Rest well Bandit

We have had a rough run with Bandit (our oldest dog now); he has had a series of operations over the last six months or so. First he was eating a lot of grass, so we took him to the vet. The vet found he had a blocked bowel and managed to clear it. They also took a biopsy from a lump on his tongue at the same time. The biopsy turned out to not be cancer, but he had to have a piece of his tongue removed as the tumour was growing fast. That (very expensive) surgery had to be done by a specialist. The surgery itself went well and he healed quickly, but he had accidently been burned by the cauterising plate (some piece of medical equipment used in these surgeries) on his side. The burn did not touch his hair, but burned deep into his side. We discovered it when the hair began to fall out in the area. So we took him back to the vet, who gave us creme for the wound. He healed from that fairly well.

Recently, he began to eat grass again and went off his food, so it was off to the vet again. We expected another blockage but instead they found he had thickening of the small intestine. Which required another operation to take biopsies. The biopsies revealed that he had some sort of food intolerance, but before we could bring him home, the biopsy sites began to break down. He had another operation to clear the sites of infection and he was on multiple pain medications and antibiotics. I was driving to see him as often as I could (not easy as I had to cross a border and the drive was two and a half hours each way). I could see he was looking more and more unhappy, even though the vet staff tried their best to get him eating and make him comfortable.

Last Sunday (the day we had our second Covid shot), the vet rang and said his temperature was up again and he was passing blood. His other organs were beginning to break down. We made the decision to end his suffering. We drove up to the vet one last time to see him and be there when he went. That was the hardest time I have faced of late; Bandit was a very special member of our family…

When we were first going out together, Kev’ bought me a puppy. Not just any puppy, a two week old puppy who had been rejected by her mother and needed to be fed two hourly with an eye dropper. I’m not sure whether he wanted to ignite my mothering instincts, test my resilience or just take advantage of sleep deprivation, but either way it worked. I raised that puppy and she had puppies in her turn, then her daughter had puppies (we kept one puppy from each litter), her son had a single puppy: Bandit. Read a little more about our pack here. I wish we had kept track of the puppies we gave away, so we could maybe get another member of the line.

Bandit (and all his line before him) has been a symbol of our marriage, a superstitious good luck charm in a way. I guess you could say he was a horcrux, he held a piece of our souls that personified our marriage. So it was fitting that my partner and I were both there to see him on his way to the next world. He sat outside enjoying the sun and the cool grass, under a beautiful wisteria dripping flower petals. I patted him and stroked him for an hour or so and we lay in the grass together like we had all his life. Then the vet came and injected him with the Green Dream and he went to sleep in my arms with a final relieved sigh.

I am glad he is at peace but I will miss his soft little head that I stroke whenever I wake in the night. I will miss his happy face when I come home from work. I will miss him walking importantly in front of me on walks as if I would be lost if he wasn’t there to show me the way. Most of all, I will miss the pressure of his body against me through every long night.

If someone reading this took one of the puppies from Gismo (we were in Urbenville then) or Pucky (we lived in Drayton then) and has a descendant of that line, please get in touch.

Local insects and animals – Agriophara plagiosema

The Butterfly House website says this is a Agriophara plagiosema, an inconspicuous moth species that doesn’t even rate a common name. To me, moths seem to be endlessly surprising and beautiful; they sit in plain sight with their intricate patterns and colours and go largely unnoticed by everybody. There are so many species and variations that each moth really does qualify as an individual based on appearance.

Moths are a useful part of our ecosystem. Moths pollinate many plants, especially night flowering types. They also provide food for birds, lizards and marsupials. I once raised a Muscovy duck on moths and other night insects by turning on an outside light and catching the swarms of insects in a plastic bag (I then popped the duckling inside the bag, providing food for the duck and entertainment for everyone else), that duck became a massive lump called Baby who looked about the size of an average cattle dog.

These days, we leave a small light on outside to attract interesting insects and the geckos and frogs are quick to come and enjoy the bounty.

Making protein powder

Recently I decided to start paying attention to my iron consumption (having been diagnosed with an iron deficiency). To achieve this I downloaded an app called MyFitnessPal and logged everything I eat into it each day. This little app counts calories, but it also counts macronutrients (iron among them). After about two weeks of tracking, I discovered that my iron intake is fairly low and so is my protein. To combat this trend I decided to make some vegan protein powder and up my leafy greens and legume consumption.

