A little tableau of trivial importance.

IMG_1367 Poppet sent me this. It really isn’t the sort of thing a girl should send her mother, being inappropriate on all levels. I sniggered then began doubting my parenting skills, while acknowledging how hard it is to raise children to be decent, well-rounded individuals. Parenting is a challenge, requiring an abundance of these liquids qualities: wine, patience, ingenuity, Buddhist-calm, kindness, alcohol, patience, resourcefulness, tolerance, humour, energy, Zen, empathy, champagne, liquor, aperitifs, patience. Unlike the classroom, where you’re on call for a 50 minute period per grade per day, parenting is relentless. And just when you think you’re through the taxing early years, they morph into teenagers and cause you more worry and angst.

This quote by Oscar Wilde is food for thought: “Children begin by loving their parents; after a time they judge them; rarely, if ever, do they forgive them.”

Skeleton tree.

Skeleton tree.

A few posts ago I was going on about the beauty of Autumn leaves. Well, our Chinese Tallow tree is a skeleton that signals winter. It is no longer “Winter is coming”, winter is here. (BTW I’ve seen all 4 seasons of Game of Thrones and I don’t recall it ever being Summer. Did I miss it, is it just me?)

 

So after the hottest May on record, I’m welcoming the cold and its accompanying haute couture uggs and trackies, but especially food like this, Mini Cottage Pies. Cool weather makes me hope global warming is an illusion…

Blossom and Poppet. Lots of selfies go on Blossom’s ‘story’ on Snapchat. For blog Poppet tells me Shapchat is all about the narrative and not just fleeting photos to interest and dazzleI obviously misuse Snapchat because I just send the 3 people on my list, photos of the cake I’m about to eat so they’ll be very jealous.

But seriously, dog or Ewok? Those ears are growing exponentially! It’s a pity the Star Wars prequels and sequels have waned because Blossom might have scored a cameo appearance. IMG_0962The Pecking Order: In the little coop, chicks Lasquisha, Lacy, Cinnamon and Princess are fast growing into hens. IMG_1384 Lasquisha continues to dominate. Not content with pecking her minions on the head, she now jumps on them.

I'm Lasquisha and I'm GORGEOUS!

I’m Lasquisha. Get in my way and I’ll jump on your head.

A similar dynamic exists in the big coop where Madam Peck is bullying the new pullets, Cherry and Merry, who’ve taken refuge in the shed.

"Has she gone yet?"

“Has she gone yet?”

"Don't mess with me!"

Madam Peck.

For an ex-battery girl, she has a lot of attitude. On the one hand, it’s great she’s recovered from the first traumatic 18 months of life in a tiny cage. On the other hand, you’d think she’d be more sensitive, a little kinder to her flock. This is probably what George Orwell meant in Animal Farm – the oppressed become the oppressors. A grim world view…but on the plus side, there are DUST BATHS. In the chicken world dust baths aren’t just fun, they eradicate lice and other parasites. (I wonder if it works for headlice?)

Chook equivalent of bubble bath.

Cherry and Merry in dust bath (equivalent of bubble bath).

Our local florist had this quotation written on her blackboard and it reminded me of the concept of average and our endless quest to rise above it.florist quoteBlooming is an individual thing and everyone’s blooming is different. I see it in the classroom when the ‘under-achiever’ has a good idea that sometimes eclipses the confidently brash student’s idea. The tentative smile of delight on her/his face – the bloom – is wonderful. 🙂

And while I’m on the subject of average, a few months ago in A Waiting Game I wrote excitedly about a manuscript that had survived the publisher’s slush pile – the first harrowing step in the process to turn Word document into book. Well, the waiting is over – my manuscript has been jettisoned declined.

Image courtesy of Amalie Howard

Image courtesy of Amalie Howard

The word rejected is never uttered in these ever-so-polite letters. How the world loves euphemisms! “We have decided not to proceed with an offer of publication at this stage”. Evidently, and I say this with no sarcasm (for they do know their stuff), my ‘book’ lacks structure and its context (Sydney in 50 years) needs work. Oh well, back to the drawing editing board. It was the first draft, so what was I expecting?!

