Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Lookie, Lookie, Lookie

I don't know if you remember but some weeks ago I came across a mushroom 'farm' in a box - and, of course, I had to 'invest' in it, didn't I. It's been sitting safely under the worm farm around the side of the house where I could check on it and water it regularly. While I could see along the inside edge of the box when I pulled it back from the plastic liner that things were happening, nothing looked even faintly like the beginning of a mushroom.

Then yesterday I found this.


That's right I have little bitty mushrooms coming up - and these are only a few of them. I can't wait until they are big enough to pick.

Monday, August 14, 2017

Character Names Matter

I splurged recently on a bunch of e-books that were part of a promo. They are a mixture of science fiction and fantasy of various types and I've been really enjoying them. It's always great to find new authors and this is one way I get to read widely and experience other parts of the genre that I might not find otherwise.

Among these books are a lot of fantasy of various types - urban fantasy, steampunk, YA, epic fantasy and much else besides. A lot have crossovers between our present day and the fey world and many are seriously dark. All really good stuff but...

Something has been seriously annoying me and it's the way some authors have named their characters. It can really throw you out of the story to suddenly meet a fairy, fey or what ever you like to call them who has a very modern name. For example in one story there's a character who is an important fey but doesn't know it because she was hidden in the human world as a baby. This makes her a threat to the very traditional fey society with its hatred of pretty much anything human and they are out to get her any way they can. It's a cracking read, too, as she deals with the constant attacks and comes into her fey powers. But her fey name is one which when I researched it - I had to because it was bugging me so much - only appeared as a girl's name in the late sixties or early seventies while her human name is a more traditional Anne. This jarred so much that I struggled to get back into the story for a while.

I'm pretty sure some of you are thinking I'm making a lot of fuss about a name and even I couldn't work out initially why this irritated me so much but then I got it. The fey name wasn't consistent with  the fey society we were being shown. Whoever had named the girl wouldn't have chosen a name popular in the modern human society they despised. Once that was done believability in the world evaporated.

I'm not suggesting that an author should be tied into anyone else's ideas of what to name their characters. My characters are apt to spring into life complete with their names and changing it is fraught with anguish - it's like they won't give up whatever defines who they are - so I get how hard it is to do. At the same time, though, it's important to be consistent with the world of which the character is part.

I'll give you an example from my own writing. I wrote a story about two girls and their relationship with a telepathic herd of one horned creatures. I had no problems with naming the girls but the leader of the herd was a different thing. No matter what I called him it didn't seem to fit. In the end he was given the name of Unicorn and I wrote on not entirely happily but hoping it work. One hundred and thirty thousand words later he was still Unicorn and I knew it didn't fit with the society of the world or that of the herd and my critiquers were all picking up on it. It took a lot of thinking and research but finally he had another name that made sense in the world in which he lived. To my surprise I found that with that new name a number of other niggles could be dealt with, too, because the world itself worked better.

So, although it slightly diminished my enjoyment of the story that started me off on this train of thought, I'm actually grateful to that author. She has given me an important reminder. Names do matter in writing and it's essential to get that right if you want to keep your readers happy.

Sunday, August 13, 2017

The Storms Are A-Coming

Well, that's what the forecast says so yesterday I went out to try to get some photos of the Iceland poppies before they are destroyed by the wind and rain. I've planted them in the garden outside the family room where I can see them every time I look out and they are a joy to me and to the bees.







As you can see my plan didn't work very well. The wind kept whipping them around making them either face away from the camera, have their petals blown backwards or simply end up a blur. Given they would certainly be badly damaged if I left them I picked a big bunch and they're now inside where they are much better behaved.







Just to prove that you can sometimes be lucky, though, here's a photo of the first poppy flower we had this year. I took it a couple of days ago. Still not the greatest photo but isn't it a gorgeous colour.









Tuesday, August 08, 2017

Tattoos and Football

Yes, the inked body art that's becoome so popular these days. What's made me think about tattoos right now? Well I've been watching the footy and many of the players are heavily tattooed so it's hard not to think about them.

Before I go any further perhaps I should say I couldn't care less if someone is tattooed. Virgo has several  - and my horror when she rang me from Egypt when she was much younger to announce that she was planning to get a tattoo was all to do with the possibility of her getting tattooed in a country where she couldn't even speak the language and had no way of judging hygiene standards and not the tattoo itself. She waited to get home much to my relief and those she has are attractive and elegant. It's not something I'd do myself because first of all I'm a wimp and I know it would hurt a lot and second I wouldn't want something so permanent anywhere on me because I like variety in my choices of personal adornment too much to want to be limited by ink, and, of course, like every art there are good and bad practitioners. I've certainly seen some tatts that make me wonder what was the tattooist thinking. This is me, though, and what others do is their business.

One thing I do wonder about, though, is if some the football players might not come to regret the amount of tattooing they have. They seem to be trying to hide what, let's face it, are currently pretty good looking bodies and I'm not sure why. They're young, fit and muscular, which makes them very physically attractive to start with and while tattoos look good on taut young muscles they may not look so great in twenty or thirty years when things start to sag, something that inevitably happens no matter how fit you are.

Still it's not my place to judge and I defend their right to do as they see fit. Not everyone agrees with such bodily autonomy apparently and it's amazing what these choices can lead to according to some people. In a letter to the editor in our local newspaper one writer had a number of complaints about footballers who, in his opinion, need to improve their game. He complained briefly about lack of skills - which is valid - but that wasn't the worst. The trouble with AFL football today is that so many players are sporting tattoos and - wait for it - they wear their knee socks folded down. Really.

