Friday, 9 July 2010

Barrel and Mice Update

You remember all the trouble I had with my barrels? The way the water kept going milky and foul? Well I putt the fish in the older problem barrel a few days ago and the water is still clear. The fish  look happy and I'm gradually getting the barrel soaked so that the staves fit tightly together and the barrel will hold more water. At the moment the water is about two thirds up the barrel. If the water stays clear I think it must mean that the severe Winter killed off whatever was causing the problem - that and leaving the barrel to its own devices. I hope to add some gravel to the bottom of the barrel and then I'll be able to see my black Comet :-)

The mice. As the weather has been so good I've been putting out any I capture into the garden. I've got a plastic waste paper basket under my desk with smooth shiny sides. I leave a bit of hamster food in there and every so often I get up and find one or more mice in there. It's just a little bit too tall for them to jump out and believe me they can jump! This morning I got up to go to the loo and there were three in there so they went straight down the garden with me still in my nightshirt. lol When I got up properly there were another two in the basket so I let them go as well. There have been a lot of mice and I've loved having them but at this rate the house may be mouse-free by the end of the Summer. In the meantime I have food and water on my desk for the ones that are still here and I get a chance to watch them close up. Every once in a while I feel a tug on my skirt and it's one of them climbing up. They never get as far as my lap because they see me watching and jump down. But I can wait ;-)

Tuesday, 20 April 2010

No I Wasn't Abducted By Aliens

I know it's been ages since I last blogged but I've been busy (poor excuse) and my computer broke down (valid excuse). Actually my PC was rebooting every half hour at the finish and then refused to boot at all - the dreaded Blue Screen Of Death. I now have a brand new custom built computer in a smart black tower (I loathe beige) with lots of power and Windows 7, all of which I'm very pleased with. It's the best PC I've ever had. Anyone attempting to steal it will be severely flogged before I hand them over to the police so unless you're into that kind of thing don't even think about it. ;-)

So, updates...

Hephzibah's new cage is amazing but not to Hephzibah's taste. She didn't like wriggling up the tube to the wheel so didn't use it. I moved her back into the old cage and she seems a lot happier. There will be more photos of it showing the new wooden ladders and her treen (wooden) boudoir where she's sleeping as I type. She's got three levels in the old cage but only had one in the new one. I may buy some mice for the new cage - as if I didn't have enough mice living with me. lol I put food and water in the new cage and leave the door open and my house guests help themselves. They always run if they see me looking though. Sensible mice not to trust humans.

The fish are in their pot pond in the kitchen and will be cleaned our on Thursday. I've put it off for a while as I have some newly hatched snails in there and I didn't want to throw them out with the dirty water. They are smaller than the average pinhead so it would have been very easy not to see them. I don't know if the fish will eat them or not. Hope not. Each time I feed the fish they go after the flakes like a shoal of piranhas. Can it be Spring? Am I going to hear the splish splash of tiny fins I wonder?

In addition to the usual sparrows, collared doves, wood pigeons and starlings, I've had blue tits and recently a blackbird coming to the bird feeding station. I love his orange beak contrasting with his black feathers.

I went on a day trip to Bodeam Castle a few weeks back and took - as I thought - 40 or so photos on my new mobile (Sony Ericsson C903 with 5MP Cybershot camera)  I found out a couple of days ago that my pics are in fact videos and I don't know how to extract still photos from them. I am MORTIFIED. There must be a program out there that I can use but I don't know which one to try. I'm half inclined to dump the lot but I have a feeling if I do someone will say "Oh you should have used (name of program). It's great for extracting stills!" So  I shall hang on to them a while longer.

My next blog will be some poems that I wrote years ago. They're very romantic but if that isn't your taste don't worry I'll post a warning ;-)

Monday, 22 February 2010

Some More Of My Photos And Haikus

To bring you up to date here are some photos/haikus I've posted elsewhere

The first was taken in Southend-on-Sea and shows the older part of the building of  the shop below

Taken up the road from where I live

The next two were taken in my garden

I took this last one on the way to my local shops.  It seems virtually impossible to take a photo where I live without including phone lines and suchlike so I decided to make a feature of them

Found Photos - Haikus By Me

Someone tweeted a link to some wonderful photos on visboo and I was inspired to write haikus to go with them

Not a haiku but I love this pic

If any of these photos belong to you and you'd like me to credit you or remove the pic please let me know

Friday, 19 February 2010

Having a Ball

Yesterday, Thursday, Dad and I went back to the pet shop because Dad thought Hephzibah the hamster would be happier with another hamster to keep her company. He chose a black and white one.  We told the man in the shop that I had bought one yesterday and he explained that two hamsters together would fight - even two females. Female mice, rats and rabbits are OK together but not hamsters. So that was that. However while we were there we got a ball for Hephzibah. The shop had a range of them and I got the cheapest as there didn't seem to be much difference between them.

