what a difference a year makes!

By robynjay On April 10th, 2017

For three months during winter 2016 I worked to clear the eastern half of our land of snake weed. It’d be over an acre in size.

Previous owners had tackled the problem by slashing; hiding the top but strengthening the roots, and spreading seed. By slashing they also stopped all natives from regenerating and the result was a wasteland with only mature trees.

May 2016 snake weed

Three months of weed pulling left me with a nasty case of tendonitis but a first run over was done. In September I successfully applied for some ‘Land for Wildlife’ finding to plant 500 trees both here and in a cleared area near the house.

Since then we’ve had one of hottest and driest summers on record. It’s been too hot to do anything much outside, and far too dry for planting. But now with 100 trees nearly planted by the house I wandered across the creek and up the hill today armed with stakes and flagging tape to plan what comes next.

A strip down the northern edge of block (maybe 15%) has definitely grown back and will need some serious weeding as I plant. The balance however is looking great. Grasses, sedges, ferns etc are doing really well. There’s a very healthy scattering of Black Casuarinas (Allocasuarina littoralis) and quite a few eucalypts, wattles and other little native trees and shrubs starting to appear. Very exciting to see. With a few hundred more plants it’ll start to feel like a forest again.

April 2017 native regrowth



the place called home

By robynjay On February 27th, 2017

It’s hard to believe that it’s been nearly a year since we left Sydney, friends, careers, familiar spaces and packed our precious belongings in pouring rain to head north to Qld. It’s been exciting, blissful, stressful, relaxing, frightening.

Each day is an adventure and it’s time to start capturing that. So here we go. New characters; same loves. New challenges; same focus.

We’ll see where the next year leads.


[CC FlickR image by tanakawho]

with grace he goes

By robynjay On January 28th, 2016

Today my beloved Steph leaves his workplace of 16 years for the last time. To those who matter, he will be remembered for his intelligence, energy, unending support, innovation and skills. Those that matter grieve the loss. It is of course not (only) about technical assistance. It’s about providing informed advice and guidance, patiently, generously, at any hour. It’s about designing effective learner-centred solutions to the issues and challenges that appear, often with little warning. Looking from the outside in, the programs Steph led were cutting edge; the organisation as a result, was seen to be a leader in the elearning field.

Despite this, he is ‘unsuitable’ for the reformed institution he has dedicated the bulk of his working life to. The fact that he is a ‘deep thinker’ is now seen as a liability.  Somewhere along the track, someone decided Steph was an IT guy; the person who managed platforms and upgrades. How did they get it so wrong?

He has no role in a space of vacuous agendas, stilettos and gym jocks. Few of the ‘old guard’ do. The Whitlam generation of educators that fought for innovative, learner-centred, service-focussed, life-long public education, driven by social justice and learner centred design, is either retiring, resigning or being retrenched. This brave new world of enterprise, business growth, efficiency, performance, risk management, competition,  and operating models has little regard for the values we hold dear.

Sometimes it’s best to just walk away; he will do this with grace and humility. When the pain has passed I’ll see this man’s spirit revived; I am certain of that. His skill and passion will find new avenues; his qualities will be valued. They know not what they do.

Steph at beach

swings and roundabouts

By robynjay On April 24th, 2015

We all love to get a bargain but when it comes to handcrafted goods it pays to stop and think.

I’ve been running with Society6, Red Bubble and Spoonflower to date for finished products and materials. For each item sold I make about 10%.
Sounds awfully low doesn’t it. Why would I do it?

A typical design takes 3 hours to complete. I try to use the design in a few ways and on all sites.
So at $20/hr labour (yes that’s right), that’s about $60 per design.

Once the design has been uploaded there’s no more to outlay. So my costs are covered (just) once I’ve sold 20 bags or equivalent. This of course does not take materials (pens etc) into account.

The other option is to purchase fabric from Spoonflower with my own designs, make items, and sell them via Etsy or at a market.
The type of canvas used by Society6 works out at around $40/yard thanks to the crummy exchange rate. So a 45cm tote with straps and lining the materials alone would cost me around $20 and about half an hour to make.
Let’s say that my outlay including time and $2 towards the design adds up to a total of $32. On top of this Etsy charges 3.5%

Until now I’ve been convinced that Society6 etc are the go. A simple tote bag costs (when postage is free) about $28.50 AUD and I can’t make them for that.
Society6 also allows me time to design but the product quality and style is out of my control. Bags are also branded Society6 not Bunyip Designs.
The Spoonflower + Etsy option requires hours at my sewing machine but the peace of mind that the style/quality of the build is as I would like.

