Monday, May 22, 2017

Backyard Project: Rocks - Rocks - Rocks, 'Use What You have'

One of the principals of permaculture is to use what you have on the site.
What we have in abundance is rock - hard granite rock.
Above shows one of the sites where a huge boulder (or was it bedrock?) was blasted - I posted about it here. The site needed to be levelled out before the pergola could be built.

The biggest rocks were moved out of the pergola area to a temporary place near where they are to be used.

The middle-sized ones - the maximum size I can carry - have been used to edge garden beds. I like making rock garden edges. Taylor placed bigger rocks under the cedar fence to stop baby deer from crawling under it.

The smallest rocks from the site plus all of those on the to-be pathways and those I dig out of the garden beds are collected up and wheelbarrowed....

...to make a random rock edge on the right side of the pathway going up the east side of the house to the front. For the edge on the left of the path, I am fitting the rocks together to define Gunilla's garden bed. This was the first rock work I attempted and my skill level has improved so much since then I will be going back to rework this little wall.


Rock from the blast site where the sheds are to be built was moved by Josh using the Bobcat to make a random rock wall along the track, post here. The rock wall had a lot of soil as well which I didn't want because the seeds in the soil would grow and cover the rocks.

I spent many hours cleaning off the rocks with the frequent rains helping the job along.

Once I had cleared most of the soil off I scattered about 15 different types of seeds hoping they would germinate in the remaining soil pockets. 
It has been a lot of work moving these rocks in place but with good planning, we haven't had to move them far and we are making use of all of them. We will not have to pay for any rock removal.
"Use what you have" - check.

Backyard Project: Irrigation - A Big Job

Irrigation installation equipment: measuring wheel for finding distances, coloured flags to mark zones, grubbing mattock to dig trenches.

Mike Isacson, the owner of Island Waterwise Irrigation and assistant David, arrived in February to install an irrigation system in the backyard. I first met Mike several years ago at an irrigation workshop he had volunteered to run for the CRD. I was most impressed with his level of knowledge and his irrigation philosophy. He had been a landscape gardener before deciding to specialise in irrigation when he found so few people really understood what it should be.  

There had been an extensive irrigation system before we started the Backyard Project but most of it got destroyed during construction. We did not try to preserve it because the whole area was to be reconfigured. New main pipes had to be installed in trenches.

It was tough going digging those trenches in the rocky soil. And the weather was cold.
The original system watered a huge lawn which covered most of the area that is now the Backyard Project. The new system focuses on new raised beds while the pergola, arbour, gravel bed garden and new paths do not need an irrigation system.

I had drawn a map dividing up garden beds into different areas with different water requirements. I walked around the site with Mike to explain the areas. Mike then walked around and visualised the different zones needed and marked them with different coloured flags.

We had made contact with Mike in the previous fall but he was very busy and not able to get to our place until February. I knew the garden beds would be dug up to lay the pipes so I planted only the tree in each bed and grew cover crops that needed to be dug in any way. By the time Mike arrived all of the cover crops had been killed off by the frost. 

Each zone has its own coloured flag. I asked Mike to leave the flags in place so I could become familiar with each zone once we started using the irrigation system. We will program each zone according to how often and how much water it needs during the dry months.


This is the spade David used to dig the trenches, called a trenching spade, obviously. I was so impressed with how carefully he dug out the soil then replaced it after the pipe was laid.

David is laying pipe along the top of the Feather Hugelkultur Bed. Mike works along the fence in the new bed. You can tell it is cold by how well dressed they are - hat/toque, gloves and winter jacket are required.


Flexible pipe is installed in the trench then different fittings are attached depending on the type of irrigation needed.

One of the control areas for the different zones. This is covered with the green lid so it can be accessed when needed.

There were a couple of days during the installation when conditions were miserable. This day first the roofers stopped because they couldn't get the bitumen warm enough. Then Mike and David left because they couldn't see what they were doing. Josh and his crew left not long after because of the same problem. It was an unwanted Snow Day holiday.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Backyard Project: New Studio Footwear and New Garden Bed

I wrote a couple of posts about the shoes I wear going to and from the studio and inside the studio here and here.
With the past snowy winter I had to add another pair of footwear - waterproof rubber boots with New Zealand wool liners. These are also my gardening boots. It is usual to wear longer boots when gardening in forest areas to protect the legs from deer ticks.

Recently I added a pair of Skellerup 'Red Band' flip flops/jandles/thongs to my studio shoe collection. I purchased them in New Zealand where they and 'Red Band' gumboots are de rigeur when in the countryside. Now the paths have been leveled and covered with gravel it is no longer hazardous to walk to and from my studio and these are perfect for slipping on and off during the warm months.

Finally the lumber Josh ordered came in and he was able to finish the cedar fence with the top beam.

