Tag Archives: nature

Look what I got!

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Yesterday I was given a truly thoughtful gift. If you want to know anything about me, know that I love gifts. Big or small, free or fancy, I love them all 😀 I love giving them and I love getting them, and nothing beats a gift that’s both personalised and handmade!

A very thoughtful gift

A very thoughtful gift

A colleague of mine, Elise, does pottery and has recently discovered the cuteness of ratties (through wild rats invading her kitchen and all my blog posts of pet rats). Look at this beautiful ratty teapot she made for me!

'Robert the Rat' teapot

‘Robert the Rat’ teapot

It’s named ‘Robert the Rat’ after her nickname for one of the cheeky wild rats that moved into her kitchen. Elise has a real heart for animals and it took weeks before Robert and his family were kindly and humanely removed to their rightful place outside the house. During that time Elise came to appreciate the lively little vermin for their better side 😉

Rat detail on the teapot

Rat detail on the teapot

This has to be one of the coolest gifts ever. Not only is it a cheerful sunshine yellow; it’s also only the second time a friend has acknowledged my love for these critters with a gift (the other was a pink mouse-and-bunny-themed receiver blanket given to me by my best friend when we got our girl rats; she searched everywhere to find a baby blanket that didn’t have predators on it!)

Rat-themed teapot

Rat-themed teapot

I think this counts towards Goal #53 on my new list, don’t you? :mrgreen:

Thank you Elise!

Spoilt (b)rats get a castle with a garden and a pool!

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Ninja and I have had lots of fun lately as we prepare to welcome home our new ratties. And if you thought our fussing over them was outrageous before, just wait till you see what we’ve done now! :mrgreen:

Cardboard castle maze

Cardboard castle maze

Firstly, Ninja began building and designing this cardboard castle with a maze of tunnels and multiple levels. It’s quite a labour of love, with each level stacking neatly on top of the previous one. Ninja made it out of strong cardboard and packing tape. I must admit I was greatly tempted to paint it with cute details all over… but first we’ll have to see how long it withstands ratty teeth and piddle puddles, hehehe! 😉 It’s not finished yet so I’ll try post more pics when it is.

Then comes the garden. This is something I’ve wanted to do for each new set of ratties we’ve brought home, but only now did I finally get around to making a little natural scratch patch for our pets.

Ratty Eden

Ratty Eden

After making drainage holes in the bottom of a large shallow plastic container, I filled it with rich potting soil and planted some pet-safe grass and lettuce for the rats. Some pebbles, glass stones and wooden flower signs finished off the effect.

Flea was our guinea pig (no species slur intended, dear ratty!) for the garden. Even with her wobbly old legs and lack of coordination, she showed her enthusiasm by climbing right in.

'A garden for me?'

‘A garden for me?’

Flea seemed very curious about the interesting new smells and textures. In her short/long life she’s never experienced soil or plants, so I was glad to bless her with this little adventure before she leaves us.

A ratty scratch patch

A ratty scratch patch

With her in the pic you can also see that it’s not such a big garden, but I do intend to make another one in which to grow edible sprouts for the ratties to dig up. Nevertheless, since we don’t even have a garden for the humans in this place, I don’t think the rats have a right to complain!

Then, as if all these wonderful spots to explore weren’t enough, we also found the perfect pool for our pets:

Pool for pet rats

Pool for pet rats

I can’t take credit for the idea, since I saw a fellow rat club member do this first, but I’m sooooo glad we also found the right tub for the job 🙂 It’s a cheap and simple plastic washing tub with a washboard moulded into it. But of course when you look at it from a rodent’s perspective, those make ideal steps leading down into the water.

Complete with a rubber ducky

Complete with a rubber ducky

Hope you enjoyed that peek into the fanatical world of pet rat owning 😀

And to think those are just the fun items for the rats’ free-range time… We still have a lot of work to do upgrading their main living quarters in the cage. Will keep you posted!

Cat that got the cream

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Last weekend Ninja and I took a little road trip with my parents to celebrate my dad’s birthday. We stopped for brunch at a sweet restaurant in an interesting nursery, where I caught this resident cat enjoying breakfast on a nearby vacated table.

Cat and cream 1

There’s just something compelling about the self-contained, quiet contentment of a cat caught in a moment like this.

Cat and cream 2

I loved the leisurely way he repeatedly inserted a paw into the cream jug, lifted it out and slowly licked off the thick cream. When I stopped to take pictures, he turned his unhurried gaze on me for a moment and then simply resumed his dining.

Cat and cream 3

Cats are truly incomparable creatures. Imagine for a moment that it had been a dog who’d sniffed out the cream. The jug would’ve been knocked to the floor through joyful enthusiasm and the cream would be all over his muzzle before you could yell ‘Down, boy!’

But a cat is never that uncouth. He just silently claims the cream as his rightful treat, and indulges so sumptuously and yet so neatly, that not a drop is spilled nor a whisker out of place when he is done.

Meet the parents…

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As you may have guessed, our new rats are not just ‘any old rodents’ :mrgreen:

They’re Wheatfields bubs, sourced from one of the best-loved pedigreed-rat breeders in South Africa. And I’m not the only one who thinks so.

Among the members of our lively South African rat club, Wheatfields Rattery is known for raising beautiful, healthy and exceptionally well-socialised fancy rats. Everyone speaks fondly of their ‘WF kids’. Our first male pet rats, Scribble and Muesli, were Wheatfields boys too.

So it’s with that as a backdrop that I present to you the parents of our new furballs… *drumroll please*

Litter 1

This beautiful boy is Count Fleet, dad to the kittens of Litter 1. He’s a handsome black roan badger husky, with those huge dumbo ears that I’ve been longing to see in in a rat of my own 🙂

WF Count Fleet

WF Count Fleet

Count Fleet was mated to this gentle-looking Russian Blue striped roan girl, who has standard ears. Her name is Salvia, and isn’t she stunning? I’m a big fan of that soft silvery-blue colouring.

WF Salvia

Litter 2

You’d be forgiven for thinking it, but no, this isn’t our current girl Flea!

Meet Salix, the father of Litter 2. He’s a fine glossy black Berkshire gentleman with standard ears, and apparently a lovely personality to match.

WF Salix

WF Salix

And last but not least, this pretty lass is Juniper. She’s a black striped roan, also with standard ears, and mom to the bubs of Litter 2. That little round tummy of hers is just begging to be kissed! 😉

WF Juniper

WF Juniper

With such a varied lineage it was anyone’s guess as to what would turn up in the litters, but when we saw the resulting boys, we were smitten…

Stay tuned for the next installment: choosing and booking the boys! 😀

No sunshine today

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Coffee

“Mommy, I’m not well…”

Sorry for the sad-hearted post, but my Coffee ratty is not doing well 😦

I rushed her to the vet on Friday with all the signs of either a bad infection or a pituitary tumour (PT). She’s struggling to walk, sit and eat. The sudden onset made me think it could be an ear infection, but the dragging hind legs make me worry it’s worse than that.

The vet gave us some meds to try for a few days, but warned that ‘the prognosis doesn’t look good’.

Having her out of action makes an instant difference to the vibe in this home. Usually Coffee – our Bossyboots! – runs our household with all her demanding and adorable ways, but now everything is quiet and pensive as we wait to see if our weak and listless Little Madam will make it through…

Spring cleaning in autumn

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It’s been a couple of days since I’ve had the chance to post here… I’ve just taken a long weekend away 🙂 At least once or twice a year I try to take a few days’ break in routine to visit my folks in my childhood home and to get together with my friends. Here’s a pic I took in my parents’ garden:

Leaf

Autumn leaf in a birdbath

It was rewarding to get a little break and spend time with the people I love. I even managed to cross off Goal #94 – Have professional photos taken – as my friends and I went for a mini professional photoshoot together :mrgreen:

Now that I’m back home, I’m expecting the week ahead to be filled with major housework. I hope to get my home sorted out in preparation for the following week when I begin three months of office work. I have a long list of chores to get through, from defrosting the fridge to cleaning the oven (bleh).

