I’ve been wanting to share this BBC-Earth David Attenborough video for a while. Since my friend Caroline Moree introduced me to this story, I can’t stop going back to it to remind me of how hard one must work, to create something phenomenal. I would like to make this part of my Cool Stuff collection. I hope you can enjoy this too.
There was a commotion outside my house in Bellbowrie, Queensland a few days ago. All the windows and curtains were shut. I dreaded that the neighbour’s dogs were back following a recent attack. The had come over a month ago and attacked our chickens, almost killing the rooster. The rooster survived the attack, but lost the use of its feet and started to develop ulcers. We had him put down two weeks after the attack.
Since then, the other three chickens’ were very nervous. They were frightened by the distant dog barks, people laughing, cars passing by, the crows that live in the back yard, and even the plane flying overhead. I was annoyed by the chickens constant panic cries and all the false alarms by now. But, I keep getting reminded by one of my favourite stories as a child, the Aesop Fable, “The Boy Who Cried Wolf”. I would have this nagging thought, full of guilt, “what if..?” (That is what if the neighbours dogs were back?)
I sprung out of bed and quickly opened the curtain. The chickens were still moving around nervously in the backyard, but nothing was on them or at them from the ground. They were staring into the trees. Something was moving in the pepper tree. The pepper tree was completely covered with my passion fruit vine and full of the season’s fruits, many were ready to pick. I could not see the moving thing; I knew it couldn’t be the possums, because with daylight, they were asleep in the roof. I had another thought, a large snake.
I moved to another room and opened the window to take a better look. Sure enough, there it was – a little white clump of feather moving in the thick greenery. The window opening distracted the sulphur-crested cockatoo and it sat up from the bushy tree and looked straight at me. In its claw was the half-eaten juicy passion fruit.
“The thief is back,” I told myself. The same cockatoo and company also stole the macadamia on my two trees and most times, they removed the nuts while still green, and dropped them to the ground.
Sulphur-crested cockatoos can be kept as pets and they are beautiful birds to look at. They are also quite majestic when they fly and their wings are fully stretched. But these birds travel in pairs or colonies and are often quite destructive. They had come every season for the macadamia, and sometimes I chased them away because they were so noisy.
Today, the cockatoo just sat there, devouring the fruit and then took another ripe one. I did keep them away from the passionfruit bush previous seasons by wrapping all the fruits in bags. I forgot to do that this season. The bird picked every fruit and dropped the un-ripe ones to the ground. I took a few pictures, but when the bird threw the unripe fruits to the ground, I chased it off.
The next day, even before dawn, I heard noises outside my window. The chickens were still asleep. I looked at the pepper tree. It was weighed over towards my room. The pepper tree was completely covered with a gang of cockatoos, clawing their way over the passion fruit bushes and branches and eating very quietly. They worked like the fruit pickers across Queensland who rise at dawn and work their way through the orchards.
I was amazed at how quiet and sneaky they were, a complete opposite to their usual loud antiques. I was too tired to chase them off, but by the time I was ready to wake up, they left me two ripe, one wrinkled and two green passion fruits from the entire season’s harvest. In spite, I pulled the remaining five down, but I decided not to chop the vine. I must remember to save the fruit before the cockatoos return the next season. They have tasted the sweetness of the fruit of passion.
About three years ago, I bought this small plant about eight inches tall from an eighty year old man in Moggill markets, Queensland. This market has now moved away from the vicinity of Bellowrie to a nearby suburb.
This plant did not have any flowers, but the old man told me, it will have these bell-looking flowers that the birds love. He called it a bush. My cousin Marina, a horticulturist, gave me a yellow species of the same plant. She told me the plant would be huge and I need a large space at least three cubic metres for it. When I showed her the old man’s plant, she said the two were exactly the same, the yellow-flowered one she gave me and this orange one. The orange one took almost a year to grow up to a metre or so and flowered.
My yellow plant is still about a metre tall and because I placed in a spacious spot, it has not grown into other plants. This orange bush is now branching into the chook coop and the passion a pepper tree, because I planted it before I got the horticulturist’s advice.
