Gathering the straws of life together

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Backyard chickens

Backyard chickens

If you are a regular reader of my blog you will know we have backyard chickens. When we moved a couple of years ago to our home in Toowoomba I did not think this would be possible. However, we reorganised one side of our 1008 […]

Home is where the heart is

Home is where the heart is

How often have you heard the phrase – home is where the heart?  A home is much more than a house. It is a place where we either live with those we love or those we love, visit us in our home. A home is […]

Life in the grey zone

Life in the grey zone

What does life in the grey zone mean? Does it mean we are flexible, compromise, see others sides of the story or are we more black or white? Where are you on the continuum of extremes? Do you find yourself in the grey zone or leaning to one side or the other?

Just in case you did not know, grey is a combination of black and white. Black or white is not a colour. Black is made with equal parts of red, yellow and blue. Also, brown and blue creates a rich black. Grey is a colour without colour. Now this is getting complicated. What I mean is that when we live life in the grey zone without the specificity of being black or white, there are many shades of grey in between.

In the many shades of grey there are many positions we can take. For example, I can see something one way and my One & Only (O&O) can see it in a completely other way. We can be on other ends of the continuum and usually there is no right position or wrong position, there is just a different position. Both positions can be right, for different reasons. That is why people have disagreements. It is because we are adamant our position is the right one!

We can live in binary worlds or choose to live in the grey zone. This is the space where we can still keep our principles, values and opinions but are willing to listen to and understand where others are coming from. That is, both sides of the equation. I have met a few people in my almost seven decades of living on this planet who are totally inflexible; they have their views and opinions – end of story! They can even be vehemently opposed to another’s view about how they see a situation. If you are on a debating team or ever experienced debating, then you want people to have an opposite view. But when you want to get on with others, differing views can interfere with what could have been a wonderful friendship.

The black and white world means that you are either good or bad. If you are seen as a bad neighbour then you generally stay there – BAD! If you are seen as a good neighbour then you generally stay there – GOOD! After a person is termed “good” they can make a few peccadilloes (small sins) but remain on the “good” side. If you live life  in the grey zone then you are continually assessing the situation, re-examining the circumstances and making decisions about where things and where people fit in the zone! To me it makes sense to change, to adapt and be willing to see things another way. If I am like that I am continually moving back and forth in the grey zone – thinking things through and deliberating, not jumping to conclusions!

If we see the world as black or white we can see it as good vs evil; smart vs stupid; hard-working vs lazy. These are the extremes between what could be a grey zone. Take for example smart vs stupid. Thinking in extremes causes people to lose balance, to get out of the space in the middle. In the work environment if someone makes a mistake and are categorised as stupid some people will leave them there in the “stupid” space. But if a person makes a mistake and learns from it then they are smarter than they were before they made the mistake. Success comes from failure after the lessons of life become a teacher.

Take another example. A person applies for a job. They will either get the job or not get the job. The answer will be a “yes” or “no”. If the answer is “no” then a person should not see themselves as “not good enough” as this will have an impact on how they see themselves and others into the future. Take a relationship, one extreme is love and acceptance the other is hate and rejection. A better place to live is in the grey zone – a place where we can compromise, work things through, to forgive and move forward stronger in our relationship. Not so easy, as statistics remind us about the number of broken relationships.

Take another example that is foremost and in many minds in Australia – the “Barnaby Blues” of the Coalition Government. The Prime Minister, Malcolm Turnbull, said that Barnaby made a “shocking error of judgment” that “appalled everyone” when he made his ground-breaking change to ministerial standards, whereby ministers were not to have sex with their staff. My first point is that Mr Turnbull cannot talk for “everyone” in such circumstances. He can only talk for himself and on behalf of others who have agreed with his point of view.

Wading into such areas of people’s personal lives and then taking a position at one end of the continuum is a “brave” thing to do or is it a “stupid” thing to do? Black = sinful (morally wrong); white = righteous (virtuous). Without all the facts, we are living life in the grey zone. If we are in that space can we make a judgement?

Mr Turnbull in his Sixty Minutes interview with Liz Hayes told her his relationship with his wife is “forever together”. When I saw the Sixty Minutes interview I realised I had the perfect plot for a Mills and Boon book! Even though I have never read a Mills and Boon book I concocted enough material from the interview to begin writing the book.

