My name is Charlotte, sometimes known as Ms Lottie, occasionally as The Slightly Mad Quilt Lady. This is my blog, where you'll find me writing a lot about my quilting and textile arts and a little about my family's life in a small seaside town in New Zealand. Haere mai!

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Work Finished Thursday

On my Wednesday quilting night I finished the binding on this little quilt. Yay! Now just a label, a wash, and off it can go in the post to the wee baby of a friend.

I was able to use some leftover binding I had from the last quilt I made too, I just had to add another couple of pieces from my scrap stash - very frugal.

I think I'll name it 'Sunshine and Icecreams'.

Hmmm, I really need to practice taking phtos of quilts. They are tricky things.
Now, on to the next W.I.P.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Orchard Design.

I went to a workshop at Koanga Gardens on Saturday. It was an Orchard Design Workshop. It was exciting, motivating and I've come back so enthusiastic that I was planning to rip up of some of our driveway just to plant more fruit trees!

It also made me realise that my research is paying off - I knew quite a lot of what our tutor was saying. I'd already read it/heard it/learnt it elsewhere and that really galvanised my feelings that I'm ready to actually do this, and to do it well.

Yikes, reading that you'd think I was embarking on an exploration of Mars or something. But this place is so big and is such a blank canvas, that it's very daunting for a fairly novice gardener like me.

Our land when we first bought it - a truly blank canvas.

I felt overwhelmed when I was first presented with my ready-to-dig vege garden site. But in the four months that I've had that, I've learnt that if I stuff up, it's ok. There are a few beds that I need to renovate (the edges are falling down, they are on too much of a slope for watering) but the veges don't care about things like that. Some of the plants haven't grown well, but I can move them, or plant them somewhere else next time.

The main thing I've learnt: If I don't START, I will never LEARN.

So I'm diving in, making a site plan, defining my permaculture zones, noting the features of each area and the best bit, perusing the tree catalogues!

The other thing I did on Saturday was pick up these two girlie's. They are only seven weeks so they haven't met their beau, Riley, as he might not observe proper protocol as to underage 'dating'. Unfortunately the little grey one (named Little One, by my daughter) seems to have a slight runny nose, which I didn't notice when I was picking her out. Lesson learnt. Lets hope she comes right. Her appetite is fine and she is lively so all good at the moment. The wee black one was named by my son as Fluffy.

Oh yes, and it's Monday, time for Independence Day Challenge but to be honest, I'm a little pooped. You'll just have to accept the Orchard Design Workshop synopsis as my contribution towards my food independence goals.

And this one photo of our first potatoes. It's amazing how keen he was to help wash and eat these after digging them up himself!

Hope you all had a lovely weekend.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Hey Chick. Wanna see my......rabbit! ;)

New Editions to WindyHill Farm.

(I'm trying out the name. I feel like we need a name. We live on a hill. And it's windy. I'm all for the literal! Let me know what you think.)

Yesterday, on my way to Quilting (no I didn't whip any WIP's completely, but I did lightly smack one's bottom).

Sorry, I keep getting distracted.

So yesterday, I picked up Riley.

Riley the Rabbit. Named becasue he is going to lead the life of. He, and I'm pretty sure he's a he, is our stud buck. And now all he needs is some lady loves to get the party started.

What do you think of his mansion? One half of the couple I bought him off happens to be a convinient!

Then we have a dozen new chicks. The two above are Silver Campines. I'll be selling these. Even though they are stunning when grown, I want to specialise in other breeds .

These are Houdans, who look like this when they grow up! (Check out the link for some really good chicken laughs!). But for all their foofy looks they are meant to be brill little layers. And they certainly hatched well. I also have an Araucana, two Faverolles and a Barnevelder.

And these are two of the three new Light Sussex Ladies, who are not only pretty but they are also leaving my some lovely eggs. (See the deep bed litter they're on?)
And then I have some more newbies coming...but, more on those later.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Work in Progress Wednesday

My best quilting budding has been whipping her WIP's lately. It's making me feel a little jealous, but kinda proud too - we've been quilting together for five years. We started together and we've continued together. She's a great mate. She was even at the births of my children...well, she IS a midwife too!

So once again it's Wednesday and I'm off to her place to quilt and chat and drink tea. And maybe even whip some WIP's butts.

We have a little challenge running. Over a month we are to make an A4 size self-portrait quilt. Any techniques go, but you must use some of the yummies we bought when we went to Whangarei Quilter's annual (or maybe bi-annual?) show.

Yummies have a habit of sitting around, being admired and then put away for 'good'.

Which is no good.

So out they come and I have free licence to play and experiment. I think I'll do some embroidery (not one of my finer skills), and try out those silk rods.

Oh, and those funny things I'm wearing on my fingers? Called Finger Gloves. I bought them from The PowerQuilter, our little local quilting store. They are the best thing I've found so far for free-motion quilting. Better than floppy old gloves where the thumb is too long (I've sewed the thumb to my quilt before). I can even thread a needle while I'm wearing them!
Happy Whipping everyone!