Thursday, August 03, 2017

Helsinki or What Might Have Been

About this time last year I was slowly coming to terms with the fact that I mightn't be going to Worldcon - the annual World Science Fiction convention - in Helsinki in 2017. There was still a faint possibility so I was getting stuff organised like making sure Pisces had renewed his passport and working out the complicated logistics of travelling. For those of us with disabilities travel is more complicated than for the able bodied. There's working out how to break flights so that your back doesn't seize up completely - it was going to involve several days with breaks in what admittedly are some lovely places but that in turn adds cost, sorting out medication and trying to find accommodation within close walking distance of the venue at a price I could afford.

Truth was I was already half-hearted about this. Pisces' illness had taken up so much time that I was finding it hard to focus on something as far away as August 2017. I had quite literally lost count of the number of scans, pathology tests and specialists' visits he had had - I had gone to all these with him so you can imagine how many hours had accumulated - and that's not even mentioning all the hospital admissions and, of course, on top of that was the endless worry. What if he doesn't get better. What if... What if...

Still by September he was starting to improve. I wasn't making any definite plans but there did seem to be a chance we'd make it to Helsinki. I wasn't prepared to actually risk making bookings but things were looking up. If he continued to improve by the New Year maybe...

Then disaster struck in November when I ended up in hospital. It was serious but something that I should have recovered from very quickly but that wasn't what happened. I was almost a complete invalid for the next seven months, only leaving the house to go to the doctor. I'm over the worst of that now but I'm still not well enough to consider travelling and truth be told, neither is Pisces.

So no Worldcon for me this year. Will I consider next year? Maybe but we'll just have to see how things go.

Wednesday, August 02, 2017

Ooops!

There I was talking about the TV series Trapped the other day and said it was set in rural Iceland. Of course, it wasn't, was it. For some reason I'd got that bit mixed up with another series. Trapped was set in a remote, small port, still in Iceland but hardly rural. I have no idea why I got that wrong given the fact that it was a port was crucial to the plot, too. Oh well. Now I've straightened out that confusion out I should say that I thoroughly enjoyed this series. I liked the way historical crimes as well as their consequences were explored in a town cut off by a blizzard as the tiny police force tried to deal with present day murders and other serious crimes all the while under stress from their own personal problems, pressure from police headquarters and a car ferry load of irate visitors who had expected to disembark and head for Reykjavik. Filled with tension and really gripping.  

Sunday, July 30, 2017

Reading, Reading, Reading

and that's included a lot of Nordic and Scandinavian noir and crime novels recently. I always read widely and I'm not at all sure of why these particular books have caught my fancy and I'm reading so many more at the moment but I am. It's way beyond how I'm always on the look out for the next Jo Nesbo, for instance, and have devoured all of Henk Mankell's Kurt Wallender novels as well as watching the Swedish TV version (with the help of the SBS sub titles) as well as the English language adaptation of the novels starring Kenneth Brannagh.

None of which explains my recent urge to read Nordic noir almost exclusively. I say almost because I managed to slot in Six Four, a Japanese police investigation along with lots of police politics by Hideo Yokoyama, The Shadow Land by Elizabeth Kostova (a mystery set in Rumania) and Wild Seed, The Parable of the Sower and Kindred by Octavia E. Butler along the way. Can't entirely abandon my fantasy and science fiction interests. I guess my reading choices might be in part because I've enjoyed some recent television series on SBS, the Australian channel that has a lot of programs in languages other than English. I especially liked Trapped and Midnight Sun both of which involved police investigations in isolated parts of the world - Trapped is set in rural Iceland and Midnight Sun in a Swedish mining town above the Arctic Circle in midsummer and coping with the climatic extremes forms an important part of the background of both.

Why isn't important, though, is it, because I thought you might like to see what I've been reading. So here's the list of Scandinavian books I've finished in the past month - I still have a few to read on my Kindle. Some I've enjoyed more than others but I can't say that I've been disappointed in any of them.

So, in no particular order, here is what I've been reading:

The Dying Detective by Leif G W Persson

Hellfire by Karin Fossum

Frozen Out by Quentin Bates - yes, he's English but the setting is Scandinavian.

Where Roses Never Die by Gunnar Staalesen

The Crow Girl by Erik Axl Sund

The Hummingbird by Karl Hiekkapelto

The Bird Tribunal by Agnes Ravatn

Faceless Killers: Kurt Wallander by Henk Mankell. This one's a reread.




Sunday, July 23, 2017

The Things You Find In Your Garden

There I was yesterday dismantling the overgrown rockery around a pond we've decided to pull out near the shed in the backyard - it's too far from the house to be much more than a mosquito haven and keeping them under control takes a lot of work for little reward - when I found this.


It's mine and the last time I saw it was about twenty years ago when we put the pond we're now taking out in place. I had no idea at the time what had happened to it but somehow it had ended up under a couple of big and very heavy rocks.

That it's turned up is actually fortuitous because when I was in hospital the last time they somehow lost my current bracelet and I haven't got around to ordering a replacement. I have a fancier one but it is easy to scratch so I don't like to wear it all the time and only put it on when I go out.