But in an odd way, I’m actually looking forward to this. While many of my fellow bloggers from the northern hemisphere are spring cleaning as their weather gets warmer, I’m doing an autumn clean-out before a long and busy winter.

This wave of housework coincides with changing my meal planner from the spring & summer one (packed with salads and summery dishes) to the autumn & winter one (full of soups and comfort foods). I also tend to do my bulk shopping every six months or so, and the time has now come to restock my cupboards with non-perishable items.

All of this also happens to be at the end of the month, when my cupboards are bare and my fridge is empty. I just love it when so many loose ends tie up around the same time! It feels like I’m neatly closing off the past few months and getting ready for the next season of life.

So if you don’t hear too much from me this week, it’s because I’ll be up to my elbows in dirt and detergent.

But I’ll catch you on the flipside 😉

If I owned a menagerie…

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If I had a large property and all the money and time in the world, I’d want to own a menagerie of interesting animals. Here are a few of them, and my reasons for choosing them (all pics courtesy of Wikimedia Commons unless otherwise stated)…

Maine Coon Cat

I know we’re not supposed to marry people hoping to change them, but if there’s one thing I would change about my husband, it’s his allergy to cats. I think he’d want to change it too, since he adores all animals and would love nothing more than to be able to play with cute kittens without sneezing and wheezing! And if we were able to have a cat, there’s only one breed I’d want:

Maine Coon

Maine Coons would be in my menagerie because I love their wild look combined with a loving nature. These beautiful long-haired felines come in an array of colours and can weigh as much as 11 kg! I’m also hooked on grey-coloured animals, so I’d want a silver Maine Coon such as this one. Just gorgeous!

Silver Maine Coon

 German Shepherd Dog

This may not be an unusual choice, but GSDs are my favourite dog breed of all time, so they’d definitely have a place in my menagerie. I admire them for their intelligence, loyalty and beauty. It’s no surprise they’re one of the most popular breeds in the canine kingdom – although sadly that can be a problem when unscrupulous backyard breeders flood the market with poor specimens 😡

German Shepherd Dog

German Shepherd Dog

Although I support animal shelters and would definitely also want to adopt one or more shelter dogs, if I owned my dream menagerie I’d probably prefer to source my GSD from a registered breeder and raise it from puppyhood to bring out the very best in my favourite breed 🙂

Shire horse

Hah! Bet you didn’t see this one coming!

Shire horse

These huuuuuuge gentle giants would have a place on my funny farm because of their impressive size and endurance. Who needs a stinky old tractor when you can get things done the old-school way with an enormous Clydesdale or similar workhorse? I love their giant feathery feet and slow-and-steady plodding manner.

Of course, this beastie wouldn’t be much fun for outrides, so I’d want to own a dapple grey horse for riding, too.

Dapple grey horse

Dapple grey horse

Ferret

Aww, ferrets. They’re like a cross between a cat and a pet rat! They also come in a variety of coat colours, although I’d go for the greyest ones I could find. I’ve heard they make clever and adorable pets for involved owners… so they’d be on my list too.

Ferret

Ferret

Miniature Lop Rabbit

Bunnies! I’ve always wanted to own bunnies! Especially tiny floppy-eared bunnies, such as mini lop rabbits:

Miniature Lop Rabbit

Miniature Lop Rabbit

Apparently these little creatures are friendly and enjoy interacting with their human family. As I love all small animals and all grey animals, a tiny grey lop rabbit (or two… or six… or ten…) would make an ideal addition to my zoo 😀

Go-away birds

The go-away bird, formerly called the grey lourie, is a common resident in our gardens here in SA. Ninja and I call them the clowns of the sky because they’re always congregating in garrulous groups and getting up to the silliest antics. You can bet that the entire flock of louries will attempt to sit together on the thinnest, floppiest branch at the top of a tree! Their funny ‘ke-waaaaay’ cry gives them their name, as it sounds as if they’re chasing you away.

