Lessons from a deaf brown chook

It’s always interesting living in the bush!

 

Our enterprising neighbours have turned their half an acre into a hive of activity. WWOOFERS are everywhere (see https://wwoofinternational.org/). After decades of inaction, the community agriculture lot is thriving.

 

Karl is preparing his garden for viewing next weekend in a Nimbin House and Garden Tour fundraiser for the sustainable living project at Sibley Street (https://nnic.org.au/) sponsored by the Nimbin Neighbourhood

and Information Centre where he volunteers.

 

Meanwhile, the neighbours’ chooks are destroying things as fast as he can plant and mulch them. It’s a battle of wills, as Karl’s flower garden looks prettier without a fence.


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Both of us have undergraduate minors in psychology so we are trying to use classical behavioural psychology on the chooks.

When we chase them and yell at them, we loudly ring my workshop bell.


Classical conditioning for chooks

We’re hoping that — as in the case of using classical conditioning with Pavlov’s salivating dog (see https://www.simplypsychology.org/pavlov.html) — eventually the mere sound of the bell will make them scurry away.

 

We really dislike throwing stones at Ben’s chooks.

 

All of this is working pretty well — from our anthropocentric points of view.

 

However, we’ve noticed that the brown chook is immune to our manipulative efforts at social control.

 

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Further, she appears to be immune to the rooster.

 

She’s not part of the harem.

 

AND (even more interesting), she forages for insects and worms in other places– not Karl’s garden. She’s always alone and apparently doing fine — on the eastern boundary of our property under the trees whose fallen leaves have formed a thick mulch.

The brown chook is an independent actor in our garden.


She seems to be getting enough to eat, lack of sex does not seem to worry her, she makes no sounds (none of this monstrous clucking all the time) and she walks her own path.

 

Maybe she’s a lesbian chook? A feminist chook?

 

Certainly, an independent chook.

And we think she might be deaf — and certainly deaf to the rooster’s haranguing   importations. (Deaf to the dominant paradigm?)

I already have a kookaburra for a logo.

 

But watch out, Guy!


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The deaf brown chook is nipping at your heels (oops, claws…)

 

 

 

STOP PRESS!!!

 

Sunday: Karl (legendary dog whisperer) has apparently fallen in love with the brown chook.

 

Apparently it’s mutual.

 

 

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My Logo: Why a Kookaburra?

 

Main Banner

 

Why a kookaburra in my logo?

Kookaburra energy is strong, bold energy. Living a solitary life in a harsh tropical bush location while I was researching for my PhD, I encountered a kookaburra who made a strong impression. It was March 1992. A male kookaburra flew in close to my shack in the forest. He settled on a tree branch about five metres away and called out–laughing and screeching. It seemed like an announcement, a `bulletin’ or some sort of `instruction’. Following his visit, my life changed dramatically. Difficult situations and relationships resolved.

I bring this catalytic energy to my professional work as a trainer, speaker, facilitator, planner and community engagement professional, often embodying kookaburra energy.

When we work with kookaburra energy, we pay close attention to opportunities. Believing that `listening is the social policy of everyday life’, I guide my clients to listen carefully – to themselves, their colleagues and to their communities. Messages from our inner kookaburra can help us decide which path to follow. As we find ourselves questioning our roles within both our communities and professional spheres, we can receive guidance about connections and relationships from kookaburra energy. Kookaburra advises us to respect other and seek respect in our work. Kookaburra’s positive energy supports professional insight, commitment and growth. Evoking kookaburra energy can create a ripple effect that invites positive changes.

Those who choose to work in this way may discover that a difficult professional journey is ending. New professional and community growth may already be flourishing. Kookaburra advises us to end old patterns that are no longer helpful by asking why we developed them in the first place.


Our workplaces are often sparse and barren places that are inhospitable to creativity and positive working relationships. When reflect that barrenness in our work with communities, the results can be disastrous. Working with kookaburra energy as professionals, we can learn to conquer fears and in turn, farewell ineffective, old patterns. Then we can be more open to suggestions from others, including community members.

The home-focused and deeply loyal kookaburra helps us hear challenging `home’ truths, as well as recognising our own capacities and strengths. In turn, we can aid others in recognising and acting on their truths. Community engagement, based on “deep listening” is kookaburra work. Working with kookaburra energy, we may find ourselves listening to others and teaching them by sharing our passions and beliefs.


While one of its lessons is to `lighten up’, look on the bright side and laugh at our foibles, kookaburra energy can be highly confrontational, teaching harsh lessons. This provocative work challenges our assumptions about how professionals should think and act – particularly in community engagement contexts. Always remember to be respectful. That is the most powerful message of the kookaburra’s proud energy.


I live in the bush and these marvellous birds live all around me – or rather, I live within and among them.

For me, kookaburra is the wise, loyal one, the remover of obstacles, who cuts through confusion and uncertainty and helps us find our way. Complexity and bafflement can melt away following the strong `announcement’ of a laughing bird. You simply cannot ignore that sort of commotion.  Once she’s here, on our side, so to speak, things are bound to improve.

She’s many things to me, kookaburra. She’s a mirror of my self.

As a wise and experienced professional, I could be many things to you.

 

 

Source: Partly adapted from: www.wildspeak.com/animalenergies/kookaburra.htm

Karl feeding Guy, 2011

Karl feeding Guy, 2011

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Living with a Gypsy

July 5, 2009

 

Today the Gypsy and I were sorting hardware. Nails and screws.

 

It’s been a rough week in community engagement and I had to do something else than listen to bureaucrats and aggrieved residents.

