Wednesday, 27 March 2013

Bits and Pieces

Well, and a very good day to you!

I have been ridiculously busy considering I'm doing very little at present. Now there's an oxymoron! I seem to have to run into town all the time for this and that. I try to put it off for a day or two but then have to give in.

The other day I got out of the car, and as I emerged from the garage a streamlined insect, green and yellow, attached itself to my knee. I was lunch. Oh, no, I wasn't, and I squashed the attractive creature flat. Now if that was an endangered species it's now that little bit more endangered and I don't care.

On the nicer side of wildlife, yesterday morning I stood entranced as a galah talked to the world from the top of a dead tree. The rising sun struck his feathers at an angle, turning the pink into the most intense rose-red. I told him he was very beautiful and he thought for a few moments before deciding it was time to leave. We've also had visits to the locality from the eastern rosellas that are like Gauguin paintings, much too beautiful for their mundane names.

 picture from birdpics

Now, an oddity about human behaviour. I ran out of fruit so went in to the local shop for some grapes and peaches, both being on special this week. As I've said before, the normal prices locally are ridiculous, up to four times the cost in Warwick. The local shop had run out of both fruits because, they said, of the long weekend. Long weekend? Easter was not until Friday, when the shops will be shut for one day before opening again on Saturday. This was on Tuesday! Grumbling, I returned home committed to shopping in Warwick yesterday. Warwick was choked with frantic shoppers; queues for parking, lines for the check-outs. Sheesh. I bought my dog bones, fruit and little else, gladly escaping back to my version of sanity.

Banjo is being annoying, doing the typical 1 and 3/4 steps backward I'd expect of him. He was bored all day yesterday because his response to my going out was then to be clingy fro the rest of the day, sitting outside the front door instead of playing with the other dogs. So he moved all the furniture around the front verandah before taking the cover off the lounge chair there and putting it downstairs. Last night he removed all the bird netting I had along the fence and dragged it to the gate for me to find this morning. It didn't actually matter because the netting was due to be removed but he was annoying. Then he tried persistently to bite me when I tied him this morning until I became quite cranky with him and grabbed his scruff. 'Oh,' said Banjo, I'm a lovely submissive dog, look!' Humph.

And now we head for Easter. I hope everyone has as good a time as they possibly can, that the weather everywhere is better than expected and that you are generally happy and well.

Cheers - Fliss.

Monday, 25 March 2013

The Saga of Crazy Dog

Crazy Dog I shall get on to in a minute, but first my apologies for the gap in news. I did plan to write yesterday, but we had a splendid thunderstorm at the wrong moment...
This was a picture of it building near Oakey, to the north of us. It didn't do us any harm here, though I'm always amazed at how far sturdy eucalypts can bend before the wind and still whip upright. Folk towards the coast weren't as fortunate, with some people ending up with trees through their roofs and thousands having no power. Our power only went out briefly but I turned everything off for safety's sake. Very loud, very dramatic, and I discovered that Banjo is scared of storms. That could be predicted given his background: he has probably been shut out in storms all his life.

And no-one is interested in those spectacular blooms I posted? Oh, well, so be it. I'm aiming to grow some next year, though mine won't be anywhere as good as El's I'm sure.

Now to Crazy Dog (Greg the vet's name for him) - Banjo. I thought I'd give some more detail on him, in case anyone reading of my struggles with him thought I was too mean. A recap: I adopted him recently from the local Pound. We managed to contact his previous owner but he wasn't interested in having his dog back. So Banjo was facing a very uncertain future as a hard-to-adopt dog. I called him a 'street kid', for he had the same attitudes many of the kids do - he controls his life, no-one else, and he makes his own rules. When he came he constantly eyed me up and down with squinted glare, like a challenge to me to do as he wished or else. The 'or else' included biting me whenever I tried to put him on a lead or tie him up briefly so I could shift the goats without his attacking them. It wasn't a hard bite and didn't break the skin but he had obviously worked out a way to make people release him by grabbing at them. He was also totally uncontrollable with his food, being prepared to take anyone out who got in his way. He was underweight on arrival, but within two weeks I got his body condition up to 'perfect' according to the vet. Now he looks like a proper dog instead of a tadpole with large head and scrawny body.

