My last post here, a week ago now (sorry) started a few unexpected days at home, with enforced “rest” (i.e.: not running), but that doesn’t mean I was idle. I got a lot of knitting done! And a lot of listening to podcasts, and a lot of reading. I feel like I’m somewhat up to date with world events and current affairs again, now that I’ve had some days where I had time to take in some media on a consistent basis. I don’t know, yet, if being “up to date” …
Last Saturday was my second trail race, and I had some moments of relative leisure during it to snap some pictures to show you.
There’s this thing, in the running community, called a “running report”. It is, in essence, a really boring-sounding term for someone’s pared-back-to-the-bone, honest, no bull story of their battle with the sneaky side of themselves that just wants them to go back to bed. But it should be a saga, a towering tale of victory or a lament for disappointed hopes or goals unreached.
This is my race report. My saga. My tale of weekend idiocy. It’s Saturday, after all, isn’t it? It’s a day for sleep-ins, and reading the paper over a big cooked breakfast, and watching old TV series on DVD, or knitting, baking, pottering, visiting with friends. Who in their right mind wants to get up hours before dawn, drag cold tech clothes on, drive an hour to some unfamiliar place and then wait, cold, nervous and awkwardly wallflowerish, before shambling, lurching, trotting or sometimes even running with varying degrees of pain, self-doubt and suffering, just to end up right where they started?
I learnt ages ago to never trust anything that goes through my mind in the first two kilometres of a run. That’s a good thing to remember but on Saturday, my watch clicked over the six kilometre mark and I was still miserable, regretting even dragging myself out of bed. There’d been a long, stressful descent featuring a terrifying combination of pea gravel (gravel of varying sizes shaped like peas), honky nuts (gumnuts the size of golf balls), and drifts of dry, slippery eucalypt leaves obscuring the ruts and protruding rocks. I was mentally exhausted from being so frightened of falling or worse, sliding and pulling a back muscle. My lower back was tired and my quads jelly from the constant braking with each step.
And then, as I turned away from that 6km mark and faced down the hill for which the race is notorious, I started to have some fun. The hill was hard, hard. It was a hike from the beginning. The parks service had cut deep berms across the trail to discourage the illegal off-road driving lunatics, but that just meant that we had to leap down and then scale hillocks of deep, loose, sticky, dusty dirt and rocks, then leap down the other side, hike a few more steps up the natural hill, do it all again…over and over. Finally, we reached the top. Then back down the way we came, getting serious air as we tumbled and jumped and bounced our way over deeply scarred earth littered with the dirty, shell-shocked faces of the runners who came after us. I fell only once, I’m pleased to say.
The final stretch of the run was purgatorial, my shoes filled with grit and cupfuls dust from the earthworks, combining with my sweat in my shoes to form irritating nubbins of gritty mud that scraped evilly at my feet with every single jarring step. I ran into the finishing chute feeling nothing so much as relief.
I can’t wait till the next one.
We became custodians, recently, of an instant cactus collection. I say instant, but it was only instant for us. The person who bequeathed his collection to us, one of our coworkers, undoubtedly spent years carefully curating this assemblage of little – and not so little! – breath-holding wonders.
There’s a rambling scarecrow of a cactus in a terracotta pot so old it’s beginning to crumble and one side has broken off. There’s a pile of little prickly nubbins scrambling all over each other in a frantic, slow-mo quest for light and substrate. There’s a barrel cactus (front right, above) so festooned with yellow, serrated spines fountaining in all directions I’m not even sure how it gets any photosynthesis done. There’s a succulent whose dramatic, slightly obscene five-petalled flowers open to release a hint of carrion odour, such that flies lay eggs in the blooms and soon after, tiny fly larvae wriggle through the deep maroon hairs that coat the petals. Another succulent (middle back, dark green) looks like a sea-star, it has so many protuberances. There are lots of tall, hairy, super-prickly cacti and a total of four of the plants are flowering now. We’ve watered them generously through this cruel back end of summer and lots of them are picking up and growing at a surprising rate, getting greener, plumper, livelier.
Our veggie garden might be a rip-roaring failure, but by gam, we can sure nurture some cacti.
(If you want to see photos of the prickly babies as they progress, follow me on Twitter and/or Instagram – @thorhammer24 on both. I’d like to think I’m not annoying on either platform.)
TL;DR – We moved, it’s small, I don’t like small.
Late last September, Frog and I signed all the last bits of paper and moved out of the rental house that had been my home for five years, and hers for almost three, and into our own place. It was a momentous occasion, of course! Frog’s sister, brother-in-law, and some friends of ours helped us move, which was lovely because the day dawned surly and dull, and right on 8am when we’d scheduled The Great Move to begin, the sky opened and dumped rain on us. It continued all day. The positivity and motivation showed by our family and friends was so helpful. I mean, I know on the inside they were probably thinking “God, let’s just get this done so I can go home and get dry!” (at least, that’s what I was thinking!) but everyone was so cheerful and we worked together to get the move done.
