DAY 24 9 August 2017 Party Time

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The first resident has moved into the new stone wall behind the Yin pool.  

This evening is the public 'opening' event for the Suikinkitsu, so last minute preparations took most of the day. Almost 100 night-lights in brown-paperbags, 20 waxed-paper lanterns and a slideshow of images. George made several sets of divining rods for visitors to try out.

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Party in the studio

The first person to arrive was Victor the 'Rock-Art' expert with his sets of handmade and powerful looking divining rods. He also brought his crystal pendulum. About 20 people turned up plus children and were welcomed with Pimms that I brought from London. 

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A visitor tries out the 'Listening Tube' which amplifies the musical sound of the Suikinkitsu.

I talked about the development of the garden, the importance of listening to the site and not forcing or imposing upon it and demonstrated the divining rods. As expected there was a lot of interest in them and several people said they intended to plot  their gardens with rods; even the development of their land.

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The first walker in the illuminated labyrinth. 

The listening tube for the suikinkitsu was much appreciated and it was heartening to see lots of people delight in it. The subtlety of the suikinkitsu's tinkling-sound meant that the actual piece was barely audible amongst the chatter of the party, so the tube came into its own. 

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A group of friends silently walk the labyrinth

I lit the labyrinth and the Censer just as dusk fell; it was wonderful to see the children engage with it. Three little girls spent a long time slowly walking in line and then crouched huddled together, enjoying the magic of the central space. 

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The centre of the labyrinth  

A delicious 'bring and share' supper was served at 8pm; later when had people left, I walked the labyrinth myself and watched the nearly full-moon rise over the lantern-lit garden. My work is done.

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All done. The Suikinkitsu garden at night. 

DAY 23 8 August 2017 Making the Labyrinth

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Labyrinth laid out with pebbles and sand

I have walked Labyrinths many times; today I set out my first. Because space is limited, I chose a simple 3 path pattern and somehow a short walk seems no less significant.

I used string, pegs and white sand, but the finished version will probably have pebble 'walls' and black pebble and grass 'paths'.

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Tomorrow the labyrinth will be illuminated  

For the event tomorrow evening, the 'paths' will be marked by candles in brown paper bags weighted with fine white sand from site; they glow with a nice soft light.


DAY 22 7 August 2017 Censing a Lunar Eclipse

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A close up view of the censer. The incense and tea-light sit on an Abalone shell from the beach. 

Hard at work with the arc-welder and metal bashing hammer most of the day. The steel is from old oil drum lids and is very rusty and battered which adds to the wildness of the piece. It is hung from a Lucky Bean Tree on the 'Bird Line'.

Claire bought some Indian incense cones in East London and at 6.00pm we had a ceremonial moment: turned on the water to the Suikinkitsu, lit some lamps in the Guava tree and incense in the censer, then poured a glass of red wine.

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Partial Lunar Eclipse

At about 8.15pm there was a partial lunar eclipse clearly visible in the breaks in the clouds. An auspicious day for the inauguration of the suikinkitsu. The Night Jars are singing. 

DAY 21 6 August 2017 Yoga and Lamps

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Yoga in the forest

Up early and off to Yoga in the forest, it was a full class and Cher invited me to say a few words about divining/dowsing; one woman in particular was fascinated as she owns a farm and doesn't know where to build her house...

Class was followed by lemonade and carrot cake at the local Farmer's market. I bought a shell charm-bracelet from a local woman who also made baskets. 

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Traditional basket making

Back to the studio to make the lanterns for the PV to be held next Wednesday afternoon/evening. 

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Lanterns for the Guava tree

George dug in some more steps and then with his help I started cutting the censer from an old oil drum using an arc welder, which was a challenge as I usually use an oxyacetylene torch.

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Making the censer

Homemade pizza and local pineapple for supper. 

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Moon with lamps

DAY 20 5 August 2017 Dipper and Pebbles

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A rainy morning's work

It was cold and raining today so after altering the levels and the final waterproofing the Suikinkitsu was covered and left it to cure. It was definitely a workshop day.

I spotted a piece of bamboo that I thought would make a good dipper (Hishaku) and set about sanding, polishing and oiling it to form the 'cup' and a piece of Wild Olive was sourced from the wood stack for the handle. A collaborative process of discussion and whittling ensued until a nicely 'wild' handle emerged. 

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Finished dipper

We also fixed a post to hold the listening tube. Traditionally it is made from bamboo but this one is partly-polished copper tubing. 

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The listening tube rests in a forked stick. It is positioned at the top of the steps over one of the holes in the suikinkitsu 

After lunch friends arrived for tea and I spread the last pebbles on the Suikinkitsu; the lamp was lit to celebrate as darkness fell.

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The stepping stones and pebble bed

The almost full moon rose and threw twisting shadows on the walls of the Yin pool, reminiscent of rock art Koi-San 'dancers'.

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Moon rise over the lantern

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Sunset 

Curry for supper to celebrate. The moon is reflected in the Yin pool. Magic!

DAY 19 4 August 2017 We have plants!

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There is an avo tree in the garden but they don't bear fruit until about 7 years old. 

George adjusted the drainage levels to the Suikinkitsu and tomorrow we will know if it has been successful. The tap gets turned on in the morning... 

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One of the chicken's has gone broody and has been put into solitary confinement. Huge commotion and clucking. 

The big event was going to buy plants at a couple of nurseries. Lots of helpful advice and we came home with a boot full of ferns, black grass (Ophiopogon nigrens) and white agapanthus. We also bought materials for the final building projects.

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Waterside planting for the Yin pool

Wiseman planted most of the plants around the Yin pool and it looks very good; the plants in the cracks in the wall will be the finishing touch.

DAY 18 3 August 2017 Pond and Pebbles

Waterproof membrane and stone edging down.

Waterproof membrane and stone edging down.

Wiseman the gardener, cleared the compost heap from one of the banana pits today and it's quite a deep hole. The chickens loved it and all moved in to feast on the insects and grubs.

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Pond construction underway  

The highlight of the day was laying the membrane and waterproofing around the Suikinkitsu; then laying the edge stones and some of the loose beach-gravel. It's looking good! 

Chicken Heaven

Chicken Heaven

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Under Construction  

Slight problem though with the drainage run-off missing the holes in the top of the suikinkitsu! But that will be resolved tomorrow with some ingenuity and waterproof paint. 

One of the daily delights is watching the Trumpeter Hornbills fly back and forth across the site. Smart-looking black and white birds with large bills; they call as they fly. Yesterday I watched one pecking loudly at his reflection in a glass shed-window pane, while his mate looked on bemused!

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Hornbills and most birds fly in the same corridor across site. Today a large troupe of Hornbills perched in a nearby tree. 

More fun with the monkeys and water pistol - they really don't like it, but still try and sneak into the chicken coop and peep through the windows to see if there is any fruit left out in the kitchen. Them's clever...

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Heavy-duty steak frying for family supper

The water in the house is mainly rainwater collected from the roofs. It is pumped up to a header tank on the dunes once a day with an intriguing whooshing noise; the pump will be solar powered in the future. 

DAY 17 2 August 2017 Three Treasures

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Three balls turned up today

More steps and walls today. We are slowly working our way around the site and the new and existing stone walls are linking up in a nice sinuous line.

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Steps and Walls

George has started the Sneeze-Wood steps down from the studio. Their position and number of steps has be divined and they look very good as they emerge nicely out of the grass bank.

The Milkwood log that has been lurking in the grass area outside the studio doors has been difficult to resolve. We think it could be split into planks to make a low bench- tomorrow's job perhaps?

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Infilling the gap between the oil drum and ceramic pot has called for ingenuity. Glass bottles, abalone shells and expanding foam. 

Three treasures turned up in the shrubbery I was clearing today. A round white pebble, a black ball and a hard dried Guava fruit. Not sure why this is significant?

This evening I divined the edge of the future pond- it is presently a pit for growing bananas which isn't  successful. It lies directly in the Bird Line and will be visible from the studio.

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DAY 16 1 August 2017 Yin Pool

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Placing black basalt pebbles in the Yin Pool

There was an electricity outage all day from 6.30am-6.50pm. Luckily there is a gas hob and plenty of hot water.

