Tuesday, January 28, 2014

Greenhouse Gardening - Making a start

We bought a greenhouse! It was one of those, "I've always wanted a greenhouse".... Followed by a "hey look, this one is for sale".... Then some googling alternatives, and picking one.

It's awesome. However, I have noted that the internet is limited about advice on actually greenhouse gardening, so I will be making a series based on our experiences, and hopefully helping others to learn from where we went right and wrong....

To start we picked a polycarbonate greenhouse. These are basically like a super strong, UV treated, plastic paneled greenhouse. We have dogs and high winds... So the idea of glass or a plastic tunnel house was out right away. This one is concreted into the ground using the 6 feet on the structure... It is also about 2 1/2m wide and 3m long... So it's pretty big.

Then assembling the damn thing... My husband described it as a divorce inducing process. The instructions were..... Lacking. So I ended up in tears, the husband frustrated, the mother and father both called in, and eventually, a greenhouse set up.

Divorce averted. Today.

Then I decided we would grow things in slightly raised beds inside the greenhouse. I build a 6x2 raised edge, bolted together, (like my tutorial on building a small raised bed). This was filled with mushroom compost, though any compost will do. This means that we get the benefit of planting in the ground from worms, water etc, as well as the benefit of increased temperature by raising it off the ground within the greenhouse.

I also put in a pathway... Mainly to be pretty....

So far we have planted a tamarillo tree which we hope will fruit... And some lettuce and watermelon. Mainly, as it is summer, and it's too hot in there to grow many things. Everything I have read indicates that summer is the time to replace compost, to clean the greenhouse, and to prepare for autumn plantings. We however want to get something going, so we are trying subtropicals. I will be buying taro and a banana plant to attempt that. I am a huge believer in companion planting, so I'll be carrying that on in here. So far I have marigolds to keep out bad bugs, and lobelia and alyssum to attract the bees.

The greenhouse still needs a lot of water at this point, mainly because the compost is still decomposing into soil, and the ground below the greenhouse was super dry when we erected the structure.

Hopefully I'll have another update soon on how we are reworking it to our needs.

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"Despicable Me" Minion Slippers - Knitting Pattern

It's been a while since my last minion pattern, as other requests have taken prominence. But here are minion slippers!

This pattern will make a child's size 6-7. To adjust the size larger... Add on more stitches in the beginning, which will increase the overall width. And add more blue rows to make them longer. Approximately 4 additional rows will increase the shoe size by one size.

Clearly, you will need to make 2 of everything here....

You will need:
Dk yellow, blue, white, grey and black yarn.
Size 4mm needles
Crochet hook

Minion slippers

Cast on 30 in blu on 4mm needles
Knit 30 rows, slipping the last stitch on every row.

Cast off 6 stitches at the start of the row. Knit to end.
Cast off 6 stitches at the start of the row. Knit to end.

Change to yellow yarn.

Stst 14 rows in yellow
K1, k2 tog over whole row.
K2 tog over whole row.
Cut yarn, thread through remaking stitches and pull tight.

Crochet a circle in white with a one round of grey border. Alternatively use a goggle eye or white felt.

Stitch up the cast-on row by folding the knitting in half. This creates the back heel height.

Fold the side flaps over.

Pull the yellow tail tight, and stitch up the top of the slipper towards the blue section.

Attach the eye on top of the slipper and stitch on a smile.

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Heart Puff - Knitting Pattern

Tiny knitted hearts! Super cute, and easy to make.

This familiar with hexapuffs will note a similarity to these "Hearty Puffs" - 2 sided, stuffable hearts. Perfect for decorating other items, making brooches, or hanging as bunting. They can even be sewn together into a blanket (reversing vertically sewn strings of hearts together)

You will need:
4mm double pointed needles
Red dk wool

Cast on 4 stitches on 4mm dpn (2 on each needle)

K1 front and back, K1 front and back, (turn to second needle) K1 front and back, K1 front and back,

Knit 1 rotation

K1 front and back, k2, K1 front and back, (second needle) K1 front and back, k2, K1 front and back.

Knit 1 rotation

K1 front and back, k4, K1 front and back, (second needle) K1 front and back, k4, K1 front and back.

Knit 1 rotation

K1 front and back, k6, K1 front and back, (second needle) K1 front and back, k6, K1 front and back.

Knit 1 rotation

K1 front and back, k8, K1 front and back, (second needle) K1 front and back, k8, K1 front and back.

