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!

Monday, October 29, 2012

My Father in Law is dying.  I've been hesitant to blog about this as it seems such a personal subject.  I didn't want to seem to be gossiping, or fishing for sympathy, or taking a morbid interest in someone else's passing.  But now I feel that if I don't acknowledge what is happening, then I am just contributing to that 'ignoring' or 'hiding' of death that we seem to do so well in our society.

I want to honour him.  I want to honour death as a part of life.  I want to recognise him as an important part of my life, a part of my children's heritage.

Last night I stayed with him to nurse him through the night.  The family and a few friends are taking turns at this.  It's hard work.  He has been very confused, he battles mobility problems and now he is beginning to be in pain from the cancer that is killing him.  But is is also a special time.  It feels almost sacred.  How many other people in the world are watching through the night with me?  How many millions of people before me have done the duty of helping someone embark on the last great adventure in peace and comfort?  I felt a connection though the ages.  I could imagine a woman in a tent crouching next to a fire, holding an elder's hand.  Maybe it was fatigue induced, but it helped me.

The children are aware in their own way of what is happening.  We don't hide it from them.  We were discussing how sick 'Arparp' was and how he would die soon, but we didn't know when.  My little girl said softly, "I like Arparp.  My boy added, "I'll miss Arparp."  Such simple, truthful words.  And about all there is to say.

Monday, October 22, 2012

Worm Mansion

This is a purely garden related post so now's the time to tune out if that's not your style.

Here in NZ you can buy a good basic worm farm from The Warehouse or other similar places.  It has three boxes with screen dividers in between.  The bottom box is where the worm pee or run off from the castings is collected.  The middle box is where the maturing castings are and the top box is the one you are filling.

The top box - room for more!
The idea is to fill the top box until it's crammed, then take it off, open up and empty the middle box and use all the castings, then put the top box in the middle to mature and the empty middle box becomes the top box that you begin to fill again (got that?!).  You can add more boxes to the cycle if you fill them quickly.

The middle box - filled with beautiful, rich castings.
The problem is the bottom box.  To get to the worm pee you have to lift two heavy boxes off, scoop out the pee and then put the whole thing back together.  A bit too much bother to do regularly.

My good friend Sue is moving back to the UK from whence she came a good while back.  I'll miss her terribly (but I'm looking on the bright side - I'll have someone to visit!).  They've been downsizing and having a clear out and I've already benefited, but this worm farm set up is one of the best things yet!

Sue's handy husband has plugged in a simple hose fitting set up to drain the worm pee.  Whenever the watering can is half full, it can be topped up with water to dilute it and used to water plants and give them a boost.  This eliminates the frequent heavy lifting.  The worm farm needed a stand to accommodate the hose, but this could be adapted from an old table or bench.

Two farms is the perfect amount of room for our family.  The chickens get bread scraps, cabbage, apple cores etc and the worms get the stuff they won't eat, like citrus, teabags, bits of paper and potato and banana peels.  And I get the worm castings to spread in my garden the the worm pee to use in my pots or on anything that needs a boost!

Official worm farm guides suggest that worms don't like citrus, but mine don't seem to mind a bit.  Plus I sprinkle a bit of lime in from time to time as worms prefer less acid conditions.

So if you've been contemplating a worm farm, this might give you some ideas on how to set one up effectively, or if you've got one and it's been annoying you, get down to your local hardware and buy a few hose connectors.  You're plants will love you for it.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

Quiet Moments

I'm off to night duty tonight.  People often comment on how hard doing night shifts must be.  And they are right - it sucks to lever my body out of bed at 10.30 pm after an hour or so of snoozing and head off to work.  And yes, you are pretty tired the next day.  But I also privately savour night duty.  It's quiet, there is often not much to do and my children aren't with me.

That last one sounds a bit mean, but anyone who's been a parent knows how precious some quiet, kid-free time can be!  Mental rest and recuperation.

And I figure I deserve a little mental R and R.  We took six little kids down to Whangarei (an hours drive) yesterday to play LaserTag for my son's eighth birthday.  (I have to let you know that I bet the pants off my husband - just saying!).  After we had played LaserTag and had a snack, we found the best playground near the Marina, next to Reyburn House.  If you are ever in the area, take a look.  There is a huge rope climbing frame and lots of whirling, twirling equipment that made me a bit motion sick just looking at them, but the kids loved it.

If it's busy at work, it's quite satisfying.  Time goes fast and I know that the work I do as a midwife is important and meaningful.  If it's quiet, then I can get my list of jobs done uninterrupted and then settle down to some serious quilting.  Occasionally I'll read a book - sometimes I can almost finish a book in a night, but usually I go 'blurry' at about 4 am.

I've been stitching a few artist trading cards in my recent quiet moments.  I put together a couple of little bags with some scraps, threads, bits and pieces and needles and it's interesting to see what comes together.  Then when I get home to my machine, I can back them and edge stitch them to finish.

So now I'm off to bed for my precious couple of hours.  Think of me when you go to bed tonight - I'll just be getting up!

Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Willing Workers

I haven't been in the vege garden for about six months.  I've done no weeding whatsoever.  Nil.  Nada.  Zip. And you could really really tell.  So I had a willing worker in the form of a teenage boy helping me out today.  Eye high weeds and borage and brassicas.  He wasn't much of a conversationalist but together we made a HUGE dent in the work.

You can see all the way through to the chicken pen in the background now.

Then after about five hours it began to rain in a relentless, very wetting kind of way.  So once we had piled up our weeds into two humongous piles I sent him off home with some money burning a hole in his pocket and the promise of more if he comes back tomorrow (if the rain stops).  

Then I got my other willing workers on the job.  I tempted the chickens in by throwing round a few handfuls of cracked corn and shut the gate behind them.  They will pick over and scratch around, finding weed seeds and slugs, snails and bugs, in a much more thorough way than I ever could.  (I'll let them out in a couple hours 'cause there's no shelter in there and they'll be getting all bedraggled.)

And do you like my shiny new gate?  I used to have a piece of plywood just lent up against the posts.  My mother in law jokes about how it took her 25 years to get a proper gate on her garden, so I should get used to my ply.  But Hubby came through after only three years!  (Actually the gate was for between the orchard and the top paddock but it turned out too big so my vege garden became the recipient.  I'm not complaining!)   

So there is hope for summer vegetables now.  Basil and tomatoes, potatoes and beans, mmmmmm!

Friday, October 5, 2012

Selling up a storm...okay, selling up a gentle breeze!

I've finally got around to listing some more of my positive/negative appliqué patterns onto my Felt shop.

The rustic background is the outside wall of my house - shadowclad plywood that has greyed in the sun.  I tried setting up a light box but they looked awful, sort of 'stark' and like I was trying too hard!

This isn't all of them, but I thought I'd show you a few - you could always go browse my shop if you wanted to see them all, hee hee! ;)

I think this gecko is my favourite, the tongue and claws aren't too tricky to stitch and they really make it work.

I tried to get a picture of my Tree of Life quilt top - which I've FINISHED!! Just the top, mind you.  Still got to baste and quilt it, so it won't be hanging in the Auckland Festival of Quilts seeing as the hand in date is tomorrow.  But it was just too windy, the light was funny, and I was dozey after working a night shift last night. 

So now it's off to bed for me and looking forward to a productive weekend.

Monday, October 1, 2012

School Holidays have hit

So I found my camera.  I did what I should have done first.  I asked the kids.

"Oh, we found it on the ground, so we took a few pictures."

"Then what did you do with it?"

"We put it in here to keep it safe."  

Of course.  And here was their toy garage.

I thought I'd show you a couple of their artistic shots.  They illustrate quite well that it is school holidays for two weeks and they are already driving me a little crazy at lunch time on the first day!

So once I had my camera back, did I take any astounding photographs?  Not really, sorry!  Just a few of the ducklings who are enjoying living outside.  Big Red, the rooster, is a huge bird, so you can see how much they've grown after only a few weeks - much faster than chickens - and if you want to eat these, they are ready at eight weeks.

And I'm still stitching away at my Tree of Life quilt.  I don't want to rush it just to have it done.  I'd rather spend the time on it to get it right.  

So happy school hols everyone!  Let's hope I'm still sane by the end of them!