Thursday, August 30, 2012

The wool issue.

I never buy Country Style magazine (Australia), but when I spotted the cover of the latest issue, I just couldn't help myself. Look at that cute little lamb! In a living room! And the large knitted chair cover? Gorgeous. I was sold.

Silly me though didn't take the time to actually look inside the cover. You know the old saying, "Don't judge a book by its cover?" This magazine was really disappointing. For a country like Australia that has such a strong history of wool growing, it was sad to see it shrunk into a couple of really short articles, pages of expensive fashion modelled at a wool farm, no actual patterns for how to make any of the items features, and worse of all, that lamb was SUPERIMPOSED on the cover!!! Oh the shame!

Ok, now that's off my chest, how about I share with you some REAL wool images - no superimposed lambs here...

This is the leftover scraps of the Merino wool I had been spinning up. One of my bobbins ran out far quicker than the other while I was plying, and as I only have three bobbins, I was forced to unravel the remaining bobbin. This is what resulted.

I will definitely keep this little pile of twists, as I am sure they can become a quirky feature in a future woollen project.

This here is my second blended Merino tops that I bought from Feltfine. This one is called Bumble Bee and is a combination of Merino raven and jonquil, blended with black diamond bamboo and natural soy bean. It is this method of blending that creates the gorgeous bumble bee effect.

I bought 600g of this tops with the hope that there will be enough to knit a sleeveless button up vest with.

And I have saved the best until last. This was NOT on my shopping list when I arrived at Feltfine, but after Gary showed it to me and allowed me to handle it, I was sold! This beautiful bundle is multi-dyed mulberry silk tops.

Isn't it all just glorious?

Anyone tempted to learn to spin now?

Sam xox

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Spinning up Aries.

Here is the first of the blended Merino tops I bought from Feltfine, and it spun up absolutely beautifully!

Aries is a combination of dyed Merino wool tops scarlet, crimson, hot pink, ruby with extra bleached tussah silk to create a rainbow blend with a silky sheen. "

I bought 200 grams of the tops and weighed it out using digital scales to make two 100 gram bundles. I then spun two bobbins, with 100 grams on each. The wool spun beautifully with the different colours scattered throughout the bobbin. The yarn is then created by plying the two bobbins together.

Once the bobbin is full, the yarn is removed and wrapped around a wooden niddy noddy (I couldn't make that name up if I tried!) to help even out the tension.

The yarn is secured in place with four tie, is then removed from the niddy noddy, and twisted tightly to create a skein!

~ Those large white lines are the ties on the skein, not part of the actual yarn ~

200 grams of the wool gave me two and a half skeins of wool!

Isn't it beautiful? I am so pleased!!!

Sam xox

Monday, August 27, 2012

Visiting Feltfine.

Last week I had the pleasure of visiting a lovely gentleman named Gary at his Hunter Valley Alpaca farm! He is the proud owner and operator of the online store Feltfine. Gary supplies spinners, weavers and knitters with a variety of the best quality products. In the virtual store you can purchase fleeces, tops, fibre, and yarns in a wide variety of colours. Feltfine ships internationally so anyone can shop there.

After having spent weeks spinning up pure white Merino wool, I needed to add some colour to my spinning repertoire. I had browsed a number of online for Australian-based fleece suppliers before I came acros Feltfine. When I clicked through to the online store, what immediately jumped out to me was the huge range in the competitive pricing. The prices per 100 grams were a lot cheaper than other online suppliers I had checked out. I was also impressed by the wide variety of products that were available. My favourite with out a doubt was the blended Merino tops - oh the colours! A few emails were sent back and forth, and I was invited by Gary to collect my order in person, as I work only 20 minutes from his farm.

Gary's farm could have come straight from a Hunter Valley postcard...

As I drove along the driveway up towards the property the Alpaca's followed alongside my car...

Gary was waiting as I arrived and made me feel most welcome. He showed me his whole range of products. I got to view a rainbow of fibres stacked floor to ceiling, a wide variety of Alpaca yarns, and even an industrial-sized picker and carder! Gary is an enthusiastic spinner and was able to give me advise about all the different fibres he stocks. I got to handle Merino, Alpaca, mohair, and even silk (so so soft!). We chatted for a while and then it was time to go...

I have been spinning up a storm and will reveal all later this week...

On a side note, I purchased this basket from my local organic store. It is handmade by women in Africa, endorsed by the Fair Trade Federation, with the proceeds going back to their communities. I have found some similar baskets online that are available here if you would like your own. As you can see I use mine to store my spinning stash!

Sam xox

I am in no way affiliated with Feltfine. Opinions expressed in this post are purely my own personal ones, and I am in no way benefiting from this post. I only want to share my Feltfine shopping experience!

Sunday, August 26, 2012

In the garden.

