Hello, my name is Sandy.

Garden things in March 2015

miniature pine tree crassula

It has been overcast and gray, and sad as it is to say goodbye to summer, I hope we've turned the corner into autumn actual. Hot weather and sun-blast days destroy my motivation to hang out in the garden.

But today, we were back in business with 3 simple goals:

  1. Repopulate the worm farm.
  2. Plant something that will pay off.
  3. Tidy up a bit, you're a disgrace.

Repopulate the worm farm

For the last few years, whenever hot weather wiped out my worm tower, I'd do the suburban middle-class thing and buy a booster box, then hate myself for being so damn consumer. This year, things would be different.

We took steps to dodge the heat by moving the tower into the shed. This turned out to be utterly useless, because the one time we moved it was our weekend away, when it was cool and rainy here in Perth. This filled me with a false sense of security, so the next heatwave, I fell back on optimistic denial, and all my worms died. Mea culpa.

Luckily, a gardener friend mentioned she had put all her worms in flower pots and the garden bed before summer. So this afternoon, I sifted through our garden bed and found a few little wormies - alive! These little Adameves have been moved from Eden to the worm tower, to beget many wriggly Cains and Abels. Hopefully with less jealousy and murder.

The plan now will be to continually move worms between the tower and garden. Not only should this help towards self-sustaining plant beds, but it'll provide safe-havens for future breeding stock.

Plant something that will pay off

very messy garden bed

So, carrots. Baby ones.

After seeing how reasonable a pumpkin we can grow with some focus and attention, I'll try to be more conscientious this season.

We have 2 rows of 8 or so plant sites, with 3 seeds in each, taking up half the veggie bed. Once they've sprouted, the seedlings will be distributed more evenly across the whole patch.

Which is, at the moment, a right mess. Seems to be customary after every new planting. Whatever cat winds up living next door regards our yard as their patrol zone, so to protect our tender garden from harsh piss reality, we tart it up like a death trap until the plants are big enough to crowd out visitors.

Tidy up a bit

I'm not overly invested in carrot stocks here cos we may upset everything in a couple months. We're planning on moving to a house with more growing space, so it'd be worth it in the end.

In preparation, much of my funemployment time will involve finishing the konmari of our home, cleaning up, and packing. We don't know yet when this will happen, but we cut a deal with both the rental agent and the future landlord, that we'll be ready to haul ass asap at a moment's notice.

I'm excited about kicking off with this level of unpredictability. I don't think I could have taken it before, but with all the introspection and lifestyle changing lately, this feels befitting - like if it were to happen any other way, it would feel as though nothing has improved. There's a fire under my arse now. I don't feel so asleep today.

freshly planted marigold seeds in a red pot

This post is looking pretty bare, so here are a few more photos. Today, I planted some fresh marigold seeds. Here are the seeds in a pot. Exciting stuff.

Shari, talking about goats at the Less is More Festival

We went to the Less is More Festival this afternoon at The Grove Library, and while waiting for the ecoburbia goat workshop to start, the presenter Shari came round with a bag of dried marigolds for people to take home!

Danielle, talking about urban livestock at the Less is More Festival

My favourite workshop was on urban livestock, not just because the presenter Danielle is my friend, but because it was super interesting to deep-dive into some of the details of animal rearing. There are so many domestic animals I never thought of as livestock before today. I almost feel like a real suburban farmer now.

twin crassula

These are my Crassula tetragona cuttings from last October. They grew ever so slightly over summer. As you can see, some of the soil has washed away, so they'll need a top-up soon. I quite like how they look in this very tiny bonsai pot, though I'm not sure how well they'll survive. I have a larger pot with another cutting that hasn't grown at all. Maybe these twins should become triplets and encourage each other as a team.

