Ode to a bird

Nearly 7 and a half years ago, I was sent a photo in work. My hubby had bought two zebra finches, and named them Mocha (fawn coloured female) and Latte (white male). Mocha was his, and Latte was mine…

Latte was bought as a girl. He had no colouration, and could only “eep” – he didn’t have a song. As soon as I got home from work, I immediately said to Michael, “Latte’s a boy”. He had exceedingly faint coloured cheeks, and I could see that his beak was slightly brighter coloured than Mochas.

I gave him months and months of attention, singing my best male zebra finch song to him, and eventually he learned it.

Now Latte was a stupid bird. He truly was. He couldn’t sing (no male influences), he could barely fly, and he was so skittish. Whenever we let him out for a “wing stretch” (yes, we let him fly around the house), he would start ‘clicking’ and ‘eeping’, as if he was asthmatic. He would panic over nothing.

We lost him down the back of the Welsh dresser once… Pulling that heavy thing out was a nightmare, and I was terrified that Michael was going to accidently hurt – or even kill him.

About 3 years ago, we had to separate the birds. Latte had attacked poor Mocha, and almost killed her. The blood, cuts and feathers were unbelievable, and I honestly thought she would die… Thankfully, she recovered perfectly.

I bet you’ve got to the point where you’re wondering why I’m writing such a long post, over a bird? Well, Latte was the first ‘big’ thing that my hubby had ever bought for me. Latte died tonight. Rest in peace, my little man. You can now fly free ❤

Pets 0003

A Crafty Parent Interview – Humming Bird Gems

I have always wondered how established crafters manage to juggle their crafts with their children, and vice versa.

I have been scouring several social media sites recently, on the lookout for a fellow parent crafter to interview, and I was fortunate enough to find Melissa.

Untitled-2

IMG_20150609_122814

Melissa Stuart lives in Aberdeen City, Scotland, and she is the owner of Humming Bird Gems.  Approaching its’ third birthday, Melissa has been crafting since her teens.  She was never able to find items that suited her taste, style and mood, so she decided to start making her own jewellery pieces so she could always have exactly what she wanted.

Melissa has two children – Brae, who is 4, and Lizzy, aged 3; and is a stay-at-home mummy.

Me:  “What made you get in to selling your crafting?”

Melissa:  “I had some friends ask where I bought one of my bracelets, and I told them that I made it myself.  I would make things for family and friends, but it really wasn’t until my other half went in to college full-time that I thought about selling my work.  It was a way to help make ends meet.”

Me:  “So what made you choose your specific craft?”

Melissa:  “Since it (jewellery) was something that I had done before, it was easy.  With the crocheting, it was because I wanted to learn how to make teeny, tiny, little animals to put in to resin, and use with the jewellery making.  I haven’t gotten the skill up enough to make them, but people seem to be loving the bigger, cuddly versions just as well.”

Me:  “Did you try any different style of crafting before the one you do now?”

Melissa:  “Yes, I’m a very creative person!  I get a lot of enjoyment out of making things.  I’ve done origami, I’ve tried drawing (I’m horrible at it, by the way), and I had knitted in the past, when I was a young teen, but I can’t remember any of that now.”

Me:  “So tell me.  What has been your favourite make, and can you tell me why?”

Melissa:  “Oooh!  Now that’s a hard one!  I think it would be my resin make with dandelions and iridescent glitter.  It really looks like it’s dancing!”

IMG_20150620_102251

Me:  “Now I’m interested in your children.  What do Brae and Lizzy think of your crafting?”

Melissa:  “Brae doesn’t seem to have much interest in it truthfully.  Lizzy, on the other hand, is right in there.  She loves watching me, and asking questions of what I am doing.”

Me:  “Do they try to help you?”

Melissa:  “They do.  I’ll let Lizzy pick out colours or beads, and even let her string some of the beads on to wire.  I would let Brae also, but unless I’m working with something he has an interest in, he normally just ignores what I’m doing.”

Me:  “Do you do any other forms of crafting with Brae and Lizzy?”

Melissa:  “Lots of colouring, playing with PlayDoh, those kinds of things…  Crafts more suited for the younger ones.”

Me:  “So how do you juggle your crafting around Brae and Lizzy?  Do you have a set routine?”

