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Monday, November 7, 2011

Look at the size of this...................

One of my hens laid the biggest egg I have ever seen yesterday. I'm not sure which one actually laid it and I found myself watching them to see if any were walking funny....... after laying something this size.......but no clues were found. Surely the hen would be so proud after laying this little beauty and would want to let us know.


Can you spot it trying to hide amongst the others?  The other eggs in this pic are all large sized and weigh about 65g.

Monday, October 31, 2011

A very big catch up.......

I can't believe it's been so long since I posted here ~ 7 months have gone by, in the blink of an eye!

There's been so much going on here I'm not sure where to start ~

We had a reasonable winter apart from 2 very heavy snow falls, somehow the Winter seemed to be very short. Luckily we had a new log burner installed and the first major thing we did to our new home was insulate everywhere as there was no insulation whatsoever in it. We did the roof space, underfloor and also the exterior wall cavities. We were as snug as bugs compared to what we had experienced over the past 3 Winters. I still find it mind boggling that most NZ homes, especially the older ones have no insulation. Saying that when we first arrived in New Zealand we rented a house that was 8 years old and there was no insulation in that house either, it was often colder in the house than outside. I had honestly forgotten what it was like to live in a warm, dry home. We still have a log burner with a wetback to be fitted in the kitchen diner but that will be done after Christmas.
Mostly every spare minute I can find is being spent in the garden. The place hadn't had much done to it for over 3 years and the garden as you can imagine was very unruly and out of control. We have been digging and laying paths, digging out and building raised vegetable beds (2 completed, 2 more to go), the formal garden is fairly large and the weeding alone is a full time job. However, we have been laying weed matting and bark chips in an effort to conquer this. The garden is looking much better than it did 6 months ago.
Spring has sprung and we have had spectacular cherry blossom, tulips and daffodils (although ours were out in the Autumn strangely). The flower beds are full of peonies that are fit to burst any day, rhododendrons of all colours and varieties, the rose bushes have put on a lot of growth over the past few weeks and the Camellias have been and just about gone. We planted a few fruit trees in the Winter months ~ quince, fig, bramley apple,  peach and a beautifully perfect damson tree that my boys bought me for mothers day that I was thrilled with.

The raised beds that are completed have just been planted with raspberry canes, beans, peas, lettuce, silver beet and bok choi, we are now eating the broad beans I planted back in Autumn. The asparagus bed is supplying us with plenty of spears ~ enough to eat them daily. There is nothing better, in my mind, that goes as perfectly with asparagus spears than a freshly laid brown egg:
We succumbed and got 10 laying hens. My clever Hubby built a posh coop to house our new girls:
This is Minerva, she is top chick. I named her after my dear Grandma. Minerva was the first hen to lay an egg ~ she did it under the cherry tree on her first day with us while we were faffing around sorting out the water dispensers etc. I was shocked when I turned around and saw her stood there with an egg at her feet. She keeps all the other hens in order. We have only named 3 of them so far, there's Minerva, Matilda (who is the scrawniest looking hen and is the first out of the coop on a morning and last in at night she runs to greet us when we approach) and Maisy who is a pale golden brown and white colour, Maisy is the prettiest of them all.

The hens are very entertaining to watch, they go absolutely crazy for the scratching wheat in the afternoons and eat any table scraps we may have, left over and gone to seed veg from our garden, weeds etc. The hens love over ripe avocados and kiwi fruit. They are currently in a large fenced off area in the side paddock but after another week or so when they have got completely used to their environment we can let them fully free range on the paddock. My girls are making me so proud, they are laying at least 6 eggs a day.

There hasn't been much on the knitting/dyeing/crafting front going on at all. I keep knitting little things such as fingerless mitts or hats. I have spun a little bit of the alpaca fleece and I finally finished spinning the shetland combed top, all 900g of it. I seem to have been spinning it forever. I'm going to knit a hap blanket from it, maybe in the fall because I can't imagine knitting something like that in the Summer months.

There has been lots of baking going on too, however I haven't taken photographs of any of it. I made the most yummy sticky toffee cupcakes and an apple shortcake that is out of this world. I will bake them again soon and post the pics and recipes here, very soon.

I have lots more to say, but maybe tomorrow ;-)

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

A Color Swap package......

.....arrived at my house today, it was from my secret spoiler Nicola aka Clasheen from Ireland. My colour of choice for this swap was wheat/pale gold. I was totally blown away when I opened the package. Nicola is extremely talented at felting and she kindly made me the most stunning felted vessel which was inspired by a stone wall ~
it's absolutely beautiful. I can't stop petting it, the inside is as smooth as a peach.

Also included was a cake of beautiful hand dyed silk yarn along with 2 skeins of a beautiful blend of merino and silk fibre in yummy shades of gold and chocolate brown. It's as soft as a cloud.

