Gathering the straws of life together

Recent Posts

Urban farming

Urban farming

For these past few days I feel like I am a farmer in Tasmania. It is wet and windy and my pink gum boots go with me every time I step out of the house. There is something about putting on those boots that gives […]

Older and waiting

Older and waiting

We all must wait, but when you are older and waiting there is another story! When you are older, waiting can be more difficult. The longer you sit, the harder it is to get up. Of course, I am not talking about myself, I am […]

A no brainer – keeping our brain young

A no brainer – keeping our brain young

A no brainer is something that requires little effort. When we are young little effort usually goes into thinking about keeping our brain young! As our body ages though other organs, including our brain grow old. The brain is a very important organ, so much so that it is protected by our skull. The brain needs to keep functioning in tip-top shape as it runs our body and controls everything we do, even when asleep.

While I said it is a no brainer to keep our brain young it does take some brain power and effort to look after ourselves. If we look after our brain, our brain will look after us. Looking after our brain does not help if we are couch potatoes, lying around and expecting our body to work. I am referring to those who are able-bodied. But what about those who are in a wheelchair and do a lot of sitting around? It is a different story altogether!

One person with an amazing life story who is not as able-bodied as others is Kurt Fearnley. He is my favourite Australian wheel-chair athlete and a three-time Paralympic Gold Medallist. Kurt is not just an athlete who gets around in or out of a wheelchair, he is a powerhouse of energy, motivation and inspiration. Even though he was born without the lower part of his spine this has not held him back in life. He gets plenty of physical exercise, mental stimulation and to live the way he does he would have to have a healthy diet. These are three ways we can keep our brain young as we age – physical exercise, mental stimulation and a healthy diet.

Mental stimulation keeps the synapses in our brain working and connected. Mental stimulation can include reading, researching a topic, doing crosswords or puzzles, or learning something new. When I was younger I would laugh when explaining my exercise routine to friends. My main form of exercise was mental gymnastics. It all happened in my brain – no regular physical exercise for me! But times change and I have grown older and I need to exercise. I must keep my body healthy and I need regular physical exercise.

Getting physical can help our brains be more efficient and adaptive. Exercise lowers blood pressure, improves cholesterol levels and is good for our cardiovascular functioning. Also, it just makes you feel good. Even my chickens love getting out of their coop and exercising. Hanging greens such as kale or spinach on a piece of string keeps chickens amused and moving. Just like me I am happier when I am amused and moving, except when I am cleaning the house – just finished that task an hour ago!

Physical exercise keeps the brain young

Keeping our brain young helps if we are not overweight. Keeping our weight under control helps improve blood pressure. I have experimented with exercise to control my blood pressure. I find that good diet and exercise makes a difference.

There are medicines that we can take to control our blood pressure, cholesterol and help us sleep. But how much better if we can take the necessary steps and keep these all under control without having to step inside a pharmacy.

There are other ways to keep our brains young and healthy and tobacco is off the menu! Younger people who are fit and healthy and smoke cigarettes don’t think too much about the future. There is not too much thought about ageing. If they continue to smoke into old age it will take longer for the body to bounce back to good health. Good health and smoking tobacco don’t go hand in hand.

Similarly, too much alcohol is not good for us. Alcohol can damage the brain and too many drinks over the years can cause alcohol dementia. Next time I lift that wine glass to my lips I will have to think about this! A little wine is good for us and there are studies which show that low-dose alcohol may reduce the risk of dementia in older people. Excessive consumption of alcohol may cause cognitive decline and dementia. Note, the research says “may” and more evidence is required. Nonetheless, to keep on the safe side it is probably wise to have a few days a week alcohol free so the brain can take a rest and recover!

Another way to keep our brain young is to by having a good night’s sleep. Exercise helps us sleep better and this is something I have found to work. Working on the computer, like I did the other night for hours before bed did not give me a good night’s sleep. Lack of sleep robs our energy and can affect our immune system. Preparation for sleep can help. Preparation can include, allowing a few hours between eating and bedtime, no caffeine, no screen time and no bright lights in the last hour before going to bed. Lowering the lights gets the chemical melatonin in our system flowing and prepares us for sleep. We begin to feel drowsy and this is the perfect time to toddle off to bed! What about you? Do you have a bedtime wind-down routine?