The orange plant needs pruning several times a year, and the plant, which I can never remember the name, (I’m sorry) provides an abundance of bird food. Daily, many little birds come to enjoy its petals, and I’m grateful to the old gardener who sold me the plant. I also love its colours.
I had a watercolour technique class tonight in Bellbowrie, Queensland, on skin tones and the weird drawings under this image are quick demos for my students on how to draw an eye, curly hair and corn-row etc. So, don’t get distracted by the massive eye – I thought it looked cool as part of my subject’s hoody (sweatshirt).
This subject has a mid-tone and as I explained to my students, I usually subconsciously draw a person that ends up looking like someone I know and has my skin colour. This guy definitely looks like one of my relatives.
The image is slightly overexposed because I took the picture with my phone and the flash. I hope you like the study.
This morning I woke to check the ailing rooster and saw the fog through my windows. It was early. I went to get my camera and left the house. The fog had stayed, even though the sun light was peeking through the gum trees in Bellbowrie.
Here are some pictures of my neighbourhood. Some of you may know it is the middle of winter in Brisbane. This exact week, 13 years ago, my two sons and I migrated to Australia (Brisbane). I try not to think of how miserable and cold it was for us, because many great things have happened since then. Life is a transformation of wonders, only if we allow ourselves to enjoy them.
Saved by His Feathers – J.K. Leahy short story
His large pinkish feet were now pale scaly claws clasped in two tight fists at the end of the stiff body. All that was left of his proud behind was a featherless grey butt. It could have been a packed frozen turkey from Coles Supermarket, if we didn’t own a large rooster. Nothing was left of the tall proud white-streaked black feathers that lined and neatly covered his tail. The rooster loved to shake this tail and flap his wings before it tried to mount every hen we had in the pen.
Looking at what looked to be a corpse in front of me last Monday, I thought of the soft warm fuzzy black chick that had just hatched. My son Chris bought him and the hen at our local produce store near Brisbane five years ago. We thought we were raising layers until the black chick started acting weird, bullying the other chickens and making funny sounds that sounded like crows. It didn’t take him long to fine tune the crow and go for the hens.
The late afternoon sun caught his morbid shape on the garden mound. I searched for movement. The dogs were barking madly. Stretched out, eyes shut and one battered wing hugging crudely to a large concrete brick as if hanging on to what was left of his life, my only thought was death. I turned him over. Lifeless.
I let out a cry and swung my piece of house timber at the two barking boxers as I tried to get them off the other chickens. The dogs, belonging to a neighbour, one black and the other white, had brought the rooster down so quickly and went for the others before I reached them from the house. There were wet feathers on the lilies, the wisteria and succulents, intertwined in the tall green grass, and the chicken coop wire. My obscenities, threats and timber swinging finally chased the dogs into the bushes behind the house and out towards the main road.
I picked up the rooster. He was cold and lifeless. Being the middle of winter, I tucked him quickly into my warm hoodie and cried while I called out for the hen who was still missing. The other two roosters seemed shaken but unscathed. Knowing that sometimes when dogs kill for fun, they could drag the carcase of their kill somewhere and leave them. I wasn’t sure of the hen’s fate, but at that moment, my son Chris arrived from work.
As I was calling for the hen, I could feel the rooster moving under my arm. I asked Chris to bring a towel to wrap the rooster and sent him after the dogs to find out whose dogs they were. I raced upstairs to clean the rooster’s wounds and stop the bleeding. I took the antiseptics and thoroughly brought out the bloody mess and noticed the bleeding punctures on the rooster’s back in three places.
Chris followed the dogs across our street and checked their tags and rang the neighbour to tell them about the incident. They lived directly opposite and across the road. Then, we drove to the Bellbowrie vet.
At the vet, the rooster’s breathing almost failed again. Chris reminded me to be prepared that he was old, and the vet may want to euthanize him to end his misery.
“I feel he will be okay”, I said to Chris.
Then the rooster made a lot of noise and trembled in my arms. There were three dogs barking from inside the vet kernel and two dogs waiting in the vet’s reception. I hid the rooster under my jumper again and kept in the corner, although I felt like leaving because I could sense, the dogs’ presence was too distressing for the old chicken. I wasn’t sure how to block his ears. Sensing the discomfort, the nurse called the vet and he ushered us inside and away from the dogs.
