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!

Saturday, July 31, 2010

Flip, change, move, swap.

I've set up a breeding trio of Silver Laced Wyandottes.

I find myself constantly planning and moving and organising my animals.  I thought I'd have a perfect system after a while.  But we've lived out here on the land for more than a year now and it's still in a state of flux. 

But I think it's always going to be like that. 

Animals grow.

They eat all the grass in a pen or run or paddock.

You want them to have babies.

Or you don't want them to have babies.

They start to crow.

Or they start to lay eggs.

A breeding group of Light Sussex.

Every now and then I eat some, I sell some or (heaven forbid and don't tell my husband!) I buy some.

Time for a bigger cage.  Nine babies and Mummy Bunny just don't fit in the nest box anymore.

I am becoming more observant, more flexible and creative in using my animals in different ways.

These chooks are penned in an area I want to be a garden.  Why should I dig up all the kikuyu grass when they'll do it for me?  (And they'll enjoy the process a whole heap more!)

One day maybe I will have the perfect set of systems.  I hope not - that might get boring.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Images from my Guild Meeting.

This one is especially for Cadi.  It's the pincushion I got in the pincushion swap.  How cute!  And we didn't know who we were making for, so the fact that it's a chicken (and I'm slightly mad about chooks) is serendipity.

Here is the quilt I made that provided the scraps for my little bassinet quilt I showed you a few posts ago.  A simple and effective (and QUICK) way to use a jelly roll.  Except it's not needed for it's original purpose now.  I have a spare quilt...crazy unusual for me!

I've made two wee bassinet quilts from the scraps now (I'm addicted to no-snit machine binding!).  And I don't know what's going on with my eye.  I think I'm grimacing at having my photo taken - you just don't get the whole grimace effect, just a wonky wink instead!

And another bassinet quilt for the maternity unit (yup, more machine binding).  I love being able to use up my scraps or extra blocks like this.  These are leftover from the quilt I made for my new nephew.

Monday, July 26, 2010


It's my local quilting guild meeting tomorrow.  I'm on the committee (don't ask me how that happened) and I've organised a pincushion swap between members.  I suddenly realised I hadn't made one - not a good look if the organiser of a swap doesn't make an item to be swapped!

So this is my Belonephobia box (to save you a Google - it's fear of pins and needles!).  It's about four inches by 2 1/2 inches, quite large, but then you won't lose it.  It has rice in the bottom to give it weight and craft stuffing on top of that.  And it used up lots of scraps.

And then, of course, my little darlings saw it and both wanted one of their own.  I must tell them about 'thou shalt not covet'!

So here are two for them, just waiting to be stuffed and sewn closed.  I made them a little bigger and I don't think I'll put rice in theirs.  I have a suspicion they'll end up being thrown at each other so the less weight the better!

Sunday, July 25, 2010

I'm knackered.

But not too knackered to show off!  All the bare-rooted fruit trees are planted, mulched and staked - but not tied yet - no hurricanes tonight please.

All the poplar and willow poles are in.  Little soldier lines of stakes.  They are close, but we figure we will get a better shelter sooner - and hubby is itching to use the chainsaw in a few years time.

My tree-planting hero.  We are in sight of the finish line, with only about 100 trees to go.

We've already lost a couple to wild rabbits so I sprayed the remaining ones with our super duper rabbit repellent. 

5 eggs
150 mls acrylic white paint
(I actually don't think the rabbits will mind what colour you use)
600 mls of water

Mix well and spray over your seedlings with a fine setting.

Friday, July 23, 2010

Playing with Water Fire.

So my sweet, wee, almost-three-year-old was playing at the sink.  She had helped wash the potatoes and kumara, she had filled every dirty cup and bowl with water and lined them up on the draining board and she was looking around for something else to do. 

She spied Wild Puss strolling by nonchalantly (as only cats can do).  Her eyes gleamed.  "Mummy."  She says with total conviction.  "Wild Puss wants a bath."

I almost let her try.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Jab time.

First off - my internet and home phone line have been down for a couple of days if you were wondering where I was.  Just part of rural life.  But I've also been busy busy busy planting those 500+ trees and some fruit trees in my orchard (really, really excited about the fruit trees!).

