Tuesday, 22 August 2017

Farewell Luna

We have 3 chickens and we have had them for nearly 3 years. They are our beloved pets and they are part of our family.  And yesterday we had to say goodbye to our beautiful black Australorp, Luna.  She was 3 1/2 years old.  It was a sad day.


For the past few days she was acting very unwell and at night she was sleeping in the nesting box. And then 2 days ago she didn't go up the ladder to bed, she just sat in a corner of the chicken coop even though it was dark.  My husband had to carry her up.  It was going to be a cold night and I couldn't bear the thought of her feeling sick and cold outside, so we brought her inside, in a small box with straw.  We put that inside a spare guinea pig cage in the garage.  She didn't protest. We fed her water from a spoon and small amounts of food, but she wasn't improving.

After much googling to find out what could be wrong (there were a number of possibilities) and trying home remedies we decided it was time to seek the help of a vet.  I found a vet service that makes house calls for a reasonable price.  If I could help it I didn't want to take her to the vet as it would be stressful for her and I didn't want her to suffer anymore. This service was wonderful.

I allowed my daughter to stay home from school as she was worried about Luna and I knew she wouldn't be able to focus at school.  She had spent the weekend hand feeding her lots of meal worms, patting her and whispering to her.  She had helped us give her a warm bath to clean her feathers and soothe her.  I explained to her that by now Luna was very sick (at this stage she wasn't eating, barely drinking and sleeping all the time) and that when the vets came, they may say we  have to put her to sleep.

They came out and were very kind and compassionate. They found she had a mass in her abdomen and she was very thin.  Most likely it was an egg which didn't form properly, which could have been there for months and had then become infected.  Luna hadn't laid for about 6 months and we had assumed she had come to the end of her laying days. But, birds can hide their illness for a long time, until they feel very unwell.  Unfortunately she was too sick, so the most humane thing to do was to put her to sleep.

We said our teary goodbyes.  My daughter handled it well, she is 10 years old.  She asked if she could keep some of Luna's feathers.

Luna had the most amazing black feathers, that had a green shine on them in the sun. She had black legs, orange eyes and her comb had tinges of black on it. She had a small chip in her black beak. I know all this detail, because my daughter has spent so much time with her, chatting, feeding, hugging and loving her over the past few years.  Luna also used to make the loudest noise, so loud sometimes we thought the neighbours might complain.  We used to say she sounded like she was having a whinge!



Last night, over dinner we spent the night reminiscing.  We talked about when we first brought the chooks home, how much we have learnt about chickens and the excitement the day they each laid their first egg.  We laughed at how funny they are. We talked about Luna, about the kind vets and why euthanasia is the most humane thing to do, even though we feel so sad.  There were lots of life lessons for my daughter yesterday and there were some tears.

The day we brought them home- LOTS of cuddles!

Farewell Luna, thank you for laying all those delicious eggs, for bringing us love, for teaching us how to care for chickens, for letting us watch you lay an egg one day, for making us laugh, for letting us pick you up (sometimes!) and for being a good sister.  You certainly weren't the top chook, you were always more sensitive, a little nervous and very loud, but you were ours, part of our family.  We love you and we will miss you.

Wednesday, 16 August 2017

My Monday Morning

I had a productive morning on Monday. It felt wonderful. I had been thinking about some changes I could make to use my time more valuably .  Being a Mum, I was finding I always had just small pockets of time throughout the day. A few moments here or a half an hour there around the school routine and it felt like I wasn't fitting in some regular practices important to me.



I decided I needed to start walking regularly again and fit in ten minutes of meditation every day.  It just makes me feel so much better.  However, I was finding it hard to do it at a regular times as my daughter had different things on throughout the week, sometimes she had to be at school early, other times she had after school activities, plus life in general.  I was finding if I left it until the end of the day, mostly it wouldn't happen.  I just couldn't get into a routine. Our weeks constantly change with things like school excursions, husband away for work sometimes, you get it.  So I had to think a bit more flexibly.

I decided I needed to do the walk and meditation in the morning. There is more chance I will do it.   I thought  if I couldn't walk before she went to school, I would walk as soon as I got home from dropping her off.  I'm trying to commit to at least 3 walks a week and meditation every day. It was a great start on Monday and often just starting is the hardest part.  I'll share some of my Monday morning with you.
Walking shoes on - a good start!


I got up earlier, slipped on my walking gear, headed downstairs and started preparing lunch for my daughter.  I chatted to my husband before he went to work.   My daughter and I continued on our morning routine.  We had a delicious concoction of scrambled eggs with grated vegetables mixed through it.  We both enjoyed this nourishing breakfast.

I got my daughter off to school, popped into the shops to pick up a few groceries and got home.  Out the door for my walk I went.


