Wednesday, 25 March 2015

Local insects and animals - the noisy miner

Three days ago my partner greeted me at the door with a grin and the words "I've got a present for you", I was immediately suspicious as 'present' has become a code word for 'lots of work' in our relationship. I came inside to find an ominous looking box on my desk with a tiny bit of fabric sticking out the bottom. When I opened the box I found the little fellow below nestled on a t-shirt (begging questions about Kev' driving around shirtless).

He (I'm assuming his gender) is a noisy miner; a bird native to this area, although not around the humpy. He coped with a close up inspection fairly well and I discovered a slightly damaged wing on the left side and a slightly more damaged hip on the left side. As he was picked up on the road (sitting like a stunned mullet, according to Kev') I assume he has been clipped by a car.
He can grip a perch with both feet, but sits with one leg off to the side. I am hoping he has no broken bones, and after three days he would be dead by now if he had any (gangrene sets in fast).

Noisy miners in the wild eat nectar, pollen, fruit, insects and occasionally a little lizard. I am feeding him a mix of fruit smoothie with added insectivore mix that we keep in the cupboard for emergencies, I also add one drop of pentavite (liquid vitamin). When I can, I will add some nectavore mix (lorrikeet food), but at present I have none in stock. He seems to love the mixture. I went out and collected some white ants for him too, which he had fun playing with, but didn't eat.

When he can put all his weight on his leg and fly around we will begin the long process of re-assimilating him into the wild; probably at my parent's house where there is a family in residence, although their complicated flocking behaviour means that he will not be accepted if he is a she; apparently the females maintain fairly rigid territories which do not overlap while the males wander about in gangs, joining new gangs on a random basis.

This little man needs a name for the (hopefully) short time he will be with me; any ideas?

Sunday, 22 March 2015

Another old Singer sewing machine reborn - Lilly gets a new lease on life

Some time ago I found another old Singer 201K at the Tender Centre...there were spider webs and rust every where and she was fairly filthy. I couldn't just leave the old girl there (these old machines are as hard to walk away from as puppies at the shelter) so I bid on her. Of course I won the bid, nobody else seemed to see the potential behind all that grime, so home she came. I squirted sewing machine oil into her inner workings and wrapped the machine head in oily rags while I carried on with life, sparing her a glance and a thought now and then as I hurried by.

Now, months after I bought her home, I have finally found the time to restore her, thanks to an enquiry from one of my readers. First I needed a name, it always seems so rude to call these grand old ladies 'it'; two of the neighbourhood kids who came to visit, and were conned into helping me move her out into the work area, decided to name her Lilly it is.

Lilly was made on the 5th June 1946 in Kilbowie, Clydebank (Scotland).
Her serial number is ED815331
She is a model 201K Singer in a model 46 cabinet.

A blurry picture of Lilly before I started working on her.

After the first oiling and wipe down

The accessory draw was a mess. Sorry for the blurry photo

The treadle assembly was neglected too

A Facebook message from a lovely lady who was interested in giving Lilly a home spurred me into action. I checked her over (the sewing machine, not the lady) and ordered a new drive belt, new beehive tension spring, new stitch control nut and a cleaning brush. Then I gave the filthy cabinet and treadle assembly a good clean with kerosene (for the metal bits) and home made furniture polish (for the wood bits).

Much better after a good scrub.
A good soaking in kerosene for the inner workings of the machine head had Lilly turning freely again and a scrub with a toothbrush over any dirty external bits had her as clean as possible. Lilly has several areas of staining on her and the black japanning (over the head and base) are worn in places, indicating that she has had some adventures in her long life.

The new parts finally arrived and I put her together in a lather of excitement; then it was time to test her. I found a really useful site with tutorials and manuals for Singer treadles.

All ready for a test sew

Trying her out on thicker materials

And on knitted material

The finished project, a lined pencil case with a zipper

A close up of Lilly's serial number

The inclusions she will come with

She's a strong and proud old girl.
So now Lilly is ready to go to a good home and make beautiful things. I have enjoyed getting her going again and I'm now on the lookout for my next project.

