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Making a needle felted chicken

I am making us a Nature Table, I don’t really follow a Waldorf type home schooling approach but there are some things that I like and a nature table is one of them. It is just an area that they can have seasonal things and stuff they collect from nature, it can have a theme or just be random stuff, the possibilities are endless.

I decided to base our for the moment a bit on what we are doing in the garden with growing and with the chickens as the kids are involved and learning from what we are doing in this challenge.

Rachel had some wooden fruit and vegetables from her kitchen set which we put on the table on a silk which we dyed green. We added a family from her dolls house although I want to ask Ghilraen who make lovely felted figures (usually gnomes) if she will make me our family for our table. We needed a chicken so I thought it would be nice to needle felt one as I had a kit that I was keen to try.

This is how I made it.
Disclaimer: This is the second time I have needle felted anything so I just made it up as I went along. I am not sure if I did it right or if I broke some cardinal rules of felting but it worked.

I made a black and white chicken as I was making one to look like Jack Hen that is our new chicken that laying eggs. To make the black and white I took a bit of black and white fibre and layered it and then started felting. To make the ball I just kept felting around and turning it until I had a ball.

I then made another smaller ball the same way and felted it onto the bigger ball

I then took some more fibre and started making a flatter shape that I used as a tail. It was a bit big to start with but I know what to do if I want to make a peacock one day

I then felted it down and make it the curved shape like the chicken, I must admit that I did make a few trips outside to see the chicken. I did look on the internet for ideas but there were not many examples that I liked so I just kept looking at Jack Hen rather.

I was worried that it looked too much like a small bird and after a visit out to Jack Hen I decided that it needed to be a bit taller so I decided to make another ball to add on the top

I then added the comb with some red fibre

I then added a orange beak

I added some orange and red bits to the face after studying Jack Hen, I am not sure I got to totally right.

Rachel made a grass nest

This is the live model Jack Hen

Could you eat your own chickens?

Damn meat!

I am not a vegetarian, I grew up eating meat. There was a time when I tried to be a vegetarian. There were many excellent reason; the way animals are treated in mass farming, the damaging effects on the environment of this type farming and the less than healthy meat that is the end result. I knew all the reasons and I did try but I still could not do it. I blame bacon! The smell of bacon was the cause of my high moral vegetarian resolve to crumble. I now like to believe that I am a more conscious meat eater.

Like always money features so strongly in our choices and if I could only buy organic meat I would but it is sadly out of our reach. We do eat less meat and try to make sure what we do eat is a better quality but I am embarrassed to admit that at times when life gets busy the convenience of cheap easy packaged meat in the local supermarket does lead to me having selective amnesia about most mass farming practices.

This challenge to be more sustainable puts the focus back on meat and how it is produced. We really have no excuse to eat meat and not to think about how the animals are treated.

I found these rather cute cartoons and while not all of it applies to all farms I think the idea that mass farming is damaging to land, animals and people is true

All of this brings me to the heading of this blog post. We have chickens. I always thought that they would only be for eggs but if I am serious about being sustainable then we have to talk about eating the chickens too. The idea is not appealing, and Rachel has flat out refused to eat any chicken that we have. Of course it would be easier just to carry on buying free range ( not totally sure they have a great life either) chicken and ignore where they come from. I feel strongly though that part of this challenge has to move us out of our comfort zone and has to make us reexamine things. Beacuse part of what has gotten us all into this mess on the planet is that, for convenience sake, most of us choose not to think about the damage that we are doing. Out of sight out of mind.

I think I am truly a spoilt suburban person who has never had to deal with the nitty gritty of getting meat to my plate. It is only easy to turn your nose up at growing your own meat when your life has been easy enough and you have not worried about feeding yourself and your family. In more rural areas and on small farms chickens are chickens not pets and they serve a function which is eggs and meat.

We are going to have to come to terms with what our choice to eat meat means and if we are serious about trying to be as sustainable as we can. While I can’t have a cow for milk and cheese I can have chickens for meat. This will mean increasing our flock but I think we need to seriously consider it.

