Dog and Chicken go to the Vet.

On Monday morning, as my dog, Maggie, jumped up to put her front paws on the side of the bed to greet me as she does every morning, she let out a sharp, high-pitched yelp. She then slunk away and wouldn’t come when I called her back. I got up and sat on the floor with her to check her out, but couldn’t find anything: no ticks, no obvious injury. She was very quiet and didn’t even hassle me for her breakfast. I decided not to feed her in case it was serious. She tried to put her front paws up on my knees but recoiled, and when she went downstairs, did so very slowly and carefully.

As soon as the vet opened I called them, explained the problem and they told me to come in at 10. In the mean time, Maggie retreated to her bed and sat there shivering in obvious pain. I started to get really worried. What if she had some internal damage and was bleeding? What if some poisonous thing had bitten her and the venom was taking effect? Should I take her up to the vet early instead of waiting? But I didn’t want to look like one of those neurotic pet owners.

So in order to feel like I was doing something I gave her some rescue remedy. Now I have never experienced any miraculous effects from rescue remedy but always keep it in my bag. If you can give a few drops to yourself or someone else in times of extremis you at least feel useful. So I managed to get a few drops onto the outside of Maggie’s lips and she licked them off. She sat there looking as mournful as ever, but I decided there was nothing more I could do, so I left her to rest on her bed and got on with my chores.

I walked out to the kitchen and picked up the scrap bucket for the chickens and was about to head out the door when Maggie appeared. Taking the scraps to the chooks is the highlight of her day and she wasn’t going to miss it. Lo and behold, she rushed ahead of me as usual, took off down the stairs with no trouble and was soon up on her hind legs against the side of the pen barking at the doves that always get trapped in there. Could it be that rescue remedy actually works?

Now I had an appointment at the vet, but what seemed to be a perfectly healthy dog! I equivocated, but decided to tale her anyway, just in case.

But just in case she was fine, I decided to maximise my visit. While down at the chooks, I got hold of Esme, the misbehaving chook, and had a good look at her. She had chicken shit caked all around her nether regions and I wondered whether there might be some infection as a result and this was causing her strange behaviour. So I tucked her under my arm, brought her up to the house, cleared the dirty newspaper from the carry cage and put some fresh stuff in and locked her in there. She was not impressed. Not only was she now closely confined, I had taken her straight after I threw the scraps into the pen and she was missing out. She kept shifting around and giving me menacing looks.

So at 10, I walked into the vet with one apparently healthy dog and one outraged chicken. Dogs being superior to chickens in the minds of humans,   Maggie was examined first. After prodding and poking and twisting her this way and that, the vet could find no obvious defect and decided it must have been a muscle spasm that had resolved itself. I didn’t mention the rescue remedy. She told me to keep Maggie confined and quiet, just to be on the safe side. I nodded obediently.

Next, Esme was extracted from her cage and placed on the table. The vet felt her all over, lifted her wings and listened to her chicken heart and lungs. Esme’s response to this was to make pull herself up to full height and crow as loudly as possible. But if she felt indignant at that, the best was yet to come. The vet pulled her gloves on and committed the ultimate humiliation. Even Brian, the rooster, had never violated Esme to such an extent. She gave another outraged crow. The vet declared her nether regions healthy but took away a little sample to examine more closely.

While we waited, Maggie paced around a few times, told me she was bored and wanted to go now and sat down and curled up on the floor in resignation. Meanwhile, Esme was enjoying the unusual experience of being stroked by a human. As I ran my hand along her silky, black feathers she first sat down and then her eyelids began to flutter and her head slowly droop. She was asleep! As I continued to stroke her I pondered on the absurdity of my life that I had been brought to a point where I was standing in a room with a sulking dog and a somnolent chicken who hadn’t been feeling quite herself.

