Tuesday, 18 September 2018

Boy's Own Classic.

Despite a lifetime of indulging in just about any book that came my way I missed a number of the *sea* classics: The Cruel Sea; Captain Blood; Moby Dick; Master & Commander; the Hunt for Red October; The Caine Mutiny; HMS Ulysses; Ramage; & Hornblower. I did read The Sand Pebbles & Shogun , one of the Chichester's, not sure now which one because I was 9 when he circumnavigated the globe & my family was a sailing one ~ but they were sort of an anomaly. I knew too much about boats & sailing to find the books either romantic or entertaining, which if you have ever been pitchpoled or capsized may make sense because the first word that comes to mind is terrifying. Some of the others I have eventually seen as a movie.

That I read & loved the Marlow books meant I acquired a nodding acquaintance with Ramage & Hornblower with absolutely no desire to read either series so it was mere curiosity that prompted me to have a quick watch when You Tube turned up the Brits rendition of Hornblower.

What a howler!  I have watched almost all the way through, not sure whether to laugh myself silly or declare it one of the best hoots ever.  Have you ever read a Classic Boys Own?  Because that is it exactly! All this noble daring do, courage under fire, Adventure with the capital A, Duty [capital D]...everything bigger than life with these gorgeous English accents, villainous villians & pretty, pretty boys.  Rather tongue in cheek really ~ though I'm not sure it was meant to be. I don't expect the books are really like that ~ or maybe they are...?  I have no real desire to find out.  Sometimes ignorance really is bliss.

Friday, 7 September 2018

A Little Egg~citment.

I think all chook keepers get pretty excited about eggs.  They are, after all, why we keep chickens. 

We had the bonus of starting with 2 layers & got our very first egg the morning after we brought the girls home. I admit I was surprised.  I did think the travelling & change might have put them off, but no.  We have been getting a solid dozen eggs every fortnight.  Enough to keep & enough to give away.

 I have been getting one buff & one pale brown egg most days, of a good size & shape, with a nice firm shell but of course I have been waiting anxiously on my pullets. 

A week or so ago  I thought I was about to have a major problem on my hands because when I arrived to open the hutch my alpha shot out trailing this glubby white mass with every chook hot on her trail to gobble this mess up as fast as possible. Chooks can be pretty gross & cannibalism not unknown  & egg eating is a hard habit to break. On a little reflection I decided one of my pullets had laid a shell~less egg, which sometimes happens with first eggs but of course I then expected a proper egg to arrive shortly thereafter ~ only it didn't.  My 2nd Australorp laid a double~yolker. Ouch!  My rocks ate up a storm. Their combs filled out & grew a brilliant red but not a single egg did they lay.
Then today I let the girls out early because it has been so wet & I have been away so much their free ranging time has been rather limited.  I had had one egg but as the girls have been returning to the hutch to lay I figured if there was a second egg to be had it would be found in the nest & not in some obscure corner of the yard. 

I got my second egg.  I'm not sure who laid it ~ but it is so small compared to the size the Australorps have been laying regularly that it obviously belongs to one of the Rocks ~ which means another of my girl has started laying!

It will have been either Hepzibah [pictured] or Ophelia; Sodapop is still combless so some way from being an egg producer.  Hepzibah is the chook I have a really soft spot for.  She is something of a loner; quieter than my other girls, a thinker & very much an individual. If I am missing a chook from the flock mop it will be Hepzibah, who will be quietly pottering off somewhere on her own with no competition from the bigger & more aggressive birds.  When I dish out scraps I try to make sure some choice bits are easy for her to grab because she will never be scrabbling in the melee with the others. 

I was told that both Rocks & Aussies are friendly birds who enjoy the company of people so I made a point of spending quite a bit of time sitting quietly with the girls when I first brought them home & of course now they know me as the bringer of all good tid~bits & will happily follow me round the yard though we are not on the sort of terms where I can pick them up for a cuddle.

Just the same, having pottered round the yard all morning, as much to keep the girls out of the garden beds as to tidy up, I was surprised to find Hepzibah standing in front of me when I finally sank into a warm sunny chair. She eyed me for a little bit, then sedately folded herself into a feathery ball & her eyes closed in contentment.  No need to worry about predators when I was around to keep an eye out!  

To my surprise both Soda & Ophelia joined her, happily squatting @ my feet until the wind picked up &  I decided I was too cold to be outside any longer. At which point my cats joined me & they did want cuddles!

Thursday, 6 September 2018

Learning to Live With Neighbours.

I am not, by any stretch of the imagination, a dog person.  It's not so much that I dislike dogs as I find them completely exhausting & just too, too much.  I wouldn't ever choose to own one. 

At one point in time we did actually have a dog ~ a dalmatian for the children & she was a lovely dog, just too much. I like animals who like to be with me but are far less demanding & so for the most part I have kept cats, with the occasional foray into chicken keeping.

At present I have 2 cats & 5 chickens, & if, @ some point, I can talk the MOTH into it, the chicken population will increase because  there are so many pretty breeds to choose from & I would dearly love some silver laced Wyandotte or Cochins, just not @ present because they are both flighty & flyers & I just don't feel up to dealing with that unless we have a proper run.

What we have had, or not had, has never been a problem because we had 50 acres virtually to ourselves the entire time our children were growing up, but that has now changed.  We have neighbours both sides now & they haven't complained about either our cats or our chooks when both lots are dog people. *sigh* In fact, our cats pointedly beat up our right hand neighbour's cattle dog to ensure he understood who was boss & though it was unacceptable for him to invade their territory it was perfectly all right for them to wander through his @ will.

Our cats have been something of a shock to these particular neighbours because they are by no means stand~offish nonentities who ignore everything & everyone.  Indeed their protectiveness of me was a real eye~opener. Our neighbours have also spent a lot of time training & exercising Cooper so he's pretty good about not barking or wandering or fouling the footpath.  I so appreciate their consideration I checked with them before purchasing our chooks & make sure they always get some of our excess eggs because sooner or later my chooks are bound to get into their garden & cause havoc before they are discovered & removed. They are also pretty quiet, even when they are home so we have jogged along pretty well together, doing neighbourly favours while being careful not to invade each other's space.

We have recently got new neighbours on the other side.  Originally we owned a double block, which we divided down the middle when the MOTH's parents bought next door & wanted to put in a pool, so there is quite a bit of land between us & them, though not nearly enough from my point of view.  I could live on a deserted island & still consider it overcrowded.

 Our chook pen is on their boundary & they have never been anything but interested in our chooks & amused by their antics foraging down the hill & across the boundary though I have erected a makeshift fence around the pen because they have put up nylon bush houses where the pool used to be to grow seedlings & if my chooks ever discover this neither bush houses nor seedlings will be safe!

To my horror they also breed Maltese Terriers.  If you must have a dog then it should @ least be a dog! not some weird looking yappy mop.   If I must, I like Alsatians & cattle dogs, collies & spaniels ~ dogs who know how to work for a living & keep their yaps for the important moments in life but not Labs; I cannot abide Labs.  I do not understand the attraction to toy breeds even as companion animals.  One could as easily keep a cat & for far less trouble & noise.  Yep, they're noisy.  They yap constantly @ my chooks ~ & lucky they are confined to their verandah or I'm pretty sure they would be chook chasers. They go ballistic @ my cats & snarl @ the sight of me ~ which doesn't give me great confidence.  I suspect they are biters.

Truth be told, most dogs frighten me ~ regardless of their size.  I don't trust them unless I know them very well indeed & too many people round here have aggressive pit bulls they allow to wander.  I've been bailed up on numerous occasions, needing a stout stick to fend of some pugnacious beast with a Muhammad Ali ego. 

So we are learning to live with neighbours. This is easier for the MOTH.  He is as deaf as a door post & was terribly surprised to learn that our new neighbours even had dogs, let alone bred them while I am constantly finding myself bailed up for friendly neighbourly chats...

Meanwhile I hand out free eggs all round...Just in case ofs....

Wednesday, 5 September 2018

The Chicken Cats.

The chickens have taken centre stage  recently ~ novelty value & all that~ but the boys are seriously wondering what possessed me to bring these strange, flappy things home? Chile Girl, knowing how much Marlow likes his chook [hot, defeathered, & plentiful] predicted the girls would not last long ~ but they are too big for the boys.  Marlow has only looked, shocked & slightly bewildered [he's not too bright] but Kirby seriously considered a hunt until our smallest bird rose on her haunches, stretched forth her neck & extended her wings.  The lad thought twice & decided discretion was the better part of valour.

And all this hoo~ha to escape trying to juggle new chooks in the heat & humidity of a Queensland summer ~ but the ramifications have been something else just the same. The boys have not been impressed. For starters there is much ado about nothing constantly emanating from the chook house.  For seconds I will open the door & this hurtle of black & barred swarms across their yard clucking & boking & carrying on. To add insult to injury the girls get fed before the boys because I want the girls in & bedded down before I am caught up in evening preparations.  The boys are mortified.  What was I thinking?

