Oh beeswax!

Yep, it’s me here, under this fashionable looking theme. It was time for a change ~ no tinkering around the edges, a full knock down and rebuild! You are still very welcome visitors, come in the backdoor, make yourself at home, and we can sit and have a natter. I would love to know what you think of the new look, especially to know how easy it is to read and navigate.

Meanwhile, beeswax….

Beeswax wraps are quite the thing at the moment, as they are a sustainable and hygienic replacement for glad wrap/cling film. My friend Mary wanted to make some and asked me to help. Is it something you have ever thought about doing?

Of course there are plenty of websites and videos to set you up, but I thought you might like to get our thoughts too. This is the site we used initially but quick research will show that there are different ratios of wax and resin, oven temperatures, time in the oven and so on. One thing I learnt was that it’s not an exact science!

So, we started with 100 gm of beeswax

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and 20 gm of pine resin, and  2 teaspoons of jobo oil. It smelt wonderful, and took me back to my time in Indonesia so many years ago. Strong memories of the batik work there.

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Unfortunately the plumber was working outside and needed to turn off the gas. If the stove had been working we would have melted the wax etc. in an old saucepan. Instead Mary used the microwave. The stove would have been a better option because the wax/resin mix could have stayed at a nice constant heat.

Mary had some fabric we experimented with.

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The batik-inspired serviettes were our first experiments. The melted wax mixture was brushed on. It seemed to go on quite thickly and we weren’t sure how flat the base needed to be. The blogs and videos didn’t seem to worry about this, but we wondered if slight ridges and valleys would affect the way the wax melted.

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The next step was to put it into the oven (100ºC) for five minutes. You can see our solution for keeping the wax melted ~ putting it in the oven too. This worked okay, but the handle of the paint brush got quite hot!

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Then we took it from the oven and pegged it onto a coat hanger.

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It hardened quickly, and kept some tackiness. You want it to have some tackiness as it’s this quality that holds it in place when covering bowls etc. The resin helps with tackiness. This was the time to critically admire our handiwork. The results were good, but we were aiming for perfection! The wax was too thin in some parts and a bit uneven on the back. Instead of the foil we tried baking paper, which I think was a bit better.

And the thing that impressed me was that you can add more wax and redo them. As I said before, it is not an exact science.

One of the problems with the wax wraps is that they are not see through, which makes it hard to see what they are covering in the fridge. Mary thought that writing on some might help with that. I wrote PARMESAN with a permanent marker on an embroidered serviette. The marker ran a little with the heat, and we decided sewing words onto the fabric would be a nice solution. We also thought that the white cloth looked a bit marked once it was waxed, which could be off putting for a gift.

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After a bowl of very yummy soup for lunch (thank you Mary!) we watched a video that had a different take on how to do it. The presenter grated the wax over half the material, folded the top over, so the wax was a layer between the material, and put it into the oven. No resin, no oil. So we tried that too.

And the result was not bad.

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It was certainly an easier process, with less mess. The first process left us Mary (!) with waxy bowls, trays, knives and paint brushes. I think it’s worth playing around with, perhaps finely powdering the resin and sprinkling it over the material, along with drops of the oil.

And Mary found that tea tree oil was great for getting rid of the wax from our fingers.

Have you made your own wraps? Any suggestions you have would be appreciated. If you haven’t, and are interested, I’d say “Give it a go”. While you can do it by yourself, it’s way more with a friend, especially if she happens to be Mary!

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Beckler’s Botanical Bounty: The flora of Menindee

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This is the very elegant hero image for our exhibition Beckler’s Botanical Bounty: The flora of Menindee.

The Art Gallery of Ballarat

Saturday 24th February to Sunday May 27th

Yes, it opens in just over a week……I am so excited! I can promise you photos galore.

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On a different note, my newsletter goes out today. This time I am writing about making art on commission, as well as links to other things going on around the place. So click here if you would like to read it (if that link doesn’t work you might be a little early, and have clicked before the newsletter goes out) and click here if you would like to subscribe.

And lastly here, Would you like a free drawing? to find out more about the newsletter.

An update on the Beckler’s Botanical Bounty Project

If you have been following my blog for a while you will remember the annual trips that the Fella and I make up to Menindee, a little country town about an hour out of Broken Hill. If you are new to the blog, or have forgotten let me briefly explain.

I am part of a group of botanic artists who go up to the semi-arid area of Outback New South Wales to collect and paint the plants that were found on the Burke and Wills Expedition of 1860. Dr Hermann Beckler was the collector as well as the doctor on the Expedition. Our Project began in 2010, and the Fella and I have gone up since 2011.

You can read my posts, which will give you more detail of the Project.

The Beckler’s Botanical Bounty Project means many things to me, such as a chance to explore a very unfamiliar environment, an invaluable learning opportunity, a great way to spend time with likeminded artists, as well as being an interesting holiday!

But I know that the Project is much more than that, We have always been aware that it has a place in history. It has brought Dr Beckler’s contribution to Australian plant knowledge to the fore. We collect specimens of the plants to sit alongside Beckler’s in the National Herbarium of Victoria, and each specimen has detailed records of habitat, soil conditions, GPS location and so on. This provides current data on plants that exist in the Menindee Lakes/Kinchega National Park area, data that, when combined with Beckler’s collection, could be very useful for longitudinal studies. It is a great example of how citizen scientists can contribute to scientific knowledge.

