m i a o w

–YOU KNOW YOU KNEAD IT–

Three blind mice…

After one day housesitting in Emerald I had to go to work. A similar distance from here than it is from the boat, but more things to have sorted before leaving. Feed the dog, check water, let out the chooks… I asked Small DB to fill the food bowl for the Guinea pigs, while I faffed around organising my lunch, my dreams of vacating by 8am rapidly fading.

“Mama!” DB comes running in, breathless. “There was a mouse in the Guinea pig food bag and it went into the cage when I gave them the food and now it’s stuck – it can’t get out!”

Of I go, anticipating that I will merely have to open the door of the cage, stand back graciously, and the mouse will run out and away. Wrong.

The mouse has panicked. It has not thought ahead. It has thrust itself through one of the half inch squares of wire mesh, fitting its whole body through…to the hips. Like Pooh, stuck in Rabbit’s hole.

Pooh. Stuck.

I am not good in such situations*, but I try and help the mouse. The mouse and I are similar in our inability to think forward. I should have realised that the first thing a panicked mouse is going to do when you attempt to help its front end is bite. Hard.

I jump up and down, blood dripping from my index finger. The mouse has narrowed its eyes. The Smalls are horrified. I attempt to pull the mouse backward by the tail, but this is also unhelpful and I am becoming more like the mouse than ever. Panicked and thwarted.

“Get in the car!” I bellow at the Smalls. “That’s it! I can’t help it. It got in there. It will have to get itself OUT.”

It takes me 20 minutes of deep breathing to stop freaking out about the mouse. My thought are diverted by Small Z’s insistence that she wants to come to my work, not to her nana’s house. I choose the path of least resistance, drop Small DB to my mum, and bring Small Z into work, where she plays solitaire and minecraft to her hearts content – while I make my apologies for being late and show my bitten finger as evidence.

“Tetanus?” Sal queries.
“Eucalyptus oil,” I tell her.

M calls me and I tell him about the mouse. He suggests something I’d already thought of. Wire cutters.
“But I couldn’t get them around the wire to cut it without almost certainly cutting the mouse?!”
“Well a little cut on the mouse is better than trapped mouse having its toes gnawed off by Guinea pigs…”
“Guinea pigs aren’t CARNIVOROUS!” I shriek.
“Wanna bet?”
I don’t want to bet. And I’m too scared to google it.

The rest of the day is consumed by work, by Small Z having a terrible stomachache, by dinner at my mum’s and then driving back to Emerald. We pull up out the front of the house just on dusk. What follows is not my finest parenting moment.

“Right. I want us all to walk to the front door with our eyes shut.”
“But I want to see the mouse…” Small DB starts bleating.
“I don’t!” Small Z is emphatic.
“Here’s the thing. If the mouse is still there, there is NOTHING I can do about it. I can’t help it, I don’t want to look. Dadda can deal with it when he comes to look after you in the morning. So KEEP YOUR EYES SHUT. Got it?”

We link hands and stumble our way to the front door.
Small Z is the dissenter.
“I looked! I looked!! The mouse is gone! It isn’t there!”

My relief is so much bigger than the mouse. I don’t even care if it has been devoured by Guinea pigs or has Houdini-ed itself to freedom. It is gone. I go looking for wine.

——-
* this includes the time that my cat terrified a mouse which went into shock. I put it in a lunchbox with some greenery, but it remained silent, staring, and breathing fast. I did not know what to do. I called M, who was on a train travelling to Glen Waverley.
“I don’t know what to do! This poor mouse. It’s so still, but it’s ALIVE?!”
“Dsdlfjsldfj,” muttered M into his phone.
“What?”
“Hold it under water in the fishpond – it will only take a minute…”
WHAT?
“DROWN IT…” His voice dropped. “Everyone on the train is looking at me now. In a bad way…”

There was no way I could drown the mouse. Instead I walked with it, five blocks down to the vet – they kindly gave it a life-ending injection and didn’t charge me.

Animals and white goods. More housesitting!

We returned to the boat for Easter and M’s birthday and then the Smalls and I transplanted ourselves to E’s house in Emerald – the land of enormous trees, hydrated air and vintage steam engines. We are looking after Sunny the Dog, Samba the Cat (remember him?), Golden Glow – the Guinea pig and Starlight Princess – the other Guinea pig, two chickens and some fish. The Smalls are thrilled with the animals. I am in my happy place while running the dishwasher and washing machine simultaneously.

The Smalls were bathed on arrival…
Zoe. Bubbles.Having been commanded to wet the front of her head.

I am making friends with Sunny the Dog. When we have met on previous occasions I have belatedly realised that she was always a bit of an over-excited freak show because there were NEW PEOPLE mingling with her FAMILY PEOPLE and so many SMELLS and VOICES! With just the three of us here we have been able to be pretty chilled out with her – except in the morning when it seems that her love-o-meter has depleted. Seriously. She awakes DESPERATE for pats and affection and won’t settle until some have been doled out.

Walking her is excellent, while being slightly fraught. The Smalls take turns with her, but she is stronger than either of them and the first time we went out I was in mortal fear of them letting go of the leash and seeing her run into the distance, never to return. E reassured me over the phone that even if this did happen, she would always return home. Of course, it has happened, but I have managed to catch her each time…so far….

