Anyone For Tennis?

It sneaks up on you. Sort of like cars that have more electronics than mechanics, mobile phones, computers, iPods, the internet, Facebook and Twitter.  One has to keep up of course, but with the speed of the technological explosion it is necessary to draw a line somewhere. There are certain things one decides one will just simply never get round to doing.

For me one of those things was online gaming.  I was a wee thing in the era of the pinball machine. This gaudy contraption was usually located in the corner diner, inevitably occupied by young kids playing truant from school, and young men who couldn’t hold down a job and had nothing better to do with their time. I never really saw the fascination myself, and as my own children grew and the ‘Arcade Game’ became the pinball machine’s next generation, I stoically discouraged their use, convinced that such Game Arcades were the hangout of lowlife’s and hooligans!

But quickly technology forged forward, and before I could blink the old computer games Pong and Tetris had given way to Mario Brothers, Dungeons and Dragons, and Tomb Raider.  From scarily flashy and loud Arcade areas in the back end of down-market malls, gaming quickly re-invented itself as a slick, intelligent, in-the-comfort-of-your-own-home entertainment activity.  It was even in some cases, we worried parents were told, quite educational, and developed speedy eye-hand co-ordination in children. Not that I believed a word of it.  Although I did relent to small degrees, purchasing “The Yellow School Bus” for my children to play under my watchful glare. But I was determined that ‘Gameboy’, and ‘Playstation’ would not see the light of day in MY house!

So it was odd that online gaming did manage to sneak up on me, insidiously plucking me boldly downward to a place I never dreamed I would go. I started using computers extensively in the early 1990’s, so by the mid to late ‘90’s I was diving headlong into the World Wide Web. Well, as headlong as the limitations of my not-quite-yet-Pentium computer would allow. Soon, and often, I needed to upgrade hardware and software which I did as soon as I was financially able. It’s a common enough tale. One thing led to another and I soon found myself involved in a couple of Sci-Fi fan sites, and inevitably ended up on Facebook.

It appears innocent enough, this interaction and re-connection with friends old and new. But beware, it is a devious and demanding master!  Soon a friend of mine sent me an invitation.  An invitation to build a cyber farm.  Now of course, knowing me you are wondering why anyone would think I would want to build a farm! But naive and fairly new to the online community lifestyle I was under the impression that if I refused something a friend sent me, they would know, and I’d hurt their feelings in some real and tangible way, and they would ‘un-friend’ me, and I would have to live with the disgrace and misery!

So I accepted. And started trying to build up a farm. I did find a lot of my friends who seemed to like farming, and soon I had neighbours who could help me out, and water my lands when I forgot!  Oh the shame of allowing a crop to die!

Dead wheat, Rotting apples, dried up ponds. I wondered that my few pigs, sheep and horses (mostly ‘gifted’ by my neighbouring farmers) did not seem to lose much condition, and wandered around a brown dry landscape with supercilious smiles on their mugs. I was reminded of the year of the ‘virtual pet’. A time I would rather forget. My daughter bought herself one with birthday money. I had the ‘day-shift’ as these pocket-watch sized devices were banned at school. I shall never forget the horrid feeling in the pit of my stomach as I watched the puppy on the small screen sprout wings and fly up to ‘heaven’! I had missed a couple of feedings!  I think my daughter and I wept over that poor picture-of-a-puppy dying, than we did when she inadvertently killed her (real) goldfish by trying to pat it too much!

I was finally brave enough to admit to my friends that I really did not enjoy farming much, and wanted ‘out’. My sigh of relief did not last long. Another friend invited me to run a café. Well, I told myself, a café is much more up my alley (excuse the pun)! And I did not entirely hate the idea of having something I could build up myself, albeit nothing but bits and bytes on a computer screen. I told myself it was the farm I didn’t really like, but I loved coffee, and so plunged headlong into starting up my café. Perhaps my software and hardware were showing their age as for some reason the graphics-heavy operations involved in running my modish café made my poor computer hang itself so often that trying to keep the blasted thing going was just not fun anymore.  I told my friend’s my woes, and quit the café business.

