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‘I have made many mistakes in my life. Rescuing an animal is not one of them.’ Anon.

I have been forced to enact a couple of ‘wildlife rescues’ this week, albeit very small ones . . .

On Tuesday, during my usual opening-up-the-office-routine (doing the important stuff like turning on the coffee machine and the air-conditioners) I saw, from the corner of my eye, something scuttle quickly across the carpet near my desk.  My first thought was (as always) ‘Spider!’—those suckers can really move—but, of course, by the time I looked again it had vanished.

sneakyspiderThe sight of a spider in the office (or, in this case the mere possibility of one) would normally induce me to ‘down tools’ immediately and find someone to remove it (usually the boss—she’s weird—she actually likes spiders) but as I was on my own I had no choice but to go and find it myself (and, let’s face it, here was no earthly way I was going to be sitting at that desk without making sure I knew exactly what was moving around underneath it!)

Well it wasn’t a spider, but a lizard (Phew!)  A little water-dragon like the one pictured below.

waterdragonI think he was only a baby, and very cute, but he still glared at me quite crossly when I attempted to ‘shoo’ him out the front door.  He was having none of it.  It took me a full twenty minutes of chasing him up and down hallways, crawling under desks (banging my head twice) and several fits of giggles (from me, not him) before I eventually managed to drop a plastic container over him and halt him in his tracks.  I released him in the park across the street with a stern warning to ‘stay out of my office’.  He turned to give me one final angry glare before vanishing into the undergrowth . . . .

And then there was the little bird.  Sigh.  Poor little bird. . .

catbirdAbout two weeks ago I noticed a little injured bird in my front garden.  He had a broken wing but I couldn’t get anywhere near him, so decided it was probably best to let nature take its course.  A couple of days later I realised he had taken up residence in the bushes near my letterbox.  In spite of his broken wing he seemed quite perky so I decided to leave him be.  I honestly thought he would probably die of natural causes, but I left him some seed and a little tub of water and hoped for the best. A week later he was still there but then, overnight, he vanished.  I thought he must finally have succumbed to his injuries . . . or been eaten by the neighbour’s cat . . .

angrywomanUntil yesterday.  Hearing a huge ruckus outside my living room window I went out to find three huge magpies attacking the same little bird.  Two little rosellas were also screaming at the top of their lungs and darting in and out in front of the magpies, seemingly trying to distract them, but to no avail.  I, of course, ran out like a madwoman, waving my arms about and shouting, also to no avail.  I had to actually take off my shoe and whack one of the magpies with it before the others retreated. The little bird then staggered over to me and hid behind my foot (who said they had no brains?) The magpies weren’t giving up their prize with out a fight though and returned with a vengeance every time my back was turned.  It took a lot more flailing about with my shoe—and Mabel, Maude and Molly all howling insults from behind the screen door—before I managed to get the little bird safely away.

Long story short (sorry about that)—’little bird’ is now in a cage (actually it’s a metal dog crate because that’s all I had) up high on a table on my back verandah (not only do I have to protect him from murderous magpies, but I noticed Mabel and Maude were showing a rather ‘unhealthy’ interest in him too . . . )  So, bless, he now not only has the broken wing but also several nasty puncture wounds to contend with.  In spite of this, he lived through the night, and shouted angrily at me this morning when I went to check on him (there’s gratitude for you) so perhaps he is still not ready to die just yet . . .  Today I am going to hand him over to someone who will know how to properly look after him.  Now that he is ‘safe’ I don’t want to, in my ignorance, do him any more damage . . .

And, speaking of ignorance, I am thinking I should probably also brush up on my ‘rescue’ skills, or at least do a bit of reading on the best way to handle such situations should they happen again.  I am sure there are less stressful (for the animals and for me) ways of going about these things.watching tv

But, until then, I might try and confine any wildlife rescues to something a wee bit less fraught . . .  like watching them on the telly . . .

 
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Posted by on February 10, 2017 in Uncategorized

 

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‘When the flower blossoms, the bee will come.’ Srikumar Rao.

Stories from my Sketchbook . . . 

And not only the bee—apparently every other bug, grub, creepy-crawly and eight-legged beastie known to man as well . . .

antsIt’s early in the season yet but it’s already starting to feel like a scene from A Bug’s Life‘ at my house. It started on Saturday when I was cleaning out my pantry (oh joy).  All was going well until I noticed a packet of oatmeal which seemed to be taking itself for a walk towards the back corner of the cupboard.  Looking more closely I realised said packet was being carried aloft by hordes of tiny black ants.  Sigh.  What should have been a fairly easy tidy-up job turned into a major ant-eradication program.