The problem with such a dog, where he has never been properly socialised either with dogs or with people, is that he is now a young adult with plenty of muscle as well as the attitude. Hence I have to use fairly unorthodox methods to break through (like the scragging I described before).

I think we make progress. He knows that I expect him to sit before having his food, though that lasts a micro-second unless I grab his collar and hold him back for a moment before releasing him to eat. When I teach him proper manners I'm not sure but he is better he was when he came, when he leapt up and snatched the food from me.

I'm still working on his lead training. He is good if I have him on his own where there is nothing of interest around for him, but as soon as I take him out for a walk he goes ballistic so I end up tying the lead around his nose like a makeshift Gentle Leader. Then he fights me...But we arrive home with him being good. He'll get the message, eventually.

With The Pack, Banjo is learning his basic manners. As I said earlier he has a chip over one eye from being rude to Virginia, but Cody is being the best trainer Banjo could have. He is prepared to bounce with him in boy play for hours a day, and Cody always wins amiably in any disagreement. Cody also comes running when I have to tie Banjo for a few minutes at Goat Time. Cody goes, 'Yes, here I am, tie me!' which has more or less convinced Banjo that it is acceptable to be tied. He hasn't bitten me for several days either when I have tied him or when I have taken hold of his collar.

Apart from learning his basic manners, Banjo needs encouragement too. He has shifted from hating the car to valuing a ride out in it, and he will even put his head through the loop of lead I offer him so he can go out to the car. I am also starting to bring him indoors for short periods, on a lead and next to me. It's a wrestling match to settle him, but then he lies down happily. He is a very clean dog so I don't expect any house training problems. It would be easier if  I could use treats for training him, but with his snatch-it attitude to food that isn't an option. He is delighted though when I tell him what a good boy he is and give him lots of pats, so we progress.

Sorry if I have bored you senseless with all that, but I'm interested in this challenge and want to see how far we can go.

To all my relatives and friends in the UK, my sympathies about your extra helping of snow - I do hope it goes quickly so you can find some flowers under it!

Take care - 

Cheers - Fliss

Wednesday, 20 March 2013

Magnificent Plants!

And, oh my goodness, Thursday already. Like much of Australia I have become entwined in the really stupid TV series, MKR (My Kitchen Rules). It is incredibly fabricated, far from a true reality show, yet it grabs the attention of millions, of whom I have become one. Sad brain rot! Now the last of the current part has played I shall have more time to discover things like unpaid bills...

Yesterday I went to Warwick for essential shopping and to have a cup of coffee with daughter El. She has the most amazing garden, as I have mentioned before. Folk passing in the street stop to ask her about plants they have never previously seen.

I persuaded her to send me  a couple of pictures of plants that looked like decorations for Melbourne Cup head-gear. Here's one:
Now, just as a brain teaser, can anyone identify these? They may be more common in other countries, but over here they are virtually unknown. I will give the answer next blog, but would like some replies first! Just put them at the end, under Comments.

Back to yesterday. The main beneficiaries of my shopping are usually the dogs and this was no different: 10+ kilos of special dog bones, kilos of frozen vegetables, packs of dog mince... I bought some fruit and veg for me too. Lucky me.

It was doomsday for Virginia, as she was the last of the pack to have a vet appointment this time around. She and the vet have a smoochie relationship, and this visit was no different. Yes, of course he can put thermometers in rude places, stick needles in her, whatever he likes so long as she has lots of cuddles. What happened next ruined her day, though. I had booked her in for a hydrobath as she didn't just smell of dog - to be blunt, she stank! She is the only pack member to hate water, the others splashing in and out of the dog dam whenever they feel inclined. Virginia is catlike when it rains: you must be kidding, me go out in this? Preferably NOT!
Anyway, she was led off by the vet's assistant, and I collected her fifteen minutes later, a tragic wreck of a dog. Still very wet, she was traumatised, constantly apologising for whatever she might have done wrong. All the way home, whenever I looked at her, she waved a wet paw; 'I'm sorry, so very, very sorry...' She was sad all day and I had to give her lots of hugs while I watched the dread MKR. Today she has recovered and is back to her happy, bouncy self. Thank goodness, poor dog.

