Look in the space between the stars, what do you see?1
Viewing the world as interconnected is core to Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander knowledge systems and communities. As such, it is not only inappropriate but also impossible to truly learn about Indigenous astronomy without learning how the sky relates to the land, which all makes up what Indigenous peoples call Country – as captured by the Bawaka Country group in a 2020 paper:
Country includes lands, seas, waters, rocks, animals, winds and all the beings that exist in and make up a place, including people. It also embraces the stars, Moon, Milky Way, solar winds and storms, and intergalactic plasma. Land, Sea and Sky Country are all connected, so there is no such thing as ‘outer space’ or ‘outer Country’ – no outside. What we do in one part of Country affects all others.2
The story of the Celestial Emu exquisitely illustrates the holistic nature of Country and Indigenous knowledge systems.
On a moonless, cloudless night, away from the streetlights’ orange hum and the confines of tall buildings, the dazzling speckled infinite awaits. If you’re close to town, you might see vast darkness with the occasional twinkle. But if you’re far enough away from town, you will no longer see the dark but instead be overwhelmed by the light – point sources dancing and shimmering, performing an astonishing display in the vastness of the cosmos. It’s here we get to know the sky in all of its complexities and subtleties. No one knew this better than the First Astronomers.
During the late southern summer, the Milky Way’s dominating light takes prominence over the entire night sky. As each day passes and winter approaches, the daylight reduces, and as the length of night grows, so too does the Milky Way’s presence in our skies. Among the bold, bright discs of light dwell pools of darkness. These uniquely shaped dark gaps are framed by a dazzling stellar spectacle. The combination of light and dark creates an undeniable feature with which nothing else in the observable sky compares (Figure 2.1). Different peoples see various creatures or places emerge from these features, each with its own meaning. To some, it is a big rip across the sky. To astronomers, it’s an entire galaxy shrouded by space clouds, behind which hides a supermassive black hole. The Wardaman people of the Northern Territory see the Milky Way as the Rainbow Serpent, accompanied by the Sky Boss and Earth Lady.3 The Yolŋu people of north-east Arnhem Land see a crow.4 For many Aboriginal nations, from east coast to west and from the Top End to the south, it is the Dark Emu (Figure 2.2).
The Dark Emu has many names. It’s sometimes referred to as the Celestial Emu. In Gamilaraay it’s called Gawarrgay, and its Dreaming tells us of dhinawan, with ‘Gawarrgay’ referring to the featherless, ceremonial Celestial Emu and ‘dhinawan’ referring to the land-dwelling, flightless bird.
These Dreamings are of particular importance to the Gamilaraay/Kamilaroi as the dhinawan is the nation’s totem. The Dreaming connects the dhinawan’s breeding cycle and its movement across Country, mirroring the movements of Gawarrgay across the sky.
In the months of April and May, Gawarrgay sweeps across the entire celestial sphere, legs and neck stretched out as though running. Kamilaroi man Ben Flick describes its positioning:
Just under the Southern Cross, you’ll see a dark spot. That’s the head of the emu. In front of him is, of course, his beak, and as you follow it down, you can see his neck in the dark spots of the Milky Way. It comes right down to his body. You can see his legs and a couple of eggs underneath.5
At the same time, on the land, the female dhinawan are chasing the males for breeding. After May, the dhinawan’s gawu (eggs) appear. These are early days for the gawu, before the embryos have had time to develop. The male dhinawan sits on the gawu, protecting the young. The dhinawan is important for Gamilaraay males, as the Dreaming teaches young men about their role in looking after the children in community, as the dhinawan look after the gawu.6 This is the best time for gawu to be collected, but people should only take what they need and leave the rest. If they wait too long in the season, the burrgay (emu chicks) form in the gawu. People should not disturb these gawu as the new generation of dhinawan is taking shape. In the sky, Gawarrgay’s legs disappear as he dives toward the horizon, signalling that the male dhinawan is sitting on the gawu on the land. The Celestial Emu is signalling to the Gamilaraay people to stop hunting as the eggs are now in incubation. As Flick describes it, ‘At that certain time of year, it’s time for us to go out and collect emu eggs. We go out into the bush, always leaving some eggs for next year and for generations to keep going.’7 Burrgay is also the Gamilaraay word for this time of the year (July), further illuminating the animal’s importance to Gamilaraay people and the culture’s holistic nature.
As the year progresses, Gawarrgay changes form and appears as a featherless emu crossing Country. Finally, in November, only the body of Gawarrgay remains, signalling that the dhinawan are currently occupying waterholes. Gawarrgay’s shortened form signifies to the Gamilaraay people to move across Country to access the same reservoirs as the dhinawan, but also to protect them from being overused and destroyed by the thirsty, cheeky dhinawan. When Gawarrgay reappears in February, people start moving from their summer camps and the waterholes to their winter camps. Just a few months later, the annual cycle of Gawarrgay, the dhinawan and the Gamilaraay people repeats.
Analysis of sixty-eight ceremonial grounds by cultural astronomers Dr Robert Fuller and Dr Duane Hamacher and CSIRO astronomer Dr Ray Norris found that the alignment of the Celestial Emu in the night sky throughout the year relates to the positioning and directionality of emu engravings on the ground.8
The sky knowledge connects to the food knowledge, which connects to the seasonal knowledge. It is relational, practical and cyclic. Through an Indigenous lens, everything is connected. This mirroring is a core belief for many Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples. We see it in the Dreaming of Gawarrgay and the land dhinawan. Similarly, in Gamilaraay, Bulimah or Sky Camp is positioned behind the Milky Way, where camp sites, tribes and ancestral places reside.9 Same same but different. This mirroring is so essential to life on Country that it is immortalised in Country. The Big Warrambool is a flood plain located in southern Queensland that runs down to the Barwon River in New South Wales. The water plains of the Big Warrambool reflect the sky above and the land below, acting as a portal between land and sky. This place of Country holds further significance to the Gamilaraay people as it is seen as the start of their Country.10 In Victoria on and around Dja Dja Wurrung Country, a similar place is known in which a large pine tree acts as a portal intertwining people on Earth to the sky world, much like the Big Warrambool does for the Gamilaroi.11 The interconnected nature of Indigenous knowledge means Indigenous astronomy is never just about astronomy.
This is an extract from the latest in our First Knowledges series, Astronomy: Sky Country by Karlie Noon and Krystal De Napoli.
Notes 1 Participant 6, quoted in Robert S Fuller, Ray P Norris & Michelle Trudgett, ‘The Astronomy of the Kamilaroi People and Their Neighbours’, 2013, arXiv:1311.0076 [physics.hist-ph], p. 6. 2 Bawaka Country, ‘Dukarr lakarama: Listening to Guwak, Talking Back to Space Colonization’, Political Geography, 81, 2020, p. 2, <doi.org/10.1016/ j.polgeo.2020.102218>. 3 Hugh Cairns & Bill Yidumduma Harney, Dark Sparklers, H Cairns, Merimbula, 2004, p. 59. 4 For example, see Dawidi Birritjama, Cat and crow legend [bark painting], 1960, Art Gallery of New South Wales, Sydney, <artgallery.nsw.gov.au/ collection/works/IA42.1960/>. 5 Western Local Land Services, ‘Through Our Eyes: Dhinawan “Emu” in the Sky with Ben Flick’ , Western Local Land Services, YouTube, 25 March 2014, <youtube.com/watch?v=LzFYFutiwoA>. 6 Rosie Armstrong Lang, private communication shared with Karlie Noon, July 2021. 7 Western Local Land Services, ‘Through Our Eyes: Dhinawan “Emu” in the Sky with Ben Flick’ . 8 Robert S Fuller, Duane W Hamacher & Ray P Norris, ‘Astronomical Orientations of BORA Ceremonial Grounds in Southeast Australia’, Australian Archaeology, 77(1), 2016, pp. 30–7. 9 Fuller, Norris & Trudgett, p. 9. 10 Lang, 2021.
My daughter Lucy died on 10 November 2004, in the morning, at the age of thirty-eight. She lay on her bed for a sleep, with her cat beside her, and her heart stopped. It was, I like to think, a death of her own manner and choosing, though I doubt she did this consciously. My business is words. I put these together, my words, hers, other people’s, in celebration of her life and of our grief for her loss of it, and ours of her. Not all the words are about her, but they are all for her.
Love is so important to us. We so much need it. We can’t do without it. What we don’t realise at the beginning is the price it comes at. When we kiss the lover, when we marry the beloved, when we nurse the child, there is such perfection, such joy, we do not know the cost that is beginning to be incurred, and the paradox that the greater the love the greater the price. Though, I do think a child often comes with fear; fear skulks through the wide open door of joy, it casts its shadow and a little shiver chills us, even if we don’t entirely recognise it. Until the day of reckoning comes.
The price is loss. I have lost my husband, and my daughter. As I write these words in 2004 – it’s not that date any longer, this book will have been eighteen years in the writing, such things don’t come easily, you have to wait for them – I have a son, I have a new husband. I am building up further dreadful debits and may one day be asked to pay them. I say to my son, Make sure you don’t die for a long time, and he promises. But he can’t be sure. John, the husband, is several years younger than me, and very fit. But one of us will lose the other, one day.
You could choose to live without love and then there never would be loss. But who would want to do that?
Love equals loss. But it takes a while to twig.
I see my son James becoming aware of such things. He pays attention to me, I am his only close relative left. When I die there will be nobody at all of the generation before him, he will occupy that rather chilly eminence of the oldest in the family. There is an uncle by marriage, no aunts, some younger cousins who are all quite attached to one another but not in close contact because of geography, and it is much the same for his partner, she has a lot of cousins but not nearby. He is hanging on to me, and I am supposed to hang on to myself. But I sniff the air of mortality.
At the end of 2016, as we were waiting for his son to be born at seven o’clock the next morning, James informed me that I had to live another twenty years to see my grandson into adulthood. Mm. I doubt that is going to happen.
Memoir | 2021
This memoir isn’t very chronological. It doesn’t start at a beginning and go through to an end. As you might imagine a photo album, beginning with birth, through babyhood, being a toddler, school, growing up, and so on and on. No, time and memory seldom travel together. When I wrote my family saga novel Lovers’ Knots I was interested in getting the content of a saga without the massive proportions, and I came up with the image of a box of photographs. You pick them out at random, and so the story is told. This memoir is another such box of snapshots. You find your own way through the story, from random details. That said, it does begin with Lucy’s birth.
Tasting the air | 1966
When Lucy was born she tasted the air. She had a round little golden head – later doctors said she was jaundiced but when she was born she was golden, and very pretty, with smooth cheeks and no wrinkles or jowls. She lay in her crib on her back, put out her tongue and tasted the air. Very thoughtfully, as though she was testing this new medium that she found herself in. Quite voluptuously; she was offering herself a sensuous experience.
She seemed quite healthy then, though tired after a long labour, from early one morning to about three o’clock the next. It was another day before they decided she had a problem, and took her to the premmie nursery and put her in a thing called a Crown Street 10 box, which was a five-sided cube of a kind of perspex, a bit bigger than her head, into which oxygen was fed. That was when the doctor, who was a practising Catholic, said, If you believe in having babies christened, then christen this one. We didn’t believe in it, but we did christen her. Maybe to keep terror at bay; we knew what his words meant. It seemed important that some small ceremony should mark her short life. The archdeacon who had married us came from the church of St John’s, a church much older than Canberra, belonging to the nineteenth-century homestead of Duntroon, and baptised her. Perhaps he thought we were afraid of her getting lost in limbo.
The premmie nurses decided she wasn’t any good at breastfeeding and got her on to bottles, with my milk expressed. When James was born he did exactly the same thing, he choked and gagged and couldn’t take the milk. I was heartbroken, and suddenly back in that terrible time when we thought Lucy was going to die. I panicked, and wept, it was all happening again. But then a wise nurse looked and said, The poor little mite is being drowned. She made me lie on my back so that the milk did not flood out and make the baby choke, and we did that for a good twelve months. I organised myself so I lay on the sofa or the bed, holding a book in one hand, the same arm cradling James, the other hand holding the nipple so he could suck comfortably. We spent vast amounts of our days, and at first nights, lying around like this, having a lovely time.
And I realised that if Lucy hadn’t been in the premmie nursery, or if there had been a nurse wise in the ways of feeding babies, we would have worked out that Lucy’s problem was not that she couldn’t suck, but that she was being drowned, and so choked. She could have been breastfed. It is one of the sorrows of my life that she wasn’t. I think she needed to be, I think she might have been less anxious in her childhood and adult life if she had had that long loving comfort. It might have given her a useful bulwark against the fearsomeness of 11 hospitals and medical procedures. A suckling baby lies, and dozes, and drinks a bit, taking just as long as anybody will let her. But a bottlefed baby, there it is, drink up, all gone, that’s it. And other people want to do it. They like to think they are helping you, but it would be better if they did the dishes, and left this important task to you.
I am not a person given to regrets. I know they are pointless, what has happened is, it cannot be undone. But I cannot stop myself regretting that Lucy was not breastfed. For my sake, of course, the convenience of it. But I would not still regret that, forty years later. It is the comfort and the cosseting, the long lazy times spent in this milky haze of mutual delight, that I am so sad she missed.
At three weeks old she was flown to Melbourne, to the children’s hospital. It was thought that I shouldn’t go, that it would be too much for me. The cardiac physician did not think the breastfeeding mattered, he said that she would be better off staying with bottles. Until then I had thought that as she got older and stronger perhaps she would be able to cope with it. No, he said, you are only distressing yourselves. He was wrong, I know now, we could easily have done it. My milk drying up was one of the most agonising things ever to happen to me. I was ill for some time. And it wasn’t just the physical response, it was sorrow for the loss of something that I believed was so essential for the both of us. Physically, Lucy thrived on bottles. But I think that, psychologically, she missed out.
The specialist in Melbourne (the Canberra GP had wanted Sydney, the pediatrician Melbourne; the senior man won, which was harder work for us over the years, since Sydney is much easier to get to) looked at her and said, Well, she has got a pretty funny heart, but she’s okay, she’s managing. We’ll keep an eye on her, that’s all. He did that, for nine years, and then she needed her first open-heart surgery. These days they would have done it much earlier and it might have all worked better, but that is not something one can dwell on. The very 12 best was done, it was all quite pioneering, she was one of the oldest patients with her condition, the others hadn’t survived.
Dr Venables, the cardiac pediatric physician, was able to make a more precise diagnosis than the funny heart. She was born without a pulmonary valve. This meant that when her heart pumped blood to her lungs there was no valve to close and keep it there. Her heart compensated, pumped extra hard to make up for what gushed back. But the result was an enlarged heart, and a very much enlarged pulmonary artery, so her lungs were compromised by this. The solution, to fix in place a tanned valve, in this case a pig’s, was considered better left until she was as big as possible, since it wouldn’t grow with her. It had to be replaced when she was twenty-one because it had calcified; apparently this is normal, teenagers produce a lot of calcium. The second time it was a tanned human valve. The valves worked well, it was the much enlarged pulmonary artery that was the problem.
When she was born, my husband had two nuns in his class. He was a lecturer at the Australian National University in Canberra at the time. Oh, Graham, one said, I see you have named your daughter for two child martyrs. Lucy Beatrice. Of course that wasn’t our intent, we liked the names for their beauty and meaning.
It was over a drink at a pub in West London that William Roper-Curzon and I decided to try to host residential painting holidays at Arniano. William is a painter, who trained in London at the City & Guilds and, later, the Royal Drawing School. I first met him when he was preparing for a large solo show of his drawings to be held in central London, and it was (platonic) love on first speaks.
William is a hilariously funny raconteur and masterful story-teller. He has a seemingly endless arsenal of anecdotes, which have whoever is lucky enough to be with him doubled over with laughter within minutes. Aside from his company, it was easy to fall in love with his dynamic figurative and landscape paintings, all highly expressive, with strong rhythm of line and confident mark-making.
From 2010, William was often travelling on art residencies, searching for exciting places to paint. I sometimes followed to visit, which took me to Scotland, the southernmost tip of Ireland and northern Tuscany. But he also went much further afield, to Buenos Aires, California and New York. These trips, which often lasted months, were usually preceded by a greedy farewell dinner with friends and family, which I would gladly throw for him at my mother’s house in London.
It was over our drink in early 2014 that he described Arniano from his perspective as a landscape artist, and made me immediately believe that we should try to share the place I love most in the world with other people. He described what I had never been able to articulate myself – that what makes Arniano special for a landscape painter is the two types of view: ‘You have the huge vistas, the 360-degree panorama of the Tuscan hills, which are so rich in opportunity for the painter. But you also have these very intimate scenes, of beautiful plants in the garden, and the structures of the cypress trees planted by your father. It’s a mix of formality with raw nature. There is an underlying pink colour that comes through from the earth there, as well as seemingly endless sky. You are so high up that you are soaring above the valleys, and you can look down on everything before it spreads up again towards Montalcino and the mountain.’
William also had a great love for the house, feeling that ‘its ability to make anyone feel welcome’, as well as the total peacefulness, contributed to an atmosphere conducive to painting. ‘It’s incredibly quiet, there is no noise, no interruption, and a great sense that you can wander for miles to find any little area to paint. It does take you back in time there – you could be in medieval Tuscany, you would hardly know the difference.’
The concept behind the courses was that we would marry my ability to cook and host with William’s talent for imparting his knowledge of and passion for painting. Rather than creating a painting boot camp, the idea would be to ensure that students of all levels could confidently grow into their artistic ability through his charm, sense of humour, enthusiasm and encouragement. While a five-day painting course might not impart the technical ability of Rembrandt to a beginner, it would be enough time to teach our guests to use oil paints, to really look at a landscape in a manner that would make it possible to translate what they saw to canvas. In the case of experienced painters, the course would afford them the time and space to focus on an entirely new view. Either way, we wanted to curate a week in which people could be artistic, appreciate their surroundings and crack on with painting while not having to worry about feeding themselves – hopefully, making them feel well looked after and a bit spoiled along the way.
We decided to do a test run with some of William’s family – as he is number eight out of ten siblings, there were plenty to choose from. The week was fun, but chaotic and exhausting, as we had absolutely no help. I cooked, cleaned, made the beds and even modelled for paintings, but we loved it, and it was a fantastic learning curve. From an art perspective, it was a hit, and it was wonderful to see the garden dotted with people immortalising parts of my father’s garden and the view that I had always taken for granted.
While we learned so much from our guinea-pig gang, there was still a long way to go. That group had consisted entirely of friends or relations, who knew each other well and so fitted into our house-party format easily enough. We would now have to host up to twelve strangers, who would be eating together three times a day and painting alongside one another every day for a week. Kind and curious friends, relatives and godparents came to support us, and we learned with each course how to improve. But without an established reputation, it is difficult to persuade people to spend a week in an unknown house in the middle of Tuscany, with total strangers, being taught by an as-yet untested art instructor.
We advertised in The Spectator, we put flyers up in London art schools and galleries, and we asked the Royal Drawing School to send PDFs of our flyers out with their newsletter, which they kindly did – William being an alumnus and having taught in their foundation year. Finally, by 2016, following a surprise mention in the Financial Times and later features in various other publications (including The New York Times, Tatler, Vogue, The Daily Telegraph and House & Garden), we no longer had trouble filling the house, and have since welcomed guests from all over the world: the US, Mexico, Sweden, Spain, Switzerland and the UK. Best of all, we have made an extraordinary number of truly great friends
A peculiar attribute of the landscape surrounding Arniano is the ever-changing light. Early in the morning, there is an extraordinary mist that sits in the valley and interweaves through the hills, allowing just the tops to show above the smoky clouds. These changes bring with them new moods and shadows, drawing our painters to different views and areas of the garden throughout the day. By the evening, everything has altered again, and there are often intense sunsets, bringing silhouettes from the trees and much darker, richer, olive colours.
William encourages our painters to work on two or three paintings at any given time – going back to each one at the same time of day, on each subsequent day, in order to capture the subject in the same light. When the wind picks up, which can happen at around midday and into the early afternoon, he encourages everyone to carry on, professing that ‘it is part of painting outside … you have to learn to be in nature, to absorb it – it will make a better picture.’ Being a committed outdoor painter, this is also William’s philosophy when it comes to painting in the rain – which, on the rare days when we have downpours, perhaps half our guests will heed, while the other half scuttle indoors to draw a still life. ‘Sometimes rain is great,’ he says. ‘Often, if it’s raining on you, you will get a fabulous light and these dramatic clouds, and somewhere else in the landscape, a whole drama unfolding in front of you. You learn to be instinctive, to get things down quicker, to try to capture the feeling of being in it and experiencing it.’
An obvious feature of the Tuscan landscape, which begs to be drawn or painted, is the olive trees, which unfortunately are also famously difficult to translate to canvas. ‘Olives are hard to paint because they are dense as well as airy,’ says William. ‘I always tell my students that it’s like trying to paint a shoal of fish. It’s incredibly difficult. It’s a commitment, but once you get into it, and realise that it isn’t one mass of leaves the same size, that perspective plays its part – the leaves which are closer to you are bigger, and the further away ones smaller – it’s very worthwhile. As with any challenge, it becomes satisfying once you’ve resolved it, but it’s definitely not easy.’ Having surmounted that first hurdle of painting at Arniano over the past six years (to the point where he could ‘paint olives in my sleep’),William finds that it is the horizon that draws him back again and again. ‘Somedays you see a ridge, and then others you think, “Oh my god! There’s a whole other town I never knew was there. It looks just like a medieval Italian painting.” There is a never-ending change of light and endless possibility.’
An important thing to remember when looking at a landscape and composing a view to paint is the foreground. ‘You may see a beautiful view and want to paint it, but the whole reason why it’s beautiful is what’s leading up towards it. People tend to forget about the thing that is right in front of you to help balance it out. Painting is all about balance. A ridge that is miles away, without the surrounding context, doesn’t have the same impact as what you are actually seeing.
