A Little Greenery; or, How Bad Can It Be? The Green Skull

Let me be clear. A little rubbish is good for you, if only as a reminder that you like the real stuff better. Of course, I’m talking food (or am I?)

Take the Green Skull for example. Here we have a green, heart shaped lollipop. The sugar kind, not ice. As well as the expected sugar, corn syrup, and water, it contains the worrying green habernero sauce, and vodka.

Green Skull Lolly Green Skull (3)

Those ingredients are worrying because it’s a lolly and if something is going to claim to taste as outlandish as that, then you know it’s going to either taste foul or fantastic. No inbetween. But is it for real? Is that real habernero sauce? Is that why the green colour isn’t as true as, say, Stan Lee’s The Green Goblin?

If you look at the product properly, you can see it’s in a homemade-ish press seal baggie, with a printed but homemade-ish label. Its ingredients are straightforward; no E numbers, no random chemical names. No Sunset Yellow.

It’s nicely presented, and was received by my friend and fellow author, Tommy B. Smith at an Oklahoma writer’s convention. His cautiousness towards eating it should be commended. It’s probably best not knowing. But having assessed the product as a whole, I’m willing to bet that even if I don’t like it, it won’t just taste like chemicals.

The thing is, if I spoiled the product by eating it, then it wouldn’t exist any more, and it looks quite lovely.

Don’t Tell Me … Let Me Guess; or, The Subtleties of Long Term People Watching

I’ve been thinking about people today. Thinking about the subtle things that tell you the things they don’t let on.The sharpness or softness of someone’s voice. Eye contact. Vagueness or focusedness. Is focusedness even a word?

The problem is, with friends and family, you know what normal-for-them is, so you know when something isn’t ‘normal’. With people you don’t know so well, you have to take a mindseye snapshot of how they were like when they first met you, and match that against the current behaviour.

Today I spoke to a first time mother of a two year old. A good friend for many years, but she sounded tired. Child not sleeping during the night. And she was distracted by her child reluctantly going to bed. And then the noises afterwards. She’s a mum. Children come first.

I also spoke to a friend whom I asked for help with something, but I could hear the panic in her voice as she explained to me why it shouldn’t be her without ever saying that she didn’t want to do it. I know why she did that. Because she genuinely wanted to help, but what I needed was too much for her at this time.

The other day, I observed a man I know making some kind of dig about a woman’s marriage. It was only insinuated; what he said wasn’t offensive. I could tell by her face that she had picked it up (her husband’s alleged infidelity a few years ago), but she couldn’t react to it because nothing had been said. It was clever and weird. I jumped in and brushed it off, saying that everyone came in for some stick, but she didn’t shake the look.

There are interesting traits to watch for in people; the thoughtlessness, paranoia, arrogance; even the facade behind which they hide – these are more negative things. But the canniness, gobby-but-funniness, salesmanship, accident-proneness, and sheer intensity are the positive, exciting things to look for.

Droll humour might also go with self pity, hand in hand with great dress sense and a fear of spiders. No person is one thing. More like a jigsaw.

No one walks up to a bunch of people and says “Hi, I’m Sakina, I’m gobby and opinionated, and I’m just like my geese.” You get that information by reading between the lines. That way you get the other stuff too; the things I didn’t care to tell you.

Gosling Successes to Date; or, Cute Pictures of Goslings!

Those people who occasionally throw me the “childless” adjective as if it is some kind of insult, as if obeying the orders of evolution is better than anything else (and as if I’m past doing so), can have a field day now, as I’m excitedly preparing to show you my first baby pictures of my goslings.

They’re cute (that’s my excuse and I’m sticking to it). Personally I think they’re as good at it as kittens.

7 days and 2 days oldThe two on the left hand side (well, centre and left) are 7 days old. These pictures surprise me because the other two were hatched yesterday (they’re on their second day) and in real life are maybe half the size of the older goslings, but here they all look the same size.

