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.

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.

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.