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Sunday, 29 March 2015

Lyre and Labradors

Work on the Anglo-Saxon Lyre is moving along slowly.  First I did half permanent ink pen and half acrylic paint on the two tester bits of wood, one varnished and one unvarnished, so we could varnish over both and see what would happen.  Now you can see why doing testers is a good idea!

The varnish smudged the acrylic paint, which is on the left of the design on both. It was worse on the varnished than unvarnished tester, but on both permanent ink was the better choice.  I began to use to the ink on the Lyre unvarnished, but one stroke of the pen and I could see it was going to bleed much worse than on the tester.  No idea why, more sanding been done perhaps, so I stopped and Andyroo did one layer of varnish before I inked the design.

What do you think? I think it has come out really well!

It's had two more coats of varnish with a light sand between each layer. Here it is hanging up in Andyroo's woodwork shed to dry.  That used to be my horse-feed shed but it soon got re-purposed and filled up when the horses went.  :)

Actually I had a dream last night that I went out and bought a lovely dapple grey Quarter Horse mare (probably because I'm coveting the beauteous Delia  over at Ride a Good Horse) but the minute I did I was like, oh no why did I do that?  Even in my dream I knew I was still not well enough to care for and enjoy a horse again, dammit. I used to dream about horses all the time when I first gave them up.  I rarely ever got to ride in the dreams, only had hassles that went on and on and didn't lead to actually getting on the horse!  The same thing happened to my sister in the years when she didn't have horses.  Weird!

Anyway, the Lyre is very close now to being put together.  We have all the parts.  Next time I post about it, it might be at the playing stage. Fingers crossed!

I got a little bit of video of my two Labbie girls doing two of their favorite tricks this week.  They do others but I think it would be best if someone else videos those.  :)  These two work quite well in the 'first person' style.

This is Tuppy doing her stand up thing:

She's such a lively little sprite, especially for a Lab!

Here's Rosie doing "Kangaroo." I have no idea why the video link looks grey today, it didn't when I uploaded them yesterday, and it may not tomorrow, but it works fine if you click the link. 

That Kangaroo trick evolved somehow from me starting out to free shape her with the clicker to walk backwards in front of me.  Such is the fun and games of clicker training!  I could have stuck to her walking backwards if my intent had been serious, but I like to see what happens when they start to put their own spin onto things, and what happened this time was Kangaroo!  

Friday, 27 March 2015

A Little Bit of everything

Cyrano de Purrgerac feels there should be more kitty smooching and less crocheting!

It's autumn here, thank goodness!  Time for winter seedlings to go in.

These are a bit leggy but hopefully they'll take off ok. Fordhook Giant Silverbeet, and Oak Leaf lettuce, with a stray spring onion and a couple of surviving garlic plants along the side. The other tank bed has rainbow chard and Black Russian Kale in it.  The tomato plants are still struggling along in the big bed but we did have some very wet steamy days that made them look pretty ugly with powdery mildew.  I could pick the last tomatoes and make green tomato chutney... if I get my act into gear.  Ah well, we have plenty of frozen homemade tomato sauce to tide us over.

It was Rosie's seventh birthday this week. Hard to believe my sweet, happy girl is seven already!

  Her latest trick is sitting on a ricky-rocky bit of tree that we have in the paddock.  First I reinforced her for two feet up, something she knows well.  Then I got her to stretch a bit and put her back foot up, while I steadied it with my foot under it, and treated her a lot for that.

After that it took a lot of practice (and a lot of treats rewarding baby steps) but she finally worked out how to bring that last foot up and balance herself.  Clever girl!

Now it's her favorite trick because it has been reinforced so much with lots of yummy treats!

The chookies are now one happy family again, thank goodness!  Nanny Ogg the Black Australorp says please to pardon her plumage as she is moulting.  Mrs Guppy is still being an individual; she lays her eggs outside the nesting spot the others all use!     

I'm not sure what this is, but it is thriving beside the chook's dome where I tip out the water to wash their water bowls out.  Pumpkin, I think.  Hopefully it will get a chance to fruit before the winter gets to it.     

I was outside the other night while Andrew was inside upstairs having a sauna.  The high windows looked like this:

And the inside looks like this:

I love what the big infrared lights do to the cottage!

And what does Mr Andyroo look like having a sauna?  This!  Eeeek!  Cheeky devil man!  

Writing is still flowing along really well for Freya and the Hairy Goddess.  I went over the 45 000 word mark yesterday and still having a lot of fun with my characters and all the adventures they get into. I've had a week off from other author-y type jobs this week but next week will start on getting Death by Dog Trial ready for the print version, and I've got an idea for new artwork for my Cunning Plans print cover.

