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.


Day 2 – Otamatea

As last night I was down with with the sun it is only natural that I was up with the sun this morning and bounced outside with my newly repaired camera to take some photos of what looked to be a stunning day. The light was gorgeous, the scenery inspiring, the camera – still broken! Grrr. Thank goodness we had the little point and shoot with us or I would have been a mightily pissed of shutter bug (ok I’m still pissed off but at least I’m pissed off with some photos).

The dogs took me for about a half hour walk before we arrived home to find the rest of the house (include Craig!) awake. It was about 7am. Sabina and Wolfgang had headed down to the cow pasture and Craig was admiring the morning view. I had a new experience for breakfast courtesy of Sabina. Over night she had soaked the muesli in water with sunflower seeds, sesame seeds and almonds and served it with home made yogurt and steamed/preserved apples & raisins. My body will take time to get used to something like this for breakfast, it was a little uncomfortable about eating a cold breakfast, relieved at there being no milk, but still unsure how to deal with this new food as well as my juice and various pills and powders, I had a very difficult time swallowing them all. If I wasn’t taking the pills and powders I think I would have enjoyed the breakfast a little more, especially with a nice cup of tea or warmed apples. I will try it again tomorrow morning at least.
This mornings work involved us wondering down to one of the communal paddocks and attempting to de-thistle some of it. Unfortunately it’s a little late to really do much good since many of the thistles had all ready gone to flower and by digging them out your really only preparing open soil for their seeds. A few weeks earlier and another 20 odd helpers and the job would have been done quickly.
Mid morning we sifted more compost for the bed I had prepared yesterday and then we added mulch (pond weed that had been drawn off the pond the week before and left to dry out). It looks great on the new beds, makes them look really rich and ready for new plants.
Lunch! A delicious meal of home baked bread, home made cheeses, salami, preserves, fresh brewed coffee and ginger biscuits. I was in heaven with the cheeses. I got to help prepare the fetta cheese which was rather exciting and makes me feel a little less nervous about attempting some cheese making myself. Here they make cheese about once or twice a week.
I have learnt today that you need about 3 litres of cream to make 2 sticks of butter (that’s about the size of my hand each and about 2-3 inches high). To make 60-80ml of cream (without using a centrifuge which will get you a little more cream but you end up with skim milk) you need around 1 litre of cows milk.
Sabine and Wolfgang have been on this property for about 9 years. They are self sufficient in milk, eggs, cheese and most of their fruits and vegetables. They have put a lot of work into this place and they are only just now getting the fuller benefits out of it. There are eventual plans for a glass house for seedraising, growing rice and grain but this will go through the stages of a research project first to see the viability of it. I believe with Craig and I, we go through 50 kilos of white flour, plus about 25 kilos each of wholemeal and rye flours and around 25 kilos of rice. It will be interesting to find out how much rice and grain we need to grow to satisfy these needs.
I’ve also discovered that an annual supply of garlic would require around 2.5 beds of 6 square meters each (and that’s for people who probably aren’t nearly as obsessed with garlic as I am – perhaps an acre of garlic would be good, lol).

I’m in turns enlivened and disheartened by our stay so far. Their is so much work in self-sufficiency, but at the same time it’s immensely satisfying. I’m enjoying feeding the chickens (which is now our morning and evening job), I’m adoring having dogs to play with again and completely astounded with my own level of health and ability, I feel healthier and more alive then I have in over 2 years (in fact even before I got so sick). It’s just amazing and wonderful and I’m trying hard to combat my overwhelming desire to be lazy and desire to not get dirty (ick mud and cow poo ahhh).
One of the other areas I’m trying to get my head around is electricity and the decision to be on the grid just drawing straight of it, being on the grid and feeding power from your own solar panels and wind mills etc back into it or producing all your own power. I’m so used to my electrical devices, my laptop, my sewing machine and overlocker, the hair shaving thingo, lights, fridge, microwave, mobile phone and camera rechargers and then come the power tools. These guys use 8 solar panels running and they don’t have a fridge although they do have a deep freezer (which takes up about half the power they produce) and they couldn’t really run “real” power tools (router’s, jointers etc) on this system. They also have solar hotwater and a wetback on the wood stove (they have a wood stove and gas hot plates). Apparently if we added a diesel generator to our setup and made the biodesil ourselves that has enough power to run our tools. I’m so glad the rest of my “hobbies” don’t require much power.
I must remember to check tonight if the cooler draws they use (rather then a fridge) will make my bottle of Chardonnay cold or do I need to stick it in the freezer first (added later – if I put it in the night before then it will. The fridge boxes are basically fish buckets in insulated draws with a drain underneath to catch water condensation drips and they are kept cold with blocks from the freezer, they are giant chilly bins basically).

