Tag Archives: pets

Summer Days and Thirsty Hedgehogs

It’s high summer in our village, the sea is postcard turquoise blue, and scored with white wakes from little fizz boats having fun. I watch the big game fishing boats with tourists going out with tall fishing rods at the ready, poised to hunt giant marlin and other innocent creatures of the deep – and disapprove. All around me holiday houses are filled, and laughter and calls of children punctuate the buzz of lawnmowers.

Yesterday a homemade cricket match with children and adults on the grass across from our oak tree, filled the afternoon with joyful noise. The click of ball on bat, the shouts, the laughter, the groans, the cheers, the guffaws sounded like the archetypical holiday games of childhood that fertilise the memory, so that looking back in later years, all summers seemed sunny and filled with laughter.

This morning I sat outside in the sun having my breakfast, and watched monarch butterflies flirting, fluttering and feeding among the pink flowers of the mutabilis rose and lavatera, and rose-red cannas. Reading Anne Dillard I learn that monarch butterflies smell of honeysuckle… do they really, or was honeysuckle the last flower they’d been sampling when the researcher sniffed their beauty? The other side of the garden where it’s shady, blue hydrangeas are blooming amidst the foliage of acanthus and queen of the night, the blue African primrose is flowering profusely on the edge of the ivy, while blue agapanthus spring out of the greenery further away.

Pale blue petunias echo the colour of the faded painted wrought iron chair on which their pots rest. A tiny green silver eye dived determinedly past me and into the trellis where wisteria, honeysuckle and red and purple fuchsia tangle with each other. He rustled noisily and industriously among the leaves, eating aphids or grubs, and then flew into the plum tree and wiped his beak on a branch… didn’t realise that eating aphids was a messy business for birds!

And now, as I write this, a speckled cream-breasted thrush has just quietly hopped past the open French door, followed closely by a bumble- bee, buzzing and bouncing along the ground in an irritated sort of way. Ever since I got home from Tai Chi the neighbour’s black cat has been purring, first at my feet, then on my lap, and now on the chair beside my chair. What with the gentle susurrations of the wind in the flax bushes and the pururi leaves, the whirring and clicking of cicadas in the trees outside the window, and the receding low-tide sighing softly across the exposed sea-weed – though there is no sound of spoken word – it is not a silent world this afternoon. And since every sound is the sound of the earth getting on with the business of being, it is sweet and satisfying.

The wind which has blown across the Tasman from the terrible forest fires in Australia, has been unceasing, and the ground is dry and hard. Ponds are drying up, and birds are spending much time not just at the bird bath, but also at the dog’s drinking bowl outside on the road. Thirsty birds as well as dogs keep me busy re-filling it.  Yesterday when I went up the path with a jug to top it up, someone had dropped three one dollar coins in the bowl. I love it  – a random act of fun – and yet obviously my bowl is very tempting because it’s the fourth time in the last few years that I’ve found coins in the water!

I’ve heard several people talking about finding hedgehogs in their swimming pools, unable to get out… they don’t seem to realise that they’re looking for water. As I drove back down our road after shopping the other day, I saw a hedgehog weaving an unsteady path across the road. I stopped the car, jumped out, and picked up the little ball of prickles, and carried it home. As I delicately carried her, so as not to be impaled on the prickles, she uncurled, and I felt her warm leathery legs hang down. I stood her in the flat water bowl in the garden, so she knew in her confused state that water was right there. I left her there drinking, while I walked back to retrieve the car.

She’d shuffled off (into the piles of dead leaves, I trust) when I got back, but I’m putting out cat-food, in the hope the hedgehog gets to it before any other wild-life – like rats. I’ve also now got shallow plant pot holders all over the garden filled with water for little creatures. I hope the little thing sticks around…I like the thought of a hedgehog in the garden.

