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26 - Australia Diary – Hospital #1 May 9 – July 13 – Eleventh Week
Saturday, July 22
Up at 6:30 and at breaky by 7:00. Cereal and yoghurt and tea. Looks like drizzle and the threat of clearing all day.
Our first task was to bottle feed the babies. I love doing this! I got to feed a pretty-face wallaby that was very sweet and also a grey kangaroo, name Seddy or Mr. Greedy. Poor Seddy is also having some skin problems, which the vet feels may be a fungus due to the rain after the hurricane. As soon as we have a nice day, he is in line for bath in betadine.
Melody had confessed to Ruth that she had expected more of an eco resort placement. Poor Harry and Karen are trying to figure out where the breakdown in communication happened. This is my second time with I to I and also the second time that this topic has come up with different volunteers.
Next, Ruth took Melody and I on feeding and watering rounds. It became apparent that there would be multiple water buckets in my future for the next four weeks. Great! Because my arms have become a bit flabby!
We began in the rabbit/rat/mouse house. Lots of water dishes to clean and refill. Then the guinea pig pen, chicken house, pigeon cage, eagles aviary, kangaroo pens and the misc bird pens on the far side. Right next to the water tank was a large grey roo that had been hit by a car and had been euthanized by Harry. Today, Harry will process the meat and put it in the freezer for the carnivores.
Lunch was grilled cheese sandwiches. Our first afternoon task was to add on and pull wire over the cage frames and them affix it to the frame. Not as hard as it sounds with two pairs of us working on it. It kept spitting rain, but a soon as we would go under cover, it would pass. When we would go back out, it would begin again. So, we were a little damp for most of the afternoon.
We were joined by Erin, a former local volunteer from Cairns. She is a young Aussie who is currently studying herbal medicine and wants to be a healer. She is attending a Dorene Virtue seminar soon and has a lovely spirit about her. She will only be with us for one night. I realized that when I told about how my trip was developed, it made it sound like a chore. I know that my trip is a gift from my parents and from now on, I will give them their fair share of the credit for my marvelous adventure.
Harry asked for my help on two raptor treatments. A car had hit a Little Sooty Owl, and as they are seriously endangered, he is trying everything he can to keep it alive. She needed to be force fed, so I held her feet as Harry stuffed a newly dead mouse down her throat. We managed to get one down her, but she resisted the second one. Her talons were incredible, very sharp like cats, but about 3 times the length. I have new respect for owls.
Then, from one of the smaller pens, Harry caught a wounded wedge tail, which had been housed in such a small cage, he had damaged his feet and broken most of his flight feathers. Again, I was on leg holding and I got to see at close quarters those amazing talons. They did not look as sharp at the owls, but the power is in their ability to lock closed. Recently Harry had one latch on to his hand and it took three men to pry the eagles’ talons open enough to retrieve Harry’s hand. Ruth assisted to hold the towel over his head and when the feet were unwrapped, she said that they were 100% better than two weeks ago. Hopefully, I will also be able to see that type of improvement over the next four weeks. According to Harry, we will change the bandages every three days.
During Dinner, Ruth and I exchanged book titles and Harry joined in with more. We ended the evening visiting Harry’s ex-wife’s cat that is on the grounds for a holiday while her mom is in Austria. Raja is a beautiful Siamese cross, maybe a Birman, but would not come out to see us. Maybe tomorrow.
Last night I took a sleeping pill and probably missed most of this. I had heard rustling within the caravan, but could not really discern where it was coming from, but tonight I found out. I have a rat. A large, brown rat, which enters my caravan from the window near the old kitchen and then skitters across the counter top. I decided that was not for me, so I got up and tried to make sure what I saw and assist him with his exit. We went back and forth for a while and finally, I knew that he would have to exit on his own. I went off to the dunny, turned the light back on and read for another hour until his noise let me know that he had exited the building. I kept reading and finally turned off the light.
Sunday, July 23 – The sun does shine in Ravenshoe!
The 6:30 alarm found me very tired and trying to decide if I wanted to change caravans this am. Ruth had said that she used to be in my caravan but changed. I think I know why. Karen asked how I had slept and I said okay except for the rat. I heard from Karen later that earlier inhabitants had food in the caravan which I am sure is what drew him. After my experience on Kangaroo Island where we were given sealing tins to kept yummies protected, I knew better than to have any food in my sleeping quarters.
