Tag Archives: chicken happiness

Hatchling silkworms and other thrills

Last year, I bought five silk worms at a school fair and raised them into moths. Later, when I was wondering what to expect next, I had quite a conversation with a delightful woman in the Button Bar in the Adelaide Arcade, as you do.  I can’t remember how we got from the tea cosy she was knitting to silk worms, but somehow we did.  She told me to expect the eggs that resulted from a dalliance between a couple of my moths to hatch in September.  I remember thinking about this on 1 September.  Then on Friday 13 September I realised I had taken no action and sprinted down the hall to check on them and lo!  There were tiny black creatures wiggling around!  I made an immediate mercy dash to the nearest mulberry tree.  Can you make the hatchlings out?


The hatchlings are the tiny black lines.  Those spots on the cardboard are eggs.  Today I conservatively estimate I have 50 silkworm hatchlings, and I have started working on finding some of them new homes.

Meanwhile, I have been on a bag jag… sewing loads more bags and taming [some of] my scrap collection.  I decided to photograph a lining in progress on the weekend, because what is more thrilling than a lining?



Well, one of our chooks seemed to think so.  She could tell whatever was happening on the table was worth looking into, so she flew up immediately to check into it.  Regrettably, this was not an edible thrill from her point of view.


Thrills come in very disparate packages, all depending on perspective… or so it seems to me!  Audrey finds earwigs a lot more thrilling than I do.

Meanwhile, I have taken the nettle stems back out of the retting bath (which this time certainly did go to the garden–) and set them out in the rain to rinse.  Since so much of my crafting takes place in crevices of time and is ordered by whim rather than a linear plan, I hope you’re managing to follow all these emerging themes …


Filed under Fibre preparation, Leaf prints, Sewing

Waste not, want not, with a side serving of the election

I live in a society so wealthy and so wasteful, in global context, that any selection of actions I make about waste reduction can feel a bit arbitrary.  I see so many missed opportunities every day!  But still the principle that waste should be avoided is beyond criticism, and the principle that I should do what I can, is likewise sound.  So this election night, I took the eucalyptus-printed silk/hemp scraps from my previous foray into shirtmaking (I was piecing them together back in this post) and the scraps of my skirt adventure, and created bags from them. I love bags.  I love making them, giving them and carrying them around.  I seldom leave home with less than three, a curious fact I’ve decided to relax about.

Skirt bag 1: has already gone to an enthusiastic new owner who cooked a fabulous dinner for us last night:


Skirt bag 2 is with me now and soon to be introduced to someone I am confident will like it:


I decided to line the hemp/silk bags on account of the method of piecing I had chosen and being unsure of the fabric’s propensity to wear.  I had leftover silk noil from various workshops and from making pillowcases.  Apologies for the dodgy pictures taken after dark, indoors, with a flash.  Some bloggers are so impatient!


There were some small sample pieces that had indigo australis and local eucalyptus leaves printed onto them and then an iron afterbath in the Blue Mountains.  I took these pictures just before they vanished into the interior of the bags to be seen only by the new owners, whom I hope will enjoy having this treat inside their bags!  I personally am the kind of person who revels in pocket linings made of treasured fabrics, whether they are organic flour bags or were formerly part of my late Grandmother’s extensive scarf collection.  Needless to say, I love a bag lining with a story.


I like these bags a lot. The weight of the fabric with the lining works well, to my way of thinking.  I could feel the urge to give these away before they were off the sewing machine, so here are pictures on an overcast morning!

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This next one has been rated suitable as a gift for my mother-out-law, who is apparently generous enough in her assessment of my skills to talk to her friends about my crafting sometimes.  She has friends who have been weavers and dyers for years.  She herself has been a wonderful garment creator for decades and keeps thinking she has given it up and then changing her mind, so her judgment may not be unbiased but I am flattered by it nonetheless.  Her bag has been finished with a strip from a heavy weight ramie shirt found at an op shop (thrift store)–beautiful fabric and sewing skill but an appalling garment I felt no compunction about cutting up and redeploying.  Most of it became another bag complete with interior welt/flap pockets which had been a beautifully crafted feature of the front of the shirt.  Sadly they were an offence against fashion even to me, and I don’t hold with fashion much!


And for gratuitous images, I have these of our hens.  They don’t stand around waiting for their photos to be taken when there are earwigs to be found.


However, they are glorious, and they are also blissfully ignorant of the election that was taking place the day I snapped their pictures.  We were planting and pruning and mowing and they were seeking insects and seeds.

I feel deeply sad that the people of my country have elected a government that thinks we need to pay less international aid to fund infrastructure here; that expresses routine contempt rather than compassion for refugees taking desperate measures to escape their mostly war torn homelands and get to our shores; that thinks roads are a higher priority than public transport; that cares little for renewable energy and plans to fund it less; and that has expressed little interest in participating in global efforts to halt or turn back environmental devastation or climate change.  Here’s India Flint on the subject, should you wish for more.  I haven’t made a habit of commenting on the state of our nation here, but I felt the need to mark the day.  There will be some serious further consideration given to the forms of action that might be needed in the coming period at our house and in our community of friends.  Thinking about the state of the world and our impact upon it, in all their complexity, will continue to be crucial.