What I really needed was a game based on a theme I enjoyed, that was not very graphics-heavy, and that did not require that I sit hours in front of my computer screen trying to load applications and do the necessary cyber-business to advance. Wouldn’t that be fun? 

But did I really need a game, for goodness sake? After all I had found they are somewhat hard to get oneself weaned off. A sense of guilt and failure plagued me whenever I wanted to quit. The friends I would let down as the weeks of hard work would inevitably sit there in cyber-space somewhere untouched, uncared for, unloved, with the little cyber-figurines waddling around, trusting little smiles on their faces, till their bits and bytes finally melted into that space where unused cyber creations go to die….wherever that may be.

And you thought it was just peafowl that I got too attached to!

But we live and learn.  Yet another invite came via Facebook, from yet another friend. And it looked oh so tempting and appealing! No pithy little farm, café, aquarium, zoo or girly shopping spree, this. Here I could be part of a new medieval empire, building my own village up to a small town, commanding troops, plundering silver, and the best, it seemed to need little by way of time, it loaded quickly, and did not seem to confuse my poor old computer at all!  What more could a girl want? Facebook was at last speaking my language.

So I joined “Realm of Empires”. 

I found myself in a whole new world (again, excuse the pun). I was now surrounded by rather more serious gamers than I had ever been before.  Way out of my league, I thought at first.  But I did find the online gaming community, at least in this game, to be very helpful and tolerant of my silly rookie questions. I went further along the advancement path in this game than I had ever managed in a game before. At first it appeared less time consuming and a more casual game than most, suitable for those who are not, nor intend to become, game-tied to a computer. But eventually even this became too much for me to deal with, and despite the ever present guilt at the thought of who I might be letting down, and where my poor surfs and soldiers would end up, I knew I had gone as far as my interest and abilities reached.  I extricated myself from my cyber-kingdom and easily ignored any further invites. That was a good ten years ago now.

This short and shallow sojourn into gaming probably served its purpose. I think it taught me not to be quite so scared of new technology, and I can totally see myself one day hobbling around my house on my Zimmer-frame, Zooming with my geriatrician, facetiming with my children while at the same time programming my dinner requirements, all using floating virtual screens above my kitchen island.

I remember when a ‘game’ entailed putting on a very short white dress, draping a cardigan casually over one’s shoulders, bouncing into a room and announcing “Anyone for Tennis?” It was all about getting out into the sunshine working up a bit of a ‘glow’, socializing with friends, and enjoying a refreshing G & T after.

Who am I kidding? With my ball sense and dislike of the outdoors I never really made a success of that either!

New Year Musings

And the clock ticks over once again.

We, Piper Payer and I, have long given up on the anticipation of rowdy parties (although we had our fair share in our younger days. In fact our New Year’s Eve parties were tradition amongst our group of friends), given up on waiting up for that midnight construct, and even given up on that feeling of ‘newness and possibilities’ that usually accompanied the clicking over of one year to the next.

I am sure though there is a different eagerness among the inhabitants of this planet at the turn of this New Year. We are all united in hoping and praying for the same thing: an end to this pandemic. Aware that there have been world health crises before, and pretty sure there will be more in the future (probably sooner than we would like, if experts are to be believed), we yet want to see the back-end of this one in particular, right now, if possible please!

While there may be sneaky suspicions that nothing much will change in 2022 with regards to this disease presently plaguing us, as humans we seem to have an unquenchable ability to continue in hope. We are exceedingly hopeful beings. So all the messages I have thus far received and sent regarding the imminent rolling over of the annual calendar, have included a hope and trust that the coming year will see Covid officially announced as beaten, a thing of the past, and that we can all go back to regular life. Well, that is the aspiration, anyway.

So, whatever 2022 brings, I do pray that we learn to grow more in peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.  Not forgetting above all to grow in love, and joy; a love and joy that surpasses reason, and that manifests in our lives through whatever our circumstances may be.

Happy New Year, everyone. 

Merry Christmas

Is it, though?

I used to be a total Christmas ‘fan-girl’. My ideal Christmas involved snow, a roaring fire, and a home wreathed with real holly, fur branches decorating the stairway banister, a large live tree trimmed with red and gold and twinkling lights, a welcome wreath on the front door, and a few tasteful Christmas lights along the front garden pathway. You know, the way they used to decorate the sets of those 80’s American family sitcoms for the Christmas episodes.