I want to keep my brain young so I am on a quest to make sure I take steps to do this. My mental stimulation is at work writing this blog. I read all types of interesting articles when researching different topics. Not only does it add to my knowledge but it is healthy for my brain. A step in the right direction to reduce my risk of memory loss. Time to do some shopping. Now, where did I put those car keys!

The Human Life Cycle

The Human Life Cycle

When I was younger I did not think much about the human life cycle. I had so many years ahead of me that I thought life would just go on. As I age, though I feel young at heart, the years are adding up and […]

Digital Detox

Digital Detox

Have you had anyone talk to you about a digital detox lately? Are we spending too much time on our smart devices? If we are, is this the smart thing to do? We were in Mulgowie last week. Where is Mulgowie I can hear you […]

Chicken talk

Chicken talk

There is a lot of chicken talk going on at our place. Firstly, from us about the chickens and secondly, from the chicken themselves. Our four chickens have made their coop home. They love their coop and training them has been very easy. Such fast learner’s! They all lay their eggs in the nesting box and roost at night in their rest area upstairs. My “One&Only” (O&O) has moved the roosting bars three times to find the right height suitable to our Princess Chickens – the ones that get treated like royalty! Chickens get up very early in the morning, at daylight. That is why I am pleased they can take care of themselves. They get their own breakfast and then generally take the morning slow until they hear sounds from me and my O&O.

There are over 30 different chicken calls. They let one another know where the food is, when a treat turns up or when there is a predator around.  Our clothes line is not far from their coop and as soon as the back door opens their chicken talk is very demanding. Bawk, bawk, bawk, bawk – it goes on and on! This is their “pay me attention” talk, or “what treats do you have for me today” talk. What I like best is the announcement that they have laid an egg. This is more of a song than talking. Also, when they have had their fruit and veggie treat they wander around talking to one another with a faint clucking sound, very contented. They know my voice and when out free ranging and I appear they come running!

Unfortunately, last week we had a different type of running – runny poop from Sophia. The feathers on her backside should be nice and fluffy but they were not looking too good because of the runny poop. I immediately went to Dr Google and diagnosed her condition. First step was to get some warm water and clean up her feathers. This was a much more difficult task than we expected and my O&O ended up rolling around on the grass while Sophia flew off, out of his arms! We had to go to plan B – contacting the experts, a vet. We have two vets right near us, one across the road and one right next door. We were not after a free consultation, so we made an appointment with the vet that also has backyard chickens. Taking a chicken to the doctor is not something you do every day, in fact, I have never done it before. My diagnosis was not fully accurate therefore it was a good plan to take Sophia to the vet.

This is a video I took of her before we took her to the vet. I thought it would be helpful if the vet, Dr Peter, could see how she was behaving, eating and drinking. Don’t look to close but you will notice her feathers at the back are not as fluffy as they should be! Dr Peter cut off the feathers at the back to reveal lice! As she only moved to our place 2 months ago and everything is very clean in their coop I believe she came with them or should I say they came with her! After treatment, drops directly on her skin in several places, the adventure was over. The next day I treated the other three chickens, as a precaution. Dr Peter said she was a healthy hen. Although her white feathers are dirty from all her dust bathing trying to get rid of those annoying lice! If you know how to clean the feathers of a chicken without bathing them in water, let me know. I wonder how baby wipes would work?

Lulu is the one with the red band on her leg, the other one is Lucy. They are like identical twins! Without the band I could not tell them apart. They look very contented and love being together.
There is nothing like “home sweet home” after a big day of scratching in the garden. Note the wine bottle. It is a home-made gravity feeder for their shellgrit.
Once this was a healthy geranium plant in the garden. That is, until my chickens decided to have it for lunch. We have heaps more, so no worries. Although, I do have plans to restrict their access to this garden which will be in place next week!