In theory that meant there would be no more construction activity in the area between the fence and the studio. Finally I could get going on making the new garden bed.
The soil is in rough shape. It has been driven over, walked over, turned into mud over the rainy season and dust in the dry season. It is thoroughly compacted, full of rocks and stones and has little organic matter - so I need to provide the conditions for the soil organisms to make new soil.
First I dug it over taking out all of the rocks in the first few inches. Then I covered it with a thick layer of all the paper and cardboard I had collected from the house and from dumpster diving.
This paper is the 'Party Time' signal for the earthworms, woodlice/slaters and hundreds of other bugs to start partying/eating. 
Normally this layer has to be soaked with water using the hose but the outside water has not been turned on for the season yet so I made this first layer the day before rain was forecast. As predicted, it got thoroughly drenched.

I measured out the path and started construction of the rock edge using rock blasted from the pergola area.

Next layer - coffee grounds courtesy of our local coffee houses/cafes. As I have posted about before - the coffee is the green and the filters and coffee cups are the brown in the compost mix.

Then the muscle moved in dumping wheelbarrow loads of a 'cooked' spent hops mash from a local brewery and the shreddings from a nearby landscaper - a potent mix.

Tah dah - new garden bed. While the soil organisms do their work transforming the layers into soil  I have the pleasurable task of planning the plantings.
Taylor placed the rocks along the bottom of the fence so the bambi deer could not squeeze under it and get inside the backyard. The mother deer on the other side do crazy things when this happens.

 I think of this as a bonus garden bed. I didn't have it in my original concept design and I didn't know how big it would be until the fence was in place and the path was marked out. Not only is it a big bed it is also a pleasing shape.





Thursday, May 18, 2017

Backyard Project: Finishing the 2 Roofs

The roofers arrived to put the final layer of bitumen on the shed area roof.
This layer has a rough grit stuck to the surface to make it more weather resistant.


Roofing or clout nails with a big flat, umbrella head. 
The roofer hammers with a 2 stroke rhythm to drive the nail home.  



In the meantime, Josh is working on the Propagation Room roof.

He is slipping in place each section of 3 boards. The boards are held up out of any rain water by plastic wood blocks that won't rot. We will be able to lift out the panels to clean the debris off the roof. The black part of the roof is sloped towards a drain hole.


Thursday, April 27, 2017

Backyard Project: 2 Different Roof Systems Serving 2 Different Purposes

He looks like a ghost buster but he is a roof layer - a torchon roofer. 

Nortek Exteriors is back to install the same sort of roof they put on the studio - a torchon roof.

First, a layer of fireproof fibreglass felt is nailed in place. 

For the next layer, a sheet of bitumen is melted and sealed in place with a butane torch. 
While continuing to be used extensively in commercial buildings because it is easy to install and repair and is one of the cheapest roofing materials available, it is a somewhat controversial because it is made from similar materials to our roads. 
The reason why we decided to go with the torchon roof on the studio and garage is I want a green roof. Under the forest canopy, mosses and lichens will naturally colonise the roof while feeding on the bitumen. It will last 15 to 20 years which is a shorter life span than some other roofing systems but it is easy and inexpensive to scrape off the mosses and add another layer of bitumen on top of the old. Though they do last longer other roofing systems need to be removed and put in landfills before the new material can be installed.


The other controversial roofing material is going on top of the propagation room.
The flashing has been installed.

The lumber has been delivered - Kayu Batu - a sustainably harvested hardwood from SE Asia. Some would argue it is irresponsible to use hardwoods from other countries and that would include buying furniture made from hardwood. 
We decided to go with the hardwood because treated like a piece of furniture it will last as a roof for up to 50 years - a better option to replacing local wood decking every 6 to 10 years. We live in a rainforest where conditions are perfect for breaking down and rotting wood. Kayu Batu is suited to these wet conditions and is resistant to mould, fungus, wood rot, insects and fire. It does not require the usual yearly painting or sealing. It can be oiled to keep the rich colour or it can be left to age to a silver grey, which we will be doing. The only maintenance will be keeping it swept.
Josh ordered 10-foot lengths to cover the 10-foot wide deck so there is no waste wood produced during construction.

Josh made a jig to get an accurate positioning of the supporting cross members made of water resistance composite wood.

He is making panels of 3 board lengths.
Installation details in a later post.
2 different roof systems serving 2 different purposes - 1 to provide food for living organisms the other to resist living organisms.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

My New Reliable Velocity Iron

This is my old Reliable Velocity iron. It has been reliable but after 5 years I have worn it out. It is not worth repairing, the cost of which would include having to ship it both ways across the country. It is no longer made and has been replaced by an updated model.

This is my new Reliable Velocity iron. I am hoping it has kept the best features of the older model and improved on others.

New on the right. There are a lot more and smaller steam holes. The grooves that shot the steam along the sole plate have gone. It will be hard to compare if the new is more effective but here's hoping.
The top point is pointier - a good feature for detail work but I use this iron mainly for flat yardage. The back is curvier which makes it harder to tell when the straight edge of the fabric is covered with the sole plate.