I have an old Singer 306 machine in the cupboard, these old girls use cams to make fancy stitches and are powerful enough to sew through leather. Maybe my next project will be to make her functional again.

Wednesday, 11 March 2015

The anything-but-simple country life.

Recently I read a post on a friend's blog about 'simple country living', as I typed my comment it occurred to me that this was a great subject for a post.

What is a simple country life? Is it living on a bush block, keeping chooks and a cow? Making your own preserves and cooking from scratch? Is it watching the sun rise over an unsullied tree line every morning? or is it hauling endless buckets of water to trees and garden and learning to do basic veterinary repairs yourself because the vet's travel fees are more than you earn in a week?

For me it is all these things and more.

So why do some people stay and others leave? Is it because the realities of life are just too...well...real?

I thought I would put together a little list of some of the realities I have noticed in my thirty plus years as a bush dweller and my six years as a humpy dweller, feel free to add your own realities in a comment;

Things are not convenient; you will run out of gas on Saturday night and all the local shops are shut on Sundays.

Other beings live here too, most of whom want to eat your vegetable garden and/or your chooks.

Everyone knows your business, even if you only see them every few months.

When there is a crisis you are expected to contribute, turn up for fire fighting, donate to families who have lost homes, go to funerals, pick up car parts in town, etc. Next time it might be your crisis.

Nobody cares what you have, only what you can do...unless you have an operational tractor, then everyone will care.

Relax and be yourself; everyone knows if you are 'bunging it on' anyway.

The most interesting people in the world live near you; the woman who worked for the World Bank and brokered loans between countries (and makes great yoghurt), the man who taught mathematics and astronomy in a Melbourne university (and has a semi-rigid truck licence for the fire truck), the woman who trained animals for TV shows (and knows the easy way to tan skins). Get to know them.

Death is inevitable, chooks are eaten by snakes and quolls, dogs are bitten by snakes, sheep and cattle go down with paralysis tick and wallabies are hit on the road by cars. This is the biggest life lesson the bush has to teach you, accept it and make good use of every minute.

Can you add to my list?

Tuesday, 10 March 2015

The wheel of the year - everything goes around and around

In our home life we use the pagan 'Wheel of the year' as a calendar to plan work and play on and off our property. I find that using sabbats as a guide for farm work is efficient and just makes sense.

What is the Wheel of the year?

Image from

The Wheel of the year (hereafter known as the Wheel) originated in the northern hemisphere, in the Celtic world (and probably many other cultures too). This means that the traditional festivals and feast days that mark the turning of the seasons (Christmas, Easter, Halloween, Candlemas, etc) just don't apply to us here in the southern hemisphere. We all know that when it is summer here it is winter in the UK and US, don't we? Because of the tilt and spin of our planet we have endlessly varied seasons and climates. This also means that pagans need to recalculate their sabbats so as to be in line with the natural world, fortunately this is easy; we just 'spin' the Wheel forward by six months.

As most pagan religions arose from rural farming societies and worship Nature in her many forms, the sabbats and rituals which are common to them have a practical side. I know that when the snowdrops and hardenbergia flower at Imbolc (beginning of spring) that the sheep will soon be giving birth. I know that when I bless the beans, squash and corn seeds on our Ostara (spring equinox) altar it is time to plant them in the garden. I know that when I pick a pumpkin to make a Samhain (beginning of winter) jack-o-lantern it is time to bring in the whole pumpkin crop because frosts are imminent and that when I let the house fire die at Yule (winter solstice) and bring home a candle or a living coal from the Yule fire to relight it I have cleaned out the fire box of all it's accumulated ash just before the deep bone chill of winter sets in.

I have been making myself a graphic organiser showing all the jobs around the humpy that relate to the Wheel. What do you think?

Of course it doesn't show all the work of the year yet. It's a work in progress, like so many other things here at the humpy.