Saturday, December 16, 2017

Nefertiti's Crime Spree

It has to be said.  Nefertiti is embarrassed by the facts, but she has brought this exposé on herself.  There's no getting around it - Nefertiti is a kleptomaniac.

For years now my little half Siamese, tortoiseshell cat has been light pawed.  She restricts her nefarious deeds to plush toys.  Until recently her kleptomania was limited to toys with big eyes, but lately she's branched out.  I often buy a small plush animal toy as a souvenir when we are out and about to display somewhere around the house.  Some of these toys sit on my chest of drawers in my bedroom and these poor innocent creatures have long been the victims of Nefertiti's marauding.

I've never actually caught her in the act which, when you consider this has been going on for years, is a testimony to her sneakiness.  But Nefertiti has never learned to be quiet about her capers.  I'm not sure of the timeline or the thieving techniques she employs because as I said, I've never caught her in the act, but I imagine it goes something like this -

Nefertiti waits until the coast is clear.  She has spent the afternoon lying down with me while I rest my back, but once I'm up and about again she feigns sleep so I'll take pity on her and leave her in the bedroom.  Now that she's alone with her prey her whiskers twitch -does she try to resist temptation?  I doubt it.  She looks to her right, she looks to her left, and assuring herself that the room is human free she resumes her life of crime.

Moving as stealthily as only a Siamese descendant can, Nefertiti stalks whichever unfortunate toy is the object of her compulsion at the time.  She tends to concentrate on one particular toy for a while, anything from days to months, and limits her kidnapping to that toy until her fancy lights on some other ill fated target.  Once she has scaled the heights of the chest of drawers, usually knocking over various toiletry items as she goes, our sure footed scoundrel grabs her prey and heads for the hills.  The hills in this case is usually under our dining room table.  Occasionally Nefertiti's  eyes are too big for her belly (or her jaw strength as the case may be)  and she targets a larger toy which never makes it to the dining table area.  These poor  individuals usually end up on the bedroom floor near the door, where I imagine Nefertiti's strength and/or interest has given out.

Once the toy is acquired Nefertiti then begins her victory cry.  It's a pathetic little sound.  She inherited her Siamese dad's croaky voice and her victory cry sounds less like a celebration and more like a strangled complaint.  Never-the-less Nefertiti sits by the purloined plush figure and croaks out a triumphant song.  She then loses all interest in her latest haul and goes about her usual pussy cat  business (sleeping in the most comfortable spot she can find) as if nothing wicked has happened.  I retrieve the snatched toy and return it to its rightful home after accusing the tortoiseshell yet again of dark crimes.  Nefertiti adjusts her whiskers, this time in indignation, rises above the whole sordid conversation and sleeps the sleep of the just.

Nefertiti with one of her favourite targets.  No she wasn't caught red pawed, I challenged her with the evidence but she sniffed it and said it had nothing to do with her.


This pattern has been going on for years.  I know I could haul her out of the bedroom when I leave and at times I've done so, but at some time during the day the bedroom door is usually accidentally left open and Nefertiti's pussy cat sixth sense alerts to an opportunity not to be missed.  Also it's a harmless vice and no-one gets hurt.  That is until two days ago.

With all my Christmas decorations out and my plush toys put away for the season Nefertiti has turned her wicked attention to my plush decorations.  I have reindeer, Santas, teddy bears and more all sitting around the living room, bedroom and hall looking suitably vulnerable to a kidnapping attempt, and just waiting for Nefertiti to get around to thieving them.  For some reason Nefertiti has relaxed her strict rule about big eyes.  She is now targeting my Nisse (Scandinavian elves).  I bought a few during the after Christmas sales last year and love their big noses and long beards, but the fact remains - they have no visible eyes.  Their long pointy cap covers their face right down to their nose.  Maybe Nefertiti feels these large noses compensate her for their lack of eyes.  I'm not sure, all I know is that she ignores many delectable, large eyed Santas, bears and reindeer as she snatches one of my Nisse.

Some of my Nisse.

When I first decorated the house the Nisse sat on my sewing table minding their own business and looking very cute.  After a couple of forays on Nefertiti's part I moved them to the back of my decoration collection of ceramic Santas where they were basically hidden.  It saddened me to hide them but Nefertiti was wreaking havoc on their beards and felt bodies.  I thought, because they were hidden, with only their pointy hats showing, Nefertiti would turn her pilfering attentions to some other victim.  I was wrong.

It seems that Nefertiti, in the manner of all true fanatics, has fixated on the Nisse and will settle for  nothing less now.  I found out the hard way.  The day before yesterday I discovered this ...


Nefertiti had scaled the heights of the television unit, passing many, many tempting (but not temping enough) soft toys to get to my poor Nisse.  On the way she must have scattered porcelain and resin decorations to get to her objective.  This poor Santa paid the price.  I've only had him a year or two and he is one of my favourites with his jaunty nose and huge, overflowing present sack but with the broken bits being so much shrapnel there was little I could do to repair the damage.  Another bear had her black boots broken off but a bit of Araldite fixed that problem beautifully, with the repair invisible.   Santa and his broken present sack went into the bin and was duly mourned. 


My Nisse were all moved to the floor where Nefertiti has easy acces to them without bypassing breakable objects.  Scarily, the broken decorations were right next to my Royal Doulton Santas.  Thankfully Nefertiti went for the closest Nisse and not the one nestled in behind these precious decorations.















Later, I was complaining to Graeme about my defunct Santa and showed him the gaping hole.  Graeme tried to show sympathy but I think he may have been secretly rejoicing that one of the decorations had bitten the dust, taking the population down by only one but maybe Nefertiti’s raids could add more to the defunct list.  While I was bemoaning my loss, with the damaged Santa in my hand, a brilliant idea occurred to me.  I could stuff the hole with something.  At first I thought maybe a little present could be seen sticking out, but I lacked a tiny present to fit the hole.  Then, most likely because we have been suffering from an excess of mice here on Spring Rock, the answer sprang to mind. 


