Sunday, October 31, 2010

Love Baby Kangaroos!

Firstly, welcome to the new header and blog name.  So many posts here are about Merrilyn and her mob, I thought one of my rare photos of her, together with four of her joeys, was appropriate, a long with the name change.  I'll still be filling you in on the other characters who live here in the scrubby bush, along with other things environmental and interesting bits and pieces.  I hope you like the change.

I just love joeys - which is what a baby kangaroo is known as.  Merrilyn's seventh joey - known simply as "Number 7" at this point, is starting to view the world a bit more.  It's a time I find very exciting and also nerve wracking.  If Merrilyn is chased by a predator, (generally a wild or domestic dog), then nature takes over and relaxes the pouch muscles so the joey tumbles out, and Merrilyn has more chance of escape.  Let's hope that doesn't happen.  Merrilyn still loves to flop on my cool patio, on an old sheepskin rug she used when I raised her, and I caught a few photos as she slept there recently and thought you'd enjoy them.

  The tip of a toe pokes out from the pouch.

The tip of a tail.  It's pink because the joey hasn't developed its fur yet.

A bit more of a foot.
Two little hind feet.

Merrilyn, the sleeping mother.

Initially a joey's ears are floppy, like the one to our right. 
The left hand ear is starting to stand upright now as the joey develops.
Light fur is starting to develop, along with whiskers. 
Gotta love kangaroo joeys! 

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

Own a dog or cat? You need to read this.

I recently came across a fantastic site, fake plastic fish.  Great name and the information contained on the site is very powerful.  Beth Terry saw an article "Plastic Ocean", which I cannot share with you here as the website is under going maintenance. The article was about the amount of plastic that ends up in our oceans and what it does to our ocean life. From that point Beth started to eliminate plastic from her life. (Read more about Beth Terry here.)

This is something that is important to me, from two stand points.  First the environment and secondly my health.  Having lost a breast to cancer 10 years ago I read a lot about plastic and their effect on oestrogen levels, so I too started eliminating plastic, mostly with regard to my food.  So when I saw this site I was hooked.  Beth has kindly allowed me to reproduce a recent post of hers on plastic and it's effects on our pets.  As you know I have two Abyssinian cats and Libby does seem to be suffering the problem mentioned here and, yes, I must admit I was using plastic bowls.  I've now switched and things seem to be improving.

Before I add the post, I'd also like to recommend you take the one week plastic challenge Beth suggests.  I completed it and was amazed and realised more I can do and Beth's feedback was really helpful.  You can see a week's worth of my plastic here.  There is also a fantastic Plastic-Free Guide that shows you how to substitute those things you thought always had to be made of plastic.  Now read on about plastic feed bowls for dogs and cats.

Cat & Dog Acne from Plastic Bowls?

Our cats have always eaten their homemade food out of nice ceramic dishes that we got for free or almost free at a yard sale. (Arya is practicing her scary Halloween demon kitty face.)

But apparently, not all cats are so lucky. Michael came home last Friday and told me his workmate’s cat had developed acne, and that her vet said she should stop feeding him from a plastic bowl. Huh? I mean, I’ve heard a lot of negative things about plastic, but that was a really new one for me.

So I Googled “cat acne plastic,” and guess what: it’s conventional wisdom (although I haven’t found a definitive source) that cats can develop acne on their chins from eating out of plastic bowls. (Dogs, too! Google “dog acne plastic.”)

According to

"Plastic food dishes have long been suspected as a culprit in chin acne. Plastic is a magnet for bacteria and dirt that work their way into scratches and nicks, reinfecting your cat and/or spreading bacteria to other cats in the household. Veterinarians and other feline experts recommend using only glass or metal food bowls, and daily washing of those, in order to help prevent this common condition."

It does make sense. Plastic is lipophyllic, meaning that it attracts oils. Have you noticed how hard it can be to clean grease off of plastic? And once plastic is roughed up a bit, it’s even harder to clean. Our ceramic dishes, on the other hand, clean up beautifully.

Also, some pets are allergic to plastic, and what appears to be acne is actually an allergic reaction. According to The Human Society’s Complete Guide to Cat Care:

"Many cats are allergic to plastic. Replace plastic food and water bowls with stainless steel, U.S.-made ceramic (glazes on foreign made ceramics often contain lead), or heavy glass. If your cat habitually lounges on plastic surfaces, drape his favorite spots with thick, soft towels to prevent skin contact. Plastic allergies are often betrayed by outbreaks of rashes or raised, itchy patches on your cat’s throat, neck and chin — where he touches his food and water bowls."


