Wednesday, 29 May 2013

Frosty gardens mean harvest!

Ugh... and now I have dirt all over my desk! But this was some of today's offerings - lots of beans, a tailing off for the tomatoes (that's a pretty big one, but I'm having to pick them as soon as they have some colour) and the first of the oca.
Oca, you say? It is actually grown pretty much worldwide and is another of the amazing Andean treasures that are becoming known for their hardiness and versatility. We bought ours from a farm in Tasmania after we failed in our first attempt, bought from the Sunshine Coast. Its botanical name in Oxalis tuberosa, the same family as sheep's sorrel, and as its name suggests it does contain some oxalic acid. Apparently you can eat the foliage but I think I'd give it a miss - apparently pigs adore it, so good luck to them! However, the tubers, which are only just forming as the foliage starts to die back, are delicious. Like most of my vegetables I steam them, after a quick wash - the skin is waxy so washes clean easily. I eat them like small potatoes and they have a slight piquancy, very, very nice!

This year, between us, El and I made just about all the mistakes you can with the oca, but mine survived to give  a harvest at the end of it all. El unfortunately has gathered hers a bit too soon, but will try again next season. Such fun to try exotic plants and find them truly interesting.

On a different topic, Mischief gave me a giggle this morning. There is a lounge on the front verandah that is much competed for among the dogs but will only seat two, or one if particularly possessive. This morning Mischief dipped out and was lying crankily on the floor. I invited her inside but she ignored me. She wanted to go up on the lounge. A couple of minutes later she started up a ferocious pack bark at a possible alien intruder at the far boundary. All the pack rushed over and barked furiously for a minute or two before deciding there was nothing in sight. They wandered back, to find Mischief smugly ensconced on the lounge. It works every time! The only other dog to have figured this trick out is Virginia, who will also occasionally use it - usually to acquire an old bone, but she still falls for the trick when Mischief does it.

And a groan from behind me notifies me that dogs like to go for regular walks. Sigh. Outside is not appealing at present, with black clouds around, but dog walks are an essential thing - for the dogs.

Take care, please stay in touch, overseas and interstate friends and visitors.

Cheers - Fliss

Tuesday, 28 May 2013

Magpie season again

It may seem strange to have magpie season in winter, but my magpies are individualistic...

The history is that I used to feed them every morning, until not only did they become obese but they decided that the yard was their own place, so happily dug up my garden. That was when I discovered that magpies love newly planted peas and beans. Last year I did not get a single pea from a whole packet planted. I was severely displeased, so from then on ignored the birds - until this week. They have been singing frantically to me every morning, with a definite edge of 'we are soooooooo hungry...' so finally I surveyed the sad creatures. They have a nearly grown baby, hence are finding it difficult to find enough food in frosty times.While sensible birds may produce their young in spring, my residents have no idea of season.

Sigh. I am still ignoring the raucous crows, who want to join in, but am giving the magpies little meat offcuts each morning when I feed the dogs. I am watching them closely, however, as I have just sown some broad beans. They had better behave themselves!

On a quite different topic: I entered a podiatrist's premises yesterday. How can say one has lived without having visited a podiatrist? What an awful job to have, though, sorting out people's smelly feet! The nice young man who was to look at my pods disagreed, however, saying that people's smelly mouths would be much worse. What a choice. Oh, well, I submitted to having my feet checked over and groomed for me. It was mostly quite fun, and I ended up with such neat toenails that I felt maybe they should also be painted decoratively. It appears that podiatrists don't offer that service, however, but do finish off with a quick rub-over with massage oil. Cool. I feel, though, that they need a lot more people than me to keep all their people employed - I don't know how long it will be before I think to visit them again as I have a nicely healthy pair of feet to continue my pottering around the paddock.

And it mists outside. Everything is dripping and the goats' fur is standing up in little spikes. I am comfortable in my waterproof house!

Take care, everyone. Talk to you soon.Oh, and it's son Duncan's 45th birthday today. I said how good he's made it halfway to 90, but he says things like joints are wearing out much too fast!

