Melvin update

Melvin continues to grow and mature (as puppies do). He has had his second lot of immunisations and is microchipped. He is beginning to show his nature and grow into himself too. This revealing of his nature has led to some interesting nick names; such as Smelly Melly, Hell Hound, Devil Dog and my personal favourite… Beelzebub.

He loves to play, especially biting and fighting games. We have had to tell him off multiple times for chasing geese and guinea fowl. We will continue to work on curbing and diverting his chasing and hunting instinct. He loves to roll in anything smelly he finds on our walks, then proudly bring that smell home. He also has discovered a real talent for being underfoot, I do believe he could take that talent and spin it into a successful assasin business. He steals toys from Val (Chloe’s dog) and hides them in his bed, leading Val to sneak in to retrieve her toys at all hours of the day and night.

He has moments of quiet and gentleness and he loves a cuddle when he is tired. We make sure he goes outside regularly (I had forgotten about toilet training!!) and he goes to the toilet every few hours day and night. In the afternoons (and sometimes mornings) we take him and Val for a walk. He can run for a kilometre without getting tired. When he is worn out enough by playing and running, he finds a place to curl up and sleep for a micro-second or so, before he is ready to do it all over again.

He is gradually being accepted into our dog pack; Val treats him like an annoying little brother, playing with him sometimes and totally ignoring or snapping at him other times. Bandit treats him like a mortal enemy, snarling and snapping at him whenever he gets close. It is funny to see Melvin trying to sneak up on Bandit so he can nip him. I think it won’t be long before Melvin is fully integrated into the pack and finds his position.

I do love the little boy… even if he is a bit devilish. He makes the cutest noises when he yawns, he is fearless and endlessly curious about life, he is a warm presence while I work and he looks at me with love in his eyes. What more could I wish for from a new baby?

Local insects and animals – Dainty green tree frog

I couldn’t resist sharing this beautiful sunset with you. The sky was glowing with orange and pink light, so much so that the air seemed to have an orange tint to it. The evening was just cool enough to be pleasant and the day’s work was done… heaven.

With all the rain we have had over this Summer (so lovely to be able to say that), the frogs are beginning to breed up again. They sing from the dam and yard every night; calling for mates while the puddles last. Every bucket and bowl left out to fill with water is hosting tadpoles of one kind or another.

I found this pretty little frog on the clothesline beside the front door. She is a Dainty Green Tree Frog.

An internet photo for comparison

I love having so many different kinds of frogs around the humpy. It indicates a healthy environment (even if it is messy). We encourage the frogs by leaving containers for them to breed in, placing piles of rocks near the water for adults to hide in and sometimes we feed the tadpoles lettuce and fish food if they are in a smallish container.

Rest easy Jess

Jess at the vets on her last day

Our oldest dog; Jess died last week. She had been getting gradually sicker and sicker over the last few months and the vet said that her breast cancer had returned. We had her mammary glands removed from her left side two years ago and we hoped that the cancer was all gone, but we were wrong.

Jess at the vet’s when she had her mammary glands removed.

She began having seizures one afternoon last week and continued to have them for a few days. For anyone who hasn’t seen a dog seizure, it is a terrifying experience (for both the dog and the bystanders); her legs went stiff and she arched her back, she dribbled and shook, she looked to be in the worst pain imaginable, then the recovery phase begins and she sat looking blankly at the wall and panting for half an hour or so before returning to normal. I had an appointment at the vet for Melvin and Penny (Melvin’s sister) to get their second immunisations, so I rang up and included Jess in the appointment.

I had to drive to a small local town for Melvin and Penny’s needles, so we made up a bed for Jess in the back, put the travel crate in the front of the car for Melvin and Penny, packed some extra wipes, towels, sheets and food for the journey (standard puppy bag) and away we went. Well…

Melvin got car sick and threw up more than his body weight on his sister after only half an hour of travel. I stopped and cleaned them up and replaced their bedding.

Jess began to fit in the back after another fifteen minutes of travel. I pulled over and comforted her for what seemed like forever. Then changed her bedding and cleaned her up (as she had begun to release her bowels and bladder when she had a fit) and continued on our way.

