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Sharing Stories. A Wallaby Tale

About the same time that I started this blog in 2007, I read an autobiography of one of the Australian Officers held prisoner in Burma in the second world war. One of the morale raising exercises they did in camp was to have story telling sessions, the author was surprised at just how interested everyone was in each others stories. As the English boys who lived in villages were fascinated by the stories told by the Australian boys from country Queensland and vise versa. Those stories did raise morale, as it kept them connected as well as reinforcing their essential sameness, their shared humanity.

I often held onto that tidbit I gleaned from a story, as it helped me to think that I really wasn’t all that odd by sharing my own stories here.

Because, Oh Boy, once you start writing and sharing your own stories ON THE INTERNET, some people get really cranky with you. Luckily a lot more of you encourage me by saying nice things, so here I am again, this time my story is for my daughter’s friend Becky, who is by proxy my friend as well.

I shared a local news item on my facebook page about the serious lack of rain here in the midlands of Tasmania

I added my own lead in text to the article saying,

It is very dry here. The dams are empty. My topsoil is blowing away. The vegie garden is fallow as we simply do not have the water. My yard wallabies have been reduced to eating the sags (zero nutrition) as the scarab beetles decimated the silver wattles which are their go to drought food. It is hard country up here in the midlands and if it doesn’t rain soon we will be in big trouble.

Becky commented later that evening with,

“This is off topic, and for that I apologize, but I read this status out loud to my husband because it was just the…. the most Australiany status I’ve ever seen in my newsfeed
(drough notwithstanding).

Do you really have yard wallabies?”

I was going to reply to Becky on facebook with a photo of my ‘yard’ so that she could see where I lived and why the wallabies were in my backyard. As my backyard is not like Becky’s backyard at all. It is probably not a lot like your backyard either Internet, so after the longest introduction in the history of long bloggy introductions, I shall begin.

This is my backyard, I have deliberately left the balcony rail in the image for context, I am standing three quarters of the way along the back balcony and I am looking southwest. Monty is lurking just on the edge of the bracken.

My back yard.

By the magic of the internet and the power of cameras, I am now looking up towards the back of my house, you can see how crunchy the grass is.

view of the back of the house from the bushline showing effects of the drought

Here is an image showing the dead and dying grasses. Mixed in here with the dead grass, the yellow patches are alpine cushion plants that are not dead yet, but they are close. Normally we have a good mix of native grasses, which are super tough, some native plants that look similar to a spagnum moss but isn’t a moss and native wildflowers. As you can see there is no feed left here at all.

dead grasses and nativce tasmanian groundcover

This is my front yard, looking north up to my studio, in this image you can sort of see the remnants of the new orchard, four plums and a cherry tree, behind the upside down bath. The green scarab beetles did a number on these trees and they are really struggling. I am keeping them going with the waste water from my studio and washing machine as I have about twenty plums on four trees, that I would really like to harvest but I reckon the currawongs will beat me to them.

view of my front yard looking towards the pottery

Here is a photo of the sags up by the front gate, Sag is one of the common names for a native tussock grass, the other is saw grass, it’s proper name is Lomandra longifolia. When I saw my resident Rufous Wallabies (Pademelons for the pedants) eating the saw grass, I knew they were in a bit of trouble, as there is very little calorific value in the grass. As an aside, you can eat the roots, they are a long white starchy tuber but they take a bit of digging to get at and are not worth the effort unless you are hungry and out of potatoes.

saw grasses

I do not make any decisions lightly, I gave my decision to feed the wallabies a lot of thought before I committed to it. I weighed the pros and cons, talked about it with The Spouse, who had already been throwing his vegie peelings off the balcony rather than putting them into the compost. I angsted at Veronica and I also rang a local wildlife conservationist to get confirmation of what I already knew. I have been actively involved with this bit of land for over 25 years now and I know it and its residents well.

I really am in a catch 22 situation here as it is drought that controls the wallaby population, the females will not breed when food is scarce. There is also a risk that I will be encouraging half the wallabies on the mountain to come into the yard. But the simple fact is internet, I can not just sit back and do nothing and let them die.

Another major factor in my decision to feed the wallabies, was the decimation of the silver wattles. The green Scarab beetles came in and just stripped the trees bare, wallabies will eat the wattles when they are hungry enough, as wattle isn’t their preferred food but the trees have been stripped back by the beetles.

