Saturday, August 19, 2017

Mittens and Hood

Sarah asked me to make a hood like one she had bought for Isla. Then she thought some mittens would be good too so I said you buy the wool and I'll do it. She ended up getting two different colours and this is the first set.

I didn't have a pattern for the hood so it took a lot of measuring and designing but eventually I came up with the design on the right. The hood Sarah had bought had long knitted ties that tied up under the chin but as she didn't really use them I thought  a buttoned strap would be quick and easy and able to keep the hood on.

I had a couple of patterns for mittens but only one with a 'thumb' so I made up the smallest size. Once made I could tell they would be too big (the ones in the bottom of the pic) so I adapted it to a smaller size and made a second pair thinking she could grow into the first pair.

Once I had them finished and gave then to her we found the first mittens fitted Sean and the other two wanted me to knit them a pair each with their choice of colours so the next few days will be knitting days.

I am half way through a second hood for Isla and the mittens in a lovely lavender colour, but being small they don't take long and with the pending rainy cold weather coming on it will be good days for me inside knitting.

Thursday, August 17, 2017

Here we are again ...

Goodness once again I have let the things that I like to do fall by the way.

Today we have been busy going to WINZ to re-apply for the sickness benefit for Harry at an 8.30am! appointment. We slept in so only got there four minutes late. Fortunately they weren't quiet ready for us either. It all went well and was able to be back in time for me to get to work only a few minutes late.

After work I was home and caught up on some house work and got some washing out. Even though it rained, most of it was almost dry before the rain fell and its now over the old wooden drying rack by the wood burner.

I have spent some time reading a ladies blog and was motivated to get back to my own.
I know different people all around the world read it and either try a recipe, smile over some of my comments or generally keep up to-date with my goings on. (I will try to be more active with it.)

The other day I was travelling to Hamilton for a course I go to and every second Tuesday I call on Sarah and the family for the afternoon and tea before hand which has been really great. This particular day I was intrigued by the mixture of clouds above as if the weather wasn't quite sure what to do.

I found myself almost feeling the same.

Life has been different for us over the last year (yes its been a year) since Harry left work on the advice of his doctor because of the way he was being treated. We have had to change the things we do and cut down on spending and we manage, but I have also found that my life and what is important has changed as well.

Its hard to explain what I mean by this but I find myself really wanting to have a simple life in all things. The feeling of cherishing the people and things that are important in life rather than the superfluous things. I don't want to do or be involved in unnecessary time wasting activities, to enjoy the things I have rather than strive to gain something I think I need because others have it and just slow down and notice what is around me.

I stopped and took the pic of the clouds and smiled as I thought about what it was reminding me of. I find that God often speaks to me from the clouds. I know that may seem odd but I find looking up, so I am not affected by 'stuff' that is going on around me, I can fade it all out and just focus on God and He speaks to me - or maybe it's that I then hear what He is saying.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Is it good or is it bad?

We have had hens since Harry's father passed away over 15 years ago when we took home his red shaver hens. As they have passed away we have added to them with other peoples 'cast offs' over the years. Currently we have two black and three small brown hens.

We shut them up at night to keep them safe and into the morning as that is when they tend to lay their eggs, but let then out to roam around the section during the day to scratch and eat what ever they want. Apart from popping over the neighbours fence to eat, their neighbours bread crusts (that she tosses over for them) they keep within our section. In fact they don't seem to even like going out to the road preferring to just jump the fence.

Although they have a perfectly good run and hutch with a nesting box they often prefer to lay the eggs somewhere else around the section where we can't find them.

Over the last few weeks there have been no eggs which meant I had to buy some for the first time in ages. Some of the hens look a little worse for wear. As they are molting a bit, we just presumed they were going through their break time. After awhile we thought it was add that none of them were laying and have been wondering about finding some more hens.

The other day Harry removed some of the netting around one of my flower gardens as I had put in some new plants earlier and wanted them to establish themselves a bit before the hens got in and scratched around. To our surprise there was a 'nest' fill of eggs, tucked right down the far end of the part that had been fenced off. (Who said hens were dumb)

There were 14 eggs of a couple of different colours and sizes so it wasn't just one hen using it!