Funny when your decision to have a chicken for dinner involves killing one, then you are more likely to make sure that meat is eaten less often, it is not just as easy as throwing it in the trolley, you are aware of the life and death that is part of your meal.

I would love to hear your thoughts and experiences.

So could you eat a chicken you had raise?
Have you ever killed a chicken?

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Herb Pyramid Recipe

I saw this herb pyramid on Pinterst and told The Geek that I would really rather like one.

Here is our Recipe

Ingridients:
1 Geek, willing to make the crazy plans that I come up with, even thought this means not tidying the study, which he had planned to do this weekend.

Variety of pallets, that you gave acquired by careful scavenging off building site and other industrial areas, where they have been discarded. ( Be sure to ask if you may re-home these items as no allowance is made in this recipe for time in jail)

Nails, screws, hammers and whatever other thingymabobs that one needs to put these piece of wood together, this is The Geeks department and I am sure if he is worth his handy man status he has all that is required.

Herbs and seeds

Soil

Plant food

Mulch

Empty plastic bottles 500ml ( smaller water one are better for this than the than bigger 2L ones which can be used for trees)

Method:

Bat eyelids at your Geek and kindly request that he make the said herb pyramid, open Pinterest and show him your example with great excitement. A good man, who is always a keeper, likes to make his lady happy so the trick here is to be excited and to let him know how happy this would make you. Men work on a reward system they like to add points to their side of the score board as it may all lead you feeling inclined to reward him in a affectionate way later.

The Geek then measures the boxes and makes each one progressively smaller but with longer stilts to hold them up. Make sure that when the boxes are inside each other that the spaces between are big enough for planting as we did need to take one of the boxes apart and shorten all the sides and the space was not big enough.

Plan where your herb pyramid is going to go. I am a huge fan of build up no dig gardening. I cover whatever area that I am going to be planing on with cardboard to kill the grass or weeds underneath ad then I layer on top of that.

You want a food layer on the bottom of each layer, the trough are small so you don’t want anything too strong as you don’t want to burn the roots. I mixed a little chicken manure to a lot of well decomposed compost mixed with potting soil.

Plan the herb layers, you need plants that like it hot and dryer near the top so Rosemary, sage, marjoram and oregano. In the middle layer you want chives, garlic, parsley, and chamomile. While on the bottom plan for your water loving mint, coriander, dill and basil.

If you live in a cooler climate you may want to use a brick spiral to trap heat but for us we have too much heat so the pallet box system works better. Here is a great link to the Herb brick spiral

Drill small holes in the lid of the water bottles. Make sure that they are not too big as you want the water to trickle in slowly. Cut off the bottom of the bottle and plant upside down, a few per layer. Alternatively take a glass bottle and fill with water and push into the ground, it will trickle water in the same way. We found that the glass ones empty slower than the plastic ones but the we may just have drilled our holes a little too big.

Mulch well and done

Don’t forget to reward your man well.

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Amazing Permaculture Posters

I was looking on line for information on companion planting. I came across these great posters from Afristar. I emailed them and asked if I could buy 2 of the posters. I wanted to use them to plan our veggie garden and I thought that the kids and I could use for home schooling. The pictures are so clear and easy that I knew the kids would benefit from them. Wow I was amazed when they agreed to send me the whole set of posters if I would help promote them with a blog post! This is not hard as these are really fantastic posters and I am so chuffed with them

They are all around our homeschool room walls.

I love the winter and summer rainfall pies that show you what to plant all year around.

What I love about these posters is that they are clear and easy to use. They are simple enough for children to understand but yet give a lot of information for adults to use. I know they are going to be a great resource for us. I would highly recommend them to anyone wanting to start their own food garden, those home schooling and teaching kids about growing, for regular schools and any organization wanting to get become greener.

The posters are free to social welfare and educational organisations, otherwise they cost R 60 each incl postage. The planting calendars are available in a laminated retail version for R 80 incl postage.
Check out the entire set of posters on flickr or facebook.
Here is the list of posters available. Contact Afristar for more details.

Companion planting: This table shows which plants you should plant together which have a positive effect like increasing yield or deterring bugs, and which plants not to plant together. I am using this to help plan our new garden.

Recycling Greywater: I am very interested in figuring out how we can reuse our greywater. Greywater is water from sink, basin, bath or washing machine which can be saved and used to water the garden

Making compost: We do have a compost heap but this one has some good points to remember and ways that we can improve our compost heap. A great visual for those wanting to start composting

Permaculture Guilds: A plant guild is a group of plants that collectively increase productivity of the whole system.

Planting a tree: I want to plant a tree for each of the kids this year so we will be looking at and talking about this poster a lot.

Summer Rainfall and Winter Rainfall planting calendars: This pie chart is wonderful divides the year up and shows what you can plant each month through the whole year,I am going to be using this one a lot. A must for everyone wanting to start growing and I love that there are 2 based on the different rainfall areas

Permaculture Water Principles: We need to not only save water but think about capturing and using more of the rainwater that falls Practical illustrations show how to capture the water entering your system and put it to good use.

Worm Farms: we have some red wrigglers already but this is a lovely poster that shows you can make a womery from a stack of old tires.

Permaculture Zones: This helps plan where to plant things, you plant the things needing the most care and that you use closest to the house and then things get further away that need less care and you visit less frequently.

Liquid Manure: You can make liquid manure from animal dropping and we have a lot of chicken poop around, this poster shows how to mix and dilute to get the best tea to water the garden with.

Social Permaculture: Talking Stick Circle Ensures everyone gets a fair chance to participate. Although we are doing this as a family maybe we should have a stick so everyone gets a chance to talk.

I really recommend these or at least some specific ones that appeal to your individual needs for anyone that is thinking of growing their own.

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Alice in Wonderland Party

It was Rachel’s 7th birthday in September and we had an Alice in Wonderland Party.
A huge thank you to Catherine to the amazing pictures as always.

Alice the birthday girl

 

 

 

 

 

This way, That way, Up, down Sign

Some of the Guests

Brothers, much better than Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum

 

 

Mad Hatter Boys

The Cheshire cat with his grin

 

White Rabbit

Queen of Hearts Soldiers

 

Papa looking just down right odd ūüôā

The Cake

My sister, Jenni, in the UK make amazing cakes and she found these figures for me to use as there was no way I could mold them. She then emailed me the design and talked me through how to make it. I think for a non cake maker it came out okay.

 

 

 

Party Bags
I used 2 liter milk bottles and cut the tops off to make the party bags which I then turned into white rabbit by attaching ears and eyes and a packet watch and drawing a face

Each bag had a bath fizz with hearts in which had made the previous week

A Mome Rath ( they are little pom pom head type creatures that make a arrow for Alice to follow in the forest) made from 2 different pipe cleaners gun gunned together with a pom pom head and googly eyes


 The rest of the bag was sweets and goodies

The Table Decorations and Food

 

I made a cake stand using odd cups and saucers and plates that I had collected at 2nd hand shops, they are slightly harder to find than you would think. Then I glue gunned them together ( well by I it is implied The Geek ūüėČ )

I found this Cheshire cat pattern on line and of course I had to knit it for the table. I did land up sewing him at after the cake and table was done the night before and the crown was made so I did not go to bed that night. *sigh*, I always try do too much.

I found these Eat Me and Drink Me signs from Pinterest here

Made Cheshire Cat Tails from marshmallows and chocolate, it was harder to make the purple than I thought it would be. Also saw the idea on Pinterest, not that mine looked even half as good

 

Our take on Bread and Butterflies

Queen of Hearts Jam Tarts

Heart Cupcakes

Rainbow Jelly, this was fun to make but took a long time

I found this little teapot with a hole in it and thought it would be cute for the Dormouse to sit in

Tea Party

Blowing out candles

All in all I think it all went well.

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Going green

How Green can we go?

Last year I had a Gift Challenge, I wanted to see if I could Make, Upcycle, Regift or give gifts of service for a year. Granted I only started in July so will be carrying on for a while still. But It has been fun and for the most part I think I have managed. I will post some more updates of things I made soon.