Melissa:  “It’s a routine base.  Both of them are in nursery, so I have my morning to myself.  I try to get some networking done, but I often use that time to try and get things done that I can’t do with them around me.  Like resin work.  Whilst they’re at home, after lunch I will network, or bead, do some image template work…  Things I can often involve them in, or I can easily just drop in case one of them wants to play, or go outside.  The kids come first when they’re up and at home.”

Me:  “Do you think children taking part in (any type of) crafting is important?”

Melissa:  “I really do.  Kids are naturally curious about everything, and as the parents and adults, we really should be feeding that.  Nurturing it, so when the kids become teens, and indeed adults, they will still have that with them.  It can help them in life, with work, or even just play.  It can help them to relax, and it’s great for bonding and keeping that bond going!”

Me:  “Thank you Melissa.  Let’s move on to something ‘just for fun’.  You’re hosting a dinner party for a few celebrities.  You can invite 3 celebs.  Who would you pick, and why them?”

Melissa:  “Firstly, Robert Downy Jr. because…  Well, it’s RDJ!  He’s funny, and hot, and down to earth, and HOT!  (laughs)  Second on my list would be Jennifer Lawrence.  I hear she’s another down to earth celeb, and doesn’t stomp on the little people.  She’s still in the newly found “shell shocked” stage.  The last would be Dakota Fanning.  She’s been a brilliant actress since she was very young, and one of the few child starts that didn’t go in to drink or drugs.”

Me:  “Great choice there.  But let’s get to the real nitty-gritty…  You’re also doing the cooking for said dinner party.  You’re prepping a 3-course meal, so what’s on your menu?”

Melissa:  “Starts would be some kind of finger foods.  Three cheese mini pizzas, or popcorn chicken…  Something small that they could munch on whilst chatting.  Main course would be steaks with my homemade sauce, mashed potato and veg (corn or broccoli, or both).  Dessert would be lemon cake with a light lemon drizzle sauce.  Maybe some custard too.  Custard is yummy…  I’m hungry now.”

Me:  “Ha ha, ok, finally, let’s be serious just once more.  What’s your top tips for anyone who wants to start their own crafting business?”

Melissa:  “Firstly, come up with a name that’s catchy, then Google it.  Make sure that it is not popping up with anything.  The only thing that came up with mine (Humming Bird Gems) where pictures of humming birds.  Make a facebook page and email address with the same name, but don’t publish the facebook page yet!  Secondly, know what you’re doing.  Don’t worry about what everyone else is doing, do what YOU want to do.  Know what supplies you need, keep records of what you spend – you’ll need that for the tax man, make a few things, samples, starters, get some good photo’s of your things, and once you have a few photos and posts on your page, then publish it.  That way it doesn’t look barren.  Make sure that it’s (your craft) is something you love to do, and that even on your darkest days, you don’t give in.  Every crafter out there has wanted to throw in the towel at some point in the game.  The difference between the winners and the losers are those who give up.  As long as you love what you are doing, keep doing it.”

You can visit Humming Bird Gems here:  https://www.facebook.com/hummingbirdgems

Day 25 – All Hail the Zebra Finch

Ever since I can remember, I’ve owned a Zebra Finch.

When I was about 3 years old, my parents bought a pair of finches and I named them Hoppity-Hop and Jane.  Jane died after 2 years, but Hoppy (named him that because of what he was doing in the box on the way home from the pet shop) lived until he was approximately 10 years old!

Zebra finches are an ideal choice for a first pet.  This post will introduce you to the zebra finch, and will hopefully shed some light on some questions that a lot of people have asked me.

The Zebra Finch, native to Central Australia, are one of the most popular birds in the area.  Some people call them “flying mice” because they breed so easily, and can have four or five broods per year.

The zebra finch is roughly 3 and a half inches in length, from the tip of the beak to the very tip of the tail.  Both male and female are the same size.  Colours can vary tremendously through imbreeding, and mutations, although I’ll stick with the most common variety.  Both male and female have a dark grey back, top of the head and wings.  There is, however, quite a lot of difference between sexes, so it is very easily to tell them apart.

The male has a white under-carriage and lower chest, has white-speckled brown feathers to the sides and under his wings, has a black bar running straight across his chest, black and white striped feathers on his upper chest, a black “tear-drop”, and burnt orange coloured cheeks.  His beak and legs should be a bright orange colour.  The female is dark grey with a paler grey belly and chest, but still has the distinctive “tear-drop”.  You may also notice that her beak and legs are a much more subtle orange, and is a lot paler than the male.  Both birds have a tail which measures approximately 1 inch in length.  This is where the finch gets it’s name from.  The tail is black with white stripes all the way across.

