A Tree Change is A-Comin’

Have you seen the ‘make-under’ dolls that have become so popular of late?  This is where a preloved doll, like a Bratz doll, is given a ‘make-under’ and completely transformed in to a dolly with a more natural appearance.  The enormous eyes and lips are gone, the crazy hair and skimpy clothing replaced by something more down to earth.  More appropriate.  More accessible.  And more fun!

A group of Tree Change Doll kids ready to play outside. Picture courtesy of Tree Change Dolls on Facebook

The first I’d heard of a make-under doll was in February this year via this YouTube video.  Sonia Singh is a Tasmanian mum and artist who has been making under dolls she’s found at local tip shops for her own daughter.  Her process involves completely removing all traces of the heavy, stylized, makeup and hand painting a new face on each doll.  Sonia and her mum, Sylvia, then hand sew and hand knit new, more modest and age appropriate play outfits for each doll, and even make new shoes to replace the stripper heels the original Bratz dolls sport.  The end result is a completely refurbished, hand-styled doll that children say feels more like a friend, someone they might actually know in real life, dolls that are more friendly and fun to play with.

I can see what they mean.  The before and after pictures reveal a marked difference between the impossibly proportioned Barbies and trashy Bratz dolls, and the more natural Tree Change Dolls that Sonia creates.  Here is a recent example of Sonia’s work.

Picture from Tree Change Dolls facebook page.

Bindi – July’s charity doll. Picture from TreeChangeDolls.com

Sonia Singh and one of her Tree Change Dolls. Image from Tree Change Dolls on Facebook

I love this idea on so many levels.  First, there is the whole recycling piece.  Turning someone else’s trash in to treasure and preventing the unwanted dolls from becoming landfill.  Love that!

And then there is Sonia’s philosophy of taking dolls with hyper-sexualised features (ugh, truly truly awful) and transforming them in to what looks pretty close to being a kid you might actually know, all while providing an alternative, slightly feminist, certainly positive message to young girls.

And you know what else I love?  Sonia makes of point of not editing perceived ‘flaws’ that children might naturally have, like freckles, bushy eyebrows and buck teeth but adds them in to create personality.  Love that, too.

People just can’t get enough of these dolls.  Back in February Sonia’s original story was quickly picked up by social media and all of a sudden she become quite the viral sensation.  Her dolls, which she sells through her Etsy shop, are just about impossible to come by as they all sell out in a matter of minutes after every listing.  Clearly, Sonia has struck upon an underserved niche in the toy market and, no doubt, could make fists full of money by licensing with Mattel.  But instead of holding on greedily to her great idea Sonia has created a number of How-To videos to encourage regular peeps like you and me to have a go at upcycling old unwanted dollies ourselves.  How amazing is that?

So, of course, I had to give it a try 🙂

Here is the strumpet, Jazzmyn, I picked up at a local op-shop.  She was $2.50.  Not as whorey as I was hoping to find, quite honestly, but still.

image   image

And after a bit of tinkering, here she is now.

DSCN0514DSCN0526DSCN0542

I think she turned out pretty well for a first try.  My kids love her.  And it was a lot of fun to make her some new clothes, boots and some chicken friends 🙂  She reminds me a lot of a little girl I volunteered with in my youngest’s kindergarten class, Daniza.  Now, who would you want your 6 year old to play with: Jazzmyn with her sassy mouth and stripper heels, or Daniza and her cute chickens?

Another thing I like about Sonia is that each month she puts one of her dolls up for auction on Ebay with some of the proceeds benefiting a different charity.  Bindi, the dolly at the top of this story, was auctioned off this month for just over AUD1000 with proceeds to go to The Indigenous Literacy Foundation.  Ah.May.Zing.

I love everything about this.  The social responsibility piece.  The recycling.  The positive body image message for young girls.  The entrepreneurial spirit of a mum from Tassie!  Love.  Love.  Love.  Don’t you?

“What is a Food Forest?”, You Ask?

Remember I was telling you about a local guy who takes note of all the publicly available fruiting trees that are in our area and he makes a point to harvest the fruit rather than let it spoil and go to waste?  Such activity is called Urban Foraging and I talked about it here.