And today Banjo is back to being a twerp, but I think a better twerp than he was. The vet yesterday called him, 'Crazy Dog', but he hasn't seen him recently. My hope is that I will be able to take Banjo for a visit in the future and impress Greg that all dogs are salvageable. We'll see.

Take care, enjoy whoever or whatever is in your life -

Cheers - Fliss

Monday, 18 March 2013

Where Eagles soar...

At present wedge-tailed eagles are prospecting the place. I am not a happy human, a classic stuff-up having occurred and taken away the child I was expecting to welcome last week. I decided the adage of 'least said, soonest mended' was the best I could come up with in the circumstances, and retreated to my hilltop.

By great good fortune the eagles decided to visit. They are quite amazing to watch, floating effortlessly on the thermals. Apparently they can actually see the thermals, so are able to spend all day soaring while prospecting for prey. 
photo by Flickr

Wedge tails are the largest Australian raptor with a wingspan up to 7'5" (2.27m) and can take prey up to the size of a sheep if needed. However, they usually eat rabbits or hares, though cats, small dogs and chooks are very welcome. I lost two very large roosters some years ago which must have made a great feast for the happy family! Nowadays, with both my cats deceased and my chooks securely penned, I can just enjoy this magnificent bird. The one visiting me yesterday circled around for a good half-hour before leaving - a very welcome visit!

Today has been less dramatic, but a skinny wallaby sat outside the garage this morning and gazed at me. Luckily the dogs didn't spot her or they'd have scared her pouch off! They couldn't reach her, but they make a fair din if excited by a piece of hopping wildlife.

My street kid dog has blotted his record by attacking his bed last night (I removed it this morning so now he will have to sleep on hay) and then stealing my jumper from the fence - twice! The second time I felt was past enough, so I scragged him. This involves grabbing the dog by the scruff and putting him down in the submission position (on his back with paws in the air). Like the water to stop barking it is totally painless but communicates a clear message to the dog. Banjo has been a much nicer boy today after my assertion of dominance.

Now to collect my little goat herd once more, give them hay and make them happy - it has been a glorious day, so what animal could be miserable?

Take care, be happy too - 
Cheers - Fliss

Friday, 15 March 2013

Then came the winged plague...

Now that the weather is more clement, not only the plants appreciate it, but all the assorted animals. Birds are busy everywhere, feasting on seeds, caterpillars and blossoms. The dogs are running around crazily, chasing each other with mouths laughing and tails their pennants. 

The animals we don't appreciate, though, are the arthropod kind. Apart from some lovely late butterflies, most of the insects are the biting, stinging varieties. A lady I was talking to from Kalbar, down the mountain, says she is besieged by small black flies with green eyes and the fiercest bite she has ever met. Here I dodge mosquitoes, the huge March flies that wield a blunt syringe to make really good punctures on your back, and a modest fly similar in appearance to a housefly but with a rapacious appetite for blood.
The March fly comes in two colour combinations, the above being the green-eyed monster version...

On the News last night came warnings about plague  mosquito numbers and the large number of Ross River Fever cases in Queensland this year. It is hard to eliminate the pests, given that water is everywhere after all the rain we've had, so it's a matter of putting strong insect repellent on and constantly being vigilant.

This is just when the garden would be fun to be in, darn it! The dogs largely ignore the pests, but the goats are distinctly cranky, Parsley butting the others as if he blames them for the bites. Hopefully the willie wagtails will come to the party and eat themselves fat on the insects. At night, when I walk the dogs, insects zoom at the torch and are a real pain, swarming round my face. You certainly learn why farmers are known for keeping their mouths tight shut when outside - moths have a suicidal need to jam your throat with their irritating bodies and fluttering wings.

