Tree Tuesday

In the small Palestinian village of Al Walaja, just outside Bethlehem,  lives an ancient olive tree, that may be one of the oldest trees in the world. It has been carbon-dated to an age range of 3,000 to 5,500 years old and it is the job of one man, Salah Abu Ali, to protect it.

Ali wakes every morning to tend to his family’s orchard. Entering through a neighbor’s yard, he trots down the grove’s narrow paths in a way that belies his age, occasionally reaching down to quickly toss aside trespassing stones; briskly descending verdant terraces, one after another until he comes to the edge of the orchard. It is at this edge where Ali spends most of his day, pumping water from the spring above or tending to the soil. It is where he sometimes sleeps at night, and where he hosts people that have made the pilgrimage to the Holy Land. But many come for the tree, an olive that some believe to be the oldest in the world.

The olive tree of Al Walaja, like all trees in the world, is under threat from climate change and is recovering from a recent drought.  It is also under the added threat of Israeli expansionism.

But the olive tree of Al Walaja has become something else to its residents. Now, it’s a symbol of resistance. The village is a shadow of its former self. Most of the village’s residents were forced to flee their homes amidst heavy fighting during the 1948 Arab-Israeli war. “In 1948, we came here and slept under the trees,” Ali says, as Israeli military personnel chant during drills in the valley below. After the dust settled and the demarcation lines were drawn, Al Walaja had lost around 70 percent of its land.
The town was further eroded after Israel captured the West Bank during the Six-Day War in 1967. Israel then expanded the Jerusalem Municipality, annexing around half of what was left of the village.

More recently, Israel’s separation wall threatened to once again cut the village in two, isolating the Al Badawi tree. But residents won a court battle which saw the chain-link wall diverted around the village. The wall now stands just below Ali’s family orchard, separating the new village from the site of the old, just across a narrow valley.

Despite the court victory, dozens of homes have been bulldozed to make way for the Jerusalem Municipality. Al Walaja still sits isolated, hemmed in on nearly all sides by Israel’s separation wall and no longer able to access uncultivated farmland or many of the village’s once-famed springs.

It is because of these threats that Ali guards the ancient olive tree, and he considers it his life work to protect it. Ali now receives a small sum from The Palestinian Authority to take care of the tree, due to reports of Israeli settlers and soldiers cutting down and burning ancient olive trees in other parts of the West Bank.

According to the United Nations, approximately 45 percent of agricultural land in the West Bank and Gaza Strip contain olive trees, providing income for some 100,000 families. “The Palestinians are attached to the olive tree,” Ali says. “The olive tree is a part of our resistance and a part of our religion. With the olive tree we live, and without it we don’t live.”


Story from Atlas Obscura

Corona Crisis Crafting: Smoll Things

There are some larger projects still in progress, like the dragon egg, but in between there was time for some smaller things, especially some that could be done with the kids.

#1 A birthday gift

©Giliell, all rights reserved

At school we have the tradition of “Geburtstagswichteln”. Now, Wichteln is what you’d call “secret Santa” at Christmas, but since the German word comes from “Wichtel”, a gnome, you can use it all year around. Tomorrow is the birthday of my recipient and since I cannot hug her or give her a present I sent her gift by mail. A necklace in the “smoke in resin” style, Lindt chocolates and nasturtium seeds for flowers.

#2 Shakers

You will remember my shaker disasters. After the second try I simply gave up and ordered some moulds.

They come in two varieties. Number one: open

©Giliell, all rights reserved

To finish them you need overhead transparency film and UV resin. You cut a piece of transparency to fit over the opening. Then you fill in your glitter and glue the transparency to the mould using UV resin. Then you fill the shaker with baby oil through the tiny opening you can see at the basis of the TV set and close that opening with UV resin. Finally you put a coat of resin on top.

©Giliell, all rights reserved

The other version comes with two moulds, one for the shaker, the other one for the top

©Giliell, all rights reserved

The idea is the same, just without the transparency. There’s also a little piece to close the opening, but it’s not in the picture. I sent the first set of those to my friend so she can craft them with her kiddo as well. I know she’s got UV nail polish so she won’t need to go shopping for UV resin. I also noticed that while I know exactly where cutlery and plates are in their kitchen, I had no idea what number their house is…

#3: And, you already spotted them: Pikachus!