Can you see the little mouse peaking out of the hole in the photo above?   I know the scale is wrong and the mouse looks more like it might be a kangaroo joey, but I'm fine with that.  Also I think a little bit of payback has occurred.  

That mouse is one of Nefertiti's cat nip mice.  I think that's Karma don't you?

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From everyone at Spring Rock, we wish you a very happy Christmas and a wonderful 2018.  Heaven's knows what the menagerie will get up to next year. 



Tuesday, September 26, 2017

When All Around You Are Holding Their Noses


Here I am with the pup Elliott before the dreadful deed.  I never thought he would be involved in such terrible treatment of two innocent dogs.

My day began as usual.  I woke next to Cleo on the laundry floor (my most favourite place in the whole world) and wandered out for a nice breakfast of kibble and a big drink of water.  Cleo went for a morning run around the yard and stopped to say hello to the chooks, who replied very rudely as usual.  I can't be bothered with all that running and investigating.  Lying in the sun, or preferably on my bed in the laundry is my idea of the way to spend my day so I watched Cleo exercise and wagged my tail in encouragement.  Cleo likes encouragement.  Cleo likes attention of almost any sort.

Justin, Savannah and their pup Elliott arrived during the morning.  I'm always glad to see them.  They have three different dog smells on them and I like to catch up on the news of these unknown dogs.  I imagine they are just as interested in Cleo's and my news when the family returns home.  Cleo tends to lose control when we have visitors.  She's very anxious that they love her and her efforts to make sure they know she loves them often results in muddy paw marks on the humans or a lot of drool.  For some reason a lot of humans object to drool  I don't understand why, drool is a fact of life after all.  I have to admit to leaving drool on humans too (as well as on the porch, on the path and anywhere else it happens to drop) but I consider a reasonable amount of drool on a person a sign of affection.  Cleo, I'm afraid to say, goes overboard drool-wise. 

Justin has what it takes to make a dog sit up and listen and he can get Cleo's enthusiasm under control with just a word or two.  Cleo always looks rather startled to find she's obeying him but when Justin says sit, Cleo sits.  I must admit I'm very grateful for this.  I tend to find Cleo's over the top energy tiring.  After I've greeted the visitors I usually need a long rest to recover from her exertions.  Today, after my welcome to Elliott and his parents and a bit of drool depositing I was preparing to retire to my laundry when Mum came out and called Cleo and me over to the clothes line.  This was unusual enough to get my attention.  It looked like she had a treat bag in her hand so I wandered over to see what she wanted.  Yep, sure enough, there was a treat bag involved.  I love treats and Mum is usually generous handing them out.  Today was no different and while Cleo and I munched on the tasty morsels things went downhill.  As well as the treats there was also a chain - not a walking lead mind you, a chain!  Well that just never happens to me.  Sometimes Cleo ends up on the chain for bad behaviour, but as I find bad behaviour just too exhausting I have never been put on the chain for such a thing.  It's been a long time and I can't remember why the chain was involved before, but I do get a feeling that it was another lovely warm day like today.

Then the buckets of water arrived along with bottles of smelly stuff.  Justin got a very business like look on his face and his pup sat down beside me and offered comfort (see the photo above).  Now why did I need comfort?  Cleo, also on the chain, said no good could come of this but I pointed out this was our beloved family and Mum was there too and she'd never do anything horrible to us.

I was right.  Mum stood back and watched the whole horrible process.  She didn't get involved at all except to tell us we were good dogs.  Elliott told us we were good dogs too.  Well, I already knew that, what I wanted to know, and vague memories were stirring, was what all this was about?

Cleo was the first to find out.  I heard Mum tell Justin that if Cleo saw me get washed first (washed?) she'd be harder to wash later.  Mum said I was too laid back to get worked up about anything so I'd be fine to wait until Cleo was clean.  I lay on the ground and watched to proceedings trying not to laugh at Cleo's drowned rat look and her new aroma.  Cleo tried to remind Justin and Elliott that they loved her and no-one who loved her would do such dreadful things to her body.  Justin just kept washing until Cleo was as clean and fluffy as a smooth coat Saint Bernard could be (not a patch on we rough coated ones - we take fluffy to a whole new level).  We were on concrete so she couldn't find something smelly to fix the clean smell and she had to sit or console herself with shaking bath water all over Justin and the pup.

Then their attention turned to me.  Uh,oh. I smiled and told them I was fine.  I liked my aged dirt and other interesting smells.  I'd worked all winter on it and it was nearly perfect.  One more dead sheep to roll in and I thought I would achieve perfection.  Justin ignored my logic, and my months of dedicated work and began wetting me down.  The little Elliott got involved too and behaved as if he thought he was giving me a treat.  Speaking of which, it was a while since Mum had dished out the treats when we were tied up so I looked over at her with my most hopeful expression.  She misinterpreted my "where's the treat?" look as she often does and told me it would be alright and I'd be a much more socially acceptable puppy when this was over.  Socially acceptable!  Smelling like flowers and sporting a clean, fluffy coat?  I don't know what social circles she moves in but I felt embarrassed at what Savannah's and Justin's dogs would think of Cleo and me when they sniffed the news this afternoon.  It's a good thing we've never met socially.  I could imagine the jeers should we ever meet.

I didn't struggle of course.  I find struggling exhausting.  You may have noticed from what I've already said that I don't get myself worked up about much.  As a matter of fact I can't think of something that would get me worked up.  It's OK.  I have Cleo for that anyway.  Mum always says thank God I'm bullet proof because she doesn't  think she would survive two Cleos.  Cleo says that I can be boring at times but I don't mind.  I'm happy resting up on my bed or in a sunny or shady spot depending on the weather.   Boring is good. 

Once Justin and Elliott thought they'd removed enough of my beautiful smells a thing called conditioner was applied to my long fur and any hope I had of preserving even a tiny bit of my previous aroma vanished.  I was rinsed off again and began to plan just where in the yard I could roll to repair some of the damage.  Sadly Cleo and I were taken to the laundry to dry off so we couldn't find dirt patches to "ruin all our hard work" as Justin and Mum put it.

