Fascinating Succulents

We have a friendly family of magpies that are getting too friendly.  One came into the house the other morning and tried to fly out the kitchen window.  It then flew out the open door, but not before trampling all the succulents in bowls on the window sill.

magpieSucculents are fascinating.  They aren’t the prettiest of plants, except when they flower, but have an amazing ability to regrow themselves from a single leaf.  Here’s different leaves lying on a bed of potting mix.  I have no idea which leaves can regrow themselves, so am trying as many as possible.  The plucked ends have to dry out, or callous over before they get wet.  A light spray of water every few days of the leaves doesn’t seem to hurt though. The container is outside in the winter sun.

succulent leaves

In growing season I imagine this happens quickly, but in our frosty winter the growth of roots and sprouting of new plants, or babies as some people call them, has taken over two months to get to this point.

succulent baby succulent babies

All the pieces of plants left around the window sill were gathered up and re-potted.  The ends were tidied up with a clean cut and then just stuck in the cactus mix.  Any leaves that were salvageable are now with the others, lying on the bed of potting mix, to see if they will sprout roots and new growth.succulentssucculents

I’ll update this post to show any progress with the plant pieces.  Mini gardens are never boring!

Tiny Houses

Tiny houses are part of a trend in housing that coincide with shrinking resources, finances and space, and the need to relocate or build quickly.

If you drive outside any of the cities in Australia, there is countryside for hundreds of kilometres in most directions.  Australia is spoilt for land mass, but has limited water resources and old, fragile earth.  Living with a light footprint, and utilising modern technology to go off grid is a way forward for creating more usable space for a migrating population.

These tiny houses are portable.  They are different from RV’s or caravans as the structure is of a small house, just on a trailer, or able to be put on a trailer.  The possibilities with this type of housing are as varied as the available building materials.


The beauty of tiny houses is the ability to make them completely off grid, and the portability means they can easily be relocated.  Designs can be as traditional as a timber cabin or a contemporary minimalist structure.

Tumbleweed tiny house

The affordability of tiny homes also means they are perfect for people on low or irregular incomes.  As they become more popular, I’m hoping tiny villages will become available around Australia where these structures can be parked on a permanent basis.

There is also the opportunity for communal living with like-minded people, such as artist villages.  Shared resources, communal areas, and edible gardens opens up a type of living that reduces expenses, and creates supportive communities.

Off Grid Tiny Houses
Off Grid Tiny Houses

Off Grid Tiny Houses in Melbourne tested a house design that included solar power with battery storage, rainwater harvesting and grey water recycling, with $15 of LPG (propane) a month to fuel a stove and hot water.  For a list of tiny house makers in Australia, see here tinyhousevillage.com.au

Bringing the Garden Indoors

With increasing apartment living, small gardens, water restrictions and extreme heat, an option is to bring the garden indoors.  I’ve been experimenting with terrariums and succulents in bowls.

succulentThe idea is similar to wicking beds, or self watering pots, except the container can be completely closed.  Closed jars or terrariums need little watering once set up.  Watch the glass to see if water condenses all the time, and if so, open the lid until enough of the water evaporates.  Condensation should only happen in the mornings.

Jar garden

Tiny container gardens can easily die from over-watering, so the basic principle is create a layer of pebbles at the base, covered by sphagnum moss (sustainable) then charcoal to absorb odours, and finally a free draining potting mix, like cactus mix.  Measure the water that goes into the container.  Only water again when the soil is drying out.  Just stick your finger in the soil to test if it’s drying out.

succulent in ceramic bowl

Succulents can dry out completely between watering and still survive.  If the leaves start to pucker it needs watering.  I found this handmade ceramic artisan pot in an Op Shop.  It’s a great way to repurpose old vases or bowls.

Terrarium This terrarium was made from a repurposed candle holder.  Ceramic animals add character, creating a mini jungle.  Terrarium plants don’t need fertiliser unless you want them to grow.  If anything, they need trimming back occasionally.

