Sunday, February 24, 2013

The Week in Pictures...

** This week began and ended in much the same fashion as the past 8: Hot, bored and hot. The difference this week, however, is that I've started planning changes to the veggie patch for future summers and I've started thinking about the best way to grow fruits and vegetables during the winter. All I need now is a (cool) change in the weather; preferably one that doesn't replace the drop in temperature with a burst of humidity. That achieves absolutely nothing.
** After my post about water on Tuesday it rained, albiet a tiny little bit. If we need to be technical about it, it was less than 1mm over 2 consecutive days. That wasn't even enough to wash away the layer of dust and dirt that has taken up residence on everything. It was also so ridiculously humid that I thought I'd died and gone to Darwin.
** We have a little magpie friend that pops by every few days for something to eat and drink (it's so dry that there is little of either around for them at the moment). He speaks to us in warbles. Once he's had a bit of food and water he scoots down to the flowerbeds to chase the lizards and bugs. Adorable. 
** I wrote another epic 20+ page letter. I've been doing this a lot lately (writing long letters, that is). If you don't hear from me in awhile it's probably because I've broken every bone in my hand from overuse (seriously, have you ever written 20-odd pages in one sitting? Broken is how the hand feels).

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

On Water Supply & Demand (Or, Why Won't it Rain?)

[Our lawn: Dry & Crunchy]
It's been almost two weeks since we've had town (mains) water in use inside the house. Prior it was only the taps in the garden and the loo that was connected to town water and the rest of the house was supplied by our rainwater catchments. Now we use town water for everything, from watering the garden, showering and doing the dishes. I have to admit I don't really like it much. I've been in a complete funk about having to shower in it for the last two weeks.
[The underground rainwater tank at the back of the house]
[A glimpse inside said underground tank. Careful you don't fall in!]
It has me thinking more and more about water supply and demand; the lack of it in some parts and an over-abundance in others. I wonder if the reason why some of us have so little is because others elsewhere don't think enough about where it comes from and where it ends up. I mean, do you?
At our property we have a 22,000L above-ground tank and a 12,000L underground tank that allows us to collect and store a modest amount of rainwater for personal use. There are no pollutants where we live so we can safely catch the water that runs from our roof to the gutters and through downpipes into our tanks. For three years (La Nina years, I should add) we did not even come close to running out of our rainwater; it rained when it was supposed to and then even when it wasn't, so that at times there would be more water than what we could hold and we'd simply have to watch the tanks overflow. 

[The tap that turns the town water supply on to the house]
But living in a semi-arid region means that things can change quite quickly - and quite drastically. South Australia is the driest state on the driest continent on earth, so rain can be fleeting and minimal at the best of times. In our region most rain generally falls between the months of May and October, making the driest time of year here November through to April. Annual rainfall can be as low as 5mm or up to 115mm. In La Nina years we might receive up to 200mm of rainfall in a 12-month period if we are really lucky. Being now in what the BoM terms Neutral Conditions, the rainfall over the last 12 months has been less than 100mm.

[Salt residue on the mixer tap in the shower]
It probably comes as no surprise that our supply of rainwater is drastically low: The above-ground tank is bone dry whilst we have around 5000L remaining in the underground. It may not seem like a big deal to have to switch to town water, but what many people (especially those living in large cities) take for granted is the supply of potable water - that is, water suitable for drinking. Besides rainwater, the only other source of water here is groundwater, which SA Water pumps from bores just outside of town. The water is extremely saline and at present absolutely reeks of chlorine. Worse than that it tastes like diluted seawater, burns your eyes and dries out your skin, giving you sores. My hair currently has a similar texture to straw and whenever I step out of the shower it feels more like I've just climbed out of a swimming pool.