So guess what?  I’m not the first one to be amazed by the idea that there is food, real food, literally hanging off trees all around us that we could, you know, eat.  Others have come across this notion too and have totally taken it to the next level.  Check this.

The city of Seattle has devoted 7 acres of land less than 2 miles from the city center to create a ‘Food Forest’.  “What’s a food forest?”, you ask?  I know.  I didn’t know either.  But it is a community partnership which will eventually create a true woodland ecosystem made up entirely of edible trees, shrubs, annuals and perennials, nut trees and berry patches and fruit trees, and family vegetable plots from which anyone can harvest anything.  An urban forager’s delight!  What an incredible concept.  They broke ground early summer 2011 and now this is what the Beacon Food Forest looks like:

It is hard to believe that all this food is free for the taking.  Like, anyone can just walk in and pick whatever looks good to take home and eat that night.  Hard to believe, right?  Here is a recent news article that tells the story.  And for the more visually inclined, here is a great video by the founders of the Beacon Food Forest that explains it all.

I follow them on Facebook now and I love to hear all their news.  They hold monthly work parties that really do look like fun that I soooo want to be a part of!  They run summer camps for the kids, hold yoga classes, do seed swaps, provide lots of education on organic gardening and cooking from the food you’ve grown.  And they had rhubarb compote made from their own rhubarb at May’s work party.  Awesome.

All very 360 degrees and very well conceived.  I just love it and will (one day) definitely take a trip out to visit the Beacon Food Forest.

I think this is such an incredible community outreach project.  Wow, folks.  Just. Wow.

Do you play Jeopardy?

I’ll take Urban Renewal for 200, thanks Alex.

Answer: The world’s smallest urban park.

GreenEggs:  What is … Mill Ends Park?

YES!  On my cyber travels I happened upon one of the strangest things I’ve ever happened upon … in a gardening sense, that it.  The World’s Smallest Urban Park – can you believe it?  Mill Ends Park, a diminutive two-foot circle and only just big enough for one plant, sits in the middle of a median strip on what is now SW Naito Parkway, in Portland, Oregon.    It also happens to be home to the only leprechaun colony west of Ireland, although that point seems overlooked by the Guiness Book of Records.  Can’t imagine such a place?  Here’s a picture.

Mill Ends Park, Portland OR.  The smallest park in the world and home to the only leprechaun colony West of Ireland.

Mill Ends Park, Portland OR.

The story goes that in 1948 the site was prepared for a light pole to be installed on busy SW Front Avenue.  Time passed and the lightpole never arrived, yet weeds and nasties sprung up as they do when a plot of ground is left unattended.  Dick Fagan, a columnist with the Oregon Journal planted some flowers on the site, declared it a park and named it after his column in the paper, Mill Ends.  The park was officially dedicated on St Patrick’s Day, 1948, as “the only leprechaun colony west of Ireland”, according to Fagan.

From Wikipedia:

Legend

Fagan told the story of the park’s origin: He looked out the window and spotted a leprechaun digging in the hole. He ran down and grabbed the leprechaun, which meant that he had earned a wish. Fagan said he wished for a park of his own; but since he had not specified the size of the park in his wish, the leprechaun gave him the hole.[4] Over the next two decades, Fagan often featured the park and its head leprechaun in his whimsical column. Fagan claimed to be the only person who could see the head leprechaun, Patrick O’Toole.[3]

Fagan published a threat by O’Toole about the 11 o’clock curfew set on all city parks. O’Toole dared the mayor to try to evict him and his followers from Mill Ends, and threatened a leprechaun curse on him should he attempt to do so. Subsequently, no legal action was taken, and the leprechauns were allowed to stay in the park after hours.[5]

Evolution

Fagan died of cancer in 1969, but the park lives on, cared for by others. It was named an official city park in 1976.[2]

The small circle has featured many unusual items through the decades, including a swimming pool for butterflies—complete with diving board, a horseshoe, a fragment of the Journal building, and a miniature Ferris wheel which was delivered by a full size crane. On St. Patrick’s Day, 2001, the park was visited by a tiny leprechaun leaning against his pot of gold and children’s drawings of four-leaf clovers and leprechauns.[2] The park continues to be the site of St. Patrick’s Day festivities. The events held here include concerts by Clan Macleay Pipe Band, picnics, and rose plantings by the Junior Rose Festival Court.[3]

Mill Ends Park in 2004 before remodeling.

Mill Ends Park in 2004 before remodeling.

I love the absurdity, I love the leprechauns and I love the teeny tiny park!  But it is not all roses and hollyhocks though.  There is a contender for the title of World’s Smallest Urban Park and they are not going down without a fight!  Prince’s Park in the Staffordshire town of Burntwood, UK is challenging Mill Ends Park in the teeny tiny park stakes, claiming that Mill Ends isn’t really even a park to start with!  Prince’s Park is a full 15’x30′ in size and boasts home to the first and only World’s Shortest Fun Run, a full 55 strides around.

Not far to go now!

Not far to go now!

In 2003, nearly 400 people showed up to race around Prince’s Park completing the race in just 7 seconds flat!  Awesome!

So, which do you think has the best ‘small park spirit’?  Are you Team Portland or Team UK?  I can’t get past the cute factor of Mill Ends Park but the World’s Shortest Fun Run at Prince’s Park is a really fabulous community event.  I’m torn but leaning towards Team UK.  You?

Urban Foraging

It’s funny the way some things happen, isn’t it?

I came across a post in my recent cyber travels about a fellow Charlottean, Mike Orell, who is (apparently) wild about the amazing tree canopy that we have here in The Queen City.  In case you didn’t know, Charlotte is known for having one of the finest urban forests in America and it is one of our most recognized and treasured natural resources.

The Charlotte Skyline. See all the trees? Amazing for a city of about 1 million people, right?

I have to admit that I love the trees, too.  One of my favourite things about Charlotte is the abundance of green and the trees are definitely a big part of that.  Sadly, our urban forest is old, fragile and depleted and is at risk of being irrepairably lost if action is not taking to better preserve it.  Fortunately in 2010, our city council recognised the canopy’s importance and launched a bold public/private collaborative, TreesCharlotte, whose task was to assess the condition of the canopy, support and protect the existing trees, and set a goal of planting over 500,000 trees over the coming decades.  It is largely volunteer driven and has been very successful to date.  A truly wonderful community project with a lasting legacy. Trees are important.  Trees are beautiful.  And they increase our land values.

Typical tree lined suburban Charlotte street.  Gorgeous, right?

Typical tree lined suburban Charlotte street. Gorgeous, right?

Anyway, I came across this post, via Trees Charlotte, written by Mike that talks about Urban Foraging.  Have you heard about Urban Foraging?  That is, going out into our public urban environments to find, harvest, and eat fruits (or veges or whatever) that are publicly available, are ripe, and would ordinarily rot on the vine and go to waste if folks weren’t out there collecting them.  What a notion.  Mike talks about the different fruit trees that he’s noticed around his/my areas, when they are fruiting and how often he beats the critters to the bounty 🙂

And then I realised that *I* am an Urban Forager, too.  Well, in that there is this amazingly enormous fig tree along one of my running routes that is simply ladened with fruit in the Autumn, and that I have been known to slow and enjoy a fresh sweet fig or two from its offerings as I pass.  My running buddies think I’m mad.  I’m ok with that.

And then I thought of the people I see walking along the walking paths in Florida carrying the fresh coconuts home that had fallen the night before.  And I realised that *they* are Urban Foragers, too.

Florida coconuts

Florida coconuts

And I remembered the NPR segment I heard months ago about a global (global!) online project called Falling Fruit that crowd sources locations of publicly available fruits and maps them, so you can go and be an Urban Forager in your own piece of the world.  Amazing!

And then my friend, Sarhn at GreenerMe, posted just yesterday about her adventures collecting wild Slippery Jack mushrooms.  Turns out that she’s an Urban Forager, too!  And I remember going ‘mushrooming’ after a rainfall in the Autumn months as a child so I guess I’ve been doing it for a long time, afterall.

It is just all around me right now.  Funny how sometimes things like that happen, right?  All at once?

But what does all that meeaaaannn???  I dunno.  But I like the advice Mike gives: To “pick your head up and start to really see what’s around you”.  Good advice for life, really.

Are there any other Urban Foragers out there?  Perhaps you are an UF and just never knew it (like me)?

Poppies Poppies Everywhere – ANZAC Day 2015

The 5000 Poppies Project is Complete!

You may remember I crocheted a red poppy in memory of my Great Grandfather, to donate to the 5000 Poppies Project for the 100th anniversary of the ANZAC Day landings in WWI.  I blogged about it here.

Poppy for ANZAC Day

Poppy for ANZAC Day

My little poppy winged its way to Melbourne months ago and was incorporated into the art piece known as 5000 Poppies, now installed at Melbourne’s Federation Square.   When the organisers originally started this project 2 years ago they were hoping to collect 5000 Poppies to display, thinking that was a super ambitious number.  Guess how many poppies it takes to produce a result like this?

Fede

5000 Poppies at Federation Square, Melbourne

By the end they had received over 250,000 (!!) handmade poppies created by over 30,000 individuals from all over the world!  An extraordinary example of community organising that has beautifully found the sweet spot between the emotional, remembering the fallen and those who have served – and the practical, that knitting and crocheting poppies is easy enough for just about anyone to do so participation was easy and high.  It turns out that 250,000 handmade poppies creates over 800 square metres (that’s over 8600 sq ft, for those who still use the old money) of poppies!  A true ‘Field of Poppies’, which was, after all, the actual point of the exercise.  Many have dedications attached to them.  I wish I had thought to do that.

I particularly love this amazing sculpture created by a local, Melbournian metal fabrication plant, Uniweld Engineering, under the direction of artist Adrian Egglestone: entitled GRATITUDE.  Stunning.

Gorgeous sculpture by Adrian Egglestone entitled: Gratitude

Gorgeous sculpture by Adrian Egglestone entitled: GRATITUDE

GRATITUDE

GRATITUDE

I don’t know why but I can’t get the video feed to link right now.  To see some video footage to get a true appreciation of the scale click here for link to SBS News’ footage.  And here for some newspaper coverage.

5000 Poppies will be on display in Federation Square, Melbourne, from Thursday April 23 – Sunday April 26 after which it is starting a national tour around the country.

So glad I could participate in such an extraordinary event.

Happy ANZAC Day.

Lest we forget.

The Answer’s in the Dirt, People

I love these words- Childhood in the Garden – from Kelly at Little Fall Creek.  They remind me of another recent post Teaching Your Children to Grow Food from a friend, Sarhn at Greener Me that echo the same sentiments.  Both women speak of how gardening, and particularly growing their own food, has connected the generations in their families in such delightful ways they (perhaps) had not expected: from their grandparents, to themselves, and on to their sweet toddlers. That both women have chosen to blog this week about how their gardens sustain and facilitate the intergenerational connections in their lives kinda spoke to me.

Cute kid stuff in the garden

Cute kid stuff in the garden

Gardening is definitely not a ‘cool’ thing to do.  Growing kale never gets the same attention as the latest i-Product release or as many hashtags and retweets as Kimye’s latest escapades.  And yet there is something so very grounding and real about it, something that is definitely lacking in our modern cyber-world.  I can completely relate to the feeling Kelly and Sarhn describe when you see your kids getting involved and learning in the garden as I did by my Grandmother’s side so many years ago.  The connectivity.  The realness.  The *feels* of it all.

I’m starting to think that instead of Lexapro it is gardening that is the ultimate counter-balance to all the stressors of our digital world.  Studies have proven the therapeutic benefits of gardening – see here – and now there is a whole thing about horticultural therapy and how gardening can help cure depression.  All stuff our grandparents innately knew that we seem to have forgotten.

‘Coz let’s face it.  You can’t get more real than planting a seed, watering it, nurturing it, watching it sprout and grow, finally harvesting the fruit and then composting what remains to be returned to the soil for the next cycle.  You have to put time and effort in to get a result.  You have to try again when the bunnies eat all your lettuce seedlings.  You have to take a long term perspective and not get hung up on small stuff.  Definitely none of the instant gratification we are all so accostumed to these days.  All very Circle-of-Life and a poignant reminder about what is real, what is important, what really matters in this crazy world we live in.  Family.  Food.  Love.  Persistence.  Kindness.

To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow - Audrey Hepburn

To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow – Audrey Hepburn

Audrey Hepburn said “To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow”.  Sounds corny but I think she’s right and this sentiment touches on what we are trying to get at here.  That our gardens are not just about growing veges.  That  they are bigger than that.  That they somehow feed our souls, nourish our families, and create memories and legacies that will persist long after we are gone.

I wish I had had a garden when my boys were very small.  Now they are bigger they are not quite as entranced by yellow sour grass flowers as they once may have been.  Yet my hope is that digging in the garden will help to instill in them valuable life lessons, lessons about sustainability, stewardship, and love, and that they find the same renewing, restorative, therapeutic benefits that I have found amongst the leaves.  As well as some awesome heirloom tomatoes.

Proliferate Poppies – from 5000 to 200,000!

Check this out!  This is the 5000 Poppies Project I crocheted the poppy for a few months ago and told you all about. You can read about it on my blog post here.  It seems that there has been much media coverage of late and so much interest and I am just so thrilled to hear that the 5000 Poppies Project has received this kind of support!

An example of part of the 5000 Poppies installation.  It will certainly look amazing once all 200,000 poppies are sewn together!

An example of part of the 5000 Poppies installation. It will certainly look amazing once all 200,000 poppies are sewn together!

Such a lovely idea and remembrance for those that served.  I can’t wait to see the final installation this ANZAC Day.  And I have to say, it does feel good to be involved in a home-grown, very Aussie, community project from so far away.  Feeling quite patriotic, actually (humming … Once a jolly swagman/Camped by a billabong …).

If any of my Aussie readers happen to see the finished project would you please take a pic and post it for me?  I know the display will start in Melbourne on ANZAC Day (April 25 for those unfamiliar) but as I understand it the plan is to travel around the country to display the finished piece all over during the 100th anniversary year (this year).  So it may well come by your neighbourhood sometime.  Keep a look out for my little poppy I made in honour of my Great Grandfather, Pvt Edgar Gibbons!

Anzac Day 2015: Melbourne handmade poppies project exceeds expectations, hopes to collect 200,000 flowers

Updated about 10 hours ago

Two Melbourne artists behind a project to create 5,000 handcrafted poppies to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Anzac landings say they expect to finish with about one kilometre’s worth of flowers.

Lynn Berry and Margaret Knight started the project in June 2013, and thanks to other volunteers, their 5,000 poppy target was shattered and they are now on track to reach 200,000.

Margaret Knight told ABC News Breakfast the project was initially a way for the two women to commemorate their fathers’ war service.

“We were into commemorative art and we decided to do what we call a ‘yarn bombing’ around the battalion tree [for the battalion] that Lynn’s father fought in, and on the walk to the shrine,” Ms Knight said.

“And my father was a British soldier [so] that’s where it all started.”

Lynn Berry said the idea quickly snowballed.

“Everybody was asking, you know … do you mind if I knit a couple, my mother would like to knit a couple, my aunt works at a retirement village and the retirement village ladies would like to knit a couple,” Ms Berry said.

Ms Berry said the project had now collected about 170,000 knitted, felted and crafted poppies.

“And we’re expecting by the end of it to have somewhere in excess of 200,000,” she said.

“It’ll be about one kilometre of poppies by the time we’re finished.”

The poppies will be assembled onto nets and placed around Melbourne as fields of poppies.

She said the finished product will be beautiful, because no two poppies are exactly the same.

“Well, many of them follow the same pattern, but everybody puts their own slant on them,” Ms Berry said.

“We get tatted and knitted [ones] and just the most glorious creations.”

Ms Knight said the project was also initiating plenty of conversations among families.

“I think it’s encouraged people to have a look into their family history of service,” she said.

The poppies will go on display at Melbourne’s Federation Square on Anzac Day.