Sunday, 29 November 2015

Shade cloth everywhere

A few weeks ago we managed to pick up 10 metres of industrial grade shade cloth. It's the stuff they use in shopping centre car parks, so it's pretty tough. The plan was to put it up as a shade sail on the northern side of the humpy to shade and hopefully cool the interior and to provide shade for all the animals that live in the yard. This weekend we got to the job.

First my hen pecked partner zoomed off into the bush and cut some poles from a tree which blew down in a storm recently. We then debarked the bottoms of the poles so that they would not get loose in their cemented holes (due to the bark drying out and falling off). While this was happening I was dutifully digging 60 cm deep holes in the assigned places. I hate digging, but as it was for a good cause I persevered.

Debarking in progress

My daughter helping with the digging

Moving the poles into their assigned holes was an awkward job, but with the help of some old tire rims we managed it.

The posts were cemented in with quick set cement to hold them firmly.

We then tied wire from the posts to the roof in a sort of zigzag pattern to hold the shade cloth up.

Almost done, just clipping the shade cloth to the wire.

Now the galah aviary is fully shaded and I can remove the old feather quilts from the roof ( they have provided insulation for two summers now).

One more job down, I plan to put some benches under there so I can sit in the shade with a coffee sometimes.

Sunday, 22 November 2015

Up- cycled wardrobe project- a really comfortable house dress

On one of my infrequent trips to town recently I discovered a queen sized quilt cover in a second hand shop (for the queenly price of $5). It was made from good quality cotton, in lovely colours, so I bought it for my sewing projects. I did consider using it on the bed as I do need new bed spreads, but in the end I couldn't resist the colours.

I decided to make a simple summer house dress, and by house dress I mean a dress to wear at home, in the paddocks, in the bush and occasionally in the house. The first step was to find a simple pattern to try...along comes 'Greenie dresses for less' a great blog about up-cycling. I chose the convincingly labeled 'easy summer dress' pattern and away I went.

This is the finished dress on it's hanger.

My first step was to unpick the side and bottom seams of the quilt cover.

Yes it did take a long time; almost an entire Youtube documentary about mermaids.

Then I cut out two rectangles of fabric 107 x 97 cm each, cleverly keeping the hemmed bottom of the cover so I don't have to do it later.

I sewed the side seams up using French seams (so I don't have to zig zag the edges).

This is the finished French seam, aren't they so neat and tidy.

This is my ironing set up. The old iron is solid aluminium and very heavy. I use the frying pan to keep the bottom clean while I heat it up to iron.

Ironing the seams and such. I love the smell of fresh ironing.

The almost last step was to sew up a pocket for the shoulder straps to go through.

The iron made this so easy to do.

Then I made the shoulder straps. I decided to make some cord (or rope) to use as shoulder straps. This is so easy and quick to make. The 'recipe' is...take some lengths of yarn, cord or string, make sure you have about double the length you will need (more if you have a lot of pieces). Attach one end to a hook or something (another person is good if you have one handy), then standing at the opposite end twist the cord away from you until it is full of twist energy. It should try to twist back on itself if you slacken the tension.
When it has enough twist in it you can fold the piece in half, keeping tension on the length as you do this. Make the cord by releasing small lengths of cord from the folded end a bit at a time. Finally tie a knot in the end and there is your cord.

I know it sounds complicated, but it isn't. Give it a try and see.

I measured out three metre lengths of bamboo yarn until I had nine lengths in total.

The final result

These house dresses are not fancy, (or even flattering on me), but they are cool and comfortable and allow me a full range of motion. I think I will sew up a few more.
Next time I think I will make the back much shorter than the front so it gives me a smoother line at the back. I also might make the shoulder straps longer so I can adjust the fit more.

What do you think?

Oh, and I dug out my old corset to see what it would look like with the new dress. All I can say is I know why tavern wenches were so easy to talk out of their clothes...those things are hard work.

It didn't last long on. 

Tuesday, 17 November 2015

Latest news from Shaun the sheep

About a month ago we took Shaun to the vet because he suddenly stopped taking bottles. Of course I went into panicked mummy mode and rang the vet straight away to make an appointment. We decided to take Shaun to work with us and leave for the vet straight from there. He didn't mind at all as he loves car trips and going to new places with us.

He lazed around the Backpackers while we cleaned showers and toilets, attracting attention and praise. Then we set off for the vet, two towns over.

