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Mulberries: An Interlude

Guess who stepped in a mulberry?

cat's paw coloured purple

Princess.

Guess who left little purple paw prints all over the tiles?

woman holding a cat with a purple paw, kissing its head

Princess.

Guess who was highly unimpressed I was taking her photo while she had a purple-stained foot?

unimpressed-looking cat

Princess.

Yeah. Diva Princess. That’s who.

Just to show she’s not always messy and disgruntled…

tabby cat and tortoiseshell cat snuggling together on a bed

Princess is very sweet to little Fruity.

Awwwww.

Now if only the possums would hurry up and eat all the mulberries on the ground under the tree. We were just lucky this time that we didn’t end up with purple stains on the carpet. Fortunately only the bedrooms are carpeted. Phew! Now, keep up, possums!

P.S. My eco-friendly cat toy tip of the day? A twig from a poinciana tree. I was using one to encourage Fruity to follow me back inside and she loved it. I forgot though, that I used to play with Princess in the same way… she had to come join in! They took turns to bat the twig. So cute. Pou was very confused as to what they were doing. An ex-stray, Pou doesn’t really understand the concept of playing like that. But my point is – who said cat toys have to be expensive and made of plastic? These two get more fun out of a bendy twig than they ever have out of some weird plastic ball with a bell inside. Yay nature!

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September Already?!

Whoa, so it has been ages since I’ve been here… I’ve been keeping an eye on things, but haven’t had a chance to post. It’s been a crazy year so far. Some major highs, like…

  • Buying (mortgaging) our first house, just 5 mins up the road from my good friend Jho’s place
  • Getting a new kitten (rescued off the road at 5wks old, poor wee thing, just in time for my birthday)

I hereby christen this kitten Fruit Tingle.

  • Ending a lease for the last time ever (no more renting!!)
  • Everyone going great guns at work and school
  • My health hitting a plateau (and since the only other way it could go was down, I’m taking plateau as a major win)
  • Yankee Elv getting dreadlocks, which she loves, and which killed my hands for the 50-odd hours it took me to do them for her

Yankee Elv loving her dreads (they were less than a week old at this point)

Yankee Elv's new hairdo gave me the perfect opportunity to rock a dreadstache.

  • Mr Teeny-bop getting taller than me and is starting to act less like an irritating teenager and more like a sensible verging-on-grown-up boy
  • Our old mate The Dyke Mike coming back down under… maybe for good again
  • My vegan-ness continues unabated
  • …and did I mention our new house? Quarter of an acre, baby!

Yankee Elv running around the lounge room on the day we got the keys.

But there have been some heavy lows too. The biggest and hardest hitting was Loodle and Old Man Fatso leaving us for greener pastures/another turn at the wheel. They were both very old and it was time… but it still sucked. It’s been since January for Fatso and since May for Loodle, but we still miss them and catch ourselves looking for them. That’s probably partly why I haven’t been here too much. I didn’t feel like I could write about it. Time helps, a bit.

Fatso and Loodle in times gone by.

Otherwise… Yankee Elv’s health has gone down as mine has improved plateaued and we’re not sure what’s going on with her yet. The car has been a never-ending money pit, but we have found an awesome mechanic and our new place is closer to Yankee Elv’s work, so there’s less driving (better for us and the planet!) and everything seems to be on track now. There’s an enormous possum in our ceiling who refuses to leave and is probably peeing all over everything up there as I type. I think his little minion possums come bring him food and water. He sounds like an overgrown wombat wandering around over our heads.

But in the grand scheme of things, life hasn’t been treating us too badly. Some days are diamonds, some… no, I’m not going to go there John Denver. Especially since I only realised the lyrics were ‘stones’ when I looked them up just now. I always thought he said ‘dogs’. Why did I think that?

Sorry, sidetracked.

So anyway, basically, I’m here to say I’m here. I haven’t fallen off the face of the earth, I still read your comments and I still think of things to write here all the time. I just haven’t been able to get here to write anything. Mortgages involve a lot of paperwork. Paperwork = time-consuming.

I hope to get here more often from now on, I’ve got lots I want to say, but I’m going to be honest. No promises. There’s lots we want to do with the new house to get it just how we want it and the rest of my family are planning on applying for Aussie citizenship shortly, now they’re eligible. More paperwork; more time. But I’ll pop back again at least periodically, if not regularly… maybe I’ll do some shorter posts. Somewhere between the microblogging of Twitter and the super-epic-macroblogging I tend to do here.

