Saturday, September 28, 2013

In the garden...

The other day I spotted these lovely little visitors in the garden...

They were sunning themselves on the lawn. I had the zoom lens on but they were still quite suspicious and scuttled off into the underbrush for safety. I've seen them before, in different parts of the garden and they always bring a smile to my face when I see them... knowing we can provide a lovely environment for them... even Max >(*!*)< is fascinated by them and never goes too close (thank goodness) but watches them from a distance.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Urban Agriculture innovation...

Forget Monsanto, Industrial Agriculture and Factory Farming... the way of the future is about innovative ideas, movements and organisations such as food forests, city farms and farmeries! Urban Agriculture as opposed to Industrial Agriculture!

Back in August I posted about The Farmery on this blog where I also stated I'd written to the Mayor of Sydney to see if she would be interested in bringing the concept here. I received a prompt response from her office and was pleasantly surprised to learn that, although a different concept to The Farmery, the city was already on board with its own project - Sydney City Farm

I had in fact first come across the concept of bringing 'agriculture' to the city and urban farming a number of years ago and 'The only way is up' was probably the first article I read on the subject.

Today I was excited to hear of another innovative idea taking place in Seattle!
Image courtesy of the Beacon Food Forest website

The Food Forest is the idea of Harrison Design 'the landscape architect for this innovative project for the neighborhood of Beacon Hill, located in the heart of Seattle. The goal of the Beacon Food Forest is to bring this richly diverse community together in fostering a Permaculture Tree Guild approach to urban farming and land stewardship. The design of this seven-acre site provides opportunities for cultural exchange and understanding, for education and recreation. The Food Forest includes an Edible Arboretum with fruits gathered from regions around the world, a Berry Patch for canning, gleaning and the joy of eating right off the bush, a Nut Grove with tress that provide both shade and sustenance, a Community Garden using the p-patch model where families can grow their own food, and a Kids Area. Living Gateways will connect and serve as portals between areas.'

'A Food Forest is a gardening technique or land management system that mimics a woodland ecosystem but substitutes in edible trees, shrubs, perennials and annuals.  Fruit and nut trees are the upper level, while below are berry shrubs, edible perennials and annuals.  Companions or beneficial plants are included to attract insects for natural pest management while some plants are soil amenders providing nitrogen and mulch.  Together they create relationships to form a forest garden ecosystem able to produce high yields of food with less maintenance.'

Image courtesy Beacon Food Forest website

I had also heard of the food forest gardening technique through the documentary 'Natural World: Farm for the future' which I really enjoyed watching and am even happier to know this concept is being adopted.

Sadly the newly elected Australian government is intent on obliterating the environment and sticking its head in the sand where Climate Change is concerned... as well as belittling those of us who believe in and are passionate about these issues. The government will only ever work in complete opposition to what actually needs to take place, choosing instead to work with giant corporations with only dollar signs on their agenda and no concern or consideration for the environment and its occupants This will no doubt mean Industrial Agriculture, Factory Farming and GM crops will be supported and not opposed by this government and that is situation that disturbs, frustrates and saddens me.

Thankfully these innovative ideas are still able to happen on local government levels, such as the City Farm in Sydney and in other areas around the world and hopefully they will only grow in popularity and become the way of the future as they should... it's definitely a future I would be happy to see.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

French Garden love...

For those of you who have Foxtel and the Lifestyle Channel you may have been fortunate enough to see the first two of three episodes of Monty Don's French Gardens series. I LOVE it!

Image courtesy of the BBC website
Gardens of Power and Passion, the first episode of Series 1 'tells the stories behind important historic gardens. These include elaborate walled gardens designed to please the mistress and then the wife of a King, magnificent displays of flowers and fountains that involved thousands of soldiers moving tracts of land and incited violent jealousy in another monarch and a modern day chateau garden that came close to bankrupting its owner. Monty sees how throughout history the French have used gardens as a public expression of money, power and passion.'

A very interesting history and equally as interesting stories behind these formal gardens and as much as I enjoyed it I believe I enjoyed The Gourmet Garden, the 2nd episode, more: Monty 'turns to the French love of food and finds out how this has influenced their gardens. Monty travels to some of the most famous ‘potager’ or kitchen gardens, where vegetables and flowers are planted together in elaborate and beautiful displays. He talks to gardeners about this style of planting which has been copied the world over. He also visits allotments, learns to pick asparagus, enjoys some of the best produce from the land and learns about the importance the French attach to the soil.' Perhaps I liked it more because they are utilitarian gardens and because I learnt that 1/3 of France buy vegetables from market gardens and the like rather than supermarkets... that they support their own fresh produce in this way really impressed me and that it's all so beautiful made me want to be back there in the blink of an eye.

I too experienced Aix-en-Provence and its stunning surrounds but only for about 6 weeks but since then living in France is still one of the things at the top of my to-do list. I know it will come later in life but I'm sure it will happen... even though I have Italian heritage and love Italy... there is just something about France that captured my heart all those years ago and I have been wanting to return and immerse myself in the language and culture ever since my first experience... In The Gourmet Garden episode I noted that The CĂ©vennes is known for its alternative lifestyle and organic farming... and even though Aix and surrounds stole my heart I do want to see and experience more of France so this is definitely worthy of a visit, at the very least.

But back to the series... when he visited Villandry, near Tours in the Loire Valley, he showed viewers how 'they grow tens of thousands of vegetables in perfectly ordered, box-edged geometric beds – all entirely for show' and before he said anything it struck me as odd and didn't sit well with me... it's such a waste, of course, moments later Monty said pretty much the same thing, so perhaps many people have the same reaction.

