Old MacDonald had a farm

…and so do we, or it’s beginning to look a lot like that anyway!

On Friday last week we trekked 40 minutes across the county to visit, and ultimately bring home, a pair of guinea pigs from Piggy Kingdom, a local(ish) guinea pig rescue. The grand plan was that we’d bring the pair of baby piggies home and attempt a bond with Big Pig (aka Ginger) who’s been with us since 2008 but lost his mate Afro a couple of years later. It’s been on my todo list for a while but always seemed low priority. Big Pig seems content enough, right?

So, brought them home, popped them together on the kitchen floor (neutral space) with some food, hay and hideyholes and let them get on with it. Thought that it was all going well, as demonstrated by the picture I posted to twitter:

guinea pig trio

But unfortunately this moment of calm sharing of mutual space was short-lived; Stripe (the name will be self-explanatory when I can get some better pics) had objections to being usurped as chief pig of the pair and we had to separate them before somepig got hurt.

Stripe and Spot are currently living in temporary indoor accomodation and will probably stay that way until after Christmas where we will be addressing the living space.

So, the hunt was on to find another pig – a single this time – and I was planning on going back to the rescue because they’d been so helpful, but then Karl sends me a link to an article on the local newspaper website about a lady that bequeathed 20 guinea pigs to a nearby plant & animal centre. They already have 40 guinea pigs and 60 was putting them over capacity so were after homes for the extras. One phone call later and a mad dash 20 minutes down the road and I brought home Little Pig (who may or may not be renamed..!)

big-and-little-pig

And it’s all looking quite positive :D

Well I cocked that up

So much for NaBloPoMo.

Oliver’s poorly, and that threw me for six over the weekend (honest guv) because he was un-put-down-able. You know, as kids do when they’re full of snot and all gross and sticky.

Normal service will resume tomorrow. Maybe.

Chores and Pocket Money

Isabel turns four next week and as such I’ve been slowly introducing her to the idea of pocket money. It is my hope that if I give her the opportunity to earn money from an early age (and really, we’re only talking about the odd 10 pence here, nothing significant because I’m not made of bloody money) that she will learn to save and be clever with her pennies.

As part of this I also want to involve her more in chores and taking responsibility for things – both in and relating to looking after herself and around the house too. She already gets asked to do the odd bit here and there but I want to get her doing 1 or 2 things specific to her more regularly.

However… I don’t really think that it’s a good idea to start paying her to DO chores. Partly because no bugger pays me to do household stuff and partly because everyone in the house has a duty to help keep it tidy etc – I’m not a maid and neither is Karl. It’s all about living co-operatively, or something like that anyway.

So now I’m faced with the dilemma: what chores do I give her, and how exactly I introduce pocket money. Thoughts?

13 Things You Probably Don’t Know About Bunnies

With having had to source a mate for Flymo this year we had to research into how to introduce a second rabbit. It’s not as simple as sticking rabbit #2 in the hutch and letting them get on with things; each rabbit is different and a gradual bonding process works best. Anyway, in doing this research I discovered lots of other things about rabbits that I didn’t know before despite having kept them since I was a child. So here’s my list of 13 things you probably didn’t know about bunnies but do now…

  1. Bunnies are the 3rd most popular pet in the UK

    After dogs and cats – we love our furry bunnies :)

  2. Bunnies should be kept in pairs or groups

    Rabbits are social animals and naturally keep together in groups in the wild. Rabbits kept alone are easily bored which can make them destructive (Flymo hasn’t tried to dig out since we got Rosie!) and can lead to health problems due to inactivity and loneliness.

  3. 70-80% of a bunnies diet should be hay/grass

    20120625-bugsbunnyDespite what Bugs Bunny would have you believe, the core of a bunny’s diet should actually be good quality hay and/or grass. Carrots are high in sugar and should be an occasional treat only.

    Pet shop hay is expensive and often short-stranded. If you have animals like rabbits and guinea pigs, I highly recommend finding a local farm or equestrian centre who may be able to provide you with baled hay at a fraction of the cost it’s found in shops.

  4. Rabbits need constant access to their hay/food

    Rabbits that stop eating because they have no access to appropriate foods can very quickly go into gut stasis (slowdown of the digestive system) which, simply put, if not caught and treated quickly can be fatal.

  5. Bunnies perform a digestive process called caecotrophy

    Without going into too much unwanted detail, this basically means that they produce a special sort of poo which they then eat, allowing the goodness etc to be re-ingested. (Eurghh!)

