Snakey snakey on your back

I’m not sure if this is a Universal game, but did you ever play snakey snakey on your back – which finger did that?  I remember as children we used this game to define what number the other person was going to count to in ‘Hide and Seek’.  In case you missed out on the hilarity -you had to draw a snake shape on your friends back – and then pick a finger to jab them with – saying “which finger did that?”. When your friend turned around you would hold out your hand so they could pick the offending, jabbing finger. With every finger they got wrong, you had to add100.  Guessing which finger had been used was dependant on your friend being honest otherwise what would be the point right? Otherwise, you’d just call it a straight 1000.

I’m reminded of this because guessing which snake a snakeskin has come from has become an equally fun persuit around these parts.

There was a full moon on Halloween this year, so I deemed it auspicious to find an intact snakeskin in the garage in the middle of the floor. Question is where was the snake now? And what kind of snake was it?

A few months back we had found a golden crowned snake coiled up in front of the garage door. They are nocturnal and are only mildly venomous so I was more than happy to let it be. It was the location of spotting this snake previously that made me think the snake skin came from a Golden Crown, but at over a metre long it was pointed out to me the skin was too long to be a Golden Crown. Perhaps a python?

Whichever snake it came from, I am in awe of nature. Its capacity for rebirth and transformation is a timely reminder of the cycles we all live through. 

Daisy – you drive me crazy

Daisy is the White Cross. She is a Leghorn/New Hampshire and she produces beautiful white eggs. 

Right from the start, I noticed Daisy was the – shall we say – ‘special one’.  She was the last one to venture from her cardboard box when we opened them up in their run. Instead, she sat there making disgruntled clucking noises. She had decided the cardboard box was fine for her. 

She is also the one that refuses point blank to go in her run at night.  The only thing that may lure her in is the promise of mealworms – but there’s only so many trips I can make to CRT before they think I’m some sort of addict.

She will stand there watching her gang wander up to the run, ready for their evening feed and drink, before settling down in their cosy coop. They chat away to themselves and seem happy their day is done. But Daisy follows them for a bit – and right at the last gasp, just before the threshold she stops and thinks “Fu*$ that. I’m off.” 

What then ensues is half an hour of me gently coaxing, talking sweetly, or trying to lure her with blueberries  in stooped back-breaking fashion. She is not interested in my pathetic begging or my blueberries and runs in the opposite direction! Some nights I have to confess I get so irritated with her I walk off. “OK see how you survive out there on your own through the night – see if I care.” 

The trouble is I do care – so after 15 minutes I’m thinking about predators and I’m back out there doing the same routine. There are some occasions where she will surrender and squat down so I can pick her up – but generally, it’s bribery that gets her back in the run with the others. 

All the other girls work around Angus quite happily. Millie and Maisie are not the least bit bothered by Angus. They will walk beside him, duck under him or huddle with him around the watering bowl -quite happy. Maggie-May takes that to another level and actually seeks Angus out to play with or eat with. But Daisy just has to see Angus and she gets herself in a frenzy. waargh … waargh… help…. help …. waargh … waargh!  The thing is Angus literally stands and waits for the girls to walk ahead of him. He has somehow learned just to wait his turn and no-one gets flapped in the face. No I’m afraid Daisy is like that annoying little brother that cries, ‘mwah she looked at me the wrong way’.

It’s my own fault of course.  I had read that Leghorns were a bit scatty and easily freaked out. In actual fact, Leghorns and Leghorn Crosses don’t make the best ‘pets’ – but I wanted to ‘experience’ what they were like for myself which is why I only wanted one. I was possibly swayed by the fact Leghorns originate from Italy – Tuscany in fact – and well – I am a sucker for Italians and have a special place in my heart for Tuscany.

If I were to describe Daisy’s personality I would say she is as stubborn as a mule – deliberately dense – or perhaps she is just a bit up herself (I’m just not sure which it is). Either way – she is a frustrating bird when it comes to getting her in that coop at night.  For all her faults – she is a beautiful girl and I wouldn’t want to be without her. She adds an interesting dimension to the social order in the coop. Maybe I should try to woo her a bit more and speak Italian to her … bella gallina  …per l’amor di dio, ti prego, gentilmente, di andare a correre …perhaps she is just a little misunderstood chook.