So on that note, I leave you with one of the awesome surprises we found it our backyard (it was a stick when we moved in and suddenly, rapidly, ended up like this):

Mulberries

More mulberries (there are tonnes of them)

Peaches! I think it's a dwarf peach tree.

More to come…

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My Water Notice: Crazy or Awesome?

I got a water notice in the mail today. It’s like a bill, except there’s nothing to pay. They just tell you how much water you’re using. Normally, we are well under the local average and the Brisbane average, but for some reason (and this is where the crazy comes in), we are averaging 594L per day!!

piece of paper with two graphs; the first comparing water usage in the household (no data for same period last year, approx 150L per day for previous period and 594L per day for current period); the second comparing water usage in this period with the local average (about 400L per day) and the Brisbane average (about 420L per day).

The utilities company is new and I don't think their data is correct for last period either, much as I'd love to say we are that fantastic at water conservation. It makes me doubt the 594L, but then I wonder if I want to doubt it, so am I being unfair?

Now, this is still within the 200L per person per day limit that Brisbane has going on (remember, we have three people in our family); less than 200L each if you consider we have two cats and a very big dog (who, for medical reasons, needs a bath once a week). During the drought, the limit was 140L per person per day, which we met pretty easily, and we’ve never had trouble with the current limit, even though it’s under the typical water allowance for most western cities. Say what you will about Australia’s carbon emissions; when it comes to water-saving measures, we’ve got it a lot better than most. Years and years of drought will do that to you. Of course, now we have more water than we need, but that’s another story…

My point is, what the heck are we doing with that kind of water usage on our water notice? I’ve quizzed Yankee Elv and Mr Teeny-bop and none of us can figure out where we might have been using extra water. Maybe a little bit extra per day – it’s summer, we might take more showers or wash our clothes more maybe… but we’re reaching here; we don’t really think that’s it. The last two weeks the toilet has been running a bit sometimes after a flush, but the sound is like fingernails down a chalkboard to me and I stop it as soon as I hear it, so I don’t think that’s been happening very much. We seriously cannot figure it out.

Maybe there’s a leak somewhere. More investigation to follow. I’ll keep you updated.

So anyway, on the other side of the coin, regarding the potential awesomeness, check out this little ad/graphic thingy that was on the back of the water notice.

water notice advertisement outlining the benefits of drinking tap water as compared to bottled water and other beverages, highlighting cost (you can get 10 glasses of tap water for one cent).

I like that this ad went out to every Brisbane home. It sends the right message.

How’s that for promoting town water (as opposed to bottled water or other drinks)? I’m really big on tap water and very very rarely buy bottled water – only if I’m out and I cannot find free water anywhere (or I forgot my bottle). I would say this happens maybe 2 per cent of the times I drink water when I’m out of the house. This is a conscious decision on my part. Read more about that in my previous post about bottled water.

Tap water rocks and tastes cool anyway. To me, just like you get different weather when you visit different places, you also get different water. If I drink from taps at certain beaches, it’s like a blast back to my childhood… the flavour memory is crazy.

water gushing out of a simple metal tap attached to a short blue wooden stake, outdoors

This pic is from Cairns.com.au - way up north - but the tap looks very similar to the ones at the beaches I went to growing up.

Even though I was really little, I still remember it every time I have a drink there. Mum, Dad and I (my siblings weren’t born yet) would get in the car and drive to the coast and I’d sit up in my booster seat as we crested the hill and shout ‘I see the water!’, cos I could see the ocean beyond the trees. Mum and Dad would laugh and we’d speed down the hill to get there a little bit quicker (naughty naughty – I do not advocate speeding now in my old age, but I was like a miniature drag racer back then). I’d be wearing my little togs and my yellow terry-towelling shorts and the vinyl car seat of the Torana would make the backs of my legs sweat, so when we got out I’d want to hop straight in, but Mum would slather me in sunscreen beforehand, but she’d let me have a drink of beach water from the tap first.

Hey, it was the 80s, ok? And Dad still teases me by saying ‘I see the water!’ whenever we go over that hill.

You can’t get that kind of hyper-localised memory in any other product really. Food can always be sold elsewhere, like how I can get other beach memories eating a Calippo from the corner shop at the top of my street, or how I can think of childhood trips to the Ekka when I’m eating a Ykillamoocow vegan dagwood dog at the West End markets. (Om nom nom!) That beach water though, it’s special.

