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Thursday, 30 April 2015

Updates on this lovely First of May

First up, the winner of the free copy of Chicken Soup for Satan was Miranda, who liked and commented on my author Facebook page and whose name was drawn out of the hat (beanie) by Andyroo with much ceremony this morning!  Congratulations Miranda!

I've been a little quiet on the crochet front lately because a lot of what I was making was gifts for people. I made a third minicorn for my sister PJ in Queensland.  Here he or she is with my own one. The new one has lovely sparkly turquoise eyes.  Andyroo suggested that I need to make a second one for me and then they could pull a little crocheted chariot.  How cute would that be?   
I also made a pair of owls for my Da and stepmum, Jill, from this adorable pattern.   

I am nearly done making a granny square afghan in Fremantle Docker's (Aussie Rules footy team's) colours, and since I couldn't make squares in front of the telly at night while I was busy joining that up by day, because it was too dark and fiddly to do at night, I made extra squares from the same colours and made a scarf for a football mad friend.  I'm so pleased that she loves it!

I also made this guy, name of Jellybunny, from this free pattern.

He's going to go to work with Andyroo to be snuggled by stressed office workers, but for now he's hanging with my keeper crew. He seems very fond of Haloumi the scary penguin (the first amigurumi I ever made from this free ebook on how to do it).  Maybe his sweet nature will divert Haloumi onto the paths of good.  :)

Here's the sight and sound of a flock of White-tailed Cockatoos flying and perching all around us up at Moy-mel.   There are two sorts but I'm not sure if these were Baudin's or Carnaby's.  They're noisy buggers!  You can hear one cranky raven telling them to sod off in the middle.    

It's definitely autumn here now. My favorite bit of autumn colour comes from my very own cottage wall, a Virginia Creeper.  This is how it looked a week or so ago.

This is how it looks now:

A close-up a week ago:

The same spot now:

And this is mum's favorite tree of all, a Liquidamber that grows by her house:

I meditated it with it once.  It is as fond of mum as she is of it, believe it or not!  Trees will talk, but you do need to sit very peacefully with them, be patient and quiet your mind.  Some are chatty, some are trees of few words, a very few have been crabby, but most are very nice.  This tree is particularly sweet.

I've been playing my lyre every day.  It is lovely to play! I promise when I get a handle on it I will make a video (Argh! Embarrassment!) and play it for you.  Apparently I like a challenge because I told Odin I would write him a song and that would be the first full tune I would play on it.  The song is written, the tune worked out.  I just have to play it right through without mistakes now.  The left-handed picking skills are coming along really fast.  Such a relief after playing right-handed on the guitar all these years. Never let anyone tell you to learn to play an instrument with your non-dominant hand!              
I posted the other day that I'd seen a raven pinching eggs in the chook dome. I got a couple of pics of these two collaborating on more thefts.

Not the best photos but they are very wary, and no surprises why if they do this sort of thing at other places!
Being as how they are Odin's birds and all, I would like to help them if they'd be willing to share, but it isn't good to feed the native birds anyway as they don't get correct nutrition and get too reliant on you.  It is enough that I keep water here for them. So, it was time to see if I could outsmart one of the smartest of birds.

This is what I came up with. A plastic bag cut up to make streamers and flap whitely in the breeze.  Unfortunately it also outsmarted most of my chooks, so I had to tie it up and leave only a streamer or two floating till they got the hang of ducking under it to get in and out.  Madame Blavatsky is as fearless as her namesake and didn't give a damn right from the start.

"Call that scary?  Huh!  Where did you put those sunflower seeds?  I claim my prize for most courageous chicken!" 
 Mrs Guppy, who is still the weird one, decided it meant she had to try to sleep on the roof of the chook dome again, and she's STILL laying her eggs outside the nesting box. Mrs Guppy is a one-off for sure!