Knit 1 rotation

K1 front and back, k10, K1 front and back, (second needle) K1 front and back, k10, K1 front and back.

Knit 3 rotations

Rounded top:
Knit 2 tog, knit 3, knit 2 tog.
Turn knitting
Purl 2 tog, purl 1, cast off stitch, purl 2 tog, cast of stitch, cut yarn, thread through remaining stitch.

Repeat rounded top on the remaining 7 stitches on the needle.

Turn to second needle.

Repeat rounded top on first 7 stitches.

Repeat rounded top on last 7 stitches.

Tuck in tails. Stitch the top section closed.

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Ski Style Beanie with Hearts

Love is in the air.... Well... Knitted hearts are in the air anyway. 3 new heart designs this week alone!

Here is the first: a red and white ski style beanie decorated with mountains, snow and hearts.

You will need:
Size 4mm needles
Size 4.5mm needles
1/2 ball red dk yarn
1/2 ball white dk yarn

Cast on 92 on 4mm in red

Rib (k2, p2) for 12 rows

Change to 4.5mm needles
Change to white.
Knit 2 rows.

Change to red.
Knit 1 row
Purl 1 row

Knit 3 red, knit 1 white - repeat over whole row
Purl in red
Knit in red
Purl 2 red, (purl 1 white, purl 3 red) - repeate bracketed section to end
Knit in red
Purl in red

Knit 2 rows in white
Knit 2 rows red

Stst 4 rows in white
Knit 1, complete the chart 3 times, knit 1
Purl 1, complete the chart 3 times, purl 1
Knit 1, complete the chart 3 times, knit 1
Purl 1, complete the chart 3 times, purl 1
Knit 1, complete the chart 3 times, knit 1
Purl 1, complete the chart 3 times, purl 1
Stst 4 rows in white

Knit 3 rows red
Purl 1 row red
Knit 1 white, knit 3 red - repeat to end
Purl 1 white, (purl 1 red, purl 3 white) - repeat bracketed section to end
Knit 1 row white
Purl 1 row white
Knit 2 rows white

Change to red
Knit 1 row
Purl 1 row
K3, k2 together over the whole row
K2, k2 together over the whole row
K1, k2 together over the whole row
K2 together over the whole row
K2 together over the whole row
Cut yarn, leaving 30cm, thread all stitches onto the yarn, pull to tighten

Stitch up the seam, add a pom-pom or tassel to the top.

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Monday, January 27, 2014

Exploring The Weta Cave

Now, I am a mad keen movie fan. I could happily see movies all day. Especially sci-fi and fantasy movies. I love stories and impossible worlds, so of course, a trip to The Weta Cave is always a highlight.

I've been before. And it was awesome. And now I went again. Yes, this is being posted to two of my blogs, because, I think it fits.

Richard Taylor and the team at Weta have put together and amazing experience at the Weta Cave. From a free 25 minute behind the scenes look at the various wings of Weta and the movies they have been a part of, to the museum, to the replica props, to the quality merchandise, it's all great. Now they even have a paid tour as well. (And that's only $20 per adult!) it does get busy, so go early, avoiding 11:00am-2:00pm which seems to be the busiest time.

Now, why on the Guru sight? Well... I've been wanting to knit dwalven hats for a while... And now I have a picture of a real one up close. But they also have the prop replica knitting pattern and kit... From the same yarn as the one in the films! Yes, I bought one.

And a chain mail kit!

Such a nerd, I know. Watch this space to see the hat and the scarf take shape... And go visit the Weta Cave in miramar if you are in wellington! It's amazing, even if you don't like Tolkien.

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Wednesday, January 22, 2014

And a general update of sorts...

Well, it has been a crazy, crazy week.

It started with buying a greenhouse.... And half way through the construction, the damn thing collapsed. So long story short, and many, many tears, we are rebuilding the greenhouse this weekend. I'm excited and nervous all at once about it.

Then there was the earthquake- 6.3. We didn't have any damage, but it stops you sleeping properly for a while. I was watering the garden when it happened, and all I could think was, "last time I was baking... Did I turn the oven off?" I was in wellington when the big one struck there, and being with 50 kids at the time, I was totally calm. However, when I go home I was in total shock. Now I get worried about everyone we the earth shakes. So I must check the "Be Ready" Disaster kit and see what needs replacing.

