Red kettle still life in acrylagouache

Today I painted a still life, using 5 colours in acrylagouache. If this had been a watercolour painting it would have ended up in the bin, as I made some mistakes along the way that I couldn't have corrected in watercolour.

 The final painting - red kettle with lemon and Liptons teabags

The final painting - red kettle with lemon and Liptons teabags

The stages of painting. You can see where I've had to correct some mistakes, and paint over parts of the background. I used Scarlet, Deep Yellow, Ultramarine, Burnt Sienna and Carbon Black. I realised at the end that these are all warm colours - perhaps the background would have been better in a cool colour.

Starting with Acrylagouache

We bought a set of acrylagouache and a few extra unusual colors. 

They are smooth to paint with, you can paint in layers including light over dark, and unlike normal gouache the under layers don't reactivate. 

Dried paint can be cleaned off a palette with methylated spirits.

They are made in Japan but you can buy them online from Dean's Art. 


Harvest time

Harvest time is over, spaghetti sauce and cucumber pickles made, and the first pumpkin soup and pumpkin pie.

I used a grape leaf in each jar of pickles and they stayed crisp. Hot pack with salt, vinegar and spices. There were so many cucumbers and some of them grew huge though they were gherkin cucumbers. The seeds of the big ones were bitter but the flesh was good.

 Cucumber pickles

Cucumber pickles

The soup has masala spices in it. 

The pie pastry and filling are an old Margaret Fulton recipe, with eggs in the pastry and I added 2 eggs to the filling to make it more of a custard. 


Pumpkin pie

Getting the chooks to use the chooketeria


Success! After giving up several times, I've finally got the chooks to use their fancy chooketeria feeder (which cost over $100!)

I wanted them to use it so I could have their food outside the coop, without rain, mice or wild birds getting into it. I tried having it propped open halfway, and they would stand at the side and eat out of it. If they stood on the step they would get a fright and run away when it made a noise.

Finally I decided that they were just not hungry enough, and put their food only in the chooketeria - with a bolt in the side stopping it from closing all the way, so they could see the food. It took several days but finally the bravest one did start holding it open by stepping on it. The Light Sussex took advantage of the other chooks opening the feeder, though they often chased her away. After they had been using it this way for a few weeks I took the bolts out and again it took a few days for them to become brave enough to open it. Now they all happily feed from the chooketeria, but the white chook who has never been very brave won't open it herself.


Checking out the chooketeria


Chooketeria propped open


Some of my efforts for the 100 day project on Instagram. I  have chosen to do a sketch every day in black and white, or at least monochrome, as I'm easily distracted by colour. 



Ken's dressing gown - pastel on construction paper 




A cormorant drying its wings at Yass River - pilot fountain pen and Sailor ink



Rear end of an elegant sheep - 8B and HB pencils

Fencing tools for women

Many women are much more experienced than myself at building a fence and can build a much better fence. This post is for those who might be struggling to figure out how to build or mend a fence, and worse still are using the wrong tools, as I was when I started. These tools can be used for different types of fencing jobs, and are not restricted to the simple tasks I've used them for.

The type of fence I have built is very simple and cheap - just using star pickets with medium tensile wire and ringlock (or hinged joint) sheep mesh. These are only internal fences that will keep sheep in or out of an area such as a small shelter belt. I don't trust my skills and methods for boundary fences and I can't put in strainer posts, I get a professional contractor to do those. They are also good for putting up a fence in or around a vegie garden - sometimes I enjoy making structures out of wood and string, but there are times when I prefer to stick in a star picket and attach some wire and/or netting to hold up the climbing or rambling vegies.

Here are the 18 tools I regard as essential equipment. They will be described below with the reasons I prefer them and how I use them.

