Friday, December 07, 2018

George Is A Mother

I know when you look closely at the photo above you'll want to point out the major differences between George and her baby.  Shhh!  We aren't going to mention it to either George or Aunty Brown, her co-mother.

If you haven't been keeping up with events at Spring Rock or have forgotten who George is, you can read about her early months of life and her camping adventures here.

When Aunty Brown, our aged Chinese Silky became broody yet again I took pity on her and placed some of Isis' duck eggs under her.  Isis isn't showing any signs of being brood, and even when she does, I have plenty of eligible eggs to put under her too.  Aunty Brown has had so many broody times with no fertile eggs under her, that I felt sorry for her and decided she deserved at least one go at motherhood.  She and the other Silkies live in a male free part of the chook yard.  The two Silky roosters, now confined to the aviary because of bad behaviour only managed to upset the Silkies and had them hiding under the nesting boxes  to get away from them.  So with no fertile Silky eggs, and to tell the truth, not wanting any more roosters causing strife in my life (and roosters nearly always do) I decided duck eggs were the way to go.  All three drakes live in harmony with Isis.  There is one dominant drake, Adonis, the lucky fellow developed the neck ring decoration and became top drake, while the other two boys are happy as the beta drakes. I'm hoping any more drakes to come along will also be able to fit in happily.  Time will tell. 

Aunty Brown protected the eggs from all comers for the first few days and was then joined by George (who is only into her second or third broody session).  The two shared the egg incubation duties and day after day sat in companionable silence working away at growing babies.  The fact that I'm sure they thought they were growing little, fluffy chickens may come back to bite us all, but at the moment the little and fluffy boxes have been ticked and the  babies are too little to turn their thoughts to swimming.  

Once the first egg hatched Aunty Brown pulled the age and experience card and became very bossy.  True, she only had broody experience and not mothering experience to wave under George's beak, but she won the day and took control of the duckling.  The next day a little black duckling joined the family and Aunty Brown scooped that one in too, leaving George with the as yet unhatched eggs, with no promise that she wouldn't take possession of any fluffy creatures emerging from those.  George didn't feel compensated and sat quietly weaving her plans.  She came up with her cunning plan yesterday, and frankly I had no faith at all in it working.  She sat as close as she could to Aunty Brown with her wing held out ready to give shelter to one or both of her babies - and it worked!  George scooped in a duckling. When I went down to feed everyone this afternoon, after two days of offering that wing as a fluffy baby shelter she snagged a duckling.  It's very hot outside so I'm surprised her baby enticing strategy worked but the photo above shows her success.  

Aunty Brown is showing that broody experience and age do not necessarily add up to good mothering techniques.  She had her little yellow "chicken" out on the ground while she browsed this morning's sunflower seed offerings.  The duckling stuck close and I was admiring Aunty Brown enjoying motherhood.  Then, as I was about to leave the chook yard I noticed Aunty Brown had returned to the nesting box.  I wondered how the duckling had got back in as it is a fair height off the ground (something I'm going to have to address tomorrow obviously).  I lifted Aunty Brown, no duckling.  I lifted George, just the little black duckling.  I looked around the Silky yard, no yellow ball of fluff.  Then I saw it, outside the Silky pen, introducing itself to D'Artagnon, the big Faverolle rooster.  He was looking down at the yellow ball of fluff and trying to figure out exactly what it was.  I'm sure the duckling thought it had found Dad.  

After a short but spirited chase around the chook yard I managed to get hold of the duckling and return it to Aunty Brown.  Aunty Brown looked at it rather vaguely, remembered she had had a little fluffy companion and surely there was some latent instinct trying to get through that suggested she keep the fluffball close?  So she tucked the duckling under her chest and tried to look like it had always been with her and she hadn't had to be reminded of her motherly duties. 

George just tsked quietly, making comments about old age and forgetfulness under her breath, and knew she'd do better when she took her baby for its first outing.

Wednesday, December 05, 2018

Tristan At The Vets'

We have become regular visitors at our vets' lately.  What with Aslan's regular visits to touch base with his fans (and undergo a few medical procedures while he's there - but we all know that's not his main reason for visiting the vets') and now Tristan has made his way to the surgery to have a rather large lump under his chin investigated.

