brown soap and other things to beware

I have no idea what I was thinking when I bought a handmade bar of soap in BROWN. With bits in it. I mean, it smelled nice… a kind of hippie/patchouli kind of smell. But brown? Really? At best after using it it looks like I have rust stains in the bathtub. At worst it looks like I rinsed a diaper in there and didn’t clean up afterwards.

Eeech.

And its one of those last forever bars… I swear I’ve been using it since early this year and it just won’t wear out! I don’t think I’ll be buying brown soap again, no matter how nice it smells. Learn from me people.

I’ve learned a lot of things about plants in the last couple of days. It all started with me wanting to identify a plant that grows all over Paros (and Greece) despite the summer heat and dryness. Turns out its oleander. Who knew? Mom calls it by the greek name ‘pikrodafni’ which suggests its a daphne, but its not. Its everywhere and comes in tons of colours from a pale butter yellowy-creamy-white through different shades of pink to red. And its poisonous.

Oleander, lantana, rhododendrons and azaleas are all part of the dogbane family which includes hemlock.

There is tons of this stuff growing on roadsides on Paros and it looks a lot like hemlock:

Luckily, I’m pretty sure its Queen Anne’s Lace or carrotweed and not poisonous. Apparently ‘Queen Anne has hairy legs’ so I have to get up close and personal to see if the stems are hairy or smooth. If it was hemlock I think we’d be seeing a lot more deaths on the island, especially during lockdown…

I knew rhododendrons, azaleas and foxgloves are poisonous and I’ve had those in my garden before, but for those who don’t know the most deadly plants here is a webpage you can read about them. You’ll want to know if you have pets or little kids who like to eat plants.

Anyway, I’ve upgraded my WordPress account to premium which will allow me to put a Simple Payment button on a page so I can sell my creations through my blog. The only problem is I’m not quite sure how it works. Apparently you have to mark things sold manually so I need to run a test to see what happens after an item there is only one of sells… Does the button remain? Does it simply stop working after an item is sold? Does it disappear? Who knows… I will I guess, once I put something online and buy it myself to see what happens.

Stay tuned and then you’ll know too!

z

athens day 17 but who’s counting

Today, with temperatures of about 36-38 degrees C in Athens, I find myself in Loutsa with mom and Aunts 1 and 4.

It wasn’t my idea but what the heck, figured it wouldn’t hurt. At least Aunt 1 would have company all around her all day and maybe would stop complaining. Well, that didn’t happen. She complained in the car all the way down (yeah, she was sore and uncomfortable) but then she never let anyone rest once we got here. She went straight to bed while we did stuff and got lunch ready. Then we all wanted to rest and suddenly Aunt 1 was full of beans and wanted to walk around and chat.

Loutsa is an area outside Athens – the official name is Artemisia which is a much nicer name, but its not that much of a nice area. Too built up for me, too crowded. But its close to the sea so there’s a breeze and that in itself is so much better than Athens. Mom and Aunt 4 have convinced us to stay the night and return home tomorrow. I dread spending the night with pacing mumbling Aunt 1… We need some serious sleeping pills… Mind you, she’s walking with a cane now, still saying she can’t walk, but she’s getting around pretty well.

I just got a bonus chunk of data so I’m set… I just wish I’d brought my paints with me. Seems such a waste to be sitting here without working on something.

Meanwhile let me share some pretty pictures of Aunt 4’s flowers. Here are a couple of pretty pelargoniums.

And a gorgeous bougainvillea… maybe one day mine will be as full of blooms.

And the most amazing cactus flowers. They only last one day so I’m lucky to be here to see these.

Hope you enjoyed the flowers. Not sure what time we might leave for Athens. Morning will be cooler and less traffic and I’ll be home in time to hopefully do some painting… but it would be cooler to stay here all day and leave in the evening – but that means we’ll be fighting traffic all the way home…

z

a bottlebrush in athens

Have I ever mentioned how much I hate Athens?