  6. A hutch is not enough

    The RWAF recommend a 6ft x 2ft x 2ft hutch with an attached 8ft run as a minimum living area for 2 rabbits. Under the Animal Welfare Act 2006, pet owners are required by law to meet their animal’s welfare needs; these include providing a suitable environment. The RSPCA believes the traditional method of keeping rabbits permanently confined in small hutches is totally inappropriate for the long-term housing of rabbits kept as pets.

    Most pet shops, including larger retailers like Pets at Home do not stock hutches big enough for rabbits to move around, stretch up, exercise etc. Most of the hutches currently for sale on P@H are not big enough for guinea pigs, let alone rabbits! Specialised retailers of suitable hutches are out there, e.g. The Welfare Hutch Company

  7. Rabbits don’t make good pets for children

    Rabbits are prey animals, and this means they don’t like being picked up. While some rabbits can be gently encouraged into it with regular handling, some rabbits will never let you pick them up (like Flymo). As such, children very quickly get bored of them because they can’t cuddle and pet them.

  8. Rabbits can live for an average of 7-10 years

    In that time, rabbits will accrue costs including: hay (and supplementary veg/pellets/etc), hutch and run (or costs for securing the garden) including maintenance to keep them weatherproof, castration, yearly vaccinations, toys and vet check-ups.

  9. Bunnies of both sex should be neutered

    Aside from the obvious reduction of unwanted pregnancy (and you shouldn’t want a bunny pregnancy – you’ll read why in a second) female rabbits are at risk of uterine cancer when unspayed: up to 80% of un-neutered female rabbits develop uterine cancer by 5 years of age. Un-neutered male rabbits can be overwhelmed by hormones making them sexually frustrated and miserable (not to mention more territorial, more aggressive and more likely to spray).

  10. Rabbits can have a litter of babies each month

    If left unspayed/un-neutered, rabbits can reproduce at a rate of one litter each month. With a range of 1-14 baby bunnies per litter and the long lifespan mentioned above, it’s unsurprisingy why there are…

  11. ..over 33,000 rabbits in rescues up and down the country

    Rescues, both those owned by organisations such as the RSPCA and those owned by Joe Public, are full of rabbits desperate to find homes. Every rescue I spoke to in researching this post said that they are at capacity for rabbits, turning away rabbits every day.

    Here are quotes from some of the rescues I spoke to:

    I hold the rabbit waiting list and it is currently running at about 70 – which is has been at for some time. It is a very, very worrying responsibility trying to prioritise which ones need to come in most urgently. Our average monthly bill is £3000 – over £2000 of this is vet bills.

    our capacity is 30 rabbits … at the moment we have 32 rabbits in

    I volunteer at a sanctuary every sat and work exclusively with the buns. We have about 90 rabbits at the moment, and about 50 cages. I am tasked with increasing this to 70ish as we are under pressure to take more in all the time. We have taken in about 40 in the past month.

    Despite this situation, which is only getting worse…

  12. …I count over 30 breeders in a 25 mile radius selling through preloved

    Continued breeding means that not only do those rabbits already in rescue get overlooked, but more numbers are added to rescues when owners get bored of their new pets / don’t have time to look after them anymore / move away / whatever other reason people use.

    Not only that, but…

  13. …Pets at Home continue to breed rabbits for sale in store

    Despite making a loss on animal sales (alexn – 04-22-2013, 02:54 PM animals are still bred “on a scale that is large enough to supply us […] have many separate breeders across the UK”, sold alongside the cages that are too small to adequately house them according to their needs.

OK, so those last few might not quite count as rabbit facts, but it’s pretty plain to see that we’re in a crap situation when it comes to homing domesticated rabbits in this country. While pet shop / back yard breeding remains legal and encouraged, we will see a continued increase in the pressure on rescues to provide for unwanted bunnies.

I post this not to guilt anyone who has ever bought a pet shop bunny (Flymo came from Pets at Home) but to think again before buying into the pet shop trade. Not everyone can afford to buy a bloody great big shed to house their bunnies, but most people can afford to stop and do their research before taking on an animal. (I’ll follow this up soon with a post on how you can help, even if you can’t take on rescue bunnies of your own.)

The Woman With 40 Cats

Karl and I have just watched The Woman With 40 Cats on catch-up TV and joked at length how that could easily be me.

Not 5 minutes later, we’re discussing ways to increase the capacity for guinea pigs in the garden and he suggests the potential for re-using Flymo’s old hutch for more piggies.

And I’m the animal hoarder?!

