Wednesday, 6 June 2012

Bean(ie) there, done that!

I get this fetish in winter, to knit!  Now there is really only one thing I can knit.  Beanies.  Woolly hats, for those not from DownUnder.  Very simple.  Cast on 77 stitches, knit stockinette stitch (1 purl, 1 plain) for 36 rows, then start to decrease till you have only 3 stitches left.  Sew it up and Voila!  A beanie! So far I think I must have knitted about 12 beanies in all.  I take the wool scraps that are donated to our kindergarten (we have stockpiled enough wool to knit blankets for every Eskimo in the Arctic) and knit the scrappy bits up, then we sell them in the kindergarten shop.  Proceeds of the sale go toward buying seedlings or compost for our garden.  Sometimes I even wear one!
This weekend was a long weekend, so I managed to knit not one, but two beanies!
I think there's a special name for my fetish - OCD.  I could knit scarves.  Cast on 77 stitches and keep on knitting till there's enough to tie several times around one's neck.  No decreasing or sewing up.  Infinitely easier.  Maybe that's my next project!

I have to share the story of my beloved back massager.  I love to live sustainably, but there is this dichotomy within me, I LOVE appliances!  I especially love my trusty old back massager I bought as a gift to myself about 6 years ago.  Homedics Shiatsu Back Massager.  It has survived many mini-deaths and I have despaired several times, only to doggedly repair it to massage again!  I have a little ritual (quite sustainable, actually) that involves a cup of coffee, a snuggly cat on the lap and a shiatsu massage every morning before 7am.  I have been doing this every morning for much of the past 6 years!  At one stage, the fabric got caught on the oscillating rotating massage balls and there was a loud rip and one of the massage arms broke in two.  We had a German Know-how-can-do expert Helpxer staying with us and off to the shed he went, sawed a spanner in half and glued the arm onto that and re-mounted it on it's axis.  I repaired the fabric cover and we were in the massage business again!.
That fabric cover has since been replaced about 7 times!  I have just replaced it again this weekend!  In it's previous incarnations, I have experimented with various fabrics but they all seem to stretch and fall into the same "catch-and-rip" category.  Problem is, I found out long ago, this model has been discontinued.  I have tried others, more costlier than this and been disappointed.  So this time round, I lined it with a ripped webbed shopping bag sewn to t-shirt material.  It seems to be holding out.  Fingers crossed!

Back massager - kaput.

Back in business!
Garden Harvests
We have just begun to harvest our easy peel mandarins.  I discovered that the birds seem to like these, much to my surprise, so we erected a bird net to protect them!  Cor-blimey!  Nothing is sacred!
Still harvesting red and yellow guavas.  The yellows tend to be much bigger and sweeter than the reds.  We have some apples left over from our juicing stint (organic, not from our garden though), so I have started dehydrating them.  Make awesome "apple chips".  Also been stewing them, chopped up, stewed in a pot with a couple tablespoons raw sugar, coconut cream, carob powder, handful fine-ground brazil nuts, handful sultanas ............ breakfast taken to a whole new taste level!
Beautiful easy-peel mandarins 

Dehydrated apple slices

I have bottled some apple cider vinegar (takes 5 weeks from start to finish) and started a new batch.  Simple to make - filtered water, a few apple cores, replaced every 2-3 days till your nose detects a strong vinegar solution.  A taste test will confirm the results.  We have an entire book dedicated to the wonders of ACV!

And on natural ferments, I have begun another batch of sauerkraut (my normal winter activity).  Mike buys a fresh cabbage locally grown on a farm here in Katikati.  I shred it, pop it into my curious  pottery fermenter jar (I bought it second hand - not sure if it is a fermenter but I use it as one!), layer it with salt, pound it with my cedar wooden stick and then place another layer of shredded cabbage, salt and the pounding action to soften and activate the fermentation.  I place a circle of plastic (wish I didn't need the plastic, cut out of a honey container lid) on top, as it can be bent to get it into the smaller opening and then pops open to cover the wider belly inside.  On top of this circle, I place 3 very special, washed rounded stones, hand selected from Taupo for the job of weighing the cabbage down.  After a day, the juices cover the plastic circle and stones and I simply skim off the scum that collects on the surface.  After 5 weeks, the sauerkraut is ready to bottle and eat.  For clearer directions check out this website.

Given the long weekend (thanks to the Queen celebrating her birthday), there was little more time to play around and I had been meaning to try my hand at making gumboot inserts.  I bought a cheap pair of gumboots which had no inner sole.  No problem I thought, so I bought cheap inner soles.  Except, I realised it was a short-term solution as the second pair of inner soles also ended up crinkling and folding over.  Annoying.  So I set about solving the problem.  Drew around the cheap inner sole, cut several layers of old t-shirting, old socks, denim leg offcuts and pyjama scraps - sewed them up and they looked good!  Trendy-as!  The fit test proved good too.  Used them on Monday (Queen's birthday) and they were warm, soft and no rucking up inside the boot.  So far, so good.  Now Mike wants a pair!

Cut around inner sole for shape.

Old cotton sock opened out adds another soft layer

Denim for strength

Finished inner soles made from PJ scraps

If it weren't for your gumboots,
where would you be........?
Gardening was never so comfortable before!

We have our first flush of daffodils!  In winter!

New Zealand spinach - a great perennial edible ground cover

Making a batch of sauerkraut - naturally fermented.
Ingredients: cabbage and salt!

Beanie there, done that (again)!