7 days and 2 days goslings

I’m pretty sure the top centre bird is a gander. It’s been larger than its mate (who hatched first) since the day they fluffed out. and its fuzz is slightly coarser than hers. It’s a nice, chilled out gander, very unlike its chosen life partner, who is a typical goose, a gobby drama queen.

goslings looking

You can see her tucked up against him. He’s mine, she’s saying. I’ve just rehomed the two younger birds in with the older ones, to avoid today’s new arrivals being trampled or suffocated by stronger birds. Her reaction was to make a lot of noise, skitter away from everything at top speed, and sulk in the water dish until she was shooed out (it’s not really good for goslings to get thoroughly wet as they aren’t waterproof until they get their feathers). What a prima donna.

1 day and 0 day old

These are today’s new arrivals at the top of the picture plus yesterday’s single hatching bird at the bottom. That one was a bit wobbly for the first 12 hours, didn’t seem sure what to do with food. It’s now as sure of itself as any goose. I left it in with the newly-hatched pair so that it could show them where to drink and eat.   You can see by its troubled look and it facing the opposite way to the others, that it doesn’t like replacing its mates with these two. It’ll get used to them, silly goose. It’s weird having one alone, since they seem to hatch in pairs, but I’m guessing its mate is the one which is stinking the incubator out.

Call me a coward, but I haven’t been able to bring myself to open the unhatched eggs. I don’t want to know what’s in there. Fascinating though embryos can be, I don’t want to see anything terrifying or weird, or sad. The eggs didn’t hatch. That’s enough for me.

I love these geeses to pieces! Eggstravaganza.

Oh man, let me tell you about these ridiculous geeses. They are honestly just taking the biscuit now.

I’ll give you a quick rundown: there are four geeses; three geese, one gander. I wrote a bit about them here. You’ll note that post was written on 5 April. It’s now 19 April. During the time lapse I saw the first goose, Blueleg, sitting on a nest, with eggs which increased from 6 to 10. Then I found one on the trailer door, assumed she’d put it out because it was ‘bad’ and put it back with the rest. Occasionally she left the nest to hang out with Gander, but I think it was because she was hungry.

Then one day I found a different goose sitting on the nest. There were now 12 eggs. She got off when I ushered Blueleg back to the trailer, but I wonder if they had made some sort of agreement, to give Blueleg a chance to get out.

Then I saw the same different goose – we will call her Goosey because phrases like ‘the same different’ are just not acceptable – rolling an egg around on the trailer door. She left it alone after a bit, but then both the other two geese picked it up and rolled it around with their feet. Goosey came back, and started picking up bits of straw and dumping them behind her. I realised she was making a nest, and as I got ready to go stop her (it takes forever to get on waterproof trousers, extra coat, agricultural boots – gives you a measure of how bad our weather has been lately) she pulled out clumps from the existing nest, which made one of its walls fall down. Blueleg (on the nest) didn’t care that a wall had collapsed. She was just furious I was in the vicinity. As I walked past her to put the egg at the back trailer corner, she grabbed my waterproof chaps. They’re actually armour, you know.

It happened again, with presumably a different egg, and I found it surrounded by a neat circle of hay and straw, cleverly spun together. Yet another nest started.

That egg went to the same back trailer corner.

Yesterday I noticed three eggs lined up in a row on the trailer door. (The trailer door is the big one which is lowered like a drawbridge). Picking them up, I got to see inside Blueleg’s nest as she fell on the grain I’d brought. There were only 5 eggs. I slipped the three inside and checked out the eggs she’d kept. A cracked dent marred one, which made me wonder why she’d put the others out when this one was clearly not viable.

As I talked to her and scolded her for not looking after them better, I realised there was a new, proper nest at the back trailer corner. And Goosey parked on top, proud and fierce.

I got some pictures on my phone while I was feeding them. Goodness knows what they’re doing with those eggs. At least Goosey won’t even budge off her nest for food, so perhaps the eggs under her will stand a better chance than Blueleg’s.

Blueleg's nest feeding is the core of geeses goose number two the maternity ward




Gosling Disaster

Sometimes the balance of the important things, like life and death, and joy and sorrow seems to go awry. As if the metronome ticking has stopped, and nothing goes at a uniform pace any more. Too fast, too slow, too brief.

Today my first goslings hatched, and died.