Despite the fact that I have always lived in the southern Hemisphere, did not have a stairway, and pretty much the only affordable Christmas décor available in past years was of the obviously artificial variety – very gaudy and rather sparse – every year I rekindled my Christmas goals and set to trying to make the most traditional Northern Hemisphere Christmas that I possibly could. Every year I fell widely short of this objective, but I was not deterred for there was always next year! I watched as Christmas decorations improved in quality, artificial trees started looking fuller and more like the real thing, and a classier Christmas emerged. Even as the children grew and left home, I could not imagine a Christmas without a tree or decorations.  It was always tradition in our home growing up to decorate on the 12th of December, not before, and I have continued this practice.

But after my brother died some twenty-five years ago now, the almost obsessive desire to create the perfect Christmas started to wane. Slowly at first. It started with failing to send out the hundred odd Christmas cards that I felt obliged to buy, address, and write well thought out personal notes in, every year. I just did not have the heart to do it that year, a mere three months after my brother had died. My Christmas card list was extensive and included recipients on nearly every continent. I simply did not send out a single one that year, nor any year after. Of course gradually as people realized they were no longer receiving cards from me, they felt released from their obligation to send one back and I was gradually removed from Christmas card lists around the globe. To be honest I am sure many were relieved to be allowed to take that red pen and scratch out my name from their address list! Although this all did somewhat overlap with the slow demise of actual physical card-sending anyway. Does anyone here still actually mail out physical Christmas cards? Well then, I believe it is only you, and the Royal family, left!

After this I started adjusting my Christmas expectations somewhat, to a more reachable goal. It finally sunk in to my dense brain that I shall never have the sitcom Christmas of my overactive imagination. I continued to make a good effort at creating Christmas cheer in the home though, and I satisfied myself with the two white Christmases I have been privileged to experience, the one with my Penfriend and her family in Ohio in the early 70’s, and the other with my son and daughter-in-law in North Carolina and at a ski resort in Virginia in the 2011.

Then a pandemic arrived, we sold our house and packed up the precious Christmas tree and decorations into two solid plastic packing boxes, and stacked them with the other items packed for Australia, in the store room here on the resort.

Christmas 2020 was a quiet affair for us as it was for the rest of the world, and I felt, like many of you I am sure, that it was not worth digging out the necessary accoutrements for a very merry Christmas. Piper Payer and I did not even bother to get each other gifts, since there was no tree erected to put them under.  The day was specially marked though thanks to the marvels of modern technology, by being able to group video chat with my family in both Perth and Canberra together, and later in the day when Christmas Day arrived in the US, to video chat with my son and daughter-in-law.

Which brings us to Christmas 2021. Once again I have had no desire to dig out the Christmas tree and decorations. I have however strung some pretty fairy lights along the porch, and I must say it does look rather festive. And Piper Payer has insisted we get gifts this year. He may be regretting that directive as I have already managed to find a few small gifts for him, which are wrapped and adorning the top of a dresser. My own name on a package has, at time of writing, not yet appeared!

As Festive as I’m gonna get.

Of course I have been talking here about the outward trappings of the Christmas season.  Which despite its commercialism and having been commandeered by secularism, has always melded seamlessly in me with the wonder of the birth of our Savior. All the traditions and symbols, and church community activities and fellowship of the weeks building up to the twenty-fifth have always been a part of the salvations story for me, and I cannot separate them, whether I feel like getting all outwardly Christmassy or not.

Since I live vicariously through my children anyway, I shall include some Christmassy photos of their Christmas cheer.

A very Merry Christmas to you all!

Daughter and son-in-law’s tree
Son and daughter-in-law’s decs

The No Good Very Bad day

I won’t leave you guessing….a chick is missing. The lowest point in a very bad week.