Cleo and I stayed in the laundry for quite a while.  It takes a long time for Saint Bernard fur to dry it seems.  While we were there we planned the rest of the day.  Most of it involved rolling in dirt and looking forward to walks off the lead when we could find a dead sheep carcass or two. 

Until then we will smell of flowers and soap.  We won't be able to hold our heads high until we find those carcasses.

Note my stoic, brave demeanour while the indignities continue.

Sunday, June 04, 2017

Meanwhile, Back At The Chook Pen ...

I'm not sure if I've given you an updated roll call of the feathered inhabitants at Spring Rock. There are the galahs, Hedwig and Hermes (both roadside accident refugees) of whom we'll here very little in this post. And the chooks:

Eros, our old black rooster who arrived here when he outlived his welcome at a friend's home.  Eros and his brother Helios were thrown over my friend's fence when they were young.  My friend owns a brood of bantam hens and once Eros and Helios grew to their full potential and started trying to chat up the girls it became clear that something had to give. With visions of little bantam hens squashed flat in the boys pursuit of love my friend offered me the pair of boys.  At that time I was in need of a rooster to protect my hens from hawks and Currawongs and I was thrilled to welcome the boys.  Both settled in and life in the chookpen was happy and simple.  Eventually Helios died leaving Eros in command.  Eros has always been a gentle rooster, preferring peace to war so luckily the sheer size of him made predatory wildlife think twice before attacking anything in the chook pen.


Eros.





















Then came Phoenix, an affectionate (when not with his harem) pet rooster who believes the world is better off without Eros.  He came to us because he got too big for his boots in Savannah's mother's back yard.  Phoenix, who was raised from an egg, was confused about pecking orders, being a rooster not a human and what constituted a threat to his ruling the harem.  He began running at the children when they came outside and soon the poor kids were hunkered down inside, scared to brave the stroppy rooster in order to play on their swing or enjoy the outdoors.  They still loved him and wanted a good home for Phoenix so the first name on their lips was Rosemary!  I said yes, little realising how complicated life would get.  I love Phoenix to pieces so despite his complicating the order of the chook yard I'd still say yes.  Phoenix entered the pen and, with the impression that it would be a better world with less black roosters in it, he immediately tried to put an end to Eros.  Eros refused to fight back but usually ended up cornered somewhere with Phoenix beating the daylights out of him.  The only solution was for Graeme to build an inner yard in the chook pen and Phoenix was forced to reluctantly retire from the lists and take up residence in his new quarters.  Eros once again reigned supreme in the chook yard and Phoenix enjoyed daily visits from me where he sat on my lap and enjoyed wattle and comb rubs.  All was peace and quiet once more, but not for long of course. 


Phoenix amongst the gardening pots strewn about by Aslan and Cleo.
Around the same time our Muscovy duck Quacker died leaving her partner Christmas to roam the yards trying to seduce hens half his size.  This resulted in flat, dead hens so Christmas was quickly shuffled into the bachelor quarters too.

The last of my Isa Brown hens were on the aged and infirm list, meaning eggs were few and far between so I decided to venture into pretty breeds of laying hens.  I chose point of lay (not yet laying eggs - but any time soon ...) Hamburgs for a few reasons, not least of which was that there were some for sale in our nearby town.  I purchased six hens - three silver spangled and three gold spangled, and the breeder threw in an Easter Egger/Hamburg cross because there were doubts that one of the girls might be a boy.  Yes, I'd never heard of an Easter Egger either but they are in fact a breed.  They lay blue/green eggs.  Mine doesn't though, she leans towards her Hamburg ancestry and lays a creamy white egg.  I was told I could bring the chook back if it did in fact turn out to be a boy but as the breeder sold her roosters to a meat producer, I knew that I'd never hand an innocent rooster back for that fate and just accepted I may have yet another rooster to cater for.

That night the first gold hamburg left the yard never to be seen again.  Wings were duly snipped to prevent further escapes, but a silver hen took off the next night. Thankfully that was the end of the escapes and the Hamburg population settled down to two gold and two silver hamburgs and the Easter Egger.  Names were duly bestowed and the chook pen now housed: Henrietta, and Hendricka the golden spangles, Pain in the Neck 1 and Pain in the Neck 2 known and PIN 1&2 (because the two remaining silver spangles turned out to be roosters and nasty roosters at that) and Bunny, the Easter Egger. 

PINs 1 & 2 were duly ensconced in the bachelor quarters after they reached puberty and began attacking Eros. War broke out when they came face to face with Phoenix who, though severely outnumbered wasn't about to tolerate the introduction of two supposedly alpha males when he was the alphaest male there was.  I tried putting them in the aviary but they attacked Hedwig and Hermes who were just so affronted by the invasion that they started attacking anything that moved.  I arrived at the brilliant solution of putting Eros, Aunty Brown our little brown Silkie and Bunny in the aviary.  These two little hens had had a hard life while PINs 1 & 2  were growing up and feeling their oats so I declared all three refugees and granted them Aviary Asylum.  Phoenix moved into the main yard with the girls, making him a very happy little red rooster, and once again life settled down in the chook pen.

I had also introduced a gold laced Wyandotte I named Winona and a light Sussex I named Serena.  These two girls settled in quietly and caused no fuss at all.  Very unusual for my feathered inhabitants.  Winona though did have one peculiar episode in her life.

Winona, becomes a bit confused at times.  I think she is a hen of very little brain.  She has a problem in forgetting she's no longer broody for example.  She'll go through her broody phase, leave the nest, and then days later she'll come back and have another broody day or two, leave the nest again, only to repeat her broody days every now and then for a few weeks after she's over her genuine broodiness.  This wouldn't be a problem except that Winona defends her nest with gusto.  She has a nasty peck which leaves blood blisters or breaks the skin.  I've developed a system whereby I wave my left hand in front of her (out of pecking range) to get her attention then, with my right hand, tip her up and quickly collect the day's eggs while she's righting herself.  Trouble is she is sneaky too.  More often than not she keeps an egg clutched in her claws and getting that egg is a bit more of a challenge.