But this year I want to start a Green/Sustainability Challenge. I want to see how green and self sustainable we can be in an urban area. So much of the stuff I have read about being sustainable is based on people moving or having more space and the average person. This suggestion is 2 acers which is just not realistic for most.

From Progressive Pioneer as seen on Pinterest

I love the book It’s Not Easy Being Green
click here to buy at Kalahari.net

It is about a British Family’s Journey towards Eco-living but they move to a new house in the country and have lots of space and try to go completely off the grid. But it is a great read and there are some wonderful tips for average people too.

While I think we might have more space than the average as we have quite a bit garden we are still urban, we have the urban bi-laws and other limitations of not having a farm or small holding. But since a lot of us live in urban areas surely there should be a way we can be more green and more self sufficient than we are.

After all we either create and produce or we consume and take away. I know we can’t get totally off the grid and there are some luxuries that we still want but I think in a small way there are things that we can all do. This is my year to see how far we can go in our goal. I know it will take more than a year but I want us to set the habit of being mindful of our drain on resources and see what we can do to counter it. We will never be able to do everything ourselves but I could finding local produce for what we can’t make or grow and working within our community.

    Pros/ What we have

  • ¬†We have space. A big garden and enough area to grow food for ourselves. Is it enough to feed us all year? I am not sure yet @mattallison from I’m no Jamie Oliver suggested on twitter than one needs about 200-400m¬≤ to grow enough food for a family and have some left over. My very rough pacing out in the garden says we have about 220m¬≤ of area that we wanted to set aside for the food garden.
  • We have a lot of sunshine so we should be able use solar energy
  • We have a borehole to ground water. If we get the pimp fixed then having water for the garden should be easy even though we live in a dry area
  • We have wind, Cape in notorious for wind and as we are on the west coast we get a lot of wind
  • The Geek, he is a great asset he is keen, hard working, handy and can build stuff and brainy. He loves researchig things and has been looking into the wind and solar options and knows how to do all the Math and Sciency stuff we need
  • Seaweed, we live very close to the beach and although or soil is not great here we have seaweed to help us fix this problem
  • Wormery: We have a wormey to make compost and worm tea
  • Chickens, although there have been sagas and we only have one how is laying, we should soon have all the eggs we need from our chickens. Meat? Well let me address that under cons.

Cons/Limitations

  • Money, this is always going to be our hugest limiting factor. We would love to add a rain water collector, solar panels, wind¬†turbine and borehole pump but sadly the budget does not allow, even if in the long run it will pay off, we still have to have the cash now. I will try save slowly during the year for these.
  • Meat, while we can keep meat chickens I am not sure that the¬†children¬†(or me to be honest) could eat chickens we have raised. I understand this is very hypocritical and that our meat would be a lot healthier. Maybe time will change this. With a bigger flock and the birds being less individuals it might be easier.
  • Bad sandy west coast soil, if you see above we have been working on this and have compost, worms and seaweed to help
  • Space for other livestock. ¬†Although I am sure we could have a goat, The Geek does not agree.
  • Space for wheat, we will always need to rely on others for flour but I would like to find a local source and maybe grind our own. I would also like to decrease our wheat consumption as I am sure we should not eat as much as we do.
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Shine the sink

Thalia left me a comment with a link to The FLY lady so I went over to have a look.

This is what she says: Are YOU living in CHAOS (Can’t Have Anyone Over Syndrome)? Do you feel overwhelmed, overextended, and overdrawn? Hopeless and you don’t know where to start? Don’t worry friend, we’ve been there, too.

Step through the door and follow FlyLady as she weaves her way through housecleaning and organizing tips, with homespun humor, daily musings about life and love, and anything else that is in her mind.

Her step 1 is to shine your sink! This is a task I do not relish. I have blogged about my hate of dishes before here and who can forget how the dishes outside but I really do hate feeling embarrassed when people come over so I have decided to give her tidying, de-cluttering organizing program a whirl, after all I will need all the help I can get. She said a clean sink is a good habit to get into and a good starting point. So I am off to clean the sink. Apparently there is a whole sink cleaning tutorial 

 

 

Mine does not look quite as shiny but hey I spend 20 minutes longer cleaning a sink than I have done in all my life.