I have a favourite YouTube channel when it comes to making interesting food for us; Chef Jana. She has a recipe for protein powder that seems to work for us. So off I went to the food cupboard looking for ingredients.

We had most of them, I did however have to substitute hemp seed for flax seed. It was so simple to measure it all out into the blender and hit the button. I poured the powder into a big jar and we started adding it to smoothies, salads, baked goods (vegan brownies… yum) and even mashed potatoes. The result has been amazing! If the tracking app can be believed.

The above information was taken prior to making the powder; as you can see, I am fairly low on protein (and some other things too).
This information is from after the protein powder. You can see the difference!

I feel a bit more energetic too. Other health issues remain, but that is the inevitable march of time (for which there is no cure).

Making dish washing tabs

It is time to try to eliminate the detergent bottle from the landfill contribution we make. We use about one bottle every three weeks, which may not sound like a lot, but it still contributes to our local landfill and costs us a fair amount of money. Also, I am never really sure if the claims of ‘eco-friendly’ displayed prominantly on the bottle are true or not. So…….

I found some blogs about making dishwasher tabs (I know… we don’t have a dishwasher and are not really interested in getting one at this stage) and began to think about the differences between hand washing and dishwasher washing. Hand washing uses both chemical and mechanical means (the kind of mechanical force you apply when scrubbing that burnt pot while listening to M&M) to get the dishes clean, while a dishwasher relies on mechanical force (the pressure applied by a stream of water against the surface of the plate, while not listening to M&M) and heat to clean. So dishwasher tabs don’t have any detergent in them, they use chemicals to adjust the pH of the water to make it easier for the water and heat to do it’s job and anti-streak chemicals to make sure the dishes dry shiny and streak free. Therefore dishwasher tabs will need to be slightly different to hand washing tabs.

The dishwasher tab recipe I found is a simple combination of 1 cup washing soda, 1/2 cup citric acid, 1 tablespoon of detergent and essential oils. I decided to start with half this recipe and adjust it after testing.

I just tipped the lot into a bowl and mixed it up well.

It sort of foamed up and became light and fluffy. Apparently that is what it should do.

Then I poked a few teaspoons full into ice cube trays and pressed them down really well.

They apparently need to dry for four hours, but I found it was a lot longer than that. I left these for a day and a half.

Now for the first test! I ran some water into the sink and added a cube.

The final result; clean dishes! The cube doesn’t foam up at all, but it is easy to wash with it and the plates seem to have an extra shine on them. I will try using them for a week and see if there is any taste residue left. Maybe I won’t have to change the recipe again.

If everyone likes this option, we can go from buying one bottle of detergent every three weeks to only one a year (the recipe only uses a tablespoon per batch). I am very pleased with this project! I might go and dirty a wine glass.

Making unpaper towels

With a new puppy (sometimes two) and a permanent house goose living in the humpy, we have a lot of use for cleaning rags and products. The state of our floors is a constant worry for me as the dirt, hair and feathers seem to collect into drifts in corners and into dust devils under cupboards (dust bunnies is too tame a name for the tumble weeds of waste we collect) if we skip a day of sweeping. Washing the floor is a full body workout achieved by scrubbing the floor with bicarbonate of soda and vinegar and a broom, then sweeping up the leavings once it is dry. At the moment, we use a paper towel to soak/wipe up puppy and goose mistakes, then give the area a spray with my special cleaning fluid (a mixture of vinegar, peroxide, essential oils and a squirt of detergent). I want to move away from using paper towels to reduce our carbon footprint and save some money, so I decided to swap to unpaper towels.

Unpaper towels are a much more upmarket version of my counter wiping rags. At the moment I use an old rag (usually from a sheet torn into squares) to clean the kitchen counters in conjunction with my cleaning spray. The rags are changed often and I usually have a pile of them to wash with my vegetable bags every week. Unpaper towels are just a hemmed and pretty version of these. I have historically not been worried about things being ‘pretty’, but I am finding that as I age the impulse to include appearance in my considerations is increasing.