I came down with an illness early this week (no not Covid), and could only get a doctor’s appointment Wednesday at 3:00pm. Those who read my blog know my feelings on having to drive in to town. I particularly hate going later in the day. It’s an unpleasant chore for me so I prefer to get it over with, then I can relax the rest of the day. I saw on my weather app that rain was expected, but it didn’t look to be too bad and I decided I would just have to bite the bullet and do the trip. When I left the resort Wednesday afternoon, apart from feeling crook, all was well in peafowl land, and the weather did not look too threatening.

Doctor was seen and medication prescribed and I drove off to the pharmacy to fill the prescription. I noticed a storm brewing to the south, but I convinced myself it was not anywhere near my route home. By the time the prescription was filled and I started the drive home the sky was decidedly darker and there was a spitting of rain. It still looked clearer out in the direction I needed to head, so I confidently set off. As I edged onto the highway that storm that had looked so far away hit us. We all slowed, wipers on full. At the turnoff towards the airport I could still see the sky looking clearer up ahead in the direction of home, but as I got onto the airport road, myself and the other cars were suddenly engulfed in a raging deluge. There was no sign of sky, or even clouds. A grey-blue aura engulfed us all and visibility was immediately almost zero. Since this storm isn’t the main story here, I’ll not continue regaling you of the agonizing decisions racing through my head as to whether to pull over and wait it out or to continue to just get home! Many drivers chose the former, I stuck with the latter praying the storm WOULD ease up as I got closer to home. Yet the storm raged on, if anything getting stronger. Crawling along at a snail’s pace with hazard lights flashing, myself and other road users who had decided to keep going, soldiered on through the hail that spat down upon our windshields.

There was no respite upon arrival at the resort. Rain was coming down in buckets and visitors were all over the place trying to pack picnic paraphernalia into car boots which were blocking my progress. I confess that at times I hit my car horn rather aggressively. I was sick, my nerves were shot, and I was in no mood to be nice.

And as I realised the intensity of this storm upon the resort my thoughts of course went immediately to the peachicks. There was nothing much I could do though. I felt confident Cleo would have them in some storm-sheltery place that she had perhaps occupied in the past. With that thought done my attention then went to the boom along the dirt road across the ditch to our house, which I realised would naturally be closed (to prevent visitors from driving through onto our private area in front of our house which they regularly do DESPITE clear signage NOT to). I had no choice but to climb out of the car into six inches of brown swirling mud to open the boom and drive through. I was soaked as I parked the car just outside the front gate and stumbled through the downpour up the path to my front door, my once white Tomy tennis shoes now dyed a muddy brown, and ruined.

Safe in the house I took off my glasses to wipe the rain spatters off, and they snapped cleanly in two right at the bridge.

And then this morning the devastation that Cleo was one chick short. Horrified we all searched and searched, just hoping to find the little thing stuck behind a fence or something. Although I hoped, I think I knew we would not find it. Cleo has so far proved to be an excellent and attentive mother, so I could not imagine her leaving the chick behind somewhere. I would rather see the body and know, than imagine the poor thing simply lost and searching for its mother. That thought just kills me! But we have found nothing. What really breaks my heart is that she brought her remaining wee one down to Peafowl House this morning! After laying and hatching and having them for the first five days up at Richter, she finally came down to us this morning, with her lone little one in tow. If only she had managed to get them down here two days ago they both would have been safe in this sanctuary I made for them all those months ago. Safe from that storm. Safe from anything that meant them harm.

As I type this Cleo and her wee chick are hanging out here in Peafowl House in safety while the day visitors pack up after another day of fun here, shouting and yelling, horns hooting and whistles blowing and ululating, with car radios hammering out their ‘doef-doef-doef’ at deafening decibels. I don’t know how they stand it. But despite the chaos happening mere yards from Peafowl House Cleo seems content in her straw-lined sanctuary with her little chick for now. Of course she could leave any time she chooses, I pray she has enough pea-sense to stay here with her last little baby.

I am a rather sad and teary, somewhat emotionally exhausted human this evening.

I do not have the heart to post any picture here for this entry.

The Cheeky Chicks

Barely two days old and peachick Mum Cleo has them off the roof and wandering around. She is a most attentive Mama, as her two babies scurry around her cheeping softly. She croons and clucks around them and they toddle along never more than about twelve inches from her protective presence. I am confident she’s got this!