An Oliver Update

As requested, an update on the small people (breaking it up to get more posts out of it, hahaha)

The last time I blogged about Oliver, I was talking about how I’d felt ‘forced’ to wean him over night because his latch is at its absolute worst then. Within a few weeks, he’d stopped asking at all overnight and this was with minimal fuss (still feeding him if he cried, because I assumed he really needed it then). He’s still feeding in the day, which I’m happy to continue until his latch deteriorates so much I can’t bear it or he no longer asks…

Oliver has had a real boost in speech over the past month, going from a few basic words and gestures to around 50 or so. My favourites include ‘poo poo’ and ‘wee wee’ because I’m mature like that. He knows some signs which he uses alongside his words to get his point across.

Favourite toys at the moment include the cars and car mat and his books, which I’m hoping means he’s going to love ‘reading’ as much as his sister. We really are book lovers in this house so I don’t know how I’d cope if the kids rejected them! :O He also likes ‘helping’:

oliver-sweeping

Teeth-wise we’re nearly done, just like his sister at this age – we’re working on a molar (possibly 2, it’s rare he brings in just one tooth) and if he follows his sister’s pattern to the letter these will be done by around 18-19 months. I have no idea why the last teeth are called the 2-year molars :P

Oliver will be starting mornings at nursery from January. I’ve gone back and forth with myself over this, because I know some people think that “work at home mum” == “kids never in childcare” but that’s just not practical. Sure, it was easier when he was <12 mo and napping twice a day but now I'm lucky to get 45mins out of him and I do have work to do. I'm nowhere near as worried about him starting nursery as I was his sister, partly because I've been here before and I know it's not the end of the world as we know it and partly because when we go to pick Izz up, he's runs off to play and does NOT like being told that actually we have to go home. I'm really looking forward to Christmas with him, as he was too young to understand last year. Ho ho ho!

Quick Product Mention: B&Q Mega Playmat

We nipped to B&Q yesterday to get some bits to finish boarding the animal shed for winter and, as is the nature of any shopping trip, ended up buying things we didn’t plan on. One of the things we bought was the B&Q mega playmat to replace the aging and unravelling (thanks to a certain bunny) IKEA one I bought when Izz was a baby:

mega-playmat

I’m mentioning it because it is a) the biggest playmat I’ve seen for that money (£12) and b) the kids not only played on it together but did so for a good couple of hours which is basically unheard of in this house. Unfortunately it looks like you can’t buy it online but it’s worth keeping an eye out for (with Christmas coming?) if you’ve got a local B&Q. :)

I want chickens

If you’ve ever read my about page you’ll know that I would quite like to keep chickens. Part of it is because I just have this thing about animals but mostly it’s because we spend an absolute fortune on eggs. I eat them in cakes & mayonnaise, Isabel can eat 3-4 hardboiled eggs in one go, and then there’s the egg butties, egg fried rice, eggy bread… yeah, we like eggs :)

Now that Flymo is in the shed with Rosie, his old hutch (which is actually this chicken coop) can be tidied up and re-used for actual chickens! That lay eggs! For cakes! Yay! (Exciting, hence the exclamation marks, you know…)

Buuuut, there is a slight problem in that I want more rabbits. Because they’re cute and furry:

obligatory cute bunny pic
obligatory cute bunny pic

However, as it can be difficult to bond multiples of rabbits if it didn’t work we’d have to house them in something else, like the old “hutch”, so if we put chickens in it there would be no room for furry bunnies. We can’t justify new hutches at the minute because of the costs of the shed (and just prior to that we had to replace the guinea pig’s hutches) so that leaves a choice: chickens or rabbits.

Hmm. There is actually a bigger problem than this tiny wee dilemma, actually: Karl doesn’t want any more animals right now. Probably should crack that nut first, eh?

NaBloPoMo

Of course it’s a brilliant idea to decide to revive your neglected blog by taking part in National Blog Posting Month despite having absolutely craploads of work to do, 2 personal projects to launch, your portfolio site to do-over and countless other things including cleaning the manky house and getting the garden prepped for winter (said nobody ever).

And yet here I am….

Given past experience I know for a fact I’ll probably run out of blog post ideas by about week two and start spamming my blog with cat pictures, so if you’ve any burning desire to see me write about a specific topic or possibly a follow-up to any previous posts please feel free to make requests.

Does the Taxman know about your Blog?

The rise of the professional blogger and those who monetise their personal blogs has crept up slowly and now, everyone’s doing it. For some people it’s a genuine source of income, for some it’s their business and others simply do it for a bit of extra cash. In every instance you earn tangible money from your blog – you need to be in discussion with the HMRC. In fact, even if you’re only thinking about earning money from your blog you should consider registering with them too.

