Humble Beginnings – Royal Chickens

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Well, in case anyone has been wondering just how I have been going with my chickens, from the humble beginnings of the plastic bottle chicken house,IMG_0009 I decided to take a photo.  I couldn’t fit all the chickens in one picture, and of course there are now lots of little ones in the house, which don’t come outside yet except as “supervised play” in the afternoons.  The small ones, I have learned with heartache, are the favourite food of the Indian Mongoose which is very crafty, and can catch a chicken and drag it into its burrow at lightning speed.

IMG_0013The white chickens in the photo are cockerels (male chickens).  The started out as very unassuming birds, but now, well to me they look like royalty!  The are so majestic with their manes and their bright red combs.

The red and black chickens are Junglee birds – or native chickens.  They are also changing day by day and will one day be clothed in gold, red, green and black feathers like the old fashioned roosters of yesteryear.  I am planning to win a prize at next year’s agricultural show with one of them!

The plain red chickens are rescued battery hens.  They still lay the odd egg, and they keep the roosters happy.

I wish I had taken a week by week picture so I could show how they grow, but I might do that next time.

Another use for old umbrellas – doggie bed of dreams!

A couple of months ago, our neighbours’ dogs had puppies.  About a week after that, mysteriously, all the girl puppies were dumped in our yard.  They were skinny, ridden with fleas, and starving.  I decided that I had not much choice but to bath them, and care for them until they were old enough for me to find homes for them.  People here in Fiji often dump female puppies as they are not wanted.  There is an SPCA here, and they welcome unwanted animals, but animal welfare in Fiji is very much developing, and is at the lower end of the scale.

Snowy and Patch now have new homes with some lovely families who love animals.  Blackie has stayed with us.  She now has commandeered our umbrella cushion as her doggie bed of dreams.  To see how to make a cushion or dog bed from recycled broken umbrellas, click here.

I wanted to post these pictures to show my cyber friend Jo, who makes all kinds of cool stuff from recycled umbrellas and just sent me a tote bag in the mail.  She has a stall in the UK and an etsy stall.  Her bag is so well made and holds about 25kg of shopping!  I use it daily.  Thanks Jo!  To see her stuff including bicycle paniers, bags, painting smocks, and more, click here.  Maybe soon she will be selling dog beds!

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Blackie, Snowy and Patch a couple of days after they arrived

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Blackie on her bed make of recycled umbrellas

Plastic bottle chicken house – complete!

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Finally, I am posting photos of the completed chicken house!  It has been operational for about a month and a half now, and the chickens are now much bigger than in these pictures.

I can confirm that it is working well, with a feeder made from a recycled kerosene burner, the drinker installed in the wall and also poweraid bottles which are perfect chicken drinkers!  It looks like a stained glass chicken palace now, and is a bit of a local attraction.

I can also confirm that it is definitely mongoose proof, dog proof, pig proof and cat proof!  Ahhh, the sweet smell of success!  Next post on this will be pictures of the rescued battery hens which are now happily laying an egg each a day!  Thanks for the encouragement.

I think that with the sheer weight of bottles and concrete (one 1 litre bottle filled with water weighs 1kg) that it should also be cyclone proof.  Everything in the construction was salvaged except for the chicken wire.  Hooray, about 1000 bottles not on the beach!

To see pics of construction process click here.

Making a chicken house out of plastic bottles – part one

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Chicken house in progress

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Top of completed wall

Recently, as those who know me are aware, I have been busying myself making a chicken house using hundreds of plastic bottles collected from the neighbourhood.

  • Step one – collect bottles
  • Step two – fill with food colouring and water and screw lids on tightly
  • Step three – dig a shallow trench about half the depth of a bottle lying down to anchor the wall

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    Plastic bottle wall in progress

  • Step four – fill the trench with bottles about half a bottle width apart
  • Step  five – mix concrete (about one 40kg bag of cement to five 25kg bags of sand)
  • Step six – put concrete between the bottom layer of bottles and start stacking the bottles on top, row by row
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    Step one: dig a trench and fill with bottles

  • Steps seven to infinity – stay tuned – I have grand plans!   We will see whether they eventuate, but my grand design should incorporate the following:

  • I have already poked holes in several bottles to make some ventilation and drainage for the lower wall
  • I am going to insert some 30 Litre yellow plastic cooking oil drums into the wall with an opening on the outside for filling and catching rain water, and an opening on the inside for the chickens to drink from
  • I am going to use guttering and a vertical stack of linked 30 litre plastic drums to collect rain water and auto fill the drinkers
  • I have collected dumped kerosine stoves to use as the roof ventilation vents
  • I have already made a prototype of a roof whirlybird ventilator out of a 2 litre coke bottle
  • I have already planted pawpaw seeds outside the sunniest wall
  • I am going to insert wooden fruit boxes into the wall as nesting boxes, with hatches for egg collecting on the outside
  • I may even insert a fresh water pond inside for growing small fish and for the chickens to drink from
  • the whole thing has to be mongoose proof!

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    One wall completed

Also, since I saw the flip flop art, it occurred to me that I could even partly shingle the roof with flipflops for insulation from the heat, but I am not sure… otherwise since I saw the angel wing flip flop art, perhaps I will breed artistic chooks, and install an art piece inside for their viewing pleasure.

It reminds me a little of one of my favourite books to read to the kids when they were little.  It was called “The Hilton Hen House”.

The construction is coming along so nicely that the teenagers are asking whether we can scrap the chickens and they can move into it as a teenage hangout.  I think that it will be really lovely actually, and am determined to sleep in there one night before we put the chickens in.

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Filling the bottles with water and food colouring

I know they make this kind of construction elsewhere in the world and make houses, schools and other structures, but I never realized it would be so easy (and fun).  If people here in Fiji who live in settlements (slums) had access to the money for concrete, the bottles are free.

Even the timber and iron has been salvaged and saved from landfill.