Changing the subject... today I found a prickly cucumber on the end of a withered piece of vine. I think it's edible, so that is the first actual fruit achieved from plantings of cucumbers, melons, pumpkins... However, despite the pumpkin vine having given up after the mower man ran over it's main stem last week, I think I shall shortly be able to harvest the four pumpkins that I fertilised. Hope springs eternal!

Now it's time once more to let my (cranky) goats in for their evening hay.

Take care, stay safe.

Cheers - Fliss

Wednesday, 13 March 2013

Harvest day!

Well, I took a much better picture, but as usual had a lengthy argument with the software to upload it. Never mind. This is just to show that that the weather has improved - intermittent cloud, but some sunshine, and much happier creatures here below! The chooks have started laying again (I only have four, so three eggs is pretty good for the old girls). The beans have provided me with a lovely heap of fresh ones for my tea while as usual I garnered an assortment of little tomatoes. Over-ripe ones go to the birds, while under-ripe ones mellow at their own pace in a bowl, safe from fruit fly outside.

I didn't take Banjo for his stitch removal until yesterday, due to an attack of lethargy on Monday. Also I was contemplating a child who may be needing a home shortly. The jury is still out on Child as I await answers to some questions I have. Potential children also may not end up coming into care, it is always an imponderable.

Yesterday I, being a believing sort of person, tried the route recommended by the Witnesses on Sunday. Well, it was better than for a long while... after months of no road at all, the road across the flats was indeed very fine, still dotted with men in fluoro vests putting in posts at the side and ensuring the under-road drains were clear but a good smooth, albeit slow drive (men in fluoro vests dislike being squashed so reduce permissible speed). However,  I was stopped from approaching the back road described as the short cut to town - nope, go via Lyndhurst Lane. This also was occupied by workmen, this time with the STOP lollipops. Sigh. 

I reached the vet's in time for the appointment with my carload of canines: Mischief in the front passenger seat, Zelda on one side in the back and Banjo being really good on the other. He is such an exuberant dog I had been worried but by putting him on a very short tether he settled down (the dogs are always fastened in).

I was a bit sheepish presenting Banjo, due to him having had a tiff with Virginia over a small piece of left-over bone that they both claimed was theirs. The result was that Banjo had an area of fur missing over one eye... it's called socialisation! As I had expected, Banjo was a two-person job to persuade that he would part with his stitches. However, he did sit whenever asked which was helpful. I then asked if I could leave him with the vet while I went shopping; I felt it might be too much for a bouncy dog to tolerate. They kindly agreed, which after his performance after his op was, I felt, very nice of them. We then gave Zelda her booster vaccination which she accepted with her usual calmness and I headed off. 

For various boring reasons the shopping took me two hours, so I slunk back in to the vet's in expectation that they would complain about Banjo again. But no. He had been a model of a silent dog, just lying patiently in his cage. I praised him to the skies for being a Very Good Dog; he just wagged and wanted to know when we were leaving. So we headed home via the various hold-ups as on the way out. I was tired as El had helped me hurtle around getting the host of things on my shopping list. She is quite amazing in the way she finds the best bargains so I was well loaded and had sore feet. Hence I was very unamused to find that railway workers had decided to close the railway crossing just at the end of our road. A line of vehicles drowsed in the sun, while I got out of the car to investigate. When they saw my purposeful approach the chatting workers decided they were just about to open the gates. Good. I could go home and unload my very full car, including very full dogs who needed a relief stop badly!

Today has been a nice day, mainly at home. I have a lot of weeds about to misbehave, so it is good to have time to potter around a bit with animals and garden.I did go to Allora rapidly to collect a bale of hay so had a couple of happy dogs after their short outing.

Is this larger type better to read? If someone would let me know I'd be grateful.

Take care, avoid all snowstorms, cyclones and dumping surf!

Cheers - Felicity

Saturday, 9 March 2013

Sunday the happy goat day

Greetings from the land of the rusted magpie. I have missed their beautiful warbles during the dark days recently, but yesterday they decided to try a little song. And yes, I think their vocal chords have corroded from disuse. They just managed an experimental sort of musical croak to each other and gave up for the day. Ah, well, they are feasting on grubs around the place at present, so maybe their song will heal!