"Woooo! Ectoplasm! Spooky" 

Sunday, 26 April 2015

Music to Write to: The Corries

Writing is still going on here.  68 261 words on Freya and the Hairy Goddess as of this morning.  Don't forget to comment on the last post if you would like to be in the running for a free book!  

I've recently added some Lyre music to my writing mix and am enjoying it, but one of the earliest groups whose music I still write to is The Corries.

This image comes from a video:

My first experience of them was a cassette tape mum and I picked up in Kirkcaldy in 1996 in Scotland, and to listen to The Corries sing Loch Lomond while we were driving past Loch Lomond, well, that was quite an experience!

I love their harmonies, I love the way they can pick up so many instruments, I love how great they are live, and I love that they tell stories.  They are perhaps best known for Flower of Scotland, which they actually wrote, and which gets played often at Scottish sporting events and such.   

They do a beautiful live version of Wild Mountain Thyme:

My favorites, though are some of their more obscure songs.  This is The October Song, so beautiful, especially to a nature lover like me:

They do some really good lively ones too, like Johnny Lad:

And some downright funny ones too.  Anyone who has owned a Bantam rooster will recognise the hero of this song:

I own about five of their albums, but I think my very favorite song of all is this one, Kishmul's Galley. It is just so joyous, and of course it tells a story!

Kisimul's (Kishmul's) Castle was on the Island of Barra, seat of the head of the MacNeill Clan, and Kishmul's Galley was the ship the clan chief, The MacNeill would take out pirating.  What they brought back must have been quite a boon for the isolated islanders.  I'll put a little more of a story under this link if you are interested in reading it.

Here's Kishmul's Galley, and yes it is my favorite to sing along to!

Story from Marjory Kennedy-Fraser, a very interesting lady who was a singer, composer, and arranger who recorded many of the Scottish songs and stories. 

"Kishmul's Galley
Una the lonely sat on a hill top on the isle of Barra, thinking of the queer things of life--the heath that is plucked ere it comes to bloom, the boat that goes down in the mouth of the harbour, the great sea that brings wealth to one and death to the other.

She had drunk her fill of the three sorrows of a woman, the sorrow of the orphan, the sorrow of a widow and the sorrow of the mother, and sure, having nothing now to work or hope for in this life, it would be no sorrow at all for her to sleep with the other tired women in the quiet kirkyard.

Una the lonely looked out to sea and looking forgot her thoughts. The waves were boiling with rage because the wind was laughing and mocking them; and far out, Kishmul's Galley, with Macneill of Barra and the bravest of his lads on board, was turning her head towards the bay and the old castle of the clan. But Oh Great being of the graces, as soon as the waves and wind noticed the galley, they straightaway forgot their own quarrel and must need join hands to drown the pluckiest galley in the Isles. Let me swallow her said the sea, opening it, s great mouth--but like the mountain stag, Kishmul's galley bounded to the top of the nearest wave. Let me topple her over said the wind, loud blowing with all its might, but like the seal of Lochlann, the galley darted down into a sea-glen. Wild with anger the waves sprang at her planks and the wind tattered her sails and snapped her rigging--but let them do their worst, Kishmul's Galley was ever the darling to carry her dear ones safely home. And Macneill of Barra and his men began to sing a song of triumph--they could see the old castle now, where the good things in life were waiting for them; the red wine, the feasting, the harping, and the best of all, the love of women and the prattle of children. Don't be so sure said the wind, drawing its whole breath into its lungs. But ere the great effort came, the galley suddenly darted into the quiet of the bay, leaving wind and wave taunting each other with defeat.

And Una the lonely, watching from the hilltop, leapt to her feet and--O Mother of God cried she what if yon galley be me."

At times through my Lyme journey, I too have found hope in the idea of that bright galley making it through the storm to the peaceful port!    

Thursday, 23 April 2015

Chicken Soup for Satan is in Print!