Needless to say I was a bundle of worry when I discovered the lump on Saturday a week ago.  I then had to wait until Thursday to take Tristan to the vets' because rain was on the way and Graeme had to get the wheat harvested before the rain spoiled the wheat.  I spent each and every day with Tristan on my lap delicately feeling the lump from time to time and trying to diagnose the problem myself.  With no medical training, but lots of experience with sick and injured animals, I got nowhere fast and my brain kept cycling back to cancer.  I reviewed other possibilities of course but my beloved ginger fellow is 15 years old and cancer kept coming to my thoughts.  Since Tristan has achieved old age he goes outside less and less and hadn't been outside for about a week.  I couldn't see how he could develop an abscess without the help of one of the many feral cats who travel through our farm.

Thursday arrived and Tristan was manhandled into a new, roomy, soft sided cat carrier with a soft towel for him to snuggle into.  Manhandling (or womanhanding is the more correct term - Graeme is never keen on putting cats or ferrets into carriers) was necessary because Tristan is decidedly anti-cat carrier - even new, roomier and softer cat carriers.  Once he was in Tristan didn't take things lying down.  He complained bitterly when first placed in the car and, when loud protests got him nowhere, he decided pathetic little mews would be more effective.  He was right.  His little pleas to be freed from this terrifying place tugged at my heartstrings.  So much so that when we finally arrived at the vets' I opened the top zip and put my hand in to offer comfort.  Tristan saw his chance and shot out of the top of the carrier.  I deftly caught him (years of experience with caged pets has made my reaction time rather speedy) and sat him on my lap rather than undergo the sure to be embarrassing attempts to return him to the carrier. 

Tristan was happy, or at least happier, to sit on my lap and ignore these new, decidedly sinister smelling surroundings.  He actually managed a purr and won the heart of the receptionist by snuggling down on my lap and enjoying pats, back rubs and ear scratches.  Tristan was in a mellow mood by the time the vet came to fetch us.  He politely rubbed his head against Clayton's hand and a firm friendship was building nicely.

Clayton agreed that at 15 cancer was on the cards so it was a relief when Tristan proved to have a temperature.  I've never been so happy to have a pet run a temperature before.  I told Tristan this was good news, but his mellow mood had soured as soon as the thermometer was inserted.  A few scruffs and pats later and Tristan forgave the indignity only to find that a sharp needle had been stuck into his already uncomfortable lump.  When Clayton withdrew pus both Clayton and I celebrated - Tristan not so much.  An abscess was diagnosed and after a goodbye to Tristan and a warning to Clayton that if Tristan presented his gorgeous white tummy for a rub to leave it alone - it's a trap! Tristan left with Clayton bound for surgery. 

My next round of worries centred  on a 15 year old, slightly overweight ginger fellow undergoing general anaesthetic.  I've seen enough vet shows to know how often things don't turn out well for older cats and dogs.  I tried to think positive thoughts but I'm very good at worrying - it's almost my superpower - so my thoughts kept coming back to my darling cat and his surgery.  After what felt like days of waiting (but was actually just a few hours) to hear from Clayton, I finally received the phone call to say all was well and the abscess had been much larger that it appeared (and it appeared to be huge from the outside of Tristan so it must have bee really large).  Tristan was now ready to pick up and take home for further nursing, pampering and wound care.

I picked Tristan up and was run through the very little I needed to do for him.  He had a rubber tube,  threaded through two hold in the abscess area tied in a knot.  All I needed to do was clean the area with a water soaked cotton wool ball when needed, otherwise Tristan was good to go.  Clayton told me I could either remove the rubber drain myself or bring him back to the surgery.  I assured him I was well versed in removing drains, stitches and grass seeds and even lambs from pets and livestock and with a last pat for Tristan Clayton said goodbye.

Tristan has been a model patient.  He was confined to the bathroom on Clayton's advice because of the messiness of his drain, but after a full day as a prisoner amongst the tiles Tristan was stir crazy.  I made a bed for him out of soft rags on his favourite part of the lounge and Tristan settled in and barely moved for three days.  Strangely, on his third day of his recuperation Tristan removed under the Christmas tree.  I wasn't sure what he was up to back there, but with all the presents under the tree and the fact that the branches reach quite low to the floor I couldn't find him.  I found this hard to believe.  As I have said, Tristan is a rather large orange cat, finding him should have been easy amongst red wrapping, cream carpet and green tree branches, but Tristan achieved invisibility and spent the whole day in there.  The novelty wore off though and he returned to his rag bed the next day. 