They are amongst the oldest mammals, fifteen million years old. They have between five and six and a half thousand prickles, and beautiful quizzical little faces framed by their prickles. Anyone who grew up on Beatrix Potter is unable to resist them – shades of Mrs Tiggywinkle and Fuzzypeg –  there are hedgehog hospitals in the UK, and patrols to rescue hedgehogs trapped at the bottom of cattle grids. Conservationists in this country don’t like them as they eat native birds eggs as well as all the garden pests. I am a one- woman Society for the Protection of Hedgehogs.

I found a pair of snails crawling up a big deep bowl of water I always have in the courtyard, and to my amazement, found them at the water’s edge some time later. Wasps also drink from the dog’s water bowl. With streams and ponds covered over in towns and cities, there’s little water for thirsty creatures. A hundred and fifty years ago, an English millionairesse and philanthropist, Angela Burdett-Coutts donated horse troughs and  fountains for animals in English towns … but if anyone tried to do the same now, I could imagine the red tape and town planning regulations and resource management restrictions preventing anyone from re-instating drinking places for thirsty animals.

When I lived in town I always had a drinking bowl on the pavement outside my gate. It was a big deep blue and white china bowl I’d brought from Hong Kong, and everyone told me I was mad, it would get stolen as all the students on their way to lectures, and cleaners on their way to hospital trailed past our house. But it never was, and even late at night I’d see cats drinking from my bowl, the only water around.

When we moved I asked the doctor who bought the house if he’d keep it filled if I left it there. He promised, but when I met him six months later and checked that he was still filling it, he told me it had been stolen two days after we left!

Here in my village, everyone respects my drinking bowl, except the birds who bath in it, so I’m always changing the water because it gets so dirty. Who knew that birds were so dusty! I see dogs straining at the lead to get to it – they know it’s waiting for them. And being a village, people stop to talk to me sitting in my garden, and thank me for the water. And then there are the ones who drop coins in it – I hope they make a wish as they do!

Food for Threadbare Gourmets

This is a lovely summer starter, and cheap withal! I’ve used it since I was a very new wife fifty years ago, so you could say it’s stood the test of time! You need one orange per person and some black olives. Peel it so that all the pith has been removed, cut it in half, and then slice thinly across, keeping the juice, and taking out the centre line of pith.

Arrange the slices in individual dishes, dot with olives and then pour this vinaigrette over. For the vinaigrette peel and finely chop an onion, chop two to three tablesps of mint, and one of parsley, and make up the vinaigrette – one third wine vinegar, two thirds olive oil. Mix all the ingredients together, and add salt and black pepper to taste. I add any orange juice that has run out, and only pour the vinaigrette over the oranges just before serving.

It’s summery and refreshing, and the mint and onion with the orange is tangy and different.The oranges and black olives and green mint look beautiful too.

Food for Thought

Education is identical with helping the child realise his potentialities. The opposite of education is manipulation, which is based on the absence of faith in the growth of potentialities, and on the conviction that a child will be right only if the adults put into him what is desirable and suppress what seems to be undesirable.

From The Art of Loving by Erich Fromm  1900 – 1980 social psychologist, philosopher and writer.

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Life’s Like That

My life, like many, is not so much a drama as a tale of tiny things. But in the end they add up to a life. This is the tale of a few days of this week.

Tuesday          When I walked through the cemetery to the marble bench to sit in the sun, the grass seemed to be sprinkled with flowers like pink confetti. They were bright pink with yellow centres, the size of primroses, but only growing half an inch from the ground. I sat on the warm bench and looked over the turquoise harbour.

A monarch butterfly floated across and came to rest on the purply-blue flower of a creeper in the tangle of shrubs leading down to the water. I watched the orange and black wings spreading over the amethyst flower, and watched it lift off again, and swoop and flutter in a wide circle before coming back to the same flower. It then drifted to another flower head, before settling on the grass, presumably to digest its meal.