Lots of discussions about siting of objects and vistas across site. We repositioned one of George's sculptures on the 'Bird Line' at the far end of the garden and it looks very good there.

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An unusual mixture of infill materials

Wiseman and George tackle more step and wall building and I start infilling the void between the ceramic pot and the oil drum. We decided on glass wine bottles and abalone shells to create a mix of air gaps and resonance.

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The Yin Pool is filled with water

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Reflections of the Guava tree

We collected a bucket of black basalt pebbles and I finished lining the Yin pool. I filled the pond with water and wonderful reflections of the Guava tree appear.  The overflow water trickles into the base of the 'Mother-stone' and then out into the garden. 

DAY 14 30 July 2017 Divining Rock Art

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Koi San Rock Art (diagram) showing animals, shaman and Spirit-energy lines.

It had been raining in the night and it's a cool cloudy morning. The 'Hardedah' in the garden enjoyed the moist earth and worms. 

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Hahdedah 

Yoga in the forest at 8.30am for a one and a half hour session, watched by monkeys with jungle bird-song in the trees. It's a continuous yoga flow with no rest between positions - very good for the stamina.

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A bit more polishing of the basalt Mother-stone that will form a focus for the Yin Pool

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Fragment of rock art that could be divined about 40 feet away

After lunch we visit friends of Claire and George, a retired farmer and his wife in Gonubie, who is an expert on Koi-San (Bushman) artefacts and rock-art. Victor has a collection of fascinating  stone tools that he found on his land, about 50Km away, and has a particular interest in rock art. The  Kei River valley has many sites, some hundreds of thousands of years old, others dating from the Victorian times. They are typically found along low cliff walls in the shelter of the overhanging rocks.

Victor has two fragments of rock art on his wall and tells me that they emit energy fields that can be dowsed and hands me his dowsing sticks. I don't quite believe him, but discover that I can dowse them from various directions and even from across the road.

There are various prints on his wall. They show animals, shamans or spirit guides and mythical spirit animals; they are connected by sinuous spirit lines of energy. Victor explains that the shamans were initiated into the Otherworld through water, and that their guides/teachers were fish-tailed creatures called Abantubomlambo that look very much like mermaids. So she returns...

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KoiSan rock art showing mermaid-like spirit guides. 

DAY 15 31July 2017 Polishing Basalt

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Polishing the black basalt 'Mother-stone' that will stand by the Yin pool.

I'm intrigued that the Mermaid has returned-four times in three days. I'm not sure why but she has returned in very different guises...

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Mermaid 4

Claire returned from dropping off the kids this morning with a powerful water-pistol to discourage the monkeys from stealing the chicken's eggs and fruit from the kitchen... it's made of garish coloured plastic and has two power settings and it looks like it might do the trick. She's been lacing banana skins with chilli powder but they seem not to mind. 

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Finishing with a bees waxed rag

I spent most of the day polishing a black sea-washed basalt stone which will stand on the edge of the Yin pool. It has a wonderful pregnant shape which has been accentuated by polishing it to a high gloss by hand and mechanical buffers.

The garden has quietly and by its own volition balanced its elements in a Yin Yang sort of way. The sunlit raised, dry, white vertical whale-bone on its tall plinth now has its counterpoint in the low, concealed, shady, black-pebble lined Yin pool.

Later I washed out the suikinkitsu in readiness for assembling it tomorrow and installed a couple of the stepping-stones which is trickier than it looks. George installed some steps and I'm looking at locations to plant some ferns and irises.

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Washing out the Suikinkitsu  

DAY 13 29July 2017 Kwelera Estuary Walk

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A remnant Stone-age tool found on site has found a home in the top of the bamboo standpipe; the three facets on the tool are typical of this area.

Building the retaining wall behind the Yin pool was a jigsaw-puzzle of large and small boulders. We used the geotextile to prevent soil slipping out which worked well and later will plant ferns in the cracks. The pool got its final coat of waterproofing.

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The basalt 'Mother' stone before polishing. The red colour is the reflection of my overalls on the wet stone.

We divined the position of the 'Mother' stone we picked up off the beach, it turns out to be at the overflow position of the Yin pool. George then showed me how to polish it using whet stones, which is long slow process but can be finished off with a mechanical buffer.

