Sunday, 28 May 2017

Meet Emu- a new guinea fowl baby

Some of our guinea fowl looking for bugs.
 It's late in the season for baby anythings, but one of our two (out of ten) female guinea fowls decided a month ago that Autumn is a great time to sit on eggs. Silver (the mum) has been diligently sitting on her nest in the useful scrap pile for some time and my daughter has constructed a fence around her and a roof of sorts over her to protect her from being trampled by sheep or eaten by ducks (not a joke; the ducks ate some of her eggs before we built the fence around her). She has only hatched the one baby and remains sitting on the other eggs. We will have to take them away at the end of the week as we suspect that they are infertile and she won't get off the nest until all the eggs are gone.

Silver on her nest
We keep guinea fowls for tick control around the humpy (see my previous post) and they do a great job; we have not had to take ticks off the sheep or dogs for years. As guinea fowl live for many years we don't tend to hatch many babies (we don't need to replace them often), but sometimes life just finds a way. Our flock at the moment consists of ten birds; eight males of various ages and two females. Silver (the hen that went clucky) is only four years old and her mate is at least ten years old, proving that love doesn't take account of age. We think the age difference may be why only one egg has hatched. She had many different ages of male to choose from; the males range from two years old right up to ten plus years old. Some sources say that guinea fowl have harems (like chooks) but at our place they tend to prefer having a permanent partner who will hang around the nest site being generally unhelpful while the female sits on the eggs and get very excited when she hatches babies.

Patch, Silver's mate
Our new baby; Emu was taken away from his mum as soon as he hatched because guinea fowl are terrible mothers. His dad and the other males came to the humpy door as soon as they heard him squeaking, they hung around for a day or so trying to mount a rescue, but eventually decided to give up and go to the pub. Emu lives in a heated box inside at the moment. He eats insectivore mix, ground grains and live termites (collected daily). He is one happy, contented little keet (guinea fowl chick). Unfortunately, guinea fowls are impossible to truly tame; guinea fowl may have been domesticated before the humble chook (or jungle fowl) but they haven't evolved into the quiet, biddable fowl that chooks have become (for the most part). Little Emu startles at any movement and shadows on the wall frighten him into a darting, cheeping mass of nerves, he's just a very highly strung bird. My daughter has high hopes of turning him into a sweet, cuddly pet though.

Emu eating termites

Emu under his heat lamp
In other news...
Primrose the Rainbow lorrikeet has been up to her usual tricks and I managed to get a few shots to share.
Prim playing with a pencil

A blurry Prim in a tree on a walk to the front gate.

Wednesday, 17 May 2017

Washing machine garden beds update

The beds are actually growing vegetables.
I don't want to crow too loud but the washing machine beds seem to have escaped the notice of ducks, possums and chooks alike. I very carefully don't check on the progress of the little seedlings growing in them while I can see anyone in the yard as all the various life forms seem to take notice of what we humans think is interesting and investigate themselves.
The process for watering or checking is ridiculously clandestine; first I go out the door on the opposite side of the humpy and mess around in the yard for a few seconds, once everybody gets the news that I'm out there and the paparazzi starts to gather I casually drop a handful of grain on the ground and retreat from the ensuing feeding frenzy back inside.

The paparazzi gathering

Then I very quietly go out the back door and water, check, feed or whatever I need to do with the beds, all the while keeping my eyes open for visitors. If I see a duck or chook come back around the side of the house I just pretend to be admiring the scenery until they leave.
Why not just lock up the ducks and chooks I hear you ask? Well... the ducks are muscovies and are quite territorial so they chase the possums out of the yard, they patrol all night and all day. They contribute to the safety of the garden without even knowing it. The two chooks left running wild in the yard are delicate in nature (Big; our old rooster is too aged to be in the general population any more and Curly is a special case who just doesn't fit in anywhere else). Also, I sort of enjoy the challenge and the sneaking around.

This is Curly; our special needs chook.

The snow peas, carrots, silverbeet and beetroot in these beds are all doing really well so far, I'm hoping for a full harvest this year.

Carrots and peas


Peas, beetroot and lettuce

Peas and beetroot


Peas and beetroot

I will write a post about our special needs chook; Curly soon. This chook is an interesting case...even for us.

Monday, 8 May 2017

Making a yarn bowl

What is a yarn bowl? I hear you ask.'s a decorative piece of knitting or crochet equipment whose sole purpose is to stop the yarn ball from running away under the lounge while you work and getting covered in dust bunnies (and who knows what else in my house).

