Puddles update – We have babies

On the 23rd of November Puddles had her babies. There was no fuss or fanfare, she just came down to the shelter and had her first baby. Then some time later had her second.

We now have two delightful little girls to play with. Say hello to Poppy and Posy.

Posy has the black stripe down her back. She seems to enjoy having her photo taken, she is so full of fun and life. Poppy is a shy and retiring girl, but she loves to play too.

We had a couple of days of runny, sticky poos that got all over the babies and mum. My poor daughter got to do clean up duty to be sure the flies were kept at bay. She used a damp rag to clean off the worst of it and Puddles did the rest. We also put tick collars on the little darlings. We have had a terrible paralysis tick season, with more than one goose being struck down and we don’t want to lose these little ones.

Meanwhile, Puddles is enjoying having extra feeds in the morning and at night. She is starting to regain some of the weight she lost when she had her babies. She is the most polite and calm goat I have ever met. She can stay as long as she likes.

Our new boarder – Puddles

My friend is going away for three months and while she has a very reliable house sitter, she asked if we would like to baby sit Puddles the goat while she is gone. Puddles is due to kid in about three weeks, and she is seven or eight years old, so she could do with a bit of TLC.

We bought her home in the back of the Rav4 (they are such great little cars for moving stock) and introduced her to the sheep.

She took it all in stride and remained calm and friendly through the whole thing. We will make her a comfortable bed of hay once she lets us know where she prefers to sleep and give her a nice lick to keep her mineral content up.

She seems to get on alright with the sheep, but would obviously prefer to be with other goats. Unfortunately, we can’t put her in with the billies we have here (they would just be too rough), but we hope she will become closer to Frieda the sheep with time. The big horned boy below is Mendes and the white boy is Merlin (both magical).

I will try to post updates of our adventures with Puddles as we go. I hope we can keep her healthy and happy until it is time for her to go home.

Local insects and animals – Superb Fairy Wren

Our Superb Fairy wren couple are nesting, we more commonly know them as Blue wrens in our area though. Our particular group consists of two fully coloured males and a group of females and juvenile males that hang around. One of the females has built herself a lovely little nest in the clump of sedges in the yard and laid a few eggs. We hope to be able to take photos of the whole process from hatching to fledging.

Blue wrens eat insects, a lot of insects. They are constantly hunting through the grass and shrubs for flies and bugs, I am sure they keep our insect numbers in check. They also provide a lovely little pop of colour to the day hopping through the grass on the lawn, but I think my favourite thing to watch is when the males bring a female a bunch of ‘flowers’; they will pick a sprout of something that has a red tinge (if possible), they love beetroot sprouts, and take it in their beaks to shyly offer it to a chosen female. If she takes it, she is receptive to his advances, if she doesn’t take it, he will often take the flowers home to his mate (waste not, want not). They are not the most faithful bird in the world, but they are delightful.

Blue wren nests are built by the females and take the form of a grass woven clump lined with soft materials like feathers and wool. The female lays from three to six eggs in her nest after mating with her partner (and any other male that takes her fancy… secretly), then she sits on the clutch until they hatch leaving only to drink and eat briefly.

Once the eggs hatch, both parents feed the babies until they fledge.

Mother wrens will pretend to have a broken wing to try to draw you away from their nest if you approach when the babies are young. We try not to go near the nest at all while the parents are close because it really worries them and causes all sorts of panic, humans are such scary creatures after all.

We will try to get some more photos of babies growing over the coming weeks, if we can catch the nest unattended.

Spring spinning – Eli fleece

Eli after his recent shearing experience

After the shearing day on Saturday, I decided to wash the half fleece donated by Eli. I did the usual soap nut solution with hot water bath and spread the whole lot in the sun to dry for a day. The result was a snowy, white cloud of spinnable fleece.

The fleece in it’s soap nut bath, look at all that dirt.

I carded some up this morning and spun a few rolags, in the interests of experimentation. I am loving spinning this fleece, it is making me wish I had saved the whole fleece and that I had all day to spin.

Much cleaner
This wool spins up so smoothly
The eventual yarn will need to be washed again of course, but it is going to be a lovely, strong knitting yarn.

I will soon have a pile of skeins to dye and knit. I can’t wait!!!

New socks, here we come.

Spring – Shearing time

Today was shearing day, we usually shear the sheep when the nights are warm enough for everyone to stay warm and the days are beginning to be uncomfortably hot. This Spring has been wet so far, which means that our sheep run the risk of being damp and warm for long periods of time (flies love that), so we messaged Karl, who shears our sheep for us, early this year.