When it rose again in the air, it dropped down to a shrub where another monarch was already feasting. The two rose in the air, fluttering and dodging around each other, until my butterfly was driven away, and did a wide arc halfway round the cemetery, before coming back and settling on another bush.

I drifted back home, missing Cara the cat, and realising that when she had stopped coming with me but sat by the gate, and then, didn’t even cross the road, but sat by our path, waiting for me to return, she wasn’t being cussed – she was obviously too weak or weary in those last months to come springing across the grass with me, her tail held high, and perfectly straight.

Wednesday          Went for a walk to get away from the problems besetting me in the house. I passed a monarch butterfly fluttering on the pavement. It’s wings were almost completely chewed away, presumably while still in the chrysalis by a voracious praying mantis, but its head and body were intact. It lay there, fluttering the fragments of its ragged wings. I put it in the grass, and went for an illegal wander round Liz and Richard’s empty beautiful garden looking over the harbour.

On my way back I looked, and the butterfly was still struggling. I nerved myself to carry it to the pavement so I could stamp on it and put it out of its misery. I laid it down, and it spread its pathetic little rags in the sun, and I had the sense that it was enjoying the sunshine. I just couldn’t bring myself to stamp the life and the consciousness out of it. So I carried it gently back to the grass, and laid it in the sun.

The colours today are like summer, aquamarine sea, and snowy white foam as the waves dash onto the rocks below. The sun shines, and a bitter wind blows. It seems to have been cold for weeks, so we’re chomping through the walls of logs piled up in the garage.

It was hard to go out tonight, but I’m glad I did. Our monthly meeting when people talk about their life. Journeys, we call them. A woman who lives nearby told us how she had dissolved her three generation family business in fashion, and looked for somewhere in the world to serve. She ended up teaching in a Thai monastery, where her experiences there and at various healing sanctuaries were life- changing. She was glowing.

Thursday          Another bitterly cold day with the sun shining brightly. But the oak tree is shimmering with its new spring green, the crab apple has pink buds peeping out, and nasturtium and arctotis are beginning to spring up in their lovely untidy sprawl through the other greenery. A clutch of tuis are sucking the honey in the golden kowhai trees across the road. They are all covered thickly in their hanging yellow flowers along the roadside, and always seem like the heralds of spring.

Yesterday I got my sweet cleaning lady to help me rip down the white sheets which serve as a canopy on the veranda in summer. Have n’t had the strength in my arthritic hands to do it myself. I’ll wash them and use them to cover things in the garage – not sure what, but there’s bound to be something that will benefit. She told me the four ducklings she’d rescued sit cuddled up to each other at night and cheep for ages. “ I’d love to know what they’re saying to each other”….

Before going to Tai Chi, I rang Friend to thank her for lunch on Sunday, and found her devastated. They’d taken Smudge the cat to the vet because he’s dribbling blood and saliva. He has cancer of the jaw, and they’ve brought him home to try to eke out a few more weeks with him….

Tai Chi was freezing in the scouts hall. Coldest night for a long time. I noticed how pinched all our frozen old faces were by the end – and even the few young ones!

Friday           I rang Friend, she was struggling to get the cushion covers off the sofa, where Smudge had taken refuge from the icy night. They were covered in blood and saliva, so I promised to get my sheets from the veranda washed and dried by tonight so that she can drape them over the two sofas. Then took her for a consolatory coffee at the Market, where we gorged ourselves on good coffee and delicious lemon cake well blanketed in whipped cream… so much for diabetes and arthritis!

As I was writing this, I heard the noise of many children all chattering at onceGot up to look out of the window to see why, and saw two little girls making their way down the steps. I got to the door as they did, and was assailed by both of them talking at once as loud as they could. They were collecting for an animal charity, and the commotion was simply two seven year olds talking at once, and neither listening to the other. I emptied my purse of change and they went on their way well pleased.