The trouble started when, as I believe, Winona decided that she'd hatched a world record sized chicken.  Henrietta is a gold spangled Hamburg and Winona is a gold laced Wyandotte so apart from size they look quiet similar.  During one of Winona's broody phases, while she was sitting on the nest trying to protect the eggs from my daily assaults, Henrietta too became broody and joined her.  We have two nesting boxes but all the hens ignore the newer, larger box in favour of our old, much smaller box.  

I tried fake eggs to encourage them to lay there but that was during the summer when we had a bearded dragon (we assume - it was definitely a lizard and I think they are the only local lizards large enough) stealing eggs.  When Winona went broody the lizard thief couldn't get at those eggs (not with that beak aimed at delicate, scaly spots) so it stole the fake eggs instead. Funnily enough, it actually brought two of the three stolen fake eggs back weeks later! I still wonder what it did with the last stolen fake egg. They were made of plaster and I would imagine, not very tasty. Did it keep one of the fake eggs as an example of the type of egg not to steal in the future?  As a den decoration? Buried it in the hopes it would soften up and become edible?  

I got sidetracked there didn't I?  Anyway Winona was well into her broody phase and Henrietta joined her in the smaller nesting box.  They sat  side by side for a while then Winona started sitting on Henrietta.  At first Henrietta objected, but Hamburgs being a small breed and Wyandottes being a very large breed Henrietta gave up, resigning herself to endure the rest of Winona's broody period under cover of fluffy feathers.


Gold Laced Wyandotte  Raising Happy Chickens   http://www.raising-happy-chickens.com

Gold Spangled Hamburg  www.backyardchickens.com
When Henrietta finally finished her broody cycle she hopped off the nest and immediately regretted her decision to re-join the big, wide world.  Winona was waiting for her and while Winona couldn't train Henrietta to follow her, Winona is an adaptable hen - she followed Henrietta around all day fussing over every decision Henrietta made.  If Henrietta chose to eat a particularly  tasty scrap Winona was there checking its quality and advising Henrietta on the correct way to eat it.  Woe and betide any other hen who might peck at Henrietta while she was foraging.  Winona proved a formidable, if confused mother and she rushed to protect her prized chicken.  When Henrietta settled down for the night Winona fluffed her feathers and sat on top of her to keep her warm.  Henrietta developed that hunted look of those who know their stalker is close by.  There was little I could do.  Winona was stalking with love.  All she wanted to do was teach her huge chicken the ropes and fit her for life as a grown chook - when she finally decided to grow that is.  This lasted a couple of weeks until Winona considered Henrietta big enough to tackle the dangers of the chook pen and back yard on her own.  


I think Henrietta might reconsider spending her next broody time in that unused nesting box next time.

Sunday, May 07, 2017

When You Have A Wonky Neck Spring Rock Is The Place To Be

George with just a slight case of Wry Neck
It's been a while since I've posted a story and I'm sorry to have neglected my documenting of Spring Rock happenings.  I've just been busy with other things for a while. You mustn't imagine that in the time I've been silent the menagerie has finally decided to behave itself. That just never happens.  Our latest addition is a case in point.

Isis, our little brown duck started it all when she hatched two eggs and left a third egg with the duckling inside, making a little hole in the shell and then stopping because the egg was left to go cold.  I helped him out of the shell and while he was alive, there wasn't much to go before he wasn't.  I did what I usually do with cold, limp, baby poultry - I popped him down my bra and carried on with my day.  

This system of reviving almost dead or very weak chickens and ducklings is tried and true in my case. When Justin was in high school one of his Agriculture assignments was to incubate and raise a clutch of eggs.  He came home with two dozen eggs and a school incubator and set to work, documenting each day in a diary.  For a long while entries were very boring - Monday - turned eggs, checked temperature. Tuesday -  turned eggs, checked temperature.  Wednesday -  turned eggs, checked temperature and so on.  Then one day things got interesting as the chickens began to make their way out of the shells and scrambled to the heat lamp set up for their enjoyment.  In the end all the eggs hatched and 24 chickens could be seen basking under the lamp when not eating their little heads off. One little late comer was weaker than the rest and kept being pushed out from under the heat into the cold, dark badlands of the brooding box.  I was in charge of chicken care while Justin was at school and I kept popping the chicken back under the heat, while giving the rest of the brood a good talking to about kindness to weaker siblings.  Then Justin brought the little, limp scrap to me and said he though he was going to have one failure in his brood. I took the ball of limp fluff and scrabbled around inside my shirt for a little while until I had the fluff ball firmly ensconced in my bra cup.  Justin gave me a shocked look and said, "Well I'm not writing that up in my diary!"  How he explained the survival of the fluff ball I don't know but survive it did and after two days of inhabiting my bra was ready to go back to less crowded accommodation with its siblings.  We won't even go into the problems that occurred when most of the brood turned out to be roosters and the school blithely told Justin they were his now.

Anyway back to the ducklings - quickly so I don't dwell on trying to re-home 20 roosters who all hated each other.  I tried re-introducing The Scrap as I named the duckling to its mother but she vowed and declared that she only hatched two ducklings and no-one was going to foist a third responsibility on her thank you very much. She was a first time mother and people should be hustling around to support her and nurture her, not foisting questionable ducklings on her and upsetting the order of things just as she was getting the hang of this mothering business.  So I had a duckling.  A lonely duckling.  I put out the call to Justin, who is now married to a beautiful young woman named Savannah.  Justin and/or Savannah seem to be able to source lots of weird and wonderful things when I need them.  This time Savannah's mum came to my aid with two little Silkie chickens.  She had a backyard full of chickens at the time due to lots of broody hens and great hiding places for clutches of eggs. I belong to a poultry Facebook group where someone had mentioned the wing method of sexing very young chickens.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WzGdqgRq31k  if you are interested in the process. I sent Justin the same link and left him to identify two girls for me.

