Make hay (or jam!) while the sun shines

In seed time learn, in harvest teach, in winter enjoy.  ~William Blake

We’re having a lovely mild autumn right now. It almost makes up for the nonexistent summer! My tomatoes are finally ripening in the sun and I’m eyeing up the pumpkins under their mantle of mildew-speckled leaves, trying to judge the ideal moment to pick them for maximum ripeness before the frosts get ’em. In the kitchen I’m bottling roasted tomato sauce, apple puree, jams and pickles. My laundry is hung with drying maize, beans, onions, herbs and seeds.

Preserving helps me to avoid wasting the late summer glut and allows me to spread it over the winter months to come. Like many people I have tried and tested family recipes (not to mention more than a few disasters) but I also like to test out new crops, recipes and preserving or storage methods.

Where do I turn to learn how to pickle my pumpkins or clamp my carrots? The library of course! Whether I’m looking for a book or an online resource, the library can help. There are plenty of preserving books to help you fill those Agee jars and some great how-to manuals on other food storage techniques. Have a look on The Source for the Culinary Arts Collection (you’ll need your library card and pin number handy), and try a search on food preservation for more intriguing information on old food storage methods.

By the way, the image above shows the Hayward Bros. pickle, sauce and vinegar factory, which used to be very close to the site of our new Central Library Peterborough – it opened just down the road in 1890, on the corner of Peterborough and Victoria Streets. You can look at more of our fabulous heritage image collection on our website.

What crops to you end up overrun with at this time of year? How do you deal with them? Go on, share your favourite preserving recipe!

Christchurch’s grand designs

Cover TV3 on a Thursday finds me glued to the box awaiting Kevin McCloud, and his Grand Designs. I never miss it. Mr McCloud’s dulcet tones mixed with a hints of sarcasm and a good doses of scepticism keep me riveted as I watch impossibly adventurous houses being built or renovated by their often eccentric owners. There is something about architecture and everything we invest in a new building that is akin to a great soap opera. The drama, love, failure and thwarted dreams is compelling.

CoverPerhaps this is why as Christchurch people we are so interested in the buildings we are losing as well as what lies ahead. Our homes and our public structures represent what we stand for, what we publicly want to show the world about our taste, our dreams and what we represent as individuals and as a city.

The library website has some great guides outlining the architecture of Christchurch as well as overseas. One of my favourite links is to Christchurch modern. This is a blog that has done a tremendous job collecting images and information about  houses that have been built within a modernist tradition, many of which have been lost during the earthquakes. I hadn’t realised that Christchurch had quite such style in this respect. It is also worth checking out the Flickr link to Hum-dingers of the grid city.

Living a shady life

CoverWhen you think gardens, you think often of sunny, light bathed areas, filled with bright flowers, all the colours of the rainbow.

My garden does have these spots, but the vast majority of it is shady, and over the years in this house I’ve struggled to figure out how to bring colour into a shady garden.

Of course the library was the first place I headed. There must be plants who love the shade but also love showing off their colourful flowers or variegated leaves.

This book caught my eye, Success with Shade Loving Plants – success was what I wanted! Then, browsing the catalogue, I spotted this title and thought, ” this is a must”. Making the Most of Shade had an intriguing subtitle, ‘Growing a Fabulous Garden that Lightens up the Shadows’. I also checked out 200 tips for Gardening in the Shade , The Shady Border and I had a wee poke around an online library gardening resource via The Source , called Gardening, Landscape and Horticulture.

Until I started looking I didn’t realise there were so many books and other resources about shady gardens out there.

I felt I was really onto something now. So armed with new found knowledge, I’m planning a few changes, plotting through the colder months but nothing radical, just trying to inject some colour and interest, so that come spring and summer, the garden will be transformed into a place where it looks like someone cares.

Here’s hoping. I’m also going to try an idea I’ve had of growing sun-loving plants in pots, then moving them about into shady spots for a week or two, then back to the sun, just to see what happens.

Do you have favourite plants, garden styles, colours you love in your garden, or maybe plant combinations? Do share!

Car trouble: Picturing Canterbury

Car Trouble, 1960s

c. 1964 “My father (Gus Watts) and Ralph, fixing our troublesome car”.

Art at work

Image of Kaitiakitanga
Created By Gavin Britt, July 2008

I don’t think e-readers are ever going to have the same aesthetic appeal as books. I like the look of books. More than that, I like the look of rooms full of books interspersed with some art .

