I grew up in the country, riding horses, bushwalking and swimming in creeks. My parents have lived in the same house for almost 40 years and are surrounded by a mix of farmland and bush. This scene is pretty typical of the area and it is a scene that always fills my heart with joy. As much as I love cities or walks along the beach, it is the countryside where I feel most at peace.
A new augmented reality app came to my attention recently, CHOICE’s CluckAR. The idea behind CluckAR is to help conscientious consumers find genuine free range eggs because the packaging of some free range eggs is misleading. In Australia egg producers can have 10,000 hens per hectare and still advertise their eggs as being free range. Not only can they have thousands of hens crammed into one hectare, there is no requirement for the hens to spend time outside as per the free range standard signed off by the Australian consumer affairs minister.
I love eggs and so does Hubby. We started buying free range eggs several years ago but I was surprised to read that not all free range eggs are created equal. Call me naive but I trusted those claims of free range on the packaging. Anyway, CluckAR to the rescue! I can now scan the egg carton in the supermarket and if the rating is poor then the carton goes back on the shelf, if the rating is good I take a screenshot for future reference and it is also possible to use the app and pin the location of the store selling genuine free range eggs on a map which can be viewed by other users of the app.
Below are the results from tests on cartons I had at home, I know which ones I won’t be purchasing again.
Reflecting upon the meaning of beloved as part of this week’s photo challenge I find that there is no one thing or person that is beloved to me, there are many and they contribute to many of the special moments and experiences during my life. For this particular challenge, the focus is on cherished childhood memories, just thinking about the fun we had makes me smile and start reminiscing about ‘the good old days’.
Living on acreage in the country meant that we could have pets beyond your typical cats, dogs, and budgies. With Mum’s help, we hand-reared calves from a local dairy farm and as children, it was our job to mix their formula and feed them morning and night. I can remember the formula we used, especially when Mum changed over to a more nutritious formula which smelled revolting. The calves would love it and once they finished slurping up the milk they would suck on our fingers and follow us around the yard. Our first pet cow was Caramel, she loved to wander all over the countryside and we would have to go and pick her up and lead her home, on foot which usually entailed carrying a bucket of food in front of her to entice her to follow. Sweetie was our second calf and she was soon followed by Horrie, all of whom you can see in the following picture. I would often head out into the paddock to pat them and talk to them, it was so easy talking to cows, they just munched on grass and tolerated my company.
Our school trips often involved camping. Our school principal had a large property up in the hills and each year he and his wife or a couple of keen parents would take a class of students camping for a week. Camping involved bushwalking, swimming in creeks, learning about dingoes and other native animals and sitting around the campfire telling ghost stories or singing songs. They were magical times and although I’m not much of a camper these days I still love bushwalks and our natural environment.
My Mum is a horse person, she brought us up to love them as well. A good friend owned several horses on a property not far from ours and it was always a joy to visit them and help with feeding. On one particular occasion, we were present during the birth of a foal, keeping our distance of course and it was so exciting. When the foal was old enough we were allowed to interact with it, that is me in the brown riding helmet in the picture below. I saved and saved to buy that helmet so that I could go horse riding with my Mum.
Our first dog was a beautiful black Irish Setter mix called Lady who used to run all over the hills with us, there weren’t fences in those days and being on the main road in the country meant that nobody drove slowly. Lady had no road sense and sadly she was hit by a car and did not survive, although she was not with us long I can still remember her sweet face and happy nature. Scooter was our first puppy, a playful boy who would follow us everywhere, down the road to visit friends and through the hills as we explored neighbouring farms. Scooter had a dog house at the bottom of the yard, it was a time when dogs lived outdoors and at night he was secured by a chain to his house. As much as I loved Scooter I don’t recall the bond being anything like what I have with my boy Bundy, perhaps it was because we were so young and the dog really was Mum’s dog. Taking Scooter for walks was how I earned some pocket money, sometimes I rode my bike while he ran alongside, on a leash of course.
Holidays in New Zealand were not frequent growing up however we were lucky enough to travel to the North Island a few times and they were some of the best holidays I’ve ever had. Fun times were had on the farm, feeding Nanna’s ducks, horse riding and tripping around in the back of the ute with cousins and my Grandfather’s dogs. My Nanna and my Aunty would cook up a storm and we must have consumed litres of Raro (cordial) and flavoured soft drink from the Soda Stream machine. We even helped in the shearing sheds one year, sweeping dags off the floor and camping overnight with all of our other cousins and family. There was no accommodation on the farm so we slept in the shearing shed. The smell of sheep and pine trees always brings back memories of those holidays. Beloved.