Breakfast and then off to start the day. Looks to be a lovely sunny day.
Our schedule has evolved into the following pattern more of less:
Up at 6:30
Breakfast at 7:00
Bottle-feed the babies between 7:15-7-30
The team waters all the animals and birds and does any other special animal project necessary.
Today, Erin, would be totally cleaning the rabbit cages and doing their feeding and water change. I am sure I will get to do that at one point.
After all the animals are cared for, then other projects can be handled.
This morning we continued to wire the set of three pens that we began yesterday. We broke for a cuppa at 10:45 and went back at 11:15.
Lunch is usually at noon, but today, Erin was making her wonderful pumpkin/carrot soup.
Lunch was at 1:00 pm and we were hungry.
After lunch, we normally work until 3-4:00 depending on what is going on and the weather.
Harry had us stop at around 3:20 and then we peeled potatoes for dinner.
Showers for most of us, which felt great.
Tea, or dinner is at 6:00 pm.
We usually are in our caravans at about 6:30 for reading and sleep. I will shut my eyes much earlier tonight to catch up on last night.
I came back to my caravan before lunch and found Karen on the outside putting wire between the gaps in my kitchen windows to discourage Mr. Rat. Thank you Karen.
Before tea was ready, Ruth and I took our cameras and went to the eagle enclosure for some photos. We thought the one that we helped to bandage yesterday was really showing improvement, but we found the one we were looking at was one of the healthier ones from the other half of the pen. He was trying to poach the rabbit that had been placed in the smaller pen for the two injured eagles.
Photo - eagles
After dinner, I heard Raja the kitty calling and tried to go see her. She was reluctant the first time, but when I went back, she finally came out to see me. She is very beautiful, Siamese/Persian cross with lovely markings, slightly flat face and medium, very dense hair which she keeps very neat. She is lovely and I could hear her purring before I opened the door to see her. I promised I would come and visit her every day that I was at the compound.
During a little break today, Harry asked if I could drive a car. I said I could, but I didn’t have an international drivers license. He said no problem. He said that we could borrow the car next Saturday and maybe take in some of the local sights. It is a lovely offer and I know that they do not feel that they can take time away from the compound to take us to do tourist things. I know that each of us will most likely want to get to the internet as well. Well, it will be the first time that I will drive on the other side of the road. With a good map and Ruth as navigator, I am sure that we will do fine.
One of the bonuses of being this far out from a major city, it that the night sky is absolutely amazing. The Milky Way seems so close that you could touch it, and without hardly any surface lights, there are at least double the numbers of stars that I have seen in the US, even on the best of nights.
Monday, July 24
Not a lot of sleep last night, but at least, no Mr. Rat. We woke to what would be our second sunny day.
You who know about my black thumb are going to laugh out loud when you hear what I did today.
After the bottles to the babies, Melody and I joined Ruth to finish the watering and then we began to pull weeds in the garden. Harry had promised to take us it to town today for a brief Internet session and work clothes shopping at St. Vincent de Paul, the patron saint of volunteers as well!
I told Harry that I did not know a good plant from a bad one, so he gave us the task where I could not fail. We had to remove everything from the bed. Hurricane Larry that swept through in March 2006 destroyed his lovely garden that at one point had supplied all the fruits veggies for the compound. We will clean out beds and begin replanting pumpkins and sweet potatoes, and gradually, they will have a full compliment of produce. Ruth and I worked together and had made it a third of the way down the bed, when Harry said we were going to town.
In we piled for 10 minutes into town. First stop for me was the hardware store for hopefully, a wind up torch, and much needed gardening gloves. No torch, but with gardening gloves in hand, I was off to the thrift store. 6 months on the road have taken a toll on my clothes and some of them I cannot get clean, no matter what I try. I will be okay until Africa, but then, I will need to buy some decent clothes for my last 6 weeks on the road. I bought two pairs of sweat pants for use at the hospital, one sweatshirt, and two pair of beige pants that I hope will work in Africa. (Later report, the two pairs of pants don’t fit. Maybe one of the other girls or Karen can use them.)
Next stop was the grocery store for a few treats. The agencies always supply our meals, but treats and special items are always on your own. Back home we hung up the laundry that Karen had done for us and we went back to gardening.
