Hi there!

I’m slowly working towards some simplicity within the home, but hey! It’s a lot of hard work!

I love having a go at growing my own veges and always use herbs fresh from my garden. I try to plant from seed whenever I can and have learnt to save and share my own seed for the following year. I make Award Winning preserves and pickles; and my husband brews Award Winning boutique beers as well. I love to stockpile and try to limit quick trips to the shops. I dabble in bread making and enjoy making my own stocks too.

I enjoy feeding my family good hearty meals, nothing like those tiny restaurant stacks you have to look for on the plate. My husband maintains our vehicles and machinery and we both enjoy fabricating on a small scale mostly relying on metal & timber recyclers for any materials needed.

While I don’t always have time to reply to comments, I love reading them. I hope you enjoy your stay and I hope you learn something new because I love sharing what I learn, and I'm always looking for another new skill myself.


Monday, May 7, 2012

Vermin & Basket Weaving with raw materials

Hi there.....I've got lots to tell you, but firstly I must apologise for my absence. I've been in a bit of a rut lately and life has been full on to say the least. For those who have written to me asking when I will be blogging again....Thank-you for all your well wishes....I'm back, or at least I'm going to try to be back!
During my absence I've lost touch with what everyone else is up to as well. So I want to hear from you. Tell me what's happening at your house at the moment!

So here is a catch up with some things you may find interesting........

A week ago, I would have said the biggest thing I was dealing with would have been trying to get my Mother's blood sugar levels under control...but thankfully that's all good now.......NOW the biggest thing I'm dealing with at the moment is VERMIN...It seems my crop of Madagascar Beans has attracted all the rats and mice in the street...Who knew there was this many....I mean it's not something I care to think about really......I assume they are all coming from the neighbours (3) that keep chickens....
I first thought that the damage was maybe due to birds, as most of the devastation was near the top...(where a bird could perch)...until I found evidence...droppings...large droppings......arrrrghhhhh!

First crop was totally munched....I picked a whole bucket of beans....every one damaged beyond edible.....Thankfully there's still hope because the vines are still flowering.......But I need to get rid of the VERMIN if I want to save any future crops.

 You can see how big these rats are....

VERMIN COUNT SO FAR....RATS 4, MICE 10...... to be continued, I'm sure.....
On to some exciting news....... 
I recently attended a BASKET WEAVING COURSE
organised by the Shellharbour Council through the Barrack Heights Community Garden.
What an awesome day we had.....

Lovely hand-crafted baskets and other items made by Mr Jim Walliss can be admired at the Arts and Crafts NSW gallery at the Rocks in Sydney...Jim, who ran the class was mostly self taught many years ago from studying aboriginal artefacts in State museums in both South Australia and Queensland. Wanting to use plants indigenous to his local area...NSW.....he found there was very little documentation. 

You can read more on the Aboriginal Plant use for NSW Southern Tablelands website here.....Even after seeking help from Aboriginal Elders he found very few who knew the skills AND were willing to teach him. I can tell you he has certainly done himself proud with his research and developed skills, now having Aboriginal elders seeking him for his knowledge; and we were fortunate enough to be his pupils for the entire day.

The class was split into two groups....One being taught the Coiled basket....and the other half being taught the String Bag technique; with the intent to take your new skills away and swap teaching another person the technique you learnt....I was taught the coiled basket technique. Here is a copy of the booklet we were given which is very simple, but very informative. 

Here are a few photos of some of the items which were made on the day.....

Ross and Joy made these items
Bark from the
Brown Kurrajong tree
Cordage from the bark of the Brown Currajong
Seeds Left to Right: 
Bunya (dyed with most likely red ochre),
Macadamia & Wisteria

Towards the end of the day we were all taught how to harvest and make string from the bark of the brown Kurrajong tree. 
I found this to be very interesting. 

We also used the dried and re-soaked leaves of the Red Hot Poker plant to make a thicker cordage.....I preferred this cord......but it is an introduced plant and not indigenous to Australia. Did you know that your Aloe Vera also belongs to the same family as the Red Hot Poker? Picture the flower......

String made from the leaves of the Red Hot Poker plant
One of the ladies was also shown how to make a New Zealand Flax basket from the leaves of the New Zealand Flax plant....as we watched.....I had a go at making one after the course with a Cordyline, but the leaves were too short and too thin....

New Zealand bag using the leaves of a Cordyline plant
Wanting to finish my own basket from the course...(below)
This basket is roughly twice the size of the one Joy made
: Reason for not being finished...lol
..........I set out hunting and gathering plants last week...and found many along the side of the road and not too far from home.....I had gathered some on my own, then another day after visiting the Albion Park Community Garden; both myself and Ross and his wife Joy went gathering more....
Ross has more knowledge of plants and where they are in the area than I do...but I'm learning. Thanks Ross and Joy for all your help!

Here are the plants that we gathered............................

This seems to be very brittle....Once soaked..
it should be easier to manage.

The base of the thicker plants can be used to make beads like below
Phragmites reed used to make the four beads on the top necklace.
Cordage was Red Hot Poker leaves

For some very clear instruction on how to prepare the flax look here......
To learn how to weave a place-mat look here.
This large Flax will be excellent for weaving a basket.

Ross kindly showed me where this tree is, but I don't plan on harvesting any of the branches as it has been planted in a Bush Regeneration Program and I also took home the sample of bark from the class.
Commersonia fraseri BROWN KURRAJONG
Commersonia fraseri BROWN KURRAJONG Foliage 

It's an idea to harvest dried plant material as this can save you a lot of time. In order to use most plant matter for basket weaving, you first dry it, then soak it for hours to make it pliable for weaving. 


I think this is the correct photo?

Stripping the willow of its leaves and gathering it in coils
will make it easier later to soak in water.

See how huge this pod is in comparison
to the front of my car? I wonder what I will make with this?
Inside the pod
The outer layer of the pod.

I've also gathered some leaves from the Bana Grass at the local Community Garden

and some Agave leaf...this produces lovely fine thread

Everyone found the class to be very rewarding....now I find myself looking at plants that I never gave a second thought to.....I just need to make time to finish my basket and begin another item......

(I better go do some house-work, this post is far more in depth than I had planned
...but hey...I've loved sharing it all with you)

Have you ever made a basket from raw materials?
Maybe you have done a similar course?
Would you be interested in learning more about
basket weaving with raw materials?


  1. Good that your Mom´s health is under control. Basket weaving seems very interesting, I wish I knew how to do them too, as I love baskets. Isn´t it interesting that once we learn something we seem to be on the lookout for those materials we previously never looked at?

  2. Wow, Narelle - that's fantastic about the weaving - I've never done anything like that. That rat is HUGE! I shudder to think about having that in my garden - you are brave to be dealing with it.

  3. Just look at the size of that rat!!! Absolutely humungous. Probably means the beans were great. Narelle I would love to learn more about basket weaving with natural materials.

  4. That rat looks to be about the size of an opossum - it just send chills up my spine. The basket class looks like it was really informational. I've always wanted to learn to make pine needle basket that were made by some of the Native American tribes in the Pacific Northwest. They are really lovely. Glad you're back.

  5. Oh what an exciting course! I look forward to hearing more and getting more tutorials. So glad to see you back!

  6. Good to have you back again......you were missed.

  7. I have made pine needle baskets. Pine needles are pretty plentiful here. There are posts on making one on my blog. http://www.simplyselfsufficiency.blogspot.com
    I love your coiled basket and will have to look up how exactly to do that as it isn't the same as the coiling you do with pine needles baskets.

  8. Thanks everyone for the lovely comments....The rat count is climbing as expected...RATS now 6, MICE 10. The rats and mice are being put in the freezer for a local High School for their pet snake. There's some good recycling for you...lol. They will probably end up with a year's supply of snake food by the time I'm finished, at least they won't have to pay for food for a while for the snake.
    The stitch used for the coil basket was a blanket stitch...but there are other ways to make a coil basket.
    Becky, thanks for your link...I love your baskets, they look fantastic.
    Thanks again ladies...it's good to be back!

  9. I am catching up on blog-reading, and am so happy to see posts from you, Nellymary!

    Basketweaving is of great interest to me, and I once took a short class but all the materials were from a "craft supply" place, and originated thousands of miles away. I really want to do what you are doing; find native plant material and use it in a traditional way. I already dye yarn with native plant material, gathered locally.

    Your descriptions and photographs and your beautiful baskets have inspired me to move basket-weaving to my Summer 2012 project list - thank you!

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