wings and things

Spring chicken

One of the best things about getting chooks again is telling Anthony the stories that go with the chooks. He gets a real kick out of my ineptitude.

A couple of days ago I picked up another couple of chooks from some serious breeders who go by the name of Chookloop. As soon as I got home, I put them in the chookpen with the other four but they’re a bit smaller so the big ones started pecking them and one of them was smart enough to figure out how to get out of the chookpen – argh (it took me ages to catch her).

So I brought them inside and put them in a box on the back veranda with some food and water. But, as soon as I turned my back, the smart one flew out and followed me into the kitchen where she hid behind the fridge until I was able to ease her out with a fly-swat (another hour).

I ended up putting them outside the back door in an upside down laundry basket which is where they spent their first night. The next morning, I went out to replace their water and, as I was doing so, the smart one got out, so I let the not-so-smart one out as well. They had a wonderful time frolicking under the fig tree. It was only when I attempted to catch them and put them back under the laundry basket that I realised I might need yet another set of ages/hours.


Notsosmarty was relatively easy to grab, but Smarty eluded me for well over an hour. I finally had to give up being gentle and simply threw myself into the shrubbery under the fig tree in a kind of football tackle which left us both muddy and disgruntled. I gave her a little cuddle, she pooped on me, and a friendship was born.

Since then, they have both spent a couple of nights in the ground cage we raised the guinnea fowl and peafowl in eons ago. I’ve placed this inside the chookyard so that the other chooks can get used to them without being able to peck them. They are also protected from crows, but they do look a bit miserable this morning because it is so cold and wet.

It is great to be able to answer the dreaded question, “So, what have you been up to lately?” with, “I have some new chooks!” instead of my usual, faltering, “Oh, this and that.”

It’s quite refreshing, too, to be able to give Anthony some new news and, as he has always loved chooks, it is a mutually enjoyable topic of conversation. What I like most about this is that the new chooks, despite reminding us both of previous chooks (and even chooks Anthony may have cared for as a child), are a fresh addition to the conversations we have in the cozy world of his nursing home room.

Okay, a bit of dialogue:

Anthony (referring to ‘my hero’ of yesterday’s post after she popped in with his clean laundry): That’s the girl, right?

Me: Yes – she is wonderful.

Anthony: And she’s on our side isn’t she.

Me: Of course!

Anthony: Your hair needs combing (oh why is this such a preoccupation with him?)

Me: Why the hell are you so obsessed with my hair? It’s windy outside, and raining. I’ve battled a storm to come and see you and all you can do is criticise my hair! I’ll have you know this is the best cut and colour I’ve ever had and I adore my hair-dresser.

Anthony: Give me a comb.

Me: What? Why?

Anthony: I can fix you. You’re still a spring chicken.

Hence the title of this post which, remarkably, ties in with the chook thing – ha!

PS. After Anthony combed my hair, I ruffled it up a bit and he smiled the benevolent smile of a chook-owner.



Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.

George Bernard Shaw

I have changed my mind so many times over the last few years, months, weeks, days, minutes, moments, about how to best care for a husband, 79, in a nursing home, and our son, 21, embarking on adulthood. It’s doubtful whether Ming will want chooks in his future life!


Not very long ago, whenever people talked about the weather, or gardening – whether it be small-talk or serious-talk – I would tune out. I have never been the least bit interested in anything relating to the actual job/hobby of gardening despite numerous attempts to get interested.

Okay, I got interested many times; but I didn’t remain interested, mostly because I was busy working at the university and bringing up the beautiful brat, Ming (who, by the way, isn’t interested in gardening either.)

Gardening was Anthony’s ‘thing’. His family (mother and younger brother) came here in the late 1950s to run a dairy farm and Anthony began planting things – camellias, palms, silver birches, flame trees, roses, citrus, hedges … and a whole lot of other stuff.

Up until the year before the nursing home, Anthony was still interested in planting, watering, and wandering about, in the garden. But he would get stuck! We only had the walking stick then so he would go out the back to check on a hose and then become paralysed and sometimes it took a whole hour to get him back to the house. Then, one day, when he was in his armchair in front of the fireplace, I told him not to move while I went up to the shop to get some supplies, only to find him face-down in the front yard; he’d fallen again!

Parkinson’s disease (and all of its off-shoots, including dementia) is an ever-changing condition that can make life tricky for those who care for family and friends inflicted. For example, sometimes I can show Anthony photos of home – the new chooks, the better-kept garden, the mowed lawns etc. and he will think he has been home.

But, at other times, Anthony will ask to come home and I will have to distract him. This is not because I don’t want him to come home; it’s because he is mostly immobile now so I actually can’t physically manage him. The guilt is ghastly of course but it is easily blitzed by my almost-daily company, in the nursing home, during the afternoons. And photos of the new chooks!


This morning this wonderful group of gardening people came over (it’s a group I’ve recently sort of joined) and each person had a good piece of advice for me. Plus everyone brings some produce to exchange – fascinating!


I am changing into a gardening person!

Progress is impossible without change, and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything.

George Bernard Shaw


Day off

I decided to take a day off from visiting Anthony so just texted Ming to visit after work and he texted “Sure” – brilliant!

Instead I have been catching up with laundry and housework and further decluttering. It’s astounding how making myself accountable to Dina is so effective!

The weather is winter warm so at one point I took off my jacket and …

Well at least it wasn’t a cockroach!

My feeding of wheat to the peafowl and guinnea fowl is deliberately haphazard because there is plenty of ‘food’ for them without the wheat and I don’t like them getting too dependent. Nevertheless as soon as they hear the back door open, they start running towards me – it’s so funny.

Then there is quite a bit of competition as to who gets to eat first.

Yes, I know she looks like Gutsy but she isn’t.

After they’ve eaten their fill, they bask in the winter sunshine.

I’m a bit rusty with the photography but wanted to take a few new photos to show the women I’m visiting in the nursing home, three of whom are not in the dementia cottage. Yesterday I visited Gertrude (not her real name) who has only recently become a resident. She has Parkinson’s disease too and she was commiserating with me about Anthony who she said was “so young!” I guess 79-year-old people do seem young to 90-year-old people! At one point we discussed the pros and cons of diseases:

Gertrude: Tell me, which do you think is worse – Parkinson’s disease or that other one? (She pointed to her head)

Me: You mean Alzheimer’s disease?

Gertrude: Yes.

Me: Well Anthony has both now so I’m not sure ….

Gertrude: Both? This isn’t fair for him.

Me: Well it’s not Alzheimer’s exactly; it’s dementia caused by his kind of Parkinson’s disease.

Gertrude: I don’t have that.

Me: No, I can see that! You don’t have the shaking thing either and Anthony is the same.

Gertrude: I’m improving and sitting in this chair is so much better than lying in that bed.

Me: Do you have pain?

Gertrude: Just a bit of arthritis. Nothing much.

Me: I’m so glad. Anthony doesn’t have pain either – such a blessing.

We exchanged a smile and a hug and I went back to Anthony’s room which is in a different section.

Well I better get back to finishing the jobs I need to list as “done” for my email to Dina tonight!


A rabbity argument

Ming and I had an argument the other day about our rabbit plague. He said they were attracted to the wheat I feed the peacocks, guinnea fowl, geese, duck etc. I said, what nonsense – everyone around here is being rabbit plagued!

It was only when I went outside to feed the birds the other afternoon that I realized Ming is absolutely right!



Blogging and memory

Yesterday I was going to write about how glad I am that I started blogging back in November, 2011, because otherwise I would possibly have forgotten some of the events, details and emotions from then until now, and I don’t want to forget. But I was having a bit of a blah day so couldn’t be bothered putting the words down and decided, instead, to post the photo of the big red shed because I forgot I had already done this a few days ago. I’m surprised nobody commented on my memory lapse! And if my memory is so bad that I re-posted an already posted photo, then I am doubly glad of this blog as a memory prompter. But I still feel stupid – oh well!

