🐾 Maybe the reason I love animals so much, is because the only time they have broken my heart is when theirs has stopped beating.

Wednesday, 29 April 2015

Nature and your well-being

Research reveals that environments can increase or reduce our stress, which in turn impacts our bodies. What you are seeing, hearing or experiencing at any moment is changing not only your mood, but how your nervous, endocrine, and immune systems are working.

Previous scientific studies have shown that exposure to nature can both increase self-control and also improve our valuations of the future. With much of the world's population now living in urban environments access to is out of reach for many.

Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2013-11-nature-affects-decisions.html#jCp
Previous scientific studies have shown that exposure to nature can both increase self-control and also improve our valuations of the future. With much of the world's population now living in urban environments access to is out of reach for many.

Read more at: http://phys.org/news/2013-11-nature-affects-decisions.html#jCp
The stress of an unpleasant environment can cause you to feel anxious, or sad, or helpless. This in turn elevates your blood pressure, heart rate, and muscle tension and suppresses your immune system. A pleasing environment reverses that.

“Nature deprivation,” a lack of time in the natural world, largely due to hours spent in front of TV or computer screens, has been associated, unsurprisingly, with depression. More unexpected are studies by Weinstein and others that associate screen time with loss of empathy and lack of altruism.

Scientific studies have shown that exposure to nature can both increase self-control and also improve our evaluations of the future. But with much of the world's population now living in urban environments, access to natural environments is out of reach for many. 

Being in nature, or even viewing scenes of nature, reduces anger, fear, and stress and increases pleasant feelings. Exposure to nature not only makes you feel better emotionally, it contributes to your physical well-being, reducing blood pressure, heart rate, muscle tension, and the production of stress hormones. It may even reduce mortality.

Nature restores mental functioning in the same way that food and water restore bodies. The business of everyday life -- dodging traffic, making decisions and judgement calls, interacting with strangers -- is depleting, and what man-made environments take away from us, nature gives back.

Natural environments promote calmness and well-being in part because they expose people to low levels of stress. These stressful experiences are tame in comparison with the trials and tribulations that most of us associate with stress -- workplace drama, traffic jams, and wailing children on international plane trips. Humans thrive with some stimulation, but we're incapable of coping with extreme stressors, which push us from the comfortable realm of eustress (good stress) to the danger zone of distress (bad stress).

Walter Sisulu Botanical Gardens in Roodepoort, Gauteng, South Africa.

But not all is hopeless! Get out of your apartment or house as often as you can and visit parks and nature reserves, the beach or your local Botanical Gardens. Nature is sometimes only as far as a short walk or short drive.

Take your dog for a walk, even if it's just down the road you live in. If you're close to the beach, make the effort, your dog will love you for it!

Hug a tree, your dog always does! and

talk to any plants you may pass (albeit softly, or passers-by might think you're a bit looney!) and pick some flowers or a stalk of grass, feel the texture, inhale its aroma.

Take note of the birds and the bees - there's a whole community of small life going on around you! Take your camera with you when you go walking and capture some special moments.

Start a collection of 'natural' items - stones, pebbles, rocks, crystals, pieces of bark, shells. Touch them often and feel the energy revitalise you.

Surround yourself with nature inside your home - pick or buy fresh flowers and have them in every room

Get out into the garden more. If you do not have the space for a garden, buy a pot plant or two and keep them in the room where you spend most of your time. Seeing them often will remind you to tend to them and reconnect with nature.

Take up a hobby that gets you outdoors as much as possible - maybe a garden club or bird watching. Not only will it help you to reconnect with nature, but you'll also be meeting some great like-minded people!

There are many more ways for you to reconnect with nature, but my favourite is taking off my shoes and socks and sinking my bare feet into the grass or soft ground. One of my favourite quotes from Thich Nhat Hanh reminds us to slow down and notice nature, “Walk as if you are kissing the Earth with your feet.”

The next time you walk out your front door, feel your feet connecting with the earth, step by step.