©Giliell, all rights reserved

These moulds are a set of four. I first cast them in normal resin and then added the details with UV resin. The local Pokémon expert informed me that the eyes were all wrong above so I had to do them again. Working with black and white UV resin is tricky because, duh, they’re opaque and need a lot of UV light and time for curing. So if you spot a madwoman with sunglasses in her kitchen, don’t worry, she’s a madwoman wearing proper eye protection.

#4 Landscapes

©Giliell, all rights reserved

I saw these moulds on Youtube and I was really fascinated by them. You cast the pieces in two steps: First you do the landmasses as you can see in brown here, then you put those into the other moulds and pour the sea. They are really pretty (the image doesn’t do the finished brown pieces justice), but they’re also a bit on the small side, as you can see in the Euro coin next to them (for ‘Muricans, a little less than an inch). I think they would work best in a necklace putting several of them next to each other, but for that I’ll have to cast them in the same colours.

Well, that’s it for today. See you next when it’s time for “thank goodness my hands are keeping my mind busy”.

The Finished Little Horse(s)

Kestrel has finished her little horse(s) and I think they’re all fabulous!

I finished my last horse, and in time for the deadline. I’ve already sent in my entries; it’s all over but the crying, as they say.

The final work is pretty subtle; the whites have been altered so they are not so stark, there is slight pinking in the area by the elbow where the hair is thinner, and in that second photo, finally, we have eyes!

©kestrel, all rights reserved

©kestrel, all rights reserved

He looks like he’s saying, “Are you lookin’ at me?” In case anyone wonders: those dark dots on the legs are to represent the chestnuts (as they are called) on a living horse. These are the remnants of a toe, because equids were originally 5-toed.

I’m including the photos I sent in for the contest, posted here in order of my painting them – so this sorrel horse is the first one I painted, and the bay pinto I’ve been working on is the last. Taking clear, focused pictures of something this small is pretty difficult, at least for me. When you get it focused right, the photos are brutally honest, and the artist can see every last tiny flaw and mistake. Well, this is to be expected for a novice like myself – I will hopefully learn a lot here and do better in the future. The dapple grey (third photo down) was particularly difficult for me. That color terrified me because I’ve seen so many people get it wrong; but I like a challenge so I tried it. It was, as I thought it would be, really tricky, particularly at this scale.

I’m not sure when the judging will take place but I will try and keep Voyager informed as to the outcome. I hope you’ve enjoyed getting a glimpse into an admittedly very weird hobby!

©kestrel, all rights reserved

©kestrel, all rights reserved

©kestrel, all rights reserved

©kestrel, all rights reserved

TNET 38 – Brooklyn 99

Previous thread.

Thanks to the wisdom of YouTube algorithm, I found out about the show Brooklyn 99 recently, and I have been watching it a lot. As far as LGBTQ representation in media goes, this is the best I have ever seen and I highly recommend it as the ultimate “woke” show. It shows that it is possble to make humor involving LGBTQ people without them being the butt of the jokes.

Open thread, talk whatever you want, just don’t be an a-hole.

Monday Mercurial: Kitty Kitty

This is our neighbour’s cat. She was never on the bright side of things, and she also used to be a very panicky animal. When we first moved in the cat would not notice our presence, walk up close to us, see us, and freak out completely. It was the easiest sneaking up on a cat ever, because you only had to exist.

By now she got used to us, and our neighbour says that apparently with old age she’s forgotten to be afraid of her own shadow, so I could sneak a few pics.

©Giliell, all rights reserved

©Giliell, all rights reserved

Something Silly from the Quarantine

From Avalus,

©Avalus, all rights reserved

Hey there folks,

as I am sitting in quarantine, I remembered a silly fotoshoot I took with a friend of mine a while ago. I really want to share this picture from it.
I hope you all stay safe and keep your friends and relatives safe. For me personally, the pandemic is very serious as four of seven family members fall into more than one risk-category. So reducing the spread really hits home.

Ps: I was thinking about going shopping in this mask and gloves, but that would really not help anyone. So I did not.

Bonsai for Beginners – Part 6 – Where to get your first tree

Previus post.

Where you should get your first tree, and what kind of tree should it be, depends on where you live, where you want to keep it and what experience you have. I am living in a temperate climate and therefore my personal experience is limited to the plants that grow around here plus some subtropical and tropical plants that I grow indoors. I also have very limited – and universally negative – experience with Australian flora, so, unfortunately, I cannot give too much info about that. But whatever I write here should be applicable throughout Eurasia and North America.