Perhaps I will write a grant proposal after this is finished.  A great video on the squatter settlement conditions is online at http://www.smh.com.au/multimedia/world/fijis-squatter-settlements-20091127-jwda.html

Flipflop Angel Wings – a recycling masterpiece!

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Source:www.recyclart.org

I just posted this to the facebook page, but couldn’t contain myself.  So many flipflops discarded, or missing a pair.  Fiji must be the flipflop hub of the world I think.  Flipflops are the only thing to wear in the wet season: to church, to work, to town.  Fiji is a “no shoes inside” place, where you have to take off your shoes before entering any home, meeting place, or church.  Flip flops are the only solution, and like odd socks, they always seem to have one go AWOL.  However, unlike socks, there is never a bag of them hanging on the back of the laundry door, they are just left – here, there, everywhere – clogging up drains and washing up lonely on beaches.

More photos at http://www.recyclart.org/2014/02/flipflops-angels-wings/

One couple put them to good use in this amazing art work.  I am running out of daylight hours!

Another item that seems to be discarded after every use is the metal mosquito coil holder – I have some ideas and would love to see if anyone else has made some artwork from them.

Recycled umbrella tote bags, bicycle paniers, and more….

umbrella bag

Photo source: http://www.etsy.com

People are so smart!  A while ago, I got a comment from a reader in the UK who upcycles umbrellas into tote bags and sells them through her etsy shop.  She also uses the umbrellas to make bicycle paniers, painting smocks, bunting and more.  She tells me that one rainy weekend, she collected over  60 discarded umbrellas!

I thought that it was worth posting a link for any readers who are interested in placing an order at http://www.etsy.com/uk/listing/176803426/upcycled-umbrella-tote-bag?ref=shop_home_active_1

The maker is the lovely Jo Bodley, and she has a written “how to” on her blog http://carminabiryani.blogspot.com/

Jo contacted me after seeing my attempt at making bean bags out of broken umbrellas.

Thanks so much Jo!  In the UK, you seem to have some beautiful umbrella fabrics!  In Fiji, the choice of trash to treasure is more limited.  I am going to give the tote bags a try, after I finish making my chicken house out of plastic bottle bricks filled with coloured water.

Ever wondered what are the “5 Gyres” in our oceans?

One of my readers alerted me to a new documentary which explains the vortex of trash in the oceans that is now the size of the United States.  Worth a watch if you are a bit confused about what exactly the “gyres” are.  Watch here

The only solution seems to be to stop consuming things that come in plastic, especially single use plastics.  I am in Australia visiting my sick father at the moment, and am so surprised that the plastic culture here is so strong and ingrained.

To have items that are designed for a 15 second use, that last for more than 400 years seems simply wrong.

If you think deep down that you are immune from the issue, and not part of the problem, living in a developed country where the trash seems to disappear after the recycling truck comes, then watch this about Lord Howe Island. The other day, I had a salad lunch at the hospital and the following pieces of single use plastic were part of it:

  1. plastic container
  2. plastic wrapping for the container
  3. plastic dressing tub
  4. plastic fork

Yesterday I had sushi:

  1. plastic container
  2. plastic sushi fish soy sauce bottle and lid (read my thoughts on sushi fish to fish sushi)
  3. rubber band
  4. plastic wasabi
  5. plastic picked ginger

I went to the fruit store to pick up supplies:

the cucumber I bought was shrink wrapped in plastic – why?

Is there a perception that NOTHING is worthwhile as a product any more unless it is wrapped in plastic?

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Dom sorting plastics that were collected from around our house at Koronivia, Fiji

If you are an artist or film maker interested in making a film in Fiji about making art from ocean trash, contact me.  I have been approached with an offer of funding, I just need to put together the budget.

How to make a bed from recycled paint cans

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Ok, here it is, as promised, the bed from recycled paint cans, sticky tape, and cardboard!  IMG_0003

Let me make it clear, I am not trying to set myself up as some kind of self professed DIY guru (although maybe I should start a blog site called just that…) or trying to turn this blog site into a site about how to make things out of recycled stuff. Of course my daughter has visions of becoming an overnight internet sensation from this post.  If enough people want a bed out of junk, maybe she will!

I am simply a mum living in a place where furniture is expensive, money is tight, and there is so much that is discarded that is actually useful.  I am often a woman on the edge, wondering how I am going to maintain a lifestyle that I want the kids to have in a country like Fiji where money is always tight.

IMG_0009I am also concerned constantly with the perception here of what is actually “trash” or “rubbish” as once something is discarded it is immediately viewed as that.  All of the paint cans, lids and cardboard that I used would have otherwise ended up in landfill, a problem for my kids to have to worry about in their lives – heavy metals, paints etc leaching into the mangroves and the sea.  Living in an island nation in the middle of the Pacific, the prospect of an ocean full of toxins and rubbish, and void of fish is actually frightening.  I have once seen a fridge floating in Suva Harbour. 

Our live in family recently increased from me, my husband and one teenager; to me, my husband and three teenagers.  The two new teenagers arrived from Australia with a suitcase each that was filled with nothing that is actually useful in Fiji a land of alternating mud and dust – no towels, no toothbrushes, no sheets, just video games and high heels it seemed IMG_0014to me.  Frustration and despair got me nowhere, but I must admit I felt it keenly.

Anyway, with two extra kids, and no extra money or furniture, I had to pull myself together and see what I could come up with.  If only I could work out a way to spin a towel or a sheet set from spiderwebs and butterfly tears, my world would be complete!

I didn’t, but I did manage with the help of my 15 year old daughter to make her a bed using only the below.  IMG_0012The hardest part was being disciplined enough to pick up the stuff when I saw it in the dumpster and take it home, and to stop my family from trying to “tidy up my junk” every Saturday where they would try and put it all kinds of places to get it out of the way.  Also, my nieces and nephews were constantly using the paint lids as frisbees and hurling them down the hill where I would often find them a week later.

