We have a slab

The weather fined up in time to poor the slab on Friday. The weekend shall be spent keeping the slab wet so that it dries slowly and hopefully avoids any cracking.
There is approximately a 3 week curing period before the final cutting and polishing of the slab is done and then the frame goes up. The current plan is to erect the roof frame on sight during the slab curing stage, and then hoist it into place once the frame goes up.


The ground work

So, while I’m sitting in the lounge room of the youth hostel, waiting for the hours to pass before I can return home to my boys, I thought I’d take a moment to share a few photos.

The house build has begun and by the end of next week we should have a finished slab floor. We’ve opted for a polished slab in the downstairs area of the house, mostly because it’s the cheapest option but that’s not to say it’s not a lovely option. We will be tying the house into the area with local river rocks (large and small rounds) as part of the mix and I really think the finished product will be stunning.

The last few weeks have involved pouring the piles (or stumps as they are called in Australia).

I had planned an treating our master builder, and friend, to a picnic lunch with us and his daughter who I was looking after during some of the school holidays. It was unfortunate that lunch time also coincided with the arrival of the cement trucks and so it was all hands on deck and go go go. Not that the kids minded.

School holidays over and the boxing was installed (forgive me if I get the building terms mixed up, I’m still learning all the lingo).

While I’ve been away, I’m told that much of the plumbing has now been laid and the underfloor heating coils (connected to the wetback of our Wamsler combustion oven) will be laid on Wednesday and the slab poured Thursday/Friday.

The white stuff is the insulation layer

The slab will just sit there curing for a couple of weeks at this point. The timber frame for the house has all been completed and is waiting in lovely piles ready to be assembled on site.

So yeah, proof that we are making progress ūüėČ

Is something happening?

It’s been a long time between posts around here. Mostly it’s because it feels like nothing much is really happening for us. I’ve been more unwell then in the past year or so, or at least it feels that way. The looms have been seriously¬†under-utilised, cheese making has been non¬†existent and even knitting has been slow plodding. And yet, things have happened. I have woven a series of beautiful, colourful placemats, I just haven’t cut them apart, sewed them up or wet finished them. I’ve almost finished my first ever attempt at¬†fair isle¬†knitting, a vest that just needs me to finish off one sleeve¬†¬†edge and I’ve learnt the art of Kumihimo braiding, which is a lovely relaxing activity for making braids.

In recent weeks I’ve also started developing a passion for knitting machines, here is my new electronic Brother machine, a KH-930:

Knitting machine KH930I’m still figuring it all out and will start, today, doing a sort of beginners course from Diananatters. It’s really hard to fight that urge to instantly create a really real item right off. Playing around with a friends machines that I also have on hand, I have managed to produce a couple of beanies and a few infinity scarfs and I must content myself with these items for now and put my desire for a giant shawl with intricate lace patterns aside until I really understand the machine and the processes.

Now for the newer, and most exciting news of all, the thing we have been in limbo about for so long… that’s right, we have building consent!¬†Yes, you may dance and cheer and celebrate with pent up¬†excitement. It has really felt like this was never going to happen, what with various back and forths with council and contractors on certain aspects and then key people going on holidays during the process, delay delay, delay. But finally it is happening and we are set to start everything next week. Now by ¬†everything¬†I mean mess around with the site to poor the slab and setup the frame blah blah blah, but the truth is that we had managed to council to sign off on the traditional timber frame aspect of the build a few weeks ago and so the folks at Timberworks are actually about 2/3rds of the way through building it which is awesome.

By the end of this year, Atamai Village will have I think 8 houses finished. It will be sooo nice to be on THAT side of the hill this time next year. I’m so looking forward to being off the farm and really settling into our property and our life. We seem to put everything on hold living here, plodding along waiting for our ‘real life’ to start. It’s been hard to really do a great deal of work on the property while living on the opposite side of the hill, trying to fit that around my good days, Craig’s work and weekends of overtime and the needs of a four year old. All to be made a great deal easier once we are living on site.

Basically this was just a quick post to remind myself that this blog actually exists and I have things to write about if and when I can just find the time.



Waxed Gouda
A few months back, Sharon, Katie and I made a cumin gouda and tonight I finally cut it and it’s delicious. I had a lot of trouble keeping it mould free so after a few weeks I waxed it instead of growing a natural rind and I’m so very very glad I did. The red bits you can see on the cheese is the wax (obviously) and the little brown specs are the cumin seeds, yum).

I tend to get out the habit of making cheese as often as I’d like, ultimately I’d love to be making a cheese every week. Anything from a monthly batch of feta or something that needs to be aged for months on (or years) on end to a lovely soft camembert reading to eat in a week. This is a¬†definite feeling of self satisfaction and personal accomplishment that comes from serving up a slice of your own cheese.