Only about a million times. Except lately I’d decided I didn’t hate it quite as much as I thought I did. Cause I was here in winter when the weather was cold, windows were mostly shut, cafes were bursting with people and energy and it was a vibrant city to be in.

Compared to now: Hot and stinky. There’s been a very strong smell in the entire neighbourhood of diesel fuel for the last week. It actually wakes me up at night so I have to sleep with the windows closed. No idea where its coming from. It just IS.

The noise of course… cause now you have to have windows open most of the time so you can hear everything that happens in the neighbourhood. Including the buses on the main road and the angry motorbikes doing coffee deliveries.

Restrictions have been loosened so now people are out en masse and only some of them take social distancing seriously. The little ‘park’ opposite our house and the one on the next street over are full of parents with children playing. Kids are at the closed primary school playing forbidden ball games all day and into the night. Young children are out on their bikes or in the park with their parents till 11pm or later.

Greeks don’t believe in putting their kids to bed early the way I grew up.

The traffic is awful and, believe it or not, its less than normal cause not everything is open and not everyone is out yet! I’m spending quite a bit of time driving round the area taking mom and Aunt 1 to doctors appointments and for tests so I know. Roads are narrow, cars are parked on both sides, trucks, cars and anyone who feels like it double parks and you have to dodge traffic and risk life and limb every time you go out. then again, some people like the challenge.

A guy on a motorbike trying to overtake me yesterday was looking at his mobile!

Yeah I’m whining. Let me rant and get it out of my system. I’m tired and I’m over it. I wanna go home!!!

On the plus side, two afternoons now Aunt 1 has been getting up and shuffle walking and sitting on an armchair and not constantly complaining about the pain and how she can’t walk and her right side is all stiff. And this morning I took her to have some tests and she walked with a walking stick instead of the walker!

MOST IMPORTANTLY: SHE HASN’T ASKED FOR PAIN MEDS ONCE TODAY SO FAR!!!

She did, however, tell every doctor, nurse, passerby she saw that she couldn’t poop and could they help her… sigh…

This afternoon we saw the orthopedic surgeon again and he looked at the CT scan (or MRI, I’m not sure which it is as its in greek) and he gave me the final diagnosis and prognosis. My aunt had a fracture after all!!! It wasn’t visible on the xray but was on the CT… she fractured her pelvis in 2 places (I have no idea what its called, but its the bones that join the spine to the pelvis right at the bottom), also the little endy bits on her last vertebrae. No wonder she was in so much pain. So now, given its already been 6 weeks and the bones are held in place by the pelvis itself so the area was stable, there is nothing to do but wait it out, wean her off pain meds and at the end of May begin physio…. There’s no reason for her to not be able to walk again like she used to.

So all in all things are looking up. But you know me, nothing is easy for me. I’m a worrier. I worry about what to do about her. I can’t get someone to come live in to care for her cause I’ll be on Paros and mom will have to deal with any issues. And if the person I get up and quits I’m u. The nursing home on Paros isn’t a sure thing… they may not accept her… so I’m looking into places in Athens. Its a mindf¬£%k. Excuse the french…

There’s been no time for art though I did buy the bits I was after. I’m just too tired! Lets see what I can do between the next few appointments…

z

paros day 45: art and cages

I’ve finished the poodle portrait I’ve been working on and tomorrow it will be on its way to its new owner.

I have to admit I was really nervous about this one because the last poodle portrait I worked on the owner hated. I’d sent her a picture of it ‘in progress’ and she was really rude about it, totally ignoring my explanation that it was unfinished, so my confidence was quite low. To be honest I’m not sure I’ll ever finish that one…

Anyway, today I put up the bird cages. They’ve only got starter plants in them for now but I got them up on the wall. Only one minor incident to report: one cage came off the hook and landed on my head covering me in potting mix… But all good now.

I had some mossy stuff I’d bought to do craft projects with (real moss) so I lined the bottom of the cages with that. The idea being that the moss will be alive and also hold in some potting mix for the succulents to grow in. Two birds.

At least that’s my theory.