Painting with Oils
Oil painting has such an illustrious history, and so many famous names are associated with it, that attempting to paint with oils as a beginner can be a much more daunting prospect than it need be. Doubtless, it is a faff. It’s messy, the paint takes a long time to dry and you need the right kit as well as space in which to set yourself up. But it also brings a huge amount of freedom and room to experiment. You can change things, work things out, and build up layers of colour and shapes. As William puts it: ‘Oils are great because you can fill a large area very quickly, but equally you can wipe or scrape them off if they’re not right. Each mark is less of a commitment than with, say, water colours. The different density of the colours with the mediums means you can make a colour almost transparent, or really thick, and certain colours are more transparent than others. Often the very dark colours, like ultramarine and some greens, are very rich colours, but also very transparent. If you add a warmer colour, they become more opaque and dense. Equally, because there is so much freedom provided by oil paints, there are a lot of things to think about. It can be daunting, but for the better, as you have more to play with and to experiment with, to find out what your style is like.’
As with cooking, painting with oils becomes less daunting every time you do it, as your confidence grows and you get used to the feel of the paints, the brushes and the medium. By the end of the week at Arniano, we always hope that everyone has done something they are proud of, at the same time as having figured out their own way of doing things. William tries to teach in such a way that everyone comes up with their individual style of painting. He disapproves of hard and fast rules, and dislikes the idea of anyone leaving Arniano and simply going on to paint like him. He wants each student to be able to do it on their own, to go home and enjoy it.
The start of the week is focused on finding something that each student is interested in painting. William will walk the students around the garden until they find a subject that captivates them. Quite often, if he sees that a student is good at doing close-ups of plants during the first morning of charcoal drawing, he’ll set them up in front of the fig tree with some nice, dark shadows behind, and ask them to paint the pleasing, interlacing fig leaves. Sometimes a student might not want to paint the landscape at all, but would rather stay indoors to paint one of my mother’s ceramics. These people are usually those whose knowledge or natural interest lies in design. Even so, this exercise often leads them back into the garden to have a go at landscape, because they feel more confident attempting to paint ‘shape’ and ‘form’ outside having had a practice run at capturing a Granada bowl in the kitchen.
Because the guests have just under a week – it is a rarity to have time and space where you can focus purely on oil painting – William’s philosophy is that everyone should just get on with it, and procrastinating is sharply discouraged. After an initial morning of charcoal drawing together, to get everyone’s eye in and to get them to think about composition, everybody is dropped in at the deep end and told to start painting. Although it’s only a week, it’s a lot to absorb in a short amount of time, and everyone is exhausted by the end, having done a lot of work.
Starting a Painting
Before you start painting, you will need the following:
a minimum of three round-headed and three flat-headed sable brushes for oils
non-toxic vegetable-based medium, or turpentine
a basic set of oil paints, which includes all the primary colours
a large tube of white, zinc and/or titanium (very useful)
any additional tubes of paint in colours that capture your imagination (we love French ultramarine blue, cerulean blue, lemon yellow, cadmium yellow, yellow ochre, Venetian red, cadmium red, crimson alizarin, burnt umber, raw umber)
primed boards to paint on – you can prime wood boards yourself by coating them with white emulsion, or buy ready-primed from any art store (we order ours from the wonderful art suppliers Zecchi, in central Florence).
The key to enjoying the process of painting is to set yourself up fully at the beginning, to make sure you are comfortable and to have everything you need. You should also have some cloths for wiping your brushes, and two pots of medium: one pot of pure medium, for cleaning the brushes, and another pot containing half linseed, half medium, to add a little gloss to the paint. Some people prefer a drier finish and omit the linseed – this can also be beautiful. It is entirely down to preference and personal style. Regularly cleaning your brushes is imperative, in order to keep your palette clean and the colours distinct. William is strict about everyone cleaning their brush in-between changing colours – the result of not doing this can be a dreadful grey mush.
The next thing is to make sure that everything is in its proper place. For instance, if you’re right-handed, arrange your easel to your left, so that you have your right hand at the view and your palette in front of you (and vice versa if you are left-handed). If everything is in its proper place, then you won’t have to keep moving around. Simple, good habits such as these make a huge difference.
Once you are set up, look at the view and decide on a colour palette (a set of dominant colours), before mixing these up using different colours to achieve the one colour you are after. At Arniano, the landscape has a lot of pinks, rich greens, blue skies and sulphur-coloured clouds, but it isn’t necessary for the colours to be realistic. It’s how colours work next to one another that is interesting, as they can have an amazing effect on each other. If you mix your colours thoughtfully before you start, you can create a tension between them. You can also dive straight in, without having to fastidiously mix as you go along. If William sees that someone is struggling with choosing colours to commit to canvas, he will open one of our artbooks and choose a painting by, for example, Gauguin and say: ‘I want you to make those colours and apply them to this view.’ This stops people fixating on capturing the exact colours as they see them, and helps them to learn to play around with colour and to gain confidence.
The best way to get started is by squinting your eyes. You will be able to see the rough shapes within the landscape, as well as the darkness and the light, and how they interact, without being distracted by the details. Once you have determined these elements, quickly block them in. By getting rid of as much of the white on the canvas as possible, you are setting the story. A ‘blank canvas’, so full of endless possibilities, can actually be upsetting. Once you get some paint on it, it won’t freak you out so much, and you can keep building up the detail and begin tweaking. William believes that the main thing for beginners to overcome is a tendency to get too precious about a painting, which can lead to procrastination. This can be fatal, as anxiety about what to do, or what not to do, will remove the pleasure from the process. Painting is purely for oneself – a way to feed your own soul, no one else’s. When a painter dithers, or hangs back, William will appear with barks of, ‘Just slap it on, it doesn’t matter.’ The beauty is that you can always start a new one if you hate the end result.
William’s advice to anyone who is starting out with oil painting is to be brave and to keep doing it, to try to get into the habit of painting as often as you can – every day if that’s possible, or even once a week. Be as consistent as you can, and keep looking at the works of other artists, at works that you like for their composition, colour palette or technique. It’s not cheating to do that. Quite the opposite. You are doing it for inspiration, to see what clever things people come up with that you really like, and that you would like to emulate.
This is an extract from A House Party in Tuscany by Amber Guinness.
Fungi have a range of natural abilities that we can use to heal damaged habitats. This is known as mycorestoration. Scientists can leverage fungi’s ability to decompose, and engineer it to break down pollutants in the environment, particularly xenobiotics. Xenobiotics are chemical substances that have been introduced by humans and do not exist in nature, such as pesticides, cosmetics, industrial chemicals and drugs.
Pioneering a new field of science is challenging and takes time, money and grit. But extraordinary circumstances need extraordinary solutions – and fungi can provide them
FUNGI AS A WATER FILTER (MYCOFILTRATION)
Earth is the only known planet within our solar system that has bodies of liquid water on its surface. This clear liquid is one of our most precious resources, but water supplies are limited. Less than 1 per cent of the water on Earth is accessible and fit for consumption, and this is currently shared between households, agriculture and industry. Over 97 per cent of Earth’s water is too salty and 2 per cent is fresh water locked away in groundwater, glaciers and ice caps.
In the last 100 years, the world’s population grew four fold as the world’s water consumption grew six fold. The industrial age and modern plumbing have made way for water consumption at rates that were never possible before. This efficiency, coupled with an increase in demand for water, has resulted in global scarcity.
Flushing the toilet or running the washing machine creates wastewater that is not reusable until it is treated. Roughly 80 per cent of the world’s wastewater is left untreated and allowed back into our waterways, putting the health of our water ecosystems at risk. Even in developed countries, wastewater is not properly decontaminated due to outdated treatment plants, sewage overflows and ineffective household sewage treatment systems. The source of untreated wastewater is difficult to pinpoint, as it originates from a range of sources, which often include agricultural and stormwater run-off.
A promising example of an affordable and feasible solution is mycofiltration. This process uses fungal mycelium as a biological filter to capture and remove contaminants from water and soil. Depending on the fungal species, mycelium can even eat through and digest pollutants such as pesticides, mercury and petroleum products. If you peer at fungi through a microscope, you’ll see that the cells of mycelium are about 0.5–2 microns wide (for comparison, a strand of human hair is 50 microns wide). Mycelium grows as interconnected cells that resemble a netted fabric.
Armed with this knowledge in the 1970s, Paul Stamets imagined that this fabric of interconnected cells could become a biological filter. He tested this hypothesis on his waterfront farm, installing large sacks filled with substrate inoculated with mycelium of the garden giant species (Stropharia rugosoannulata) around water basins. The sacks formed a netted barrier to catch contaminants as water passed through. This mycofilter cleansed the water, resulting in a 100-fold drop in coliform levels – the bacteria that is present in the digestive tracts of animals and found in their waste. The mycofilter successfully reduced fecal matter in the water, alleviating the downstream impacts of contaminated water. This finding was later investigated and confirmed by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).
A mycofilter can be as simple as a hessian burlap sack filled with wet straw and wood chips, and inoculated with mycelium. It is inexpensive and simple to set up. Also, the small size of the mycofilter means that it has minimal impact on ecology and can be installed around sites such as farms, urban areas, roads and factories. Having a mycofiltration system in these areas can help decontaminate wastewater before it makes its way back into our waterways.
Mycelium is known for its insatiable hunger for organic matter. Specifically, the oyster mushroom (Pleurotus ostreatus) is able to process and neutralise bacteria such as Escherichia coli (commonly known as E. coli), working with its mycelial membrane to filter out microbial pathogens from contaminated water.
Tradd Cotter, mycologist and owner of the company Mushroom Mountain, runs workshops on setting up mycofiltration systems. ‘We’re using a cage that looks like a crab pot, that can be refilled with wood chips. It’ll last for a year or two. And if the cage stays put, it can be emptied out and refilled with new wood chips.’ Mycofiltration is a young science and commercial applications are scarce, but this has not stopped property owners from experimenting with this fungal capability.
FUNGI AS A FOREST AND SOIL BUILDER (MYCOFORESTRY)
Forests cover one-third of the land on Earth and their diverse habitats are home to 80 per cent of the world’s (known) plant and animal species. As for humans, billions of people in rural communities rely on forests for food, shelter, medicine and water. Forests are also a vital player in the effort against climate change as they act as a carbon sink– they absorb, or sequester, large amounts of carbon dioxide and store the carbon in their wood. Old-growth forests are particularly critical, because their roots have extended deep into the soil for centuries and sequester extra carbon out of the atmosphere, helping to manage today’s rising temperatures.
Yet deforestation – legal and illegal – continues. Aside from permanent losses of biodiversity, deforestation sets off a domino effect of land degradation impacts, including increased erosion, reduced soil fertility and piles of wood debris. Unfortunately, the standard treatment of this ‘waste’ is incineration. This releases additional greenhouse gases into the atmosphere and destroys the potential for the nutrients from the wood to be recycled back into the soil. This calls for sustainable forest management practices. One of these is mycoforestry – the use of fungi as a forest and soil builder.
Wood debris in forests can be chipped into smaller pieces, then inoculated with native saprophytic fungi species to speed up the decomposition process. This redirects vital elements and nutrients back into the soil for use by the rest of the forest. Fungi also produce glomalin at the hyphal tips, which is what fungi use to store carbon. It’s a sticky substance that binds together soil particles and builds soil architecture. This aerates the soil, helps water and nutrient retention, and regenerates impacted habitats.
Along with forests and oceans, soils also act as an invaluable carbon sink. Research found that mycorrhizal fungi in boreal forest islands in Sweden hold up to 70 per cent of the total carbon stored in soils. This means that trees connected to a mycelial network absorb carbon from the atmosphere and then transfer it into the mycelium for storage. Fungi play a critical role in regulating the global climate.
Mycoforestry was put into action in Colorado by Jeff Ravage, North Fork Watershed coordinator for the Coalition for the Upper South Platte and researcher at Denver Botanic Gardens. In 2016, he and his team of researchers set up two test sites in Denver Mountain Parks. These sites had been logged and abandoned, leaving 30 centimetres of waste wood spread across the entire forest floor. Ravage’s team recruited the help of wood-rotting species Pleurotus pulmonariuson one site and Morchella angusticepson on another.
Over five years, fungi in the first site consumed the wood chips and created 5 centimetres of topsoil – organic, mineral-rich soil from which seeds germinate – with a few centimetres of partially decomposed organic matter on top. Before this, the ground was just gravel with dust. The second site exhibited a slower rate of seeding, decaying 75 per cent over two years. The team will be treating this site with a second inoculation in 2021 to further investigate the results.
Want to get started on your own mycoforestry project? Watch out for a paper from Ravage, who wants ‘to create useful tools and distribute them freely, because we don’t have enough time left for somebody to figure out how to make a profit on saving the planet. We’re not out to create a patent,’ he says. ‘How can we patent nature?’
Mycoforestry remains an experimental forestry practice conducted by environmental groups and volunteers. Replenishing the soil in forests, improving soil fertility and increasing forest ecosystem resilience is of both ecological and economic interest. A greater uptake of mycoforestry by forestry management groups, logging companies and council decision-makers will move the science forward and protect the future of forests.
FUNGI AS A TOXIN NEUTRALISER (MYCOREMEDIATION)
We may not see it, taste it or feel it, but we are entangled in an array of environmental toxins. Microplastics in waterways, nanoparticles in the air and noxious chemicals in soils were all introduced by human activity and have become accepted as invisible causes of illness and death. Contaminants and pollutants are abundant in our air, water and soil, all around the world.
Traditional methods of remediation, such as disposal into hazardous waste facilities, incineration and chemical treatments, are expensive, energy-intensive and only move the contamination to someone else’s backyard. We urgently need to find more permanent solutions to clean up the mess we’ve made on Earth. Many scientists have turned to mycoremediation, the use of fungi to decontaminate the environment. After all, fungi are nature’s decomposers and this strategy has been effective for Earth for over a billion years.
In forests, a major source of nutrients is from fallen trees, released as the trees break down. Their sturdy trunks are reinforced by lignin, a complex material that binds together the building blocks of wood. Only fungi can excrete enzymes powerful enough to decompose lignin. Luckily for us, the bonds in lignin are similar to those in petroleum, pesticides, plastics, dyes and a range of other toxins, which means mycelium can disassemble the hydrocarbons present in a wide spectrum of toxins. In particular, saprophytic fungi varieties called white rotters, such as oyster (Pleurotus ostreatus) and turkey tail (Trametes versicolor) mushrooms, are relatively easy to grow and love molecular decomposition.
In 2016, Fungaia Farm, a mushroom farm in California, used oyster mushroom spawn to remediate gallons of diesel fuel that had spilled from a storage tank. They removed the contaminated soil and placed it between layers of fresh straw and burlap that were inoculated with oyster mushrooms. The mycelium got to work. As it fed on the petroleum, hyphae threaded throughout the crevices of the oil-laden soil. Later testing showed that all contamination was reduced to a non-toxic level and some soil was even oil-free, allowing the land to be reclaimed for landscaping.
Levon Durr, the owner of Fungaia Farm, has noted that the project wasn’t without its mistakes and he has since published a report to aid grassroots practitioners. Another diesel spill was discovered in 2020 and the Fungaia Farm team hopes to detoxify the soil using mushroom spawn once again. But convincing landowners to try mycoremediation is challenging. ‘It can cost US$15,000 for one remediation treatment on site and it quickly adds up because it’s a biological process and may need multiple treatments over the course of a year to get the soil to a non-toxic level,’ says Durr, ‘compared to paying US$45,000 once-off to dig up the contaminated soil and haul it away.’
Conditions are also difficult to control in these outdoor projects. It may be cold and rainy one month, but dry and hot the next. If temperatures are too high, the piles of soil and burlap can turn into a compost heap and kill the mycelium. Controlling for a myriad of variables on the field takes patience and resilience. Fungaia Farm continues to educate and produce mushroom spawn to cultivators for food production and mycoremediation projects.
Mycocycle, founded by Joanne Rodriguez with Peter McCoy as chief science officer, is pioneering a new industry: using fungi to divert waste from landfills. They are remediating waste from roofing, asphalt and chemical manufacturing industries. As the mycelium consumes waste and binds it together, Mycocycle creates new materials from the process. There is strong interest from manufacturers in these industries for a cost-effective and sustainable waste-treatment solution. The challenge Rodriguez faces to scale up mycoremediation ‘is the lack of interdisciplinary backgrounds to move these discoveries out of the lab and into real world treatments’. To combat this, Mycocycle launched an equity crowdfunding campaign in 2020 encouraging people to join the cause and accelerate change. McCoy is also the founder of MYCOLOGOS, an online education platform for all things fungi.
The Vegan Cake Bible teaches you everything you need to know about making incredible plant-based cakes. In this easy-to-follow book, author, pastry chef and vegan cake queen, Sara Kidd, shares her vast knowledge of the science behind vegan baking and how to make foolproof creations every time.
Read on for Sara’s vegan recipe for a Persian Love Cake.
Legend has it that a Persian woman wanted to make a prince fall in love with her, so she created a cake laced with a love spell. I think it worked because every bite of this Persian love cake brings romance. Aromas of cardamom and rose are kissed with a tender almond cake crumb and the surprise of pistachios. It’s truly a cake for lovers. It will fill you with desire and maybe wanting a little more … cake.
PERSIAN LOVE CAKE
Makes 1 x 20 cm (8 in) single-layer cake Serves 12
170 g (3/4
cup) caster (superfine) sugar
60 ml (1/4
vanilla bean paste
lemon extract or flavouring
zest of 1
unwaxed lemon plus 2 tablespoons of juice
80 ml (1/3
cup) plain soy milk
tablespoon white vinegar
200 g (11/3
teaspoons baking powder
teaspoon bicarbonate of soda (baking soda)
teaspoon sea salt
teaspoon xanthan gum
tablespoon ground cardamom
55 g (1/2
cup) blanched almond flour
125 g (1
cup) icing (confectioners’) sugar
chopped pistachios and dried rose petals, to decorate
Prep time: 20 mins
time: 35–37 mins
time: 10 mins
Sweetness: Medium but with a hint of spice
Texture: Soft crumb
1 ⁄ Preheat the oven to 170°C (340°F)
conventional. Grease and line a 20 cm (8 in) springform cake tin with baking
paper, then grease again and dust with flour, tipping out the excess.
2 ⁄ Melt the butter in a heatproof bowl
in the microwave on High in 10-second bursts.
3 ⁄ Transfer the melted butter to a
bowl, add the caster sugar and whisk until the sugar is dissolved. Add 3
tablespoons of the rosewater, the vanilla bean paste, lemon extract and lemon
zest and stir until completely combined.
4 ⁄ In a separate small bowl, stir the
soy milk and vinegar together until the mixture thickens, then add to the
melted butter mixture, stirring to combine.
5 ⁄ Sift the flour, baking powder,
bicarb soda, salt, xanthan gum and ground cardamom into a large mixing bowl,
then stir in the almond flour.
6 ⁄ Make a well in the centre of the
dry ingredients and pour in the wet mixture. Stir until just combined.
7 ⁄ Pour the batter into the prepared cake tin, then transfer to the middle rack of your oven and bake for 35–37 minutes, until golden brown and the top springs back when gently pressed.
8 ⁄ Allow the cake to cool in the tin
for at least 15 minutes, then turn out onto a cake rack to cool completely.
9 ⁄ To make the glaze topping, place
the icing sugar, lemon juice and remaining rosewater in a bowl and stir until
10 ⁄ Pour the glaze over the cooled cake and decorate with pistachios and dried rose petals, as desired.
tip: You can
add less cardamom if you’re not a fan of this spice.
Ingredients 125 g (41/2 oz) polenta 3 tablespoons pitted black olives handful of rocket (arugula) handful of grated parmesan 90 ml (3 fl oz) extra-virgin olive oil 6 small tomatoes 1 large bunch of basil 1 spring onion (scallion) 1 lemon olive oil, for frying handful of young lettuce leaves 1 tablespoon capers
Method Cook the polenta in 1 litre (34 fl oz) of water according to the packet instructions, until al dente. Roughly chop the olives and rocket. Mix the olives, rocket, parmesan and 2 tablespoons of the extra-virgin olive oil through the polenta. Leave the polenta to cool for 30 minutes. With wet hands, roll the polenta into 24 balls. Place on a tray and refrigerate for at least 3 hours until extra firm.
Halve the tomatoes. Pick the basil leaves and tear or roughly chop. Thinly slice the spring onion and cut the lemon into wedges.
Heat a generous amount of olive oil in a frying pan. Fry the polenta balls for 8–10 minutes, until golden brown all over; be careful as the hot oil will spit!
Mix the lettuce leaves with the basil, spring onion and capers. Divide the salad among four plates. Place the tomato on top of the salads and drizzle with the remaining extra-virgin olive oil.
Arrange the polenta balls over the salads and serve with the lemon wedges for a fresh accent.
Spinach + Butter lettuce Salad with chicken poached in coconut milk
I like to make this salad in the spring and summer, when fresh young peas are sweet and crunchy. Poaching the chicken in coconut milk keeps the salad light and fragrant. You can serve the chicken warm over the salad or leave to cool in the poaching liquid so that the meat remains tender.
Prep: 30 minutes + cooling
Ingredients 400 ml (131/2 fl oz) tin coconut milk 1 chicken stock cube 500 g (1 lb 2 oz) boneless, skinless chicken breasts 1 lemongrass stalk 200 g (7 oz) fresh shelled peas 2 shallots 1 bunch of coriander (cilantro) 100 g (31/2 oz) butter (Boston) lettuce 100 g (31/2 oz) baby spinach 2–3 tablespoons sesame oil 2 tablespoons shredded coconut 1–2 teaspoons chilli flakes
Method Pour the coconut milk into a saucepan along with 400 ml (131/2 fl oz) of water, the stock cube and the chicken. Bruise the lemongrass stalk and add to the pan. Bring to the boil, then reduce the heat and gently poach the chicken for 15 minutes. Let the chicken cool in the poaching liquid to lukewarm or room temperature.
Cook the peas for 8 minutes, then drain and set aside to cool. Slice the shallot. Coarsely chop the coriander.
Arrange the butter lettuce leaves, spinach, shallot and peas on four plates. Slice the chicken (reserving the poaching liquid) and place on the salads with the coriander.
Strain the reserved poaching liquid and spoon it generously over the salads as a dressing. Drizzle with the sesame oil and sprinkle with the coconut and chilli flakes to taste.
Salad by Janneke Phillipi is available now. Photography by Serge Phillipi.
Modern Japanese culture, though progressive technologically, still celebrates and supports the lives and work of craftspeople. The makers themselves are fiercely proud of the long traditions of their crafts – whether in woodwork, wire, ceramics, glass, paper or textiles – and see great importance in carrying these traditions into the future. They often feel called to their chosen medium and take satisfaction in knowing their work will live on past their own lifetime.