The day after our trip to the vet I replaced all the bedding in their coop, roosting and nesting area. There is a little work involved if you want to have healthy chickens, but it is worth it. Chickens are very entertaining. We enjoy watching their antics and then the next morning sitting down to breakfast eating an egg, just a day old!

After further investigation I have a natural treatment plan in place to keep them healthy. Adding unpasteurised apple cider vinegar to their drinking water. It keeps their immune system at its peak. For the first week every month my plan is to give supplement their drinking water with 20mls of apple cider vinegar (with the “mother”) to 4 litres of water. I wondered whether they would notice the difference but no signs of this as they happily drink away. I think they may even like it! Certainly, it is good for them.

Nothing but the best! This apple cider vinegar is organic and made in Italy. I will need to find another brand, larger bottle and not too expensive! Otherwise, my O&O might raise his other eyebrow. These eggs are turning into gold!

This is what it is all about when you live with chickens. Caring for them and keeping them at their healthy best. In return, they gift us with an egg most days. Today, so far, we have three eggs.

Possum or Quail for dinner?

Possum or Quail for dinner?

When you are planning your weekly meals do you have possum or quail for dinner? Those of you who are my “vintage” – a good age, like a good wine, will remember the TV Show The Beverley Hillbillies. Grandma Clampett’s favourite recipe was possum stew. […]

Life is like an onion

Life is like an onion

Life is like an onion and our life is also full of onions. Let me explain. Peeling an onion is often used as a metaphor to explain life. We can only find what is at the centre of the onion if we peel back the […]

Living the good life

Living the good life

If you asked someone you know I am sure they would like to think they are living the good life. But what is the “good life”? It is not a one size fits all. A good life is different things to different people. On Thursday night I watched a program on SBS, titled “Filthy Rich & Homeless”. The program first went to air in June 2017. It followed five wealthy Australians who lived on the streets of Melbourne for 10 days and nights to share the experiences of homeless people. It was confronting and unsettling for the participants. I have not seen all the episodes however living as a homeless person and learning more about life on the streets was a brave step for those who took part in this social experiment. Watching the program stimulates thoughts about the subject. It creates awareness and talking about the homelessness issue is a good step forward. The conversation quickly turns to affordable housing. Is this the answer? Homelessness is a much more complex social matter than just providing housing. The reason people are homeless include drug and alcohol addition, job loss, relationship breakdown, domestic violence and health problems. Are these people living the good life?

In comparison to others who have a job and home it may not seem they are living the good life but “some” people are happy living on the streets or couch surfing. Most likely this is because the longer people live on the streets the more familiar it is – this is home. They know their way around and make friends along the way. The research shows that the longer people are homeless the less likely it is they will find a home. Therefore, early intervention is a key to giving those who have fallen on tough times, a “good life” into the future.

I have thought about what it means to me, to live a good life? For me a “good life” is explained in Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs? There are five levels beginning with our physiological needs, moving to our safety needs, love/belonging needs, esteem needs and finally self-actualisation – reaching our full potential. For people who are homeless their time is spent in meeting their physiological needs. Living a good life must begin with accepting where we are and then improving our life if we think it is not as good as we would like it. That includes planning and setting goals. Not easy if you do not have a roof over your head or food to eat each day.

As serious a social problem as homelessness is, my mind turns to our pets and what the type of home we provide for them?  There is an estimated 8 million pet owners in Australia, mostly cats and dogs. Most of them are living a good life but there are also occasions when we hear of animal cruelty. Any pet that comes into my life gets treated like royalty. If I had a dog or a cat and it was cold outside then they would have to come inside and sit in front of the fire. But then I am not a person who likes animals inside the house so my answer then is not to get a dog or a cat.

I have chickens x 4 (hens) to care for and make sure they have a good life. Backyard chickens make great pets. If you provide them with a comfortable and secure home they will reward you with an egg, most days. Yes, it is a good life for my hens. This morning for breakfast I had an egg laid by Sophia, my O&O had two eggs, one laid by Lucy and the other by Lulu. How do I know? The other day I was outside working and keeping an eye on which hen went into the nesting box. One by one they went and laid their egg and then I would go and retrieve it and write their name and date on the egg. Happy and contented hens living the good life. It’s a hen haven at our place!

