Sunday, August 19, 2007

Family Brewery

Like all good family enterprises, ours relies heavily on the labour of the smaller members of the team. Home-brewing is part of our urban home-steading plan of action to survive Peak Oil;-) Life won't be much fun without a wee tipple.

I5 does the bottle brushing.
Master Brewer in consultation with his bottling team.
M(nearly 8) is Lead Bottler of the stout.
Master Brewer caps the precious results.
The team expects a successful batch in a couple more weeks.

Next time I'm keen on ginger beer. Please let me know of a good recipe!

And so it continues...

More problems with "Made in China". This time our children's clothing!

There is a lot of media-speak about a "consumer backlash" against "Made in China". Pray tell, what do we lash back to? Have you checked the labels in the vast majority of clothing available in shops? Take a guess. You could get "Made in India" or "Made in Bangladesh" as an alternative, I suppose. Any better? Who can tell!

For those of us with a keen interest in sewing some of our own clothing, we don't escape the issue either. Check the "Made in" tags on the fabric rolls in Spotlight or your local fabric store. Take another guess! Even "Made in New Zealand" children's clothing, such as the scrummy Smallfry Wellington label, still use fabric sourced in China.

We can't afford organic clothing at our house so it's probably high time I refined those thrifting skills and start hitting the Sallies and Savemart a little more often.

And before we get too comfortable on our high horse of outrage about our own children's wellbeing, let's spare a thought or more for the women (oh yes, I bet they're women, if not children!) who are working with these poisoned fabrics, soaking in the toxins and going home and picking up their own precious children.

Friday, August 17, 2007

A wee craft haul

Craft 2.0 was a real buzz this morning. Lots of peeps, lots and lots of peeps, more peeps than last time I'm sure. It was great to see the energy, passion and enthusiasm for handmade/NZ-made stuff.

Some restraint was shown by yours truely. Plus there's always a good helping of "I could make that myself", especially when it comes to the knitted and sewn items.

I have no willpower when it comes to cowboys and cowgirls so the girls scored this vintage cowgirl print from Honky Tonk Designs.

Could.Not.Resist blue button Fossage necklace.

My favourite NZ tree, the Pohutukawa, on a teatowel (no, I won't be drying dishes with this) by Melina Martin.

As much as I find Dayglo Helen's Kooky Dolls strangely endearing they all seemed a bit too sad to bring home. I can always do with some of her cards ready to write in and send off though.

I drooled over the Shescrafty Knits and was pleased to see I have a kindred spirit in my love of The Wool Company yarn. I nabbed an 8ply bootie pattern which I could have done with a week ago.
Afterwards, I skipped into Spotlight, with no accompanying offspring dragging their feet and frothing at the mouth, and got some white wool on sale, to have some more dyeing fun with.

Thursday, August 16, 2007

One More Sleep - Craft 2.0

I'm anticipating some rockin' kid-free time at Craft 2.0 tomorrow. I don't mind other people's kids being there but, phewie, I don't have to feed, water, toilet, and nag "don't touch" my own. I love the opportunity to just slowly cruise the craft stalls soaking up the inspiration and supporting some great NZ crafters. Might see you there!


Nothing more to add

While I gazed in irritation at the second lot of "Made in China" toys I've had to send back in the last couple of months because of safety recalls, I read Amy's post over at Angry Chicken. She's talked about the issue so well I'm gonna be lazy and just link to her. I should be less lazy and show you some cool Made in New Zealand toys and other wooden toys the kids have in their collection. But that requires a level of energy I don't possess after a late night knitting with friends.

When I travelled very briefly in Africa I often saw kids playing with things like a stick tied onto a piece of string, quite happily I might add. My kids now roll their eyes when Hubby and I talk about just giving them a stick and a piece of string. At least a stick and a piece of string can't be recalled for high lead levels in the paint, or choking hazard magnets falling out, or dangerous levels of killing a child's natural imagination and creativity.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007


So our composting is now well and truely underway.

In the weekend, Husband cut the planks for the compost bin out of recycled timber from a friend's building site. The Offspring then assembled them into this funky compost bin. Aren't they clever?! Obviously the lid is removeable but keeps neighbourhood pets out.

I've been intrigued by the Bokashi system for a while but have gone the cheap route of buying two plastic containers from Plastic Box and drilling holes in the top bucket to drain (ok, Husband will probably do the drilling). Thanks, Nova, for the heads up on this cheaper method. I bought my bag of Compost-Zing yesterday so we're good to go once we have holes. If we didn't have the compost bin we'd need two or three buckets to make the Bokashi system work for all our waste.

We're still composting directly into the garden box, which worked well for us previously. I'd like a worm farm for the kids then we're learning a few different methods together.

