RSS

Category Archives: Uncategorized

‘Until one has loved an animal a part of one’s soul remains unawakened.’ Anatole France.

Stories from my Sketchbook . . . 

I have never met this wee dog but I loved him as soon as I saw him.  I guess my soul is good to go . . .

Original photo by Australian photographer Alex Cearns
(I love her photo books of animal portraits and they’re also great as photo references for me to practise new techniques and try out new art materials.
Although, having said that, here I am back to using my trusty old blue biro . . . )

 
10 Comments

Posted by on November 2, 2018 in Uncategorized

 

Tags: , , , ,

‘Emus live in pairs, or alone, or in groups. They mostly feed at night . . . or during the day.’ Russell Coight.

Stories from my Sketchbook . . .

I like emus.  I just thought I’d put that out there right up front.  Remember what I’ve said in the past about critters with attitude?  Well, cue the emu.  They are cool dudes.  And although I thought I knew quite a bit about them in general, while searching for a quote to go with my sketch this week (quotes about emus are extremely hard to come by I might add) I was surprised to learn a whole lot more about these wonderful quirky creatures . . .

Things I already knew:
Emus are big.  The emu is the second largest bird in the world (the largest being the ostrich).    Emus can stand from 150 to 190 cm (59 to 75 in) in height and weigh between 18-60 kgs (40-132 lbs).
Emus are flightless.  They have very small, almost useless wings.
Emus are fast.  They have very long, very strong legs.  When at a full run their stride can be almost 9 feet long and they can sprint up to around 48 km (30mph).
Emus are long-lived.  Emus can live 10-20 years in the wild and up to 35 years in captivity.
Emus are curious. Anyone who has ever been to a wildlife sanctuary will know they have a tendency to sneak up behind you and look over your shoulder to see what you are doing (and to see if you are eating something you might be encouraged to share . . . )
Emus make weird noises.  Emus have a pouch in their throat which, when inflated, allows them to make deep booming or drumming sounds which can be heard up to 2 kilometres (1.2 miles) away.  (Apparently they can also issue a rather blood-curdling hiss . . . )

Things I didn’t know:
Emus have 2 sets of eyelids—one set for blinking and the other to keep out dust.
Emus can jump.  Apparently their strong legs also allow the birds to jump up to 2.1 metres (7 feet) straight up.  (How freaky is that!)
They are good swimmers and like to play in water (and mud) (I have to say that until now it never occurred to me to even think of an emu having a fun day at the beach.)
Emus have no teeth so they swallow small stones and pebbles into the gizzard which help to grind up and digest their food.  (Tasty!)
Australia once declared war on emus.  (Say what?)

I’ll say that again.  Australia once went to war with the emus.  Seriously.  It became known as ‘The Great Emu War of 1932’  . . .

Stay with me.   At the end of the First World War returning Australian soldiers and a number of British veterans, were given land by the Australian government to take up farming in Western Australia.  With the onset of the great depression the government encouraged these farmers to increase their wheat crops, promising assistance in the form of subsidies.  However, wheat prices continued to fall, the government failed to deliver on the promised subsidies, and things became increasingly tense as the farmers prepared to harvest, while also threatening to refuse to deliver the wheat.

The farmers’ woes were exacerbated by the arrival of up to 20,000 emus who descended on the area as part of their breeding season and (yahoo!) found the abundance of food and water now available to them beyond their wildest dreams.  They proceeded to rampage enthusiastically around the district damaging crops and fences, eating everything they could get their birdy beaks around and causing general mayhem.

The besieged farmers relayed their concerns to the government (quite forcefully I imagine) and the government obligingly sent the army in to sort the problem out.  It was soon discovered that taking single pot shots at the offending emus was having little effect (apparently the emus realised quite early on that if they stayed just far enough away the guns weren’t accurate enough to hit them) and so, on further pressing, the Australian Minister of Defense then gave the soldiers access to . . .  wait for it . . . machine guns . . .  (I swear I am not making this up . . . )

Long story short—several military assaults were then launched upon the errant emus, with less than spectacular results.  The maurauding critters proved far trickier than anyone anticipated (seems they tend to scatter and flee in all directions when threatened, instead of patiently standing in a crowd waiting to be mown down) and after a very short space of time (and some seriously scathing reports in the media) the government decided it was all a bit too embarrassing and withdrew their troops.

So there you go.  The emus had won the war.  This might go a long way towards explaining why many of us today have never even heard about this bizarre little slice of Aussie history . . .  and why all emus still seem to possess that same smug mess-with-me-if-you-dare stare  . . .