Maybe the reason for pet breakouts is bacteria trapped in plastic, and maybe it’s plastic allergies, but I want to suggest another reason: leaching chemicals. Okay, don’t quote me on this! I haven’t found any studies definitively linking the chemicals in plastic to outbreaks of acne, but consider this: many plastics contain hormone-disruptors like bisphenol-a and phthalates. And changes in hormones are a major cause of acne.

I don’t know if the chemicals in plastic affect hormones in such a way as to promote acne or if they might even do the opposite. Biosphenol-A, in fact, mimics estrogen, not the male hormones associated with acne. But I’m just tossing the idea out there that we’ve created this environmental soup of endocrine-disrupting chemicals, and no one really knows what the long term affects will be for us or for the animals with which we share this planet. Why wait to find out? Let’s just stop feeding ourselves and our loved ones, including 4-legged ones, out of plastic
My thanks, once again, to Beth Terry of fake plastic fish for allowing me to reproduce this piece for you, and for doing so much for our environment. 
So what do you think?  Could you take some plastic out of your life?

Saturday, October 23, 2010

Your Chance to Write a Novel!

Not the usual topic heading you'd expect here.  No blood suckers or kangaroos sitting on the doorstep.  No warnings about pesticide poisoning and two-headed fish.  Though my main passion is the environment, particularly the one I live in, I do also have other passions and writing is one of them. 

I am fortunate to have had three books published, two marketing books put out by Simon & Schuster and long since out of print, and a wildlife manual that I self-published so carers could obtain it for free.  I used to write a column for a business magazine and still write articles, particularly for Powder Room Graffiti as well as this blog.  However I am yet to write a novel.

I fiddle and diddle and have a couple started, but they just don't develop.  There are so many things to be done in life that it simply doesn't happen, and yet, this is something I would very much like to do.  Last year I was introduced to a concept know as NaNoWrMo - National Novel Writing Month.  It takes place in November each year and the challenge is to write 50,000 words over the 30 days of November.

Yes, I admit, when you first read that, it sounds a little crazy - but is it?  You join thousands of others in the attempt and the deadline drives you on.  I don't know about you, but I need deadlines.  Last year a friend of mine did it, and successfully managed the 50,000 words and was thrilled with the result, and so this year I am taking it on.

It's not about quality, it's about quantity.  Put that stuff in your head on paper.  Once it's out, you can then spend the editing time to shape it up, but imagine, in just over a months time, you could be sitting there with 50,000 words written.  The essence of your first novel, (or second, or third...). That's about 175pages.  Are you ever going to manage to do this any other way? 

You potentially have a million questions so here's the link to the explanation of NaNoWrMo, how it works, how you can register, how you protect your work etc.  Please let me know if you are joining in so we can motivate each other as the month progresses. Come on, join me, it will be great!

Wednesday, October 20, 2010

Blood Suckers

Here in Australia spring is sprung and it's been raining - commence the parade of the blood suckers!

That's a good old Aussie leech!  How big is he?  Well he's climbing a brick wall and he isn't stretched out as much as he could be, but let's give him the finger test.

Not easy to see in this photo. (Tough to be in the photo and taking it at the same time... and I didn't want to touch it), but the base is about the same width as my finger).  He is fully engorged and feel off Merrilyn's heel.

She will bleed for a while, but there will be no lasting damage.  I've had two myself lately, though they don't get to stay as long on me!  Salt is the easy way to get them to fall off - just a sprinkle and they let go and the salt kills them.  They don't really hurt, though a couple of times I have felt them pierce the skin, but they do itch about two days later - a lot!  The best way to stop the itch is to cover them with tape.  The lack of air seems to help.

However leeches aren't Merrilyn's only problem at this point.

This little dark thing, tucked into the fur of Merrilyn's pouch, is a flat fly.  They are a constant companion. The Marsh flies that I captured being taken by a blue-faced honeyeater in Big Boy is Back are also still around.

Here's one on Merrilyn's tail.  And a closer look...

These do hurt and the kangaroos flick their tails to try to dislodge them.  Merrilyn will come near the house if they are in high numbers and allows me to kill them with a fly swat!  The final problem at present is mosquitoes.  My camera wasn't up to the job of capturing them on Merrilyn's moving head, but I did gain a nice shot of her.

And one final shot so that you can sleep easy tonight. This is an Australian native, I don't know its name, but it's just coming into flower and I love it.  Enjoy.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Could YOU live without it?