  1. Star picket pounder - a short one.
  2. Star picket lifter
  3. Fence Mate tension tool
  4. Star picket
  5. Bolt cutters
  6. Short star picket
  7. High tensile fencing wire
  8. Medium tensile fencing wire
  9. Twitcher (TM) and applicator
  10. Leather gloves
  11. Netting clips and netting clip pliers
  12. Pliers for pulling and bending fencing wire
  13. Mallet
  14. Medium tie wire
  15. Thin tie wire
  16. Metal bucket
  • The star picket pounder is the half-length one because the full size one is too long and too heavy for me to lift off the star picket after I've pounded it in. Also it isn't so heavy to use. The downside is that it takes a bit longer to pound it in as it doesn't have the weight behind it.
  • The star picket lifter grips the bottom of the star picket and pulls it out using leverage against the ground. I love this one because it's yellow! That also makes it easy to find (note how many of these tools have a red, orange or yellow handle - I painted the mallet handle red and yellow after losing it in the paddock too many times).
  • The Fencemate tension tool enables me to tension a fence with a gripple by myself. I can't do that with the type of tool that has a chain, and I find them really difficult to use even with help. Another brand is Contractor, which is more expensive. I read a review before purchasing this one by someone who had used both and said the Fence Mate worked just as well.
 Fencemate tool straining wire using a gripple

Fencemate tool straining wire using a gripple

  • Bolt cutters are for cutting a single strand of wire - even high tensile fencing wire is easy for me to cut with these, because of the leverage. It is really difficult for me to cut wire with 'fencing pliers'. The bolt cutters only cost me $20.
  • I use the short star pickets as a corner brace sometimes, though a full length one is better for a longer stretch of fence. Obviously a proper strainer post would be better but for a small shelter belt it would be too expensive.
  • I use the medium tensile wire for shelter belts and the vegie garden. The boundary fences and driveway fences use high tensile wire.
  • The Twitcher (TM) is made by Kreisl & Co Pty Ltd, and is used to tension or re-tension fencing wire.
 Twitcher (TM) and applicator tool for straining fencing wire

Twitcher (TM) and applicator tool for straining fencing wire

  • I use leather gloves to avoid injury. Even bending wire with bare hands can hurt your hands and a nip with the pliers or driving the end of the fencing wire into your hand is very painful.
  • The pliers I use are good ones for pulling on the fencing wire or bending it - they don't need to be fencing pliers as I don't use them for cutting the wire.
  • I use a mallet for pounding in short star pickets or wooden posts. I find the heavy ones too hard to use so I don't use a mallet to pound in the full-length star pickets.
  • The tie wire is used to wire the star picket I'm using as a strainer onto the corner star picket, and sometimes to tie the ringlock to the star pickets.
  • This tool (C) is also called a twitcher and is used to twist one piece of wire around another (or around itself). It uses leverage to make the job very easy, and for around $7 is one of the most useful tools of all.
  • The netting pliers (B) are used with the netting clips (A) to attach the ringlock mesh to the fencing wire.
  • Gripples (D) are used by threading the ends of two pieces of fencing wire through holes in them and then using a tensioning tool to pull the wire through them until it's tight. The wire will not pull back out.
  • I use a metal bucket to carry the tools in, and to throw pieces of wire and bent clips, etc into so that I'm not leaving them on the ground (they can hurt sheep if they eat them). Also if I keep the small tools in the bucket I'm less likely to lose them.

Lastly, there's the gear - canvas hat and fly/mozzie net, snake proof or seed proof leggings for summer, leather hat or Akubra for winter, boots and a glasses holder to clip to the belt (I've stood on or lost several pairs in the paddock when they fell out of a pocket).


Recent author interviews on ABC radio national

Recent author interviews with a couple of my favourite authors on ABC radio national....

Morris Gleitzman talking about the release of Maybe, the 6th book in his Felix series, on Books and Arts on 24 October.

I attended an excellent workshop he gave at the ACT Writers' Centre last year.

Alison Lester talking about her life and writing in "Drawing magic from life and landscapes: Alison Lester on Conversations'

We once spent 18 hours in a tent with a 5 year old, reading The Quicksand Pony and drawing, while rain poured outside - it saved our sanity!