But then I heard some nasty news.  The local council are releasing calicivirus into areas around Northland to control wild rabbits.  Calicivirus was released illegally into New Zealand in 1997 and is now licensed for tightly controlled use as a pest-control measure.  But it doesn't discriminate between domesticated rabbits and those little wild ones who do all the damage,  but there is a vaccination. 

I rang my vet and explained that transporting my five breeding adults into the surgery was going to be difficult.  I don't like the mums leaving their litters and one doe is due to kit today or tomorrow.  Plus I don't have that many cages.  I also explained that I was a midwife and very used to giving injections (to humans, but it can't be that different, huh?).  She said that seeing as they were a 'stock' animal and not a pet, and that she could trust me not to inject myself, she would sell me five vaccination doses over the counter without an actual consult.  Yay! 

So tonight when Hubby gets home, he gets to hold the bunnies, I get to inject.  The young kits (under 6-8) apparently don't die from it even if they contract it.  But I'm still keeping my fingers crossed.

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Heavens! What was I thinking?!

Back when it was sunny and hot and I needed shade.

Back when planting season was a long way off.

Back when I was enthusiastic, keen, fired up.

Back then I ordered trees.  Lots and lots of trees.

100 Manuka
100 Kanuka
32 Wineberry
30 Totara
32 Blackwood
20 Wharangi
32 Norfolk Island Hibiscus
30 Weeping Bottlebrush
30 Cabbage Tree
32 Five finger
20 Whau
20 Copper Sheen Teatree
5 Pinoak
5 Liquid Amber
5 Silk Tree

(And we've already planted all the poplar and willow stakes)

Time to pay the piper. 
We won't be answering the phone today, we'll be too busy planting trees.

(Actually, we're taking it in turns.  One plants till they get tired, then they come in for a rest (which means supervising the kids), and the other one goes and plants.)

PS - someone asked me if the poplar and willow stakes had roots.  Nope, they are just sticks.  You keep them in water until it's time to plant and you just have to make sure you bang them into the ground the right way up ;)

Thursday, July 15, 2010

Mid-winter brilliance.

It was frosty this morning, but that turned into wonderful sunshine. 

It's the last week of the school holidays.  And I'm starting to feel it.  My youngest often stays home from her three days of daycare when my eldest is off school.  It seems so unfair to send her when her big brother is getting to play with Mum all day.

Last week we took a little bush walk.  And it was so successful that we did it again today.  It's the coastal track between Paihia and Opua.  I used to walk it a lot when my only responsibility was a dog.  But now the kids are old enough to enjoy it too.  Although we only walk a teeny way along it until we hit a secluded little beach.  There is a gnarly old pohutukawa tree root base that makes the perfect dragon lair/crocodile cave/baddy hideout/whatever game they are playing today.  And they are so entertained that I can steal time with a book - unheard of when we are at home.

Of course I do end up piggybacking the wee one for most of the trip home.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Work-in-Progress Wednesday

This is a little bassinet quilt made out of leftovers.  I'm making it for the local Maternity Unit at our small rural hospital.  They use them on the bassinets to provide some warmth and colour to the postnatal rooms.

An I'm going to put the binding on using this no-snit binding tutorial.  I've used it before and it was great, but I need practice.

And look!!  It didn't take long at all and it's just about perfect!  I'm sold!  I have to finish the project that these scraps came from quickly and I'm guessing I'll be using no-snit machine binding to do it. 

I have a friend who has an old hand injury and she machine binds her quilts because all the hand-sewing hurts her - so this might be a really useful tutorial to pass on to anyone you know with arthritis or similar.

So now I guess it's Work-Finished Wednesday!

Thursday, July 8, 2010

Free is Good.

So I mentioned that things had happened while I was away, and that I'd tell you about them over a few posts.  One of them was more bunnies being born, check.  Another was my flax seeds that I'd given up on ever germinating. 

I sowed these when I picked them from their pods several months ago.  I dutifully watered them through the drought and then when nothing happened I started ignoring them.

My native plant propagation bible "The Propagation of New Zealand Native Plants" by Lawrie Metcalf, says that you should sow Phormium seed when fresh and germination usually occurs within about 4 weeks.  Hmmm.  Maybe it was the drought.  But anyhoo, now that the temperature has dropped, they've all popped their heads up.  Yay.  I love flax - it attracts the tui, grows well in damp ground and is hardy as all heck.

