The Hen Eulogy

Dear Wilma, we are gathered here today, in this blog to wish you a fond farewell. As you know, we were on unusually intimate terms (*see Chicken Violation Blog), and while it was a shock to find you dead on the nest, it was comforting that you seemed to have passed in your sleep old thing, with your head resting on a pillow of soft straw. There are many lessons to thank you for dear girl:

tolerance and cooking tips: ta for making the new chook ‘Madame’ welcome. Going from a coop of two to three can’t have been easy, as we all know when three females are together, one is usually left out. But you made a great show of backing off and  letting her have the some food scraps………now you and I know it was just the carrots you let her have coz you didn’t like them, but that will be our little secret. On the subject of food; thanks also for being the ultimate benchmark of edibility for some of my food experiments……….the trial cakes you left on the coop floor told me all I needed to know about recipe success…

trust: thanks for sitting very still as we did the regular trim of your flight feathers, your beady eyes never left the scissors once, and I like to think it was out of respect for my cutting prowess rather than fear….

fashion and safety: cheers for the  ‘beaks-up’ on my colour choices, on the busy days when I was mucking out your house in open toe sandals, you clearly showed a preference for the pillar box Red nail polish on my toes as you couldn’t leave them alone, (not something that happened when I wore the pale pink shade; you gave that colour a good ignoring, so you clearly were not a girl into the pastels). I think red must have been a favourite all round, as you didn’t seem to mind when I dressed you up in red reindeer ears at Christmas (so ta for letting me do that too x)  However, with my sandal wearing you did  always have a wee go at the back of my heals…as if, with each peck you were saying ‘where’s your gum boots, where’s your gum boots…..tap tap tap…..sometimes it even made me change for safety reasons….

grounding: still re. the open toe sandal wearing (‘thongs’ in Oz), thank you for all the times  when,stepping in a pile of chook poop had it squelch up between the toes, usually at 5am when doing the rushed food and water routine for you Gals before getting ready for work…That, and having to hose said feet and thongs in back garden  with chilli water first thing, before sun-up made it impossible to feel anything other than ‘grounded’ all day…., and the only place from there is UP :)….

football and gardening: a cherry tomato will always be a wee Wilma football from now on, as you seemed to prefer playing with them to eating them. Not that you always avoided the eating part….which brings me to the thanks for the gardening tip…..that tomato seeds can pass, intact through a chicken and be fertilised on the way; as evidenced by all the little tomato plants that have sprouted in the garden anywhere I spread chook poop!……

And so farewell faithful chook; will think of you every time I see a tomato plant in the petunias. Thanks for feeding us with quality eggs, the entertainment and the life lessons; and if there is a chicken heaven I hope they gave you Red wings * mindful of the small things that aren’t  so little

 

Wilma in antler drag

Wilma in antler drag

 

 

 

 

 

Advertisements

Catitude and Chore Meditation

Meditation and yoga got the housework done; no, I haven’t invented a new variety of either, it’s just that its TRUE…..meditation and yoga help you see things differently.

Of course Precious ‘s (cat) own brand of ‘Catitude’ helped spur things along as she wont be ignored; indeed if you try, she gives you a look that would curdle milk. But I am getting ahead of myself. For this mornings meditation I though I would try the added hurdle of meditating with my eyes open; its more challenging (seemingly) because you have to concentrate on avoiding what you see as well as what you hear / feel etc.

Meditate

Great thought I, will gaze absent-minded  out the window and drift into the rhythm of the breath….breath in and be grateful, breath out with easy and feel the surroundings….breath in…wonder what to have for dinner?…..ohh breath out with thanks….. breath in deeply…..am I getting a cold? and look at the weeds out there! exhale….bring mind gently back to breath and quiet the commentary in head…. breath in …..Look at the dirt on the windows! how can you relax?….breath out in irritation……. Ten more minutes of a banal mental newsreel and I was thankful when Precious appeared at the window demanding to be let in. Honestly, if you ignore her she gives you the paw!