In 2016 in Australia there were 46,604 divorces (around 2 per 1000 people). Do I like to see people’s relationships fail – no! Do I like to see people go through relationship heartbreak – no! As I said to my O&O after the media continued commentary on the Barnaby affair – there will be no winners in this situation. Living my life in the grey zone means that I am only interested in Barnaby’s work, the job he does on behalf of his constituents and other Australians. Even his wife, who is estranged from him, said she wanted him to keep his job as Deputy Prime Minister. Everyone should just keep out of Barnaby’s bedroom and let him get on with his job. Those people who set themselves up as the moral police, may find themselves in a similar position down the track. Much better to live life in the grey zone on this matter. That is why; I am in the grey zone. I cannot judge Barnaby or his partner Vikki. I don’t know all the facts and it is not my place to know the facts anyway. All I can do is retreat to the grey zone and hope I do not harm anyone, at the very least anyone I love. Maybe that is the same, for so many others, just trying to get on with life. Life, our decisions and choices are not just “black” or “white”.

Bringing home the bacon

Bringing home the bacon

What does “bringing home the bacon” mean? Does it mean going out buying and bringing home the bacon? It can mean that, but it is also an adage that been said over the centuries with an entirely different meaning. It means to earn a living […]

Cooking with cilantro

Cooking with cilantro

Cooking with cilantro is now one of my favourite things to do! But what is cilantro I hear you saying? Last week when making a curry I hurriedly went into the garden and picked what I thought was flat leaf parsley. We did have flat […]

Heritage hens can go broody

Heritage hens can go broody

It seems that more and more people these days have backyard chickens and if they are heritage hens they can go broody. It you, like me, have the space and are prepared to do a little work then you can have the joy of eating fresh eggs daily! However, when you only have two chickens and one goes broody the egg production quickly declines. A broody hen stops laying!  I have become a better judge at picking up all the signs of a broody chicken or hen if you prefer! Princess Carmella went broody for the third time several weeks ago.

Chickens that are pure breeds have a greater tendency to go broody, that is, they want to sit on their eggs and produce chicks. Chickens that are bred solely for egg production, such as Isa Browns, rarely go broody. That is great, however they generally only produce eggs for 2.5 years. Whereas the pure breed chickens I have will lay eggs for 5-7 years. Over that time they become a big part of the family!

This is how I like to see Carmella – enjoying life with her friend Lucy. Out and about!

Breaking the habit of a determined broody hen like Carmella takes time and effort. Here are some tips if you have a pure breed hen and she goes broody.

Signs of a broody hen

1) the hen continually sit in the nesting box (rarely coming out to eat or drink)

2) she will pluck feathers out of her breast to make a cosy place for her chicks

3) she can get aggressive if you try to move her. Fortunately Carmella did not take on this characteristic.

4) she will make a clucking sound which is chicken-talk, practicing for when she has to gather up her chicks.

Breaking broody behaviour

1) collect the eggs every day as early as possible

2) hang curtains in front of the nesting box so that the hen can’t see the eggs that others have laid

3 the boomerang method – the hen goes into the nesting box, you take her out. Repeat as necessary! This method has not worked with Princess Carmella.

4) the cage method – I call it the “No Star Hotel” accommodation. It sounds harsh but it must be done for the sake and health of the hen. Initially, I left Carmella in the cage for two days and nights. The accommodation is uncomfortable. No friends to talk to, no space to wander around, no treats and no cosy nesting box. Food and water however is included. I let her out for a day but then at night she was back in the nesting box. I took her out of the nesting box and placed her on the roosting bar. The next morning she was back in the nesting box and later back at the “no star hotel”. She has tons of personality and one of her characteristics is determination.  After another couple of nights she went back to her old self, no longer broody, and went back to her “five-star” accommodation.

Princess Carmella in the “No Star Hotel”. If it rained I would have taken her out early.

Once the broody behaviour is broken it can take days or weeks before the hen begins laying eggs again. It takes a little effort to break a broody hen but this one is worth it. She is a lovely girl, she has a good attitude and a great personality. As they say “she’s a keeper”. Once the broody behaviour ceased it was still important for me to check on her each night. Where did I find her? Yes, back in the nesting box. Given that one of my characteristics is also determination I kept checking each night after sunset. The same routine went on for about 6 nights. After a few nights of this routine, I would push her out of the nesting box, provide a little light from my torch and say “off you go onto the roosting bar” and surprisingly she would do a slow wander and settle on the roosting bar. As I said she is a determined princess! I kept checking on her and for the last 4 nights she has been on the roosting bar at bedtime! It is far better that way as too much warmth sitting in the nesting box all night would likely would cause a hormonal change and the broodiness would start all over again. It was worth the effort!

We have had two eggs most days for a week now which meant we did not have to buy another dozen from the supermarket. There is more demand for free range eggs as consumer interest in cage eggs slumps. I saw an interesting story on Landline about Sunny Queen Eggs and how they are adapting their operations to meet market demand. Their new farm is in Pittsworth, not far from where I live. I am pleased to hear that while the industry standard is 10,000 chickens per hectare, Sunny Queen Eggs have 1,500 chickens per hectare at Pittsworth.