 
8 Comments

Posted by on October 26, 2018 in Uncategorized

 

Tags: , , , , ,

‘If it looks like a duck, and quacks like a duck, we have at least to consider the possibility that we have a small aquatic bird of the family anatidae on our hands.’ Douglas Adams.

Stories from my Sketchbook . . .

There is no earthly reason for this post this week other than a funny quote and an excuse for me to sketch a cute duckling.  Well, that and the fact that the last couple of weeks has finally brought us some long awaited and much needed rain.

That old expression ‘Fine weather for ducks!’ seems wholly appropriate . . .

 
3 Comments

Posted by on October 19, 2018 in Uncategorized

 

Tags: , , , , , , ,

‘Avoid fruit and nuts. You are what you eat.’ Jim Davis.

Although I do still partake of the odd nut or two (love me some macadamias) I realised this week that it is almost a year now since I touched a piece of fruit.  I was never a big fruit eater to begin with (although I don’t recall ever turning down a slice of apple pie or a rhubarb tart) but since I started following a ketogenic lifestyle the world of fruit has become virtually non-existent for me.

But ‘why? why?’ you might ask.  ‘Fruit is good for us—right?’  Well, yes . . . and no . . .

For those of you who have never heard of ketogenics (which, for the record, excludes anyone within earshot of me) here’s my understanding of it (vastly oversimplified, and should NOT be considered medical advice).  The human body uses three energy sources to keep it moving: carbohydrates (sugars and starches), protein and fats.  We will also burn through those energy sources in that order.  (Your body will always burn the carbs first and the fat last.)  The ketogenic diet is a very low-carb, high-fat diet which involves drastically reducing your carbohydrate intake while at the same time replacing it with foods high in fat.  This reduction in carbs puts your body into a metabolic state called ketosis.  When this happens, your body, having no sugar left to burn is forced to burn the fat.

(Eat fat to lose fat?  Sounds crazy right?  I thought so too.  But I gave it a go and a year later I’m fitter, healthier and slimmer than I have ever been.  All I can say is—don’t knock it ’til you’ve tried it . . . )

How do you drastically cut down on carbs?  It’s surprisingly easy when you know the rules (click here for more info if you’re interested and hear from the real experts)—but the one thing that does seem to horrify people most (apart from telling people they should be eating MORE fat of course) is when I tell them they should be careful about their fruit intake.  Why?  Because most fruits contain a surprising amount of carbs, mostly in the form of sugar.   For instance, a medium-sized apple (150 grams) may contain as much as 18 grams of carbs, which is almost a full day’s allowance of carbs if you are eating strictly ketogenic (keeping under 20gms of carbs per day).

(Disclaimer:  Before I start to sound all holier-than-thou I am decidedly NOT strictly ketogenic!! I adhere to the ‘lazy-keto’ lifestyle and try to stay under 50gms of carbs a day.  One must always leave room for a little dark chocolate and a sneaky drop of red at the end of a long day.  Priorities, people—priorities!)

And I admit I feel slightly vindicated this week after reading a story which would seem to indicate that eating too much fruit is not only a problem for people.  An article in the Melbourne Age outlined the effect fruit-heavy diets were also having on some of the animals at Melbourne zoo.

Animals like fruit for the same reasons we do (it’s sweet and it tastes good) and so many animals (especially primates) will selectively choose to eat the fruit in the meals they are given and simply ignore the rest.  This has become such an issue that zookeepers have apparently had to wean their animals off fruit because it has been making them fat and rotting their teeth!   Dr Michael Lynch, the zoo’s head vet stated, “The issue is that cultivated fruits have been genetically modified to be much higher in sugar content than their natural, ancestral fruits.”  Because of this the zoo has now switched their animals’ diets towards leafy green vegetables and pellets packed with vitamins and minerals.  Zoo photos of meal times with monkeys enjoying bananas may soon be a thing of the past.

Now before all the fruit growers of the world (or any other avid fruit-lover for that matter) get ready to come after me with their big sticks, I am not saying that no-one (man or beast) should ever eat fruit again.  All I am saying is we should perhaps be slightly more selective about the type of fruit we eat—and how much of it we eat.  Sugar is a sneaky bastard.  He’ll get inside you anyway he can . . .

 
2 Comments

Posted by on October 12, 2018 in Uncategorized

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

“Sometimes,’ said Pooh, ‘the smallest things take up the most room in your heart.” A.A. Milne.

Stories from my Sketchbook . . .

