Thursday, November 25, 2010

Mad Skillz - Part 2

It's been a while since I wrote Part 1, where I discussed spinning and knitting. Since then, or perhaps in parallel, I have obtained a bunch of other skills. Nothing here on it's own is much to talk about, but in total I think you will see that it's got a direction and purpose.

Chickens - This deserves a post all on it's own, and I think I will do this one day - the story of the chickens, but not here and now. Rearing chickens is a skill, of that there is no doubt, and in some ways a chore. You need to understand them at least a little, to make them happy, safe and secure. There is daily feeding and watering. The chicken mind is quite something, and they all have very distinct personalities. When they are happy and healthy, the eggs are extreme in their deliciousness. Any cakes or dishes made with them are fantastic. I really like chilling out with my chooks. We have 3 chooks at present -- Henny (an original), Mabel and Lily. "Three egg" days are the best days you can have.

Rat Catcher - Whatever chickens like to eat, rats like to eat too. So if you keep chickens, at some point, you will also be dealing with rats (and if you leave that too long, in Australia, snakes!). So, I have also been trapping rats, killing and burying them - about 30 or so to date. The traps I use are cages, which capture them live. I then drop them into a bucket of water, and they are dead in a minute or so, doesn't take long. When I first did this, my heart was racing, and now it doesn't skip a beat. I guess I've learnt how to kill, and you could argue that this is not a good thing. One good side effect of this rat disposal is that we no longer have the pitter patter of tiny feet in our roof, which was disturbing our sleep and leaving droppings everywhere. I check each animal I catch to make sure it's not a native marsupial, if I ever get one of those I'll let it free. We have also caught a few "rats with wings", the annoying birds (not sure of the breed) that come and steal the seed too. I let them go - but perhaps I shouldn't.

Bees -  Similar to keeping chickens, but not really the same, are Bees. I like Bees a lot, and we inherited a bee hive from our next door neighbour when he moved. We have had the hive about a year now, but I have not opened it since moving it. Before they left we had a harvest and got 30 jars of the most delicious honey I have ever had. I managed to score 6 jars, which was a lot really. When I have some time, and it's not too hot or windy, I'll suit up and take a peek. I hope the hive is healthy, as there was some evidence of hive beetle present. Fingers crossed.

Knives - Well, if you read my other posts you'll see I have quite an interest there. I won't go into details now, other than to say my collection now spans about 40 folding knives. I think I'm near the end of my accumulation though!

Knife Sharpening -  When you own a knife, one metric on how good it is, is how sharp it is. When you get a knife that you really like and it's blunt as a butter knife, then the issue of sharpening is raised. My early sharpening efforts were pretty poor. I got a diamond stone off eBay with 4 grit strengths. The problem is that it tended to chip the edge in my hands, and produce otherwise uneven results. The standard kitchen sharpener is made to fix a rolled edge, not really sharpen. And the hand held ones with the disks inside seemed too dinky for me, like sharpening for dummies. After some time brewing on this issue I bit the bullet and purchased a Lansky sharpening kit, which has the ability to control the angle that the sharpening is happening. It takes some time, but I am a lot more confident of the results.

Knife Making - Again, there is a recent post that goes into this in a lot more detail, so I won't go over it all again, but making knives is a skill. It's one I enjoyed learning, but do not see that I will be putting into practice a great deal. It takes a lot of equipment, for a start, and time.

Knife Accessories - So once you have made your knife you need to store it, and the question of a sheath comes up. I scored some free leather scraps, and managed to make two sheaths for my made knives. They are really just blade covers, using paracord in the stitching, but they came out alright. I added a plastic lining on the inside so that the leather would not get cut. The results are quite amateur, but the whole point was to learn about the art, not to produce a masterpiece. Using the parachord I have also made lanyards, and a Cobra bracelet. Youtube is an amazing resource for learning quick little skills like this, and there is no shortage of people online who are great at teaching you if you want to learn.

Vegi Patch - Gardening is no big deal, but on our land it has some challenges. One thing I have done is compost the chicken litter and poo, and this makes for some great organic fertiliser. In truth, the vegi patch is a bit of a failure, mostly for it's location, but the current plot has some beans, lettuce, pumpkin and parsley. Elsewhere in the garden we have a lemon, mandarin and rosemary bush. It's not much, but it's better than nothing and I take a huge amount of pride and joy in eating anything that our land manages to bear. It always tastes great, even if it's only a mouthful or so!

So, I think that's everything! I'm not sure what's next in the long search for happiness, but I'm pleased with the things I have done so far.

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