Plans, plans and more plans

Well it’s now the start of October and we are still waiting to get our house plans into council. We changed some aspects of the house design which delayed things but now we are waiting on the¬†engineer¬†(who had previously been the snappy one) and the grey water system design guy and THEN we can submit them. I was hoping to have them in by the end of next week at the latest and if they are not ready by the end of this week – heads will roll!

We’ve also been working on some plans for the gardens. Right now the focus is on the white picket fence that will be running around most the main platform, the path and the gardens beside the path and the terraces directing below this, all now being referred to as The Westbank. Some planning is also going into the area beside The Westbank, now know as the Gazabo Strip (because that’s where the gazebo will be going – ok that’s a bad pun). The strawberry patch and care of the existing fruit trees is also high on the list. I have yellow note cards with lists and everything!

Bellow or two sketches of the proposed picket fence/path garden area. The square in the top left corner is the planned fort/castle/cubby house and sandpit, the curve on the right indicates the terrace where my gazebo will be and near that is the strawberry patch (the big rectangle down the bottom left represents the house).


This is a closer in view of the “Children’s Garden” area. Sandpit/Castle/Fort thing is the main feature here, with a trap down, ladder and slid plus arrow slits in the walls. The picket fence will run up to this area on two sides and the building itself will have walls to stop unwanted escapees. The planting on the terrace bellow is probably going to be trees and bushes, spaced apart so as to afford small army’s to creep up to the castle and some cover from arrow fire above. To feed the¬†besieged villagers and knights inside the castle I’m planning on edging the fence with loads of edible pick-and-eat fruits (like orange berries, blueberries, thornless-non-spreading blackberries and anything else I can find that doesn’t grow taller then the fence or have prickles and thorns). I’m also hoping to create a few small garden beds for kids to plant their own edible delights like carrots, lettuce, beans and peas.

I’d like to make the area feel enclosed, without blocking the view from the house exactly. I really want this to be a space kids can disappear to, get up to all sorts of mischief without feeling like they are being constantly watched, but I can also feel that they are safe. Another thought that just¬†occurred¬† to me is putting up a really small shed for them to store their own gardening tools, bows and arrows, swords etc in. The walls on the south and west sides will probably be lattice and I’ll install hooks and shelves for storing of various sandpit tools and whatever else the kids choose.

As you can probably tell, I’m really excited about this space and it’s potential for fun and creative imaginative play.


The strawberry patch will be tackled this week by Pip and myself (hopefully tomorrow if the weather stays fine). I’ve already netted the 3-4 meter area to help keep birds away from the strawberries that are currently growing. Tomorrow we need to really get into some weeding, checking the PH of the soil, fertalising and mulching the area as well as planting a bunch more strawberries. I’m hoping to plant a few different varieties with different growing times, spread out the growing season, yum ūüėČ I believe the ones that are there are probably summer ready and they don’t seem to send out runners.

Lots to do, it’s great to see daylight savings here and the warm welcoming weather.

No more supermarket

As part of goal to become more resilient we’ve decided to avoid supermarkets as a source of food. We’ve gone cold turkey and are only using it for things like toilet paper now. Eventually we will fun alternatives to other supermarket items as well, but baby steps.


As part of the changes, we have to find alternatives to pre-made lunch box items for Pip. Today I’m planning on making some cookies. I like to do double or triple batches and freeze the extras, this means I cut down on baking and frees up time for other food prep, like cheese making (restarting this on Thursday) and extra food prep such as the soaking beans you see above.

This is the first time I’ve ever used beans that weren’t fresh or out of a can. I’m trying with the overnight soaking method, I’ve got the beans soaking in three times as much water as beans. Another method I cam across suggests placing the beans in cold water, bringing them to the boil and then letting them soak for 1-2 hours. To cook them you then need to drain them and cook in fresh water for 1-1.5 hours. They can be kept for up to 4 days in the fridge or frozen at this point and then added dishes.

These beans are destined for a nice batch of chili tomorrow night. So I guess I will need to start dinner at around 4 to ensure its all cooked by 5.30. I’m hoping that 2 cups of beans plus 250g mince beef will make a lovely large pot and I can freeze at least half of it.

The main ingredients I’ve had trouble replacing from the supermarket just now include ice cream, butter, tasty cheese and oil (other then olive oil). I’ll be replacing the cheese with my own homemade cheeses and I’ve got a local source of raw milk. Hopefully this milk will result in enough excess cream as well for various sweet treats, maybe even ice cream every now and then. Instead of flat breads I’ve started using crepes, but I’m not sure I want to do these every week. I’ve started cooking bread again but I’d like to add crumpets, English muffins, and flat breads on regular rotation.