The makers often use modern equipment and materials, but many also follow traditional methods and work with simple tools that have been passed down through generations. Each artist has their own style, but all are passionate, dedicated and truly inspirational.
Kintsugi is the Japanese art of repair, specifically the repair of ceramics. In its truest and traditional form, it is a profound and powerful art based on the philosophy that something is more beautiful because it has been broken and repaired. Mio Heki devotes her working life and her artistic heart to this skilled conservation technique, which uses urushi (a tree sap) dusted with gold.
Mio’s small but beautifully appointed atelier is located in a north-western suburb of Kyoto. It includes an area where she displays her work – which extends to lacquerware jewellery and lacquer objects – a drying cupboard and her work table. The table is short-legged, like traditional Japanese dining tables, so she can sit on the floor while she works. She says she feels most grounded working this way.
After majoring in the traditional craft of lacquering at Kyoto City University of Arts, Mio worked in a studio that restored temple ornamentation. In that role, she learnt more about kintsugi and was asked to repair a sacred temple bowl. Working on the bowl, she immediately felt that this type of work was her calling. It is a calling that has become a profession, one which now includes teaching kintsugi in Kyoto, as well as in cities including Paris and Amsterdam.
Mio finds it very special to be able to fix and restore a piece that has been loved and respected, saying she ‘hears the voice’ of the thing in her hands. ‘It is being present and conscious of the object, of how it was loved by the person, of the hands that made it. It is always being sure not to change the artwork’s shape from its original form, but to fix and add gold, thus showing great care to its ongoing life as an object.’
The practical work of kintsugi is long and repetitive, as well as requiring dexterity and patience. Mio feels that her art practice has benefits in her daily life; the process has become like a meditation to her. She shows great respect to her tools, believing that they are sacred and deserving of special care. She has made many of the implements herself, cutting and planing cypress spatulas to mix the urushi, for example, and built racks to hold the tools between uses. In her spare time, Mio is studying traditional tea ceremonies, and she reflects that her love and care of her tools is in keeping with the reverence shown for the equipment used in a tea ceremony. In both instances, tools are cleaned at every point, and kept organised and in good repair, honouring their important part in the ritual.
Mio shows equal respect to the materials she uses the urushi; the (real)
gold, in fine powder form; and the jinoko and tonoko, the clay-type powders
used for mixing. They are cared for in honour of nature and its limited
resources; no part is wasted or discarded.
With the drying process taken into account, repairs can take up to a year to complete, depending on the intricacy of the break or chip and the size of the object. With good humour, Mio says that most days consist of ‘painting, sanding, painting, sanding – but that is okay, it takes time to make something beautiful.’ A vessel repaired by Mio will not only hold, as she attests, ‘the soul of the maker and the owner’ but also the spirit of this talented and thoughtful woman who joins fracture lines and sprinkles them with gold.
Utsuwa is available now. Text and photography by Kylie Johnson and Tiffany Johnson.
Georgina Reid is an intrepid hunter of stories, plants and ideas. In The Planthunter, she uncovers the exceptional and ordinary ways people around the world find truth, beauty, purpose and connection through the act of gardening.
The Planthunter is a visceral and seductive celebration of life in the garden. It’s for the plant curious, the plant killer, the plant lover, and everyone in between.
Whether you’ve got a large garden, a small courtyard or a merely a windowsill, this selection of photos from the book will have you inspired to get you hands dirty and connect with nature.
Anna Spiro has long been hailed as Australia’s most original and creative interior designer. Her globally adored aesthetic is unapologetically maximalist and a paean to comfort; her devotion to the craft of working with pattern on pattern on pattern – combined with her intuitive layering of colours, objects old and new, art, books and foraged treasures – creates spaces that sing with individuality.
I have always been drawn to colour and pattern, and believe injecting both into a room can spark an instant sense of joy. Used well, they give an air of individuality and help create rooms that are full of energy. Layering a bold, multicoloured throw on the end of your bed, or selecting an array of mismatched cushions for your lounge room sofa, can be simple but effective ways of uplifting a space and making both you and your home feel fabulous and refreshed.
As the title of this chapter suggests, at its heart, the use of colour and pattern should be all about play. I love to experiment with colour, to push the boundaries and put interesting combinations together into a unique palette. Bucking at anything normal and coming up with something extra-ordinary is what gets my heart racing every single time. Whether you’re mixing and matching period furniture with more modern elements, challenging expectations with daring colour and pattern combinations, or boldly covering a room head-to-toe in one pattern – walls, sofas, armchairs, cushions … everything – be confident and just do it!
Colour and pattern are everywhere in our daily lives. From an interesting colour palette in a streetscape, to a wonderful old wallpaper or luxuriously patterned vintage dress, inspiration is all around – you just need to open your eyes to it. Take photos of the combinations you see, make a note of those you are most drawn to, and use these as the starting point for putting together an interesting colour and pattern palette for your home.
One of the biggest secrets I can share for creating a home full of pattern and colour, is that colour can be the one ingredient, if used properly, that holds everything together. The way I unify seemingly mismatched furniture and patterns is by repeating or referencing colours from a similar palette within the space, even if those colours are unusual or otherwise unexpected.
Whether you love warmer or cooler tones, there must always be a balance when putting together colour and pattern. Choose an array of patterned and plain fabrics in your selected palette to use on various pieces in a room. Consider how much pattern you are happy to live with. If you prefer a more toned-down look, I suggest covering larger pieces of furniture in plain or ditsy fabrics (i.e. with small, irregular patterns), and covering accent pieces such as armchairs, ottomans and scatter cushions in bolder, more multicoloured patterns.
When I build schemes using colour and pattern, I often think of them as a big jigsaw puzzle. You have to make sure that each element works collectively in a cohesive yet interesting way, and fit the pieces together to create a wonderful overall result. Consider layering traditional florals with more modern geometric patterns, stripes or checks, and using a mix of large, medium and small pattern scales. Sometimes a clashing element, such as a bold multicoloured geometric pattern in a slightly ‘off’ colour, can be just what your room needs to conjure the unexpected. I like to look for patterns that I haven’t seen used very often. This is part of the reason that I love to use antique textiles to cover ottomans, bedheads and cushions, or even as tablecloths or hanging works of art on a wall. Often one of a kind, these textiles add a special, cosy feeling to any room and often end up being pieces that are cherished for the rest of our lives.
Don’t be afraid of colour and pattern. Embrace them and incorporate them into your home, even if you start with just one room. I guarantee you won’t be able to stop, as it is super addictive once you start. Combining colour and pattern is the foundation to creating a comfortable home that is full of interest, happiness and unique style.
A Life in Pattern is available now. Text by Anna Spiro and photography by Tim Salisbury.
Working for years in his studio and in the field, internationally acclaimed photographer Tim Flach has portrayed nature’s most alluring creatures alertly at rest and dramatically in flight, capturing intricate feather patterns and subtle colouration invisible to the naked eye.
The result of much patience, precision and persistence, Birds features more than 130 extraordinary photographs. Read on to discover five of our favourite images from this awe-inspiring book.
Kite Jacobin Pigeon.
Like all other crested pigeons, Jacobin pigeons carry a specific mutation in a gene called EphB2. This gene regulates the development of placodes, the little disks of tissue on the skin of an embryonic bird from which their feathers will emerge. In ordinary pigeons the gene is active at the bottom of the placode, which instructs the feathers to grow down the neck. The mutation, however, causes EphB2 to switch on at the top of the placode, instructing the feathers to grow up the neck instead, effectively turning them upside down to produce a crest
Victoria Crowned Pigeon.
These regal birds are the largest living pigeons in the world, tipping the scales at a whopping 5½ pounds (2.5 kg)—six and a half times heavier than a feral pigeon and nearly the weight of a chicken. The males become extremely territorial during courtship and vigorously display their exquisite crowns in the hopes of establishing dominance and winning a mate. The young pigeon pictured above is just twenty-one days old, and still molting into his juvenile plumage. Only after he has finished growing will he replace these feathers with his impressive adult plumage.
Miniature Crested Duck.
These birds have been bred for centuries to enhance their crested appearance, but the dominant allele that lends these birds their comical crowns can also be lethal, with embryos that receive two copies of the crested gene invariably dying while they are still developing in the egg. To avoid this, breeders usually cross crested ducks with another breed, which preserves the dominant crested trait in half of the resulting offspring, and completely prevents the excess mortality associated with pure-breeding.
For these comical-looking birds, an exquisite handlebar mustache is more than a fashion statement—it’s an advertisement of good health. Like all other birds, these terns can only grow out their plumes while molting, an extremely energy-intensive process during which they sequentially replace all of the feathers on their bodies. This allows them to use the unique facial feathers to assess the fitness of prospective mates: since growing a pair of long ornamental feathers requires a surplus of food, birds with longer mustaches are better at feeding themselves and are therefore likely to be better at raising young.
Unlike many other gregarious birds, flamingos, pictured here in a group, or “flamboyance,” are also unusually cooperative breeders: rather than defending just their own newly hatched offspring, the birds gather their ungainly, flightless young together in a creche, which is then defended by just a few designated guardians. This innovative day-care system frees the rest of the adults to spend their entire day foraging, allowing the birds to gather more food and feed more mouths without increasing the risk of predation.
Birds is available now. Photographs by Tim Flach and text by Richard O. Prum.
Water features prominently in the collective memory and national identity of Australia. From long summers spent building sandcastles and learning to swim, to the sheer immensity and wild beauty of cliffs and dark oceans, our status as an island nation is inescapable. Life at the Edge is a photographic celebration of Australia’s crystalline waters – its coastlines, inlets, lakes and rivers. Hear the river rushing past, smell the salty ocean air, feel the slimy rocks, and exult in our collective yearning for bodies of water.
Architecture at the Heart of the Homeby Jan Henderson and Dianna Snape, is the home of Australian residences at the cutting edge of design, comfort and aesthetics. Each of these architectural houses gravitates towards a centre, a special space that becomes the very heart of the home. This might be a room, a window that frames a panoramic view, or a pool that reflects the sky overhead. In this extract, dive into the crystalline beauty and circular motifs of Caroline House, designed by Kennedy Nolan.
Caroline House sits in a wide, tree-fringed street
close to Melbourne’s CBD, in a suburb noted for showcasing Victorian and
This architectural project is a seamless merging of
old with new. The addition of contemporary entertaining spaces and a main bedroom
suite complement the alterations to the original worker’s cottage. Black
steel-rimmed windows dominate the interior in both large and small sizes, and
circles are a leading design motif throughout the home.
Although the footprint of the house is compact, there
is an easy flow through the space that enhances family life. This home
positively drinks in the light that filters through its windows. Shadows fill the
rooms, dappling the floors, walls and ceilings with constantly changing
patterns throughout the day and early evening.
The outside is always visible through the windows and
sliding glass doors that frame the enclosed garden and landscaped entertaining
areas and bring the outside in to create an expansive space.
At the back of the house, beside the open-plan family
room and kitchen, is a circular pool that is almost as large as these rooms.
This is the heart of this home. It reflects the exterior architecture and the ever-changing
sky – on hot summer days, the cool and welcoming water transforms into a
shimmering looking glass, and when winter arrives, it reflects the gathering
clouds overhead. This is where the family gathers, where parties occur and
solitary moments are spent. It can be a place of tranquillity after a busy day,
or a loud and raucous part of the home that hosts a gaggle of children as they
splash and swim.
Although the pool beckons on hot summer days, it is
the interior of this home that provides protection and sustains everyday life.
It has been designed with great care and with attention to every detail. Here,
the ordinary is anything but.
The original front rooms of the house have been
retained and renewed, but inside the new addition everything changes. Past a
stairway and the small garden into the public areas, this is a destination worth
the walk. This new open-plan space, comprising living, dining and kitchen, is
defined by light and outside views. A black steel fireplace suspended from the
ceiling and the placement of a curved sofa complete the look of sophisticated
luxury. There is also a dining table and chairs, and an island bench in front
of the integrated kitchen appliances.
The interior colours are warm. Cappuccino, cream and
white enhance the blocks of bold colour, such as the muted forest green of the
pleated steel staircase that rises majestically from the ground to the first
While circles dominate the design and are almost everywhere, other geometric patterns have also been used. In the kitchen, small cream rectangular tiles line the splashback and cover the tall, round extractors above the stove and the base of the marble-topped island bench. The sliding doors to the garden feature square panes of glass outlined with black steel.
Upstairs, curved joinery wraps around the walls of the
study – this area is an anteroom to the main bedroom. Off the bedroom is an
ensuite and a small balcony, and when the balcony door is open, birds can be
heard chirping in the trees below.
This is a home of great comfort coupled with infinite
style. The interior decoration, at times whimsical, is beautifully formed. It
is a home for grown-ups and children, an individual or a crowd, and there are
circles everywhere to embellish the design.
While the architecture is a dichotomy of the monumental and the discreet, the pool is the visual focus. It is central to the life of the family who live here. As the water reflects the changing colours and forms of the sky above, it mirrors all that surrounds it. Caroline House is a magical place to live in and for a family to thrive in. It is, on all levels, unique and a home of stature.
No one does colour or pattern quite like interior decorator Anna Spiro. Globally loved for her unique ability to bring together interesting fabrics, antique furniture and art, she has built a tremendous career over the past twenty years. In her new book A Life in Pattern, Anna offers up a lifetime of hard-earned wisdom, showing how the very best interiors come from following your own path. In this extract, she answers the question: what makes a home one’s own?
This is one of those questions that I come back to time and again. Home should be a place of normality and familiarity, of comfort; a place that wraps you up and makes you feel safe, warm and happy. Home is where you can create your own world – and what makes my home mine is completely different to what makes your home yours.
So, how do we create a place that we truly adore and cherish? The things we love, collect and arrange within our home make it feel like ‘us’. Without them, a home can feel empty and soulless. I have been creating a home that I love ever since I left my family home in my early twenties. Yes, I have lived in a number of houses since then, but much of the furniture, art and other bits and pieces that I have collected have stayed with me. These elements have travelled with me on my journey and I have reworked them into my various houses. They are kind of like old friends; a new house feels more like a home the moment I put my old friends inside it.
I have worked with a number of clients who have entered the later stages of their lives – their children have left home and they are at the point of downsizing from a large family home to an apartment or townhouse. One of the most common things I notice when such clients come to me is that they are not ready to let go of their things – objects that they have loved, that have been familiar to them for their entire lives in some cases. Often, a couple’s children will push for them to move the old furniture on and start from scratch, but I almost always advise the opposite. For one, I understand that getting rid of those treasured pieces can be like losing an arm or a leg. Moreover, by incorporating some of those special old items into the new home, while mixing in some fresh new pieces, we can create a sense of familiarity that makes transitioning to a brand-new place that bit easier.
In The City Gardener, Richard Unsworth takes us on a journey through urban spaces that are lush and blooming with creative expression. As our concrete jungles continue to grow in both size and density, the cultivation of green sanctuaries inside city limits has never been more important. In this extract, Unsworth showcases the innovative design and immaculate execution of a garden in the inner-city suburb of Redfern.
Redfern is an exciting and diverse suburb sitting at the
southern end of Sydney’s CBD. Like other inner-city suburbs, it has a
working-class history. However, over the years it has become gentrified as
property prices have grown and young professionals flocked there, wanting to
live within walking distance of the city. I bought my first house in this
colourful suburb and, after leaving Darlinghurst, Garden Life had its second
home here on busy Cleveland Street for more than eight years.
Its densely packed terrace houses have mostly been renovated
to provide their owners with modern conveniences and better connections to
their rear garden spaces, which, like those of Paddington and other inner-city
areas, can be rather small and confined.
This project was no exception. The traditional cottage was
originally a small single-level dwelling just 4 metres wide. Beyond the
original frontage, the renovation by BKH architects added another level and a
single large room at the rear of the house, which connects beautifully to the
The client is a prominent Sydney florist and he approached us
to help him with his garden renovation. Working with flowers all day long is
his life, so when we first started talking about the garden, the subject of
blooms was way down the list. Overall, our brief was simple. He was keen to see
greenery, lots of it, in all different forms, as well as grow some herbs, hang
out his washing and keep a few fish. Apart from that, he left the direction to
us. We discussed creating a ‘jungle madness’ of contrasting planting. I’ve
always been drawn to a rainforest environment and love the stillness that comes
with being surrounded by dense greenery, moisture, coolness and fresh,
When designing a garden in a confined space, we usually
exercise restraint. We are careful not to overcrowd and work to avoid appearing
cluttered. But the client wanted absolute abundance, so we had the opportunity
to play with all kinds of textures and foliage forms without being concerned it
would look too crammed. We put constraint to one side and started to think
about what we could pack into a space measuring just 9 by 4 metres.
In terms of structure, we inherited minimalist polished
concrete that flows seamlessly from inside the house out into the small rear
yard. The same material continues up into wide steps connecting the upper
level, which is only marginally larger than the lower. On the upper level, we
needed to create a practical floor that you could stand or sit on, but wanted
something soft and unobtrusive when viewed from the lower level. We went with
large amoebic-shaped bluestone pavers, mass planted with kidney weed and native
violets to grow over all the edges.
The three boundary walls needed to disappear to create a
feeling of more space, so these were painted in a deep charcoal colour. Dark
boundary walls always help bring planting into the foreground and the plant
colours are intensified as a result. The light conditions in the little garden
are very mixed. Much of it is in shade for a lot of the time from surrounding
trees and neighbouring foliage, although some parts are open to the hot western
sun in summer. The planting we selected had to be shade tolerant and very
adaptable to hot sun when necessary.
While the garden was to be densely planted, it was still
important that the form of each individual plant could be seen. So we made sure
that we didn’t put similar foliage types together, but rather created contrast.
For example, we placed tall, ribbon-like leaves of iris behind small, round
forms of silver plectranthus. A large stainless steel tray was submerged at the
rear of the garden and filled with water plants and fish. We added a small
fountain and submersible light.
Our client liked the idea of mirrors to visually expand the
space. They can work well in small gardens to trick the eye, help bounce light
around and reflect foliage, but it’s important to consider what they are
reflecting. It needs to be something worthwhile rather than simply an opposing
wall. We designed a large mirror that consisted of a grid of smaller panes and
placed it at the back of the garden so that it would reflect the foliage and
water surrounding it. Mirrors are most effective when the edges disappear into
the planting. Climbers work well in softening the edges, whether they are loose
and twining on wires or attaching themselves tightly to the surrounding walls.
What’s important is to have a mirror bedded into greenery.
When it came to planting, we wanted interesting foliage that
worked well together, creating a cohesive feel and addressing practical
concerns. Privacy was an issue from adjacent houses so we added a clumping
bamboo sitting next to the mirror at the rear and subtropical foliage such as
elephant ears, philodendron and dwarf cardamom.
On the walls we planted creeping fig and star jasmine to
green up the boundaries, as well as huge staghorn ferns. Cactus and succulent
forms were included in the planting mix and they sit surprisingly well with the
more subtropical plants, giving the garden a certain edge. Some of these
sun-lovers work well in shady, dry gardens, including foxtail agave, orchid
cactus and variegated snake plant.
Over the years, when our store was around the corner, our
client curated a collection of interesting vintage pots and vessels. It was a
good opportunity to fill some of these with quirky specimens and place them
around the perimeter. Their strong forms add personality and character, and
softly define the spaces around the foliage.
This garden works because there is a pleasing balance of both hard and soft landscape. The wonderful minimalism and clean lines of the raw concrete and the wide stairs stretch out the width of the yard and contrast with the abundance of greenery. The negative space of the built form is just as important as the foliage, as it provides the structure. When viewed from inside, the surround of the bifold doors acts like a frame for the artwork of the garden beyond. The finishing touch is a mirror ball hanging high above the dining table in a flowering gumtree, ensuring that every day is a disco, come rain, hail or shine.
The City Gardeneris available now. Text by Richard Unsworth and photography by Nicholas Watt.
Born in Ballarat, Victoria, Hilda Rix Nicholas held her first solo exhibition in Paris in 1912. On sale were drawings made in Morocco earlier that year. The French state bought one of them, Grand Marché, Tanger, for display in the Musée National du Luxembourg. Hilda’s career was launched. She was twenty-eight years old.
Hilda: The Life of Hilda Rix Nicholaschampions the Australian artist’s life and work. Even more significantly, this fascinating book illustrates a wonderful truth: out of adversity can come great beauty.
Below we share some of our favourite artworks in a gallery exclusive to T&H subscribers.
In the extract below, Post-doctoral Fellow Rachael Dunlop discusses and dissects six common myths about vaccination.
Recently released government figures show levels of
childhood vaccination have fallen to dangerously low levels in some areas of
Australia, resulting in some corners of the media claiming reignition of ‘the
Well, scientifically, there’s no debate. In combination with
clean water and sanitation, vaccines are one of the most effective public
health measures ever introduced, saving millions of lives every year.
Those who claim there is a ‘debate’ will cite a series of
canards designed to scare people away from vaccinating, but if you’re not
familiar with their claims, you could easily be convinced by anti-vaccine
What is true and what is not? Let’s address just a few of
the common vaccine myths and explain why they’re wrong.
1. Vaccines cause autism
The myth that vaccines are somehow linked to autism is an
unsinkable rubber duck. Initiated in 1998 following the publication of the now
notorious Lancet paper, (not-a-Dr) Andrew Wakefield was the first to suggest
that the measles mumps rubella (MMR) vaccine might be linked to autism.
What he didn’t reveal was that he had multiple conflicts of
interest, including that he was being paid by lawyers assembling a class action
against the manufacturers of MMR, and that he himself had submitted an
application for a patent for a single measles vaccine.
It eventually unravelled for Wakefield when the paper was
retracted in 2010. He was struck from the medical register for behaviour
classified as ‘dishonest, unethical and callous’ and the British Medical
Journal accused him of deliberate fraud.
But once the idea was floated, scientists were compelled to
investigate, particularly when it stood to impact public health so
dramatically. One of the most powerful pieces of evidence to show there is no
link between vaccines and autism comes from Japan, where the MMR was replaced with
single vaccines mid-1993. (See ‘Japanese study is more evidence that MMR does
not cause autism’ by Andrew Cole.) Guess what happened? Autism continued to
After this door closed, anti-vaxxers shifted the blame to
thiomersal, a mercury-containing component (not be confused with the scary
type that accumulates in the body). Small amounts of thiomersal were used as a
preservative in some vaccines, but this never included MMR.