Melvin and Penny began to have a fight which sounded like the End of Days in miniature. I pulled over again and gave them some time apart by walking them seperately so they could toilet. Time was beginning to blur by now, so I rang the vet and told them I would be late.

I ran into a twenty minute wait at road works and realized I had not bought any water bottle for myself, but I offered all the dogs a drink from the bottle I had packed for them (then I had a drink from it too).

Melvin was sick… again. I pulled over and changed the bedding again and gave Jess a toilet break.

Eventually, after what seemed to be the longest drive in the universe, I made it to the vet. The puppies had their shots (with much crying and patting) and the vet examined Jess, gave her an anti-seizure shot and told me I had to take her to the main office for some blood tests. She also told me that there wasn’t much they could really do for Jess. The vet has a small outpost in one of the local towns (where I was taking everyone), but their office is a two hour drive away.

I drove to the vet’s main office in a kind of daze. It didn’t seem to take long to get there and nobody was sick, had a seizure or needed the toilet for the whole drive. When I got there, Jess had an examination and blood tests and the vet said we could try anti-seizure medication, but it may not work and that he thought that her cancer had made it to her brain and she was now in pain. I rang everyone at home and we made the decision to let her go peacefully. I stayed with her for the end and she ended her life with a sigh of relief.

Jess, just after a seizure.

She has been forgetful for a while now and spent most of her days sleeping and eating in various places throughout the humpy. We let her enjoy her twilight years by feeding her soaked biscuits and special treats (like poached eggs) twice a day and making sure her bed was always clean and waiting for her. She has had a good retirement.

She came to us as an abused dog (read about it here) and we did our best to let her know that she was family and we loved her. Eventually, she came to trust that we had her best interests at heart and relaxed into our family. She gave up being obsessed with random animals and became the true leader of the household. I will miss her calm, steady gaze on everything that goes on in the humpy. I will miss her hoarse bark (single) of greeting when I get home from work. Most of all, I will miss the goodnight pats we shared at bedtime, where the ritual is always to pat everyone goodnight and turn off the lights; now there is one missing.

Her favourite bed is on the lounge.
Sharing the lounge with a chook.

Rest easy Jess, I will try to keep it all in good order for you.

After the rain

We have had quite a lot of rain recently, about 200 ml in the last two weeks. That means that the tanks are full, the dams are full, the bushfire danger has abated for now and there is mud everywhere. Among the damp leaves and mud are all kinds of fungus. On a short walk this morning I managed to discover several kinds of mushroom (or toadstool).

I have no plans to eat these discoveries, but it would be nice to be able to identify them. I found a website that identifies some Australian fungus types but they are notoriously hard to positively identify, so I am far from sure on their identity.

Coprinellus truncorum ??
A surprise patch of green moss.
Cortinarius archeri ??
Macrolepiota clelandi ??
Melvin exploring the world.

The world is fresh and new again after the rain. Nature once again reminds me that what we know about our own surroundings is a tiny part of what is actually there. The greater part of these fungus lives under the surface for years, slowly spreading and working, until a rain event triggers them to spawn. They send their emissaries into the upper world to spread spores on the wind, these protrusions are what we call mushrooms or toadstools. The thing that amazes me is that the whole world of these fungus is largely lived underground, invisible to us surface dwellers. I love living in the bush.

New family member – Melvin

For about three years now I have been trying to tell myself we don’t need a puppy. We have three aging dogs already, and multiple other species. We have jobs and lives and no time to do anything really. We don’t need more bills and vet visits and training and such… oh, who am I kidding. I want to feel the smooth, silky head of a puppy. I want to cuddle the tiny, warm mass of trust while they sleep and I want to get to know a new spirit and watch him/her grow into a confident, happy adult. So, we got a puppy.