New on the right. The main difference is the push button digital readout has gone. This was the feature that failed on the older model. My resident engineer says it would have been very difficult to keep the electronics sealed away from the steam chamber. The temperature is now controlled by a manual dial.
The water sprayer has gone. That is OK because I didn't use this feature. The steam-generating chamber produced enough steam to smooth out the driest and most wrinkled fabrics.
The new model has a clearer plastic water chamber so it is easier to see the water level. As a consequence, I don't overfill it as often. 

New on the right. The water filter (bottom left on the older model) has gone. With a steam generator, the water quality can affect its lifespan and efficiency. I am filling the new iron with only distilled water to avoid the buildup of scale and rust in the chamber. Even though the shop I bought the first iron from told me it was OK to leave water in the chamber all of the time, I now empty it at the end of each session. It will make a difference in prolonging the life of the iron.

New on the right. The water fillers illustrate the newer model has a smaller water chamber holding about a third less water. I consider this a negative feature because it means I have to refill it more often. 



I poured water from the old container into the newer iron and this is the leftover water. I don't know if you can see the water line here.

After a short time using the new iron I found another negative feature. I kept naturally putting my hand forward of the rubber handle and unintentionally pushing the buttons with my palms. I found it was easy to bump the circular dial to a different setting. At first, I thought this heavy iron, which I like the weight of, was unbalanced in that my hand went to the centre point and covered the buttons.

 Then I noticed when I kept my hand back away from the buttons my fingers were scrunched against the back of the handle. I have decided the handle design was too short.
I really like that this iron is so heavy. It does a great job without my having to put any weight on the handle. All I need to do is guide it with my hand. 
When ironing I aim to keep the iron down and in contact with the cloth as much as possible and to lift it only when I need to move the fabric. By using the weight of the iron and its feature of being able to continuously produce steam I can get a lot of ironing done relatively quickly for little effort on my part. This is the main reason why I bought this brand again. I am hoping its modifications and my better care of it will ensure we have a long and happy life together.

What is your favourite iron? I would be interested to hear from you.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Working With Itten's 7 Colour Contrasts

"Our sense organs can function only by means of comparisons. The eye accepts a line as long when a shorter line is presented for comparison. The same line is taken as short when the line compared with it is longer. Colour effects are similarly intensified or weakened by contrasts." Itten The Elements of Color, p. 32

Itten's 7 kinds of colour contrast:
1. Contrast of hue
2. Light-dark contrast
3. Cold-warm contrast
4.Complementary contrast
5.Simultaneous contrast
6. Contrast of saturation
7. Contrast of extension

With this Synesthesia series of work, I am working with one hue/colour at a time, defined as a monochromatic colour scheme. It means I am not able to use #1. Contrast of hue. For each individual work to be successful I need to work with other colour properties to achieve contrast.

The Synesthesia series aims to show how I feel about each colour's energy. To express that energy I focus on line, without making a thing, shape or motif and I work with value. #2 Light-dark contrast is my main design tool

# 2. Light-dark contrast. Here I have overlapped with an off-set, dark to light threads over a dark to light ground.

To me, this colour evokes calmness, an immensity in its calmness. To give this feeling I need to show a low level of contrast but still need to have some contrasting elements for the work to be successful, otherwise, there is no energy at work.
I took advantage of one of textiles' strongest features - texture. This low contrast dark to light fabric line up is still interesting to the eye because each fabric has a different texture.
These fabrics also show #6 Contrast of saturation at a low level but the eye can still see a brighter blue beside a dull blue.

When checking for #2 Light-dark contrast I look through a 'Ruby-Beholder' - a red or green plastic strip and or I take a picture with my camera to get a black and white image. 
Here I decided there was just enough contrast of light and dark for the eye/brain to notice while still giving off a calm vibe.

Including too wide a range of light to dark generally is not successful. One needs to limit the range of values to a group or block along the light-dark continuum.
When I am designing a work I take out all of the fabrics I have that would be suitable as far as their other characteristics are concerned. I arrange them in a continuous line from light to dark. I then look along the line to decide which section would best express the feel and energy of that colour. I work with fabrics in that section and put away those either side of the chosen ones.

I am making colour cards to go with each Synesthesia work. The cards have strips of fabric glued to them. When I select the fabrics I aim for the maximum range of values, saturation, and cold-warm contrast because the purpose of the cards is to show the full range of the colour's properties.

A stop for a quick dark-light check during construction. 
Is there enough contrast to effectively express the energy I feel from this colour?

When I make work I do a lot of research and pre-planning in a sketchbook. Next, I sample with the actual fabrics. When I am actually making the work it feels as though I am back at the trial and error stage but this time I am working towards producing that image or feeling I have of what the work should be and it guides my decisions.