Here it is, and in the interests of variety, I didn't do a selfie with it this time. Instead Cyrano is my model, though he didn't find it exciting enough to actually wake up.  :)

To celebrate the arrival of Chicken Soup in print, if you comment here or on my FB page I will add your name to a hat.  In one week from today, I will have Andyroo draw out one name to have a print copy sent to that person anywhere in the world.

Here's a five star review from Amazon by Gavin to whet your appetite!

"Merrybard has presented, here, a wonderful first person narrative. "Satan" - the narrators nickname/alter ego - is you hard as concrete exterior personality over softer, deeper core kind of bad arse suburban Aussie. He drives a black utility, "the Nasgul", has long hair and tats, and his best mate is a white Sheppard named Ghost.

Satan has been stuck living with his aging, ex-pat English, parents for too long and he needs to get away from his matriarchal mother and senile father. So he finds himself a share house. With very, very different people than he normally associates with. Is this finally where he can really be himself? Can he finally let the hard, unsmiling exterior go? It all seems rather idyllic for a short while

Then weird s*** starts happening. The world as they - Satan and his housemates - know it becomes more and more warped. With strange creatures from the imaginations and myths turning out to be very, very real.

Come along for the ride. Chicken Soup for Satan is laid out by a very talented story teller and the first person style works beautifully. I'll definitely be reading this one again and have already recommended it to friends and family as well worth the time and money."

Do comment and good luck!


Monday, 20 April 2015

A visit to Kanyana Wildlife Rescue Centre

First up, I 'd like to say that I greatly admire June Butcher and all her volunteers for Kanyana who keep this place up and running and who nurse animals in their homes.  Their knowledge and passion was a thing to behold and very inspiring!

Mum and I went along to a two hour course on how to manage any injured wildlife we might come across.  Obviously in two hours you can't learn a lot but you can learn how to manage collecting the different types of animals and birds you might come across while driving or working in a bush reserve, and how to get them to someone who knows what to do next.  A lot of our native fauna are very fragile so much expertise is needed in treating them.

In the course of the talk we go to meet some of the beasties and birdies that have been unable to be released back to their bush homes for various reasons and who then become part of the education team.

This is Precious.  He's a Tawny Frogmouth, a kind of Nightjar, a night bird rather like owls. Please pardon the photos, it was indoors and I didn't want to startle the critters by using my flash.   I was pleased by how well they came out, actually!

He was taken back to his home territory twice after being treated, and both times he flew back to the sanctuary, so they realised he didn't want to leave.  :)  Precious has a phobia about reptiles so they had to put him away before they brought any out. For a bird who is considered to live partly on small reptiles, this might have been rather a disadvantage in the wild, so no wonder he prefers captivity!


Once Precious was safely away, we got to meet this Western Bluetongue.

I hadn't realised we have them here in the West as well as the Eastern States.. I  thought our local Bluetongues only came in the gnarly bobtail style like this.  :)

This image came from this blog where you can see plenty of local reptiles if you want more.  :)

Next was Ruby the Echidna.  She knows her business and didn't want to come out of her crate until she saw her food bowl get put down.  Here she is waiting, for it, then coming for it.  Too funny!

After that one of the ladies brought her round so people could have a feel of her pouch. I thought that was a bit rude to do without asking!  :)  Echidnas are monotremes, a very rare and prehistoric form of marsupial.  They were around when dinosaurs walked the earth.

I'd never seen one like this from underneath before, and was amazed by her charming floppy ears.

Next was Jinda the Stimson's Python.

In all my years of walking and riding horses in the bush, I've never seen any sort of python, though I know we have them.  They are very shy.  As for our much-vaunted poisonous snakes, most are not aggressive and as they told us, you just, "Say good-ay and walk away," and they will return the courtesy.
This is Boodie the Burrowing Bettong, a small hopping marsupial. They are extinct on the mainland of Oz (good going us, done in less than two hundred years of white occupation in WA) but they do still survive on some islands.  Boodie is ten, which is more than twice as old as Bettongs get to be in the wild.  Captivity is definitely a little easier than being wild!


