Thursday, 27 June 2013

A mercy mission

Next door's cat has taken to stalking birds. Dave intervened to get him to drop a young thrush on Saturday. Once the cat had been forced to retreat, we stepped in to see what we could do for the poor bird, but alas it was very young, in severe shock and sadly, it died.

Imagine our surprise on Sunday when our neighbours knocked on the door to report their cat had done it again. There was a bird in their kitchen and they expected Dave to do something about it!

Dave (bless him), tried to pass the responsibility back to them by handing them a shoe box.

A few minutes later, they knocked again and gave the shoe box back, complete with a bird inside.

I'm not sure when it became our responsibility to take care of baby birds brought in by their cat, but when faced with someone thrusting a hurt bird at you, it is hard to know how to react. So it was, we acquired our second bird in less than 24 hours courtesy of the neighbour's cat.

This one looked ruffled, missing a few feathers and appeared to be a bit stunned, but was older so we hoped it might be OK. We made a tentative identification as a chiffchaff and then put it in a covered cat carrier with some drinking water and waited to see if it would perk up.

A couple of hours later, it looked considerably brighter, was responding to our presence and trying to perch. Heartened that it might survive, we checked again, posted a pic on a Facebook wildlife page and discovered this was a blackcap.

Young blackcap, found in our neighbour's kitchen

We added some twigs and blueberries, then had the dilemma of what to do with it. Wild birds are just that, wild... And we had no desire to keep one captive, not to mention that having two cats of our own, our house would undoubtedly be a stressful environment for our unexpected guest.

We've taken wild animals to the PDSA and RSPCA before, but not been happy as we're fairly sure they've been euthanased, so we decided to look for a local wildlife sanctuary. Our first thought was to call Brandon Marsh to ask for advice, but it being Sunday, no one answered the phone, hence we took to the internet and found the Nuneaton and Warwickshire Wildlife Sanctuary.

We sent them an email, then Dave tried the phone and was surprised when someone answered. Even better, yes they were happy to take the suspected Blackcap. Cue a Sunday evening dash to Nuneaton, with M in tow because she insisted she wanted to come too.

We got lost. Horribly lost in that I knew exactly where we were and where we wanted to go, but had no idea how to get there as we were trapped inside Nuneaton's one way system! M was being very patient and singing to the bird (after I explained that I wouldn't put a CD on in case it frightened the bird), her song of choice being Soldier, Soldier. M kept asking if we'd reached Nuneaton yet so I said we were there, but I was a bit lost and I was trying to get us to the wildlife sanctuary. M offered the eminently sensible suggestion that we should go home.

In the end, by pure cunning and stubborn determination I ended up on the correct bit of one way street heading towards the wildlife sanctuary which is based in an unassuming bungalow. Once there, we got the bird out of the car, still in its improvised cage and headed inside (with me hoping they hadn't had a call out in the time it had taken us to get there).

Fortunately, someone came when I rang the bell and in we went to immediately encounter a young deer blocking our path. It was quite literally standing there, being nosy and forcing us to walk around it so it could get a good look at us. M was shorter than the fawn so asked (not unreasonably) if it was a horse. We were shown into a shed where a young fox sat watching in a puppy cage where it apparently sleeps. The shed floor was very springy, so bouncing expert that she is, M started vigorously jumping up and down.

I scooped the excited small person up before she frightened the fox and showed her 'our' bird which was briefly examined before being whisked away to the reptile shed where it is nice and warm. Apparently they had several fledglings there so it would have company while it recovered. M was very concerned that the bird had been taken, but was finally reassured that it was in the best place and that this was an animal hospital. I carefully explained that normally, if we found a baby bird we'd take it back to its mummy and daddy, but since the cat didn't tell us where he found the bird we couldn't do this. That was why we'd brought the bird to a animal hospital and they'd look after it now.

Satisfied M nodded and said she'd like to play. There was a bit of consternation when M asked where the swings were but I pointed out the garden was full of sheds so had no room for a swing, plus it was very late, Daddy would wonder where we were and we had to go home. Which is exactly what we did...

Mission accomplished and I now know where the Nuneaton wildlife sanctuary is although I can't guarantee I wouldn't have similar problems navigating my way there again. Personally though, next time the neighbour's cat brings in a live bird, I intend to hand over their contact details along with a shoebox!

Friday, 14 June 2013

What shall we sing?

We made a song or story board.

For those who do not know what a song board is, it is a felt board to which you attach pictures to help lead you in a song or story session. It can be a useful tool with small children for focusing attention or choosing which songs to sing, particularly if you have several children to engage with.