Cheers - Fliss

Friday, 24 May 2013

How Mischief got her name

Our rescue dog was a delightful puppy, very cuddly but highly energetic. At the time I had several foster children, one of whom, Kyle, was especially interested in the new resident. We reached bedtime and the pup was tired out. I thought I'd settle her in by having a bed next to mine where she would feel secure. I was wrong: she hated her bed. I leaned down and stroked her to settle her, but she wasn't interested, squirming and crying so I was worried she'd wake the children up.

'Hey,' I said, picking her up and giving her a cuddle, 'whatever is the problem with you?'

She promptly wriggled down next to my armpit and cuddled in. This was where a puppy slept, not in a box! Uh...that is basically where she has slept for the rest of her life, so in due course I had to buy a bigger bed so we could share in comfort. It did make house-training her a breeze: every time she needed to go out during the night she would give me a kick so I woke up and carried her down to the grass.We never had a puddle in the house, ever. This was despite her having a weak bladder, so when we were out anywhere and she was nervous or excited I would have to apologise and mop up. At home she just took herself off whenever necessary.

The next bit of training I attempted was to leave the pup at home when I took the children to school in the morning. The other dogs were placid and laid back about it, but not the pup. How could I abandon her, she demanded? I shut her in the front porch to keep her safe for the ten minutes or so I'd be out and her frantic screams resounded around the whole road. After a few days of that I thought she might settle better if I left her in the house with the other dogs. I arrived home to find the bed sheets shredded. Back to the porch and the screams again - she was too young to take with me at first so I thought she would eventually settle down. She never did, sigh.

Then I took the pup to training school where she caused great amusement by whirling around madly, wagging her little tail like a whirligig. The trainer used her as a diversion to test whether the other pups could behave with a lunatic in their midst. This pup would only do what she chose - she'd sit, drop, come, shake her paw but absolutely not stay and absolutely not lead. She caused havoc when anyone tried to lead her. I practiced with her over and over again but she still never accepted the lead. The only way one could make her walk on the lead was by using a Gentle Leader, which goes over the dog's face, and her face was totally mutinous! If I stood still for too long she would simply bite through the lead and then race round in circles happily. If the pups had been marked out of ten, Pup might have scored maybe one, for amusing everyone.

At home she was also determined to do her own thing. This could be tugging over a large and very heavy pot so she could pull the tree out of it and chew off all the roots, or she might do some creative gardening which involved very large holes throughout the vegetable bed. I went so far as to advertise holes for sale the first April Fool's Day she was with us, but I had no takers.

Kyle and I discussed what we would call this bundle of misplaced but mainly joyous energy. Between us we arrived at Miss Chief, aka Mischief, and later Chief as she made it very clear she was top of the dog clan. This she has remained. Life with her can be frustrating but it is never boring, even now in her older years. She still tells me loudly if things are not to her liking. She walks well and obediently free, but to use a lead is to ask for elongated arms. However, part of Mischief's package is that she is acutely intelligent, understanding English very well and answering if she thinks it necessary with yawps, squeaks or yaps. Mischief knows exactly what she can do or won't be able to get away with, and if she decides to cooperate can be very helpful. Once I asked her to perform in a dog show, putting her in the obedience class. She sized up the situation, looked at the other dogs and then behaved impeccably, taking out the prize for most obedient dog. It was done on the spur of the moment, with no prior practice, but she thought it would be fun so that was that.

Demanding, frustrating but always an affectionate, amusing and intelligent companion, Mischief is the complete dog package!

Stay safe, everyone, be happy -

Cheers - Fliss

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Mischief and the three dogateers

It seems like a good day for a doggy tail... rain drips reluctantly from the dark grey sky, the temperature is breaking new cold records, the poor people in Oklahoma are struggling through their individual nightmares and in Iraq over 70 people have been killed in bomb blasts that the rest of the world little notices.