The zebra finch’s song is made up of a variety of “eeps” and “beeps”.  Both sexes of the birds make these noises, but the female can make a “rasping” noise when in breeding season, and she is defending her territory and eggs.  The male’s song is quite distinctive, with a variety of high and low pitches and different lengths of “eeps” and “beeps” put together in order to attract a mate.

With every living creature, food is the most important thing.  Finches live mostly of small seeds.  This is made available in forms of millet sprays, and “loose”.  The zebra finches which I own now are partial to fresh bread, sliced cucumber, crushed lettuce and a slice of apple.  It is also very important that you supply fresh water on a daily basis, and change it at least twice a day.  Drinking water can be supplied in a sealed tube with a little “saucer” opening, or in a metal container.

This breed is also a very clean bird.  It is important that you can supply water in which the bird can bathe in.  Another couple of options are available here…  A cage bath can be bought from any pet shop OR you can place a small saucer filled with no deeper than an inch of fresh water for the bird to splash around in.  Trust me, your finch will love you for it.

Now this is the part where everything gets a little tricky…  I’m not going too deep into the breeding part of my review, as I believe that unless you know what you are doing, you shouldn’t breed your birds.  It’s unfair (if you don’t have a plan of what you’re going to do with the babies once their ready), and a breeding female can die prematurely.

You can always tell when a pair of zebra finches are ready to breed.  You will notice that the male will be carrying round random feathers, and anything suitable to build a nest with.  He will try to build a nest anywhere suitable, on a stable surface (even in the corner of the bottom of the cage).  If you are going to breed your birds, this is the time to buy a finch breeding box.

There are plenty of options available for you to buy from the pet shop, but there are two which are most suited, and both of these boxes have a “roof” and a small hole for the bird to get in and out of easily.  The first is a basic straw nest, which costs roughly £3 – £3.99.  The second option, which is by far the best, is the natural material nest. It looks like a type of scraggy material, and these can cost anywhere from £3.99 – £7.99.  Offer plenty of items and materials that your birds can use to stuff the nest.  Offer cut up toilet tissue, cut up kitchen roll, leaves and even (ONLY IF IT’S CLEAN) a cut up head off a hand-held washing up mop.  All nesting material must be dry and clean.

PLEASE NOTE: When I first bred zebra finches, I bought some ‘natural nesting’ material from a pet shop.  This was soft, but stringy.  My finches laid 6 eggs, 4 of which hatched.  One of the babies died when the nesting material wrapped around it’s neck, another baby lost its’ leg with the same situation, and a third baby AND the father (Hoppy, who I mentioned earlier) both lost a toe.

Usually after the nest is finished being built, the female will then make a slightly different song. It may sound as though she is “crying”, but it’s more of a ‘relieved’ noise that she is making.  The female will lay anywhere between 4 – 12 eggs.  Usually when there are 3 or more eggs, the incubation period begins.  Both male and female will take it in turns to sit on the eggs.

Incubation can take anywhere from 18 to 25 days, usually hatching in order in which the eggs were laid.  Unless you are intrusive, you will not know when the eggs have hatched, because the babies do not gain their voices until they are roughly 1 week old.  Even then you may have to listen very carefully, because they “eep” so quietly, and only when they need feeding.  It is at this time when you need to supply as much fresh bread and salads as possible.

A nice little trick I’ve learned is if you hard boil an egg (not one of your finches ones, a chicken / duck one!) and then crush it all down (INCLUDING THE SHELL) and then offer it on a small saucer in the bottom of the cage.  It may sound cannibalistic, but the female zebra finch needs this to keep calcium in her body, and to keep her strength up.

Usually after about 3 weeks, you will start to notice that the babies are eager to venture out of their nest.  Your babies are no longer babies, and are called fledglings.  Do not remove the nest once your fledglings have ventured out.  They will still return to the nest of a night time, and whenever they feel threatened or afraid.  You will usually be able to tell the sexes at approximately 2 months old.  The fledglings are no longer babies, and are starting to mature.  “Teenagers” if you like.  You should now remove the nest.  When the babies are 2 and a half months old, this is the time when you need to know what you are doing with them.

If you are taking them to a pet shop; if you are giving them to a family member or friend; if you are keeping the babies yourself; get another cage sorted out, and DO THIS NOW.  You must separate the young from the parents as territorial fights now begin, and this can, and usually is, very brutal and can lead to death.  PLEASE NOTE: Please take the nest out now if you have not done it already…  You must give your “parent” birds time to recover, or if they continue to breed now, the female will die prematurely of exhaustion.

Overall, Zebra Finches can be fantastic company.  They are not, however, as sociable as a budgie, but they can look after themselves!  Just make sure that you supply fresh food and water daily, and allow the birds to have plenty of light (not direct sunlight).  They can be sociable, and love to chatter to you, so give them an hour to speak to you…  For the best interest of your birds, if the weather is calm, sunny and warm (NOT HOT), put the cage in the garden so the birds can get some fresh air.  If the day is stuffy, but has a breeze, keep the birds indoors, but open the window SLIGHTLY.  I hope that I don’t need to explain to you that in extreme cases like thunder and lightening, the birds should be kept inside, and preferably, cover the cage up with a large towel so the birds cannot see the flashing.

Watching the behavioural habits of these birds is just amazing.  You can get “friendly” birds who want you to hold them, and they want to “preen” your hair, and you can get the “grumpy” ones, who do want to talk to you, but they don’t want your hands anywhere near them.  Don’t force the bird to do anything it doesn’t want to. If it wants to come to you, it will in its’ own time.

292766_10152141278290790_1635858667_n

Shame about this pic really…  I just caught her taking off, but I cut her beak off, ha ha.  This is Mocha 🙂

My Neighbour is a Prostitute

It started a few months after we moved in to this house.  There would often be two or three different cars pulling up, outside my neighbours house.  I never thought anything of it.  A large family.  Friends visiting.  Purely innocent.

It was several months ago when I made a joke, saying that she’s a bit of a tramp, as she always went out with whomever arrived.  She’d come back a few hours later.  Then, a short while after, another car would turn up, and she’d be out again.

The cars are not the average for this area.  Where I live, you’d expect to see Corsa’s, Peugeots, old Fords…  These cars are new.  BMW’s, Merc’s, etc.  All the drivers are men.  Different men at that.  I honestly think that since Monday, I’ve seen 10 different cars; and today is only Thursday.

It makes me wonder…

images

This woman is easily in her 40’s.  My guesses are mid-forties.  She lives with her mother and father, and her brother.

My grandmother used to live in this house before me.  She was friends with the woman in questions’ parents, so through my grandmother gossiping, that’s how I know who lives in the house.

The father in question, spends at least 8 hours a day – rain or shine – in his garden.  Every day, he cuts the grass with his lawnmower.  A few times a week, this man then gets his scissors  and rule out on the grass…

??????????????????????????????????????????????????

The mother, I’ve only seen once in the past 3 years.  I know she hasn’t passed away, because there hasn’t been any ‘usual signs’ of death.  I swear she is kept chained up somewhere…

The brother has to be the strangest.  By my guess, I’d say he was late forties / early fifties.  Every day, sometimes a few times a day, he drives to the shop, and comes back with nothing.  The local shop is only 20 houses down the road, so it would take the average person literally 2 minutes to walk there.  I’ve seen him go in to the shop, and come out with nothing at all.  Well, maybe he buys something that is immediately put in to his pockets…  Who knows?!

He is a cantankerous man.  I remember a couple of years ago, when my husband was photographing a birds nest in the garden.  This man asked what my hubby was doing…  When he replied, this vile man put his hand straight in to my tree to try and get rid of the nest.  Luckily, he didn’t succeed, and the birds managed to hatch many wonderful fledglings.

scary_bird

There is something else that I think is a bit abnormal…  It doesn’t happen so much any more, but the brother used to have frequent visits from strangers carrying packages.  Each one was a different shape and size, calling at all different hours of the day (and night!!), these parcels were not something as simple as a catalogue order.  Occasionally, we used to regularly see an unmarked vehicle pull up, and two police officers, in full uniform, get out and knock on the door.  The police would never enter the house, and seemed to question the brother each time…

Seems a little bit dodgy to me.

Drug Dealing

So there’s a bit of an insight to where I live.  And that’s just one house on my road.  Imagine the tales I could tell if I blogged about each of the 35 houses in my street.