And it didn’t end there.  While out walking the girls I had my first sandfly bite of the season, which means I am now going to have to slather myself in ‘Rid’ from head to toe every time I go out to the letterbox or hang washing on the line for the next six months.  So much fun.

scaredMabel also encountered this year’s first ‘blowy‘ which sent her into complete tailspin.  (Mabel got stung by a bee when she was a tiny puppy and she has never gotten over it.  Her little face blew up to twice it’s normal size and she looked a bit like a freaky cartoon character.  (I didn’t tell her that though, she was traumatised enough as it was.)  Now any time anything buzzes past her she has a bit of a meltdown. Spring and Summer can be very exhausting times for Mabel.)

Add, to that the fact that we have now come into ‘tick season’ which means I will have to be hyper-vigilant with the dogs medication and daily checks and . . . wait for it . . . best of all . . . I am now also anticipating (with barely concealed terror, I might add) the arrival of the first monster spider (and I say first, because I can guarantee there will be others), which is bound to appear in my bedroom any day now.

Ah yes, the joys of Spring.  It’s just as well the flowers are so pretty . . .

img075

Hibiscus rosa-sinensis

 
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Posted by on September 27, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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‘Which hand do you use to pick up a dangerous snake? Someone else’s . . . ‘

leaving home (2)Well, that’s it.  It’s decided.  We have to leave town.

OK.  Wait a minute though.  Big breaths.  Perhaps . . . just-perhaps-and-ever-so-slightly-possibly . . . leaving town might be somewhat of an over-reaction . . . maybe . . .

. . . but this week the girls and I had our very first encounter with a snake.  And I didn’t like it.  At all.

I know what you are going to say.  I live in Australia, so I should be used to seeing snakes and spiders and all manner of creepie-crawlies on a daily basis.  Right?  Well—yes—to a point (and you may remember from an earlier post my views on the Australian spider population)—but snakes?  Nope.  Nuh huh.  No.  Up until now I have never had a close-up real-life encounter with a snake, and quite honestly, I am absolutely, positively and most definitely sure I could have continued on and lived my life quite happily without the experience.

We all know that snakes are around, especially those of us living in country areas.  We are warned about them almost on a daily basis, and told to be on the lookout for them, especially in the summer months.  In spite of this I found myself totally unprepared.

snake waving (2)We were on our way home from our afternoon walk.  We’d been on a lovely wander along the sea wall, had cut through the bushy track and walked through the park (where there is so much leaf litter and long grass that you honestly wouldn’t be able to see a 100 snakes having a birthday party unless they stood up and waved to you) and were coming back along the busy footpath into our street.

screamingI was actually looking further down the road as I had just spotted Lenny patrolling his front yard.  (Lenny is a lovely big Boxer boy (hence ‘Lenny’—as in ‘Sugar Ray’) but he and Maudie like to give each other grief every time we go past his house so I was rallying myself for the confrontation.)  Suddenly there was a commotion at my feet and the girls all at once ran directly in front of me, tangling my legs in their leads and causing me to stumble and look down.  And there it was.  Clear as day.  It slithered right between all of our legs.  I am surprised you didn’t hear me from where you were.

Terriers are renowned for chasing down and killing snakes but interestingly (and thank you God) on their very first exposure to one my girls’ first reaction was to run away from it, dragging me with them (they are such good girls).  Just as well really, as I was pretty much rooted to the spot.  Happily, the snake seemed equally keen to escape and sped away from us across the road and into the park.

(The girls were immediately informed that we are never going to set foot into that park again.  In fact, they might be lucky to even get another walk outside this summer.)

4c9arLBcEThe snake was, I am reliably informed by a very nice man who came over to see what all the fuss was about, a young Eastern Brown Snake.  Lovely.  One of the most venomous snakes in the country.  Not that that counts for much in my mind.  Any snake in Australia that is non-venomous (so few and far between as to be not worth mentioning) is still more than likely to scare you to death anyway.