It's Blog Action Day and this year the theme is water. Most of we bloggers are able to take water for granted. What if we couldn't? What if it was not so available? What if the way we are living is causing our water supplies to dry up?

Couldn't happen? Well we know that in some parts of the world people have had a long running issue with water:
- African women walk over 40 billion hours each year gathering water
- Nearly 38,000 children, under the age of 5, die from unsafe drinking water and unhygienic living conditions
- We've all heard of Darfur - many think this war was due, in part to water access.

Nothing you can do about that, you might well say. So what about your own water supply? Could it disappear? The book I've featured here from Amazon, "Water, the drop of life", was published as a companion to a television series. It's an older book now, published in 2001, but it contains many fascinating stories about water and the consequences of our tampering with nature. It was this book that bought the Aral Sea to my attention.

The Aral Sea, a huge inland lake that bisects the republics of Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, had a thriving commercial fishing industry. It provided 60,000 people with jobs and 50,000 tons of fish were caught each year. Then it was decided that Russia's textile industry required more water, so water from the Aral Sea was diverted to the cotton fields of Uzbekistan.

Unlined and open ditches were used to move the water and so 80% was lost to evaporation. The Aral sea began to shrink and salinity increased. Half the Aral sea has now been lost and Mark Pitchers photo, taken on June 25th 2009, using a Nikon D300, in Qyzylorda, Kazakhstan says it all.

(See more of Mark Pitcher's amazing photography here )

The fishing industry died, and contaminated dust, from the more than 7,800 square miles, (20,000 square kilometres) of exposed sea floor, was carried by winds and has settled, not only on the homes and crops of local people but has settled on glaciers in the Himalayas, causing them to melt faster than they normally would and it has even been found in the blood of penguins in the Antarctic.

I don't think anyone stops to think of the far reaching consequences of disturbing our natural environment. Here in Australia, debate rages on how to restore the Murray River system to stop it dying forever and I hear people discussing the environment as if it were something separate to humans, as if we can decide whether we want to keep the environment or not. (Think about that one for a moment). There is a seemingly large river in northern New South Wales, called The Clarance river. Most people see it as the travel through the regional town of Grafton and it seems wide and abundant. So, some have suggested that it be piped to help restore the Murray. The problem is, the fresh water part of the Clarence isn't as wide and abundant and removing it would start a salinity increase, as much of the large flows seen are, in fact, tidal. We must learn the lessons of the Aral Sea and not make the same mistakes.

Though the Aral Sea will probably never fully recover, and people's lives have been destroyed, in this National Geographic Blog Post the progress of recovery is documented and though there is a long way to go, nature has an amazing ability to heal herself if we work with her, rather than against her.

For me this is the main message. We are a part of nature. There is enough documentation of the perils of simply using and trying to take control of nature for our own end. Let's start working with nature, respecting it and doing what we can to reduce our over-consumption of water.

I documented some of the water-saving methods I use here in a blog earlier this year called Precious Water.

There are many things we can do daily, and the main one is reducing our consumption. Did you know:
- It takes 24 litres of water to produce one hamburger
- It takes 1514 litres of water to produce a cotton t-shirt
- It takes 6,813 litres to make a pair of jeans

So finally a video and link to the people who organised this whole Blog Action Day.  Check them out and join in the conversation.

Blog Action Day 2010: Water from Blog Action Day on Vimeo.

Petitions by|Start a Petition »

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Join Blog Action Day

Tomorrow, Friday 15th October is Blog Action Day.  This is a day where Bloggers globally come together to blog on a specific issue, creating mass discussion on a topic.  This year's theme is water. 
Read more here.  I'm registered.  Won't you join me?

Sunday, October 10, 2010

Not Much Bigger than a Thumb

The rain continues to tumble down and so I've popped a pumpkin in the oven to make a batch of my favourite roasted pumpkin soup and I thought I'd take the time to tell you about another of the creatures who lives here in the scrubby bush.  This little guy.

This is the threatened squirrel glider and when I was a wildlife carer I had the rare privilege of raising a couple of glider babies. 

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

October Flood

I'm considering a new occupation as a rain maker!  First we broke the drought on our Queensland cycle holiday and now I seem to have created another flood.  I no sooner sent off a family email update that said we're way down on rain this year, than the sky opened!  In the last couple of days I have received 274mm of rain, (11 inches).  The dam is full, the kangaroos are soggy and the road into town is under water. 

Eastern grey kangaroos don't like rain.