Daisy taking Sunny for a walk.

Sunny taking Daisy for a walk

Goodbye Farm

I have enjoyed being a farmer :) Getting out the chooks every morning, feeding the sheep, making sure everything is fox-proof at night. I have enjoyed the crafting shed and the air-hockey table, and the sound of Small DB playing the piano at every opportunity…

That we have been here for five weeks…. Those five weeks already feel intangible. The night we all jumped into a cool shower because the weather was too hot. The parched look of the fruit trees. I woke up this morning and it was still dark at 6.30am – the morning was a proper cold Autumn one, with dew on the grass and a chill in the air. It turned into a very beautiful day…

079/365 • goddamn it's a beautiful day! one load of wash down and a monkey on the clothesline - moving back to the boat late this afternoon • #079_2016 #Autumn2016 #housesitting #hillshoist #clothesline #5yo #feet #breezy #sunshine

Our five weeks here has contained two seasons – I am very much hoping that we have seen the last of the hot glaring summer days. Today was all OK, up until about 2pm when I took on what I thought was the last GREAT EFFORT to clean up and get out of here…

Four hours later I was still going, and this did not include cleaning the chook home or hanging out and then retrieving two loads of wash. Nevertheless – by 6pm I was a vacant eyed drooling Zombie, with two Smalls that were trying to help me, but… my task was almost impossible.

In order to return to the boat by dinner time, we had to put the chooks away early. “No worries,” I thought, “Cheese will do it.”
Cheese. The great persuader.
Well, for some reason it persuaded only half of them inside their home. I became increasing irate, as they would dart for the cheese and then race outside, dodging Small Z who was valiantly trying to prevent them exiting, gobble their prize, and then slope back in to score some more.

After half and hour I had reached the end of the line. I stuffed whatever else I could fit into the car, including two children, and left the goddamn chickens to their own devices. We returned to the boat, to M, to dinner – gasped at the beauty of the ceiling and the coathooks that have been installed in three different places – and then I returned to the farm alone to foxproof the bloody chooks and have a few hours to myself *goggle* before waking up early and finally… vacating.

Cooking in a big kitchen

I keep wondering why I have no time to sit and knit while looking after this house. This is why —> having a larger kitchen has spurred me back into cooking and doing new fermentation experiments. There is also the shed that is full of ingredients for sewing and making, but that’s another post. Food has been taking up a chunk of my time – in a good way. There are a ba-zillion cookery books here and I have only delved into a few of them.

Simplicious is the main one I have been looking at – but I have also been trawling through all the recipes that I regularly add to my Endnote ‘recipes’ notebook. (I continue to love Endnote – it is excellent.) Having an oven is lovely.

My cooking inspirations have been helped along by having an abundance of EGGS! Thank you chooks! As well as fresh herbs, as well as bits and bobs from the vegetable garden. In order to jog my memory I have been photographing the efforts that I want to make again.

BBQ chicken and sweet potato with spinach, cherry tomatoes, toasted sunflower seeds and a mustardy honey vinagrette. (And yes, this one was taken at the boat earlier in the year, but I want to remember it!)
Roast sweet potato & BBQ chicken salad

Two ingredient pancakes via @jowhitton and the white stuff in the jar? – I call it Accidental Milk Kefir Cheese. Milk kefir and I have not quite made friends yet – I keep trying to make a thin kind of yoghurt consistency and failing. I read somewhere to try straining off some whey, leaving the thicker bit on the bench for a few days – so that’s what I did – it’s sort of like labna crossed with cottage cheese? Tastes good! I will persevere.

Milk kefir cheese & two ingredient pancakes

Chia and coconut porridge topped with shredded apple and chocolate buckinis

Chia porridge

The combination of hot weather and being yet to fully master my pressure cooker on the boat have meant that my chicken soup/stock has rarely been seen over the past few months. However, here in the Large Housesitting Kitchen – it’s a different story. I’ve returned to roasting a chook each week, making the stock and then inventing a soup. This is chicken zoodle celery soup – much loved by Small DB, who requested to have it “every day from now on.”

Chicken Zoodle Soup

These are FOR THE WIN! Raspberry gummies. Actually, the way I have been making them, they are Probiotic Raspberry Gummies! Three ingredients – raspberries, water kefir and gelatine. They’ve become a regular.

Gummies!

Actually, these failed last time I made them (a few days ago) as I used more raspberries than usual (to finish them off) and forgot to increase the gelatine to match. So I ended up with what I called Raspberry Squish. This morning I wondered what I could do with it (other than eat it all with a spoon) and stumbled on Lamington Jars from one of my favourite food places: Wholefood Simply – it worked beautifully… (sorry – they got eaten before I could immortalise them).

The last picture I can find in my collection are these – two ingredient ‘breakfast muffins’ – I lined muffin cups with bacon, poured in some whisked up eggs and baked them. Went well! The oven remains a delightful novelty…

Smoked ham and egg 'muffins'

Also – the Paleo Chocolate Mousse was eaten too fast to be photographed, but the recipe is here

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