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Friday, 28 September 2012

A year ago today

I first started this blog! Hasn't that gone fast! I can't believe how much things change in a year. If I was a natually gorgeous looking person I would do that thing where you take a picture of yourself every day for a year and see the changes. Unfortunately I don't put makeup on every day and a photo without it isn't that attractive! Maybe I'll photograph Scott every day for a year! Problem is I'm sure I would forget!

I have spent much of the afternoon looking at bag patterns and cheap sewing machines. I don't know why as I cant afford one or have the space for one but I can wish! Maybe I could pick one up second hand somewhere... good old eBay you may be seeing me again sometime!

I blame Clare (hehe)! She's so talented with a sewing machine and I keep looking at all of her projects on Facebook which are so lovely! She had done all sorts of small projects (which suit me as we established in my last post!) like coin purses, keyrings, lavender 'owls' and all sorts of gadget cases! Her most recent delight is a lovely Lunchbox Bag which I am waiting to appear in her shop as I can imagine taking my packed lunch into work in that every day... In the new bag I intend on making sometime in the future. Were off to the Stitches Show tomorrow so maybe I can locate a pattern and some fabric and plan to do it over a weekend next time we are home. I saw a nice free pattern on the internet earlier but I would quite like it to have an inside zip really. Maybe I'll try and be clever and add one myself. Can't be that difficult right? I want it to be concealed so I'm sure something could be worked into the lining.

It's a shame that with being currently unemployed (or rather soon to be employed, that sounds better) also come severe lack of money... you can see it now, the second I have money to spend on these projects I'll have no time to do them!

And on that note, I have written FAR too may posts this month so I am now going to shut up! Bye!

Thursday, 27 September 2012

Do I hate knitting?

Or do I hate this project and need to learn to admit defeat?

I first decided I wanted to knit a cricket jumper in 2008 when Scott played 20/20 matches every other week or so. He had this really nice cricket jumper which I used to wear  when sat at the sidelines freezing my tits off watching him play! I don't really know why that inspired me to make one but I think I was just looking for a project and that seemed to be a good idea. Also it was around the time where that girl from xfactor wore one which then meant it became the height of fashion all over the country. Pretty sad really.

I have started and restarted this project so many times it's not even funny anymore. The bloody thing is soo frustrating, which I assume is because 1. I have quite a short attention span so get bored quickly and 2. my knitting skills really aren't that good, however hard I try.

I seem to be relatively successful at small projects like my camera case and a pair of socks; though even they took me the best part of a year! I even knitted a pair of boobs for university once which were great as they only took about an hour!

Before you all think I'm crazy, the knitters of our cohort were asked to do these to help the cohorts below us learn about breastfeeding and expressing. They weren't just for the hell of it!

***I have noticed that this post is getting a lot of hits from google images because of my boobs!I wondered if this is because people are looking for patterns, well if you are then then it was the Tommee Tippee one I used***

When I picked up my cricket jumper after a long long break it looked like this.

Now the easiest thing would have been to carry on. But I didn't. You can't really tell from the photo but my tension was all over the place and it looked a complete mess so I took it back to the colour band and started the cable again.

The time before this I also ended starting completely again too. I had got half way through the back piece and realised I had already used 4 balls of wool and I only had 7 for the whole thing. Basically mum said that my tension was far too tight so I unpicked it all and started again on larger needles. This is important for the what comes later on in this story....

Most of this project (so far) was completed on nights and the rest I have done in the last few weeks after finishing uni. I have FINALLY finished the back pannel...

It has it been a drag and I am not really happy with it even now. It looks absolutely massive! I was sat finishing the last few rows last night and it was like a blanket draped down to my ankles! I followed what the pattern says for the size and believed it as it states that any extra length is taken up in the arm holes... I wasn't convinced though so put it up against Scott for measurement. It is on the longer side but actually will be fine I think; whereas for me it will be like a dress! going back to what I said before about the amount of wool it's used... well that's 5 of the balls already gone. Although the wool has gone further this time I still can't see the whole of the front panel being made up of just 2 balls...

This poses a real problem though. The wool was brought 4 years ago. I can still get hold of it but it will be impossible to match the dye/lot numbers. I did try looking around on the internet as Mum said that shes managed to match balls before. I can't seem to find anything though. So what do I do.... Do I start the front panel with the 2 remaining balls and then buy some more to carry on with? Or do I buy some more wool and have the whole of the front piece in the same lot number. I think that's probably most wise as if there is a slight difference in colour hopefully it wont be too noticeable; but that's then 2 wasted balls. And more to the point, why is my knitting so totally different from what the patten states!! Does this mean that every time I knit something I am going to need half the amount all wool extra? That is just stupid.

Wednesday, 26 September 2012

Completed Cakes

As I now have so much time on my hands (precisely 18 days and 19 hours until I start my job) I have finished my Dictionary of Cakes cross stitch and I am pretty pleased with it!

Considering the amount of time it's taken it now looks pretty small off the frame! I just need to frame it now then decide where its going to go. I wanted it to go in the kitchen but as it is such a small room I don't think it would really work! When it's got its place I'll post a picture!