I was walking down the street of our local town (on my way to buy some medicinal hot chips after work) when I saw a neighbour sitting on a bench holding a tiny puppy. Of course, I immediately went up and introduced myself to the puppy. She is a mini fox terrier, and so sweet and playful. Of course I fell in love. Upon asking if there were any more in the litter, I was told there was one male left. I asked my neighbour to pass on my desire for a puppy to her mum (the breeder of the litter) and left it at that. I assumed that the last puppy would already have found a home; who can resist that amount of cuteness?

Fast forward to a week later, I was again in town, in the slightly larger regional town waiting for a set of tires to be fitted to my car (that’s another story). I was wasting time looking in shops when I ran into my neighbour’s mother. Of course I asked about the puppy and found out that she still had him. I left her company with the knowledge that we were expecting a new family member.

My neighbour picked up the puppy from her Mum for us and in return we ferried both of the pups to the vet for their first check up and microchipping. The two siblings played well together all day and I managed to get a lot of blankets and toys with their scent on them for when we took our boy home all alone for his first night in a new family. The theory being that the scent of his sister would help him feel more at home in a strange new place.

They both got bills of good health from the vet and I delivered the little girl to her home and took our boy to his new home. We had been busy (mostly my daughter’s work) setting up all the requirements of a new puppy. He has a crate beside my bed for night time sleeping and a playpen in the lounge room for day time play. He has multiple blankets and cloths for cuddling up to at night , he has toys and the all important teething ring. We bought specialised puppy food and milk because he is very young and probably still needs a milk source. He slept in his crate at night from the first night, with frequent trips outside for toilet breaks (no sleep for us at all), our other dogs sleep on the end of our beds and he will be allowed to sleep there too when he is older. For the moment, he is too small to sleep on the bed, because he could fall off or be rolled on in the night. He still has multiple cuddle sessions with us throughout the day, and it is just as addictive as I remember it to be; holding that warm, snuggling little body safely against my side (or neck) while he snoozes with such perfect trust and love.

He follows us around for a large part of the day and we take turns walking him up the driveway with Val (my daughter’s dog) to tire him out throughout the day.

He loves to play (what puppy doesn’t) and will spend hours with his favourite toys.

If I sound besotted, it’s because I am! Although it could be partly sleep deprivation and hysteria bought about by picking up ‘accidents’ and trying to beat the bladder in the trinightly dash outside for toilet breaks. He is a lovable little burden and I am not sorry he is now a part of our family.

Oh… by the way… we called him Melvin (via popular vote). He has already become Smelly Melly to my daughter.

First of the passionfruit harvest- Passionfruit tart

The harvest has started! The passionfruit are finally yellow enough to pick… just.

My daughter decided to make a passionfruit tart and it was a great success. She has been taking over a lot of the cooking lately as I really don’t enjoy it and my energy is fairly low at the moment, so I would rather save it for more enjoyable activities (like eating).

The basic recipe my daughter used is as follows;

Passionfruit tart

Base

150g arrowroot biscuits

1/3 cup coconut

100g softened vegan margarine

Blend together in a food processor until it forms a crumbly mass that sticks together when squeezed. Press into a tart plate and refrigerate for 30 minutes.

Filling

1 can coconut cream (refrigerated and drained of liquid when opened to retain just the thick cream)

4 tblspn icing sugar

1 large passionfruit

Whip chilled and drained coconut cream with icing sugar until it is firm. Add passionfruit and spoon into tart case. Refrigerate until firm. Serve with more passionfruit on top.

This dessert tasted so lovely, we all went back for seconds.

YUM.

Repotting a family member – Big/paw paw

When Big the rooster died, we buried him in a large pot with a dwarf asexual paw paw planted on top (as we do for all our family). He grew very fast with all that nutrient and soon grew out of his pot. Dwarf paw paws are supposed to grow to about 2 metres tall, but Big has grown to around 3 metres, so Big needed a new home.

We had some truck tire guards that a friend gave us (thanks Judy). I had the idea of bolting them together to make a garden bed some time ago and when Big needed a larger pot I thought it was time to act on the idea.

