Thursday, 26 February 2015

My Husband's Passion - Woodwork

My Husband’s Passion – Woodwork

 In Greece

He who works with his hands is a laborer. He who works with his hands and his head is a craftsman. He who works with his hands and his head and his heart is an artist. 

St. Francis of Assissi (1181-1226), patron saint of animals and the environment, founded the Franciscan Order

Takis in His Work Room in Greece


Transforming a Hall Stand to a Bookcase

Putting a Canopy over the Kitchen Stove

Covering the Old Staircase and Mid-floor

When the only tool you have is a hammer, you tend to see every problem as a nail.

Abraham Maslow (1908-1970), psychologist, philosopher

Making a new Back Door

Making a new Back Gate
(Australian Jarrah)

A Light Fitting

 In Australia

Give me six hours to chop down a tree and I will spend the first four sharpening the ax. 

Abraham Lincoln (1809-1865), U.S. President

A corner TV Music cabinet

A Desk with Shelves

Kitchen Bookcase

A determined soul will do more with a rusty monkey wrench than a loafer will accomplish with all the tools in a machine shop. 

Robert Hughes (1938-2012), Australian art critic

A Kitchen Table
(Oak and Ash)

Hall Table 1

           Hall Table 2,

Very like a Classic Shaker Side Table but it was first made with a gap in it to put my small notebook computer, then a drawer was added later. A good place to put car keys! 

A Double Bed and Bed Side Tables
(Huon Pine)

Coffee Table (Jarrah) and Sofa Side Tables (Rosewood)


Tuesday, 24 February 2015

Collections With Stories

Collections With Stories

There have been collections I’ve had and am sorry to say I broke up or have not kept as I moved from house to house. But I have not been interested in collections for their monetary value, rather for their decorative or sentimental value.  These are some that I still have.


I’ve had passions when it comes to writers and I have to buy everything they’ve written. This began as a early teenager when I started reading Dickens and Jane Austen. My ‘best friend’ and I would cycle into the English countryside, find a nice quite field then settle down to read in the summer sun, until time to cycle home. I later moved on to adore C.S.Lewis, Morris West and Fay Weldon. Of course there were others I dipped into but I have collections of these writers that I’ve take with me from England to Australia. 


I have loved crockery over the years and now have too much of it but I’d find it hard to part with any of it. I love setting a table, and use different sets of crockery for different occasions. I used to collect ‘brown ware’ often in old colonial designs. I have these on my dresser and as the old plates now are cream and brown they go well with my best set of crockery.

Old plates look good hung like pictures on the walls. This is what we have done with an old set of plates we had in Lemnos. In the kitchen I’ve used these plates on the canopy over the stove, using the design to decorate the canopy.
In my Australian kitchen I’ve hung some other old plates. These are four flower painted Wemyss Ware, a type of Scottish pottery.
I read that Scotland’s pottery industry was very prolific in the 19C and were produced specifically to export to Britain’s colonies and the article says that to this day, South Africa, Australia and Canada are teeming with jam pots, mixing bowls and tea services of Scottish origin. But Wemyss Wear was made between 1882 and 1930 by a pottery in Kirkcaldy, Fife. My three plates are unfortunately chipped but they have lovely hand painted colors that match the floral cushions.


And I love adding works of embroidery to pictures on my walls. In our Greek house we have pieces worked by Takis Grandmother and aunt, by my aunt and me.
In Australia I have a tree of life worked by ‘anon’. But I do believe it was by a man who once lived near the holiday home we once owned. I bought it at a local fire brigade fund raising event and was told a Mr ‘?’ had made it. Again, like my father’s cushion, it must have filled the evening hours.
I also have two ‘bell pulls’. In fact they have never been bell pulls but I did not know what to do with some wonderful cigarette cards collected by my mother. I had about forty floral cards, with covers telling the stories of flowers, and each flower colorfully and carefully (machine) embroidered.
Kensitas woven silk flowers, issued by Wix, were given away free inside each packet of Kensitas Cigarettes in the 1930's. Each Kensitas woven silk flower came with its own descriptive, and protective cover.