The vet eventually returned to say she’d found nothing unusual in the sample but it might be best to worm Esme and all the other chickens. I felt nervous. How big were the other chickens, she asked. Bigger than Esme, I replied. And we have a rooster who’s quite big. Hmmm. Could we weigh him? I put my head in my hands and groaned. No, don’t worry, it’s ok, she replied. I said, no I didn’t mind doing it, but could just visualise capturing the rooster under cover of darkness, while he was sleepy, and trying to make him stand on a set of bathroom scales and keep him still long enough. We’d already had Brian to the vet after he ate a giant rubber band, most of which was tangled around his legs. He was found stumbling around the carport making a loud, strangled noise. The vet had knocked him out, then tried to pull the rubber band out, but it was firmly fixed somewhere deep inside. She pulled it out as far as possible, snipped it off and we took him home. He’s never crowed properly since. Yeah, maybe we could weigh him…

So I left the vet with two apparently healthy animals, slightly poorer and with two bottles of liquid that I’m supposed to administer to the flock. I was also instructed to cut away the shit encrusted feathers from Esme’s bum and wash it lest she become flyblown and they eat away her flesh. God I love that chook.

Come on Esme. It won't hurt a bit.

Blind Faith

On the weekend we bought ore of these new-fangled things:

But since our grass looks like this:

…we won’t need to use it for a while.

Bushfires threaten today. It’s going to be very hot and the wind is predicted to get up. The place is tinder dry and we only need one dickhead to chuck a cigarette butt out their car window, or one of the local, bored kids to take it into their head to deliberately light a fire and we’ll have to get busy and decide whether to go or stay. I’d rather pretend it’ll never happen here and concentrate on growing more things.

So far this:

…has become this…

…and this…

…has become this…

…and other things are just growing themselves…

The chickens continue to supply us with eggs, all except Esme. Esme is now  beyond the age of laying, being a grand 7 years of age and grows more and more recalcitrant. She has always free-ranged whether locked up or not; she always finds a way out and wanders around the property dust-bathing herself on the driveway and hunkering down under the bushes in the garden in the heat of the day. But, like a rebellious teenager, she has started staying out all night! She did this once when my husband was away adventuring in the Himalayas. She must have felt particularly determined to challenge the boundaries with one parent away. On finding her missing from the line up on the roost that night, I despaired that she had finally been taken by an evil goanna. But she turned up in the coop next morning as thought nothing had happened. Phew!

But last night my husband went to lock them up and came up reporting that Esme was once again missing. After dinner I took my torch and Maggie and I went searching for her in the dark bush. There was no sign of her except for a few dark feathers at the entrance to the coop. Again, I thought her luck must have finally run out. She had been behaving strangely all day, hanging around and making weird noises at me. Maybe she was trying to tell me something?

But I went down this morning and there she was standing outside the coop preening herself! She looked at us as though, “What?” and kept on preening her feathers like a conceited teenager. She then walked to the gate as though insolently demanding I open it for her–which I did–and hurried in and into the shed for some breakfast. When I went down later with the scraps she was nowhere to be found again. I called her but she didn’t come. I went for a walk around the property but can’t find her anywhere. The weather is warming up and the reptiles will be on the move, but I just have to assume that Esme will continue to elude them. And if a bushfire comes, no doubt she’ll find somewhere safe.

Drastic Measures

On the weekend I went to a meeting about food security. The Australian Food Sovereignty Alliance are holding kitchen table meetings around the country to gather peoples opinions and concerns about how we want our food to be produced and supplied. Basicly, if we rely on imports and agribusiness to feed us, how can we guarantee quality and security of our food supply?

Boring! But unfortunately, an issue we need to think about and act on if we want to keep eating. For example, the guru from the ASFA told us that in the event of some catastrophic event we would only have 50 days of grain supply left. I’m not sure this means for the world or just Australia; I was too focused on whether I should eat one of our hosts scones with strawberry jam or a raw bean, and on how sweet that bird is that keeps bathing in the small bird bath.

This puts me under considerable pressure to get growing if I’m to take up the slack if and when said catastrophe occurs. The fact that it now hasn’t rained forever is making things a little difficult. Our dam is but a muddy puddle and we’ve already bought one load of water for our tank at a cost of $125 for 10,000 litres (a quarter of a tank).