Go-away birds © Zest

Go-away birds © Zest

They’re very vocal and expressive, with long fluffy crests that they can raise or lower to show their mood. They cackle and call to each other and comment on anything odd that they see. (I’ll never forget when my landlord’s garden wall fell down one day: a bunch of go-away birds perched in the tree next to the wall and were calling out perplexed ‘kwehhh?‘ sounds as they hopped around peering sideways at the broken wall!) A family of these birds would provide great entertainment to all on my property.

Ratties

Of course there would be ratties – as many of them as I could responsibly care for. Nuff said 🙂

Ratties © Zest

Ratties © Zest

White-necked raven

Another large, cheeky addition to my menagerie would be the white-necked raven. This is one of Ninja’s and my favourite birds… bigger than your average crow, intelligent, inquisitive and equipped with a sharp, powerful beak. There’s no doubt this feathered friend would end up wrecking lots of things around my property!

White-necked raven © Zest

White-necked raven © Zest

Alaskan Malamute

I love wolves, but I am strongly opposed to people breeding and owning wolves and wolf hybrids. So the closest I could get in my little zoo would be the beautiful, demanding Alaskan Malamute.

Alaskan Malamute

Alaskan Malamute

Bigger and more independent than Siberian Huskies, Malamutes are not for faint-hearted owners. This breed needs to be understood and properly cared for in order for it to live a fulfilled life with humans. These beauties are powerful, strong-willed working dogs that need to be given a job in order to make the best use of their energy and drive. I’d definitely give them a key role in my menagerie.

…oOo…

That’s just a small sample of the kinds of animals I’d love to own. Don’t ask me how I’d get them to all live together in harmony… but a girl can dream 😉

Catching up is hard to do

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Hellooooo! 😀 I’m back again, after what feels like a very long weekend!

I haven’t been in hiding (unlike this stray cat in our yard)

I’ve missed sending out some rays of sunshine into the blogosphere, but I’ve really been through the wars over the past few days. No sooner had I recovered from my cold than I contracted a horrid bout of food poisoning from the Easter feast 😦

I’ve slowly been wilting away (not unlike this dying rose)

Over the long weekend I spent most of my waking hours asleep! But I’m on the mend again, I’m pleased to say.

So this is a little catch-up post to mention a few things I’ve been up to…

For one thing, we ate some of my homemade pickled beetroot for the first time two days ago. It was delicious. OK, the vinegar was a teeny bit on the strong side, but I’m sure I could tweak the recipe if needed. Otherwise, I was very impressed with the spicy flavour that came through. I doubt I’ll be buying pickled beetroot very often anymore: it’s far too much fun to make my own 🙂

The ratties have been extra cute lately; good company for their convalescent mommy…

Coffee: Gimme my banana chippie!

Coffee: Gimme my banana chippie!

I gave the girls some wholewheat couscous for the first time. They really made piggies of themselves! Afterwards Coffee could barely keep her eyes open. All she could do was curl into this adorable AdoraBall 🙂

Coffee K.O. after an epic ratty dinner

Now that autumn’s cooler weather is here, Flea loves tunneling through our fleece blankets:

Snug Fleabug

Snug Fleabug

But sometimes when she becomes too shy, she needs a push in the right direction from her sister:

C'mon, Flea!

C’mon, Flea! Don’t you see that banana chippie?