I am worse than a grandmother. I’ve snapped photo after photo, and a few video clips, which my poor family and friends have been bombarded with. So for those of you who are not in my WhatsApp contacts, I’ll be filling up the end of this post with photos!

Piper Payer once again jumped in with names. There is apparently no sure fire way to guess gender until they are nearly a year old, so he has just called them “Uno” and “Duo” (and we have no idea which is which). But collectively they are the “Cheeky Chicks”, since he has recently re-watched Baz Lurhmann’s film “Australia”, and is besotted with little Nullah calling the cows “Cheeky Bulls”. Now “cheeky” is the predominant adjective-before-a-noun in his vocabulary.

We are still at a loss as to what to do about the weed-eater line caught around Junior’s leg. Many thoughts and suggestions have been posited but due to the wild and untrusting nature of this bird, I doubt anything short of a tranquilizer dart being shot by an expert wildlife and bird marksman would make the removal of this even remotely possible. We continue to think on it.

Enjoy these (many) photos of Cleo and her chicks. Once again I apologise for the quality of photo.

And thought I would just add this one of Junior displaying his teenage tail, such as it is.

Update number two

There are two!

Woke early this morning. Mostly due to the fact that Rake started his screeching at 03:00, just as he did yesterday, though at the time we did not know eggs had hatched! But also I was desperate to get up to Richter to see how the mother and chick had survived the rest of the day yesterday, and the heavy storm we had last night. As soon as it was light enough I trudged up to Richter House carrying my kitchen steps as my 5’4″ body is not high enough to see up on to the rondavel roof properly. I can just reach the roof with my arms stretched up so have been holding my cell phone up over the rim of the roof to actually see what was going on there, and to deposit a pile of fowl food on the edge. With the new arrival I felt this would not suffice so the kitchen steps have been added to my peafowl care kit.

I scattered seed for Rake and Junior, and Britney should she deem to come and eat, and tried to level the kitchen steps as securely as possible on the uneven edge of the rondavel, praying the stairs don’t tilt. Last thing I need right now is a broken hip! Delight, relief, joy, were the emotions I felt as I peeped over the edge of the roof and saw two healthy little chicks looking out at the world from the safety of Cleo’s body. She appears to be an excellent Mum, and has them well in hand.

There is one other worry now. The Harrier Hawk is hanging around up there. While I was up in that area I decided to clip some of the dead roses off the bushes at Reception, and heard a solid thump on the tin roof of the car port next to the reception building. I know that sound! A bird of prey slamming into a roof to grab a breakfast pigeon! I didn’t see him fly away or if he caught his meal, but I soon heard his call very, very close.

But as I said Cleo seems to be an excellent mother, so I am praying she can successfully keep her two safe.

Sudden Update!

There is a chick! One at least! When I went to look Cleo quickly hid it under her body. There were originally three eggs. She has abandoned one and it stills its on the roof. I guess it is not viable. No sign of the second egg. Either the chick is also underneath Cleo’s body or it did not hatch either.

I could not get a photo before the wee thing disappeared into Cleo’s feathers, but I will take periodic trips up to the Rondavel to try get a pic.

I have put a shallow bowl of water and another of seed up on the roof for her. Everyone is on high alert in case a chick tumbles off the roof.

It is a rather busy and noisy day on the resort with heaps of day visitors, loud music (if you can call what we are hearing as ‘music’) so it is all rather overwhelming! Will keep you all posted!

One abandoned egg.
There is at least one chick under there.

Peafowl Pop-up

Cleo is still sitting on her nest.  If my calculations are correct the eggs should have hatched a few days ago.  Apparently it takes twenty-seven to thirty days.  I loosely estimated on the probability that she laid around two days after the last time we saw her languishing down here at our house, which is a good thirty-one days ago.  It could though have been a few more days before she actually produced eggs. It’s difficult to know for sure. There were six days between her disappearance and us actually finding the eggs. All very complicated. Suffice to say it is still a case of ‘any day now’. There is also the chance that they actually have hatched, but with the weather and rain we have been having they are staying securely under Mum’s ample body and feathers.  Or, they were not viable to start with and she is just sitting in vain hope. I hear that can happen.