Weird, hey. Not as weird, though, as the multiple bells of a brass wind chime which turned up over a period of months not long after we moved in and the other strange bits and pieces over the years that have come from who knows where.

While we have no idea what's brought all these oddments to us I have a theory and it's quite obvious really. We're sitting on a portal into another dimension and things come and go through it. It explains the on-going mystery of the missing sock out of what I'd swear were part of a pair when I put them in the wash as well, doesn't it. What other explanation could there be?

Saturday, July 22, 2017

Small Joys

Confused tomatoes in the veggie garden.





We're harvesting a decent handful every couple of days from this self sown plant - ridiculous in the middle of winter.








A couple of other things that gave me joy.

A small person clutching a daffodil picked to add to the bouquet she's making and gazing at it fascinated - I think it was the first one she'd seen close up.

Same small person discovering that you can eat borage flowers and they're delicious. She went home with a bunch she was nibbling on as they drove off.

A flock of pink and grey galahs on my neighbour's roof. They live in the park behind our place and se her roof as a vantage point. They're such clowns. I tried to get a photo but they were too far away.

Friday, July 21, 2017

Lunch!


There are some snow peas, sugar snap peas and French beans hidden underneath the spring onions and pak choi as well. Stir-fry coming up.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Bananas!

I discovered we have bananas coming. See?







This is one of several ladyfinger banana flowers. There are a couple of bunches already formed, too, but they're still green and didn't show up against the leaves.















Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Kitty Update

In July 2008 Virgo arrived here one evening with a tiny kitten. Would I keep him for just one night because reasons - well, actually because he was about to be sterilised although he was quite young for the procedure to make it easier for him to be rehomed by the vet practice where she worked. He'd already failed a couple of rehome attempts because, as we later worked out, he was simply terrified of men. I agreed knowing that this meant he was here to stay.

It hasn't all been smooth sailing with him. Although he bonded with me very quickly it took nearly a year of patience before he would allow Pisces to touch him and, while they now get on well, he remains a very nervous cat. Any unfamiliar sound or someone at the door and he disappears under the bed for hours.

But this we can cope with. His health problems are much more difficult to deal with. Until three years ago he seemed a perfectly healthy if twitchy cat but then he developed what the vet thought were behavioural problems. Put less politely he had started having 'accidents' all around the house. Though I was by no means convinced it was deliberate I followed the vet's suggestions - changed his cat litter more frequently, gave him an extra litter tray and so on. Things didn't improve so there was further testing and it turned out that although he had shown no obvious symptoms of constipation he had developed megacolon. That means his colon had become stretched and enlarged due to a build up of faeces.

The prognosis was not good - cats with megacolon often don't survive for long - but here we are three years on and while it's not always been easy - he has to have a laxative daily and he has had another two severe attacks - he's generally well and is much loved. He must be loved because during these attacks he often doesn't make it to the litter tray and I have to tell you living in a house where all soft surfaces like beds and sofas have to be draped in plastic drop sheets for some weeks at a time is not much fun. But when you take an animal into your life taking care of it to the best of your ability is part of the deal, isn't it.

The reason I've been thinking about this is because at the moment Angus is not well. He has an upset tummy and has been vomiting both of which are bad signs. If he doesn't improve soon - it doesn't seem like his usual problem and may just be a passing bug so waiting and watching closely seems a good idea - I'll take him to the vet. Keeping everything crossed this will pass.

Saturday, July 08, 2017

Pretties From My Garden

The state of the world still has me wanting to sit here with my fingers in my ears going 'La la la la' so here are some pretties from my garden - and yes, I know the photo quality isn't great but the pesky flowers were too busy dancing in the wind to pose obligingly.



One that made me laugh because it looks like this pair of out of season daffodils have turned their backs on us. Not that I would blame them if they had. These are in the flower bed directly outside the backdoor.









On the other hand this pot of equally out of season jonquils - unlike the paperwhite jonquils the yellow ones don't usually bloom here until well into August - are apparently much more inclusive as they are all looking around in different directions. The perfume when I was taking the photo was glorious, too.








The bulbs are probably going to regret their premature flowering - brought on by the very mild beginning we had to winter - because in the past week temperatures have dropped dramatically.  Overnight it has been around 4°C and days have been below 18°C. Okay all you folk from colder climes can stop laughing now but by our standards this is very cold and we're not geared up for these temperatures. We build our houses to cope with summer heat not winter cold. This week we even had snow on the Stirling Ranges in the state's south, an event infrequent enough for people to drive several hundred kilometres to experience it.

And that is all there is for today, I'm afraid. Please excuse me while I go and eat the handful of luscious strawberries I found hiding among the hanging baskets on the veranda which make up my strawberry 'bed'.

Friday, July 07, 2017

Hmm, That Explains Things

I spent much of yesterday updating our - mine and Pisces' - medical records because when Pisces had a specialist's appointment earlier in the week we realised it would be a lot simpler to just have the essential stuff like health problems, specialists and medications in one place so we could print it out and so save a lot of the doctor's and our time. I keep mine fairly well up to date but until now I've left it to himself to handle his own records. He's done this well enough but it was all hand written and his hand writing is getting more and more illegible so typing it out - and putting in the dates things happened - seemed a sensible way to go.

I'm not a slow typist but he hadn't put down most of the dates from 2016's health upheavals which meant I had to trawl through last year's diary which led in turn to sorting through all the many pieces of paper he insists on storing there and disposing of them. The amount of paper this involved ... well, it's a pity it's not our recycling collection this week, that's all I can say. The whole process took me pretty much all morning.