I have some more baby geese hatching at the moment; a physical cliche – hope springs eternal – but right now I want to show the world these two beautiful goslings, because I was so proud of them.

First Goslings 2013

Newcomers – Goslings are Imminent!

What a day it has been today. A terrific hangover, the food shopping trip that took me straight to Hell, Sainsbury’s style, some appalling news, a new copywriting opportunity with proper money attached, and a fabulous event to report:

Two goose eggs are peeping and tapping in the incubator!

I initially thought my nose was whistling as I was turning the eggs this evening! That’s the kind of thinking you do when you’ve had a lifetime of colds and allergies. I finally twigged on, switched off the lights and lit the torch on my phone, picked up each suspect egg, peered at its shadow and listened hard. The fourth egg produced a moving shadow through the shell. Every time it whistled, the shadow moved. The tapping was very clear.

It can take around 24 hours for goslings to hatch – sometimes longer I think – so I’m trying not to panic. Not succeeding too well there.

A second egg started up about half an hour later. The tapping on the shell hopefully denotes that they have internally ‘pipped’, meaning that the inner membrane has been broken by the gosling, and that there is now air throughout the egg.

I’ve sprayed all the suspect eggs (five) with room temp water, and I’m waiting to see what happens. The water should make the shells easier to break through (external pipping), though who knows. There is so much conflicting advice on the internet, you can only read so much without becoming confused, so I’ve looked at a few posts (confirming that mine are probably in the second stage of their four or five stage hatching) and abandoned the show.

Even though they sound healthy and gobby in a gooseish way, there are a million ways to kill baby goslings while trying to help them, and there’s always the chance they’ll screw it up themselves.

Lambing time should be called hold-your-breath-and-pray-for-life time. On every level.

Mr Packham

This was one of those days that makes you know you’re alive. Where you don’t have time to appreciate one individual second of it, tunnel-vision-intent as you look for the next job to do, washed over by waves of emotion only when you switch off and let it all go.

This would be lambing time. On a day that decided to (very briefly) rain.

The rain’s an important factor, by the way. For some reason best known only to evolution, sheep lamb* when it rains. Until then, the majority keep their legs crossed, stuffing cake** as often as possible and chasing any person carrying either a crackly plastic bag or a  yellow bucket***

Since 13:30 this afternoon, we had a goose that laid an egg on the trailer door (which is lifted and closed every night) and proceeded to attempt to build her own nest out of straw stolen from the other.

There are now four brand new lambs added to the chaotic band of pets, two jet black (Zwartble) and two white with black and white faces (Kerry Hill crossed with Swaledale). The mother of the white set had no milk and didn’t care about her lambs, the black set were found abandoned and shivering on the hillside, unlicked. A single lamb has a mother with only one ‘tit’ and no milk in it, but its mummy loves it, so for the time being it’s with her and being bottled****.

And then there’s Mr. Packham.

Mr. Packham is a pet lamb who has a severe case of the shits. Yesterday, it spent the morning in front of the gas fire in a crate, wrapped up in a padded shirt. It was put back in its pen with its mates when it developed a propensity for climbing out of its crate and setting off round the room.

At 13:30 this afternoon, Mr. Packham was fine, sitting quietly but comfortably with its friends. By 15:00, it was at death’s door, head twisted to look directly behind, utterly miserable. Thinking it was dehydrated, we wrapped it up in a cosy furry Parker coat, took it inside, and tubed it with electrolyte fluid. Then more. We gave it ‘rattlebelly’ pills (Norodine) and more fluids. No milk, so the bug can’t feed off sugar and fat. If we avoid that for as long as possible, perhaps the bug will wear itself out in 24 hours.

Himself has tubed it again tonight when he got up very late to give the pets their last feed of the day, and will do so in the morning too, if it’s still alive. Poor Mr. Packham.

Are we right to try and keep it alive when it’s so miserable and poorly?

Maybe it's a Swale but some of our Kerry crosses look like this.
could be a Swale, could be a Kerry. Looks like a joker.
Kerry hill lambs
Kerry Hills – Highway Sheep as lambs.
zwartble lambs
Zwartble lambs with a lot more greenery than our lot have.