Walking has always makes me feel good and it sets me up for the day.  I walked around our neighbourhood for 20 minutes, breathing in the fresh air and feeling the sun on my skin.  I love to walk and look at all the houses.  It interests me.  I might come home with an idea for our own.  Sometimes I might see their pets at the window or on the driveway.  I always say hello to fellow walkers.
My neighbourhood

But the thing I noticed the most on this particular Monday walk were the scents in the air.  Past a wattle tree I walked, I didn't see it, but that familiar smell made me breathe a bit deeper.  A few minutes later, the strong scent of a curry plant filled the air. It was planted in the front garden bed of the house I was walking past.   Again I breathed deeper to soak up that smell.  And lastly as I was on my way home, the smell of freshly cut grass wafted in the morning air.  I love that smell.  Just Breathe.
There are lots of parks around my neighbourhood


Home I went and was greeted at the window by this beautiful boy.


I came in, had big glass of water and got straight into my meditation.  I like to lie in our rumpus room, it has beautiful light in the morning.  I quietened my mind and breathed deeply.   I can't always stop the whirling thoughts very well, but if all I do is stop and breathe, it is worth it.

Next the cooking began.  I made this absolutely delicious salad.  So many components but totally worth it.  Roasted carrots with garlic, cumin, sumac and lemon juice.  I could have eaten the whole tray just like that.  Homegrown kale, stir fried with garlic and olive oil.  Roasted hazelnuts.  Brown rice and a delicious orange maple dressing.  Add some freshly chopped parsley, mix it all up and YUM.  The flavours were amazing together.


Then I baked this bread, a version of the No Knead Bread.  Raisin Bread.  The smell of that baking in the oven is to die for.   My daughter had a lovely afternoon tea waiting for her.


The clock hit twelve noon and that was my Monday morning. Productive and good for the soul. Not every day is like this in the messy chaos of life. But walking and meditating helps me to maintain some calm in the busy days.  I'll hold onto the memory of that morning, the way I felt that morning.

Sunday, 13 August 2017

Guacamole

I make this often.  Lately I have been making it for my daughter for afternoon tea.  She loves it and it is so very simple.  Avocados are one of the very best foods we can eat, containing many beneficial nutrients. This guacamole is a great way to use up any avocados you may have that are slightly overripe. We use lots of raw vegetables as the dippers, it is such a great way to consume a lot of vegetables in an incredibly tasty way.   Sometimes we will eat it with some organic corn chips too. Here is my very simple version:



Guacamole

Ingredients
1 large avocado
1/2 clove fresh garlic, very finely chopped
lemon or lime juice to taste
salt and pepper and pepper to taste

Method
1. Cut the avocado in half.  Scoop out the flesh into a bowl.
2.Roughly mash with a fork.
3.Add the garlic, lemon or lime juice and salt and pepper.
4.Mix together and Enjoy!

**I like to add some fresh or dried chilli for added spice.  You could also add some very finely diced onion, coriander and tomato.  I keep it simple as that is how my daughter likes it.

**It doesn't keep very well so best eaten on the day it is made.


Many dips we buy in the supermarket are expensive, have added ingredients to preserve their shelf life and are packaged in plastic.

This dip can be made in around 5 minutes.  It is perfect to make if you are having people around, as it is low cost, delicious and healthy.  It has no artificial ingredients or preservatives.  Children love it too.  I hope you try it, I am sure you won't be disappointed.


Wednesday, 9 August 2017

Spreading Joy with the Gift of Food

Sharing food spreads joy, in so many different ways.  Whether you are the giver or receiver I am sure you have felt that joy in at least one small way.  I feel it all the time and it warms my heart. I share food with my family, friends and neighbours. It is a gift that is well received by everyone, no matter their age. It is a simple gift but one you cannot put a price on.  Let me tell you some stories about the joy it brings me.

Homegrown navel oranges from our neighbour
My neighbour grows an enormous variety of edible food in his backyard.  He shares it with us often.  We are always having chats over the fence about growing produce.  We are learning so much from each other. We don't have a lot to share with him yet, but last week, he gave me some beautiful homegrown navel oranges.  I am going to make one into a Whole Orange Cake and we will share some of that cake with him.  He just loves our chickens and we share eggs with him too sometimes.  Joy!  How lovely it is to live near like-minded people who truly appreciate the value of such food. Already over the year we have been here, he has gifted us with bananas, mulberries, oranges, persimmons, dragonfruit, figs, panama berries and these exquisite berries.  Native raspberries. 




Our neighbour on the other side celebrated her birthday a few weeks ago.  She is in her eighties. We made her these delicious chocolate oat biscuits, packaged them up and we all went around to give them to her on the afternoon of her birthday.  She was so happy.  As we were leaving her daughter-in-law arrived.  The next morning she told my husband she and her daughter-in-law chatted and ate the biscuits with a quite a few cups of tea.  She said, "tell Belinda that those biscuits were delicious, that was my dinner last night!"  That story made me smile inside.  I could imagine them enjoying those biscuits and catching up.  I played a part in their joy!


