Last weekend we took the parents up to Gallifrey Forrest Farm to commune with the wildlife (hens and geese and ducks and quail and guinea fowl and cats), and to marvel at the progress that’s been achieved on the propriety over the past 12 months. So many trees have been planted, projects started and others completed – it’s well worth marvelling over.

After tucking into a delicious afternoon tea of fresh fruit from the Swan Valley, along with soft and sticky chocolate brownies and cupcakes made by DaughterDearest, it was time for the grand tour. This is when things got unnecessarily interesting…

One of the less cat-aware visitors slid a door open to step outside, blithely oblivious to the streak of grey lighting headed his way. Cat#1, widely known for her uber-escapologist skills, made her usual flying dash for the door… and chaos ensued.

This cat is both much-loved and rather valuable breeding stock, so she’s never allowed outdoors other than on a harness and lead. So everyone converged on the escapey-cat, with loud cries of shut the door! and aaargh! and No, Cloud!. Since I was sitting closest to the door, I leapt to my feet to tackle said cat and/or shove the door closed. In my haste I managed to get my feet tangled in a little rug, conveniently placed just inside the door for people to wipe their feet on.

Chaos ramped up a notch as I crashed to the ground in spectacular fashion, landing solidly on the pointy bit of my right knee. Fortunately, I missed both cat and door – she’d leapt out of the way and the door had been slammed closed in the nick of time to thwart her escape attempt.

Once things settled down, the grand tour resumed – but it seemed wiser for me to stay put and tuck into the remaining chocolate brownies and a cup of restorative tea. My knee had started to swell quite alarmingly and, although the brownies and tea were lovely, the icepacks, anti-inflammatory gel and elevation helped not in the slightest.

By the time we were ready to leave it was pretty clear that walking up to the car was right out. After some conferring, K (the resident Eagle Scout) and Himself (my go-to guy in all things) came up with a cunning plan: a two-handed seat carry.

This involved positioning themselves one on each side of me, passing their arms behind and under my thighs, grasping each other’s wrists firmly, and then lifting me. In effect I was sitting balanced on their crossed over wrists, wedged up against their bodies. It wasn’t comfortable, but it was very effective.

In short order I was stashed in the vehicle and we were off on our hour-long journey back to Perth to drop off the parents, then on to the local hospital. There I spent four exceptionally long hours waiting (a lot), gritting my teeth (a lot), snivelling (far too much), undergoing triage (a fancy word for a first-stage medical assessment), being issued with paracetamol/codeine tablets for pain relief (eventually), examined and sent for x-rays.

In due course the attending physio informed me that I have a fractured patella. This, by the way, is a remarkably painful injury and one I whole-heartedly do not recommend putting on your bucket list!

I was fitted with a removable (hot, heavy, padded) leg brace to immobilise my knee and told that I’d need to be on crutches for a while. The physio recommended a lot of lying down and that I should keep the weight off my knee for the next week. After that, she said, I’d be reassessed at the fracture clinic and we’d ‘go from there’ (whatever that means). Thinks wistfully of magic wands…

So far it’s been a long week (for everyone). My audiobook library is a little depleted, I’ve caught up on my current knitting projects, and discovered that sharing the bed with a couple of anxious dogs who want to be close all the time has its moments. All things considered, I think I’ll leave rescuing Miss Cloud to others in future! 😛

It’s always deeply satisfying to make tasty things for my family (and pets), and this week is no exception.

With Cassie and Molly both at school this term, we’re going through a prodigious amount of puppy training treats. This week I’m trying out something new: Tuna Fudge. I found the recipe on the dog club’s website and thought it would provide some variation for the (not at all picky) dogs. It’s a much less messy and time consuming option than the liver treats I made a couple of weeks ago, so I may stick to these for a while. I did change the recipe slightly, using one cup of plain flour + (about) ¾ of a cup of polenta (corn meal) in place of the wholemeal flour.  The dogs approve 🙂

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While the training treats were baking, I did the final preparation of some Rosemary Seasalt Dutch Oven Bread for our lunch. I mixed up the dough yesterday, using ½ a cup of my excess sourdough starter in place of the suggested amount of active dry yeast. This may be what resulted in the bread not rising a whole lot (and thus turning out pretty dense), but the crust was absolutely delicious!

