Friday, April 29, 2011

Kangaroo Joey Pouches – Merrilyn Part 2

Did you miss Part 1 of Merrilyn's story?  You can find it here.

There are 3 things that a pouch offers a joey; warmth, security and proper development.  

This is an older joey but the concept is the same for all.  They lie in a U shape with their legs and tail curled around to meet their head.  It may not seem comfortable for a human, but it’s the way it’s meant to be for a kangaroo joey, the curve being very important for their future flexibility.  Lying them in a standard bed you might use for another animal is out of the question. 

A hospital box is often used when a joey first comes into care.  This is like a humidi crib for a new born.  When a joey is fur less it’s very important to ensure the temperature is right.  Too cold and the organs will start to shut down, too hot and the same problem can occur and fur growth will be restricted. 

A very young joey may spend 24 hours a day in a hospital box, only coming out to be fed and toileted.  Then they may spend the day out of the hospital box and the night in it until they are old enough to maintain their own body temperature.

There are no photos of Merrilyn in the hospital box, but here is a shot of a swamp wallaby in one.  There is a lid that closes and you can see the lead for the thermostat that controls the temperature in the box.

Once Merrilyn was out of danger she was transferred her to a pouch outside the hospital box.  It’s not easy to mimic a kangaroo pouch, so we tried quite a few designs whilst involved in animal care.  Initially Merrilyn went into a shoulder bag style arrangement. 

As you can see there are several layers and all from natural, breathable fibres.  Old soft cotton t-shirts with the arms cut off and made into U shaped pouches with an over locker.  Wool linings and an old school bag to hold it all together and that can be hung from a door knob or hook.  This was one of the first times I took Merrilyn out side and she wasn’t yet able to get out of the pouch, but enjoyed her first nuzzles at the grass.  Contact with grass and dirt is extremely important for young joeys so they can build up their immunity. 

As we worked on better designs that could more easily mimic a kangaroo mother pouch we eventually came up with this design.

It was on a wooden frame that could be altered to be upright – think of a kangaroo mom standing upright with the pouch on the front, or tipped like this, so the joey can lean out and nuzzle at dirt and grass, as if the mother was eating grass herself.

At this point, I thought Merrilyn was just another kangaroo joey that I was raising to be released here, little did I know that we would share an incredible bond and many adventures over the years.  Stay tuned for the next Merrilyn posting and sign up for the email subscription if you don’t want to miss a thing.  

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Bamboo Bliss

Imagine a material that's as soft as silk or cashmere, naturally antibacterial, moisture absorbing, cool in summer, warm in winter, dries twice as fast as cotton, is hypoallergenic, UV protective and is made from the ultimate in sustainable plants - bamboo!

Bamboo is a grass and one of, if not the, fastest growing plants on earth. (Ask anyone who has planted the wrong type in their garden and watched it take over the entire neighbourhood!).  It will grow from sea level up into the mountains and it will handle extremes of temperature and moisture. It needs no fertilisers or pesticides.  It replenishes itself and it matures in 3-5 years.  A bamboo grove puts out more oxygen than a similar stand of trees and it's a great plant to grow where erosion is a problem.  It's the ultimate in sustainability for a planet under siege.

Everyone is familiar with bamboo flooring and furniture but now take a look at bamboo clothing.

Though it would look better on a model, I think you get the picture, (pardon the pun!).  Everything can be made from bamboo.  These leggings, tunic and scarf are 93% bamboo and 7% spandex and they feel sensational to wear.  I've thrown them through the hand wash cycle on my front loading washing machine and they come out like new.  From underwear to jackets and for both men and women, it is all available in bamboo.  Ask around your favourite clothes retailers or check out the host of sites online - just Google "Bamboo clothing"

At last clothing that feels fantastic and that isn't creating an enormous cost to the planet.  It's great to look good, feel good and know you are doing some good!

Friday, April 22, 2011

A Kangaroo Joey Arrives – Merrilyn Part 1

Funny how the ugliest things can bring you to the most beautiful places in your life.  Cancer bought me to my special place.  Factually a left breast mastectomy for invasive ductal carcinoma.  Emotionally the devastation of understanding that life is precious and may be ending far sooner than you think.  Even with survival the loss of something special and a body forever marred by the slashing that allowed it to continue functioning.  

This isn’t a story about cancer survival, though clearly I have survived.  It’s the story of the wonder of nature and a very special relationship I developed with an eastern grey kangaroo, Merrilyn.  I’d lost my connection to nature, caught up in the thrill of a marketing career that saw me travelling the world.  Mine was a world of concrete and tarmac, roads, buildings, aeroplanes and airports, mostly devoid of nature, save ornamental palms in hotel foyers.  Merrilyn would be lost in such a world.  She would be terrified by it.  Perhaps we should be terrified too, as it is a world that does not sustain life.  We need nature to heal.