But I'm wandering off topic. The most important thing that came out of all this is that I need to be kinder to myself. For the past fifteen months I've been beating myself up because I've not been achieving very much around here - and there's a lot that we need to do. It's been making me miserable. Turns out that when you look at where our time has been taken up it's not so much that we haven't done enough but it's amazing that we've managed to do what we have. Lesson learned. We still have to push on - and it would be nice to have achieved more - but we have no reason to feel guilty.

So for now it's fingers and everything else crossed that we've turned a corner as far as health is concerned - and that from now on we can start to make some progress with other important things instead of just barely surviving.

Thursday, July 06, 2017

Kittens and Puppies.

I am ignoring the rest of the world at the moment so kittens and puppies seem a much better option.

Kittens being rescued by fishermen.

Kitten playing in a tissue box

Dreaming puppy

And finally some sleeping Labrador pups


Sunday, July 02, 2017

Doggie Fun

In my pursuit of the entertaining to offset the world's misery I bring you these links.

This video of Juju, an English bulldog, having fun rolling down a bank turned up in my Facebook Newsfeed. Aw, how cute, I thought, I'll go to YouTube and see it larger size. So I did. Even more cute.

Then I noticed that all kinds of bulldogs seem to have a lot of fun - and they love to roll. Some have a better sense of direction than others it seems but after all it's the game that counts as with this handsome fellow. They don't have to be young, either. Here's an old lady rolling herself along the beach and into the water.

And just in case you think I'm obsessed with rolling bulldogs they're not the only ones who like to roll, of course. See, this maremma is having a glorious time in the snow.

Thursday, June 29, 2017

So This Week...

While there have been some lovely personal moments like a visit from our daughter and youngest granddaughter and Grandparents' Day at our oldest grandchild's school was great fun not everything everywhere has been so wonderful.

But I'm not going to talk about all that is going wrong in the world. Instead here a few entertaining links.

Aw. What could be sweeter than a little white lion cub making friends.

Then there's a baby cheetah and his puppy friend.

And finally some ice dancers - Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir perform at the 2017 World Championship.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Hooray!

We haz rain - and what a lot of rain it has been. It was enough to cause a massive morning rush hour traffic jam on the freeway because the rain was so heavy everything ground to a halt. That looks good for much needed rain in the farming areas so let's hope it does get there and doesn't fizzle out before it gets inland.

Meanwhile every little bit of greenery I can see - from the street trees to the multitude of plants in the  veggie patch and everywhere else in the garden - looks happily revitalised. It always amazes me the difference rain makes to plants. You can water by hand or sprinkler as much as you like but it never makes the same change in the appearance of plants as rain does. The only thing that makes even more of difference is if it's a thunderstorm bringing the rain. It turns out the extra shot of nitrogen that makes its way into the soil with lightning acts as fertiliser. Well, that is unless the plant is unfortunate enough to be struck by lightning, of course.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

It's the Winter Solstice

and for no other reason than I can - and it cheers me up - here is a photo of some of my veggie garden.



I'm in need of cheering up today because I'm supposed to be out with friends for a movie and lunch. Only I'm not, am I. Instead, having been let down my body - something that happens more often than I would like - I'm home, in bed and in pain.

So let me talk about other things that are more pleasant - which brings me back to my garden where we are starting to harvest winter veggies regularly now. As you can see, we're even somewhat spoiled for choice truth be told, and the thought that I'm actually growing some of our food is highly satisfying. Even Pisces, who does not share my enthusiasm for gardening, although to be fair he is more than willing to do any heavy work I might ask him to do, enjoys going out and picking what he wants when he wants it.

There's one other thing I'd like to add to our food production - and that's some hens. Going out and collecting fresh eggs is mighty appealing. That's where Pisces and I do not agree. I grew up in a family which kept hens and ducks so I have a fair idea of what poultry keeping involves. It's not that hard - and actually I rather like hens themselves. He, on the other hand, has no experience of it and sees it as all too much. So for the moment we're at a bit of an impasse but I'm not giving up. Who knows one day soon I might be posting pictures of some sweet little chickens. Fingers crossed.

Sunday, June 18, 2017

Slightly Confused

Not me. It's this daffodil I'm talking about.


It's in the flowerbed where I planted a whole lot of daffodil bulbs about a month ago - you can see some of the still quite small Iceland poppy plants I put in at the same time in the picture - and so far only about half its fellows have started to come up. I wasn't expecting to see more than a few leaves and certainly no flowers from the daffodils for at least another six to eight weeks but this one just poked its leaves out and must have panicked. 'Whoa, it's warm,' it said to itself. 'It must be Spring. I'd better start flowering - and fast.' So it did.

I'm not really surprised it's confused. I was out working in the garden yesterday in a lightweight summer t-shirt and sweltering in jeans - and it's winter here.  While it's been cool at night the days are pleasant - in the low twenties or high teens most days. The big worry is if this fine, warm weather continues because we're way below average rainfall so far for this time of the year and things are looking grim for the farmers if we don't get some decent falls soon. I've been having to hand water every couple of days to keep my veggies going, not what I'd usually expect to be doing at this time of year.

Oh well at least this stray daffodil is brightening the outlook from the family room.

