Friday, April 11, 2014

Apples and hazelnuts

The nursery specialises in native plants and trees, but they also have a lot of fruit trees, including lots of different varieties of apples. They also grow some full-sized trees so people can see what they're like when they're all grown up.

Happily, our trip coincided with apple season...

A fairy-tale tangle of apple trees

The witch's cottage must be around here somewhere...


One out-of-the-way paddock is full of hazel and chestnut trees. It's shady and mysterious amongst the trees, and Willie and I have nicknamed it "The Witch's Paddock".

There were plenty of hazelnuts on the ground!

We gathered a few pocketfuls :)

Country matters

As promised, here are my photos from last week's stay at Willie's parents' place in Taranaki. Willie was working 'from home' while we were there, which gave me lots of time to knit, read, and wander around with a camera. :)

Willie's parents run a tree nursery, called Te Kahuri Nurseries. Here's a map showing where in Taranaki I'm talking about...

They often have a few animals on their mini farm, but there were no cows this time. It certainly made it easier to wander around, as I didn't need to worry about securing the gates. Cows make me kinda nervous too - they're often taller than me, and I'm not exactly a country girl... :p

Looking across the paddocks, there are some classic countryside views!

The mountain was hiding behind clouds...

The nursery is a lovely place to wander around, especially in the evening when it's all quiet...

The long driveway

The office

Brian with Leo, rodent-catcher extraordinaire


A pear hollowed out by wasps

I did find some cows, safely over the fence in the neighbour's paddocks!

Mooooo to you too!

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Consorting with viols

I had a rare treat last night - I got to sing with a consort of viols! A bit like this one, except wearing jeans and woolly jumpers:

Willie and I are staying with the Olivers, who are old-school early music enthusiasts. They play various string and wind instruments including viols, renaissance flutes, a shawm, a rebec, a psaltery, and virginals. They host a viol consort on Monday nights, and Robert invited me to sing some consort songs with them.

Elizabethan consort songs involve a singer plus a viol consort (hence the name), and they're quite challenging because the musical style is dense and complex - each player's musical phrases often overlap with the other players', which can make it tricky to find your place again if you get lost. The secret is to just keep counting!

William Byrd (c.1540-1623)

The songs we had a go at are all by William Byrd, and they are absolutely beautiful. I love that the voice part is really just another instrument - many of these works can be performed just as easily by all singers, or all instruments, or a mixture. The texts are melancholy (and in some cases moralistic), and I enjoyed making the most of the words once I'd got the hang of the notes. I'd like to learn Elizabethan pronunciation at some stage, to make the rhymes and word-play work as they should.

Here are recordings of three of the songs (I couldn't find any online for 'Blame I confess' or 'O that we woeful wretches could')...

'Ye sacred Muses' (1585) - a lament on the death of Thomas Tallis

'O Lord, how vain are all our frail delights' - with text by Philip Sidney

'Weeping full sore' - a 5-part madrigal from Songs of Sundrie Natures


I'm in New Zealand again, hooray! Willie had a couple of family events to attend in Christchurch and Wellington, and I decided to tag along and visit some of our friends and family.

My first stop was rural Taranaki, where Willie's parents live. We stayed with them for a few nights, and it was great to be in the countryside for a change. I'll write a post about that bit of the trip once I've sorted out my photos.

We all drove down to Wellington on Friday night, so Willie and his folks could attend a family wedding. Happily, we'd struck one of Wellington's magical calm-and-sunny weekends!

Wellington <3

On Saturday I visited the Underground Market at Frank Kitt's Park, which was fortuitously having a wool-themed week. I didn't buy quite as much yarn as last time, but I did score some natural-coloured 4ply wool from Anna Gratton's Little Wool Co (which will become a stripy cardigan), and a nice squishy skein of undyed DK wool from Maniototo Wool (which will probably become a cabled hat or cowl).

My new pretties:

Then I met up with Rowan for a beer and some afternoon tea. :)

Since then, I've had a lovely dinner with Olivia and Noel and Robert and Andrea, sung with St Mary of the Angels' choir (but not actually at St Mary's as it's awaiting earthquake strengthening), visited Rowan and Amanda, sung with a consort of viols, visited Holland Road Yarn Co's new CBD shop, and raided the library's cd section (my library card still works, mwahahaa).

We're heading back to Melbourne on Sunday - we'll see how much more we can fit in! We still have a lot of people to see, places to revisit, and favourite foods to eat...

Thursday, March 20, 2014

My precious

It took me a ridiculously long time, but I have my very own piano at last!

The time was finally right, now that we no longer live in a student flat, or a leaky mouldy cottage, or literally up a hundred steps. :p

Our online searches led us to an apprentice piano tuner who happened to be restoring an old German piano, and was willing to sell it for a very reasonable price. Apparently the piano had been water-damaged and completely unplayable, but after restoration it looks and sounds lovely. It has a nice 'round' tone and nice clear bass notes, and it's louder than the English pianos I've played in the past. There's still a little bit of sanding and beeswax-polishing left to do, which I'll tackle myself.

Click to enlarge!

I spy four spots where the candle-holders were attached...

Lots of nice Art Nouveau-style decoration :)

It's been a long wait - since I moved away to uni in early 1999, I've been relying on an electric keyboard, which has been fine for getting me through singing practice and (back in the day) uni assignments. But for playing piano music I need the real thing, inconvenient though that is...

I did my Grade 8 piano exam during my break year before uni, and my playing has been getting steadily rustier ever since, although I'm sure the decline has been slowed by holiday piano-binges at Mum & Dad's. Hopefully now I can get some of my fluency back. I actually practised scales today! Voluntarily! 'Teenage Me' would be astounded. ;)

My aim is to play every day, so I'll need to acquire some more sheet music to keep it interesting. State Library ahoy!

Tuesday, March 4, 2014

New pattern: Bushwalk Beanie

My newest hat design is out! The Bushwalk Beanie is a cute-and-cosy lace hat with a pattern of fern fronds all around. Needing only one ball of Zealana Kauri 4ply, it's lightweight and happily economical.

When designing the fern lace for this hat, I was inspired by the familiar ponga tree - you can see its fronds in the photos above. I recently found out there are around two hundred different kinds of fern in New Zealand. Impressive!

Zealana Kauri yarn sets off the fern frond lace perfectly - it's slightly fuzzy, and gives a nice amount of body and definition to the stitches. A blend of merino, possum, and silk, it's luxurious and eco-friendly too.

From Zealana's website:
"Since its introduction to New Zealand by fur traders in the late 19th century, the non-native brushtail possum population has reached staggering proportions largely due to the lack of natural predators that would otherwise maintain an ecological balance. The consequences of their rapidly increasing numbers are many, including damaging impacts on New Zealand’s native flora and fauna."
Choosing to use possum-blend yarn supports efforts to control the pest possum population, giving our native wildlife a better chance of survival.

  • fern frond lace  
  • decorative crown decreases
  • nice wide ribbing at the brim 
  • tidy tubular cast-on (optional)
  • easily adjustable sizing of length + circumference 
  • both charted and written instructions
  • lightweight and folds flat 
  • one-skein project

The pattern download for the Bushwalk Beanie is available on Ravelry

All photos in this post are by an awesome photographer by the name of Jos, who also happens to be my Dad. :)
Go check out his website at Jos's Photography & Framing.

Friday, February 28, 2014


I'm about halfway through the Stasis jersey I've been working on in dribs and drabs for months. It will be lovely when it's finished (fingers crossed), but right now it's at the endless-rounds-of-plain-stockingette stage. And true to form, I'm obsessing over what else I want to make soon! I love the choosing colours + yarn + other variables stage of a new project - Mum say it's the fun part, and I totally agree.

Here are a few of the patterns I'm dreaming of while I slog through my slow work-in-progress... :p

A new shawl design, suitable for homesick Wellingtonians (I want to make one in sky-blue):

Oriental Bay by Sue Schreuder

A cute sheepy cardigan (I'm mulling over various neutral shades):

Angry Sheep Cardigan by Pinneguri

A nice practical knitted top (in either golden or red sock yarn):

Park Slope by Laura Aylor

A graphic shawl (I have the perfect vermillion merino/silk yarn):

Antarktis by KallioKnits

And some cute wee bunnies for Easter:

Henry's Bunny by Sara Elizabeth Kellner