This guy will be an owl, but this in-between stage is so funny, I had to take a picture!  

Weekend mornings generally mean a cuppa on the back verandah next door with mum and our extended Labrador family.  The mild weather we are currently having is perfect for it.  That's Tuppys bro, Angus, and behind him is Rosie's mama, Tess, who is 11 and a half now.     

May you have perfect weather too, and some lovely outside time,  preferably without a dog on the table!  (Or with, whatever makes you happiest!) 

Monday, 23 March 2015

Commenting will now be much easier!

I hadn't fiddled with the comments set-up section of my blog yet and realised yesterday that the default rules for who could comment were totally restrictive, so if you have tried to comment and found it was too hard or impossible, do please try again!

I would love to hear from you!

And here's a gratuitous pic of Tuppence that I came across again the other day, that really sums up her driven personality.  I've had pups before that would stare at you to get you to come and play, but never one who got up on tables to do it so that she'd be closer to your face!

Sunday, 22 March 2015

A walk in Mundaring Sculpture Park

This is our dogs' favorite walk, one of them anyway.  Even though they have to stay on lead, it has so many great smells because it is a busy little park, so it is full of fascination for them.  We often go and stagger around it early on Sunday mornings after a visit to our local fresh food shop.

This park is a stop on a series of bridle/walk paths that were old railway lines many years ago and that are now reserves. It's a fantastic resource for our Shire.  Heaps of walkers and cyclists use it.  Less horse-riders use it than previously, sadly.  I rode many miles of it in my horsey days myself.

This part of the trail was planted up many years ago by the Men of the Trees, though I think some trees may predate that planting. In those days they planted anything they had on hand, so we have a lot of introduced and Eastern States trees here, which is fine by me! I love all trees, no matter where they came from! On a hot day, this is a lovely park for a picnic or walk because it stays so cool and shady. 

The park also has a number of sculptures that have been here a long as we have.  They make for an interesting walk.  Some are themed for our shire's connection to the hugely long Kalgoorlie Pipeline, which was built to take water out to the goldfields in the early days. 

This one is rather interesting. I have no idea what it means, but if the battery is working, you can press panels in the post where Andyroo and Tuppy are standing and each panel makes a different recorded noise come out of the frozen swing bit.   As I say, I have NO idea what it all means!

The Grevilleas are flowering. 

As are the Marri trees.

This sculpture stands tall over the bridle trail where the old railway line passed through. You can go up on a platform and pull handles and make things up on the tower whirl and twirl.  I love interactive art!

Not all our Eucalypts want to grow straight and tall!

This seat is also a bulldozer coming up out of the ground.  

There are some lovely old pine trees.  They are introduced and not popular here any more because they steal so much nutrient and water from our poor soil, but I have good associations with them from riding among the pine plantations as a youngster.  I love the smell and the whisper of the needles.    

This is another seat.  I have never seen the other arm, if other arm there ever was.  Sometimes I wonder if one got broken when they were placing the sculpture here and never replaced!  Ah well, that's why I'm a writer; I'm always coming up with stories about stuff!

This is the tiny little Country Women's Assocation building, covered in a lovely mural.  I'm not sure how they even find room to swing a Lamington (which the CWA are famous for making) in there!  If you've never had a lamington, well, you should, they are delicious!  My mouth is watering at the very thought of one, even a gluten free one as it would have to be for me.   

This is another history-themed sculpture.  I'm kind of sad that they fenced it off because it was great fun to climb on, which is probably why they did fence it!  It has heaps of old tools welded on its top.  The wheelbarrow is a bit iconic because so many people traveled to the goldfields pushing all their belongings in wheelbarrows.  At a whisker under 600 kms, that was some walk.  

The BBQ/picnic area and playground, under more lovely trees.

And my favorite sculpture, entitled, "Tourists in Mundaring."  Hang on, isn't there an extra one at the end there?

It's a fun one to bring puppies to because it always amazes them to see these short, still people and you have to all go and sniff and pat them and show the pup they aren't people after all!

Finally, back to our faithful old Mr Whippy the car and home for morning tea!  What a shame the lovely Mundaring pub there isn't open yet.  :)

Friday, 20 March 2015

Chicken Soup for Satan: First pages free to read.

So, my latest book, "Chicken Soup for Satan," has gone live on Kindle at Amazon for 99 US cents  It's going to take a bit longer to get the printed version proofed and up for sale, but what the heck, here's the full cover:

And here's the first five pages to tempt you.  Enjoy!

Chapter 1

My name is Satan.  Satan Smith, to be exact.  I'm a rough, tough Aussie bloke and nobody messes with me.  Except my mother.  But then, she's a force of nature and even the real Satan would have feared her.
Right now I'm living under the shadow of Ma full time because I got evicted from my crummy flat.  My black t-shirts have knife edge creases ironed into them.  My coolest old jeans all have nerdy patches on them.  The dog's been washed so white he hurts your eyes.  It's hell.  It's hell, and that's why I'm off after work to some suburb that is almost in the sticks to check out a share rental.  Anything has to be better than living back with your parents when you're twenty-seven.
Da's already up and at the kitchen table, even though I leave for work pretty early.  “I'm going to shoot off, now oul' Feller,” I tell him, my Scouse accent much thicker than usual.  He understands you better if you use the accent of his hometown in England.
“In a bit, son,” he replies, waving a hand vaguely, eyes on the paper.  He's already wearing his budgie smugglers and nothing else, just waiting for Ma to show up from whatever thing she is cleaning around the place and come with him to the beach.  He already looks like a piece of wrinkled beef jerky.  More sun is the last thing he needs, but he and Ma spend most of their time down there.  I think they reckon if they aren't at the beach all day every day then they've wasted their emigration or something.
I shove my wallet in my back pocket and Ghost, my white German Shepherd, sees that as the sign it is and slips out from under the table, a happy jabber starting up straight away.  Geez, that dog.  Talks more than any human I ever met.   His long fluffy tail wags from side to side so hard it hits his own sides as he precedes me down the hallway to the front door, his nails clicking on the tiles.  I'm glad that someone is happy the day is beginning, because I'm not.
It's five thirty in the morning, but I've got to be right up to Perth from Bunbury by seven thirty.  That's the other reason why I have to move; the commute is a killer.   Even though I love driving my ute, four hours a day on top of a hard day's work gets to be too much really fast, and the fuel bill is a killer.  At least now summer is here it's light already.  Doing the drive in the dark was the pits.
In the double driveway of my parent's beachside bungalow, I squeeze past the old folk's Prius, beep the lock on my ute and open the door so Ghost can jump into the passenger seat.  In no time The Nazgul; beautiful,  black and powerful, my greatest pride and joy after my dog, is purring up the South West Highway en-route to my job.  I've got Led Zep lll going full bore to ease me into the drive and wake me up at the same time.  I've got the passenger side window cracked enough for Ghost to get his head out so he can yodel his way up the highway.  Maybe the commute isn't so bad.  Beats being home with Ma and Da all day.  I'd kill myself in a week if they didn't smother me to death first.
Zep is followed by a bit of Kill 'em all by Metallica, and then I slip on a bit of guilty pleasure and listen to the Chieftains while we're on the main drag with no need to stop and no-one to hear it but me. By the time I pull up outside the shed I work in, the Zep is back on.  I wouldn't want my boss thinking I was a folk-loving woose.
It's one of a row of similar big shed/workshops in the Canning Vale industrial area.  They all start pretty early around here, so you can already hear angle-grinders and hammering and all sorts going on.  My boss won't be in for a while yet, so Ghost and I have the place to ourselves while I unlock the front and back doors for a bit of a breeze through and get going taking out yesterday's newly moulded statues.
Yep, I'm a rough, tough Aussie bloke, who makes birdbaths and statues for a living.  Gnomes too.  And worse.  What can I say, I fell into the job and I've got few qualifications to get anything better.  Anyway, I like it.  Derek, the boss, leaves me pretty much alone and he likes to have a bevvy as much as the next man.  I get to have Ghost with me, which is helpful because the silly sod would trash the house if I had to leave him home.
I like it, too, because I get to spend plenty of time outside, even if it is only in the tiny, fenced, baking-hot yard out the back where we run the cement mixer and keep the sand and blue metal.  My tan is nearly as good as Ma and Da's after being out there a few hours a day.  The whole family tans dark brown at the slightest bit of sun anyway.  A touch of the black Irish, my Da says, like a lot of Liverpool has.
I heave the first statue up onto the wheely stand.  Ouch!  Good morning, sore back.  It's the base for a cherub birdbath.  Heavy and awkward.  It's a layered conglomerate of half-cured concrete, which has been poured wet into rubber to make the details on the concrete. Over that goes a heavy fibre-glass casing, which is bolted onto the whole lot to stop the rubber bulging out and letting the finished product get miss-shaped and weirdly fat.  We usually do the birdbaths first but sometimes I get wild and do something different.  Variety being the spice of life and all.  I get the battery drill and start undoing all the bolts that hold the casing together, dropping each nut and bolt into a bucket as I go.  There will be hundreds more of these undone by midmorning.
Ghost goes into the little yard and sun-bakes in the early morning sun, laying on the dirtiest bit of concrete dust he can find.  He'll be grey on one side when he gets up, and by the end of the day he'll be grey from dust all over. Take that, Ma!
Once the pieces of the fibre-glass cover have been carefully wedged away from the rubber mould underneath, I start peeling the rubber up.  My knuckles start to bleed straight away, the sores from yesterday and and the day before and day before soon opening up again.  You have to get your fingers under the mould as you drag it up and your knuckles rub against the half-set concrete.  It's as good as sandpaper, with the added fun of burning lime. If I wasn't so rough and tough, I'd wear gloves, but I wouldn't want Derek seeing me do that.  He'd think less of me. He's got knuckles like bits of raw meat.
I've got the mould partway up the birdbath, so I pick it up and put it back on the floor.  Hello again, sore back.  It's not warmed up yet.  Soon it'll be warm, and by the end of the day it'll be freezing back up and I'll feel a hundred.
You need some leverage to get the rubber off, which is why I get it back on the floor.  It's like a huge, tight yellow condom and tends to stick where the concrete is driest too.  Then if you pull too roughly, the damned top of the birdbath breaks off and you've ruined it.  If you do that too often in a day, Derek gets mad, or as Da would say, “gets a cob on.”  Derek mad is a scary sight, even though he's only about five foot ten or so tall.  He's one of those nuggety Scotsmen who grew up fighting and his eyes flash flame when he's angry.  It should be him with the nickname of Satan, not me.  I'm not giving it up, though.  I earned that name.
I put my feet both sides of the statue's base, mindful not to put boot marks on it, bend over and take the rubber in both my hands, then slowly stand up, peeling the mould off as I go.  Phew.  In one piece and not too many air bubbles either.  One down, a couple of hundred different things to go before I can start mixing the concrete to make the batch I'll take out tomorrow morning.  Ah well, I've got my dog, I've got the radio blasting, and the Jiffy food van will be along soon.  Life could be much worse.
I've done it all so many times before, I've got time to let my mind drift to think about this afternoon and the share house I am going to look at.  I know they let you have a friendly dog because that was in the ad.  Wouldn't bother to look if they didn't.   
Ghost is friendly.  He looks a bit intimidating but he's really a total woose.  Not that you'd blame him.   Poor sod must have had a rotten life before we found him out the back here one morning, cowering in the corner between the fence and the big rubbish bin.  You could hardly tell he was white, he was so filthy.  He was about five months old, the vet reckoned.  His half-mast puppy ears looked like they might never come up and he looked a right mongrel.  Maybe that was why he got dumped.   
All I know is that I coaxed him out of his hidey spot and into my arms and he's been my soul mate ever since.  Once you have the love of a Shepherd, you know what real love is.  And the joke's on the dumpers, because his ears grew up to stand tall, and he filled out into the most handsome dog I've ever seen.  I'm biased, but you'd have to be blind not to see it.  He looks like Rin Tin Tin, only white.  He has the wisest brown eyes, a black nose and grinning mouth, and his coat would put a polar bear to shame.  He's never got over being scared of strange men, though.  I don't mind.  I'm a bit the same.  You never know what the bastards will do.

Sunday, 15 March 2015

Dogs of My High Pack: Buffy Part Two.

Oh, heck I have so many great pics of this dog.  One of the benefits of having a hubby who is a keen amateur photographer.  This is part one of my Buffy story, if you would like to go back and read that first.

So Buffy was full of life and energy, but Andrew were and I were very lively in those days as well.  Our two GWPs would have run us ragged otherwise.  We did so much together.  We did retrieving trials,

Obedience trials, and field trials.

We went to clicker training workshops and had so much fun training our dogs in positive ways.  We were never competing for prizes, we just really enjoyed doing stuff with our dogs together.  It would have been a rare week where we didn't go to water a few times,

And most days they had two walks and at least a bit of training.

We went camping and caravaning a lot.

And just generally had a fun time together.

She got painted quite lot too.

I have this last one right by the computer here.  It shows her in her softer moments just right.   

I re-found this little video on Youtube the other day, that I put together long ago.  It pretty much sums up Buffy.  She was such a funny dog!  She could do tricks a lot better than this, but our old dogs tend to do whatever suits them and that's fine by me. I'm glad I can watch this now and smile again!

The puppy in there is our Rosie who is now all grown up and a middle-aged lady. Hard to believe she was once so little!

Bye Buffy-boo, but not for forever. I'm hanging out to stroke those soft, soft ears again one day and tell you once again that you are the Lovingest! Until then, run free my funny girl!