Sedum burrito

Finally, this guy. At the start of summer, I found a 'Little Donkey' Sedum morganianum under a pile of detritus. It had fallen off a plant that didn't even come close to making it. Somehow, spending months ignored in the dank shade kept this guy alive. He only had one 'tail' when we found him, but has now become three-tailed. We kept him shadowy and moist during the hot weather. I think he might be all right after all. I'd like a whole pot full of this, please. :)

What does your garden look like at the moment? What are your plans for autumn and winter?

Things that could have been

sunrise in pastel

This post isn't what it was meant to be. By now, I wanted to talk about my projects, but I didn't end up doing them.

My next 20 book pledge fanart hasn't been started. I decided on a pastel instead of a sketch, so I've been spending this time learning how to pastel. The photo above is one of my practice pieces.

I wanted to share my pumpkin dish with you, but we still haven't even decided what to make.

And I wanted to talk about the arduino stuff I did yesterday, but woke up so hungover and didn't actually do any. The night before was my last day at work, you see. I felt loved at the farewell meeting, then very loved at farewell drinks.

That was supposed to be a 2-pint night. Oh, the things that could have been.

This job would have been so perfect for the me of 12 years ago - idealistic, in love with code, and immune to hangovers.

rhoeo, dianthes, myoporum and callistemon in a sandy garden bed

The me of today has other dreams, though, and it's time to go chase them. Yes, it sounds romantic, but at the moment just amounts to looking for a part-time job.

This year is my 20th anniversary of being a web person. It's surreal because I don't feel how I expected. I thought I'd be an expert, but as each year passes, I feel increasingly like I don't know my arse from a hole in the ground. They say this happens as you get older - you do know more, but also grow painfully aware of what you don't know.

Since I was a teenager, I worried I'd turn out to be an uncommitted person, so I'm at least proud of having stuck with something for this long, even if I did jump between various sub-disciplines. Sometimes I think I would feel more expert-ish now if I had specialised, but that never worked out. I need the variety of multidisciplinary work.

I'd like to think you can specialise in being a generalist - it's just harder to find a name for what you do. And when you don't have a name, people can't ask specifically for you. So it's hard for you to say, "I fit exactly here."

I've talked about plants being the next step for me, but my instinct says that's only an approximation. Nearly a year ago, I finished my horticulture course, hungry for an interesting yet unnamed combination of things.

When I was 14, I found myself getting on with ordinary life, then stumbling into web. Now, web is ordinary life, and I'm stumbling into this next step. I had no idea what a "web developer" was until I'd already been one for a few years, and I imagine it'll go the same way here. What do you call a plant-tech-craft person? And where exactly can one fit?

I'm pretty nervous. Quite scared, actually. What if I can't afford this? What if there's no place at all for me or the things I want to do? Yet these fears are nothing compared to the fear of waking up 20 years from now, wistful.

So, onward we go.

Doing less

my poor warm cat

I have not been eating or sleeping well for the past week. It's been warm, and all I can think about is how I wish I were one of those hairless cats, so I could sleep all day but not have a fur coat.

It is most definitely summer.

Doing less has been odd and pleasant so far. I've not picked up new projects, but made an effort to plod along, approach my activities with restraint, and savour moments of mildly agitated boredom. I feel relaxed and daydreamy. I feel again some desires for things I had lost the taste for.

Today, I am excited about these things:

joey pouches - cut, hemmed, and pinned, ready for sewing

Finishing my joey pouches for Project Pouch. I'm only making handful, but I expect they'll get lots of contributions.

I feel good about being able to participate. It's been disappointing over the last few years to never have time or energy to get involved in community things. The number of times I've looked at the volunteering info for Cat Haven and Dogs' Home, daydreamed a little, then closed my browser knowing it would be impossible without wearing out completely... Boo. :(

So, being in a position to even consider making something for baby roos makes me quite happy. Even better is getting to make them from scrap fabric that survived the KonMari of my craft room. :) Yay, recycling!

my hideous, stinking, red futsal shoes

Football. Social Sundays and mixed Mondays are back on. I expect to be rubbish, after all the over-eating I did throughout Christmas and New Year. We've hardly cooked, so I'm feeling mighty unhealthy and full of junk food.

