What I’ve learned this week

This week’s – and, come to think of it, last week’s – edition of What I’ve Learned, were cancelled by a ripsnorting, snot-fountaining, chest-crushing, nose-bleeding, eye-watering troll of a headcold that robbed me of the ability to breathe, let alone eat or sleep and thus, write anything to the hard-drive, even if I had been participating in life. Which I really wasn’t.

Projects: The Plastic Edition

A nice, short list, this one. Plastic is on all our minds lately (or it should be), and I want to do something more constructive, more joyful, than just adding to Australia’s recycling shame. Consider this a tonic for all the whales-dying-of-plastic-bag-ingestion stories.

1. I’ve been collecting plastic bottle tops for a few years now. Originally I thought I’d create a big mosaic-type mural with the kids at school. However the moment hasn’t come, yet, and as I’m spending so much less time there than in the past, it may not. Meanwhile, I discovered Precious Plastic, an idea so beautiful and revolutionary it takes my breath away. Sammie Vance is one of my heroes; in a frequently shitty world, the Nev House people make me want to weep with gratitude and joy. I want this so bad it hurts. I want to build my own equipment, oh my goodness yes I do, and bring it to the community; I’d build my own house with those tiles in a heartbeat; I lie awake wondering if I could somehow make a living from it. So now I hoard my precious plastic bottle tops and dream of a future where they might be useful and beautiful, an inspiration to others.

2. I started collecting those nasty string bags that onions come in, for no reason other than it seemed like they should be useful. I’ve never heard of any re-uses, though, other than Penelope Keith, who puts old soap scraps in them to wash her dog. (Good on you, Ms Keith.) Then it occurs to me that I can crochet them into a doormat. Colourful, strong, beautiful (and a quick, easy project to boot).

3. Plastic bag bags. There are some really lovely examples of using plastic bags, the disposable sort, to make stronger, lasting, and yes, beautiful, plastic bags. I look at sites like this and I sigh with lust. I don’t want to buy, though, I want to make. The kids and I have had one preliminary go and this is definitely something we can, and will, be doing in the future.

Can’t you just see yourself carrying your veg home from market in a carry bag made from this?

4. Bread-bag clips. Last October we camped at Adder Rock on Minjerribah (North Stradbroke Island) and as my daughter and I wandered around I started noticing bread-bag clips. They were everywhere around the BBQs. I couldn’t just leave them there for wildlife to swallow, or to put yet more microplastics into the soil, so I began collecting them. And one morning at the breakfast table I began arranging them and lo, it was pleasing. I can see them fused between layers of clear plastic to make a very funky bag…

What do you think? What do you do with your plastics? Don’t you think there has to be more to it than just waiting for some company to figure out how to turn a profit?

Projects: The Digital Edition

Works in progress

So, I recently met a cousin, which in itself is pretty cool, and she turns out to be uber-cool with, you know, her sauce totally together. I happen to mention in one of our texty-chats, that I am exceedingly far from having my sauce together. Hell, I’m not even sure if I ever had any sauce. Have you checked the cupboard?

My life, I say, is pretty much utter chaos, base to apex. (This is true; you haven’t seen it yet, but stick around and you will.) I show her this picture of my, ah, work area, and I say, this mountain is 30% filing and 80% unfinished projects. (I fudged the numbers because some of it is digital, so technically, not contributing a lot to this mess.)

And she, bless her head, sensibly suggests that I ditch everything except the three best. I mean, honestly. How am I supposed to do that? Have another squizz at that pic. Does it look to you like I can find three projects out of that lot, let alone identify the best?

It then occurs to me that maybe she means the three best in each category, because I have many different kinds of projects. Families of projects. Honeys, I’ve got whole communities of projects on the go. Or off the go. Or somewhere near the go.

In the interests of clarity, therefore, I offer the first in an occasional column seeking to create order from chaos, by cataloguing how many projects I have in the works. By category.

This week: Digital projects.

1. I started a blog. You are looking at it.

2. I have an Instagram account. See the link over there? I put that link there all by myself, even though Instagram wasn’t even invented last time I had a blog. The blog and the Insta are part of the new career I want to build for myself, so. Pretty important.