Today the happy goat day? Yes. I have been meaning to buy them a lick for months and finally brought one home the other day. Licks are widely used in Australia for all grazing animals, the ancient soils tending to be deficient in various nutrients. The young man at the feed store lobbed the hefty cube into the car with casual insouciance. At this end I grunted and muttered as I pushed it onto the trolley. Today I took it down to the main paddock and offloaded it, then muttered some more as I peeled the carton off it and unwrapped the thing. Maybe there is a rare element they use in licks that weighs as much as lead, they are so heavy and unwieldy.

About half an hour later the goats happened upon the lick, which resulted in much pushing and shoving to have first turn - Parsley as usual, followed by Dill, with the little ones last but able to savour it once the big boys mooched off. So the goats are currently very happy chappies. Luckily licks last for ages, so that's a job I shouldn't have to repeat for a while.

I haven't heard back from the couple who inspected the place last week and pronounced it exactly what they wanted. The Australian term for folk who look, say they want the place, aren't actually sure about money, and then vanish is 'tyre kickers' and one has to use up all the itinerant tyre kickers before being lucky enough to find a genuine buyer. Sigh.

Some hopeful Jehovah's Witnesses called by yesterday with good news (not the Biblical sort, which they always offer). They insisted that the road is now partly open to Warwick. The busy workers have managed to ice it nicely with tar along the flats at last before water threatens it again.

Then the JW lady gave me even better news, telling me of a short cut I could take that would bring me out by the Warwick Golf course instead of trailing around the Lyndhurst Lane route. That made it worthwhile having my morning half taken up by unknown callers-in. I totally hate unexpected visitors. My idea of dress code at home is tatty old t-shirt, saggy old shorts and an old pair of sandals. When presented with elegantly dressed visitors I cringe. I'm dressed appropriately, they aren't!

Today when contemplating what weeds to pull up for the chooks, I felt looked at. Sure enough, there was one of the tiny frogs that live under leaves, pot plants and the like, looking at me hard, as much to say, 'You are NOT going to disturb me, are you?' Who am I to argue with a 15mm long froglet? I pulled some other weeds.

Tomorrow is D-day for Banjo. D as in de-stitch day. Amazingly he seems to have an intact row of stitches between his back legs - there's always a first time, and I can surprise the vet. Banjo is still making pretty good progress. I can now put his food down for him without him taking my hand with it, sitting briefly so I have a chance to place it fast. Banjo has hardly let out a yip for the past few days, and yesterday I took him on the lead while I brought in the goats. I kept him well back from them, and although he found it a hard exercise he wasn't too bad. he did hope to manage a quick lunge as Dill wandered in last as usual, but Banjo forgot he was attached to me!

That reminds me about Dill. Recently he has been very slow going into the goat enclosure at night. When they go in the gate they have to go around to the back of the shed to find their hay. This is not hard when they have done it umpteen times - except for Dill. By the time he has sorted out that he actually is going in the pen the other goats have vanished to eat hay. What, no goats? Dill is distraught, peers back out to the paddock and calls frantically for the other goats. They don't bother to answer, so eventually he realises what he needs to do. He lumbers fatly off to join the rest of the brotherhood while I shake my head. Has there ever been a more stupid animal?

And talking of goats, they are all sitting nearby waiting for me to feed them. I had better go.

Jackie and Claire, may your snow leave for the Pole, and your spring flowers smile!

Take care, all - 


Thursday, 7 March 2013

and a terrible joke...

Hello, and I feel the need to share this. It is the Bad Joke of the Week in the Allora Advertiser this week:

One night after closing time a bar owner was finishing cleaning up, when a spectral hound floats in through the door.

The bar owner is scared, but asks him what he wants.

The phantom hound explains, 'I've lost my tail and cannot rest until a kindly bar owner stitches it back on.'

'Sorry,' said the bar owner, but we don't retail spirits at this time of night.'

Please say it made you groan? 