Thiomersal, or ethyl-mercury, was removed from all scheduled
childhood vaccines in 2000, so if it were contributing to rising cases of
autism, you would expect a dramatic drop following its removal. Instead, like
with the MMR in Japan, the opposite happened, and autism continues to rise.
Further evidence comes from a recently published exhaustive
review examining 12,000 research articles covering eight different vaccines,
which also concluded there was no link between vaccines and autism. (See
Adverse Effects of Vaccines: Evidence and Causality, editors Kathleen Stratton
Yet, the myth persists and probably for several reasons, one
being that the time of diagnosis for autism coincides with kids receiving
several vaccinations and, also, we currently don’t know what causes autism. But
we do know what doesn’t, and that’s vaccines.
2. Smallpox and polio have disappeared so there’s no need to vaccinate anymore
It’s precisely because of vaccines that diseases such as
smallpox have disappeared.
India recently experienced two years without a single case
of polio because of a concerted vaccination campaign.
Australia was declared measles-free in 2005 by the World
Health Organization (WHO) – before we stopped being so vigilant about
vaccinating and outbreaks began to reappear.
The impact of vaccine complacency can be observed in the
current measles epidemic in Wales, where there are now over 800 cases and has
been one death, and many people presenting are of the age who missed out on MMR
vaccination following the Wakefield scare.
In many ways, vaccines are a victim of their own success,
leading us to forget just how debilitating preventable diseases can be – not
seeing kids in calipers or hospital wards full of iron lungs means we forget
just how serious these diseases can be.
3. More vaccinated people get the disease than the unvaccinated
Although this sounds counterintuitive, it’s actually true,
but it doesn’t mean that vaccines don’t work, as anti-vaxxers will conflate it.
Remember that no vaccine is 100 per cent effective and vaccines are not a forcefield.
So, while it’s still possible to get the disease you’ve been vaccinated
against, disease severity and duration will be reduced.
With pertussis (whooping cough), for example, severe
complications such as pneumonia and encephalitis (brain inflammation) occur
almost exclusively in the unvaccinated.
Therefore, since the majority of the population is
vaccinated, it follows that most people who get a particular disease will be
vaccinated, but, critically, they will suffer fewer complications and long-term
effects than those who are completely unprotected.
4. My unvaccinated child should be of no concern to your vaccinated one
Vaccination is not just a personal issue, it’s a community
responsibility, largely because of a concept known as ‘community immunity’.
This describes a level of vaccination that prevents epidemics or outbreaks from
taking hold and spreading.
Some people question the validity of this concept, sometimes
referred to as herd immunity, but the impact of it breaking down can be easily
observed in places where vaccination levels fall dangerously low – take the
current measles outbreak in Wales, for example.
The other important factor about community immunity is it
protects those who, for whatever reason, can’t be vaccinated or are not fully
vaccinated. This includes very young children, immunocompromised people (such
as cancer sufferers) and elderly people.
5. Vaccines contain toxins
A cursory search of Google for vaccine ingredients pulls up
a mishmash of scary-sounding ingredients that to the uninitiated can sound like
Some of these claims are patently untrue (there is no
anti-freeze in vaccines) or are simple scaremongering (regarding the rumour of
aborted foetuses, in the 1960s some cells were extracted from a foetus to
establish a cell line that is still used in labs today). Some of the claimed
chemicals (and, remember, everything is made of chemicals) are present, but are
at such low levels as to never reach toxicity. The simple thing to remember is
the poison is in the dose – in high enough doses, even water can kill you. And
there’s fifty times more formaldehyde in a pear than in a vaccine.
Also, if you ever read the claim that ‘vaccines are injected
directly into the blood stream’ (they’re not), be sceptical of any other claims
the writer is making.
6. Vaccines will overwhelm kids’ undeveloped immune systems
The concept of ‘too many too soon’ was recently examined in
a detailed analysis of the US childhood immunisation schedule by the Institute
of Medicine (see The Childhood Immunization Schedule and Safety: Stakeholder
Concerns, Scientific Evidence, and Future Studies). Experts specifically looked
for evidence that vaccination was linked to ‘autoimmune diseases, asthma,
hypersensitivity, seizures, child developmental disorders, learning or
developmental disorders, or attention deficit or disruptive disorders’,
including autism. The researchers confirmed the childhood vaccination schedule
The number of immune challenges (between 2000 to 6000) that
children fight every day in the environment is significantly greater than the
number of antigens or reactive particles in all their vaccinations combined
(about 150 for the entire vaccination schedule).
The next time you hear these myths about vaccination, you’ll hopefully have some evidence up your sleeve to debunk them.
This is an extract from No, You’re Not Entitled to Your Opinion, edited by Alexandra Hansen and available now. Text by Rachael Dunlop, Post-doctoral Fellow at the University of Technology Sydney. Originally published on 26 April 2013.
Last year we were blown away by the love we received for herbalist and nutritionist Erin Lovell Verinder’s debut title, Plants for the People. So many readers had been seeking a modern approach to using complementary medicine and Erin expertly answered their calls with an evolution of herbal-medicine books of the past.
Erin’s new venture The Plant Clinic is a revolutionary guide that delves deeper into the restorative potential of plant medicine, helping to manage and diagnose over 100 health concerns. The book features 150 recipes for teas, tinctures, syrups, salves, vinegars that promote healing across vitality, immunity, detoxification, the gut, hormone health, mums and bubs, hair and skin, emotions, mind and spirit. Erin’s empowering words are underscored by herbal wisdom and amplified by Georgia Blackie’s ethereal photography.
Get a feel for this essential guide with the introduction to the book, extracted exclusively for our Thames & Hudson community.
Healing is no joke. It can be uncomfortable, messy and all-consuming, and it is certainly a nonlinear undertaking. The journey of healing is much like the metaphor of peeling an onion: healing lies within every layer, and as we peel each one back, we get closer to the heart. In uncovering the layers, we begin to change our perceptions and expressions of ill health. We awaken to see the patterns, the stories, the feelings held within ourselves.
As a clinical practitioner I witness all sorts of presentations, revelations, breakdowns and breakthroughs. Throughout any given week in clinic, there will always be a myriad of lovely clients sitting in front of me sharing their health stories, ranging from longstanding chronic conditions to acute complaints. I have learnt that my own health challenges and experiences have shaped me as a practitioner, and my ability to understand, guide and hold the space for others moving through their health challenges stems directly from my own experiences.
Years ago, I personally went through a terrifying chapter of burnout. I had been moving fast in many aspects of my life; emotionally I was frayed, physically I was weary. Changes needed to be made in my life. I felt the nudge of a physical symptom, yet I did not fully listen in. I have learnt the hard way that we often do this; as a coping mechanism, we ignore the messages of our bodies. Perhaps we cannot quite look at it or we aren’t quite ready to hear it. We look away, wipe our hands of it, dust ourselves off and keep going. For me, this was a grave misstep.
My physical symptoms hit me like a bus. Literal waves of panic shook my body, yet my mind was still. Waves of anxiety washed through me. I was feeling out of my body, sped up and shaky. Cortisol rushes consumed me, and I really could not do much to keep them at bay. I went down allopathic treatment paths, with no answers and no solutions. I had no choice but to listen to my body, to make changes and to allow myself the space to heal.
Although the six Pillars to Thrive (p. 16) are age-old essentials, this is when I truly grasped the importance of these practices. In my own darkest moments, I dived headﬁrst into these practices to heal my body. I drank the water it was thirsty for. I balanced my blood sugar with nourishing food, eating with determined consistency to anchor my body. I connected to nature and let her ﬁll me up everyday, swinging in my hammock under the trees and sitting in my garden. I moved my body ever so gently when I was able. I listened to my internal self-talk, adjusting each self-limiting thought with nothing but love and gentleness. And I rested. I rested so much; I cleared my calendar. It was not easy, but I knew I needed to. Healing demands a level of surrender, and surrender takes a whole new shape when you really face the true meaning of the word.
I leant heavily on plant medicine during this time, following my own plant protocols morning, day and night. Adaptogenic-rich herbals such as ashwagandha and rehmannia reshaped my internal stress response. Nervine-rich herbals such as passionﬂower, oat straw and skullcap helped to ground my nervous system. They were potent calmers of the cortisol rushes. They brought the light of hope with swift improvements and feelings of resilience returning. I got better very quickly. Within three months. This may seem like a long time, but when you are at rock bottom, a return to full vitality within three months is its own kind of radical.
While this experience truly brought me to my knees, it also offered me incredible insights and cracked open my life in a really wonderful way. I set a new pace, I now honour rest and know my limits lovingly, I lead with my heart and have learnt to not overextend myself. The whole breaking down to break through concept is quite literally the epitome of my (albeit messy) dance with burnout. Working with the plants allowed me to get to the very root of the issue. There was no shortcut or quick ﬁx. I was worn so thin that I had to build from the ground up. This was deep healing.
In the Clinic
Unsurprisingly, I work with many burnt-out people. It is a natural side effect of our times, a modern epidemic of sorts. We have strayed far from the rhythms of nature, from a time when the simple rising of the sun and the setting of the moon were our compass. Instead, we wake to alarms and live our lives with various forms of technology dictating our daily movements and schedules. How can we all keep up?!
It’s an incredible thing to watch clients return from the brink of brutal burnout with the assistance of restorative herbs and the Pillars to Thrive (p. 16). Often, one particular symptom, like poor energy, for example, improves with gentle interventions (such as herbs and rest), meaning fewer energy dips in the day; then sleep deepens, and gradually vitality is regained. This is the process of healing; one element affects another, and the pieces of your inner puzzle unite.
One client had been dealing with chronic bloating for a long time. She had tried every diet, had seen all sorts of medical specialists and undertaken invasive investigations with no results or improvements. After years, she turned to the plants. We discovered that her chronic digestive bloating was more a reﬂection of her internal emotional landscapes. Her response to stress was an inability to digest, a classic irritable bowel syndrome–like symptom. Once we had set up a herbal treatment plan – such as the Bloating Protocol on page 148 – to lean on, incorporating digestive herbs such as chamomile, lemon balm and fennel to calm her belly and her stress response, we had an incredible breakthrough. When her awareness shifted to working with plants to support her process, she transformed her bloating woes.
My own plant path has been an example of science and spirit ﬁnding their way back to each other. I am a Bachelor-level herbalist. My training was heavily clinical and science-based – involving the study of botany, anatomy and physiology, pharmacology, symptomatology, pathology and biochemistry of the body – alongside the sweet song of herbalism. However, when I embarked on the path of natural medicine as an eager teenager, my ﬁrst learnt system of healing was energetic healing, with its esoteric view of health. Since then, I have also dedicated years to my nutritional medicine studies, learning about the therapeutic beneﬁts of food and the power in edible nourishment. I have merged my years of study and training with my years of clinical experiences, witnessing countless breakthroughs in my clients’ ill health, working with them in restoring true health. What I am most certain of, is that you deserve to hold all of the tools that are needed to decode the messages being sent by your body and being.
Choosing the plant path takes us deep into the riches of traditional folk medicine and ancestral herbal therapeutics. We return to the old ways, marrying time-honoured approaches with contemporary practices and forging new ways to work with plants to heal our bodies and beings. The roots of herbalism run deep, and it is about time we found our way back to working with the plants to heal.
This book is not intended to replace individualised professional advice on healthcare and wellbeing, nor is it is intended to treat, diagnose or cure. It is recommended that you consult your naturopathic practitioner, herbalist or GP when seeking healthcare support; health runs deep, and there is no such thing as a one-size-ﬁts-all approach. As such, when working with plant medicine, it is advisable to consult a herbal materia medica to become familiar with any cautions or contradictions which may be applicable to your situation. Please be aware that some pharmaceutical drugs and plant medicines can interact in unintended ways, so it is essential that you gain advice from your health care professional if you are already taking any prescribed medications.
This is an edited extract from The Plant Clinic, available now. Text by Erin Lovell Verinder, photography by Georgia Blackie and design by Noah Harper Checkle.
In her latest book A Room of Her Own, author and photographer Robyn Lea captures the hearts and homes of twenty extraordinary women around the globe. Whether they be artists, designers, makers or curators, these women have a common ground when it comes to new ways of thinking, and of course, daring to lead creative lives.
In this extract, we put the spotlight on two of our Melbourne-based favourites from the book: jewellery designer Fiorina Golotta and photographer Francesca Golotta. Read on for their chapter and find out how you can win a copy of the book and a pair of Fiorina Jewellery’s coveted logo earrings.
Ensconced in her bedroom in suburban Melbourne, threading
shark’s teeth and shells onto string to make herself a necklace, seven-year-old
Fiorina Golotta embarked on a small creative project that marked the beginning
of her life’s work. Two years later, while accompanying her father, Tony, on a
trip to his native Italy, the fate of her subsequent creative career was
effectively sealed. The European history, architecture, art and jewellery she
saw there made a profound impression, and the wildly contrasting aesthetic she
found at Bangkok airport en route – ‘Everything was shiny: mirrored beads, gold
flowers and jewellery … it was phenomenal’ – was equally intoxicating. By her tenth
birthday she was fully accessorised in her own jewellery designs.
Not long after, Fiorina’s younger sister Francesca had her own creative epiphany. On his forty-fifth birthday, Tony was given a coffee-table book, Italia Mia, featuring photographs by 1950s ﬁlm-star-turned-photographer Gina Lollobrigida. Francesca pored over its pages of Italian street scenes and interiors and, encouraged by Fiorina, was soon experimenting with photography.
As Fiorina grew older, her creative work became inextricably linked to her sense of self. The handcrafted jewellery and talismans she made were not just objects of beauty and self-expression, but also tools of resistance. Tony, raised in poverty in conservative postwar southern Italy, wanted his children to pursue academic paths and corporate careers. So he saw his elder daughter’s creative impulses as an expression of rebellion. Fiorina agreed. ‘To be creative was a point of rebellion, an escape, an expression and a statement,’ she explains. ‘Jewellery made me feel uplifted, and it gave me an identity and an immediate shield.’ It also exposed her to other ethnicities and cultures beyond the scope of her traditional upbringing, such as Native American groups, whose wisdom and protection she sought.
Fiorina left home at eighteen, a decision her parents did
not welcome. Armed with freedom and independence for the ﬁrst time, she
discovered a different side of Melbourne, though was soon ready to move further
aﬁeld. After throwing herself into a world of diverse ideologies and the
underground music scene in New York City for a year, she returned to Australia
and settled in the village of Kuranda in far-northern Queensland. There, she
lost herself in a cathartic period of experimentation and self-development. Her
new routine included working in an African bead shop, which offered her an
informal education in tribal jewellery. ‘African beads are not just decorative
– they have a deeper cultural value. They are also religious, and some of them
contain prayers,’ she explains.
With a new sense of conﬁdence in her creative needs and
direction, fostered by several years of travel and exploration, she returned to
Melbourne to study jewellery-making and started sharing a workshop in Little
Collins Street. It was around this time that the sisters’ parents divorced. ‘It
led us all to new paths,’ says Francesca, ‘and forged instant freedom. It meant
we were no longer as engaged in the deep-rooted traditions of the Italian
In 2003, when their father was terminally ill with cancer, Fiorina and her work were featured in a prominent magazine. A family friend visiting the bedridden Tony presented him with a laminated copy of the story. It was a deﬁning moment of public recognition of Fiorina’s work that made him incredibly proud. Similarly, the night before the hanging of Francesca and their brother Maurice’s joint exhibition in 2002, they felt their father’s enthusiasm. Francesca remembers: ‘We were decorating these little icon frames we had made and nailing coins onto them that Fiorina had given us. Dad was going through chemotherapy at the time and feeling very unwell, and suddenly he came alive and insisted on showing us how we should do it.’ As the exhibition opened, another chapter was coming to an end. There was not only new-found peace between Tony and his daughters but a celebration of all they had created.
In 2008, Fiorina and Francesca triumphantly opened Fiorina
Jewellery on High Street Armadale. Its ornate golden doors open to an interior
dotted with velvet chairs and antique mirrors, interspersed with polished
cabinets displaying a magical array of handmade pieces. The walls feature
Maurice’s artwork and Francesca’s photography.
The workshop upstairs is the heart of the atelier, where all the
jewellery is made. Tiny drawers are ﬁlled with a kaleidoscope of coloured gems
and stones, and the collage-style decor includes evidence of Fiorina’s travels,
inﬂuences and interests.
Francesca’s ability to be both the creative sounding board and the practical voice in the business continues to guide her sister, and Fiorina believes the differences between them are as important as their similarities. ‘We’re different people, and that’s probably why it works,’ she explains. ‘Franca is a true Renaissance woman, she’s romantic. I’m very ﬁery in comparison, and I learn from my mistakes afterwards. My aesthetic is more tribal and rustic, hers is more elegant and reﬁned.’
These days, working with speciﬁc stones and materials
continues to feed Fiorina’s sense of wellbeing. ‘The stones have power,’ she
says. ‘It’s about ﬁnding something that elevates you, something that helps you
get through the day, the month, the year, the decade.’ She ﬁnds the properties
of stones potent: ‘They give me the clarity needed to have the right thoughts,
which lead to the right actions.’
Colour is also a signiﬁcant driver in her life and work: ‘I
am attracted to certain colours for speciﬁc reasons. It’s something I
instinctively draw upon.’ Turquoise is one example. ‘Since my teens, I have
been drawn to the traditional culture of people from those Native American
nations that wear their hair long and employ turquoise jewellery, feathers and
breastplates in their traditional dress, which gives them power and
protection.’ Similarly, the jewellery of the ancient Etruscan, Greek, Byzantine
and Moghul cultures and traditional Art Deco aesthetics fascinate Fiorina. Her
spiritual life is fed by these ancient cultures as well as Buddhism, mysticism
and Rastafarianism. ‘An appreciation of alternative ideologies has allowed me
to embrace different ways of life, giving me creative freedom and providing a path forward.’
Looking back, Fiorina is philosophical about her upbringing:
‘I believe you come into your family for a reason. My reason was about
empowering and protecting people through what I do – through my jewellery.’
Along with her proliﬁc creative output, her rebellious tendencies also prepared
her well for tackling the sometimes ruthless world of business.
Together, the sisters have created much more than a jewellery store. It is a focal point for like-minded women, a place they can go to feel inspired, adorned and understood. It has also provided Fiorina with an anchor: ‘I think rebellion has been a curse and a blessing in the same breath. It steered the ship for a long time. The joy of creating and the response from my community, family and friends are now the primary driving forces in my life.’
This is an extract from A Room of Her Own, available now. Text and photography by Robyn Lea, design by Ashlea O’Neill.
Win a fabulous A Room of Her Own prize pack!
To get into the Spring spirit, we’re giving away a copy of Robyn Lea’s beautiful interiors book ‘A Room of Her Own’ as well as a pair of logo earrings from beloved Melbourne jewellery store (headed by two of the inspirational women featured in the book), Fiorina Jewellery.
In Recipe for a Kinder Life, the inspirational cook Annie Smithers shares her wisdom on living a gentler life, and forging deep connections with the natural environment, the community and the self. She discusses the significance of balance and rest for personal wellbeing in the extract below.
Another huge step I have taken in protecting my mental health is embracing the notion of choice, understanding that no one forces me to do all the things that I do. All the decisions that I make are mine to take responsibility for. In the past, I might have blamed outside influences if I felt that I was working too hard; now I have a strong sense of what is enough or too much, and if I choose to do too much, I must accept all that comes with that. As an employer, a partner, a step-parent, a member of a community, there is always the opportunity to show, not tell. Leading by example, and being a communicative person, allows others to observe my way of finding balance and assess whether there is anything in it that could make their own life more comfortable.
All this striving for, and reflection on, a better balance so I can sustain myself to achieve all I want to do in all the spheres of my life is one reason that I have come back to observing the eight-hour day. The hospitality industry is infamous for its mistreatment of workers and its long and unsociable hours. It has become very important to me not to expect any of my employees to work more than an eight-hour day. This should hardly need explaining but, in any case, it is clear that it allows people to make their own choices and arrange their lives to suit their needs and wants. It means that if they wish to take on a second job, they can; if they wish to go home and garden, they can; if they wish to go home and sit in front of the telly for the evening, they can. From experience, I know that it is often difficult to tell your boss that you are working above your capacity and/or outside your designated work hours, and I am equally aware of the effects of too much work on the body, the mind and those around you.
This also ties in with how we manage the restaurant-related devices. As we run a very small team at du Fermier, we tend not to answer the telephone during lunch service. This is so that we can completely devote ourselves to the customers in the room. It also means that we can return messages in an unhurried manner later in the day, making sure that the customer at the end of the phone is now the absolute focus. Answering emails is done in a similar manner. We have a manual system that we like to think offers a personal-service touch, but I am sure that some of our patrons would love us to answer messages and emails twenty-four hours a day. I can’t expect the people who work with me to take on this responsibility and deal with customers at all hours of the day and night, given that I won’t myself. The division between work, leisure and sleep has become very blurred. I, for one, do not think that this is a positive. In embracing a more sustainable approach to life, how we operate at a personal level, with our own resources, is at the core of our existence. Sustainability is not just about using the earth’s resources more responsibly; it is about better using your own.
Sleep is, without doubt, a very important part of my day. Making the decision a few years ago to stop operating the restaurant in the evening has been absolutely revelatory for my personal wellbeing. I have never been a night person; I am happiest tucked up in bed and ready to go to sleep when it’s dark. The hours that I sleep change seasonally: I often sleep more in winter and less in summer – a little like the animals in the yard. The geese, the goats and the chickens all run to a clock that is not based on hours but on daylight. It seems to be a pattern that I am following more and more as I spend a greater amount of time caring for them and working outside in the garden. It is as if their needs and mine are becoming very similar.
The surprising (or maybe not) result now if I don’t get enough sleep, or even rest, is not pretty. Tired, irascible, perfunctory Annie is no fun for anybody, especially me. This is screamingly obvious when the side effects of not enough rest and sleep include weight gain and systems failure in various bits of my body. As the pace of this modern world keeps getting busier, it is up to each and every one of us to decide how much to commit to the external forces at play, how much we engage with them, where our priorities are, and to try to find a place for ourselves that fits with our personal, financial and relationship values.