Wednesday, June 14, 2017

Meanwhile At the Garden Centre

Last night we got some decent soaking rain - the first for this winter. This meant I wanted some more veggie seedlings, of course - what better time to plant them after all - plus some fertiliser and other oddments from the garden section at Bunnings. As well we really needed to see what alternatives there are to our old and unreliable clothesline, its tendency to fold up whenever we put sheets on it being disconcerting to say the least.

Well, we're still without a functional clothesline but we do have most of the rest of what I wanted - as well as a few impulse buys. Everyone needs a mushroom farm in a box, right. The other thing I was hoping for was asparagus crowns - I have a small bed already but I want to plant more. I couldn't see any and went to ask. A sales assistant went to enquire while I waited.

Soon there were three people, two women and a little man who looked remarkably like a leprechaun, discussing my problem. Much debate went on then they all disappeared into the depths behind the checkout. I waited. The leprechaun suddenly popped back out.

"It's not looking good," he said and disappeared again.

A minute or so later he was back again. "We're talking to horticulture," he said and was gone.

In a little while he was back shaking his head sadly before he was disappeared around the corner of the building. The woman I had first talked to reappeared. Apparently I was a couple of weeks early so I'll have to go back again. Oooh, I can buy more seedlings then, I guess. What a sacrifice, a prospect Pisces is less impressed by than I am. Can't understand why.

The leprechaun reappeared and helped pack up my purchases. As I looked back on my way to the car he smiled and waved cheerily. What a lovely way to end a shopping trip.




Saturday, June 10, 2017

I've Been Busy

Well that's what I'd like to say. Truth is these days  - and by these days I mean ever since I got sick at the end of last year - I only have a limited time span in each day to achieve what I need to so all the other stuff just keeps getting pushed back. Still my health is slowly - oh so slowly - improving as I whinged to the doctor the other day. He, nice man as he is, said, 'Well, it'll take as long as it takes, I'm afraid.' which was not what I wanted to hear. I've reached the stage of frustration where I want to push myself and I do. This invariably ends badly.

And that, my friends, is why I am sitting here in my PJs at 1:00 PM today. Yesterday I set myself the task of editing a short story and sending it out. Even to be considering this is an improvement because I haven't been able to summon up the energy - or brain power for that matter - to write or edit or anything else for the past six months. I expected it would take most of the morning and I was right. I was almost finished when I took a break about 1:00 PM to walk around in the sun and water the pots.

When I came back disaster had struck. Word had crashed taking with it all my edits from the previous two or so hours. I'm not sure how this happened because I was sure I had saved all but the last few minutes. Apparently not. It turned out to be a blessing in the end because I remembered pretty much what I had done and was working my way through the corrections when I realised I had a problem. This is a science fiction story and the science part was working well and making sense - except I'd forgotten to explain how these folk got around. I remembered when I wrote it  - oh so long ago now it seems - I had thought I'd go back and sort that and obviously hadn't. I had a picture in my head and every time I read it I presumably saw the image in my mind but neglected to put it into words.

It wasn't that hard to fix but by the time I had done that, finished the edits, fixed the formatting (which had gone completely haywire and kept reverting to something I've never even used) and sent it off it was nearly 5:00 PM. By this time I've usually been back in bed for a couple of hours. I closed up the computer so exhausted I could barely see and I literally stumbled to my bedroom where I collapsed on the bed, too drained to even get changed for an hour.

So today I'm paying the price and I'm off to bed as soon as I put up this post.

Monday, May 29, 2017

More Birds

I was out in the garden on Friday in between showers when I heard a sound I couldn't quite place. It was something like a tapping or cracking and intrigued me. So, of course, I went looking for the source. Guess what I found.


It's a bit blurry, I'm afraid, but the only place I could get a photo from was quite a distance away. The birds are - as I discovered today when they flew over again and I got a glimpse of red - forest red-tailed black cockatoos. These particular cockatoos are a sub species of the red-tailed black cockatoo which are unique to southern Western Australia where they are listed as vulnerable.

They are feasting on 'something' on my neighbour's Silver Princess (Eucalyptus caesia) tree. The Silver Princess is a truly lovely small tree with silvery, weeping branches and large, spectacular red-pink blossoms which are followed by equally large - 30 mm in diameter - gum nuts.  I suspect the 'something' is new buds or flowers because they flower from May to September and I noticed a couple of flashes of red among its leaves in this afternoon's photo below. If you look carefully you can see one flower in the middle of the left hand side upright branch and others up near the top on the far right and the reason you can see them at all is because these blossoms are big as well as beautiful.



I also suspect that there won't be many more flowers this year if the cockatoos keep on feasting but my neighbour, like me, is enjoying the birds at the moment.

Sunday, May 28, 2017

Of Cats and Magpies

A friend sent me something on Facebook - a picture of a cat carrying a snake and the heading was something along the lines of 'Well they didn't like the mouse I gave them, or the bird yesterday but they'll love this'.

While I've had cats bring me mice or rats as food gifts - that was in the days when I let them out during the day - none ever brought me a bird for which I'm very grateful. My cats are now strictly indoor ones. After I lost one to feline AIDS - a terrible disease - I couldn't face that happening to another furry friend so I talked to the vet. He said that, as our house is large and there are plenty of comfortable, sunny places for them to absorb essential Vitamin D, indoors would be fine and it has proved to be so. We used to take our previous cat out for walks on a lead (and he didn't show any interest in leaving the house otherwise). He was an very easy going boy and here he is in his Christmas finery, which I have to admit was not his favourite thing, not that he ever protested.