Peri relaxing while she is shorn
Kracken losing her Winter wool

Karl came out and the sheep were shorn in no time. He always does a great job, treating them with care and respect and talking to them the whole time. This year they all behaved themselves, which is unusual, in previous years we have had to lasso escapees and even tackle one or two as they run past. Luckily, Karl plays football and takes it all in his stride. He seems to find us amusing, and laughs at the lengths we go to to keep our babies comfortable. We set up a shade gazebo for Karl to shear them under and then leave it up for a few days so they don’t get sun burned. We spray every little graze with antiseptic spray (the pink splotches) and give them a soothing feed of hay after their shearing ordeal. At the same time, he takes the time to make sure they are comfortable while he is shearing and they seem to just lay against him or on the ground while he works, and he talks to them like we do, so we count him as one of us, and so do the sheep.

Chloe and Karl leading Kracken to the shearing spot

I now have a bag of lovely wool from Eli to process into wool and knit or weave into something lovely. I could have saved more, but I have plenty of fleece to spin in my craft room already.

Eli after his shearing

Winter spinning adventure – Day five

My daughter had to complete an assignment for university which involved a walk around a wetland. I drove her the required hour and a half to the assigned wetland and walked around with her to see what was there.

We found some overgrown walking tracks and plenty of interesting paperbark trees. There were also some choked up water ways. All in all we were a little disappointed with the wetland, but it is hard to maintain anything without funding.

When we got back to the car park we saw three roosters waiting for someone to feed them. Apparently this is the local place to dump unwanted chooks. We raced back into town and bought a fold up cage and some grain to try tempt them into a trap. All we caught were some magpies, who had to be chased out of the cage and convinced to stay in their wild state. We eventually had to leave without the roosters, hoping that the council worker we reported them to will have better luck catching them.

While I was waiting to spring the trap on the poor roosters, I did a little bit of spinning. The people in the mini train passing by seemed to get a kick out of it, so I waved to them in a friendly fashion. When I had spun for my half hour and tried to coax the roosters into the cage for a further half hour, we packed everything away and headed home in the afternoon chill.

I wonder why people dump animals, what thought process leads them to believe that it’s OK to just leave them to fend for themselves? Chooks that have been used to being looked after can’t just become ‘bushwise’, they fall prey to the many foxes, rats and cats (and feral/roaming pet dogs) about. Not to mention the native predators of the bush (pythons, possums, phascogales, quolls, eagles, hawks, owls, and many more). They rely on humans for food, they don’t automatically know how to find food for themselves, or water for that matter. They are not car savvy, they get run over. If you hatch chicks, you are responsible for the babies, one way or another. Rant over, it just makes me mad, animals shouldn’t have to suffer because humans are not as intelligent as they could be.

Local insects and animals – Eastern bearded dragon

Recently I happened upon a life or death situation in the middle of the road. An Eastern bearded dragon (a young one of about 20cm long) had made his way into the road to soak up some precious late Winter/ early Spring sunshine and a young Butcher bird had spied him. The Butcher bird had swooped down and began the attack by trying to blind the unfortunate lizard. Luckily for the lizard, a hungry magpie had heard the Butcher birds excited squawks (he was also a young one) and decided to come and take the easy meal away. When I came on the scene I saw a frenzy of black, white and grey feathers with the occasional flash of greyish scales and a tail. I leapt out of the car (after pulling over to the side of the road) and picked up the tiny lizard, to the great confusion, disappointment and disgust of the two birds involved and continued on my way home.

The poor little dragon burrowed into my neck under my chin looking for a safe, warm place to hide all the way home and I felt very protective.

Once he was home, my daughter and I had a look at him and we both thought he had probably lost his eye on that side. So we popped him into a cage near the fire with some warm water and some hot rocks to lie on (well, my daughter did, I just went back to work).

As it turned out, he didn’t lose his eye. The lid was damaged, but the eye underneath was OK. Once he had warmed up a bit, we washed the eye out with warm water and had a really good look at it, he didn’t like it much, but it did allow him to open his eye.

Over the weeks he has recovered quite well. He has had his sore eye washed out daily with clean water and been offered all sorts of yummy food. He eventually decided to start eating live meal worms and has now moved on to spinach leaves and corn. He will be returning to the wild very soon as his eye appears to be healing well.

