Saturday Mornings

Saturday mornings are for me what Monday mornings are for everyone else.

That is, I really don’t like Saturday mornings.

I mean, after the morning’s progressed a little, they’re not so bad. Sure, I spend most of the morning feeling like an idiot, but that’s to be expected when you’re a learner in a native-speaking situation. At least I have a couple of friends with whom I can gossip talk during Pause (pronounced pow-za), and I get to at least exercise my brain, if not even learn something. It’s not even worth mentioning the thousands of exams which are going to besiege us next term (that’s the problem with only going once a week, and having to do SACE and DSD testing).

No, the real problem lies in the bit of Saturday morning that happens at home. I mean, it even starts off badly, about half an hour before most other days start.

And I’m the only one up. Which, of course, means it’s harder to convince myself to get up, because I don’t have noises happening around the house from other people forcing themselves out of bed. Not to mention it’s winter at the moment, so my bed’s warm and the rest of the world isn’t… but that’s neither hear nor there.

So after I’m finally up and dressed, I head out to the kitchen. Now, on Monday mornings, there are a whole bunch of other people in that area. Sometimes I even talk to them. On Saturday mornings, when I creep out of the bedroom end of the house and into the kitchen, there’s no-one. Well, probably a couple of hungry cats, but they don’t count, particularly if I’ve just tripped over their litter tray.

So there I am, ridiculously early on a Saturday morning, very lonely in an empty house while everyone else slumbers on.

I mentioned my dislike of Saturday mornings to one of my friends last week, and she just nodded and said, “Yes, we’re insane. Everyone else gets to sleep in or play sports… We come to [German] school.”

So there you have it. Think about me, won’t you, as you snuggle into your nice warm beds on a Saturday morning, ready for a lazy day? I’ll be struggling through the cold alone, heading off to wrap my head around German adjectival endings, trying to convince my brain to wake up, defrost, and switch over to German-mode in time for the inevitable “Und wie geht es für dich?” from the teacher first thing in the morning. (Oh, and the appropriate response isn’t a simple mumbled, “Gut, danke,” like you’d expect. No! I’ve got to give a blow-by-blow account of my past week and upcoming plans!)

I guess that’s all for now. At least I have the consolation of knowing I won’t be the only kid in the class wishing they were back in bed like any sane teenager!

Tschüβ!

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Ceilidhs

Before I go any further, “ceilidh” (also spelt “céili” in Ireland), is pronounced “kaylee”. Or sometimes “kelly”. The word originally comes from the Gaelic for “visiting”.

There are two basics sorts of ceilidh: the traditional sort, and the 50s folk revival sort. The latter is the one with which people are more likely familiar: a night of dancing to a live band – a fiddle, a keyboard, pipes, etc. This is also the one most similar to a “Bush Dance” – the way I see it, an Australia ceilidh with a lagerphone.

The ceilidh I went to last night, however, was one of the traditional sort – there was a lot of sitting, watching, eating, and gossiping talking. We were greeted at the door with mulled wine – of which, of course, I was not allowed to partake of (I’m still six months underage by Australian rules). I had orange juice instead. The others there said the mulled wine, aside from being diluted, had a very low alcohol content anyway, from being heated up. That didn’t stop a couple of the unaccompanied (and younger) men breaking out a couple of bottles of whisky and getting somewhat drunk.

After everyone had arrived, re-acquainted themselves with each other, and gossiped talked for a little bit, the Chiefs were piped in. There were four or five: the Chief of the Strathalbyn Caledonian Society (and her husband), the Chief of the Royal Caledonian Society (and his wife), the Chief of the Port Adelaide Caledonian Society (and his wife), and the Chief of the Munno Para Caledonian Society (and her husband). The Chief of the Mount Barker Caledonian Society sent his apologies – apparently there was another event up there last night. There was also the Chief of some rural Caledonian Society that I can’t remember, as well as the Member for that council area.