The Facebook post brought back memories of a magpie that lived in our very large backyard when I was in my teens. Magpies are highly territorial and Maggie, who couldn't fly, had claimed our yard. He couldn't defend it himself, of course, and so formed an alliance with our dog for protection. He would proclaim his territory and challenge every other magpie in the area to battle and when they arrived to deal with him he'd shriek loudly for the dog who would race out from wherever she was and get rid of the intruders. Maggie would then warble triumphantly as if he had done the deed himself.

Magpies live in family groups and, probably because he had no kin of his own, Maggie became very attached to our family, in particular to my mother and me. When we sat outside he'd climb onto one of our laps where he'd lie on his back to have his tummy rubbed or clamber up onto a shoulder where he'd sit rubbing his beak behind our ears. The other way he showed his affection was by bringing us food gifts. We were given a lot of dead mice, their fur carefully plucked off, as well as assorted insects and on a couple of occasions tiny scorpions, their stingers broken off. These were not actually welcomed by us but they were obviously well meant and we could hardly explain why we didn't want them so they were accepted and then disposed of. There was one that really freaked me out though. 

That was the day when I was working in my garden with Maggie pottering around with me as he usually did, snatching up anything that took his fancy. He suddenly dived into some leaves and emerged with something in his beak that he started to thwack against a rock. I wasn't taking much notice until I felt something on my shoe and heard a soft warble. I looked down to see a centipede - not something we often found in the garden. It was about 15 cms long and draped over my shoe. I jumped, yelled and kicked it away. Maggie was puzzled. He raced over to pick it up, brought it back and laid it down on my foot again. It was limp and definitely dead having had been broken at each segment of its body. Now I'm not a fan of centipedes, even dead ones, but it was obviously a gift. I picked it up and offered it back. Maggie stared at me with a very puzzled expression, head on one side, and when I didn't show any signs of eating it myself he finally decided to take it away and eat it - much to my relief, I have to say. Also much to my relief, he never offered me a centipede again.

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

A Visitor

No, not the human kind. This was a large, white, feathered one that came drifting in through misty rain to settle on the back fence yesterday. Pisces just happened to be looking out the window or we wouldn't have realised it was there.

Since it was too wet to go outside and the back fence is too far away to get a decent photo - ask me how I know and I'll put up the blurry shots I took of the kookaburras which have taken to hunting in the lower part of the garden - I can't show you what it was. But I did grab my trusty bird field guide where I had it narrowed it down to two birds when it obligingly stretched its long neck and turned partly towards us so I could see its bill.

It was a yellow-billed spoonbill but what it was doing sitting on our back fence in the rain I have no idea.













Yellow-billed spoonbill at Perth Zoo






Licensed under C C 3.0 Image by Martin Pot (Martybugs at en.wikipedia)


Spoonbills aren't that uncommon in our local wetlands where they forage for small creatures in the water, using their rounded bills to dislodge and catch their prey but they are definitely not common in our yard. We do have a frog pond but it has a net covering that the frogs can get through but keeps out any predatory birds so I doubt that was what it was interested in. It swung its neck around to survey the neighbour's pool at one time but then went back to sitting hunched on the fence looking in the opposite direction. After about five minutes this it shook itself and flew away in the direction of one of the nearby lakes.

This almost rates as highly in my memorable bird sightings as the early summer morning when I heard something knocking outside my bedroom window where I had the sprinkler on. I went out to investigate and found a large purple swamphen which I assume was trying to catch some of the drops leaking from the tap connection. Why it didn't choose the sprinkler where there was much more water available I have no idea but as soon as it realised I was there it took off running up the road and disappeared.

Wildlife in our garden - you have to admit it's interesting.


Tuesday, May 23, 2017

Progress Report

It's been a grim six months since I first got sick. That's six months of barely leaving the house except to see doctors, of doing something as simple as making breakfast and tidying up the kitchen and having to collapse into bed for the rest of the day, of going out to the garden and watering (something that takes around an hour) and maybe pulling out a few weeds and having to collapse into bed yet again, or putting through a couple of loads of washing, hanging it out with Pisces' help and ... well, you can guess. I've got very, very tired of my bedroom.

Things have been improving albeit at a minuscule rate. Instead of collapsing into bed every day by mid morning it changed gradually to midday. After barely having the energy to eat lunch which would for months was the simplest thing I could make - no cooked meals, just something on toast - a couple weeks ago I looked at the clock and it was 12:30 and I felt hungry not exhausted. Wow! I pulled a veggie stew out of the freezer, made up a currant and almond couscous and enjoyed it as did Pisces who has uncomplainingly been making his own food more often than not.

Since then there has been definite if slow improvement. I've started cooking lunch most days - nothing exciting, generally just vegetables from my garden supplemented with something already from the freezer like a stew or a veggie patty - but it's a proper meal. I'm not collapsing into bed these days until 2:30. Granted that's me done for the day but it's a big improvement.