As well, it was always our intention to have an exhibition of our paintings. That is happening in February/March/April 2018 at the Art Gallery of Ballarat. Organisation for that is currently ‘full steam ahead’.

My paintings from the Cullen genus:

And my painting of Pimelea trichostaycha:

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Now I am asking you to consider donating to the Project. All expenses, such as the travel to and accommodation in Menindee and art supplies, have been met by individual artists, something we have been very proud to do. The Gallery is very generously helping us with expenses for the exhibition, including the catalogue, curation and scanning. However, there are some things that we would like to find some extra money for, such as future publications to put the Project in its place in Australian botanical history.

We have set up a crowd funding campaign, that will run for another 50 days. If you would be able to help us, any amount will be appreciated. To find out more jump over to the Australian Cultural Fund page. If you email me at annebags@optusnet.com.au I can send you a PDF of the campaign.

https://australianculturalfund.org.au/projects/becklers-botanical-bounty-of-menindee/

Thanks for taking the time to think about this.

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I would like to find out more about Anne’s art.

Travel theme: Earth

Thanks to Ailsa at Where’s my backpack? for this theme, which is in celebration of Earth Day. Hopefully we will be able to encourage our politicians to have policies that support our Earth too.

It is tempting to publish beautiful photos of sunsets or mountains or glorious landscapes. I want to show you one of my favourite parts of the Earth, the area around Menindee. It is an arid area of Western New South Wales, an hour away from Broken Hill. It is flat and looks uninspiring. However, the more you look, the more beauty you see in this unique landscape.

Big skies…..

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red dirt…..

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and amazing colours.

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What part of our Earth do you cherish?

Continuing across the Nullarbor

The other day I left you on the South Australian/Western Australian border on the Eyre Highway, about half way across the Nullarbor.

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This was the full journey we were on, from Melbourne, Victoria to Bunbury in Western Australia, a trip of about 3,500 km.

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Let’s continue the journey……

Right on the border is the quarantine station. It is staffed 24 hours and stops all traffic entering Western Australia to check for produce, especially fruit and vegetables. It is to stop diseases and pests from entering WA. So the very nice young woman inspected all the nooks and crannies in the van, but, as we had already ‘donated’ at the SA/Victorian border, there was nothing to be found.

Eucla is just down the road. It is the only stop on the Nullarbor that could almost be called a village. Not only does it have the quarantine station, the usual motel/camping ground/cafe complex, but also a health service and the police. Many people visit the old telegraph station too.

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Any where is a long way from home in Eucla!

Eucla sits on top of the plateau that we have been driving on, that amazingly flat landscape.

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Just out of the town the road descends down the escarpment onto the plain below. On the South Australian side the land must have sheered off to create the cliff into the Great Australian Bight. On this section there is a coastal strip that runs alongside the escarpment for many miles. Every time I thought we were seeing the end of it, more would appear on the horizon.

This sketch was done in the car. That funny, semi-circular shape in the sky at the right is actually the moon. It was large, and the bottom edges of it dissolved into the cloud  haze.

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Now the vegetation changed again. It is more salt bush country, but with the most glorious silver, shimmery trees, with sculptured trunks and branches. I think they must be Acacia papyrocarpa or Western Myall. In his book “A guide to plants of inland Australia” Phillip Moore describes them as

“Usually a short, thick-trunked tree with a broad dense rounded silver canopy….this stately tree is most noticeable on the Nullarbor Plains and along the Stuart, Lincoln and Eyre Highways, north, south and west of Port Augusta.”

I have discovered that it is so difficult to take decent photos from a moving car. We pulled over a few times, but the trees were always better just down the road! But here are a few offerings of the acacias. (Maybe you had to be there to fully appreciate their splendour!)

The road is so flat and straight that it makes the perfect landing strip for the Royal Flying Doctor Service, if they should be needed. There are four strips along the highway. (You can see the escarpment along the horizon.)

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About 70 kms from Eucla is Mundrabilla, a windswept roadhouse and motel. Travel on about another 100 kms to go back up the escarpment at Madura. Then it seems like a short jump to Cocklebiddy, another motel/roadhouse/camping area.

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Someone here has a sense of humour, which you would need, to live in such an isolated spot!

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It’s probably the time to tell you about Nullarbor Links, the world’s longest golf course. The link will tell you much more, but is is described as

The Nullarbor Links concept is unique. The 18-hole par 72 golf course spans 1,365 kilometres with one hole in each participating town or roadhouse along the Eyre Highway, from Kalgoorlie in Western Australia to Ceduna in South Australia. Each hole includes a green and tee and somewhat rugged outback-style natural terrain fairway. The course provides a quintessential Australian experience and a much-needed activity/attraction for travellers along the renowned desolate highway.

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I’m not a golfer, but if I was, I would have done the course!

