Thursday, October 27, 2011

Dog Obedience

I forgot to say that Keeper passed his adult obedience course top of the class with 100%. Not bad considering all the other dogs are fully adult and he is only five and a half months old.  

Well done, Keeper. I am so proud of you :-)

So much to do, so little time - and money

It's taken me ages to decide what to do with the garden. Yes, I have planted the odd thing here and there. Keeper has been the deciding factor whether they lived or died. But I now have some wooden planter boxes which I intend to trial square foot gardening in.

The massive trees outside the kitchen window - an ancient plum tree, an equally ancient jacaranda, a chinese bell tree, a huge and rather ugly palm tree, and a smaller and somewhat straggly palm have all gone. All were planted far too close to the house, considering how big they are when mature - and believe me, these had reached full maturity. This left me with blocked guttering and downspouts, and a huge amount of light blocked out.

I got three quotes for removal. They ranged from $250-$1,000. Quite the price range, considering all three were from reputable companies and all three companies have indemnity insurance, and all three quotes were for the same work. I had decided on the cheapest, not only because they were the cheapest but because the man also volunteered information which told me quite clearly he knew what he was talking about - things that the others didn't mention.

While the issue was relegated to the back burner due to my father being hospitalised, I arrived home from visiting him in intensive care one day to discover the work had been done. Fortunately by the company I had decided to go with. I acknowledge I had indicated that I would accept his quote - he took it as a done deal. So. The trees are gone. All I am left with at the front is a fully mature silky oak - the bane of my life since it sheds incessantly, and a fully mature Norfolk pine tree. However, they do not block my light and therefore I'm leaving those for the landlady to deal with, no doubt in the far distant future. It all looks rather bare, so I have been scouring my favourite gardening blogs, books and NZ Gardener magazine for inspiration. I have decided (since that front corner of the section is shaded by the house, though open shade now the trees have been removed) that there will be two clumping fairy bamboos, and several hostas. Possibly a Chatham Island Forget Me Not. In the house, still the sitting room to sort out.

I have a few problems with this set up.  For one thing, it all looks so bland. It needs a colour injection.

The big two seater and three seater couches looked great at our old house - the 100 year old villa with big dimensions. They sit a little like giants in this much smaller space. We haven't lit the logburner this winter because we can't push them far enough away to avoid probably singeing the fabric on the arms. I'm thinking of either selling the whole thing and going for a corner lounge suite, or possibly keeping the two seater only and getting a recliner to tone in. Since spring is in full throttle, this is not something to worry about immediately. Any time before now and when we would like to light the logburner next winter will do. 

Those salmon curtains are possibly the most hideous things I've ever seen in my life. And they match absolutely nothing I own. They will be going, and will be replaced with something with warmer tones. 

The 1 metre quare pine coffee table which has done me proud for years and years is now too big and cumbersome for this smaller place. It has been sold and replaced by a pine chest of much smaller proportions. 

I'd really like to get a rug to go under it in warm reds and oranges or similar. 

I also need to get some artwork on the walls. We have hung a few pieces since this photo was taken the first week we moved in. Essentially everything is in the same place though, as the room leaves little scope for re-arranging. 

So that's where the "So much to do" bit comes in.  

The "So little time" part is due to the fact that I work full time, that there is only me to do all this, and I actually have a life to fit in somewhere along the way as well. 

And the "So little money"...... well, that part probably doesn't need any enlarging. However, we have been promised that this is a long term rental, so the way I see it is that I have lots of time to accomplish everything I want to do.

Sunday, October 23, 2011

October Craziness

What a mad, mad month October has been!! 

The first two weeks were spent mainly at the hospital as my father fought for his life on a ventilator. It was stressful, waiting to see if being on full life support would allow his body to rest enough to continue to fight on its own again. My Dad is a fighter though. He has always been a fit and active man, and at 81 years old he wasn't going to let a little thing like Legionnaires Disease (which has a 33% mortality rate!!) and a severe pneumonia stop him for long. The intensivist told me that if he hadn't been so fit and active he would not be here today. He is back home again, but the illness has taken its toll. He has gone from looking much younger than his age, to now looking much older and is suddenly frail. It's hard to see him like this. Time will tell as to how much of his former vitality he is able to recover, but I am just thankful to still have him.

