Monday, April 30, 2012

Why I Keep Backyard Chickens

A lot of people are surprised when they find out we have four chickens in our inner city suburb's small backyard and some people, because they know me well, aren't surprised at all...

This photo was taken a few years ago for a newspaper article on sustainability and city gardens.
We've kept chickens for 5 years now. Some have died and been replaced and we've given some chickens to friends who wanted to start keeping them.  We currently have one Isa Brown (the reddish brown ones in the photos above), one white Leghorn and 2 black Australorp.  

We love coming up with names for the chickens - currently we have Cloud (the white one), the brown one is Bucket (because chickens go "buck, buck buck"), and the black ones are Layla and Dr Eggbert.

Below is the big draw card - all this produce came from my little inner suburban back yard. We live within 5km of Sydney's CBD and have a small backyard by Australian standards but I manage to produce some lovely home grown food and I love the 4 fresh eggs every day.  They are completely different to supermarket eggs and seriously make the best poached eggs.

I love hearing the chickens throughout they day - they aren't very noisy but after they've laid their daily egg, they dance around and cackle to let me know. It's really lovely - and makes me feel as though I'm living in the country.

Every now and then we get weird eggs - like this tiny little one and often we get a double yolker. 

Another benefit of keeping chickens is we throw almost nothing organic into the garbage bin. The only food scraps I don't feed our chickens are chicken (obviously), potato peels, broccoli and avocado (poisonous to chickens).  We also put the cut lawn from the mower into their coop. The chickens will either eat everything or dig it into the dirt and the soil in their coop is so fertile, rich and brown. I use it through the rest of my garden as potting mix.

For their coop I initially built a traditional one and had it on the lawn, but after a while I moved the chickens to a big disused corner of our garden - behind the old sheds. We found an old wooden dog's kennel on the street and use it as one of the nesting boxes.  It's in pretty bad condition as you can see by the photo below but the chickens don't seem to mind! I just put netting over the whole area to keep the birds out and the chickens in and I found an old screen door on the street to close the area off from the rest of the garden.  Our guinea pig, Thumper, also lives in the with chickens but he is free range and visits the neighbours and we often see him on the middle of our lawn nibbling on the grass. 

Fresh eggs really are the best and I love that my kids know about caring for animals and where their food comes from.  We once killed and ate one of our chickens but it wasn't great as they are egg layers rather than meat chickens and it was quite old and tough - also its hard to eat an animal you've kept as a pet so we won't be doing that again!

So that's part of my little slice on country life in the inner city suburbs.


Saturday, April 28, 2012

Latest Pieces : White Desk and Chair

I've just finished this lovely curvy desk and vintage chair. The desk is so gorgeous and practical.  I love all it's details and it's a great size. 
 6 dovetailed drawers inside the cupboards. great storage.
And a handy central drawer that is wide and deep with a lovely curved front and carved details.
  Really cute carved feet
The chair and desk are both for sale. 
Please message me if you are keen.
and before: 
(I'm not sure why the cabinet maker thought orange wood trim looked good!)
It was originally a dressing table and I have the mirror still which is a gorgeous shape with bevelled edge. I'll be selling this also and will post about this soon.
Phil has taken the kids to ride their bikes at the park on this sunny Saturday afternoon but I'm crawling into bed as have been hit hard by the flu. 


Friday, April 27, 2012

Cheap Fresh Seasonal Fruit and Vegetables. Join a Vegie Co-Op

How good is this fresh produce? 
It's our share of the weekly vegetable co-op shop.

Can you believe ALL THIS only cost $AUD25?

We joined a vegie co-op a few months ago and this week was my turn to go to the markets.  We currently have 11 families in the co-op (Yes, we're looking for someone else to join so if you are keen to join us and live on the Balmain Peninsula, Rozelle or Callan Park side of Lilyfield then please let me know).

There are normally 12 households who pay $25 each and take turns in doing the shop. So once every 3 months you have to go to the Sydney Growers Market out at Flemington and buy $275-300 worth of fruit and vegetables.

I went yesterday morning and I had so much fun. I mainly shopped for what our family needed (we'd run out of onions, potato and sweet potato so they were a must. My boy could eat cucumbers for Australia so they are essential also. It's soccer season so Oranges were also on the list. The rest was what I could get cheaply, in season and looked yummy.

I arrived at the markets (which are 15 minutes from my house, admittedly it's 15 minutes at 5:30am with no traffic) and was lined up with the the fruit shop vans and restaurateurs for the 6am opening of the markets. It costs $8 for the entry fee and $4 for the trolley. I then had $263 left for shopping.

I filled my car!

Excuse our scratched bumper bar, it's all the furniture I drag in and out!

Here's what that money gets you:
Entrance Fee:$8
Trolley : $4
12 bunches of Kale (Cavello Nero) $30
1 box of cucumber (about 6 per family) $20
1 box of lemons (7 lemons  per family) $20
1 box of Capsicum (green bell peppers, 3  per family  $12
1 box of corn (3 ears per family) $15
1 box of tomatoes (5  per family ) $18
1 box of Oranges (8 per family) $10
12 bunches of Beetroot $24
A box of sweet potatoes (4.5 per family) $12
A box of mushrooms (about 12 good sized mushrooms per family) $18
20kg of brown onions (7 per family) 15
20 kg of brushed potatoes (10 per family) $18
a box of mandarins (6 per family) $18
12 bunches of bok choy $6 (amazingly cheap!!)
12 bunches of coriander $4
a box of corella pears (5 per family) $18

We also had a box of spares that people can help themselves to anything extra that they wanted  - the stuff that was left of the even division.