I’ll do some research into getting the quantity of starter right, but will definitely make it again. So much yum – particularly on a blustery winters day. There’s not a lot out there to beat freshly made (hot) bread with lashing of butter!

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What I need now is a really great chicken and corn soup recipe to try out as an accompaniment… Any suggestions?

It was dark and rainy when I left the house this morning. As mentioned previously, this is a regular event for one or the other of us every six weeks or so. It starts with a silly o’clock scramble out of bed on Saturday morning, followed by some bumbling around to find a random assortment of (preferably our own) clothing, whilst trying not to disturb the rest of the household. I usually manage to sneak in a rushed cup of tea before the next step, which is loading a trolley into the car and heading off on a foray to the local meat markets.

Whilst this may seem like a daft thing to choose to do on a weekend, having two dogs on a protein rich diet makes it well worth the effort – particularly since I have an antipathy to commercial dog food. Firstly, it smells dreadful (both going into and coming out of the dogs). Secondly, the sulphur dioxide, sodium and potassium sulphite preservatives in ‘fresh pet meat’ can cause health issues. Thirdly, after having had a few dogs with gut problems in the past, it’s now my policy to feed my dogs human-grade meat products wherever possible – and to have as much input into it’s production as I can.

Yes it is time consuming, but it’s also well worth the effort. With Cassie growing in leaps and bounds and Molly still heading towards her full size, meat consumption is at an all time high. This means that our food production regime has had to be bumped up a notch to keep pace; today I bought 10kg beef mince and 8 ox hearts (no liver this time).

When I got home, I trimmed the fat off the hearts and cut them up into chunks that could be fed through the mincer attachment on our Kenwood. Once this was all done we added the packs of regular mince and 2kg of tinned sardines-in-oil, then mixed it all up together. This is a rather messy process and rather fraught with danger, since the dogs both reckon that the best place to be at food processing time is as close as possible, i.e. under foot. Clearly what they’re aiming for is to nab any morsels that might fall on the floor; what they achieve is to ramp up the general chaos factor several notches. Sigh. #lifewithpuppies!

So the next step is generally to take a break and feed the dogs their breakfast. This settles them down for a while and allows us to package the meat and clean up the mess. We measure the mix out into (a lot of) appropriate plastic containers, pop them in the freezer, then stack the dishwasher – before finally sitting down for a well-earned cup of coffee and (this time) a banana-pecan muffin.

In total we processed 2.16kg of meat/fish this morning. Combined with an appropriate amount of kibble with each meal and occasional added vegies, this’ll feed the dogs for the next 48 days. Total cost for the meat (excluding time) was $84 (meat $72, fish $12). We’re pretty happy with that, the dogs love it – and we’re off the hook for another six weeks!

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Cassie

Our Nunzio, Cassie

The past few days have been full of puppy: fetching, feeding, herding, stressing about and playing with our new puppy. It’s been a busy time – and both T and I have had very fractured sleep. Despite this, finally bringing MissMolly’s Nunzio home was a delight. It’s the culmination of months of debate, weeks of dithering, and days of shopping for puppy-related gear and ‘baby proofing’ the pool fence, house and garden.

We headed out to the airport on Thursday evening to pick her up. She’d spent all day in  a crate, having left the breeder in Quamby Brook (Tasmania) for Launceston mid-morning for a flight to Perth, via Melbourne – where there was an hour and half stop over. A long day of being cooped up for a not-quite nine-week-old puppy. Fortunately one of her siblings (Holly) was flying over to Perth as well, so she had company in the crate – but they were both very happy to be freed.

Holly and Cassie arrive in Perth

Adding a puppy to a family unit – especially when there’s already another dog – is in some ways more stressful than adding a second child. You can’t simply pop a puppy in a pram/cot  and put out of harms way in the nursery. Puppies can get around on their own by the time they come home with you. So, unless you stash your new addition in a crate (or other secure area) for part of the time, keeping an eye on ‘sibling interaction’ is a lot trickier and more time consuming than it is with children.