So yeah, now that I’m finished with my sentimental trip down memory lane, I’ll back to the topic; do you think my water notice was crazy or awesome?

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0

My Spontaneous Hiatus

You may have noticed (I hope you noticed!) that I’ve been incommunicado for almost a month. Ok, not totally, thanks to Twitter, but I haven’t posted here for a while. Not even a Friday Feast recipe, and I have several saved up waiting to share.

Basically, I took a break because life has been simultaneously kind and kicking me around a bit lately.

  • Kind = quitting my job, having a new job lined up, taking three weeks off work and finding out I don’t have this fairly debilitating disease my neurologist thought I might have.
  • Kicking = spending some time in hospital, spending some time at the dentist, finding out I have a different debilitating disease which will require daily injections as part of an proactive treatment regime.

There’s been other stuff going on too, like Mr Teeny-bop breaking his finger, Pou getting an abcess from a suspected cat fight, Loodle’s arthritis getting worse, Old Man Fatso losing his marbles from old age, Yankee Elv having some serious insomnia and Diva-cat being exceptionally diva-esque… but I figure these things are just part of my normal life. There always has to be something going on. This month just seemed excessively on, though.

So I took a break, from pretty much everything. I rather liked it.

Although I had three weeks with very few responsibilities, and I had all these plans of things I was going to do, I actually spent a sizable portion of my time in bed/on the couch/in the hammock reading books. I did acquire a new laptop (I’ve finally given up on second-hand ones after a series of duds) so I spent some time fiddling with it. I caught up with friends, watched my sister play hockey (field hockey – we’re in Queensland, after all), visited with my parents, watched my Diva and Fatso sleep, played pseudo-soccer with Pou, took Loodle to the dog park, cuddled with Yankee Elv and had some in-depth discussions with my budding playwright of a son. I slept a lot too. Getting up on Monday morning is going to hurt.

diva and fatso

Diva and Fatso sleep so cutely together that you can't help stopping to look at them.

So basically, although I had a tonne of time to write posts here, I chose to spend that time in a state of pure relaxation. I don’t regret that.

However, I’m getting back into the groove of things, so hopefully you’ll see some more from me soon. On the other hand, who knows whether my new job will be kind or a kicker? Here’s hoping it’s the former!

mr teeny-bop and cashew the pig.

Just for fun, here's a picture of Mr Teeny-bop hanging out with Cashew the miniature pig at my hometown show (fair).

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Happy Birthday Loodle!

This is not really an eco-anything post. This is a post to say happy birthday to my dog. He turned 13 on Saturday.

loodle on bed

This is Loodle.

Loodle wagging tail

He’ had his 13th birthday on Saturday.

old man loodle

He’s such an old man.

loodle and mr teeny-bop

He used to be a hearing dog. He let Yankee Elv know when there was a noise she should be aware of, like a doorbell or the baby crying. (He also made a good pillow for said baby… even as the ‘baby’ got older.) Some people refer to a hearing dog as ‘an alarm clock with a tail’. Mostly, Loodle was the snooze button with doggy breath, right in your face.

working loodle

He liked it (except maybe the snooze button part). He was always happy when he was ‘working’. It was a pretty nice job… lie around, get treats, let everyone adore you, and paw your best friend when you hear a noise she should know about. Who wouldn’t want that job?

loodle at work

He especially liked getting to go wherever Yankee Elv went. His favourite places to go were parks or cafes. His least favourite was shopping. He liked going to Yankee Elv’s work, too.

loodle at the river

During his time off, he liked to go swimming.

loodle beach

Especially at the beach.

loodle beach excited

He really liked the beach. It’s hard for him now. The waves are too strong, and they push him over. He hasn’t gone to the beach in a long while.

Loodle sneezing

Loodle is retired. He’s deaf himself now, and arthritic, and losing his sight. Fortunately he knows some sign language, but we have to sign in exagerated motions so he can see it. Sometimes we just sign to him generally so he knows we are talking to him.

Loodle yawning

He gets very tired. (We have to drive him to the dog park now, because it’s too far for him to walk.)

loodle sleeping

He likes to sleep a lot, especially in the sunshine.

loodle and pou

Sometimes with his best cat friend, Pou.

loodle and me

Sometimes he wants to be a snuggle-bunny with his human family.

loodle with his treat ball

He likes peanut-butter and doggy treats.

Loodle with stale bread

But he is just as happy taking care of my leftovers, like stale bread. (The face of the eco-friendly garbage disposal!)

loodle

Most of all, Loodle likes being the best dog ever. We love him.

