Where growing, making & good living come together

Catching up with my crafting

Posted by on Saturday 23 March 2013 in making | 3 comments

2012 was my year that didn’t happen. A combination of circumstances and mood meant I achieved very little all year. It bummed me out until I just accepted it, and in comparison 2013 has been chipper and wonderfully productive.

I did a lot of embroidery and other hand-sewing in January and February – an combination of kits (to learn new skillz) and my own designs. This month has been crochet-tastic (I’m working on a big double-bed size blanket – 31 squares down, 23 to go) and I’ve also done some wet felting with resists. All Lily cares about though are the cushions I’ve made for us her.

I started them yesterday then ran out of thread so finished them today. Both days had intended to be garden days as I’ve got a whole bunch of seeds that need to be started ASAP but the eight inches of snow out there is getting in the way somewhat. I remember this week last year, sowing lots of seeds in the mini heatwave then watching them either rot in the soil or succumb to damping off when the weather turned again in April. I’ve not got anything tender on the go in the greenhouse/outside just yet though so this snow will delay things but hopefully won’t kill off much.

In case anyone is interested, the cushion covers are made from an Ikea fabric, Lappljung Randig, which is a lot nicer in person than it is on the web — and it should be because £8/metre isn’t super cheap. It’s a heavy cotton though, and it coordinates well with our grey sofa, and not just because both are covered in dog hair. (Lil is on her blue sofa in the office in the picture.) I bought the fabric back in February, on our usual Valentine’s Day visit to Ikea (it’s so quiet!) but as I nearly cut off the tip of my index finger the following morning, I couldn’t sew them until now. Two related #pro-tips:

Cushion sewing #pro-tip: Remember to open the zip before you finish stitching the final edge, else, annoyingly fiddly.

Cooking #pro-tip: Sharp, fast-spinning stick blender blades are SHARP and FAST-SPINNING.

I’ve got a strip of fabric left over, about 45cm wide and 2 metres long — I think we’ve got enough cushions now (if Lily shares) so I’m trying to think of ideas for it. I might get some fat quarters to coordinate with the colourful stripes and make a little lap quilt. That’ll have to wait its turn on the project list – I’ve got a year of craft ideas to work off first! (Speaking of which, I’ve been on Pinterest for ages for Recycle This but only just started Pinning non-recycling things – I’m louisaparry on there.)

What have you been up to?

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Chickens on a snow day

Posted by on Monday 21 January 2013 in chickens | 3 comments

We’ve had some snow a week now but the “proper snow” only arrived last night. We woke up to nearly six inches on the ground – and on the greenhouse, the flower beds, the steps — on the everywhere really ;) It’s still snowing now, not a blizzard but a steady fast flow.

The trees are the heaviest I’ve ever seen them, with some branches bent right over under the weight of their cold blanket. Every now and then – actually, specifically right then when I was writing the first half of that sentence – one reaches its limit and drops its load, or it flicks the snow back into the parent tree and more falls to the ground. It’s painfully pretty.

The chicken wire roof of our chicken run has slowly grown its own snowy coating too. I thought it would be very dark under there – that the (automatic, light triggered) pop hole door wouldn’t have opened and our girls would be grumpy, trapped in the coop without food or drink, but it is surprisingly light. I cleared the snow off the section nearest the path before realising about the lightness but will leave the rest for now – it’s keeping the falling snow out of the run. The structure is more than strong enough to hold up for now, though I will keep an eye on it if the snow keeps falling.

The birds are holding up well. Our three old girls were around for the harsh 2010-11 winter: if they were humans, they’d probably be going around in flip flops and t-shirts, and bragging to the new ones “cold? cold? it’s not cold! It’s tropical compared to when I was a pullet.” (Humans say that, right?) Thankfully though, none of them is actually being tested in that way – their moults feel like ages ago now and they’re all feathered up again. As if on cue: fluffy bottoms ahoy!