Monday, 20 April 2015

Simple living - what does it mean?

Is the measure of a simple life how small your home is? Whether or not you have a yard? Whether or not you have money?

Living a simple life doesn't mean giving up all or any of your luxuries. It doesn't mean you have to live like a pauper and not enjoy art, books and travel or living in a beautiful, big home.

It doesn't mean living in a small, cramped space. It doesn't mean that, if you have money, you must give it all away in order to "live the simple life."

Living simply is a state of mind. To me, living a simple life simply means not having UNNESSARY, not-beautiful or not-useful stuff in my life. It means cutting out useless, time-consuming activities that serve no purpose.

It doesn't mean doing nothing. It could even mean taking on extra activities, like planting your own vegetable garden, free of hormones, insecticides and pesticides and reducing your carbon footprint on our planet. Living simply means living with purpose, on purpose and being passionate about life.

Any time that is not spent on loving what you're doing is wasted and unnecessarily complicates life and counter-acts simple living.


Thursday, 16 April 2015

Tuesday, 14 April 2015

He has blue eyes!

Over the weeks, since my last report on the Indian Ringneck that has moved into my garden, we have progressed in bounds and leaps in our friendship. He has become quite at home, coming when we call him for food and calmly staying put on his perch or the bird feeder when we approach. Here are just a few more photographs of this beautiful chap. (And to my utter amazement, he has the most beautiful blue eyes!)


Sunday, 12 April 2015

The bliss of birds

Nobody else knows your reason for being. You do. Your bliss guides you to it. When you follow your bliss, when you follow your path to joy, your conversation is of joy, your feelings are of joy — you're right on the path of that which you intended when you came forth into this physical body. 
 --- Abraham-Hicks 

Birds... those lovely little creatures that just brighten up any day, no matter how cold. Without any complaints they just go about their business, finding food for the family, basking in the sun on a bare branch, singing soft melodies that gladden the heart.

Having the birds in my garden visiting my various bird feeders makes me feel so special. Makes me feel alive with purpose. Brings a smile to my face and makes me feel grateful to be part of Mother Nature who surrounds us and takes care of all her siblings, me and you included.

A free bird leaps
on the back of the wind   
and floats downstream   
till the current ends
and dips his wing
in the orange sun rays
and dares to claim the sky.

But a bird that stalks
down his narrow cage
can seldom see through
his bars of rage
his wings are clipped and   
his feet are tied
so he opens his throat to sing.

The caged bird sings   
with a fearful trill   
of things unknown   
but longed for still   
and his tune is heard   
on the distant hill   
for the caged bird   
sings of freedom.

The free bird thinks of another breeze
and the trade winds soft through the sighing trees
and the fat worms waiting on a dawn bright lawn
and he names the sky his own

But a caged bird stands on the grave of dreams   
his shadow shouts on a nightmare scream   
his wings are clipped and his feet are tied   
so he opens his throat to sing.

The caged bird sings   

with a fearful trill   

of things unknown   

but longed for still   

and his tune is heard   

on the distant hill   

for the caged bird   

sings of freedom.
~ Maya Angelou, “Caged Bird”


Wednesday, 8 April 2015

Birds of Africa Calendar

:: Another beautiful day in Africa! ::
The song of birds echoing across the endless savannah, 
the sound of crickets under a star studded sky – 
this is the Africa you will experience!
Front cover of the "Birds of Africa" calendar

There's still enough time if you haven't got any 2015 calendars yet! Each month contains a bird painting, big enough that they can be framed individually at year's end. My 2015 Calendars are available for purchase now and you can find them on RedBubble.

RedBubble calendars are printed using marvellous futuristic technologies, so complex I can’t go into them here, but I can tell you they are lovingly printed on a luscious 200gsm satin art paper at the striking size of A3 (that’s 297×420mm, or 11.69×16.54″).
They also have very handy wire binding so you can hang them from things like ‘hooks’ on exciting places like ‘walls’! I ordered two for myself, one for the kitchen and one for my Studio.
You can select your own start month, and order right into the future. Everything about them is brilliant, except you’ll have no excuse for missing the dates of your up-coming birding expeditions!