So this is life, what happens between getting up to make a cup of tea to take back to bed in the morning, checking the e-mails and reading blogs, keeping the fire piled high with dry logs, and going back to that warm bed at night, with the electric blanket on high, a tray of tea for last thing, and a good book!

This is the raw material, and whether we make a silk purse out of it, or see it as a sow’s ear, it’s up to us. It can be satisfying or it can be boring, but the choice is ours. But as I go through my gratitude list at night before slipping into sleep, there seems much to thank the God of Small Things for.

Food for Threadbare Gourmets

Friends dropped in for glass of wine, and apart from a tin of olives stuffed with anchovies, which is a waste of good olives and anchovies to me, I had nothing for the wine to soak into. (I’ve taken to heart the advice to always have a few bites of something first, so the sugar in the wine doesn’t go straight into the blood stream. I also find the wine tastes much nicer if it isn’t sipped on an empty stomach). A dash to the village shop, and I came home with a little pack of the cheapest blue vein cheese, and a carton of cream cheese. Mixed together they make a lovely spread on little chunks of crusty roll, or any good water biscuit. It was enough.

Food for Thought

We thank God then, for the pleasures, joys and triumphs of marriage; for the cups of tea we bring each other, and the seedlings in the garden frame; for the domestic drama of meetings and partings, sickness and recovery; for the grace of occasional extravagance, flowers on birthdays and unexpected presents; for talk at evenings of events of the day…

From Christian Faith and Practise in the Experience of the Society of Friends.

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A Village is a World

‘Pet Pig Lost’ read the notice pinned on a telegraph pole as I drove into the village.

My heart turned over. I do hope no-one catches him and eats him, I thought, and then banished the thought before it could take wings. This was a serious matter, but two days later the notice disappeared, and I heard that the pig had come home. He had better luck than a neighbour’s labrador, which being old and doddery wandered off in the wrong direction after he’d gone out for his late night pee. His owner searched frantically into the night, and then gathered the neighbours to search all next day. Finally, 36 hours later, someone realised they’d heard intermittent barks down in a wooded gully, and there was the poor old thing, he’d fallen into a drain and couldn’t get out, being too frail and arthritic.

This is the stuff of life in our village ( we also have births and deaths, strange accidents and surprising elopements). It’s made up of four hundred and fifty permanent residents – fishermen, retirees and the rest – and at weekends and holidays, what are known as weekenders. We’re a mixture of teachers, builders, mechanics, writers, potters, painters, lobster fishermen, retired professors in disciplines ranging from botany to marine biology, one ballet dancer who is now a choreographer, so we have our very own dance company, a lady who threads beads and makes necklaces, an odd job man, a mountaineer, a reiki teacher, a weaver, a sewing lady … the list could go on, but you get the picture – a mixed bunch. We’re Kiwis, English, French, German, American, Canadian, South African and Australian.

The first settlers landed in this beautiful place in the 1860’s. Their names still people the bowling club teams, the volunteer fire brigade and the library rosters, they adorn the grave-stones in the cemetery and the war memorials, the names of roads and rocky bays. The first family who landed, arrived from England, bringing a tent which they set up on the beach at the end of the harbour, the first Europeans to set foot here. They were joined by settlers from Nova Scotia who had originally come from Scotland. They had found life in Nova Scotia so hard, that after several consecutive years of the crops failing,  they packed up their lives after 30 years, built a couple of ships, and sailed off with unbelievable courage and optimism, to find another promised land.

They found it here, and once more set to, to chop down trees for their homes, and clear land of bush and forest to plough and plant their food. The nearest provisions were several hours of sailing down the coast to Auckland, or a long ride through untamed and unmapped country, to the nearest small town of a few hundred people.