Very soon, I will unleash KonMari on my kitchen, so doing stuff in there doesn't feel like such a headache. I meant to yesterday - really! - but had a nap and went for a swim instead. Lalala~

I have been losing all the Fitbit challenges with my friends. Today, I will do my best to make 10k steps by the end of our 90min game.

a finished fence, two tired gents

Putting up a fence (last week). Yes, I'm still excited. I felt useful, active, and healthy. I felt the people we did it for were geuninely happy with it, and would love the finished product for at least 20 years.

And once we were done, I felt sad it was over. So many cool things and hilarious mistakes happened along the way. It got me thinking about life choices, and what might happen one day if we end up having our own mini-farm. I admire Georgina for learning as she goes, and doing it all by herself. I'm nowhere near as brave, but by playing with fences and chainsaws, I hope one day to be slightly closer to it.

I am looking forward to the next manual arts project, though I don't know what that will be. Of course, I must keep my promise about not getting manic, so I don't ruin it with exhaustion, so I am happy for the idea to be 'over there' for a while, until it pops up by itself.

Happy new year!

cheerful donkey on a hill

One day, I'd like to be on such a long, enjoyable holiday where there'd be no need to measure time. But for now, out of the habit of adhering to calendars within a normal society, I consider the distinction between this year and last.

For all its difficult patches, rumination over life choices, visits from the black dog, insomnia, and weird allergies, 2014 was pretty OK. I'm feeling a bit accomplished; I managed to hit three of my four goals for 2014:

a native violet

Earned my Cert II in Horticulture and never want to study again. Though, I also said this after finishing my Writing diploma. Maybe study is a 4-yearly thing? Maybe by next World Cup, I will have a new reason to pay school to stress me out and eat all my time.

my crocheted gloves

Sold crocheted items in a shop, and I'm ever so grateful to Lucy In Disguise for helping me get exposure for my work. I also approached an overseas online store I admired for a very long time, but despite getting serious interest, I couldn't find it in me to follow through. Maybe timing wasn't right, or having been in love with them for so long made me overlook what was right for me now. In any case, I spent much time pondering what I love about craft and makery. I can't articulate it yet, but for the present, I really like small scale and local.

a homemade 1920s style dress

Crafted something significant, kind of. When I set this goal, I meant taking up woodwork and making furniture. Instead, I made a dress and wore it to a cocktail party. It's given me the confidence to consider making clothes instead of buying, though being in the midst of applying KonMari to my home makes me not want new clothes right now.

But I didn't forget about woodwork. Using leftovers from Niaal's various projects, I made a box. :)

my wooden box

my wooden box, upright

my wooden box, a poorly crafted corner

Over the last couple of years, I've been experimenting with goal setting. In 2013, I did one thing a month. I felt stagnant and ignorant, and found that many short-term projects in succession was ideal for expanding horizons quickly - no time to falter and doubt, just ship ship ship!

But I was fucking drained at the end of it. Setting fewer goals, last year, gave me more time to reflect on the journey and the broader life decisions connected to each.

I realise now I have particularly manic phases, where I get too excited about working towards a goal. I throw everything at it, then burn out. It invades every area of my life, turning recreation into work, and fun into slog. While a powerful fire for getting stuff done, it does a lot of damage if left untempered.

This year, I want to try and do less. In aiming for fewer things, I still felt like I did a lot, but having more unplanned stuff made life feel interesting and more free. So, fewer plans for 2015, and just one goal this time.

The only thing I didn't manage last year was doing something musical. I wanted to put together an EP, but never made the time. This seems like a nice almost-SMART target to aim for.

Just one thing should be easy, right? We shall see.

Happy new year, everyone. :) I hope good things come to you.

DIY hardcover case for a Kindle

Kindle reader inside a home-made hardcover case

I bought a Kindle last month, and was determined not to let this new possession possess me - and buy itself a case, decals, bells and baubles. I fall into this trap often, and while sometimes it's necessary, it didn't seem necessary here. I did want a case, but I would have to make it myself.

