A new Hugel/wicking bed

I have had a Susu banana in a bag that I bought months ago. The poor thing has sat and waited to be planted out for so long it has almost given up hope of becoming a member of the garden. I decided today to make it a space to grow, while I was cleaning up the mess that had evolved around the humpy during the last year of living and working, and working, and working.

There was an old cast iron bath tub that has been previously used as a tub to boil pig carcass’ in (not here of course) sitting in the yard, so we set it up in a convenient position for a garden bed and I started to think about how to fill it with growing medium.

First of all I needed something to absorb water and keep the plant roots out of the slop; sticks and stray bits of wood would do the trick here I thought. I collected a wheelbarrow full of those.

Next I needed something that would fill the gaps between the sticks and break down into a rich soil… eventually. Luckily my daughter had just cleaned out her rabbits, guinea pigs and bird enclosures, so I had tubs full of poop filled paper pellets. This was the perfect pre-compost material, it will break down into soil and filter down between the sticks filling the gaps.

Then it was time to top it all off with potting mix and plant my banana.

She looked so much happier. One of the the billy goats; Mendez, was looking on hopefully, waiting for me to throw weeds over the fence to him.

I also moved one of my potted geraniums onto a makeshift platform on the trailer bed. The scented geraniums are great at repelling insects, so right beside a vegetable bed is a great place for it. As an added bonus, I have taken two pieces of abandoned detritus and made them into a usable garden bed… I love that!!

Everything we have is second or third hand, that’s the way I like it. We make use of the discarded things, we take in the discarded animals, it makes life interesting, and messy. Our humpy is not conventionally beautiful, it never will be, but it is a creative space to be in. Sometimes it is chaos, sometimes it is order, always we are striving to make it home.

Make vegan whipped cream

I recently had the most delightful desert at a friend’s house; Choc ripple cake. I have never had it before and I really enjoyed it, so, of course, I had to have a go at making a vegan version for my family.

The cake uses a lot of whipped cream, so I needed to find a vegan whipped cream recipe. This video seemed to be the simplest one to start with. I combined the first ingredients;

1 cup soy milk

1/4 cup raw cashews

2 teaspoons vanilla extract

4 pinches salt

Then blended them until they were smooth. Next I added 2 cups of oil slowly while continuing to blend (or whip) the mixture. Within ten minutes I had a credible whipped cream and it tasted delicious.

Then I just whacked the whole thing together and stored it in the fridge to do its magic.

I’ve got to say, this is a VERY tempting vegan dessert.

Making a car Go Bag for fire season

When we were directly threatened by fire in 2019, we evacuated our entire household for a month. When we left, we took only our animals, one change of clothes and a laptop. I want to be better organised with our personal items and have a Go Bag in the car at all times with the essentials always available. Ever since I was a child we have always had water in the car, it is a habit to check the drinking water before setting off anywhere. Now it is time to do the same with an essential Go Bag.

I need to find a way to store all the items below in a mouseproof, water proof container that won’t take up too much space in my car.

Two laundry bags are the first to go in. While we were living in a tent and then a caravan for a month, one of the things we missed most were our baskets and buckets. We carry and store things constantly as humans and having something to store and carry clothes and other essentials in is very reassuring. I chose a couple of foldable bags that won’t take up much space.

Next comes the first aid kit with spares of all our medications and generic first aid stuff. Also some wipes, glow sticks and an ockey strap on the grounds that you never know when they may be useful (and they often are). I also included a camping bidet bottle in case I need to answer a call of nature somewhere with no toilet paper.

Basic toiletries are included of course. You should never leave home without a toothbrush.

Clothes were added. I managed to fit two sets of clothes, three sets of under wear and a set of pajamas in this box with all the other stuff.

I included an air freshener to try to keep things from getting smelly and musty too.

This Go Bag has already been useful when I was flooded out of home once this year. It lives in my car so I know I can be comfortable if I can’t get home for some reason.

I would like to add some dehydrated meals to the kit as well, and maybe a basic camping outfit.

Happy Litha – Summer Solstice 2022

Litha has come around again, it seems to come along more quickly every year. Litha is when the sun is at it’s highest strength; the days are at their longest, the UV index is high (but will get higher over the next two months) and animal life has settled into the serious business of raising babies. We celebrate Litha by thanking the sun for shining and bringing energy to our world, we celebrate the shortening of the days and the beginning of the harvest season.

This year I am making cold porcelain sun discs as a Litha craft. I am using this recipe to make the clay, then making some sun symbols from it.

The recipe for cold porcelain is so simple…

3/4 cup corn flour

1/2 cup white glue

1 tablespoon vinegar

1 tablespoon oil

That’s it, just add the ingredients and mix, then knead until it looks like clay.

Once these little discs are dry and hard I will paint them and add a couple of layers of lacquer to make them a bit water proof. Sun discs can be used as decorations, gifts or as coasters. I think I will punch a hole in mine and hang them around the humpy.

Happy Litha everyone!!

Making rolags from scrap yarn

No waste here! I found this clip showing how to use up those annoying little snips of yarn you end up with after knitting anything with colour changes. So I decided to try out the method on a tiny ball of left over yarn from my latest sock knit.

I carded up some short cuts of the yarn with some Eli wool to make about 100g of rolags. Then I spun it all up into singles.

The singles plyed up into a really nice 2 ply yarn with an interesting texture. I think I will make some socks out of this skein.

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