I used:

  • 50 used paint cans (you could substitute large juice cans)
  • 4 rolls of packing tapeIMG_0002
  • 3 regular cardboard boxes
  • 1 cardboard box from a large electrical appliance
  • 8 recycled coke bottle lids
  • some of the white plastic binding tape that they use for packing white goods
  • about 30 small screws and a screwdriver
  • 1 thin piece of foam
  • Material to cover
  • The only things that I bought new were the screws and the packing tape and the foam, plus the material to

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    cover, all the rest of it was salvaged from building sites and dumpsters, plus Jacks of Fiji Nakasi store gave us some great boxes.  The total cost of the bed was $18.

Instructions:

  • We used 50 cans in ten rows of five to fit a single mattress.
  • Lay them out to make sure it fits.
  • Make a cardboard stencil to cover 4 cans, 6 cans and 3 cans.
  • We grouped the cans into fours and sixes and then put them together as you would leggo so as to give the structure some strength.
  • We then had a group of two lots of six cans, and one lot of three cans.
  • You need a stencil for both the top and bottom of each set.  I think we used eight stencils of the 4 can set, twelve stencils of the 6 can set, and two stencils of the 3 can set.IMG_0018
  • Trace the stencils onto cardboard boxes and cut with stanley knife or scissors
  • Tape the paint cans together in sets, then tape the cardboard stencils to the top and bottom of each.
  • Then tape the leggo pieces together.
  • Lay the large cardboard on the floor and place the large leggo pieces together
  • Score the cardboard so that you can fold the extra cardboard up to make the sides of the bed.
  • Tape around the cardboard.
  • Place some cardboard boxes on the top of the bed, and cover with a piece of thin foam if you have it.
  • Lay the material/fabric on the floor overlapping so that there are no gaps if you are using pieces, and make sure that there is enough on each side to cover the sides of the bed, and fold over the bottom.
  • Turn the bed frame upside down and lay on top of the middle of the material.IMG_0019
  • Cover the base of bed with a piece of material, and fold the top material over the sides and to the bottom so that no joins will show when the bed is right side up.
  • Use a piece of white packing tape, or cardboard to get a straight line, and screw the material into the base, all folded in, using the packing tape as a guide.
  • Use some long screws, and screw the coke bottle lids into the base as small legs.
  • Turn the bed over, put on the mattress, go to sleep!IMG_0020 IMG_0022 IMG_0029IMG_0031

How to make a bean bag cushion chair from recycled umbrellas

             IMGP2363 Recycled umbrella bean bag cushions

From this

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Two umbrellas dumped on the ground

To this!

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using a cardboard stencil

Ever wondered what to do with broken umbrellas?  In Fiji, after any downpour of rain, along the roadside, you will see literally hundreds of broken umbrellas – ahh, they don’t make them like they used to.  By the way, one thing I discovered when I was doing this project was why my grandma always told me to buy a good quality umbrella regardless of the cost.  I have often wondered why umbrellas these days seem so flimsy and turn inside out the the slightest gust of wind.  Is it because they are so cheap, and poorly made?  Not really.  When you have to take one apart, you see the enormous amount of effort that has gone into making one.  The IMGP2359umbrella skin is hand stitched very well to the spokes at several places on each spoke, and then hammered into the top of the handle using a metal clamp.  However, when looking at the fabric of two umbrellas that seem an equal size, and then sewing them together, I noticed that not all the triangular panels are exactly the same size, even though they look it when the umbrella is up.  Actually with the cheap umbrellas, the fabric

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triangles are all quite different sizes.  This must create a tension issue when the umbrella skin is stitched to the spokes, and therefore create instability when the wind catches the umbrella.  If I were a scientist, I would do an experiment to see if the part that flies up in the wind, is the section with the biggest piece of triangle fabric compared to the others, and therefore with the lowest tension.  Sadly, or maybe a good thing for the world, I am not a scientist.

Now to the real business of this post.  Seeing so very many broken umbrellas (actually only the frames break usually, and the fabric is intact) by the side of the road after a bit of rainy weather, and needing some more furniture, I decided to see what I could do.

I took a small stitch unpicker (or scissors would do) with me and walked to the bus stop.  On the way I found two or three umbrellas in the gutter, and unpicked the fabric from the frame which took about 20 seconds each time.  I stuffed the fabric in my bag and felt bad that I left the frames where I found them.  I then got the bus 5 minutes down the road to my local market place, and got off.  I collected another 10 umbrellas there, and did the same thing, and went home.

I have since felt so guilty about leaving the frames on the road side that I take them home and use them for trellises for the long beans and cucumber plants.

People thought I was very strange and asked me what I was doing, but now, taxi drivers who have taken me home and seen the cushions I made bring me umbrellas each week when they find them on the road side!

IMGP2365I soaked the umbrella skins in a bit of bleach for a while, washed them and hung them out to dry.  The rest was easy!

Check the umbrella skins for any small breaks in the stitching, sew up the top part where it joined the top of the handle (there will be a small hole in the middle of each umbrella circle).

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Dom spray painting

IMGP2356You can spray paint a stencil pattern if you like.

Sew two umbrellas of the same size together inside out and leave a small opening to insert the filling.

Fill with foam chips or polystyrene balls, or even used and clean plastic bags and old clothes.

Sew up the hole.

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Jone and Samu

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Ellena and Kim

Sit down!

Read the paper,

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Renee having a hard earned rest

watch TV,

relax!

How to make the best ever footstool or chair from recycled paint cans

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Finished chair – dining height

This is the first of four stools that I made more than 2 months ago.  They are in daily use as dining chairs and general chairs, rather than footstools, as we don’t have a couch on which to sit on so that we can use them as footstools – never mind!  They really get used heavily with three teenagers in the house, plus their cousins and friends, not to mention the adults, and they are very durable and comfortable.  They are made from all recycled materials except for the foam and the sticky tape.  I could have replaced the foam with recycled clean plastic bags, or even newspaper, and next time I will try and do that.  I did this because

1. we really needed some furniture, and

2. I want to challenge perceptions of what is actually “rubbish”.

There are so many things that we discard and the moment they are discarded they are then perceived as “rubbish” or “trash” and no longer of use, however, I have found that many of these things actually have a long lasting second use.  I know that this is not news to readers, but I am not sure whether anyone else has tried this with paint cans.  As it would take maybe hundreds of years for these things to break down fully if in landfill, perhaps I have invented the longest lasting chair EVER!  Who knows! I got the idea from a similar thing I saw with plastic bottles which I have linked here. Perhaps the same thing could be done with used large food cans such as tomato sauce cans here in Fiji, or the large pineapple juice or coffee cans.