My family are Italian and we are big on sharing food.  If I drop into my parents' house, you can almost bet I'm coming home with something food related.  Whether Mum has picked me up a big wedge of parmesan cheese from the European deli, or Dad has caught some fish that he has fried up and it's waiting in the fridge.  Dad is Vice President of his Italian Club and when they have events, he will often come home with a big bag of Italian Crostoli  (a fried pastry dusted with icing sugar).  These are so time consuming to make and need more than one pair of hands, so we don't get to cook them very much.  I really look forward to receiving them, they connect me to my heritage.  What a delicious gift. 

A big wedge of Parmesan cheese- yum!

Even my small nieces are understanding the joy of receiving the gift of food.  They are three and five and come over for dinner every Tuesday night. Often I will send some baked treats home with them.  They love my biscuits and my Mum told me, that when she was looking after them last week, they were excited to tell her they had brought  "Aunty Belinda's biscuits to have for afternoon tea".  At this young age, they are starting to understand this pleasure.  That makes me smile too.


My friend once started up a group called the "Ladies Preserving Society". Every season we would each make a preserve.  We would then meet, taste them, chat about them, vote on our favourites, share the recipes and each take home around eight jars of different preserves.  It was a lovely way to connect with like-minded people, of all different ages and backgrounds and we came home with pretty jars of homemade preserves.   Such an enriching experience.

My winning preserve- Strawberry Chilli Sauce
Often,  I share produce with my friends or family.  Sometimes I will take a bunch of kale and herbs to friends if we a catching up, instead of bringing flowers.  They are so grateful.  We chat about ways in which to use it or cook it.  They are always interesting conversations, sometimes they lead to chats about a special family recipe or hints we can learn from each other. Those delightful exchanges are sparked because we shared some food.

Our Russian Kale and Silverbeet

Lemons, gifted from a friend
I don't think we fully understand the ripple effect of this homemade joy, of how many people it touches.   We eat that food and we think of that person, we talk about that person, we tell others about that person and we smile.  We feel their love or their kindness with every bite.  The effects are far reaching and they are so worthwhile.  Spreading joy, we can always do with more of that in our world. 

Monday, 7 August 2017

Meet Crunchie

Firstly I would like to say a huge thank you to all the readers, everyone who has left a comment and welcomed me into the world of blogging.  It is very encouraging and it is lovely to have you here.  It will be great to have you following along on our life journey.




Crunchie is our 10 month old mischievous kitten who has brought much love and laughter into our home.  He is a rescue kitten, found dumped on the side of the road with his mother and 3 siblings in a cardboard box.  It was estimated the kittens were around 4 weeks old when they were found.  He was taken to a foster carer and at 8 weeks old we brought him home.  My daughter said that was the best day of her life!  He came home in December 2016.  The first day of the school holidays.
The day we brought him home

He was named Crunchie after the chocolate bar, by his foster carer.  My daughter and husband said it suited him, so the name stuck.  Our previous cat was named Oreo, are you seeing the theme?

We haven't had a kitten for our long time and I forgot how much work they could be.  The first week my husband slept downstairs with him at night so he didn't feel lonely.  It was like having a new baby!  He constantly wanted to play and if anything moved he was pouncing on it, even if you accidently moved your toes while watching TV.  When we wanted to rest he ALWAYS wanted to play. He needed feeding around 4 times a day.  But I must say he was litter box trained so thankfully there were no problems there. However there were screens to be climbed especially if he saw a moth or gecko, curtains to hang off and paper to chew up.  Lucky he was cute!


Even now, we are always laughing at something he is doing.  He may not be the most handsome looking cat, but he is full of character.  My daughter just loves him, and told me the other day, she couldn't imagine her life without him.  He sleeps on her bed every night and when my husband goes to bed, he puts him in the laundry.  When he gets let out in the morning, he gets fed, then runs straight up to see my daughter (often waking her by walking all over her and sniffing her face).  He is very aware of our routines.

Best buddies from the beginning

Crunchie is always around  when I go about my daily tasks.  If I open a cupboard, he is in it.  If I run upstairs to grab something, he runs after me (and always beats me, I didnt know it was a race!) When I am cooking, he is at my feet or supervising at the breakfast bar and when we are relaxing, he is always around.  He even sits on the bathmat and waits while we are showering, lately opening the shower door!


Supervising the food prep!

He is like no other cat I have ever had.  He is very comfortable around children, he has an easy going nature and the vets always comment on how placid he is when he visits.  He can be carried around and he doesn't mind a tummy rub or playing dress ups!


I have always had cats growing up and love their presence in my life.  There is a feeling of comfort they provide by just being there.



But Crunchie's short life hasn't always been smooth sailing.  And I''ll write about that in another post.