I took the drain out yesterday morning and Tristan is now keen to get as many scratches on the healing wound as possible.  I know from experience how itchy healing wounds can be so I supply as many scratches and rubs as he wants, it keeps me busy, I can tell you.  He still loves his rag bed and it looks like being a fixture among my decor for a while to come.

This morning Tristan decided that he'd like to venture outside and reacquaint himself with nature.  He indicated this desire by heading me off as I walked towards the lounge room.  Once he had my attention he walked to the front door, sat down and gave me that significant look he gives when he wants to be on the other side of any particular door.  I opened the door and Tristan moved to the threshold, stopped, looked to the right and the left and decided that was enough nature for today.  He then turned around walked to the lounge room and planted himself on his rag bed.  Maybe tomorrow he'll actually put a paw outside.  If not, that's fine.  I'd rather he became a full time inside cat where he's safe from all the dangers of the great outdoors.
Tristan on his rag bed.  I've just noticed he's stolen a Christmas pillow to make his bed more comfortable.

Saturday, October 13, 2018

Aslan At The Vets' Part II

We started Thursday here with taking Aslan to the vets' for some blood tests.  With Aslan's wonky elbows our vet visit rate has increased.  Aslan needed blood and urine tests to make sure the medication he's taking isn't adversely effecting his liver or kidneys.  I booked him on for Thursday and I'm sure the excitement level at the vets' increased drastically.  

It took Aslan and me a fair bit of time to actually get to the surgery's door from our car.  As we walked up to the entrance a mother and two young girls stopped in their tracks and started telling each other how gorgeous Aslan was.  The girls were waving their hands and looked eager to get to know Aslan so we walked over and the girls and the mum just fell on Aslan with hugs and pats and lots and lots of telling him how cute he was.  Aslan knows how to work a crowd and lapped it all up while shedding a bit of fur and drool in their general direction.  I warned them about the drool but they didn't seem to care.  At this time of year Aslan shares copious amounts of drool and fur with whoever gets close enough to be on the receiving end.  That little family said goodbye and headed for their car.  That's when I realised there had been a queue.  Another woman and her husband filled the gap left by the family and the love-fest started all over again.  Aslan continued to lap up all the attention, going out of his way to charm all these strangers.

We finally got
 through the door and the vet nurse looked up and yelled Aslan!  Two other vet nurses came out and greeted Aslan in the same way.  Aslan smiled and offered himself up for pats and about half the room full of people, along with their little dogs, came over to have a pat and ask how much he weighed, how much did he eat and all those sorts of personal questions Aslan would rather avoid.  He accepted all pats and compliments as I managed to sit down and get him to sit down.  Some of those who hadn't come over to meet him still had questions so I was fielding all these and patting Aslan while we waited.  A nurse came out and said she'd take Aslan through for the blood tests and so all the vets and other staff out the back could have their turn with lavishing the big fluffy fellow with love and praise.  Aslan was reluctant to go with the nurse at first, I'm sure he wasn't ready to leave his adoring fan club, but just as I was about to ask if she wanted me to come along too, the nurse told Aslan he a beautiful boy.  Aslan recognised another fan and went with her without a backward glance.  

As soon as the door was closed I nearly burst out laughing because all I could hear through the door was, "Aslan's here!  Aslan you get more gorgeous every time you visit!  I want to pat Aslan!"  This from a group of adults who deal with pets all the time.  Aslan was gone for a while and I have a feeling it was more so he could socialise with everyone than that it took that long to get some blood from him.  While I was waiting a woman and her Bouvier dog came out of one of the examination rooms.  The dog came straight over to me to sniff at my fur covered jeans.  The woman apologised and told her dog some people didn't like that sort of thing.  I told her I was fine and her dog was just finding out about my dog.  She then told me  she used to breed Great Danes and all about the dog with her named Colby, and her previous Bouvier.  I told her my dog was in for blood tests because he's on medication for wonky elbows.  She said, yes that frequently happened to old dogs.  I told her my dog was three.  We chatted some more and then Aslan came back into the waiting room towing the vet nurse behind.  My new acquaintance stepped back and said, "He's gorgeous.  What breed is he?"  I told her Saint Bernard and she gave him a pat, telling him how gorgeous he was.  Aslan thanked her politely while I notices how expertly she avoided his drool, as one should expect from a Great Dane breeder.