That wasn’t quite the end of it of course.  By the time I got us all home I had convinced myself that  any one of the dogs could have been bitten during all the kerfuffle without me realizing it.  I googled all the symptoms for snake bite in dogs (don’t ever do that by the way—it will give you nightmares) and then proceeded to completely freak the dogs out by following them obsessively around the house and garden for the next couple of hoursjust to make sure they weren’t vomiting or fitting or collapsing or swelling up or . . . Poor Mabel began to give me a haunted, stalked kind of look over her shoulder every time she got up to go outside for a pee . . .snake&person (2)

At the end of the day though it was all good.  No-one had been bitten and I only lost of a couple of years off my life through fright.  The snake also got away unscathed and is now free to spend the rest of its life growing to anaconda-size proportions in our local park ready to scare the life out of other unsuspecting walkers and their dogs.

Mmmmmm . . .  rethinking again . . . the possibility of leaving town is still on the table  . . .

 
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Posted by on January 7, 2016 in Uncategorized

 

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‘Spiders so large they appear to be wearing the pelts of small mammals.’ Dave Barry

House-RulesThere aren’t many rules to abide by in my houseI reckon there are enough rules already in the world to deal with so I like to keep those at home to a minimum.  Apart from those two listed on the right (which should be obvious anyway) there are only a couple of others which I do at least try to enforce:

  • nobarkNo unnecessary barking. (You may bark if there is actually something to bark at—like letting me know a visitor is at the front door, or there’s an intruder at the back door, or to warn me about a big dog sneaking up on us when we are out walking (but then you must stop when I tell you to).  You may not bark just because the dog next door is barking and you feel like joining in, or if you hear a car door slam three blocks away, or the neighbours cat is sitting in his own front yard across the road, or even just because it seems like a good idea at the time.  No.)
  • dog-bone-No ‘lollies’ (i.e. dog treats) in, on, or anywhere near my bed.  (Yeah, right.  I have been fighting that losing battle for years.)
  • No fighting over food. (Well—no fighting at all really but especially not over food.  There is enough dog food in this house to sink a battleship. Any arguing over food will result in it ALL yummies being taken away until table manners are completely restored.)
  • No spiders in the house.
    (Nothing else to add here.  I think that statement speaks for itself.)

Spiders-Keep-Out-300-x-300Three out of four of these House Rules are broken on a semi-regular basis (two of them just this morning before I left for work—sigh), but the breaking of Rule Number 4 really upsets me.  I do not like spiders in the house.  I’ll say that again—I do not like spiders, at all, ever, under any circumstances, in the house. And that applies even more to humumgus ‘Aragog‘ type spiders.  Now I know that Dave Barry was not talking about Australian spiders when he wrote the above, but, I assure you the quote is appropriate. For those of my overseas friends who have never lived in nor visited Australiaall those stories you hear about huge hairy arachnids large enough to carry away babies and small dogsabsolutely true.

Halloween-SpiderNow, I’m not totally ignorant of the good that spiders do.  Spiders eat lots of other insects (even other spidersyay) and without them whole crops might be decimated and consumed by pests. Research suggests that chemicals harvested from spider venom may actually hold the key to alleviating chronic pain. If science can manage to find a way to make artificial spider silk, which has proved to be the strongest natural material (“tougher than Kevlar and stronger than steel”) it could be used to make everything from artificial tendons to bulletproof vests. And that’s all good. Great. I am happy for all the good that spiders do—they just don’t have to do all that good from the comfort of my home.

scary-spider-vectorI could not swear to when my real fear and dislike of spiders started (although eight hairy legs, eight eyes each and the tendency to scuttle really quickly up your leg when you are not looking is possibly reason enough) but I can make a pretty good guess at it. I vividly remember a day at school when I was about 10 years old and a boy who, we were told, had been bitten by a spider, was paraded into each and every classroom in the school to show us ‘what happens when you mess about with spiders’. I can still ‘see’ the raw weeping sores on his chubby little legs.  Now it may not even be true that he was bitten by a spider at all (it could have been any number of other creepy crawlies that Australia is famous for) but that doesn’t matter. That image stuck. Spiders were bad. Spiders were dangerous. Apart from the poor wee boy himself, I am sure I was not the only student traumatised and having spider nightmares from that day forth.

Spider-Dog-Costume(Before I go on you will note that there are no real photos of spiders in this article.  I did attempt to find some relevant images but all that did was give me a severe attack of the screaming heebie-jeebies and ensure that I am going to be seeing spiders in every nook and cranny for at least the next week. So instead I have put in links to pictures of the the spiders I mention, which you can go and look at for yourself if you really feel you must. Oh and just a heads-up—never, ever google the words ‘spider-puppies’ in an effort to find a cute picture of a dog dressed in a Halloween costume. You will instead be confronted with a whole page of pictures of spiders as big as puppiesimages now indelibly burned on my retina for all time. I am never going to be able to un-see them ever again. Shudder.)