So women made their own clothes, and carried and boiled the water for the copper. When the clothes had boiled in the copper, they pulled and pushed them through the mangle, and blued and starched them and hung them out to dry on bushes and make- shift lines with a forked branch as a prop, before the labour of ironing ; heating up the irons on a fire and testing to see if they were hot enough by spitting on the base to see if the moisture sizzled. They cooked and preserved and baked and dried and salted and bottled the food. If they ran out there was no store nearby to re-fill the larder. Those were the days, and they were also the days of my childhood, when neighbours were forever popping over to each other or sending a child to ask for an onion or an egg, or half a cup of sugar or milk. Neighbourliness was an absolute necessity of life, particularly in childbirth.

People gave each other lifts in their carts. The men helped each other fell the trees and saw the planks for building their homes, they lent their horses for the ploughing, and joined together to fence their fields, plant hedges and crops, cut the hay, build the hayricks, and even grind the wheat which they had to grow, or go without. Ships of supplies might berth at bigger ports like Auckland, but if they missed a tide or were caught in storms, then the supplies didn’t arrive. These settlers started their own school and paid the school mistress out of their own meagre pockets, and built the schoolroom, and found accommodation for the teacher.

And they made their own fun. They put on their Sunday best for church, they organised picnics, and sang round the piano, and formed a brass band… it was astonishing how many people learned a musical instrument then, and could play dance tunes on their violins or their flutes or mouth organs. And people whistled in those days, and sang songs to each other. They read aloud to each other at night by candle-light, and the children played hopscotch and five-stones and marbles – games that encouraged highly developed eye and hand and foot co-ordination . They skipped and played ball, and the boys played endless games of foot ball, kicking stones all the way home from school, so their boots were always scuffed, but they developed tremendous ball skills.

It was a hard life and a simple life, but also a satisfying life. Neighbourliness supported the whole community, and there were no extremes of rich and poor, it was a truly egalitarian society. Many of those qualities still make this small village what our store owner used to call paradise. It’s still a small self sufficient community. We have our own private library, run by local ladies, the school bus is driven by a white bearded retired professor, the store run by a retired social worker. We have our own fire brigade, all unpaid volunteers, who come for first aid as well as fires. We have our own garage, our own school, and most importantly, our own fresh fish and chip shop;  our own classy restaurant where local gigs are held, and some still sing hymns in our pretty white painted church with its tiny bell tower, while others do yoga in the church hall.

Our little cottage is on a cliff overlooking a small bay, where the waves crash onto the rocks below, and I go to sleep to the sound of the sea.  The Japanese poet Yoshi Isamu might have written his haiku especially for me:

 Even in my sleep 

the sound of water

flows beneath my pillow.

 

Food for Threadbare Gourmets

This is called Healing Soup, and it’s certainly very comforting, due, I think, to the unusual inclusion of ginger and coriander. I love it, and you couldn’t get more economical than this. All you need is a large onion, a carrot or two, a few stalks of celery, a couple of garlic cloves, a piece of ginger the size of half a walnut, and a sprinkling of coriander.

Chop the vegetables and saute them till they begin to soften. Add the garlic and ginger, and sautee a bit more. If you haven’t got ginger you can use the powdered sort, but the real thing does taste better. Stir in a quarter to half a teaspoon of coriander powder. You may find you want more or less, but it’s the coriander that gives it its warming quality. Pour in some chicken stock or use Braggs amino acid or chicken bouillon, and make the liquid up to about a pint with this amount of vegetables. Boil until the vegetables are cooked, and then whizz in the blender, and you should have a lovely warming soup. I make it the consistency to sip from a cup.

You can double the amount, use less stock to make it thicker, use other vegetables, even cucumber which then makes it a cleansing soup. I’ve added mashed up sweet potato/kumara, left over from the day before, pumpkin… all delicious, but the original recipe is still my favourite. Salt and pepper to taste, and serve with lots of fresh chopped parsley.

Food for Thought

Loss

The day he moved out was terrible-

That evening she went through hell.

His absence wasn’t a problem

But the corkscrew had gone as well.       By Wendy Cope   English poet

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