We gathered them up being careful not to break any as if they were rotten the smell would have been awful. I cleaned them with a cloth as best I could and tried the float test. If you float an egg in a container of water it should sink or sit on the bottom.

If it floats or bobs up it is fill of gas and rotten. Here's an explanation:

When an egg starts to go "off" decomposition occurs. Decomposition gives off gases. As more of the egg decomposes, more of its mass is converted to gases. A gas bubble forms inside the egg so an older egg floats on its end. However, eggs are porous, so some of the gas escapes through the egg shell and is lost to the atmosphere. Although gases are light, they do have mass and affect the density of the egg. When enough gas is lost, the density of the egg is less than that of water and the egg floats.

Fortunately there was only 1 that floated although a couple sort of stood on end in the bottom of the bowl so I will bake with them and just break them into a saucer for a 'smell' test before actually using them!

But it was such a joy to find eggs which meant that they were still laying! Haven't found anymore since so they may have found a different spot.

It is not unusual for them to find places hidden away but we usually find them either because we see the hens coming out of their secret places and think "Hmmm what have you been doing in there?" or just come across the clutch of eggs while working around the garden. We notice that they like to considered themselves safe and hidden away so are usually against the walls of the house but under plants for protection above.

One spot that they seem to go back to even when we have found the eggs and cleared them out, is behind a clump of bulbs under a rose bush. It's a nice little warm protective spot against the house and to be honest is quite difficult to collect the eggs from. As I negotiate one rose branch another will stab my in the wrist. Not only do they use it for laying eggs but our cat will also pop in there for a rest, presumably because the feathers the hens lose over time make the nest comfortable. Or maybe its a handy spot to watch out for mice. And as I have said before there are a few different hens who use it as when we collect the eggs there are the nice big brown ones and the little skinny white ones.

Sometimes if there are no eggs being laid and there is a hen permanently sitting on the nest in the nesting box we will shut them away in our 'behavioural management box'. This is an old air vent cover that sits directly on the ground. There are vents at the side to let in air and a little light but basically the hens are shut in there with a large container of water for a few days for them to get over their need to 'sit'. Once let out they will normally go back to be a hen with a sense of freedom but if they go back to 'sitting' they get put in the box for another few days!

Don't get me wrong its not being cruel so don't go calling the SPCA. It's just to help them break the habit as there are no roosters in our flock to fertilize any eggs so there is no need for them to incubate any eggs.

Our hens are almost family.

In fact they are even known to come inside especially if it is nearly feeding time and Harry has got a bit late getting out to them. They seem to like routines so will let us know if we are late.

One even likes to get in and eat the cat biscuits if it can.
We have had to keep the back door closed because if it sees it open it makes a be-line for the door and in to peck at the cat bowl. Unfortunately it is not always in a hurry to go back out side when we find it so it has to be a gradual coax to leave so it's not frightened and so leave a little deposits on its way!

Saturday, April 22, 2017

Giving It Away

Sometimes when I am tired and the weather is wet and cold or my knees are really playing up, I just wish we didn't have to skimp and save so we can just live.

But today I read this article of a family who are choosing not to use the supermarket and I suddenly felt a shot of encouragement.

Outside the feijoas are falling thick and I feel a certainly responsibility to do something with them all and not have them go to waste. The vegetable garden is also looking a bit soggy and worse for wear after the rains and wind of Cyclone Cook.

In fact a lot of the vegetables have seen better days and I am picking around them to find good parts and produce to eat. There is still plenty and I have already got some greens in for the cooler winter months.

I did realise that for the last month the only produce I have bought at the shops have been bananas.

So today I decided to let myself off by giving away some of our surplus. I have clambered under the feijoas and filled 16 bags, picked 8 huge silver-beet leaves and have left them all at the gate to see what will happen.

We wrote a sign saying "free" with a smiley face - then added "produce" as Harry didn't want the pallet or the bucket going too! I pondered putting a donation box but the box may walk away!!!

We will wait and see if the items go for someone else to enjoy otherwise we might have to try something else.

So if you are passing Bear Street in Tirau - help yourself!.