We went to the bus stop in time to see our bus leaving without us so while we were waiting I checked out the ball. I couldn't get the hatch open. It seemed to have locked solid. As I hadn't used one before I didn't know whether the problem was with me or the ball so I took it back to the pet shop to ask. Dad waited at the bus stop on the understanding that if the bus came before I got back he'd get on it and I would catch another one.

The lady who was on the till told me that they sometimes had problems with that design so I decided to buy one that cost a bit more.  This one had a stand with it which the other one didn't.

I rushed back with my purchase and just caught the bus that Dad was already on.

That night when Hephzibah woke up - hamsters like mice are nocturnal - I put her in the ball and put the ball on the floor. Here she is in her ball

It only took Hephzibah a few minutes to learn how to move the ball, steer it and stop it where she wanted.  Over longer runs through the living room she got quite fast. The only thing she couldn't manage was the doormat we've had in the living room since the kitchen flooded. It was too high for her to roll the ball over it.  She didn't give up.  She backed her ball up and tried again... and again... and again.  It took her 5 or 6 attempts but in the end she won and rolled her ball onto the mat.  She's clever and determined and I'm very proud of her.  What was next to impossible was getting her OUT of the ball. Just as she'd obsessed over the wheel in her cage, she had a mania for her ball. When I got her back in the cage she wasn't interested in the wheel at all and was desperate to get back to her ball.  She had a few more sessions with the wheel with me either cuddling her or making her rest in her cage in between.  Cuddling isn't quite accurate. Wednesday night when I had her in my hands she ran from one hand to another and I became a human hamster 'wheel'.  Thursday night she did pause from time to have a look round.

Hephzibah is 7 weeks old and the past two days must be so exciting after being in the shop in a cage with plain white walls and a glass front, wood shavings on the floor, some paper bedding and no toys whatsoever. She reminds me of the little robot in the film Short Circuit who kept saying "Input! Input!"

I tried her in her ball on its stand as well and if we could use her as a power source we wouldn't need the electricity company!  lol  She was so fast! 

A New Friend

The more I've interacted with the mice the more I've wanted a mouse or hamster of my own. I love my goldfish but you can't cuddle them - guddle* yes, cuddle no - and the mice very sensibly won't come near enough. So on Wednesday when I saw a cage in my price range I snapped it up, particularly as it was the last one in the shop. I took it to the pet shop which has some lovely mice that I've had my eye on for a couple of weeks only to be told that my cage was a hamster cage and unsuitable for mice. I started to walk dejectedly out of the shop when a thought occurred to me - When life hands you lemons, make lemonade so... when you've bought a hamster cage, get a hamster. I went back in and chose a lovely chocolate brown one and arranged to pick  it up after work.

When I went to get the bus home I had my shopping trolley loaded with my work gear and some wood shavings and paper bedding for the hamster, the cage which is roughly 15" W x 15" D x 24" high, and, of course, the hamster.  Getting on the bus wasn't easy but I was relieved to get a seat by the luggage rack with space in front of it for the trolley.

I've called the hamster - a female - Hephzibah which is Hebrew and means 'my delight is in her'. Here she is

The cage is 3 storeys tall and the bars are orange and green with a green base as you can see from the picture.  Hephzibah didn't like it at all at first but once she tried out the wheel and got the hang of it she didn't want to come out.  In fact she became so obsessed with running round the wheel that she tired herself right out and went to sleep in the bottom of the wheel with her head hanging over the side. Later that night I tried to get her out of the cage but she was desperate to go back to her wheel.  I seem to have chosen a hamster who is as obsessive as I sometimes am about things lol

*To catch a fish by hand

Thursday, 11 February 2010

A Mouse's Tale - The Story of a Stowaway

This morning I was getting ready for work and checked out the shopping trolley I take with me with my CDs and headband microphone. There was a mouse in it. I cornered it and it ran up my arm and jumped clear. I looked further and found another mouse. It disappeared deeper into the trolley and I ended up taking all my things out and chasing the mouse round the bottom of it. I finally caught it amongst the detritus of bus tickets and mouse-shredded tissues. Confident that my trolley was now mouse free I packed it and caught the bus.

About halfway through the journey I was surprised to see a tiny furry head appear at the top of the trolley. I raised the lid and the head disappeared. I found it hard to believe that there was a mouse in there until I saw the furry head again a little later.

