Monday, 31 October 2011

Our First Swarm!!

In our part of New Zealand, November signals the beginning of SWARM SEASON.  I've put that in capital letters because it is so darn exciting.  Until this weekend I've only dreamt of swarms.  Good dreams I mean, of catching a large, healthy one.  I've put bait boxes and queen pheromones out last year and this and so far nothing.  Until that is on Saturday afternoon when a friend rang to say he had a swarm of bees in his backyard and did I want them?  We very nearly got a speeding ticket getting there.  In my excitement (and panic) that they might move on before we got there, I forgot my camera!  So when we arrived there were two separate groups of bees in the same tree, each about the size of a soccer ball.  I  cut a branch off the tree and put that into the bee box we had set up.  Alot of them reconfigured back on the same branch.  Gees I didn't get the queen.  The swarm will always follow the scent of the queen.  So I decided with Ella's help to put a large plastic container under the swarming mass and bang the branch.  They all fell in, I poured the contents into the hive and immediately they all settled down.  They had found their queen and were quite content to stay in the box.  Phew, what an exciting way to spend a Saturday afternoon!!  Ella was such a big help.  Tony did very well helping me lift them onto and off the truck especially for someone phobic about bees, he was amazing!.  We went back later that evening, brought them home and now they reside here, back in my wonderful Warre hive that Tony built for my birthday last year.....

Welcome home bees!

Friday, 28 October 2011

This Week In The Garden

We've been planting peas and corn and pumpkin seeds and lettuce.......

and enjoying the flowering cherry blossoms...........

making daisy chains................

mulching, mulching, mulching paths and around plants.  Each Spring I mulch as much of our garden as I can before the Winter rains have a chance to evaporate.  I bark the paths and spread lucerne around the fruit trees.  It really cuts down on the weeds and helps conserve moisture in the soil.  This year because of pipework and reservoir damage from the earthquake, Christchurch is on water restrictions.  Which means hand watering only on 3 predetermined days of the week.  Those white barrels are for rainwater collection and we also collect rainwater from our roof spouting.  Its all about gardening smarter not harder.

I've been clearing and planting and rearranging this sitting area.  Its a lovely little nook under the pear tree where the kids can sit and read and I can have a cup of tea and a break from all that mulching.  We have a few seating areas in our garden, however they very rarely get used because who has got time to sit when theres gardening to be done?

And we've been enjoying the bees, really loving having them back in our garden.  They really do change the energy in the garden, their sounds and smells of nectar being turned into honey, their activities of coming and going at the hive entrance with pollen and nectar, searching for drinking water in the compost barrel.  They have a wonderful presence about them.

I try to get all the maintenance/new beds set up in Spring before it just gets too hot to be slogging away outside in the heat of Summer.  One more month of Spring left and so much to do.

Thanks for stopping by.

Thursday, 27 October 2011

Thrifty Finds Thursday

A piece of thick upholstery cotton fabric enough for a bag.

A beautiful, framed vintage tile, somewhere to put the teapot on.

Enough of this bias binding to last me a lifetime!  I thought this sewn ziggy zaggy style onto a plain piece of fabric/wool blanket would look kinda neat.

And a cute, retro vinyl bag that smells of old ladies face powder.  I thought it would make a cool project/knitting bag.

A couple of vintage sheets, because like woolly blankets you can never have too many of them.

All the theory crafty girls need!

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Welcome Back Bees

 This past weekend we finally got another colony of bees thanks to my good friend Cherry.  We had lost two colonies after the February earthquakes.  Earlier this year after watching the movie Queen Of The Sun Ben decided to join the family beekeeping ranks.  So with his yellow beesuit firmly in place he proceeded with smoker in hand, to help take the bees out of Cherry's equipment and put them into ours.  I have to say he was a natural, as is Ella who has been beekeeping since she was 10.  It was great to have two such enthusiastic helpers.  I thought he would get scared and lose interest and retreat to a higher place on top of the rock wall where his Dad was taking the photos.  But no, he was mesmerised.  He was so enthusiastic with the smoker that when I needed it to calm the bees down it had run out of fuel! 

Boy, frame beekeeping is hard, back breaking work.  But having two such great helpers made the job alot easier.


Last box off, now to put it all back together again.  Couldn't see the queen, but I'm a bit rubbish at finding her at the best of times.  Ella is alot better at finding her. There was heaps of brood and HEAPS of bees.  Note that no smoke is now coming out of the smoker, thanks Ben!.


I miss my Warre.  I think top bar beehives are the way to go.  They are definitely the bee friendly way to keep bees.  I'll try and split this new colony to make another and transfer it into this.  Its full of beemade comb from the colony that died after the earthquake. 
The bees have been busy drinking from my compost tea barrel today.  They must love the salt and nutrients from the seaweed.

Thanks for stopping by.

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

Welcome To Ella's Herbal Apothecary

 
 I remember as a child taking small carnation flowers from my Mother's garden, removing the petals and simmering them in a small amount of water in an old pot to extract the 'perfume'.  As you can imagine it was a very diluted mix, but it worked!  I was fuelled by this success and wondered at the many possibilities of making from scratch, creams and soaps and all those things that would have been made by hand in the 'good 'ole days'.  Ingredients were severely limited where I grew up.  But I was rich in imagination.  I loved making candles and I had a go at soap, but the lack of ingredients eventually bought this love of experiementation to an end.  I don't even remember having olive oil at the supermarket in the late 70's.
So fast forward 20 years when my first child was born and I began to wonder again at the possibilities.  I wanted products that did not contain parabens, that contained only natural ingredients.  I have continued to experiment over the last ten years.  I make beeswax candles for birthdays and gratitude time at the table and make a cream called Mummy's Magic Cream (because it fixes anything from bruises to hurt feelings to small cuts and even pimples).And now Ella is carrying on this sense of curiosity and delight of 'making from scratch'.

This is Ella's Lab which is located in our laundry.  We set it up to give her a work space that doesn't use kitchen utensils or leave wax on the stove or benchtop.  In affect she can make a mess out here to her hearts delight and she is responsible for keeping it tidy.  For her birthday this year Ella received essential oils and lots of other ingredients so that she can mix and play and try out various skin care receipes.

Here's a list of the books she recommends:

 Do It Yourself Pure Plant Skincare by Carolyn Stubbin
The Natural Beauty Book by Joanna Sheen
Jeanne Rose's Herbal Body Book by Jeanne Rose
Introducing Aromatherapy by Margrit Bachman
The Fragrant Mind by Valerie Ann Worwood

So far lip balm seems to be the hot favourite of recipes but I got a lovely mix of hand and face creams for my birthday and felt very spoilt.

Harvested from our own beehive this is one of the most healing and cure-all ingredients that can be used, that and New Zealand grown Lavender oil.

Monday, 24 October 2011

Loving Orange, Yellow and Gold

 
In the kitchen, we have a very loud, orange formica bench.........

From Nana's trees, lemons and tangaloes, gorgeous smell.....

Laura picked these from the garden, Fresias, Dandelions, Daisies, Pansies and Rhododendron....

A few bags of these waiting for attention,,,,,,

Of course I had to include Louie......

Some more Eco Dyeing........

From a book found at a flea market recently.  The Kingdom Under The Sea and Other Stories by Joan Aiken, pictures by Jan Pienkowski, I just love the shadow pictures, there is something very appealing about them.......

Ella made this gingerbread cake for Ben's birthday and made a lovely job of decorating it, it was delicious.

Thanks for stopping by.

Friday, 21 October 2011

This Week In The Garden

 
I've had lots of help.  Laura is my very eager helper.

Tony built a new compost bin from wooden pellets because our other one is full...........


I weeded and barked the paths around the raised veggie beds.......

Put out every available container to catch rain water.........


Admired the Camelias still in bloom..............

Created some garden storage/seating.  These are some steps left over from the Pod renovations.  I absolutely love them.  You can never have too many sitting places in the garden.

Reorganized this garden seating area (several times!)......

Moved this heavy thing......

And enjoyed the perfume of apple trees in blossom.......



Thanks for stopping by.

Thursday, 20 October 2011

Roll Up, Roll Up, Roll Up......