So how are your Nearly-Spring garden preparations going?

Monday, August 13, 2007

Hemp versus plastic

I've been a big fan of hemp fabric since I discovered it when I5 was in cloth nappies. I obtained some hemp/cotton double knit yarn over a year ago that's been lurking in the stash. In my wee crusade against plastic bags (and frankly those darn ugly green reusable bags sold at supermarkets!) I've decided to crochet and knit it into market bags.

Finally, I finished my first crocheted blue hemp market bag but it seems to have mysteriously ended up a lot bigger than I thought it would. So much for being able to read a crochet pattern...or perhaps it was "English" and I was crocheting "American"? (Yes, the two can't even agree when it comes to crochet!)

Yes, that is the kid's collection of Maisy Mouse books in there for modelling purposes. Imagine my biceps if I lugged that baby around full of canned goods.

I've moved onto the Hemp Market Bag from Knitting Daily. Then I have plans for the plain Market Bag and perhaps even the Everlasting Bagstopper from Knitty. (Let's just keep very, very quiet about the fact that my Cabled Footie is still missing a partner...darn Second Sock Syndrome.)

Sunday, August 12, 2007

Creative Interdependence

I was ruminating (but not producing CH4 I hope!) reading the last chapter of Animal, Vegetable, Miracle, on the tension I feel between optimism and pessimism around Climate Change and Peak Oil. Then today, Nikki asked whether we would be Survivalist or Preservationist.

In Barbara's words:
'I share with almost every adult I know this crazy quilt of optimism and worries, feeling locked into certain habits but keen to change them in the right direction. And the tendency to feel like a jerk for falling short of absolute conversion. I'm not sure why. If a friend had a coronary scare and finally started exercising three days a week, who would hound him about the other four days? It's the worst of bad manners - and self-protection, I think, in a nervously cynical society - to ridicule the small gesture. These earnest efforts might just get us past the train-wreck of the daily news, or the anguish of standing behind a child, looking with her at the road ahead, searching out redemption where we can find it: recycling or carpooling or growing a garden or saving a species or something. Small, stepwise changes in personal habits aren't trivial. Ultimately they will, or won't, add up to having been the thing that mattered...
Something can happen for us, it seems, or through us, that will stop this earthly unraveling and start the clock over. Like every creature on earth, we want to make it too. We want more time.'

As a follower of Christ, I believe I am compelled towards being a Preservationist, living in community as modelled by our Early Church in the years after Christ walked with them. More ruminating and discussing with friends is happening on what this looks like in our current environment. I'll leave you with another quote from an author I much admire:

'Poverty of heart creates community since it is not in self-sufficiency but in a creative interdependency that the mystery of life unfolds itself to us.' Henri Nouwen (emphasis mine).

So what did creative interdependency/preservationism/Christian community look like for us today?
- Ali taking all the children for a walk to look at the early blossoms
- Shared lunch at our place discussing seed propagators and worm farms
- Passing on A Crude Awakening DVD for Ali & hubby to watch.
- Cornflour gloop at Ali's while we talked Charlotte Mason and home-learning
- A pot of vegetable soup slow-cooking at one house, bread baking at another then swapping the results for a complete meal for each family
- Carpooling for Girl's Brigade tonight

Let's continue to encourage the small steps.

Thursday, August 9, 2007

Tagged? Random? Netiquette?

I've been tagged by the funniest blogger this side of everywhere!

The rules:
1. Let others know who tagged you.
2. Players start with 8 random facts about themselves.
3. Those who are tagged should post these rules and their 8 random facts.
4. Players should tag 8 other people and notify them they have been tagged.

Eight random things about me? Yaaaaaaaaaawn. Ok, I'll do it. But what is the netiquette when I can't think of 8 other people to tag? Ya know what I'm going to do? Tag those Sarah has already listed who haven't done their eight. Yeah, that'll get them going.

1. My middle name is Margaret, my mother's middle name is Margaret, my grandmother's name is Margaret, and this goes back a few more generations more. It means "Pearl".
2. I don't like my first name and it isn't a part of any of my children's names.
3. I don't like my husband's first name and it isn't a part of any of our children's names. I hate his middle name even more and have not inflicted that on my children either. I do not know what his parents were thinking.
4. One of my best travel memories is being quoted Tagore poetry by a plump middle aged man, wearing his striped pyjamas, on a train journey from Bhubaneswar to Chennai, India.
5. One of my worst travel memories is coming down with very violent traveller's diarrhoea in the middle of the Mongla River, Bangladesh. All's well that ends well (prayers, clenched buttocks and a speedy detour to the riverside) and I didn't embarass myself.
6. I miss travel and one of my biggest desires is to blow my kid's minds wide open with the rest of the world!
7. When I was a young girl I loved to read, knit, sew and garden. When I'm 36 (snuck another fact in there) I love to read, knit, sew and garden.
8. I'm an extrovert and think this suits me well to be at home with three talkative children. (My husband is not an extrovert, so I let him earn the dollars in front of a computer screen.)