3. I wrote a novel. Yes, really. It’s at the second-draft, “sitting in a drawer, waiting for me to have enough distance to view it critically” phase. No, you can’t see it yet.

4. I’m writing a non-fiction book. Because starting a new project is a great way to clear the old project out of your head, amIright?

5. I did photobooks for the children in 2012, 2013, and 2015. The photos for 2014 are mostly collated, I think? And all the photos since are right here on… oh, no they’re not, they’re on the old laptop, the one with the dead keyboard…

6. … that I am trying to replace, as soon as I remember to return the Wrong Replacement Keyboard and track down the Right Replacement Keyboard. (Wait. Does this count as a project?)

7. I kept a load of bumf from our holiday on Stradbroke Island in 2015, which was The Most Idyllic Holiday Ever. I want to make a photobook of that, too, that I will brandish, in future years, when the kids complain we never did anything fun.

8. Ditto, our 2016 road trip. Think the photos from this are halfway through being sorted. Though of course they’re on the dud laptop. Drat.

9. There may be another novel, sort of, um, lurking. For after I’ve finished the non-fiction book, gone back and edited the novel and bunged it in the post. Which will be… soon.

There, see? That wasn’t so ridiculous, was it? I knew this category business would help. I only wish I’d thought of it earlier.

What I’ve learned this week

  1. Ceramic heat lamps do not glow but they are bloody hot, and that burn’s a bastard.
  2. Home-made apple pie is both breakfast of the gods, and the natural enemy of healthy eating.
  3. Compared to home-made apple pie, home-made golden syrup steamed pudding is healthy eating’s Attila the Hun.
  4. Getting up three times a night for children’s nightmares/head colds/fear of opening a closed toilet door blows just as much as it ever did, and may lead to impaired judgement on the wisdom of making desserts when one is trying to eat healthily.

I made this.

chook run

Look what I built!

Not the henhouse – all I did there was rescue it from kerbside and put in nest boxes and a roost – but the whole rest of the run – I did that!

I persuaded the Skeptic we needed chickens. (That alone took 23 years.)

I found the best location and measured the footprint, tucking it under the bushes for shade. I figured out the construction, bought the door and the mesh and star-pickets on Gumtree.

I rummaged through the timber stash, found roughly matching beams, pulled nails, sawed rotten ends, painted them, nailed them in place.

I wore the bruise when one of those beams fell on my head.

I went to the hardware store for clouts and mending plates which I cut and bent and I screwed those beamy suckers so they will never will drop on anyone else’s head. Ever.

I salvaged the shadecloth from the old patio covering, cut it to the right size, tied it to the mesh, patched where it didn’t fit, and scratched my fingers to bits attaching mesh to star pickets with fencing wire.

I spent far more time up the ladder than I’d previously wanted to.

I kept the entire budget under $150!

Yes, I took help when it was offered, because when your sweetheart wants to get his drill out, you let him, and when your eleven year old decides to hoik his skinny butt and a 3.5kg sledgehammer to the top of the ladder to pound in 7’ star pickets, you definitely let him, heart in your mouth the entire time. And when your nine year old wants to sit up there learning to hammer, at glacial speed and with much anxiety, you smile, hold her foot (this apparently helps) and pass the nails.

Dodgy as

And, sure, it’s made of four different kinds of mesh, held together by fencing wire, lock-ties, cast-off weed-trimmer cable, and in some places just by twisting the daggy ends of one bit of mesh into another. Yep, the roof’s really held up in places by branches wired to the star pickets. And okay, to get the door to open right, we hung it upside down, which is doing the kids’ heads in because you have to lift, rather than press, the handle.

But I built it, and that represents something far bigger than a home for the chickens we don’t yet have. It means I set myself a goal. I planned all the steps, I remembered them, and I actually bloody finished something. On time. Which in itself is pretty awesome, because I haven’t been able to do that for about ten years.

Even better, it means I’m learning again, which is beyond awesome, because I haven’t wanted to do that for about ten years. I’m not saying I didn’t learn anything for ten years, I just didn’t want to accept the lessons life was foisting upon me. But I’ve finally twigged that, actually, where I am is perfect for learning, and I’m ready for it now, scratches, splinters, swears and all.

You got here just in time. It’s gonna be wild.