Now all I gotta do is get a couple of droopy succulents and wait for them to grow.

z

paros day 44: just thinking…

As promised, here is a photo of the two bird cages I found rubbish bin adjacent. Great find! I’m still working on how and where I’ll use them. I think I need a couple more fine ‘leafed’ dangly succulents for them. I’m picturing them on the rock wall behind my place with succulents trailing out of them…

Other than that I had a busy yet non-productive day. I took Lainee and Spitha (my uncle’s dog) for a long walk on the beach. I went for a long drive. I visited a nursery where I bought this pretty succulent for the one of the little nooks in the rock wall:

I also bought another basil plant. This time I went for a much bigger specimen and hope it survives. I’m not re-potting it yet to be sure. I also put it in the shade of the pine tree in case it doesn’t do well in the sun.

Its getting hotter now. Much more like summer is on the way. Walks are best in the early morning or late afternoon.

Its time to take the summer clothes out and put away the winter woollies. That’s something I never really did in Australia. Here in Greece its a bi-annual thing. Its kinda nice cause you see clothes you haven’t seen for 6 months and its almost like you have a new wardrobe.

I’m doing spring cleaning now, a bit of work in the house, a bit in the potted garden.

I was really tired so I took a nice long nap. Again. I don’t think I bounced back after that sleepless night and getting up at 7am the next morning.

I’ve also been thinking a lot about this situation we find ourselves in. Specifically I’ve been thinking about how COVID 19 compares to the Spanish Flu of 1918. The thing is, no matter how much research I do there are no definitive answers or numbers… There’s a huge disagreement on the number of fatalities from the 1918 flu and the deaths attributed to the flu itself or the bad treatment of the disease (aspirin given in deadly doses). Which in turn brings into question the fatality rate… its somewhere between 1-2% depending on who you believe as to the number of deaths all over the world – ie similar to COVID 19…

There’s also the fact that there was a war on in 1918, the disease was spread by soldiers and there were a lot of people living in cramped conditions with poor hygience.

On the other hand we have airplanes and more people travel these days enabling the spread of the virus to all parts of the world much quicker.

If COVID 19 had hit then, would it had killed at the same rate? More? Less? If we had the Spanish Flu now, how would that have affected the world in spread rate and death toll? Would it be similar, better or worse?

Both spread fast. Both can kill. Both are novel so there is no immunity in the population. We still have large populations living in cramped conditions with poor hygience…

One killed young healthy people, the other mainly kills older people or those with underlying issues. One is a flu the other is a sort of pneumonia.

Is it really that different or is the world different?

Its a really interesting subject and one I’m not in the least qualified to answer. I’d love to see experts talk on this subject cause right now, in 2020, we had information on the virus and its DNA mapped within weeks of learning of its existence. We know about personal hygiene and how to keep safe, We know how it spreads and most governments put into effect social distancing, cancelling large group events, shutting down businesses etc in order to slow the spread. We are in a much better position than the world was in in 1918.

If we’d done nothing and just let the virus spread naturally, infecting almost the entire population, overwhelming the health care systems of the world, would we be in the same position as 1918, with tens of millions dead?

I’m not a paranoid type, but I do think about things like that. I know that it can kill, but I’m not overly worried. I figure most of us will get it and recover unless a vaccine is found to stop it.

Maybe that’s why I can’t sleep some nights.

Then other times I’m just too busy building things in my mind to sleep.

z

paros day 43: sea rope basket

I’ve had a quiet but productive day today. In a low key kinda way.

I spent the morning working on the poodle portrait and so far so good. It looks like a poodle.

At lunchtime I did some odds and ends around the place, and took Lainee for a walk in the afternoon. Along the way I collected a couple of cuttings from this geranium which was really leggy and unruly, but had the most vibrant red balls of blooms. I thought it was worth collecting. I can probably keep it from getting leggy by pruning it.

I also came across the biggest dandelion I’ve ever seen. Well, I took a photo of the biggest dandelion I’ve ever seen, cause I have seen them before. Isn’t it amazing?