After thirty years of living in the country, I am trying not to become a stranger to the needs of city and suburban folk. I imagine that smaller-scale gardening, long walks and various forms of exercise replace the chores of farm life. And I imagine that reading, theatre and dining out are much higher on the agenda than they are for me, which exposes the nature of balance. For each of us, no matter where we live, our location enables us to find the day-to-day rhythm that suits us best in that environment.
This is an edited extract from Recipe for a Kinder Life, available now. Text by Annie Smithers and cover design by Daniel New.
Following Clay and A Painted Landscape, Still Life completes Amber Creswell Bell’s genre trifecta of artful gems that champion remarkable Australian artists. The book looks at the styles, subjects, visions and philosophies of more than forty contemporary Australian artists. To give you a feel for this incredible book, check out our gallery featuring the work of some of the artists featured as well as their perspectives on the genre.
‘Perhaps still life is more accessible with it’s traditionally domestic subjects and therefore considered a more ‘democratic’ genre, sitting more comfortably with ideas of the classless society we imagine that Australia is.’
‘I have always been interested in recording or interpreting my surroundings in a visual way. I almost feel I haven’t properly experienced looking at something if I haven’t observed it and tried to create either a picture from the subject or responded to it.’
‘All paintings, including still lifes, should feel erotic.’
‘There’s a certain tension in setting up, where I tend to get so frustrated with the tediousness of finding the composition and mixing the paints that by the time I put brush to linen, I’m about to burst.’
‘I feel that the endurance of the still life genre has to do with its relative anonymity compared to more figurative work.’
‘A collection of objects, no matter how mundane, tells a story. They are like a little world; you can get lost in them.’
‘What I love most about painting a still life is creating a sense of order in life, if only on the canvas. I strive to create a sense of tranquility and calm in my pieces in the midst of a busy and bustling life.’
Still Life is available now. Text by Amber Creswell Bell and design by Ngaio Parr.
Front cover: Tsering Hannaford, Yellow Magnolia, 2018. Oil on board, 60 x 45 cm. Courtesy of the artist.
Reading the Seasons is a book for our times, showing how literature connects us to ourselves and others. Get of taste of the genuine friendship between the authors, Germaine Leece and Sonya Tsakalakis in this extract from the book.
My life is like the autumn leaf
That trembles in the moon’s pale ray;
Its hold is frail – its date is brief,
Restless, – and soon to pass away!
From ‘My Life is like the Summer Rose’ by Richard Henry Wilde 
Hello, Germaine, on the first day of autumn – and it’s
Here are a few lines that I read today. I like to start the
day with glittering language and thoughts. And I read them aloud, much to my
children’s chagrin. One day they’ll look back fondly?!
Such beautiful lines, thank you. I must say, our friendship
has given me much more understanding about the power and importance of poetry
in daily life. It also reminds me of an eighty-something male bibliotherapy
client I saw last week. You would have loved him.
His father recited poetry to him throughout his childhood,
and in the past couple of years he decided he wasn’t reading enough poetry so
he started a group. Wine and cheese accompany the monthly poetic conversation
on the beach. He was such a character, saw the books on his bookshelves as his
lifelong friends and used words such as ‘charm-struck’. I didn’t want the
session to end, I was so charm-struck myself.
While talking about his ‘friends on the bookshelf ’, he
reflected that he hadn’t read enough female authors in his lifetime and wanted
to rectify that. (I imagine you are swooning now!) I decided to give him a
prescription filled with female authors that illuminated his different chapters
to help give a fuller shape to his own story. I couldn’t resist starting with
Jeanette Winterson’s memoir Why Be Happy when You Could Be Normal?, as
we have discussed before, required reading for any book lover! He told me that
as a teen he put his trust into books rather than people to make sense of the
world, and that brought to my mind Winterson writing about ‘[falling] into
books … I put myself inside them for safe keeping’. While my client and
Jeanette have nothing else in common about their families or their lives, I
hope the image of two teenagers on different sides of the world in different
decades finding comfort and anchoring inside the pages of books creates a
nostalgic reading experience for him.
I ended with a bit of fun. He is a fan of Wodehouse, so I
thought I would aim for a similar era and comedy-of-manners style … I chose EM
Delafield’s Diary of a Provincial Lady, as she always makes me laugh and I
love the sharp, observational gaze she puts on the upper class living in
Devonshire between the wars. I think I read somewhere that it was
semi-autobiographical and that she wrote the diaries as a ‘gentle joke’, but at
the same time she manages to shine a feminist light on the domestic sphere of
English country life. Her husband is always reading the Times newspaper and
going to sleep, and she spends much of her time ‘sacrificing truth to demands
of civilisation’! I’m not sure he will relate as well to Delafield’s character
who, when she feels ‘that life is wholly unendurable’ decides ‘madly to get a
new hat’, but I hope he will savour the wit and irony of the writing.
He reminded me how much I enjoy sessions with older clients
who choose to use the time to reflect on their reading lives and map how it has
changed over the decades. There’s something about witnessing someone’s
backstory that creates the same wonder within me as words between covers. I
remember another client who, in her seventies, told me our session had helped
her understand that by recollecting the different books she had read throughout
her life, she could trace her evolution of self. She added that having this
quiet time and being asked questions about the ways reading had affected her
life had allowed this realisation to occur. I found that particularly
powerful. The importance of time to reflect. How do you enjoy working with
I had better leave it here, as your autumn poem reminds me,
the day is soon to pass away and dinner needs preparing.
I have to tell you, I read that letter a few times. Not just
because I was thrilled by ‘charm-struck’, but also to bask in a cascade of my
reflections on working with older clients. In an oblique way. My bibliotherapy
career began in aged care, where I ran communal reading circles. Within these
milieus, poems and short stories were read aloud, creating a container for the
sharing of reflections, memories and personal stories evoked by the words on
the page. A fifteen-minute short story can be stretched out to an hour. On one
occasion, we were reading Gogol’s eccentric gem, ‘The Nose’.
Actually, it’s positively absurd! How else would you
describe a story where the protagonist finds his nose in a loaf of bread that
later parades haughtily on the streets of St Petersburg? And to make matters
more intriguing, it features a snuffbox. Suddenly, the normally reticent Edna
recalled her child-hood fascination for her grandmother’s rosewood snuffbox,
which sat on the mantelpiece. And from there she launched into vivid memories
of her grandmother, concluding at the end that she had completely forgotten
about that snuffbox, ‘hadn’t thought about it for decades’. That is what I love
about reading aloud, the vivifying of the text. The original story or poem
serves as a launching pad for other stories, contained within, awaiting to be
heard and enjoyed. Aspects of the self embedded deep within seem to be
awakened. Especially wonderful are older folks’ stories, an homage to Judith
Wright – again!
Seventy years of stories he clutches round his bones.
Seventy years are hived in him like old honey … 
Stories are as precious and coveted as old honey. During
that session there was a lot of animated banter about childhood fascinations …
places, things, that held a special allure which would probably be overlooked
by the eyes of a grown-up. Wishing to continue on that theme, I chose the
unique persiflage of Saki’s The Lumber Room for the following week. It’s a
hilarious story about a mischievous little boy who, with inventive flair, gets
into the room from which he is banned by his austere aunt, and finds it filled
with wondrous curiosities. You can’t help but come away thinking that whatever
punishment, which no doubt will be dished out to him afterwards, would be worth
it. Absolutely worth it! Suddenly there were recollections of places where kids
were forbidden because it was the ‘good room’.
And even more interestingly, the places where children were
allowed; spending hours outside till you were called in for dinner, being part
of the ‘street tribe’ or roaming to nearby paddocks and creeks. One reader who
grew up on a farm lovingly recalled waking up at six every morning to milk the
cows, and riding her pony to school with her siblings. And refashioning the
silk saved from the parachutes used in the war to make bloomers. I know –
there is upcycling for you! She believed she had a beautiful childhood, there
were always people around, places to discover.
So, when you talked of the importance of time to reflect
when older, it also gives those of subsequent generations a space to revel in
stories of times past. A type of validation for a life lived that may otherwise
be forgotten. S x
 Richard Henry Wilde extract from ‘My Life is like the Summer Rose’, in A Library of American Literature, Volume: Literature of the Republic, Part II, 1821–1834, eds Edmund Clarence Stedman and Ellen Mackay Hutchinson (New York: CL Webster, 1891)
 ‘Judith Wright extract from ‘South of My Days’, in Collected Poems (Sydney: HarperCollins, 1994)
Jungalow: Decorate Wild is artist, designer and author Justina Blakeney’s ultimate guide to designing wildly creative interiors. Filled with all of Justina’s tips and tricks, the book will show you how to make bold choices with color and pattern, how to take cues from nature, how to authentically glean inspiration from their heritage and travels, how to break rules, and all the other paths to truly begin to decorate wild. In this extract, go outside your comfort zone and learn how to mix patterns at home.
Patterns often present a complex mix of color, texture, scale, and motif that might seem difficult to harmonize with the rest of the décor elements in a space. Patterns compete for attention; will they drown out the more mild-mannered pieces in a room? You might love a wallpaper with a bold pattern, for example, but what if it doesn’t work with your furniture or drapes? Maybe just painting the walls is the safer choice. Don’t go out like that! Mixing patterns isn’t as hard as you think.
Three very different bold patterns work together in this reading nook because they share the same black and tan color palette. Meanwhile, blocks of solid yellow create contrast and provide breathing room.
In my vanity area at home, I mix very different patterns together. It works because the airy gold-andivory wallpaper provides breathing room while the bold blue stool acts as a wild card.
Different patterns don’t have to look alike to look good together, as long as they echo each other in some respect. Here, four contrasting patterns are harmonized by a shared color palette or graphic elements. The colors of the velvet chair’s zigzags reflect both the warm earth tones of the rug as well as the cool teal of the botanical wallpaper. The doors are harmonized with the chair not by color, but by their shared chevron pattern. When patterns are wildly different from each other, they don’t compete and you can use an overarching color story to make them work together.
Patterns with similar color palettes echo one another and can be combined easily, without fear of the results looking over the top. In this bedroom, a patterned dresser, rug, and planter are unified by an analogous color story.
Nearly every element in this bedroom has a pattern. The graphic rattan headboard and the colorful quilt are large patterns with contrasting colors that pop against the small patterns that read as solids, such as the subtle stripes in the wallpaper and bedding.
Jungalow: Decorate Wild is available now. Text by Justina Blakeney and principal photography by Dabito. Originally published by Abrams Books.
Braid fresh flowers into a hanging wreath for a party — then let it dry and leave it up all year!
A hanging wreath adds a sense of
playfulness to a room and is, of course, perfect for a little party or special
occasion. This fresh-to-dry project can be made with just-picked flowers, but
it’s also a great way to use up ones that are on their way out — blooms that
are wilting but still have pliable stems can be braided and will dry nicely.
Bay leaves, gomphrena, and strawflowers are especially good choices for an arrangement like this one, as they’re all very long-lasting and dry well. The colours of strawflowers feel almost unreal (in the best way!) and bring a sense of whimsy to the project. This wreath is light enough that it can easily be suspended from a ceiling hook, in part because it’s made without wire. Stems of millet and statice give it stability, and the braided strawflower stems keep the blossoms in place. These braiding and weaving methods can be applied to wreaths of all sorts. A hanging flower wreath is a focal point, so you won’t need other large arrangements or elaborate styling. Here, I hung the wreath over a table covered in pink linen and added modern ceramics, tiny arrangements, and a few scattered flower petals.
You will need :
8 stems of small bay leaves
25 stems of strawflower
3 to 5 stems of common millet or pampas grass
5 stems of statice
5 stems of gomphrena
Florist’s twine or string, for hanging
Gather your ingredients at a wholesale flower or farmers’ market. Once home, set them out in bunches on your work surface, and remove the leaves from the strawflower stems. If the flowers have been in water, be sure to remove any debris or excess leaves from the stems and let them dry out before working with them.
Create a base with the millet and statice, working with a few stems at a time.
Curve them into a wreath shape, spacing the blooms at intervals and twisting the stems around each other to secure.
Braid bunches of strawflower together, just as you would hair, alternating between three and five stems per bunch. Once braided, weave the bunches of strawflower into the wreath base, adding more statice for security if needed.
Fill in the wreath with bay leaves between each bunch, then weave in gomphrena between the stems.
Create a hanger by tying lengths of string or twine to opposite sides of the wreath. Display away from direct sunlight, if possible, or it will fade quickly.
This is an edited extract from Field Flower Vase, available now. Text and photography by Chelsea Fuss. Originally published by Abrams Books.
The little evergreen coffee tree began life somewhere near the forested mountains of southwestern Ethiopia, and its broad, elliptical leaves with crinkled edges, shiny and dark above and pastel-pale underneath, still prefer the shade. In full flower, coffee is a spellbinding but ephemeral joy; for just a couple of days, thousands of delicate white blossoms with a light fragrance of honeysuckle and jasmine can festoon a single tree. The smoothly oval fruits ripen to pillar-box red; their thin layer of edible flesh tastes of watermelon and apricot and surrounds a pair of deeply grooved seeds that are the familiar coffee ‘beans’. Coffee’s bright, sweet fruit have evolved to attract monkeys and birds, which ingest them, remove the pulpy parts of the fruit and excrete the seeds intact. Mercifully rarely, such beans have been gathered and sold as a luxury; for example, Indonesian kopi luwak coffee – considered by aficionados to be especially ‘smooth and earthy’ – is the, ahem, ‘product’ of Asian palm civets, which are often caught and traded for this purpose. Otherwise, all cultivated coffee is harvested by human hand; the fruit don’t suit mechanical harvesting because they don’t all ripen at once.
More than 1,000 years ago, thanks to genius or good fortune, boringly unscented beans that had been separated from their fruit and husks were roasted, pounded and added to hot water. The resulting fine-flavoured, stimulating yet non-alcoholic brew spread via Yemen throughout the Islamic world and the Ottoman empire. The story goes that in about 1600 coffee’s association with Islam caused Vatican officials to dismiss it as ‘Satan’s latest trap to catch Christian souls’, but Pope Clement VIII supposedly tried some and gave coffee his blessing because it would have been ‘a shame to let infidels have sole use of it’. What a charmer!
By the mid-seventeenth century coffee houses were popping up around Europe, and in London especially they became places for men to discuss business and politics, in contrast to the chocolate houses (see page 71), which were more light-hearted and welcoming to women. Over the centuries, many cultures have developed coffee rituals, sustained by beguiling paraphernalia and nerdy choices of grind and provenance. Ethiopia has a particularly elaborate ceremony. Amid wafts of incense, beans are freshly roasted over glowing charcoal and pounded at the table with cardamom or other spices. The resulting intense, dark drink is served with … popcorn. It’s a delightful experience for those fortunate enough to live within reach of an Ethiopian café, but perhaps not just before bedtime.
The coffee tree didn’t develop caffeine for our benefit. When its leaves die and drop, their caffeine leaches into the soil, impeding the germination and growth of competing plants, and it is also a defence, sometimes a lethal one, against various insects and fungi. It is therefore surprising that coffee and even some unrelated citrus plants put caffeine in their nectar, which, after all, is meant to reward insects for ferrying pollen to other plants. It turns out that the merest dash of caffeine, below the threshold that bees can sense, helps them to remember the plant, making them more likely to return to it. The flowers shrewdly dispense just enough caffeine to be pharmacologically active but not enough to be bothersome.
Towards the end of the nineteenth century, Asian production of Arabica coffee was wiped out by a fungus: coffee leaf rust. Groves were replanted with ‘Robusta’ (Coffea canephora), which was immune, and although it has a harsher taste than Arabica, it is now widely cultivated. Existing coffee strains are at risk once more, from climate change and the new pests and diseases that come with it, but there is scope for breeding new varieties. There are more than 120 wild species of coffee, most of them in tropical Africa. They have fascinating flavours and contain differing amounts of caffeine, and some of them tolerate heat and drought, or cope with different soils or plant diseases, yet most are themselves threatened by climate change or forest loss. It feels unfair that much of the burden of protecting this vital source of genetic diversity for one of the world’s most valuable commodities should be borne mainly by African nations.
Painting the Ancient Land of Australia is artist Philip Hughes’ love letter to our continent. Depicting deep varicoulored mines, broad rolling plains, vast imposing landforms and exquisite calm bays, his paintings are breathtaking portrayals of natural landscapes and human interventions. As reflected throughout the book, they are unique in that they are informed and inspired by maps and aerial photographs.
Enjoy a look at some of the works featured in the book below.
Kate Burridge, Professor of Linguistics, Monash University
Howard Manns, Lecturer in Linguistics, Monash University
People love creating words – in times of crisis it’s a ‘sick’ (in the good sense) way of pulling through. From childhood, our ‘linguistic life has been one willingly given over to language play’ (in the words of British linguist David Crystal). In fact, scientists have recently found that learning new words can stimulate exactly those same pleasure circuits in our brain as sex, gambling, drugs and eating (the pleasure-associated region called the ventral striatum).
We’re leximaniacs at heart and, while the behaviour can occasionally seem dark, we can learn a thing or two by reflecting on those playful coinages that get us through ‘dicky’ times.
Tom, Dick and Miley: In the ‘grippe’ of language play
In the past, hard times birthed playful rhymes. The 1930s Depression gave us playful reduplications based on Australian landmarks and towns: ‘ain’t no work in Bourke’; ‘everything’s wrong at Wollongong’; ‘things are crook at Tallarook’.
Whenever we face the possibility of being ‘dicky’ or ‘Tom [and] Dick’ (rhyming slang for ‘sick’), we take comfort in language play. It’s one thing to feel ‘crook’, but it’s another thing to feel as ‘crook as Rookwood’ (a cemetery in Sydney) or to have a ‘wog’ (synonymous with ‘bug’, likely from ‘pollywog’, and unrelated to the ethnic slur ‘wog’).
Remedies may be found in language’s abilities to translate sores into plasters, to paraphrase William Gouge’s 1631 sermon on the plague. New slang enables us to face our fears head-on, just as when the Parisians began calling a bout of late-18th century influenza ‘la grippe’ to reflect the ‘seizing’ effect it had on people. The word was subsequently taken up in British and American English.
In these times of COVID-19, there are the usual suspects: shortenings like ‘sanny’ (hand sanitiser) and ‘iso’ (isolation), abbreviations like BCV (before coronavirus) and WFH (working from home), as well as the compounds ‘corona moaner’ (the whingers) and ‘zoombombing’ (intrusion into a videoconference).
Plenty of nouns have been ‘verbed’ too – the toilet paper/pasta/tinned tomatoes have been ‘magpied’. Even rhyming slang has made a bit of a comeback, with Miley Cyrus lending her name to the virus (already end-clipped to ‘the Miley’). Some combine more than one process – ‘the isodesk’ (Or is that ‘the isobar’?) is where many of us are currently spending our days.
Slanguage in the coronaverse: What’s new?
What is interesting about COVID-lingo is the large number of creations that are blended expressions formed by combining two existing words. The new portmanteau then incorporates meaningful characteristics from both.
Newly spawned ‘coronials’ (corona + millennials) has the predicted baby boom in late 2020 already covered. ‘Blursday’ has been around since at least 2007 but originally described the day spent hung over; it’s now been pressed into service because no one knows what day of the week it is anymore. The official disease name itself, ‘COVID’, is somewhere between a blend and an acronym because it takes in vowels to make the abbreviation pronounceable (CO from corona, VI from virus and D from disease).
True, we’ve been doing this sort of thing for centuries – ‘flush’ (flash + gush) dates from the 1500s. But it’s never been a terribly significant method of coinage. English professor John Algeo’s study of neologisms over a fifty-year period (1941–91) showed blends accounting for only 5 per cent of the new words. Linguist Tony Thorne’s impressive collection of over 100 COVID-related terms has around 34 per cent blends, and the figure increases to more than 40 per cent if we consider only slang.
Not only have blends become much more common, the nature of the mixing process has changed too. Rather than combining splinters of words, as in ‘coronials’, most of these corona-inspired mixes combine full words with parts of others. The ‘quarantini’ keeps the word ‘quarantine’ intact and follows it with just a hint of ‘martini’ (and for that extra boost to the immune system, you can rim the glass with vitamin C powder). Many of these bubbled up during specific times of the pandemic – ‘lexit’ or ‘covexit’ (the strategies around exiting lockdown and economic hardship), ‘coronacation’ (working from home) and so on.
Humour: From the gallows to quarantimes
Humour emerges as a prevailing feature of these blends, even more so when the overlap is total. In ‘covidiot’ (the one who ignores public health advice and probably hoards toilet paper), both ‘covid’ and ‘idiot’ remain intact. There’s been a flourishing of these types of blend, including ‘covideo party’, ‘coronapocalypse’ and ‘covidivorce’, to name just a few.
Clearly, there is a fair bit of dark comedy in the jokes and memes that abound on the internet, and in many of these coinages too – compounds like ‘coronacoma’ (for the period of shutdown, or that deliciously long quarantine sleep) and ‘boomer remover’ (used by younger generations for the devastation of the baby boomer demographic).
Callous, heartless, yes. But humour is often used as a means of coming to terms with the less happy aspects of our existence. People use levity as a way of disarming anxiety and discomfort by downgrading what it is they cannot cope with.
Certainly, gallows humour has always featured large in hospital slang, with diagnoses like GOK (‘God only knows’) and PFO (‘pissed and fell over’). For those who have to deal with dying and death every day, it is perhaps the only way to stay sane. COVID challenges us all to confront the biological limits of our own bodies, and these days humour provides the much-needed societal safety valve.
So what will come of these creations? The vast majority will fall victim to ‘verbicide’, as slang expressions always do.
Jacqui Lewis and Arran Russell are best known as the powerhouse team behind The Broad Place, a global school for creativity, clarity and consciousness. Now, they have released their first book High-Grade Living, a modern guide to wellbeing. Here we share an extract from the book focusing on one of the pillars of meditation: breath meditation.
We recommend learning meditation in person with a teacher, rather than from a book. However, you can get started on your own with a beginner’s style of meditation that is widely used, where the breath is the focal point.