Then I got sick. And the dog got sick. To be fair, I have endometriosis. And this is fairly frequent. So I have been dealing with chronic pain, constipation, nausea and vomiting for the last week, on top of all the regular period stuff. And the dog has had ongoing back pain for the last 6 months, on and off. She was depressed for a while and on antidepressants (yes, my dog has major anxiety issues...) but we got a second dog to replace the old one who passed on in December. Both dogs are gorgeous, but I only hope that we find what is causing Rosie's pain soon. She has X-rays on Friday. Here are the doggies. Rosie is in the back, and Solo in the front. Both beagles.

And then there has been the gardening. With the greenhouse coming, we picked up a mass load of compost. And when I thought we wouldn't have one... I spread the stuff everywhere. And built another garden bed. But, the greenhouse will be restored.... So now I just have to sort out the garden beds in there. Wait and see what I have planned. And I think I shall build it tomorrow.

Unfortunately I painted the new raised bed I built. So now I think I want to paint all the old ones to make them just as tidy.

I planted carrots, beet root and spring onions today, and tried some rocket in the new bed. We shall see how my root crops go.

And I have been cooking up a storm. There will be recipes on the way to this blog... For an Indian inspired Shepherds Pie, some quick and easy Naan bread... And a few other bits and bobs. We bought a rotisserie oven before I went to China, mainly so the husband didn't starve to death... But it has been the best thing ever! That, and my induction hot plate arrived, and my bok choi is almost ready.... I sense Hot Pot coming soon!

And with the knitting, I have been on a frenzy of gifts, and yarnspiration. Now I need to sit down and work out which patterns to publish here, and which need to be adapted further.

But I haven't forgotten the blog.... I've just been so busy! Life gets that way, and with school kicking off next week, time will again be stretched.

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Tuesday, January 21, 2014

Tie Top Baby Hat - Knitting Pattern

This hat is a simple knit, with a cute tied top variation on a standard hat. There are no seams either, which has to be a bonus!

Will fit a large new born to about 6 months old.

Cute Tie-Top Baby Hat

You will need:
3.25mm circular needle
Baby yarn - 4ply, machine washable
Length of ribbon

Cast on 92 stitches.
Rib in a k2, p2 pattern for 14 rows

Knit 30 rounds or rows.

K3, k2 tog over the whole row.

Knit 10 rows or rounds

K1, yarn over needle, k2 together - repeat over whole row.

Knit 10 rows or rounds

Cast off by knitting 2 together over the whole row.

Darn in the tails.
Thread a length of ribbon through the holes and tie tightly.

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Simple Baby Booties - Knitting Pattern

It seems like everyone around me is having babies at the moment, so it's time to crank out more baby knitting. Though it knits up quickly, baby wool is so thin and soft, patience is required.

I started knitting these booties as a young child, as a gift for my aunties and uncles having their babies.

This size fits a large newborn (as all my cousins were big) through to about 6months old. Because they knit quickly, I find it's a great thing to make when the baby is born and one knows the sex to get the right colour.

You will need:
1 ball 4ply baby wool. Always look for machine washable. New parents don't need to have to think about separate loads of washing.
3.25mm needles

Cast on 35
1. Knit
2. k1, k1 front and back, k14, k1 front and back, k1, k1 front and back, k14, k1 front and back, k1
3. Knit
4. k1, k1 front and back, k16, k1 front and back, k1, k1 front and back, k16, k1 front and back, k1
5. Knit
6. k1, k1 front and back, k18, k1 front and back, k1, k1 front and back, k18, k1 front and back, k1

Knit 10 rows

Knit 19, k2 tog, knit 5, k2 tog, s1, turn
P2 tog, p5, p2 tog, s1, turn
K2 tog, k5, s1, k1, psso, s1, turn
P2 tog, p5, p2 tog, s1, turn
K2 tog, k5, s1, k1, psso, s1, turn
P2 tog, p5, p2 tog, s1, turn
K2 tog, k5, s1, k1, psso, s1, turn
P2 tog, p5, p2 tog, s1, turn
K2 tog, k5, s1, k1, psso, s1, turn
P2 tog, p5, p2 tog, s1, turn
K2 tog, knit to end

K1, yarn over, k2 tog, - repeat to end of row

Knit 20 rows.
Cast off.

Fold in half, and sew up the bottom and side of the bootie. Fold the top of the bootie over, creating a cuff. Thread ribbon or twisted yarn through the holes to tie.

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Monday, January 20, 2014

Striped Dishcloth - Knitting Pattern

I love working with colours. This was designed for a friend of mine who is mad on the colour red. This makes a terrific wash or dish cloth, and a wonderful small gift, especially as a hostess gift.