Duncan’s in town

Well the day is finally here.  After over a year of research, and a couple of false starts, we got the message -Duncan’s Poultry’ is in town and he has a supply of 18-week-old pullets ready to go. I suspect these are the same pullets we had to turn down a few weeks back.

A combination of factors – bush fires, extreme heat, and then the sudden realisation we were going to be away for 3 days just after we picked them up – meant it hadn’t seemed the responsible thing to do, to bring these girls home just before Christmas. But now there was nothing stopping us.

So what do you need when you pick up 18 week-old pullets?

Given we literally lived 5 minutes along the road for Coastal Rural Traders (CRT) which is where Duncan parks up with his lorry, all we needed was a cardboard box or two with enough holes for them to breathe (and the air con going in the car). The first week of February on the East Coast of Australia is extremely hot so it was important to keep the girls comfortable even for such a short ride – they get dehydrated very quickly.

As we parked our own car and walked across the road to the squawking, rocking, feather wagon, I felt all the giddy excitement I used to feel going to the Pet Shop as a child (and you know how that turned out …Freedom for all Puppies).

And then it hit me …”phwoa – what’s that sme-eell?” I screw my nose and face up as though I’m eating a Brussel Sprout.

“That’s how chicken’s smell” Mr P answers simply (in that ‘everyone knows that’ tone of voice ) “Or at least that’s the smell of chicken sh*t.”

Well, not my chickens, I thought.

‘What yis afta?’ Duncan says amiably enough in his slow Australian drawl.

I was ready for this – I had done my research.

“Two black cross, one white white cross and a Brown.”  I hand over my cash and feel like I just had handed all my pocket money over to the ice cream van man. I then offer up our open boxes.

The next scene wasn’t quite as shall we say ‘gentle and fluffy’ as I had anticipated. Duncan made his way unseen around the truck (in a manner that made it clear why it was rocking from a distance) and then appeared with four birds swinging upside down. I suppressed a squeal of horror inside. I’ll never be the blasé style of farmer that can swing a pullet by its feet and I’m still easily shocked by this when I see birds handled this way.

“No I want 2 blacks”, I say as he tried to hand me another white. “oh right yeah’ he says as he darts off again and I feel sorry for the white pullet that is being unceremoniously swung back into her box. 

After a few scuffles and scraggly legs going everywhere, we have possession of our 4 girls.

“Now when you get back home don’t let them sit in the coop – just put them in the run – because if you let them go up to the coop they’ll just stay there – and it’s too hot for them to stay in the coop – they’ll die – alright?’ 

We nod our agreements and thanks and head off. 

“We have chickens!!!” I squeal. Another of those things I had always wanted in life had just come true.

“Time to go home girls. You’re going to love it.” 

As I looked at the two boxes in the back of the car, I couldn’t help thinking ‘Chicken to go – who ordered the chicken to go?’

My Country

As a writer I always appreciate the ability to weave words in such a way they’ll evoke an emotion or paint a picture This poem by Dorothea Mackeller is one of my favourites. I feel the spirit of Scotland when I go home – the lochs and the mountains move me deep in my core – (core of my heart) – they replenish my soul. So my first verse might look a little different to the love of field and coppice. And yet, my love for Australia is a different love. Mr P organised a month-long honeymoon around some breathtakingly ‘raw’ parts of Australia – remote townships, dusty plains and stunning seascapes. I fell in love with Australia on my own terms during that trip. I can’t help but ‘feel’ the words in this poem. I too love a sunburnt country. Dorothea Mackeller died in 1968 so this poem is still under copyright. However, I have received permission to use here so you can enjoy too.

Thank you for your creation Dorothea. Another magical example of how Gaia guides us home.  Reproduced here by arrangement with the Licensor, The Dorothea Mackellar Estate c/-Curtis Brown (Aust) Pty Ltd.