Who said only dogs enjoyed a bone! My hens enjoying pecking a ham bone.
Plenty of room to roam when free ranging.
I tried to entice them back to the gate for a better photo to no avail! Too busy digging in the garden!
Some of our early eggs. There are different shades of colour in the egg shells. The Buff Sussex, Carmella, is laying the darker coloured eggs.
Breakfast tastes so much better these days! Thanks to our happy hens.
Pets and our health

Pets and our health

It may come as no surprise that there are benefits for our health in having a pet. This could be a pet dog, cat, bird, horse, pony or like us – chickens. If you are kind to an animal, feed them well and take care […]

My Diary

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It may come as no surprise that there are benefits for our health in having a pet. This could be a pet dog, cat, bird, horse, pony or like us – chickens. If you are kind to an animal, feed them well and take care of their health, the spinoff is that it is good for our health. Many animals make good companions and reward us with acceptance and unconditional love.

This is what so many people are looking for today, in a world where acceptance is sometimes difficult to find. The western capitalist and consumer world is very individualistic. The focus is on self and what “I” can get out of it, not so much on what “I” can give! But then, if you care for the needs of your pet, usually they are not out to get more. That is, apart from my chickens who are always looking for that extra treat.

Take a dog, for example, they are not interested in whether you have the latest trendy shoes or handbag, bags of money or planning that next overseas trip. What is important is the basics: shelter, food, water, exercise and play. A little attention towards your pet dog goes a long way. They give back more than you give, but then who is counting – not the dog!

Why am I concentrating on this topic? My sister Christine this week reminded me that a dog’s love is unconditional (she has two dogs). Then I was at Kmart this week, the new one in Grand Central, Toowoomba. Everything is fresh, tidy, well organised and cheap. Of course, there is a cost to “cheap”. It is low-priced labour in China. Is it their pain – and our gain? These types of thoughts are generally dismissed as we reach up to the shelf for the cheap glossy new item for our home. Am I any different? Not really, I always like a bargain. But on another level, we like to repair items when we can, rather than dispose of them and replace with new.

I was in Kmart looking for a couple of laundry items. There was only one lane of these. As I peeked into the next lane I found there was an entire aisle of goods to buy for your pets. I considered the next aisle and there again, toys for pets, bedding, treats. It went on and on. Is this because that central to the consumers world today, is their pet? If so, that is not so bad. We all need a pet who will give us unconditional love in a world that is full of violence, vilification and international tension.

There are rows and rows of pet items at Kmart at Grand Central, Toowoomba

Why not then indulge our pets? If that’s you, take a walk into Kmart to shop for your pet. However, they don’t sell chicken pellets. Though, I have found a great pet store in Toowoomba, not far from us, that has the good quality pellets for my Princess Chickens (the ones that get treated like royalty). After moving into their new palace (aka coop), they are right at home. In a short while they have become accustomed to the “good life”.

After just over a month they know us and our voices. They have come to understand and expect they will be showered with kindness, plenty of fine dining pellets, water, shell grit and daily treats. When they are free ranging and I appear, they come running. Yes, I know it really is “cupboard love” – but it is their way of showing I am important to them and I am fine with that. Our chickens (hens) are very generous to us. The four of them are now laying an egg most days and this is just one benefit of growing your own eggs at home (i.e. caring for chickens). It is even possible in an urban garden, like ours!

It is scientifically proven that there are benefits of owning a pet; physical, emotional and psychological. Have a read from the Royal Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (RSPCA) say about owning a pet. If you are thinking of getting an animal then you could also think about adopting one from the RSPCA.

A growing number of retirement villages encourage residents to bring their pets with them. Yet, not so with aged care homes. Although, aged care home providers are beginning to realise the benefits of pet therapy.

Pet therapy at our place includes watching the antics of our chickens!

Pets can: lift your mood; decrease your stress; bring a smile to your face; cause you to feel less depressed and result in fewer visits to the doctor. Sounds like it is worthwhile having a pet, even if there is a little work to keep them content.

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