Today I had numerous errands around town so I went to pick up Anthony to accompany me (as I often do now). He sits in the car with the radio on while I hop in and out, drive here and there. First though we met my mother at a coffee shop and, as usual, my ma and I had lots of conversation while Ants remained fairly silent (he doesn’t talk much now). Eventually, Anthony tried to get up out of his chair, indicating he’d had enough, so we left and, as I was putting him in the car, I asked, “How come you got sick of us?” and he said, with sudden articulateness, “Because nothing either of you said was of any interest to me.” As we drove off to the first errand, I could not stop laughing! His sense of humour is so slicingly droll.

The sun is having a hard time getting through the clouds but it is happening, this belated spring. Here are some photos to prove it (and so I don’t forget!)



Goofy guinnea fowl

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Anthony was wheelchair-taxied home for the afternoon yesterday and I was excited about showing him what Ming and I have just discovered – a nest of guinnea fowl eggs behind the wash house, with a mother in attendance.

When Ants arrived he managed to walk unassisted from the taxi to the front veranda after Ming and I helped him out of the wheelchair. But 15 minutes later, when he had to go to the loo, he couldn’t move without my help and it was another 15 minutes before he and I were sitting down again. I knew then that there was no point trying to get him around to the back of the house to see the nest. Oh well, maybe next time.

The guinneas were the first birds we ever got and Ants loves them. If all goes well, we will have another flock soon!


Learning about loss

This morning Ming had to put our beautiful Malay rooster out of its misery because it had been injured by one of our dogs who somehow got to him despite pen arrangements.

Malay was one of the chicks that hatched here under a shed and grew up to be majestic, proud and confident. He was able to fly up into a tree if he sensed danger. He must have been taken by surprise and I feel a sense of devastation and guilt.

Blaze (miniature dachschund) and Jack (Irish terrier) have never attempted to kill any of the peafowl or guinnea fowl, or even the geese. They go for the chooks, so I have decided that it is too risky to have chooks anymore. The wild foxes get them too despite all my protective methods (fox lights, sturdy yards etc.)

I am learning a lot about loss lately.



Guinnea trying out a new move


Who let the dogs out?

Remember this song?

For some time now we have had a dogs versus birds dilemma and this has been a source of contention between Ming and me. I have tended to lock the dogs in their yard and let the birds free range and Ming has wanted this arrangement reversed, so we have now come to a compromise. The dogs get to run free all morning, then get put back into their yard, then the poultry get to free range all afternoon until we put them away, then the dogs get another run. So far this is working very well.

The reason we can’t let them all frolic together is because the dogs want to kill everything. Blaze is a miniature dachschund and Jack is an Irish terrier so, despite our attempts to train them not to kill (using electric collar things briefly which I didn’t like, and a dog trainer) both breeds have been bred to hunt and kill.

Luckily the guinnea fowl and peafowl can fly up and away from dog danger, but none of the poultry can – not even Godfrey – so now we have a new system and everyone seems very happy – the gang, the dogs and Ming and me.

They look so innocent don’t they!

Don’t be fooled by their sweet demeanours; Ming let them out a bit early the other afternoon, before the roosters were roosting, and they killed Noname and Tina Turner almost instantaneously. Poor Ming tried to stop it but had to come and tell me. I cried my eyes out even though Tina and I had such a love/hate relationship. Noname was always a bit vulnerable and an easy target so I guess, for me, this was another lesson learned.

I’m not sure if getting accustomed to loss is a good or a bad thing.



Guinnea fowl [they always chatter in unison]: This feather littering has to stop. It ruins the look of the lawn.

It’s about time we saw Julie about this and reminded her that we were here first and we do NOT shed feathers like those rotten peacocks, especially the white ones. Look at this beautiful lawn – its aesthetics are ruined by white feathers!

Okay, let’s have a chat to Julie right now! The back veranda door is the best place. Come on!

JULIE!!!! JULIE!!!!!!

Oh, that is just great isn’t it. That white peacock or peahen or whatever it is beat us to it and now Julie is laughing at us. It isn’t fair!

Angelina [our smallest white peahen]: Are they gone yet, Julie?

Julie: You can feather-dust the lawn anytime, Angelina.