Mischief is my oldest dog, almost eleven, while the three dogateers are the youngest. They have coalesced after my crazy latest recruit, Banjo, came to us. Now he has settled in and the three have formed a gang of loopiness, Zelda, Cody and Banjo. The cold mornings make all five dogs in the pack find bounce in their legs, though Mischief's springs are a bit rusty by now. They all rush up into their paddock when let out, where the gang of three promptly fly around at top speed and maximum energy, falling over each other and playing tag around the trees and water tank.This excites the older Virginia and Mischief. Virginia, having long legs, can catch the gang and leap on them; this she finds great fun but they feel a bit squashed and rush off in different directions, to reform their running group. Mischief, being short and fat, can't catch them. Her response is to bark challenges at the entire pack. They all reply by running back towards her, all landing on her in a heap. Mischief then becomes very flat and cranky, telling them all off in no uncertain and loud manner. I then rescue her and she walks in dignified manner while the youngest three continue their morning aerobics.

Mischief came from the RSPCA at Fairfield, Brisbane. My Best Beloved Dog, Tzar, had died in February that year, and it was time to try to fill the hole in the pack. Daughter El and I went to the shelter to find a pup. That day nearly all the pups were cattle dogs and competing with each other to be the loudest; they were not for us. However there was a litter of kelpie pups, one of whom said he was mine. He was fairly similar to Tzar in appearance and tugged at my heart. he only had one competitor, a funny little girl down at the far end enclosure all on her own. Goodness knows what breeds she had in her, and a funny half a tail. She was sweet and gentle, but I was drawn to the kelpie. I asked the attendant about him, only to be told that those pups were not available. They had been seized from a property and were being assessed. They might or might not be adoptable depending on the result.

So, by default, the lonely pup down at the end became the only contender. We went back, whereupon she solemnly got off her bed and came to greet us at the fence. No barks, no carry-on, just an offer that we could have her. So we did. 

The little that was know of her story was that someone had brought her in as a stray, found by a major road on her own. Clearly she was dumped - no tiny puppy strays to the side of a highway. No other pups were seen so their fate was unknown, but Mischief was a very sick little girl. She was sent to recover from her dehydration and poor condition with a foster carer. She then went down with kennel cough and nearly died, but the devoted care she received pulled her through. As soon as she had recovered she was taken back to the shelter to be desexed and sold. Hence in her nine weeks of life she had been dumped, been taken to the RSPCA, then to the foster carer (who apparently thought her 'gorgeous'), been sick, then sick again, then desexed and sold. Her experiences marked this highly intelligent dog for life.

If I have time tomorrow (it's the day everything happens this week) I'll tell you what came next and how Mischief earned her name...

Wherever you are, stay safe and warm!

Cheers - Fliss

Saturday, 18 May 2013

Asthma... and the goat

Hi all, 

And no, the two things aren't related - the asthma and the goat.

Goat first: Parsley was slow to get up this morning, and when I led him up to the paddock he started straining and groaning. Being a male goat labour was ruled out, so I wondered if he had colic, though what from I couldn't think.I put him back in the pen to keep an eye on him, which distressed the other three goats considerably - what could they do without their leader? Eventually Dill stepped up, leading the two youngsters down the hill. Meanwhile Parsley lay down and strained. Not good. I rang the vet, but he couldn't come for a couple of hours so I watched Parsley, who steadily deteriorated. The word from the vet was he thought Parsley could have a bladder stone, and suddenly Parsley proved him right. He hauled himself onto his hooves and strained some more, producing a sad little trickle of fluid, which he went on producing for the best part of half an hour. No wonder the poor thing had been in pain!

The vet, Greg, finally showed up and examined Parsley, who obligingly produced a little more trickle. Diagnosis confirmed. Parsley may have to have a goat operation sometime down the track, but meanwhile an anti-inflammatory needle should see him right. Parsley agreed, hobbling slowly off to join the other goats. After a rest he pottered over to the fence and requested a tomato, which I was harvesting, having had a frost last night (early for winter, brrrrrr). hopefully tomatoes are health food for goats' bladders?

