February 04, 2016

Cast On | Chocolate Shrug



I am very much surprised that my second post for February is one about knitting, given it has been so very hot and humid here these past few days. But, I have still found ways to knit. Early in the morning and then in the evening are perfect knitting times, and I am making speedy progress on my Chocolate Shrug.
I'm taking a break from blanket squares for now, at least until I get this off my needles. I'm planning on finishing it fairly quickly, and then it will be ready to wear as soon as the first cool months arrive.

I'm using this pattern, and working it in my favourite organic cotton, Twilleys of Stamford Freedom Sincere DK. I've got a bucket load of this brown so thought I would use some of it up on a shrug. I plan to it wear around home. I think it will be just the right thing to wear whilst feeding the chickens and milking the cow when the first chilly mornings arrive in autumn.




Initially I was a little daunted by the pattern, as it is written in a style I am not quite used to. To be honest, I chickened out completely and put the pattern into the drawer. A few days later, however, and I was wondering what on earth to cast on, so I decided it was high time I got out of my knitting comfort zone again and I cast on.
And you know what? Aside from one small part that baffled me for a good few minutes, I've found it rather easy to follow and not as complicated as it seemed when I read the pattern all at once.
I'm not looking forward to working the sleeves, however, as they are in-the-round. I know how to work in-the-round, I'm just not a huge fan of it. But, do it I shall, and hopefully I'll get through it and have a warm Chocolate Shrug to wear at the end of it.


Now, in the spirit of Yarn Along (which I am joining again), I am about to start reading Persuasion. Yes, I'm still on my Jane Austen fad and have enjoyed each book I've read so far (I finished Emma just the other day).

What are you knitting or reading at the moment?

For those of you who would like to know, Chocolate Shrug raveled here

Also joining Frontier Dreams for Crafting On

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February 02, 2016

Rosella Tea


I thought using rosellas for cordial and jam, and the leaves for salad, was all I could do with it. It turns out though, that this amazing little plant has a few more uses.
One evening I was wandering around on the internet, and I stumbled across a mention of being able to dry the petals for tea! I had to learn more, so I went straight to Green Harvest and found out that not only do the petals make a yummy tea, it's also high in vitamin C. Knowing the rosella bushes were laden with fruit again, the next morning I took a bucket into the garden and came back with it brimming with rosellas. To tell you the truth, I nearly turned the fruit into jam, thinking that perhaps the tea wouldn't be that good and that I would really like some more jam. But then it got hot and sticky and the last thing I felt like doing was standing in the kitchen stirring jam, so I put the petals onto the trays of my food dehydrator and set them to drying.

They took four or five hours to dry and I didn't get around to collecting them from the dehydrator until the next day. I put the kettle on to boil and popped the crispy petals into a jar, and a spoonful into a tea strainer to brew.
Steeped for five to ten minutes and sweetened with a little honey this tea is soothing and lemony, with a strong colour and delicate flavour that, like most herbal teas, improves on cooling. I've been meaning to try it garnished with mint and I also think it would make a nice iced tea. It would look so pretty in a glass anyway.

If you'd like to make rosella tea, all you have to do is peel the petals off the green pods and put them into your food dehydrator for four to five hours or until dry and crispy. I had the temperature somewhere between 40-50'C and it seemed to work just fine.

Have you been trying any new teas lately?
Discovering new ways to use things from your garden maybe?

We're in the second month of 2016 now - can it be true? I'm afraid so. I usually prefer February to January so I'm quite looking forward to this month with it's extra day.

Have a lovely day!
Sarah x


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January 31, 2016

Change Your Life - Buy A Chicken



I once heard someone say that chickens are a gateway animal. And since then I have from time to time reflected on the fact that they certainly are.
In my experience, most people seeking this "simple life" often start with chickens. Sometimes they are purchased whilst still living in suburbia, and what seemed like a harmless trio of happy layers turns out to be a dangerous rabbit hole to fall down. Dangerous, that is, if you planned to retain your way of living. Exciting, however, if you'd dreamed about something different, a simpler life perhaps, or were discontent with your day to day. Those chickens have the power to potentially change your way of thinking, eating and ultimately, living.

Even if you don't complete the tree change by leaving your town abode, you can still head down the simple living path. As you collect eggs from your new feathered friends, and discover that they have personalities, and even a brain, you'll find you're no longer able to consider buying factory farmed eggs from the shops. Even when your layers decide to take a holiday.
If you can't find a free range pastured alternative you'll find yourself going eggless. Exactly how it should be, I say. This is seasonal eating, appreciating animals for what they are rather than just seeing them as a natural machine for producing food.

We purchased our first chickens nearly a decade ago. Three point-of-lay crossbred pullets, who we named Hilary, Harriet and Caroline. Those three layers where the first step towards this life we live now. I learnt so much about animal care in the first twelve months of owning those three hens. I enjoyed eating eggs for the first time in my life, and had the thrill - for believe me, it is a thrill - of putting our fruit and vegetable scraps into a bucket knowing they would not be wasted, but enjoyed and eventually appear back on my plate in the shape of an egg.
Those three chickens are responsible for where we are now. I grew my first veggies in the soil that they had worked, we hatched our first rooster from eggs of friends under those hens, which led to breeding our own meat. Now here we are, with two dairy cows, a small herd of cows, a flock of sheep and several acres to care for.


I'm still amazed that we are here. As I write this I have a cup of tea by my side and a plate of cheese and crackers. That cheese on my plate is one that I made months ago. Romano, crafted from raw milk from our darling Missy-Moo, and left in the cheese fridge to mature so that it could be enjoyed on an evening such as this. I mean -  we made CHEESE! 
We're also eating our own meat, and planning all these farmy things that a few years ago weren't even in my mind. I've become a gardener, from someone who was really only interested in harvesting I have turned into someone who enjoys the whole process, from seed to sprout to the end product. I've also become a sheep owner. Sheep, an animal I never even considered thinking of until I brought home Rilla 3 and a half years ago. And from an interest in herding has grown my love of sheep.

Those sheep and those chickens are perfect proof that you don't know where your road will lead. But, if you follow that road you'll find out what you're destined for and although there might be a few bumps and even some potholes on the way,  and everything - even the things you don't particularly like - are the way they're supposed to be.
And in the end life will take you exactly where you're meant to go.

So, if you're meant to start down the path to what is commonly referred to as The Good Life, I suggest you start with some chickens.


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PS If you're interested in chickens read my chicken buying guide.
PPS If you'd like to know more about our cheesemaking, check out this, this and this.
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January 26, 2016

Midsummer


January is nearly gone, and we head into the last month of summer. This season has gone quickly for me, bringing the rain that we had hoped for and hot long days filled with the sounds of cicadas.
The sheep are shedding their wool quickly in this heat, rubbing along fences and trees and anything else they can find. The ewes are due to lamb in June, I'm excited for lambing already!




Even though summer is still well and truly with us I am already thinking ahead to my Autumn garden. Time wise it's not that far away and I enjoy forward planning when it comes to the garden. It's time to move the chickens into most of the patches to clear them out for a good few weeks before I start planting heaps of veggies in March. The pumpkin vine is beginning to flower, and also beginning to put it's plan of garden takeover into action. I'm keeping a watchful eye on it though, and have it pointed towards a trellis. I'll just have to make sure it climbs up. The sunflowers are about to bloom too. And the zucchinis that I thought had given up living are beginning to flower again, along with the cucumber being covered in little yellow blooms too. So hopefully we're in for another glut of zucchinis and cucumbers soon!
Also from the garden have been more Rosellas. The last bucket I collected I dried for tea...but perhaps I'll write about that another day. I'm planning a batch of jam with the next harvest.

Other midsummer things include overgrown grass, waking up to the sound of thunder, keeping an eye out for snakes, long nights and the constant whir of ceiling fans. It also makes your sourdough rise quickly and as a result my loaf today over proved and came out of the oven a little flat. Never mind.

What's happening in your patch right now?
Are you making plans for your garden or harvesting anything?
Maybe it's cold where you are?
Stay warm or cool and have a lovely evening!

Sarah x

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January 23, 2016

Knit It | Little Lollipop Rabbit Pattern



So, I said I was planning some new friends for Miss Tea Mouse and Little Brown Dog. Here is Little Lollipop Rabbit. She's quite excited to meet you, she said, although she is a little shy. She's on Ravelry now, ready for purchasing and is eagerly awaiting your knitting needles to start work on her.

Little Lollipop is a simple, modern knit designed for beginner knitters but perfect for any skill level. She has floppy ears and a woollen pompom tail. Worked in DK and using less than 30gms of it, she's a quick knit and a wonderful stash buster.

I wanted to create a toy that was suitable for little hands to hold, and her cuddly shape and pretty fabric tummy and ears makes her perfect for children. You can make Lollipop in any colour, and depending on the fabric you use she is suitable for both boys and girls.

See full details of Lollipop on Ravelry.
And let me know what you think below!

I hope you're having a lovely weekend,
Happy Knitting,
Sarah x

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