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Thursday, 31 March 2016

Bad Cockies and Good Kitties!

Every morning at dawn right now, we get visited by the Red-tailed Black Cockatoos.   They are after these...

The immature fruits of the Persoonia trees, also known as Snottygobbles.  When the fruit is ripe it goes yellowy-green and under the skin is a very slimy fruit that is edible, but not very visually appealing, as you can tell from its colloquial name!  

I'm a bit torn about the Cockies' visits, because they need all the food sources they can get, due to all the land clearing that is still going on along the thin coastal forest strip of WA that is their home, but they make a dreadful mess of the trees. It's especially noticeable on Yggdrasil, the big wolf tree that grows lushly in our bottom paddock.  At this time of year, Yggdrasil gets a very harsh trim indeed, with leaves and branches snipped off by the big birds and left to carpet the ground all around the tree.

It seems very wasteful to me, as many fruits are left on the snipped branches and untouched once they hit the ground.

It noticeably thins the canopy of this usually dense tree.

I love this tree to bits.  The branches and trunk have this wonderful gnarly affect, partly due to the odd way it expands, seeming to make cracks, then fill them with bark from the inside out. 

And I love that the drooping branches form a sheltering room that you can step into and enter a different world.

It's marvelous tree.  Every year it seems to survive the birds and regrow all the lost leaves, so fingers crossed that it continues to do so until Ragnarok at least!

Yesterday Niamh and I had our second art lesson.  We were going to practice drawing people by using Andrew as a model but he got a call to go do some work at the last minute.  Superkitty Cyrano seemed to know we needed a new life model, so he came up on the table and patiently lounged around for the whole time that we needed him.  What a good kitty he is!

Niamh got to practice the fascinating and frustrating art of life drawing animals, where you need to give up on a drawing when they move and find a new angle to draw each time. She did great!

By the end she was doing little studies of different body parts and really carefully observing what was in front of her, which is the secret to becoming a good artist, and also to enjoying your drawing time.  She has great concentration for a ten year old. It bodes well for her future art.

Once we'd done our drawing, Cyrano kindly stayed around while we messed with watercolours. Niamh is really getting the hang of letting the colours be transparent and seeing what happens when you add colour to colour on the wet paper.

Of course I had to join in. Think I was getting his nose too long. He looks rather Tigery.  :) 

Mr Kitty loved all the attention. He really basked away there in between us, turning back and forth and giving us lots of chances to start a new drawing.  :)

Writing news is a bit slow lately, I know.  Seems like it has taken me ages to get Heroic Plans ready to publish, but I am on the last stretch now.  Just have the cover to design.  It won't be long now until you are back in the world of cheeky Kat and Jimmy, I promise.   

I had a nice 'nature moment' the other night.  I was off out to pick up Andyroo and there were a pair of visitors at the gate.

Can you see the second one sitting on the letterbox?  They're Mopokes, or Tawny Frogmouths. They stayed put and allowed me to get right up to them to take clearer photos.

In the end I had to open the gate to get the car out because Andrew was waiting down at the station, and at last they flew away on soft, silent wings. I love those little moments of connection to nature.  They are like gifts.    

With winter on her way, it's been time to get in some winter veg.  The bok choi is doing great, and behind that is this years winter crop of Foordhook Giant silverbeet. This winter I really need to revamp the big garden bed, or perhaps remove it entirely and put in some more of these tanks. I get much better crops off these than the big bed.

Looks like Andyroo might be having some more time off work, so maybe we can redesign the vegie gardens from scratch.  Along with all the other stuff we still need to do, including redoing the east side of the chook pen, which has been propped up on nothing but dead branches in places for way too long.  It never ends, does it!

I finished my latest afghan today, though.  Just a few loose ends left to weave in, and it will be finally able to be gifted.  Phew, what a huge process they are.  A labor of love for sure. If anyone ever makes you one, make sure you appreciate all that love and time they have put into it. I can tell you from personal experience that it will have been no small effort.

Tuppy appreciates us. 

Such a funny dog she is.  In all the ways you can be funny!         

Sunday, 27 March 2016

My Favorite Books: "The Sword in the Stone," by T.H. White

This is one of those stories that is considered a children's book, but that really crosses the age groups to teach and entertain anyone who picks it up.  It's another book that I've read more times than I can count.

It was written by White as a stand alone novel, telling of the young days of King Arthur, and how he came to become the sort of young man who would be worthy to be the King of England and to found the Round Table.  Later, White wrote more novels that combined together to become "The Once and Future King" but the rest of the story is rather dark and I feel too much for Arthur to enjoy reading it, though I have done so a couple of times over the years.

The first book, The Sword in the Stone, though, is a delight.  Many of us know the story as it was told by Disney, and to be sure, that story has plenty of charm of its own.

For me, though, they missed the point of the story. Arthur became who he was via a series of journeys brought about for him via the magic of his tutor, Merlin. It's a Shamanic story, a story which many Druids will experience as we journey through our studies.  The Wart, (Arthur) speaks to beings like stones and badgers, and becomes many creatures.  He visits a Goddess.  From all these beings he learns, and from the gentle, somewhat befuddled wisdom of Merlin.

I love these parts of the story.  I love that Wart has Merlin to care for and guide him so carefully. I compare Merlin to Dumbledore and find Dumbledore wanting.

The ways Wart learns from experience and stories are those of the Druids, and in Celtic mythology, Merlin himself was a Druid. How I would love to sit at his feet in his jumbled room and learn as the Wart did.

T.H. White has such love for the animals of the story and lets them share their wisdom to us as well as to Wart. It's not done in a stern way, it is charming and fun and yet it is wise and beautiful too.

Being a bit of a mad medievalist, I also love how White has portrayed the life in and around the castle where Wart grew up.  The seasons are felt and celebrated.  People matter to each other.  Animals and growing things and humans are all mixed up together, as we should be.  Still, it is not all sweetness and light.  There is death and cruelty and callousness as well. It was not necessarily a time of kindness, but Wart finds himself in rather a lovely backwater where he can learn and grow in relative peace.  I'm sure this, too, helped shape the King he would become.   He sought to create that same balance and peace in his whole kingdom, though he ultimately failed.

Some scenes from the book stick in my mind always: 

The moment where the great Boar stands steaming in the clearing during the boar hunt.

The quiet emotion and courage of the hardened King's Huntsman at having to end the life of his injured hound.

The joust between Sir Grummore and King Pellinore, a scene that is both funny and awe-inspiring.

The conversation in the tower about the language of birds.  

Wart's journey into the deeps of Forest Sauvage, and seeing the first of Robin Hood's men, sitting so still and brown against a great tree, with his dog at his knee.

The night Wart spends with the castle's raptors as a hawk.

So many scenes once I start thinking about it!  

I'm not sure when I first read this book, but it has surely shaped me as much as it did Arthur.

Read it, you won't regret it!

Thursday, 24 March 2016

Happy Equinox!

Spring or Autumn Equinox, this is a time of balance between dark and light, heat and cool, energy and rest.  It is one of my favorite times of year, when winter is on its way and some blessed cool gives us relief at last from our long summer.

We've been doing plenty of this and that as usual.  Andyroo is due to go back to work next month unless we can win a lottery.  It's sad because we get on so well and have such good times together.  In the meantime we are catching up on all those chores we planned to do while he was off work and that ended up taking a back seat to Fire Brigade activities.

Last weekend I spent at a course for Structural Firefighting.  I learned a lot, including why I'd rather not enter a burning building!  All kudos to the red truck guys and gals who do this for a living!

We did a lot of work on safe ladder use, especially handling the big three length ones.

Apparently the term for correct raising of the ladder is 'lifties', or it was by the time we'd finished, but then you get that sort of thing happening when there are five ladies in the course!  Yes five, and only four guys!  Go girl power!

I also got to use a few different types of fire extinguishers to put out fires, and that was fun. Seeing how fire acts in an enclosed room was scary, but it is always good to know more than to be ignorant.  I'd like to hope that I'll never need to know, but if I do, I'll be ready.  Using the bigger fire hoses was fun too, but rolling them all up afterwards was knackering! 

Then, I went back home to rest and do something much more genteel.  The afghan is two circuits from being finished, but of course I still can't show it to you yet.  Not till it's been gifted!  Cyrano Kitty still likes to lie on it but prefers me to be doing kitty-patting instead of crocheting.

Yesterday my youngest niece, Niamh, came over for an art lesson.  We did a still life of a couple of my Amigurumi, and practiced using a pencil and your thumb to get scale, then using watercolour paints on watercolour paper.  She did a good job!

Been a long time since I taught art to anyone.  Luckily I seem to remember how to do it.

Things are uploading very slowly today for some reason, so I think that will do for my blog post. I have a book to finish editing, and a floor to clean.  The sublime and the domestic.  Balance.  :)    


Sunday, 20 March 2016

Rosie's 8th Birthday

It's my sweet Rosie's birthday today, so I went and looked for some photos of her as a young'un.  We had quite a few but they'd got lost in the depths of our old photo management system, which was basically crap.  :) 

Rosie was bred by my mum.  Her bitch Tess was mum's girl and the dog was a Fellow called Cooper from the Eastern States that mum had met at trials and loved. She used chilled semen for the mating.

Rosie's mum, Tess.

Rosie's dad, Cooper.

It was a lovely match that produced a litter of really nice registered Labs that went on to be lovely pets and successful retrieving dogs.  I had planned on keeping a pup and spent a lot of time helping mum with the babies.  There were two girls in the litter, both black.  I had my pick, but at first they were pretty similar.    

Then, from about four weeks old, Rosie decided she was mine. She was a strong willed little miss even then.

Get me out of this puppy pen, mama! 


 I was a bit smitten.  :)

At seven weeks we brought her across from mum's house to our cottage a lot, though she went back and forth that last week while her siblings were still next door so she could keep learning her socialising as well. Buffy and Tam were both quite mature old ladies by then, but they looked after her really well, though Buffy was always the tolerant queen of the family. 

She really livened up all our lives.  

As she grew, we took her out to fun things like the beach and retrieving.

And for lots and lots and lots of lovely bushwalks.

She loved it when mama Tess had a litter of little sister and brothers.

She had her own babies.

 And she grew into a very beautiful dog.

She still is!

Happy birthday, sweet Rosie! (We've made sure of that with a trip to walk by the river and a stop at an ice-cream shop.)

Thursday, 17 March 2016

Tugs and Ponies

So we had the Fireys BBQ on the weekend.   It was fun!  Reminded me of events I went to as a kid.  The kids there were safe and had heaps of space to run and play, and didn't they have a good time!

Mum came along, and my sis, Jen, and her family too.

Our Tug-O-War team had trained a bit,  and were pretty confident we'd make a good showing.
But, sadly they came up against the winners in the very first round and out we went!  Looking at the other teams, I think we'd have done quite well if the draw had been more favorable. Ah well, it was only for fun, though pretty sure the winning team takes it very seriously indeed. They've been the winners for, I think, four years in a row!

That's my Bro-in-Law Craig as anchor, and Andrew in front of him, giving it their all.

Nikki sent me this photo she got of me at a recent fire.  Elegant as a ballerina on the fireground, I am!  (Not!)  Ah well, the main thing is to get the job done, and I can do that.

This is me fitting the monitor to the 1.4.

And using it.

This fire had cars on fire and the smoke was nasty in places, but usually you come home smelling quite pleasantly of woodsmoke.  We'd been joking about the 'perfume' you and your clothes get covered with for a while, so in the end I made this bit of fun from the lovely photo taken by Elton at a recent fire.  :)

This morning I saw photos of my ex-boy, Archie, going for his first trail ride.  He is four and a half now.  Louise is such a great trainer.  I knew she was the right home for this very intelligent, brave, naughty, young Gypsy Cob cross.  One day I hope to see him in a show as one of her liberty horses! 

Archie when he first arrived here as an 18mth old, furry, itchy, mischievous little monkey. He was so bored here. He needed a lot more horsey friends to play with and a lot more going on around him to keep his mind occupied and him out of trouble!

It makes me happy knowing he is in the perfect home for him now!