The love of field and coppice
Of green and shaded lanes,
Of ordered woods and gardens
Is running in your veins.
Strong love of grey-blue distance,
Brown streams and soft, dim skies
I know, but cannot share it,
My love is otherwise.

I love a sunburnt country,
A land of sweeping plains,
Of ragged mountain ranges,
Of droughts and flooding rains.
I love her far horizons,
I love her jewel-sea,
Her beauty and her terror
The wide brown land for me!

The stark white ring-barked forests,
All tragic to the moon,
The sapphire-misted mountains,
The hot gold hush of noon,
Green tangle of the brushes
Where lithe lianas coil,
And orchids deck the tree-tops,
And ferns the warm dark soil.

Core of my heart, my country!
Her pitiless blue sky,
When, sick at heart, around us
We see the cattle die
But then the grey clouds gather,
And we can bless again
The drumming of an army,
The steady soaking rain.

Core of my heart, my country!
Land of the rainbow gold,
For flood and fire and famine
She pays us back threefold.
Over the thirsty paddocks,
Watch, after many days,
The filmy veil of greenness
That thickens as we gaze …

An opal-hearted country,
A wilful, lavish land
All you who have not loved her,
You will not understand
though Earth holds many splendours,
Wherever I may die,
I know to what brown country
My homing thoughts will fly.


NSW Hen Rescue

If you read my fist post on my desire to keep chickens, you may remember I had wanted to provide a home for some rescue chickens. I had done my research and knew what was involved. These birds would come with a range of health issues and would have to go to people who could commit to their rehabilitation and vet bills. And I was ready. Right up until I realised that the nearest Hen Rescue was over 4 hours away in the car – so an 8 hour trip all in. No matter which way we tried to work it out – it just didn’t seem do-able.  It’s a long way for a poorly chicken to sit in a box.

So we made the decision that if we happened to come across any local hens needing our assistance, we would step in.  Perhaps, we could help Rescue Hens in other ways.

If you live in NSW, and you are interested in rehabilitating these poor birds, then check out  (or ) as they are doing amazing work – voluntary work.

They rescue, rehabilitate and rehome all sick, injured, abused, and abandoned animals that come into their care. They are 100% volunteer-run and provide the individuals rescued the veterinary care and love they need. I’m sure there will be similar organisations nearby wherever you live (though by the very nature of Australia – it’s a big place – you may have to travel – unless of course, you start your own rescue). 

In the meantime, we have decided to donate to NSW Hen Rescue and look closer to home for our girls.

A new visitor to Lorikeet Lane – the Square Tailed Kite

There was mayhem from above and mayhem in the treetops at the bottom of the front paddock.  A great noisy chirping air raid at 1 o’clock.  I was standing out on the front deck, a cup of coffee clasped in hands, trying to get a better view on what was causing the commotion.

Those damn Noisy Miners were in a flap. They never cease to amaze me the way they ‘take on’ other birds.  I can’t figure out if they are really brave and bolshy or whether they are just downright stupid. Either way, they are well named.

It wasn’t long before I discovered why they had become so agitated.

There was a great swoosh through the valley of the properties to the left of us. A bird with the wingspan of an Eagle was flying straight towards our property before it soared above the roof, turned to the left and swept down the sloop of the front paddock to the trees at the bottom. The Noisy Miners came out to surround and attack.

I rushed to grab my camera so I could take some shots for analysis later.  I watched for some time, taking note of the shape of the wings and tail as well as its approximate size and colour. Definitely a bird of prey but which one? Luckily the winged beauty looped around the properties and through the valley about five times before it decided to head off again so I was able to capture a few images as she flew above me. 

On screen it became obvious. We had been visited by a Square-tailed Kite. No wonder the Noisy Miners were in a flap.

While we were excited to see the Kite soaring around us it did call into question why we were only seeing her here now. Had her habitat been destroyed by the Rail Maintenance Facility development across the valley? It may have been purely co-incidental since the trees in the ‘war zone’ had only just been destroyed. 

I wonder if we’ll see more of her. She would be more than welcome to soar through the skies in our little corner of the world.  Maybe she could teach those Noisy Miners a few manners while she’s at it.