Anyway, now for the instructions…

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First, bang the lids onto the cans securely.  Then arrange four cans into a square.

Tape the four cans together securely with packing tape.  Make another set of four cans so that you are using eight in total.

Cut four pieces of used cardboard or coreflute (your could also use plywood) to the size of the cans.  Put one piece on the top and bottom of each set of four cans.  Tape securely with packing tape.  Tape the two sets together securely.

Make a cushion for the top out of a used plastic bag filled with foam chips.  You could also try replacing the foam chips with clean IMGP2366used plastic bags.  Tape the opening of the plastic bag, and poke some small holes into it so that air escapes easily when you sit on it.  Otherwise it might burst.

Cut a piece of thin foam (or used recycled materials) to cover the cushion, making sure that the cushion IMGP2367is centred nicely.  Secure the foam with rafia or string, and gently pull the foam down working around so that you do not have any folds and it is nice and tight.  Once you have that right, then use packing tape over the rafia and secure it in place.

Cut another piece of foam that is going to go around the outside, including overlap under the bottom slightly.  Wrap it around, pull tight, and secure with rafia and tape. No need to stitch anything at this stage.

To cover the chair, I used an old sulu or sarong.

IMGP3460Cut a piece of material to cover the cushion area.  Secure with rafia, pull down and smooth any folds.  Secure with tape.IMGP3461

Cut a piece of material to cover the outside.  Then turn this outside piece inside out over the top so that you are going to have the rafia and string on the inside.  Effectively it is inside out.  Secure with rafia and tape.

Note: Make sure that you have folded the overlap so that when you turn the fabric “right side out” the fold will be hidden underneath your final chair.

Once it is secure, then use a curved needle with very strong thread (I used the thread that is IMGP3468IMGP3472readily available here in Fiji which the shoe makers use, but you could use upholstery thread) to stitch around where the cushion joins the base of the chair.  Stitch actually over the rafia that

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IMGP3488you have tied on the inside out base fabric so that the whole structure is secure.  Once you have stitched all the way around, turn the base fabric back down to cover the base, and fold underneath the base of the chair.

Fold the fabric underneath neatly, as if wrapping a present.  Make sure you get out all the folds around the base of the chair.  Pin securely and stitch the “present wrapping” together underneath the chair.  To make the little chair legs to keep the fabric off the ground, I simply used four recycled plastic drink bottle lids and screwed them into the base with a screwdriver.  I was not sure whether the screws would hold into the pain tins, but they really do.

Stay tuned for the next post – how to make a bean bag out of old umbrellas!

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Dom and Finn playing cards with another version of the chair in the background.

Calling film makers and artists – want to make a documentary in Fiji about art from ocean trash?

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Fiji’s oldest Hotel, the Royal Hotel, Levuka

Tonight I couldn’t sleep and I came across this short National Geographic film about a group of artists and ocean debris specialists (weird that we now have a profession listed as that!) who traveled to remote beaches in Alaska, collected tonnes of ocean debris that washes up there, and are making art from it.  The exhibition will tour the world and opens in 2014 in Anchorage.

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Some of the ocean debris in Levuka, including a washing machine

I know some of my readers are artists, photographers, great writers, activists, yachtspeople, and travellers.  It would be great to make a similar documentary in Fiji, maybe starting with Levuka, the old capital of Fiji which is remote, almost forgotten, and the landing place of an amazing amount of debris.  Is anyone interested.  Perhaps people could send in clips from each part of Fiji and we could compile?

Sorry I posted the link on facebook before felt compelled to write this post, so apologies if you get this twice!  To view the film: http://newswatch.nationalgeographic.com/2013/08/21/filmmakers-document-the-weirdness-of-marine-garbage/#comment-281943

 

How to make a thatched roof from PET bottles

plastic thatch

Plastic thatch from PET bottles
Source: http://www.inhabitat.com

Here’s an idea!  So many bottles dumped in Fiji every year and thatching is also now hard to come by as the land is cleared and unsustainable farming practice leaves little room for growing traditional building materials.

Thatch can be made from plastic bottles cut into long strips – this man has made a machine, but it is really quick to do it by hand.  My son loves doing it just for fun when I am trying to make other useful stuff from the bottles – he does one in about a minute.

Perfect for tropical climates.

http://inhabitat.com/hand-powered-machine-can-make-thatch-roofs-from-plastic-bottles-in-tropical-climates/

How to make an Outdoor Pizza Oven using recycled stuff

Courtesy of Classic Marine Iguana – this is a great instruction manual including pics of how to make your own pizza oven using stuff which you can find either in your own back yard, or lying around.  I know that if I want to make one of these here in Fiji (which I do!) if I keep my eye out, now that I have the “shopping” list of free stuff to source, I will find it all in about 10 days and bring it home bit by bit from the side of the road.

No electricity, no kerosene, no gas!  Perfect for rural and island communities, villages and settlements!

http://classicmarineiguana.wordpress.com/2013/07/28/100-pizza-oven/

Rocket Stove – no kerosene needed!

stoveAnother idea for using all the tin cans we have here in Fiji – most people don’t have a fridge, and you can only normally buy fish in a big bundle which is too many to eat at once unless you are having a lovo.  Therefore most fish is eaten from a can.  Also, most people eat beef from a can, oh, and lamb from a can.  Cans everywhere.  Kerosene stoves are usual here, as gas is also expensive.  Here is an idea for a kerosene free stove for heating water and cooking a few things….