Happy birthday, Loodle!

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2

Teenage Boys Are Not Eco-Friendly

The title of this post says it all really. I can be as eco-friendly as I want. My son is not. This is a juxtaposition, ja?

teeny-bop emo

Mr Teeny-bop is emo, with coffee and crossword. (I got a snap of him smiling after this... emo defeated!)

Sometimes, it’s not his fault. Sometimes it is… sort of. Here are the top 10 reasons why, in no particular order.

1. Teenage boys grow, seemingly exponentially. Buying lots of clothes is not eco-friendly, and of course, teenage boys are too fashionable to want second-hand clothes. Ooh la la.

2. Teenage boys eat a lot. Normally, this wouldn’t bother me so much, but my teenage boy is a picky, picky eater. He likes processed foods, like Kraft’s Mac&Cheese (the kind in the blue box), when he could just as easily eat the fresh, homemade kind his mother (not me, the other mother) makes. Pretty much the only non-processed nutrition he consumes comes from fruit, veges and soy milk. Ok, and cheese and meat and cereal and pasta and bread. But that’s it. And I don’t mean lots of kinds of these things. There are two kinds of cheese (one wrapped in plastic), several kinds of meat and cereal, two kinds of pasta (including Mac&Cheese) and white, low GI bread. Oh, and pierogi.  No other non-processed food. Does coffee count as processed or non-processed? He drinks that too now (one cup a day only; he’s the only person in the house who likes it.) You might think I’m a terrible mother for letting him eat like this, but remember – when you’re a teenage boy, you know it all, and that includes what food you like. Besides, compared to what he used to eat, we are having victories every day. He tried sushi recently. He didn’t love it, but he tried it, and apparently it’s better than baked beans (another recent attempt). It seems resistance is futile after all.

3. Teenage boys break headphones. Sometimes I wonder if teenage boys realise there are actually a finite number of headphones in the world. And what do you do with broken headphones? There’s really no use for them. Can anyone think of a use for them? Mr Teeny-bop has just gone through three pairs in a month. I shudder when I think of the plastic-y, metal-y waste. I think I had one pair of headphones in all my teenage years. Then again, people didn’t walk around with their own personal soundtrack to life playing constantly inside their head (or from their iPod – however you’d like to describe it.) Maybe the next eco-unfriendly thing is increased hearing aid waste due to iPod-induced deafness. (I say waste, because I know teenage boys wearing hearing aids will lose or break the aids as quickly as they destroy headphones.)

4. Teenage boys do half-arsed chores around the house and call it done. For example, teenage boys mow the lawn and leave the cut grass out as green manure… on the concrete driveway. Call me sceptical, but I don’t think it’s going to enrich the soil too much there. Teenage boys don’t take as much care as they could when choosing which bin to tip the recycling into, because they are too busy thinking about lame Facebook applications and text messaging. Teenage boys don’t turn off the lights when they leave rooms. Teenage boys forget to turn the iron off (when they bother to iron). You may be sensing a pattern here. Yes, it’s the pattern of my irritation. Mothers of teenage boys have their own issues.

5. Teenage boys are even rougher on their shoes than pre-teen boys. I did not think this was possible, but apparently it is. Like broken headphones, what do you do with worn out shoes, I ask you? We have to buy new ones every term (roughly 12 weeks).

6. Teenage boys like lots of screen time. Wii, GameCube, YouTube, Facebook, MSN, text messaging, TV, DVD, camcorders, email… (I am looking at a screen a lot too, to be fair, but a lot of that is for my job.) Screen time takes electricity, and more of it means more electricity. Teenage boys also forget to turn appliances off. Before bed every night I do a round of the house, turning off computers, consoles, DVD players, TVs…

7. Teenage boys wear bigger clothes. This is fine, except it means I wash the same number of items, but I need to run more loads of laundry to fit everything in. I also run out of room on the clothes line. Trust me when I say that you should not try to circumvent this by overstuffing the washing machine. Teenage boys also smell, and if you don’t leave enough room for the clothes to get well scrubbed, the smell is going to linger. Even front loaders (which I have, and which apparently are supposed to be full during use as the agitation action is caused by the clothes rubbing together) do not do well being overstuffed.

8. As previously mentioned, teenage boys smell. Self-aware teenage boys (like my dear Mr Teeny-bop), try to circumvent this with deodorant. Unfortunately, mass marketing and peer pressure means Lynx body spray (not anti-perspirant), in a pressurised can, is the deodorant of choice. At least BO smells a little better when mixed with Lynx… even if it is sprayed so thickly I can taste it if I go into the bathroom after Mr Teeny-bop in the morning. Does anyone know what happens to spray cans when they are thrown away?

