Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Lanikai - My Mum's garden - some more photos.

Last post was really photo heavy, and so is this one. Mum's garden is an amazing place and I just want to share it. So here's another photo feast;

No they aren't real. They are just one of the little tableau to be found scattered around the garden.  

Here's another one

Saturday, 27 September 2014

Lanikai - My Mum's garden

Recently I attended a garden day at my Mum's place. The local Garden Club visits members gardens once a month and there are always cuttings to be had. I haven't been for a long while (years in fact) due to work/study/life commitments, but I had a day free and my mother invited me, so I went.

As I wandered around the garden, catching up with friends I hadn't seen for a while, it struck me that this garden had matured and changed over the last three decades. This is the garden I grew up in and it had changed along with me. The old swings had gone and a fish pond taken their place, the vegetable garden and orchards had changed places several times and the trees had grown in size and number. It has matured into a stunningly beautiful place to spend time and somewhere it is possible to get lost in the endless grassy paths leading to secret spaces. These days Mum and Dad run a camping place and charge people $5 for a tour of the garden and a cup of tea with scones (usually some cuttings too), and it is well worth the visit.

I would like to share some pictures of my mum's garden with you.
This is a random selection of images from the garden, there is more that I haven't shown, and no they aren't all from the garden day I went on, some are taken by  my Dad at other times.

Friday, 26 September 2014

Local insects and animals - King parrots

Australia has a lot of parrots; 56 species to be exact. The king parrot is one of the most beautiful of them. A lot of people in our area see them as pests because they can be extremely destructive and will destroy a vegetable garden in the blink of an eye. I think they are beautiful, but I take care to keep my vegetables growing in secure cages.

We have a little family of king parrots who visit in search of food regularly. There is Steve; the dad of the group, he may have been hand raised (I'm not sure) as he isn't scared to come into the house to steal bites from fruit and chew things. Next is Kerry; the mum, she is shy and hard to photograph, she flies away as soon as she sees me. They have two babies every year who stay with them until they get full plumage, this years babies have yet to come to the house.

Steve, waiting for me to fill the feeders.

Feeding wild birds is never a good idea (unless you are planting shrubs for them to feed off) they get used to being fed and rely on the food source without bothering to find more. They also get obese and are easy prey for predators. Having said that, our wild birds visit the chook pens and eat anything left over after feeding time. I don't encourage this, but I don't actively discourage it either. What can I say...I'm weak, I like to see them flying around the place and know they are all OK. They can be a pain in the proverbial though...

We came home from work one day and found the house in disarray, from the evidence, we had either been vandalised or the king parrot family had come over for coffee and found us not home. They pushed books off the shelves, chewed the back off a chair and tipped over some bottles in the kitchen. They also tore a cardboard box apart to expose the fire extinguisher inside, and had a good go at figuring out how to activate it (the pin was pulled out but the handle proved too hard for them to work).

A close up of Steve, he was in the house and had to be caught and escorted outside.

The chair back they chewed up.

Do you have king parrots? Do you love them or hate them?

Tuesday, 23 September 2014

Spinning and Plying cotton - part two

Now for the fun bit...
Spinning cotton requires patience and practice. The method is different to wool and the settings on your wheel are different too.

First, the wheel. My wheel has a double band drive, which is not recommended for spinning using the long draw method (commonly used for cotton) as it is hard to adjust the wheel to take up the yarn slowly enough. I have found it is possible to use the long draw method with a double band wheel, you just need to be patient and keep a close eye on the yarn.

 I use what I would call a medium draw method that works efficiently for me. Instead of drawing the fibre back past my hip, as you do with the long draw, I draw back about 30 cm at a time before letting the yarn wind onto the bobbin. I also 'bend' the yarn a bit so I can control the twist in the yarn I am drafting. For non- spinners; drafting is pulling the fibre out into a thin line before the spinning wheel puts twist into it.

The clip below shows how an expert spins cotton using the long draw method.

This clip shows how I spin using my medium draw method.