With almost half of Fijians living in poverty, this could be one part of the solution.

http://logcabincooking.com/hobo-tin-can-portable-rocket-stove-class/

Light! 1 bottle, 2 caps of bleach – just add water

lightHere is the article, with instructions!  Electricity free light using recycled plastic bottle, 2 caps of bleach, and water.  So many settlements here in Fiji and I haven’t seen this being used here yet…

http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-23536914

How to make a solar garden flower light from recycled PET bottles – take two

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Solar flower light emits a soft glow through the PET flowers at night

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Pretty and chirpy during the day in the sun

Well, so many people have been searching my site for the real “how to” instructions for making a flower out of PET bottles, and my last post didn’t really do full justice to the process, so I have made amends below.  This is attempt number two.  For attempt number one (fluro light cover) see here.

Attempt number two is a solar flower light that I have hanging in the garden.IMGP7675

Wash PET bottles

Cut in half with stanley knife – I found it easy to just make a small cut with the knife then cut the rest with scissors

IMGP7625Cut both the tops and the bottom halves into strips with scissors

Fold the petals back and kind of crunch them up so that they look like IMGP7630flowers

keep any small snipped out bits for the centre of the flowers

spray paint everything in a few coloursIMGP7619

IMGP7622poke a couple of holes in the bottom of each of your new flowers to thread wire through

poke holes in the centre bits also – I used a soldering iron for thisIMGP7621

IMGP7672thread wire through the flowers, attaching a centre bit or stamen as needed

use the wire to attach to an old piece of chicken wire or fly screen

IMGP7628once you have all the flowers attached to the fly screen, make into  circle and secureIMGP7669

then use wire and hang some flowers artistically from the bottom

use curtain ring to make a hanger for the light

I used a small solar bulb made by Nokero (short for No Kerosene) and used another curtain ring to hang it inside the middle of the light

If I had access to solar fairy lights here in Fiji, that would be my first preference.IMGP7679

it really looks beautiful at night, and because I used bright colours, it is also pretty during the day

it took me a morning to figure it out but I am glad I did it.  It is one small step to making some use of the bottles that are everywhere here in Fiji, and IMGP7683a small step to getting them out of the environment!  The thing is, PET bottles can be recycled, but you have to actually send them to recycling for that to work.

As Mother Teresa once said, “to keep a lamp burning, you have to put oil in it”

IMGP7666IMGP7667TIP FOR NEW PLAYERS:  I did think it would look pretty with some fairy lights hanging in it, but even though the fairy lights have the wires insulated, when I turned it on, it did look beautiful, but as I made the frame out of metal fly wire, when I touched it, it gave me a shock, so then I went to the solar version.

How to make a light of flowers from recycled PET plastic bottles

 

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Light cover made from recycled PET plastic bottles

Once again, I decided I had better stop talking, and start doing.  We have collected so many bottles at our place as we investigate options for recycling the 44 million PET bottles that are sold in Fiji each year. On the weekend, we made a cover for the outdoor fluorescent light out of recycled PET plastic bottles.

I had seen something similar on the internet, and decided to give it a try, as often these crafty ideas are not as easy as they appear, but this one was!

Here is what we did:

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Fixture attached to ceiling

My friend Vuli came for a visit with two of her grandkids.  It was her and I, plus 4 little boys as “helpers”, plus I had two boys with me.  I was going to take photos of the process, but we got caught up trying to mind 4 boys with a soldering iron and stanley knives, so you get the picture.

I can make an instructional set of pictures if anyone is interested.  The whole thing took about 2 hours in between making snacks for the kids and being a gopher for my husband while he and his father were doing some yard work, and Vuli and I secretly believe that we would have done it faster, and with a bit more of a polished result had we been “alone”.  It was so fun though and the kids had a ball, plus do they really want long lectures on recycling, or just a taste of the action?

Materials:

1 piece of chicken wire or other mesh as big as you need to hang below your fluorescent light (ours was about 25cm by 85cm)

  • 12 or 14 plastic PET bottles any size
  • scissors
  • stanley knifeIMGP7610
  • spray paint
  • old wire (we used an old piece of electrical wire and pulled it apart)
  • a couple of curtain rings if you are fancy
  • a couple of screw in eyelets if you want to permanently attach it
  • soldering iron or other hot poker type device to poke holes in the flowers to thread the wire through

Method

  1. wash the bottles
  2. cut the bottles in half around the middle.  We used the stanley knife just to make the first incision, and then used the scissors to cut around
  3. use the scissors and cut lots of little strips into the bottles to form the petals

    IMGP7608

    With the light on

  4. you can use a butter knife and pull the strips similar to the way you use curling ribbon, but we found the simplest thing for the kids was just to bend the petals back and kind of fold them for some kinks
  5. you can put two pieces one inside the other if you want a fuller flower, or just use one
  6. put on newspaper or an old mat and use any colours of spray paint to lightly spray each flower (we had black, gold and red)
  7. use the soldering iron or a heated up skewer to poke a hole in the base of each flower
  8. thread a piece of wire through the hole (or fishing line might be good)
  9. attach the wire to the chicken wire frame
  10. use one longer piece of wire at each end to make it hang, and put curtain ring on each so that you can hang up
  11. use two screw islets to hang from ceiling, or we just threaded some wire through the verandah.
  12. anyway, it looks really nice, and even the men like it.  It gives the fluro light a softer glow somehow

 

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Daytime view with light off

Learn to Weave Fijian Voivoi Mats – private classes

Do you want to learn how to weave mats in a Fijian home, rather than at a resort?  Eat real Fijian food? Enjoy a real Fijian home atmosphere and relax?

To find out more, click here and I will be able to contact you.IMGP1938

15 Ideas on how to recycle plastic bottles

I came across this today: http://www.designsclue.com/15-best-ideas-of-how-to-recycle-plastic-bottles/

Wow!  Maybe it will solve some of our problems.  I have been wondering how to get recycling bins in public places in Fiji and worried about the cost.  No need to worry further – just find someone who can help me with putting them together!

