Friday, December 30, 2011

Reflection for the New Year

I do not often write too much about myself specifically on this blog. I am a rather private person, quite frankly. But these past few years have been rather hard for all of us here. My health deterioted drastically, and my MCS became much worse. I had to move around several times, but never had a very healthy place for myself to live. Each place I got worse in, and had to move on to another in a continual downward cycle. Often I was unable to walk, and for 8 months I could not even hold my head up on my own. For a while I lived in a stripped, cleaned, and remodeled Airstream. It has been hard. I was without many of the things people in this country take for granted, and I am not even including my health in that statement. In the Airstream I did not have indoor plumbing and no hot water unless I boiled it myself. Although it is hard for people with no experience with MCS to imagine, our modern world is full of chemicals, many of which could have easily killed me, very quickly. I did not live like that by choice. I was not able to be around very much, even things like magazines were a problem. I could only see a very, very few people, countable on one hand, the only members of my family able or willing to get fully unscented and non-toxic, so to speak. Obviously, even for a somewhat loner like myself with a wonderful flock of parrots, a dog, and with access to the internet (most of the time....), that isolation takes a  a serious tole. It does not help that I am not very good at translating internet aquaintances into real friends, a fact which makes one feel even more isolated. Combine that with having a severe illness (I have no memory of ever being without pain, but these last few years have been trying even for me) and constantly having to watch for something that can end it all in a few minutes leads to one nasty stew.


There were many things I gained from all that. Living in the Airstream in many ways could almost feel like a privilege. On the edge of the woods, with a wild field in front and beside me, I felt almost part of the landscape, and the local wildlife seemed to accept me as such. Windows in airstreams are low enough that when an animal is right outside, they really are right next to you. And I was fortunate to live in an area with abundant wildlife, from black bears, coyotes, and foxes, to eagles, osprey, and owls, song birds of all types, insect life of incredible variety, deer, the most adorbale bob white families, and all manner of smaller mammals. On top of that, being someone that already valued simplicity and disliked waste, I found it a useful experience to live without so much. It really is possible. 

Throughout most of this I had my parrots with me. I was fortunate enough to have some wonderful family members to help me look after them when I was unable to give them all, or even any, of their care. No, they were not kept in the standards I hold, but they did get my very basics (good food, toys, etc), and we stayed together. Although there were periods some had to be moved into smaller cages, they were in their big cages for much of the time, even in the airstream, which had little else besides cages! Through all this, I was rather amazed, although I felt like we had a good bond before, just how much of a flock we became. It truly shows how incredible parrots are. They all become so conscious of one another, and even more so of me. I am including Gwen in this statement, as my cat stayed with my sister through these many transitions. Even Chester, who formerly hated birds, particularly the little ones, has become rather attached to them, protective. They all talk to each other alot. We all got through it together.

This time last year I was testing a new place to live, and stayed there for 2 months, hopeful that it would work out, although in the end it did not. It was a long way away, and the trip was horrendous, so I am very glad I survived. My parrots were unable to be with me then, so they stayed, again, with my darling sister. Being away from them was quite hard, and according to my sis, they were none to happy with the situation, either. Fortunately, she is quite patient and understood their pain.

I say this all now in my new house. My new safe house. My new safe house in the mountains, with plenty of fresh air surrounding me. I have a beautiful view, and lovely yard, and am surrounded on three sides by woods with a huge and absolutely storybook perfect cow pasture in front. My closest neighbors are extremely nice, into animal rescue, and totally unscented. All of my parrots are here with me, and loving their new life. I cannot believe I made it, and I feel so fortunate. Obviously, my plans for the best possible captive parrot environment (in a home, I mean) are huge. They are slow going, but we will ge there. But more importantly, after being here several months, I am already so much better, and with my new treatment and program, hope to be far better very soon. I can do so much more, and really give my parrots what I want them to have. For one thing, they all have room to fly here, even Miss Claudia!

Since coming here I have adopted a starving English Shepherd puppy. And against my initial better judgement (which turned out to be false, for once) a wonderful African Grey, whom I will introduce soon. I hope to start fostering again soon as well. In fact, one of the people who worked on the house, before I came here, is rather desperate for me to take their cockatoo. My MCS is getting better, and I hope to be going places and seeing people more. And I just cannot say thanks enough for all of this, and most importantly, for my parrots and dear Gwen. I would not be here without them, and although they seem content enough just being with me, I feel obliged to make it up to them as well as I can. Being part of a such a flock (and who knew there could be such a close band of such a group of misfits from different continents and animal kingdoms?) is truly amazing.

So, here's to 2012. I hope the rest of you have as much good luck in this next year as I have had in this one!

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Happy Holidays!

My tree! I use a dead tree branch due to my sensitivity to fir/pine trees,
but I think it is sooo pretty!

There are a million and one things that can be dangerous to your parrots during the Holidays, and another million that can be upsetting to them. Plus, if your parrots are anything like mine, they are already planning a million ways to cause trouble over the Holidays. In the first category are fragrances, perfume, and candles, to cooking incidents with non-stick cookware, to toxic plants, like poinsettias, to toxic decorations (many vinyl trees still have lead) and a whole host of other things to think about. In the second category, there is the stress of all the changes in the appearance of the house, possible cage moves, parties, people visiting, changes in schedule, and the prospect of being shunned after destroying someones brand new 32 HD flat screen tv by chewing through the cord and knocking the whole item off the table in the ensuing scramble. In the last category, I am sure some of things your parrots may be considering are-- 1. sneaking a large amount unhealthy food and becoming deathly ill at approximately two in the morning on Christmas Eve, 2. telling your Great Aunt Polly exactly what they think of her name and her dietary habits (cracker, anyone?), and 3.  screaming non-stop through your family meal. Oh, and there was that incident with the tv, too. Not to mention knocking several ornaments off the tree.

So now, if you have somehow survived that diatribe of disturbing events and implications without  hyperventilating, passing out, eating far too much of your chosen item (my mom prefers chocolate) becoming hysterical and ranting all over the house, or perhaps having a heart attack, I commend you. Personally, I have always had quiet Christmases, but I know that is not the case for many people.

In the end, remember that this is a time to have fun. It will end soon, so enjoy it, and encourage your parrots to enjoy it in their own way. If you are new to birds, start some new traditions involving them, such as watching holiday specials together, learning Jingle Bells, or taking them with you in their carrier to see the Christmas lights, provided you do not open your windows and let in all the gas fumes and cold air. I see nothing wrong with letting your parrots have treats on the holidays that they would never have the rest of the year, although  I firmly believe some things like cookies and anything fried should never be offered. Obviously keep anything toxic well away from them, because those items are not only dangerous but also are often quiet coveted.

I have my dog biscuit dough chilling in the fridge, and have been saving a bag of Avian Organics bird bannock for their Christmas morning feast. Miss Kipp-kipp will be getting some new catnip toys I will make. I am hoping to get some things hung in the ceiling for them this weekend, as well, so they can finally have hanging gym fun here. So, in the end, (despite the loss of your new tv,) I hope everyone has as wonderful a Holiday as I hope too, whichever holiday(s) they celebrate!

P.S. I could not think of a really good topic for the Holiday post, and so queried my family for ideas. As you can see, I got nothing. Unless you count the exasperated suggestion that I tell everyone to go find/buy/adopt some ekkies, both male and female, and hang them around the house as they match the traditional holiday decor so perfectly. Mmmmm, not quite what I was looking for.

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Serve Your Food Waste

Waste is a huge problem in our world, and an even bigger problem in America. It has become so commonplace to throw away that it no longer even seems like waste to many of us, as we gaily find virtue in tossing grandmothers favorite afghan in the trash pile, blithely thinking about how much better a new violet throw will look rather than that old lavender one. As troubling as that is (or should be) food waste is at least as troubling to me. There is often just as much energy involved in producing the magical appearance of that food on the shelf or produce pyramid (yes, vegetables also take a lot of energy to grow, from the water use, to the tractor, to the pesticides/herbicides, to the transportation) not to mention the fact that I cannot but help think of the starving people in my own, or your own, community that would love to eat that slightly blemished apple. Food waste seems so small at the time, just a bit here and there, but taken all together, it really adds up, and I mean that from a waste-not point of view, as well as a want-not when speaking of the money waste. Soooo, end of moral, what does this have to do with parrots? Quite a bit, I think.

For example, if you buy organic vegetables, or low-pesticide-residue produce for yourself, but do not care to eat the peel, why not give that part to your parrot? My guys love peels, from cucumber, to squash ends, to the winter squash shell leftover after I bake one. Just leave a bit more of the flesh on that you might otherwise have, and let them go to town! And just so you know, winter squash peel is edible. I know. I quite like the caramelized peel myself, and the parrots have no issue with any hardness factor I might find discomforting. I save the root end of celery and lettuce for them, the tough stems of greens and broccoli, even parsley stems are well loved.

In fact, many of these types of food waste are actually more beloved by my parrots than the finer parts we generally prefer. Aside from my little Aussies, green stems are liked better than the greens themselves (although none of mine will turn down fresh greens on a skewer) and Frank and Lola will do just about anything for a romaine root. Squash stems are loved by all, even the Aussies, not only do you have sweet crisp squash, but you also have that wonderful stem to gnaw on! 

Fruit should not be left out of the parrot compost pile. Melon rinds are great edible toys, as are strawberry tops. Apple peel is very popular, and as we all know form our mothers, the peel is the healthiest part! I will occasionally give mine citrus peel to gnaw on, and that is a very well loved foot toy. Or, should your bird be a quaker,  a highly coveted nest decor item, which makes that hard to achieve fresh, clean, but lived in look well within even the reach of even the most artistically uninspired quakers reach. And no, orange peel does not mold easily, at all, it just dries up even in the hot humid south, but I do take it out after a day or two.

The outside waste is not the only thing parrots will enjoy. While many seeds and pits are toxic, some are not. Both squash and melon seeds, along with all the gloopy gunk that comes out with them, are highly coveted here. I simply scoop out and serve, just as is. Cucumber and squash seeds, should you not require them for your recipe, are likewise well received here.

I cannot help you with that beef you cooked and then forgot, or the bread that molded on the shelf, (although if you are interested in saving money and wasting less it would not hurt to check your pantry and fridge often) but at the very least, you can save money on your parrot food bill and make less waste in that department! For those of you that compost.... well, this post might not be of use to you. But for the many that do not have a compost, hopefully your parrot will enjoy some of your food waste. Obviously, having this so-called food waste requires you to be partaking of the produce yourself, but that is another story. And not one for this blog, so have no fear, fresh food haters!

Seriously, though, try some flippy floppy peels, or a stem end with your parrots. They might really like the novelty! And as long as the food is organic or low-pesticide, I say let them have it!