Most Australian children learn very early on to give spiders a wide berth. I never really got the hang of which ones were poisonous and which ones weren’t, and I still can’t really tell any of them apart.  Well—that’s not quite true. I could tell you it was a Redback Spider if I saw one, ‘cos ‘red-back’ kind of gives it away (although I have just found out that a ‘similar species’ to the Redback is called the ‘Cupboard Spider’.  OMGthat is not going to freak me out much next time I open my wardrobe door.)  

spiderdisappearOh, and the Huntsman because everyone knows what a Huntsman looks like. They are very worst rule breakers of the spider world and live in every house in Australia. Even if you have never actually seen one in your house there really is one there, living the Life of Riley behind the curtains, or in the linen cupboard, or under the sink, or in your favourite shoe. Guaranteed.  Huntsman spiders are not poisonous. They can, however, almost scare you to death, much to the amusement of other family members not in the immediate vicinity.

To illustrate, I’m going to do a Max Bygraves here—’I wanna tell you a story”. . .

dustcloudWhen I was a kid, our house, like every other in the neighbourhood, had an old metal postbox nailed onto the front fence and I always checked this box when I came home from school. One day I gathered up the mail as usual, flipped a letter over to see who it was fromonly to find a huge huntsman spider clinging desperately to the back of the letter.  Mum, hearing the shriek (from me, not the spider—although you never know . . . ) came running out of the house to find letters fluttering gently down around the yard and a dust cloud forming in the general direction of where I had headed. When he heard the story Dad laughed until he cried (and tormented me mercilessly about it too I remember)—until the same thing happened to him a couple of weeks later (my sisters and I having resolutely refused to bring in the mail ever again). It wasn’t quite so funny then. Dad went out and emptied a can of Mortein into the letterbox (while standing as far back from it as his ego would allow). On asking whether the spider was dead now he replied ‘Not yet, but I can hear him coughing’.

spider in the bathNow my Auntie Norma always told us that you if kill a spider you really need to look around for his partner, because they always travel in twos and the one you don’t see is the one you really have to worry about. (And people wonder why spiders freak me out—to this day I still do a quick check around the house for the ‘other’ one.)

Anyway, after the demise of the letterbox spider his best mate (let’s call him Bob) decided to move into our house to avenge his pal.  Bob had been spotted briefly once or twice high on my bedroom wall (why my wall?  Dad was the one who killed his friend . . . ) but vanished just as quickly.  I was sure Bob had taken up residence behind one of the posters on my wall. That was kinda sorta okay with me—as long as he stayed behind the poster (out of sight, out of mind) but he started to get a bit full of himself and poked his hairy legs out from behind the poster once too often (and OMG was he growing too big to stay completely hidden?) It was too much. Tears and tantrums and ‘I’m never going to sleep in here again’ finally wore Dad down and he promised to get ‘rid of’ Bob for good (as long as the dog came with him).

killthe spiderI remember watching (from the safety of my position standing on the bed) as the dog danced excitedly around the room and Dad valiantly wielded the broom about trying to knock Bob down. Bob was having none of it. He ducked and weaved, and zigged and zagged and, then, when it looked like Dad might finally be getting the upper hand, Bob turned and ran down the broomstick handle. I remember the broomstick hitting the floor and the door slamming behind Dad as he, and the dog, vanished as if by magic, leaving a very irate Bob alone in the room with meMy heroes.

I have absolutely no memory at all of what happened next (it is a well known fact that the brain will block this kind of trauma out) but I am pretty sure it was probably Mum who eventually saved the day.

SmallSpiders_bWell, I am not a kid any more and it is a long time since I have run screaming from the room after just spotting a spider (well—there was that time last week, but he totally took me by surprise) and I am willing to admit that other people don’t experience the same horror of spiders that I do.  In fact, many cultures believe spiders to be incredibly lucky and therefore it is very bad luck to kill one. That’s okay. I can still rarely get close enough to them to actually kill them myself anyway and have to get someone else to do it for me, so reckon I am covered there.  As to the other ‘lucky spider’ superstitions I have read about—I’ve listed a few of them below for you—make of them what you will!

For myself I don’t think there is anything convincing enough there to tempt me into a re-write of Rule Number Four just yet . . .