  • Tough wire binding and hanger
  • Stunningly sharp digital printing
  • Start the year with the month of your choice
  • 200gsm satin art paper with a tougher cover

The Back cover shows all 12 months' images, which could all be framed individually.

All paintings are done by myself in watercolour and each individual painting is also available from RedBubble as Greeting Cards, Postcards, Framed prints and posters.

Saturday, 4 April 2015

Leopard Tortoises

This is Torti, my Leopard Tortoise (Stigmochelys pardalis), who shared my life with me for almost 10 years since she was no larger than my hand. Destined for the pot or possibly muti (a term for traditional medicine in Southern Africa), I confiscated her from the aggressor and brought her home. My intention was always to release her into a safe environment, but these are becoming less and less due to the area becoming heavily built-up over the last decade.

But at the beginning of last summer, I decided it was time for Torti to be free and find a mate, in the wild they reach sexual maturity at 12-15 years, so I took her to the Krugersdorp Game Reserve where she will have a vast area to her disposal and possibly hook up with some handsome fellow!

These tortoises face many dangers like illegal trade in wildlife, body parts being used in traditional medicines, veld fires, road kills and many more. They are also killed for their shell, which is then used as a bowl.

The leopard tortoise is a generally solitary animal that spends the majority of it's time grazing on plants, which it can do effectively using it's sharp beak-like mouth. They are large tortoises (largest species in South Africa) that can weigh over 30kg and measure up to 60cm in length. Males have longer tails and a deep plastron (Bottom of shell) concavity as opposed to the females which have short tails and a flat plastron. Colouration is varied and the African Leopard Tortoise typically lives 80 to 100 years.

Torti snacking on an aloe

Due to it's fairly large size, the leopard tortoise has few natural predators within it's African habitats as many simply cannot penetrate the leopard tortoise's high-domed shell. Humans are the primary predators of the leopard tortoise along with the occasional wild cats and dogs.

Leopard tortoises are not able to reproduce until they are at least 10 years old (known as reaching sexual maturity). As with other tortoise and even reptile species, the female leopard tortoise lays her clutch of up to 18 eggs into a burrow in the ground, which is quickly covered to protect her young from hungry passers-by.

 Torti having breakfast

Although there are thriving populations of leopard tortoises in more remote areas, when they are close to humans, the leopard tortoise populations are generally suffering, something which is primarily due to over-hunting by humans.

The enclosure where Torti spent 10 years with me

One of Torti's winter hide-aways

Whilst tortoises in our climate here in South Africa do not strictly "hibernate", they do go through a "slowdown" of all activity. They will sleep more and eat less and generally just "park off" each day. Some will dig themselves into a "burrow" and remain there for long periods. Besides cover that I offered, Torti had several places in her enclosure where she preferred to spend the colder days. Other than a general health check every now and again, I left her alone but did check daily to see if she might have come out and then offered her some food.

They are commonly kept as pets and adapt well to captivity in most areas barring coastal Natal where the humidity affects them adversely. However, there's no great benefit to owning a tortoise or having it as a pet. It can't cuddle, it can't chirp back when you talk to it and doesn't take kindly to being carried around - and be prepared for some hard work. Feeding a tortoise and keeping it's enclosure clean is a daily exercise and when you go on holiday, be assured you know someone who is prepared to take on these tasks.

It is of course against the law to keep reptiles in captivity without a permit and in happier instances the owner of a newly acquired tortoise will apply for one. An official from Nature Conservation will then make sure that the facilities in which the reptile is to be kept are adequate and that the captive will be fed a proper diet.

Read more here about the Leopard Tortoise's diet and how to CARE FOR YOUR LEOPARD TORTOISE



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