Even though we’re breathing all the time, we often forget to breathe deeply and properly in the course of our day. Breath meditation helps us centre ourselves and become completely aware and present.
Putting into practice
First, get yourself into a comfortable seated position. Sitting still is very important for this technique, so finding a way to sit comfortably is key.
Ideally, you should start breath meditation by sitting cross-legged on the floor, with your back straight. Some find it helpful to sit on a cushion to raise the buttocks off the ground and allow the legs to fall gently forward.
However, you may find that while sitting on the floor without a back support, you slump your back and shoulders. It’s important to have a straight back, so we recommend sitting on a chair to begin with if you need that extra support. Experiment with both methods and find what works best for you.
Once seated, ensure that the spine is straight, the chin gently tucked in and the shoulders relaxed. Rest your hands comfortably and gently in your lap.
Close your eyes and become aware of your breathing. Your breaths should be light and easy, and gradually become longer in length.
Your breath is your guide during this meditation and it is what you come back to as an anchor for the busy mind.
Now move your focus to place your awareness on the lower belly. In Japanese practice this is known as the hara. Focus your mind intently there and breathe into this space. The belly should expand with each breath in and contract with each breath out. Each time you are distracted by thoughts (which will be constantly), this is the space you come back to.
As you concentrate on your breaths, the mind will dash about, the body will distract and surrounding noises will pester you. Don’t worry; this is normal. When you find yourself distracted, simply come back to the breath. How does it feel in the body? Are the breaths long and slow, or are they shortening naturally? Bring your awareness back to the hara and your attention back to the breath.
Repeat this practice once or twice a day for 15 minutes. Routine is very important and will ground your practice.
This is an extract fromHigh-Grade Living,out now. Text and images by Jacqui Lewis and Arran Russell with design by Arran Russell.
Songlines is the first in the First Knowledges series of six books that will give an in-depth understanding of Indigenous expertise in six areas. The second and third books on Design and Country will be published in 2021.
If Indigenous art forms such as song, story, dance and ceremony are so similar and so effective in cultures around the world, why aren’t we using them in contemporary Western education? Why can’t we all benefit from Indigenous techniques for learning and storing knowledge?
The answer is simple: we can. All Indigenous knowledge techniques reflect the way the human brain stores information – the way your brain stores information. So why not use these knowledge methods alongside the techniques you already have? You don’t have to give up writing or technology. You don’t have to give up anything to add to your toolbox of memory aids and learn from the knowledge technologies that Indigenous cultures have been perfecting for millennia.
It’s time to go beyond learning about Indigenous cultures and start learning from them. If you start incorporating some of the ideas in this book into your personal knowledge system, you will experience the power of Songlines.
WITHOUT MEMORY, THERE IS NO KNOWLEDGE
Almost all human knowledge is now available on the internet – you just have to search for it. So why bother memorising anything? This worrying question is asked far too often.
Firstly, you can’t look up something if you don’t know it exists.
Secondly, as you burrow down to specific information, you can’t connect it to the bigger picture. Creativity – the way to see things in new ways and construct new ideas – depends on being able to see and understand from different directions. If you don’t have various forms of knowledge in memory, how can you identify new patterns and ideas? All you are capable of doing is regurgitating the information that has already been neatly written and indexed for you.
Thirdly, how often do the knowledge keepers in every society have to make decisions based on what they know, without the time to go and look it up? How would you feel about a doctor who had to look up every symptom you mentioned? Or a policeman who had no idea what the law stated? Or a singer who knew none of the lyrics without an autocue?
Fourthly, if you want to go to the higher levels of thinking that we educators talk about endlessly in education – analyse and synthesise, hypothesise and theorise – then you have to analyse, synthesise, hypothesise or theorise about something. Otherwise, your new thinking is meaningless. By grounding your knowledge, literally, in Songlines, you have a firm knowledge base on which to build ever more complex layers of understanding.
And finally, your brain is a muscle. Like every other muscle in your body, it will slowly atrophy if you don’t use it. Looking up information and regurgitating it does not exercise your brain at all.
All knowledge is based on memory, and all memory is prompted by cues. One of the great gifts on offer to us from those who understand Songlines is how to set up those cues and push our memory just that much further to a capacity we have never experienced before.
Like the Songlines that never end, the promise of this book is to open you up to a new way of understanding and a new way of knowing and being Australian on this continent. As an Australian, you too share a kinship with the First Peoples. We are all beneficiaries of the deep history of this continent and its long human occupancy stretching back thousands of generations. Immerse yourself in this legacy. It is a shared history in a shared country.
Elders from the Songlines exhibition who are custodians of the Seven Sisters Songline are very clear about why all Australians need to know about the Songlines. As they say, if you want to share this country with us then you need to know your stories beyond the last couple of hundred years. If you want to truly belong to this country, as Australians, you have to know your story about this place, this continent and its creation: ‘We are here to teach you your stories, not just to share ours. Without the deep stories you can’t take root, you will only ever be a transplant.’
The elders are not talking about sharing their stories; they are talking about telling you your stories.
Understanding how the Songlines work as a framework for relating people to each other and to place will give you the key to belonging. Learning how to integrate the dual knowledge systems from the first and second Australians will give you access to a third archive and with it, power over knowledge.
Songlines divulge powerful lessons about what it means to be human and to live on this earth. They offer us the promise of connectivity to each other and our planet in a fragmenting world.
This is an edited extract fromSonglines: The Power and Promiseby Margo Neale & Lynne Kelly, available now. Series editor Margo Neale and cover design by Nada Backovic. Ebook also available.
Ballet great David McAllister’s memoir Soar: A Life Freed by Dance is filled with enchanting stories from his life on and off the stage. In this edited extract from the book, he shares one of his most memorable experiences as a dancer for The Australian Ballet, performing for Princess Diana in 1992.
In early 1992, The Australian Ballet was preparing to head to London for its thirtieth anniversary celebrations. The company travelled first to Italy, where we performed outdoors at the Nervi Festival, before heading to London for a season of Coppélia at the Coliseum theatre in the West End. There was some anxiety that a strike in France would prevent the sets and costumes from arriving in time, but mercifully they got there and the show could go on. Miranda Coney – a fellow principal whom I had known back in my Perth City Ballet days when we were children – and I were to dance the leads in Coppélia for the Royal Gala in front of Princess Diana. It was incredibly stressful. The dress rehearsal had been a disaster, I think in part because I couldn’t stop thinking about performing for the princess, a known ballet lover and one of the most stylish and beautiful people in the world. I was terrified of putting in a bad performance.
The next morning, with the show that night, I woke up vowing I was not going to be nervous but excited. I came to the theatre determined to enjoy myself hugely – it was the most effective way of dealing with my own expectations as well as those of the other dancers and the company’s management. If I can get through winning Bronze at the International Ballet Competition in Moscow, I told myself, and not for the first time, I can get through this. A security sweep through the theatre before the performance made us even more aware of our royal guest.
From the minute the curtain went up, it was one of the few shows in which I can honestly say I don’t think I put a foot wrong. The entire company was on fire that night. Everything just seemed to happen effortlessly; I even started taking a few risks with steps – and they paid off. Miranda was so much fun to dance with and I felt like we had a real connection – the whole performance was a joy and one of the best nights of my life.
At the end of the show, after the curtain calls, Princess Diana came up on stage and we were presented to her. She was absolutely radiant – a vision in a long peach and cream gown to her ankles, and so much more beautiful than even the best photographs of her. I was completely overwhelmed, and when she came to talk to us I was a tongue-tied mess. I can’t even remember what I said, but I doubt any of it made sense. I went back to the dressing room thinking I had just blown my special moment with the most famous woman on the planet. I knew some of us were being invited to a function after the performance, so I made a pact with myself that if I saw her there I wouldn’t gibber like an idiot; I would talk to her like a normal human being.
After we changed back into our civilian clothes, we were taken to St James’s Palace, where a few of us had been chosen to mix with British high society – including royalty. Miranda, artistic director Maina Gielgud and I were there along with some other dancers from The Australian Ballet, including Colin Peasley (who had performed as Dr Coppelius that night), Jayne Beddoe, Vicki Attard and Lisa Bolte. We all thought we would be at a table with Princess Diana, but it turned out she was on another table, with a seat next to her that was occupied by a revolving circuit of people throughout the night. I was on a table with some charming people from Chanel and was having a great time. Just before dessert, Lady Potter, one of our generous patrons and the host for the evening, came and asked me if I would like to have five minutes with the guest of honour. I was sitting next to the princess before Lady Potter could finish her sentence. As luck would have it, this was precisely as dessert was being served, which, according to protocol, meant I couldn’t be moved along until the plates had been cleared.
We had about fifteen minutes together while she grappled with her peach sorbet (that was actually served in the shape of a peach) – it was so frozen she asked for a knife to cut into it, and we both spent the next few minutes trying to hack into it, in vain. The princess immediately made me feel at ease, like we were old friends. We talked about her dancing, her favourite ballet (Romeo and Juliet), Chanel shoes and our performance, which thankfully she liked. It was all a little surreal. Who would have thought that a daggy little kid showing off on a septic tank in suburban Perth would one day have dessert with a princess?
This is an edited extract from Soar: A Life Freed by Dance, out now. Text by David McAllister and Amanda Dunn, cover image by Greg Barrett and cover design by Daniel New.
We are so lucky to be able to share with you a Spring menu plan curated by the ever so talented recipe creator Héloïse Brion. This collection of recipes is taken from her new book, Miss Maggie’s Kitchen, named after her widely loved food and lifestyle brand. Together, they form a delicious four course French feast that is sure to impress your next dinner party guests.
Wash the rhubarb and cut 500 g into small pieces, and the remaining 100 g into 4 large pieces for garnish. Place the small rhubarb pieces in a large saucepan with the sugar, water, and 3 rosemary sprigs. Heat until the sugar dissolves, then boil for 5 minutes to make a syrup. Remove from the heat and let infuse for 15 minutes.
Strain the syrup through a fine-mesh sieve and place 2 tablespoons of syrup in each of 4 glasses.
Top the syrup in each glass with the juice of ½ lemon and 3½ tbsp (50 ml) vodka.
Add 4–5 ice cubes and a splash of sparkling water per drink. Stir to combine.
Garnish with pieces of the remaining rosemary sprig and rhubarb before serving.
Makes about 30
Active Time 10 minutes
Chilling Time 1 hour
Cooking Time 15 minutes
1 stick plus 1tsp (120g) unsalted butter, well chilled and diced
1 3/4 cups (200g) shredded mature cheddar
1/2 cup (50g) grated Parmesan
1/2 tsp cayenne pepper
1 cup (130g) all-purpose flour
12 pecan halves
2 sprigs fresh rosemary
3 sprigs fresh thyme
Freshly ground black pepper
In a large bowl, combine the butter, cheeses, cayenne pepper, flour, and a pinch of kosher salt using your fingertips. When the dough comes together, shape it into a large ball.
Divide the dough in two and shape each half into a log with a diameter of 6–7 cm. Cover with plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for at least 1 hour.
Preheat the oven to 180°C/Gas Mark 4 and line a baking sheet with parchment paper. Cut the chilled dough logs into 0.5 cm slices and place on the baking sheet.
Top each slice with either a pecan half or a small sprig of rosemary or thyme, lightly pressing them into the dough, and bake for 15 minutes. While the shortbreads are still warm, sprinkle them with kosher salt and pepper. Let cool and serve.
Green Bean Salad with Hazelnuts and Parmesan
Active Time: 10 minutes
Cooking Time: 5 minutes
1 kg green beans
2 tsp whole grain mustard
2 tbsp balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp extra-virgin olive oil
2 tbsp hazelnut oil
1 shallot, thinly sliced
2 tbsp crushed toasted hazelnuts
2 handfuls arugula
1 handful shaved Parmesan
1 handful dried cranberries or blueberries
A few arugula or amaranth sprouts (optional)
Salt and freshly ground pepper
Blanch the green beans in generously salted water for 5 minutes.
Plunge the beans into a large bowl filled with ice water. After 1 minute, drain and dry the beans.
In the base of a large salad bowl, prepare the vinaigrette: Combine the mustard, vinegar, extra-virgin olive oil, and hazelnut oil, then season with salt and pepper.
Add the green beans, hazelnuts, shallot, and dried cranberries or blueberries to the salad bowl and toss with the vinaigrette.
Before serving, sprinkle the salad with the arugula, Parmesan, and amaranth sprouts if using.
Active Time: 20 minutes
Chilling Time: 30 minutes
Cooking Time: 45 minutes
1 quantity savory pastry dough with thyme (see recipe p. 25)
7 onions (a mix of yellow and red), thinly sliced 1 tbsp butter, plus more for greasing the pan 3 tbsp Dijon mustard
¾ cup (200 ml) heavy cream
2 pinches ground cumin
1 handful grated Gruyère cheese
Freshly ground pepper
Prepare the savory pastry dough with thyme leaves as indicated on page 25. Cover in plastic wrap and chill in the refrigerator for at least 30 minutes.
Meanwhile, place the onions in a large saucepan or Dutch oven with the butter, a generous pinch of salt, and a few grinds of pepper. Cook over medium-low heat, stirring often, until the onions are tender and translucent.
Preheat the oven to 180°C/Gas Mark 4 and grease a 28-cm tart pan or dish with butter. Roll the dough into an approximately 32-cm round. Ease the dough into the pan, gently pressing it into the sides. Trim any excess dough, prick the base with a fork, and pre-bake for 10 minutes.
Remove the crust from the oven and spread the mustard over the base in a thin layer. Distribute two-thirds of the onions evenly over the mustard.
In a bowl, beat the eggs, then whisk in the cream and cumin. Season with salt and pepper. Pour over the onions in the tart crust and sprinkle with the grated Gruyère. Scatter the remaining onions over the top and bake for 35–40 minutes, until the filling is set and the crust is golden.
Franou’s Lemon Pie
Active Time 20 minutes
Chilling Time 2 hours
Cooking Time 35 minutes
FOR THE PASTRY DOUGH
1 egg yolk
½ cup (100 g) granulated or superfine sugar
3½ tbsp (50 ml) water or milk
2 cups (250 g) all-purpose flour 1 pinch salt
1 stick plus 2 tsp (125 g) unsalted butter, well chilled and diced, plus more for greasing the pan
Generous ½ cup (80 g) toasted pine nuts
FOR THE LEMON CURD FILLING
2 large lemons, preferably organic
1 stick plus 2 tbsp (5 oz./150 g) unsalted butter
⅔ cup (4½ oz./130 g) granulated or superfine sugar
3 small eggs
To prepare the pastry dough, whisk together the egg yolk and sugar in a bowl, then whisk in the milk. Combine the flour and salt in a large bowl. Add the butter and rub it into the flour with your fingertips until coarse crumbs form. Work in the egg-sugar mixture, followed by the pine nuts, until the dough just comes together in a ball. Shape into a round, flatten the top, cover with plastic wrap, and let rest in the refrigerator for 30 minutes.
Preheat the oven to 180°C/Gas Mark 4 and grease a 28-cm tart pan or dish with butter. Roll the dough into an approximately 33-cm round. Ease the dough into the pan, gently pressing it into the sides. Trim any excess dough, prick the base with a fork, and bake for 25 minutes, until golden. Remove from the oven and set aside.
To prepare the lemon curd filling, remove the zest from 1 of the lemons in strips, using a vegetable peeler; juice both lemons and set the juice aside. Bring a saucepan of water to the boil, add the zest, and blanch zest for 5 minutes. Drain the zest and return it to the saucepan. Add the butter and cook over low heat until the butter melts. Strain through a fine-mesh sieve into a bowl.
Meanwhile, in another bowl, whisk the sugar and eggs together. Whisk in the lemon juice, followed by the melted butter. Pour into the saucepan and set over low heat. Cook, stirring constantly with a wooden spoon, until the mixture coats the back of the spoon and has slightly thickened; this could take up to 8–10 minutes. Do not let the mixture boil or it may split. Remove from the heat and let cool for about 10 minutes. Cover and chill in the refrigerator for 1½ hours. Spoon the chilled filling into the baked crust, smooth over the top, and serve.
This is an edited extract from Miss Maggie’s Kitchen, out now. Text by Héloïse Brion with photography by Christophe Roué. Originally published by Flammarion.
The Secret Life of Stars is a fun and accessible introduction to the many remarkable personalities in our galactic family. From renowned astrophysicist and Australia’s first Women in STEM Ambassador Lisa Harvey-Smith, the book guides you through the most extreme and confounding members of the Galaxy’s vast, varied and really quite weird stellar brood.
In this extract from the book, Lisa delves into the strange and fascinating existence of dwarf stars.
Stars appear in a vast range of sizes, with most being smaller and cooler than the Sun. The smallest burn their hydrogen more slowly and therefore have much lower temperatures. You can tell a lot about a star from its colour. Hotter stars give off more blue light, and cooler stars tend to the red. It’s similar to how hot gas-cooking flames are blue, whereas cooler candle flames are red. Counterintuitive, huh?
By looking in great detail at the colours of stars, we can tell precisely how hot they are, what chemicals they contain, and how old they are. We can even predict their future as they go through the ageing process.
Before we go on, I should fess up that the names of star categories make no logical sense whatsoever. From the coolest to the hottest stars we call them M, K, G, F, A, B and O, with numbered subcategories from 0 to 9. Uh-huh …
There are also subcategories for luminosity (how much light a star puts out) from 0 through to VII, in Roman numerals, just to be fancy.
Adding to the confusion, all small and average-sized stars are called ‘dwarf stars’. Only the very rare and very large stars are called ‘giants’ or ‘supergiants’. There are no ‘regular’ stars.
At this point I’d like to apologise on behalf of astronomers everywhere for this ridiculous situation – astronomy is littered with strange historical naming schemes. But there we have it.
Our Sun is a G2V star, somewhere in the middle of the jumbled alphabet soup of stars. B and O stars, at the top end of the scale, are humongous, gluttonous giants that explode in a shower of sparks when they come to the end of their life. In contrast, M and K stars are cool and steady types who live long and interesting lives. From now on, we will call these M and K stars ‘red dwarfs’.
Red dwarfs have only about a tenth to one half the mass of the Sun, and are only half as hot. They are smaller in physical size, too, and decidedly dimmer (although not lacking in intelligence). These stars are capable of great feats of physics – they still burn hydrogen into helium to produce vast amounts of energy in their core – but because they are smaller, there are far fewer nuclear reactions and their output is decidedly more puny.
Red dwarfs are the most common type of star in the Milky Way, with the faintest M-dwarfs making up more than 70 per cent of stars in our universe. Despite that, we never see them. I mean that literally. We don’t see any of them. At all. Ever. We didn’t even know that red dwarfs existed before the invention of the telescope, because they are too faint to see with the naked eye. Imagine that! Every star you can see is part of the 30 per cent minority.
As slow burners, these stars live extremely long and varied lives. Not only does their reduced rate of nuclear fusion extend their life, but also their enhanced internal mixing causes fresh hydrogen fuel from the outskirts of the star to be transported to the engine in the middle. As such, we predict that red dwarfs can live in excess of a trillion years.
As adolescents they can be active and sparky. In this gregarious stage of their lives they are often characterised as ‘flare’ stars. Rather than being a regrettable 1970s fashion statement, this moniker actually describes a stage of intense variability in the life of lower-mass stars where they quickly erupt – explode, even – for a few minutes before relaxing back to their regular demeanour as if nothing had happened. Flares from young red dwarfs are 100 to 1000 times more energetic than when the stars are older. As red dwarfs age, they cease this nonsense and increasingly potter their way through life, with age slowly ripening and changing their character.
Stars of all sizes form when gravity pulls together materials in interstellar clouds of gas. Red dwarfs are the littlest stars, just slightly larger than Jupiter, and are the smallest member in the official category of stars. But there are also some almost-rans, plucky hopefuls who tried but just missed the cut-off for full stardom. These battlers, called brown dwarfs, live out quite different lives to other stars.
With core temperatures of below 3 million degrees Celsius, brown dwarfs are simply not big or hot enough to turn hydrogen into helium via nuclear fusion. They can, however, manage other nuclear fusion reactions involving chemicals called deuterium and lithium. These reactions don’t generate as much heat as hydrogen fusion, so the surface temperatures of brown dwarfs are generally below 800 degrees. They emit almost no visible light: if you looked at one close up, you might just see a dim purple-ish glow.
Brown dwarfs weren’t discovered until 1995, because the only way to find them is to use infra-red detectors. Once astronomers built a telescope powerful enough to see them, we could finally make out their slight warmth in the icy cold of space.
The Secret Life of Stars is out now. Text by Lisa-Harvey Smith, illustrations by Eirian Chapman and cover design by Philip Campbell Design.
If anyone knows a thing or two about jam, it’s Jessica Koslow. After the success of her first book Everything I Want to Eat, the owner of beloved LA restaurant Sqirl is back with The Sqirl Jam Book. This home cook-friendly book features a collection of Koslow’s signature recipes for jams, jellies and preserves. Think fig jam with red wine, roasted honey apple butter and yuzu marmalade with honey. Not sure where to start? Give this delightful blueberry-rhubarb jam a go.
Blueberry-rhubarb is the first berry jam that we made at Sqirl after marmalade season, a riff on a Southern classic. An iconic jam for me because it’s what Sqirl’s all about — taking a classic and turning it on its head.
1,000 g rhubarb
1,000 g blueberries
1,200 g (6 cups) sugar (60% of the weight of blueberries plus rhubarb)
40 g (2 Tbsp plus 2 tsp) lemon juice (2% of the weight of blueberries plus rhubarb)
Prepare your plate test by putting a few saucers in the freezer.
Cut the rhubarb into 6 mm slices; they should all be about the same size for even cooking. Set aside.
Put the blueberries in a blender and puree until smooth: Start with a little bit of the blueberries and blend on low speed as you add the rest of the berries and increase the speed.
If you have more or less than 2,000 g rhubarb and blueberries (we use 50% rhubarb and 50% blueberries), you can figure out how much sugar and lemon juice you will need by using the following formula:
Grams of rhubarb plus blueberries × 0.60 = grams of sugar
Grams of rhubarb plus blueberries × 0.02 = grams of lemon juice
Combine the blueberry puree, rhubarb, sugar, and lemon juice in a jamming pot. Cook the mixture over high heat, stirring frequently. When the rhubarb is softened, about 14 minutes, reduce the heat to low. Use a potato masher or wooden spoon to smash it; you’re going to be stirring a lot because the fruit needs to disintegrate, release liquid, and eventually melt into the blueberry puree. (It won’t fully break down — it’s okay to have some chunks.)