My current cleaning rags are somewhat past it (whatever your definition of ‘it’ may be)

I decided to make two sets of unpaper towels; one for the kitchen and one for the floors. The kitchen towels will be made from a pretty flannel fabric and the floor towels will be from a plain colour to allow for vinegar soaking to sterilise. Both sets will be stored in a roll popped into a glass jar with a lid (to keep them dust free and mouse safe). I will hang two lingerie washing bags (two different colours to avoid confusion) in the kitchen somewhere to hold used towels and I can wash the floor towels with the other pet cloths and towels, and the kitchen towels can go in with the tea towels. Now I have a plan set in my mind, it’s time to find some fabric.

I found some smallish pieces of flannel fabric and some promising YouTube clips (I used this method to make the wipes).

The printed flannel is for the kitchen counters and the plain grey is for the floors.

I cut off about a metre of the fabric and folded it in half and cut up that line. I continued to fold and cut pieces in half until I had a pile of wipes the same size.

The first fold and cut.
The end result; there are 24 of each fabric.

From that point it is a simple matter of overlocking around the edges of each one; a monotonous task, but very satisfying.

Hemming each wipe took a long time.

Then the towels where rolled into a roll like paper towels and I tested whether I could pull wipes from the middle (I could). I found an empty jar of the right size and popped the roll into it.

Then I just had to try out my new toy! I used one as a wipe for the kitchen counters with my spray and dropped it into the waiting washing bag. A very satisfying experience; I do love using my projects.

I am hoping that this project will be as successful as the bidet and family cloth system. We no longer need to buy toilet paper (except for visitors and my less adventurous daughter) and hopefully we will no longer need to buy paper towels either. I am dropping out of shopping, one item at a time.

Of course the overlocker broke a needle and I did not finish the floor cloths. Oh well… tomorrow is another chance to make stuff.

Update: I managed to fix the overlocker (and gave it a good clean while I was there) and finish the floor cloths. While I was in the mood for sewing, I also made a couple of small bins for the car. I need a rubbish bin in my car desperately to help keep the rubbish in one place. Maybe I need to make some wipes for the car too.

Weaving rag rug bath mats

I don’t buy clothes often, I don’t even have clothes given to me often, so where do the overflowing cupboards and draws come from? Do my clothes meet mates and start a family? Producing new, aged looking tshirts and jeans. Do the Fair Folk steal clothes from other people’s lines and use my cupboard as an off site storage for their stolen goods? Or does my daughter secretly buy clothes and sneak them into my cupboard? Who knows?

Every six months or so, I go through my clothes and give away a box or bag of things I don’t wear, but there are always clothes that are too far gone to be passed on. These stained, torn and stretched items of apparel go to a variety of places; they become cleaning rags, animal bedding or rag rugs. Every now and then I take a load of frayed and stained cleaning rags, worn too thin from multiple washes and soaks, to the massive hole where we throw our paper, old furnitire and other biodegradable items. There the cloth joins the rest of the compost in waiting, slowly turning back into valuable top soil.

Making rag rugs uses up a lot of the extra fabric in our house. I cut the cloth into strips and wind the strips into balls to be woven at a later date (when the draw I store them in begins to overflow). Now that we have an indoor bathroom, I can make a few new mats to use as bathmats, whereas previously they would be used as animal beds and floor rugs beside the bed (my vain attempt to keep our sheets clean).

The process of making some rag rugs is simple;

Cut your old clothes and cloth into strips;

Tshirts- I use this method to get the most from my tshirts. I’m not usually so careful about cutting the seams off though.

jeans/pants- I use this method to turn pants into strips.

leggings or tights- I use this method to cut up leggings. This is roughly the same as for pants, but it is important to keep stretch fabric seperate from woven fabric. Stretch fabric will pull the warp in and make a smaller mat than woven fabric (see the photo of all three mats at the end of this post; the smaller mat is made from stretch fabric)

Warp your loom;

I use a cotton warp thread and double the warp in any size heddle I use (this one is 12.5 dpi). The size of the heddle (the thing with slots and eyes that warp is threaded through) doesn’t really matter with rag rugs, but I do find that the more warp threads I use, the stronger the rug is when it is finished.

Weave the rugs;

I weave an inch or so with an acrylic yarn before I start the rag section. This gives the mats a firm start and finish and also gives me a nice, neat indicater of when one rug finishes and another starts.

The bottom section of the weave in this photo is done with acrylic yarn, the top is rags.