Oh, wait. You need to see my hand so you can get the size!

See? I told you its big!

Tonight I’m working on a basket using bits of rope I found while walking on the beach. Its kinda fun. A craft project I can work on while watching Homeland even! No wasting time tonight.

I’ve now used up all the bits of rope I had and am left with pieces of net. I’m no sure how I’ll incorporate them into the basket, if and how I’ll weave them in, or what shape the basket will end up being. Its one of those things that just develops as you work on it. I’ll just keep going and it will keep growing till I feel its finished.

I think I need more rope. I may need to walk on the beach again… Oh such hard work!

Meanwhile it must be spring. Its warm, the mosquitoes are out in force and I’m itchy all over. That happens when bugs land on me. I’m allergic to pollen so I think that any bug that’s walked through pollen and lands on me makes me itchy. Its my theory anyway. Ugh. I need a shower!!! Better turn on the hot water boiler!

On that note I think its time to say bye, till next time!

z

paros day 41: rusty wire basket

Firstly, Lainee would like to say good morning.

She thinks she should feature in the blog more often. Says I’m focusing on myself too much and that’s just selfish. So here she is, freshly clipped face, feet and tail. Though between you and me she sure could use a bath. She’s a little on the nose…

Anyway, it was a gorgeous day, the wind dropped to a pleasant breeze, the sun was warm and I felt like being outdoors. I cleaned the front and back patio areas from all the pine needles and things the wind had blown in and did a general clean and tidy. It felt good to just be out with my plants. One of the good things about strong wind out the front is that often any leaves and pine needles get blown away before I have to worry about them!

Mid morning Lainee and I went for a short walk to share a couple of my potted plants with a friend. I brought seeds from some of my flowers in Australia with me and had a go at growing some this year. I’ve already given quite a few to one friend with a large garden. Its my backup plan: get some of my seeds growing so I can grow them again in my own garden one day.

Some of the seedlings are doing well, some struggling, others look dead. But I’ve had things come back from the dead before, so I’m not giving up just yet.

On the plus side the hydrangea looks like it will be fine, its budding up after I pruned it down severely.

An update on the status of my plants: One of the many lavender cuttings I took look like its taken. About half of the geranium cuttings are looking good. Two of them are flowering which is great, even though they’re still not more than sticks. At least I think its great. Maybe I need to cut the flowers off to encourage them to grow roots?

My new lavender and my white gaura seem like they’re doing ok. No sign of life from the coriander seeds I planted. Yet.

The basil and the pink gaura I bought died. It took the basil one day to die. The gaura took 5 days. But the good news on that is I got a piece of pink guara with some root from a garden during winter, it looked dead but something is coming up in that pot and I’m sure its the gaura.

Most of the succulents are doing great, which is to be expected. If you can’t propagate them you have a serious black thumb problem.

The daisies my aunt gave me pieces of are both doing really well. The pink one has lots of flowers, the white is taking its time but looks healthy.

I got another piece of white african daisies – the others all died, both pink and white. Hope this one takes. I envision a cascade of daisies over the rock wall…

The sweet peas look like they’re doing ok, both in the front and the back. I had to move the one in the back to the corner of the retaining wall nook so it would get more sun. It seemed to be struggling with less sun.

The bougainvillea had two flowers and now has none. But its growing so that’s good.

But back to the walk. We took the rubbish down on our way and I always love looking at what someone might have thrown ‘rubbish bin adjacent’. This time I found a piece of rusty wire mesh. And a couple of bits of rusty wire. Of course they had to come home with me.

I figured it would make a great planter basket (well, around a pot!!) so here it is. I rolled it up carefully so as not to break it and used the wire pieces to join it together with Xs. Then I plonked one of my small potted succulents in it. This particular succulent should get pretty big and fill the basket shape. How cool will that be!

I love my rusty basket.

I also found something else wonderful in another rubbish bin adjacent area. Two rusty birdcages. They will need a bit of cleaning up, removal of the ugly plastic bits in them and then who knows where I’ll put them… Stay tuned.