The vet pointed to the three deep punctures on the roosters back where most of the feathers were chewed off and blood was still coming out. I described the attack and the vet was shocked that the rooster was still fighting for its life then.
“Did he have large thick feathers?
“Yes, on his back, but not anymore”, I said.
“He is very lucky; his feathers saved him”, the vet said. The vet fully examined the rooster and gave him pain-killer and an antibiotic shot.
“He is very strong and he has a full gut. That is enough feed to keep him alive for a few days”, the vet said and smiled.
“How old is he – he is big?”
“Nearly five years old”.
“He is definitely a size 30” the vet said laughing.
A size 30 is a 3-kilogram bird, that I knew. I smiled.
“He is very healthy; I think your rooster is going to live – keep him warm and inside for a few days.”
I thanked the vet as he warned that the dogs could return, now that they have had a taste of blood.
“They think they’ve killed the rooster, but they know you have other chickens”, he said.
The rooster slept in our house last night, woke this morning and had some porridge and gave me a dirty look so I gave him some chicken food – top layer mesh. He has been good all day and his wounds are scabbing nicely. He cannot use his feet yet, but he tried to stand a few times and crowed twice very loudly before he fell over. He wouldn’t let the younger rooster crow while he was recovering.
“Baby steps mister”, I said, but the rooster just gave me one of his ‘looks’.
Island Woman – Watercolour and Gesso
Experimenting with a watercolour – gesso combination, I painted “Island woman”. She reminds me of someone from my past in PNG New Guinea islands – maybe from New Britain or New Ireland.
Like other mediums, watercolour paints have names and pigment intensity. This Aussie Red-Gold (Daniel Smith) paint has to be my favorite, but I use Payne’s Grey in almost everything, so I had to prove to my students, I could easily divorce Payne’s Grey for another colour. I think it is a brilliant colour. I hope you like it too.
The Tranquillity of New Ireland
In April 1990, several months after I was crowned Miss PNG (1989), the PNG Red Cross sent me on a national tour across Papua New Guinea. The tour was to promote the work of Red Cross in charity, disaster relief, blood transfusion services and youth growth and development programmes. This trip enabled me to learn new things, see new places and make many friends. It was a discovery of the magnitude of the work of Red Cross had done in the country and how many people dependent on these services. I was happy to be part of it all and be an ambassador for Red Cross. Unfortunately this privilege no longer exists in the quest due to lack of funding and the changes to the beauty pageant.
During my Red Cross travels, I also saw some of the most beautiful parts of PNG. Pictured is a small coastal village we passed during my tour of Kavieng, New Ireland Province. I took this picture of the house on the waterfront. A few days ago, I was delightfully surprised to find the picture (above) while going through some photos from 27 and 28 years ago. It brought back many memories of the wonderful time I had experienced.
Immediately, I had to paint this little house. The colours I chose reflect the glorious feeling I had during that time, while experiencing love and friendships; the tranquillity and wonders of my beloved PNG. I was very lucky to see a lot of the country during my reign.
I hope you like the images. Feel free to comment and share the tranquillity and beauty of this beautiful PNG Province.
I’ve been working with the basics of watercolour again and seeing more colour than dirty water on paper. The “Leaves” study is an example of clean colour.
Rescuing good habits is a result of teaching art again and as my friend Terence said, it is good because teaching is learning. I am teaching my students and learning again, all the good habits I had forgotten.
Above is a render of leaves from my garden. Some of you may know the blood-red foliage of Euphorbia cotinifolia (Caribbean Copper Plant, or Red Spurge) which I often photograph and post here. The sap is poisonous, but this hardy small tree is a favourite because of its gorgeous foliage. I caught on camera a few coloured leaves at the end of autumn when the leaves went from green to golds and orange before they all fell. Above is a negative painting (homework) for my students who are learning different watercolour techniques. If you are in Brisbane and want to join my classes, please email me for details on firstname.lastname@example.org. I hope you like this study of the leaves.