I remember the first time I felt profound disappointment at a purchased item. The seam had come loose on my wallet, and I discovered beneath the factory-perfect machine stitching, behind the synthetic woven fabric... a sheet of cardboard. No different to a cereal box, just sans printing. The spell of storebought was broken.

Since then, I mentally deconstructed everything that crossed my path. Over the years, I found similar patterns of deconstruction used in everything from books to purses, clothing to cat toys. I couldn't replicate those patterns as perfectly myself, but felt increasingly sour about paying $50 for something that was essentially scrap paper, cotton and glue.

There's more to it, of course, and that's the more I want to learn by doing.

Kindle reader inside a home-made hardcover case

So here's my first hardcover item - a Kindle book cover. It's roughshod, and I would do some things differently next time, but just a few tools and salvaged materials can really go a long way.

using Kindle to measure cardboard


Mount fabric panels onto cardboard for stiff, nice-feeling things.

Materials & tools

  • 1 cardboard
  • 2 x scrap fabric pieces
  • PVA glue (white)
  • 4 strips of elastic
  • Scissors
  • Glue brush
  • Sewing machine

cardboard folded like a book cover

Measure your cardboard frame using your object (Kindle, tablet, notebook, whatever). Cut the cardboard slightly bigger than you need to - this leaves room for the thickness of the fabric when it bends.

fabric mounted to the outside of the cover

Brush glue on one side of the cardboard and stick one of the fabric pieces to it. Trim the fabric, leaving a 2-3cm edge around the cardboard. Fold the edges over and glue to the other side. This is the outer cover of your case.

completed inner panel

The inner panel is fiddly. Measure the fabric, and fold and pin the edges. Measure against the object and mark where you'll need the elastic holders attached to the fabric. Judge this based on your object, so the screen or buttons aren't obstructed. Pin elastic to fabric, except for the ends that go near the spine (we'll do this later).

Hem the edge, stitching across the elastic when you get to it, being careful not to attach the elastic on both sides of the fabric. That's the fiddly bit, so think about it beforehand. The elastic has to be loose on the other side, so the corner of your object can slide in.

You can reinforce the elastic with another line of stitches across the loose edge of fabric.

attaching the elastic near the spine

Now that the hem's done, we'll attach the remaining 2 ends of elastic. Where your markings are, cut a tiny slit, just enough to thread the elastic through. Stitch a line parallel to the slit, attaching the elastic to the other side. It'd look better to stitch a rectangle all around, but I didn't bother.

Finally, brush glue onto the inside of your book cover and stick on your newly assembled panel.

pen mark, from where I measured the elastic attachment

Learn from my mistakes

  • Don't use a pen to mark where your elastic goes - this isn't something you'll put through the washing machine after!
  • Wash your brush between uses so the glue doesn't dry on it.
  • Don't put your cover near piles of cat hair while the glue is drying.
  • If your scrap cardboard has printing on it, choose a thick, sturdy fabric that you can't see through. Or just avoid light colours altogether. Or prepare to decorate. :)
  • Consider a third piece of fabric to sandwich between the hard cover and the inner panel, so you don't get a dent where there are fewer layers of material. (pictured below)

Happy making!

My first hand-bound notebook

hand-stitched notebook with cardboard cover

Last night, I learned it's not that hard to bind a book and make it look halfway decent. With just a few sheets of notepaper, glue, needle & thread, and scrap cardboard from an old tea box, I was able to assemble a tiny notebook in about half an hour.

five-hole pamphlet stitch binding

My instructions came from Bookcraft by Heather Weston, but the process is simple enough to figure out, then combine with this tutorial for a 5-hole pamphlet stitch.

cardboard cover scrapped from a box of tea

Now, after borrowing from the book gods to make a box, I have helped the box gods pay their dues in turn. Happy making!