In our house of course, we only have one small person, but M does love singing and always has. We sing a lot in our house as will as when out and about -- yes, I am the mother who will walk down the street hand in hand with my daughter belting out some nursery rhyme or other. M loves making up songs about her favourite books/toys/what she is up to (or getting us to), which can make keeping up with her musical needs challenging, but we do our best. Not too surprisingly, M also enjoys the singing aspect of Rhyme Time at the library or various parent/toddler groups we've tried and so we thought we'd bring that into our home.

The first thing I needed was a board.

We used an off cut piece of mounting card,which is usually used for framing photographs. It was fairly heavy weight cardboard so unlikely to bend accidentally, but being approx A3 sized wasn't too big for M (who is nearly three) to carry.

I covered the board in felt, blue on one side and green on the other.

Having never worked with crafting felt before, I'd assumed it was pretty much all the same. I was wrong. Felt can vary a lot in thickness and 'hand' or how it feels when you touch it.

The first lot of felt I bought on the internet was quite frankly rubbish. It was stiff, not very fluffy and thin. It was described as being suitable for craft and board covering, which to me meant it should be ideal for what I had in mind, but apparently not. I ended up using it as a base layer and then covering it with more expensive felt I'd bought from our local market. The advantage of the market was I could feel the felt, assess it for fluff and thickness and check it wasn't going to crease like paper if M picked it up or tear on its first contact with velcro!

This was very much a joint project with M, so we used PVA to glue the felt to the board, I trimmed it and then we added a second layer of felt to the first. We used pegs to hold the felt in place whilst it dried, then once it was done I trimmed it again and we stuck down the edges with heavy duty double sided sticky tape.

M applies PVA for a second layer of felt.

All pegged down and left to dry...

To finish, I added some fabric tape to cover up the rough edges.

It is not as neat as it could be, but I was making it up as I went along and acting in a fast, decisive fashion is essential when you're being assisted by a nearly three year old who might otherwise take matters into her own hands!

Once the board was complete M and I compiled a list of songs we'd like to sing. Once we had a few, I drew pictures which might represent those songs with the exception of a suitable guardsman for 'The Grand Old Duke of York' or 'Soldier, Soldier' where I faced a mental blank so Dave stepped in.

I cut the pictures out and stuck them onto cardboard. In our case, I reused empty cereal boxes and for my first batch used PVA to glue them down.

PVA turned out to be a mistake, water based glue and non-permanent marker just don't mix well with the ink on the paper running quite badly, hence for my second batch I used good old glue stick. Ideally, I think I'd laminate the pictures to make them wipe clean and durable, but I do not have a laminator and to be honest, when the pictures wear out we'll just make some more which will be fun.

Pictures glued to cardboard - PVA is a bad choice!

I re-inked the pictures then cut them out before passing them to M who coloured them in. Once she was done, M stuck the hook part of velcro dots to the back of each picture and stuck it on the board.

Finished song board, complete with first batch of pictures to choose from.
At last - a song board or as M says, a choosing board.

What shall we sing when we sing together?
What shall we sing when we sing together?
What shall we sing when we sing together?
Would you like to choose?

For the uninitiated, the idea is to take turns in choosing a song. Everyone sings the choosing song and then one person (or toy in our case) chooses a picture from the board. The board is turned over and the picture is stuck on the back. The person who chose then tells everyone what song they'd like to sing as represented by the picture. There are no hard and fast rules tying picture to song, providing the chooser knows the song and can loosely associate it with the picture, all is good.

Sunday, 2 June 2013

A tiny bit of crochet

There is actual crochet happening here. Or rather it did, briefly...

Motif for Betty shrug

This is the first motif for Betty (Ravelry Link) from Vintage Crochet, which I bought a few years back when I was easily won over by the pretty pictures and it sure is a pretty book.

The secret to making this motif was to go to a park with a picnic, then to hand over toddler chasing duty to Dave for half an hour whilst I grappled with the pattern.

As it happened, once I got the thing made I decided I didn't like it.

If you look at the joins between rounds in the bottom left corner, you may be able to see they are a bit 'clumsy' and look crowded. Blocking may sort this out, but if I manage to finish this garment it and if I intend to wear it, I'll not be blocking every time I wash it!

So... I reworked the troublesome join on the 4th round, replacing the 2ch tr into the first dc with a single ch and a dtr.

Corrected join on round 4

Much better!

OK, it may not look that much different, but I  can see the difference and if I'd left it, it would have annoyed me every time I looked at the piece.