Meanwhile at our place we have two happy hens. Here there are having a “kale” of a time. Their favourite green is kale. This, plus their pellets and other treats keeps them healthy.

When the kale swings around it becomes a game, like a spinning top. Our neighbours have chickens the other side of the fence and this morning the girl, same breed as Lucy, stuck her head through the fence to get what she thought should be her share!

The antics of backyard chickens! Entertaining and productive!

Codeine Control

Codeine Control

As of today, the 1st February 2018, there is codeine control in Australia. We will join 26 other countries who have also introduced codeine control. If you want a painkiller that has codeine it will no longer be available over the counter (OTC) at the […]

“T” is for Technology

“T” is for Technology

Yes, “T” is for Technology. Technology is moving so fast we all must be on our “front foot” to keep up with it. If you are like me you also know that “T” is for Trouble and “T” is for Time, such as pulling your hair out time! There has been plenty of times technology has caused me trouble and wasted my time. For example, working out a glitch in my self-managed website! Yet, the more I work with the technology the easier it is to work it out. I find I am more Technical these days – I have the Technique! At least with some of the twenty-first century gadgets!

A few decades ago computers were not sitting on everyone’s desk or work station. At my last job before I retired I had two monitors on my desk, just to keep across all that was going on, spreadsheets, etcetera. Then there was a time I had a docking station for my laptop and hey presto I had a desktop computer. As I travelled with my work I just removed the laptop and I was on my way. Then I had a fob that I could dial into the organisational network when I was away. No excuses for not working late into the night!

We live in a digital world!

Technology is moving so fast in a short space of time we have gone from 35mm camera, the ones where you insert a film to digital. The problem of carrying all those films on an overseas trip. My O&O was a frenetic photographer. He took so many photographs on one trip the most I saw of him was the back of his head! Maybe a slight exaggeration. Only since I retired did I step into the SLR digital camera world. It is great. I can take as many photographs as I like and delete those I don’t like. A digital camera is now a DIY activity, just like the camera on my smart phone.

Some camera shops these days are doing okay but back a few years the camera shop in Maleny closed – not as many customers! As technology is moving so fast businesses must reinvent themselves. Another example, was the video outlets where we could hire a movie, now out of business. We can now download a movie from the comfort of our arm-chair! However, people still go to a theatre to see a movie. Is it the big screen with the big sound or the popcorn or the ice cream with chocolate on top? Going to the movies has not gone out of fashion with technology moving forward. In fact, I went to a movie today, passing on the popcorn and ice cream!

Then what about books? We can read or print e-books online or download a book on to a kindle (hand-held electronic device for reading books) or iPad. Despite all this bookshops remain open, but maybe not as many. Then others have reinvented themselves by combining a coffee shop with a book shop. Technology is changing the way we live. Very few of us look at a map when we are going to a new destination. There is no need, just key the destination into the GPS or look it up on our smart phone. I have found though that the GPS is not foolproof. They like to take you to the major arterial roads and this is not always the shortest route.

To make sure we are moving with the capital “T” for Technology last year we bought a smart TV. The TV can be turned on from my One & Only’s (O&O’s) mobile. He does not know how the app got on to his phone. He ignores it, but I have tried it and it works! We discovered our smart TV was smarter than us! I could not work out how to change the volume. All I had to do was pick up my smart phone, who is also smarter than me! I found out that there is one button for the mute and volume. I, being more technologically advanced, did the initial setup of our smart TV but then my O&O came to my rescue with one configuration. Then we “phoned a friend”, younger than us, who worked out the last glitch.

We went along with our smart TV and its smart ways for a while but then decided to go back to our familiar Telstra T-Box. It did everything. Gave us program information, was user-friendly to manoeuvre, and quick to go to our favourite channels. It also recorded, and we could download movies. What more did we want? But, technology is moving forward, and Telstra is exiting the T-Box on 31 March 2018. It will still have some functions, such as, watching free-to-air TV but Telstra will no longer be providing updates or support. Technology has moved on. It is time to switch to the smart TV and become more familiar with all its functions, otherwise we will be left behind technologically!

Now I have a FitBit watch. It just told to go for a stroll as I have sat for too long. It tracks my heartbeat, exercise, steps I take, how well I am sleeping as well as telling me the date and time. Fitbits are good as you age, you can never forget the date! While data is collected about me, I don’t care. Who is interested anyway? I had not worn a watch for about five years until I got my FitBit. Now I have one on my wrist 24/7. Times are a changing!