I recently saw the new movie ‘Christopher Robin’.  It was (perhaps predictably) very sweet (although not sickly sweet enough as to cause a sugar coma) and, as an early and adoring reader of A.A Milne (especially the poems . . . ‘I found a little beetle; so that Beetle was his name . . . ‘) evoked nostalgic memories of happy times I spent along with C.R. and his friends on their many rambling adventures around the Hundred Acre Wood . . .

Now I know that movies are movies and real life is real life and movies (more often than not) take diabolical liberties with the truth (the real Christopher Robin was probably turning in his grave) but the one thing I especially liked about this movie was that all the little critters actually looked like the real toys I had always imagined them to be, rather than the prettied up Disney versions that have so eclipsed E.H. Shepard’s wonderful original drawings.

Pooh and Piglet and Tigger and Eeyore (‘ . . . it’s not much of a tail but I’m sort of attached to it . . . ‘)  were all a little careworn and grubby and frayed around the edges—just as any much-loved childhood toy should be.

Below is (most obviously, I hope) not a sketch of that most beloved and humble Winnie.  It is, however, a sketch of another bear who carries the same telltale scars of being on the receiving end of a lifetime of deep love and devotion . . .

 
1 Comment

Posted by on September 28, 2018 in Uncategorized

 

Tags: , , , , , , , , ,

‘Pink isn’t just a color, it’s an attitude!’ Miley Cyrus.

Stories from my Sketchbook  . . .

When I pulled into my driveway a couple of days ago I was greeted by a largeand extremely rowdyflock of pink and gray galahs foraging for their supper on my front lawn.  I am not sure whether they had been rowdy for as long as they had been there, or whether they just became so when I drove in, but they certainly weren’t backwards in coming forwards in venting their feelings about my untimely intrusion  . . .

I think that is one of reasons I like them so much.  I love critters with ‘attitude’ (as if you hadn’t guessed) and galahs really have that.  In spades.

Being mostly pink just kicks things up another notch . . .

 
8 Comments

Posted by on September 21, 2018 in Uncategorized

 

Tags: , , , , , , ,

‘Never have more children than you have car windows.’ Erma Bombeck.

I think Erma Bombeck is being rather optimistic here, implying at least some form of orderly conduct is possible as long as each child has a window of their own.  Then again, I imagine she was probably also talking about children of the two-legged variety, rather than those of the fourlegged persuasion.  Anyone who has ever had more than one dog in a car at any given time will know that, no matter how many available windows there might be, every dog will be absolutely desperate to look out of the exact same one . . .

Adding to the general car-chaos in my household is the fact that none of my girls actually like being in the car in the first place.  Even when I do get a day when it appears they have all decided to be good and are happy, smiling and sitting nicely, I can almost guarantee that before we are even out of the driveway they will have somehow managed to transform themselves into a confused and tangled little mass of collars, leads, legs and grumbly, snappy little faces.

(And if (God help me) one of them also gleans that we might actually be on the way to the v.e.t. instead of the beach, any hope of establishing the slightest modicum of doggy-decorum immediately flies out of the very same window they are all still arguing about . . . )

And the fun doesn’t stop there.  By the time we eventually arrive at our destination all three of them will have wound themselves up into such a frenzied state that I will need all my wits about me to get them out of the car again.

I know that as soon as I open the car door Maudie will make her break for freedomand she is fast!!  I have to make myself as large as possible in the doorway and make sure I have her leash well in hand before I allow her any space to move at all.  (Still being clipped in to her seatbelt has never been an issue when trying to escape the car . . . )

While attempting to wrangle Maudie I will also be watching Molly as she is always an accident waiting to happen.  Molly is somewhat clumsy on her feet these days (and a tad portly to boot) and if she were to jump from the car without my help she would be more than likely break whatever leg she landed on first or even completely forget to put her legs under her at all and bellyflop hard on to the ground.  (She’s knocked all the wind out of herself one more than one occasion!)  She is also a slippery little sucker when she doesn’t want to be caught . . .

And, of course, by the time I have cornered Molly and placed her gently on the ground next to Maudie, I am likely to find that Maudie is, actually, no longer where I thought she was.  Somehow she has managed to get herself back inside the car again (why?  why?) and is now hiding beside her sister Mabel, who has positioned herself (immovable as a rock) as far away from me as she possibly can, having obviously decided that no matter how much she hates the car whatever is outside is much, much worse.  Sigh.

I’ve been considering for a while now what best to do about the situation.  Apart from never (ever ever)  taking the girls in the car again which, unfortunately, isn’t really feasible, I’ve decided that something similar to the option below might be the way to go.

I’m not quite sure about the legal ramifications though . . .

 
11 Comments

Posted by on September 14, 2018 in Uncategorized

 

Tags: , , , ,

 
%d bloggers like this: