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Pets Corner: What if my cat becomes deaf?

Image: Alexandru Zdrobau on Unsplash

People are reasonably familiar with the idea that deaf dogs can be trained with a range of non-verbal signals but cats that lose their hearing can also be taught to respond to hand, light and vibration cues.

Cats that are born deaf naturally compensate to some degree as they learn about the world through the other senses that become heightened as a result. However, it is those cats that experience hearing loss in midlife or later that is the focus of this article. Surprisingly this apparently sudden partial or total deafness is not uncommon. It is also one of the reasons why older cats are more likely to get run over.

Recently, while my sister was in hospital, I was tasked with caring for her handsome but elderly tabby cat. Until this point he had always come running up the garden if he was called, letting him know it was feeding time. But now there was no sign of him and often he would only turn up after I had been in my sister’s house for an hour or so. Once I got him inside, I soon noticed that if when he was eating his food I moved away to another room and then reappeared, he nearly jumped out of his skin. I decided to investigate. Choosing a time when he was relaxed I tried snapping my fingers behind his head and then rattled a bunch of keys. Not even an ear twitch! A visit to the vet confirmed hearing loss. We have no idea if this was sudden or whether his hearing declined over some time before reaching a critical point. Up close we think he can still hear very high pitched noises but mid and low range hearing have gone.

At first and unsurprisingly my sister’s cat seemed distressed, yowling and shouting as if trying to ask why his world had changed so dramatically. Once my sister was back home and a normal routine restored, a couple of interventions soon raised his spirits. My sister decided to use finger and hand signals to communicate with him. Five fingers wiggled on the right hand meant food was coming. We started up close to his bowl, presenting his favourite grub after wiggling fingers at him. Very quickly we could wiggle fingers at distance and he would come running down the garden. A single index finger moved in tight circles would be used to say ‘hello’. Again, he has been so quickly responsive to this simple acknowledgement and seemingly relieved he is being ‘understood’- he was always a ‘chatty’ cat.

This is just the beginning and we will try to build on the above by using vibration (lightly stamping to indicate you are about to approach, to avoid startling the cat). We will experiment with using light; turning lights on and off on darker nights can signal to the cat that you are in or indeed that it is feeding time. Other people have had success using laser light and getting the cat to follow the beam on the ground, guiding them to a particular space. Another top tip is to use scents and smells cats like, spritzing some cat nip or honeysuckle to signal your arrival. Cats have a highly developed sense of smell and learning to associate a signature scent with our presence can be helpful.

Leonie St Clair|www.londondogstraining.co.uk

This article first appeared in the August 2018 issue of SE22 magazine.

Homemade Citrus Centrepiece

 

In the mid summer heat, flowers can wilt and die quickly. Try this vibrant citrus centrepiece; it will last for days, even if the temperatures soar…

You will need….

  • A selection of citrus fruit. I used Lemons, limes, small oranges, kumquats and physalis.
  • An oasis wreath
  • Greenery, I used Bay leaves
  • Toothpicks
  • A kitchen knife and secateurs
  • Ribbon- optional

Step 1
Cut your greenery into aprox 4-inch sprigs

Step 2
Working around your wreath; place the sprigs into the oasis to make an even base.

Step 3
Using your toothpicks place the fruit decoratively into the base

 

Step 4
Cut 2 of the lemons into slices and wedges, and place in your wreath.

 

Step 5
Optional – I added ribbon for a more festive look – perfect for a party!

Pour yourself a chilled glass of Vino Verde and admire your heat resilient masterpiece!

12 ways to leave your garden

Image: Markus Spiske on Unsplash

Going away? Here’s your pre-holiday to do list.

  1. Give your perennials a good cut back. Tired hardy geraniums can be sheared right back – they’ll produce new growth and may flower again for you on your return. The same goes for plants like nepeta and Alchemilla mollis.
  2. Deadhead roses before you go away so they’ll put energy into new growth and more flowers, rather than seeds. Don’t be afraid to cut back hard to thick stems and strong buds – it’ll encourage stronger new shoots. Cut off the spent flowering spikes of salvia or penstemon – these may come again.
  3. Lightly trim lavender removing old flower spikes with a pair of hand shears. Take a few cm off the tips of leafy growth to encourage side shoots and keep the plants bushy.
  4. Trim back taller perennials that have flopped onto the grass or are smothering other plants – or stake them securely so they’ll cope with any windy days while you’re away.
  5. Water. This is particularly important given the hot weather we’ve had. Drench your garden before you go – a really good soak to the roots is better for developing deep rooting. Focus on plants that need moisture – ferns, hydrangea (the clue is in the name), newly planted shrubs, trees or climbers and anything that’s showing signs of drying up. Don’t worry so much about drought plants like iris and lavender (See June’s article for plants that don’t need much watering once established). Then mulch around the roots with bulky organic matter such as compost to lock the moisture in and prevent too much evaporation.
  6. If you can, get someone to pop round and water your pots – and the rest of the garden while they’re at it! It’s best in the early morning or at night. Group containers together in a shady spot to make it easier for the person watering. This increases humidity around the plants – but it may encourage disease if left like this for too long.
  7. Ideally put containers on saucers, or even something bigger to collect possible rainwater – as long as it’s not going to rain a lot, as they don’t want to drown! Putting plants on soaked capillary matting can also prevent them drying out too much. You could also consider investing in a self-watering system for the garden and pots, which is attached to timer if you’re away for a while.
  8. Any favourite plants can be planted into beds in the shade, to keep them cooler and stop them drying out.
  9. if you have time, remove weeds before you go away – so much easier when they’re small.
  10. If the forecast is for rain, remember to protect plants like hostas from slugs.
  11. Mow the lawn a few days before you leave but don’t cut it too short if the weather is hot and dry – long grass copes much better with drought than short grass. Neaten up the edges to help it keep its shape for your return.
  12. if you’ve been cultivating some vegetables, its Sod’s law they’ll all be ready just as you go away! Pick as many veg like runner beans and courgettes as you can and freeze them. Water fruit and veg thoroughly before you go and ideally persuade a friend to come and pick in return for watering.

This article first appeared in the August 2018 issue of SE22 magazine

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Peaches & Brioche

Image: Katie Moum on Unsplash

Continuing our mission to create amazing dishes from home grown produce from our allotment….or in this case peaches from the next plot (which we exchanged for our own Blackberries which we have in abundance)!

Peaches & Brioche (serves 4)

Ingredients

  • 2 peaches (or nectarines)
  • 4 brioche slices
  • 150g Mascarpone
  • 1 vanilla pod, seeds scraped out, pod reserved
  • 150g caster sugar, plus extra to taste
  • pinch Cinnamon
  • 50g Butter
  • 50ml double cream

Method

  1. Bring a pan of water to the boil. Make a cross in the bottom of the peaches with the tip of a sharp knife, then place the peaches in the water and leave for 30 seconds. Drain, peel away the skin of the peaches and set aside.
  2. Cut the fingers of brioche in half and toast them on a griddle pan until golden-brown. Remove from the heat and set to one side.
  3. Mix together the mascarpone and vanilla seeds in a bowl, adding sugar, to taste. Set aside.
  4. Heat a frying pan over a medium heat. Sprinkle the caster sugar over the base of the pan and allow it to melt and caramelise – do not stir the sugar, just shake the pan. Once the sugar has turned golden-brown and caramelised, carefully add the butter (the sugar may spit) and vanilla pod to the pan, stirring well.
  5. Add the peaches to the pan, basting them with the caramel for a few seconds. Remove the peaches from the pan and set aside, then stir the cream into the remaining caramel in the pan.
  6. To serve, place the brioche slices on a plate then top each with a peach, drizzle over the sauce and serve with a spoonful of vanilla mascarpone.

Enjoy!

In Season this Month

Fruits & Nuts

Apples, Apricot, Aubergine, Blackberries, Blackcurrants, Blueberries, Loganberries, Peaches, Plums, Raspberries, Redcurrants, Strawberries, White currants, Cobnuts, Hazelnuts

Vegetables & Herbs

Artichokes, Aubergines, Beetroot, Broccoli, Cabbages, Carrots, Cauliflower, Chard, Courgettes, Cucumber, Fennel, French Beans, Garlic, Kohlrabi, Lamb’s Lettuce, Onions, Pak Choi, Peas (inc. Sugar Snaps) Potatoes, Radishes, Rocket, Runner Beans, Salsify, Scorzonera, Samphire, Sorrel, Spinach, Sweetcorn, Tomatoes, Watercress

Meat & Game

Lamb, Rabbit, Venison, Wood Pigeon 

Fish & Shellfish

Black Bream, Crab (brown, hen & Spider), Signal Crayfish, Grey Mullet, Lobster, Mackerel, Pollack, Prawns, Scallops, Sea Bass, Squid, Trout (river – brown and rainbow)

Going out of season

Blackberries, Blueberries, Cherry, Mange tout, Peach, Redcurrant, Strawberries (many of these towards the month).

Suzanne is a professional chef, wife and mother who has lived in East Dulwich all her life!

www.suzannejames.co.uk

This article first appeared in the August 2018 issue of SE22 magazine.

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Peckham to welcome Syrian refugee family

Peckham Sponsors Refugees will meet with a Home Office representative in the next few weeks to seek pre-approval to re-home a refugee family fleeing conflict and devastation in Syria. The family is expected to arrive in the community early next year.

Peckham Sponsors Refugees, which has been supported by around 100 locals, has worked tirelessly over a period of months to prepare for the family’s arrival and get all the necessary plans in place, culminating in handing in what Tim Finch, a local resident who is founding director of Sponsor Refugees, said is ‘the most thorough and comprehensive application I have seen.’

The group has found a home for the family, raised funds to help support them when they arrive, and drawn up a safeguarding and resettlement plan. The group has also sourced an Arabic translator and researched educational and support services available to help the family settle into the area when they arrive.

Over the next few months, the Home Office will complete final checks to ensure the community is ready to house the family. The Home Office will then identify a family – currently living in a refugee camp in Jordan or Lebanon – that has applied to the United Nations Refugee Agency (UNHCR) to be resettled to another country that can offer them a better chance of rebuilding their lives.

Gabriella D’Avino, Chair of Peckham Sponsors Refugees, said:

“We’re absolutely delighted that it’s now just a matter of months before we’ll be welcoming a Syrian family to the neighbourhood.

“The community has really come together – fundraising, writing applications and finding a house – to do what it can to provide a new home for a family caught up in a desperate situation.

“The people of Syria have endured more than 6 years of destruction and violence on a terrifying scale. Millions have fled to escape the horrors.

“In the UK, we should be doing all we can to open our doors to the Syrian families who have been forced from their homes. Peckham can be proud of its efforts to make our country a more welcoming place.

“PSR has done wonderful work and I am glad to have met so many fantastic people living in Peckham. Community Sponsorship can really make a great difference in the refugees’ lives, but can also have an invaluable effect on the local community”.

Some members of the Peckham sponsorship group have teamed up to form a befriending network to provide support for the family if they need it – whether that’s setting up a bank account or helping to find school places for children. The fundraising team will continue to host events over the next few months to raise money to support the family.