How on earth am I going to link hamsters with my veg plot disasters I hear you ask; oh yea of little faith. I’ll tell you how. Let’s start with the word for today ‘Domestication’. I have spent the best part of 22 years of marriage trying to be a domestic goddess in the kitchen, in all matters of interior design, and in elaborate and unnecessary plans for landscaping our gardens. No matter how many failures I encounter along the way there is always a part of me that believes it might just work if I have another go. Everywhere you look nowadays there are magazines, blogs, and TV segments about growing your own veggies, being self sufficient, and relieving the poor old planet of its burdens to produce enough food to feed us all.
After two decades of epic failure on not just one, but two continents, I remain optimistic that one day I will have more to feed my family with than a bumper crop of passion fruit. I seriously can spend a small fortune on pots, seedlings, compost, stakes, plant food, and fertiliser just to grow one very small green capsicum, when it would be so much simpler to just go to the supermarket and spend a fraction of that on a large pack of four, and in every colour genetically available.
I’ve got the books, I’ve taken notes, I listen to ABC radio programs and try to picture the lush ‘harvest of abundance’ that they are describing in honeyed tones. I do everything as instructed only to be plagued by white fly, rust, rot, leaf hoppers and bugs that even our local bio security experts cannot identify. Last year my attempts to control pests organically spiralled out of control, until one day I just nuked the lot of them with napalm. Well not really, but the stuff I bought from Bunning’s did result in the few remaining tomatoes being inedible to humans – and it still didn’t kill the pests; in fact, they positively thrived on it and turned into mutant insects with heightened powers of destruction. I just simply cannot accept that it’s just me that’s having these troubles, and lately I’ve come up with the theory that it’s all in the marketing. Most people are not going to tell you about their failures, they are going to brag to the world about their success stories …. but be warned…. a decent camera can do wonders for appearances. If, for instance, I show you one of my home grown tomatoes like so;
It’s not looking too bad, I could easily pass it off as a success, no? You’re almost running for your Jamie Oliver Mediterranean recipe collection as we speak…..but wait a minute, let’s just pan back and take in the full picture here;
Mmmmmm, delicious, no? In the digital age you can make anything look better. That holiday that was actually a complete disaster because you were followed everywhere by two psychopaths in matching anoraks, can be edited, cropped, and photo shopped to within an inch of utter fraud and misrepresentation. Well right here on my blog you are only ever going to ‘get real’ home dudes. The truth is, most of my produce is rubbish.
Though that does make the occasional blue moon success just that little bit sweeter:
This is my first home grown mango. Just the one, and I ate it all to myself, and I’m optimistic that this year I’ll have one for each of the family members. Elsewhere in the garden though things are not so good; this my friends
is was my Lychee.
The time for optimism is well and truly over, yet I still cannot bring myself to pull it up and sling it in the composter, (yes, I’ve got a composter!!). But even that doesn’t really work as it should because I never go near it, (as it also attracts every lizard in the neighbourhood), so it doesn’t get ‘turned over regularly’ or whatever it is you’re supposed to do with them. I have one orange, and a few teeny tiny rainbow chillies which really deserved a CSI style close up with a coin for scale, but basically they are about the same size as the gravel chips.
They are kind of pretty though. I have lots of ginger, but no blueberries, and a lime tree that has never ever produced a single lime but acts as a sturdy support for my rampant slutty passion fruit. There are currently about SEVENTY passion fruit ripening on my garden fence. I used to really like passion fruit on my yoghurt….but you can have too much of a good thing, and I’m always reading that you are supposed to eat a varied diet.
My ‘Lots of Lemons’ annually breaches its own trade description by averaging a yield of only three scabby fruits. So where do the hamsters come into this Nanna Prawn? Excuse me? Hamsters? What are you on about? Oh yes, the hamsters, you thought I’d forgotten didn’t you? Well how very dare you.
