Saturday, February 25, 2012

Remembering Jessie

Last Monday, the day before Valentine’s Day we lost Jessie our blue heeler and much loved family pet; she was twelve years old. For the past four years Jessie had lived with Granny and Farmer Bill at Red Hill Station. Enjoying her advancing years on the farm as a night watchdog, patrolling Granny’s extensive rose gardens by starlight to keep the kangaroos and rabbits at bay.
On 1st January 2000, the first day of the new millennium, Jessie unexpectedly joined our family. Brought down from Booligal with her littermate to be viewed by perspective buyers that were staying with us at Hay. The two very cute roly-poly puppies played in the dust of our driveway while the decision on which pup to choose was being made. The buyers chose Jessie’s sister.
Our Booligal blue heeler breeding friends Yabby and Sandra asked if we would like to keep Jessie as a New Year’s Day present. With 20 month old toddler Max and not quite four week old baby Sam; a blue heeler puppy was the last thing I wanted… but what can I say, she looked at me with her big brown eyes and I heard myself saying “Wow, really? She’s so cute. Thankyou.”
I’ve always had a soft spot for heelers, they are tough, fiercely loyal and like kelpies, uniquely Australian stock dogs. Jessie although a purebred blue heeler, was a short-wheel based version that looked as though she could have had Staffordshire terrier somewhere in her ancestry. She was a very dark blue (black with flecks of grey) with a big black splotch around one eye.
Growing up at Rosedale with Max, Sam and Henry, Jessie had a beautiful loving nature… with the exception of some strangers, the odd chook, rabbits, snakes and car tyres. Vehicles were her nemeses; she would bark ferociously whenever one came down our driveway and would growl and rush at the front fence as they drove past on Farlows Lane.
When she was about eighteen months old Jessie made a dash for the road in an attempt to remove the driver’s side front wheel from a neighbour’s dual cab Hilux ute. An unsuccessful attempt as the Hilux went over the top of her and she was left black and blue with bruises for more than a week. Relieved that she had survived relatively unscathed with the exception of the bruising, I felt it was a good lesson for her and would cure her of her car chasing ways. How wrong I was.
Far from being dissuaded from car chasing, Jessie became more incensed. She would hear that Hilux start up from two kilometres away and would be bracing herself for a renewed attack… ever confident she would “get it this time.”
Over the years she had some personal victories: a low-profile high performance (read: very expensive) tyre on a Falcon ute (straight through the wall of the driver’s side rear tyre) and a brand new Bridgestone on a Fairlane (again, straight through the wall rendering it impossible to be repaired).
Taking her incorrigible car-chasing ways into account we decided it would probably be best if Jessie retired to the isolation of Red Hill Station on the Hay Plains rather than the suburbia of Teddy’s Lane in Barham. It took Jessie about two years to accept that she was not holidaying at Red Hill Station and that it was now her permanent home. From then on she followed Farmer Bill around everywhere during the day.
In the last six months Jessie had become increasingly deaf and sadly her fifth “run over by a vehicle” incident proved fatal on the morning of the 13th February 2012.
As my eldest son Max said on his Facebook status: R.I.P Jessie. The Best pet/Guard dog/tyre eater/car chaser a Family could have. 
Run over 4 times (and healthy) till yesterday 5 times was just 1 too much. We’ll miss you…
I couldn’t have said it better.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

Embarking on a juice fast

"The doctor of the future will no longer treat the human frame with drugs, but rather will cure and prevent disease with nutrition.” Thomas Edison
A few weeks ago I watched a documentary film called “Fat, Sick and Nearly Dead”. It follows Joe Cross, an unhealthy Australian man in his 40s as he embarks on a sixty-day vegetable and fruit juice fast in an effort to regain his health. He literally becomes healthy before your eyes and turns his life around.
Juice fasting is not a modern fad in western society’s quest to regain health and wellbeing. The history of fasting goes back thousands of years with many religions around the world using fasting as a healing process for spiritual purification and communion with God. Over the centuries doctors have used juice fasting to cure illnesses through resting the body from the high energy needed for food digestion and using the micronutrients in fresh juice to provide energy and support to the body while stimulating the detoxification process.
So with this inspiration fresh in my mind, on Saturday 4th February I began my own little experiment into the world of juice fasting…. actually it’s not completely fasting due to the odd snack of strawberries and my mild avocado addiction.
The last time I went on a fast was the forty hour famine when I was sixteen and I suspect it was an excuse not to eat boarding school food for a couple of days more than anything. From memory I was pretty hungry for those two days and didn’t feel particularly well.
This time around it’s a whole different story. Despite a number of friends who have juice fasted before me claiming that their energy levels and overall health had improved, I remained dubious. It’s taken me quite some time but thanks to Joe Cross, I’ve finally committed to doing one. Although I felt pretty certain that my stomach would be growling, I’d feel weak with hunger and the whole experience would be less than pleasant, I figured ten days without lamb chops and mashed potato, a pizza, red wine, rum and coke or coffee wouldn’t kill me.
Much to my surprise, ten days on (as I type this), I am feeling fantastic. With my twin-gear juicer whirring away on my kitchen bench, I’m drinking as much vegetable and fruit juice as I like and eating one of Barham Avocados delicious Reed avocados a day. I don’t feel hungry, I have more energy, feel clear headed and I’m sleeping well at night; the exact opposite to how I thought I would feel.
Experimenting with different juices I have discovered some mouth-watering combinations. Making the most of the summer vegetables and fruits by enjoying watermelon, apple and carrot; beetroot, apple, carrot and lemon; tomato, fresh basil leaves, celery, spinach and cucumber; Kurrnung Citrus oranges, fresh mint, pineapple and watermelon (a taste sensation); carrot, celery, apple, parsley and ginger; cabbage, apple, pear and blueberries.
When I began my juice/avocado fast (read: feast), I initially thought I’d give it a go for ten days. Now I’m thinking I may juice on till towards the end of February, just to see what that’s like. Bearing in mind the Regional World’s Longest Lunch is being held at the Goble’s Walnut Grove on the 2nd March with four courses, matching wines, tea and coffee (and I fully intend to eat and drink everything in sight), I will make sure my juice fast concludes four or five days beforehand so my stomach can get ready for a day of gastronomic indulgence.
Needless to say I’ll be heading over to Koondrook on Sunday morning to see what I can buy at the Farmer’s Market to put through my juicer ….maybe a Pacdon Park pork pie?!

Friday, February 10, 2012

Loving routines

This week it’s back to routine in the House of Barr as term one commenced with our usual Monday morning frenzy. Henry headed out the door alone to the uncharted waters of Year Four at Barham Primary School, Sam and Max struck out together for Barham High School and the untold adventures of Years Seven and Eight. …and not a moment too soon I might add.
I know I said only a couple of weeks ago how much I was loving the lack of routine that school holidays bring but I’m over that now. I want our routine back, it’s comforting and I’ve missed it… that and the six hours from nine till three that I get to work in uninterrupted peace and quiet.
Some routines can be soothing amongst the hustle and bustle of everyday life, well, not our morning routine as that is pure chaos but we have other routines during school term. For instance, Tuesday night is Cheesy Pasta Night. There is no need for the boys or I to wonder what to cook for dinner on Tuesdays, as it is always the same, give or take a few ingredients. The base meal is cream; eggs and Parmesan cheese stirred through a large pot of cooked spiral pasta. When we’re feeling more imaginative we add some steamed broccoli or green beans with mushrooms and bacon sautéed in butter and garlic.
Later in the week (Thursday night to be precise) along comes PAGT night. An acronym that stands for Pancakes, Abba, Gin & Tonic. This little tradition began about six years ago when I discovered an over-supply of limes on my lime tree at Hay. Not wanting to waste them I poured myself a gin and tonic and added generous slices of lime and then thought how nice pancakes would be for dinner with butter, sugar and lime juice… and then I remembered how much I liked listening to the Abba Gold album while drinking gin and tonic and flipping pancakes. Needless to say the night was a huge success all round and we’ve been enjoying PAGT night ever since.
Our favourite routine however, is the nightly bedtime story read by yours truly. Not long after Max was born in 1998 I delved into the world of children’s books and reading aloud to Max, later Sam and later still Henry. 
More than fourteen years on and I’m still reading aloud and getting as much pleasure out of the books as the boys. Along the way we’ve progressed from The Hungry Caterpillar, Where is the Green Sheep and The Cassowary’s Egg to The Roald Dahl Treasury, The Jungle Book and C.S.Lewis’s Narnia series to A Fortunate Life, To Kill a Mockingbird and The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn to Jonathan Livingston Seagull, Jack Bradford’s Young Samurai series (our favourite – we are eagerly awaiting the publication of book seven in March this year) and our current Harry Potter phase. This week’s bedtime story is book four in the series; Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. We are aiming to read a chapter a night but with 37 chapters and 636 pages it may be the bedtime story for many weeks to come.
Some routines can be stressful and abandoning them for a period of time can be refreshing but other routines are reassuring and having them in our lives gives us a sense of stability and control. Hooray for the start of another school year!

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Merimbula, blue bottles and broken legs

Greetings from the coast. This week Team Barr is kicking back in sunny Merimbula on the New South Wales south coast on our annual trip to the beach. This family tradition began in January 2004 thanks to the encouragement of my friends Fleur and Hamish and the generosity of my Mother’s cousin John and his wife Vicky who invited the boys and I to stay at their little 1930s cottage anytime we’d like a beach holiday.
Back in 2004 it was a long 675km trek from Hay with 17-month-old Henry, 4 year old Sam and five year old Max. We were on the road by 5am, arrived in Wagga Wagga just before 8am for some Scottish food (breakfast at McDonald’s). Then it was on through Adelong, Tumut and up through the Kosciusko National Park. The awesome power of my trusty Nissan wagon’s 2.8 turbo diesel engine was put to the test in the mountains where it chugged along in second gear.
Merimbula on the far south coast of New South Wales is a social spot, with many rural families from the Riverina making their way across the Great Dividing Range each summer. Friends Fleur and Hamish were staying a short ten minute walk from the cottage and late on the afternoon of our first day I ran into Anna, another friend from Hay who was staying by happy coincidence, with her family at a beach house two doors down. She asked after Max and Sam and with a smile inquired how my “youngest and wildest” (Henry) was going? I laughed and said it was only a matter of time before Henry broke an arm or a leg.
The next day started beautifully with a picture perfect sunny day. The boys and I went to the Spencer Park Beach and strolled along the sand and paddled in the calm shallow water. I stopped with Henry to make sandcastles and chat with other parents, while Sam and Max continued up the beach looking for shells. Just as I was entering that “living the dream” cloud of happiness and gratitude there was a long piercing scream… Max had discovered and tried to pick up Physalia utriculus otherwise known as the Blue Bottle Jellyfish and suffered multiple stings to his hands. So ended our first beach outing. I bundled Henry, Sam and a still screaming Max back into the wagon and set a new land speed record to the nearest chemist for a large bottle of Soov before making our way back to the cottage for an early lunch and a rest.
By mid afternoon Max had recovered and my stress levels had returned to normal. Everyone was feeling well rested and ready to hit the beach once more. While I applied sunscreen to Sam, out of the corner of my eye I caught the flash of movement as 17-month-old Henry launched himself off the top bunk with a pillow in an attempt to fly. For the record, toddlers do not fly, they don’t even glide, they just go splat onto the wooden floorboards below and then emit high-pitched screams. For the second time that day I was bundling a screaming child into the wagon. Anna appeared having heard the commotion, she gave me directions to the Pambula hospital and offered to look after Max and Sam. My flippant comment made less than 24 hours earlier had come true; Henry had broken his right leg.
We returned to Anna’s house hours later; Henry in a hip to toe full leg fibreglass cast with waterproof liner and me feeling somewhat less than cheerful. Anna answered the door with a bowl of ice cream for Henry and a glass of wine for me.
Battling an almost overwhelming urge to admit defeat and drive home that night, we stuck it out with the support of our friends and the boys and I went on to enjoy our first ever beach holiday. A tradition was born (holidaying at the beach, not breaking legs… I hasten to add).