My word for 2012…

Julia mentioned on her blog having a word for the year, hers were personal and inspirational. Her word this year is Nurture which I think is so beautiful. My word is way less glamorous.

I am not tidy by nature, in fact I am a bit messy and disorganized. I would rather be doing just about anything than tidying and organizing. I love these sayings

I saw this sign on Etsy
from GotMojo’s shop how I wish the Rand was not so bad, this would look awesome in my house.

1. I’m creative; you can’t expect me to be neat too!
2. So this isn’t Home Sweet Home… Adjust!
3. Ring Bell for Maid Service…If no answer do it yourself!
4. I clean house every other day…. Today is the other day!
5. If you write in the dust, please don’t date it!
6. I would cook dinner but I can’t find the can opener!
7. My house was clean last week, too bad you missed it!
8. A clean kitchen is the sign of a wasted life.
9. You may touch the dust in this house…but please don’t write in it!
10. Apology…Although you’ll find our house a mess, Come in, sit down, converse. It doesn’t always look like this: Some days it’s even worse.
11. A messy kitchen is a happy kitchen, and this kitchen is delirious.
12. A balanced diet is a cookie in each hand.
13. A clean house is a sign of a misspent life.
14. Help keep the kitchen clean – eat out.
15. Countless number of people have eaten in this kitchen and gone on to lead normal lives.
16. My next house will have no cupboards, just vending machines.
17. Dull women have immaculate homes.

The result is that things get a bit chaotic and I can never find anything. I get frustrated and I think that actually the chaos and stuff makes me cranky and irritable. I am never going to be perfectly tidy but I know that this year I have to work on ways to make the house flow better and be more managable. I have seen some good storage ideas from Pinterest. So my word for 2012 is ORGANIZE

I have started with the school room which I have cleaned out, put half the puzzels and games away and then will cycle them around after a few months. All stationary has a labeled pot or box so lets see how long this lasts.

I have done Rachel’s room, I found it best to do it without her help at night, so I put her to sleep in my room and then worked on hers. Threw out, reorganized and got her new storage boxes. I hope it helps.

Caleb’s room, the study and the Earth Babies room to go. Then I am determined to keep things tidy and work at more ways to make things easier to keep this way.

*** Disclaimer I am sure there are many lovely women that have very tidy immaculate homes. My friend Sharon is one of them and she is not dull, but the sign still makes me giggle***

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Chicken Sagas

Who would have thought that 3 little yellow bundles of fluff that we acquired in September would be the result of so much learning, heart ache, joy, vets visits but as of yet not one egg.

I have blogged about getting the chickens before. How we got them from day olds and built a coop for them and have been waiting for them to lay some eggs. Well the egg laying female chickens that we were supposed to have gotten are in fact broilers, but the drama does not stop there.

Caleb’s chicken who was by far the biggest turned out to be a boy and started crowing. Not good;
1) the coop is outside my window and
2) we stay in a residential area and are not supposed to have Roosters.

We also adopted Carle’s 3 chickens that she got from the fete because being broilers they were not made for wild farm life as they can’t fly up into trees at night due to their size. One of hers also turned out to be a rooster. He was very small though and was called Little One by the kids, he had funny toes

Jackie who was Caleb’s rooster was actually a lovely natured bird, he was protective over Gertie who can’t walk well ( other story I will get to…) he allowed Carle’s chickens to integrate easily into the flock with no fighting. But he had to go, but being a broiler he was not much use as a farm chicken and the only option really was the pot. There was no way that he could go in our pot. I know it is a bit hypocritical but I can’t eat a bird that I have raised and name and known. We only had 3 to start and then 6 so a small flock, not a big group that are more anonymous.

Carle’s rooster went back to her for one of her workers to take home and Jackie went with our domestic. I was actually really sad on the day. Fortunately the kids were visiting my mom in Pretoria and so were spared seeing him go to his fate. I did tell them and they were very sad but my parents helped chat to them and I promised Caleb a laying chicken for when he got home.