The next report is that we have not seen Britney for just over a week now. Speculation is rife on the resort that she too may be sitting on eggs somewhere.  Since it is not on a roof that we can see, we probably will not know till we see her again with (or without) some chicks in tow.  Of course there is also the possibility that she has simply disappeared. Moved on without Junior. Or has perhaps had some awful misfortune! (OBA came up with that one).

Three minute ago update!  Resort manager Nicholas has just seen her at Richter House. So she is at least alive!

The last bit of news concerns Junior and we are not sure how worried we need to be.  I noticed two weeks ago that he has some Weed-Eater hedge cutter line tangled around his left leg. It does not seem to be bothering him and I am not sure how long it has been there.  He has not been close enough to get a good look and the tangle of dull yellow line is not always easy to see. He could have arrived with it already there, or got caught in it more recently. Either way, we are not sure what to do about it. Even though it is not bothering him at the moment, might it become a problem in the future? For now we just wait and watch.

Never ends, does it?

Biding Our Time

I know I tend to anthropomorphize animals too much, particularly animals in my care, but I am working on that!

I estimate it has been approximately three weeks since Cleo laid her eggs.  She has sat, and sat, through some of the worst weather we can have. Cold, cold nights, storms that toppled trees, burning hot days, but she has not been dissuaded from her task.  Reminds me a little of my favourite Dr. Seuss story. How an elephant called Horton was convinced by an entitled bird, Maisie, to sit on her egg for her while she went off on vacation to Palm Beach. He agreed as she said she wouldn’t be away long. So he sat, and sat, and sat through rain and snow and heat, and the mocking from his old friends, for that silly bird Maisie did not return. Brave Horton stayed on that nest despite hunters coming to shoot him. Of course when the hunters saw the spectacle of an elephant sitting on top of a tree, they decided it would be much more lucrative to dig up the tree, with Horton in it, and sell him and the tree to a circus. An ocean voyage later and ensconced in a traveling circus, Horton still sat, sad and miserable as the crowds came to laugh at him. Then Maisie happened to fly by and seeing the circus she decided to visit. As she recognized Horton the egg started to crack, and Maisie selfishly remembered her tree and her egg. She immediately laid claim to the hatching chick, but…..surprise! The hatchling emerged looking more like an elephant than a bird, with little wings, and a trunk!  Horton was faithful one hundred percent, and nature rewarded him in a special way.

Of course Cleo is no Maisie!  She has sat faithfully upon her eggs all this time no matter what nature has flung at her. For a while there OBA gained the upper hand as I imagined her blown clean off her eggs, or being pummeled by hail, wet and bedraggled, freezing to death, or roasting in the heat. Never mind Thanksgiving turkey, I was imagining roast peahen! But every morning I found her alive, if sometimes wet and bedraggled, sitting securely on her nest.

I also decided that since the newbies know nothing of ‘Peafowl House’ yet, and Rake has rarely been visiting, I ought to take some feed up to Richter House each morning so that Junior and Britney can get a little more used to people. Which I must report has definitely been working. They are both decidedly less skittish and comfortable to eat the seed I throw out on the paving while I sit and watch them.

About a week into Cleo’s ‘sitting’ we suddenly heard her one morning wee-haaawing loudly in procession from Richter House down the few hundred meters to Peafowl House.  She arrived here and bustled into the yard like a Victorian Nanny unsatisfied with the state of the children and the home! The feed bowl the birds usually eat from was empty and she loudly let me know, as I schlepped out there and fumbled with the scoop in the feed bin, how unacceptable this was!  Soundly chastened I quickly filled the feed bowl up, and scattered more seed all around for her to peck. Like a flustered housewife expecting guests at any minute, she pecked and fussed and wee-haaawed for about thirty seconds, then with I assume a belly full, or full enough, of seed, she very vocally scuttled back up to Richter House.