These are the wattles on the edge of the bush at the bottom of my back yard, normally you can not see through them. The wallabies sit on the other side of the ditch, watching to see if it  is safe to hop out into the open. When a goofy black Labrador doesn’t appear out of nowhere to chase them away, they tentatively come out of the bush.

looking through the wattles

I have a couple of resident females, with Joeys who are often out in the daylight, hovering on the edges of the scrub and it is this family that I wanted to feed. On advice from Bonorong, I am feeding them Wallaby pellets each night, not enough to make them fat, lazy and dependent, just enough to keep them alive.

The Pellets need to be 18% protein and if you can’t get wallaby pellets (Roberts at Bridgewater has them, as does one of the animal feed places) Guinea pig pellets are the next best thing. The pellets are soft enough to not damage their jaws and at 18% protein, there are enough goodies in there for the Joey’s continued development. As all the dams are drying up, I have put out extra water. Normally wallabies get their water from the food they eat but as the moisture content of the vegetation lessens, the wallabies need to drink more than usual. This is why I am now seeing roadkill on the side of the road in the suburbs, as they are on the move, looking for food and water. As an aside, the snakes are also on the move, as I have seen more snakes here in the past month than I have seen in the past 25 years.

This is not one of my snakes, I took this photo with my phone last year at a reptile display, though I am feeling the urge to go camera hunting some snakes.

snake

Back to the Wallabies, here you go Becky, finally, here is a wallaby. These little brown wallabies are known locally as Rufous wallabies but they are actually a Pademelon, (Thylogale billardierii) We have two types of wallabies here at my home. The other species of wallaby that are found here is a Bennetts Wallaby they are larger grey wallabies, that are super spooky and impossible to photograph with the point and shoot. The Bennett’s also come in for the water but they tend to stick to the front of my property around the studio and as they do not stay for long or come down to the back yard, I am not currently feeding them. Or at least I do not “think” I am.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

Here is a male wallaby, you can see his malesness  on display resting on the ground by his foot, he has a huge set of knackers and spends all his time chasing the girls making a tchhk tchhk tchhk sound. The girls just roll their wallaby eyes at him and hop away.

Buck Wallaby sitting in front of saw grass tussock

There is a youngster living under the jasmine here. I think its mother was run over as it hung about in the open for a few days looking a bit lost. All I could do at the time to help it, was lock the gates so the dogs didn’t go down the back and hope it managed to survive. Which, surprisingly it has managed to do, but it is super skittish as it hasn’t learned the trick of squatting and pretending to be invisible. As soon as it sees me it gives a loud warning thump and vanishes back under the jasmine, which in turn makes all the other wallabies hop away in collective fright.

drought affected garden showing jasmine trimmed back to wallaby height by hungry wallabies

As I was wandering around the edge of my yard taking photos for this story, I noticed that the Kangaroo Apple had been well nibbled. This plant is a drop in, it was delivered to me by a bird about ten or fifteen years ago and is not a native to this area. It grows into large bush and the fruit are edible bush tucker when they turn orange, the birds also like them. The Kangaroo Apple lives on for a few years, then it dies and another one will pop up somewhere else. BUT it doesn’t seem to do any harm and so I leave it be.

detail of kangaroo apple plant showing signs of leaf damage from being eaten by hungry wallabies

Trying to photograph the wallabies as they hop out just before dusk for a feed is really tricky. These are wild animals that will scatter and run at the first unusual sound. I can’t use the Nikon as the sound of the shutter spooks them. Luckily my little point and shoot is silent and takes a decent enough photo.

SAMSUNG CAMERA PICTURES

This girl has a Joey in her pouch, I was absolutely nailed by the mosquitoes taking this photo as I had to sit really quietly without moving for ages. I was interested to see that the joey was eating the pellets, whilst staying safely in the pouch.

Wallaby with joey in her pouch

The photos of the wallabies are the best ones I can get as I am  not a very good Ninja. My nose starts to itch the minute I have to sit still and that itch spreads and I begin to fidget and brrrrrttttt just like a bag of marbles dropped onto concrete, the wallabies instantly scatter in all directions.

The Joey in the photo above is now out of the pouch and it is hilarious to watch it learning to master its hopping technique. The full grown wallabies jump along with a smooth economy, a nice measured jump, long and low. The joeys like to JUMP REALLY HIGH. Sproing sproing, bounce, bounce, YIPPEE. I am trying to film it for you but as the Mothers are the most cautious, they come out later than the others and so the light is very low by the time they venture up to the pellets. It is also peak mosquito time and my fidgeting makes for tricky filming. I will keep on trying though.

So there we go Becky, the very long answer to your question, is yes I really do have yard wallabies.

 

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May Your 2016 be full of Unexpected Hilarity.

