Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Big Lizards

In Australia the Perentie (commonly known as the Goanna) is Australia's largest lizard. The one which visited our backyard recently, was at least 1.5 metres long. Considering they can grow up to, 2.5 metres in length, he (or she) is quite the mature specimen.


Walking


I caught a glimpse of them prowling the lower gully, a few days ago. But I wasn't quick enough to grab the camera, before they strolled out of view again. Even at a slow gait, they can move quickly.

Yesterday, however, I heard the small wrens and finches, going berserk near the back verandah. Which had me looking out the window, to the lower gully. Guess who showed up again...?


Resting


Only this time, I caught them flat on their belly, trying to gulp something down. I thought, poor bird or eggs - which one did they get? This is why all the small birds go berserk, whenever there's a Gonna or snake around. Because they're hunting for the eggs, or young in their nests.

I snapped a few photos from the safety of our back verandah, and then the Gonna decided to go looking for food, elsewhere. Curious to know if there was any evidence of it's morning meal, I headed down to the gully, where I found...


Sternum bone


...the remnants of our last chicken cull.  This had been unearthed before Christmas, by a dog we assumed. As it wasn't consumed in any way. So we left it above ground, to see how long it would take for the environment to consume. I'd completely forgotten about it. Yet this bone, is right where I found the Gonna trying to eat something.

Once gone however, the small birds quickly returned to their business of splashing in the birdbath - as if nothing happened. I went inside to upload my photos, and wondered if the Goanna would eventually find a decent meal for the day. Because at that size, they've got to eat something substantial!



Sunday, January 13, 2019

Stepping up

During my cleaning blitz recently, I had to share something that made a world of difference, to what I could accomplish. I didn't always own one of these. A chair often sufficed. But when you have a lot of jobs that require "height", it's worth getting this simple tool.


In the kitchen


A portable step-ladder has several advantages over a chair - ease of getting up and down, non-slip rubber surface, and a place to stick a bucket, or tools, if you only need to go as high as the second step. Plus, you don't have to wreck your chairs. Especially if they're wooden, like ours

This folding step-ladder lives in one of our utility cupboards (flat) for the most part - which saves on storage space. But easily unfolds again, for use. It's handy for reaching on top of, or inside, wall cabinets. I like to be able to see right inside, to clean the back corners.


Near the ceiling


With a step-ladder, I can also see right over the ceiling fans as well. Which is handy for reaching that built-up grime, you wouldn't normally see from the underside. Thankfully, we have a standard ceiling height, throughout our house, which makes this step-ladder a suitable tool.

Nine-foot ceilings, on the other hand, require a proper safety ladder, to get up that high. We've lived in rentals with those lovely high ceilings before, but sure was difficult to change light bulbs. Getting the big ladder inside the house, was quite a task too.


Fiddly jobs


In fact, changing light bulbs, would have to be the #1 reason, we now keep a smaller step-ladder in the house. If you have light covers (like ours) that require unscrewing several nuts, to be able to clean the bug carcasses out - you'll really appreciate the step-ladder, for this specific job too.

Because if I don't have a pocket to place the bulbs, or screws into afterwards, I just use the top of the step ladder. No traipsing up and down, which can be incredibly arduous. Especially since I never clean just ONE light cover, when the ladder is out.


Caution required


Step-ladders, are also handy to reach above sensitive areas, such as the television. Recently, I needed to clear the shelf above the television for Christmas decorations - then put them away in the new year, again. Followed by a good dusting.

I try to avoid reaching up so high (on tiptoes) close to the television screen. Just in case, I bump it with my body. A sturdy step-ladder however, keeps my footing secure, while allowing enough clearance to reach the shelf, without accidents.


Use with care


Each brand of step-ladder, is designed to hold a maximum weight capacity. So observe the limitations, clearly identified on the ladder. Occasionally, you may want to use the top step, to hold a bucket of water while cleaning. So keep in mind, not only your weight, but anything you might take up with you.

If you're in the market to buy a new step-ladder, be sure to open it out and test it, before leaving the store. We purchased ours a while ago now, but there were so many that wobbled like a drunken sailor. I've never regretted our investment in a step-ladder. There are so many jobs I do, which require a higher purchase, it's made my life easier.

Has a step-ladder found it's way into your home yet? Or how else do you make do? Other things we've been known to use in the past, were coffee tables and overturned, milk crates. Just not as easy to get up and down from.



Thursday, January 10, 2019

Thank you



As I get back to blogging again, and saw all your friendly faces drop in for a chat, I would like to thank you all, for reading my blog. I know life can be busy, so when you take the time to comment, I feel touched that you do!

For those who have stuck with me so long, thank you. To those who are new, I'm pleased to meet you. And for those who don't comment, I'm an introvert too! I get all that you do. It's enough to have you visit. Thank you!