Saturday, March 11, 2017

Compost Bins

Great heading ah?
Really got you interested, didn’t it?
Well I’m not just talking about any old compost bins – I’m talking about Harry’s.

Ever since we were married, where ever we have lived we have always had a compost bin or two. They may have just been a heap on the ground or a ‘bin’ built with pellets or roller door cut-offs. The compost didn’t amount to much most of the time but the idea was there and we would use some of the compost if it wasn’t invaded with convolvulus.

When we first moved to our new home here, we made a couple up behind the garage but then we got Harry’s Dad’s chooks so all our scarps went to them.

When we came to Tirau back in the 80's there was a public dump (My Dad and Harry would have fun shooting the rats at night!) that was free to use. When (especially in spring) there was too much grass clippings we would take it up in the trailer and shovel it off being careful to avoid standing on any rats and more often than not Harry would bring something “useful” home! When it closed the council had a green waste site that was also free to dump grass and thin pruning’s etc. They turned it into mulch which was free to take. When that closed we had to start to pay to use the next towns dump unless we had access to a friendly farmers “bank” to dump it over.

We decided it was time to build some compost bins not only to save costs with the dumping of green waste but to actually have somewhere to put the waste and to make compost for our gardens.

Harry looked at different ideas from books and websites and set about making his own design using all the wood we had around the section. We were really lucky in that we had obtained some left over wood and sown off bits from where Daniel had worked before they were dumped, so we were able to have them. In the end we didn’t have to buy anything for the construction.

At first Harry built two with the idea of one to be added to while the other was doing its ‘cooking’ or composting. But then we realised that we needed three; one for adding to, one for cooking and one for the finishing off.

Bags of stable scrapings 

Harry adds stable scrapings that can be picked up free from the gates at the Matamata racing stables layering it between grass clippings and we add other things like coffee grinds, ash from the fire, food scarps we don’t give the chooks, weeds and leftovers from harvested vegetables. I also empty the vacuum cleaner into it and sometimes rotting cardboard.

The bins have been set up in the vegetable garden at the moment until an area that Harry is still clearing is suitable for them to be installed permanently. The front slates can be slid up and removed to allow for the adding of grass from the wheel barrow easily, then shoveling the compost over to the next bin and finally to be accessed easily as the level goes down.

All in all they are a state of the art addition to our self-sufficiency.

And the compost is superb ... even if I do say so myself.
Finish compost ready for the garden or bagging

Saturday, January 14, 2017

So How Does the Garden Go

As I said in the post below the garden needed a lot of help with the new season of spring and summer.

At first it was a matter of finding what had survived the neglect of an un-kept winter garden. And to our blessing there were some plants that had kept growing. Maybe the weeds growing up protected them keeping moisture in the ground, birds away from them and protection from severe winds, but I found a good amount still edible or just needing a bit more time and attention. As mentioned in an earlier post Harry helped weed and dig over parts of the garden and also set to digging a separate block for potatoes. (We have four blocks that are rotated between gardens, the hen run and just being fallow for a bit.)

Once the garden was cleared enough for plantings it was then a matter of working out what we wanted planted and when. I have been using the NZ Gardeners Garden Diary for a few years and it’s a great guide as to when to plant what with hints and recipes each month as well as planting by the moon. I actually am really following this now although at first I thought it was all a bit fuddy duddy. As a prime example I was planting carrots one week even though they said not to because of the phase of the moon – and – nope nothing came up. A few weeks later I panted when they said to “plant crops whose edible parts are below ground” and presto they came up.

It wasn’t long before we were eating the crops from the ‘lost garden’ and now we are well into enjoying all the new crops as they come on. In fact at the moment the only fruit and vegetables I buy are tomatoes and cucumbers (because ours aren’t ready yet) and bananas and one other stone fruit whichever is cheapest at the time.

So all in all it’s a real blessing and so much healthier to be eating straight from our garden nearly all our vegetables and some fruit knowing they have had no herbicides or pesticides added to them at all.


And to add to it Harry and I are getting fresh air, some exercise and just enjoying working on a common project together – what bliss.

No it doesn't need weeding- that's an example of over cropping and not planning for large produce.