Two chickens arrived just before our big family camping trip.  All three of our children, their spouses, our eight grandchildren and Graeme and I went away for a weekend camping trip. I camp in a caravan with an en-suite, but I still call it camping despite what my more rugged children call it.  Of course the duckling and chickens had to come along as well because who was going to look after their needs if they stayed home.  We packed baby poultry, cat litter for the bottom of their box, their heat lamp and enough food to last them a month and set off.  Graeme and I drove to the camping site with the sounds of little peeps coming from the back seat.  The little group was a resounding success with all my grandchildren and the children camping in a spot near us.  First thing in the morning or at various times during the day when we were in camp, one or other of my grandchildren would wander in to the caravan to say good morning, or ostensibly to pass the time of day with me.  Said grandchild pretended it was to visit with me but after the greeting his or her eyes would start to wander around the van.  I'd point towards the en-suite and say, "They're down there."  And that was the last I saw of that grandchild for a while, unless I too headed for the en-suite.

The Gang of Three as I named them ended up being named by my four granddaughters - my three older grandsons arrived too late to have a say in the matter and Elliott being two wasn't sure what naming chickens and duckling was all about.  They ended up Cupcake, Georgina (known as George) and Daisy (the duckling).  George had an out of control top knot of feathers and my daughter in law Frances said that she looked like she was wearing an ushanka, (one of those Russian fur hats) and wanted to name her Kiev, but I vetoed that very quickly.  I wasn't having any chicken of mine named after a tasty chicken dish.  I mentioned the fact that we didn't know if the duckling was a girl, and if it was a boy the drake would have to live with the embarrassment of being named Daisy.  The girls didn't care so Daisy it had to be.  I think the Gang of Three enjoyed the camping trip as much as all the family.  It was declared a big success and everyone wanted to repeat the event sometime soon in the future.  I pointed out that I couldn't guarantee any livestock on the next trip and while there were moans of disappointment from those under the age of 15 it was decided we'd still camp together again.

Sadly Daisy didn't make it.  Once we got home she started to fail and no amount of tender care worked.  George and Cupcake kept on thriving, enjoying the heat from the desk lamp, learning to fly out of their box and sit on my bed (well flap madly while they climbed the side of the box anyway - they weren't very aerodynamic).  We kept them in the bedroom away from the cats you see.  I'd go into the room to check their feed or water or whatever only to find them wandering around the top of our bed, trying to peck the design off the top.  Steps were taken to reduce their free range time and life went on.  

One morning Cupcake's head began to head south.  At first she just had a quizzical look with her head slightly listing to the right.  As each day passed her head moved further and further down until her neck was bent and an unbelievable angle.  I tried massaging her neck, but the slightest thing seemed to panic her and make the spasms worse.  It was obvious she was suffering and the only thing I could think of was that she had a brain tumour.  I asked Graeme to dispatch her (because I'm a coward and can't do those sorts of deeds myself).  

Two days after Graeme accomplished the terrible deed George's head started to list to the right.  I decided that two brain tumours within a couple of days was very unlikely and did what I should have done in the first place.  I Googled the problem.  The answer came back emphatically.  George had Wry Neck Syndrome.  Wry Neck results in the poor little chicken's neck twisting around until its head is upside down, almost between its legs.  It's caused by one of her parents having a Vitamin E deficiency and despite the fact that the chicken pellets I was giving them was supposed to supply all the vitamins and minerals the chickens need it seemed George lacked this one important vitamin.  The recommendation was to dose her with Selenium and Vitamin E three times daily.   It took a bit more research to find out the actual doses of each but once we had those we got to work.  The Selenium helps the chicken absorb the maximum amount of the Vitamin E in case you were wondering.

George, by the way, was now an only chicken.  We've been here before haven't we? Thankfully Savannah's mum came to the rescue once again with three Silkie cross chickens this time.  Justin performed the wing check once again but the chickens were slightly older and it's harder to tell as they age.  We ended up with two hens and a ring in rooster (making five roosters in residence at the moment!).

Back to where we left George and her wonky neck.  I was just about to go to hospital for an overnight stay to have my toe operated on.  It was then two weeks of keeping my foot up, walking on it as little as possible and three weeks on crutches (not to mention three months so far in a walking cast, but that's just me grizzling here).  So for a few days Graeme was in charge of getting George's neck straight up and where it belonged.  Hand feeding and watering were also involved because George couldn't manage to feed herself with her head upside down. I was a bit worried because as I've mentioned in previous posts, Graeme is not an animal person.  I imagine neck rubs were few and far between but George and Graeme soldiered on.  Graeme struggled through and actually bonded with George during these early days of medicating her while I was laid up.  

We dosed George up as per internet instructions and after nearly three weeks of twice daily dribbles of Vitamin E oil down her little beak and the addition of B1 once I found a few articles recommending that as well, she came good.  I was once again able to pick on her top knot and make such comments as she looked like she was wearing a pom pom up there without feeling like I was picking on a poor defenceless, sick little chicken.   

According to all recorded data that I can find George should have gone on to have a neck in the upright and controllable position from then on, but George hasn't read the data.  If she doesn't get her daily dose of Vitamin E (one capsule worth of oil these days thankfully) and a neck rub, her neck begins to head in a southerly direction.  

George in the full trows of Wry Neck

Graeme is aghast at the thought of a chook that will need to be given Vitamin E every day for possibly the rest of her life, but in his usual stoic manner has accepted that being married to me means owning and caring for weird pets.  I've tried feeding George the food types that are rich in Vitamin E, and while she enjoys her treats of spinach, avocado and sunflower seeds (the health food ones - her beak is too little to deal with the outer husk of bird seed quality), hand-ground-by-me almonds and such, she still needs the capsule or we're back to having to turn our own heads upside down to talk to her.  Thankfully she's very tame and sits on my lap during the medicating and enjoys a neck rub afterwards.  I have a photo taken a while back when she was slightly smaller.  She fell asleep on my lap during the neck rub and I was stuck sitting on the lounge chair until she work up.  George would raise her head for a second, look around groggily and then go back to sleep, just to get my hopes up that I'd be able to get up and go about my business.  I know I could have got up at any stage, but she looked so comfortable and soft and fluffy lying there dreaming chooky dreams.  I couldn't disturb her could I?