Here's to another year of blogging, and chatting with friends. I'm grateful for all your kind contributions. If I could give you a virtual cookie (not the Google kind) on my blogging table, it would be warm, chewy, home-made, and possibly covered in chocolate!

Cheers.
xxx


Wednesday, January 9, 2019

What a Miracle

The beginning of a new year, is probably when I like to potter around the house, the most. I'm usually busy, re-organising and cleaning-up after Christmas. The tree and it's sparkling decorations, are always the first to be packed away. Then before you know it, you're washing windows and dusting shelves!

My particular challenge this year, was GREASY surfaces in the kitchen and elsewhere. Enter the magic of Miracle Spray. It's a homemade recipe I gleaned from this blog, and particularly useful for cutting through grease!

What do I mean by grease...?


Exhausting


Well, it's the kind that accumulates, above the rangehood cupboards! This has been building for a few years now, and I was tired of the reminder to trade my rose-coloured glasses, for a lovely shade of brown, instead.

I wonder if this can get any worse? The trusty step-ladder, reveals ALL...


The grime scene


Yes, indeed. It can get worse. The very TOP of the kitchen cabinets, accumulates even more dust, grease, bug carcasses and even food particles! How did that popcorn, get there? Seriously. The stove is directly underneath the cabinets. So it would have accomplished some rather fancy, ricocheting, to land there.

Mummified popcorn, just waiting to be discovered. The wonders a step-ladder will reveal in your home!


Hallelujah!
I've seen the white


And this is why I love, Miracle Spray, so much. It cuts through sticky, dusty and greasy surfaces. It's possible to use regular dishwashing liquid instead, as I've done in the past. But your bucket of water, becomes incredibly sudsy, afterwards.

A spritz of Miracles Spray, however, and not only does the cloth cut-through all that mess, but your bucket of water (to rinse the cloth) remains watery, instead of overflowing with suds. Which means, you don't have to change your bucket of water as often.


 Grime sins, are no more!


While regular dishwashing liquid, will achieve the same result, there's less mess to clean the tools, you're actually using to clean with. The cloth in particular, can get quite manky. So clean water for rinsing, is important.

The cleaning tools I used in this application, was a bucket of warm water, Miracle Spray and a cleaning cloth, or rag. Something that can at least handle, the caking of greasy gunk all over it. Some heavy cotton, flannel, or in my case, a microfibre cloth. I don't buy microfibre myself, but these were given to us when someone was doing a clean-out, of their kitchen supplies.


Transformation


These are my kitchen cabinets now, which look as good, as the day they were installed. So much cleaner. At least for another year or two. Grime always finds it's way back! I suppose that's the blessing of having a working kitchen though. All that home cooking, inevitably leads to mess. I wouldn't have it, any other way.

Miracle Spray, has other applications around the home too, which are just as easy to deal with, when the cleaning supplies are out...


In plain sight


Do your light switches, end up with as much dirty marks around them, as ours seem to collect? Natural oils, mixed with a good helping of dirt! Being a live, electrical switch however, I never spray liquid directly on it. Spray the cloth instead. The grime is still removed in a few seconds.

There are even more jobs for my cleaning kit and mojo, to tackle though.


Almost finished shedding


Time to give the ceiling fans some love. I didn't get a photo of what they looked like, "before" I started cleaning. This was only the remnants, I had yet to finish off. But just imagine these white blades, had sprouted a thick, brown, furry coat. All over! No wonder they were slowing down, with all that fuzzy drag.

Ideally, I should have cleaned them before Summer, but I always get so busy with the Christmas plans instead.


Ready for takeoff


Now I have my white, ceiling fans back - and I didn't have to get covered in suds to do it! They sound like a jet plane again, when starting up. Aerodynamic. I'll save the fluffy coat, for next winter. No doubt, it will re-sprout!

On the blog I gleaned the Miracle Spray from, it claims to remove stickers as well. Frankly, I had the perfect test subject, for that theory too...


Stuck on you


My son and our coffee table, are inseparable. He loves to create all sorts of lego, on it, play board games, and of course, the obligatory stickers. Which I absolutely told him NOT to stick to anything but paper! I was cross at the time, but didn't let it rise to the surface. I mean, I could just rip them back, off. Right?

Wrong! Now my son's stickers, were inseparable from the table too...


It really IS a Miracle...Spray


That was, until I sprayed my trusty homemade cleaner on it, and left for a few minutes. It does actually remove stickers, plus, that all important gummy residue. It states in the blog I linked this recipe from, not to spray on wooden surfaces. This was my exception though.

I'm not sure why it cannot be used on wooden surfaces, as I regularly use eucalyptus oil to clean mine. Maybe the washing soda will dry it out, and make the wood brittle, over time? I'd stick with the recommendation to avoid using on wooden surfaces. But I'm sure a one-off, desperate measure, can be forgiven. I mean, it was either the Miracle Spray, or the paint scraper!