There are times when I forget to really look at my surroundings, but I do have fond memories of the artworks in Christchurch libraries: the beautiful art deco mirror at New Brighton (by Maureen J. Stewart), the stunning circular carving that graced Bishopdale (pictured right) and the lovely print behind the membership desk at Redwood (Tangaroa: The Fishing Man by Michael Tuffery).

But it is the art at Central that I miss most of all. Which is why I am so taken aback that there aren’t any large glossy tomes on Art in Libraries. It is a book that is crying out to be written.

However you can make a start on exploring this topic with the beautiful Living with books. Move on to look at our library art collection and maybe take a trip down memory lane to visit our Tukutuku panels. You could even treat yourself  to a road trip that takes in cool little art galleries around New Zealand. Or you could just pop along to the staff art exhibition at New Brighton this month where you get to see library art by librarians.

How about  you, do you too still haunt the corridors of long-gone public spaces – glancing from side to side at the art work you maybe took for granted?

Dream weavers – Maori weaving and fibre arts

WeavingWe’ve just updated our page on Maori weaving and fibre arts. It’s a great resource that links to books and library resources, and also has step-by-step information on:

There are interviews with weaver Paula Rigby on weaving and  cloak making:

The degree of skill that’s involved in making a korowai (cloak) for example is phenomenal, and it should be recognised as just as artistic as a van Gogh or Rembrandt.

If you are interested in weaving,  the exhibition Raraka Taiao: Naturally Ngai Tahu started yesterday (Wednesday 4 April) and goes until 15 April. Ngai Tahu weavers will showcase contemporary weaving, using only natural materials and dyes. Their work will be for sale, and the exhibition will feature weavers in action, so you will get to see their skills up close.

Recent necrology, March 2012

A list of notable people who have died recently. A modest list this month including a radical feminist poet, a great bluegrass star and the composer of songs for much loved movies like Mary Poppins and Chitty Chitty Bang Bang.

Have wool, will transform the city

I love Yarn bombing or Yarn Storming as it’s also known. It has so many great aspects to it. It is artistic, relaxing and creative. But it can also be confronting, anarchic and has a hint of the non-permanent grafitti artist about it and I think Christchurch could do with more!

What is it? It’s the art of creating knitted or crochet art works for public spaces. It often involves stealth and surprise, with creators putting their works in public spaces under the cover of darkness anonymously to surprise the public. They cover natural forms such as trees and rocks or man made items such a statues, bike stands or lamp posts.

I had a go at mushrooms myself,  but I loved them so much they have ended up in my garden. I have seen creations pop up around Christchurch, pre and post quake. Abandoned buildings have been adorned, as have metal security fencing, statues and empty sections.

There’s plenty of inspiration in books available in the library collection, but if you can make a square of knitting or crochet, or even make the old style finger chains we did as children, you can Yarn bomb.

Knit the City is a British book whose creators adorn statues, bridges, telephone boxes and buildings with knitted animals, pirates and even a whole book’s worth of characters, such as Alice in Wonderland. Yarn Bombing is also an inspirational book, with patterns that even tell you how to knit disguises so you can go about your work without being recognised.

So, why not make this a winter project, get creative and adorn our bare city with colour, humour and a touch of pizazz! If you’re not brave enough to decorate the city, how about a knitted mushroom or three by your letterbox to bring a smile to your neighbours? Perhaps tell us where you have seen some yarn bombing around Christchurch.

Covering the Auckland Writers and Readers Festival

We are planning to head up to the Auckland Writers and Readers Festival in May. Here’s a pictorial presentation of Festival flavour …


Craft and magical thinking

book coverEvery month I read through the list of new books emailed to me and I usually find a crochet or knitting book that I need to reserve: something like AUSTENtatious crochet or Crochet master class .  It will be full of beautiful pictures of gorgeous clothes or accessories and I immediately imagine these items draped on me or the furniture. In fact, I can imagine it so well that in four weeks time, when I have to return the book, I am surprised to find that no craft item has magically appeared.

It all comes unstuck at the making stage.  Looking at the pictures and reading the pattern does not magically convey the ability to make whatever I’m looking at, no matter how hard I wish. Even buying more yarn won’t do it; that just adds to the stash. Only actually making it counts. That’s about time, motivation and work, not magic and wishful thinking.

So now I still borrow the books but I’m inclined to just look at the pictures a little wistfully then return the book. I’ll concentrate on finishing some of my many half-finished projects.

Unless, of course, a book comes along with a picture that I just can’t resist!

Tell me that I’m not the only one to suffer from crafty magical thinking! What craft books have moved you from fantasy to reality?