Shaun lounging by the cleaning supplies shed in the shade.

Shaun lounging in front of the toilet door

Shaun lounging in the outdoor eating area

At the vet's office

He's such a patient little boy

After much undignified poking and prodding (which he politely tried to decline) the vet decided he was just beginning to wean himself. However the vet noticed that his legs are shorter than usual and that he is sort of disproportionate. It is hard to tell without genetic testing (expensive) but it looks like our Shaun is a dwarf sheep. Apparently this can be caused by genetics, mother's diet and heat during pregnancy. It isn't very common and we aren't sure if it will effect his life span.

Apparently there was another farmer named Wright who managed to breed dwarf sheep, which he called Otter or Ancon sheep. Unfortunately they were prone to all sorts of health problems like arthritis, joint problems and digestive upsets, all things that Shaun has had trouble with. After a lot of reading and thinking about it I have decided that Shaun will probably not make the usual ten year lifespan of an ordinary sheep. Whatever his lifespan though, Shaun will have a home with us and we will do our best to keep him happy and healthy for as long as possible, because he is family now, and we love him.

Sid; Shaun's brother, is growing up fast. He is such a sweet and caring boy.

You can see Shaun's stumpy legs and bent ankles in this photo

He does look a bit like the photos in the journal article above.

Friday, 25 September 2015

Learning to card weave

Another journey of exploration for me... card weaving. Also known as tablet weaving, this art has been used to make straps and decorative edges for centuries (there is nothing new under the sun). I first read about it while researching naelbinding (or needle binding) and other Viking textile methods. I have yet to perfect the art of making socks with a horn needle and wool (naelbinding) but I did give tablet weaving a go. I made a short lead for Shaun and a long lead for Sid and am now in the process of making a collar and lead set for my daughter's dog; Val.

The basics sound deceptively easy; just make some cards with a hole in each corner. I used old milk bottles to make mine, the plastic is thin but strong and I can write on them with a permanent marker. My cards are two and a half inches square with the holes a half inch in from the corner.

Then thread them up according to the draft pattern. I decided to start with a really simple one that gives ovals.

The warp (the long bits of yarn you weave through) is tied to two fixed points (or one to your belt and one to your toe) and away you go.

Simply turn the cards forwards or backwards (depending on the pattern) to open new sheds (the gap you put the weft [the bits of yarn that goes from side to side in weaving] through).

I have learned some lessons on this journey...

My cards, made from cut up milk bottles

First and most importantly- don't let your warp threads get twisted or you end up with a huge mess and a red face (possibly high blood pressure too). Eventually I figured out that cutting each card's worth of warp and pegging them individually to a coat hanger was quicker than cutting big numbers of each colour then sorting them out later.

My first mess of warp strings...waiting to be sorted out.

Now I just cut them and peg the until I am ready to thread.
Secondly- It is much easier to move when you aren't tied to a door, or life is easier with a loom. I made a simple frame for my card weaving warp after my first weaving session. This simple loom is made from PVC pipe and 90 degree angle joiners. It works really well and I no longer take ten minutes to get free of the warp so I can answer the phone, check on a squawk from outside or go to the loo.

A really simple card weaving loom
Thirdly- keep your cards all together with a clip when you advance the warp to weave a new bit. If you don't you could end up having to untangle a pile of warp threads all over again (I did).

This handy clip keeps the cards all aligned and neat when I'm not weaving and when I move the warp up.

Lastly- be prepared to be endlessly awed by the beautiful bands you can make with just a simple warp and some bits of plastic.

Shaun's lead on the loom

The finished lead, I love the patterns and it is so strong.

The second attempt at a lead. I made a few mistakes in the card turning, but it's strong and useful anyway.

Sid loves it, because it's longer than Shaun's and he can graze as we walk.

The third attempt. This will be part of a collar and lead set for Val; my daughter's dog.

As you can see I'm far from an expert, my selvages are still messy and I miss threaded one card on the latest warp (the pink dot in the green circles), but I am getting better at it and enjoying the process. Life is good when I can learn new things.

Oh and Book Book (my youngest daughter's hen) is sitting on a nest in an old chest of draws, no...not in the house. She will hatch some lovely champagne frizzles soon and I will have chickens to watch again.