[The flowerbeds: Dead or dying]
The groundwater that makes up the town water supply here is non-potable, meaning it is not suitable for drinking, yet we pay potable water prices: We pay the same rates and charges as everyone else in the state, except we receive a far inferior product. Whilst we contribute to the cost of running a desalination plant so that SA Water can meet Adelaide's water supply demand, there are no plans in place to improve the water quality here.
Rainwater is the only drinkable water we have. The 5000L or so currently sitting in the underground tank has to be enough until the next big rainstorm, which according to the BoM is not expected to be anytime soon.
Summer is a stressful, uncomfortable time of year at the best of times but made particularly worse when Mother Nature simply refuses to deliver on the rainfall. We spend far too much time these days checking the weather reports and then being disappointed when the rain they said we'd get doesn't eventuate.
But we and our gardens are not the only ones suffering: Spare a thought for the birds that perch themselves on our back veranda at the end of the day in search of food and water, and the native wildlife that is beginning to venture into towns searching for the same. We've not seen this since the last drought.
I hope that's not a sign of things to come because if so our 5000L of drinkable water most certainly won't be enough.

Sunday, February 17, 2013

The Week in Pictures...

** As the relentless summer continues (minimum of 35*C almost daily) there's been little action in the kitchen, although I did bake some bread this week (using the breadmaker), stewed the figs from last week (in the morning before it got too hot), and cooked most meals outside to keep the inside as cool as possible (it's what BBQs were made for!).
** I spent a fair portion of my time this last week lost in correspondence as I try to catch up on some of my letter-writing. I desperately need to go to the post office to get postage stamps but there was a movie being filmed in the centre of town for most of this week and I decided it was just too much hassle, especially with the daily influx of people (I'm not just referring to cast and crew because every day also brought in an influx of onlookers. I hope they didn't leave disappointed).
** I finally found made the time to get in a bit of reading for the online course I'm currently doing and worked on the assignments: If I can't go outside on account of the weather I'm going to at least put to good use the time I'm stuck indoors, because I know the moment it begins to feel like autumn I'll be spending endless hours in the garden (it is going to need a lot of work after this summer).
** I'm currently reading two books: The Great War by Les Carlyon and Not Wisely but Too Well by Pauline Montagna. I normally recommend people not do this but as they are completely different from one another there's no risk of confusing them. I've just reached the halfway point in The Great War, which is no small feat considering the book is over 800 pages in length. It's emotionally wrecking and yet I can't seem to drag myself away from its pages...
** Speaking of books, I also got the most wonderful surprise from Laura, who decided she needed to cull a few books from her shelves and so sent them my way. Even though I've no room left on my own bookshelf, I can never say no to a book or two, and I'm pleased as punch with the selection. 
What occupied your time this week?

Friday, February 15, 2013

365 Mail Art Project: Week 19

What does one do for mail art when the ink in the colour printer runs out and their artistic abilities begins and ends with strategically gluing paper stuffs together?
Well, this week I had a crack at drawing ghosts!
As I cannot draw freeform (even my stick people depress me) I used the internets to locate simple pictures and tried my best to replicate those images onto envelopes I'd made using photocopies of ghost stories. Then I pulled out the watercolours and not knowing how to use a paintbrush correctly, applied the paint using a sponge instead.
#61 of 365:
I received a letter from Laura in New South Wales at the start of the week and she told me about the ghost tour she took recently at Q(uarantine) Station in Manly. This is how the idea to put ghosts on my outgoing mail for this week came about.

#62 of 365:
As Lauren in Victoria is a bit of a ghost hunter a spectre for her seemed perfectly apt...

#63 of 365:
And Ulrika in Sweden is intrigued by the unknowns and the what-ifs too...

#64 of 365:
Whilst Dora in New Zealand says she likes "the paranormal", which I hope includes this silly little ghostie.
Simple, yes, but I like the overall result. What do you think?

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

(Simple Pleasures) Tea & Letters on a Tuesday

“When tea becomes ritual, it takes its place at the heart of our ability to see greatness in small things. Where is beauty to be found? In great things that, like everything else, are doomed to die, or in small things that aspire to nothing, yet know how to set a jewel of infinity in a single moment?” - Muriel Barbery, The Elegance of the Hedgehog

Sunday, February 10, 2013

The Week in Pictures...