*lamb as in the verb ‘to lamb’. As in birthing a lamb.
**hard, pellety chunks that probably taste sweet and malted. Not the chocolate kind.
***both cake carrying items, as the sheep well know, though not full time; sometimes they carry boring water or goose grain, which the woolly raiders only find after they have trampled the person carrying the vessel and knocked everything all over the yard.
****’bottled’ as in given milk from a large baby’s bottle, not as in being smashed round the head with a Pils bottle.

Blowing My Own Trumpet (via someone else)

I suspect that crowing over great reviews on Amazon is a little like ‘liking’ your own comments on Facebook, but I have to share this one with you:

5.0 out of 5 stars Not your typical vampire story!, April 11, 2013
By Tammy MaasSee all my reviews
This review is from: Autotherapy (Kindle Edition)

Sakina Murdock delivers the entire package in this book; from realistic well developed characters to scientific evidence, she makes you believe in the unthinkable. The details in this book are amazing. A little town called Cumbria, located in the UK, comes to life on the pages; you can see it, smell it and practically touch it. This book will suck you in and spit you back out, making you feel as though you are being held hostage as you quickly turn the pages wanting to see what happens next.

Love it.

Ruminations on a Beautiful Day in Bonny Cumbria

Today is one of those days in Cumbria. The bright, blue kind, where azure sky stretches out, beyond the limitations of the eye. The odd fluffy cloud slides across the expanse, so slowly that its progress is imperceptible unless you give it five minutes and look again.

The hills drift into the valley haze, and the snow has melted into tiger stripes.

This is why I live in Cumbria. For the four days each year that look like this.

Ancient lime kilns nestled into the sides of the fells, small quarries nearby. These tell of a different era; when a day of hard graft didn’t end with an evening’s TV. Someone – lots of someones – chipped out limestone from those quarries, by hand. Maybe we still use some of those pieces of stone in our drystone walls now.

Shepherd stations – small houses often without windows, but with a chimney – are scattered across the isolated regions. They once provided shelter and warmth for the hard workers who followed the sheep across the hills and eventually drove them to market.

With the lack of rain of late, the ground is quite brown and the rivers and tarns are revealing their secrets. The government has temporarily relaxed its rules on long distance lorry drivers enabling them to travel further for longer, so that animal feeds can be urgently delivered to sheep and cows across the region. All the animals want is that sweet, juicy, milk producing grass, but they won’t be so lucky for a while.

Everybody twines about the terrible weather here, but when it rains it only gets greener. When I first went to University, I was homesick for about 6 months. It rained all the time in Huddersfield, but it only got greyer. It wasn’t so bad – I stayed nearly 13 years in urban West Yorkshire – but having left for so long, I now never fail to appreciate how wonderful and magical it is to live here in bonny Cumbria.

Come visit us sometime. You’ll take it away with you; a little sliver stuck in your heart forever.

All Mouth and No Trousers; Spring is here.

Oh lordy, we have a goose sitting on her nest! Whoohoo! Spring must be here, though you wouldn’t know it.

Blueleg has parked herself on the most beautiful fortress nest; a perfect oval with high rounded straw walls, and 6 eggs rubbing shells inside.

No pictures; she is set to be in a very bad mood for the next 30 days, as Gander is finding out. He shrieked “One-two, one-two, one-two,” at her for most of the day, expecting her to fall in line with the other two, but she mainly ignored him, and occasionally screamed back, “Fuck off, can’t you see I’m hatching eggs?!”

He’s a humbug, Gander, all mouth and no trousers. He won’t be up to a protracted argument with her. He lost interest after we shut the compound to him, although he hung out with the other two for a couple of hours on the outside of the perimeter fence exactly opposite to Blueleg’s position. He even sat down in the sun but kept an eye on everything and didn’t fall asleep. He takes his job of protecting the ladies very seriously, even if he’s just a threatening noise machine.

I was worried the other geese might bully her (that happened a bit last year, so we shut Goosey in her trailer and housed the rest of the geese in a different one (they hated it), but Himself is using every other available housing for lambs and sheep, because the weather’s been despicable, so they’ll have to take their chances with each other.

Military Geese        See how proud Gander looks, marching around with his harem, his nose in the air.