How's that? OK...tagging:
Rach - maybe this means she can do 16 facts?
Karen - we're long overdue hearing from her so I say she should do 16 too...I'm missing the not so random or addled mind!
Larraine - I get to tag her because she's my sister. There's another random fact. It might actually make her start blogging?
Louby Lou - We have babies the same age. They're five now...but still.
Sandra - I wonder if I can make her specify random garden facts because she's my guru? Swami Sandra!
Kate - I've never met Kate (or Sandra!) in real life. But I really feel like I have. Always interested to know more about this funky mama (and I've bet Rach tagging her).
My far-away "sista" Claire - missing the real life conversations.
Nikki - walking some of the same paths.

Geez, I can ramble on.

Wednesday, August 8, 2007


Yesterday featured a fair amount of Helen for us. Not Helen, our illustrious leader, although despite some of our disparate values, I hold her in some regard. Oh yes, I can hear some of you gasp in horror. Keep in mind that some of my maternal peeps emigrated from Scotland to be coal miners on the West Coast. What chance do I have but to lean to the Left? It's in the blood. (But, accordingly to my Grandmother (of the coal mining variety) I am now indulging in impolite conversation. No politics, sex or religion, thank you.)

A few weekends ago I got to join some of my favourite crafting women on a weekend away of crafting and conversation. We spent a productive Saturday afternoon sequestered in a garage dying hanks of wool. The lovely Helen, my very own wool queen, kindly dried then wound my wool for me!! I was able to pick it up from her yesterday.

What to knit? What to knit? The pastel mohair is calling most strongly to me with its soft, fluffy powers. The girls are putting in their requests for prettiful items.
Last night, we had a Mums and Daughters evening with Ali & H10, watching The Miracle Worker, a 1962 classic film about Annie Sullivan who worked with Helen Keller. M7 had read the biography (three times, she informs me!) which was just as well because she was flagging towards the late end of it. Caramello brownie (nice work, H10) was enjoyed and plans made for future evenings, in our PJs of course!

Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Discover and Learn

A2 has discovered he likes to learn with puzzles. I've discovered that I need to learn to chill out when he pulls them all out of the cupboard.

I've also discovered I need to learn a lot more about compost. Quickly. So I have enough composty goodness for all the wee plant babies I hope to have ready to plant here in Spring.

In the spirit of "I'll show you mine if you show me yours", here is a pic of some of our lovely compost, especially for Sandra.
While pondering if I was going to buy the Compost DVD, I also discovered a series of interesting articles to peruse over a cuppa one day. I'm sure I'll learn something in amongst that lot.

Sunday, August 5, 2007

A bit'o'knittin'

My lurking Work In Progress...a half crocheted market bag in a hemp 8ply. I really want the bag but I'm finding the repeat rounds a little tedious. Next time I'll knit one as I find that so much faster (if only I could remember where I saw a pattern for a knitted one recently!).

My poor Cable Footie (in Naturally Sensation) from One Skein is suffering Second Sock Syndrome! I can see the wisdom in knitting both socks at once on circulars. I will have to make myself cast on the partner tonight while watching The Corporation.

Yeah, not great photos but the sun was shining on my bed so I quickly took advantage. Here is a wee bit of knitting I did for a friend in The Wool Company "Gems" 8ply. I did a Little Turtle Knits Soaker, Picky Pants and the rolled brim hat from Alterknits.

Idle Hands

When it comes to seven children cooped up inside on a thundery winter morning, the saying "The Devil makes work for idle hands" comes into its own. Keeping the crew busy and productive, and the In-Charge supplied with fresh coffee is the key.

A2 and L3 colouring.

M7 and H10 "Scoubidou-ing".

K5 and I5 colouring. (No, I'm not a mother who believes colouring pages will stifle creativity.)

C6 reading.
M7, H10 and I also made a soy candle from a Kiwi Soy kit we bought at the last Craft 2.0. All in all, a fun morning inside together!