My sometimes present partner and my daughter screwed the truck guards together for me while I was at work one day and I came home to find the big pot (or garden bed) together and placed ready to plant. I filled the base with sheep compost and bought potting mix (it took a lot more soil than I thought) and re-potted Big the rooster and his paw paw into the bed along with a hen named Burger that had conveniently died the previous night. Now Big and Burger can grow amazing paw paws and enjoy their next incarnation as a tree.

The paw paw is beginning to flower, I think. I have never grown paw paw before, so I’m not really sure if the little buds are flowers or more leaves. Either way, the tree is growing really well in it’s new pot.

With a lot of help from friends and neighbours, we are beginning to get on top of the work around the humpy again. Both myself and my partner have had some health issues lately, but we are healing now. I feel so lucky to live in a community where people help each other, we have so many friends who are willing to lend a hand.

Passionfruit harvest update

I am still waiting for a tsunami of passionfruit; it can’t be much longer. The vine has flowered, and flowered, and flowered until at last it is FULL of fruit.

The fruit has grown to a huge size, but it is still green. This morning I noticed a slight change in colour, but it could just be wishful thinking… what do you think?

In other news; a pumpkin vine has popped up outside the yard fence and continued to defy the sheep, geese and wandering mower to produce it’s first male flowers. We may yet harvest some pumpkins this Winter.

Growing coffee

Photo by Chevanon Photography on Pexels.com

Recently I watched a news piece about an impending world coffee shortage due to climate change. This got me thinking about how much I depend on coffee (a lot) and how I would be unable to function for a few days (maybe longer) if I had to give it up. I gave up coffee once, years ago, and the detox is hard and unpleasant. Because I like to do something instead of just worry about it, I decided to grow some coffee trees (the other option was give up coffee again, and that isn’t ideal). Growing coffee trees gives me an interesting learning experience in the future when it comes time to process the harvest. I went and had a look at our fairly local nursery for all things interesting (garden related); Daley’s Fruit Tree Nursery their online shop is amazing. They had a dwarf coffee variety called Catuai; so I ordered 2 plants.

While I waited for them to arrive, I did some reading about their care and growing.

Coffee is a rainforest edge species, meaning it likes to have a lot of sun, but protection from the hot Western afternoon sun. It likes to be watered regularly (who doesn’t?) and it is a fairly heavy feeder. The variety I chose is small enough to live in large pots, but I want to see how they grow in the ground in my garden too, so they will need some improved soil to get growing in and a fairly sheltered position.

We recently had one of our old ducks die (she had a good long life and died fairly peacefully), so I buried her in an old cement laundry tub next to one of our geese. I decided that this was the place to plant one of my coffee trees. I hope the pot is big enough and that the nutrients from Puddles (the duck) is acceptable to this little tree. We will see where the other tree ends up.

Mulberry/blueberry apple muffins

I was looking for a way to use up the seemingly endless supply of blueberries and mulberries we have this year (no complaint at all, I feel rich!) and thought about making muffins that I could freeze. I also wanted to use up some okara or some sourdough discard in the process. Since my daughter won’t be eating these muffins, I think I will try to use maximum eggs in the recipe too (abundance can be such a chore… joking).

Ingredients

  • 1 cups  plain flour
  • 1   cups whole wheat flour
  • 1 cup okara or sourdough discard
  • ¾  cup sugar
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1 teaspoon baking soda
  • 2 teaspoon baking powder
  • ⅔ cup oil
  • 2 egg
  • 1 cup soy milk (may need to add a little more milk if using okara)
  • 2 cups mulberries/ blueberries or a combination
  • 1 chopped apple 

Method

Mix all dry ingredients together in a bowl, then add wet ingredients except berries and apple. Mix well to combine, but be careful not to overmix. Add fruit and stir to combine. Spoon mix into greased muffin tins and bake at 200 degrees C for 20 minutes.

You can sprinkle some granulated sugar and cinnamon over the muffin tops before baking if you are feeling fancy; it gives the muffins a nice crackly top.

These muffins freeze well, but they don’t last in the cupboard for long as the moist berries become mouldy fairly quickly.

The blue/green/purple hue is from the mulberries and blueberries combined. I actually love the colour. The muffins taste light and soft and fruity; just the way they should taste.