Switch to Yoga

By this stage I was a little tense so attempted a quick half hour of Yoga, I mean the mat was out so why not? and it may just achieve what the meditation didn’t. Precious abandoned me as I wasn’t going to sit still and be her pillow for her average nineteen hour nap, Fickle she is!. Yoga Tree pose’ into… I am a Crane’, breath….was that a twinge?…breath out and move gently to next.. feeling empowered in warrior pose’, head up…is that a cobweb in the top corner?….. down on mat for Cobra pose’…Damn, Precious is back  and rubbing herself on my head as I am now closer to where she wants to be as the sun is coming in the window now. Pause to put cat back out and then straight into a challenging Eagle pose’, now, for those of you not familiar with Yoga, this stance involves wrapping one leg around the other while standing and at the same time entangling your arms with each other and then pretending squatting , as if to sit on a chair that isn’t there, and then (allegedly) holding the stance. I say allegedly as my imaginary chair vanished and I arrived at the relaxed baby pose’ flat on back. And this is when I found a bit of Christmas.

Chores

From my floor vantage point, there, under the couch was some glistening strands of foil from the Christmas tinsel !,what can I say, I don’t lift the couch on a regular basis, and lets just pretend that static must have made it stick to the underside of webbing and so must have missed it during previous vacuums. Nice as it was to find a bit of Christmas as we approach Easter (a bit of a reverse to having Easter eggs in the shops at Christmas!), it spurred me into action and if you now looked through my nice sparkling windows you would see only boring  tidiness, no tinsel in sight. So you see, Meditation and Yoga got the work done.

Celebrate and Relax

Whether you are looking at celebrating the impending holiday from the perspective of religion, chocolate or a love of bunnies, I hope you have a fun and satisfying time. I am not going to be doing an Easter egg hunt for fear I might find a well hidden abandoned egg next Christmas! Instead, we will paint hard-boiled eggs and roll them down the nearest hill until they are smashed and inedible; which is a ritual from my childhood. The dogs will no doubt help in the clean up of any leftovers as they will eat just about anything, even it has rolled through a cow pat. I don’t know the exact origins of our egg rolling habit in Scotland (where I am from) but as a child I always imagined it must have something to do with the biblical ‘rolling away the stone’; only the youthful me imagined the large oval ‘stone’ being rolled away as a big oval Chocolate Easter egg and hence the need and desire to chase it down steep slopes. But then have always had an over active imagination and chocolate took precedence over any religion  in the tender, chubby years. Happy Easter x. * Mindful that practice makes perfect, but thankful that I am not.

 

Goldfish in disguise

The goldfish have faded and I don’t think it has anything to do with daylight saving. I have a sneaky suspicion that it has something to do with  how I feel about ph. You see it has never made sense  to me that a low ph is acid and high is alkaline; for some reason my brain thinks it should be the other way around and so balancing the  fish tank is a regular juggle between what my head thinks and the reality of the litmus.

Chemistry teacher to blame

The history of this ph black spot  can be traced back to a Chemistry teacher I once had; so ultimately HE is responsible for the fish turning white……. they could be a teeny bit bleached. If only he had embraced my creativity, when  during a lesson on acid and alkalinity, a bored me asked ‘which tube of powder do you add to make it the pretty  aqua marine colour?’ Like many time poor teachers he seemed to equate artistic with not smart, so following his suggestion that I should move to the art class I took up Physics instead and became head of class that year; not least because I got to do experiments that were far more fun, if a little dangerous!….but I digress…..the fish…..>

A whiter shade of shale (groan, I know)

Six of the nine little darlings are now goldfish in name only; with only Bruiser, Eric and No Name holding onto a wee bit of colour; although Eric is supposed to be black and is now a peely-wally grey around the gills. The liberal chucking in of bicarb or  acid  I will admit can be a little erratic if it’s a busy day, but before you call the RSPCF it should be said that its only the once (I think) that I have grabbed the cream of tartar from the baking cupboard instead of bicarbonate of soda, and frankly they didn’t seem to react to that by swimming any differently. I have no idea what it does to a fishes insides (cream-of-tartar), but know that it keeps meringues nice and soft in the middle; so maybe it has just made the shoal tender. However, I do know that said cream of tartar is an acid, so I probably added to an already acid bath for the poor wee things. As  most of the fish have been with us for more than three years, am thinking they are mostly tough little dudes.

No Name’ goes for gold

‘No Name’, so-called because of his sparkling personality, has now taken on a whole new level of interest, as am curious why he is still holding his colour where others have succumbed. His gold bits now have him looking rather distinguished, sort of like he is wearing a small gold waistcoat. He seems to be enjoying standing out from the (now pale) crowd and has expanded his horizons away from sucking algae off the same plastic plant day after day to digging in the gravel!  {tunnelling for freedom perhaps?}  In fact, he has become so interesting that he has graduated to a name & will now be known as Digby.

Not sardines on toast

In truth, I have never had much luck with fish, and seem to attract the suicidal variety. One tip I will give you though is to never keep your goldfish on the kitchen bench; mainly because the wee devils can jump! When my kids were little ,one of our fish jumped from its perfectly comfy bowl on the kitchen bench straight into the toaster; unfortunately I didn’t witness the leap as was busy getting the kids ready for school and it wasn’t till I had added bread and turned toaster on that we discovered his demise! Not a smell I will ever forget. It took all my best mummy fibbing skills to distract the children from the smell (and the crime scene) long enough to get them safely to school and find an identical one as a replacement before they returned, (a new toaster was also purchased as couldn’t use that murder weapon again).  Not sure the charade worked, but the kids played along me thinks, just to make me feel better.

* Mindful of the tranquillity watching the fish can bring. and conscious that they seem to survive despite my best efforts. Should keep my white powders for cooking, where the equation is just Cooking=Chemistry /Alchemy+ flavour.

 

 

Obedience Olympics

It’s all in the quality of the  bones, not the ones that frame our bodies but the flavoured canine variety used as inducements; or as Ms Hi Vis likes to call it ‘positive reinforcement’.

Saturday saw the culmination of the fist phase of puppy training with a Gala event, organised by Commandant Hi Vis (the instructor, and wearer of luminous clothing); which, she assured us would be great fun…..or more accurately ‘You WILL enjoy it’………she is a master of the emphasised word is Ms Hi Vis, certainly gets your attention and you have to overcome the urge to SIT each time she barks in your general direction.

So with trepidation in my heart and a glint in Aggi’s eye we joined the other twenty or so ‘contestants’ from the puppy and advanced pup group in a fenced small paddock, which was festooned with colourful strange obstacles. I should say at this point that the little dogs seemed to all have entered into the spirit of the occasion and were literally straining at respective leashes to get going. It was just the humans in the field, who were showing signs of uncertainty as we climbed over each others frantic  fur balls and dodged tangles of excited affection.

LET THE GAMES COMMENCE..

I was just admiring the outlandish  ribbon and glitter handiwork on a nearby hoola hoop when I heard… “and Aggi will go first and show you how its done”…….how what’s done?….I wasn’t listening, what? what? But no time to consult with the tittering humans as to the Puppy Olympic rules, Ms Hi Vis had said COME, and off we trotted like a pre programmed Borg.

Faced with coloured poles, spaced in rows with hoola hoops  in between, intermittent small jumps and a large blue poly tunnel at the far end, Ms Hi Vis gave me an encouraging wink and told me just to go fast and ‘use the obedience signals’. Well I must have been off puppy school the day those formal signals were taught.  Aggi and I have morphed into our own version, that passes for “this is what I want you to do…pretty please with bells on top”. Not so much obedience as encouraging pleading; and if she is bored or in mischievous mood? I say black and she does white,I make the signal for DROP DOWN and she does a wee leap in the air; go left means shoot off to the right at speed, SHAKE  paw means lay on back and get belly scratched; you get the gist.

THE TUNNEL

The workout commenced at a slow trot, weaving through the poles by signalling Left so she would go right, dodging and jumping over Aggi as she attempted to jump through the hoola hoops (something she was quite good at, after I told her to lay down before the ring!), abandoning all hope of a ‘sit & stay’ on appointed plinth we reached the last part which was the tunnel. Ms Hi Vis came to help, as Aggi had never seen a blue corrugated plastic tube of this size before, let alone ran through one. Hi Vis held her as I went to the other end and encouraged with treats and praise.

Three times she ran around the outside and nabbed the treat from my hand (as if to say ‘don’t be daft, I can just come THIS way)…so on the final try I chucked some dry liver treats into the middle of tunnel and crawled part way in  from other side and she understood what was required………diving at me with such force I had to do a hasty reverse crawl, with a back-tuck roll. now you don’t see many of them at the Olympics!

Sadly, the dignity defying moment, when three-quarters of me was in the tunnel and the least flattering bit sticking out, was when Himself’ decided to appear on the sidelines with Henry as a spectator. I am sure Aggi found the laughter as distracting as I did, and no doubt this is why I slipped on a small poop on the home straight slid past final jump.

Following us was another  4 month old Lab called Bobby, who frankly was no competition as he has a ball fixation; his own, not the tennis variety and so stopped at every obstacle to have a good lick at himself. He was followed by a German Shepherd pup that missed every pole and did a clean jump on top of poly tunnel in spectacular fashion, shame that wasn’t one of the events really as he would have romped home. And so the afternoon progressed, with every pup excelling at its own (unspoken or scripted) event……from ‘lick to glitter off the hoola hoops’ through ‘chew the top off the jumps’ to make it easier for the next pup to ‘chase your tail in a circle till you through-up all the treats’.

FINALE

Just when we thought it was all over, Ms Hi Vis revealed the “hide & Seek” challenge. A tarpaulin had been strung from trees in the far corner of the field to make a ‘Hide”, behind which was an infants plastic chair for us to sit on. Object of the exercise was to hide from pup and for them to find you by sound and smell. Commandant Hi Vis took this very seriously, held the pup for us and even covered their eyes as we jogged off to hide behind tarp in our lowly position. Did she come find me?, did she heck-as-like! Was left hanging’ again…….only after she had mine swept the back half of the field for treats others may have dropped did she give my incessant yelling’s any attention. In the end, it took a slight bending of the rules by me jumping up and down behind the tarp to see over and the chucking of  treats to get me found.

Note to self: if you are lost in the woods and want a Labrador to find you, make sure you have pockets brimming with dried liver.

WINNERS ARE CHOMPERS

Aggi’s grand prize (for entertainment and enticing her owner into the tunnel) was a red biscuit bone , which she enjoyed for the three seconds it took to inhale, but we had a fun day and the memories will last a lot longer. Slightly mollified by the fact I was not the only owner that would have been left in the woods to find my own way home, the humans celebrated together with tepid tea and  stale buns ,  which had been  artfully arranged on the wobbly trellis table by our own Olympic volunteers [ the cheerful partners of the participants] . Cheerful because they had somehow avoided taking part. *Was mindful in each ridiculous moment and was reminded of the importance of taking part in new things. Also remembered that there are reasons I don’t do sport. (or tunnel crawling) Went home to a soak in the bath and a good lay down {both of us, although separately!}.

 

 

Plastic Brain, No Preservative

Having a plastic brain is something we humans all have in common. Yes, I hear you…we all know some Numpty  you would swear just had sawdust in there, but nope, tis all plastic…… or we all have Neuroplasticity if you want the posh …ehmm….brainy version. It is only over the past few years that scientists have been able to conclusively overturn  the long-held theory that our brains were fixed and that was that. A point that is illustrated brilliantly in Norman Doidge’s book ‘ The Brain that changed itself’, in which he shows many life changing examples of brains (and real life people) that have transformed themselves following strokes and brain injuries to compensate for damaged areas; regenerating and altering to compensate.

So you see, the old saying ‘use-it-or -loose-it’ was onto something; well, it was if it was referring to the cranial department and not to where some people refer to others keeping their brains!……..lets drag our heads back from THAT department.

This all came to the forefront of mind (sorry for pun) this week as I undertook a course of study and initially my head felt like a blob of plasticine that had been left abandoned , and not played with for a while. So it was read, read, read… ouch!…..(squeeze, prod the blob, soften it up)…read, read, read, (flatten, stretch, pull, shape). All trying to wake it up and have it malleable enough to form new shapes or ideas.

When I started to apply mindfulness principles to what I was doing, it really felt as if some strands in my brain were, like cobwebs blowing in the breeze and struggling to find an anchor point of comprehension, to tell the rest of my head that it understood what I was reading! But after a while, like well worked Blu Tack, it became usable again, started to make connections and reason with new thoughts. Phew! I was relieved, as was starting to think my head may have turned into that nondescript brown blob of play dough seen in childcare centres at the end of the day, when the kids have mashed all the pretty colours together.

So, as I am just your average overachiever, I have set myself the ambitious task of moving the content of my head from Blu Tack to Memory Foam that fills my head! (I know, 2 puns in quick succession is probably too much, but sometimes unavoidable).

The trouble with our plastic brains is that it doesn’t really matter what end result  or brain format we are aiming for; because the brain changes its structure with each different activity we perform! It seemingly adapts itself like a super smart shape changer, perfecting itself to the arrangement best suited to the task.

Gosh….that makes you wonder what folks we refer to as Richard Head do with their time?!

So look after you brain and feed it wisely; with wholesome, new and varied  positive thoughts and actions. But remember to give it exercise as well, as you don’t want a nondescript , inflexible brown plasticine blob between your ears. Make it a beautiful , shape shifting sculpture. * was mindful of why meditation works, and learned there is a reason we say “my brain hurts” when concentrating on the hard or abstract…..it has a whole transformation to make!

 

 

 

Pup school, the sequel

Teachers pet typing here, yes, dear Aggi decided to spare me permanent puppy school outcast status and made me look like a dog training savant! , at least initially. She performed every instruction with accuracy, all be it with the bored expression of a Pro that’s done the task a million times.

Ms High Vis *(see puppy school paranoia post) unfortunately took this as a signal to use us as an example of what to do…….oww the pressure of the public performance. Just when I was finding Ms High Vis’s attention slightly creepy, I ‘blew it’ by inadvertently praising my little one by saying “well done darling”; Darling!, Darling? exclaimed Ms High Vis……”there is no darling here, only dogs with names!”….seemingly using terms of endearment is verboten!…., ah well, back to ‘must try harder’, and was that a  smirk from Aggi at me being told off?, surely not.

Joining me on the dunce’s stool was *Pearl (*name changed to protect the fact that I don’t know her name. I know the names of all the puppies in the group but somehow the people’s names are irrelevant) and her miniature poodle pup Fluffy. During the session, where we had to stand immediately in front of the puppy and “keep eye contact while looming over them, so they know who is boss” boomed Ms Vis, was the point that Pearl committed a sin larger than my “Darling” debacle.

You see, God or a surgeon had endowed Pearl with a huge bosom ; the type of impressive shelf  that you could rest a cup of tea on without fear of spilling a drop. The combination of Pearl with Fluffy at her feet clearly put them at a disadvantage as they had  line-of-sight issues; so Pearl took a step back, presumably so she could check the pup was still there……….well, from the way Ms Vis reacted you would have thought poor Pearl had kicked her pup or performed some other heinous crime. “You moved!!, how are you going to teach Fluffy by moving?” bellowed Ms Vis. Pearl and I swapped knowing, commiserating glances that cemented us as pals; even if Aggi treats Fluffy as a chew toy.

We were treated to a ‘meet and greet’ with the Advanced puppy class at the end of the session, (designed, I guess to encourage us to improve and move up a level) and I got goosed by a gusset nuzzling German Shepherd; more forward than advanced if you ask me.            * that day I was mindful and aware that friendships can blossom anywhere.