What I am looking forward to is the intelligent fridge. It can tell me what is in the fridge and then it will work out a menu for dinner. No looking through all those recipe books or on the internet for a tried and tested recipe. Then as I am ageing no worries about having a driving test. I can hop in my driverless car and be on my way to the supermarket. But then my other option is to get online, order my groceries and have them delivered to the door.

Technology is changing the way we live, and we must adapt to change. However, it is always good to have a digital detox and get away from all the technology – time out from our mobile phones and other devices. Get back to the simple things in life – a BBQ or picnic instead of eating out; looking at a sunset instead of a movie; taking off our shoes and feeling the grass or sand beneath our feet; turning our mobiles to silent (too much trouble to turn it off and on again) and then go for a walk. As one of my team members, before I retired, said to me “Kathryn, time is up, step back from your bench”. In other words, you have done enough work for today, it is time for down-time, time to get away from all the work technology and its demands. While technology can take over our lives, I do recognise and appreciate so many of the benefits!

Fork to Fork

Fork to Fork

We are enjoying a fork to fork experience as our home veggie garden is producing some of our food. Why should we worry about fork to fork when it is so easy to pick up veggies at the supermarket or local markets? There are a […]

My Diary

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We are enjoying a fork to fork experience as our home veggie garden is producing some of our food. Why should we worry about fork to fork when it is so easy to pick up veggies at the supermarket or local markets? There are a couple of reasons why I have gone down the track and today I will share those with you.

Home grown organic: the first reason is that when we grow our own organic produce we have better tasting food. We reduce the food kilometres and we know that our food is fresh – no storage! I really like beans, particularly when cooked in garlic – yummy. However, I have found that the beans we buy from the supermarket do not keep for long in the fridge. Even in an airtight container. Therefore, we went out and bought bean seedlings, the stringless type that grow in a small bush and do not need a lot of climbing space. Only after a few weeks the growth is phenomenal. It won’t be long before we will be eating our own green beans, fresh from the garden.

Improve our health: when we grow our own food, we know how these are grown. If they are organic than there are no pesticides. The more veggies we eat, the better is it for our health. The more colours we can put on our plate helps us get the nutrients we need. Also, I know that my food is safe to eat with no contaminants.

Our small backyard veggie garden is thriving!
If you live just around the corner, come over and pick up a lettuce!

Get outdoors and exercise: having a veggie garden gets me outside. Once I am outside then I am breathing in fresh air, looking around and enjoying my surroundings. By the time I have watered the plants, citrus trees and pulled out a few weeds I have had 15 minutes of exercise.

Save money: saving money on grocery shopping means we have extra $$$’s for treats, outings and holidays. For those on a low-income saving money is important and they get all the other benefits plus keep within their budget. Saving money is not my primary motivation but it is still satisfying knowing that I am not wasting our money.

Time to get the fork and dig out the potatoes – a real fork to fork experience!
Our first potato harvest this year! Still more potatoes in the ground.

Soul satisfaction: growing your own veggies is good for the soul. It just makes me feel good to see my plants flourishing. A little work in the veggie garden is very rewarding. A few months back we grew snow peas. From the garden to our plates in less than an hour. The taste is very different to the peas bought at the supermarket. Then there are our potatoes! The real fork to fork experience. So fresh. Steamed with butter or roasted – bellissimo! My O&O planted the seeded potatoes and I watered them most days when doing my gardening/chicken chores.

What about the chickens: Yes, our chickens also have the fork to fork experience. When we have cherry tomatoes a few go into their run for them to enjoy. Then when my O&O cuts the leg of ham, some of the bits are set aside for the chickens. This is their top food item now! Once they finish they squawk for more. A little is never enough! They do not understand the word moderation!

This is Lucy relaxing with her friend who lives next door. Birds of a feather, stick together!
Here is Carmella scratching in the run. Chickens are always busy! This little chook though has a tendency to go broody – it is happening again today! She loves sitting in the nesting box waiting for those imaginary eggs to grow into chicks.

We hope to enjoy our fork to fork experience many times over 2018. Our current crop of lettuce has been good to us. Very soon we will have more cherry tomatoes. The bean plants are thriving and so is the zucchini, capsicum, chilli and cucumber. As I am the only one, out of the two of us, who likes cucumber I planted only two seeds. One plant died, and I am left with one! However, it looks like I will have dozens of cucumbers, the plants are climbing everywhere with many yellow flowers. It looks like I will have to share our fork to fork experience and when we have an abundance give some to our neighbours and friends.

If you have a fork to fork experience maybe you would like to share it with me and others. In the meantime, go for some “soul satisfaction” – by growing some of your own veggies. If I can grow veggies, anyone can!

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