Saturday, August 4, 2007


'The imbroglio of inky clouds swirling overhead contained nimbostratus, cumulonimbus, and Lord knows what else, all driven by updraughts, downdraughts, and vertical wind shear. Thunder boomed. Lightning went zapping into the sea, the leader stroke of one strike passing the ascending return stroke of the last so that the whole roaring edifice seemed supported on pillars of fire. Then, beyond the cumuliform anvils and soaring castellanus turrets, we saw a broad, ragged ban of luminous indigo heading slowly inshore. Lesser clouds suspended beneath it like flapping curtains reached right down to the sea.
"The rains!" everyone sang.
The wind struck us with a force that made our line bend and waver. Everyone shrieked and grabbed at each other. The woman on my right had a plump round face and dark eyes. Her streaming pink sari left her smooth brown tummy bare. We held hands much more tightly than was necessary and, for a fleeting moment, I understood why Indians traditionally regard the monsoon as a period of torrid sexuality.
The deluge began.'
Chasing the Monsoon by Alexander Frater, in Travellers Tales: India.

As I wandered around the supermarket yesterday, drinking my Fairtrade Organic flat white, putting my free-range organic chicken in my trolley and nibbling on my pain au chocolat, I considered the shallow nature of my middle class existence in light of the current horrific flooding in India, Bangladesh and Nepal. As I indulge my refined tastes there are mothers holding their children above flood waters to avoid drowning and snake bites, farmers despairing at the loss of their life's work knowing the coming suffering of their families and elderly people who were unable to survive their struggle against the monsoon waters.

Our media has not yet placed much importance on this story, until they get some gruesome pictures that will push it up the rankings for a day or two. Unicef considers it the worst flooding in living memory. Development agencies such as World Vision will be taking donations to supply relief aid.

I'll continue to think of the mothers doing all they can for their children in the deluge.

Thursday, August 2, 2007

Read the Book

You know, sometimes you get such a great book that you have to quote huge chunks of it to your husband late into the night as he moans and grumbles trying to get to sleep? Animal, Vegetable, Miracle is one of those fantastic books.

Maybe it's because Barbara Kingsolver is dealing with themes that are really important to our family at the moment: our culture's dependence on oil; eating seasonally; supporting local food producers; aiming for self-sufficiency; good, healthy food.

Maybe it's because her name is Barbara and our favourite British comedy characters are Tom and Barbara (terms of endearment we use for each other) from The Good Life, which humourously deals with the self-sufficiency dream in the 1970's.

Maybe it's because she supports our current omnivorous lifestyle, allowing me to somewhat cast off my nagging meat-eaters guilt. How serendipitous to be reading the chapter "You can't run away on harvest day" when having a conversation with vegetarian and vegan friends! Barbara was a vegetarian for many years until alternative pasture-based and free-range meat sources became more widely available.

"I respect every diner who makes morally motivated choices about consumption. And I stand with nonviolence, as one of those extremist moms who doesn't let kids at her house pretend to shoot each other, ever, or make any game out of human murder. But I've come to different conclusions about lifestock. The ve-vangical pamphlets showing jam-packed chickens and sick downer-cows usually declare, as their first principle, that all meat is factory-farmed. That is false, and an affront to those of us who work to raise animals humanely, or who support such practices with our buying power. I don't want to cause any creature misery, so I won't knowingly eat anything that has stood belly deep in its own poop wishing it was dead until bam, one day it was."

"Most humans could well consume more vegetable foods, and less meat. But globally speaking, the vegetarian option is a luxury. The oft-cited energetic argument for vegetarianism, that it takes ten times as much land to make a pound of meat as a pound of grain, only applies to the kind of land where rain falls abundantly on rich topsoil. Many of the world's poor live in marginal lands that can't support plant-based agriculture. Those not blessed with the fruited plain and amber waves of grain must make do with woody tree pods, tough-leaved shrubs, or sparse grasses. Camels, reindeer, sheep, goats, cattle, and other ruminants are uniquely adapted to transform all those types of indigestible cellulose into edible milk and meat...countless other resourceful tribes would starve without their animals."

Our family eats vegetarian meals, interspersed with free-range chicken, organic lamb and "wild" goat and venison. We have stopped purchasing tinned fish and very rarely buy fresh tarakihi or gurnard (please check out the Best Fish Guide for buying information). Our next step is to practice our very small scale gardening, in the hope that, one day, we will own a wee piece of land.

Spring? What the?

Oh mild weather and sneaky spring bulbs! Don't think I don't know what you're up to. Lulling me into thinking spring is on it's way as you prepare to jolt me back to reality with a nasty cold snap! Well, I made it through July and now have August to survive.

This coming weekend is "preparing the garden for spring planting". Hiding under the polythene is our lovely compost. We love our compost. We're excited about compost. My own personal Gardener is even making an old fashioned wooden compost bin from recycled pallets. I'm hoping my King's Seeds catalogue arrives tomorrow so I can pour over it with a cuppa while Gardener and Gardenerettes till the estate.

(Notice the J12 inspired bird feeder that Gardener whacked up while we were out this morning.)