So first thing first – where you should get your first tree? If you have indoor plants, you should first look whether you have a suitable plant already that could perhaps be converted to bonsai. There is plenty of commonly grown indoor potted plants that are also suitable bonsai species. Two of my most impressive and valuable trees were converted from 40 years old plants that my mother grew.

If you have a garden and want to have an outdoor bonsai, then I would recommend using local species or some decorative species that you might already have. You can either try and take a twig and plant it – many species take root easily – or look around your garden for a seedling that started to grow where it should not have, perhaps too close to a hedge or similar.

Such plants have a huge advantage over anything that you buy in that you can be reasonably sure that they can prosper in the environment you can provide for them and you might already know how to care for them.

Do not buy anything that has “bonsai” in the name. Neither a good expensive tree nor one of the mass-produced cheap ones in supermarkets. In the first case, you probably would not be able to take proper care of the tree yet, and in the second case you would not be buying a bonsai but a crippled plant that can become one in a few years at the best, or will die soon no matter what you do at worst. The cheapo “bonsai” from supermarkets can be a good source of twig cuttings for your own planting though, sometimes it is the only way to get your hands on certain species. And absolutely never buy “bonsai kit”. There is no such thing as bonsai seeds. Those are ordinary tree seeds in fancy packaging and without proper care will, therefore, grow into ordinary trees – if they germinate at all.

Do not poach trees in the forest or on someone else’s property. There are environmentally friendly and IMO morally OK ways to do it – for example trees that grow near train tracks or roads and are periodically cut down for maintenance because they are a weed – but it is still illegal and you should not do it without the permission of the property owner. And then there is, of course, the morally reprehensible poaching in parks and mountain forests. In Japan poaching of trees for commerce has lead to significant environmental damage in mountainous areas for example. Yup, the Japanese are not above commercializing their heritage and destroying their environment in due course. And to poach a tree without it dying requires a lot of experience, take my word for it.

If you lack suitable species at home and cannot find anything in your garden and therefore must buy something, then buy plants of suitable species at your local gardening store. Look for plants that do not have overtly visible scars from grafting and are healthy and with a bit of luck, you can find a tree that can be converted into a bonsai within one-two years.

And here a very short and incomplete list of species/genera, in three categories. The taxa are listed in no particular order from the top of my head. I only write about species/genera that I have personal experience with or can reasonably extrapolate to from closely related taxa. And because English tree nomenclature is a complete nonsensical mess, I will only use Latin names.

  1. Ideal for a beginner:
    Indoor – Myrthus communis, Hibiscus sp., Laurus nobilis, Fuchsia sp., Crassula ovata, Serissa foetida, Adonium obesum, Punica granatum
    Outdoor – Acer sp., Betula sp., Larix sp.,  Ulmus sp., Taxus sp., Ligustrum sp., Buxus sp., Carpinus sp., Tilia sp.
  2. Not ideal, but still suitable with caveats:
    Indoor – Ficus sp., Euphorbia milli, Portulacaria afra, Olea europaea
    Outdoor – Juniperus sp., Thuja sp. Cupressus sp., Chamaecyparis sp., Thujopsis sp., Pinus sp., Fagus sp. Malus sp., Prunus sp., Illex sp. Cedrus sp., Tamarix sp., Crataegus sp.,
  3. Not suitable for a beginner at all:
    Indoor – Podocarpus sp., Eucalyptus sp., Annona sp., Citrus sp., Camelia sp., Cuphea hissopifolia
    Outdoor – Picea sp., Fraxinus sp., Salix sp., Populus sp. Vitis vinifera, Forsythia sp., Corylus sp., Visteria sp., Calluna vulgaris, Vaccinium sp., Azalea sp., Rhododendron sp., Sambucus sp., Hedera helix

Each of these taxa may get their own extra article in due course. I will start with some of the most suitable ones.

The Art of Book Design: The Springtime of Life, poems of childhood

Algernon Charles Swinburn. Springtide of Life. Illustrated by Arthur Rackham. Philadelphia, J.B. Lippincott: London, W. Heinemann, 1918.

Today’s children’s book is a collection of poetry dedicated to the early life of children by Algernon Swinburn. It was published posthumously, as a collection according to the author’s wishes and was illustrated by one of the era’s most prolific and respected artists, Arthur Rackham. I’ve included all the full-page colour plates, but the book also contains a wealth of line drawings of chubby cherubs and well-fed babies, a minimum of one per poem. I’m very fond of Rackham’s artwork and I hope it brings some pleasure to your day. [Read more…]