Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Holiday projects

At the risk of boring everyone to death, I have compiled a list of little holiday projects I've managed to cram between gardening chores.  Rain and hurricane winds have allowed me much indoor time to catch up on making-projects and reading.  I have finished one really good holiday read: "Everything is Going to Be Great" by Rachel Shukert, and am about to finish the next: "Scribbling the Cat" by Alexander Fuller.  I'd read her previous book "Don't let's Go to the Dogs Tonight" and enjoyed it too.  Rachel's book is laugh-out-loud hilariously irreverent and mischievous.  Alexander's book is so, so familiar.  About the characters from the Rhodesian and Zambian and Mozambiquan wars - some of which I could so identify with.  Two of my deceased father's friends, brothers, were Selous Scouts in the wars in Africa.  Trained mercenary fighters, big burly blokes who could just about drink anyone under the table, excepting my dad!  I remember being in awe of their hugeness, coarseness, bad mouthed language and roughness.  Later on, I believe that these guys turned to cattle rustling in order to keep the wolves from the door.
A flair of high-fashion colour in the veg beds
So, books apart, I have had a fair share of "inbound" days.  I have managed to stock up on garden ties (old socks should never end in the rubbish bin until they have had their incarnation as tomato and plant ties).  The sock ties are stretchy, allowing some movement, rather than cutting plants off in high winds due to tight restricted garden twine.  A chiffon-like curtain (to keep flies at bay) was shredded clear off at the bottom, by our cat, so I managed to fix it, using an old skirt, which adds a nice decorative finish to it.

Curtain with a border from a discarded skirt 
I have a number of old saris which I use for draping around the place (window dressings, screening etc.)  The great thing about saris is that they come at about 4-5 meters in length, so I have plenty off-cuts for little projects.  Mike does most of the shopping, and at times he buys fruit or veggies from the supermarket and always tries to re-use the weighing bags, so as not to accumulate too much plastic.  So I zipped up 2 sari weighing bags, with little mesh windows so the checkout chicks can see what's inside.  They work like a charm, having had a  couple of trial runs in the last couple of weeks.  Hooray!

Beautiful weigh-bags.

The mesh window 

Bucket tote from scrap curtaining 
Okay, then I got a little cabin-fever during one particularly bad-weather day, and after a few projects, made a scissors safety pouch (yes, it was bad!).  Afterwards I chuckled at the strange little project!  Does anyone in their right minds really need to protect their scissors in safety pouches??  Nope.  But, it works!  And then it got worse, I made a knitting needle pouch!  Ouch!  Shows how bored I was stuck indoors!  Anyway, it is kinda a good idea, seeing as the needles used to fall out of the cupboard every time I opened it.  Now they are nicely incarcerated in a purpose-built holding cell.  Ain't going nowhere.  And just when you thought you couldn't get any more ridiculous, I sewed a water-proof bag for our artificial Christmas tree.  It looks like a giant caterpillar's cocoon.  The box had seen better days after 19 years.

Out of boredom...
Knitting needle pouch

Scissors safety pouch.

Then there was the project to turn a favourite pre-loved skirt into a cushion cover as it was starting to show obvious signs of wear and tear.  To add to the quirkiness, I added an old cotton doiley and hair colour samples.  Just for fun.

 Once-was-a-Skirt cushion.
There were a few forays into Opp Shops, where I found some fantastic pre-loved gear, like these two old soft-wool blankets for $10 each.  They washed beautifully and will come in handy as the weather changes seasons and extra bedding is welcomed.  Beautiful, breathable, natural fibre blankets to keep us warm.

Made in New Zealand!!
Still in the Opp Shops, I caught my breath with excitement as I found a familiar old clay casserole pot sitting there, gathering dust.  I remembered my old Romertopf clay oven I was given as a wedding present some 24 years ago.  I had used it often, until I foolishly cracked it adding cold water to the heated raw clay!  Bugger!  A Romertopf is unglazed and one simply soaks it in cold water before loading it with a selection of raw ingredients.  Popped in the oven, the vegetables are steam-baked to perfection.  We have already had 3 clay oven meals - delectably simple.
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Our bathroom now boasts a little shelf made from scraps, to keep all our cosmetics together, instead of sprawling all over the place.  Works,  'Scepting the baby moisturiser doesn't fit in the shelf.  Baby moisturiser is the best - fomulated for sensitive skin, it usually has the least amount of "crap" in it.

Jute string holders 

Reconditioned wooden bowl, GreeNZ Salt,
Jute string holder and jute knitted dishcloth.
Felt ornaments using jute string, beads and expired jewellery

Last year's home-made jute string decorations
I had the chance to clean out cupboards that haven't been sorted in years. Found my daughter's first knitting project that she started when she was 8yrs old.  It took her ages, and finally when she had had enough, it was long enough for a baby's neck.  Not long enough to go twice around an average-sized neck, it sat mouldering for years until I pulled it out and wondered how I could put it to good use.  I was loathe to throw away something which had been a monumental task on her behalf.  I folded it in half and it came to me - I always use a double-folded dishcloth to keep my coffee pot warm in the mornings.  Hey, presto - a coffee pot warmer.  Works charmingly.  It's quirky and a reminder of her grand efforts at her one and only knitting project.  I can gift it to her when she finally moves in to her own place.  I bought her a stainless steel coffee plunger for Christmas in anticipation!  Now if she ever wants to pick up on a knitting project again, I can hand her the knitting needle pouch.
Recycled scarf
There have been few preserving projects - most of what we are harvesting we manage to eat, or share.  The odd preserve, like plum chutney (pre-ripe plums blown off in gale-force winds), pickled gherkins and fig jam (from the freezer) kept me in touch with the abundance-preserving principle.  The extra plums have been made into plum crumble.  Sweet and tart, but great with a splurge of cream for morning tea.  

Plum chutney
Necessity is the Mother of Invention.  And I have just invented my very own Silver-eye beak-proof fruit bags.  Hee hee!  I feel the thrill of having finally out-thwarted the fig-mad silver-eyes (or white-eyes)!  My attempts to procure any figs from any of the three laden fig trees we have, have proved to be futile, both last year and this.  The little birds sit in clusters and shrilly taunt me as I watch helplessly while they gorge themselves silly on my half-ripe figs!!  I have tried to double bag the figs with double netting from onion purchases.  The silver-eyes have such tiny beaks that they peck right through the tiny holes of the net!  Bugger!  Whilst in one of my cabin-bound clean-up sessions I came across this wafty synthetic material which I got from a tent-maker's throw-away pile.  The fabric is soft enough to be lightly attached to the branch with a peg.  After 2 weeks trialing, I have picked 8 beautiful ripe and juicy figs!  To procure more, I'd have to make several more bags.  Perhaps in the next holidays...

Fruit protection bags.

Fruit bags in the plum tree

White-eye damage
It wouldn't be so bad if they left us a few ripening figs but no.  So bush warfare needs to up it's game tactics.  I will definitely be making more fruit bags, then see who's laughing in the trees!

Wednesday, 15 January 2014

Local Eco-tourism (Tanner's Point)

I am not a walker.  No fitness geek.  Thank you, I'd rather take my car!  I see it as a trade off for all the "green" living habits we employ in and around our home.  So, during a lover's tiff, I decided to head off for the less-beaten track while my not-so-dearly-beloved of the moment headed off to the surf.  The tiff?  What shape shelving to install in the garden shed!  I kid you not!!  Back to my walk -where to?  Plenty of local tracks around where I live.  So, after nearly 9 years of living in Katikati, I decided to walk the Tanner's Point track.  So off I set, a newby to the world of physical exertion, I packed a backpack (insect repellent and sunblock - both home-made, home-dried feijoas to snack on, organic bananas from our backyard, a pullover, a map torn from the regional council backyard publication, sunnies and a hat).  Everything one would need for a 3-5 hour walk.  This one was half an hour.  At the last minute, I grabbed my camera to record my travels, lest anyone doubt my actual out-of-character accomplishment.

A little mermaid's pool.
Firstly, I had to slow down to check all the road markings on the State Highway, never really having taken note of where Tanner's Point Road was! As I headed out toward Waihi Beach, I began doubting whether or not I was headed in the right direction, until I came upon the sign post marking the road I was searching for.  I felt such a keen sense of adventure.  The day was a beaut, and I was Robinson Crusoe's wife.  Sunshine, clear skies and music on my new car stereo (stereo, not new car).

The picturesque little bay.
Quite literally and figuratively, the walk took my breath away.  I was enraptured by the beauty of the coastal walk, which was lined with natives and quite a few edibles too!  Gooseberries, figs, peaches, plums, olives, grapes and macadamias were all planted along the walkway.  Each season could bring another edible delight as you wander along.  I thrilled at the sun-glint on the water, dappled through the trees.  I passed one other local out walking his two dogs.  He told me that Tanner's Point had been a farm until it was subdivided in the 70's.  It's a great little coastal settlement.
5-star quality bay.

A jetty for disembarking boat passengers.  Boats moored in the shallows like sleeping ducks.

Sun-glint through the trees

The beautiful canopied walkway with huge pohutukawas anchoring the shoreline.

Massive tree trunk, a fairy-like wonderland.

Sitting ducks

Grapes ripening along the way

Could I be somewhere in Greece?

Sun-tinkles on the water

Simply Stunning!
A view of the Kaimais

I loved the sense of being a lone discoverer, just me and my camera.  I remembered my times as a student, armed with camera and backpack, on photographic soirees.  The only difference was then, I had to shoot off 36 photos, without a clue that I had captured the image correctly or if it was blurry and buggered.  I would wait patiently to collect my "film" of developed photos and could barely wait to tear open the envelope and view the evidence of visual successes or disappointing flops. Problem was, I still had to pay for the flops.  A costly hobby.   Now, I can view my pictures in an instant. The digital world really does have advantages!
Fig trees along the walkway

A peach tree guards the entrance to the shell-strewn beach

Crunching shady surface makes walking along the beach a noisy affair.

Beautiful shell formations - nature's art.

Shell Art

Rock pool

 Bali-esque rock pools on the beach

 I had myself such a wonderful time, walking along a nature track, just me and my camera, that I wondered if I should pick a fight with my dearly beloved, just so I can head off on my own again, sometime soon!  
Nah, just kidding.  I'll take him along next time, to carry the backpack.
Hairy trees line the beach

A carved seat on the beach

Waves lap onto the shelley beach

Autumnal colours of leaves washed up in neat lines along the beach

Mermaid's necklace seaweed

Fantasy playground for young and old

Pohutukawas reaching into the water

Matakana Island in the background

Discarded water toys lie in wait for their masters to return.