We don't need to worry about running this guy over, but we do need to worry about his distant relatives, the kangaroos and wallabies, so we got a good talk about how to take a joey from its dead mother's pouch and keep it alive long enough to get to a foster carer.  It's amazing how small they can be, pink and tiny, and still be raised, if the right person cares for them.  It's not legal to have the native animals or birds as pets but some people have permits and those are the ones who do the raising of orphans too.

We also got shown how to catch an injured raptor or cockatoo (carefully!) and we were warned to leave our native possums alone and just call the Wildcare helpline.  They bite!

For local folks, the Wildcare Helpline number to call for injured big critters is the (08) 9474 9055.  Put it in your phone or wallet now. Don't wait to find it until you are standing beside an injured roo on a dark country road!

The last critter we were shown is Eva Gabor.  She's a stick insect from Queensland, who was raised by June from an egg, yes an egg!  Apparently June can raise anything!  She has the magic touch!   

This raven's nest was in the foyer;

Very elaborate, though not as comfy inside as some nests I've seen. I have a funny story about the ravens here.  The other morning I saw one hanging around the small door to the chook's dome.  I wondered why since I had put some food out in the pen and she or he could easily have had that.  Next thing, the raven is in the dome and swiftly out again, carrying an egg in their beak!  That bloody Mrs Guppy is still laying her eggs outside the nesting box and Mr or Mrs raven could see her smallish egg not far from the dome entrance and looking just right for wary raveny beaks!

The last thing I wanted to show you was this wall hanging that was also in the foyer.  It shows many difference native birds and animals.  So much work! Being a fibre arts person, I had to take a snap of it!


Thursday, 16 April 2015

The birth of the Cover Art for Cunning Plans

The Kindle version of this book has a perfectly nice painting on it, one I did for a lady who did me a favour many years ago.  This is Ruby.

 I shortened her long star in Gimp to make it match Lingo, the horse from the story, better.

Trouble is, this horse was a chestnut, yes, but also a little Standardbred mare, and every time I look at her, I know she isn't a tall Thoroughbred gelding. So, a new cover for the print version had to be made!

Since there are no chestnut Thoroughbreds in my life to use as models, I began with a mix of photos searched off Google. I can't show them here because it wouldn't be fair to the owners.  I worked from them all so that there is not a particular recogniseable image to cause copyright problems.

I knew exactly what I wanted to do composition wise and since I was using acrylic on canvas, I had a lot of wiggle room for fixing issues that cropped up, so rather than doing lots of sketches, I just drew right onto the canvas and got down to it.

The original drawing was done in white pencil on a gold and brown background.  I then painted over the drawing with dark blue and filled in the spaces with red, because the gold was shiny and making it hard to see what was going on!  The brown and gold were just left-over paint that I had brushed onto the canvas years ago, rather than waste it. I won't do that with gold again!  :)  You can see it showing up around the lines, and even in the finished work it is still here and there a little. 

I drew back over that with white pencil again to fix things that showed up when I could see it better, and to add a little more detail.

Next stage, adding in blocks of colour.  

More colour and lots more work on the horse. I had an idea that Kat might use green on Lingo to celebrate her Irish blood, and also that it would really zing against the complementary oranges and reds.  I was happy with how Lingo was going, but I really wasn't happy with the rider. 

I slept on it (and painted it in my dreams half the night) and in the morning I got up and overdrew it with white pencil again.  The lower leg was too long (for an ex-jockey's!) and tipped too far back.  The angle of her face was wrong and head/helmet was too small. 

I was happier with that all fixed, but the green saddle-cloth was just TOO zingy and detracting from the rest of the image, so I took it back to dark blue like her coat.  Better!  

  But I still didn't like it so I took it back to a numnah-shape.

And so, a few last touches here and there, and all finished!  I thought a dark blue/purple to match Kat's riding coat would work well for the title and author text areas, which will go above and below on the red/orange.  A bit of a close up of the finished figures. What do you think?

