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.