Merrilyn’s world turned upside down far earlier than mine.  She was roughly four months old when her mother was hit by a tonne of moving metal.  A vet, driving to work, saw the kangaroo hit by the car and stopped immediately.  It was clear the mother was badly injured and the vet put her into her car and rushed her to the vet clinic.  Sadly the only thing that could be done was to aid the female kangaroo to a painless death, but there was a chance for the 600g (21.5 ounce), furless joey tucked in her pouch.

The local wildlife rescue group was called and the joey was handed over to a carer who rarely looked after joeys.  The carer named the little female after the vet who had saved her life.  Merrilyn was lucky.  Her eyes were open and her ears were released from her head, so, though furless, there was a good chance she would survive.  Joeys are about the size of a jellybean when born.  Only their front legs are developed and these are used for the precarious climb from the birth canal up the front of the pouch and into its safety.  They find a teat and nature fuses them in place until they are much further developed.  The eyes are yet to open and the ears are still down and attached to the head.

If a joey is still fused to a teat when its mother is killed, its chances for survival and a healthy life are almost nil.  The chances increase as they grow.  The back legs develop.  The eyes open.  The ears release from the head, though they droop down for quite some time.  Merrilyn had passed through all of these stages. 

The initial carer kept her for a little over three weeks and then I was called to take over care.  My property was an ideal release site for eastern grey kangaroos.  I was still fairly new to kangaroo care myself and so far had seen only failure.  I’d lost joeys to roaming dogs, a rare blood parasite illness and a horrid disease called coccidiosis.  I was wondering if I was really cut out to be a wildlife carer.  Even though I had done all I could for the other joeys, their loss cut deeply.

The day I picked up Merrilyn, she was tucked inside her man made pouch.  As I carefully carried her to the car she twitched violently.  The movement startled me.  I asked if it was normal, having never seen it before.  I was told it was.  It wasn’t. 

I’m a researcher and had done quite a lot of reading about eastern grey care before taking on any of the joeys.  I looked at the number of feeds and the formula the joey was on and I knew both were wrong for her weight and development.  It was an error that can easily be made.  Someone had muddled the weights with that of a wallaby.  A wallaby of the same weight would have been much more advanced and the formula and feeds would have been correct, but they fell well short for an eastern grey, the poor joey was hypoglycaemic.  She also had thrush.  Thrush is stress related.  It might have come as a result of the loss of her mother, the incorrect feeding regime or the change in carers.  Eastern greys don’t like change and this poor little joey had seen too much in its short time in care.

I wasn’t sure that she would survive.  I spoke to several carers that I knew who had considerable experience in this area.  I read whatever I could find.  For three weeks I had her on a strict regime.  I either fed or medicated her every two hours, twenty-four hours a day for the whole three weeks.  The twitching soon stopped and slowly the thrush disappeared and I was finally brave enough to take her photo.  Little Merrilyn was a fighter.  She was going to live. Merrilyn was a survivor too.

I've now added this post to Nicola's Time Travel Tuesday.  Do please go and give By Word of Mouth Musings some bloggy love!

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

9 Blogging Lessons

Today is my blogiversary.  Time to reflect.  What have I learned in 12 months?

1) Don't bite off more than you can chew
I couldn't decide what to blog about so started 3 blogs at once.  Blogging then became a stressful chore as I tried to maintain them all.  What to post about today,the scrubby bush, my cats or health?  How was I to talk about stress, and avoiding it in the health blog when feeling pretty pushed myself?

2) It's OK to make changes
Of course it's better to start the way you mean to go on, but if you're new to blogging that's easier said than done.  I dropped two blogs, but directed everyone to the 3rd and most made the move. Mission accomplished, but pride often comes before a fall!

3) Think about the consequences of making more changes.
Though I handled the closing of two blogs and moving readers across to the 3rd fairly well, when I changed the blog name in a hurry I blew it.  One day I decided what had been called "Scrubby Bush" for 7 months should change to "Kangaroos of the Scrubby Bush".  Excited about the new concept I simply made the change.  Big mistake.  Although I could easily tell those who openly followed the blog about the change I couldn't reach those who simply took the blog by feed - they were gone.  I relaunched the original blog name but that didn't bring the feed links back so there are probably still people out there wondering where I went.  I did a much better job when I recently changed to a dot com, I made sure everyone would come with me BEFORE I pressed the button.

4) You can learn the ropes
I was very nervous about getting into blogging but quickly learned that there is an amazing amount of help out there.  Blogs devoted to the art of blogging abound.  One of my favourite's is Problogger. Looking there today two topics jumped out immediately Overcoming Blogger Fright and The 4 Os: A 4 step guide to successful blogging.  Just Google what you want and low and behold it will appear.

5) It takes work to build a following
I soon discovered that "Build it and they will come" doesn't apply to blogging.  So I started figuring out how to find people and I'm still learning.  I visit other blogs, I join blog directories, I tweet, I Facebook and I'm considering Google AdWords.  It takes time and is built layer upon layer - just like the amazing spider webs in my opening photo.  I've made some great friends and found some wonderful blogs I love to read along the way.