The day Jackie left was also the day that I had Gertie at the vet, yes I took a chicken to the vet. Much to the amusement of all the people in the waiting room. Her ( well at this point what we thought to be a her) legs were sort of knock kneed. She can’t walk properly and walks a few paces and then collapses. The vet was not sure what was wrong but gave her antibiotics and said that broilers are not made to live very long and so they get congenital defects. It seemed to get a little better but is now really bad again.

I fortunately needed to go out straight after the vet and was not actually home when the domestic took Jackie. I did wake up that morning with a sick feeling in my stomach, they are like pets and less like just livestock. Sending your pet to the slaughter is horrible.

I went to join the kids in Pretoria for Christmas and forgot about chicken drama for a while. When I had discussed loosing Jack on twitter @mattallison said he had an extra Koekkoek, he wanted 3 and he had 4. She was laying and he was happy for her to go to a new flock. On Saturday we arranged to go and collect her, Caleb was really excited as she was to replace his Jack, he said that this chicken also had to be called Jack.

He picked one of the birds, they are so much prettier than our broilers. She came home with us and I let her out in the garden

and after she had walked around for a bit I let the other 4 ‘girls’ out.

I have been wondering for a while why Rachel’s Lily does not look like Potter and Lavender ( Carle’s remaining 2) who are clearly hens, they have a rounder lower body shorter legs and neck.

Potter

Well we were soon to find out. Lily, after ignoring the new comer for a while started squawking at her, this turned into crowing and a cock-a-doodle-do by the evening. Lily was in fact Lionel! Now 2 out of our 3 original female laying chickens from the church bazaars have turned out to be male. Can’t trust the church bazaar.

Rachel is devastated and there has been much crying. But Jack used to crow only once in the morning and as soon as we let him out of the coop he was happily eating and not crowing. Lily started crowing at 5am today and has hardly stopped, seems like the arrival of the new Koekkoek laying chicken has kicked his hormones into over drive. He is also not as nice as Jack when it comes to welcoming new members to the flock. The poor new Jackie, who was at first ignored is now a bit picked on by him. He does not actually hurt her but crows at her a lot and does not allow her near the food in the coop and keeps her away from where the rest are free ranging during the day. So it is off to the pot for Lily/Lionel too.

But the drama does not end there. Poor Gertie is really not walking well and after rethinking Lily’s gender I had a good look at Gertie too. It is easy to forget what shape she/he really is as he can’t stand or walk very well. She walks with her knees totally together for a few steps then just drops down. Her feather also look horrible and molting.

Lily and Gertie now Lionel and Gert

I always said that as long as she seemed to be eating and managing we would keep her but today she has not eaten well and could not get up into the coop so I think I need to cull her too. And looking at her I think she might be a he too.

What a disaster, out of the 6 chickens 4 have been rooster!

But on a happy note Jackie the 2nd laid and egg today in our nesting boxes so this is good. We put some wooden toy food eggs in and she seemed to get the hint that this was the place.
The real egg is in the middle

Caleb and Jackie

Dreams don’t lie

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I was having a nap with Titus the other day and was in a light, almost awake state but asleep enough to dream. Does that make sense?

Anyway I was dreaming The Geek and I were on a camp somewhere and were desperately trying to be alone to have sex. It was not working, we were being interrupted a lot. Hmm no genius is needed for dream interpretation. Babies and kids, well parenting is general causes one’s sex life to take a nose dive.

It is not from lack of desire, want or need but rather circumstantial. One falls asleep early, or the baby is awake or the other kids are awake or we are just busy with household things that need doing.

It is a good thing they are so cute and we forgive them the damage they do to libido

I was teasing The Geek with a few seductive sms’s while he was shopping today. Let’s hope the kids, the energy levels and the hormones all play along tonight.

Do you ever have sexy sms conversations?
Do you also check the number 100% just to make sure it does not for some obscure reason suddenly become your mother’s number?
How has having kids affected your sex life?