Turn the heat back up to high and cook for 4 minutes, stirring. Use a spider or fine-mesh skimmer to skim off any scum. Dip the spider into a bowl of water and shake off any excess to clean between skims.
Reduce the heat to low, then smash the rhubarb again with a potato masher for a minute. Turn the heat back up to high and continue to cook, stirring and skimming as necessary, for another couple of minutes, until the jam is thickened, the texture is homogenous, and the temperature reaches 101°C, about 25 minutes total. Perform a plate test.
Spoon a little of the jam onto a frozen saucer. Put the plate back in the freezer for 1 minute, then slide a finger through the jam. It’s done when it parts and you see a strip of clean saucer. If it isn’t set, return the pot to the heat, stir constantly, and test again after 1 to 2 minutes.
This is an edited extract from The Sqirl Jam Book, out now. Text by Jessica Koslow with photography and design by Scott Barry. Published by Abrams Books.
As a child, I only ever tasted cooked supermarket beetroot. It was always a bit soggy and sour, and made all that touched it bright pink. Suffice to say, it was not my favourite. But as a grown-up vegetable fancier, I find my love for beetroot is constantly expanding. I’ve come to appreciate its earthy sweetness, and I adore the colours and tastes of the more unusual varieties, such as ‘Choggia’, with its concentric circles of magenta and white, or golden beetroot, which is a bright, warm yellow in appearance and flavour. You can also eat the highly nutritious leaves, although take only a few at a time or your beetroot plant will stop growing.
Timing You can sow beetroot seeds indoors from early spring, plant them out 4–6 weeks later and harvest by early summer. Sow seeds every few weeks if you have the space, for a regular supply. Seeds sown in mid summer will yield roots that can be kept into winter, as long as they’re harvested and stored before the first frost.
Getting started Beetroot seeds benefit from being soaked before sowing so put your seeds in a glass of water for 24 hours. Plant a couple of seeds in each module, as they grow well in a little group. Each seed is actually a cluster of seeds with the potential to produce a few germinated seedlings, so thin the bunch down to four or five strong plants while they’re still small. You can also sow directly into the final container. If you’ve used modules, transplant the seedlings while they’ve got two sets of leaves per plant: they won’t appreciate being moved once they’re bigger.
Container Beetroot doesn’t need a huge container, and you can plant one cluster of seedlings in a 5-litre pot with a diameter of 22cm. If you grow the plants close together, you will still get a harvest but the roots will be on the small side.
Water It’s important not to let your beetroot plants dry out or their roots will become woody, so be generous when you water, especially in hot, dry weather.
Light Beetroot grows best in a sunny position, but it can tolerate some shade as long as it has had a strong start in life, with adequate light.
Feeding Beetroots are vigorous growers and will benefit from feeding when grown in pots. A fortnightly feed of liquid seaweed or comfrey will support the plants to grow and roots to develop.
Your first beetroot harvest can arrive as early as two months after sowing, when the root is the size of a golf ball. At this stage you can also harvest the leaves and cook them as you would spinach. These early harvests will be the sweetest and most tender. Gently twist off the largest roots and leave the remaining ones to keep growing, harvesting them as you want to eat them. Just don’t let them get much larger than a tennis ball, or they’ll be tough and less delicious.
Humanity has reached a pivotal point in time. Human Nature brings together twelve of the world’s most influential photographers to show us why. With compassion and empathy, their extraordinary images and the stories behind them help us to understand what matters now for humanity and the planet.
Get to know the different photographers featured, some of their work from the book and their views on the Age of Anthropocene.
Brian Skerry is a photojournalist with a focus on underwater environments and marine wildlife and is a lecturer on exploration, photography and conservation. His work has been featured in many publications and he has produced over twenty-five stories for National Geographic magazine.
‘The decisions that we make today are going to determine the future of this planet, and the future of our species. It’s a time for truth; it’s a time for science and storytelling and journalism to work together collaboratively. The stakes have never been quite so high.’
Hailing from the Netherlands, Frans Lanting is a renowned photographer and naturalist whose work has frequently appeared in National Geographic, where he served as a photographer-in-residence.
‘Nature can help us overcome the effects of climate change in a much more effective way than anything else. If we invest in nature, in protecting nature as habitats, as forests, as lungs of the planet, then we can save species that are dependent on those habitats.’
J Henry Fair
Based in New York City and Berlin, J Henry Fair creates imagery and media to explain the science of complex environmental issues.
‘What we see in these pictures are the hidden costs of mining; the detritus from the production processes that make the things that we buy every day, whether it’s electricity, bread or the soda cans we throw away on the street. We are complicit, but it’s a complicity of ignorance.’
Paul Nicklen is a Canadian photographer and marine biologist specialising in the polar regions and their wildlife.
‘Change is happening. A little too late and too slowly, but it is happening and that’s what gives me hope. We know that there’s no other option but to fight for this and I think we are going to win. There is hope everywhere around us.’
Cristina Mittermeier is a marine biologist and activist who pioneered the concept and field of conservation photography, founding the International League of Conservation Photographers in 2005 to provide a platform for photographers working on environmental issues.
‘This lack of commitment to community, this lack of care for the other, is absolutely at the heart of the environmental issues we are confronted with. Inequality and climate change are the two biggest issues that we’re facing.’
Brent Stirton is a South African photographer and a senior staff photographer for Reportage by Getty Images, specialising in documentary work covering global topics including health, the environment and conflict.
‘It’s almost suicidal in terms of our civilisation’s thinking on these issues, but a lot of that’s because people are simply in the process of surviving, feeding their families. Conservation is almost considered a luxury, when it should be a necessity.’
Ami Vitale is a photographer, filmmaker, writer and explorer who tells stories about our fragile relationship with the natural world.
‘We all have the capacity to get engaged and use our voices to make a difference. The messenger matters just as much as the message itself. Each of us can be a powerful voice when speaking to the people in our lives.’
Steve Winter has been a photographer for National Geographic for over two decades. He specialises in wildlife and particularly big cats.
‘If we can save the ecosystems and these animals’ habitats, we can help save ourselves. That’s my mantra: if we can save big cats, we can help save ourselves. We don’t have a choice; we either save the planet or we perish.’
Tim Laman is a field biologist, wildlife photographer and filmmaker.
‘It’s hugely important for climate change that forest stays as forest – all that carbon that’s in there – and the birds of paradise are flagship species that can focus people’s attention on conserving New Guinea’s forests.’
A regular contributor to National Geographic magazine, George Steinmetz’s work has examined subjects ranging from global oil exploration and the latest advances in robotics, to the innermost stretches of the Sahara and the little-known tree house people of Papua, Indonesia.
‘Over the years, my work has turned me into an accidental environmentalist. I never set out to be an advocate for our planet, but I think that if people know more about an issue, they can make choices that will lead to solutions. Our individual choices add up.’
Richard John Seymour
British photographer, designer and filmmaker Richard John Seymour uses photography and film to explore the connections between cities, economies and landscapes in an effort to draw attention to the political, environmental and social issues that stem from human-made environments.
‘In the last fifteen years we’ve produced half of the plastic ever made and in the last twenty-five years we’ve emitted half of the CO2 ever emitted in the history of humanity. Since we’ve had the information that we’ve needed to change our habits, we’ve massively done the opposite.’
Joel Sartore is an award-winning photographer, speaker, author, conservationist and the 2018 National Geographic Explorer of the Year.
‘Human beings are the ones that hold earth’s fate in our hands. We really do need to pay attention and look these animals in the eye. Hopefully then people will decide whether or not the future of life on earth is worth it.’
Intoxicating is award-winning journalist Max Allen’s personal journey through Australia’s colourful and complex drinking history, glass in hand. In the book, Max uncovers ten of Australia’s most famous – and most surprising – drinks, sharing anecdotes about each.
In this edited extract, Max discusses his first forays into cider and home distillation, from the chapter ‘Peach Cyder’.
I was born and spent the first few years of my life in Bristol, in the heart of England’s West Country, epicentre of traditional cider production. As a teenager living in London, some of my first experiences of alcohol came in the form of big plastic bottles of cheap Woodpecker Medium Dry cider bought underage at the local off-licence. Then, travelling around the West Country in the late 1980s, I discovered the real thing: farmhouse scrumpy, stuff of legend.
The revelation came in a crumbling 16th-century pub called the Three Tuns in Hay-on-Wye, a little town famous for its bookshops and literary festival, just over the Welsh border from Herefordshire. Saggy wooden benches by the smoke-blackened inglenook, an ancient shillings-and-pence slot machine in one corner, and an even older landlady tending the tiny bar.
When I asked for cider, instead of reaching for the hand pump on the bar or a bottle from the fridge, she rummaged around in the gloom and hauled out a plastic gallon container of cloudy golden liquid. This was scrumpy, made by a local farmer using nothing but freshly pressed apple juice and wild yeasts and time.
‘Be careful,’ she warned, as she poured out a pint. And she was right: with its huge, sharp aromas of pulpy windfall fruit and its furry taste of tough, brown apple cores strewn across a barnyard, this was a deeply challenging explosion of agricultural flavour. I think it might also have had mild hallucinogenic properties. I was hooked.
I first made cider in my backyard in Melbourne in 2011. I’d found a small orchard full of old apple varieties just a few blocks from my house, in the grounds of Rippon Lea, the National Trust–owned Melbourne mansion built by merchant and politician Frederick Sargood in 1868. Like many grand estates established on the outskirts of Australia’s emerging capital cities in the late 19th century, Rippon Lea was originally surrounded by farmland. Much of that country is now covered in suburban houses, schools, cinemas and the ABC’s old Gordon Street studios where my mum worked with my wife’s parents in the 1960s. But in the 1980s, one corner of the estate near the original 1860s stables was converted to an orchard that now boasts over 130 varieties of heritage apples and pears, including Golden Pippin and the classic cider variety Kingston Black.
I’d heard that the gardeners at Rippon Lea had harvested enough fruit to make cider by netting some of the trees to stop the local flocks of lorikeets munching the crop. So I contacted the head gardener and asked if I could gather enough of what was left over – those few apples still clinging unscathed to higher branches, the unbruised windfalls lurking in the grass below – to make a demijohn of cider myself.
Not owning any cider-making equipment at that time, I crushed the apples in the most rudimentary way by bashing them to a pulp with a block of wood in a bucket. Then I borrowed a winemaker friend’s old basket press, wrapped the apple pulp up in parcels of shade cloth, put them in the press, slowly squeezed them and filled a glass demijohn with golden-brown sticky syrupy juice.
At this stage, according to all the modern cider-making manuals I’d read, I should have added some safe, reliable cultured yeast from a packet. Instead, I did nothing. I walked away and waited for nature to take its course. I wanted to do what the farmer who made that scrumpy in Hay-on-Wye had done and just let the wild yeasts on the apple skins and flesh and stalks and pips, in the air, on the press, do what yeasts do naturally: turn sugar into alcohol.
Nothing happened at first. The juice just sat there. But then, after a few hours, up from the depths of the murk emerged tiny pinprick bubbles of carbon dioxide: a definite sign of microbial activity. Fermentation had started. The wild yeasts were getting to work.
As I watched those little bubbles slowly rise, I felt another strange and profound feeling of connection with the generations of people before me who have marvelled at this seemingly miraculous process. And not just the cider makers: the winemakers and brewers, all those innumerable human beings who, for thousands of years, long before scientists identified yeasts and bacteria as the living organisms responsible for fermentation, have simply trusted in the mystery to produce a delicious drink.
I’ve made my own cider each autumn almost every year since that first fermentation epiphany. I’ve bought my own small-scale cider-making equipment. I’ve crawled around on my hands and knees in the mud and damp grass under apple trees foraging for windfalls in the Goulburn Valley. I’ve scrambled over gates and fences to reach fat ripe apples on wild roadside trees in Coonawarra. I’ve made friends with orchardists on the Mornington Peninsula who have old heritage varieties: proper cider apples like Kingston Black, almost-forgotten English apples like Sturmer Pippin, unfashionable Australian apples like Sundowner.
Each year I’ve brought my motley harvest back home and dragged my crusher and press out of the garage and invited friends and family, reluctant teenagers and eager neighbours, to help me make cider. And after the crushing and pressing, we’ve all sat down for a meal and opened bottles of last year’s batch and celebrated the season.
I now take bottles of my cider with me when I travel, to share with friends or to pour for winemakers or brewers or other, professional cidermakers. Sometimes people even say they like it, which makes me feel proud – and connected, as though the annual autumn West Country rituals are echoing in my own creaking basket press.
Intoxicating is out now. Text by Max Allen and cover design by Josh Durham.
Landscapes of Our Hearts is an epic exploration of our relationship with this country. From distinguished research scientist and award-winning writer Matthew Colloff, the book asks the question: ‘If we look afresh at our history through the land we live on, might Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians find a path to a shared future?’
In this extract, Colloff discusses the importance of responsibility in the pursuit of belonging for Indigenous and non-Indigenous Australians.
Most Australians have connections with more than one place, whether they are Indigenous people or descended from 19th-century European settler-colonists or more recent migrants, refugees and asylum-seekers. We value and maintain our cultural identity. For many Australians, the expression of culture singles them out as ‘different’ from other Australians and creates the tension between integration into ‘the Australian way of life’ and the multicultural plurality of modern Australian society. For example, the children of Greek migrants who refused to go with their parents and older relatives to large group barbecues and picnics in parks because they regarded such an event as ‘woggy’; in other words, it represented their involvement in a cultural activity that would identify them as migrants to other Australians.1
But there is no contradiction between citizenship and cultural diversity. Attempts by politicians and populists to construct and promulgate ‘a national identity’ have tended to be unsuccessful. Sociologist Robert Van Krieken writes, ‘Political and cultural citizenship do not necessarily coincide – it is possible to be defined legally as a citizen, but still remain an outsider, with the rules governing the transition from one category to the other remaining obscure and elusive.’2 I would argue that the process of transition from one to the other often begins with developing a connection with this land and the process of place-making.
Are we all strangers in our own land, trying to make a home wherever we find ourselves? For Australians of Anglo-Celtic descent whose families have been here for several generations, they may have been born in one place, grown up in another and live as adults somewhere else again. For many Indigenous Australians, their ancestors may have been forcibly removed from their lands, their grandparents or great-grandparents raised on a mission or an Aboriginal reserve many hundreds of kilometres away, and their parents may have moved from place to place to find work, as Stan Grant’s parents did, all the while trying to stay in contact with the diaspora of their kin.
For many of us migrants, the idea of referring to Australia as my country carries with it a deeply felt sense of ambivalence. This tension emerges not only from the cultural connections with the countries of our birth but also an unease about whether we have such a right, considering this land was taken by invasion and dispossession of its Indigenous peoples during the one hundred and forty years of the Frontier Wars. As Henry Reynolds wrote: ‘It was only by forgetting that white Australia was able to overlook the violent foundation of the nation.’3
Historian Peter Read sums up the tension as follows: ‘how can we non-Indigenous Australians justify our continuous presence and our love for this country while the Indigenous people remain dispossessed and their history unacknowledged?’4 Some of us make our place and feel a strong sense of belonging accordingly. We feel we have a right to belong. Others of us feel no such right. Australia always was and always will be Aboriginal land. Belonging is a deeply personal journey, travelled by multiple routes. There was nothing in the citizenship interview and examination that I took in 1996 on how to go about the process of belonging. The only mention in official documentation on citizenship is the statement that volunteering can be a great way of increasing one’s sense of belonging to the Australian community and that, ‘You can walk the desert or the shore, the mountains or the rainforests. Every step you take is a step closer to belonging to this vast and vibrant land.’5 Indeed. A route to belonging through volunteerism and tourism. Were it that easy.
For some, claiming continuity with Indigenous people and the environment as part of our non-Indigenous heritage is a means of achieving a sense of belonging. In an interview with Peter Read, environmental historian Tom Griffiths stated: ‘Aborigines and environment: these are the two great historical revolutions of our generation. Writing both into Australian history allows you to reach back beyond the moment of invasion and draw you into deep time as part of our own inheritance. We should discover the continuities.’6
Griffiths’ perspective echoes the need to reconcile a sense of attachment to place with the history of environmental and cultural change. With this need comes a set of responsibilities to ‘a vision of a morally and environmentally integrated Australia’, in which the relationship between humans and the environment is one in which people ‘share its past and provide for its future’. Yet can non-Indigenous Australians legitimately claim to belong to deep time while Indigenous Australians remain dispossessed and governments continually seek to obstruct practical processes of reconciliation?7
Perhaps one way for non-Indigenous Australians to think constructively about these vexed issues is not just to focus on assumptions about rights of belonging, but on their responsibilities. Simply put, if our sense of belonging is to be gained through a continuity with deep time history, then we have an equal responsibility to Indigenous Australians, ourselves and our shared environment to do what we can to achieve reconciliation. We might start by considering and adopting elements of the ancient environmental knowledge, values and rules of Indigenous Australians that they observe and we do not. Perhaps this might form a basis to begin to shape our common future in more sustainable ways.8
If there can be no lasting or legitimate sense of belonging without a sense of responsibility to the land and each other, then here’s the challenge, as articulated by Tom Griffiths: ‘If all Australians are to rejoice in the deep past, then we must ask the non-Aboriginals to share responsibility for its mistakes. If all Australians are to rejoice in the deep future, then we must ask the Aboriginals to share in its responsibility.’ Idealistic and difficult this may seem in practice, but the alternative is worse; a business-as-usual continuation of what we have already done: ‘the mere expropriation of past and future’.9 If we can acknowledge the past, reconcile the present and nurture the future, then perhaps all Australians, one day, may truly find a place we can call home.
1 Denis Byrne, Heather Goodall & Allison Cadzow, Place-Making in National Parks: Ways That Australians of Arabic and Vietnamese Background Perceive and Use the Parklands along the Georges River, NSW, University of Technology Sydney and Office of Environment and Heritage, Sydney, 2013, p. 17.
2 Robert Van Krieken, ‘Between Assimilation and Multiculturalism: Models of Integration in Australia’, Patterns of Prejudice, vol. 46, no. 5, 2012, pp. 500–17.
3 Henry Reynolds, Forgotten War, UNSW Press, Sydney, 2013.
4 Peter Read, Belonging: Australians, Place and Aboriginal Ownership, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge, 2000, p. 1.
5 Department of Home Affairs, Australian Citizenship: Our Common Bond, Communication and Engagement Branch, Department of Home Affairs, Canberra, 2018, pp. 17, 41.
6 Read, p. 178.
7 Read, p. 181.
8 Tyson Yunkaporta, Sand Talk: How Indigenous Thinking Can Change the World, Text Publishing, Melbourne, 2019; ‘Can Indigenous Thinking Save the World?’ Late Night Live, Radio National, 16 September 2019.
9 Read, p. 183.
Landscapes of Our Heartsis available now. Text by Matthew Colloff, cover photography by Louise Denton Photography, and cover design by Alissa Dinallo.
From one of the world’s most respected paint-makers, David Coles, Chromatopia reveals the stories behind fifty striking pigments. In this extract, Coles discusses the extraordinary process through which paint is made.
This book has looked at the origins of historical and contemporary pigments, but pigments are hardly ever used in their raw form. To be usefully employed as a colour, billions of individual grains of pigment must be glued together with a binder. This is, in essence, how you make paint.
Throughout history, people have found ways to permanently ‘fix’ colour to create lasting images of the most exquisite beauty. For instance, the binding of pigments in Neolithic cave paintings was probably serendipitous; cave walls containing silicas or limestone trapped the pigment and locked it to the surface over time. Since then, we have discovered a host of sticky, adhesive materials in nature that could hold pigments in place. Some of these earliest binders are still used by artists. Gum arabic, the water-soluble sap of the North African acacia tree, makes watercolours; and beeswax, collected and refined from hives, makes encaustic (molten wax) paint.
Mixing pigments with different binders successfully converts them into a material for uses as diverse as house paints, plastics, writing inks, automotive coatings, paper and – of most interest to me – artists’ paint.
In my role as a master paint-maker, I make oil paint, which are by dispersing pigments in a ‘drying oil’ such as linseed, walnut, poppy or safflower oils. Linseed oil is by far the most important and widely used drying oil. When drying oils absorb oxygen they convert from a liquid into a hard, permanent coating. Pigments can be bound with very small amounts of oil. This means that oil paints contain much higher amounts of the pigment than watercolour or acrylic paints. For artists, this gives the paint a physical feeling. The paintbrush is literally pushing around dense, coloured pastes.
So how do we make our paint? Our first task was to source a high-quality linseed oil. We selected ours after sampling dozens of products from suppliers all over the world. We were looking for a clean, straw-coloured oil that was free of natural impurities. It had to have a good drying rate and minimal yellowing as it aged. Eventually we chose exceptional bright, clear oils made in Holland and Germany.
Next comes the selection of the pigments. There are so many manufacturers of pigments that the choice seems overwhelming. We hunt out pigments that have qualities equal to their noble intended use: they must be as lightfast as possible, chemically stable and exhibit colour qualities of benefit to the artist. The vast majority of pigments do not meet our needs. They are built for larger, more commercially important industries and have been tailored for industrial applications.
To select our pigments, we go through a long period of investigation. We select colours of interest, research the chemical construction of the pigment, and assess its suitability for artists’ paint before requesting samples for laboratory trials. The anticipation of opening a sample box and seeing a new pigment for the first time, in its raw unadulterated form, is exhilarating. There is always the nervous hope that the promise held out by this new pigment will be borne out, that its potency will not dull, and that its colour will not be lost when it is mixed with the binder. Backwards and forwards go the experiments – working out the right amount of pigment to add to the oil and correcting for undesirable qualities. Like a chef honing a new dish, small, delicate changes in the recipe can lead to dramatic differences in the finished product.
When we are ready to make the paint, the linseed oil is weighed out into 60-litre heavy-duty stainless-steel bowls. All of our manufacturing equipment and surfaces are stainless steel. The equipment is kept meticulously clean to prevent any chance of other colours contaminating the purity of each new batch.