Weaving a tartan tea towel (sort of)

I have been interested in learning to weave tartan in a sporadic sort of way for a while now. I have friends with Scottish ancestry who I would like to make tartan for and the whole history of how tartan came to be is just really interesting. Tartans did not come from Scotland alone, they were a part of a lot of European cultures and came about as a way of using varied dye lots in a more or less deliberate looking pattern. That sort of reasoning is really what attracts me to tartans; a lot of my crafting is of the I-meant-to-do-that mistake variety and I love finding historical kindred spirits.

Natural dyes being what they are, even if you gather the dye material from the same place at the same time of year and use it in the exact same way on the exact same materials, you will probably end up with a different shade (if not colour) than you got last time. I can see why a weaving pattern that incorporates many different shades and colours in a harmonious way would be an asset to any weaver, and so the tartan was born. Then, in more modern times, we began to register and record our tartans and they became like identifying plumage to a bird. After they began to be associated with clans, they had to be made with a certain set of colours and in a specific pattern.

I found the Scottish Register of Tartans which I promptly joined, as I discovered that they will email you the weaving pattern for any tartan registered with them. The patterns are a bit hard to understand, but I got there in the end. They include the colours and shades, right down to approved dye lots for each tartan (it took ages to figure that bit out)

This is what they sent me whe I asked for the Munro tartan;

Threadcount:
G8AS8G8R64B4Y4R12B24R12Y4B4R12G64R12B4Y4R96

Pallet:
AS=CC4438ANC SCARLET;R=C80000RED;G=006818GREEN;Y=E8C000YELLOW;B=2C2C80BLUE;

Threadcount given over a half sett with full count at the pivots.

Suffice it to say that I read a lot about tartan weaving to be able to decipher that lot. The reference to ‘pivots’ gave me the most trouble. Eventually I found a reference to the fact that the ‘pivot’ is the point where the pattern starts to repeat itself in mirror image. If you don’t understand that, you are not alone, it took me ages, and I’m not sure I’ve got it right yet.

This was the warp I came up with. It turned out rather jewel like I think.

I decided to make some tea towels to give the pattern a go. Of course I didn’t have the right colours, but I wanted to make my mum some tea towels anyway, so I warped up the closest colours I had.

Warped up and ready to weave
And goes on and on and on

Until one day the end was reached

This is the Munro tartan from the Registry. I can see the pattern in the tea towels, The colours are wrong, but the thread count matches.
Then the fabric was overlocked
And washed

Hemming has always been a problem for me. I’m just a really messy hemmer. These hems are not too bad though.

It’s not a proper tartan of course; the weave is not twill (just plain weave) and the balance isn’t perfect (my squares are rectangles not … squares), but as a first try, I’m ridiculously proud of my tea towels and I think my mum will like them.

Visible mending – mending leggings

I am home, waiting for the results from a PCR test. So, to help the time pass, I’m mending some leggings my daughter put in the mending box a few weeks ago.

These old leggings are full of small holes that make them almost, but not quite, unwearable. I decided to go to YouTube for a tutorial. This clip showed me the technique I needed.

As it turns out, fixing holes in knit fabric is fairly easy. Just take tiny stitches on either side of the hole until the hole is miraculously mended. These leggings will last a while longer, and next time I will mend them with brighter thread so that they become a work of art.

This was the largest hole, near the waist band
At the beginning of the process
Half way there
All fixed
Another one of the many holes
And mended

I love making things last longer.

Winter spinning adventures – day four

Of the total 14 days of holidays, I managed to spin for four days. I guess it was a busy time.

This time I took my wheel on my travels and stopped to meet a friend at our local cafe. I love sitting in the afternoon sun and spinning in the garden I planted more than a decade ago.

I had a coffee and chatted to my friend and really enjoyed life for a few hours. Lovely.

This lumpy yarn is growing on me

I am still struggling with accepting the lumpiness of this yarn, but as I spun and chatted I found myself enjoying the process of spinning in public again. I could not disappear into silence as I usually do, so the enjoyment was different, but I found that there is a connection to others here that I value. Being able to keep my hands busy while I chat lets me really listen deeply to what the other person is saying, I seem to hear the words and intent on a much deeper level if my hands are busy. I don’t know why that is, but it is certainly so, I have noticed it in meetings and training before, even at social gatherings (that I try to avoid if at all possible). If my hands are busy knitting, kneading, digging, planting, carrying, or any other physical task, my mind is free to focus fully on what others are saying and doing. At the end of the coffee cup, I packed up my wheel and left nothing but a coffee ring on the table and nebs in the grass.