Ready to play


Back to business as usual, at the coffee table again - minus the stickers. You'll be happy to note, that no coffee tables were actually harmed in the filming of this process. Even the lego managed to stay in tact! I'd like to thank my bare feet, for avoiding any random pieces of lego on the floor though. Sometimes you get lucky.

Have you tried the Miracle Spray at home? Any interesting applications I haven't thought of yet?



Monday, January 7, 2019

More or less

 Melting Moments for Christmas


So here we are again. Another year on the clock. Where did the last one go? Do you remember I had a word to reflect on, for last year? Sacrifice. It turns out, I had to make a few of those. Ones, very close to my heart.

The extended dry, killed parts of my garden and then the kangaroos ate what was left. My small kitchen garden, gave me a few rays of hope. Although, I suppose, 2018 was the year my garden ultimately broke me. Just because so much of my garden was affected. Normally, it's only the annual edibles, I give up on. Because they're so thirsty, and I just don't have the water to keep them going.


 Two Lady Finger bananas, barely survive
Lost all my Ducasse, varieties


As so much of the land dried out this time, however, I simply couldn't run small amounts of water to the perennials, to make a difference either. I've lost several hundred dollars, on plants. Some haven't even made it, into the ground yet. Some have struggled for years and finally gave up the ghost. With them, went my hopes for resuscitating my garden, in any meaningful way.

But you know, "sacrifice" is not about feeling hopeless. Or thwarted. I don't feel any of those. In fact, I feel liberated. I'm simply letting go of the things I cannot keep. Something else will eventually filter through. Will it be plants? I cannot say for sure. Now though, I don't want for something else to take it's place. Embracing it's okay to let something substantial go, doesn't require a substitute or recompense. That's not the point.


Experiments in mixed media,
with an old, Australian icon - the suburban Post Box 


The other sacrifice I had to make, took me quite by surprise. Last year, our youngest started school. I was looking forward to settling him in and focusing on something I've always wanted to do. Starting a creative business. I had all these plans, and even initiated a few. Then I found myself getting depressed and unhealthy. It slowly crept up on me.

Instead of focusing on my creative business, I suddenly had to start focusing on my health. The guilt inevitably arose, because I hate being sick. I'd rather be productive! But for this season in my life, if I didn't stop and do the things necessary - what good, would I be to my family? I've lived too long to know, you cannot ignore these things.


 Our youngest, at a few weeks old ~
turning 6, this year!


What was ultimately driving my sadness though, was the choice to give up, having kids. No more babies. The very last, was now spending a lot of time at school. On the other end of the spectrum, my eldest, was only two-years away from graduating high school. Yikes! My babies.

So aging was no longer on the far horizon any more. It was camping firmly on my doorstep. Forcing me to identify, who this new me, was going to be. One thing was for sure though, it wasn't the old me. Yet, how to let go of someone, I liked being, very much?


Child's play


Sacrifice. There's that word again. I just had to let, what was once a flourishing season of my life - go. I'm turning 45 this year, and that's the NEW season I'm heading into. The upside of this sacrifice and realisation process, is being healthier than I've been for a long time. I took up lifting weights, and eating really well. It's not a passing phase either, because the meaning of sacrifice, has finally sunk in.

It's not the wanting, or waning, once you have to give something up. It's not scrambling for distraction, or something else, to replace it. You have to take life with both hands, and accept you're going to be fine, "without". Sounds simple enough, but it took me a whole year to work through so much change, and feel grateful for the process.


Saving seed for planting again


So thank you 2018, for what you were. The no frills. The loss. All those goodbyes. Finally. Acceptance. So that 2019, can be what it needs to be, also.

I hope you all recognise, and get to enjoy your own evolution process, during 2019. Whatever it holds. May you discover, you're more than you appear to be, or have achieved prior. Even if that requires giving something up. Because on the wide spectrum of more or less, you're going to land somewhere you need to be. Embracing your own "without" moments, is ultimately about liberating yourself.

What did you have to forgo in 2018, which set you up for 2019?


      

Monday, December 3, 2018

Abandoned nests

I have a confession to make. We haven't had chickens for the past few months. The youngest, of the old crew were approaching 4 years. The seven chickens we were feeding every day, were lucky to give 2 eggs, every alternate day. Not enough to keep us stocked in eggs. I would have  kept them as compost disposers only, if I wasn't planning to renovate Hilltop chicken coop soon.

So with our newly abandoned chicken nests, guess who has moved into the old chicken coop? Mice, or native bush rats. I've seen both around. Eeek, right!

Well where there are mice, there's also something else lurking...