Parsley is the handsome boy behind Becca's head!
Now to the asthma. This is a cautionary tail, intended to warn anyone who even slightly suspects they could have wheeziness.

For many years I have become short of breath and coughed when anywhere near anyone smoking. I didn't worry too much about that, just avoided smoke as much as possible.However, over time I developed a tightness in my chest whenever it was hay-fever season or the weather was cold. I mentioned it to any doctor I went to, but with a universal result: they ignored it. Gradually I became a tad annoyed at this. Just because I was old and wrinkly, did it mean I couldn't have asthma? Recently I read about how many people over 50 died from undiagnosed asthma. Years back we knew a lady who went for a morning coffee with a friend and suddenly dropped dead on her verandah. A shock for both of them, so I decided it was time to confront the possibility.

I finally got to see my GP, in the third week of trying, and told him that I thought I could have asthma but no doctor ever seemed interested. He said oh, he could test it straight away. I was dispatched to the on-practice ward where they do all sorts of useful things. In this instance I had to breathe without Ventolin, and then after having breathed it in. Quite interesting and no doubt familiar to many folk. Then, with my pretty bit of paper with breath graphs on it, I returned to my GP. His eyebrows rose and he said I had to have immediate treatment of the puffer variety. While he was at it, he then decided to test every function of my system - oh, good, another armful of blood to the lab! Anyway, the point is that all I had to talk about was tightness in the chest on cold nights or a cough when provoked, yet it could have been lethal had I not demanded that someone test it.

Have you got a cough or wheeze that comes at predictable (or even unpredictable) times? Then please, please, get it tested!!!

With which I wish you all a very healthy weekend!

Cheers - Fliss

Monday, 13 May 2013

Rain, goats and life

This month of May has been dry until now. I had just 0.5mm last week when a cloud came and sat on the hill. It's quite nice being in a cloud; maybe it matches my brain? Wet and foggy. Then yesterday a large low came bowling up from the southwest. The forecast was for light showers, but during the night there was a big WHOOSH, of wind and rain arriving together. Good, I thought sleepily, I won't have to water the plants for a day or so... and so it was.

This morning Virginia-dog was upset, as usual when it rains. She walked out on her long tippy-toes and looked persecuted. When the sun came out later her tense muscles relaxed and she lay for hours warming herself.

Similarly the goats are always upset by the rain and take it as an affront to goatdom. Usually they won't move until the rain goes but this morning they came and shook themselves vigorously at me before deciding they would go into the paddock. There was no playing up today, just four indignant goats stalking their offended way along the track to the paddock gate.

The chooks (hens) are the opposite. They wander round looking totally bedraggled but blissfully happy, scratching the soft dirt with enthusiasm. If a chook could smile, they would.

It is good to have a home day after yesterday, when as usual the best-laid plans came unstuck. Handyman David was late, so late that I rang him to find out what had happened. His family were all sick, so he had been driving the various members around to relatives where they could stay and be sick for the day. I was worried, because the slasher man was due at the same time and we had to organise things for him.There was no sign of him, however, so I just stayed with David until John the pest-man showed up. Once more, this year the termites have stayed in the trees, for which I am very grateful - so that was something that went to plan, and the house still stands healthily. I went back into the house and was about to phone Phil the slasher-man, when the phone rang: his wife to say he had a flat tyre, or more specifically his large truck had a flat tyre. His visit was rescheduled. I then had to ring Brent the real estate agent to say that the paddock would still be hairy when he came to take the photo's. However, I told him I had El's DVD of photo's she had taken at the end of last year. When he came he said he was delighted with the pictures I showed him. All he needed to do was take snaps of the pots before the frost hits at the end of this week.