I had a problem - if I tried to catch it and it got loose on the bus or anywhere else I knew I'd never be able to catch it. There was also the possibility that other people would see it as 'vermin' and want to kill it or scream and  panic. So I needed to keep it in the trolley until I was somewhere where I could capture it. But where? The only place I could think of was the disabled loo at work. It's a separate room and the there is only a small gap at the bottom of the door. I've seen the mice squeeze through gaps I wouldn't have thought they'd get through so I was prepared to block the bottom of the door with my scarf if need be. But where to keep the mouse once I caught it? I had an airtight plastic container with me that had had Indian takeaway in it but  has been washed and which I was keeping as a 'doggie bag' for any food I might  want to keep if I had a meal out. It didn't take me long to put four air holes in the lid. I added two tissues to the box for the mouse to hide in, keep warm or shred. So far so good.

I got to work with 10 minutes to spare before I was due to start my class - 5 to catch the mouse and 5 to set up my sound equipment. No pressure  there then!  I locked myself in the disabled loo and sure enough I had to strip everything out of  the trolley. In addition to that I discovered that the mouse was able to get under the plastic reinforcing  plate in the base of the trolley so I was chasing it round and round and under. I caught it and it was a lot easier to transfer it to the box than I expected. 

I had the box on my table during the class. I partially covered it with my green poncho so that it had the option to hide if it wanted to. I was delighted that it chose to watch the class instead. I may now have a mouse that knows how to Line Dance. Anyone know a good agent? lol

After class I got it some mixed nuts and raisins - no salt - as I was concerned that it hadn't eaten. According to what I've read mice get their water from what they eat although as mine are mostly fed dry things mine drink a LOT of water. Putting water in the box wasn't an option so I went to a fruit and veg stall. Strawberries or grapes? Mice reputedly don't like the scent of strawberries so I got some grapes.

I'd really like to get a pet mouse or hamster. I went to several shops and looked at cages - to keep a pet in and to transport my stowaway. I think I know what pet cage I'd like but I drew a blank on a small transporter cage.

I went to the Wimpy for lunch - and to get some chips for my tiny friend. I chose a table at the back where I was unlikely to be observed but to all intents and purposes I was talking to a plastic container not a rodent. With all the food in it the container looked like this

After lunch I still had an hour or so before my next class. I went to a shopping centre and sat on a bench and the mouse came out and set to work on the chips, ignoring the fruit and nuts. Wimpy 1, healthy eating 0 lol It must have been at least 5 hours since the mouse had last eaten and they need to eat a lot so I was relieved to see him tucking in to the carbohydrates in the chips.

This is a photo I took in the shopping centre

The mouse was on my table for the second class but this time stayed curled up in the tissues.

After class while I was waiting for the bus the sky darkened and I was suddenly engulfed in a blizzard. If the mouse had escaped it would have been out in those conditions and its life would have been at risk. I was glad it was safe with me.

I got home and placed the box on the living room floor and removed the lid. The mouse didn't run away until I stroked it. I wonder what stories it's been telling the rest of the mouse family all night?

Monday, 8 February 2010

My Blog Fish

If you move your mouse cursor over the fish on the right hand side of my blog they'll follow it.  Watch what happens when you left click a few times ;)

Some More Haikus

I've written some more haikus to go with some of my photographs

I liked the pun created by using the word 'next' in a haiku on a photo taken outside the Next shop in Southend.  I did some cloning to tidy up the grubby block that the pigeon is standing on

A view of some of the shops in Southend that you wouldn't see unless you looked up

On the way to my local shops I saw this gorgeous sky with the skeletal tree branches in front of it. It's another view I wouldn't have seen without looking up

The sky over my snowy garden taken a few weeks back. I've enhanced the sky and made the shadows darker. I'm very pleased with the way the backlighting effect turned out

Monday, 1 February 2010

Photos With Haikus and Mice

Took some more photos yesterday and today.  Only one seems to be a complete dud that I haven't been able to use. I've written more haikus too. @gardenbuddha is right - they are addictive.

Very pleased with these mouse pics.  My best so far.

I find I'm looking at things differently these days.  Looking at the work of other photographers has helped me get my 'photographer's eye' back.  I'm now looking at ordinary things and seeing photo opportunities.  Like these next two.  All verses and caption on pics are mine

Sunday, 31 January 2010

There was a moon as brilliant as a searchlight a few nights ago but my mobile couldn't do justice to it.  That's one of the photos I took that night in the middle.

For the top pic I used an infrared filter and added a mirror border using a starry pic for the reflection.