 Yarn bowls can be made of anything really; wood, clay, plastic, felt, or any number of other materials. The important thing is that they hold the ball securely inside and have a yarn guide that keeps the yarn from getting really tangled as you pull it through.

I pulled these photos of yarn bowls straight from an internet search. Some of them are so pretty.

 While not strictly required for knitting or crochet, they do add a touch of class to the whole thing. I love the look of them and can imagine a row of yarn bowls on a shelf, each with it's own little ball or cake of yarn sitting patiently in it while I decide what I will knit today, or sitting on a table beside my chair as I effortlessly and smoothly knit Fair Isle patterns without tangles, snarls or swearing.

The ones with lids have the advantage of being more dust proof I suppose, but there is something about seeing your yarn while you work that is so soothing and satisfying.

Home made yarn bowls here we come...

I decided to use what I had in my craft supplies (not really a choice when getting extra materials means driving two hours), I had air dry clay left over from previous projects and it is relatively cheap to buy. Next I needed a template for my bowl (not owning a potting wheel or even knowing how to use one). I found two bowls that might do among my stash.

Air dry clay from my stash

A mat, a bowl, a rolling pin, coffee and a water bottle...I'm set

Oh, and a knife for shaping

Cut a chunk off the clay and mush it up until it's soft.

Cover my chosen bowl with cling wrap

Roll the clay out flat with the rolling pin and mold it over the bowl.

Cut the spiral shape into the clay (carefully) and be sure to leave a gap wide enough for yarn to pass through

Sand the rough edges off the bowl once it's dry, especially the spiral bit

Another possible mold

I decided to try molding inside this one

Before sanding the bowl down, you can see how rough the spiral is

Using my new yarn bowls

While I don't actually need them to knit, or even to keep my yarn from getting tangled, the little yarn bowls are fun and decorative. I think I will make some more to sell at the markets and on Etsy. Maybe I can add paint to them, or use different coloured clay to make them.

Tuesday, 2 May 2017

Cleaning out the shed...oh my

It is the end of the school holidays and I have returned to work. As a teacher this time (!!!) instead of a teacher's aide. I'm terrified at the prospect, but that's another story.
As I only have a few days left of 'at home time' I decided not to waste them. I'm going to clean the shed (gasp).

Some background here; when we moved to our humpy in 2008 we had built a roof to park our caravan under which included an enclosed space in which to store all the stuff not currently in use. We moved our gear in the space of two days as we both had work to go to, so everything was just sort of dumped on the ground in the shed. It's still there.

The entrance to the shed, all choked up with stuff that just wouldn't fit into the mess any more.

Inside this mess. I know it looks like a hoarder's hideout.

Anything we needed from the shed was dug out and moved into the humpy proper over the years, but there is a LOT of stuff that I obviously haven't missed or needed in there...somewhere. Also, my long suffering (and annoying) partner has stored his tools in the front part of the shed during that time.

Now I am embarking on a whole new phase of my working life (and getting a car licence as part of that), I decided that it's time to symbolically and literally clean out the clutter. I'm not sure what is in there, but it's time to find out. Most of the contents of the shed will probably go to either the dump or (preferably) to other people's sheds. I have friends who can probably use some of it.

Day one;
We (my daughter and I) moved everything from in front of the doors and cleared the first little part of the tool section. Of course it decided to rain intermittently so we had to cover everything with tarps and the black snake (I call him Brian) was disturbed by all the deconstruction happening in his winter abode and decided to emerge from the mess, sending my daughter back to the house for a few hours.

It looks much bigger without the junk
One section all ready for organising

Day 2; We continued to dig out archeological finds from the mess; two drills that haven't been used in years, ten complete door locks still in their wrapping, my six crates of Fowlers bottles for preserving food. We put together some of the metal shelves we bought from Bunnings an age ago for just this purpose and began putting things away. The work is frustratingly slow as every box in there is falling to pieces, meaning that I have to pick up things (sometimes tiny things) from the ground and find new containers for them. I am enjoying getting rid of a lot of stuff though. The work continues.

You can see some order happening

Day 3; My daughter used old coffee jars (the big glass ones) to re-home countless bolts, screws, nails and mysterious bits of metal. Now all we need are some more shelves to put them on. I am returning to work this week so work on the shed will be a lot slower for a while, it will  get done though.

Things are starting to go back into the shed.

We put up some brackets to hang things on the wall. That pile of stuff behind my partner is all his to put away.
Day 5: We continue to work on the shed project...very slowly. We found a couple of old (very dead) fridges that we are using to house my partner's tool collection which keeps all his electrical stuff out of the dust, moisture and marauding rodents. I also found a series of old hurricane lamps that I had been keeping 'just in case'. I decided to put them in the humpy as decoration, and as a backup for lighting (they are still fully functional).