Everyone left and I bustled around getting ready to go to my doctor appointment with my usual GP who had been unavailable for the past couple of weeks. Well, groan. I went in on time to the surgery to find that Dr Hudson was still operating: 'come back in half an hour or more...' I did some hasty shopping and returned. Oh, oops, they said, another patient had turned up for a minor op while Dr H was still operating on the same patient as when I called in the previous time. He was going to be tied up until early evening. Sigh. Made another appointment and came home again, having made a mail delivery to El that looked as though Santa's little elves had been busy. She has her eBay parcels sent here to avoid the problems of mail being left on her lawn in town.

Now the sun shines while the shadows already grow longer. At present all is at peace on my little hill of trees and animals.

Have an excellent evening/morning, won't you?

Cheers - Fliss

Sunday, 12 May 2013

Mothers' Day

Greetings from under a cloudy sky with the hint of winter ahead. As you might surmise, in Oz it is Mothers' Day - maybe in the US also?

Yesterday El kidnapped me to go to a church fete - a fate worse than death as my father used to say. El, as usual, found masses of amazing bargains, while I was in a don't-buy-anything mood. I have to empty out the house and prepare for the garage sale, so my mind-set is 'if in any doubt, get rid of it'. It's amazing how I still have enough clutter for a large family! Laden up with assorted packages that delighted El we then went round the produce stalls. I was going to buy some lemon butter but it had bits of rind in it, which put me off. Then I nearly bought some fudge but resisted it. El bought a packet, and I so wished I had given in to my base urge; it was a melt in the mouth type. Darn.

We then made our way out by way of some dancers - I think they were meant to be Irish, but alas they were the most unconvincing trio I had ever seen, the two younger ones keeping together with their slow moves, while the oldest one was moving like a puppet, slowly, stiffly and completely out of sync with the others. Never mind, they were doing their best which was better than I could claim, having spent absolutely nothing!

We went back to El's where she gave me a very good cup of coffee, before I headed back home. I should add that we swapped bags of spare produce. I have never met purple yam before and it definitely looks like a science fiction monster, with strange hairy roots sprouting from a miniature tree trunk. Hmm, does one steam or boil it? I'm going to have a mixed vegetable tea tonight, with heaps of beans of mine plus yam. Different.
One of my plant pots! Photo by Duncan

This morning Duncan rang sounding very strange, almost unrecognisable. He has spent the week healing the sick of Alice Springs while fighting off a Boy Cold. Poor thing, he has worked all hours while feeling like expiring - I hope he catches up with a good rest now. Meanwhile Wendy has a crook knee and was spending her Sunday morning having a scan. Great Mothers' Day for her!

I celebrated mine by taking a car-load of rubbish to the tip - such a good feeling every time I lighten the load at this end. On the way home I collected a bale of hay from a local farmer so the goats will have some good lucerne every evening. At present they are very confused by the rapidly shortening days and are turning up after dark, very spooky at what might await them behind the nearest grass tussock.

Tomorrow is going to be a nightmare of a day for me. I have the termite inspector coming at 9a.m., plus David the handyman and Phil the slasher (that means he mows the paddock). Later in the morning Brent is coming to take some photo's - well, they won't be from inside the house, let me tell you. The washing up will not be done!

And yeah, the goats have rocked up, so I must tidy this up and then bumble my way up to greet them.

Cheers - Fliss

Tuesday, 7 May 2013

Happy Days

Well, a few details have changed over the last few days. I have signed up with the agent who sold me this block of land in the first place, Brent Bowles. I feel comfortable that he knows exactly what he is doing, so if it is possible to sell the place, I think he will; I HOPE!

Yesterday David the Handyman came and fixed things around the place as usual. He also cleaned the bathroom ceiling, which has frustrated me for months. It has been grubby, particularly as a couple of mud wasps got in and put their nests messily around the place. Now the defunct nests have gone and the ceiling gleams. Maybe I need to get the rest of the place scrubbed too? Once upon a time, long, long ago, I used to wash walls and ceilings pretty regularly. Now my shoulders are both off duty, at least for the time being, and I can't do it. Grr.