The bottom pic is called Werewolf Moon.  I started with the middle photo and I had an idea to add a furry border and/or werewolf paw but while I was looking for paws I found a wolf paw print that I liked and decided on a different approach.  The print was a black silhouette on a white background which made the print easy to remove. I strestched it a little till I had the shape I wanted and arranged the photo till it showed through the print cut out the way I wanted it to.  Then I added fur to the white area, taking my time to make sure the fur had the long tousled werewolf look I was aiming for.  Because there wasn't much contrast between the fur and the sky I backlit the paw outline to give the effect of moonlight seeping through.  I added a white border and followed that with a black border.  I used another plugin to get the Gothic stone wall look and  added moss and lichen - green and orange blobs.  The white border didn't look right so I bevelled it giving it a similar blue tinge to the stone wall.  So there you are - full moon, seen through a hairy werewolf paw set in a Gothic stone border

Three different treatments of the same picture.  I liked this snowy scene but it was a very dull day and the sky was blank and white. However that gave me an opportunity to play as you can see.  

The top one had a spotlight vignette applied to it to give some interest to the sky and draw the eye in.

The middle one had a little 'n' large border added and I liked the look of the monochrome.

The bottom one - my favourite because I love colours - had a multi tone tint applied to a duplicate layer of the  pic.  The tinted layer was on top and I erased the white sections and the wall.  I think it looks surreal and I've very pleased with it

I'm really getting back into photography and I've recently started doing haiku poetry. I was encouraged by @gardenbuddha who is a friend of mine on Twitter. The photo above is one of mine. I silhouetted the houses below and added the following haiku

Soft bright rays shining
Clear skies make the heart rejoice
The silver lining

I wrote a batch of haikus one night and @gardenbuddha tipped me off that they'd been posted on a haiku site.  When I saw that they'd not only been posted but featured with a picture added I was overcome and moist eyed. I'm very new to this style of poetry so I never dreamed anything like that would happen.  Here is the link Dragonfly Archives

Tuesday, 12 January 2010

These all live in front of my monitor.  L to R wooden toadstools surrounding a cat.  The cat is one part of a two part ornament.  I have the kitten and a friend has the mother cat.  Behind the last two toadstools is a dark red HoTai ornament.  Sometimes known as 'laughing Buddhas' they are actually Ho Tai a monk who was loved for his happy disposition.  Next to him are three wooden mice and a china one.  In front of them is a reclining teddy bear.  At the far end is a green Ho Tai.  Whenever I see him I wonder what the joke was.  I bet it was a good one.  lol   In front of him are a few of the coins I've collected.  I'm a bit of a numismatist on the quiet but don't tell anyone!
I've just bought Neon Rainbow.  It's by a group called The Boxtops and my ISP has been using it in its adverts lol  I love  the imagery of the lyrics and the rhythm of the tune.  I also loved singing 'rainbo-o-o-owwwwww' while I was on hold and wondering what the chances were that I'd get caught doing it! lol

Yesterday and the day before were a bit scary as I lost my internet connection and didn't know what had gone wrong.  I lost connection when I uninstalled a program and didn't know whether that had caused it or whether there had been a coincidental hardware failure.  I was surprisingly calm and set about trying to find the router installation disc.  I knew roughly where it was but it was under a lot of other things.  While I was looking for it I tidied up.  When you get into a tidying frame of mind you've got to go with the mood haven't you?  ;)  I had a partly full recycling bag which I filled and then filled a second one.  I also filled a black sack.  I hope to do more later in the week.  I found the disc and spent an hour fruitlessly trying to get the router to work.  Nothing I tried cured the problem.  I'd had enough by then and had a quiet internet-less evening.

The following day I finished melting through the ice on the large plastic pot the goldfish are in.  I used an old whistling kettle - the kind that doesn't plug in but sits on a ring on the stove.  I put it full of boiling water on the ice and after doing that several times melted a hole in the ice.  The ice was a couple of inches (5 cm) thick.  The fish didn't look too good so I guddled them (caught them by hand) out of the pond into a bucket of water.  Ohhhhhhh that water was icy!  The things I do for my fish!  lol  I next carefully took a hammer to the ice and cleared it.  I came in for a break and brought the fish in with me.  It then occurred to me that I intended to clear two large items out of the kitchen so why not put the old washing boiler outside and bring the pond in?  With Dad's help I was able to lift the boiler out of the kitchen door and then I took it down the path and out of the garden.  The dustmen came today and someone took the boiler.  :-D

A while later I brought in the almost empty pot pond and put it where the boiler had been.  It wasn't till I'd filled the pond and put the fish back in that I realised the pond would be in the way.  I moved a chair and dragged the pond carefully to where the chair had been then put the chair where the boiler had been.  There now seems to be a lot more room in the kitchen and a cupboard and the fridge are easier to access.