A spider is a repellent against plague when worn around the neck in a walnut shell.
(What happens if it escapes the shell?  How ‘lucky’ would that be?)

A spider with syrup cures fever.
(I think I would prefer the fever.)

All spiders except tarantulas are omens of good luck. The larger the spider, the bigger the rewards.
(Note:  The other name for ‘Huntsman’ is ‘Tarantula’—which is not scary at all.
I no longer feel any guilt about tossing Huntsmen from my home.)

Finding a spider at midday – Anxiety
(Only at midday?)

Finding a Spider on the Wedding Dress is an Omen of Good luck!
(You try telling a bride that.)

If a spider crawls into your pocket, you can forget a business cash advance as you will always have money.
(If a spider crawls into my pocket the very last thing I am going to be worrying about is money . . . )

 Kill a spider, bad luck yours will be
Until of flies you’ve swatted fifty-three.
(???????)

 
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Posted by on October 30, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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‘Spring is nature’s way of saying, ‘Let’s party’!’ (Robin Williams)

green succulentAs I write Spring is only 2 weeks away.  The mornings and evenings are getting lighter; there are teeny tiny buds on my frangipani tree; a hopeful little pigeon daily struts daily around my garden in full display (although the object of his affection really doesn’t look at all interested), and bright little spots of colour are starting to appear through the winter foliage.

I am actually a little bit excited about my garden this year.  This is surprising to me considering my long history of being a totally abysmal gardener. What’s changed?  Well—I blame my landlord.  Let me explain.

I used to have a monster melaleuca tree in my back yard—a massive tree which took up at least half of the yard and was both beautiful and ugly in equal measure.  It was big, old and gnarled and gave great privacy from the neighbours.  It threw fabulous shade all summer and deep dark gloom all winter.  It dropped sticks and leaves and acorny things all year (and they all ended up in my living room), but it also kept the equally old wooden paling fence upright for much longer than if it had been left to its own devices.  It contained a myriad of wildlife—several families of birds and their yearly offspring; but also bugs, beetles and a huge population of shimmery white orb spiders which would constantly freak me out in the evenings when I would find the whole tree laced with webs and dozens of them all out and about having a street party.  (Want to know what freaked me out even more?  The fact that they all completely vanished without a trace every morning. Shudder.)

Anyway—one day I got a call from the landlord saying that the tree was to be cut down.  It took two men nearly three days to climb, cut, hew, hack and haul that tree away and when they had gone I was left with a massive raw stump 6 feet around and 2 feet high, several inches of sawdust covering every inch of the garden and a first class view of the over-the-back-neighbour’s rumpus room.  Mmmm.  (Luckily, not long after the tree came down we had a big storm which also took down most of the no-longer-propped-up wooden fence and the landlord replaced it with a brand-spanking-new green colourbond—and the neighbours were free to rumpus about in private again.)

But now—no shade.  At all.  Dead, sawdust-drowned grass.  And that stump!  After staring at it in despair for several months I decided to cover the whole back yard in pine bark.  At least it looked tidy, if a little stark.

Then one day, wandering about the shops (as I am wont to do), I found a strange funky looking plant (‘will grow in full sun’!) which took my fancy.  I took it home, put it in a pot and put the pot in the middle of the bark ‘lawn’.  To my surprise, not only did it not die, it tripled in size almost immediately, spewed out ‘babies’ all over the place, and I had to repot it.  Woo Hoo!  It was an ‘AHA’ moment.

Succulents (see, I even know what they are called) soon became my new best friends.  I now have them in all sizes and shapes—low growing, fat and fleshy, tall and spiky (the dogs give that one a really wide berth), hairy, furry, smooth, bumpy, green, brown, yellow, multicoloured—you name it.  There is even one which, after doing nothing at all for six months, then overnight  threw out a tall spike of flowers almost as tall as me, and if it sprouts legs like a triffid anytime soon I am moving house.

‘Pig-face’, I discovered, was especially invented just to cover ugly tree stumps!  Who knew?

And—best of all—it seems to me that the only way to actually kill a succulent is to water it! (well, okay, over-water it—but as that is not likely to happen with me I think I’m covered).

So, long story short—if my landlord (thanks Bob) hadn’t had that tree taken down I might never have discovered a love of (succulent) gardening.  So, roll on Spring.  Do your worst.  I am ready for you.  Unless, of course,  that really tall spiky thing actually is a triffid  . . .

 
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Posted by on September 6, 2015 in Uncategorized

 

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