I made a new friend too. An old man was looking through the bins. He had the biggest bushiest sideburns I’ve ever seen in real life. And he asked me if I was married. LOL

I’ve still got it!

z

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paros day 33: a planter box from scraps

Yes, before you say anything… I’m a day late again. But I have a great excuse. Yesterday was a stunning day. The sun was shining, it was warm and beautiful… I took Lainee down to town to pick up some marble scraps and walked her along the sea front and through the deserted streets of town. On the way back we stopped at my uncle’s place so I could make a planter box. And it literally wiped me out. I got home too exhausted to do much of anything but shower, eat and go to bed early.

I wanted something big so I could plant my new hydrangea. The one that seems to be dying already. I don’t have the money to spend on a huge pot so I figured I’d make one out of what I could scrounge. I had some bits and pieces of old timber at my uncle’s place I knew I could make work. The box is about 45cm x 45cm. It’ll be really heavy to move once its full.

Wayne always used to say I should buy dead plants, sort of cut out the middle man… Since I was going to kill them anyway.

It doesn’t stop me from trying though. I’m no quitter.

Anyhow… I went to the nursery the other day to pick up some seedlings for my uncle’s vegetable patch and fell in love with this hydrangea. Its BLUE. And yeah, I know its the soil that dictates pink or blue, but its BLUE, alright!

I’ve had white before but never pink or blue. And I’ve never had much luck with really healthy hydrangeas but I always longed for them. Given I have a big pine tree shading my front porch for most of the day I hope it will like it here. In the heat of summer it should be protected most of the day as the sun is high in the sky. I do know they prefer morning sun to afternoon sun, but I don’t get morning sun. At the back I get late morning and early afternoon sun, in front I get afternoon sun. Where the box is now it gets a bit of late afternoon sun, but hey, if it looks like its getting hot I’ll put an umbrella over it. I’ve done that before and I’m not afraid to look stupid!

I’ve never made a big box/crate before. I made this one up as I went along cause, ha, who needs to follow instructions? I had an idea of how it would fit together and just went ahead and made it. Hardly any mistakes either! I did have to do a little patchwork cause I didn’t have enough of the blue coloured timber, but hey, I made it work.

I’m more a ‘don’t do what I do’ type of woodworker than a ‘follow my instructions’ one.

It took me way longer than I thought it would. I worked on it all afternoon. Then I brought it home and thought putting a sheet of plastic down the bottom with holes in it would serve well to hold in the soil.

I discovered two things:

One is not so much discovered but later thought better of – a sheet of plastic, even with holes in it might make it too wet when it rains, even though hydrangeas like to be kept moist… I’m going to have to line it with weed matting (I dont have any) or burlap (which I have) to be safer.

Two – I’m gonna need a s@#$ load of soil to fill this sucker.

Cost of box: 0
Cost to till it: 12,343,235.00. Or thereabouts.

This morning I’m off to the nursery to buy soil.

Meanwhile, I found this latern at the rubbish the other day and picked it up. After a little wash it came up pretty good. I’ve put rocks in the bottom to stop the wind from blowing it away and found an ice cream container that fit into the top. While on our walk yesterday I picked up some cuttings of a pretty pink and orange pigface I’ve never seen before. The idea is for it to grow out and over and down. If its not too averse to the shade. If it is I’ll have to move it elsewhere.

Come to think of it, it might do well on the buttress-like retaining wall bits. They dont go all the way to the top of the big wall behind my place so they create a ledge… hm… maybe it will end up there, allowing the pigface to grow downwards over the wall. That would be pretty…

But that’s for another day. Right now I need to get on with this one!

See ya’ll tomorrow.

z

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paros day 27: my upcycled view

Yes. A day late again. But I have a great excuse this time.

The weather was great so Lainee and I walked to my uncle’s place and took his dog with us for a walk on the beach where I’ve always collected sea glass and have now (once again) began collecting rope debris to make a basket.

On the way back I noticed something in the rubbish that wasn’t there before… This old stand. Its in bad condition. Rusty and bent, but it was love at first sight.

Ok, maybe not love, but it was the answer to my prayers. Sort of. See, my back ‘yard’ is a tiny cobblestone area where I grow some plants, hang my washing and store a few things in a plastic cupboard and plastic containers. Its not a lovely place to hang out at the moment.

This is how it looked till yesterday afternoon. Pots on the ground, you can see the plastic covering my seedlings in the far right, my plastic cupboard, ladder, buckets, etc. That was the view from my bedroom door. Not exactly inspiring.

I’d been thinking about moving that cupboard and putting plants in that little alcove so I’d have something pretty to look at. Maybe put a table and a couple of chairs out so I could sit when the weather was too windy out front… Maybe even the old Parian couch I’m supposedly renovating…

I was building shelves out of found materials in my mind to put plants on, but had no real plan. When I went to my uncle’s yesterday I had thought I’d look around his scrap pile for anything I could use. Then of course I found the stand!

This was the view from the other side, my area is basically from that slanted rock wall to the bamboo fence. My workbench (which houses and protects my plastic containers) actually goes into the neighbouring yard.

Notice the shopping trolley on the left, against the retaining wall? Another found object. Found rusting away in my uncle’s garage, wheels falling off, useless. Now it a new home for sweet peas.

This is the neighbouring yard. A much nicer square shaped yard than mine, with a tall brick wall on one side (illegally built by the far neighbour). The apartment next to mine has been empty since way before I bought my place. Its apparently been seized by the bank due to money owed. I’ve tried to find out about it but no one seems to know whats going on with it.

I really wish the entire yard was mine. And the apartment. I would have so much more space, I could even have a studio and workshop!

Anyway… since its empty and I’ve been cleaning the yard since I moved here, no one lives there… I figured I’d go ahead and use it till I’m told otherwise. Ask forgiveness not permission sort of thing.

So yesterday, instead of creating art, I created a better view for myself.

I brought home the rusty stand and filled it with the plants I’m babying along. These are cuttings I’m propagating and my seedlings which grew enough to put potted up. I moved the cupboard to the space on the other side of the slanted rock wall, leaving enough room for the ladder to fit in nicely beside it. Further over are my plastic tubs and potting mixes.

The view is already so much better. Just imagine how it will look once the plants grow and flower!

The pots on the stand are geranium cuttings which are starting to bud, the only lavender cutting I think might have taken, and a couple of daisies which are doing well. I love daisies, geraniums not so much, but when I see one I like I take cuttings. Lavender I think I’ll have to buy, they don’t do so well from cuttings.

The rusty trolley I took from my uncle’s holds sweet peas (seeds I ordered from England before isolation began) which will grow up the trolley and onto the rusty wire trellis (also bits I found and collected) I hung on the walls.

On the other side of the second slanting wall is a carmine bougainvillea growing on a trellis I made from cuttings at my uncle’s place. Here are the before/during/after pics of that project…

If all goes well, the bougainvillea will outgrow that trellis quickly, hence the rope to give it something to hold onto as it creeps up the wall.

Most of these plants are out the back to protect them from the strong winds out the front, plus to give them a chance to grow better than they would out the front where a large pine tree creates too much shade. Some of my plants didn’t like it out the front hence the move to the back. I’m hoping most of the geraniums will be able to move to the front once they grow. They seem like very hardy plants that can put up with a fair bit of abuse.

Some of the larger plants will move to big white pots and sit on the ground once they bush up and flower. I’ll finally have a pretty garden. At least a small oasis to look out on.

Much nicer than looking at a cupboard don’t you think?

z

the post gets decorated

I went out to the car this afternoon and noticed the post we put in the ground this week had been decorated.

post2

post1

Ok, the colour isn’t perfect, its not exactly high visibility… but the design and idea is brilliant.

I love it!

It makes me smile and I love having things that make me smile around me.

z