Earning money from blogging takes you into the realm of self-employment and tax. The HMRC offer NO minimum limit on the amount you have to declare as extra income. This means as soon as the cash received from your blog exceeds the costs of running it then you need to make a declaration to the HMRC. This isn’t as complicated as it sounds.

Many self-employed mums and dads run blogs as a side line and this income should be recorded too. If you’re not self-employed and have an employer but run a profit-making blog then you can simply ring the HMRC and they’ll adjust your tax code to ensure you’re paying the right amount of tax. This rule applies if you pay tax through PAYE and your earnings don’t exceed £2,500. Once you reach that milestone you’ll have to register for Self-Assessment and your blog income will also need to be declared if you’re a tax credits claimant, provided they exceed £300.

Tax Matters

Everybody in the UK is entitled to a ‘tax free’ personal allowance from their earnings which is currently £9,440 for 2013 for everyone aged 75 or younger. If your profits and any other taxable income fall below this threshold then you wouldn’t need to pay tax but you still must declare your earnings and profit.

Blogging for Business or Pleasure?

The tax regulations differ slightly dependent on the purpose of your blog. If you’re a WAHM who blogs as part of their business then it is slightly different than if you started blogging for something to do as a past time and it became slowly more popular and you decided to monetize.

If your blog is simply a hobby then you will be able to offset the running expenses (shown in more depth below) against the income. However, you are not able to carry any losses you make forward to offset against other income.

Blogs that are run as a business allow losses to be carried forward or used on the self-assessment form to offset other income. You do need to convince the HMRC that your blog is an effective business and not simply a hobby that costs too much if you consistently make loss upon loss.

If your blog is your business and you have no other income you must register as self-employed within three months of starting up.

Blogging Income

There are several ways work at home mums and dads may make money from their blogs including:

  • Selling advertising space on a monthly fee basis
  • Utilising Google Adwords
  • Cash payments for writing reviews or other blog posts
  • Writing sponsored posts to include links to the buyer’s client website
  • Affiliate sales
  • Certain payments in kind
  • Any money received to compensate for travel expenses to events

Certain things which are not taxable include any goody bags you may receive at a conference as this is considered a gift and also being bought lunch by a company you’re working with is non-taxable as long as you aren’t doing anything specifically in return for that lunch.

Review products are an issue of contention. As a rule if you plan to use the item in your own home with your family personally than you shouldn’t need to declare it however if you plan to sell the item then you should be paying tax on it.

Blogging Expenditure

There are some expenses that you can offset against any income you make as a blogger. These include:

  • Your web hosting fees
  • Your domain registration
  • Any marketing costs you incur including business cards, paying for advertising elsewhere and any software you may use for marketing
  • Attending conferences and events in the name of blog promotion
  • A calculated percentage of your broadband costs which you need to work out to separate business from private use
  • Assets necessary to maintain your blog such as laptops, hard drives and even printer ink – this point is only relevant if you are classed as a business and you will need to discuss these types of expenditure with an expert as they are treated differently to regular expenses.

It could be that you’ve only been blogging a short time and have received a few small opportunities so you don’t think it matters about declaring it. It does. Every £1 needs to be accounted for and the HMRC are aware of the growing blogging network and want to ensure everything is being carried out above board.

Your employer doesn’t need to know if you don’t want them to but you do need to ensure you are paying tax on all that you earn, even if you have only monetised your blog recently.

Izzy’s Pictures

Earlier on this year I saw a Travel Supermarket competition being mentioned on twitter – Kids Capture the Colour. The basic gist is that parent bloggers enter, get sent a camera, get their kids to take some pics and then someone votes on some based on the colours or something. I admit I only entered on the off chance we’d get a free camera thinking we’d not get selected, but then we actually got one and Izzy thought it was great and promptly went around taking hundreds of pictures, most of which are blurred or feature me in my pyjamas which have now been deleted (of course).

There were some good ones (good being defined as “subject visible, not too blurry”) in there though, so without further ado, here’s a selection of Isabel’s pictures from over the summer:

Selfie!
Selfie!
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The Animal Shed

We recently bought two sheds: a 6×4″ for the tools and general garden crap, and an 8×6″ for the animal hutches. Or that was the general plan anyway.

After battling for an entire weekend to get the 8×6″ up (due to a combination of location, size and having to build it around 2 ‘helpful’ small children) we realised that the rabbit ‘hutch’ (which is actually a chicken coop) and guinea pig’s double hutch took up so much room in there that there wasn’t enough room to move round them or clear them out even though they were occupying the same space before the shed was constructed.

So we came up with a little plan. And I say ‘we’, but really it was someone else’s plan first and we were simply creatively inspired! :) The Animal Shed was born… (more…)