Take them off the loom and finish the ends;

I just cut them off the loom and overlocked the ends. This makes for a neat edge and it seems to stay strong for a long time.

Use the new rugs;

These rugs are nice and big, they are very absorbant and they use up cloth that would otherwise go to landfill. Each mat will last for years. I have five year old rugs that are only just beginning to show wear. The warp threads seem to go first and the rag pieces pull out. I will try to save the rags from these older rugs to be re-woven into new mats in the future, and then I will feel like a super recycler!

Weaving is such an enjoyable hobby. I am thankful that I don’t have to weave cloth for the whole family, I would never get off the loom and the spinning wheel, but I do love that a lot of our cloth items are now handmade. I try to add a new item every year. By the time I am 90, we should be using only handmade cloth.

Making work horse tea towels

My new work horse tea towels
These are two of the last lot of tea towels I made. They have worn fairly well in the past year of constant use.

We need some new tea towels; the old ones are getting a bit ratty looking. I have been only using my hand made tea towels for a year or two now, and they have worn really well, but they have reached their limit. I decided to make up some plain and simple, but long lasting, smallish tea towels.

I pulled out the rigid heddle loom and some dark green, 8/2 cotton. I warped 120 ends with one strand per end and about three metres in length. Then I went looking for a waft yarn; I found a big roll of hemp yarn and another one of cotton 8/2 thread. I decided to use one of each strand as a double weft, and off I went to weave.

The weaving part went fairly quickly as I had some ghost stories on my computer as audio files that just played away while I wove sitting on my bed. After a week of weaving an hour or so most days, I had a big roll of cloth.

This weave looks sort of like a brick wall to me; what do you see?
Melvin helped me out at times
The roll is getting bigger and bigger.

I took the roll off the loom and overlocked the ends to secure the weft, then I washed the whole roll. This helps to make sure the cloth is not going to shrink any more once it is hemmed up and it also helps to stabilise the weave somewhat before it is cut into tea towel size pieces.

I used paper clips to mark the measurements for the tea towels. You can also see the loose lengths of weft where I started a new shuttle of hemp and cotton.
Overlocking the ends.

Each tea towel is going to be 25 cm wide and 40 cm long. I measured each length, cut and overlocked each end. I decided to leave the ends overlocked but not hemmed. I think this will wear well, but if it doesn’t I can always hem them later. I trimmed up the loose threads and folded my new tea towels.

I do love being able to make my own cloth items; it makes me feel so self sufficient! My next project is some rag rugs to use as bath mats in front of our new shower. They will use up some of our old,ripped and worn out clothes (which are made from old sheets and quilt covers in their turn).

I have been unwell lately; dizzy and weak with not much inspiration to do anything, I am hoping that this project means I am on the mend now. Weaving a project takes a fair amount of sustained concentration and energy, so the fact that this project only took a week of spurts of work means that I have more energy than I have had for quite a while. I have also ordered some more cotton for a more complicated project I will be making as a house warming gift for a friend.

A gratuitous photo of Melvin and his sister Penny. Penny is staying with us for a few days while her human mother is having a new baby (a human one). Penny is totally different to Melvin; so small and fine built, but they love to see each other and she keeps Melvin in line better than anyone else.

Changing bathroom plans again…sigh.

So I have been trying to get back to finishing my earthbag bathroom for several seasons now. There is always something to stop me; drought (no water to make moist soil), fires, flood, a damned plague and now a lot of working days. While this is the perfect time for us to get into bagging the walls, my partner has decided he wants to have a quick, fairly easy bathroom option…so we replanned the whole thing to build it indoors (because he always gets his own way… pout).

My office space has been used as a dump site for all those things that don’t really have a place inside, but need to be inside (empty bottles for wine making, bulk pasture grass, tents and camping gear, the list goes on). So I decided to donate my unusable space to the bathroom cause…I emptied out everything and got rid of a lot of stuff (I am now a digital immigrant) and moved out all that extra stuff. It mis amazing to me that we manage to attract so much junk; I don’t buy a lot of things and I try to reduce at every opportunity, but still we are drowning in possessions. Clearing out the office space was actually really freeing for me as I realised that I hadn’t used a lot of that stuff for years and therrefore didn’t need it.