Next up are the treasures I received ~ a hand blown glass button full of beautifully interesting patterns and colours, a large stone bead (bottom left) which I absolutely love ~ I'll make this into a pendant. The button at the back is really large and will be perfect for using on a hat or a felted bag.

Here's a pic of the entire package. Nicola was such a generous spoiler, I received Irish tea and Coffee, Baileys truffles, and lemon and Ginger tea which could not have arrived at a more appropriate time as I have an awful cold gifted to me by my dear Son. The package really made my day and I feel well and truly spoilt.

We are still unpacking boxes here, I thought this
would be a great opportunity to properly sort out my stash. I've taken over the smallest bedroom as my craft area (which believe me is very tiny). I'm trying to find a home for everything but I'm lacking storage ~ I seem to be unable to find certain things that I'm looking for but can find the things I don't want/need at the moment. I've decided I have far too much yarn, at the old place I had plenty of storage in my craft room and the yarn was never on show so this is the first time in ages that I have seen it all in one place at once. I need to go through it all, decide what I'm going to knit and use it up! I'm not putting myself on a yarn diet or anything that extreme.

I haven't knit much at all over the past month or so with everything that's been happening, I cast on Idlewood yesterday but decided to use Naturewool (from my stash, me being a good girl and all that). I could not get gauge at all with this yarn, the stated gauge is 15 sts to 4'', the closest I can get and still produce a fabric I like is 20 sts to 4'' so I have been crunching the numbers and practically rewriting the pattern. I've not got too far with it yet, maybe 8 rows in.

On the cooking front I decided to treat myself to Around my French Table by Dorie Greenspan and have been trying out the soup recipes. Every one so far has been really tasty, especially the sweetcorn soup and the leek and potato was much nicer than the recipe I had been using. I can't wait to start trying out the chicken recipes next.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

I'm Back...

I moved house at last and that wasn't without it's trials, the place still isn't officially ours ~ the earthquake saw to that. We had just left the solicitors after signing off the paperwork for the property purchase when the quake hit. It seems all the paperwork and computer files were lost and we are now waiting for new papers to be drawn up and signed. At least we have a home to live in, many people haven't been so lucky.

We had left Latimer Square 10 minutes before the quake hit, we nearly called at Starbucks for a coffee but decided not to because the traffic is always busy around the city centre at that time of day so we headed away from the city centre towards home.

I didn't know what was happening when it first started, for a moment I thought the steering had gone as the car wouldn't do what I wanted it to, we were sliding all over the road and then I realized everyone else was doing exactly the same. I stopped the car and could feel the road undulating strongly beneath us, I could see brick walls falling down just up the road and when I looked at the lamp posts around us they were swaying like they really shouldn't be. I thought they were going to snap and come crashing down. It seemed to go on for quite a while. We just sat there in shock, people were running out onto the street for safety, vacating their homes and shops that were shaking violently. I knew it would have hit the city hard because the waves were coming from behind us, I remember saying to my hubby that it would be the Port Hills.

My next thought was my boys, one was at work and the other was in the city centre waiting to collect his car from a garage. I contacted them both immediately and was relieved they were safe but they were shaken up by it (my oldest Son was overseas on holiday when the Sept quake occurred so hadn't experienced the main quake). We headed home, the traffic was just terrible as you can imagine everyone was trying to get out of the city.

On the journey home I was wondering if the final chimney would have come down through the roof of the house - it was made unstable by the September quake. The other chimney had come down in September but for some reason this one was left standing ~ it was a high one too, about 6 feet and had twisted on the base. We got home and the chimney was still standing there on the roof. No damage to the house and everything inside was still in it's rightful place (we still hadn't unpacked everything at this point). The boys had just arrived home when there was a big aftershock that rattled the whole house. My Hubby got up on the roof and removed the chimney, I was frightened it would come crashing down on us.

We turned on the tv and could not believe what we were seeing, the city was in ruins. People were dead and missing. It felt as if it wasn't happening here in New Zealand, that we were viewing events in another far away country.

We were hit badly in the September quake, we had severe structural and internal damage to our home, lost a lot of our belongings (I know they are just things and don't really matter), we lost furniture that was smashed to pieces by the force. It has taken us nearly 6 months to get back on track, endless paperwork filled in for the insurance companies, numerous visits from structural engineers, the stress of it all, feeling unsafe even at the slightest tremor as the whole house would shake. I think moving out of that house and buying this one is what has kept my sanity intact.

Our new home is a one level farmhouse built of wood. It's on wooden piles instead of concrete (our old place was on a concrete slab and I'm convinced that's why the quakes felt so bad there). The ground we are on here is shingle and we are 140 mtrs above sea level, no floods or liquifaction ~ I feel safe here. This house has stood through both quakes, having only minor damage in the first one, I think the Farmer that built it over 70 years ago knew what he was doing!

