Sunday, 16 July 2017

Chickens - How to pick a chicken's nostril when it's full of gunk

When I came to clean the coop in the mornings, sometimes Snowy's eye on the right side was not open and she'd be scratching it. I noticed then that her nostril was blocked with gunk. I didn't get a photo but it looked like this chicken:

Was it cancerous? Was it gunk? It was quite hard the first time I poked at it, and when I googled it, I found that it can actually be dislodged if I do it carefully with a pointed object, like the pointy bit of a chicken feather (tons of those lying around on the ground at the moment). It turned out I didn't need to do, that I started doing it with my fingernail and it did start to move and I could move it out. It came out like solid cheesy gunk, much like squeezing a zit or a boil, I suppose!

Here is a picture of what someone else managed to get out.

Her nostril afterwards was dilated, and I was worried that she would get more crap into it. She probably will and I'll be picking at her nose again. But at least this time, I know how to do it!

So my suggestion is to get a good grip on your chicken. One site said to tie up her legs so that she can't kick and flap around - I didn't do that. I had her wedged between my legs, so she couldn't back out (I was squatting) and my left hand firmly around her neck, with my right hand picking at her nostril. She would often flick her head away from me but it took time and patience. If your chicken is particularly cantankerous, I think that a bandage wrap around the chicken would work well (like a crepe bandage) or at least a towel to keep her firmly wrapped so she can't escape.

Why does this happen?  Apparently feed can get caught in the nostrils, and Snowy with her twisted toes might be more at risk of stuff getting caught in there since she can't scratch it out well. It wasn't anything cancerous, thank goodness, nor was it a canker sore that I have seen in other pictures (yuk!).

Saturday, 15 July 2017

Ditching the disposable - How to reduce feminine hygiene product landfill (ie pads and tampons)

*** WARNING ***

Some people may find the topic of menstruation a bit uncomfortable so feel free NOT to read any further from here!


When I started using cloth nappy products to try to reduce rubbish, there were lots of links to how to reduce your waste from disposable feminine hygiene products too.

Having been brought up on disposable products my whole life, I was astonished by the idea, and a little skeptical, of course. How do you clean them? Is it hygienic? Are they safe? And isn't it a bit GROSS?

Well, of course it is. If baby poo on nappies can be done and be clean then why can't blood (or breast milk) for that matter.

So for the person who would like to make a move towards reducing their feminine hygiene landfill footprint, here are a few options.

Reduce your menstruation

Surprisingly, many people think that if you don't shed your endometrium monthly, somehow a bad buildup of excess "period" is dirty of bad for you. What a period is, is that every month a hormone surge will encourage the lining of your uterus to grow and thicken so it's nice for "planting" a fertilized egg. If the egg is not fertilized then the hormone surge dissipates and the hormonal support for that thickened lining is gone, leading to shedding of that thickened lining, which is the "period".

Taking the oral contraceptive pill continuously, or having an implanted device such as an implanon, or an intrauterine device can reduce your periods. How it does that is that they have other hormones that inhibit the growth of that fertile lining for eggs (in the case with the pill and implanon, it suppresses the release of the egg) and so you don't get a period. However, much like the lining of any tissue, it has to shed every now and then so you can get spotting at various times.

The advantage of not having your lining growing and shedding all the time is that it decreases your risk of endometrial cancer. This is because the cells aren't proliferating highly because of the hormone surge. Think about it, if you're making lots of new cells, there is more chance that one of those new ones are going to go awry and become a cancer. So if you make, say, 1000 new cells a month just from normal turnover, but when you have a hormone surge to thicken your uterus lining and then shed it, now you're making 2000 cells amonth, and your risk of getting one bad one is one in 10000, then after 10 months you're likely to have 2 bad cells if you get periods, compared to one if you get none. Now that's an oversimplification, but you get the idea!

So, less periods, less feminine products used. Easy!

Menstrual Cups

Mentrual cups are inserted into the vagina and basically "catch" the blood in the cup, which you just take out and empty, wash and reinsert. However, these things are not one size fits all, and it takes some time to figure out which one is best for you.

I haven't used them myself, but this article has heaps of helpful advice on different cups, depending on the shape and length of your vagina and cervix. The reason I don't use one, is because at work, I think I'd feel a bit embarrassed washing my cup at the sink where others could see me.

It's also quite cheap. One cup is probably about $30 and that can last you for years. Think of all that landfill you're saving as well as the wallet benefits! However, I think if you are unfamiliar with inserting things into your vagina then this has a bit of a learning curve and it's an easy thing to abandon if you feel uncomfortable putting things "up there".