One thing's for sure, George has made sure she's secured a place in any future camping expeditions, along with a large supply of Vitamin E capsules. 


George taking a little nap after a neck rub.



Monday, June 27, 2016

Cleo Loves Loki

Loki enjoying diving into some packing pebbles.

It seems that so many of my stories about life here on Spring Rock with The Menagerie descend into slap stick almost as soon as I begin relating the latest events.  Sadly, this one is no different.

I'm just back from a tussle with Cleo, Aslan and Loki, my albino male ferret.  it began when I was bringing the ferrets inside for the night so they didn't freeze their tiny toes off.  Loki and Pandora begin to panic as the afternoon wears on, convinced that I've forgotten them and they are doomed to enduring a freezing night under the stars.  I think I forgot them once a few years back and I've never been forgiven.  Their outdoor cage is equipped with a sleeping bag made from two layers of polofleece with two layers of wool batting in between besides a number of baby blankets and a piece of old woollen blanket.  I should think they'd be warmer in there than I am inside under my doona, but the ferrets don't like being out at night regardless of the season.  In summer they complain that event he balmiest night is too hot for their delicate little bodies.  Loki begins running up and down in front of the cage door as soon as he sees me coming out to collect the eggs each afternoon.  I can almost hear him shouting, "Don't forget we're here!  Don't forget we're here!".  I always reassure him that I haven't forgotten about him, but he knows how easily distracted I am so he's not convinced until I actually open the cage door and pick him up.

Getting the ferrets out of the cage and into the house entails putting said ferrets up on top of the cage to scamper about and investigate the countryside from their raised position while I get their bedding out to bring in for the night - otherwise fog or rain make their bedding damp overnight.  I wasn't paying enough attention to the ferrets while pulling the bedding out their little cage door - the bulky sleeping bag was resisting coming out through the small opening - and Loki took the opportunity while my attention was fixed on tugging at the sleeping bag to to  expand his area of exploration to the ground below his cage.  He was just mooching around under the cage seeing what might come up on his expedition when a huge black nose came up.  Loki isn't scared of the dogs (actually they are just a little scared of him), so he must have moved closer to the nose to see what transpired, with high hopes that a nipping opportunity would arise.  Loki and Pandora never turn down a nipping opportunity whenever a bit of Saint Bernard presents itself.  What transpired was Cleo thinking a great game was on.  I looked down to find her trying to rub her head up against any part of Loki she could reach.  Poor little Loki was being rolled around like a bit of pastry all the time trying to get his mouth wrapped around a bit of Cleo.  Unfortunately Cleo managed to flip him closer to her and then nothing would suffice than Cleo tuck the little ferret under her and lie down on him!  Loki wasn't keen.  Each time he managed to move out from under the great bulk Cleo would scoop him back in with her nose and try to lie on him again.  I have no idea what was in Cleo's mind.  Most of the time I have no idea what's in Cleo's mind so this was nothing new.  She wasn't trying to hurt him, I'm sure of that because at no time did she try to bite him.  Possibly she likes ferret smell and was trying to get some of that unique scent on her coat.  Possibly she thought Loki would make a comfortable bed.  Your guess is as good as mine.
 

I abandoned my bedding removal, told Pandora to stay where she was, and tried to retrieve Loki.  Cleo kept placing her body between me and Loki while plonking down on him every chance she got.  I think he may have been biting her tummy when it got close enough because Cleo kept popping up and trying again. As soon as she popped up Loki would move out of being squished proximity only to have Cleo follow him.  This made it difficult for me to grab either ferret or Saint Bernard but eventually I managed to grab Cleo by the collar but couldn't reach Loki with my other hand while clutching Cleo's collar.  I did what I always do in these sorts of emergencies (you may have noticed if you've been following my blog for a while that I often face these sorts of emergencies).  I yelled for Graeme to come help. 

Aslan, who had been sitting quietly on the back porch during all this excitement,  thought this all sounded like good fun and came down to join the game trying to head Loki off while Loki tried to make as speedy and exit as possible while he sought another, St Bernard free, part of the garden he'd rather explore.  I made a grab of Aslan when he got within grabbing distance, latching on to his tail and eventually working my way up to his collar.  I ended up with two dogs in my firm grip watching Loki move further and further from my range, while Graeme wandered out to see what the fuss was about.  I asked him to pick up the ferret while I held the dogs,. There was no point in asking him to pick up Loki, I know that Graeme's response would have been, "Who's Loki?" as the little ferret scurried past him.   

I've mentioned before that Graeme is very anti-ferret.  He's so anti-ferret he is unable to remember their names despite having shared a home with these particular two for about three years now.  While I was asking Graeme to retrieve the ferret Cleo saw Loki heading for pastures new.  She tried bounding under the garden bench we were standing beside, in pursuit of the little white fellow scurrying away from the game.  The fact that she took my  my left hand with her and dragged my poor thumb under the metal support for the wooden seat was not her fault according to Cleo.  I could have let go instead of trying to pull her back. I was beginning to feel like I was being stretched apart with Cleo heading to the left under the seat and Aslan pulling to the right. The result was a very sore thumb for me, a ferret with a fluffed out tail taking a U turn towards the house and Graeme standing, looking down at said ferret trying to find the best way to pick up the fluffed up creature without getting near the sharp end.  Finally I had to hand over the two dogs to Graeme - he's much more comfortable holding dogs or cats while I pick up ferrets - and go get Loki myself.  Loki made it to the back steps and tried ducking behind a pot  but I simply grabbed the fluffed up tail and told him he was under arrest.  Once in custody Loki came quietly, although protesting that he was the victim, not the perpetrator.  My augment was that if he hadn't climbed down in the first place we'd all be inside in the warmth and not nursing a sore thumb or a fluffed up tail.  He stopped protesting his arrest after that.  Cleo on the other hand wanted the game to continue and told Graeme so by jerking on her collar. Graeme demanded that I just get those "damned ferrets" into the house so he could let the dogs go.  It wasn't as if I was taking the scenic route of anything, but I know how hard it is to hang on to Cleo when she wants to be playing with something so I took his demand graciously and went inside after retrieving Pandora and the bedding.   