A mature flax (although they get a lot bigger) with immature flower stalks.

I also have more free trees.  These are transplanted Tagasaste (Tree Lucerne).  I found a little cluster growing (from seed from our shelter belt) in the bare clay where our shed extension is going to go.  I dug them up, separated them and potted them up.  And they all seem to have survived.  These trees prefer well drained soil and so don't do as well in Northland as they do in somewhere like Canterbury where I've seen them growing great guns.  But if you pick your spot right they do pretty well.  They are short lived (8-15 years), attract native birds, nitrogen fixers, flowering now (great for winter bee food), good stock fodder, good firewood and only grow to about 6 metres - very manageable.

Loquats (yummmmmmmy) and Manuka.  Loquats grown from seeds and the Manuka (bee food, firewood, fast shelter) potted up from seedlings growing in my Mother-in-Law's pot plant. (Yes, those are strawberry flowers in the background - not holding out much hope for berries in winter though).

Propagating isn't as hard as I thought - if you start with the easy ones anyway.  Give it a go and if you end up with more than you need, then give them away as gifts, donate them to a school, plant them on a boring'll think of something!

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Spread the butter thick.

My Mum baked all our bread when I was a kid.  She had five loaf tins and they were put into service about twice a week (maybe once, I can't remember).  I loved her bread, even though at the time I wished I had shop white bread like everyone else (blurk!!).

Now that I'm regularly making my own bread, I want it to be like hers.  But Mum died when I was 16 and her bread was one of those things she just kinda made and never really had a recipe.

So I've been working on it.  And I've almost got it sussed - it's really good, and it's close enough to what I remember.


3 cups warm water
1 tablespoon of Surebake Yeast - this is one with bread improvers added but you probably don't need it, just use a little less regular yeast.
1/3 cup brown sugar
1 cup rolled oats
Put these all in a bowl and leave for 15 minutes or so to activate the yeast (I added my rolled oats now to get a bit of soaking time - if I was a real Western A. Pricer, I would have soaked them overnight).
Add 1 egg, 3 tbsps oil and 1 tsp salt and mix.
Add 4 cups white flour (stoneground, highgrade - whatever takes your fancy).
Add 2 1/2 cups brown flour and then maybe some more.
Mix until a quite wet and sticky dough forms.  Mix really well (almost like kneading) with the wooden spoon, you wouldn't want to get your hands in there - too wet.
Cover and leave to rise until doubled.
Mix really well with wooden spoon again then divide into half and 'plop' into two well-greased loaf tins.
Leave to rise again until well risen in the tin and then bake for about 45 mins, the first 10 mins at 200 degrees Celsius, the last bit at about 160 degrees Celsius. 

The original recipe was Grandmother Bread from Chickens in the Road Blog, but I added and changed etc etc and this is about right.  You can add linseeds, rye flour, cold porridge, any science experiments in the fridge, but I find as long as I have about 4 cups of white flour and a sticky texture, it turns out well.

P.S.  I also baked about a gazillion chocolate chip cookies today....after I washed off the toothpaste that dear daughter had applied to the cubed butter sitting on the bench softening.  The minty taste was hardly noticeable at all.  Note to self:  DON'T TURN YOUR BACK ON AN ALMOST-THREE YEAR OLD!

Monday, July 5, 2010

Oma Rapeti

Early this year I wrote some goals to help me see where I needed to go to get to where I want to be.  One of them was running my own rabbits for meat.  Now I understand that many people keep bunnies for pets, so if the thought of breeding then eating rabbits turns you off, this post will be all about that - no graphic images, but you might want to go read something else!

So far I have four breeding does and one buck.  I run them on grass with open bottomed enclosures so they can eat grass - cheap to feed and their natural diet, so it's got to be good for them.  Problem: they dig.  So I move the enclosures every 24 hours and sometimes twice a day if they've already been digging.  I also put planks of wood on the ground around the edges of their cage and so far I've only had three escapes - before I knew what I was doing.  Two escapees were easily catchable, the other one were a couple of babies and not catchable.  After a day or two I stopped seeing them around and my cat looked a whole lot plumper.