We all go out to lunch at a nursery that grows roses - I choose very delicious fish and chips.

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Delicious hake, calamari and chips

Then a visit to artist Margery Bradfield, whose large drawings look like energy or geomancy maps, but she explains they are actually prayers for communities or people. They start with a single central dot and then friends and visitors are invited to make a mark; the ensuing drawings unfold as circuits and meanderings of relationships between dots encircled by tiny lettering. 

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Walking with Gabby on the salt-marshes

Margery lives in a cottage with a dachshund called Gabby above the Kwelera Estuary. We walk to the beach and along the salt-marsh to the sea, with Fish Eagles, Osprey and Long Crested Eagles flying overhead and small hermit crabs, carrying a variety of shells scurrying in the pools at our feet. 

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Kwelera Estuary Panorama

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Walking along the Estuary with Claire, Anna and Gabby the dachshund.

After cups of tea it's home for some more basalt polishing. Then supper, blog and bed.

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Drawing by Margery Bradfield at Driftwood Studios. It hangs in my bedroom. 

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Detail  

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DAY 12 28 July 2017 Polishing the Guava tree

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The Guava tree has been polished

Continued with the construction of the Yin pool. The waterproofing system is a fleece blanket coated with layers of brown acrylic paint, which is used here for farm-dams (reservoirs). Lots of households here collect the rainwater from their roofs in huge tanks; Claire and George's house has 30,000L capacity. The rains start again in September. 

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The Guava tree trunk in its polished glory

The Guava tree has become a central element and later I experiment with polishing the smooth sinuous trunks of the tree with cooking oil and a soft cloth; the dull brown branches turn to a wonderful bright olive-gold colour which glows in the low evening sun. 

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The lamp on its stone base 

George and I agree that 'fire' needs to be included somewhere in the layout to balance the elements. I dowse the position for an knarled, pitted stone that slowly develops into a stand for an old iron lantern that's been knocking around for years. Another surprise incremental development. 

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Out on the town

Later, Claire and I go for a girl's night out in East London. An acoustic band, 'Folkify' are playing in a small music venue; a guitarist, violinist and a beat-box player. It's a fun evening; an eclectic selection of folksy-ballads, blues and 'golden-oldy'  covers of Jethro Tull, Uriah Heap and James Taylor. A large glass of red wine costs about £1.00.

Home to bed under a magnificent starry sky and a waxing moon.

DAY 11 27 July 2017 Eggs, stones and drips

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Breakfast  

I'm really enjoying living with a flock of happy chickens and their delicious daily offerings. This my breakfast today - a golden-yolked poached on toast! 

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Positioning the steps, stone edging and route

Wiseman the gardener and George got digging again this morning.  The project continues to grow in scope and size and today we were digging out the old stone wall behind the 'Yin' pool so that the waterproof lining can be incorporated. I hope we haven't gone too Yin! They removed one large stone and there was a huge black toad and then a swarm of flies arrived.

The Xhosa people are very suspicious of toads and river creatures as they consider them to be manifestations of 'ancestral' spirits. We will have to make sure that there is enough active sunlit golden Yang elements to balance the energies in the garden.

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Watching the ripples in the stone basin  

We set up the suikinkitsu and enjoyed listening to the tinkle of the flowing and dripping water through a copper tube. The Japanese use long bamboo poles to amplify the sound. Anna and her friend spent quite a long time playing with the water and listening to the suikinkitsu - lovely to see. The chickens and dog seem to enjoy it too. 

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My visit to the beach

Later we returned to the beach; the sea rolls and roars on the cobble stones and I picked up several large abalone shells and a selection of basalt pebbles.

George and a friend drove to town to buy agricultural fleece and black, waterproof epoxy paint to create the pool and lay under the gravel and keep the weeds under control.

DAY 10 26July 2017 Beautiful Plumbing

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The plumbing is working and the stone basin filled with water

I was up at 8am and George had already tested the new concrete base and bowl to the suikinkitsu; a lovely tinkling sound. The rest of the day was spent backfilling trenches, plumbing in the water-feed to the stand-pipe, fitting the brass tap and divining the position of the steps and pebble areas. Lots of back-breaking work!

