Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Our girls

I've been showing off some holiday projects of mine, but today I want to tell you about Craig's summer holiday project: building a chicken coop for our vege garden. As you might know, Craig is very handy (he made me a cotton reel holder, built the play hut in this post, and heaps more).  Ok, I'm showing off my husband now! Back to the chickens and their house:

These are our three young Brown Shaver pullets, named by the children: Long Neck, Greedy and Fluffy. I'm having serious trouble telling them apart at this stage though. Just in case you don't know, pullets are young chooks that don't lay yet. 

We've been keen to get chickens for eggs mainly, but also to eat some of our scraps, dig over our garden and give manure for compost.  As we don't have a very big garden, there's not a lot of space for a free-standing coop, so we decided on a chicken tractor instead.  That's a portable coop that sits on the grass or garden so that chickens can scratch around, eat the bugs and compost the soil before you move it to a different part of the garden. 

Craig divided the vege garden into sections using bricks, which the coop sits on.  He designed the coop and built it (mostly by himself, but as you can see he had a trusty helper at times) for about $200.  You can find some plans for coops in books; my favourite chicken book actually has plans for a very similar design as ours (Keeping chickens by Ashley English).  

Here they are in the front.  They spend most of the day out in the front and sleep upstairs, next to the laying box.  The shade sail was an afterthought, but very important for these sunny NZ days.  I've actually increased their solid shade by putting a piece of wood on top of the coop as well.  

We're all enjoying the girls very much; the boys love feeding them bits of grass and dandelion leaves and I find myself checking on them every so often.  It is very peaceful to sit there and listen to their quiet little chirps and watch them scratching around in the dirt.  I find it very satisfying to see them there in our vegetable garden, eating our lettuce and cauliflower leaves and to think that they will be contributing in their own way by making us nutrient-rich compost and lovely eggs.  

And to be honest, I think they're making us all a little bit happier too...

Wednesday, January 18, 2012


I have been doing lots of reading these last few weeks, and these books are at the top of my pile.  'Pattern' by Orla Kiely is a huge book filled with her incredible body of work, from surface pattern to clothing design. I am so inspired when I look at her use of colour and design, and especially her use of transparent overlays. It's something I've been experimenting with a bit, both on the computer and more recently block printing, as you'll soon see. 


The other two books, 'A field guide to fabric design' by Kimberly Kight (from TrueUp) and 'The complete guide to designing and printing fabric'  by Laurie Wisbrun are both very informative, both for computer-aided design and traditional printing methods. Which brings me to my project: a simple block print using perspex and craft foam.  

A while ago Joshua cut heaps of tiny little squares and rectangles and promptly forgot what he wanted to do with it.  I was about to throw it all away when I thought about how nice the shapes looked together, so I kept them all with the hope of finding time to do something with it. Then I remembered reading Jesse's post about printing with foam.  By the way, Jesse Breytenbach is a print-making guru and wrote some tutorials for Laurie Wisbrun's book I mentioned above.

This is the first time I've tried block printing, and it was so much fun! I printed on fabric, but of course this would work for paper too if you used the right paint.  I found a piece of perspex and glued the shapes to it using waterproof glue.  I used an old cookie tray, put a dollop of textile paint on which I then covered with a piece of felt.  I used a little ink roller to distribute the paint across the felt and I had a stamp pad!  I'm experimenting with prints at the moment, but I really like the off-register effect I got by doing two colours over each other. It adds a bit of depth to the design too, which was quite serendipitous! 

I definitely want to experiment more with fabric designs this year, as I'm truly enjoying learning more about it. 

Monday, January 16, 2012


Is is too late to say Happy New Year? Probably, but I'll do it anyway.  I hope you've had a very good rest over the big days! We did; in fact we only went away for Christmas and the camping trip and spent the rest of the time at home, starting off some and finishing up a few projects which I'd like to share with you over the next few posts.  

One of my projects was a massive spring-clean to rid the house of the piles of things that collected over the last few months of the year while I had craft market blinkers on. I decided to rearrange the kids' art wall and the way I display their ever-growing collection, because when something gets stuck on the wall with blue tack it has a tendency to just stay there. I was very lucky at the inorganic rubbish collection late last year when I picked up a huge frame, possibly from a dressing table (shown above with my helper, young Joshua).  I gave it a few layers of paint and Craig strung up some fishing line on which to peg the artworks. It's easy to change things around, with the added bonus that it also looks good.  I love it when a plan comes together....