Harry’s friend, Warrick, arrived to discuss grant applications for the hospital. I told them that I would be happy to help with proofing before it is submitted. Lunch was quiche and cookies that I had bought for the group.
The afternoon we continued weeding and my hands are tired. The three of us agreed to go back to wiring tomorrow, unless Harry needs us to do something else. We also agreed that the next time it rains, we would try and weed that day, as the ground would be softer. This part of the Australian soil is red, clay and VERY COMPACT!
We had a few hours off before dinner for showers and relaxing. The shower was nice, but before hand, I spent some time watching the wildlife. Any time I begin to feel blasé about my day, I just have to remind myself that I am in Australia, 18 hours away from home. It seems like a miracle at times, and I thank Mom and Dad every time I think about it.
Today, I got to see the female quoll who is brighter colored and slight larger than the male. She is very shy, but I managed to come up her during her sunbath. A quoll is a marsupial carnivore, about the size of a large rat, with white spots on their sides. If I sat quietly, she would come out again. Today, I also had a wonderful viewing of the blue-tongued lizard, although I did not get to see his famous tongue. Stubby rather than slender as a goanna, this guy has a diamond shaped head and very beefy tail. Very handsome.
Tomorrow, we will have to treat the eagle and the owl again. I hope they both continue to do well. We heard from the vet that the eagle that I met when I was picked up did not make it. He turned out to have a spinal injury that would not heal. So, the hospital inventory is only 6 eagles at present.
Dinner was pork roast, rice and beets, and Harry’s favorite dessert, blocks of cookie dough from the local bakery. I had chocolate chip and Ruth had a rum raisin. Pretty tasty, but I definitely only wanted one.
After dinner, I got to do my favorite thing, I got to feed the little bettong, Julie. She is very sweet. I have found out that bettongs are really little tiny kangaroos, but don’t get any larger than a small cat. As soon as she had drunk and been pottied, she climbed into her pouch and was asleep within 30 second in my lap. I was in heaven.
Photo – Julie
I also made my second visit to Raja, who was a little shy tonight, probably because Ruth was in the cage at the same time. Still sweet, I will visit her daily until I leave.
It sounds like in addition to a part day off on Saturday, we will be asked to help man booths at fairs in the area on Sunday. It should be fun and another opportunity to see a different part of the country.
Tuesday, July 25 – I am not allowed to see the Quolls today!
I slept really well last night.
This morning, I traded with Ruth, so that she could feed the bottles to the babies.
I began my rounds after breakfast with water patrol. This involves going to all the outside pens and dumping, cleaning and refilling all the containers with fresh water. As I approached the pigeon cage, I found there was a dead pigeon at the door. I got Harry, as I did not know if he wanted to feed it to one of the raptors. He had said he had fed this pen not 30 minutes earlier and the birds were fine. This one was still warm and had obviously just died. He took it away and I went on with my rounds.
I walked out to the eagle enclosure without buckets, as I did not want to make the walk with buckets if they weren’t needed. As I approached the pen, I saw a dark lump in the corner. To my surprise, it was the injured eagle that I had held two days ago. So back to the house I went to give Harry the bad news. Just as with the pigeon, he had just died and was still warm. Harry will never really know what caused the death. The poor animal had been injured and had gone to a carer who really did not have the knowledge or facilities for him. He had been housed in a parrot cage without a perch and had spent his time on his feet (which is not appropriate for raptors). In addition, because the cage was way to small for an eagle, he had bashed himself against the cage and broke all of his flight feathers. His wings were full of infection and even if he had survived, he would have been at the hospital for at least a year in hopes that his flight feather would re-grow.
By the time I was back from the eagle, Ruth had joined me and had begun to feed and water the rabbits. I helped her and Harry came by and said that I was not allowed to go close to the quolls today, as everything I approached had died. (He was just joking). Harry says that he tends to loose animals in threes, so yesterdays eagle at the vet and today’s eagle, that makes it two.
Ruth and I continued our morning sharing stories about our favorite musicals, British tv and film stars while we wired the new enclosures. At one point we thought we might have cut a huge piece of wire a little too short, but with lots of pulling and grunting, we managed to get it to fit. Sigh!