I think I am hilarious.

My daughter mostly agrees with me, I trust her judgement and so who am I to argue?

Being easily and often amused by the vagaries of my own brain is endlessly entertaining, as well as having the added benefit of making me a cheap shout.

I wanted to share a photo of a bird on instagram. I like this photo and I have shared it on Social media a number of times. But this is the first time this photo has given me an earworm.

As I typed out the title, Silhouette of a Wren”  Freddie Mercury popped into my head and refused to leave.

Because I am a generous soul, I give you the photo as well as a youtube music clip.

May your year ahead be full of unexpected hilarities and welcome earworms.

Love.

silhouette of a superb fairy wren

 

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Enter Title Here…

jolie b studios

Telling stories is hard work, telling those same stories on the internet is a form of madness. As once you go public with any sort of story, you open yourself up to all sorts of unexpectedness.

A funny story about how the food rules do not apply to Monty, after the rotten bugger ate a WHOLE KILO of cherries. Led to a flurry of  concerned messages telling me to take that dog to the vet immediately or the dog will surely die and I will be sorry. No matter that we had been keeping a close eye on the greedy fool and that I shared the story a good eight hours after the fact.

A light hearted dig at the ridiculous Stoner Sloth ad campaign leads to a messaged accusation that I am glorifying drug use.

People do not read a story in isolation, they never consider the words on their own, because of course they read  through their own lens of experience. And you will always upset someone, no matter how innocuous or well intentioned your words are, someone will always be pissy.

As a long time writer of words published on the internet, I have become used to some people not understanding what I have said. Even when I know my words are as clear as day, people still miss crucial bits and I am left baffled as to how on earth they managed to arrive at a conclusion poles apart from the point I was making.

When I was elected President of the Tasmanian Ceramics Association in 2012, the outgoing President gave what I thought was a lovely speech at the AGM. My favourite speeches are the short ones that stick to the topic at hand and this President was a whizz at giving good speeches. Later on I was taken aside by X and quietly told all that was wrong with that particular speech and to remember X‘s advice when I gave my own presidential speeches. As X thought it was dreadfully remiss that the committee had not been thanked at length. So of course, the following year, I had a list of all the people that needed to be thanked. I made sure I spoke gratefully and honestly about my appreciation of the effort and time spent running the association. Later on I was taken aside by Z and told that my gracious speech thanking everyone, was in fact a terrible speech, as it made those people who had not dedicated any hours feel very guilty, and in future speeches I should be careful about who and how I thank people.

For Fucks Sake internet, you can not win. Once you do anything publicly you are damned if you do and damned if you don’t.

I try and keep sections of my life compartmentalised, sometimes this works and sometimes it doesn’t. I well remember the dislocation and horror I felt when Mum was dying and her boss at Brighton Council gave everyone the link to this blog. Mum and I had decided that the best way to disseminate information quickly was to publish it here, we assumed it would just be close friends and family reading, not zillions of people. That decision certainly stopped my telephone from ringing off the hook but it also catapulted frog ponds rock from being a semi anonymous space where I spoke mostly to other internet users, to a very public record of a hitherto unknown side of Kim Foale.

One upside was that one particularly aggressive local stopped trying to run me off the road because his wife now read my blog and discovered I wasn’t a radical green feral trying to ruin his livelihood, I was an artist and that is why I was a bit odd. One downside was that everything I wrote was then commented on and dissected by people who were not my target audience. People would get furiously angry with me for writing about them, when in fact I was making sweeping generalisations, or commenting on society as a whole, not any individual in particular.

I do not write my words on the internet lightly, every post I publish is carefully crafted and edited. I think about what I am saying and what I am prepared to offer. I weigh how much pain the reactions will cause me versus my need to clear my head. Sometimes I press publish, sometimes the simple act of writing is enough and I save the words to my drafts file.

Perception is a strange thing. Ego is even stranger. I am not responsible for your interpretations of my words, I am responsible for telling my stories honestly.

Sunflower copy 2

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The Colour of Destruction is Green

I have swarms of Green Scarab Beetles (Diphucephala colaspidoides) here at the moment.

They are super destructive and seem to come out in plague proportions every four years or so, probably the reason that one of my elderly neighbours calls them leap year beetles.

I am about to lose this years, cherries, raspberries, red currants and josta berries because the beetles have managed to sekletonise the trees and shrubs in a couple of days.

raspberry beetles

raspberry beetles 5

raspberry beetles on the cherries

raspberry beetles 4

raspberry beetles 3

raspberry beetles 2 copy

The last time we had a plague of beetles like this was the drought of 1998 or 99. That year was when the mature eucalyptus trees on the sides of my hills began to die back.