Then there were the required words of welcome, and a couple of performances: first, the Country Folk Dancers. They were pretty good. I used to dance with them from time to time. Unfortunately, I was sitting next to one of their teachers, who talked the entire time. But it was still fun to watch.

Then we had the first bracket of pipers. I tell you what, four pipes and three drums in a tiny little hall like that one? Big noise. Oh, well. They were amazing! Seriously! At this point, I’m just going to spruik for them: the Doecke Family Pipers, people. You can read about them here: http://doeckefamilypipers.wordpress.com/ . They’re very good. It’s an entire family, all ages. I believe the youngest, a drummer, was about nine. But they’re pretty spectacular.

After that, we had supper: potato and leak soup. No haggis. The Strathalbyn Caledonian Society decided that haggis is overdone. I sort of have to agree – it’s served at just about every “Scottish” event held in South Australia. The soup was a nice change. They’d done their research: apparently potato and leak soup is a traditional meal served in the middle of winter (this makes sense). There was even a separate Address to go with it – traditional, not Robert Burns.

Then we had the “nibbles to share”. I hadn’t taken any, but there was more than enough, all the same.

Then there was more piping and dancing. My favourite dance was one with two people. Apparently it was originally written for a male and a female, but they’d altered it slightly so it could be danced with two females. But you could still tell it was meant to be a love story. It started off slow, and they were over the opposite sides of the room, and then gradually the music got faster and happier, and they got closer. It’s hard to describe – you’ll just have to see it for yourself!

Then that was pretty much it. Margo, who’d picked me up and taken me, wanted to leave at 10, so we did. It went on for another half hour or so – so we missed out on singing “Auld Lang Syne”. No great loss, really, since I’ve sung it thousands of times before.

So, there you have it: a traditional ceilidh. I might talk about the other sort another time.

Roosters for Sale

Hi everyone! This is really just a quick add – I’ve got some roosters for sale – $5 each unless otherwise specified. You can see the Gumtree add here: http://www.gumtree.com.au/s-ad/ironbank/livestock/mixed-breed-roosters/1021975475

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis is George. He’s for sale for $8 or negotiable. He’s about two years old, and mostly barred Plymouth Rock, probably with some Australorp blood. He looks mostly barred ‘Rock, except his legs have a greyish-black tint, and he has a couple of beetle-green feathers. He’s the father of most of my current stock.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis is BB Junior. He’s named after his father, Big Bird, who was probably half golden-laced Wyandotte and half Welsummer. His mother was probably a silver-laced Wyandotte cross – this makes him half Wyandotte. Junior was born last spring.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis is Junior’s younger brother, born last summer. Again, his father was Big Bird. I’m not sure who his mother was, but probably one of the silver-laced Wyandotte crosses.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis is Golden. I’m not sure who his parents were, but I’m guessing his mother could have been the Australorp. He was born in summer.

The next three are all about the same age and born in summer, and the children of George and an ISA Brown.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe first is white, with red saddle feathers.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe second is barred, but in white and a light golden colour. He’s pretty spectacular, and it’s a shame I can’t keep him. There were three cockerels who are barred in white and buff; I’m keepingthe one with the middle amount of buff.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe third is also barred, with the same white and light golden colour as the second on the neck, head, chest, and tail, but with white and buff/red on the saddle. He’s also gorgeous.

If you’re interested in any of these birds, and live nearby, please don’t hesitate to contact me.

Hand-Sewn Dress

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAbout two weeks ago, a cape dress pattern arrive from Gehman’s Country Fabrics. I’ve mentioned them before: I ordered a cape dress through them. Well, I liked it so much I decided to get the pattern for the dress.

The pattern is quite good: it’s simple (only six pieces), in proper paper rather than tissue paper like commercial patterns, with clear instructions on a separate sheet. It’s very easy to work with, although I was a little disappointed with the length of the skirt – a little shorter than the dress I had bought. I’ve since adapted the pattern slightly – I cut the bodice about an inch longer at the bottom to fall at a more comfortable waistline, and I cut the skirt a couple of inches longer, too.

So, naturally, after receiving the pattern, I set about sewing dresses. I had a bit of a backlog of fabric that I’d bought for dresses but not sewn into anything: two pieces that I bought in America ($1.50 per yard! Can you believe it?) and two pieces I’d purchased in Australia. I cut out the patterns for three of them and sewed them at the same time. I don’t have pictures at the moment; I’ll try to get some soon. One is of a mostly pinkish floral, and I did that one with long sleeves: gathered with elastic at the wrist. One is of a cream-based floral with dusty blue and greens in it: that one has three-quarter length sleeves, pleated into lace. The third is a black background, with bright blue, green, and yellow floral. That has sleeves gathered in pleats just above the elbow, with a ruffle.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe fourth lot of material, I thought was too bright for an entire dress. I’d seen pictures of vest dresses with contrasting vests, and I thought it looked nice, so last week, there was a sale on at the local fabric shop, and I picked up some plain-coloured fabric for quite cheap. I used the cape dress pattern, but ignored the cape bits and adapted the bodice pattern to get the vest. And I was just starting to sew, when… the sewing machine decided to stop working.

I honestly do not know what is wrong. It won’t sew for me. It will sew for my mother and sister. Go figure.

Either way, I decided to hand-sew the dress. Now, on the other dresses, I’ve hand sewn around the pockets, the edges of the cape, and the hem. That in itself is a lot of sewing. But an entire dress? I’ve never hand-sewn an entire adult-sized dress before (I guess I still haven’t, since the bodice collar was machine-sewn on this one).

It took a lot longer to make than dresses normally do. I mean, I can usually turn one of these things out in a matter of two or three hours on the machine. This one took more like two or three days.

Oh, well. It’s also a lot neater than machine-sewing. I’ve used a lot of invisible stitching, so you can’t see lines of thread around all the hems and the collar of the vest, like you usually would.

So, all in all, a productive venture. I might hand-sew more in the future; it’s soothing, and a lot, lot neater.

Chicks!

I haven’t really mentioned chickens much thus far on the blog. I guess not much chicken-y happens in May and June – the end of autumn and the beginning of winter. I mean, all of the “chicks”, now pullets, have started laying two or three months ago, and I didn’t really have any intention to hatch out more chicks until September or October – that is, spring.

And then one of the local grain and fodder shops contacted my father about a month ago, and asked for a batch of chicks. Now, just to clarify, this wasn’t a completely random thing. They’re regular customers of my father’s, and I already supplied them with a batch of chicks in January or February. They’re further out from the city than where I live, so I guess they’ve pretty much got a corner on the market – they buy and sell the chicks at what I would consider a slightly excessive price. They’re particularly eager to buy purebreds, particularly since their previous supplier moved interstate at the end of last year, but unfortunately for them, I don’t even own any purebred adult birds from which to breed, let alone have two of the same breed. But they’ll still pay $5 apiece for mixed-breed, unsexed layers. I’m not going to say no to that!

2013.06.18 - One Tree Hill Hatch 01

There are few things cuter than a half-hatched chick.

So, naturally, after being told of the order, I started collecting and turning eggs to put in the incubator. And, I mean, it’s winter. It’s raining. The hens aren’t laying well. I only put one incubator on – it takes 4 dozen. It took far longer than I’d have liked to collect enough eggs (especially considering I have regular customers for eggs). And I may never know why on earth the grain and fodder shop wants day-old chicks in the middle of winter. I mean, who would want to keep these chicks under heat, indoors, for weeks on end? But still, it’s good money, and it’s their problem.