Which brought me to my next worry - had Pandora had climbed down during all this excitement and I hadn't noticed?  Thankfully she had simply moved to the edge of the cage roof to get a better view of the fun and games going on down below.  I could have kissed her for making my job that much easier.  In fact she did get a kiss on the top of her head for good behaviour.  Pandora preferred to give my neck a little nip to say hello and what took me so long?  Pandora's other name is The Vampire because she always greets me with a friendly, pain free thankfully, nip on my neck when I pick her up.


Loki is now inside his indoors cage in his sleeping bag, snuggled up with Pandora, sleeping the sleep of the exhausted.  Cleo is at the back door hoping against hope that a little white ferret will make his appearance once more and the games can resume. I am taking a well earned rest and nursing a sore thumb.  

Pretty much par for the course at Spring Rock you might say.

Friday, March 18, 2016

Lions and Meerkats and Saint Bernards! Oh My!

Once again I've allowed a long time to pass between posts.  Life has been busy here but the menagerie has been surprisingly well behaved.  I think it's just been too hot to get up to much mischief.  I did have a wonderful experience for my 60th birthday (albeit seven months late) when my children and Graeme sent me on a Dubbo Zoo Safari early in February.  Graeme and I spent two very happy days exploring the zoo after hours on one day and before it opened on the next while our group went behind the scenes on guided tours.   I fed giraffes carrots, watched an elephant have a bath, had a lovely chat with a lioness about the difficulties of raising teenagers (she had three teenage cubs to wrangle and boy did they they need a mum who was on top of things), watched hippopotomus eating lettuce heads (they make very quick work of a lettuce), stalked black rhinos in the twilight without success (they were being very shy), but managed to get very close to a white rhino the next morning in a holding yard (he was in the holding yard, we were a very safe distance from the fence) and enjoyed the company of many other African animals.


The lioness chatting with me about the joys of being the mum of teenagers.

To top it all off went into the meerkat enclosure and made friends with some very cute little creatures.  I'm sure they smelled ingrain ferret smells on me and recognised me as a kindred spirit.  One little fellow who the keeper told me was usually very greedy and fixated on getting his meal-worms just sat on my lap looking at me while I talked to him.  Another little girl buried herself inside my shirt and got comfortable for the duration.  The ones who amused me the most were the meerkats who too nervous to sit on people's laps but wanted the reward for doing so.  They snuggled up close to my hip and watched the keeper of the meal-worms closely.  They got their rewards and felt they'd done a good job.



Me and the meerkats.  Note the little girl just heading behind my shirt for a private moment (something very hard to find in the meerkat community).


We came home to more days of super hot weather and have been enduring it ever since.  Thankfully the last few days have been more bearable, but this too lead to problems.  

Yesterday morning I watered the gardens and, as my grandfather used to say, came a-cropper.  I have a retractable hose and while it was zooming into its housing the hose managed to whip my legs out from under me.  I landed on my back, with a sickening thud, across the cement septic tank and banged my head as I landed.  I also seem to have jarred my ribs even though they didn't make contact with the cement.  Thankfully my operated on arm stayed out of trouble.  I had carpel tunnel and ulna nerve surgery on my wrist and elbow the week before. 

I called out to Graeme for help but it turned out he was down in the machinery shed, far too far away to hear. I had just decided that if Graeme didn't appear I'd  lay where I was for a little while until I could get myself up, but Cleo and Aslan had heard me call Graeme and true to their Saint Bernard instincts, came to my rescue.  There may not have been any snow and I may not have actually been skiing, but by God they were going to rescue me.  This was their moment!  This was why the monks on the Saint Bernard Pass in Switzerland had bred their ancestors all those centuries ago!  This was their calling!  Cleo arrived first and instantly went into drool mode (to make sure I remained hydrated?) while Aslan, bringing up the rear at a slower and less determined pace, after a short triage apparently didn't like the look of my neck for some reason.  I couldn't see him very well because I had Cleo's head in my face while she to get her head lower than mine (it's a Cleo thing).  While Cleo kept me distracted Aslan turned chiropractor and put his great big paw straight down on my neck and proceeded to walk over the top of me, putting his not inconsiderable weight behind that paw.  I feel very lucky he didn't snap my neck - as soon as I felt the paw on my neck alarm bells rang in my already ringing head.  I managed to grab his leg as he walked over me to reduce his weight, but a lot of Aslan's weight (and there is a lot of Aslan's weight) managed to get through anyway.  I can still feel the spot this morning where he stomped on me.  I'm sure there's a Saint Bernard paw shaped dent there. 

After the neck therapy Aslan decided his chiropractic job was done and his next responsibility in the rescue mission was to sit and guard me, sharing his body heat and shedding fur on me in case the 35 degree day wasn't warm enough for me.  He cuddled up close and settled down for a nap.  Aslan played little part in the rest of the proceedings.  He had the air of a dog who'd done all he could and having done it was exhausted.  It was now up to Cleo and the rescue victim to get the job done between them.



Of course I don't have any photos of the actual Saint Bernard rescue (I was a little preoccupied with things to think of photos) but here's my latest photo of Aslan just relaxing on the driveway.

Cleo was ready to take up to rescue baton and save me whether I wanted saving or not.  She was still drooling and trying to get her head lower than mine.  As mine was resting on the concrete this was a lost cause on her part.  In the end I wrestled her to the ground with a judo like move and I lifted my head to lay it on Cleo's neck.  She calmed down then and lay quietly under my head content that she had done her duty and shown me I was still top dog in the pack.  With Cleo as a pillow, the dogs and I communed for a while, while I dreamed of a shower to remove dog hair, drool and doggy smell.  What Cleo and Aslan were dreaming of I don't know, but I'm sure they were proud of their rescue effort.  After all my neck was dealt with, I was alive and had my head higher than Cleo's.  What more could a rescue victim want?