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Home grown chillies  

 After yesterday's monkey attack Claire is plotting her revenge and has bought a powerful pump-action water pistol and we're brewing a super strong brew of home-grown chillies! George is plotting his counter-attack with catapults and pebbles.... we'll see who wins...

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Whale-bones and shell. The young hump-back was washed up on the beach about a year ago.

This project is the first I have divined the positions of elements such as stand-pipe, steps and walls. I'm amazed how well it works. George spent a lot of time this morning trying to find the roof-water supply pipe to the main house to no avail; the divining rods didn't help either. But, when I changed the question to "where is the tap to be positioned" the rods swung into action and located a much better position 30 feet away! 

This afternoon I realised there were actually two lines across site. The 'Bird' line that follows an old river bed and track,  that the birds follow and a North-South line that visually lines up some existing elements in the garden, such as the whale-bone sculpture, an old tree trunk and a square brick plinth right at the end of the vista. This is exciting as it beds everything into its wider setting. 

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This afternoon I realised there were actually bone in the foreground and tree stump. 

At 3.30pm we turned on the tap to the stand-pipe and trickle of water filled the stone basins and ran out into the ground  it was lovely to see the sky reflected and the ripples fan out across the water surface  our first visitor was a thirsty chicken.

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A chicken finds a new drinks-venue

About 5pm we took the car down to the beach and collected cobbles for the edging to the gravel area, the black pebbles for the Yin pool and some stepping stones. We also found a black-stone that we think could form the backdrop to the Yin pool.

Lots of discussion about how we were going to waterproof various junctions and keep the weeds under control.

Then back home for supper! 

DAY 9 25 July 2017 Under Monkey Attack

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On the roof, in the garden and in the house

There were five monkeys in the house this morning; they ate the bread, stole the eggs and then ate Claire's beans in the kitchen garden. They are brazen and only chasing them with a stick drives them away.

I'm wondering about how to construct the Suikinkitsu overflow pool without making a big 'thing' of it and mocked-up a small 'Yin' pool lined with black pebbles that would surrounded with shady ferns. I spent time this morning breaking up old clay to puddle the hole, but black polythene maybe safer. 

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The chickens lay eggs in this giant plant pot- sadly the monkeys got this morning's offerings

There's quite a lot of work to do reconstructing the garden wall but we located the flights and numbers of steps with the diviners.

The oil drum that will form the lining of the hole has been cut to size and treated and after lunch George mixed concrete to line the base of the suikinkitsu- very hard work!

We have decided against green bamboo for the standpipe and are using some driftwood bamboo which is grey and well seasoned. It looks very good against the stone basin and it split open easily to accommodate the copper stand pipe. 

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The bamboo stand-pipe in position  

Home-made Pizza for supper. 

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Cooked in a frying pan and then grilled. Delicious. 

DAY 8 24 July 2017 Labyrinths and more

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Lucky beans (Erythrina) collected in the forest yesterday stored an abalone shell

Claire and the family left for school early and I had a leisurely start. Great excitement and loud clucking noises as one of the chickens snuck inside and went downstairs to lay an egg on the wall in the ground floor corridor and then needed to be let out. 

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She was very insistent until I let her out! 

Then I started researching African stone tools. The indigenous people here were  Khoi San hunter-gatherers, who were later displaced by the Bantu people from Western Africa. The remnant of the stone-scraper that George found on site shows the typical triangular knapping pattern that is typical of stone tools in this area. 

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A collection of local tool finds showing the typical triangular knapping pattern.

There are archeological remains in the nearby dunes, also half-buried middens of shellfish and pottery shards left by wandering groups of people over 120,000 years ago to almost present day. 

George dug the trench for the suikinkitsu overflow- a mammoth feat of shovel work and I washed a set of three 'found' glass electricity insulators which will hang off the guava tree as a gateway feature and bell/chime for the labyrinth.   

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A low growing Guava tree branch forms a low gateway to the labyrinth.  

The divining rods confirmed the position of its centre and  the number and position of the steps up the bank.