It’ll be a hard slog to make any gains but I’ve decided to give Etsy a go as well as leaving designs on the other sites. Instead of replicating the product I’ll try creating something a bit more unique. On Etsy I can also make and sell items not included on the other sites – table runners, placemats, pillow cases etc. Labels are ordered and prototypes under way.

I may well be mad!

The old Singer

CC FlickR image by Georg Holderied

starting afresh

By robynjay On December 17th, 2011

It’s been an unproductive year for me blogging-wise. I’m not really sure what caused my lack of inspiration. Perhaps time needed to rethink my position and direction after a couple of soul-destroying years career-wise. Michele Martin would perhaps tell me that my reflection could have more productive had it been shared so I’ll do my best to summarise my years thoughts in coming posts.

But first of all I’m biting the bullet and moving any worthwhile content from my wikispace over to this site. I’ve been talking about it for a year but being a long-term wikispace user have been hesitant to actually make the change. Essentially my wiki has been a personal portfolio space and while the wiki format has meant easy editing etc, it has never really been used as a collaborative space for multiple authors so there’s little point in using a wiki platform. Having everything together in one place has its appeal.

So once the move is complete my aim is a post a week (to be realistic). Michele has inspired me to undertake a more structured approach to my personal reflection and I’m looking forward to participating in one of her Career Clarity Camps in January 2012. I can’t think of a better way to kick the new year off.

[CC FlickR image by koshyk]

we all need a shed

By robynjay On April 5th, 2010

This post has been reproduced from an old blog – inspired by the photo found of my father below at our old woolshed…..

cc licensed flickr photo shared by robynejay

As a kid I loved the sheds on our property. There were heaps.

One housed an ancient truck with a hole in floor, that smelt of aged leather and the threat of spiders. Another which remains a mystery to today had broken windows, rooms filled with dust and old ceramic liquor flasks.

My favourite was our woolshed. The floorboards were worn and the air was always heavy with the smell of lanolin. The verandah was always stained with blood where the sheep dogs meat was cut up, and up one end was an office with a gorgeous old swivel chair which I claimed but has since collapsed from old age. I used to lie in the stalls filled with fleeces, hang around while sweaty shearers did their stuff, and clamber down the sheep shoots out into the pens where there was a huge oak tree. There were always intriguing relics from the shearing season like Bex packets and Post mags – alien items in my daily life.

But my favourite spot was the loft. It was pretty inaccessible but I had a route that required standing on a fence, climbing a wall and squeezing up through a gap.

When my brother sold the farm it felt as if all this had gone for ever.

About 5 years later a TAFE colleague told me the farm had been split into 3 and resold, but to one buyer who bid high to ensure he acquired the lot. Thankfully I asked who it was, not expecting to know….

It was wonderful to hear it was my old school friend and neighbour Ted Williams. I remember a time when we sat up in our old cherry tree staining our faces with huge cherries!

My shed is in good hands.

on a good note

By robynjay On March 24th, 2010

cc licensed flickr photo shared by glsims99

We all need warm and fuzzy moments in our work to keep us coming back for more and today I had one of those.

The thing I love most about my job at UNSW is getting out in the Faculties in response to calls from teachers with passion who are seeking to do innovation things with, lets say, some of the less structured and more collaborative technologies.

Today I met with an academic from Law and her small clutch of enthusiastic, motivated graduates who are setting up a wikispace for the clinician unit. They are using the platform as a resource and communication hub for refugee advocacy groups and individuals. The space will grow over time as groups of students move through the unit and onto their lives in law. No one in the group had used a wiki previously.

As you can imagine they will be balancing an open forum, varied viewpoints and I suspect at times dissent. There was discussion around roles, access, archives, RSS, notifications, moderation, connections. It was interesting to hear the group calm one student who clearly was being pushed beyond her boundaries around openness.

And with a one hour Q&A, demo and general kick start they’re away. I’ll be looking forward to watching the progress.