We had to say good-bye to her because the nurse needed to get a urine sample from Aslan.  We took Aslan out to all the smelly areas that usually encourage dogs to leave their own calling card but Aslan wouldn't co-operate.  He was interested in the smells but had no urge to leave his own.  The vet nurse was telling me about Aslan's time out in the treatment area and all the old friends who came over to say hello.  She then told me Aslan had walked between her legs at one stage and she'd gone for a little ride while trying not to put her weight on him. Aslan was just too big for her to just step over him, so she was worried about the outcome of her ride for a second or two, but it all worked out OK.  Aslan wagged his tail, obviously remembering happy times with this vet nurse.  In the end I was given a specimen jar and asked to follow Aslan around with a bucket first thing in the morning and bring hs urine sample in next time we were in Wagga.  We headed back to the surgery so I could pay the bill and Aslan was thrilled to see our neighbour Aileen walk up.  He made a beeline for her to say hello and tell her about his morning.  Aileen ended up fur covered, but managed to avoid most of the drool.

We came inside together with Aslan obviously knowing Aileen and making sure he got his full quota of pats from her.  A woman came up and said to Aileen, "That dog must be at least twice as big as you!"  Aileen told her that was about right.  Aslan ignored the slur on his physique and continued to show Aileen how much he loved her.
He then set about making more new friends who'd come in while he was checking out the smells in the garden.  

We had one tense moment when a little terrier type wanted to investigate this huge dog.  As I've said before, Aslan is very uncertain about little dogs.  The owner of this small example was keen for him to meet Aslan so she put her hand down near Aslan's face (he was resting on the floor at this time, and called her dog over.  The terrier came over and pressed his nose to Aslan's before Aslan could plan an escape.  The little dog then stood back to see what Aslan did next.  Aslan stood up and moved closer to my leg.  The little dog's owner tried again to encourage a meeting between the two but Aslan had had enough and tried to hide behind my leg.   I explained to the owner that Aslan just can't cope with dogs smaller than Kelpie size.  It was now my turn to pay my bill.  Aslan said a cheery goodbye to his new fan club, including a small dog he was brave enough to touch noses with.  We said goodbye and after catching up with Aileen's husband, Gordon, who had been chatting with Graeme all this time we finally headed home.

Aslan was happy to get in the car, most likely because he wanted to go home and tell Cleo what a wonderful place the vets' is.

Wednesday, October 03, 2018

Chook Wrangling

I thought you might like to read about my normal afternoon tending to the chooks' and ducks' needs.  I can't have the chooks out all the time because Cleo tends to use them as pillows if she catches one.  She doesn't seem to mean them any harm, but that huge head resting among the soft feathers isn't a good thing for the poor hen.  Cleo has a look of bliss on her face at these times while the poor fluffy pillow looks decidedly frantic.  If there is an escape from the chook pen while the dogs are out and about and Cleo manages to find a chook pillow I have to give that chook a bath.  I returned a hen to the chook yard one time and the rest of the chooks ended up killing her.  The stupid things didn't recognise her as one of the mob, they concentrated on the foreign scent and acted accordingly.  They don't see a shampoo smelling hen as a threat thankfully and the bathed chook is welcomed to the fold once again.  I'm sure she has exciting stories to tell the rest of the gang when she is returned.

So, here's what it takes to give the chooks a chance to browse around the garden.  Around 2.30 in the afternoon I lock the dogs in the laundry so I can let the chooks out.  It sounds simple doesn't it, especially when you realise the dogs are nearly always in the laundry to begin with.  If only it was that easy.  I'm sure that as soon as 2.30 rolls around Cleo begins listening carefully for my footsteps approaching the back door because she usually meets me at the laundry door, or worse still on the porch so that she can lodge her regular complaint that just because she was sleeping in the laundry before I turned up that doesn't mean that she necessarily wants to be in the laundry.  Cleo backs this protest up with passive resistance, and let me tell you when a Saint Bernard passively resists you know you have little hope of winning the tussle.  If I make a grab for Cleo's collar she simply drops to the ground and rolls onto her back.  I then have the choice of either pulling her into the laundry (my back doesn't appreciate this option) or waiting for her to get tired of passively resisting and sit back up to see why I'm not playing the game.  The trick is to grab her by the collar while she's upright, but make sure she's grabbed by the collar under her chin.  For some reason, and I'm happy with whatever reason she has, Cleo won't drop to the ground if my hand is on her collar under her chin, she declares a fair win on my part and comes quietly.  Trouble is I'm slowing down and half the time when I make the grab for the right bit of collar Cleo drops to the ground before my hand makes contact with her, right part or not and I have to wait for her to get up and laugh at me before I can have another try.  Aslan, bless him is still lying down in the laundry trying to ignore Cleo's antics and distance himself from any slurs I may make on overgrown dogs who don't behave.