I assumed of course she would still need to eat and drink, so made sure that from that point on the feed bowl would always be full for when she next needed a top-up, so to speak. And in the meantime my visits up to Richter House to check on the newbies found her sitting stoically upon her nest. A few days later there was a repeat of her loud complaining gallop down to peafowl house for some sustenance, so I started thinking maybe I should put some food in a pile on the edge of the roof of the rondavel a short distance from her and her nest, for her alone to partake.  That took care of the frantic noisy visits to Peafowl House, and each morning when I get to Richter House I find her sitting comfortably with her little pile of seeds all eaten up. Whether she eats it all herself or has to share with pigeons and sparrows I am not sure. I have on some mornings found Junior up on the roof dancing around her with his short teenage tail optimistically spread out, and I am not sure if he is eating her seeds, or if he does not understand her ‘condition’ and thinks he is wooing her!

But there came a weekend where an older couple checked in to the Richter House who have experience with wild and feral peafowl. What a revelation!  They confirmed what I had gradually been realizing through my own experiences with the birds here….that the majority of advice I had been given by people online was mostly incorrect!   Not that it was deliberately incorrect, just that most experts online keep peafowl in entirely different circumstances to the way mine are living. Usually they are kept like chickens, ducks or geese, and live in barns and sheds and aviaries, and where they are allowed out, their ‘home’ is still the shed or aviary. Their existence is usually part of a commercial concern and eggs are often hatched in incubators. Their lives are relatively controlled.

The peafowl here on the resort may well have chosen to escape from that kind of life. I realize now that due to the Peafowl’s ability to survive in just about any conditions, they require absolutely no ‘care’ in the wild whatsoever. They simply get on with life, without human interference. They are just ‘there’ in the background, on farms, on resorts, in neighbourhoods and even in cities. Hence the lack of information on specifically ‘feral’ and ‘wild’ peafowl care.

This couple had a farm where they were used to peafowl coming and going.  They told me a peahen nesting on a thatched roof is normal, and not to worry for the chicks bounce (horrors!) and will be absolutely fine when the time comes to leave the nest. They told me peafowl come and go at will. Some stay, some move on. All this is perfectly normal.  They can and will survive just about anything nature throws at them. Basically, I should relax and just enjoy looking at them, the rest will take care of itself.  Also my peafowls’ preference for Richter House over the nice secure Peafowl House I have made for them down here, they explained to me, is because of their symbiotic relationship with humans!  They actually like to be around humans and the Richter House has groups of people booked in most weekends, whereas here at Peafowl House there are only two humans and a dog. Apparently our little oasis is just not busy enough! I often wondered why Rake and Cleo, despite a number of picnickers still hanging around the pool and picnic areas of an evening, would come and wander around, showing off on the tops of picnic tables, and pecking at left-over picnic food on the grass, moving away only if someone gets too close. Apparently it is because they actually like to be in the vicinity of people!

So, leave them alone, this couple said, and they will happily live in fairly close proximity to you, gracing you with their majestic presence, as a sort of reward for providing them with a large territory in which they can safely roam.  

And so that is that.  I need to cease worrying about them!  Easier said than done, though. Now I wait nervously to see if anything does hatch out of those eggs, and if the baby peafowl will survive to see adulthood. I will keep you apprised.

The two newbies, Junior and Britney

Surviving Peafowl Surprises!

An ordinary Monday evening. Quite late. The sun had set and dusk was dimming the sky. My mobile phone pinged a message from our resort manager:

I was skeptical. A few explanations zoomed through my head, but none made sense.  Nicholas indicated it was a darker bird that didn’t have a long tail like Rake’s.  Had Cleo perhaps ended up befriending an ibis, I wondered? There are hundreds here on the resort. No, Nicholas assured me, it was definitely a peacock.  They were heading up to Richter House. By now the world was quite dark, but I took a torch out anyway and tried to see if I could catch a glimpse of them passing by.  Nothing. So I had to head back inside, and despite bursting with curiosity, wait till morning.

The sun rose bright and cheery the next day, I grabbed a scoop of poultry seed and tramped up to Richter House.  As I approached a male peacock scurried across the road.  Definitely young, dark, (‘Black Shouldered Peacock’ perhaps, my excited mind posited?), his tail still a short stump. He skittered across the road in front of me, very wary of this human walking towards him. Behind him skipped Cleo, and they both hopped onto the terrace that surrounds Richter House. I spoke to Cleo as I usually do, in my ‘Cleo’ voice, shaking the bird seed in the scoop.  Normally this would bring her tok-tokking over to me to receive my offering, but today she was as skittish as the new boy. “Strange”, I thought “Perhaps with the arrival of this new peacock dynamics have changed?”