I remember the day I brought Boychilde home. We’d spent his first week together at the maternity hospital and I had missed DaughterDearest enormously. I couldn’t wait to see her and to introduce her baby brother. But bringing home a new baby turned  out to be less exciting for her than bringing home a new puppy might have been. DD just waved hello from the kitchen and told me she was making jelly with Gran. For his part, the baby also showed no interest and stayed fast asleep in his carrycot.

Introductions

MissMolly, however, was all over the puppy. She was super excited that we’d come home, very curious about the new addition and keen to share my lap with her. She was also perfectly happy to get fed a second dinner when we fed the very hungry and slightly dehydrated pup. From day one, Molly’s actually been remarkably tolerant of having her tail chewed, her mouth licked and our attention shared. To our surprise (and amusement) she’s taken to bringing Cassie toys to entice her to play – and was even prepared to share her bone.

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That’s the upside. The downside is that puppies don’t wear nappies – and they do wake up and need to go outside for ablutions at oh-my-goodness-o’clock (several times). After a few nights of this, T and I are both operating on spoon deficit and could do with a solid snooze to catch up on our sleep debt.

My solution this afternoon was to trot out my time honoured technique of child sleep management: curl up on the bed with both ‘kids’ for a cuddle – and see if this lulls us all into nodding off.

Success! (only for an hour or so, but such a good hour!)

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My ears woke up before the rest of me yesterday, filled with the sounds of rain splatting on the tin roof. Big juicy drops bouncing and rolling, rushing down into the overflowing gutters, gushing out to form gullies in the dry sand. It was still to dark to see, but I heard it all. It was the best sound in the world to wake up to at the end of a hot, dry summer.

Cocooned inside my sleeping bag I wriggled back down, smiling in the silvery predawn. I’m spending the Easter break at Gallifrey, house-cat-fowl-and-plant sitting for Daughter Dearest. Although I knew I might have to trudge down to feed the chickens and guinea fowl in the drizzle later on, it’d only be a minor inconvenience. I couldn’t help feeling a bit like it was my birthday – with the rain an unexpected and glorious gift. The plants were being watered without any help from me and, even more importantly, at least some of the water I’ve used while I’ve been resident has been replaced.

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Over the past few years I’ve come to realise how easy it is to take water for granted in our first-world city life. The simplest daily actions, such as washing one’s hands or rinsing a cup or flushing the toilet, are all done on the assumption that there’s a plentiful supply of water. But not just any water. We naively assume that it will be clean and bug free, i.e. potable water,  and that it will be piped into our homes without fail. And it’s these assumptions that lead us to be blasé about our water use and to waste litres upon litres of this diminishing and most precious resource.

T and I try to be water-smart at home, using low flow shower heads, limiting the sprinkler time, keeping showers brief and checking for leaky taps regularly. So I was surprised to find Australians at the top of the list of per capita water consumers in the world, with a quarter of our daily water use (26%) literally  going down the toilet.

Although modern water efficient toilets are required to use no more than 5.5 litres of water per flush, a standard flush toilet uses 12 litres (!) – every time it’s flushed. With an average of four flushes per person per day, that’s about 10,000 litres of water each of us is flushing away every year. That’s a whole lot of water, particularly (but not exclusively) if you rely on rainwater for all your water needs.

Knowing this is not the same as living it. I’ve found that as a (temporary) resident at Gallifrey I’ve become hyper-conscious about water use. I’m suddenly personally aware of the fact that there’s no scheme water on the property, that the house and garden are dependant on the water in the tanks and, when that runs low and rain doesn’t come, the remaining option is to purchase water and have it trucked in to fill them. An expensive undertaking.

Every time I turn a tap on, I think about the water tank levels. Every time I use the composting toilet, I’m conscious of the water that’s being saved. For a two-person household, this system is saving about 20,000 litres a year. That’s water that can then be used in the house and for the animals and orchard instead. A real, practical step to water management.

As water becomes scarcer, this system is becoming more mainstream. Instead of being seen as another ‘hippy-eco fringe’ idea, it’s gaining traction with the broader public. According to a recent ABC report, more people are looking at it as an option for new homes – and I know I certainly would.

Listening to the rain as I fell asleep last night, surrounded by the smells of rain and soaked earth, I was content.

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