I also feed rabbit pellets, bought in bulk from a feed store, and I cut tagasaste tree branches (tree lucerne) for them - which they LOVE.  They also get vege scraps like outer cabbage leaves.  They are cheaper to feed than my roosters that I also raise for meat.

I aim to put a doe in with the buck every month.  I leave her in there with him for 3 weeks or so, then take her out and settle her in another run ready to kindle at about 28-31 days.  I have two indoor runs in my shed so I can have does kindle in there in the middle of winter.  So if I get all the timing right, each doe will be mated three times a year.  Her kits stay with her for 8 weeks and then she has a month off before mating again.  Her kits will be culled at between 12 and 18 weeks.  If I get five rabbits to process from each litter, I should end up with 60 per year - a meal a week.  I think five is a conservative estimate and will probably get an average of seven, or 84 per year - plenty for us and some to give away or barter.

Before I went away a couple of weeks ago, we processed eight rabbits.  They were about 13 weeks old.  They were an alright size, two make a really good meal with leftovers but I would have left them longer if I hadn't been going away and needing to reduce animal numbers.

And the taste?  Yum!  Not gamey like wild rabbit, much more like one of my free-range chickens.  A tender, dense meat, light in colour and enough like chicken that I told my nieces that that's what they were eating and they never questioned it.  I'm not usually in the business of fibbing to children!  My kids are fine about eating rabbit but I couldn't be bothered risking an argument the night I was feeding all the nieces too.

Joint the rabbit into pieces.
Flour and brown in a fry pan with oil or butter.
Layer in a casserole dish with sultanas that have soaked in water, and chopped onion and apple that you've fried lightly in the same fry pan. 
Deglaze your pan with some beer (the darker the better), add a little smoked paprika and some dried mixed herbs then pour it all over the rabbit pieces.
Add more beer - about a 300ml stubby or can's worth in total.
Cover and cook for about 1 1/2 to 2 hours.
Serve with mashed potato or whatever takes your fancy in the way of veges.

So currently I have five kits that are almost four weeks old and they are running around and eating grass quite happily.  I have 10 kits only a couple of days old and they have quite a big size discrepancy and 10 is a big number so I don't expect all of them to survive, and I have nine kits who are about five days old and seem to be doing well.  The nine kits were meant to be born over a week earlier than they were but she obviously wasn't playing ball with the buck.  I need to spread my matings out a little more to get things working the way I want and then it will all be going swimmingly.

Will I keep doing it?  Yes.  I have to feed and move them every day, but I'm time-rich.  They are cheap to feed and give us good meat in a short time frame.  Their manure is great for the garden and they mow the lawn for me.  I also have the skins to consider and will research home tanning and give it a whirl at some stage.

So, if you are looking for a source of your own meat and only have a small bit of grass, then rabbits have lots going for them.

Saturday, July 3, 2010

Plans for the Day.

These are willow and poplar stakes.  They turned up while I was away so they've been soaking in some water in our chillybin - there were too many for a bucket!  In fact, to be precise, there is 180 of them.  20 are for the neighbour (we combined our order to save freight) but that still leaves 160 to be planted.  Luckily they are pretty easy to plant - bang a metal pole into the ground first to make a hole, then push the plant pole into the hole.  Make sure it's firm and protect it from stock, then admire it in spring when it breaks out in leaves. 

It's sunny outside this morning so looks like a great day for some tree planting.

Hope you have a great Saturday too.

Friday, July 2, 2010

Home, sweet home.

It is very, very good to be back home.  We arrived last night after a big drive from Hamilton, with a stop-off in Auckland to have lunch with some of my relatives who I haven't caught up with in a while.  Kids were very well behaved - even when I dragged them into The Apple Basket quilt store in Kaiwaka.  What lovely ladies in there, they let us use the bathroom and even gave my kids a cracker.  And such drool-worthy fabrics and patterns - worth a stop if you are passing.

Anyway,  introducing my newest nephew, who was the primary reason for my travels:

Is he just not the squishest, cutest little thing?!  Almost made me want another one....almost.

Lots of things have happened here since I've been gone.  But I'll tease them out over a few posts.  Right now I have to get back to unpacking, doing umpteen loads of laundry and admiring the newest batch of rabbits.  Nine altogether and born yesterday (I think!).