They both flew over the house into the back area, and I followed around to the backyard with my bait of birdseed.

The back of the Richter House has a narrow cemented area, then another unkempt garden terrace, then open bushy and overgrown ‘veld’ from that terrace up and over the ‘koppie’. Rake had heard the seed-shaking and was waiting for me near the back door. I scattered seed for him and watched while Cleo and the newbie scuttered off fretfully up the back, through a hole in the rusted and broken old diamond wire fence, and up the hill. Poor Rake! Is he now just chopped liver?   He did not seem concerned though, and when he had finished displaying his magnificent tail, he set to pecking at the choicest seeds in the mix. I sat in one of the garden chairs and watched him. He was certainly taking it very well, this divorce and his ‘ex’ showing off her new toy-boy!

As I sat wondering what on earth this would all mean for the future, and if we would be having some bloody and horrifying epic peacock battles as the newbie grew his tail, became a full-blooded male, and had to properly vie for Cleo’s attentions, I heard a rustling next to me followed by a familiar “Tok-tok”. Cleo sauntered past my chair, gave me a cursory look, wandered along past Rake, didn’t bother to peck at any seed, and disappeared behind the rondavel adjacent to Richter House.

It took my slow brain a moment to process and reach the right conclusion. At first I thought Cloe had turned around and come back, approaching me from behind. But I had seen her and the new boy scoot through the hole in the fence and off into the bushes. It dawned slowly at first, and then with such excitement that I dared not believe it!  The peahen with the newbie WAS NOT CLEO!

There were TWO new peafowl!

I sat amazed as that realization sank in. A million questions flew through my mind: where could they have come from, why had they came here, how did they get here, will they stay, and does this mean we now really, truly have a flock? I was still processing all this when Nicholas came along and beckoned me over to the rondavel, with his finger over his lips to denote silence. Intrigued, I followed him to the side of the rounded structure to a spot where the conical shaped thatch roof flattens out to cover a bathroom addition. He pointed up. There in the cradle of rather messy thatch roofing, sat Cleo, looking smug and pleased with herself, so still only her corona occasionally bobbed.

The rondavel. Can you see her?
Looking smug and pleased with herself

Was that a nest? Had she made a nest there and is she sitting on eggs? I had not seen her around at Peafowl House for a week at least. OBA panicked. Surely this was not a good place to lay eggs! A tree’s branches covered the area where she sat, but not very thickly, she would be exposed to every weather variation!  And what if these eggs hatched and then the chicks tumbled off the roof to their deaths?

I tried to calm myself by convincing my brain that there had been false alarms before, that she had surely not laid eggs now. I went back to my own house willing my mind to not think about the possibility of eggs, and rather concentrate on the thrill of the two newbies, and thinking up names for them should they stay.  I concluded the new young boy should be “Junior”, and I would call the new female “Britney” – because, well, wherever she had been kept before, she is now FREE! I was just patting myself on the back for having beaten Piper Payer to the naming stakes, when I got a message again from Nicholas….a photo!

Three eggs!! 

I could barely breathe!

“What now?” my flustered OBA shrieked.

I must report that the year here in ‘nature’ has not been entirely in vain.  I have gained a modicum of calm now around things that would previously have put me in an unrecoverable spin. And faced with these new developments ROB convinced me that nature must take its course, and that I would only make things worse by trying to interfere, though crazy thoughts of trying to construct some kind of shelter on the roof of the rondavel over Cleo and her eggs did jangle around in my head. 

And the rains came, and I mostly successfully kept OBA at bay. And some contentment did come in the form of a knowledgeable guest couple who booked in to the Richter House for that weekend. And I will tell you more about all that next week.

The two newbies, Junior and Britney. And half of Rake’s tail. What is immediately evident is the difference in quality between the images taken by others (the eggs, for instance) vs the images taken by myself (all the others). I don’t know what I do wrong, but I think my hands are just too shaky.