All lined up

I just love old stuff

I was hoping to delay this post until the shed was a shining example of organisation and cleanliness, but it now seems that that vision is a fair way in the future so this will become a two part post. It may not seem to be any neater from my photos, but I assure you it is much better. I look forward to the day when the shed is done.

Friday, 28 April 2017

Meet Primrose the Rainbow Lorikeet

Primrose, or Prim for short

Way back in January some time we had a text from a friend who had been approached by someone with a baby bird who needed care. Of course our friend contacted us straight away, because we have become known in our area as the repository of lame ducks, flightless birds and white elephants. Of course we said to bring the baby bird over and we would see what we could do, because we are in fact the repository for all creatures great and small in need of help.

Our first report said that this baby bird was a rosella, so we emergency bought a huge bag of granivore mix (for seed eating birds like rosellas). Feeling very prepared and organised, we set up a nursery cage with soft fabric as a nest and hot water jars for heat.

Our first sight of Prim

This is what a baby rosella looks like (from a bird raising site)

When our friend delivered this baby bird in a shoe box, we had a peek inside and felt a lot less prepared; she was obviously a Rainbow lorikeet (the blue head is a dead giveaway), luckily the people who rescued her had been feeding her organic baby food (fruit and vegetable mush) which is fine for either species. If she had been fed granivore mix she would have had a very upset tummy and would possibly have died.

We had some nectivore mix (for birds that eat nectar and pollen, like lorikeets and honey eaters) in the cupboard for Barry (the Blue faced honey eater) so we fed her that for a few days until we could get some nectivore mix especially for baby birds. She was in very good condition, not dehydrated or thin at all, so her transition to humpy living was relatively easy.

Apparently she had fallen or been blown from her nest into a mud puddle in a storm, then picked up by a large dog who took her home to his place. The people who rescued her (from their dog) had just put her in a warm box and fed her, so she was still covered in dried mud and dog slobber. We were also worried that the dog may have hurt her, although after two or three days in her rescuer's hands she had not shown any sign of injury. As it turned out she had no injuries. Our first move was to give her a warm bath to remove the mud, which was causing her some irritation, as were her feathers as they grew in.

Yes, this is the 'baby in the bath' photo
It took two baths to remove the majority of the mud and Prim herself groomed the rest off. She was fed and changed just like a baby for weeks after that and just like a baby she cried at night and had to be fed on a four hourly basis. Needless to say nobody in the house got much sleep until she gained enough weight to sleep through the night. Luckily my eldest daughter took on all of the child rearing duties (making Prim a grand daughter I suppose), she feeds her, changes her cage and keeps her amused for hours at a time.

After a week more of her feathers had come through and she looked like a bird not a dinosaur

She loves to groom hair

She loves to groom herself

She sleeps on her back a lot of the time

Prim is a delight to have around, even if she is a bit naughty. She learned to fly very young and flew out the window into a tall gum tree, where she stayed for two nerve wracking days. She couldn't work out how to fly down and kept calling to us for food but not understanding that we had no way to get to her. Eventually my daughter and I took an extension ladder out to the tree and my daughter climbed up as far as she was able then coaxed Prim into trying to fly to her. Prim launched herself into the air towards my daughter, who leaned out as far as she could from the ladder and snatched Prim from the air, everyone concerned let out a startled squawk and Prim was safe once more. It was decided to clip some of her flight feathers to slow down her development a little. This is not something we usually do as it can be really hard for birds to develop flight muscles if they don't do it young, but she would have starved on her own as she was only just beginning to learn to feed herself.
Prim has become my daughter's closest feathered friend since she lost her galah George last year but we all love her and delight in her antics. She has  taken to screaming what sounds like "Up yours!!!" at my partner when he gets home from work (I don't know where she got that from) but she loves him and will make her way across the furniture, floor and sometimes dogs to get to him for a play as soon as he is sitting down. She supervises the cutting up of fruit and vegetables to feed all the birds (galahs, cockatiels, budgies, miners and a crippled finch) in the mornings, bouncing up and down on the shoulder of whoever is doing the cutting and screeching advice. She watches movies with us and loves to snuggle down to snooze in my knitting (all birds love knitting it seems) or in someone's hands. She sings along with music and really love the Hilltop Hoods, but isn't so fond of M&M (I found that strange as she often sounds like she's swearing). The joys of opening your house to creatures in need are many, they make all the work worth while. Prim will be popping up in posts for a while from now on, until she decides it is time to join the wild flocks and find herself a life.