Three sizes of the Kensitas woven silk flowers were issued - the packet of ten cigarettes contained one of the small size Kensitas silks - the twenty pack one of the medium size Kensitas Silks, and one postcard size Kensitas Silk was given with the tins of 50 cigarettes, and two postcard silks with the tins of 100 cigarettes.


Cushions have stories too. In Lemnos I have two cross-stitched cushions made by my mother and father, an evening occupation during the early day of their marriage and the early days of the war. I was a baby when he died, so maybe it was something they could do when there was no TV and the towns were blacked out at night.

In Australia I had a difficult job finding cushions for the two leather sofa’s Takis bought. They are not a easy colour to combine with other colors. At first I ordered some knitted cushions of multiple browns. They are very soft and very comfortable behind your back when watching TV, but weren’t quite right.

Then I found a set that just toned in well, and even matched the throw over I’d crocheted some time ago. (A pattern in an American magazine that I began in England and finished in Australia. Due to differences in wools, or my bad maths, the ‘throw’ ended up ‘blanket’ size!


And in each of our homes we have displayed photos. In a way these too are collections. But they are very personal and I’m sure will not be valued by anyone outside the family, and maybe not even by them as I’ve noticed our children are less interested in Grandparents and Great Grandparents than we are. But that is what decorating ones house is about. It is a bower birds ‘nest’. It is where you settle at night, surrounded by your memories. It is your comfort zone. It may be a pleasant place for others but most of all you create it for yourselves.

Monday, 16 February 2015

Weeds, Weeds, Glorious Weeds

Weeds, Weeds, Glorious Weeds.

‘A weed in one place is a chosen plant in another’

What this says is that it is very hard to define what is a weed. ‘Creeping and rampageous’ plants Edna Walling calls these plants that tend to multiply too quickly in a particular area. And I too find some that love my garden too much I have to rip out. Also that what I encourage in Greece I yank out in Australia, and visa versa, even in one garden a ‘weed’ might be allowed in one place and not in another.

In my Lemnos Garden


Morning Glory
These might not seem to be weeds to most people but in Lemnos they can spread if left uncontrolled. Nasturtiums self-seed and actually in both gardens I let them spread gloriously in spring, then rip them out in summer to let the other plants survive their suffocation. I probably bought the Morning Glory plant. I placed it by a fence and it has spread vigorously through nearby almond trees. I also want to keep this plant for its beautiful flowers, and I even water it a little mid summer to keep some blooms, but I also have limited its spread. Purslane is easily ripped out, but it will take over a vegetable bed if not kept weeded.

Tender and Wild
I once had the chamomile daisies and poppies sow themselves and come and go of their own accord, and a caper plant in an old wall. I did not often see them blooming as we often missed early spring but a couple of times I’ve arrived early and seen them blooming in a corners of our yard. However, with so much human activity going on now in that patch they have now disappeared, to only be seen along roadsides outside the garden.

Controlled and Kept
Some wild and self-sowing plants that still come up in the garden I encourage. These are not as sensitive to cultivation and pop up determinedly, in flowerbeds, in pathways and amongst stone edging. I need to vigorously weed out the ones I do not want but do not discourage them altogether. They often prove to be great additions to a garden where severe heat or cold kill off many other plants. I once sprinkled Allyssun seeds in this garden and they loved it. They now pop up in many different places, and some I transplant into flower beds. I love the architectural form of Acanthus, but cut down flower stalks once the seeds begin to set to limit their spread. (I do the same with the Agapanthus in my other garden.) The Euphorbia came from a roadside plant I dug up it has now spread. I have to cut it back when it gets scraggy. Pokeweed gives great height, and the birds love the berries and the marigolds give colour all year round but both also need a lot of thinning out.


In Lemnos bindweed almost fills this category. If I stopped gardening it would cover the whole place with its spreading plants and white flowers. I try to dig up each plant that pops up but I know I’ll never get every bit of its roots. They have found a good location and they intend to spread their underground roots as far and as fast as possible.