2013.06.18 - One Tree Hill Hatch 02

Here they are on Friday, which was Hatch Day.  The brooder they’re in is actually the other incubator. I have two incubators, both 48-egg auto-tilt boxes in an ugly yellow colour, which beep obnoxiously when the humidity gets below 45 or the temperature gets more the .5 of a degree off the optimal 37.6. Normally, in spring, I have both incubators set to hatch at the same time, and I have a third, smaller (I think it fits 12 eggs), manual-turn incubator, which I use as a “fluff-a-bator” before putting the chick in the brooder, which is a large bird or rabbit cage, lined with sawdust, with an overhead lamp (although, in summer, the lamp isn’t necessary, and I in fact sometimes use fans!). But since I had a spare incubator this time, and I was only keeping the chicks a few days, I figured there was no point in getting out an actual brooder. So they stayed in the spare incubator, with the egg-racks removed, of course.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

All up, twelve chicks hatched. It’s a nice round number, but only a 25% hatch rate, which isn’t particularly good, as you might imagine. But then again, I knew I was dealing with a number of very new layers, so I didn’t expect the hatch rate to be particularly spectacular. I usually get about a 75% hatch rate.

I sent the chicks off with my father this morning. The grain and fodder shop is about 45-50 minutes away, so it’s not exactly somewhere I’m keen to be traipsing off to regularly, and he had to head off in that direction anyway.

It was sort of sad to see them go. But then again, I didn’t really want to have to deal with a dozen chicks in a brooder indoors for the next eight weeks. At least in summer they can go outside at about ten to fourteen days.

So there you have it: a dozen chicks.

What is Fluency?

Fluency in a language is such a dubious concept, it’s almost worth abandoning it altogether when it comes to language-learning. Clearly, most people are fluent in their native languages (although sometimes one encounters an individual who would give cause to doubt this assertion). But at what point can one say that one is fluent in a second language? Is it when one can hold a spontaneous conversation in the language? When one is able to comprehend a broadcast with ease? When one can think in the language?

But no matter how good one is in one’s second language, one may still always come across a situation in which they encounter vocabulary or a figure of speech of which they were previously unaware. To my thinking, it is very, very difficult to claim fluency in a language which is not your mother tongue.

Fluency is also very situational, I think. For example, in German, my best language after English, I feel comfortable speaking and understanding in most situations and can do so with relative ease. However, as soon as I’m in class, with everyone looking and me expectantly and with the teacher speaking to me, my brain freezes up, I forget all my vocab, and a stutter like an idiot – or someone who has only been learning for a couple of weeks. Actually, I think it’s probably the teacher. Language teachers freak me out for some reason – maybe because I subconsciously expect them to grade me or something. I can speak well enough with the other students in the class, but as soon as you put a teacher or adult in the mix… forget it.

However, there is a general perception out there, mostly among monolinguals, that fluency is somehow very easy to achieve. People who speak another language are often considered by these people to be “fluent”, even though they themselves might not consider themselves to be so.

So, let’s forget about classifying someone as “fluent” or “beginner” or “learner” or “intermediate” and so on. Here’s a better system: CEFRL. That stands for “Common European Framework of Reference for Languages”. You can read about it here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Common_European_Framework_of_Reference_for_Languages. It’s not foolproof, but it’s a good deal better than blundering around, trying to label one’s ability level in various languages. That is, provided the other party is familiar with the framework.

Basically, it works like this: A1 is a beginner with knowledge of only a few basic phrases and grammar points. C2 is a native, fluent speaker. The intervening stages are labelled A2, B1, B2, and C1. All of which rather makes me feel like a banana in a striped blue and white suit.

However, the framework still raises questions. For example, I’ve sat a test for German under the standards of this framework and came out as a low B1 (at the end of last year). Whilst there’s no doubt I’ve improved in the meantime, I’m probably still a B1. However, according to the requirements on the link above, I probably sit at about a high B2, possibly pushing C1. That could just be the Germans, though – my teacher has stated that only a lawyer or surgeon would have a C2 level and most teenagers would probably only be a B2, whilst the chart in the link above clearly shows that any native speaker would be a C2 level.