For our  Potato Growing Competition


Heres our recipe:

1      Take one bucket approx 10- 20 litres in size ( we used  an old paint bucket) drill some drainage holes in the bottom, put a mixture of good soil and compost to about quarter of the height of the bucket, make a few depressions and add the secret ingredient ( ours was powdered sheep manure) and mix into the soil.

2      Place two seed potatoes in each bucket, just covering with the soil/compost mix and then water.

3      When the potato leaves start showing through, cover with more soil/compost mix.

4      As the potatoes grow, add your choice of secret ingredient.  Ella's is compost tea, Ben's is talking to his and Laura's is checking on progress every few minutes.



Rules Of Entry

1  Each participant must use the same size bucket and soil/compost mix to begin with.
2  Entry is open to all family members (except Louie)
3  Competition will be judged by Christmas time 2011 and the winner will be announced based on the heaviest harvest of potatoes on the chosen date.
4  The winner is final and no discussion will be entered into.  The winner gets the choice of the 'winners pudding'.
5  Only natural additions to the soil mix will be allowed.


We had great fun with this idea during the week.  Children love having something of their own to nurture and the added bonus of something to eat at the end AND the choice of their favourite pud if they are the winner.  It makes for a great way of sharing my love for the soil and our garden.  Hopefully it plants a seed in them that gardening is also about nurturing themselves as well as the soil and above all else its blimmin good fun!!

I'll let you know how the competition goes.

Heres the rest of our early potatoes planted, to be ready for harvest on Christmas Eve.  Ella dug all the holes, I put the powdered sheep manure in, Ben mixes it and they all take turns putting the potatoes in the holes, covering them gently with soil and watering.  Its a family affair.  This has been our family tradition for nearly ten years.  Planting potatoes contains for them the promise of finding buried treasure and eating that treasure with minted butter later on.  It provides a great sense of satisfaction to all of us and it warms a Mother's heart to see children learning and loving to grow their own food.

Wednesday, 19 October 2011

Happy Birthday Ben

Having a birthday in our house usually means no jobs for the day, day off schoolwork and going out on a date with Dad.  We try to put more emphasis on the experience rather than the gift of 'stuff'.  Ben had a special request for his birthday, a cushion like Laura's and a birthday crown.


It was (another) late night sewing his crown and finishing his cushion.  My sewing machine wasn't working as well as it could, I was tired from working in the garden all day and yes I did leave some things to the last minute.  But in the end close to midnight  everything was finished.  I left the cushion on his bed with this poem in the back pocket.


What If 



What if a voice
were the wings
of a 1000 butterflies,
whispering and gathering
all the possibilities of you?

What if a smile
cast a glow
upon you,
to lighten and brighten
and lift the shadows
from heavy footsteps?

What if a hand
could carry you
to a place
of butterflies and smiles?


These were the fabric choices that Ben made.  It was a challenge trying to keep it a surprise!

So on the front we have something that Mum made and on the back we have an old shirt that Dad use to wear.  Something from both of us.

Happy Birthday Darling Boy.

Tuesday, 18 October 2011

In Between Projects

In the weekend, while trying to finish this I decided to have a break and start this:



This is a piece of old woollen blanket dyed some time ago.  The orange dye comes from onion leaves and the leaf shapes come from leaves that acted as a resist.  It wasn't intentional to end up with these shapes.  They were suppose to give off a dye and maybe a leaf shape too.  A happy accident!
I penciled around them to give the line more definition and make it easier to stitch along.  The yarn started out as white and was bound around the wrapped bundle of fabric and leaves so it collected some dye colour too. 


This is the back







I love the braille like qualities of using thick wool to stitch with.   Its so tactile. And woollen blankets, you can never have too many of them.

And thanks to this wonderful diversion (and working all day in the garden), I was up late last night finishing Ben's cushion and as per his request making him a birthday crown.  I'll be back here tomorrow with some photos.

Thanks for stopping by, I love to read your comments.

Monday, 17 October 2011

These School Holidays

We've been doing alot of this...................


catching up on all that important reading............


researching some new skincare recipes.......................


nurturing some creative urges.................


secretly planning and finishing birthday presents for Ben...............


and enjoying this gorgeous boy and taking him for long walks.

Hope you're all enjoying your holidays wherever you are.
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