Luckily this is just a common carpet snake, or Coastal Carpet Python. I've seen much larger ones up in the rafters, digesting chicken eggs before. This wee one, is just a juvenile though. Perhaps too long for the kookaburras to catch now, but given they're not venomous, we actually like them.

The carpet snake is a lot more common around here, than the browns. So that's a good thing. As is their appetite for rodents!




Someone had a hearty breakfast in the chicken coop, by the looks of that protruding bump! I wonder if it was an adult mouse, or baby rat? The critters that get around our place, are often spoiled for choice! Eat up my reptilian friend, as I do not want any rodents taking me by surprise, when I start renovating.

I expect nothing major (construction wise) is going to happen until after summer. Making it much easier to be outside, working on the chicken coop. But we'll have to see. Life often has a way of changing plans on me!



Thursday, November 29, 2018

Birds of a feather

You know how the saying goes - which is no different at Gully Grove, where many different kinds of birds, flock together. All for the smorgasbord of goodies, nature caters for on our land.

They take turns at the bird bath, and run in consecutive shifts, at visiting favourite trees. Insects don't stand a chance, seeds are spread abundantly, and their many services are invaluable in all that they do! I listen for the birds every day, and even had some close encounters.


Who's a pretty boy?


This colourful guy, is a male King Parrot. He's been so tame over the years I've gotten to know him - letting me stand meters away, to take this photo. Then when I go to walk back inside the house again, he follows me to the outside trellis, just near the back door. I've long suspected he belonged to someone at one stage. It was confirmed recently.

Not long after taking this photo, he followed me to the back trellis again, and turned his head the other way. Sadly, he was missing an eye. But that hasn't stopped him from pairing up and having kids of his own. There's a wildlife rescue centre, not far from here. I imagine he's one of their rescues, and successfully released back into the wild. He's such a charmer though, and completely won me over.

He loves to eat native seeds, but especially adores our sunflowers and pigeon pea seeds. How can I begrudge him?


The fast and timid


The Pale-headed Rosella, often visits our backyard in pairs too. This boy is also enjoying the back trellis, but is a lot more skittish than my King parrot, friend. He just spotted me at the back door, taking his photo, and flew off, not long afterwards. Like the King parrot, they like to eats seeds, fruits and flowers. Additionally, they will eat insects and their larvae.

So these are handy to have around for insect control, and they're just plain pretty. Not that they hang around long, for me to admire them.


Enjoying the sun


We have a plethora of carnivorous birds who love to regularly visit our yard as well. This is not a crow, although we do have those as well. The crow has adapted to cull the Cane-toad population here, by flipping them over and eating them from the underside - avoiding their poisonous glands on the back. So very handy to have around too.

The fellow above however, is a Pied Currawong. They're mostly carnivorous, but will supplement their diet with berries and other fruits as well. They seem to have taken a liking to my Kumquat tree, when it's in fruit - but they also raid the mulberries. So they're somewhat of a cleanup crew for fruit, and do an invaluable service of keeping insects and caterpillars under control.


The stealth bomber


This is my All-star, of the backyard carnivorous birds. Not only do they sound hilarious, but that awesome beak!! It will tackle a snake for breakfast. Not the big ones of course, but the newly hatched and juvenile snakes are fair game. Which helps to keep the larger snakes that make it to our yard, under control.

So naturally, I love to hear a new batch of fledgling kookaburras, being taken out by their parents, for a hunting expedition. If you've ever heard a juvenile kookaburra squabbling with it's siblings - it sounds like someone is being strangled. So that iconic laugh, starts out rather awkward.


Beguiling


This Pheasant Coucal, is one I have admired from afar, for a long time. They have a reputation for being elusive. They prefer to hunt on the ground, and hide in long grasses to pounce on their prey. Which happens to be insects, frogs, lizards, eggs and young of birds. Sometimes, even small mammals. I really hope it's the mice!

I have to say, they're a very fascinating bird. While they can fly and often will, if taken by surprise, they'd rather spend all their time on the ground. And as such...


Hunting mode


...they walk somewhat like a raptor. Low to the ground and streamlined - head to tail. That camouflage is amazing too. This is why I always take them by surprise in the garden. I never see them, until they're flying up into the trees. Which often takes me by surprise, too.

The only reason I managed to capture this one on camera, is because it came towards the verandah. Luckily, I already had my camera in that room. Otherwise I would have missed my opportunity. As they never stay in one area for long.

I haven't been able to capture an image of the brown quails who often frequent, because they are so elusive too! But know that each bird species that visits our yard, is making an important contribution. They keep the natural system in balance, act as propagators and their daily routines - encompassing the rearing of their young and visiting the Gully Grove larder, are more enjoyable to watch and listen to, than a clock on the wall. They tell me about the seasons, and how to set my own daily compass.

Are you a bird-watcher in your garden too? Have any favorites?