6) Make use of the gadgets
One of my favourites is LinkWithin.  This gives the reader three options of other posts they may like within your blog at the end of each post.  I also like the "Popular posts" option on Google.  I love blogs that have these items as it makes navigation so much easier.

7) Work on your content
The posts I've had most success with and that have given me the most joy are the posts I've taken time and effort over.  Just dashing off some lines for the sake of presence hasn't done a thing for me.  This means that, at times, I've been absent from blogging, as I've had some heavy work commitments.  I think that's better than a mediocre post.

8) Add a "subscribe via email" link
This has added many more readers for me.  I think there are three reasons: not everyone wants to opening be a follower, having the posts arrive in a reader can add an extra "to do" in your day, posts arriving by email are simply convenient.

9) Don't take 10 points if you can say it in 9
I used to think you had to say a lot, but find the blogs I most enjoy are those that keep it short and sweet.    

So where to for the next 12 months?  This blog was born from my passion about the environment and the creatures who cannot speak for themselves.  The only thing that has changed is my discovery that many people enjoy my stories of this piece of scrubby bush.  I've decided to tell you more about Merrilyn.  As eastern grey kangaroos go she has quite a story to tell.  This is the first photo I took of her way back in June 2003.  She had been in my care for 3 weeks and I'd finally decided that she was going to survive.  I'll tell you more of the start of our relationship next time, so subscribe by email to make sure you don't miss a thing!


Monday, April 11, 2011

Your Life Matters

Every so often someone really special touches your life.  I feel blessed to have known a lovely lady, who I called Auntie Marie.  Marie was my Auntie by marriage and we hit it off from the minute we met in 1990. 21 years, gone in what seems like the blink of an eye.

It would have been Marie's 84th birthday on the 14th but sadly she passed away last Thursday, so instead of seeing birthday celebrations this week sees her funeral.  Tears are being shed, but a life is also being celebrated.  A life that mattered.

Marie raised three children and I've lost count of the grandchildren, family was everything to her.  She and her husband worked hard to earn the money to raise the children and give them the best they could, but the greatest gift given was unconditional love.  Marie may have questioned her children's decisions at times, but she never withheld her love and I believe all were secure in that knowledge.  When my own marriage ended I did not lose Marie.  She would ring and send cards and often lit candles for me, which she very much believed would help me through whatever thing I was struggling through.  She lit candles when I was studying, she lit candles when I had cancer and she lit candles when my marriage ended.  Her love stayed true and I will always be grateful that I knew such love.

Everyone who comes into our lives leaves behind a gift.  Today I sit and reflect on my times with Auntie Marie and what her special gift was to me.  I can only come back to the word love.

I'm reading a book by Petrea King called "Your Life Matters" and it seems very apt.  Auntie Marie didn't fight life, she moved through it, enjoying it as much as possible and she bought love and a sense of peace to others.

"Your life matters, You are not here by mistake, by chance.  You are here to make a contribution that can only be made by you.  Your value does not lie in what you do but who you are.  You are the gift."  Petrea King.

Thank you Auntie Marie for being a gift in my life.  I love you and I always will.

Monday, April 4, 2011

Termites and Terror

I'm back!  It's taken more than 3 months but I've made it.  Thanks to all who sent comments wanting to see more posts here and sorry I couldn't make it earlier.  I've been working long hours, seven days a week, but that finished Friday and so I'm back.  Lots happened and I'll tell all over time but let me start with Saturday - my first day back outside.

I decided I needed to get the brush cutter out to take down some VERY long grass and so headed for the tool shed, long forgotten for over 3 months.  I'd put a large cupboard in there last year, that I picked up second hand.  It is, (was), solid and protects the power tools well.  I couldn't believe it when I opened the door - TERMITES!

Here's a close up of the door frame - now with tracks running up and down it where the termites are busy eating it away.  Yes all those small things on the tracks are termites.  Literally hundreds fell to the concrete floor when I opened the door.
Today I rang about an inspection - the first quote was $376 and that's just to look!  Needless to say I'm going to be ringing around.

So I then went over to the big shed as I needed fuel for the brush cutter. I walked in and started to mix the fuel and two-stroke oil.  Then I heard a noise above my head.

A carpet snake had moved into the shed rafters.  They aren't poisonous and they keep down the rodent population, but the initial noise above my head did strike terror into my heart for a moment and I kept my eye on him/her, or they...

As you can see the snake crosses over from one rafter to the other side.  The first picture shows one side, this the other.  If you look closely you'll see a large snake with the distinctive lighter shading of the carpet snake and directly above it a darker, thinner snake.  Or was it one huge snake with part curled around on itself?  Short of getting out the ladder, which I wasn't quite brave enough to do, I couldn't be sure.  It had stopped moving, clearly hoping I couldn't see it if it kept still and possibly more afraid than I was.

You might like to revisit an earlier post of mine - remember the Fighting snakes ?

So there you go, I'm back and there are clearly plenty of adventures left in this piece of scrubby bush.  Enjoy.