Also, check out the garden fence, hydroponics, and house!

Fijian Pancakes – Babakau – light and delightful

IMGP7331These little pancakes are a favourite for breakfast here, and sometimes for any other meal where I need bread, the only resort, as a trip to the nearest bread shop is a half hour walk down the dirt road, then a bus to town, then return which all takes about 2 hours.  By the time I get back, my “need” for bread has often passed, so I make these instead while I am pottering around.

This recipe is for a half batch as it is enough for us, and if you eat the pancakes the next day, while still nice, a lot of the “air” goes out of them, so they are best eaten fresh.  Plus, it makes a lot!IMGP7333

Method and ingredients

  • 2 cups flour
  • half cup flour for kneading
  • one and a half cups water
  • one big spoon sugar
  • 5 grams yeast
  • pinch salt
  • oil for cooking
  • sugar, lemon, lime, butter or jam for serving

First, make yourself a coffee the old fashioned way, using a small pot of water on the stove.  Keep some of the hot water.  Drink coffee and enjoy.

IMGP7306In a mixing bowl, put 2 cups of normal or plain flour, a pinch of salt, a tablespoon of sugar, and half a sachet of yeast.  I use DCL yeast here in the 11g sachet, so this recipe only requires about 5 grams.  If you are making the full 4 cup recipe for a party, use the whole 11g sachet. DCL seems never to fail me.  Not sure what brand you can access where you are.

IMGP7307Add about a cup and a half of tap water or other room temperature water and mix roughly with a butter knife or spoon until it seems to start coming together (only takes about 30 IMGP7310seconds).

Bring it together with your hands until it comes into one large piece.  If it is too sticky, sprinkle on a bit more flour and cut through with the knife again.

IMGP7313Cover with a tea towel and place on a plate or saucepan lid on the top of the pot you used to make your coffee.  The water will be a bit hotter than lukewarm by this stage.

Go about your Saturday morning activities – take the kids to sports, read the paper, clean the house, practice yoga, spend quality time with your spouse, or whatever.

Just when you have just about forgotten that you are making pancakes (about an hour or two, it really doesn’t matter),IMGP7314 the dough will have risen to about 3 or 4 times the original size of the dry ingredients.

Use a large mixing spoon and turn it out onto a large board that is liberally dusted in flour (about another half cup).

Using a floured hand, pick up one side of the dough and kind of fold it in half lightly.  Do that a couple of times until the dough has been dropped onto itself maybe four times, and tIMGP7316he surface is all covered in flour.  The dough will be very light, and easy to manipulate.  If you touch the dough without flour on your hand, or if it touches the board on a part that is not floured, it will be sticky.  I normally irritate my husband by doing this in the kitchen and making a little cloud of flour that drifts to the floor, but you could do it outside.

Kneed the dough now that you can manage it, and as you do, fold it in half, turn, turn over, fold in half etc.  Just a IMGP7318minute or so.

IMGP7319Use a rolling pin and roll out the dough so that it covers the surface of your large board.

Then fold the dough into thirds, press, turn clockwise, fold, press, turn over, fold press, for a few times (about another minute).  This is just to get some air embedded into the dough.IMGP7320

Roll again to cover the surface of your large board.  Go right to the edge and the dough will be quite thin (less than 1cm thick).

IMGP7321Put a 1cm layer of oil into a heavy frypan to heat on high.

Cut dough with a knife into triangles.

Work quickly now (maybe drink the coffee you made for yourself before but forgot about!)IMGP7322

IMGP7327Place 5 or 6 of the pieces into the hot oil.  They will puff up immediately.  Turn over.  They will be golden brown and puffed up to about 3 or 4 times the size they were when they went in.

Don’t worry if the oil starts to go a bit dark as it is just the excess flour, and doesn’t affect the taste of the pancakes.IMGP7328

Take out of pan and put into serving dish.

IMGP7331Serve with fresh lemon or lime wedges and a dusting of sugar, butter and home made jam (here I have grapefruit marmalade that I made a

few weeks ago), and enjoy!

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My guests, Vuli and Koto

Aubergine or Eggplant Jam (Fools’ Raspberry) – Beaigani in Fijian

IMGP0594

The old MH Supermarket in Levuka, Ovalau Island, Fiji.

Here in Fiji, the home made jams are truly amazing.  There is such an abundance of fruit IMGP2410here.  Store bought jams are very, very sweet, and not really fruity.  You can buy home made jams at most open air daily markets.  Recently, I tried a jam made and sold by a friend, and it took me so many guesses as to the fruit!  I never guessed, and had to be told, as it is a bit of a game with this jam as it looks and tastes exactly like home made raspberry jam, but is much cheaper to make.

It also provides a bit of fun when you serve it to guests, or give a jar away, as you can play the guessing game yourself.  I have not had one person guess correctly yet, and they are amazed when the answer is revealed.

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Eggplant on sale at Nausori market yesterday, along with live birds

I don’t have any photos of the process, and will add them when I make it next time, but it is not rocket science, and there are no tricks!

Method and Ingredients

  • Chop about 10 Chinese eggplants into about 2cm cubes, leaving the seeds in, and put into a large, heavy based pot
  • Add 3 cups of sugar
  • Add juice of any kind of citrus to taste (2 large lemons, or 3 limes, or 3 organges)
  • Add the zest of the citrus (I normally just zest one but it is up to you)
  • star aniseSource picture: http://www.food.com/library/star-anise-345
  • Add water to cover
  • Optional – I add just one spur of the star anise,just because it makes the guessing game a bit more fun, and it gives a mellow undertone)
  • Bring to the boil and stir once in a while
  • When the jam begins to turn red, and you can see all the seeds have come out of the eggplants, then turn the heat down to a simmer and simmer until the jam becomes glossy
  • To test, drop a tiny drop from a spoon into a glass of water.  If the jam kind of sticks together and remains visible without immediately dispersing, it is done!

Bottle and enjoy the fun!