It is an easy knit, and great practise working with 2 colours.

You will need:
2 colours of cotton yarn
Size 4mm knitting needles

Cast on 42 stitches.

Knit 6 rows, slipping the first stitch of every row.

Get ready with the second colour.
1- slip 1, knit 4, change to colour 2, knit to the last 5 stitches, change to colour 1, knit 5
2- slip 1, knit 4, change to colour 2, purl to the last 5 stitches, change to colour 1, knit 5
3- slip 1, knit 4, change to colour 2, knit to the last 5 stitches, change to colour 1, knit 5
4- slip 1, knit 4, change to colour 2, purl to the last 5 stitches, change to colour 1, knit 5
5- slip 1, knit to end
6- slip 1, knit 4, purl to the last 5 stitches, knit 5
7- slip 1, knit to end
8- slip 1, knit 4, purl to the last 5 stitches, knit 5

Repeat these 8 rows 5 times.
Knit rows 1 through 4.

Using colour one knit 6 rows, slipping the first stitch. Cast off. Crochet tail into a chain and stitch into a loop. Darn in the tails.

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Monday, January 13, 2014

Meatless Monday: Indian Curry Dhal with Onion Bhajias

Today was a good day to make my favourite dhal, which I have posted before. However, for some insane reason I decided to make dhal, naan bread, onion Bhajias and raita. It was delicious.... Even if it was a little chaotic in the kitchen.

Onion Bhajias

You will need:
2 brown onions
1 cup Chana flour (regular will do though)
1 green chilli
2 cloves garlic
Handful of coriander
2 teaspoons cumin powder
Tablespoon Olive oil
1\2 cup water (ish)

1. Slice the onions into half circles. Smaller would be better for smaller ones, but I decided to make big ones. Sprinkle with salt, and sit in a colander while you do the rest. These need at least 10 minutes to lose as much moisture as possible.

2. Put the garlic, coriander and chili in a food processor. You can add a little ginger if you like as well. Blitz until everything is a small, uniform size and shape, but not liquidised.

3. Sift flour into bowl. Add the cumin and the green stuff from the food processor.

4. Add oil, and water and stir together into a thick-ish batter.

5. Place oil in a fry pan to heat (or use a deep fryer. I don't have one, so I use a pan).

6. This gets messy... But give it a go. Take about half a handful of onions from the colander (which should be pretty dry by now), and place in the batter. Using your hands form a battered ball of onion. Place into hot pan. Work quickly, which will be messy, but it washes off easily... Just don't wipe your eyes.

7. When golden brown on one side, flip the Bhajias over and cook again on the other side.

Serve with raita.
Makes about 8 large Bhajias


You will need
1/2 cucumber
1/2 cup Greek yogurt
Handful of fresh mint
Handful of fresh coriander
Juice from one lemon

1. Dice the cucumber and chop up the mint and coriander.

2. Throw into medium sized bowl. Pour over the lemon juice.

3. Mix in the yogurt. You can season with salt and pepper if you like at this point.

Use as a dip for the onion Bhajias.

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Sunday, January 12, 2014

Menu Plan Monday - January 13-17

Alright, it's Sunday, I know. But this is when I plan, okay? Nice. And this is a much nicer way of reminding myself than the scribble week plan (which sort of coincides with a busy week and the cleaning schedule....)

Monday 13 January

Lunch: Bacon & Egg Pie and Curry leftovers for him
Baked stuffed potatoes for me
(Making pizza and naan bread in the afternoon)
Dinner: Red Lentil Dhal with naan bread

Tuesday 14 January

Lunch: B&E pie, leftover dhal, pizza for him, dhal for me.
Dinner: Falafel and/or Lamb Iskender

Wednesday 15 January

Lunch: falafel wraps
Dinner: vegetarian Shepherds Pie, salad, and roast chicken for him

Thursday 16 January

Lunch: vegetarian shepherds pie
Dinner: Frittata, fresh corn and chops for him.

Friday 17 January
Lunch: Frittata and coleslaw
Dinner: eating out.

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Summer Coleslaw

I love coleslaw, and it's one of those amazing salads that is so simple to make in winter and have something fresh on the table.

However, this year I planted mini-cabbages, which are perfect for summer. They make these gorgeous tear drop shaped vegetables and don't take up much room in the garden.