There is also a cave at Cocklebiddy, which I didn’t know about until Anna mentioned in the comments from my first post. Even if I had known, I would not have gone down there! But it would be interesting to see the entrance.

Caiguna is the next  fuel stop. It is also the beginning of the straightest stretch of road in Australia ~ 146.6 km without a curve ~ which ends at Balladonia.

Balladonia’s special claim is that in July 1979 the re-entry of the Skylab space station left a trail of debris across the nearby countryside.

Then we finally pulled off the road to camp in a wayside stop. We had covered about 1000 kms since leaving Penong.

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The peace of our little camping area was so welcome. And that night the moon was so bright….magic. Worth every kilometre.

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We left with the sunrise the next morning, and reached Norseman, the end of the Nullarbor. Here the road turns north to Kalgoorlie or south to Esperance. We went south, and stopped in Esperance for a meal ~ was it breakfast? Lunch? ! Then headed on further and eventually ended up in Wagin. It was another long day, through wheat land and salt lakes, but at the end was a powered site and a shower with hot water! Blessings!

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I guess the only other thing to say is that we had to do the whole thing again on the return. You may be surprised to know that I enjoyed as much the second time! We spent New Year’s Eve camped at Moodini Bluff, another peaceful place. I wrote about it a couple of posts ago.

Thanks for coming along for the journey. It may have brought back memories, or it may have sparked an interest or it may have just been a good armchair journey!

Turtle research on Raine Island

I have a layperson’s interest in environmental sciences, and visiting the Great Barrier Reef has made me interested in finding out more about its ecosystems. This link gives you an overview of some of the research being carried out on Raine Island, the world’s largest green turtle rookery. Hope you finding interesting and maybe even encouraging to delve deeper.

Restoring the world’s largest green turtle rookery

 

Ahh, the warmth of Port Douglas…and the Great Barrier Reef

Melbourne is chilly this time of the year (although, as I write this the sun is shining and I am contemplating turning the heater off). So, like many Melbournians, we set off to Port Douglas to find some sun. Actually, the real reason to head north was to celebrate my Mum’s 90th birthday. My whole family went up, rented a house or two, and enjoyed each other’s company for 6 nights. The warmth was an added bonus!

Port Douglas is in Far North Queensland, an hour’s drive north of Cairns. Once upon a time it would have been lovely sleepy fishing village, now it is full of resorts and Melbournians escaping Winter. Even so, it was a lovely place to spend time, and the Daintree Rainforest is only a little way up the road.

And it is right on the Great Barrier Reef, that marvel of nature that curves its way for 2300 kms along the Queensland coast. Unfortunately it is being impacted by climate change and other human activities. David Attenbourgh produced a wonderful series about the Reef and I would recommend watching it. I would also recommend this website that he has created using footage from the series as well as other scientific material.

I could not miss the chance to see a tiny part of the Reef.

We sailed out to Agincourt Reef on the Outer Barrier Reef on a big catamaran. This reef is at the very outer edge of the Great Barrier Reef, where the Continental Shelf drops away to the Pacific Ocean. It is this shallow shelf, only 20 to 30 metres deep, which has given the corals the light and the chance to form. A couple of kilometres from these reefs the sea floor drops away to more than 500 metres. I could see the line of waves breaking on this edge.

I looked into different options to going out to the Reef and this seemed to be the best one to suit both my low snorkelling ability (i.e. non-existent!) and Mum. We needed a way for her to experience the Reef without getting in the water. The catamaran took us out to a pontoon moored permanently on the Reef. They have to adhere to strict guidelines to safe guard the Reef’s biology and beauty.

Our first adventure was on the semi-submersible, which took us for a tour of the coral canyons. How amazing to have the fish swim up to the windows and glide away, to see the sea cucumbers lying on the floor and the giant coral constructions.

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Inside the semi-submersible, right under the water (Photo copyright: Anne Lawson, 2016)

I was blown away but the textures of the corals, so many different varieties! The colours weren’t as spectacular as I expected, but there was a lot of turbidity in the water and it wasn’t a sunny day. Both factors made it difficult to photograph, but you can see some of the coral that I found inspiring.

Surprisingly the fish had the most vivid colours. And we saw two turtles! How special was that?!

After floating with the fish it was time to snorkel. I have never snorkelled, and am not a confident swimmer, but I really wanted to see these creatures for my self. So I kitted my self in everything available, including an optical mask as I am very short-sighted, and off I went. I had to consciously remember to breath through my mouth and not panic when my face was under water. Once I had that mastered I was off and it was a magical experience. No photos to show, but if there were I would show you more textures and colours, little fish darting away from me, big fish gliding past and clams! There must have been half a dozen clams, some quite large, in the roped off area where we swam. One had iridescent blue ‘lips’, probably the most intense colour I saw all day.

It was a magical experience, and it has made me more aware of the fragility of the environment. There are many human induced pressures on the Reef, and we must do all we can to protect it. You might like to check out these organisations who are exploring ways to build awareness and are campaigning to protect it from further damage. (I am not endorsing any of these, just giving you links to follow up if you would like to know more.)

The David Attenborough website I mentioned before

The Great Barrier Reef Foundation

Fight for the Reef

The Australian Conservation Foundation