I’m making sure they’re kept well fed to counter the extra energy they’re putting into keeping warm – I’ve got a stash of their layers pellets in the house for making up a warm porridge as-and-when. Their drinkers were freezing last week but they’ve been ok for the last couple of days. And they’re returning the well fed gesture – we had a 100% lay rate yesterday and today — really good going! I wouldn’t be surprised if tomorrow is a little lower though.

As ever, Lily-dog is carefully supervising my care of the girls – insisting on accompanying me into the garden at every opportunity and checking out the wider area around the run for ALL THE SMELLS. The cats though are happy to just watch from the window.

Is it snowy where you are? If you’ve got birds, how are they doing?

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Chickens in winter – still rewarding but so much more work

Posted by on Friday 3 December 2010 in chickens | 11 comments

Sorry if this blog as got a bit one note of late – all winter! winter! winter! It’s partly because I’m reluctant to post any recipes at the moment (I’ve got a few I want to write up but I think our oven thermostat is broken so I want to check that because saying “bake this at 230 for 30 minutes”, when really it needs 10 minutes at 180) and partly because the weather is a little … in our faces at the moment.

We’re not used to this. Even after our “once in 20 years” bad winter last year, we weren’t really ready for this – and especially not starting so early. I know a lot of people in north America and mainland Europe have it far, far worse for far longer but if I lived in Canada or Sweden, I’d expect it and be prepared for it but we’re just not used to it here. It was a balmy -6C/20F outside at noon today – it had been much, much colder overnight. I grew up on the sea-warmed coast (sunny sunny Southport) – we didn’t have either hills or snow there so trudging up and down the first in 8ins of the second is a very new experience to me.

We’re also not used to waking up to find these outside our kitchen window in the morning:

The in-need-of-filling bird feeder looks like wax has been poured on it.

It also makes me slightly regret how much I’ve been urging people to get chickens because they’re so easy to look after. My chicken-related workload has shot up over the last week – many many times more involved, although I guess that’s because they were so little effort before.

Last weekend’s big coop clean took a good three times as long – having to scrap the frozen poo off the floor – but that’s not so bad – it’s the daily tasks that are more time consuming.

In the morning, I have to defrost their drinkers as soon as I wake up. Sometimes that involves just using boiling water to melt the ice and top up the water levels (so it’s lukewarm for them to drink). Other mornings it means carrying the drinkers back up to the house (up three flights of icy steps) to defrost the solid water and refill. And some mornings, like today, it means carrying the drinkers up to the house, defrosting them, refilling them, carrying them back down, flipping them over to hang them up, the bottom coming off, the lukewarm water going everywhere over the run floor and having to start all over again, with a nice ice rink in the run to meet me when I return – and the floor of the run was already too cold for two feet as it was.

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The chickens in winter

Posted by on Monday 29 November 2010 in chickens | 3 comments

I had to crack the ice on the chickens drinkers a few times last week but yesterday, overnight, they froze completely solid. That, more than the inch or so of snow on the ground, drove home to me the fact it’s winter now.

Since the temperatures started dropping last week, I’ve reinstated my first thing runs down to see them in the mornings – since we fitted the automatic door, we hadn’t needed to prioritise them in the morning chores list but now I’m back to it. I go down to the run with a kettle full of boiling water now – to melt the ice and to warm up the over all temperature of the water in the drinkers.

After The Compost Lady recommended it, they’ve had a warm layers pellets porridge too. Also, like The Compost Lady, I’m liberally sprinkling corn around at lunchtime as a treat since they can’t scratch in the dirt as normal.

They thanked me for these comforts with a 100% laying rate over the weekend. The new ones still haven’t started laying but the four existing ones produced an egg each, each day – pretty good for snowy November!

In related news, I had to scrap lumps of frozen poo off the coop floor yesterday. Which was fun. I’m on the look out for ways to insulate it. I’m thinking maybe a fake floor (with insulation underneath and an easy-clean top) and a layer of insulation on the roof too. Just got to keep an eye out for materials…

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