I have been scouting eBay for another Dictionary cross stitch but its typical that now I need another one nothing has come up. Mum and I are going to the Stitches Show on in Exeter on Saturday so I hope to pick up one there, probably not cheap but at least I won't have to pay postage!

Onto the next problem... which one do I get next? Nanny Jean got me a card for my birthday with the 'Dictionary of Gardens' on which I really really like so maybe I'll try and find that one, but then i also really like the 'Dictionary of Love' too! Choices choices!

Actually what I would really like to do is a quilt. Mum has some amazing quilting books with fantastic designs in. The problem is though I would have to go home for at least a week to get it done as I don't have a sewing machine or enough room to use one! One day I WILL have my own dedicated sewing/craft room!

Saturday, 22 September 2012

(not damson) Wine

I've been a bit slow on the preparations for wine making this year. Although the damson wine of last year was fine, I wanted to be a bit more adventurous so a few months ago I set about finding a new recipe. After ages of searching I found a lovely little recipe for Damson and Mixed Berries and have been saving my strawberries and Raspberries all summer. We also went foraging for blackberries when at home last so now have a good selection of berries make the damsons more interesting.

I checked my wine making equipment over, made sure I had all the right things, brought a new packet of yeast and stocked up on sugar. I then went out to the damson tree to pick my crop... and I've missed the boat!!! They are ALL moldy, shriveled and useless. I can't believe it.

It's obviously a result of the poor weather we have had this year as last year I had so many I didn't know what to do with them, the garden was littered. I have had none of that this year. I noted about two weeks ago that some of them were getting close to needing to be picked, but never thought that that was my only chance!

This is a photo of what made last years wine (27 bottles).

And I gave three large bags away and this probably totaled maybe a quarter of what was on it. There is no way there was that much on it this year! I should have picked it when I could and frozen it until now...

So what am I going to substitute the damsons for? According to the recipe, taking away the weight of the mixed berries (which is a bit more than whats needed) I need just under 1kg of fruit. I don't really know what to do. I have no idea where you would be able to buy damsons so I wonder how much frozen mixed fruit is from the supermarket?.... The main problem with this is that by taking out the damson element all together, I may need another recipe as the acid balance will probably be different, thus affecting the taste of the wine and the additives used..

 Hmm back to the drawing board I think!

Thursday, 20 September 2012

Cleaning out the Chickens

You may be wondering why I am bothering to tell you all about how I clean out the chickens; and to be honest the only reason is that I fancied writing another blog and this is all I could think about putting! 

I usually clean them out every 10-14 days depending on how dirty they get - which usually depends on how much it has rained. I think this time it had been over two weeks as they haven't been that mucky with the slightly drier weather. It also helps that we poo pick their house every day to keep it fresh.

The house before starting
Their bedding is very simple and doesn't cost me a penny. I use cardboard (we collect when we get parcels delivered etc.) on the floor of the house and nest boxes, protecting the wood. It then gets covered by shredded paper for them to snuggle into.

With only two chickens I could probably get away with not cleaning them out as much as I do but I worry that red mite could easily make homes in the cardboard. Also, when the top has been shut a few days we get a family of woodlice living in the cracks. I don't know if this is true or not but I worry that if woodlice can live, so can red mite.

Fist of all I clear out the whole lot, take the bottom off the nest box and wash it all down with some lightly soaped water. I quickly learned that if you use too much soap it is impossible to get rid of all the bubbles. However using none at all isn't enough to get rid of all the muck. I'm sure you could buy some special substance to do this but I just use a little bit of washing up liquid which does the job nicely!

 I then leave it to dry and then spray everything with Liquid Smite to protect them from mites. As I only have a cheap house it has a fair few nooks and crannies so I make extra sure that the gaps get a good dousing. On the nest box lid in places the felt is starting to lift too so that gets lots of spray too, I've heard the little buggers like that stuff.  In terms of red mite prevention that's more or less all I do. I have some Smite powder too but I rarely use it as (touch wood) we have never had an infestation. What I'm doing seems to be enough so far!

Once it has dried again I measure and cut out the cardboard so it fits nicely in the bottom (this is easily the most frustrating bit as it's tough to cut) and then fill with shredded paper. Having just finished university there is ample waste paper lying around; we also get family to save it for us so we end up with loads of the stuff. The chickens seem more than happy with it too! This time I put a fair amount in the main house but I don't always as they tend to drag it out and decorate the run with it, particularly when they are confined to the run and not able to free range.

Every other clean out or so we also dig over the run. If its been really wet it can get quite smelly so to make it more pleasant for both them and us we also mix some Stalosan into the soil, helping to dry it up and sanitise. 

I used to HATE cleaning them out as it took agges but the more I do it the quicker it gets, and it's not that bad really.  It rarely smells awful and the main mess is caused by the dry dirt they take in after having a good dust bath in the garden. Actually I think the chickens now dislike it more than me! I also have to be careful with the Smite Spray as I am sure inhaling too much of it isn't that good for me! More times that not I get a bit snotty and chesty after spraying a lot of that stuff!