As a result I made a big decision this week which was to see if I could go back to hydrotherapy exercise classes, something I haven't been able to even consider until now. Today was my first session and although I only lasted for 45 minutes instead of an hour I'm happy it was that long. Admittedly I came home at 2:15, rinsed the chlorine out of my bathers (that's what we call swimsuits here), heated up and ate a bowl of leftovers then crawled into bed where I slept for two hours but at least I've made a start and there's light at the end of the end of this particular tunnel.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

The Weather Has Changed

and quite suddenly, too. In my last post only two days ago I was saying how I was still in shorts and T-shirts. Not today. The temperature has dropped dramatically after a brief thunderstorm followed by some very welcome steady soaking rain overnight and this morning. We've had to pull out jeans and warm jumpers (sweaters for those of you from foreign parts) that have been packed away since last September.

As I dug through my warmer clothes I realised that I really should not have put off going through my wardrobe for so long. The shops have been full of winter gear since early March but while it was so warm I just couldn't think about cold weather clothes. This was a mistake given I've now discovered some serious gaps in my winter clothes. Jackets I've relied on - well, loved to death truth be told - are showing alarming signs of wear and, since I threw out a lot of my most disreputable looking tops at the end of last winter, they also need to be replaced. At least I'm okay for good jeans but I've apparently lost weight since last winter so my old house jeans - the ones I have on at the moment - are trying hard to slide off as I walk. It might be okay if I had a belt to hold them up but sadly all my belts have developed large cracks which I'm pretty sure means they can't be relied on either.

There's nothing for it. I'll have to tackle one of my least favourite chores, shopping for clothes. I hate clothes shopping. Nothing I like fits me and what fits me I generally loathe. This is partly because I'm not a standard size - I'm short and my top is bigger than my backside. You'll never hear me asking if my bum looks big in something because that has never been something I've had to worry about. I'm pretty sure many people would think this is a good thing but the truth is women's clothes are cut to fit a rounded rear which means getting pants that fit me is, to put it mildly, challenging although I've finally found a brand of jeans that actually fits and doesn't sag. Woohoo! Tops - well, they're a nightmare for other reasons and don't get me started on skirts.

I'm close to desperation point, though, so maybe it's time to gather my courage and my credit card and head out. Wish me luck.

Thursday, May 18, 2017

Distractions Needed

and that's to keep me from dwelling on other things happening at the moment - like my collapsed clothesline (the one loaded with washing that managed to get tangled around the recently oiled support post leaving stains that show no signs of coming out despite much scrubbing and many stain treatments) for instance or the fact that my 'good' knee is currently playing catch up with my bad knee in the pain stakes. You'll note I'm trying to not even think about the grim state of world politics.

Let us think of other things - like the fact that the vegetable garden is still producing quite a lot of food despite most of the summer crops having been pulled out. I found two new self seeded tomato plants about 20 cms high and flowering yesterday - not something you expect at this time of year - and I've just brought in the last of the rockmelons and butternuts. I'm still picking snake beans, green capsicums, spring onions and even some silverbeet from the two survivors of the summer planting and trying to catch the lettuces before they bolt too.

The thing is we've had a mild summer and, although night time is getting a little chilly averaging around 12 °C, the days are still pleasantly warm in the mid twenties and this is confusing many of the plants. It's confusing us, too. I'm still wandering around in shorts and lightweight T-shirts and only adding a light jacket in the evening.

So something pleasantly distracting to finish up. How about Dolly Parton singing Jolene with a cappella group Pentatonix? Or something quite different Pentatonix by themselves singing Daft Punk? I'm in awe of what the human voice can achieve.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Garden Update

Well, it's taken me 12 days but most of the garden is finally planted out. I'd put up a photo but tiny little seedlings I've discovered do not show up well.

Instead here are some calendulas or pot marigolds which are currently brightening up the garden bed outside the family room door.



These were self sown in the vegetable garden where the bees and I like them for their bright flowers. As well they are useful in companion planting as they deter a number of pests. I transplanted them to give the garden a lift while I wait for the red poppies which are already coming up and will soon turn the garden into a mass of vivid crimsons and scarlets.

Pot marigolds have many other uses beyond being pretty. The flowers are edible and used in salads and herbal teas - though I haven't been game to try that yet. They also have a number of medicinal uses. If you're interested you can have a look here.

Monday, May 08, 2017

Not Been Around Much Lately, Have I

and I'm sorry. I've still been struggling with health problems which have meant I can count on one hand the times I've left the house for anything other than doctors' appointments since last November when I started the series of infections which have left me battered and totally lacking in energy. There's light at the end of the tunnel though. In the last week I've actually managed to stay out of bed until around 2:30 PM every day. This is a massive improvement over crashing at around lunch time which has been the pattern pretty much since mid November last year. I even managed to go to a morning tea, the first purely social event I've been to for five and a half months. Is this a sign that I'm recovering at last? I sincerely hope so.

I was feeling so inspired by this turn of events that after we went to the doctor on Friday - yes, there's still a lot of that going on but you can't have everything, can you - I suggested to Pisces that we should go and get some seedlings from our local Bunnings store and now I have a veggie patch of seedlings sitting out the back ready to plant out along with some flowers. I've already planted out the rainbow chard, sugar snap peas and snow peas and the kangaroo paws but there are others - coriander, beetroot, pak choy, onions, fennel, lettuce and mizuna and mustard (I've no idea what the last two will be like but I do like to experiment with new flavours) which, along with some iceland poppies and calendulas, will gradually make their way into the garden.

I'm hoping things will continue to improve because I've had enough of feeling unwell - and, although he'd never say so I'm pretty sure Pisces is feeling equally fed up since he's the one who has had to pick up the slack for me. My fingers are crossed and if you like you might want to wish me luck, too.