Mason jar pot plant

Mason jars can make great containers for pot plants.  I’m experimenting with several varieties including a rubber plant and peace lily.  This one is home for a Parlour Palm and a ceramic green tree frog.  Most terrarium plants and succulents like bright light for at least 6 hours a day, but not direct sunlight.  Leave the plants in indirect light, about a metre from the window, or under LED lights, which don’t heat the plants.

terrariumTerrariums green up indoor spaces and filter the air.  If you don’t have space or enough water for an outdoor fernery, terrariums are a great way to grow mini ones indoors.  This one has a bird’s nest fern, and also locally collected moss.  Check where you are allowed to collect roadside plants in your area.

moss jam jar terrariumA small jam jar terrarium for moss and assorted grasses, also collected locally.


Upcycled Fashion: Junky Styling

Junky Styling are possibly the best known upcyclers of fashion.  Designers Annika Sanders and Kerry Seager, worked from an exposed studio on a shop floor to show transparency in the entire process.  Operating from 1997 to 2012, they started out at the Kensington Markets, then shared a space with a vinyl record store, and finally opened their own shop in East London.

Junky Styling shop in East London, 2012
Junky Styling shop

I first came across the label in the mid 2000’s.  Westwood and Kawakubo were the innovators of unconventional fit, Kawakubo and Margiela the founders of deconstruction, but Junky Styling were leaders in the modern eco movement of fashion, deliberately using second hand or surplus materials.

Continue reading Upcycled Fashion: Junky Styling

Where to next [fashion]

As mentioned previously, the future of fashion has to be based on sustainability or it isn’t relevant.  The same applies to any industry.  So what options are available for sustainable fashion?  The materials are the main concern, followed by ethical production.

Sex Pistols T-shirt, designed by Vivienne Westwood and Jamie Reid, customised by Johnny Rotten, late 1970s. Museum no. S.794-1990
Sex Pistols T-shirt, designed by Vivienne Westwood and Jamie Reid, customised by Johnny Rotten, late 1970s. V & A Museum no. S.794-1990

Sustainable materials include natural such as organic cotton, hemp, bamboo, silk, linen, wool, etc;  recycled plastic based fabrics; reconstituted fabrics from broken down natural and synthetic materials and reconstructed; whole clothing or factory off cuts or seconds that are surplus or returned; used fabric or clothing that is wearable; used clothing that is falling apart or unwearable due to broken zips, holes, stains, etc.

Viktor & Rolf Fall 2016 Haute Couture Vagabond Collection. Made from clothing and fabrics from previous collections.
Viktor & Rolf Fall 2016 Haute Couture Vagabond Collection. Made from clothing and fabrics from previous collections.

Ethical production follows the trail from fabric production to the finished item of clothing, and can account for every step of the way.  This depends on transparency.  Some of the good fabric suppliers such as Pickering International or Elsegood Fabrics, are happy to assist with information.

Cut and construction can be difficult to follow with contracting and subcontracting if the process isn’t documented.  Choices for local production in Australia are limited, so can be competitive to book in, and also require scrutiny for award wages and working conditions at all levels of production.

Deconstructed and redesigned rain mackintosh by Junky Styling, 2009
Deconstructed and redesigned rain mackintosh by Junky Styling, 2009

Ideally learning how to do everything is the easiest path to ethical production, or team up with people who have complimentary skills.  Digital design through Spoonflower; learning skills in painting, dyeing and printing fabric via Kraftkolour or Dharma Trading; using hand or machine fabric manipulation techniques to customise or create fabric.  Few of my favourite designers trained in fashion design, so lack of orthodox skills leads to new ways of creating, proving great fashion is about art and imagination.

Comme des Garçons Spring 2013, clothing made from what looks like multiple toile pieces
Comme des Garçons Spring 2013, clothing made from what looks like multiple toile pieces.  Headwear by Graham Hudson, made of recycled and upcycled materials and items.