 It's thirsty work all this cleaning business!!

Friday, 14 September 2012

Tree Rat

Our resident Squirrel, he visits most days, usually around lunchtime and helps himself the the birds peanuts. He's a little begger! He had learned to knock the feeder off then go to the floor to gobble them all up. We have stopped him doing it though by bending the hook it'a attached to so it doesn't come off as easily! The Chickens completely ignore him which is slightly irritating, they aren't territorial birds what so ever!

Thursday, 6 September 2012

Might have spoken too soon?

On two separate issues!

Issue no. 1:
We seemed to have a small victory yesterday with keeping the chickens in their run until half 9, and they were quiet. However today they decided to pay us back by squawking at 7AM INSTEAD!! After the few glasses of wine I had before bed last night I can't say I was impressed this morning. We are still sticking to the plan though! they will not be out until 9.30!

Issue no. 2:
After saying in my last post that the chickens aren't dead yet.. Well they still not dead (as issue 1 would now be irrelevant) but we did have a MASSIVE hole dug under our garden fence yesterday. I don't know how I missed it first thing, but then I was concentrating on the the noise machines.

The pipe is actually the virgin wire when it was installed, if we owned the place this certainly would have been sorted properly!

The hole doesn't look that big in the picture but it was definitely fox sized!! Luckily everything I had planted in the border had already died so he hadn't ruined anything as such. We had this problem back when we first moved in (before chickens), although not quite to this scale! The chickens were fine (so much so I didn't even notice to begin with) and there was no signs of any other damage, to their house or anywhere else. 

And I reburied the virgin wire!

So we stuck a stone in the hole and filled it in! This photo I took this morning so as you can see we have had no further holes but there are suspicious marks in the soil (just about visible in the photo) so I think he probably did give us another visit during the night! 

So Chickens, you better start behaving because it looks like you have made a new (not so nice) friend!!

Wednesday, 5 September 2012

Alarm Clocks

It appears that when we decided to get chickens, we also brought two alarm clocks.

Who said that you need a cockerel to wake you (and the neighbours) up in the morning. Since we have been back from France we have been woken at 8am on the dot every single day without fail. They seem to think that if they are up, there is no reason why they should be shut in their house. Or their run for that matter. And boy, you know about it if they don't get their own way! Last night we tried leaving the house door open so they could let themselves into the run to get to their food and water... instead of being greatful they decided that the rest of the garden looked far too tidy so started squawking to come out at 7.40am instead! Now this could really be an issue as occasionally we leave them a night or two whilst were away and allow them to roam to and from the house (I can see all chicken keepers reading this screaming at their screens as leaving the pophole open tends to be a no go in the chicken world... they aren't dead yet). Although our neighbours have been amazing so far in putting up with their vocal displays, I am sure 7.40am on a Sunday wont wash for long.

My theory is that they have learnt (through positive reinforcement - eh eh!) that squawking every morning  gets them let out into the garden and then they reward us my shutting up. But my this time the damage is done, were wide awake, grumpy and needing coffee.

And then came the eureka moment. If they learnt before they can learn again! As I write this we have two very dismayed chickens still sat in their run trying to fathom out why we are up but refusing to let them out! And the bonus is they are quiet! Ok ok, they haven't been consistently quiet but every time they try their luck we open the door, stare at them until they mute, then shut it again! I feel that they have been FAR too spoilt by being allowed out so early so from now on at 9.30am every morning they shall be allowed out of their run, NOT a minute earlier! And they will learn that squarking gets them NOWHERE! The idea is that eventually they will just be happy in their run until such time as we let them out. It's not like its too small or insufficient for them. They are like children, give them an inch and they take a mile.

Ages ago I was listening to Scott Mills and they were messing about with a 'sleep app' of some sort for your phone. The idea is that it detects noise and records it during the night while you sleep so if your a sleep talker you know what sort of things you say! Now as far as I am aware I don't sleep talk but I was thinking it would be an excellent way of know how naughty the chickens are when were not here! I think that actually they don't squawk for that long but how do you know when were here stopping them (and as we learnt this morning it is incredibly difficult to ignore them completely)! I recently changed my phone and still have my old one so maybe when were away this weekend well give it a go and see what we get!

And you know what, if they really don't pipe down despite our (not so) elaborate plan, maybe they will end up as Chicken Kiev's!!

Sunday, 2 September 2012

Coming along nicely!

6 cakes down, 3 to go, then the banner! Coming along quite nicely really! It's taken a while but I'm glad I decided to give cross stitch another go as I have really enjoyed it! I keep checking eBay to see if I can pick up some of the kits for a lot cheaper, they do come up but seem very popular and end up selling for retail price (or there about). Just have to keep looking and hope to grab a bargain!

I officially finished university on Friday so I'm making the most of having a little time off before I start work, though it's gonna be a pretty busy month so I doubt ill finish it. It's currently drying as I had to wipe the fabric down as it got pretty mucky despite trying to be careful with it!