Nearly every photo I have of Cleo is blurry.  She was sitting quietly near Aslan and I thought I had her when she saw me with the camera.  The blurry image is because she's just rising to come over and drool on me.

Eventually I managed to use Aslan as a support to get myself up. His inert state meant he didn't offer much help, just a sturdy body for me to lean against as I rolled over and got to my feet, but that worked in my favour for a short while.  My spurt of energy galvanised Cleo into action.  She fussed and pushed and prodded in her efforts to help.  The fussing, pushing and prodding only hindered my efforts to get up, occasionally actually knocking me back down.  Again Aslan proved useful as a soft place to land.  Having only one useful arm wasn't a great help either, but I managed to get up leaning on the ever stoic Aslan and hobbled inside.  The two puppies walking close behind ready to rush to my rescue again should I need it.  Five minutes later, as I was finding clean clothes for the longed for shower, Graeme entered the house.  I gave hima short description of my trials and tribulations and a list of my aches and pains, not to mention Cleo drool and stomped on neck.  Graeme was sympathetic but of course there wasn't much he could do. 

After I showered and felt better with the world I went out and thanked the puppies for their efforts.  They sniffed me all over, adding a new layer of drool, assured themselves I wasn't likely to need rescuing again any time soon and settled down to a well earned rest.

I think they might expect bravery awards in their near future.


I thought you might like this back view of Aslan's tail.  Isn't it magnificent?  And it's his summer coat too.  Stand by for winter coat back end views later in the year.

Sunday, December 06, 2015

The Great Christmas Ferret War of 2015


I'm in the middle of Christmas decorating at the moment and have decorations everywhere.  Some of you know that I REALLY decorate my house, with every room full of decorations (16  90 litre tubs worth of decorations not counting the tree), so before it's all done the house is a maze of little walkways with decorations, tubs and protective wrapping covering the floor. I'm at the stage where it's maximum mess because I'm trying to empty the tubs so Graeme can return them to the shed.  He prefers to make just the one trip so he waits for all 16 tubs to be empty or filled with non-Christmas items removed to make room for the decorations.  The dining room has ten tubs stacked up against the sideboard, there are four tubs in the living room and one still in the sewing room along with one empty tub that broke along the side and needs replacing.  So all in all the house is in utter chaos.

The ferrets hadn't been let out to roam around the house for a while because of the head cold I'd been suffering.  I just put them outside each day in their luxury cage under the apricot tree with promises of a run when I felt better.  I need to be at peak fitness and health to deal with two ferrets on the run around the house.  I felt better yesterday so I gritted my teeth, said a little prayer that the decorations would survive and I'd find two ferrets at the end of play time, and let them have a roam around the living room, dining room and kitchen.  It only lasted a few minutes sadly.  I think they sniffed too much tinsel or glitter or something because they got over excited almost immediately.   




An over excited ferret is not a pretty sight.  They come out dancing sideways with mouths open wide and all their little sharp teeth on view.  They challenge all comers and even go looking for someone to challenge.  The sight of a ferret in full battle mode with a bit of gold tinsel draped over his little face is a sight to see.  I'm sure Loki thought the tinsel just added to his tough guy image as he made little lunges at me, daring me to try and catch him.  I was trying to decorate around them while they were investigating the new and improved rooms.  You'd think this would be easy, after all they are just two tiny little ferrets and both white and easily seen so I could avoid them.  The problem with over excited ferrets is they move everywhere at top speed so seem to be everywhere at once.  
I wasn't interested in participating in ferret games, but it was easier to pick up the gauntlet and battle a little ferret for a few seconds so I could have some peace once he or she had won and gone looking for worthier opponents.  Once they'd left me in search of cats or large decorations needing to be toppled instead of being left in peace to keep decorating, I tripped over ferrets, dodged ferret teeth and ferret war dances, wrestled with ferrets for decorations I think they were going to stash behind the lounge or wall unit and rescued cats who usually cope well with ferrets who aren't over excited but find these frenzied ferrets another matter altogether.



The cats protested loudly and threatened to pack up their food dishes, beds and toys and seek asylum in the machinery shed where Tristan reported that mouse hunting was so much more fun that losing fights with ferrets, so it was time to gather up the ferrets and take them outside.  Trying to gather up two ferrets high on tinsel is fraught with problems.  Even though I said they seemed to be everywhere at once they have a sixth sense when it comes to being put outside.  Suddenly there were no ferrets to be seen.  An occasional pile of decorations would wobble or tinsel mounds would rustle but that was the only indication that a ferret was in the house.  They'd make guerilla style attacks on my ankles or a passing cat then dash back under cover of the tinsel and await their next opportunity.  




I managed to snatch Loki during one of these attack forays and he immediately changed from attack ferret to loving ferret who showered me with ferret kisses and tried to convince me it was another big white ferret who declared war on the household.  It seems a tinsel hight quickly wears off.   Pandora seemed to know she couldn't cover all the territory alone and came out with her paws up.  She too reverted to loving ferret as soon as I picked her up and both calmly accompanied me to the back door.  There was an incident when they spied a washing basket full of tinsel near the back door on top of their inside cage.  Their whiskers twitched and they both leaned over my arms looking longingly at the tinsel.  I gave in and let them bounce through the tinsel for a little while, making sure they didn't escape the basket.  The cats were just starting to calm down in the ferret free living room and I was keen to keep it that way.  The ferrets lacked victims in the basket and I refused their request to add a cat so they settled for mock wars with each other.  Thankfully no matter how excited they get Loki and Pandora never fight with each other.  They scuffled about for a while, disappearing under the tinsel and resurfacing with their mouths open and tinsel draped over their faces but no real bites or insults are exchanged.  It was two ferrets in seventh heaven.



After a short while watching these antics and grabbing escaping ferrets to return them to the basket, I picked them up and carried them outside where they spent their day in their cage dreaming of Christmas decorations and what they will now refer to as The Great Christmas War of 2015 for the rest of their lives.