whole lot of bicycles on the straight just north of Freeling.  The cyclists stopped...  not surprising... but they remained on the bitumen.   There were a few trucks carting rubble for road construction further south and returning trucks coming the other way....  chaos.   There are no passing lanes on that road.  It was chaotic, and I am pleased to say that no bicycles appear to have been hurt.  (This is the road where cyclists have been killed and accidents occur almost weekly.)   This is the road that will be used by people commuting to Adelaide when our big new developments are in place, and there are no plans for public transport.   The weather continues to be violent across the state.

There are more tiny lambs (very young) in one paddock near Kapunda... I wonder how they manage in the stormy weather.

After my meeting,  I stopped in the main street (Kapunda) to drop my library book back and to get some groceries at the shop.  I saw another sign of spring amongst the storm debris.  The grape vines in the main street are flowering and tiny bunches are there already.

Adelaide has had 25mm of rain.  I'm not sure how much we've had.  I'll add that information when I can.  The tanks overflowed!  (ed.  21mm)
Meanwhile I am finally getting some of the "last minute" things done before I leave here on Thursday.  Still on the list are the last couple of tiny paintings, glazing the bigger one,  a couple more meetings (Council and Carer's Link board) and some packing!  Easy peasy!

Sunday, 20 September 2009

Barossa spring

I spent yesterday in the Barossa (babysitting the gallery in Tanunda) but on my travels, it was obvious that spring has sprung in the valley.  Both of these photographs are taken at Seppeltsfield, the first of some old bush vines, and the second of younger vines supported on trellises.  At this stage,  some vines are much greener and leafier than others.  Some of this might depend upon position and microclimates,  but it is also depends on the variety of the grapes.
This is all early.  The spring has come about two weeks earlier than usual this year.

Here (below) are some very young vines,  all ready for the new growing season also.  In the background,  a paddock of canola.  It is flowering everywhere at the moment.

This pink flowering tree is right beside the road on the way to Greenock.  There are a number of these kinds of trees along the roads.  They grow where someone has thrown a fruit seed out as they passed.  this might be a peach or a nectarine,  by the colour of the flowers.  These trees often produce reasonable crops, for such little care or watering,  and people do stop and pick the fruit later in the season.

Along the creek, not far from the road, there are more purplish flowering bushes.  They seem to be only along the creek bed,  and they don't look like natives,  though I can't be sure without a closer look.

And on along the road...  the dog roses are beginning to flower as well.  These are rose bushes that have gone wild and are spread by birds.

The flowers are beautiful... very pale pink... not much perfume, but the bees love them.

Home again... and that cabbage flower is spectacular now.  It is about a metre tall and huge.  The other two photographs are of French lavender and the rue that is flowering as well.

Saturday, 19 September 2009

Farming, society, technology and the economy.

I spent a large part of the day sitting in the gallery in Tanunda.  It was great to see the paintings that I’d hung a couple of weeks ago.  They are spectacular in their size, and they are hung in a dim gallery with light shining on the paintings only,  all around the sides... this makes the whole experience quite different... one feels surrounded by a whole new environment... especially when the dimensions of these works are so large.  The biggest one is seven and a half metres long and nearly three metres high...  the scale is wonderful... this is not surround sound,  this is surround art.

While sitting in the gallery, and between customers,  I have been reading my “new” book about soil and how modern farming has destroyed it.  (“The Soil and Health”  by Albert Howard, 1947)

The whole natural system has been in some kind of equilibrium for thousands (perhaps millions) of years.  In the past,  this included people and and their work in the same way that other organisms are a part of the ecosystem.   Humans used to obtain energy from food and expend that energy as work, and like any other animal,  this needs to be in equilibrium.  

Albert Howard writes about the soils of England, and how they have been managed (or mismanaged) since the time of the Roman invasion. Before that invasion, farming had been relatively simple and more akin to subsistence farming of primitive peoples.  The Romans needed to produce vast crops of wheat for their soldiers.  This exhausted the soil.  Forests and marshland were cleared to grow more wheat. Fertility was reduced.