Our supervisor, Seddy was hard at work all morning as you can tell by his photo.
PHOTO – the Supervisor
Lunch was homemade veggie soup and cheese, and then I got to feed the baby bettong. Harry indicated that he had spoken to the vet about a possum that is at the hospital that is blind and will have to be euthanized. A blind possum cannot be released and life in a cage is no life for a possum. That brings the number of deaths up to three and hopefully, the end of this phase of loss.
After lunch, Ruth and I assisted Karen with the i-to-i Foundation grant. Our afternoon flew by at my computer as we revised the application and wrote a 1000 word proposal.
After dinner of lovely spaghetti bolognaise and berry pie, Ruth and I continued our computing by writing letters of recommendation in support of the application.
Not much sleep again. Imaginary animals in my caravan kept me up! Sigh!
Wednesday, July 26
Woke to lovely weather again and after breakfast, off to water. Nothing dead in the pens today!
Spent the morning and in fact all of the afternoon in the garden area and planted 96 pumpkins with Melody and (ready to laugh?) harvested two buckets of sweet potatoes with Ruth and Melody. I reworked the beds and pulled out all the vines, cut off runners and replanted them.
Ruth took us on the walk to the local swimming hole that is down the road. Lovely spot, not sure if I will swim, but it would be a nice place to take a book and enjoy nature.
I had a good visit with Raja and she came out almost immediately and covered me with torti/Siamese cat hair. She is very sweet and has a lovely purr, almost as nice as Soni.
I had a chance to spend more time with Melody today and got to know her a little better. She is very quiet, this is her first time out of Britain and I think she is very brave to come this far by herself. She seems to be over jet lag and comes forward a little more, but generally only speaks when asked a direct question.
I am very much enjoying getting to know Ruth and we have a lot in common – animals, musical theatre and general theatre, British sitcoms. She has a wonderful energy, is immensely kind and has lots of great ideas. Tonight we worked on chronicling the work that we do daily as a resource for future volunteers who need a map of what and when to do things. We also spent some time writing out the fund-raising ideas the entire group had brain stormed the other day that we will print out and then add to during the next few weeks.
Melody and Ruth will go to two different fairs on Sunday to help hand out pamphlets and try and get donations for the hospital. I am not sure if I will go, but it would be nice to get away if I am needed to help.
Thursday, July 27 – an overcast day and we were grateful!
Today began with Melody and I feeding the Joey’s and a refresher course in the various species of wallabys in the pen. There are two varieties that I had never seen before, the Pretty Face which are very refined looking, are more grey in color with brighter white stripes and very long tails and the swamp wallabys, that are smaller and more squat with copper accents that almost exactly match the red clay dirt of Australia. Hmmmm? I wonder if it would make a good henna substitute for my hair?
Our focus, goal and accomplishment today was completing the wiring the set of three enclosures. YAAH. Completion at last, and boy are my hands tired using the tools. The overcast skies made the work a lot easier as we would have been in complete sun the entire day.
I checked in with my cuttings that I planted yesterday and everybody seems to be holding on. Tomorrow we get out the hose and give them all a good drink
Tomorrow is Harry’s birthday and he says he will take the day off and the completion of my first week here. We will see if Harry takes the day off because I have a feeling he is not one to sit idle for long.
Friday, July 28 – Harry’s 59th Birthday
Today was a short day for us as it was Harry’s birthday and he said that we should just feed this am and then do what we wanted for the rest of the day.
As we finished up for the morning, (which was at 8am), the blue tongued lizard came out. Sure enough, he does have a blue tongue. I told Harry and Karen that now that I had seen that, I could go home.
Poor baby bettong Julie has diarrhea from eating too much wet grass. Poor baby, her little butt is so red and she is not interested in eating.
The rest of the day was a doodle day with a long shower and then I finished the mystery that I started last night. I knew tomorrow, that I would be driving for my first time around Australia and on the other side of the road, so I felt I needed a down day without any requests for my attention.
Dinner tonight was made by Karen and included turkey, rice, salad and a lovely homemade apple strudel. Yummy. Also, for the birthday, a bottle of champagne. We all stayed up late (8pm) and drank the bubbles to candle light and watched the sky change and the stars come out. The night sky is really incredible here.
Tomorrow we are off for an adventure.