It will be a tiny bit more maroon, and less red than raspberry, but I defy any cook to give it the “guess test”, and let me know if anyone catches on.

Recipe – Fijian Roro and corn balls with tamarind sauce

IMGP1693

Roro balls served with braised bele and cucumber, and fresh corn in our back yard

Fijian food is delicious!

If you come to Fiji, whether your hosts are iTaukei (indigenous) or Indo-Fijian, make sure that you ask them if it is ok if they serve you the normal food that they eat, as so many Fijians really do believe that you won’t like the food at all, and are really not sure what you will eat at all, as they believe that there is nothing in the cuisine that you will like.

IMGP1827

dinner at our place on a school night – mashed dalo, braised beans, and other goodies

Here is a little recipe which can be easily adapted if you want to try it.  These balls are really light and delicious and are the perfect quick fix if you are having friends over for drinks at the last minute, or have to take something to a party.  It is my husband’s only concession to Kava (yaqona – pronounce yangona) drinking and our mix of cultures.  Traditionally, food is not eaten at all until all of the Kava is finished and the guests are gone.  In fact, it is traditional that the male guests do not eat no matter what kind of feast is prepared, but you must pack a meal for them to take home.  It is a real panic if you have inadvertently run out of yoghurt containers for the purpose!  Anyway, I digress: if my husband invites people home, he asks if I can cook this quick snack, and serve it while the kava ceremony is in progress, which is normally several hours.

IMGP1826

Dom with his dinner

This snack is served at roadside food vendors all over Fiji (here, they are called Bean Carts).  Roro is actually the name for the green dalo leaf which looks like an elephant ear, but the balls are not made with roro.  If you do try and use roro, you will find that the balls make your throat itch, as roro needs to be cooked for a long time to take away that side effect.  Indo-Fijians use mothe which is kind of like English Spinach, but I use bele as a substitute.  Bele has a bigger leaf, and is related to the hibiscus plant, and for me at least is much easier to grow.

The only thing you have to do is make sure that you have some pea flour (besan flour), normal flour or plain flour, and oil in the cupboard just in case.  The rest you can wing it.

This recipe is courtesy of Mrs Kumar of Shane Cafe in Nausori, Fiji, but I have adapted it slightly as I like to use the coconut scrapes (or fresh grated coconut) as many families simply throw it out.

All of the fresh ingredients normally come from our garden, and you can use your common sense and substitute for other stuff you have lying around.

Ingredients

  • 1 cob fresh corn – cut kernels off the cob (or a small tin of corn)

    IMGP1626

    Roni with some corn from our yard

  • 1 cup very finely chopped bele, mothe, or spinach/silverbeet (bele and mothe are soft leafy vegetables freely available in Fiji)
  • 1/2 cup pea or besan flour
  • 1 and 1/2 cups plain or normal flour
  • 2 teaspoons baking powder
  • juice of one lime OR half a lemon, OR teaspoon of any type of vinegar just to get the baking powder going
  • 2 small hot chilies or to taste
  • 1 small onion, very finely diced (or chopped to within an inch of its life without blood loss if you are in a hurry)
  • a couple of cloves of garlic chopped as above
  • salt, pepper
  • a pinch of any type of curry or masala powder if you like
  • corriander (dhania/cilentro) if you like
  • cooking oil
  • newspaper or paper towel to drain
  • 1/2 cup fresh coconut scrapes, or 1/4 cup dessicated coconut
  • 2 cups water

How to do it: Don’t labour over it, as it is really very quick

  • take the skin of the onion and garlic, and chop roughly on a big board
  • chop the spinach, chili, mothe, or bele roughly (and corriander if you like)
  • then with them all on the same board, chop them up some more until they are a fine dice but not mushy
  • put into medium mixing bowl

    IMGP2647

    Dom and Save Jnr as little chiefs at the Palm Sunday lunch, which included the roro balls

  • throw in the pea flour, normal flour, salt and pepper, and the baking powder, and curry powder if you like
  • throw in the coconut and corn
  • pour in the water
  • mix quickly and not too much
  • it should be a bit sloppy, so that you can pick some up with a spoon, and use another spoon to drop it into the oil.  If it is not sloppy enough, they won’t cook through
  • put enough oil in a saucepan to deep fry (but you don’t need a huge amount, as you can turn the balls over)
  • heat the oil on medium high heat until it is hot enough that when you drop in a tiny bit of the mix it starts to bubble, turn golden and float
  • then start spooning in about
    IMGP1686

    mixture should be sloppy but not too sloppy – just so that you can put some on a spoon, and use another spoon to drop into the oil

    half a desert spoon of the mixture at a time into the hot oil

  • depending on the size of your pot, you can take up about half the surface area.  I normally put in about 6 at a time.
  • they cook quite quickly so make sure you are organised with a tray and some paper towel or newspaper to drain them
  • once they float and turn golden, you can turn them over a bit in the oil to make sure that they are cooked
  • test one to see if it is cooked inside.  If not quite, then add a tiny bit more water, and a bit more baking powder to the mix
  • cook all and drain on the newspaper, paper towel
  • serve hot or cold and they last even outside the fridge for a good day or two, however, they are so yummy that it is hard toIMGP1689
    IMGP1685
    the oil will bubble briskly and they cook in about 30 seconds each side

    test that theory as they normally disappear by the handful!!!!

  • serve with tamarind sauce (recipe next time), or tomato sauce, or barbeque sauce.  You can add some chopped chili to the tomato or barbeque sauce if it is for lovers of hot food young or old
  • here, we serve on a banana leaf, and it looks and tastes great

Weaving Fijian Mats and Baskets

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Coconut frond basket which I made for our house

IMGP1934

My first voivoi mat with a shell Dominic collected at Levuka sea wall

IMGP1679

My friend Vuli weaving

Learn how to make a Fijian Mat – classes

 

 

One way to keep yourself amused in Fiji is to learn how to make mats and baskets.  First, you need to find yourself a friend!  I found Vuli – a wonderful woman from Lau who was my neighbour at Koronivia.  The Lauans are very clever at mat weaving.