I'm looking forward to The Artistic Garden... in this episode 'Monty turns to France’s famous artistic tradition to see what influence it has had on the country’s gardens. Monty travels to some of the most celebrated artists’ gardens including the one created by the Impressionist, Claude Monet, who planted and painted his garden for half his life. Monty also matches the paintings to the garden of Paul Cezanne as well as visiting several  contemporary  artistic gardens to see how the use of plants and trees has evolved into new and varied styles.' I'm sure it is going to be just amazing... if you want to get an overall idea of the series and the inspiration behind it you can read more here.

I first became aware of Monty Don as a television presenter when he did 'Around the world in 80 gardens' which I really enjoyed and was immediately drawn to his laid back style and charm. I've only just now read more about him via his Facebook page and he's had an interesting life...

For those of us interested in staying informed he has his own website coming soon and if you're like me I'm really interested to see the content once it's up and running.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Feathered friends - Crimson Rosella

These lovely Crimson Rosellas come around most afternoons to feed on the plants out the front. I'm happy enough with these shots, taken with the zoom lens, but I would like to get even closer.

Feathered friends - Welcome Swallows

I had noticed these teeny tiny birds on my regular walk and kept wanting to go back with my camera to capture them... one day recently I finally remembered to do it.

I'm not very knowledgeable about birds but am keen to learn. I thought they were finches but after a search online I think they are Welcome Swallows.

While I always prefer seeing birds living in a natural habitat this man-made structure they call home allowed me to get some very clear shots of them. When walking I see them duck and weave through the structure and calling out to each other, they have a delightful little song!

I took quite a few images and you can see more here.

Feathered friends - the Currawong (and some Australian Crows)

Captured by chance on a walk where I had taken my camera specifically to capture some delightful Robin Red Breasts (which I will share in the next post)... so glad I had my zoom lens on.

I do like their collective song but much prefer the divine sound of the magpie. In the background, while I was taking this, a murder of Australian crows were making a real ruckus but they were too far away to photograph (apart from the image below where a few were taking time out from the others)... I need a little video camera so I can capture motion and sound.

I've never seen large numbers of crows together but there were a large number that day... pretty spectacular! I remember my mum saying when she first came to Australia she thought it was a child crying and I can't help but wonder what visitors to our country think when they hear them.

Feathered friends - the Kookaburra

I've been capturing some shots lately of our beautiful feathered friends around here, either at the house or on my walk.

Needless to say my nature photos are creating a library for me to be able to draw on when looking for inspiration for new designs, or they've already inspired a design.

This series captures a beautiful Kookaburra that I saw dive-bombing off the tree branch he was perched on, down into the garden bed for his breakfast... I just love his fuzzy little head! Of course I couldn't catch him in the act, he was way too cautious for that and stayed up high where he felt safe, keeping a watch on me.

It's not the first time I've shared images of a Kookaburra here... back here I photographed one outside the house on the telegraph wire but I much prefer the images above showing him in a more natural environment... and not only has the Kookaburra appeared on one of my eco friendly greeting cards:

He's also appeared on my hand embroidered cushions:

A little update

One of the main reasons I've been absent from here for a while is because I have been keeping busy with the transition of my business trading name from stilelemente to Pinch River!

There are reasons behind the name change and a story why I chose Pinch River which you can read in detail over here on the business blog.

Fortunately I was able to migrate the stilelemente blog over to Pinch River to retain the history of the journey - thanks Blogger for making this possible and pretty pain-free! As I originally created the blog from the stilelemente email address and as such the Google+ profile that was associated with it and I will eventually close those down I was also able to migrate my Google+ followers as well as my Picasa web albums... seriously cool stuff they've enabled for people like me who have had a change of direction but not wanting to lose valuable people and information.

I was also able to change my Facebook page name and url (a one-off change only), as well as my Linkedin company profile (with assistance from the team as it's not something you can do yourself). Pinterest was another application that allowed me to change the name and url as was MailChimp. Unfortunately Flickr does not allow a url change but you can change the screen name, which I have now done and I had to create a new account on Issuu and re-load all my catalogues as I couldn't change them over from stilelemente.

I was also able to change trading name for my business insurance, MYOB and PayPal but had to close my business account and open a new one for the new trading name.

I've obviously had to update many subscription details (or unsubscribe and re-subscribe under the new email address) for newsletters and the like, advise suppliers, etc to update their records... as well as re-ordering product labels and business stationery... the latter of which is all still in the ordering stage and until they are here I can't put any products out in to the marketplace so my e-commerce is closed down at the moment. As is my website, well offline anyway, while it transitions from its old domain to its new one and while it's offline I'm having some other fabulous changes made which I'll share once it's all done.

It's been very involved and complex but totally worth it.

I'll leave you with my new branding, even though I liked the stilelemente branding and could have kept it. I decided to go with this because the flora and fauna represent that found in the Pinch River location and it all represents the inspiration behind the label!

The ever-changing sky

Hi there... I've been a bit absent from this blog but have some lovely posts coming!

I've had my camera handy since my last post and have captured some nice shots I want to share... I'll start with some of the sky here... such a contrast but each set shows how beautiful our sky can be no matter what season or what colour it is.

Above: winter fog, taken from my bedroom window.

Above: storm sky, taken from the front balcony. I love when the light does this, highlighting the green, giving it a golden glow against such a dramatic backdrop.

Above: the long white cloud... not something we see often.

Above: a beautiful cloudless blue sky, taken nearby in winter on my one of my walks.