Talking of the shoulders being off duty, I got in a very silly situation, accidentally, two days ago. I was fishing out the various X-Box leads from under a table, to pack them up. The table shifted, and I landed on my behind. Now, how can one get up off one's somewhat overweight backside, with no useful arms to push up with? I thought about it, with Mischief-dog gazing sympathetically into my face. Short of spending a night feeling very stupid, and probably cold, on the floor, the only alternative was to insult both my shoulders and insist they support me to get up. I squirmed over to a chair, pushed it near the table and leaned on both to hike myself upright again. I managed it, with a yelp or two, but oh, boy, did I pay for it all day yesterday! I smelled herbal and fragrant from the roll-on stick that supposedly aids sore joints. Today is better. Memo: stay upright!

Today I went to Warwick to pick up some fresh fruit, and had a doctor's appointment to get some repeat prescriptions. I had to see a different GP, and showed him the scripts I had left. When I got home I found he had given me repeats on those, but not the ones I had run out of. Sigh. I'll try again next week, and hope I don't actually run out of the tablets in the meantime. The other thing I had to do was ask about the Fluvax (see, Duncan, I do have my needles - sometimes). Ah, yes... the doctor assured me of the needle's efficacy against all but the new bird flu strain, and almost instantly had my sleeve up and I was jabbed. Right. But what about the Pneumocccus needle, he enquired. I told him I'd had it a year or two back, but he said it wasn't on the records. Next thing I had the other sleeve up and another jab. Ow. That one was sore. Thank goodness I'm not a baby, they must get really fed up with all the needles they are attacked with nowadays!

I'm home and rested, and thunder clouds are rolling around. They probably won't do much, but the goats are anxious.

Have a very good Tuesday/Wednesday, won't you all?

Cheers - Fliss

Friday, 3 May 2013

And the banks were made of marble...

Remember the old song? I think it was an old union song from the 20s or 30s, but it's as true today as it ever was.  Pete Seeger sang it again during the 50s... hopefully the link will work!

My reason for thinking about the song a lot lately is partly to do with my current dealings with the bank that holds my mortgage. Then, I watched Foreign Correspondent, an Australian TV programme. This week's show was about Cyprus. Well, I thought I knew about the Cyprus situation from the news but in depth it was far worse, especially the behaviour of the banks. People were lied to in order for the banks to be able to steal their money, in many cases ALL of their money. Many people are in the process of going bankrupt, while employees can't be paid so unemployment is soaring. Real estate prices dropped over 25% overnight and suddenly hundreds of thousands of people can't buy food. Who is going to rescue these people who have done nothing wrong but are being ripped off for the sake of political ends and the greed of the banks once they were given the opportunity?

(Thank you again, Mr Google!)

My little problems with my bank seem insignificant, but underline to me that banks in general are totally unscrupulous. In my case, I have a mortgage with the National Australia Bank (nab). When I took out the loan I was told that I would be paying higher than standard interest because of all the bells and whistles offered by this particular loan. Amongst other things there would be no further charges of any kind, and the loan would be portable (this means that if I moved house I could transfer the loan towards my next place). A few months ago our local bank manager advised me that, basically, they no longer wanted my custom: if I sold this place the loan would be cancelled. Further, they now thought I was too old to have a mortgage and lastly didn't any longer accept my income as income.

That was pretty unfriendly, I thought, and broke the law here which says that age is not a consideration in financial dealings. However, worse was to come. I suddenly noticed that nab were now charging me $250.00 per month administration fee. While I would think $2.50 was rude, $250.00 is definitely more than rude for a loan with no fees! I then went through my bank statements more fully, to find that it seems nab are charging me excessive amounts of interest. Do I love the bank? No guesses.

I now have an appointment to see the local manager next week, to which I shall bear my calculator and statements. I also have to dig out the original mortgage agreements, which are buried somewhere in my filing (read heaped paperwork) cabinet.

That, as is so often said, is Life.

Take care, everyone, and don't sweat the small stuff, eh. They have it much worse in Cyprus!

Cheers - Fliss