Day 1 – Otamatea

We arrived at Sabine and Wolfgang’s house in Otamatea eco-village at 12.30pm for a week week stay. We were greeted with a wonderful lunch of homemade cheese, chickpea casserole and bread. with coffee and tea afterwards. After lunch we unpacked and then got right into work.
Firstly I deflowered all the Chamomile bushes then did the most physical labor I have done in a very very long time.

With gardening fork in hand I loosened up the soil of a new garden bed. This involved digging the fork into the firm soil, wiggling it forward and backwards and little side to side and continuing that motion in strips down and along a bed about 3 square meters (1 meter x 3 meters) and also weeding it, separating the noxious weeds from the compostable weeds. Then I helped Sarah to sift the compost through a wire mesh frame, throwing the big lumps back into the newer compost piles to continue breaking down and shoveling the wonderful rich compost from under the frame onto another pre-prepared garden bed.

(I did that bed on the left in front of the green fence)

We had a chance to inspect the difference between the garden compost and the composting toilet’s compost. Both have a very similar end product and overall richness, although you don’t want to dig too far down into the newly made compost toilet’s offerings as it does start to smell just a little. The compost from the loo was placed around the fruit trees as it’s not recommended to plant your vegetables into human compost.
I spent the rest of the afternoon playing with Jess, a very excitable little dog who thinks fetch means she gets the stick and teasing you with it but is stupid enough to drop the stick she has if you pick up another one, dogs are so great. Craig finished helping empty the compost loo, scattered it around fruit trees, weeded around them and mulched them with more of the pond scum and had a great deal of fun slashing at the grass with the scythe.
Later we helped feed the chickens. There are 3 sets of chicken feeding to do. Two sections have 4 hens and 1 rooster each, they got a small container of dry feed and one lot got the protein/carb rich scraps from the kitchen (this gets rotated between each coop). The third group is a hen and her clutch of 5 babies (only one is “hers”). These guys have to be kept in an enclosed area as they are still too small and thus prey to hawks (but they are oh so cute). We collected around 7 eggs, this is about the daily average for these hens.
In the evening I helped prepare a dinner of roast vegetables – pumpkin, beetroot, garlic, purple potatoes which Sabina coverd later in an almond, sesame seed dressing that was to die for. She also (baked?) a cabbage cut into quarters and the four of us had one hunk of cabbage and loads of vegetables and some scrambled egg slices (ok so the egg wasn’t actually scrambled but it wasn’t exactly fried eggs either). It was surprised at home much I enjoyed this meal. Partly because I had helped prepare it, partly because it was delicious and a lot because I knew the how much real effort went into it being there at all.
It was an early night to bed for us after all that with the day only just reaching dark. Dishes, bath, bed!


I have just ordered a huge amount of “2 ply” cones of wool and it brought up the question of what is ply? For the most part, it means the quantity of “strands” making up that piece of wool. When you have an 8ply yarn, you have a piece of wool that is made up of 8 strands twisted together. This in no way tells you how “thick” your yarn is though. A 2ply yarn might be thicker then an 8ply yarn, why? Because the 2ply has been spun to be bulkier then the 8ply.

In short, “ply” has nothing really to do with the thickness of your yarn, and with more and more yarns becoming available from outside Australia and New Zealand we can no longer rely on labels saying 8ply, 4ply, 10ply etc when selecting yarn. There is a little more discussion on Pearl Bee about this topic, with some very important clarification and information provided by the mystery “Pat”.

Pat commented that “there was a standard as to measurement of yarns. It was based on the number of skeins of yarn that can be spun from one pound of fibre. This is dependent on how fine the spinner can spin; a larger number means a finer yarn (of wool). This gets confusing. Wool had a different system than cotton which was different than linen, and acrylic wasn’t even considered then.

Today there are several different methods of measurement: tex in Europe, 1-8 by the Yarn Council of America, ply system in Australia. The best seems to be wraps per inch — how many threads laid side by side in one inch. Another standard is yards per pound (ypp), or metres per kilogram (mpk). Obviously, 1500 ypp would be finer yarn than 1200 ypp.

Cotton usually uses a numbering system: 2/8 means a yarn of 2 plys each being of size 8 (standard measurement in cotton). 2/16 would be a finer yarn, being 2 plys but of size 16. 4/8 is a thicker yarn: 4 plys of size 8. 8/2 is 8 plys of a size 2 yarn.

And then we get into compound and cabled yarns; these are all differences in construction– nothing to do with size.”

Slightly Weathered Ladies

I simply LOVE this discovery of creations by Jill Maas. Her website is still in the development stages but it does have her email addy there if you want to get in touch with her about patterns, unique dolls or her fantastic 2008 calendar (photos by Kirsty Head Photography). I have copy of the calender set aside as a gift, I just don’t know who for yet! Slightly Weathered Ladies