9. Teenage boys have a social life, which I am all for. Fortunately, living in a city permits a social life via bus, most of the time. However, the car trips we make to drop off/pick up are still considerably more than those made in pre-teen days. There’s just no way around the car and its links to suburbia unless there is dramatic social, demographic and economic change.

10. Teenage boys are rough on clothes. Socks wear out fast. The hems of shorts come down ‘by accident’. Shirts get stained. Jeans get ripped. Jumpers get covered in dog and cat fur. Hats get lost. Undies… well, ok. Undies wear pretty normally. But this brings us back to the first point – buying more clothes. Again. For a different reason. It’s a race to see whether he outgrows them or trashes them first.

Sometimes I think my efforts towards eco-consciousness are circumvented by my son. Sometimes my pattern of irritation feels ready to erupt into firey temper tantrums. (Yes, mothers have temper tantrums, they just look a lot different to kids’ temper tantrums.) Then my teenage  boy does something sweet, like invent an imaginary Italian bed and breakfast, complete with hand-written menu and fake accent, just so he can wear a manly apron and cook pancakes for me as Mother’s Day breakfast in bed, instead of adding to the consumer culture and buying me a gift I don’t really need.

Most days, he’s grumpy and self-absorbed, but sometimes I get a glimpse of who he used to be, and who he’ll become, and I know it’ll be worth these angsty teenage years in the end. No-one who can be that loving and gentle with an aging ginger cat can stay angsty forever.

At least, I hope so!

mr teeny-bop and fatso

Mr Teeny-bop and that aging ginger cat, Old Man Fatso, sleeping on the couch.

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6

Spotlight: Rescue a Battery Hen!

My mum is talking about getting chickens. It will be a while before she gets them, but she is very enthusiastic. Her local council has changed the law so her yard is now considered big enough, which she finds ironic. She had chooks in suburbia as a kid, then they were regulated out (only poor people and farmers had chooks – suddenly everyone was rich enough to buy their own eggs, so it became illegal to keep them). She and I had an interesting (if abbreviated due to time constraints) discussion about how everything comes full circle and we’re going back to the environmentally-friendly way things were done in the past.

Mum also saw an eco-coop at a university environmental day which caught her fancy. It was nice and big and had a trough on top where you could grow veges (like lettuce). Clearly the garden part would be conveniently handy to the chook manure!

In addition to those little incentives, Mum just plain likes chickens. Let’s just say that this weekend wasn’t the first time she and I have talked about her childhood chook, Penny. (Sadly, a snake got Penny when Mum was about 5 or 6.) Cows might make her nervous (‘They have such big faces!’), but she gets this really sweet smile on her face when she talks about chickens.

Anyway, to cut a long story short, I suggested Mum rescue battery hens and she seemed keen on the idea. Mum is always keen to rescue animals in distress (I think she would be vegan if she allowed herself to really think about it, but let’s not get into that debate.)

Hens one month after adoption

Hens, one month after adoption. (Photo from The Battery Hen Adoption Project.)

I read about battery hen rescue on the Queensland Vegsoc forum (I feel like I’m reading everything there lately!). I’m going to send her links, but here are three threads about battery hen adoption, some with links to photos, for you all to read too.

  1. Jan 2010 hen adoptions (there’s a very moving poem on p4)
  2. March 2010 hen adoptions
  3. May 2010 hen adoptions.

The organisation that rehomes the battery hens is Brisbane-based. It’s called The Battery Hen Adoption Project. They have some really good information on their site about taking care of the chooks when they first come home. Of course everything is new to the poor bald chickens; they don’t even know how to sleep sitting down, or have a concept for getting up and walking to the water/food dishes to eat and drink.

There’s also the saddest video on the site:

I really want to rescue some hens now! I can’t wait til we’re not renting anymore. (I have visions of a strawbale type of construction to be a lovely, fox-free coop for them to sleep in at night.) I am also pleased with the idea of supplying Yankee Elv and Mr Teeny-bop with some truly free-range eggs, since they both still eat them.

In the meantime, I guess I will have to make do with visiting Mum’s chickens, when she gets them. I wonder, if she gets them in winter, if they will need jumpers like these…

If you want to keep chickens in Brisbane, get all the info on ourbrisbane.

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