Later the Saxons introduced an open field system of farming in which farmers were required to produce extra food and income for taxation.  Each season the fertility used up in growth needs to be made good before the next crop is sown. All waste needs to be returned to the soil.  When compared with modern methods,  the yield is low, however, it is possible to maintain equilibrium, tilling the same land for many years.  There are examples (in India and China) where, in the past,  land has been cultivated over many generations without a reduction in fertility over many generations.  Even the methods of ploughing were less destructive to the soil than modern machinery appears to be.  Soil  inverting ploughs allow the oxidation of humus in the soil and the consequent reduction in fertility.   Estimates of fertility come from the number of bushels per acre of grain produced.

By the time of the middle ages,  the food supply was insufficient to maintain the health of the population.  There was unrest, disease and finally, the plague, an the population was reduced significantly.  Because of the lack of labour, much of the land was returned to grazing.  Soils regenerated and the increase in population and affluence attributed to the Tudor period in England may well have been associated with improved soil fertility.

Increasing population again led to the enclosure of lands and after the English revolution,  the landed gentry controlled the land, raised crops and livestock and became wealthy.  There was also a move to plant more trees to supply timber for shipbuilding.  This served also to improve the fertility of the soil.   A significant change during this time was for farming to cease to be a “way of life”,  but a means of acquiring wealth.  People who did not own land were compelled to work for wages or move to towns and earn money to survive.

The industrial revolution was produced by these people who were living in cities and towns.  Wastes from these city communities were diverted, at great expense.  There were additional demands for agricultural production also.  The price of wheat was regulated for many years so that workers and industrialists could afford to export their production at a profit.  Eventually,  in 1845, there was a disastrous harvest and a potato famine.  The price control was removed.  Farmers were no longer protected from price “crashes” either and when  a good year came,  their income was reduced.  Farmers found new ways to farm intensively.  Artificial fertilisers such as sodium nitrate and superphosphate came into use.  Feed was imported for livestock.  There was a period of prosperity that lasted until the great depression of 1879.

With competition from the “new world” and falling prices,  farming became less economically viable, the NPK mentality had replaced the “muck” mentality of previous generations.  Food production became costly, and food production was reduced until the outbreak of the second world war (and the submarine) threatened national starvation again.  After years of minimal tillage, there were stores of fertility in the soil, and grain crops were grown to feed people in Britain.  The production of agricultural products for profit and the need to exploit the soil has led to the destruction of soil fertility on a colossal scale.  

This exploitation of fertility is a transfer of past capital, and of future possibilities, to enrich a dishonest present.  The author (Howard) considers this is a particularly mean form of “banditry” because it involves robbing of future generations that are not here to defend themselves.

Nature supplies sufficient for primitive societies to survive, with only very small margins for error and very little surplus production.  However,  farmers are able to earn more profit by selecting a small variety of plants and animals and make these produce more intensively, often as monoculture.  This pursuit of quantity at all costs is dangerous in farming.  Lack of diversity in an ecosystem makes it vulnerable if conditions change.  All wastes need to be returned to the land.   Urban demand and the failure to return wastes to the land means a continual removal of fertility from the soil.  Having used up the fertility of the soil,  farmers have then gone on to transfer the stored up natural wealth from thousands of miles away...  guano, animal feed and manures, some of which has taken thousands of years to accumulate.  Fossil fuels that have taken millions of years to accumulate have been almost exhausted within 100 years or so.

In more modern reading,  Vandana Shiva (Soil not Oil, 2008) has discussed the three crises that we are facing... climate, energy and food.
She points out that the use of oil has produced climate change but that as this comes to an end (we are already experiencing unstable markets at peak oil) we will need to reinvent society, technology and the economy.