 ~ Onion chives about to flower ~

~ Newly planted Nasturtiums will hopefully attract good bugs to my summer garden ~ 

 ~ The girls aren't missing a beat ~

 ~ Radishes sprouting alongside the cauliflowers ~

 ~ Through the wire ~

~ My biggest broccoli head yet ~

~ A bath tub of peas ~

Sam xox

Saturday, August 25, 2012


This year for my potatoes I tried out a method I saw Alys Fowler use during her Edible Garden series. She grew potatoes in pots on her patio in an attempt to save on space. Film vision showed Alys tipping out said pots causing a cascade of dark soil and golden tubers. What success she appeared to have! 

I decided to give it a try for myself.

This terribly grainy photo above shows my potato haul around this time last year. I had buried the potatoes in my front garden as there was plenty of space to grow a decent sized crop. And yes the crop did do reasonably well. However, it was evident from the size of the yield that the plants did not get enough sunlight in this position.

This year I planted five potato halves in some good quality compost in the base of a large black plastic pot. I had read that if you plant the potatoes at the base with enough soil to cover, you can then add more and more soil as the plant grows, and this encourages the tubers to be produced all the way up the pot. It appears that I did not do this quickly enough, I allowed the plants to become established before I piled more soil on top of them, with this resulting in potatoes only to be found in the bottom half of the pot.

My dear friend and gardening soul mate Mel did the honours...

I am definitely going to plant my potatoes in pots from now on. Once planted they do not take a lot of work, and if I do the soil addition correctly next time, I should yield a whole lot more delicious potatoes.

Nothing beats a home grow potato! We steamed some last night steamed to have with dinner. They were served with sliced shallots and some salt and pepper.

Sam xox

Saturday, August 11, 2012

Perfect weather for ducks.

You know that old saying right? Well, as I sit here and type this it really is the perfect weather for ducks. Freezing winds and heavy rain. Concerned for my flock I checked on them earlier to find the ducks appearing not the slightest bit concerned about the harsh conditions.

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For my first real 'outing' after my operation Jamie took me to our local Bunnings to buy Oxford and Cambridge their very own kiddie shell pool. These plastic blue clam shells are a summer staple for kids in Australia. Tie two together with rope, fill one with sand and the other water. Instant beach in the backyard. As a child I would spend hours collecting small buckets of sand from the sand shell and depositing it carefully into the water shell.

However, my ducks don't need sand. Only water. 

It was a total hit.

By the end of the day the water was brown (gosh ducks are messy creatures!), no concern because the clam shell is far easier to clean out than the in-ground pond. One tip of the clam and the water goes onto the grass (I fill the pond using bore water). The only trouble is now all the ducks want to do is swim in this shell. From their enclosure they verbally harass me whenever I go outside, begging to be let out for more aquatic fun. I'm keeping this as a special treat.

Sam xox

Friday, August 10, 2012

Chocolate chip and pecan muffins.

2 cups plain flour
1/3 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup castor sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
2/3 cup milk
2 eggs
125g butter, melted and cooled slightly
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
2 cups large chocolate chips (or chunks)
1/2 cup chopped pecans
Chocolate icing to finish (make according to your own recipe)

- Preheat oven to 200oC. Grease muffin tins.
- In large bowl mix together sifted flour, sugars, baking power and salt.
- In separate bowl mix together milk, eggs, butter and vanilla.
- Make a well in the centre of the dry ingredients and add milk mixture. Stir to combine, then fold in chocolate chips and pecans.
- Spoon batter into prepared muffin tins and bake for 15-20 minutes.
Serve topped with chocolate icing and sprinkle with extra chocolate chips and pecans.

Makes 16 muffins.

Recipe taken from Baking Bible published by Penguin Books.

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Because there is absolutely no way Jamie and I could eat 16 muffins while they are all fresh (unhealthy) I have frozen the muffins, which can then be reheated once in a while for a special treat.

Sam xox

Thursday, August 9, 2012

A seaside recovery.

One picnic basket.
Two beaches.
Three days with one family.
Four days with another.
Seven days of winter sunshine. 

Who could ask for a better post-op recovery environment?

Sam xox

Monday, August 6, 2012

A button-sized success.

These tiny button-sized scarlet balls represent a gardening milestone for me. My first ever cherry tomatoes, grown without sprays or chemicals, in the dead of winter!

This time last year I had invested in a small four tiered plastic covered greenhouse with good intentions of using it to raise seeds for that coming summer. Unfortunately my complete lack of understanding about the principles behind greenhouse seed raising lead to a production of crispy brown seedlings (note to self: leaving a greenhouse completely closed in the Australian summer will lead to temps above 50oC).

This winter, having invested in a much larger greenhouse (and some informal education on the matter) I have had success with raising seeds.

This tomato plant grew from seeds dropped after last summers crop. I think the variety was called "Tiny Tom". The fruits small size is due to the plant having to grow in a smaller than ideal pot, as space in my greenhouse is limited.

While two tiny tomatoes really does not even qualify for a salad for one, it is an indicator to me that in gardening, anything is possible.

Thanks everyone for your lovely comments to my last post, they are really appreciated :-)

Sam xox