** This week was all about fruit: Nectarines, figs, rockmelon, plums and peaches. I've had them all! I have a basket of white figs in the fridge, kindly donated by my mum, and I am trying to decide whether I should stew them so they can be enjoyed with baked custard, or simply make some jam (only the best jam in the world, I should add). That is, of course, assuming I don't eat them all first because I can't help but grab a handful everytime I go to the fridge.
** It was another week of H-O-T and I think Bailey-dog is as fed up with the scorching summer weather as I am. To keep himself entertained, Bailey has taken to spying on the dog across the road: She's only a puppy and gets into the greatest mischief. Every now and then she'll trot over to our place to say hello, which puts Bailey into a right tither!
** A big shout out to everyone sending letters this month! InCoWriMo is in full swing and although I'm not participating myself (I think it's quite obvious I don't really need to dedicate a month to sending mail), I am making a concerted effort to catch up on my correspondence instead. But I really enjoy seeing what everyone else is sending, so if you are participating in InCoWriMo please leave a comment and link to your place on the web - I'd love to follow your progress.

Friday, February 8, 2013

365 Mail Art Project: Week 18

Three crafting epiphanies I had this week:
1. Mail art is exceptionally cost effective if you reuse and recycle, because just about anything can be turned into art (all you need is a little imagination).
2. Stuck for ideas? Fashion (of any era) makes for interesting themes. To find it all you need to do is type it into an online search engine.
3. Washi tape is quite possibly the most amazing and addictive crafting supply ever invented. I love it. I need more of it. I must washi until I can washi no more!
#56 of 365:
An upcycled/recycled envelope and writing paper for Rachael in England...

#57 of 365:
More upcycled/recycled prettiness, this time lemons for Lindy in Australia...

#58 of 365:
1950s vintage for Ursa in Slovenia...

#59 of 365:
...and Marta in Italy...

#60 of 365:
...and Claudia in Germany.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

The Week in Pictures...

** The days just seems to be flying by! Although they are full, busy days I didn't take many photos. I need to be more mindful of enjoying the small moments and the simple things. Stopping to take a photograph helps me find more appreciation in things: I can look back on it later and remember a fraction of time that might otherwise have been lost and think, "Oh, that was such a trial/so exciting/completely amazing/a learning curve" etc.
** My parents came up for an afternoon cup of tea and a chat. They brought a bounty of homegrown goodies: Pumpkins, rockmelon, nectarines, capsicums, Japanese eggplant and cucumbers. There was also a jar of homemade nectarine jam, which I am keen to try. We spoke about the poor quality of supermarket food, the absence of a regular farmer's market in our region and the importance of growing your own fruit and vegetables.
** We also received some homegrown figs from Shane's parents. I ate them all.
** There's not a lot happening in our own vegetable garden. The zucchini has a few small fruits that I hope to start picking in the coming days, but I don't think it has fully recovered for the hot spell we had the first three weeks of January. The corn didn't survive the heat at all: Not a single cob was worthy of keeping. We pulled the plants out earlier in the week. We are still getting cherry tomatoes, but the marmandes are doing poorly. Eggplant is thriving, the potato plants seem healthy and I picked a gigantic leek this week, so not entirely disappointing.
How did you spend your week?

Friday, February 1, 2013

365 Mail Art Project: Weeks 16 & 17

I received in the post recently a copy of the NRM magazine for the northern and Yorke regions of South Australia. It doesn't cost a thing and as I was reading through its articles about weed control, conservation methods and plover adoptions, I couldn't help but notice the amazing pictures within. My favourite thing about these pictures is that they are all quintessentially South Australian.
So, I kept them. I figured they'd provide some kind of inspiration for some kind of project eventually. Now they adorn envelopes and will shortly be traversing the globe.
#50 of 365:
Stunning red dragonfly for Astrid in Germany.

#51 of 365:
A rare sight in these parts: A creek with water in it! This is for Arjen in Belgium.

#52 of 365:
Adorable plovers for Mirja in Germany.

#53 of 365:
One of the prettiest sights in South Australia are the wine regions, especially in summer when the vines are lush and green. This vineyard is for Megumi in Japan.

#54 of 365:
Some people will get more than one piece of mail art out of this project, simply because I don't know 365 people. This summerscape is the second piece of mail art for Laura R in Victoria, Australia.

#55 of 365:
This beach could be any number along the South Australian coastline and it's on its way to Carley in the Adelaide Hills.