Monthly Archives: March 2013

Things I’ve seen while driving lately

On a single-lane country road:
– a wallaby, leaping through a fence;
– a hen, maybe a feral chicken or maybe a domestic one who had escaped its pen, I couldn’t tell, standing next to a creek;
– turtles, swimming in the water covering a causeway during flooding;
– wading birds standing next to the road, several of them in different places on different occasions;
– a whole family of the above-mentioned wading birds, walking across the road, one adult at the front and the other at the back;
– a family of wild ducks, walking beside the road;
– a dead water dragon (lizard), presumably run over by a vehicle;
– a woman driving a big 4WD while talking on a mobile phone, waving at me with her other hand which was also holding the steering wheel as she drove around a 90-degree corner;
– a van which overtook me as I was pulling off the road to allow a vehicle approaching from the other direction to get around a narrow corner over a creek running several metres directly below; the van just barged through and the approaching vehicle had to pull off the road too before one or both of them fell off the edge of the road.

On a double-lane regional roads (one lane going either way, with heavy traffic in peak hours):
– a mostly-black dog crossing the road in the dark, maybe lost (though it appeared confident and seemed to know where it was going; this is the second dog I’ve seen crossing the road recently – the previous one was at a bad spot on the highway);
– lots of dead animals and birds, including a wallaby, run over or hit (usually overnight, but not always);
– a discarded pram on the side of the road;
– a beach- or bath-towel on the side of the road;
– cyclists, some training and some travelling, all of them in danger of being hit or knocked off their bikes (this morning I saw one heading down a steep hill on a 65km/h curve which runs for about 200 metres, coasting right in the middle of his lane with cars approaching the spot from both directions);
– a driver who overtook one car on a straight stretch of road and then had to squeeze into the long line of other cars in front of her, copying an earlier car which had just done the same thing, presumably well able to see that I was approaching from the other direction with a line of vehicles behind me. She only just got back into her lane in time because I was too mad to put the brakes on to let her complete the manoeuvre easily (I wanted to show her she’d done something dangerous, but if she hadn’t managed to get back into the line in time we might have crashed, so that would have shown all of us, yeah).
– a driver in another big 4WD who, in a small town suffocating under the day-visitor pressure of a hippy festival and a farmer’s market, did a U-turn from the east-bound lane into the west-bound lane in order to grab a parking spot on the southern side of the road while cars about to approach him were stopped at a pedestrian crossing, while other pedestrians crossed the road at various spots between parked and stopped cars all the way up and down the street, while a motorcyclist also crossed the road from a parking spot and rode down the centre of the road between lanes of traffic, while a small truck parked right next to the pedestrian crossing to make deliveries, making the following traffic move around into the centre of the road (facing the motorcyclist), and then the U-turning 4WD had to do a 50-point turn to get into the small parking spot, making the line of traffic (and the cars waiting to cross into it at the intersection below) all wait. And when I had to stop at the pedestrian crossing it was for a man walking along with at least three live parrots or lorikeets perched on his shoulders and arms and head.

On a double-lane highway (one lane going either way, crawling with Easter long-weekend traffic):
– nothing of interest; everybody seems to be behaving themselves. Yay.

And while I’m talking about driving: I think the foundation of defensive or safe driving should be that we should never assume anything: don’t assume the road will be clear around the corner; don’t assume that other drivers know what they’re doing or care; don’t assume that animals and birds will stay out of the way; don’t assume your reactions are as fast as you think they are; just don’t assume anything.

I continue my campaign of trying to stay alert while driving, but too many times it doesn’t go well. I hate driving now; hate it and fear it. I drive along gripping the steering wheel so tightly that my fingers sometimes get pins and needles.

And I’ve realised that my hatred of being followed by other vehicles is as much about personal space as it is about feeling the pressure to go faster. It just feels like they’re too close to me; I need more space. And if there’s 20 kilometres of road in a section where nobody can overtake, it just makes no sense that people would trail each other closely when instead they could fan out and drive as individuals in a more relaxed fashion. They’re idiots. I know they’re all idiots. It’s the human condition.

Saturday afternoon

Most days I walk around writing blog posts in my head. Then at night when I get back to the computer I can only be bothered reading through my feed-reader; the posts never get written.

Anyway, here are some notes:

– My days consist of chickens (morning and afternoon) and driving (there and back), day after day after day. It feels like I’ll never get out of this pattern. I’ve now been at my parents’ place for three months, and we all wish it would end, I know. Two days a week I still do the mowing at the farm, and sometimes there is other farm work, but that’s it for income-producing activities, and meanwhile all dollars are flying out on expenses as usual, except more so than before because now I’m paying for all the petrol for all the driving. The entire situation is ridiculous.

– I miss being alone. During the week I saw a TV program about a wildlife carer who said he has the body of a human but the spirit of a kangaroo (or something like that), and now I think maybe I have the spirit of a tree or a rock or a cloud or something. I sure don’t feel human.

– I detest people: most other humans. Every day in every way I dislike you more and more, Humanity.

– Except, the only things I seem to be interested in are the things made by humans: ideas, say, or writing, or television.

– Writing this whingeing post has made me feel negative, and if you’ve read this far I bet it hasn’t done a lot for you either, Reader. But if I could just make myself write posts more often I suspect this whining would run out of puff and might then be replaced by something less self-centred. I’ll leave it here as a record to look back on later: my life and times, current state, Easter 2013.

Chicken expenses: 4

HOUSING

I had to make an extra pen because the male chicken, Mr, has started chasing his female colleagues and they don’t reciprocate his interest, so it would be cruel to shut them in with him. I’m hoping that eventually the females might warm to him and they’ll all want to live together in poly-whatever-that’s-called, but for now they only see each other through wire mesh when penned, and walk around together outside when I’m there as peacekeeper.

From Medium Town’s steel reinforcing/fencing supplier:
– Weldmesh Easy Sheets: 2.5mm wire diameter, 25mm x 25mm gaps, 2m long by 1.2m wide, 3 @ $20.90 – $62.70

From Medium Town’s hardware store:
– shadecloth: 90%, 3.6mm wide x 1.5m long – $39.60
(I bought more than enough for Mr’s pen, thinking I could use it for gardening purposes later as long as it wasn’t too small. And it was handy for shading the blind calf and his mother when they were shut in the yards, so that was lucky.)
– builders plastic film: 2m x 10m (to keep the pens dry during the ex-cyclone): $25.00

I also bought some timber utility studs and screws etc. and tried to make a wooden-framed pen, but it didn’t work, so I won’t include the cost here. (It was an embarrassing waste of money unless I find a way to use the materials later.)

Housing total (including previous housing expenses): $440.58

FOOD

From Medium Town’s pet food supply shop:
– plastic feeder: $7.99
– plastic waterer: $22.99

From Small Town’s farm supply shop:
– 20kg coarse grain mix (an alternative to wild bird mix which they didn’t have): $17.95
– 20kg Riverina Red Label Layer mix: $17.95
– 20kg Barastoc Darling Downs Layer mix: $20.00
– 20kg Country Heritage Feeds Organic Coarse Layer mix: $35.95
(It seems like an awful lot of feed for only three little chickens, but I’m also throwing some around for the chickens from next door because they hang around all day anyway. Even so: there’s a total of only seven birds altogether (two roosters, two hens, and my three youngsters) and they’ve eaten their way through a whopping 80kg of grains in only a few months. There usually ends up being a lot they don’t eat each day, though, which then goes to feed the local pigeons; I still haven’t found the right amount to leave in the feeders.

From Medium Town’s department store:
– nappy pail with lid (for storing grain in the boot of my car): $10.00

Food total (including previous food expenses): $182.19

MEDICATION

From Small Town’s supermarket:
– Vaseline $5.00 (the price is a guess; I can’t find the receipt)
(The chickens’ legs are getting dry, probably because of all the mud around the place at the moment, and there’s a danger they’ll get scaly leg mites. I read that a coat of vaseline or oil or other greasy coating on their feet and legs can help to kill any mites and help to keep their skin healthy.)

Medication total (including previous medication expenses): $68.14

Total, all expenses, including previous expenses for housing, food, medication, and tools: $731.71

Previous posts:
Chicken expenses: 3
Chicken expenses: 2
Chicken expenses

A good reason to drive carefully

Last night on my drive home from the farm, at a bend on the highway near roadworks, under flashing lights and over confusing road markings, a big dog had wandered out into the middle of the road. It was really big – a Great Dane, or breed of similar size, but I only noticed it in the darkness because of having recently read about defensive driving and the need to look far ahead on the road. I think in my previously-normal half-asleep way of driving I wouldn’t have seen the poor thing until hitting it.

And I think a few other people didn’t see it last night. A semi-trailer had just driven past in the opposite direction, followed by four or five cars (all of them except the last one bunched up tightly) and none of them had slowed down or swerved.

I spotted the dog when it was right in the middle of the road, between my lane and the cars going the other way. I was only able to stop because there was nobody behind me – which is so unusual it’s remarkable. I stood on the brake pedal, the first time I’ve had to do that in this car, which in itself it was an interesting test: the car slowed really quickly and didn’t swerve at all. I flashed the headlights a few times to warn the driver across the road, and he or she slowed down too. By the time each of us had pulled off the road the dog had run back across my lane and had disappeared into trees. For a second I intended to grab a torch and get out to look for it, but then I heard cars coming up the hill behind me and started to worry about being caught there on the shoulder. (My car was off the road, but not far from the edge.) The other car drove off, and then I did the same.

The poor dog – I guess it was lost. There was a house next to where it ran off the highway, though, so maybe that’s where it lives. There was no sign of an animal on or near the road this morning, thank goodness, so I hope that means it’s okay.

I’m happy I had the chance to read about defensive driving in time. If you’re interested, this collection of notes seemed good: Unit 8: Accidents, causes and prevention at CA Department of Motor Vehicles Driver Education Curriculum.

Pinkeye and vets

The blind calf is recovering really well and is not blind any more, and now that he’s in a paddock with some other calves around him he’s much happier. A few times I’ve seen him running and jumping, which calves tend to do when they’re relaxed and playful. So, the vet did a great job. And I’m patting myself on the back for managing to keep both calf and cow confined in the yards for weeks in wet and windy weather without them becoming miserable or unhealthy.

And I’ve just paid the vet’s bill: $279.00. I was hoping for $250, so the actual cost wasn’t much more than that, which was a relief. But at the same time I’ve been mildly stewing since reading the itemised expenses because the vet charged $99.90 for “mileage” – calculated at 54km, which is a few more kilometres than would actually have been travelled. I’d have been happier if he’d called it something else instead or included it under the consultation cost, or just bundled all items under one name: “expertise”. That’s what I was paying for: his expertise and experience. And I’m still glad I called him out to help. He did a good job.

There are a few other calves with pinkeye now, though. Over the last week I’ve been spraying their eyes with an aerosol antibiotic from the farm supply shop. You’re supposed to spray them three times a day, but it’s hard enough to get them rounded up into the yards just once a day, so that’s all I’ve been doing – once a day – and two days I missed doing it at all.

The spray hasn’t worked very well, though, which I guess shouldn’t be surprising. One calf seems to be recovering by itself, but there are still two who need more treatment.

I saw in a brochure, Pinkeye in cattle by the Department of Primary Industries (a PDF and includes somewhat gruesome photos), there’s a penicillin cream for pinkeye available from vets which you only need to administer once every 48 hours. I was going to try it. This morning I called in at a new vet’s place in a small town I drive through on the way to the farm. I explained the situation – what I’d tried already, what I wanted to try next – but the vet just offered to sell me some antibiotic powder, an alternative version of the aerosol antibiotic I’d just finished saying I’d already tried and hadn’t worked. She said the penicillin cream is only available on prescription and a vet first has to go to your property to check the cattle personally.

The brochure doesn’t say anything about that, only that it “must be purchased from a veterinarian”, so I felt mildly pissed off. There’s no doubting the calves have pinkeye, so I don’t see why it’s necessary to pay for a vet to visit them first before allowing us to buy the cream. Based on the previous bill, the cost of travelling would be $99.90 and the consultation would be $130, and that’s without paying for the cream itself.

I’m not convinced the second vet knows what she’s talking about, though; maybe a consultation and prescription are not actually necessary. My parents happen to be in the original vet’s town this afternoon, which is lucky, so they’re hoping he will agree to sell them the cream based on having been out to see the first calf. We’ll see what happens.

UPDATE:

The original vet confirmed that it is indeed necessary for a vet to visit the cattle first before prescribing the ointment, but he was willing to sell my parents two tubes of the stuff just based on the fact he’d previously been out to the farm to see the first calf. (The tubes were $15 each, I think, but I’m not sure I heard that right. The receptionist told my parents that the best way to administer the ointment is to put some on your finger and then smooth it into the calf’s eye, preferably into the gap between eye and eyelid. If instead you use the tube to “inject” the cream where it’s supposed to go, there’s a danger the calf will move his or her head and the plastic tube will injure the eyeball.)