It takes a long time for me to spin a bobbin of cotton, but I enjoy the challenge of getting the single (the un-plyed strand of yarn) smooth and even.

The singles are getting fairly even.

Almost filled a bobbin, just a few more nests.

When the bobbin is full it is time to ply the yarn....see you then.

Sunday, 21 September 2014

The season's first chickens hatching; it must be Ostara

Happy Ostara to all; it is the spring equinox, which means that day and night are equal, due to our planet appearing to have no tilt at this stage of its orbit around the sun. It also means that my hens will bring forth chickens (and they have, right on cue), the sheep girls will cycle for the first time since they birthed their babies at Imbolc (it's driving Stag the ram crazy as he is locked away from them until Mabon, at the end of March) and daffodils flower in the garden. In the bush the kangaroos all have bulging pouches and the wattle is flowering like little golden suns.

At this time of year the world is new and fresh, new life springs forth from every corner and the potential of the summer is revealed. This time of year is so inspiring.

This year we celebrated by taking a Cheese and Garlic tour. We visited some market gardens in the area and a cheese factory and ended up at a brewery for lunch (of course). It was a brilliant day. Unfortunately all the photographs I took of the day were lost when my phone threw an SD card (that's how my partner phrased it). Instead I will share some photos of Ostara at the humpy....

This is Steve; he comes to the 'Retired chooks' pen for a feed when I refill their feeder. He is a King Parrot and his mate's name is Kerry.

We have two batches of chickens at the moment; one lot was hatched two weeks ago and one hatched on Ostara morning (20th September) 

There are some chicks from each hatch in this photo; our hens tend to mother all the babies together.

The zucchini are beginning to fruit.

The cabbages are hearting up

The Hugelkultur beds are looking green and productive

Yes, we planted lettuce, even though they will bolt to seed after a very short pick. I love lettuce at this time of year.

The last planting of snow peas are fruiting. The other two plantings were eaten by chooks so this will be our first harvest.
I also went to a spring garden tour in my mother's garden, I have a lot of photos from that, but the garden is so awesome it deserves its own post.

What did you do for Ostara?

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

Spinning and plying cotton - part one.

Spinning cotton is hard but not impossible.
Most of the reading I have done leads me to believe you need cotton carders, a takhli or Charkha spindle and immeasurable patience. Having none of these things I just used what I had and did it anyway.
I spin my cotton without all the traditional equipment; no cotton carders; no supported spindle or  Charkha. I use my wool carders to prepare the fibre and spin it on my old faithful traditional spinning wheel.

The first part of the journey is to prepare the cotton. I am lucky enough to have a sister who grows cotton so she occasionally brings me a garbage bag of bolls (the 'fruit' of the plant; a lot of seeds with a cotton ball attached). These bolls need to have the vegetable matter and the seeds removed before being carded into submission ready for spinning.

Removing the seeds and the vegetable matter is not a process that can be rushed; I sit and pick the seeds out of each boll individually along with any large bits of vegetation. It takes about two full bolls to 'charge' the cards (charging the cards is a fun way of saying 'put enough on one carder to make a rolag'). The cotton is then carded or combed from one carder to the next until all the vegetable matter has fallen away (some has to be picked off) and the fibre is smooth.

The usual method is to make punis from the carder cotton by wrapping the little mat of fibre around a stick really tightly to make firm rolag of fibre. I prefer to make mine into nests of soft and fairly airy rolags (a rolag is the mat of carded fibre from the carders rolled up into a cylinder).

Carders and cotton, ready to go (and a drop spindle that photo bombed the shot)

The cotton boles; the brown stuff is vegetable matter

The lump in the middle of the cotton ball is the seed; there are between two and ten of these in every bole

The cotton all loaded onto my carders and ready to be tamed

I don't make traditional punis, I just make the usual nest, the same as wool.

It takes 26 nests to fill a bobbin on my spinning wheel, so the preparation takes a long time. The next step is spinning the cotton, which has its difficulties too.