The dams here are nearly empty. The paddocks are February brown and now these buggers have come along in huge swarms and are finishing off the last of the greenery in the garden.

Bastard things.

We need some rain.

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Skylines

I mostly use the camera in my phone these days as the images it captures are good enough for facebook and instagram and my poor old Nikon is quite neglected.

Until we have a glorious sunset and I know that the phone will never ever in a zillion years capture the reds properly.

I blew the dust off the *proper camera* and had an enjoyable five or ten minutes daydreaming about trying to transfer the cloud marks onto some pots.

Such fabulous delicate brush strokes in the sky are simply too nice to not share.

red sky with cloud lines

cloud marks 2

cloud marks

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An invitation to take a deeper look.

I spent last winter deep in a post Mud and Ink lethargy, twelve months of single minded concentration on a project will do that to a person. I was tired, the weather was cold and snowy and the studio was freezing. I did not have any reason to be in my studio, other than my first born child’s insistence that I make something to sell with her at the markets, that it would be good for me. I ignored Veronica and spent the winter reading and faffing about recharging my creative batteries and eating licorice allsorts by the fire.

Finally I could ignore Veronica no longer as we had a two week stint in the Pop Up in Salamanca in October and even though I had enough stuff in the studio to cover our time in the shop, I thought I had best make something.

The first lot of dishes I made, were hastily thrown together, simple slab pots decorated in blue so that they would sell. Their price reflected my indifference to them as objects but they served their purpose in that I am back in my studio working.

I have now made some lovely pots that I am very happy with and of course their price reflects my happiness. These pots pictured below are also simple slab formed soap dishes, but they are complete, they have stories to tell.

stack of soap dishes

soap dish front viewStories that do not begin to be revealed until you pick them up and look closer, look underneath the pot to the hidden underside.

Stories of drought and environmental degradation interspersed with the silent cries of dead seabirds killed by plastic pollution. Secret stories in each pot, a touch of the makers spirit just underneath the surface.

But of course you can’t say that at a market stall as a busy shoppers eyes slide over the work falling onto the soap instead.

I can’t tell stories like that to people who don’t want to hear.

So I am telling you instead, I am sharing my secrets with you dear internet, the marks of the cog wheel in the pot below, come from a cigarette lighter retrieved from the belly of a dead albatross. The tracks are made by pressing a piece of wood from a dead tree across the base of the pot, so that the grub lines are transferred to the clay.

soap dish underside

My trees are dying, all the trees on my mountain are slowly dying. And all the wood hookers see is easy pickings, and all I can see is the death by inches of this country I love.

And so I put the stories of the trees into the work and some people listen but most people don’t, but now I have told you and that is enough.

A friend, Agnes, showed me a technique she uses to make the most beautiful round pots and I have run with it.

round pot with foot 2

I am in love with these little pots.

round pot with foot 1

The potential for storytelling with these pots is enormous and my fingers are itching to make more.

round pot with foot

I even made a blue one.

blue pot round

So you can guess where I will be today internet? You are right of course, I will be in my studio, making all the round pots and putting secret stories into them that I will only share with you.

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No time for storytelling when the clock is ticking.

This week has been hectically busy with the set up and launch of Asylum as well as my other commitments, and each time I think of the promise I made to myself to blog every day, I laugh and laugh and jump in the car and drive away into the sunrise.

My daughter Veronica is trying to build a small business as an artisan soap maker. Veronica has an online store with a growing customer base, but in order to expand and build her brand locally, Veronica needs to be selling her soap at markets.

Over the last twelve months we have fallen into a routine, I take Veronica down to the markets, leaving Nat at home to look after their children. Nat then brings the children down at closing time and does the pack up. It is working rather well as I enjoy selling Veronica’s lovely soap. I am able to tell small stories about how Veronica uses her father with his dreadfully sensitive eczema prone skin as her crash test dummy. I also enjoy watching the men choose the smells they like, most blokes are reluctant to even look at the soap, but if they are up for a story I can confide that Von’s dad quite likes the Belgrove Whisky soap, or the Basil Lime Mandarin and the conversations that follow are often quite interesting. As an aside internet, it has surprised me the softer smells that The Spouse likes as he has always left the soap choosing and shampoo choosing down to me and when the children were small it was price not prettiness that drove my choices and we managed with a pretty utilitarian allergy free boring soap.