In my Australian Garden





The Agapanthus are beautiful each Christmas time, but they are a declared weed and I cut down flower stalks once the seeds begin to set to limit their spread.  The little daisy heads of Erigeron are a great addition wherever they appear, but again I thin them out after a while, and the bigger bushes I rip into taking out the old growth. As for violets, there are many kinds in this garden and my front ‘lawn’ is mostly made up of short wood violets.

Tender and Wild
Forget me not


Wild flowers can thrill, when you stop at a wayside area and see what has grown in wasteland that nobody cares for, the charm and fertility of wasteland plants delight and amazes. Both of these, Forget me not and Crocosmia I have tried to encourage in this garden as I love their flowers. The first seeds well, too well at times, the second seems to like the waysides better than my garden.

Controlled and Kept
Self-sown Tomatoes
Grass is the most persistent of weeds in all gardens and it tells the story of weeds very well, both loved and encouraged in a lawn, and frustrating when it pops up in places where you find it hard to weed out. I have a ‘lawn’ in my Australian garden, the first garden I have ever had an area to mow. But though it looks good to have a smooth cut area in the middle of the garden, as a true lawn it is a very poor thing. It is actually mainly mown grass and dandelions at the back of the house, and violets and dandelions in the front! Self-sown tomatoes though are a blessing.


Broad Leaf Privet
Wandering Plant
I really hate Broad Leaf Privat trees. They grow up on fence boundaries here and you have to negotiate with neighbours to get rid of them. Honey suckle too tends to find places to rampage along boundaries in this garden. One of the chief reasons you have to keep the weeds down is to stop the scattering of seeds, as they say one year’s seeding, seven years’ weeding but when it comes to bindweed and columbine the problem is to stop their insidious creeping roots, and as for the Wandering Plant any little bit of stem or root can re-grow.

Useful Weeds


My garden helper in Greece tells me that he has pulled out wheelbarrows full of weeds from the beds and paths before we arrived. He tends to put it all in black plastic bags and dump it in the rubbish bins at the end of the street. If I were there at the time I’d sort the bad from the good weeds and add the good to the compost heap, but not being there, and not knowing how many unpleasant weeds (such as bindweed) are mixed up in the pile I let him continue with his program. But not long after I arrive our compost heap grows again, to be emptied out onto a garden bed just before we leave in autumn.

Weed Tea
Weed tea is something else beneficial for plants. It can be made with any weeds, but parsley, nettles and comfrey are particularly good. Put the weeds into a canvas bag with a shovel of manure or blood and bone, tie the top and plunge into a bucket of water. Lave to soak for a week or two, this produces a nourishing black liquid plant feed.

As Food, Greek Horta

The Italians know their weeds and Greeks know their Horta. And nowadays chefs will go out foraging for these special delights to add to their meals. I know what fennel is like and will use some of their leaves chopped in a sauce. I know that one can cook nettles. My English grandfather gathered them from the garden (he also used to beat himself with a bunch of them as a cure for his arthritis, though I suspect that he’d confused the information given him as he was supposed to boil and eat them!) In my Greek garden I pick dandelion leaves and Vleeta to make horta.

In Australia I’ve picked Warringal greens and salty samphire, both plants that I got to know when we had a holiday home by salty lakes. However I have found that it is best to drain off the water from Warringal greens after cooking, as it contains oxalic acid – the acid that some foods have and sets your teeth on edge.

Weeding as Therapy

In spring I take a wheelbarrow along the paths and slowly pull up weeds on the path and an arm’s length to each side. I start with gardening gloves but usually end up pulling up smell weeds with bare fingers, as this is the easiest way to get their roots out of the damp soil.

In ‘Australia’s Quarter Acre’ Peter Timms writes

‘Weeding is the perfect way to reconcile your destructive urges with a desire for order. If I’m feeling lazy or unmotivated or just need to think then a bit of casual weeding will keep me occupied without exertion, leaving my mind free to wander. And there is no better way of keeping us in touch with the condition of the soil that kneeling down and rooting about in it.’

There is also a time to stop weeding, and enjoy some of the unplanned arrivals.

It may help to just admire them if you have a camera to hand in order to capture some of their unplanned beauty.