Puppy school paranoia

This afternoon was a last-ditch, backyard bribery fest with dried liver for young Aggi (black lab, now 16 weeks old), in preparation for tomorrows euphemistically called “obedience classes”. There is no point in deluding ourselves into calling it a dog obedience session, as it is clearly all about “training” the people.

Aggi and I have spent two weekend sessions under the watchful eye of a dominating woman with a bad perm, High Vis Vest and huge heart (where the canine beings are concerned);…….the people ?…she could patently take or leave, as long as they know how to avoid harming any little 4 legged friends.

So today was all about me avoiding a repeat of the past 2 saturday afternoon public humiliation sessions at the paws of my wee loved one. You see, she knows how to do the basic commands , all be it with an accompanied bribe/inducement; at least her recall in the back garden practices makes me very proud and am convinced she is a puppy genious……..then off we trot to the group session.

She will perform the perfunctory bits (as if saving face with the other puppies at the start) and then when it comes to our turn in the centre for a SIT /STAY/COME…….(after I have walked away) part, she does the puppy equivalent of “being left hanging” during a high five!!!……in a silence rivaling an old cowboy movie/sun-up standoff she just sits and looks at me when called………..Ms high Vis insists I get more animated and encouraging, and Aggi’s reaction?…..a slight cock of the head to the side (to increase the cuteness and emphasise the point of no comprende’) and leaves me hanging out to dry, yelling encouragement and trying baby noises and flailing my arms about like a windmill in front of strangers…..silently she sits, like a wee indignant rock……………enter the tumble weeds.* today I was mindful and learned to appreciate the abilities of others, even when they keep them hidden.

Watch this space for the outcomes of tomorrows obedience ordeal……..> wish me luck

Toe Breathing for beginners…..

Part of aiming for overall fitness of mind / body/ spirit I have been working on improving my meditation technique……they say it takes 10,000 hours to perfect so this old girl hasnt a moment to lose!

As I have also been fitting in a 5km  daily walk with Henry (Choc Lab) it occurred to me that if I could combine both it would be super efficient……….so was time to give Walking Meditation a go…..>>>>>>

So off my choc buddy and I went, complete with me plugged into iPhone voiceover  app of “mindfulness walking meditation”, well we started off  at a cracking, enthusiastic pace until the soothing voice urged me to “concentrate on where you ARE rather than where you are GOING”…..what the?, OK, slow down and concentrate…..ooops , don’t walk into the lampost…..you can’t shut your eyes to concentrate, focus girl focus….nope…he is definitely reinforcing “just be where you are and be curios about THAT and don’t worry about the destination”……..by this time poor Henry was getting bored with such slow walking and was leading me off in the direction of a pre piddled tree. Having just reached the part where I was to imagine my thoughts like “clouds drifting in the sky” was when Henry became my assistance dog ( he is such a brilliant chum) and stopped me walking out in front of a car by running in a circle and wrapping his lead round my legs…….what a pal {Note to self……dont have both ears plugged in while out and about….even if  what I was doing was  meant to improve “awareness”! what an oxymoron}.

Ok, now with one ear being safety conscious and H having decided it was safer to walk in front we got to the part where ; having scanned the whole self, i was to “breathe in deeply down to my left little toe and then feel same toe breath out all the way up to my lungs”………..concentrate girl, concentrate….nope, cant even feel my wee left toe; maybe my socks are too thick….ooops he has moved onto the right foot and i havent even exhaled from the left!!!!!, wondering if my foot may blow up gave me the giggles and I had to abandon the voiceover.  Clearly this toe breathing is going to take some practice so maybe will start with my feet up on a stool to help with the visualisation…..Maybe one of the occasions when wine helps.

A regular dog walking (nodding acquaintance) very sweet old gent did stop for a chat on our way back and commented on how happy i seemed that day, so maybe part of the meditation worked :). *I learned to be mindful and you can only consciously listen when you make your ears available.