I'm very out of practice working with acrylics, but I think it came out ok!

Sunday, 12 April 2015

The Greening of Moy-mel.

We bought this five acre block of land about six years ago when it became apparent that living here with mum was working for us all.  We needed to stay in the real estate game since prices here in gold rush town, Perth, were crazy and might have kept going up.  It's about ten minutes up the road, so nice and close.  We fenced it, and we walk the dogs there, a safe place to let them run crazy and where we don't have to worry about cars or strange dogs.  We walk there at least twice a week and mum walks her dogs there too.

It is a pretty block, with some really good old trees on it, but it had been overrun with sheep for many years before we got it, and apart from the big trees, there was very little else growing there.  Being me, a mad tree planter, I just had to start greening it up.  Our local shire gives out seedling trees and other local natives every year for this very purpose, so I have been planting and caring for trees and shrubs on this block every year since we got it, in fact I think the first lot went in before the final paperwork had even been signed.  It was time to get planting, and no way was I going to miss a year!

This is the view from the front gate up towards what we call the grove of giants.  There is underground water up there amongst the rocks.  It has allowed a very large number of very big trees to grow very close together.     

These are two of the Marris in the grove of giants. There are two right next to each other. 

Right next to and around the grove of giants is what we call Mythago Wood, after the Robert Holdstock novels.  The young Jarrah and Marri trees have sprung up so fast here, it's quite magical.  They weren't planted by me either!  They are self-seeded and have grown up all around their giant parents, who tower over them.  That's a Marri in full flower there.  

A close up of the flowers:
I've mostly stuck to planting around the fire break on the edges of the block so that if we ever sell, a new person won't need to clear any of my plantings to build a house.

This is the East side, one of the earliest planting areas:

Here is the South side:
All that lighter green is our plantings.  You can see how harsh and rocky this land is. The tank is an old one that doesn't hold water.  One day it could have a  liner put in and be useful, but Andrew keeps eyeing it off to have a roof on and doors put in and be made into a druid hut.  I rather fancy giving it a paint job to make it look like a mini stone castle!

These are some of my newest plantings, just through their first summer.  I water them every week in their first summer. After that I hope they can hold their own, though I do give them a drink the next year if it has been too long since the last rain.

The south fence with the newest plants in their tree guards at the top of the hill and some of the older plantings showing below.  

 The West fenceline, with running Tuppy.

This Queen Jarrah is not feeling too well but we are treating her for dieback and hoping she can come good. 
I think this will be called Andrew's grove when it grows up.  I planted so many this year that I couldn't get them all watered in one visit, so on Saturdays he's been coming up with me to do the extras.  We have an oak tree there too, one that comes from a tree here at home that grew from an acorn that came from a tree my Great Grandma had.  Tree love goes a long way back in my family.  :)
There is also a tiny Liquidamber that my mum bought us because they are her favorite trees and she loves the block and wanted to give it a present.

These are the big old olives in the middle of the block, we call them the three sentinels.   Ravens are currently having a great time eating the olives that fall from them.  There is a big 'conspiracy' of ravens that lives thereabouts and often visits.  Nice for a devotee of Odin.  :) 

And of course, happy Labradors!  We get rabbits here, and also kangaroos have been known to visit, so there are plenty of fun smells to find! 

  It will be fun to take more pictures in years to come and see how much the face of the block changes.  The name, Moy-mel, comes from the mythical Welsh tales and means Land (or Island) of Honey.  We planting plenty of bee feeding trees and shrubs, so already that is coming true!  We have a hive swarming right now up in one of the tall trees, and last year there was another at the base of a tree.  We are seeing more and more little birds too.

This year I don't have so many to plant.  I'm having an easy year!  I do want to plant some beside poor old Queen Jarrah and see if more company on her open sides can shelter her and cheer her up, so that's my main goal for this coming winter.