You will need:
1/2 mini-cabbage head
1 carrot
1/2 cup grated cheese
Handful of parsley
Tablespoon of mayonnaise

1. Rinse the cabbage well, then cut into slices about 3mm thick.

2. Peel and grate the carrot.

3. Chop the parsley finely

4. Combine all the vegetables in a large bowl.

5. Crack pepper and sea salt on top and mix in the mayonnaise well.

Chill until ready to serve. I love the crunchiness of the salad with a bbq on a hot day, or on top of roasted potatoes with chilli beans.

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Raised Garden Bed - Tutorial

I built a garden! Okay, I was super pleased with this and how it all worked out, and it was relatively inexpensive. Now I am going to make a doubled layered one and some for inside the greenhouse we just ordered.... But those can wait.

You will need:
4 lengths of 6x2 dressed timber. I used 1200mm lengths (as that fit in my car easily)
8 coach bolts
4 L shaped brackets. (I used 10mm ones as my electric drill could drill 10mm)
Wood stain (optional)
Compost and plants (otherwise you just made a square)

1. Get the timber cut to size. Measure the space you want, and ask the timber guys to cut it. Or use a saw.... But our home supply store does cutting for free, and it is easier to transport to do it there.

2. Lay out the shape of the square. This also means you can put any imperfections in the timber on the inside. Trace around the brackets including the holes with a pencil. Label the sides as to their location and which side is up, and the inside..... This will make assembly so much better.

3. Drill holes right through the timber in the spots marked.

4. Stain timber (clearly an optional step)

5. Bolt the ends of the timber to the brackets. Using a level, make sure the sides and top are even... Or when you water the garden, your soil will run off. I built this around a tree because... Ummm... I could. When building around a tree build in place rather than transporting to the location. I banged the bolts in with the hammer, then tightened with a pair of spanners and a lot of patience.... In the rain. Use a level to keep checking the accuracy of your construction.

6. Fill with compost or container potting mix and plant. Show off to all your family and friends.

I built mine in the rain, so their are no images of actually constructing it around the tree.

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What's Growing: January 2014

It's already 2014, and the year is flying by. Basically the whole year has been in the garden. Last year my trip to China left my husband and the dogs at home, doing their best to maintain the garden. Now it is all back in action. Actually, our old dog, Spice, died after a stroke while I was away... And now we have a new set of trouble with a beagle boy currently named Solo.

In 2013 I set myself the goal of growing year round, and it worked. Admittedly over winter all we really had was spinach, chard, spring onions and leeks... But it did keep us in fresh greens over those hard-to-eat-fresh months.

This year my goal is to grow year round, as well as keep the blog updated with the garden. Last year I didn't want to commit too many goals to the internet in case I didn't get there.... And often the garden has weeds....

We have plenty of fruit and citrus trees planted around the place now, and they are slowly producing. Still not enough to cater to our supreme citrus needs, we use a lot of lemons... But getting there. We also planted extra fruits, like cranberries, this year. I bought a coffee plant, which the new beagle did eat, but I am determined to have a flourishing coffee plant on my back deck where I drink my morning java. In fact, it has a coffee-rail. It's basically the top of the hand rail... But I insisted that the handrail was large enough to lean on and safely hold a cuppa.

We have been doing well with the corn, and the passion fruit, though neither are quite up to harvesting yet. Yesterday I fertilized the passion fruit, tomatoes and strawberries, and I may through sulfate of potash on them today to encourage their fruiting.

The peas are now growing up a make-shift obelisk like the cucumbers, and I am impressed with how they are doing there.

We had our first chilli harvest yesterday, at least a month earlier than last year. Also, the back composting gardens are being converted to actual gardens... So I'm looking forward to seeing how they hold up with plants in them.

Lastly, I had my first go at building a garden bed.... Now I will try to build a 2 layer one next. I'll put a tutorial up at some point... So others can copy.... And so that I can remember how I did it!

My garden has so far been a haven of solace this year, and I have enjoyed working it, even with the scratches, bruises and broken fingernails.

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Saturday, January 11, 2014

Easy Striped Wash or Dish Cloth

This is the easiest dishcloth in the world to make, and it looks really cool because of the stripes. It is a great way of using up part balls of cotton yarn.

You will need
4mm needles
2 colours of DK cotton yarn

Cast on 42 stitches in either yarn.
Row 1: s1, knit to end.
Row 2: s1, knit to end.

Change to other yarn.
Row 1: s1, knit to end.
Row 2: s1, knit to end.

Repeat this process until 60 rows have been completed.
Cast off.

Crochet the tail into a hanging loop.

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