Total of $270

I was home by 7:45 (having stopped to pick up a much needed coffee at my local cafe). After I dropped the kids at school I started the task of dividing up the produce. Using the boxes the vegetables came in I started counting and dividing. It takes about an hour and was actually quite fun.

Boxes ready to be picked up. People take their box, sign their name of the list and put $25 an envelope which the slip under my door and is used for next week's shop.

What a great way to buy your vegetables and support local growers... and meet people in your local community.

The benefits of a Vegie Co-Op I've found so far are:
  • your money goes a lot further
  • your vegetables and fruit is extremely fresh and seasonal.
  • when it's other people's turn to shop they will buy different choices to you so you get to experience new vegetables that you may have never bought yourself. For example, we buy Kale every week but a lot of people in the co-op this week didn't know what it was. 
  • you end up with a HUGE amount of fresh fruit and vegetables so you end up eating a lot which is so healthy
  • We've had to be very creative some weeks with what we are cooking to use all the vegetables
  • saves you time at the supermarket
  • If we have extras (for example one week we got 3 heads of broccoli) we give away stuff to our neighbours.
So if you are interested in starting or joining a vegetable co-op, go for it. If you are starting one from scratch, let me know and I can give you the details of how ours is run. It's been going for about 20 years so they are doing something right!

Happy healthy eating!

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Thursday, April 26, 2012

Milk Paint Bedside Tables

My latest makeover is this pair of bedside tables in Porters' Milk Paint.
I had a wonderful day at Porters Paints' Furniture Painting Course last Saturday with the talented Polly Dale. She has an impressive resume and is an extremely talented woman.  She studied at the famous Isabel O’Neil Studio Workshop in New York then perfected her techniques at the exclusive Van der Kelen Institute of Superior Painting in Brussels. Polly was very generous with her knowledge and I appreciate her insights.  When I told my mum that I was doing a painting course she said "well it's a bit late for that!" but I really enjoyed my day painting especially as I hadn't had a solid block of time to paint all school holidays and I did pick up some pointers from Polly, so it was all worthwhile. Porters run courses every month so if you are keen to learn or improve your furniture painting it is a good option. 
Porters Paints are well known in Australia for their beautiful range of waterbased paints and speciality finishes. I decided to use their Milk Paint on the bedsides I bought for the class.  They were plain pine bedsides, very well made and in fabulous condition but that honey gold pine colour that I dislike so much.

From Porter's website: Porter's Milk Paint is a traditional finish, first used in the 18th and 19th centuries on Shaker furniture. Milk Paint has a rustic, chalky appearance that delivers beach-side style or country charm, instantly softening and ageing the look of new furniture and complimenting old. It is made from milk by-products mixed with powdered oxide pigment to produce subtle, mellow colours. Porter's Milk Paint is the only authentic milk paint produced in Australia.
The milk paint was a bit tricky to paint with at first. You have to mix it from powder with water, and stir and stir and it,  then strain it through muslin, more stirring and then finally you are ready to paint.  You also can't go over your brush strokes so you have to think carefully how you are going to paint. On these tables I used the beautiful Porter's limeproof undercoat, 2 coats of milk paint, lots and lots of sanding and then Porters Wax. The bedsides have the most beautiful smooth finish I've ever seen. They gleam like glass. I have lightly distressed them for a beautiful country shabby chic look.
 The drawers are dovetailed and on runners.
Despite how fabulous these look next to our bed, these are for sale as a pair. 
If you are interested please leave a comment or email me.


Tuesday, April 24, 2012

How to Make Tissue Paper Pom Poms

The other night we celebrated my gorgeous niece's 10th birthday with dinner at our place. To make it a bit extra special, I made a white pom-pom and hung it from the chandelier over the dining table.  I posted the photo below on facebook and instagram and had a lot people commenting on it so I decided to share how they are made. They are so cheap and easy to make but really create an impact.

Firstly buy some tissue paper. 
These packs of 10 sheets were $1 each from Dollar King.  
For a looser pompom use 10 sheets, for a fuller one use 15 sheets.

Smooth out the pile of 10/15 sheets and fold like an accordion or fan. 
I made my folds about an inch and a half wide.

 I've been painting furniture today so excuse the paint on my nails.

 Cut each end of the fan in either a point as shown below or a scallop.
 Wrap some flower wire around the centre of the paper fan and twist it several times to secure it. 
This will be what you use to hang the pompom with.
 Fan out the tissue paper by flattening out the folds. 
Pull individual sheets up or pulling down. 
Do one side fully first, then repeat the other.
 Hang from string and fluff up as necessary.
The pom pom on the left is 15 sheets and the one on the right below is 10 sheets. You can see the difference in fullness. 
     They also look beautiful in other colours. So quick and easy. I made both these two in less than 20 minutes while chatting to my aunt on the phone (phone tucked under my chin) and taking photos as I went (as you do when you blog...)

So there you have it!