Our village didn't seem to be affected, everything was open and normal, but that makes you feel guilty when you see what other people are having to put up with. There are entire housing developments in some of the suburbs that don't have power, water or sewerage facilities. My Husband keeps reminding me that we were without those facilities in September, we had no water for a week and no reliable power for 5 days but it still doesn't make you feel any better about it all. Many people have had to vacate their homes and many have left to start over in new places.

If I had come home to a scene of destruction then that would have been the final straw for me and I think we would have left here for good. We will stick it out and see what happens and I truly hope we have seen the last of the big quakes for along time.

For now I have things to keep me busy, I have a veg garden ready to plant up with Autumn/Winter veg and I aim get the dye pots out this week and concentrate on getting stock levels in my shop back to normal. I have a shipment of beautiful lace weight merino/silk yarn due to arrive any day now and I'm looking forward to working with it and creating some beautiful colourways. I will donate 50% of the sale price of lace weight skeins sold in March to the Red Cross 2011 Earthquake appeal.


Monday, February 7, 2011

A spiffingly scorching Sunday

What a hot day we have had here today, a whopping 40 degrees. It's a little too much really when there are things you want to get on and do. The heat always makes me feel tired. However, I cooked lunch early today ~ I made Meatball Subs from Smittenkitchen. They were totally yummy and I highly recommend the recipe.

Secondly, we haven't moved house yet, there's a major delay due to the recent quakes.....I shall say no more. We should have moved in on Friday but now it's going to be at least another week and a bit away. So, what to do?

We have been at a bit of a loose end this weekend because of this, everything is packed up and ready to go, a lot of our possessions have now gone into storage (did I tell you the house we are moving to is roughly only a third of the size of this house ~ it will be fun!).

Since most of my knitting, sewing and other craft stuff is in storage for the time being, and I didn't want to knit anyway on such a hot day, I decided to make a start washing one of the fleeces I have had stored in a box for a while (glad I purposely left this one out of the storage pile).

This particular fleece is Romney, and is from a sheep that lives very local to me. I decided to wash the fleece using the little at a time method. So firstly I picked out the locks and tried to get a nice mix of the colours that run through the fleece ~ I wrapped them in a laundry bag, next I soaked them in hand hot water with pure soap added for about 10 minutes. Then I drained the filthy water and did the same thing again. It was rinsed in hot water twice but I left the fleece to cool in the water on the last rinse. I gave it a quick spin in my fibre spinner (a salad spinner) and laid it out to dry on racks on the patio. It was so hot that after an hour I turned it over and it was totally dry. The fleece has retained some of the lanolin and has the most lovely smell (I'm a secret fibre sniffer).

This is a picture taken before washing the locks. The colour range in this fleece is beautiful, from cream through to the deepest bluey grey although the majority is differing shades of browns.

I'm going to prepare all of the fleece in this way and card it on my drum carder. I will spin it into a worsted weight 2 ply yarn. It's a large fleece (approx 4 kg), so this is going to be an ongoing project for quite a while yet. I don't know what it will end up becoming, my Hubby and my Brother have both said they would like a sweater from it. I wanted to knit a nice throw for my new home, but I do have a pile of different coloured Shetland combed top to spin that I had sort of earmarked for that project. So we will have to wait and see. I do think it needs to be made into something special, after all ~ I read something the other day that said how a hand spinner will put between 200-300 hours work into a fleece, starting with the washing through to the finished product.

I have put a pair of small batts of this Romney fibre into my shop, I have 2 more to list later but that will be it ~ it's all I'm willing to part with!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Not my usual topic.....

You may have noticed I haven't been posting much on here lately ~ there's a reason for that. I haven't had such a great time since Christmas, firstly I had an awful virus which left me with very little energy for a couple of weeks so I didn't do much of anything. Then there are the dreaded quakes ~ we are still getting them and we have decided to move out of our home ~ a decision which was made after a giant blue gum tree fell in the garden missing the conservatory by a couple of meters last week (after the water heating system crumbled to pieces and flooded parts of the house a few weeks previously, the cracks up the walls getting wider and wider, the list goes on and on) this house really shakes and rattles even with the slightest quake which I think is due to it being a 2 floor home.... my nerves can't take much more of it!

So we have placed an offer on a cottage a few kilometers from here which seems to have withstood the quakes far better than this house, just 2 chimneys were damaged and taken down. It needs a lot of renovation work but it's in the most beautiful setting.

I haven't done any knitting for weeks and although I have been dyeing up yarns for my yarn clubs I'm not dyeing for the shop at the moment and won't be for a while yet due to the house move ~ I do have a few skeins to list in the shop but these will be the last for the time being. I will post any updates here.