It is still a helpful tool to have, and a good way of gauging one’s basic level – especially when one uses textbooks with that label on the front! So, here’s a chart showing (my estimates of) my levels in each of my languages:

CEFRLHow do I know these levels? Well, I’ve sat a test for the German (plus my textbook says “B1” on it). I’ve been told that Year 12 language students in Australia usually sit around that A2 mark, so that gives me a reasonable idea for French. And my Spanish textbook says “A1/A2” on it and I’m quite near the end. I haven’t put AUSLAN in, but I’d probably be an A1. As for Gaelic?… well, I’ve only just started. And English?… it’s my native language.

So how about we forget about fluency, and find better terms for these things – and educate people on them! There’s nothing more awkward than trying to work out whether you should tell someone you’re fluent or not.

Except, possibly, having someone tell someone else you’re fluent in a language, and knowing that you’re not.

Aliens

UnidentifiedThey’re everywhere. I don’t mean literally, although that, too. But they’re in movies, in books, in the news, and just in the general subconscious – both as sci-fi shows and as UFO conspiracies. They raise a lot of questions. What are aliens? Is there life on other worlds? Why do they abduct people? Do they abduct people? How do aliens fit in with the Bible?

Well, one of the most common theories (by Christians) is that they are demons (that is, fallen angels who followed Lucifer out of Heaven). This makes sense – always, for me, in a vague sort of way. Yes, it makes sense that they’re demons, doing Satan’s work. What never really made sense to me was why they did a lot of the stuff that aliens apparently do.

This morning, I picked a couple of random interesting-looking movies off our DVD shelf. We have a lot of DVDs and videos that I’ve never seen and sometimes, didn’t even know we had. A lot of documentaries. Some of them are a little weird. A lot are very interesting. Anyway, one of the ones I picked up was Unidentified – the title intrigued me.

Turns out, Unidentified is a Christian movie about UFOs. Now, as a self-confessed sci-fi nut with a penchant for reading conspiracy theory books (admittedly sometimes just for laughs), I’ve seen a lot of UFO movies. Close Encounters of the Third Kind, The Day the Earth Stood Still, War of the Worlds, and so on. Not exactly the sort of genre you expect to be covered in a Christian film, I suppose.

Christian films are quite good. I don’t mean secular films that happen to have a Christian in them, or Christian documentaries, or Bible re-enactment films. Christian films are often made entirely by Christians – the cast, the crew, the director. It really shows in the film, I think. I mean, I haven’t seen all that many, but the ones I have seen (or bits that I’ve seen) have been quite good. Christian films always have a meaning, a message. They’re not just the sort of meaningless junk you get in secular films, that have no true purpose or meaning except to really waste your life for a couple of hours. Except, on the surface, Christian films seem just the same. They’re films about everyday life, common topics, many of the same genres you see in secular films – but they have a Christian message.

There are few films out there that I would actually recommend. I’ve seen a lot, but they’re all just films, at the end of the day. But Unidentified, I think, is one of the rare films that is very good. It combines Christianity with sci-fi and everyday life. I definitely recommend that you acquire it and watch it if possible.

Unidentified cleared up a lot of my questions about exactly why demons would be masquerading as aliens and abducting people. A lot of the stuff about these “alien encounters” put forwards by Darren, one of the main characters, made a lot of sense and fitted in with the Bible and with Satan’s motives. It’s definitely a movie worth seeing.

You can read about Unidentified at its website, http://www.unidentifiedthemovie.com/.

You can also read more about “aliens” (that is, the demons which are perceived as aliens) at Creation.com. Here are two quick links: http://creation.com/lifting-the-veil-ufo-phenomenon and http://creation.com/ufos-and-aliensis-there-something-going-on. You could also just put “aliens” or “ufo” into the search bar on the home page.