Despite Spring arriving via the calendar our weather has remained cold with the added horror of westerly winds & lots of rain, meaning it is pretty miserable around here & our fire is still burning brightly most days.  The girls are cross because they are not getting much free range time. The boys are cross because outside is wet & cold.  And I am slowly going slightly cross~eyed. I have one cat who thinks as soon as he's finished his dinner, my lap is his. Unfortunately Kirby is not a cat to curl sedately in a lap & purr.  No!  He wants to stand on my chest & rub my jaw with his.  He wants to grab my shirt in his jaws & knead & drool.  He wants to pat my face with his claws. *sigh* Luckily the first warm weather will put an end to his antics before I end up nearly as hairy as he is.

Marlow, however, has decided to be needy.  Just as I am ready to drop asleep he stomps up the bed, usually right over the top of me.  He is a big, heavy footed cat who purrs as he comes, then scrabbles frantically at my doona until I stick my nose out ~ upon which he happily plonks down beside me,  his big wedge head draped over my arm , under my chin & across my chest ~ & yes, he can manage all that with no trouble at all. His big rumbling purr escalates to a crescendo in my ear as I finally drift into sleep.  Honestly!  Marlow hasn't been that psychotic since his first few weeks when he insisted on crawling up under my chin all the time. It can' just be me ~ but  all our animals are complete nut jobs!

Monday, 3 September 2018

Woes of a Chicken Keeper.

As anyone who has kept chickens knows, they can mow down a yard of greens in no time @ all. Knowing this I had planted some kale in a pot , kale being unfit for human consumption, figuring I'd let it grow, they could mow it down, it would resprout: repeat... They found the young & tender seedlings & alas, the kale is no more.

So I shifted to my 2nd line of attack: our IGA.  Now the IGA is happy to put boxes of fruit & vegetable scraps out the back for those of us with chooks, ducks, geese, guinea fowl, the odd peacock, hamsters & guinea pigs to abscond with free of charge so when I found my first box I took just enough for ourselves for one day.  BIG mistake.  I am not the only person keeping chooks.  Of course I'm not. Everybody else takes a whole box @ a time.  I discovered this today.

See, I keep a big cardboard box on our back seat in case ofs... & I fill that box & that box only, as I pointed out to the young man urging me to take the entire box of  fresh, luscious lettuce leaves because I am not the only person with chooks & I prefer to leave something for the next person.

 The last time I did a scrap run there were several boxes & because I was first on the scene I got choice pickings which have lasted us almost a week.  Knowing we were getting low again I have been keeping an eye out for the past few days but I haven't been quick enough & the boxes have been empty when I arrived. This is disheartening.  It's not that my girls survive on scraps.  Heavens no!  They have a full trough of top of the market laying mash but the vegetables are a healthy treat.  They clean the stuff up so fast it's like it never happened, so, you know, being a terrible softy, I like to put some out every day knowing it will be enjoyed.

So, I was rather chuffed to find I was first this morning, having detoured after I dropped the man to his boat, because I had just put out the last of what we still had, & I made sure to leave some for the next person because it is so disheartening to find there are boxes out & they are all empty when you are counting on being able to give your girls a treat!

I set off home feeling rather smug, as you do, when I realized that this morning I had planned to use my big cardboard box for pine cones.  *?????* That's right, I said pine cones.  I know the calendar says it's spring but the weather hasn't caught on yet.  It is wet, miserable & cold here & what we generally use to kick start our fire is pine cones ~ which are free & abundant on the roadside as I head home. The MOTH had pointed out the empty basket after he lit the fire this morning, hopeful, I'm sure, that I would take the hint & do something about it ~ which I had fully intended to do.  That's why I had made sure my box was in the car.  The MOTH takes it out when he goes to get firewood. I pulled over to the side of the road eyeing off the loveliest pine cones: big, full, dry pine cones, absolutely perfect for firemaking. Then I considered my box, overflowing with delicacies.

Sensible people would, I'm sure, go home, empty their box & come back, but once I'm home I never want to come out again unless I absolutely have too.  My man spreads a large bath sheet on the back seat to protect it from wood so I tipped the lettuce onto that, filled my box with pine cones & headed home feeling rather virtuous because it wasn't even half seven in the morning & I'd already accomplished 2 chores! And my girls were so happy!