Our little Delphi got run over by a car (we think) in late September, and had to have her badly broken leg pinned and plated. Then came a month of house confinement. That may sound easy, but it becomes a shuffling game when you have three  cats and two dogs. Previously we kept the two ranch slider doors open all day and night with lengths of wood in the groove for security. This allowed the chihuahua and three cats free access in and out whenever they felt like it. The labrador is outside most of the day and is allowed inside in the evening when we are watching television or whatever, to lie on his bed. All that changed to accommodate Delphi. Suddenly we had to manage letting cats and dogs inside and outside again, but without letting a determined Delphi escape. She did, a couple of times, but she is such a sweet little thing that I only had to call to her and she came running straight back to me, thank goodness. And because the labrador and she are play buddies, suddenly they had to be kept apart. All this while shuttling back and forth between the hospital and home. I am now a certified juggling expert, I do believe :-)

We have had a very rainy month of October. The lawns are shaggy within a week of being mowed, and it's been hard to mow them when it kept raining. A horrible sticky weed has errupted throughout the back garden. It clings to my skin if I try to pull it out, or to my clothes, and brings me out in a rash. Today I went out and used weedkiller on it. It hasn't flowered yet, so I am hopeful that I can get on top of it with regular weedkill. The jasmine that is the bane of my life (but may be replaced as such by the sticky weed) has sprung forth again with the warm weather - that got blitzed today as well.

The ornamental cherry tree and the Fairy magnolia I planted to mark Old Sophie's grave are both flowering for the first time. I was convinced the cherry sapling had died, as I drove around town and saw all the trees with their spring leaves and blossoms - while mine sat still dormant !! It has double blossoms which open pink and fade to white, and it is blossoming at the same time that the leaves are forming, so the tree has a two-toned effect. Beautiful. I have tried to take photos, but I only have a point and click camera and it simply doesn't capture it well. I have resorted to a Google image, although the leaves in this picture are reddish and mine are a soft, spring green. And the mature blossoms are pure white. But this was the closest image I could find.

I have precious days off now, so some intensive housework is needed, as well as some intensive gardening. Keeper the labrador completes his obedience training tonight, I hope. He should fly through the assessment, however last week he was shocking and distracted  and not paying attention to what was being asked of him, so it has thrown an element of doubt into my mind. Since he is only 5 months old, the trainers have reassured us that all puppies have days like that and not to worry. 

Well, I will happily farewell October this year, and with no regrets. 

May November be wonderful !!

Friday, September 30, 2011

Legionnaire's Disease and The Thousand Dollar Cat

While I was concentrating on deep breathing exercises to help me cope with the iminent bill for Delphi's surgery and stay at the vet's, my father was quietly cultivating Legionnaire's Disease. 

Masked by flu-like symptoms, he collapsed and was taken to hospital by ambulance before the gravity of his illness became known. He's been in ICU for the past 3 days. We've been 'phoned twice to come in since yesterday. They think they will be putting him on the ventilator shortly - possibly for 2 weeks. 

To say we are frightened for him is an understatement.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Our little ball of cuddles

Delphi, our little ball of cuddles, disappeared a few nights ago. 
This little cat does not stop purring. If you make eye contact with her from across the room it is enough to make her come running to you, trilling happily (she doesn't meouw without a purr in it and it sounds like a trill). And a lot of the time she is in our faces wanting cuddles even when we are busy. She is tiny, being half-Burmese, but is the most insistent of our three cats.
Yesterday morning she was back, with a broken leg, and obviously feeling pretty miserable. No purrs. Apathetic. Our little dynamo lying very still on the sheepskin where I put her.
A trip to the vet and xrays revealed a badly broken leg, with a piece of bone completely detached and floating about. She has to stay at the vet clinic for another three days so that they can assess her for any internal damage that may not have shown up on the xray.
And once she is assessed as otherwise being healthy, she will go into surgery to have the broken leg plated and the bit of bone removed.
I hope it all goes well. 
While at times we have called her the most annoying little cat on the planet when she has been demanding our attention (she doesn't take no for an answer and will climb onto our laps and thrust her nose into our faces to make her point), she is also the cuddliest little cat on the planet. I truly believe her allotted task during her time on earth is to simply love us. Which she does. In abundance. The house, despite the presence of two dogs and two cats, is missing her personality immensely. 
I can't wait to bring her home again.

(Even the vet melted when, in pain from having her leg felt during the consultation, Delphi started to purr)

Saturday, September 17, 2011

Cyclone Keeper

There was the ugly gate we had to hastily erect 

There was the newly planted William Shakespeare rose that got chewed

This is either Penstemon Firebird or Penstemon Blackbird. I won't know until it flowers because Keeper ripped them out of their pots. They got separated from their name tags and one died. This one is coming back. It will be a surprise !

Bergenia Bressingham Ruby also appears to be recovering slowly.

I do not think Lilac Katherine Havermeyer is ever coming back. Every single new leaf bud has been nibbled off.

Likewise the Ribbonwood sapling

The problem tom cat from two doors down doesn't visit any longer

And my cleaning rags don't stand a chance if he gets hold of them


How can you hate something that gives us a laugh many times each day over his complete idiocy - yes! he really does sleep in weird positions all the time.

   ... and gets along with Otter and is gentle with him despite his vastly superior size and weight...

 ...and goes all dreamy when you scratch his muzzle with one finger...