After lunch I researched Guava Leaf Tea- which is a very good source of vitamin C and then various types of labyrinth on line; we know it has to be 3 metres in diameter so that fixes the number of circuits. Tomorrow I will start setting it out; it will probably be made of black basalt and limestone beach pebbles and have a well or reservoir at its centre.

The weather was warmer today but it's turned very cold and windy again tonight.  I watched Buttons, the dog, make his bed; he's very particular and drags it around and pummels it to make sure it's cosy and comfortable before settling down for the night.

DAY 7 23 July 2017 Yoga and Monkeys

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They look cute but.... 

Cher runs a weekly Sunday morning yoga class at 'Tea in the Trees' tea-garden on a small wooden platform in the forest.

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Early morning yoga in the forest

It's about a 20 minute drive away past small game reserves with views of buck and giraffe through the fence. Vervet monkeys with their babies run over the road, along telegraph wires and peer out of roadside trees.

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'Tea in the Trees' tea room hosts yoga classes in the forest

There were five of us in the class for an energetic 1.5 hours of bending and stretching. It was lovely to see the African trees overhead and I feel much better for some exercise, especially after the strenuous hole-digging yesterday.

We then collect the children from swimming and sailing in The Lagoon nearby and return for coffee and a fry-up brunch.

I discover I've been bitten by pepper-mites and all my clothes and bedding have to be washed and I'm sprayed with organic herbal spray to get rid of them- very itchy!

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Cintsa Lagoon looks very inviting 

This afternoon it rained and I spent time reading up on Japanese gardens for inspiration. We consider how to cast the concrete slab under the Suikinkitsu and what happens to the overflow water - I suggest a well at the centre of a labyrinth.

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A Neolithic stone scrapper is unearthed in the pit today. Very exciting. 

The overall scheme is getting bigger by the day and will be under construction for months to come! I will get the divining rods out again tomorrow to test some of our ideas; the Place seems to know what it wants.

The garden after rain. An old tree stump may form a future sculpture.... 

The garden after rain. An old tree stump may form a future sculpture.... 

Apparently, it's going to get warmer next week which is excellent news as I'm having to layer all my clothes in the evening. I'm wearing yoga leggings, a pair of trousers, a dress, socks and trainers and two fleeces tonight.

The Scops Owls are calling and it's time for bed... 9pm!! 

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Anna's window art

DAY 6 22 July 2017 To the bamboo grove

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To collect the bamboo water spout

Up early and off to the hardware store to buy plumbing fittings to feed the stone basins and suikinkitsu, via a visit to the beach at Cintsa to look at the ocean. There is some remarkable geology here with what looks like fossilised bubbles of mud. It's the first time I've seen a bumpy horizon due to the huge swell out at sea. Then onto a coffee shop at a garden centre overlooking a pond that serves excellent Americanos. 

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Cintsa Beach with its amazing geology

Then back home to harvest bamboo for the Suikinkitsu pipework. There is a stand of bamboo that grows in a nearby river-valley and George tells me that the Japanese harvest bamboo at the New Moon; which just happens to be now! In the East they 'leach' the sugars from green bamboo by floating it in the sea for several weeks, which preserves it. Sadly we are going to miss out this process so we have cut two poles to allow for a shorter life span. 

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The bamboo grove is an eerie place; the canes knock together in the wind.

It's an amazing walk back to the studio following the river upstream along a low cliff of square blocks of sandstone full of Maidenhair ferns, indigenous agapanthus and Vlei Lilies. 

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The river valley follows a low cliff

We come across an abandoned orchard of mangos and papayas and a well full of water and then we have to scramble up an old dam. Why anyone would plant a garden in such a remote spot in the forest is intriguing; perhaps they divined fresh water here? 

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Ferns,agapanthus and Vlei Lilies

On our return I'm down the hole for more excavations and George plumbs in the feed to the Suikinkitsu; we're making progress. We are going to line the pit with a cut-down oil drum to prevent soil creeping in and hopefully improve the acoustics. 

Hard at work

Hard at work

Claire makes a hearty butternut broth for supper, but it's followed by a long power cut, so it's out with the solar lamp and phone torches and off early to bed, clutching our hot water bottles.