I phoned the helpline of my internet service provider and the first operator had me turn the router off for 20 seconds then back on again.  He asked me which lights were lit and then said he needed to pass me over to a technical advisor.  He gave me another number to phone for the tech guy.  While I'd been waiting on hold for the first man I'd been singing along to the song they were playing about a 'neon rainbow'.  I rather hoped I'd get it if I was put on hold for the tech guy but I didn't.  The tech guy was marvelous.  We established that the problem was with my computer not the connection.  The router was working fine and I should  be able to get online.  He then very patiently talked me through a lot of commands I needed to type in to unblock my computer.   Because the phone isn't next to the PC he had called me back on my mobile.  It must have taken about an hour to sort it and he was wonderful throughout.  At the end of it I thanked him profusely and said how much I'd enjoyed the song that played when I was on hold.  He said "Now I know you're lying!"  We both laughed like mad at that and we were still laughing when I hung up.  I reflected that the experience had been so much better than I imagined it would be.  You don't expect phoning the tech people to be hilarious do you?

Every time I looked in on the fish last night they were swimming round the top of the pond.  I think they were trying to work out where the ice had gone, what the new 'sky' (ceiling) was and why it wasn't bitterly cold any more

Also available on

Sunday, 10 January 2010

The top picture shows my bird feeding station with a big wood pigeon on one of the seed trays. The lower picture is the 'tropical' part of my garden.  The plants looks like they aren't hardy but they all grow well in this part of England.  The snowy group in the foreground is my 'herb garden' in terracotta pots. I have rosemary, fennel, lemon thyme, and several kinds of lavender not all of which are in that group

I was shown the top picture by a friend on Twitter and loved it.  Today on Twitter Alyssa Milano posted a link to all these images and 67 more all with an ultra high Awwww factor lol
I'd love it if one of my mice would consent to sit in my hand and let me feed him
Now what makes you think I'm just a teensy weensy bit over tired?  lol  Apparently the feed updates every hour and my feed hasn't been checked yet.
Well that didn't work. No sign of a blog tweet on Twitter. WHY won't it work? How other people do this is a mystery to me. People think I'm clever?  Ha!  If only they knew!  Does it take a while for the tweet to turn up? Goodness knows.  I certainly don't
After much searching online, tears and protestations of "I can't do it! Other people can but I don't know how!" I think - only think mind you ;) - that I have linked this blog to Twitter. Big deep breath. Here goes

Just as I was about to post this my PC crashed. So, after some foul language and a temper tantrum... Here goes

Saturday, 9 January 2010

This is my snow covered bird feeding station. I put food out for the birds every day - seed, fat balls and peanuts. I also put water in a double birdbath which has a deepish bath for the bigger birds and a shallow one for the small ones. Birds and other wild creatures need as much help as they can get when snow covers the ground and makes food scarce, and when ice makes it hard for them to get water to drink

A mouse moved in a few months back, then a second one and now there is a family of 6 including the parents. They're no trouble and according to what I've read they'll move back outside in Spring. They are very clean and a delight to watch. I put hamster/gerbil food down for them and fat balls and water to wash the fat balls down. lol They are getting more and more used to me watching them. I'm not sure whether I want them to be tame enough for me to stroke them or whether that would put them at a disadvantage when they return to the wild. For now, in this extremely severe Winter, it feels good to be doing something to help some wild creatures who might otherwise die

These are some of my fish. The photo was taken in the Summer. Due to problems with the barrel they are in now in the large plastic pot in the background. I have three orange goldfish, an orange and white one, a calico shubunkin and a black comet. There has been a long saga of problems with this barrel and another I bought sending the water cloudy. It's a 'work in progress' but I'm determined to give the fish a decent barrel to swim about in this year - while I save up for a proper pond. Despite all that the fish are very friendly and before the cold weather came they would come to me to be fed.

Some pictures of the garden which along with the rest of Britain is under snow. The second picture show my Winter cherry tree (prunus subhirtella autumnalis rosea) covered with snow. The first picture shows the blossom with the snow removed. It flowers from about October/November right through till about March

I haven't written a blog for ages so it may take me a while to get back into it - or it may not. lol What I hope to do here is make a place where you can find my photos fairly easily and where I can talk in more depth about some of the subjects than interest me and hopefully you too. So there will be a lot about my fish, my garden, the current extreme weather and, of course, the family of mice who live with me. :) I will also share any nuggets of knowledge that come my way