My children have endured the same cycle of excitement/purchase/boredom/neglect/ illness/ and even regular escapes, with their small pets (or vermin as most sensible human beings would deem them). The only real successes we have had with small pets were the two goldfish we won at Hull Fair. I say success merely because these are fish in bags at the hook a duck stall and they are never supposed to last as long as the bus rides home. Ours lasted 2 years. Have you ever owned fish that are not in an aerated tank but left to fester in a fish bowl? They stink. Like really stink, you have to clean them out every week if you wish to be able to see them. I wrote a poem for the kids when the last one passed away (or suffocated) to commemorate them in fitting fashion;
A tad harsh perhaps considering the kids were only toddlers at the time, but like I said, those fish stank.
We then had two guinea pigs for a while; Fred and Harry. They liked Walkers Cheese Quavers and Barbeque flavour Hula Hoops, and hanging out with my son in a fox/cat proof run – one had conjunctivitis, one had eczema. You just can’t make this stuff up; we had to squeeze eye drops into one and apply nose cream to the other on a daily basis. They were very labour intensive pets in the realm of animal husbandry.
They croaked (or is that squeaked?) pretty early. Silky, Frodo, and Crackers followed next. Silky, or ‘Double ‘O’ Hammy’ as we affectionately called him was our first foray into a ‘proper’ pet. He did everything that a pet should do, he was entertaining, liked being handled, and hung from his cage by his two front legs swinging away for hours. He was a strawberry blonde with very silky hair, a right little charmer and brave with it – the nearest I’ll ever get to Daniel Craig. he survived a particularly hair raising adventure down a full flight of stairs in his hamster ball, seemed invincible, and lived to maturity of around about three years. Optimistically we rushed straight into buying another hamster.
Frodo was black and white, and even before he had his first big adventure to Mount Doom he was a spirited soul. He was a particularly frisky hamster who did not seem to like being picked up as much as Silky did, and he hated his cage. Two weeks into ownership he escaped via a door that hadn’t shut properly and disappeared. For three weeks. We spent a small fortune on a humane trap but alas he was already feral on recapture and we endured a strained relationship with him from that point onwards. On his much welcomed demise we again headed out to the pet shop and bought our third and last hamster. Crackers was just a pair of beady eyes squinting out from a ball of scruffy pale blonde fur, and was utterly bonkers. Still, it was quite sad when his hamster minder rang us on our holidays (11,000 miles away) to inform us that Crackers had fallen foul of the dodgy cage door and was M.I.A. We have no idea where he ended up. For years I really expected to find his flattened little furry bones lodged in our sofa cushions with a few stray coins and other detritus, but alas, his story ended abruptly and in mysterious circumstances.
Then…..eurrgggh I can’t bare to think about this again…..we let my son have two rats; Ratatat and Ratacat. They were dreadful. These were not the sort of domesticated rats that sit on your shoulder and become your bestie; nope, these two truly belonged in a sewer.
They were biters from day one and we could only handle them with large, padded, protective gloves – that is NOT a pet. My poor boy had to sleep in a room with these two evil eyed demons and endured Stephen King style nightmares for about two years. They were the last (thankfully) of the small pet brigade and our next and current pet was/is Domino The Wonder Dog. The world’s most intelligent dog breed owned by ‘The World’s Most Stupid Dog Owners’. She could probably do some really clever stuff like herd sheep instead of bicycles if she didn’t have us as her trainers. We’ve owned her for six and a half years, and she’s survived two paralytic tick bites and a really nasty mauling recently by a Staffie. She is domesticated, and thriving, has ruined most of my furniture and dug up several plants and run amok in the vegetable plots many times, and will feature in a blog post of her own at some point because she rocks our world and is possibly the most good looking Border Collie you will ever set eyes on – she is way more fun to own than a hamster…..and easier to find.
The Wonder Dog – lover of dried pigs ears, destroyer of soft furnishings, can lick own nose.