I just needed a good groan today. My puter crashed yet again yesterday, so I have been hounding El regarding my replacement computer that is taking a very long time to happen. El said she was at the stage of just fitting it into the case and then it would be ready. She has had every technical problem that could happen with it, but it was now sound and ready to roll. 

This afternoon my beast suddenly decided to come back to life, and I just could have an answer: the power button is faulty. When I tried it for the nth time I could feel it click into place. El had wondered about the button in the past, and said if it did go it would not be replaceable. Time to pray for the power button!

A little later, like a quarter of an hour, I had a phone call from my darling daughter. She was actually laughing at her latest setback. She had everything in place, switched the machine on... and was startled by a shower of blue sparks and smoke arising from the innards. It seems the graphics card imploded, sigh.

Oh, well, between us I still have one computer that is functioning - for now.

And I think I know why the link wouldn't work in my previous mailing: I have to save it separately somewhere in my files. I might have to wait until Duncan returns from his visit to California, US of A, and annoy him again.

And here is a Proud Granny picture for you. Cameron, age 14, is making his speech at the special school investiture for the 2013 prefects. He has only been at that school for a couple of terms, but was made a senior prefect.  The young lady next to him was made a junior prefect.

What makes it extra special is that Cameron battles with dyslexia and is still recovering from major leg repair surgery, but still was voted in. He hasn't had many wins at school, but loves his new school and has certainly shone for this occasion. What a fine couple of kids they are!

Sorry this is a bit short. If the computer is still  working tomorrow I might write a more coherent piece. Then again, who knows how the wind blows?

May all your winds be gentle breezes and your paths be kind to wander along.

Take care - Fliss

Tuesday, 5 March 2013

Hello Autumn!

Well, it'll be Spring if you are a friend in the northern hemisphere... and I am not going to talk about the weather! I hope I have now found out how to paste successfully into the blog, so if you are interested, you can read all about it!

(but that hasn't underlined itself...)

I just hope it works... By the way, I have had a few people request to join on Google+. I've said yes, but haven't an idea about it. I'm definitely a Google minus, so could someone possible enlighten me as to what I should be doing? If I live to an extremely advanced age I will no doubt be conversant with all the buttons and gadgets - but then there will be a heap more. Sorry!

News here is a distinct improvement now that the skies here are relatively clear, The chooks have recommenced laying after their protest when they reckoned it was not daylight in any recognisable form. Solar operated brains like mine.

The goats are also happy again, when not being yapped at by Banjo. He wants to chase them when they come in for their evening hay; hence he is tied up or put in his paddock. Then he yelps, and I'm too far away to throw water at him. He has a way to go. I let him have the chewed cushions back on the lounge on the back verandah, where he now sleeps at night. Now we have no cushions and he sleeps on a very low lounge.

I let Banjo socialise last week, to settle in with the pack and start to be comfortable with the dog routine. Today I started him with his formal training. I had already had him on the lead when I had to but it was a tussling match, so today I took him in his area and did some walking around. He was quite good, but I don't imagine that will last outside with distractions. Practice, practice.

I have also met my surviving plants, for the first time in weeks. It is not pretty - split tomatoes, mildewed cucurbits, drowned seedlings. So, in the age-old way, I start again. Today I weeded the potato patch, which I must dig up as soon as the struggling pumpkin vine (sharing the area) has finished what it can manage in the way of fruits. Tomorrow I shall weed the yacon area. They died back, suffering spider mite during the ferocious heatwave, but have since sprouted up again to a metre or so tall. Elspeth's survived better in her amazing garden and are close to two meters tall by now. For anyone not familiar with this wonderful plant, it is Andean in origin and a great survivor. The tubers, harvested in late autumn, are delicious, nutritious, just God's gift but until recently yacon was largely ignored outside its area of origin. Here are some pictures:
Above are the decorative plants, below the amazing yield of tubers you find when digging up the frosted plant..

This is what the tubers look like when ready to eat. They are crunchy and faintly apple flavoured when raw, as fruit or in salads, make a great substitute for water chestnut in stir-fries or can be steamed and eaten that way. They are versatile and wonderful.

Have a very good night/morning , won't you?

Cheers - Fliss