OK, so eventually I manage to get Cleo into the laundry, close the door and find I've left the chook scraps sitting on the washing machine.  The number of times I do this each week makes me worry about my brain.  You'd think after years of leaving the darned thing on the washing machine I'd learn to leave it outside the laundry door somewhere.  Well, I don't.  I am getting better - I used to leave it on the washing machine every time.  Now one out of three times I remember to put it down before I tussle with Cleo.

After squeezing through the smallest door crack and pushing Cleo back into the laundry as I enter I retrieve the scrap bucket, closing the door quickly before Cleo gets a chance to escape.  I then have to sweep all traces of dry dog food off the porch or I'll have all the French hens and their rooster up on the porch grazing on the little pellets.  I've been met at the back door on a number of occasions by a feathery lady wondering if there are any pellets on my side of the door, and could she just come in and have a quick browse just in case?  With no dog food to encourage them up the stairs (it's all on the pathway at the bottom where I sweep it) the girls are usually happy to have a quick look, make certain there are no other treats on the porch and then go back to scratching around in the garden.

Scrap container in hand I head for the galahs and Silky roosters in the aviary.  The roosters are back in almost solitary confinement because they were making  a great nuisance of themselves with the French hens.  They had already worn out their welcome with the Silky hens and the two smaller breed hens who now won't come out of their safe house yard, even though the two Silky roosters are no longer a threat.  I dish out some of the vegetable scraps to both galahs and roosters along with some grass weeds I cut before my visit to the aviary.  If Hedwig is feeling hormonal I have to keep an eye on her.  She is not at all grateful for my offerings and if she's nest making, or nest destroying she is likely to land on my shoulder and nip whatever fleshy part she can reach.   If she's not hormonal she loves me to pieces and I'm her favourite human.  It''s a Russian Roulette situation every time I go into the aviary.

Galahs and roosters fed I then move on to the chook pen and let the five Faverolle hens, Serena the Sussex hen and D'Artagnan, the Faverolle rooster and the four ducks out for a forage around the garden.  They head for whatever tender plant I'm trying to keep safe at the time with the exception of one little French girl who knows the Silkies and Phoenix are about the get treats.  She follows me around reminding me that she too likes treats, but turns her nose (beak?) up at whatever I offer her.  It seems she has overly optimistic hopes of what I keep in the scrap bucket.  Phoenix usually tries to convince her that he has the best treats ever seen by a chook and if she comes closer he'll share.  Strangely she rarely takes him up on his offer so he turns to the shut ins as I call the Silkies, Aunty Brown, George, Emu and Henrietta - the Hamburg and Bunny - the Easter Egger.  They are usually more than happy to relieve Phoenix of any treats he may care to pass through the chicken wire that separates them.

Right!  Still with me?  I collect the eggs and do an egg hunt for wherever Isis, the mother duck has hidden her egg this time.  I'm a bit worried at the moment  it's been five days since I've found a duck egg.  There aren't that many hiding places in the chook yard and I'm wondering if she's holding the egg in until she's out and about in the afternoon and is laying them somewhere in the garden.  She's keeping schtum and refusing to discuss her egg laying habits with an egg thief.

After all this I can come inside until around 5 o'clock when it's time to round them up.  D'Artagnan and four of his French girls (they don't have names like the others because they are impossible to tell apart) usually stick together wherever they are in the yard.  One French girl, most likely the one that comes back in looking for treats in the chook yard, is never with the group and Serena goes her own way too.  She's easy to spot being a huge white Sussex and resigns herself to going back into the yard.  She usually takes a very circuitous route to the yard, but eventually gets herself there.  The French lot aren't so well behaved.

D'Artagnan and the girls spread out and head in five different directions.  I've taken to keeping a long stick handy to direct them towards the yard.  This takes some time unless Graeme is around to help, in which case the whole getting the chooks in is over and done with in a matter of minutes.  Sadly the farm work gets in the way of him helping me wrangle the chooks.  Eventually five of my six French chooks and Serena are in the yard.  Whew!  Now comes the difficult part.  I have to close the gate or they will simply walk out and scatter while I'm getting the lone French girl and the four ducks into the general area of the chook yard gate. 