Friday, 18 September 2015

Shaun the sheep - meet Sid, Shaun's new brother

After nine weeks of taking him to work, staying home or arranging a sheep sitter to avoid stressing him out, we have finally found a suitable brother for Shaun. We have been combing the classifieds, Gumtree and animal shelter websites since Shaun was born, looking for an orphaned lamb we could offer a home to. We haven't got a lot of money to spare so cost was an issue, as was the distance we would have to travel to pick up our new baby. Eventually I found a listing for orphaned lambs on Gumtree from a woman in Kyogle, which is quite close to us. I eagerly sent a message and found that she did indeed have some lambs left, one who was twelve weeks old and twins who were ten weeks old. Because we couldn't afford to get the twins (and siblings should stay together), we arranged to pick up the little boy. Enter Sid....

Sid...Shaun's new brother

Due to a car breakdown (requiring the car to be at the doctor's for a week) we had to delay picking Sid up, but the big day finally came and we set off at 7.30 am for work with Shaun in tow.
We have been cleaning the local Backpacker's for a month now and Shaun has been welcome to come with us and provide entertainment while we work (consequently he now has a following in Korea and Japan), it seems every time I emerge from a toilet block with buckets, sprays and brushes I find Shaun in the centre of an admiring mob with cameras (he loves every minute of it). While this has been a handy arrangement, it can't continue forever as sheep grow up.
So Shaun's last day at work proceeded as usual and we all piled into the car of a friend who gave us a lift to town to pick up our car (She also helped us clean...Thanks Meeka). We picked up the car, had a quick (and unsatisfying) lunch and sped off to collect our new baby.

A quick stop for lunch

The farm was a delight; animals of all kinds running around together, an eclectic collection of caravans as a dwelling and some very friendly dogs (felt just like home). We trooped out with Shaun on his lead to meet the herd (specifically Sid) but Shaun showed no interest in them at all. He walked along contentedly with us and didn't even get excited by a thundering herd of sheep running past him.

Sid was considerably bigger than we anticipated, but he had the sort of face you just want to hug so we took him and the lovely lady who owned him did the rubber ring thing to castrate him for us (I am a terrible shot with those things). My partner made up a nest in the back seat with towels and newspaper and we put a collar and lead on him (which he took to easily) so I could control any leaping about. Shaun and I climbed into the back seat with him and the fun began....

Shaun sniffed Sid a few times then settled down to sleep away the trip (as he usually does), Sid on the other hand was politely uncomfortable (just having had a rubber band put around his testicles) and was a bit embarrassed to talk about it, so he settled for repositioning himself in various ways on the seat throughout the ride; he tried back to the front of the car with his back leg braced against the seat back, with his back leg down and with all his legs under him, he tried back to the seat back with all the afore mentioned leg arrangements and he tried standing up. At each position change he found it necessary to empty both bowels and bladder, resulting in a huge mess in the back seat and three (Shaun, Sid and I) very messy beings. We eventually made it home and I must say that Sid was very well behaved under the circumstances. As we got home a thunder storm rolled over our humpy...

The aftermath of the storm, the air is so clean and crisp.
Anyone who knows me will attest to my unreasonable fear of storms, but there was work to be done. Sid and Shaun were dumped in the playpen, an old chook dome, while we cleaned out the car. We scrubbed the back seat with a nail brush and lots of cleaning products (it is actually much cleaner now than before we went) while thunder roared around us. Shaun and Sid retreated to the little shelter in the playpen to bond/hide. By the time we had finished the car the storm had passed and we were able to bring the (now cleaner) boys into the back yard where they will be living together for a while.

Shaun and Sid explore the playpen, and food

This is by far the best photo I have of Sid so far.

Shaun is spending all his days outside now and only comes inside to sleep in his little house. When we go to work he doesn't stress as he has his bed and one of my shirts in the shelter with him and he is always very glad to see us home, as is Sid (he has picked up some of Shaun's behaviours). It looks like they may bond well and become brothers, which means that Shaun will transfer his dependence to another sheep and may even learn to eat grass.

Sid spends his nights in the outside shelter on a pile of hay. He seems to prefer being outside (as most sheep do).

Shaun still likes to come for a cuddle now and then. Look at that contented face.

Shaun and Sid's outside house. Sid likes to sleep here at night.

Shaun is still having three bottles a day, while Sid has some lucerne chaff (because he's weaned now)

Shaun's little house inside. Sid is already too tall for it and hates being inside anyway.

In the back yard...just playing around.

Sid likes to eat some chaff while I feed Shaun, he is such a sweet boy.