....and looks like this !

We knew there would be casualties when we opted for a puppy over a fully grown and trained dog. But the casualties are ones we can live with. And we have to keep reminding ourselves that this big dog who is ahead of all the other dogs in his obedience classes is still only 4 months old!!!

And when we stop to consider that, what we actually have is an exceptionally well behaved toddler. Smile.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

What is this?

Do you ever load your photos onto your computer and find pictures like this one? I have absolutely no idea what it is.


I have a confession. 

Remember way back when I went vegetarian? Well, it didn't take. There. I've said it. It's out in the open and I already feel better about it. 

I enjoyed exploring vegetarianism and I enjoyed the food (except for tofu - I never did develop a taste for that), but the reality is that when my daughter returned home to live it was too problematic. She is not vegetarian. She loves meat, and that's fine. What was a problem was the two meals going on thing. I'd either have to cook two separate meals, or I'd have to wait while she did her meal before I could do mine - or vice versa - and when you work full time, time is a precious commodity that has to be carefully budgeted to make the most of it. So I had to don my serious thinking hat and decided that, since she is probably never going to become vegetarian, and since the whole time issue was becoming even more of an issue, that I would be the one to compromise. I won't lie and say I hate every mouthful, because I don't. Unfortunately, I suppose. And there is a part of me that wonders if I subconsciously used my daughter as a way to start eating meat again. I don't really think so, as I was very happy being vegetarian, but the doubt is there.

 So, that now being in the open, I can again start posting the kinds of things we like to eat. This was Chicken Maryland roasted with yams and parsnips. The chicken I bought at the supermarket, already coated. It looked nice and it was a good deal. It was absolutely delicious served with greens and a herb gravy. 

I have to say I feel honest again now, if a little bit of a flake.

Thursday, August 18, 2011


Keeper 8 weeks old

We are unashamedly animal people in our house. We have Otter the Chihuahua (4 years old), Tasha the half Burmese (8 years old), Delphi (half Burmese 8 months old) and Diego (black short hair 9 months old), and Ashlea's two rats, Heidi and Audrina. We love each and every one of them with all our hearts. 

When we suspected we might have prowlers it was the only excuse we needed to consider getting another dog. A big one. Not to raise as a guard dog, but just because big dogs are often just a deterrant in themselves due to their size. Because Otter is tiny and is prone to knee dysplasia we can't have rough and tumble games with him. Heck - he's only half the size of the cats!! But in order to get a big dog that would not be unmanageable for Otter we decided it either had to be a mature dog that is good with other dogs and cats and past it's puppy exuberance so that tiny Otter didn't get trampled....or, it had to be a puppy that we could teach how to be social with Otter without hurting him.

Firstly, we tried an adult dog. We found a beautiful neutered male Huntaway who belonged to a single mother of a little girl and a baby and who was finding having a big dog a struggle to look after. Chase was beautiful and loving and very receptive to commands and learning new things. We took him home on a two week trial.
 Chase was so lovely, and appeared to settle in well. After 3 days we were starting to make long term plans. He'd freaked out poor little Delphi on their first meeting but she was coming right. Otter nearly had a coronary and did nothing but bark for 24 hours until he virtually lost his voice. But then he started coming round too. We took the two dogs for walks together and things seemed good. But Chase bonded with us a little too well. On Day 4 he started preventing Otter from coming to us and by the end of the day his dominance was becoming stronger. 

We had made a pact that our existing pets came first and if whatever we took home had a negative impact on any of them, then it would be back to the drawing board. And, since that was the whole point of a trial period, Chase got returned to his owner -  who had missed him so much that she decided to try harder to make it work with him and two children.

At this point we were very interested in two other dogs who lived together and whose owners were moving overseas. One was a speyed female border collie cross, the other a neutered male boxer cross. Both had beautiful natures, but the owners wanted them to go to a home together and we could only take one. The owner's friend took them both on trial with the understanding that if it didn't work out we would take one on trial. It worked out, which was the best result for them.

We would have loved to find a rescue dog and had checked out two local animal shelters and the pound but found nothing suitable. They were all either too old or unsuitable breeds or temperaments. 

Back to the drawing board. We decided to go with Plan B which was to get a puppy to train to get along with Otter and the cats. And we found Keeper. His mother is a purebred Golden Retriever named Meg who got out while on heat. I fell in love with Meg's sweet personality when we went to see the puppies. The suspected father is the purebred black labrador who lives down the road from Meg. The vet is almost 100% certain that the puppies are Black Labrador and nothing else.

The litter of four - 3 boys and 1 girl

Keeper was the puppy who stayed to play when the others had tired of us and wandered away. He was the one who wanted cuddles. And he was the one we came home with at 8 weeks old.