 

I had to get my hands dirty. Get grounded.

 

Living on a building site generates a massive amount of mess. It’s hard to manage from day to day, particularly with few dry places to store things. Today we were sorting roofing screws from other screws from nails and clamps and tools of all descriptions. Rusted saws (it’s humid here), worn-out paint brushes. Dead paint tins. Odd unidentifiable objects.

 

Very therapeutic.

 

Gypsy’s work bench

 

I have attempted to clean up the Gypsy’s work bench a number of times in the last sixteen years with little success. He’s always tinkering. Genuinely of Romany blood (probably about one-third), he’s a tinker by nature and genetic disposition.

 

There is nothing he cannot fix.

 

We discovered that the solar garden lights you buy at the hardware store have a life of about three months and then they start to decline into fickleness, eccentricity, dementia and finally death…

 

But the Gypsy keeps at them. Resuscitating them. His table is littered with carcases of globes and pickets as he revivifies them one by one. He recharges their yellow batteries and cleans their connections with my nail file. The he gently sets them back to glow along the gravel path.

 

There are knives to be sharpened and electrical equipment to be repaired. And when the rain took out the phone, endless tinkering with a huge range of cords and adapters to make the phones work again.

 

Birkenstocks glued back together

 

I grew up in a household where everything was broken. So I love this quality in the Gypsy. He’s glued my favourite Birkenstock sandals back together so many times they were mostly glue. He’s taken to collapsing Ikea furniture with an artisan’s disdain and made it stand upright again.

 

He’s built, maintained and endlessly repaired our tarpaulin “hootchie” where we lived for the first few years.

 

The “hootchie” 2001

 

His garden is a marvel. His tomatoes to die for. And those chillies!

 

 

Old skills

 

HIs are the old skills. Resilient skills. Like mending and sewing. Knitting. Chopping firewood. Canning peaches. Putting up jams.

 

Skills we need for the Great Turning: persistence, repair, restoration and loving care.

 

From my office, I can hear the sounds of kindling being chopped. My chilled limbs predicting another fire in the chiminea.

 

I am blessed to be the beneficiary of these old skills.

 

Blessed to be with the Gypsy.

Knispering: Are Rats Smarter than Humans?

Jarlanbah Eco-village, Nimbin, NSW, 17 June 2009

 

Karl in the Shed

 

The Introduction to Kitchen Table Sustainability starts the book off on a bucolic, if pessimistic, note.

 

Three of the authors are sitting around the tables on the porch of our shed here in Nimbin and speculating about the future and the future of all generations – of all beings.

 

So far, so good.

 

All beings

 

All beings. Good Deep Ecology thinking for a woman with a PhD in environmental ethics.

 

Right?

 

May all beings be happy and free from suffering.

 

All beings. Hmmm.

 

Karl in the shed

 

For the past week or more, my husband Karl has been up a ladder in the shed with me acting as the trades assistant, that is, holding the ladder.

 

And what are we doing, two ageing humans with six university degrees between us? We’re trying to rat-proof our 6 metre by 6 metre shed.

 

So far the little suckers have eaten everything in sight. I mean everything: lids to glass jars, lids to boxes, boxes of files, toiletries, creams and lotions and vitamins and calcium tablets,aspirin, the plastic water filter cartridge AND the carbon pellet contents.

 

The only thing that dissuades them is a locked metal filing cabinet, which now holds cereal, nuts, and other treasures I’m trying to rescue from the chaos.

 

Messy eaters

 

They’re very messy eaters so the floor is littered with their droppings, washed with their urine and blanketed with a multicoloured carpet of half-chewed plastic, cardboard, paper, cellophane, food, vitamins…

 

The rats came in when the floods came and the winds blew the iron off the roof.

 

The python followed them, but it got too crowded in the roof space for everyone. So the python (we dreamed he’d evict them) departed after knocking everything off the tops of the bookcases.

 

He was a messy worker, too.

 

We’d had lots of rats and marsupial mice before.

 

But now, apparently sensing that Karl (with a stern countenance, rolls of vermin mesh, a drill and metal rods to attach the mesh to the walls) means business, they are redoubling their efforts to chew up and through everything not locked in a metal box.

 

Local remedies

 

All the local remedies are futile: scattering chilli powder where they go, various humane and not-so-humane traps, ratsack, traps camouflaged in potato crisp bags…

 

Nothing works.

 

Fortunately, we’re not sleeping in the shed any longer… because the night-time antics of one small mouse can drive an adult human berserk. And quickly.

 

Tearing out the door and baying at the moon seems a perfectly reasonable response when you have been wakened a dozen times by what German-speaking Karl calls “knispering”. “Knisper! Knasper! Knusper!”

 

 

Knisper away

 

Well, knisper they may. But not for long. We’re coming to the end of the job of securing the downstairs of the shed so that they will have to knisper only in the roof space and not in my cherished envelopes of chocolate pudding or my treasured antique fan.

 

They’re smart, these little creatures. They’re persistent and wily. They make plans for their future.

 

They take care of their family’s needs. So they should be worthy of consideration as part of our ethical community. (See chapter 3 of Kitchen Table Sustainability.)

 

They’ve outsmarted us for years. We may be bigger and have bigger brains, but, trust me, rats are not to be underestimated.

 

I definitely don’t think we humans are the pinnacle of creation or the top of the evolutionary pyramid when I’m standing holding the ladder for hours on end, ankle-deep in rat mess.

 

And I wonder: what will happen when Karl is too old to climb up the ladder and manage a drill and I am too frail to hold the ladder?

 

Will rats rule then?

 

All beings!

 

Hah!