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Independence Day Challenge Update

This is my Monday update (yes, I know it's Tuesday, but Monday kinda got away on me) on what I’ve done over the last week to move towards food independence. I originally read about it on Towards Sustainability and the original idea came from Sharon Astyk – read more about it here.

Seeds of Buttercrunch lettuce, Sweet William flowers, Musselburgh leeks. Seedlings of Yellow and Blackjack courgettes, Superking brocolli, Dwarf Carpet stock and Joi Choi Pak Choi transplanted into the garden.

I’ve been picking my green manure crop mustard to throw to the chooks and to eat in salads. I’ve also been harvesting Courgettes, Pak Choi and Basil. And I harvested more mown grass to throw into the chook pen to increase their deep bed. And I collected EGGS of course! I totally forgot about including them last week.

Olivia nibbling on the mustard, she liked it younger and sweeter!

I bottled six jars of tomatoes, three with skins and three without, to see if we like leaving the skins on or if it’s worth getting a mouli to get rid of them. I also boiled up some beef bones, an old onion and some carrots to make beef stock for freezing.

I made a (hopefully) sparrow and white cabbage butterfly proof enclosure to plant out my seedlings under after finding that the sparrows had eaten all the growing tips out of my dwarf beans. They won’t grow now – what a waste :(

Ugly, but hopefully very functional. (The cover, not my daughter!)

I bought a rabbit (who isn’t here yet, we're waiting for his hutch) to start my plan of growing and eating my own rabbits. And I found three of the most gorgeous old sheets in an Op Shop. I think I'll keep the blue and purple one for use - it's cotton, while the others will probably get used to make things.

I talked to the people I bought the rabbit off about the possibilities of harvesting rabbit meat. I bought three Light Sussex chickens off a lady and talked to her about sprouting her chook wheat and maize to increase their health and also told her how to break broody chooks from sitting so they could go back to laying her some eggs.

This is my young Light Sussex Rooster who got some new girlfriends.

I made a courgette chocolate cake – Yum! I also ate a salad this week made entirely from my garden: courgettes, mustard, basil and pak choi. What a great feeling.

LEARN A NEW SKILL: This category will get used sometimes, but I don’t think I’ll be able to put something in here every week! But this week I’m including my sourdough culture because I’m still growing it up and learning about how to use it, hopefully next week I’ll have made some bread from it.

This is the new shelf my hubby made and put up on the weekend. You can see my sourdough starter in the muslin covered jar next to the white yoghurt maker.

Friday, February 12, 2010


is what I call the ducks with. To distinguish from, "Chook, chook, here chooky-chook." Which is obviously for the chickens.

Although Mama Black Hen now responds to both. I think she's a little concerned. Her babies are only a month old, yet they are almost bigger than her.

And they don't fly. And their feet make flappy sounds when they walk, sorry, waddle.

Her babies also have a strange fascination with water. They drink alot. And they squirt it through their nostrils.

In fact they'll put their whole heads under water.

Ducklings are funny. But I don't think Mama Black Hen is amused.

Thursday, February 11, 2010

Just Chicken Feed.

I've started sprouting the wheat that I feed to my chooks. In my quest to be a little more 'food independent', I've been researching how to grow my own chicken feed. There is lots of information out there, The Modern Homestead has to be one of the best sites I've found with some fascinating articles. Sprouting wheat seems to increase the vitamin and enzyme count of the wheat, and converts it from inert to something living which is what chickens prefer to eat naturally.

At the moment I feed pellets bought from the local farm store, wheat, sometimes maize, scraps and then let them out for fresh grazing and bug patrol in the afternoon.

I'm not liking the pellets much anymore after reading about them (horrible by-products, rancid and overprocessed) and they have always smelt a little stale to me, so I haven't really liked them anyway. But it's a matter of how to replace those.

Growing grains is possible, but how much would I have to grow? And how much effort would it be? I have ideas of using the chooks to scratch up a patch of dirt, plant it up with buckwheat or rye and then let the chooks back in later to self-harvest.

But the protein they need is harder. The above link has articles on feeding maggots and worms and these people, Farmlet, are actually trialling the maggot thing right now (mmmmm, makes you really appreciate that omelette!).

Chickens do get some protein from the bugs they find when they free range, but the amount of bugs around varies with the time of year. Also I'm wanting to do more planting around our section and if I don't fence or protect every little plant and bit of ground, chickens do dastardly things. So I'm also thinking about how to contain them more but still keep some access to grass.

I use the chicken house to deep bed them , which makes compost or mulch. I chuck in old hay, grass clippings, weeds and let them turn it over, poop all over it, eat the weed seeds and in six months time or so, I can haul the lot out and it's beautiful, rich, dark stuff that gardeners love. I used to be able to tow the house around onto fresh pasture, so I didn't deep bed the chooks and I could contain them more. But the house started to collapse (whoops!) so now it stays where it is).

In an ideal world:

  • I would have several (for different ages and breeds), small, towable chook houses with wooden floors.
  • They would get locked into these at night and the houses would have a deep bed litter.