9 weeks old

10 weeks old

Delphi 8 months and Keeper 10 weeks

12 weeks and determined to still fit on that sheepskin

12 weeks post dew claw removal - they stuck out badly!

14 weeks old with Otter 4 years old

Only 3 and a half months old, but not looking like a puppy any more

He is working out beautifully. He is respectful of Otter, sometimes forgetting himself but if Otter barks at him he remembers the pecking order and backs off. Two of the cats love him - older Tasha has always kept her distance from other animals. Keeper and Delphi have developed a special bond and smooch and play together. Of all three cats, she is the most kitten-ish in her behaviour, and I think this is why they get along so well. Keeper has finished a puppy obedience course and passed with flying colours. He has just begun an  adult obedience course and I expect he will do well at that too. He seems to catch on to commands quickly. He's been fully housetrained for a month now, and started sleeping outside in his kennel without a murmur. He is already a full part of our family and we wouldn't be without him. Even after he chewed my cellphone ha ha. Fortunately still operational - just not very pretty. 

So, welcome Keeper. We love you.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

"Live without pretending.
Love without depending.
Listen without defending.
Speak without offending." 
A friend posted the above quote to my FB wall. She didn't know who created it, unfortunately, but it struck a chord with me as it pretty much sums up how I try to live my life. Does anyone know who said it? 

Monday, July 11, 2011

Some plants for the garden

Well, I suppose I have to start somewhere. I planted an ornamental cherry tree last week and then had to tie it three ways to secure it against the gale force winds that have been hammering us for days now, off and on. Today I went and collected the Katherine Havermeyer lilac bush from the garden nursery that had ordered it in for me. And I have bought the following plants to make a small flower bed - just to put some prettiness into the garden.
Bergenia Bressingham Ruby 
Michelia - Mixed Up Miss
Penstemon - Blackbird
Penstemon - Firebird
Purple Honesty
Salvia - Mexicana Limelight (which grows to about 5 ft or so tall)
Winter flowering wallflowers
Obviously the above photos are the advertising photos. None of them are in flower yet, and won't until spring here at the earliest. The wallflowers are seeds - they are an experiment to see if they grow as it is already winter here and really they should have been planted in autumn. I've also got some nasturtium and forget-me-not seeds which I am going to scatter and see what happens.

So far we are having a gloriously mild winter. Yes, we have had wind and rain, but we have also had many days of beautiful sunshine and the temperature is very mild. I have high hopes for these seeds - but the winter may still kick in with severe frosts and put paid to those hopes. We will see.

Saturday, July 2, 2011

The Garden (dun dun DUN)

To be honest, referring to it as a garden is a misnomer. What we actually have is a section filled with overgrown jasmine and a lawn that has been thoroughly neglected and looks as though it belongs in a paddock. I regret not taking photos before we started pruning and removing trees that were hard up against the house. The "garden" looks pretty awful at present, but by comparison it looks much, much better. So, here is what we have to deal with:

The side of the house - the window above the grotty spa pool is the side window of the living area. The ranch slider at the end is to my bedroom. The spa pool has, thankfully, been taken away to reveal paving beneath.

A closer view outside the ranch slider window into my bedroom. What you see in the "garden" is a completely knotted twisted tangle of roots and leaf litter from the trees that had, unbelievably, been planted into this small space. 

One of the massive tree stumps which are impossible to remove. My plan was to make a beautiful flower garden in this nicely laid out piece of section. The reality is that the mass of roots make it impossible to weed or dig over properly. I have some thoughts on this area, but any suggestions gratefully received.

This very attractive tomcat is becoming a nuisance. He apparently lives two doors down but thinks he has part ownership in our home. Even three cats and a dog do not deter him, and there have been some nasty catfights as he will not back off.

Standing on the other side of the spa pool and looking down the "garden". Yuck. Yuck. Yuck. The swathe of dead brown is the weed-killed jasmine that has taken over. As you can see, an enormous amount of jasmine is still thriving, untouched by weedkiller. We have had several piles of wood just like the one on the lawn, from all the pruning.

We do have a little wooden deck of the living area. The table is the landlady's and has now been removed, so we have put more of our pots and ornaments on the deck now. I'm still working out where to put things though.

The little deck from the other side.

No photos of the front of the section yet as I've been concentrating my efforts on the bits where I live the most. But this picture through the kitchen window shows some of the jungle which is still to be tamed.

See that big tree planted directly outside the window? It is deciduous and the leaves have  blocked the guttering. That tree is on my hit list to be removed. And the very big trees in the front garden need to be thinned to allow more sun through because, at the moment, the lawn is patchy and damp because of low light. A strange phenomenon in a small  urban garden.

We still like it here though. I just hope that after investing a lot of time and effort into making it nice, that the landlady does not then decide to either sell it or move back into it. There is no security for renters. We have been promised a long term rental, but at the end of the day we can only pray that it is so.