Frog’s Mum swooped in at the tail end of the day, tag-teaming with the sibling-and-friend-types to take care of us with some food and perspective. We wedged ourselves in amongst the boxes and tried to keep a positive outlook through the exhaustion, the stress, and the irritation at not being able to move around the room freely!
I remember that day as the day we moved in, but really the whole process took weeks. Having lived at our old place so long, it was hard to return it to looking how it did when I moved in – after all, gardens grow, don’t they?! The property manager kept on and on at me, saying that it wasn’t good enough, never good enough, take the gardens back to the edges – but don’t hack them! Well, after three return visits to the old house I gave up and authorised them to send a gardener. I’d put a lot of work into nurturing those gardens and cutting so much life out of them was hurting me too much. In the end, we finally got our bond back, less a bit for the bloody gardener.
Then, having closed the book on the issues at the old place, we found a seething nest of vipers at the new one. Not literally – that would have been less difficult. You see, we moved into a little 2-bedroom villa in a set of 17 villas, built in the early 80s, a bit run down but sturdy and straight. The group has a lot of owner-occupiers in it, which is generally considered a good thing. However, one of those (#15) turned out to be owned by a couple in their sixties who are the most argumentative, unhinged, inconsiderate, rude, spiteful pair I’ve met in years and years. They pounced on us soon after we moved in, ranting at us about rules and respect and so on, and one day there was even a shouting match, complete with physical confrontation, out the front of our villa, involving us, them and the two neighbours next to us. It was a very stressful time. Things calmed down after a while, thankfully, and then one day, Frog texted me with the most magnificent news – #15 was for sale!
It was duly put under offer, then the Sold sticker appeared on the advertising billboard on the verge, and then the sign disappeared…but the horrible couple didn’t. For weeks we waited with anticipation, learning that they’d moved about a block down the road into the retirement village (oh, dear, that’s going to result in fireworks!) and eagerly awaiting the moving truck. Finally, it arrived, with Mr. 15 officiously directing it down our winding, narrow, potholed driveway and around the corner to #15. They loaded up, drove out…and we haven’t seen them since. We haven’t met the new neighbours yet. They seem quiet and not liable to get in our faces about anything, so that’s an improvement.
On the whole, home ownership hasn’t changed our day to day existence all that much. It’s lovely to not have rent inspections! It’s not so lovely to get rates bills, or deal with strata issues, or have to organise repairs when someone backs a truck into your eaves, or decided if that tap’s drip is bad enough yet to warrant the plumber coming back. It’s lovely to plan renovations, but not so lovely to try and budget for them, or figure out if the place will pay you back for them. It’s lovely to feel you’ve got the right to go to local council meetings and the like, but not so lovely to feel responsible for the dreary neighbourhood, the lack of care, the illegal dumping, the ugly streetscapes, the neglected, apathetic parks. It’s lovely to have “our house”…it’s not so lovely that it’s not the old house.
I loved that old house. I loved living there. It was where I created my refuge from an abusive relationship. It was where I rediscovered how it felt to be empowered, where I stretched my wings again after having them clipped and then broken, where I learned to stride rather than creep. It was where I revelled again in eating what I wanted to eat and doing what I wanted to do, where I stuck my fingers in the dirt and looked up at the sky and walked the boundaries and picked the lemons and pruned the trees and learned all the creaks of the floorboards. It was my haven after a horrendous period of my life, and I miss the space we had there. I don’t know if “dinky” or “cute” or “cosy” will ever suit me, but I’m trying.
The world got a little darker this week, and that light going out served to rebuke me for keeping my light, such as it is, under a bushel. In case you’ve missed my updates, it’s not that I’ve been idle – it’s just that recording my exploits, and letting others know about them, have not been priorities for me. But now I feel that approach has been wrong. It fosters in me a numbness, a kind of amnesia, and now I think I need to think and share, and hopefully interact with people who are interested in what I’m doing.
It’s not about publicising myself, though that’s not to say I don’t appreciate this being read by each and every one of you. It’s about holding myself accountable for the moments that whip past me, faster and faster the more of them there are behind me, and cramming as much as I can into those moments, since I’m lucky enough to have them.
Maybe I’m a crappy artist, but isn’t it important that I go on making art?
I’m far from the fastest runner out there, but if I let that stop me then I’d never run, would I?
Maybe I kill plants (and they’re all on my conscience, don’t you worry) but that just means I need to me more conscious of keeping the ones I have alive.
So what if no one else eats the food I make? If it’s delicious to me and making it nourishes me body and soul, then it’s worth my time and my presence, my attention, in the moment.
Enough marking time. It’s already so late, and those moments are accelerating. If you’re coming, hang on for the ride.
Recently, I had a week off work, to celebrate my birthday (thank you) and hopefully get some more of my planned entries for the Royal Show prepared. One of the biggest tasks set for the week, however, was the spreading out of five cubic metres of compost we had delivered. *ahem* Before shots…
We spread it not only on the two established vegetable garden beds and the long strip by the driveway, but also on three new beds we had planned, where we’d poisoned the buffalo grass. There’s one by the western fence, gaining a little shade from the asbestos sheeting as well as the neighbour’s structures. Another, we laid out under the odd lean-to trellis on the western side of the house, and a third curving around the edge of the lemon tree’s canopy – hence the aforementioned need to prune back the lemon tree, whose branches laid along the ground.
We had to spread the work over two days, and work in between the ghastly weather’s worse turns. It’s done now, though, and our lovely neighbours even got the leftovers for their roses. Seeds have been sown – pumpkin and zucchini and cucumber, tomato and eggplant and tomatillo, snake and broad beans and celery and lettuce and more besides. None have popped their heads up yet, but it won’t be long now…
I made marmalade. I had to prune the lemon tree before we built up the gardens (more on that later) and I couldn’t bear to waste the two buckets of lemons one branches bore. It turns out, two buckets of lemons (well, a bucket and a half by the time I got around to it) is over 5 kilograms. Further, that’s more lemons than our biggest pot can hold, even uncomfortably.
Since February, I’ve been working on a major lace shawl, intended for entry into the Royal Perth Show. The pattern is the Back To The Garden shawl, by Andrea Jurgrau. There were some trials and one false start (and let’s face it, quite a lot of technical lace-knitting help from the inimitable and ever helpful Frog) but today…today I cast off. And blocked (coz there’s nothing quite like striking while the iron’s hot, eh?)
Before blocking, it looked like this:
And after blocking…
The yarn is from The Gossamer Web, where Fleegle was amazingly helpful and competent and professional when I asked her to dye some of her Firebird base for me. It’s wonderful to knit with, and her needles, which I used for this project as well, are a sheer delight to use. If you’re after lace yarn or needles, go no further. She’s wonderful.
I’ve lived in Perth for about eight years, I think. Maybe nine? A long time, anyhow. I came over here with exactly one largish bag of things, and for a long time after I got here I moved regularly; in fact, I’ve lived in seven places here in Perth. The most recent move, to where I live now, occurred nearly four years ago.
Yes. Half of my time in this city had been in this one house. Now, my point, really, is about Stuff. I didn’t have much when I came here, but I hit the ground running, I worked hard, and fast forward to now and, well, The Stuff is piling up. I’m comfortable, and it has begun to show. I decided that it was time to have a Purge.
Five things from every room, at a minimum, I set myself, and last weekend I stuck to that. Some rooms were hard, like the living room, while others were easy. I found things I had forgotten I owned (seriously? bobby pins? What am I going to do with those?) and liberated myself from things that’d been hanging over my head for years, like the braids of ripped-up sheets I planned to make into a rug and just never did. It was quite a haul.
This week’s Mission of the Week was to build my first ever Real Proper Compost Heap. Not like the nasty useless bin thing that was here when I moved in, that you just keep adding little bits to and never get anything out of because it’s really a black hole in disguise; no, this time I wanted to do it right. (I’m not too sure that we succeeded, but hey – we put in the effort.)
This is the site I selected for the heap – down the back (north-western end) of the yard, under the sizeable lemon tree and the sprawling canopy of the neighbour’s Indian Pepper Tree, which is the most wonderful blessing in summer, as it keeps the backyard so much cooler than it would otherwise be.
I’ve been amassing what compost fodder I could, for a few weeks now. It’s mostly palm fronds, unfortunately. I’ve picked a bad time to try and set the heap up, as the garden should have been pruned a couple of months ago, but I didn’t do it then so all I had ready to hand were the leavings of the four hated sodding palm trees with which the north-eastern boundary of the property has been cursed. Then, this morning, Frog and I went around to a friend’s house and helped clean up the eucalypt branches that had fallen from her trees during the big storm front we’ve just had go through Perth. We followed that with cruising the streets of our neighbourhood, and eventually found, in the park around the corner from or house, some nice soft leafy branches that had been brought low by the same destructive winds so we helped ourselves to those, too.
Once we got home, it was time to do the hard work. First, because we built the heap under a couple of large trees, we laid a few boxes down as prevention against invasion by tree roots. Over the boxes, we laid the stripped branches from Amanda’s trees, broken or chopped into metre lengths. This is to facilitate aeration of the heap from the bottom.
To hold everything in place, I bought a wire cage from where I work. It’s designed for garden storage, but I’m hoping it makes an adequate compost bin container, even if I have to put a tarpaulin over the top during the hot, dry weather. I’m hoping, too, that this helps with turning the heap – I plan to just pull it off the top, put it back down next to the existing heap and then fork the material back into the cage.
We quickly ascertained that palm fronds do not mulch happily, unfortunately. I suspect that if this works at all, my compost is going to be sadly stringy. While Frog proceeded to demolish the fresh green waste using the mulcher we borrowed from her mum, I started building the heap, layering wetted-down palm fronds with weeds, garden soil I cleaned from the footpaths surrounding our vege beds, and the freshly mulched greens (as well as hiding the kitchen compost bin’s contents in the middle). Every now and then, I sprinkled a liberal dash of diluted Seasol over my construction, to add the minerals it might otherwise lack.