I then circumnavigate the entire acre of yard calling either, "Chook, chook, chook," or "Duck, Duck, Duck,"  whichever takes my fancy on the day.  I usually find the French girl easily and escort her individually to the chook yard.  Opening the gate for her to enter is a slick process.  I have to keep her close enough that I don't have to leave the gate area (the others will simply walk out if I get too far from the gate) and her inclination is to see the gate is closed, shake her head  and say she tried, but what could I expect? and then head off on another foraging expedition.  Once she's finally in I then have to find the ducks.  Nature has been very kind to Australian Call ducks.  They are a nice buff grey or in Isis' case buff brown that blends in with most of my garden.  They are also small enough that if they sit down amongst the plants they just disappear. 

It was so much easier when Christmas was alive.  He was a huge black and while drake and couldn't hide if his life depended on it.  I just had to locate Christmas and I had all the ducks located.  I do have one secret weapon though.  The ducks can't keep quiet.  When they hear me calling they invariably answer and my job is done.  They come quietly (except for the quacks and mutterings) and head for the chook yard as soon as they know they've been spotted.  They always answer me, except for yesterday.  I did three circuits of the yard, calling, "Duck, Duck, Duck," with mounting panic.  I checked out dam outside our house yard in case they'd got through the fence somewhere and finally came back to the chook pen to rethink my search.  That was when one of the drakes broke rank and stood up.   About ten metres from the chook yard gate!  They'd sat there the whole time watching me go round and round the yard and managed to resist the temptation of answering me.  I told them a thing or two about their sense of humour and got them into the chook yard. 

I have a feeling that the drake who stood up and revealed their hiding place wasn't that popular with the rest of the ducks last night.

Sunday, August 12, 2018

A Tale of Love, Lust and Violence

It seems Spring has arrived early at Spring Rock.  One not so young man's fancy has definitely turned to love.  The problem is this middle aged man is Phoenix my beautiful red rooster.  For those of you who don't remember Phoenix he is a gorgeous boy who was hand raised by my daughter in law Savannah's mum and little brother and sister.  Once Phoenix hit puberty he became a problem.  He challenged anyone he thought he could bully when they came outside and he found he could bully everyone.  Phoenix intended to be head rooster and claim all the chooks for himself - he's not a sharer.

Phoenix surveying his kingdom

It was decided that Phoenix needed a good home and the best home for deranged pets was obviously here with me.  Phoenix arrived in a box held gently by two loving children who were sad to see him go, but wanted access to their outside toys and yard again.  Phoenix decided he liked the upgrade in girls (most of our hens were full size Isa Browns at that time while Silkies abounded at his old home) and immediately tried to put Graeme and me in our places.  Trouble was we refused to move down the totem pole and install Phoenix at the top so Phoenix turned his attentions to our old black rooster, Eros.  It soon became apparent that Eros was a lover not a fighter and Phoenix thought his spot  as top rooster was assured, all he needed to do was rid the world of Eros, who the chooks made clear they preferred.  Eros ended up wedged in between the laying box and shelter wall on a few occasions while Phoenix attacked from the rear.  I decided drastic action needed to be taken.

Before Phoenix could put his world domination plans into practice I asked Graeme to build a yard within the chook yard to house Phoenix.  He was installed in this yard as soon as it was finished and eventually settled down and became the gentle soul I came to love.  He decided that if he couldn't have a feathered harem he'd content himself with a harem of one very large featherless hen (me).  Each day he'd do his special rooster dance for me before I picked him up and sat him on my knee.  He'd sit there and discuss his day until I discovered he loved having his comb and wattles stroked.  Phoenix would go into a state of bliss and thus our days passed quietly.  I was able to let him out each day with the rest of the chooks for a scratch and peck around the back yard.  The only problem arose when lock up time came.  If Phoenix got into the chook yard first he'd stand at the gate and allow the hens in, but not Eros.  I overcame this problem very simply.  When it came time to lock everyone up again I'd call Phoenix who would come running.  I'd then pick him up and we'd round up the chooks and ducks and once everyone was in the chook yard, I'd install Phoenix in his private quarters. Peace reigned supreme.