Thursday, April 06, 2017

Autumn Harvest


And here we have a basketful of butternut squashes There are eight in the basket and probably as many (if not more) in among the vines that weren't caught up in the great powdery mildew debacle. These come from plants which have already died back having lost the battle against the mildew and  as a result not all are as ripe as I'd have liked for storage. Still even those are certainly edible now.

It's odd that some plants were badly affected - mostly those in the back corner of the garden - while others simply shrugged it off and some responded well to the milk spray while those next to them didn't. We've had an unusually cool and humid summer - only a few hot spells when the temperature reached the high 30s instead of weeks of it. The climate has definitely changed over the past fifteen years and gardening is changing with it. If I want to keep my vegetable garden going I'll have to rethink my summer plantings for next year, I guess, and I'll have to find new ways and new places for plants susceptible to mildew. Where I've grown them successfully for so many years no longer seems suitable.

Wednesday, April 05, 2017

Still Waiting for the Fun to Start

In the meantime a few random things.

1. Waiting for Pisces outside a doctor's office yesterday. A couple with a baby in a pram arrives. Mum goes off to do something and Dad sits down to wait for her. Baby, who looks about 10 or 11 months old, is busy checking out the space. Then his eyes fix on me and a slight smile begins. Since a small person around that age is very much apart of our lives I do what I do with her and wave at him. By now Dad is watching and enjoying the interaction. Baby stares at me obviously unsure but fascinated. I wave again and now Baby is totally fixed on me but he isn't going to actually respond. No, he's trying to play it cool but he can't help the smile flickering and spoiling the solemnity. Dad is laughing by now and when Mum comes back we have a quick chat until Pisces arrives. The whole time Baby's gaze is fixed on me and when I stand up and go to the lift he watches me until the doors close.

2. Having a tooth extracted is better than I expected. This is because dentists are really good on pain relief these days and because our health insurance covered the whole cost. I have to wait for three months for everything to heal up, though, before they can look at giving me an implant to replace the missing tooth - and I'm still amazed that a tooth which was root canalled and crowned years ago could develop an infection after such a long time.

3. I decided not to do the A-Z Blog Challenge this year. I'm too disorganised due to all the health issues Pisces and I have both been having. Feels a bit odd though not to be spending April in search of interesting alphabet blogging subjects.

4. I have signed up for the Australian Women Writers Challenge again. Everything crossed that I actually get to post some reviews this year. I should because I've already read more this year than I have in a long time. Being sick does that to me, I find. As soon as I'm beginning to recover I start reading.

Friday, March 24, 2017

Well, It Was Worth a Try.

I'm talking about the milk spray I used on the pumpkins for powdery mildew. Unfortunately it hasn't worked all that well but I'm pretty sure it's because I had left it too late. The fungus was well established and, although I took off as many of the affected leaves as I could as soon as I saw the tell tale spots, it reached a point where I would have had to denude the whole plant. Ah well, a lesson learned for next year since I have no doubt that the same will happen again climate change being what it is. I'll just have to remember and spray early on.

The good thing is that, although the plants are slowly dying, they have already produced a decent crop of fruit which is already nearly mature. I counted 14 plump little pumpkins already changing colour this morning so we should have a reasonable amount for our winter stores.

I still have zucchinis and capsicums ripening, there are snake beans too, as well as spring onions, silverbeet, rainbow chard and a bumper crop of basil ready to pick - and there will be sweet corn for lunch tomorrow. The tomatoes are dying back already - they haven't been as prolific as they usually are this year for some reason - and the eggplant has been a major disappointment. They've flowered profusely but only two fruit have appeared.

As far as the fruit garden is concerned, the rock melons (cantaloupes) are doing well and are close to ready to pick - and we still have some grapes on the vines. This is a real surprise since they're usually finished by late February. There are a few blueberry and strawberry stragglers and the goji berry bush is looking healthier than it ever has. The fruit aren't that exciting but I grew it because I like a challenge - and that's why I've been growing pineapples, too. There are three of those with young fruit at the moment so I'm hopeful they'll ripen well.

I guess it's time to be thinking about winter plantings but it's far too hot to even consider planting anything yet. I did invest in some flower bulbs when I was at the shops earlier this week and they're sitting chilling in the fridge so maybe it's time to head to the seed catalogues. They make interesting reading if nothing else and with some help from Pisces I should be able to get some planting done in a month or so.

Friday, March 10, 2017

A "Volunteer"

This came up in my veggie patch uninvited a couple of months ago.




It must have come from when I dug some scraps into the bed a while ago and, as it was obviously a cucurbit of some kind and a freebie plant - always a good thing, I decided it could stay. As you can see it's made itself right at home. I don't have the room to let too many vines sprawl all over the place and so I made it a nice little bamboo frame and it's now twined its way up to over a metre above the ground.

It's been flowering profusely, too, but, while the bees love it, nothing much else has been happening. There were female flowers but none had produced anything in the way of fruit. But yesterday I got a surprise. I hadn't actually checked it closely for about a week apart from making sure it was getting watered but yesterday in the wake of the powdery mildew discovery I decided I'd better check it, too.

And this is what I found.



So it's a rockmelon. It has a way to go - it's only about 8 cms in diameter - but Pisces is already salivating at the thought. He's going to be even happier when he realises that I have another five rockmelon plants already growing up the fence in the back of the garden but I'll keep that for a little surprise later.