Look at this pretty soap. It smells as nice as the image suggests.

goats milk and lavender soap

Veronica Foale Essentials. Goat’s Milk and Lavender Soap

 

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My Exhibition Pieces. Asylum 2015

This is titled, “Australia Gives the Finger to the United Nation’s Convention on Refugees”

Kim Foale _MG_1429_5486

image by Robin Roberts

As my artist statement I used excerpts from the ASRC fact sheet 2013. www.asrc.org.au

Asylum seekers who enter Australia without a valid visa by boat or plane are not illegal. They are permitted to enter without prior authorisation because this right is protected by Article 31 of the 1951 Refugee Convention which recognises they have good cause for entering without a visa.

No offence under Australian law criminalises the act of arriving in Australia without a valid visa for the purposes of seeking asylum.

The allegation that boat arrivals are not genuine in their appeals for protection from persecution is untrue.

Kim Foale _MG_1430_5487

image by Robin Roberts

Kim Foale _MG_1431_5488

image by Robin Roberts

My second entry is titled, “Delicate Flowers Failed to Bloom”

asylum Kim Foale

image by Kim Foale

When reading patient records from the New Orleans City Insane Asylum I wondered if some of the women were really insane or if they were just inconvenient or opinionated?

New Orleans (La.) City Insane Asylum

Record of Patients, 1882-1884; 1888

Excerpts of

This woman is a Raving Maniac who can give no account of herself. She is naked in her cell.

Finding her insane, suffering from Stupidity.

She laughs constantly: when asked a question she gives a sharp answer, which is sometimes correct, but generally not.

Suffering from Delirium of Persecution, the result of unrequited love

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Asylum is on at the Sidespace Gallery until the 15th of November. Open daily from 10.30 am – 4.30 pm

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Some pots just need to rest for a bit.

This pot came out of the kiln a few months ago, I adored the bright colours over the clay body but I didn’t like the look or the feel of the iron spots (the brown speckles). BRT is a fabulous clay to work with, it is totally forgiving, I can break all the clay rules with impunity and it is perfect for children because it is so gutsy. But fired to stoneware in oxidation it is a bit of a nothing clay body and the iron spots need vigorous sanding or Dremel work in order for the pot to have a nice feel.

I did what I mostly do with a pot I am unsure about, I put it away to be examined in detail later. In this case, away, was outside the studio, plonked on top of a 44 gallon drum next to some other pots I liked but didn’t know what to do with.

detail of BRT bowl with colour.

Fast forward to a chilly winters day and the water in the pot had frozen nicely, I took a few photos as the ice was interesting, saved them to my desktop and promptly forgot about them again.

It wasn’t until today when I was cleaning up my computer that I saw the images and thought hmmm.

This needs a closer look.

The ice both highlights and diffuses the colours

detail of BRT pot frozen

I had a bit of a play with the image in photoshop and I think the artificially brightened colours would make a lovely bold painting. It is a shame I do not have a spare inch of wall space in the house anywhere, otherwise I might be tempted to throw some paint around. Actually now that I have typed that last line out, I see it for the silliness it is, of course I should throw some paint about, I can always make wall space later if the painting is any good.

That is the joy of this blog for me, the thinking by writing coupled with the thinking by looking properly always sends me off in unexpected directions.

detail of frozen pot

HDR altered detail of frozen pot copy 2

Returning to the first image, it is the matt blues and greens that I like the best here, especially when seen against the painted blue background of the 44. The lines of the ice over the strong brush strokes are also nice and the iron spots give the pot some added depth as well.  I am pleased I didn’t put the pot in the garden because it would have been years before I found it again rather than months and I shall have fun developing the ideas I have thought of today.

detail of BRT bowl with colour.

 

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Asylum a copy

I try and keep a modicum of distance between myself here on the blog and myself as the President of the Tasmanian Ceramics Association, as those who know me in my role as President do not need to be distracted by the inner workings of my mind. But sometimes the two worlds collide and here I am on the blog today wearing my presidential hat.

The TCA’s Annual Exhibition is on now at the Sidespace Gallery in Salamanca Arts Centre until Sunday the 15th of November.

With the Official Opening at 6pm Friday the 6th of November to be opened by Mr Andrew Wilkie MP

I will be sitting the show, today from 1 pm -4.30 and on Saturday from 10 am – 1 pm.

As the judging was done last night, the social media black out has been lifted and all participants can now share all their images of their work on their various platforms. I will be popping some photos up on my instagram account later on today.

If you are interested you can follow me on instagram here => Kim Foale Ceramics

The exhibiton is open daily from 10.30 am – 4.30 pm until the 15th of November.

 

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