Wednesday, 11 July 2012

Take a hottie to bed.....

Time to break out the hot water bottles!  This old one got a new cover.  An old cotton jersey does the job perfectly.  Never lose the stopper again!  It's attached to the cover.  
A hottie with extra pocket for lavender sachet.
 Mike and I have just returned from an overnight stay in Rotorua, to celebrate our 23rd wedding anniversary!  It is fun to get away from home and check out another stomping ground that is not your own backyard!  We had a good giggle when he sent a text message to our son in Hamilton.   The weather report warned of a chilly minus 4 overnight in Hamilton, where our son lives.  Mike sent this text:  "Take a hottie to bed tonite and keep warm.  Chilly out there."  In our home, we talk fondly of our "hotties", aka hot water bottles.  The funny part was, Mike soon realised that he had inadvertently sent that text to 3 recipients, one being a new male colleague as well!  We laughed hard and long when we realised what had happened and Mike quickly sent a cover text to explain to his possibly perplexed colleague.  A text soon arrived back, "No worries, Mate!  Keep warm too". 

And returning home, I am reflecting on the past week and what a great time I've had.  Holidays are definitely for teachers!!  To recharge batteries and take stock of what was and what will be.........
It's been a fantastic week, a time to catch up with old friends from Auckland and Taranaki, and huddle up in front of a roaring fire.  It has been very cold, with frosty mornings much of the past week.  I have done not much at all in the garden, partly as it has been so cold, partly because I was so holiday-lazy and partly because there was stuff to do in the shed instead!  We were gifted a wonderful load of mulch from our tree chopper man.  Another local company would charge us $80 for the same load.  A wonderful gift, so we have arranged a small package to thank him - 3 bags of organic coffee.
Talking of which, we also managed to secure a half rubbish sack of coffee grounds for the compost heap, courtesy a local coffee shop.  What a wonderful injection of potassium, nitrogen, phosphorus, magnesium and copper for our garden!

3 cubic metres leaf mulch - 5 weeks left to "hot" compost and it will be ready to
apply to pathways and bare tracts of land awaiting planting out.

Coffee grounds in the compost bin, ready to be mixed in and distributed
Another exciting gift awaited us this week in the mailbox.  I saw an advertorial in the Organic NZ magazine about a seed saving project, to save ancient beans.  It is run by the Central Tree Crops Research Trust.  I made inquiries if I could buy some seed and become part of this exciting project.  I was amazed when they sent me four packets of ancient beans to grow - free.  I simply have to send some beans back once I have grown and collected some.  I guess this keeps the seed viable, also allowing the Tree Crops Trust to collate data on suitable growing conditions.  So come this Spring, I shall be planting Hopi Black Pinto Climbing Beans, Apache Red Dry Climbing Bean, Yoeme Purple String Climbing Bean and Turkey Craw Climbing Bean (having indicated a preference for climbing beans and not dwarf ones).  How exciting!  To be part of a project that saves seeds from extinction!  Eat your heart out, Monsanto!!

Ancient beans
I know that people talk of a Man Shed........... in our home, it's a Girl Shack!  I love nothing better than pottering around in the shack, a couple of hand-tools to see me by and a stack of off-cut cedar kindling bits to hand.  There is no power in the shack, so a solar-powered radio is as good as it gets! 
 I have had an idea for some time now, to upgrade my WonderBox.  What's that? , I hear you ask.  
In South Africa, in the townships and ghettos, power is very expensive and most cooking is done on a Primus Stove.  The stove was invented in the late 1800's and works with paraffin.  Staple diet of beans and maize takes much energy to cook, so a WonderBox does the cooking without using any power.  Similar to the Hay box used during War time.

My Wonder-Box was bought for a grand sum of R25 about 25 years ago.  Current exchange rate puts that at NZ$1.  The cardboard box has seen wear and tear and much reinforcing.  I use it for cooking rice, sago pudding, soups, beans etc. where one needs an extended heat, without burning the food.  It is big and bulky and dominates my kitchen!  Inside is 2 polystyrene ball-filled cushions which insulate the pot of food and allows the heat to continue cooking the food.  The first step is to bring the pot to the boil and then put it into the box to continue cooking.

The Wonder-Box that's seen Better Days.
So over 2 days, I holed myself up in our freezing shed, sawed and hammered, measured and sanded, till I had created another one of my famous box designs!  I love the challenge of figuring things out and making them work!  It gives me as much pleasure as a day spent reading a good book!  The plot!  The suspense!  The thrill!

Step one:  making the bottom and sides

The trickiest bit - figuring out how to attach the side panels to the
bottom of the box.

Step 3:  Attaching the 3rd and 4th sides

Looks like we have a box...........

Working on the lid, figuring out how to fit it.

Checking to see if the polystyrene-filled cushions fit.

Voila!  Finished, complete with handle to lift lid.

The test:  A pot of rice cooked to perfection!

The final coup d' gras: a coat of organic coconut oil to protect
the wood.
As previously mentioned in other blogs; I tend to be a bit OCD about making things!  Having made my first proto-type facecloth by knitting a square of 100% cotton and giving it the user-test  thumbs-up rating, I decided to make some more for the home and family...............

Take one ball of natural fibre jute string.............

Knit it up to make a jute kitchen cloth.  Works great with greasy, hard to clean surfaces!  

3 old balls of cotton yarn are recycled from an old Thai
hat - a great face-cloth with exfoliatory properties!

And finally, one for my daughter.
And so to enjoy the last of my holiday weekend bliss.  So much to do, so little time!

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