I’ve also had the chance to do a wee bit of ‘indoor birding’. I spotted this Southern boubou, a small endemic shrike, through the window this morning:

Southern boubou sneaking through the shrubbery

Southern boubou sneaking through the shrubbery

He may not be as big or striking as his larger relative the grey-headed bushshrike, but his cheery fearlessness makes up for it. He hopped closer to the window a few times to get a better look at the strange human and her camera:

Givin' me the eyeball

Givin’ me the eyeball

And he quite happily ate his breakfast right in front of me while I clicked away:

Southern boubou male

Southern boubou male

So that’s my news.

It’s good to be back 🙂

World Sparrow Day

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Goal #78 on my list of 101 things says I must celebrate 5 obscure holidays… and if there ever was an obscure day to commemorate, it’s gotta be today. World Sparrow Day. Celebrating feathered friends of the garden variety all around the world.

Cape sparrow

Cape sparrow

I don’t know if blogging about it counts as celebrating, since I haven’t gone as far as to build a little birdhouse (although I may well have done so if we had a garden of our own). But my nod to World Sparrow Day will have to just be in blog format because, well, sorry birdies – I don’t tweet.

In South Africa we have two main types of sparrows: the Cape sparrows (a male is shown above) and house sparrows. They’re prolific breeders, chirruping singers and as nondescript as sparrows everywhere, I reckon.

But it makes me smile to know that the Lord notices and cares for these utterly plain little guys too 🙂 Watching simple, humble sparrows go about their day, I’m always reminded of that Scripture (Matthew 10:29) that says: ‘Are not two sparrows sold for a copper coin? And not one of them falls to the ground apart from your Father’s will.’ It’s a comforting thought. As my MacArthur Bible commentary notes, ‘Divine providence governs even the most inconsequential details of God’s creation. He cares for all that He created, regardless of how insignificant.’

Happy World Sparrow Day! 🙂

Autumn equinox

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Today is the autumn equinox in the southern hemisphere (and it will be spring tomorrow for those of you in the north). Although the weather is rather breezy today, I haven’t yet seen any of the trees turning yellow or orange. However, the weather is a notch or two cooler than it usually is in summer, so the change of season is definitely on its way. I’m so grateful that God didn’t create a monotonous world in which there was only one season!

Autumn and spring are my favourite seasons, more for what they symbolise than for the weather they bring. I love autumn because it’s an ideal time for reflection and introspection. Following on the heels of summer, which is usually a lively, chaotic season, and coming as it does just before the lockdown of winter, autumn is like the yellow bulb on the traffic light – a warning that it’s time to slow down, to look around, to pause and consider.

Autumn harvest © Sunshine Scrapbook

This pic is one I took this time last year, when Ninja and I took a weekend break to a log cabin a couple of hours’ drive from here. I think the bales of hay epitomise the beauty of autumn: the bundling up of summer’s goodness and the preparation for winter’s harsher demands.

Each year when autumn comes around, I long for a completely different life. One far, far away from the city. A life on the land, the way people used to live, experiencing the seasons firsthand. I’ve felt that way for as long as I can remember. I was born into a standard suburban life, but if I give myself quiet time to muse, my heart always longs for something more natural and homegrown and earthy, somehow.

As if I’m remembering a life I’ve never actually lived, autumn conjures for me images of cornucopias filled with the season’s best; the smell of homemade jams and preserves packed away for the winter; long walks in vast golden meadows; shorter days and evening fires; a sense of shedding summer’s excesses and looking forward to winter’s lack and peaceful silence. It seems more beautiful, for some reason, if I picture myself in another time, another place, another life.

I’m convinced that autumn (or fall) is far more striking in the northern hemisphere than it is here down south. The blazing glory of Japanese maples or the timeless beauty of New England’s deciduous trees is something I’d love to see in person. We do get some pretty leaf colouration here, of course, but Jo’burg also seems to have far too many evergreens 😛

This year I want to appreciate this short season to the full. Autumn seems like a good time to unplug from technology and step outside instead. In the middle of my busy, boxed-in urban life, I want to stop to acknowledge the changes in the natural world around us – and to notice how those changes mirror the inner seasons of my heart.