Physical work has been seen as degrading and replacing people’s effort has been seen as liberating them.  However robbing people of their productive capacity is not liberating, and there is no dignity in being treated as disposable.  

As we move beyond oil, it is necessary to bring people back into the economy and make human energy productive.   Making people redundant and replacing their work with energy from fossil fuel is not sustainable.  It is necessary to make changes to society, technology and the economy.

I hope that the transition to sustainable communities is treated with more urgency than it was in 1947.  However, when I read the work of these two authors,  it seems that, more than sixty years apart,  they are advocating the same changes to society, technology and the economy in order that we might live sustainably in our ecological niche.   This reminds me of Bob Dylan’s line “When will they ever learn?”

Friday, 18 September 2009

Friday... and pizza... and organic gardening.

Friday has often been pizza day here, and so it has been again this week,  this Friday, and the remains of the dough made anoher loaf of bread for the weekend.

This morning I went out to see how the garden was growing, as usual, and the most spectacular flowering in the yard was this Japanese broome bush.   I showed it the other day,  but it is in full bloom now.  Yellow is not my favourite colour,  but this is spectacular....

Below is the newest potato patch... I have shown it before,  but the plants are really going well now... most of them are up,  and they are all looking healthy.

I went to see the cabbage flowers again,  and it was doing well... but then I saw this kale plant about to flower also....

This is my favourite black kale (Tuscan kale) and it is flowering.  Even if some of them are cross pollinated and a bit suspect,  some will be black kale, for sure!!!  I never seem to get the hybrid plants that people threaten when you don't keep the parents sufficiently separated or at least covered...  but isn't this how wonderful new varieties appear?

Today I went to the shop to buy some butter (to make pastry for some pasties) and some coffee beans and matches... afterwards I went to look at the second hand shop in town.  I often look at their old bottles,  as I like to use them for still life paintings... subject matter.
I found two bottles (one Fauldings Eucalyptus oil bottle and an old ink bottle) and then I found an amazing book.  I haven't read it all yet,  but I find it exciting,  though a worry too.  It is called "The soil and Health."  It is by Sir Albert Howard , who has been considered the father of the organic movement.  He went to India to teach Indian farmers how to farm,  but learned more from them than he taught, apparently.

I have only begun to read the book,  but some interesting chapters are about the great depression of 1879,  the problem of increasing population, considered to be startling (having grown from nine hundred million during the eighteenth century to two thousand million at the beginning of the twentieth century) and in Chapter 10, about Soil Fertility and Human Health...  and I will quote....
"How does the produce of an impoverished soil affect the men and women who have to consume it?"
This book was published 62 years ago,  in the same year that I was born... 1947... and yet we are only now beginning to rediscover many of these ideas. The green revolution may not have been all that it was made out to be!
I will add several quotations presented at the beginning of the book...

"The civilised nations - Greece, Rome, England - have been sustained by the primitive forests which anciently rotted where they stood.  They survive as long as the soil is not exhausted." Thoreau.

"The staple foods may not cantain the same nutritive substances as in former times.... Chemical fertilisers, by increasing the abundance of the crops without replacing all the exhausted elements of the soil, have indirectly contributed to change the nutritive value of cereal grains and of vegetables....  Hygienists have not paid sufficient attention to the genesis of diseases.  Their studies of conditions of life and diet, and of their effects on the physiological and mental state of modern man, are superficial, incomplete and of too short duration.  They have, thus, contributed to the weakening of our body and our soul."  Alexis Carrel.

"The peservation of fertility is the first duty of all that live by the land....  There is only one rule of good husbandry - leave the land far better than you found it." George Henderson.

There are chapters entitled "The phosphate problem and its solution",  "The profit motive"  and "The utilisation of town wastes".... this might be interesting!

I will read the book.  I hope to find that there are not too many more "pearls of wisdom"  that we have ignored to our detriment.  My fear is that we could ignore them again!