  • During the day I would open the door and they would have access to pasture whilst being contained behind some sort of movable fence - electric netting would be perfect.
  • I could use the chickens to de-bug and fertilise exactly where I wanted them to, rather than where they like to be.
  • I would grow sunflowers, amaranth, corn/maize, and lots of other stuff to feed them

  • I've won Lotto to provide all the funds for the houses and netting. And the grains would magically plant and water themselves.
It's a classic case of me having an idea and then wanting to dive right in and do it all.

So I need to stop, slow down and break it down to manageable steps.

First, I'm going to continue to sprout the wheat and maize (although none of that has sprouted so far, might need longer soaking or longer time to sprout?) that I buy.

Second, I'm going to experiment with maggots (GROSS! But if it's too bad, I'll stop).

Third, I'm going to work with hubby on a design for a new chicken house. Towable, easy to use, cheap to build....

Forth, I'm going to investigate more about growing my own grains. Including some research into a plough/hoe attachment for the tractor.

I'm also going to continue to feed pellets until my chook food systems are a little more developed.

Thanks for reading my ramblings - blogging is so great for ordering my thoughts!!

Friday, February 5, 2010

Independence Day Challenge

I've read about the Independence Day Challenge a few times on Towards Sustainability. I brushed it off, but somewhere it stuck.
So I went looking for the original owner of it (who credits it to someone else, of course) and read this post.
Interesting. The little by little really strikes a cord with me.
And so I've begun. I guess I'm hoping it will keep me heading where I want to go, which I'm realising more and more is to be independent, as much as I can, with my own and my animal's food.

So last week:

  1. Plant Something: This I did in plenty. Seeds of pak choi, loquat, bronze fennel, spinach, buckwheat, borage, chives, sweet red onions, berlicum carrots, sunflowers and lettuce seedlings from my M.I.L. I'm getting into growing from seeds - cheaper, more variety, fairly easy (so far), and you know how they've been treated.

  2. Harvest Something: Courgettes a-plenty, basil, pak choi, and grass (I'm sure that counts!).

  3. Preserve Something: I turned the basil into pesto (emits a groan of taste ecstasy) and the grass into hay. Does starting a sourdough culture count?

  4. Reduce Waste/Waste Not: We used an older fridge/freezer in our kitchen that continually iced up, which would have been costing us lots in power. So we swapped it for our smaller beer fridge that was not in use. We will use the chest freezers that are just outside the back door for the small items I had in the freezer compartment. And I made a yummy apple and apricot jam pudding out of apples going off and jam starting to ferment.

  5. Preparation and Storage/Want Not: Can't really think of anything under this one.

  6. Build Community Food Systems: I visited with a friend I hadn't seen for a while. She is going to give me some kefir grains and lend me her Nourishing Traditions book. We discussed growing your own chook food and keeping pigs - lots of stuff really. She also casually runs a kind of co-op for buying bulk organic dry goods from a wholesaler - I signed up!

  7. Eat the food: All of the above! Yum Yum.

Now that wasn't so hard. And this morning I've already planted some more seeds and I'm cooking tomatoes to bottle right now - next week's post is half-way written.

Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Work in Progress Wednesday

My little batik charm squares are slowing morphing into something else. Little by little I hope they will transform into a quilt worthy of my Mother-in-Law. She is a wonderful, wonderful person, she deserves a decent gift!

I particularly like the feather design.
Wednesday night is my night I go quilting at a friend's house, so I'll be working some more on these. They are great little portable projects because there is lots of tracing and cutting to do before you get to the stitching bit.

Monday, February 1, 2010

A roll in the hay.

Yesterday I made my own hay. "Why not?" I thought. Surely you don't need a ginormous tractor, baler and scores of hefty young men?

Recipe for haymaking:
Cut the overgrown kikuyu with the ride-on lawnmower.
For a few days, kick it around every time you visit the chickens.
Once it's dry, rake it into sweet little piles.
Stuff it into old feed sacks, smash it down as hard as you can, that stuff takes up a lot of room.
Itch like CRAZY.
Run to have a shower before you scratch yourself to ribbons!

I'm going to use it for bedding for the rabbits I'll get soon and nesting material for the chickens. And because of the drought, hay bales are about $18 when they are usually about $5-$7. Mind you, I probably only picked up about two haybales worth...but hey, every bit counts, huh?

And then today, it rained.

So I was very glad - it was RAINING, which it hasn't done for about four months, and I'd already brought in the hay harvest (tongue firmly in cheek!).

The dam we had dug needs sealing before it will hold water. Apparently you do this by running a mob of cattle through it for a day when it's wet or driving round and round in it in your tractor. We don't have a mob of cattle and Dear Hubby didn't want to drive his tractor in in case he got stuck. So we used the children!

They didn't complain. Lets hope it works or we might have to coerce our calves into dam duty.

Just a little footnote. If you click on the top photo to make it big, you can see the block of land that's for sale. It's the big paddock behind the wheelbarrow and includes the half round barn and the big woolshed, plus lots more that you can't see. In fact, 180 acres or 72 hectares. We want it. In fact I want it so bad, I'm pretending not to so I don't get disappointed. It's too expensive for us so we are putting it out there to the universe to help us find a way. I'll keep you posted.