Stearate, a wax-like material that is essential to the wetting and stability of the paint, is weighed and added to the oil. The bowl is secured in a planetary mixer and large, powerful motors slowly rotate the blade through the wax and oil mixture.
Next, another steel bowl is placed on the electronic scales, ready for the pigment. Even after all these years, opening the bins of pure pigment is a ridiculously breathtaking assault on the eyes. The pigment is scooped out, weighed and added slowly to the oil. There are no short cuts. Adding all the pigment at once would make incorporation impossible. The liquid oil allows the individual grains of colour to slide over each other. The physical shape of pigments means that, without this lubrication, they would drag over each other, causing extraordinary resistance, reducing the mixing action and – as happened once very early on – breaking the very expensive blade of the mixer.
The slow churning of the paste begins. Over the rumbling of the mixer’s motor, you can hear delicious slurping noises as the blade methodically drives through the mixture. As the dry pigment is gradually incorporated with the wet oil, it changes from an incredibly thick batter into what looks like an enormous vat of vividly coloured butter.
This process can take as long as four hours, but it is not the finished paint. Under close inspection, vast quantities of the pigments still cling together rather than being individually coated. This is where the triple-roll mill comes in.
A triple-roll mill is at the heart of paint-making. At its most basic, it is three horizontal granite rollers that each run at different speeds and spin in alternating directions. The paste is scraped out of the mixer’s bowl with a baker’s blade and dropped into the hopper. Each giant dollop makes a delicious slap as it plops onto the rollers below. The paste is drawn down into the tiny space between the rollers, again and again. With each pass, the space is narrowed to more aggressively separate the pigment particles. If you have ever used a pasta-making machine with its two rollers forcing the dough through the small space between them you can understand the paint-making process. Just as the roughly made dough cannot pass through the narrowest setting first, so the pigment-paste must be passed through the mill rollers multiple times. It’s just that our mill is like a pasta-machine on steroids, with three rollers rather than two and a massive motor to drive the material through. For soft pigments such as zinc white only three passes are needed, but the synthetics can take up to nine passes. Synthetic pigments are very difficult to prize apart: their incredibly small size and specific shape mean they have to be painstakingly teased into dispersion.
The paint-maker must be constantly attentive to the vagaries of milling. Rollers heat up under the friction of pigment particles, which alters the size of the roller gap, and the fluidity of the oil is affected by changes in ambient temperature. Also, pigments behave differently from one batch to another. This is especially true of the natural earths, which vary in their mineral make-up depending on the part of the seam the earth was dug from.
Towards the end of the paint-making process, we take samples of the paint and test it for quality. Historically, paint-makers would rub the paint between their thumbnails – a simple but surprisingly delicate solution to feel for the grittiness of unmixed pigment. Nowadays we use a precisely honed stainless-steel gauge to check the quality of dispersion.
But we are still not ready to sign off on the product. Two extremely thin films of the freshly made paint are applied to paint-maker’s cards. One daub is the pure paint. The other is the paint mixed with a specified amount of titanium white. By placing the card next to one from a previous batch of the same colour, we can ensure that every time we make the paint it has identical colour, tinting strength, tint colour and undertone to all previous versions.
Only after the paint has passed these tests is it approved for packing. It is hand-filled into collapsible aluminium paint tubes, labelled with hand-painted swatches of the individual colour, boxed and shipped to studios around the world.
Chromatopia is available now. Text by David Coles, photography by Adrian Lander, and cover design by Evi. O Studio.
There’s no better time to settle in to the ultimate, feel-good luxury of making homemade bread, and this Speckled Beetroot Sourdough is worth settling in to.
Whilst all the recipes in How to Raise a Loaf are suitable for beginners, this recipe should be attempted once you’ve already made your first basic loaf. The recipe for a basic loaf, as well as kneading and folding tutorials, are all included in How to Raise a Loaf. You’ll also find a step-by-step guide to making and using your starter. Head over to Laurence King’s Instagram story here to watch how we make our starter.
Speckled Beetroot Sourdough
With a distinctive appearance and earthy aroma, this is a real show-stopper, and a perfect, hearty accompaniment to winter soups or stews. Beetroots are a rich source of antioxidants, and also give the dough an unforgettable pink colour, which fades in the oven, leaving speckles in a classic open crumb.
· 200g starter · 10ml (2 tsp) olive oil · 180ml warm water · 340g strong white bread flour · 7.5g (1½ tsp) fine salt · 150g fresh beetroot, peeled and coarsely grated · rice flour or semolina, for dusting
1. In a large mixing bowl, whisk the starter, olive oil and warm water together until the starter has dissolved.
2. In another bowl, mix the flour with the salt. Add this to the wet mixture and mix well with your hand, then add the grated beetroot and mix until the beetroot is evenly distributed. Cover the bowl with a tea towel and leave to rest for 30 minutes.
3. Wet your hands, then pull, fold and rotate the dough 8—10 times, so that it forms a ball. Leave to rest for 10 minutes.
4. Repeat Step 3 twice so that you’ve worked the dough three times and it has rested for a hour in total.
5. Dust a proving basket liberally with rice flour or semolina. Wet your fingers, work them around the bottom of the ball of dough and gently transfer it to the proving basket, keeping the seam upwards.
6. Cover with a tea towel and leave in a warm place to prove. Depending on the temperature and the activity of the yeast, it may take three to six hours to gain about 50 per cent in size.
7. When the loaf has proved, preheat the oven to 230°C (210°C fan)/gas mark 8, with a heavy baking tray or baking stone on the middle shelf, and add a source of steam. Turn the loaf out of the proving basket onto the heated surface, cut it twice across the top with a sharp blade or scissors, then place it in the oven.
8. Bake for 10 minutes, then reduce the temperature to 210°C (190°C fan)/gas mark and bake for another 40 minutes, or until the loaf is done and sounds hollow on the base when tapped with a fingertip.
9. Leave to cool on a wire rack before eating.
This is a recipe extract from How to Raise a Loaf, published by Laurence King Publishing, $25, available here.
When My Bedroom is an Office was published in March 2019, we had no idea it would be so relevant over a year later. Now, Joanna Thornhill reminds us that even if your office is just an outdoor table at the end of your bed, it’s still worth making it a space you are happy to spend the day in.
No one wants to stare at a messy workspace at the best of times, least of all when dozing off in bed at the end of the day. But if the bedroom is your only viable space to set up shop, however small the available area, if you’re savvy and organised you can create a spot that functions as a place of productivity without causing nightmares.
For the workspace itself, think about repurposing a piece of furniture that will fit the aesthetic of your bedroom. A bureau or secretaire can work brilliantly, and you can just shut the hatch when you’re not using it. A simple writing desk, console or even small dining table can be a good option, but try to make a raised platform for your monitor (perhaps just a shelf resting on two wooden battens) to ensure that it sits at the correct eye level; you can tuck your keyboard under this when it’s not being used. If your table has no drawers, a basic fabric skirt fixed around the top can hide a multitude of sins, from printers to power cables.
Since space will no doubt be limited, think laterally to make the most of your work nook. If your desk is in an alcove, this can offer the ideal spot to add shelves for storage, but otherwise a ladder-style leaning desk unit may be most efficient, or even a modular shelving system incorporating a desk. Soften the appearance of work paraphernalia such as box files or ring binders by covering them with fabric or wallpaper swatches that tie in with your room decor, and be creative with storage – why not keep archived paperwork in a small vintage suitcase, for example, or stack your printer paper in an old wooden fruit crate?
An ugly office chair will never enhance any bedroom, so consider working from a more visually pleasing dining chair or even a padded stool. If this is your full-time workspace, however, a proper computer chair is best for your body, so shop around for an aesthetically pleasing one (they may be few and far between, but they’re out there). If you’ve already got a bog-standard one, try covering it with a chunky throw when it’s not in use, or make fitted covers in a charming fabric to give it a more homely feel.
If you’re up for a DIY challenge, try converting a cupboard or wardrobe into a bijou office. Add a deep shelf across the whole space at desk height, place additional shelving above for storage, tuck your printer underneath and simply shut the door when you’re done.
The Art of Cake is illustrator, designer and artist Alice Oehr’s playful ode to cake for its devotees everywhere. Through her distinctive, quirky style, she captures cake as an art form that satisfies not only our taste buds but also our eyes and imagination.
Learning about the history of fifty cakes adored across the globe is like the sweet escape you didn’t know you needed. We’ll take a bet here and guess that you don’t know the story of the Cannoli, the origin of the Éclair, or the scandal behind the Sachertorte. Alice covers them all with a sense of nostalgia and whimsy. The Art of Cake also features six of Alice’s own homespun recipes to keep you busy and baking.
Take a look through our gallery of six of our favourite cakes from the book: the humble carrot cake, the controversial pavlova, the dainty strawberry shortcake, the strikingly layered red velvet cake, the elegant éclair and finally the alluring black forest gâteau.
The Art of Cake is available now. Text and illustrations by Alice Oehr and design by Ashlea O’Neill
Learn the difference between teas, infusions, decoctions and sun brews with master herbalist Erin Lovell Verinder’s guide to brewing medicinal plants. Find this extract in her new book, Plants for the People, alongside her accompanying recipes for brews to aid immunity, digestion, vitality, and sleep.
Teas, infusions, decoctions and sun brews have been in use for as long as plants and people have been kin, and are four of the most accessible ways to work with plants, dried or fresh.
Essentially, infusions, decoctions and sun brews follow the principles of tea, but they are amplified in the medicinal sense. Medicinal teas are made by steeping the plant material in boiling water for a quick 10–20 minutes. Follow with a simple strain and sip mindfully.
An infusion involves longer steeping in boiling water, for a gentle extraction and activation of the plant material. It is best used for the softer aerial parts of a plant – think flowers, leaves, buds and berries. Bear in mind that there are some plants that prefer a cold-water infusion as their delicate properties are sensitive to heat. Infusions extract the volatile oils, vitamins and precious enzymes of medicinal plants, so be sure to cover the infusing concoction to trap all of these beneficial elements. Infusions can be 20–30 minute brews or left for 4–12 hours to deepen the medicinal impact.
A decoction is used more for the woody parts of plants – think roots, rhizomes, seeds, twigs, bark – which require more time and amplified heat to liberate the medicinal constituents. A decoction calls for a slow, covered boil, around 20–40 minutes.
A sun brew is simply an infusion made by combining dried or fresh herbs with filtered water, sealing and popping out in the sun to brew for a day.
A golden principle of medicinal teas, infusions, decoctions and sun brews is that they are best used straight away. As water is their base, there is no preservative present and we want to avoid any mould formation. However, infusions can be kept for up to 24 hours; sun brews and decoctions can be refrigerated and will stay active for around 48 hours.
A Guide to Brewing Medicinal Plants
Pour boiling water over the dried or fresh herbs and steep for 10-20 minutes. Strain out the plant material with a fine-mesh sleeve, and enjoy.
Add the plant material to a heatproof mason jar, fill with boiling water and infuse for 3-4 hours minimum, or leave overnight to deepen the strength. Simply strain out the herbs with a fine-mesh sleeve and sip throughout the day. Infusions make a perfect iced tea; however, if you desire a little warmth, you can gently heat on the stove.
Simply add your hardy herbs to a saucepan with water, and bring to a boil. Allow the concoction to simmer for at least 20-30 minutes, then strain and enjoy!
Spoon the herbal blend of your choice into a glass jar, generally filling around half the jar with fresh plant material or a quarter of the jar with dried plants. Fill to the brim with cool water, pop on a muslin top or lid to keep the bugs away, and leave out in a sunny spot to imbue the brew with warmth.
Plants for the People is available now. Text by Erin Lovell Verinder, photography by Georgia Blackie and cover design by Alissa Dinallo.
‘Plant medicine is your birth right.’ This is the mantra of Erin Lovell Verinder, a fully qualified and much-loved Western herbalist, nutritionist, energetic healer, mentor and educator. Her first book, Plants for the People, draws on ancient wisdom with a modern approach to medicine. Inviting you to return to the roots, this is the ultimate beginner’s guide to using plants to restore wellbeing. We chatted to Erin about her journey to discovering the healing realms of the plant world and inspiring others to do the same.
Where did your passion for naturopathy, healing and the plant world begin?
I have felt a deep sense of belonging amongst nature for as long as I can recall. When I think of my childhood, I think of the height of the Eucalyptus trees in the park nearby and the fragrant smells of summer. The plants made an early impression on me.
I was enamoured with all things esoteric and mystical and began studying energetic healing (crystals, reiki, kinesiology, colour therapy, sound healing, breath work) at 16 years old I was not your typical teenager, that’s for sure! Training in the healing realms for many years taught me so much about the spiritual, mental and emotional bodies, and I really yearned to know more about the physical body. This is when I began training in Naturopathic medicine – forking off into deeper studies in Western Herbal Medicine and Nutritional Medicine, graduating with my bachelor’s degree as a Herbalist and Nutritionist. I loved learning about how plants hold an embodied power with a deep affinity for our bodies, and how ultimately nature’s way is the greatest healer.
Tell us a bit about your naturopathic philosophy. For you, what does it mean to be a true naturalist?
To me, being a true naturalist means walking the plant path – there are many ways to do this! I walk this path dedicating my life to working with plant medicine, by choosing to live amongst wild nature and by doing my very best to be a woman in tune with nature in all of her glorious facets.
I guide people to shift their health stories and thrive with the assistance of plant medicine as a gateway to radically awesome health. I have been working within the field of healing for 21 years now, with a strong focus on my clinical practice with clients, bridging the gaps between naturopathic and nutritional medicine, grass roots herbalism, and intuition. Much of my mission is to assist and educate people on the generous healing nature can offer us all, in combination with honouring and listening in to our bodies and beings. This is my holistic approach to health and healing and my naturopathic philosophy.
What does a typical day for you look like at home in the Byron hinterland?
I rise with the sun, mornings are slow and soft, and include breakfast at home with my husband around the kitchen table. There is always a meditation, pottering in my herb garden, a beach swim or a bush walk (communion with nature). We work from home, which affords us a lot of freedom and comfort. My days are full of mentoring, clinic, writing, or creating in some way. I make a commitment to take breaks, with a pot of herbal tea under my big pecan tree often. All work is switched off by 5pm, and as the sun sets and the yin of the night ushers in, there is always a nourishing home cooked meal, a sleepy time tea, conversation, candlelight, books, calm music and then in bed by 9pm.
What about a day in the clinic?
The days in my clinic are full and seem to zoom by. I follow my daily rhythms and set my hours with clients and mentoring around this. For me, being in practice for many years has given me a lot of opportunity to refine what works best for me as a clinician and space holder. As much as it is key to activate your intuition when working with people’s health, it is a very heady job that demands a lot of mental focus! I need it to feel paced, with little breaks, nourishing snacks and meals in between, and plenty of time with each client or student to fully be present for them. I keep my mornings chill, and although I sometimes work until late in the evening with clients, I am sure to switch off and give myself space to decompress. For this reason, I keep a lot of supportive foundations in place for myself to be able to do my work with clarity and confidence. It is an incredibly rewarding job to witness people get better and improve their health outcomes with natural interventions and plant medicine support. Truly it never ceases to amaze me that this is the work I get to do and offer.
Plants for the People is the perfect guide for plant medicine aficionados and those who have just started out on their plant path. What would your main piece of advice be for the beginners about to delve into your book?
To start with what resonates, which plant/s jump out to you in the Materia Medica section? Which recipes sound good to you? Start with what you are drawn to the most; the plants and recipes that stand out to you are usually what you may be needing the most.
Do you have a favourite recipe from the book?
It is very hard to choose one. I do really love the Elderberry elixir recipe, which is super delicious and a great staple to keep in the fridge to support immunity.
What’s next for you?
This year is big, bold and bountiful for me! I will be promoting the book in three counties, travelling, continuing to work with clients and mentoring in my clinic, building my digital offerings and writing more.
Plants for the Peopleis available now. Text by Erin Lovell Verinder, photography by Georgia Blackie and cover design by Alissa Dinallo.
Trees are one of humanity’s most constant and most varied companions. From India’s sacred banyan tree to the fragrant cedar of Lebanon, they offer us sanctuary and inspiration – not to mention the raw materials for everything from aspirin to maple syrup.
Jonathan Drori’s bestselling book, Around the World in 80 Trees, is now available in paperback. In this extract, we take a closer look at something local, the Jarrah, and then journey to Iran to hear about the origins of the pomegranate.
Eucalyptus marginata, Western Australia
Jarrah: a name that sounds quintessentially Australian. The word comes from the Nyungar language of the continent’s far southwest. In pre-colonial times, there were millions of acres of jarrah forest on the leached soils of what is now called the Darling Plateau. It is a majestic tree, easily 40 metres (130 feet) high and its trunk 2 metres (6 feet) across, with rough, very dark-brown bark. Gloriously fragrant flowers, miniature white starbursts, festoon the tree in clusters of ten or so, attracting bees, which make a distinctively malty, caramel-flavoured honey from its nectar. Jarrah is the linchpin of an important and complex forest ecosystem, home to unspeakably cute marsupials with names to delight any Scrabble player: the numbat, the potoroo, the quoll and the quenda.
Jarrah trees are long-lived – at least 500 years and up to a millennium or more – if they get the chance. British colonists quickly saw the value in the rich red jarrah wood, which was immensely strong and resistant to rot, insects, wind and water. It was eagerly taken up for shipbuilding and harbour pilings. When convicts arrived en masse from 1850, the fl ood of cheap labour meant that jarrah could be exported across the British Empire to feed its insatiable appetite for railway sleepers and other durable infrastructure such as telegraph poles, wharves and even tea sheds. A network of steam-powered sawmills and railways sprang up to extract the timber.
On the other side of the world, Londoners were trying to work out what to use to pave their roads, which by the 1880s were hectic with horsedrawn traffic. Stone blocks and cobblestones were deployed on substantial sections of main roads, but they were expensive and caused horses to slip and skitter in the city’s frequent rain. Tarmac, known then as macadam, would still need another few decades of development before it was robust enough. Then there was wood. Softwood deal and pine paving from the Baltic had advantages over stone: it was much quieter, more easily swept and kinder to horses’ hooves. But those woods wore and rotted quickly, and would soak up the swill of equine urine and ordure and, under pressure from a heavy wheel, squirt it out at passers-by. Unsurprisingly, then, when jarrah wood was exhibited in 1886 at the Indian and Colonial Exhibition in London and advertised as a durable paving material, there was immediate interest. It turned out to be extraordinarily hardwearing, losing only 3 millimetres (1∕8 inch) a year on busy roads. Lasting decades and blessedly non-porous, it was popular with man and beast alike. By 1897, despite the huge shipping costs and distance, some 30 kilometres (20 miles) of London’s busiest and swankiest streets had been clad in Australian jarrah wood – millions and millions of blocks, mostly laid over concrete. Back in Australia, the huge demand spawned many competing and unregulated jarrah-wood companies. Competitors repeatedly dropped their prices to gain orders, to the point that in 1900 Australian jarrah was being sold in England for less than vastly inferior woods brought from nearby Sweden. It was a lucrative but ludicrously unsustainable business; the forests could never withstand such rapacious exploitation. Despite the rapid forest loss, it wasn’t until the end of World War I that laws were introduced to manage more sensibly the trees that remained. And while asphalt replaced wooden paving blocks soon afterwards, the demand for jarrah timber for construction work never went away.
Aside from a few spectacular protected areas, most of the jarrah forests are gone now, felled for timber or to make way for agriculture and mining. What is left is at risk from global warming and the cascade of complex changes that come with it. The fungus-like organism Phytophthora cinnamomi is causing deadly dieback, and in summer there are increasingly frequent droughts and heatwaves. The original unbridled exploitation of jarrah and the depletion of its fragile ecosystem coincided with the demise of Nyungar culture. The remaining jarrah is again in danger, this time from climate change, to which we all contribute and by which all cultures are threatened.
Punica granatum, Iran
Pomegranates feature frequently in writings from ancient Egypt and classical Greece, in the Old Testament and Babylonian Talmud, and in the Qur’an. Their abundance of seeds and juice consistently link the fruit to fertility. The ancestors of the cultivated pomegranate grew several thousand years ago in arid, hilly regions between Iran and northern India, and today’s cultivars still prefer hot days and cool nights. Small, many-branched trees of 5–12 metres (16–40 feet), with shiny leaves of deep green, they are long-lived, perhaps to 200 years. Pomegranate flowers are a sight to behold. Distinctive calyxes, protective layers around the base of each flower, form sturdy funnels from which crumpled petals burst exuberantly in lurid shades of scarlet and crimson.
Pomegranate fruit range in colour from yellow with a blush of pink to burnished rose or even maroon. They have a tough, leathery skin, ensuring the fruit last well after picking; historically, they were a refreshment taken on long journeys. Inside, held within a spongy cream membrane, are hundreds of seeds, each within a juicy sarcotesta (a swollen seed coat), ranging from translucent pink to deep purple. The turgid grains interlock satisfyingly with one another – a triumph of efficient packing – and the juice within each one is delectably sweet, tart and mildly astringent. These are ample compensations for the dry woodiness of the seeds and the dilemma, for some, of whether to spit or swallow.
While fresh pomegranate fruit, juice and cordials are widely available from the western Mediterranean to south Asia, the Iranians have truly embraced pomegranate culture. Specialist stalls stock juice from different cultivars. Mounds of seeds – fresh, dried or frozen – are ready to be sprinkled on top of juice or ice cream, sometimes with a pinch of thyme. In autumn, fresh juice is boiled until it thickens into dark-brown molasses, a key ingredient of khoresht fesenjan, a chicken and walnut stew. And of course, Tehran has the requisite annual pomegranate festival.
Pomegranates have a reputation for health benefits. Traditional uses for diarrhoea, dysentery and intestinal parasites are long established, and the fruit contains antioxidants that are likely to be beneficial; some gung-ho anti-cancer and anti-ageing claims, however, require better evidence. But perhaps we shouldn’t dismiss the psychological benefits of a fruit whose consumption requires our undivided attention.
Jonathan Drori is a Trustee of The Woodland Trust and The Eden Project, an Ambassador for the WWF and was for nine years a Trustee of the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew. He is a Fellow of the Linnean Society and the Zoological Society of London, and a Member of the Institution of Engineering and Technology. In 2006 he was made CBE. You can read his full biography here or listen to his TED talks here.