We did discuss people growing more of their own food and bartering their excess. I’ve been coveting my friend’s vege garden for some time now. She grows everything! Even her own lentils. She even bought a cow recently, and has been endeavouring to squeeze milk out of the beast with mixed success. Since cows can’t eat gum trees, I can’t have a cow, goat, whale or any other lactating beast. If I hadn’t speyed the dog to stop my vet surgeon Dad nagging me, I could have got her pregnant and milked her. Then she would at least be of some use.

Would you drink milk from this dog?

Once I’ve got a useful amount of anything coming out of my garden I plan to  enter into a bartering system with my neighbour and any others that might be interested.

I asked the guru at our meeting whether it would be feasible to grow your own wheat or other grain. It’s all very well to grow beans and carrots, but most of what we eat is grain (unless you’re one of these city-dwelling, no-carbs freaks). He said an acre of land would yield about 5 tons of wheat. I’m pretty sure we don’t need that much. Our budget doesn’t run to a combine harvester and storage could become a problem. Extrapolating (unnecessarily long word) from this, I reckon I can grow our own wheat supply in the back yard. Apparently, it’s even possible to grow what is called dry land rice. I can feel my back aching already. And I’ll have to buy one of those pointy, Vietnamese hats.

Bloody Reptiles

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Well none of Sylvia’s eggs hatched. She’d been sitting on them for four weeks and since nothing had happened I shooed her off the nest and chucked the whole stinking lot. The dog enjoyed some of them. Rotten eggs. She’ll eat anything.

This didn’t deter Sylvia from returning to an empty nest so I stuck a few more eggs under her for another go, but of course, now that the weather is warming up our old nemesis, the goanna, has returned. There is more than one of course, but the same one has been visiting every day when it’s warm. It quickly scared Sylvia off the nest, ate the eggs and took off up a tree with the dog very close on its long tapering tail. The next time it visited my husband was home sick, but not too sick to peg several hundred rocks at the evil thing. He missed every time. He had another go when it returned on the weekend and managed to knock it out of the tree. It just ran straight back up again. And since it was back again yesterday thrashing around the chook pen with the dog barking furiously on the outside, it doesn’t seem to have taken the hint that we fucking hate it.

There was a baby one in the garden this morning, just over a foot long. It was quite pretty really, but I knew it would grow up evil like the others so I gave it a stern talking to about not eating either my eggs or my chooks (when it gets really big. I’ve lost several chooks to giant goannas).Maggie obediently chased it and startled a green tree snake in the process. These are harmless to both man and chook so I was perfectly happy to see it. Unfortunately its cousin, the carpet python is very partial to chooks. By day the goannas are after them; by night the pythons emerge to strangle the life out of them, slink off under the house to digest them and then disappear leaving a huge stinking shit just so you were in no doubt.

We saved one chook, Pippi (the only hen that has hatched here and survived) from the clutches of a python. She was in a separate pen with her new baby outside our bedroom when she woke me at 3 am literally screaming. The baby was running around like a windup toy while its mother was being squeezed to death by a python that was wrapped around her several times. We quickly got the baby out of the way, then I started belting the snake with a broom handle. He wasn’t fazed by this so I just grabbed hold of his head, which made him let go and unravel. My husband ran to get a pillow case and we dropped him in there and took him for a lovely night-time drive to someone else’s property. We know they’d do the same for us; I’m pretty sure that’s how we ended up with the massive 7 foot snake that arrived just before Christmas and ate my new chook.

So I saved Pippi from certain death but she had a big flap ripped open on her head. We took her to the vet the next morning and they knocked her out, stitched her up and returned her good as new. It was after this that she took up crowing. Maybe her near death experience gave her the courage to reveal herself as being transgender. As long as she still lays eggs, I don’t care.

Small steps

I’ve vowed to do at least one thing each day in my journey towards (relative) self-sufficiency. Yesterday I stuck three onions in the ground. Better than nothing.

But I did make this on the weekend:

Lemon/Lime Cordial and a knitted dish cloth.

And this:

Strawberry syrup