If you want to ask someone to teach you to weave a mat, you can ask around the neighbourhood where you stay, and find out which ladies know how to weave.  Offer to teach them something in return, like how to cook something, or if you are a gardener, you can offer to do some weeding in return.  You should also buy all the materials (the voivoi, which is the dried leaves of a relative of the pandanus plant), plus some extra for them as a gift.

You should also know that it will take many sessions of several hours each to learn, and that you should bring food for morning or afternoon tea (crackers, bread and butter is always a good choice).  You should also make sure that it fits in with their schedule.  For example, many Fijians (including us) do not have hot water or a washing machine, so washing needs to be done by hand every morning for the family.  This is  big job, and normally not finished until about 9.45 am after the kids and husband have gone to work, or if the man is retired, after he has done his “farming” which is what they call planting and weeding in the yard or “compound”.

Also, it is very important to realise that most iTaukei (indigenous Fijians) people are Christian, and there is strictly no “work” at all on Sunday – this means no playing in the yard, no gardening, no cleaning, and definitely NO WEAVING, even though it may suit you, as to Westerners, no work on Sunday means simply that you do not go to your normal workplace, but pottering about at home is fine.  Here, Sunday takes on a whole different meaning.

IMGP1630

Rolls of voivoi ready for weaving, sitting on a completed mat

You can buy voivoi from any market – Suva, Nausori, or the smaller towns.  It is usually $20 to $25 Fijian dollars per roll.  Each roll has between 80 to 120 pieces.  If you happen to travel to a smaller town like Rakiraki, you can buy a roll for about $15. Make sure you ask them for a roll which has all long pieces, or take your mat weaving friend with you (make sure you also pay their bus fare).  There are also smaller rolls of the black voivoi which you need for the accent stripes, and they cost around $6 Fijian dollars.  The black colour is made by boiling the voivoi in a special leaf (which to me looks like a mid sized shrub with little yellow flowers and very small leaves, but we think it is a weed and would normally pull it out), or failing the availability of the leaf, chucking in a pot with  couple of batteries and water and boiling for a few hours.

It is a big time commitment, so be prepared to go on the first day thinking you are going to make a mat, but realising about two weeks later when you finally finish, that you have made a life long friend.

Weaving is done in rows (or roads as Vuli calls them).  Voivoi is made by cutting the leaves off the voivoi plant, stripping off the thorns, then hanging in the sun to dry.  Once dried, a mussel shell is used to scrape over and over and make each leaf smooth.  Then they are rolled and boiled, and dried again.  A very long process takes place before you buy it at the market.  Once you get it home, it has to be unrolled, and sorted by size.  You want to start the mat using the long pieces first.  Then the spine in the centre of each leaf is cut out carefully using a small kitchen knife, and each half is cut into either two, three or four long strips, still joined at one end, depending on the fineness of your mat.  The left side pieces are separated from the ride side.

IMGP1727

Vuli and Metui (grandfather) relaxing at the beginning of the second row

Weaving is always done sitting down, so make sure that you are wearing something comfortable (and that will cover up your privates while you sit for hours with your legs spread eagled!) and be prepared for an almighty backache.  Take a sulu (sarong) and wrap it around your lower half, and it works quite well.

IMGP1731

The black accent is woven in as you go

Also be prepared that the ladies will be very surprised that you want to learn, and will want to do most of it for you, as at first they think that you just want a free mat, and don’t really want to learn.  You have to persist in your own way and be really willing.  It is not as easy as it looks!

The mat is started by placing two cut pieces crossed over, and starting to weave the cut strips, then another is added and so on until you have the length of your intended mat.  At the beginning, for the first 10 weaves you also weave a piece back on itself to lock it in place.  Once you get to the end of each row, you fold the second last piece over itself, and that makes the edge, and you weave backwards to start the new row.

IMGP1712

Making the edge of the mat (which is at the width ends)

As each piece is running short, you splice a new piece into the weave.  Each piece of voivoi has a back and front with one side being smoother with less imperfections, but it is very difficult to tell, but you must learn as a few times during the weaving the mat has to be turned over and woven upside down.  If you don’t do this, your mat will be crooked.

When you finally, finally get to the last row (the intended width of the mat), then you have to cut each small piece into half and weave it backwards on itself to create the side edge.  This is very complicated, but my favourite part.  The black accents are put in as you go, and only appear on one side of the mat.  The process of weaving them through is something I tried but did not fully master, so Vuli did most of that for me.  At the very end of all that a very fine plait is done to finish it all off.

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Left to right: Save Jnr, Dominic and Kutu – firm friends at the end of the mat!

After that, you have tea and crackers to celebrate, and you get to fold up your mat and take it home.  Mats are the traditional floor covering here, and are used every day.  It is a very poor home that does not have any mats, and a home of pity.  Many iTaukei women do not know how to weave mats, so they buy them in the market for around $80 FJD.  Considering a large mat uses about $75 FJD of voivoi, the ladies making them are really doing it for almost nothing.  Mats are folded up and taken everywhere, picnics, church, family gatherings etc.  They are also a traditional gift for weddings, funerals and important family occasions.  Chiefly and important families have many many mats.

But for me, it started as a way to make our house a home, and learn something new.  It ended after several weeks of spending hours a day with Vuli and her loving family (Metui, Koto, Vulisere and Tadu, Sukulu and Iliesa, Bula, Tua, Little Metui and Vili) as a loving friendship and being truly part of the family.  Guests to our home are very surprised that I know how to weave, and I feel immense pride.

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Sitting on my first small mat at home

Here I am sitting on my first mat.  I have since made a much larger one which covers the whole room, and we have been gifted many mats by friends.  Now we have mats in every room, and we use them for sleeping, sitting and relaxing with each other and our friends and family.  The smell of the mat when you sleep is very comforting.  If you keep the mats nicely and take good care of them, they can last for generations, hopefully as long as the friendship formed between our two families – Vuli and me!