This is the last photo challenge of the year: 2017 Favorites and what a year it has been, plenty of ups and downs and far too much time spent in my head. My saving grace has been volunteering at a local shelter, being around dogs and working with people who love them as I do makes me happy so the fact that several of my favourite photos of 2017 feature dogs will come as no surprise.
Dear old Mason had a hard life, he arrived at the shelter in extremely poor condition and all he wanted was to be loved. A favourite with the volunteers, Mason would get lots of cuddles and he loved being out in the exercise yard if only to sit on or near you. Soaking up all the love and the attention he could, it was wonderful to see the expression on his face.
Bandit was another favourite among staff and volunteers at the shelter, he arrived in poor condition and was initially a little cautious. Looking at his scars it is possible he was used as a bait dog for fighting, but being a stray we’ll never know for sure. All Bandit wanted was to spend time with people and snuggle, a beautiful boy with lots of love to give. One of the volunteers adopted Bandit, no doubt he will now have the life all dogs deserve one filled with love and care.
8 year old Zeus would sit at the front of his pen and quietly watch everyone pass him by, dismissed because of age or possibly because of the way he looked. Zeus was a red staffy mix and some considered him to be a dangerous red nose pitbull, nothing could be further from the truth. Like Mason and Bandit, Zeus just wanted to hang with his people and he loved his time with staff and volunteers even if it meant he just had company while he rested.
Tigger the water baby. Never happier than when he was splashing around in water, you can see the joy on Tigger’s face as he sits under the running water. Tigger was a highly stressed boy in the shelter environment, getting him out of his pen and away from the noise of the shelter was a priority for staff and volunteers.
My boy Bundy. The love I feel for this little fellow borders on obsession, and as he gets older my desire to protect him and keep him safe and happy only strengthens. The poor boy suffers through endless kisses, photo shoots and tacky costumes without complaint although I am sure that the duck liver treats help immensely. At the moment he is lying outside my office door, stretched out on the cool tiles in an effort to remain cool. The urge to kiss his forehead and scratch his belly is strong however I know it is too hot for such a fuss and I don’t want to disturb him.
This year I made an effort to take more photos, not all of them are of dogs because we are lucky to be very close to nature and have access to local wildlife. Please enjoy my last few favourite photos from 2017.
After six years of spending my Sunday morning volunteering at our local animal shelter you would be forgiven for thinking that I’d be ready for a break. It’s true that some Sunday mornings it is a struggle to get out of bed at 6am and it would be easy to roll over and go back to sleep, but those thoughts don’t last long because I love my Sundays. They keep me sane. It is hard to resist smiling at the little faces, boofy heads and wagging tails that greet you, they’re so excited because they know that it is their time for pats, walks and most importantly, breakfast. For a few dogs, the interaction with volunteers and staff is the kindest that they’ve ever had and being in a shelter is the safest place they have ever lived. Their stories will break your heart, you want to take them all home, save them and love them but it is just not possible. Thankfully there are good people out there who will adopt shelter dogs, some visit the shelter regularly looking for the right dog for them and their situation and others only ever adopt dogs from a shelter, returning when one has passed or if they feel ready to add a second dog to their family. I am grateful for those people, they know that taking home a dog without having the details of their past means that they may take time to settle. They understand that puppies require work and that training is an essential. Yes there are people who are clueless, they ignore the advice of shelter staff and they expect that a dog should be toilet trained, quiet and easy to walk without any effort. In time the dog returns to the shelter, for one reason or another. I would like to think that for the most part people do the right thing and I try not to focus on the cruel and the stupid because it makes me sad.
These are some of the wonderful creatures that I have been able to spend my Sundays with, most of them have been adopted and the others, well the staff and volunteers will keep on loving them until the right family comes along.
Mason had a hard life before finding his way to the shelter. A calm and sweet boy who loves to cuddle.
Wolfie puppy, one of a small litter.
Good mannered Paso the American Staffy X
A sweet little boy, Ranger was scooped up quickly by some lucky family.
Beautiful puppy Neo, she is going to be a big dog with her mastiff genes.
Red is a calm, well mannered senior dog. He is still waiting for his forever family which is hard to believe given his nature.
Benji loves to play fetch and destroy tennis balls.
Dear Captain had a hard start in life, at 3 years of age he looked more like 6 or 7 when he arrived. Thankfully, with lots of love and care he blossomed and quickly became a favourite with all the staff and volunteers.