Reusable Cloth Pads

These are similar in materials to cloth nappies and also can be used over and over for your whole reproductive life, I think! The outlay for these is more than a menstrual cup (each pad is between $5-$12 depending on absorbancy) and like cloth nappies you probably need a good stash to get you comfortably through. I would say you would need at least 10 if you're going to wash them every day, and 15 if you want to wash every 2 days. That's easily $100, and considering it costs about $6 for a pack of 16 tampons, and $3-$6 for a pack of 16 pads, you would need 1.5 years to make any savings.

Interlabial pads sound uncomfortable but they are useful for that "gush" you can get sometimes, whether that be blood or urine, and some people swear by them.

If you bring a wet bag to put your used pads in, they will contain the smell and the wetness and they are discrete - just empty the contents for laundering when u get home.

Laundering is probably what people find a bit icky, but if you've ever had to wash your blood soaked pants from "accidents" before, then it's not that different. A bucket of cold water to soak and then wash and all the blood comes out. No fabric softener though, that will wreck absorbancy (just like cloth nappies).

Period Underwear

I had never heard of these until recently, but they seem like an awesome idea, especially for the person who wants to feel as "normal" as possible without the bulk!

Thinx and Lunapads are American brands, and Modibodi an Australian brand, and are all very similar - except for political agendas!

They look like normal undies, and I think that might scare people, because how can they not leak? The advantage of these undies is that they could also be useful for incontinence as well, so you can use them when you get older as well (or for everyday if you need it for sneeze and cough protection).  The disadvantage is that they are pricey - it's about $30 for one pair of undies. And how many undies do you need a day? Is it just one? There is also wash and drying time to consider, so I would recommend at least 3 pairs.

Alternatively, you could use these just as undies during your period when you are using some other kind of reusable product. Especially at night time or during sports! I personally think these are the best in terms of convenience as protection and though some people swear by them as the sole use during menstruation, I'd be scared if I had a heavy period.

Sea sponges

The little blurb in the pic tells all. But look at the size of them! I can't imagine they would be comfortable to insert, though they are smaller than a baby's head...

I remember when I was at Uni and read an article about a girl who was sewing strings onto her sponges much to her roomie's horror. I remember thinking at the time I wouldn't be game enough to use them.

Fast forward to now and my thinking has changed. The only thing is, I can't figure out where you can get them in Australia. Are those normal sea sponges you use for makeup ok? I assume so? Are they going to fall to bits inside you and come out piecemeal? For those that have used them, they say they are quite comfortable because they are squishy and conform to your inner curvatures better. I think you would need to sew a string on them to be able to get them out easily though. From what I can see, they cost about $30 for two, from overseas. And since they are animal products, they may be hard to get into the country past customs.

Crochet tampons

This is from eclectically creative's etsy shop
Yes, they are exactly what they are. You can buy them ready made, or make them yourself. Change every few hours like normal tampons and wash them by soaking in cold water then laundering. Cheap if u can do them yourselves. But boy do they look fiddly.

So... Are you converted yet?

Ok, there you go, things that people use as an alternative to disposables! I mean, poor people must menstruate too, or people who live in villages, what the hell do they use? I think that it's a huge mindset change that people need to go through. Most of the concerns are about extra work and cleanliness.

Dishes are a classic example. Is a disposable plate cleaner than a washed ceramic plate? Isn't it easier to throw out a plate than it is to wash it? Aren't disposable plates cheaper than a good dinner plate? And you're putting it into your MOUTH! Underwear is against the outside of your body - as are pads - so why do they have to be sterile rather than just washed clean like any other clothes?

I've just given you some options if you'd like to make a difference. Hopefully something catches your fancy, but if not, don't sweat it! Just pass this on to someone if you know they would like to consider making the change, to at least give them some ideas :)

Thursday, 13 July 2017

Rescue chicken update - bye bye Lana

Poor Lana. Despite my best efforts, I was unable to fix her.  And I tried everything.

I treated her with oral antifungals - though Nilstat is good for sour crop yeast, I wasn't sure if it would work if administered from the top end. I did that for a week, but her bottom continued to weep and discharge.

I did regular baths, but it was clear there was something on the inside that was the problem. Bathing just cleaned up her feathers but her bottom continued to weep.

I then decided to try some antibiotics. Perhaps she had a salpingitis/reproductive tract infection. Chlamydia can infect chickens and tetracyclines can work on them. So a week of oral tetracycline derivatives, and I thought she seemed more perky but her bottom was no better. I did worry, however, that giving broad spectrum antibiotics would make her yeast infection flare up more.

I even did a per rectum (or is it per cloaca?) examination to see if I could feel a mass or a foreign body that was causing it. I couldn't feel anything inside.

Over the last few days, she was looking more and more withdrawn. Her head was tucked in her wing and her eyes were closed. She would eat but not as voraciously as she had at first. I told the kids (who were on holidays with their grandparents) that Lana was going to die soon.

Today, she was dead. Poor Lana.

She was a tame chicken, though a bit aggressive to the others. She would bully Mary but cower from Snowy. The kids liked her a lot and she was happy to have cuddles.

In other chicken news, Cacciatore has stopped laying because she is now moulting. She looks very bedraggled indeed! None of the other chickens have laid since March, so I am hoping that come spring we will have eggs again.

Tuesday, 11 July 2017

War on Waste - Amazing positive impact

The War on Waste series on ABC has had a real impact on people, making people more aware of the problem that rubbish and plastics has.

The coffee cups was quite an eye opener for me. I did not realise coffee cups were not recyclable! I drink a lot of hot chocolate at work, and they all come in takeaway containers, which I often take home to grow seedlings (so at least there is some recycling) but it would be better if I didn't have to throw them away at all.

I knew there were reusable options out there and so I decided, along with my sister, to buy some Keep Cups, which are an Australian company started by someone who used to have a coffee business.

Interestingly, since War on Waste aired, Keep Cup has had a MASSIVE jump in their sales. 400% increase! Obviously that is a limited thing because once everyone has a keep cup they won't buy another, but that's great news for the Australian company!

So I couldn't decide which one to buy, so I decided to buy a set and give them away to other fellow coffee drinkers who were keen waste-reducers...

How best to utilize though?

I drink the majority of my takeaway hot chocolate when I am working at the Private hospital, where I can't leave the operating theatre to give my cup to the coffee shop (as they are delivered up). However, I can put one in my handbag so that whenever I am out and about, I will always use my own cup. So I did that, and also put a reusable shopping bag (shaped like a strawberry) inside it so I can always have a backup.

I also put one in my bag for when I work at the public hospital because at those times I CAN go down and take my cup.

The other thing that I didn't know was about recycling soft plastic. Redcycle (which has bins at Coles) does recycle soft plastic. 

Soft plastics like glad wrap, bubble wrap, plastic bags - basically scrunchable plastics - can be recycled! Chip packets, cereal packet inners are also included in that as well.

So now that I've segregated all those items, my landfill rubbish has reduced. I was quite pleased about that. It was a long time ago since I was so conscious about rubbish - which was why I used cloth nappies in the first place - to reduce my household rubbish.

So big thumbs up to War on Waste, by inspiring people to change, using humour instead of a lecture and also giving us practical solutions. I feel annoyed at myself for sliding away from the conscious reduction of rubbish - though I do have worm farms, a compost bin and chickens to help reduce the amount of food thrown into the bin - but I could do just a little bit more. Starting with my hot chocolate fixes.

Tuesday, 27 June 2017

A bargain 2nd hand buy - I love this Alannah Hill leather dress!

My fake leather dress fell to pieces the other day when I was at work (it was a front zip shift dress) and I was desperate to have another leather dress but adamant that I didn't want to look like a prostitute, and whilst I was browsing Ebay, I came across this Alannah hill dress, New Without Tags.

This frock is called Sugar Town, and I managed to pick it up for $59! What a bargain! And in my size too! It is now my new favourite dress and I love it to bits. The previous owner had bought it for a wedding but never got around to wearing it.  It is leather on the front and ponte fabric with a zip on the back. The only sad thing is that it is dry clean only.

Sunday, 4 June 2017

Rescue chicken - Will she survive?

I don't know why I keep looking at Gumtree for chickens when I have 5 chickens already. But, last week, there was an ad for a free chicken - "don't know what is wrong with her." The description sounded like her vent was clogged and I thought, hmm I can go see what's wrong with her and maybe fix her up.

So I told the kids that after school we were going to look at a chicken. Would they like a new chicken?

There was resounding "YES!" screamed throughout the car, and they were all excited thinking we were getting a new chicken.

So I went to the place to inspect the chicken to see if she was salvageable. She could be dying, or ridden with parasites. When I got there, it was a delightful young couple whose home was full of DIY stuff - there were rose petals drying in the kitchen and the lady was juicing mandarins in the backyard, and offered me some.

I looked with dismay at my uggs as I glanced around their backyard, which is what the chickens appeared to free range in. Which is great, but there was chicken poo everywhere. Fortunately with careful stepping I managed to avoid excessive soiling of my sheepskin boots!

The chicken in question was standing quietly by the lady, and was quite placid. I picked her up and looked at her bottom which was covered in a dried whitish discharge, dribbling down her backside. Possibly vent gleet (or chicken thrush) which is treatable with some canesten and butt care. I looked at her eyes which seemed alert enough, comb was red and full and not blue or shrivelled and she seemed to be quite a young chicken. The other chickens were all 20 weeks old so she was at point of lay - she probably wasn't laying because she wasn't well.

A few days of isolation and butt baths with some heater and hair dryer butt-drying and application of canesten seemed to perk her up a bit. She was eating happily, drinking heaps and wandering around trying to find her spot in the pecking order with the other chickens. But in between she would stand still during the day and close her eyes. Surely that's not normal.

I had been feeling her crop wondering why she was sick in the first place. Did she have sour crop (which is yeast infection in her crop)? That can come from eating contaminated water or food. Her crop at the end of the day felt full and doughy, a bit different to the firm ball that the other chooks had at the end of the day. Just in case I bought some Nilstat (nystatin) to dose her orally.

This morning I went out to look at her and her crop felt very full. Ugh, I had read about trying to empty these crops by making the chickens vomit but I had tried multiple times with no success. So I'm going to just separate her again, more apple cider vinegar in her water, and give her mashed soft food and twice daily nystatin. I'd read that you give 1mL per 400g, but I think I'll just stick to 1mL per 500g and give her 3mL twice a day and see how that goes. Dosing her isn't too bad, prying a beak open for liquid isn't as hard as it looks. It's just the bum washing in the dead of winter which I baulk at. It's so COLD!

My son named her Lana (though at first he wanted to name her Tony which I said I didn't like since that was a boy's name) and so Lana has now become part of the family. If I succeed in fixing her we'll have another happy egg layer. If not... well, it was a free chicken.

Wednesday, 19 April 2017

DIY tote bags - from new and recycled things!

My daughter's art bag was an old Easter Show canvas bag that was looking worse for wear so I asked her if she wanted me to make her a new one. She did so off we went to Spotlight to buy some material. The material she bought I was horrified with - there are so many NICE colourful duck fabrics we could have used but she chose a grey base with pink polka dots, and a plain green for the lining.

I used this pattern from a Russian website, which had nice easy to follow instructions.

I did the handles a little differently - I showed my daughter some ideas and she liked the plaited handles from this website.

So here is the bag in progress - using the first website's template.

I used hubby's old jeans to reinforce the bottom and cut off a leg hem to make a pocket. I used a herringbone stitch to sew the pocket down but I would probably have been better off using a small running stitch on it.

I used one strip each from the jeans, the lining and the polka dot fabric to braid the handles, and even let my daughter do some - if you look carefully at the back handle on the green lining strip you can see her stitches. She apologised for them being ugly but that's ok, it's her bag, it's nice that she did part of the sewing!

My son started carrying around the "sewing bag" because it's a good size for carrying around iPads, snacks, and books, so I thought I'd make him his own bag. I was inspired by this tutorial with a shirt and tie and I modified it to use leftovers around my house.

Hubby had a thick long sleeve winter shirt that was hardly worn but he didn't like wearing it because it was too hot - a shame because someone else could have worn it! However, the nice thick shirt now was becoming a sturdy bag.

I also took two old different ties to make two different handles, and was going to use the contrasting one as a fold over close for the bag. I realised that these two ties are expensive branded ties but they are dreadfully old fashioned so taking scissors to them wasn't the end of the world

Sewing the shirt closed is important! I should have done that before I sewed the 2 squares together. To make the bag a little more boxy, I cut out symmetrical squares from the bottom corners to make a flat base like in my daughter's bag, but smaller. Another thing I did was sew a hidden pocket which opens with one of the buttons on the shirt. I like the idea of a secret pocket!

For the lining I had some old Thomas the Tank Engine thicker canvas like fabric which I bought for the kids but never used. I measured 14cm from each edge and attached the tie handles. Because the tie is assymetrical, the 14cm measure to the middle of the tie. I sewed the narrower end into the lining, but left the fat end of the tie inside the bag - I might use it to make a loop to put a drink bottle or something in.

Here is the finished bag, taken whilst we were eating breakfast. You can see the contrasting tie as the opposite bag handle and the tongue of the tie which folds over to the opposite side as a bag closure. I was going to get a magnetic snap and sew it on as a formal closure, but I worry that it will affect the look of the shirt bag. The contrasting tongue can also be just folded into the bag if nobody wants to use it as a closure, but it does look quite good as a tie/shirt when closed!

All lovingly hand stitched! My backstitch is now looking very tidy - I think I might try making some with my sewing machine and see if I can make the bags stronger or more durable. Looks like we'll have shopping bags galore!