Filed under Eucalypts, Leaf prints, Natural dyeing, Sewing

Nettle harvest

I decided to grow my nettles high and try processing them for fibre again this year. I have left this a little later than ideal, but so much about my knowledge of processing nettle fibre is imperfect I decided to just give it a try and worry about fine detail at some future point when I have more understanding and more experience!  Here we have my harvest, with leaves:


And after the leaves have been stripped.  The leaves went to friends who were enthusiastic about nettle soup.  I am sorry to say I don’t like the flavour of nettles.  I wish I did, they are full of minerals and I have plenty of them!  I love the idea of eating them but not the reality.  I will just have to stick to eating dandelion, prickly lettuce and milk thistle to keep my weeds down.


While I was pulling the nettles and weeding out the soursobs and burr medic and grass, the chickens kept me company and enjoyed the fruits (and earwigs) of my labours.  If this was a podcast, I would have been only too delighted to record their excited voices.  And when I found these, I had some excitement of my own!  In fact, I went in and made a potato and silverbeet (and endive, milk thistle, chicory, parsley) soup to share with my friends the nettle lovers.


The nettles are much bigger than the previous harvest.  So much so there was no chance I could rett them in a bucket, even my biggest one.  In the end, they went into the wheelbarrow, the biggest receptacle I could find other than my bathtub!  To be continued…



Filed under Fibre preparation

Tree loving


I decided on a bark collecting mission prior to a big heatwave we were expecting, so I went out with my trusty bike trailer and a couple of sacks to collect from this glorious Eucalyptus Scoparia.  I was hailed by the woman who lives directly across the road from the tree: ‘Oh, you are a good man!’  Eventually we left the gender confusion (and her embarassment about it) to one side and she embarked on explaining that the council hadn’t swept her street for two months.  We have spoken before when I’ve been admiring this tree, so I wasn’t entirely surprised.  However, tree hating always surprises me somewhat in spite of myself.


I am privately amazed that this woman leads a life in which she sees this tree only as a source of rubbish that lands on the road, which she would prefer swept clean.  This saddened me so much that after I filled my first sack with bark, I collected up all the leaves from the gutter in my second sack and took them home to be appreciated by my chickens.  I am not sure if I was trying to spare her the agitation she clearly feels, or trying to spare the tree her anger, though the tree is indifferent.  It does concern me that when people hate trees, those trees can be endangered, since even when there are people dedicated to tree preservation, so many are cut down.

I managed not to mention that my favourite local tree has been reduced to this:


Despite the council agreeing to ensure the tree was not chipped once it was felled, only intervention from an alert and interventionist neighbour from a few blocks away stopped it being shredded for mulch.  The neighbour was kind enough to leave a note in our letterbox explaining what she had done to try to preserve it, even reduced as it now is, to being wood.  Tree loving: now that, I can understand.


Filed under Dye Plants, Eucalypts

The garden comes to life

My garden can tell that the coldest part of winter has passed and the days are lengthening.  Our street trees (Manchurian Pear) are in bloom.  My vegetables and herbs have sprung into life.  The chooks have begun to lay again.  The fruit trees are in bud, in flower or beginning to leaf up.  Even the dye plants are springing to life.  The dyer’s chamomile is looking lush:

The austral indigo (indigofera australis) is in flower, though disappointingly it lost a lot of leaves over the colder months.  I have not been able to find a source of Japanese Indigo seeds and have had no success with Woad seed as yet.  So this is my theoretical source of blue natural dye…

The madder has poked its head up after having died back completely.  I think it might be time for me to look up when I could try dyeing with the roots… I have been growing it for two years now and divided it to give some away twice in that time, as well as moving it from one house to another.  It seems to be coming on just fine.  You can see from all that madder-straw that it was much bigger before the cold sent it back under ground:

And, of course, there are the buckets.  On the left, chicken happiness (weeds, mostly).  On the right, dinner.  Since the chooks are laying and the weeds are growing and the silverbeet is in full flight, I made two spinach and weed pies last night with dill and parsley, silverbeet, dandelion, prickly lettuce and sow thistle.  Mmmmm.

When I was in high school, I became fascinated by herbs.  I’ve spent a long time learning about them and growing them.  I used to read Mrs Grieve’s Herbal (the only one I had) back then and marvel at what a hedgerow was and all the wonder she was able to find in her hedgerow.  Later, as na adult, when I took up keeping chooks I decided I really needed to learn to identify weeds so that I wouldn’t poison them.  I know now that chooks know what to eat and what to avoid better than we do.  I also realise that a lot of things that were growing in Mrs Grieve’s hedgerow were growing as weeds in my suburb and it was only that I didn’t recognise them.  But I’ve learned a lot about weeds and their uses.

When I went to Greece a few years back I asked what was in a delicious dish I was eating, and the cook said ‘things they call weeds in England’.  We didn’t have enough common language for me to understand what plants she meant or whether they grew here.  It was a breakthrough for me though.  I had tried eating weeds before but not found it interesting enough to keep doing when I could grow lettuce and spinach.  Now that I see cooking them and including them in dishes where steamed greens make sense is the way to go… I eat weeds when my favourites are young and plentiful.  The chooks don’t seem to miss the ones we eat!


Filed under Natural dyeing