The real problem for us isn’t so much finding ideas for alternatives or making our own replacements, its me (Tracey) needing to do all the cooking and prep work while also trying to do some weaving, looking after Pip, cooking regular meals and getting enough rest so I don’t crash (becoming complete useless to do anything).

Satsuma Plums

Sharon has just harvested a load of Satsuma plums from the community orchard, I’m so excited that these are the red fleshed variety of plums that I dream about. We had a tree across the road from my school when I was just a wee little thing. After school we would rush over the road and climb into it’s branches and gorge on these delectable fruits – until the council started to spray all the roadside trees and we were no longer allowed to eat them ūüė¶

I actually don’t recall the last time I had the pleasure of eating one of these plums so I’m so very excited that I’ll have a chance to grab a few kilos to preserve as well as eat fresh.

I’m going to preserve them nice and simply like in the link for Canning with kids. Making pies this winter out of these plums will (as Pip would say) “make me super happy”.

Soda bread and mushroom soup

We’ve been getting back into watching some old episodes of River Cottage this past couple of weeks, and as usual we’re inspired to take the kitchen by storm. Tonight I was inspired to make a quick and easy soda bread to go with my mushroom soup.

Mushroom Soup

  • homemade chicken stock (inspired by River Cottage)
  • dried wild mushroom mix from Neudorf Mushrooms¬†(purchased and the Neudorf festival held on the weekend)
  • Slightly old “fresh” mushrooms”
  • Riverside cream skimmed from the top of raw milk (just down the road from our place)
  • fresh parsley from my garden (the parsley “bushes” are wild and lovely now)
  • chunk of butter from Wangapeka Downs (another local dairy)
  • black pepper and salt to taste (I LOVE loads of pepper in this dish)

Served with Soda Bread ala River Cottage I did not think this was going to work out in the end. I had no buttermilk and only a smidgen of yogurt left so I performed the old vinegar to milk trick (1 tsp vin to 1 cup milk) and added what I had of the yogurt then accidentally added it all to the bread flour and ending up with a slightly wetter bread mix. Added to this little stuff up I had the dedicated help of a 2.5 year old who wanted to poor in everything he could reach, stir and stir and stir and then throw in handfuls of flour. So between juggling him on a chair up to his elbows in flour, the visit from a friend and her daughter who had dropped Pip off and not quite getting my measurements, I ended up throwing a fairly wet pile of ahhh, slop, onto the baking tray (there was no way I could cut a cross in the top as the knife just stuck it was so moist) and closing the oven door and ignored it for 40 minutes while I whipped up the soup.

The result was an¬†absolutely¬†delicious¬†and filling dinner of hot bread and hot soup – and I don’t even like mushrooms! ūüėČ

Oh and I almost forgot to mention the cold glass of Elderflower cordial we made a few weekends ago (along with Elderflower Champagne that should b ready in a few weeks).

Tea Towels

I really didn’t think the 30/2 cotton was getting onto the loom, but it’s there with only a few tension issues (a tension box or an AVL warping wheel would have made this much smoother). I’ve finally had a chance to sit and weave, fiddling around with tension issues, catching threads, making a temple and what-not, I’ve managed to do 1/4 of a tea towel this evening (it’s only taken me about 2 hours!) I really need to weave a tea towel from throwing that first pic to throwing the last in¬†significantly¬†less then that time then that – possible? I hope so.

As you can see from these photo, things are progressing, the pattern is developing (although not quite how I expected from the software rendition), and I’m enjoying using only white and natural.

I have several patterns to tryout so each of these tea towels will be in a different pattern. I also have a bunch of 22/2 cottolin colours I want to try so I’m sure I’ll be mixing up the white and natural with the rust, green, blue and brown. I also have a small quantity of Thai cotton that I’d like to incorporate (but then I might use them in a different warp).

After searching the net for various homemade temple ideas, I have to say that this one I’ve chosen to try is working pretty well, although the better and the bulldog clips do clash if they get too close (I would like them closer then they like to be).

(bulldog clip tied to a 100gm bag of rice)

Learning about 2/30 cotton

It sticks! Well at least raw 2/30 cotton does. As soon as you release the tension from the warping mill it twists up on its self, and I can’t believe that all 640 ends, 4 ends per dent, are actually all now on the loom. However, my sticking issues are still not over! Each time I make a shed, a few threads grip to others and I have to go and release them before I can throw the shuttle ūüė¶

Update – these seem to be getting less sticky the further into the weaving I’m getting and the further from the heddles I am. Although there are still a few that stick every other treadle change. This has also caused 2 threads to be skipped over in an entire 1″ of white strip *grrrr* as per this photo: