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Australia Diary – May 9 – July 13 – Fifth Week – 2nd week with wallabies.
PHOTOS TO COME
Saturday, June 10 – RAINED ALL DAY!
I took on new pens today, pen 6 with all adult males, pen 7 with adult females and Chatty’s pen, the blind adult grey kangaroo. As it poured for most of the day, all we did in the pens was the feed stations and anything else we could get to between down pours. As I was doing chatty’s pen, I saw a grey kangaroo in the open area that had a very enlarged back right foot. Tina and Pete recognize him as Doc that had been released from the area within the last 5 months. At feeding time, we managed to corner him and Pete caught him and held on until Tina could give him some Valium. He settled pretty well in Pete’s lap and after about 7 mls of Valium he could be carried into the kitchen and put on the table for evaluation. He had some how managed to amputate his largest middle toe and possibly 1-2 additional portions of that toe. The infection was so established that Tina was unable to inject any local anesthetic, so they cleaned as best they could, pumped him full of antibiotics and bandaged him. Tina had hoped to keep him in the hospital all night, but he became so fractious that he ended up in Chatty’s pen.
During the rainy afternoon, I thought I might enjoy a nap with Wiggles. It ended up being a non-nap as she started with every minor noise of gust of wind and about drove me crazy. I understand why new mothers are so sleep deprived!
Sunday, June 11
Overcast all day with winds that at times were extreme. We managed to spend more time in the pens and they were a mess considering the recent days of light cleaning and the extra water.
I found that I love cleaning Chatty’s pen for several reasons. 1 – it does not have very tall grass so the foxtails aren’t too bad. 2 – It is close to the house and you can see what is going on. 3 – there aren’t many shelters to worry about. 4 – Kangaroo poo is much larger and easier to spot. 5 – with the little bit of water we have had over the last few days, the tiniest little wild flowers are coming up. As I would bend down to pick up some poo, I would be greeted with the loveliest tiny flowers of periwinkle blue, lemon yellow or bright fuchsia. Lovely little gifts of color in an otherwise green and brown carpet.
We attempted to capture Doc to re-bandage him and he was not having it. We tried for 20 minutes and Tina finally stopped us and said that if we continued much longer, we might cause him to die of stress. As she really would need to capture him on a daily basis in order to change the bandages and give him more antibiotics, it is not looking good for him. Australia no longer allows people to have guns without registration and therefore, Pete does not have a weapon. The farm also does not have a blowgun that would allow us to dart him with an anesthetic. The blowgun might be able to be borrowed from the zoo and providing they can find the right drug, he may be able to be sedated to retreat or possibly euthanasia. Not a very happy ending to our day. We will see if we can catch him tomorrow.
Monday, June 12
The day began as normal and I began in pen 7, the females. As it had been a hugely windy night, most of the animals had stayed put and therefore, the poo was not very evident. As I was finishing the pen and picking up my rake in the food station, I stooped to look into the individual animal shelter. I saw what appeared to be a reclining nailtail. Upon closer inspection, I found that she was dead. I carried her to the main area and Pete and Tina came out. She was an older animal and Tina said she had a hard life. She did not appear to have been bitten by a snake, which is one common cause of death in the pens. Tina is suspecting malnourishment and has decided that from now on we will only be feeding sweet potato and not the corn nuggets.
As I returned from my second pen, Tina said that she and Pete had to make an emergency trip to Brisbane to collect their daughter and granddaughter from an abusive relationship. This left Matt, Sophie and I with Jessica to hold the fort.
We have fallen into a routine with the boys and they are a scream. Bernie only wants his pieces of sweet potato without rind and takes one small bite and then throws it over his shoulder. I love to hear the contented little crunching as they hold the potato in their little hands and munch away. I ADORE FEEDING ANIMALS!
When any of the animals gets the hiccups, their entire body shakes. They get the hiccups
whenever they are stressed, which happens any time the guinea fowl approach Bruce. Wiggles with hiccups is a hoot.
Sophie cooked tonight for the four of us and we had the most delightful chicken and bacon fried rice. YUM. We thought there might be some left over of Matt’s breakfast, but by the end of dinner, we had eaten it all away.
Tuesday, June 13 – Martina and the Baby are home
We had massive winds with lots of gusts all day and the shade sail over the porch let go and waved dangerously in the breeze. As I cleaned pen 2, I found one of the sails down in two of the four places and where it touched the ground, the girls had used it as a potty. At least it was easy to see. As I was in the pen, I kept hearing a loud banging and the roofing for the feed shed in pen 4 was very loose and in danger of flying off at any moment.
With Tina gone, Wiggles had to be fed. Tina had said earlier that Wiggles eats for no one but her. Jessie had fed her the night before, so I held out some hope of feeding her. I GOT HER TO FEED TWICE TODAY. YAAAH!
The day was quiet, other than the wind, and the pens went as normal. The family arrived home in stages with Pete staggering in with a blinding migraine at about 3:30 and the other car with Tina, Martina and the baby at 5:00.
With the family arriving home after 10 hours of driving, Sophie and I coordinated dinner. Tina had a stuffed chicken roll in the freezer, which we thawed and then fried in the electric fry pan with potatoes. Also yummy. Frankly, I am normally so hungry by the time that dinner is ready, not because there is no food but from the physical work, that almost anything tastes yummy.
Wednesday, June 14 –
Martina and Jessie went into Rocky to try and get some answers for Martina’s upcoming custody hearing and to shop for Tina’s birthday gift.
After pen cleaning, Sophie and I spent most of our time working on the logo and t-shirt quotes for AACE. Sophie has developed a logo for the group that incorporates a line drawing of a wallaby and the name. We found a reasonable source for the shirts out of New South Wales and if they sell the shirts for $20, they can make almost $10 in profits for the agency.
Poor Cody, our little wallaroo, appears to have diarrhea and possibly e coli. It is not uncommon with the change of schedule and with several different people preparing milk and bottles. We will wait and see what happens.
Tina has been catching a one-eyed girl wallaby that had recently had her damaged eye removed by the vet. For the past 5 nights, Tina has repacked her eye with medicinal honey (which is doing an amazing job of cleaning up the infections) and shots with three antibiotics. She also wanted to try again to catch Doc again. I requested that she forego that this night as everyone was exhausted and frankly, Pete is the only one who is strong enough in the group to grab and hold on to him. I admit it. I feel really bad at bringing him into this situation if he will only end of being euthanized. I realize if he is really sick, it is for the best, especially as he is almost impossible to catch, and catching him can lead to exacerbating the injury and stressing him tremendously. I just don’t want him caught while I am still there if at all possible.
Thursday, June 15 – Tina’s Birthday
We presented Tina with her birthday gifts before Pete went to work, which meant we were up and on deck before 7am. Pete gave her some lovely crystal with gold figurines of a wombat, platypus and a kangaroo. The girls gave her lovely flannel pjs and slippers and I had found a welcome sign made out of wood at the Rocky fair with a wombat on it. She was very pleased with her gifts.
I finally cleaned the intensive pens today along with the first pen I ever cleaned, Pen 1 with the boys. The intensives are 10 small pens that line the bigger pens and they are close to the house. They all have shade sails, and some small shelters and at least some vegetation in them but no automatic waterers yet. These pens are used for injured wallabies that need to be caught repeatedly for medication, those that are not getting enough feed in the larger enclosures and for the elderly. There are also the two Bettongs from the zoo. Molly, the recovering carnivorous bridle and the one-eyed girl are in these pens. These pens are much faster to clean as you are only dealing with poo from 1-2 animals, but they are fiddly, as you have to clean water dishes daily. Pen 1 was fun to go back to and remember how I approached it the first time and how much easier it was today. Two of the boys met me at the gate hoping for sweet potato and Tina says they were probably Jack and one-eyed Boy. I said goodbye to them and thanked them for letting me assist them.
Tina and the girls went to town for food shopping and it piddled rain all day. I was trying to get my last bit of laundry done so that I could leave with most of my clothes cleaned and the sun appeared as I used the open air dryer.
Sophie and I continued to refine the logo and we downloaded each of our pictures on to Tina’s computer and I loaded Sophie’s on to mine.
While the family was away, I fed wiggles and we found that Cody with major diarrhea. For the 5pm feed, we called them on the road and were given directions for bentonite solution being added to the bottle. Hard to believe the clay that causes such problems in Colorado for building foundations is a wonderful binding agent for toxins in animals. One of the things I have been doing in the past few days, with the help of Karen Stickland in Colorado, was to locate suppliers who would ship the liquid form of the clay to Australia. We found one and Tina is emailing all her caregiver to see how many bottles they each want.
Once everyone was finally home, off we went to the pub for a dinner to say good-bye to me and Happy Birthday to Tina. I had wonderful fish and chips and a cider. YUM. I do love hard cider!
Friday, June 16 – Last day with the wallabies and Miss Wiggles the wombat
This was my last day and I felt the entire morning that I was racing from one thing to the other.
I again did the intensive pens and Chatty, as those were the fastest pens to do. At 9:30, Tina and I had an appointment to call Lee, the grant writer for AACE, and give her an update on our grant research. Then Simon was scheduled to arrive at 11 with the sweet potatoes, so I had to be packed and ready to go as soon as we had finished unloading the potatoes.
During the pen cleaning, little Molly came out and said good-bye. I told her how glad we were that she was feeling better and was on the mend. She really is sweet. I will always remember her little face. As I went into Duke’s pen, I had a bit of a surprise. Duke is young male and he is a successful 6-foot fence jumper. He is in this pen because there is a female in this pen and he wanted to be with her. Yesterday, as I was cleaning, as I finished, Duke was going through the motions to become a father. As he is rather young, I am not sure if he was accomplishing his mission. Today, they did not wait for me to leave, but continued. As I did my circuit they separated and finally Duke was right in front of me. He seemed curious and friendly, until I turned around and he attacked the back of my right leg. I pushed him off and from then on, I faced him and kept the bucket between us. VERY IMPORTANT LESSON TO BE REMINDED OF - THEY ARE WILD ANIMALS – EVEN THOUGH THEY ARE SMALL, NEVER TURN YOUR BACK ON THEM! THANKS FOR THE REMINDER. I now have a small hole in the back of my leg that Tina says will remain. My goal is that this is my first and only scar from a wild animal.
Tina and I spoke to Lee about the logo and the grant situation. AACE is considering a grant from Australian Geographic, but if they grant it, they will insist on exclusivity in coverage and they are not sure if that is the best thing for the agency at this time. They will apply for an I-to I grant again, and Sophie will get some quotes on industrial strength vegetable slicer and 4 more two-way radios for the volunteers to use. Lee is pessimistic about the chances for the slicer, but it sure would make a huge difference to future volunteers.
Just as Tina and I were sitting down for more discussions on what needs to happen when for them to receive their non-profit status, Simon arrives with the sweet potatoes. It is amazing how many potatoes you can get in the back of the Utility truck (Ute in Australian).
Then it was time for goodbyes and a few tears from me. I will miss the farm and the physical work and the temporary isolation. It was pretty easy to be comfortable staying put and having limited access to the modern world. I know I would quickly become tired of the monotony and the every-dayed-ness of it pretty quickly, the truly, every day was different with new joeys arriving, old one’s leaving and the ever changing pace of life on the farm. I really did come in the right season for me, because the heat, dryness and the flies during the summer would quickly drive me to distraction.
Saying goodbye to Wiggles stared the tears and they increased when I got to Bernie, Bruce, Martina and the baby, Sophie and Matt and then finally Tina. I am so pleased that I had a chance to get to know all of them.
Just as I was leaving, Tina got a call from the local health department that there had been a complaint lodged against her from a former I to I volunteer. During my stay, Tina had been dealing with I to I on a complaint from a 19-year-old girl who left after 3 days. Her main complaint was that Tina would not drive her 3 hours round trip into Rocky each day to visit with her parents who were staying there. Tina indicated that she was not a taxi service and that would not be possible. She also said the place was dirty and animals were always in the kitchen. Bottom line, this was not her cup of tea and she had not read the information sent prior to the placement.
This new complaint was most likely lodged by two other I-to-I volunteers who also left early. Tina is fit to be tied and feels that the health department will shut them down from accepting other volunteers. This is really too bad as they really need the volunteers on the premises if Tina and Pete are going to have to work off site to make ends meet.
After a ride with Simon and his son, Riley, we were back in Rocky at the zoo. I managed to find the cards with the Bridle Nailtiail and the children’s books on wombats and wallaby’s. I also photocopied the new flyers that Sophie designed to be put in YHA’s and backpacker travel agents. I will take some with me to Adelaide and Sophie will take hers to Sydney.
For lunch at the zoo, I had a meat pie with a black and white Magpie, gorgeous colored Lorikeets and interesting bird of olive, white, black and brilliant blue plumaged around he eyes. Then I sat updating this entry and fed the mosquitos outside the Cassowray’s pen. Ah Wild life in Australia.
Final analysis – This was a very fun placement. I did not find the close proximity to so many people too bad, but by the end of my time, I admit I was longing for some peace and quiet. At times, my attitude was not the sunniest and by the end, there was some make wrong going on.
I found it enjoyable to be isolated for a while and to be out of touch with the real world, mainly no tv or newspapers. If it did not have to do with the animals, it was not on the radar.
The animals were the best and to have a chance to feed them, touch them and to get to meet so many of the different wildlife of Australia was a true honor. I kept telling Tina that Wiggles would be coming with me. I guess I will have to come back and meet her babies. Tina says that will be in two years.