I’ve found that in publishing – for self-protection at least – you shouldn’t be too optimistic; hopeful and doggedly persistent, but never overly confident or presumptuous. But manuscripts are a bit like babies, they make us a little protective and sensitive to criticism,. So I’ve devised some rules:

  • Rule 1: let go of ego.
  • Rule 2: develop the skin of a tyrannosaurus.
  • Rule 3: share manuscript with an expert – a paid mentor or a clever friend who will tell you the truth, even though you will hate her/him forever be hurt or offended and probably both.
  • Rule 4: Give clever friend a VERY nice present.

My 1 year Plan:  EDIT. Don’t waste time. In spare time (after school work, family and urban farming duties) be more disciplined, EDIT, refuse coffee/drinks with friends. Work harder, EDIT, avoid being frivolous, EDIT, avoid whiling away hours on social media. EDIT.

I don’t need an epiphany to tell me that this 1 year plan may not run to schedule.

Over to you. What is your biggest challenge and what do you need to be more disciplined about? What virtuous goals are on your 1 year plan?

Linking up with My Little Drummer Boy and joining Grace for FYBF.

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SERIOUS and other important trivia…

Those of you who read this blog and they’re aren’t all that many, (but it’s QUALITY not quantity that counts right? 😉 ) understand that flippancy is my middle name. That my preference in writing posts is for tongue-in-cheek, self-mocking nonsense about chooks, dogs, coffee and Poppet, although anyone who is the parent of a teenager or remembers being a teenager, will appreciate that teenagers and in particular, teenage girls, are anything but trivial individuals. And indeed Precious Poppet is every bit an important and high-maintenance individual.

Autumn Perfection.

Poppet and Autumn Perfection.

 

S & M     D & M

Occasionally though, I do get a bit existential deep and meaningful and wax on about something weightier, more philosophical.  I’ve read a few insightful posts this past week or two on a variety of serious topics – too many to mention now, so please don’t be offended if I’ve commented on your post, but haven’t mentioned it here.

One on incivility in social media stands out: Let’s Talk Twitter and Trolls and Dinner Parties, shall we? Kat’s post looks at ‘trolling’ and general impoliteness on social media and urges us to engage in virtual discourse as one would do with face-to-face discourse, with good manners and decorum. This post made me think about life before social media and I got all contemplative. Of course, there was work, family commitments and writing a year ago, before I started writing a blog and twittering, and I was very busy but it was a different kind of busy. I didn’t jump with glee when I received notification of a comment or an email to inform me I had a new follower on Twitter. I was a rather simple creature in my non-virtual world. I didn’t squeal with girlish delight when my tweet was retweeted or avidly read a particularly warm and charming comment on my post. I was spared the pleasure, or pain…if my tweet disappeared unanswered into cyber space or my post languished comment-less. I wasn’t needy. I think I was a bit cooler.

Yet there’s so much good about social media – engaging with clever and interesting people everywhere – the sheer scope of talent and opinion is vast. They might not be real friends in the sense of those we meet up with regularly for coffee or brunch or dinner or just meet up. But real ones, nonetheless.

SERIOUS

I read several brilliant posts written on ANZAC Day and its significance and one lingers:  ‘Reflections on the selflessness and sacrifice of some ordinary Australians…’ I’ve never before read anything more lyrically worded on war and its devastating implications than that of Wing Commander Sharon Bown. Simply beautiful words. Then there’s Majoring in Literature, an erudite blog that’s good value, reviewing books with a close understanding of the text, combining travel and history, interspersed with beautiful photos.

And there was Deb’s interesting post on idealised TV shows and life envy: ‘Why I won’t be watching Offspring.’ I seriously believe ‘life envy’ has increased exponentially since the advent of social media. There might have been perfect people with perfect lives around before but we didn’t know about them. We were spared their perfection.

Bad Behaviour and Girls’ Schools.

Jonah Takalua has a lot to answer for. I recall when Summer Heights High came out  a few years ago and Year 8 boys thought it was funny to draw dictation on the black/white board. They chanted “Puck you, Miss. JOKE Miss!” with monotonous regularity until I wanted to send them all back to Tonga, except they weren’t from Tonga. They were typical Aussie kids just trying to escape writing essays.

Image courtesy of: futuremusicgroup.com

Image courtesy of:
futuremusicgroup.com

Jonah from Tonga is back. No wonder Pinky (that witty minx blogger I know) wants to work in a girls’ school. This post is HILARIOUS: ‘Why I want to work in an all girls’ school!‘  And you don’t need to be a teacher to appreciate it. (Apparently smiling – even the act of stretching your lips in a grinning expression whether you feel happy or not – releases feel-good endorphins that literally lift your spirits). I guarantee that after reading this post you’ll be giggling, very naturally. 😀

CHOOK UPDATE – THE STORY OF RED.

We bought Red, Snowy and Blacky as two day old chicks  all ostensibly GIRLS. Snowy and Blacky were feminine hens but Red was always a bit butch blokey. But hey we’re not discriminatory about gender in our family, feathers or no feathers. But when she he started crowing pre-dawn, a VOCIFEROUS TRILLING “COCK-A-DOODLE-DOOOO!” it was time to take Red back to the farm (we’re in the middle of suburbia!) I should’ve noticed before this, especially when she he was mounting cuddling the other hens in an unplatonic way. The Sexer had got it wrong. (Bizarre as it sounds, there is a profession/job entitled “Sexer”. They look at chicks’ private parts and deem them male or female…Sometimes Sexers get it wrong).

CHICKIBABES.

growing chickadees

They’re getting bigger and have moved to a larger pen, but I’ve observed an undesirable hen dynamic: Lasquisha – the biggest and bossiest – dominates. Unfortunately, the pecking-order is alive and flourishing in real life. Lasquisha keeps Cinnamon, Princess and Lacey under control. She pecks them on the head for no apparent reason except to show she’s the boss…a bit like the classroom/playground bully, really.

I'm boss!

I’m boss!

Who is big and bossy in your life? Or are you the boss? And I’m not being sizeist either, I mean big in the metaphorical sense…

Linking up today with Rhianna and Thankful Thursday which has made me focus on the things I am grateful for: I’m thankful that Lasquisha can’t boss me around (I just can’t avoid flippancy!) I’m thankful that Poppet is no longer being bullied. And I’m thankful for the dying splendour of Autumn leaves. Is there anything in your life that you’re thankful for?

Joining With Some Grace for FYBF

Transgender Hen.

Visiting Grace at FYBF today.

Red.

Red.

You’ve probably gleaned that the above isn’t a real rooster, it’s made of metal. This statue is in memory of Red, the handsome hen-rooster we had to take back to the farm. You see Red was meant to be female. We were assured he was a girl-chick when we bought those three tiny chicks prior to ‘the massacre’. Red’s story is diverting, if only to show what an accomplished  incompetent urban farmer I am. We picked up two day old chicks – black, white and red – from the free-range farm and gave them the imaginative mundane names of Blacky, Snowy and Red. They grew into gorgeous hens. Well, two did. But more about this later. It’s Wordless Wednesday and I’ve already written too many words. More pictures…

Our latest chicks are growing fast, losing their fluffy feathers, gaining sleek ones.

From left:  Princess, Cinnamon, Lasquisha, Lacey.

Princess, Cinnamon, Lasquisha, Lacey.

Identical twins Cherry and Merry will start laying in about a month. Meanwhile they’re exploring the garden…

IMG_1079

The hens might look pretty but for an urban farmer my gardening skills are amazing  horrendous.

Image courtesy of: homeimprovguide.com

Image courtesy of: homeimprovguide.com

 

This is how I envisage the vegie patch.

 

 

 

Image courtesy of: ourlocallife.com

Image courtesy of: ourlocallife.com

 

 

This is the reality.

 

 

 

 

However, The Orchard is flourishing alive . A lemon and an orange tree are clinging to life after the lime tree dropped dead retired. But who needs a lime tree when you can buy that nice condensed lime juice in a packet and keep it in the fridge? It never dies.

 

The Orchard (note metal sunflower - will not die).

The Orchard (note metal sunflower – will not die).

Are you an urban or country gardener? Can you grow anything – herbs in a pot on the windowsill, tomatoes on the balcony? Any tips?

Linking up with Trish over at My Little Drummer Boys.

Chicks, cafes and other important trivia…

Linking up today with Essentially Jess and IBOT.

Poppet with Lacey.

Poppet with Lacey.


We bought chicks this week. It’s been eighteen months since ‘the massacre’, when we lost all seven of our hens to a fox attack in suburban Sydney. I don’t blame the fox – it was Spring, prime breeding time and no doubt it was a hungry vixen with a den of cubs waiting for a tasty chicken breakfast. But I won’t deny it was traumatising to go into the chook pen in the morning and face an eerie silence and corpses strewn around, bloodied and headless. We lost more than egg-laying birds, we lost pets – hand-reared, all with names and individual personalities. We couldn’t replace them immediately and when we did – six weeks later after a massive fox-proofing operation – it was with generic Isa Browns from an intensive chicken farm, still laying but in bad shape – debeaked, scrawny, missing chunks of feathers. They’d spent their short lives standing on wire in a small cage and when we first put them into the pen, they stood motionless for an hour, shocked to feel earth beneath their claws. They’d never walked about on soil before, never dug for worms. Very slowly they began to scratch (important piece of chook trivia: hens live to scratch). Those five generic ex-battery hens had entered Chez Chooky Heaven. They are now fat and fluffy…wish I’d taken before and after pics – you’d be very impressed. 🙂

IMG_0997

When you cheat on your local cafe…

Have your ever offended your local cafe owners? Bizarre as this sounds, it’s precisely what I did. We have eight cafes in our suburb, three of which make decent coffee, so naturally we only visit these three. But I’d been lax, I’d neglected one cafe. I didn’t give it a moment’s thought when I picked up a takeaway over the Easter break but I was met with a distinctly frosty reception. No smile or How are you? and a muttered, What coffee was it again? (been drinking skim lattes there for years). I found myself gushing and grinning in a fawning, demented way as I recalled that Wait, I haven’t been to this cafe for ages! I’d been unfaithful, I’d cheated…in short, I am a cafe whore. Guilt washed over me as I acknowledged how thoughtless and cruel I’d been in going to my other two lovers baristas for at least three weeks, behind their back. The cool demeanour was payback. 

cafe pic

Note to self: Cafe proprietors have feelings – very delicate sensibilities, in fact. Don’t spread yourself around too thinly. Do not be promiscuous in your coffee/tea drinking. Or if you do two-time or three-time, do it with more panache than I.

Are you or have you ever been, a cafe whore? Or are you loyal and faithful, eschewing beverage infidelity?

HOOKED ON CHOOKS…it’s not normal.

IMG_0058

Anyone who knows me, knows I am a little partial to chickens completely obsessed with chickens.IMG_0070

There’s something about hens…I’m not exactly sure why I like them so much – it’s a bit uncool and slightly eccentric to be passionate about something with feathers. But it’s true…even my son said, “Give Mum something with a chicken theme and she’s happy.” 

Am I this simple and predictable? Yes.

I’ve analysed this chook-love from different angles and this is why I love them:

  • They make great pets because – they have personality and are surprisingly clever. Where the expression “bird-brain” came from mystifies me 🙂
  • They mob me on a daily basis as though I’m a rock star (like no other living creature mobs me, human or otherwise).
  • Their poo is a rich fertiliser (if only I would take the time to spread it on the garden).
  • They lay eggs each day (no one else has personality and lays an egg). IMG_0434
  • Friends and family adore me (but I think it’s because of the free eggs).
  • They eat scraps and so are walking compost bins.
  • They will rid the garden of insects (note downside).

Downside

  • They turn any garden into a bomb site in a matter of hours if you let them out of the coop.
  • They get egg-bound and other chook conditions 😦
  • If you mistake a girl-chick for a boy-chick it will soon turn into a rooster (and wake you predawn).
  • Hens stop laying after a few years yet you keep feeding them into chookie old age (happily repaying them for their years of service).IMG_0073

Anyone who has eaten a home-laid egg will attest to its superior taste and quality. Fluoro yellow in colour, they lend baking a gorgeous technicolour touch.

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There is one big downside to keeping chickens which I’ve avoided mentioning to this point: Foxes. It’s a big downside and must be addressed if you want to avoid misery and heartbreak (for you as well as the birds). But more on this later…

Do you like hens? What pet makes you passionate?