We were luck enough to buy a second hand shower bay from a local renovator. It is a huge fibreglass shape with holes for the shower head and taps. We bought it home in the trailer and it sat in the newly empty office space for months, I used it to store washing in. The washing machine was moved over to the bathroom area with no fuss and we began to enjoy gazing out the window while washing. My partner eventually built a frame for the shower bay to sit in and fitted a drain to it to take the waste water out to the planned new self watering garden beds (that aren’t built yet, of course).

The water is heated by the camping gas water heater we had in the shed. The water is stored in a small tank and pumped to the gas instantanious water heater by a 12 Volt water pump. The water temperature can be set on the heating unit before you get into the shower. This system is a bit complicated, but it stops us using too much water by luxuriating in the warm water. We can only use as much water as we put in the tank.

We now use more than 10 litres each per shower, it is up to about 50 litres each, but the warm, indoor shower is worth the cost.

Even the dogs appreciate having a place to have a warm bath.

The only downfall (pun intended) is the height we had to put the shower bay at; to allow for drainage. This high shower means that we have to essentially climb up and down when having a shower. There are plans to build a step eventually, but for now, it just means we are careful about getting in and out (it keeps us flexible).

It is hard to describe the feeling of luxury we have when showering indoors, with warm water. Every night I have a warm shower and climb into bed, enjoying not having had to carry a bucket of water out into the cold wind and rain (sometimes), then shiver my way back indoors to stand in front of the fire warming up. I enjoy the luxury of feeling warm water running over my head in a steady stream while I wash my hair. I feel rich and decadent, I am so very grateful for the opportunity to feel pampered and I am sure the wildlife appreciates not being disturbed by our noise and lights while we shower outdoors too.

Melvin update

Melvin continues to grow and mature (as puppies do). He has had his second lot of immunisations and is microchipped. He is beginning to show his nature and grow into himself too. This revealing of his nature has led to some interesting nick names; such as Smelly Melly, Hell Hound, Devil Dog and my personal favourite… Beelzebub.

He loves to play, especially biting and fighting games. We have had to tell him off multiple times for chasing geese and guinea fowl. We will continue to work on curbing and diverting his chasing and hunting instinct. He loves to roll in anything smelly he finds on our walks, then proudly bring that smell home. He also has discovered a real talent for being underfoot, I do believe he could take that talent and spin it into a successful assasin business. He steals toys from Val (Chloe’s dog) and hides them in his bed, leading Val to sneak in to retrieve her toys at all hours of the day and night.

He has moments of quiet and gentleness and he loves a cuddle when he is tired. We make sure he goes outside regularly (I had forgotten about toilet training!!) and he goes to the toilet every few hours day and night. In the afternoons (and sometimes mornings) we take him and Val for a walk. He can run for a kilometre without getting tired. When he is worn out enough by playing and running, he finds a place to curl up and sleep for a micro-second or so, before he is ready to do it all over again.

He is gradually being accepted into our dog pack; Val treats him like an annoying little brother, playing with him sometimes and totally ignoring or snapping at him other times. Bandit treats him like a mortal enemy, snarling and snapping at him whenever he gets close. It is funny to see Melvin trying to sneak up on Bandit so he can nip him. I think it won’t be long before Melvin is fully integrated into the pack and finds his position.

I do love the little boy… even if he is a bit devilish. He makes the cutest noises when he yawns, he is fearless and endlessly curious about life, he is a warm presence while I work and he looks at me with love in his eyes. What more could I wish for from a new baby?

Local insects and animals – Dainty green tree frog

I couldn’t resist sharing this beautiful sunset with you. The sky was glowing with orange and pink light, so much so that the air seemed to have an orange tint to it. The evening was just cool enough to be pleasant and the day’s work was done… heaven.

With all the rain we have had over this Summer (so lovely to be able to say that), the frogs are beginning to breed up again. They sing from the dam and yard every night; calling for mates while the puddles last. Every bucket and bowl left out to fill with water is hosting tadpoles of one kind or another.

I found this pretty little frog on the clothesline beside the front door. She is a Dainty Green Tree Frog.

An internet photo for comparison

I love having so many different kinds of frogs around the humpy. It indicates a healthy environment (even if it is messy). We encourage the frogs by leaving containers for them to breed in, placing piles of rocks near the water for adults to hide in and sometimes we feed the tadpoles lettuce and fish food if they are in a smallish container.