Sweet Ella didn’t stay at the shelter long, such a smart and friendly girl.
Pretty and sweet was Daisy.
Jess the Boxer x was another favourite of staff and volunteers. A shy, gently girl who loved to cuddle and she had the cutest derp face.
Stella was the last of her litter to be adopted. We couldn’t understand it, she was sweet, placid and barked very little. We were happy when she was adopted after a few weeks at the shelter
Splash! I quickly turn knowing that I have just missed my chance of seeing a water dragon. These little reptiles generally don’t stick around, especially when I have Bundy with me but I got lucky walking around a local wildlife reserve one afternoon. The lake in the reserve has been on the receiving end of a lot of regeneration activity in the past 12-18 months with native trees and grasses being planted all around the foreshore. Piles of branches stacked around tree stumps are yet to be cleared away and these make great little hiding holes for all sorts of creatures. Wary of snakes I steered clear of one pile and kept Bundy close as I inched towards the water’s edge in order to photograph the pelicans on the lake. It wasn’t until I looked away from the pelicans that I noticed a lizard sitting on the pile of wood, an Easter Water Dragon to be precise.
Easter Water Dragons can be found in Queensland, New South Wales and Victoria. They can live for up to twenty years and will eat insects, small reptiles and frogs as well as fruit and other vegetation. Some people keep them as pets but I think you need a permit to do so and I would much rather see them in their natural habitat. Occasionally I see them lying on the side of the road, it is nice and warm for them and they will scamper off when they see you coming however they’re not always that lucky at escaping traffic.
The water dragon barely moved, his eyes watching every step Bundy and I took. I was grateful to have my camera and 70-200mm lens with me rather than my phone, allowing me to get close-up photos without disturbing him too much. You might be wondering why I’m referring to the water dragon as a male, if you look closely at the photo you can see that the water dragon has a reddish chest, apparently the chest of a male water dragon goes bright red during mating season so I’m thinking that this boy is on the prowl. After mating the female lays up to 25 eggs in the soft soil or sand and then she does a runner, playing no part in the parenting. Thankfully the kids are independent once they hatch, I just hope they stay off the road.
Whenever I see puppies I feel happy. Their sweet puppy breath, little pink toes and fat round tummies make me want to sweep them all into my arms. I watch them play, they’re silly and often uncoordinated as they wrestle with toys, blankets and each other. When they sleep in a puppy pile my heart melts.
“There is no psychiatrist in the world like a puppy licking your face.”
A while ago I wrote about finding balance. There was too much going on in my head and too many things I wanted to do, something had to give. Your feedback helped, I prioritised the things that were important to me as well as being ones I could realistically accomplish. My health is important, at 45 and with a family history of bowel and breast cancer, I am becoming more aware of what I eat. Although I haven’t gone the whole hog in quitting sugar I have reduced my intake and I’m eating more whole foods rather than reaching for what is convenient. This has been a relatively easy step to take and experimenting with new recipes has been fun, plus it makes me feel better.
I put ‘The Artist’s Way’ and ‘The Barefoot Investor’ aside for now, although with a restructure looming at work I may need the finance advice more than anything else on my bookshelf. The weekly online photography course with David duChemin has also taken a bit of a back seat but not because I’m not interested, I’m just a little distracted and finding it hard to focus (pardon the pun). What I am doing is following David’s advice from the first week of the course which was to care deeply about your subject or be deeply curious. It wasn’t difficult to think of something that I care deeply about and as a result, I have been taking my camera to the shelter each weekend and photographing some of the dogs. In doing this, I am becoming more familiar with my camera and thinking about the end goal rather than just taking aim and shooting. Not all dogs make it easy, there are plenty of missed opportunities, blurry faces and lots of close-ups of their nose or chest as they jump up at me while taking the shot.
Art class, like volunteering, is non-negotiable. It is 2-3 hours a week where I can focus on drawing and hang out with like-minded people. Art helps shift my brain from worrying about the pettiness of a toxic workspace to thinking about the shade of blue needed to make those hills recede into the background. My trolley of art materials is fully loaded and I have finished one surprise pet illustration and have two landscapes on the go, and potential commissions waiting in the wings. Hubby and Bundy make the most of the peace and quiet by sharing the floor space in front of the television for a weekly dose of rugby league.
Have I found balance? Yes, to some degree but there is still more I want to achieve and I’m hoping that the cooler weather will help. The hot and humid weather really wore me down, zapping my energy and my motivation. Thanks again for the helpful advice. Have a great week!