Mind you, it has become a little embarrassing.  Any time I now appear, there is a huge kerfuffle & the girls come running & fluttering from all over the yard, treat expectant, & will hover round my feet in imminent danger of tramping underfoot. I don't always have treats but it is making things so much easier to get them back in their coop.

Wednesday, 29 August 2018

Recipes From An Old Book.

 I said I loved this book, something I came to the wrong way round ~ which is not unusual for me.  I saw the movie  in B&W  first, when I was a child, & only later realised it was a book ~ later still before I discovered one could acquire all sorts of old books if one had a computer & internet access.  It was the very first thing I think I bought online.

My copy does not have this nifty dust jacket.  It has no dust jacket of any sort & the laminate I covered it with is now cracked & pealing.  The pages are so old they are soft & feathery, easily torn, & to be handled with care.  It is a book I re~read often, delighting in the characters & that here is a book wherein there is no ugliness, no great conflict, but deep faith & a great peace.  It is no wonder I return to it again & again.

It is also a *notional*  book, full of quirky phrases, plants, & foods I have never heard of ~ like Juneberry trees & Floating Island puddings.

Just the name, Floating Island Pudding, entranced me.  What sort of wonderful concoction was this?  Though a little wary since I discovered Angel Food Cake consisted primarily of Pineapple, a food I consider so disgusting as to be inedible!  Anyway, I looked it up ~ eventually ~ which always tends to be an interesting exercise. 

This is a French dessert consisting of meringue floating on Creme Anglaise, though in all my born days it would never have occurred to me to poach meringue!  I swear the French are really odd.

I used this recipe: Floating Island Dessert

 I'm not sure the meringue is meant to look like this ~ & I am equally sure there is a single *island* version, but as there are just the 2 of us I went with the 2 egg version & cheated on the custard.  I don't have a double boiler & the dehydrated stuff is just as good to my mind.  I also skipped the spun sugar topping opting for plain caramel sauce but when I do it again ~ & I will as it is nowhere as difficult to make as I thought it was going to be ~ I will add fresh berries.

Monday, 27 August 2018

A Chook & a Book.

 So we have had our chooks for several weeks now & their distinct personalities are emerging day by day.  This is ODD's Nugget.  She is one of my regular layers just now, putting forth a pale pinkish brown, good sized egg most days.  She s my alpha.  When she goes into the nesting box all her handmaidens follow to escort her in state while she goes about the serious business of putting forth the day's egg.  When she is done, she announces the fact with the minimum of fuss & is royally escorted back into the coop.

Meanwhile Namaste is my largest chook, my noisiest chook & my best layer.  She announces the fact she is about her business loudly as she marches in solitary splendour up the ramp & into the hutch, cackling away at various points along the way.  When done, she proudly announces the fact long & loud as she marches back into the pen.  I get a large brown egg from her every day.

Despite a somewhat shonky start my little flock is starting to meld into one contented group who are now dust bathing in one large feathery mop.  I am greeted in the mornings by all 5 beaks pecking rapidly at their perspex window because they know jolly well I have brought the morning offering.  I make them wait, preferring to deposit their greens & top up their feeder in peace, if not quiet, before opening the hutch & letting them loose.

And they are learning the boundaries of where they are allowed.  Down the hill & in the bushes is fine.  My gardens are not ~ & if they venture there I turn the hose on them. Two of my rocks now have their full, bright red combs so are close to laying.  They are the sweetest, gentlest birds with incredibly soft, silky feathers ~ & as a friend says: You've never seen such pretty chickens!

Meanwhile the sad story of tooth fillings & sun cancer removals goes on so I am traipsing back & forth to the mainland twice a week & having run out of reading material reverted to an old, old favourite: The Friendly Persuasion.  I love the solid sense of place Jessamyn West manages & characters so real you can't imagine that somewhere, at some time, they didn't really exist.
She is also one of the few authors who can make me laugh out loud.

So I was sniggering my way through her short story, Yes, We'll Gather @ the River when This sentence leaped out at me: She held the eggs @ some distance from her, smiling down on them in what she didn't mis~doubt was a two~faced way, since she had forty Barred Rocks of her own all laying like a mill race, till Jess had said he'd cackle if he had to face another floating island or custard pie. And  for the first time I saw in my mind's eye what she was describing.  I must have read that sentence dozens of times over the years but this time I saw!  Because she is describing Barred Plymouth Rocks just like the 3 I have outside right now & immediately the whole picture came more alive because I know how Rocks are & what contented, happy birds they are.  Besides, it gives me something of a giggle to know that I have that in common with Eliza Birdwell, besides the preaching of course.  Besides the preaching.