Sadly, Eros eventually succumbed to old age and died.  I allowed Phoenix to join the girls once more.  I'm sad to say this went to his head and he once again attacked anyone who came near his girls, myself included!   I have the scars on my legs to prove it.  Phoenix was once again confined to the bachelor quarters, but although he still enjoys comb and wattle rubs, he's never settled down to the point where I can let him out with the rest of the chooks.

Eventually I bought five Faverolle pullets and a Faverolle cockerel.  The girls were far too similar in markings to be given individual names so they became known as The French Girls.   The cockerel was named d'Artagnan.  d'Artagnan grew into a gentle, friendly rooster and basically ignored The French Girls until recently.  What happened recently? 

           Faverolle rooster very similar to d'Artangan

The Faverolle chooks have started to lay at last.  I bought them before Christmas last year and 20 weeks is supposed to be the age when chooks begin laying.  My French Girls just refused to begin laying, enjoying their childhood to the full extent.  Graeme wasn't impressed when we had to buy layer pellets for the girls and a dozen eggs for ourselves, once the three Silkies finally took a holiday from egg production.  I looked Faverolles up on the internet and found that the girls are supposed to be good winter layers.  These girls obviously hadn't read the article, or were waiting for the cold to truly set in.  Now that they are into egg laying production I've discovered they lay pinkish coloured eggs which look quite pretty.  

The French Girls in their younger, pre-egg laying days

Phoenix, continues to live by himself in the bachelor quarters - or he should live in the bachelor's quarters.  He is regularly getting out somehow and settling in amongst the newly fertile girls.  Poor old d'Artagnan is no match for the feisty Phoenix.  

I am constantly catching Phoenix and putting him back in the bachelor quarters where he simply begins plotting his next escape, while trying to chat up the girls through the wire with his sexy rooster dance. Sadly the girls all flock to watch this performance and heap clucking compliments on the dancer. This only encourages Phoenix to escape once more so he can show the girls the true beauty of his dance without the ugly wire to distract them or hinder him.

Last night I discovered him with the girls once again. I put him back in the bachelor quarters once more and I felt very mean indeed. He was snuggled in amongst the girls, ready for a good night's sleep so he could get ready to bash up d'Artagnan in the morning. d'Artagnan had found himself a lonely roosting spot some distance from the cosy scene. Phoenix looked so warm and cuddly, but I picked him up and put him back in solitary confinement anyway. I learned my lesson a few weeks back when I thought he looked too warm and comfortable to move for the night. At a very cold day break Phoenix got stuck into poor d'Artagnan and a rescue party had to be quickly put together to save the gentle French fellow. I was out there amongst the frost in my pyjamas and dressing gown shivering away as I caught the recalcitrant Phoenix and put him back where he belonged.

Phoenix is a gentle soul himself when he doesn't have a harem to look after. He's an absolute devil when he's got one or more hens to boost his ego.

Wednesday, May 23, 2018

Aslan At The Vets'

Aslan has been spending some time at the vets' practice lately.  Aslan has bad hips and elbows I'm afraid.  After yesterday's comprehensive X-ray session it can be said, according to his vet, that Aslan has perfect knees,  but the rest?  Not so much.  Initially, Aslan was placed on a combined painkiller and anti-inflammatory medication that made a great difference in his tin soldier, stiff-legged gait.  He responded well and is now moving more like a living dog than a robot and is up and about and generally enjoying life more.  Yesterday's X-rays were to see if there is anything surgical that might help Aslan's situation.  I am hovering between hope that there is and fear of the cost if there is.   Aslan will have to travel to Canberra (a three and a half hour drive from here) to visit an animal orthopaedic specialist for arthroscopic surgery.  We are now awaiting the specialist's opinion of Aslan's X-rays,

A few things have come to light during the recent vet visits.  The first being Aslan's true weight.  Before the recent vet visits I was estimating his weight at around 65kgs, then after our attempt to get him to stand on the scales a few weeks back he was estimated at 75kgs - estimated because Aslan doesn't like the feel of the rubber mat on his delicate toes.  Yesterday he figured out if he sat on the scales it reduced the ratio of rubber/toe contact point and we got an accurate reading of 78kgs.  Aslan doesn't want to talk about it.  He always said no good could come of that rubber covered contraption and really when it comes down to it, there's just more of him to love.  I checked with our vet anyway and he said Aslan isn't overweight, he's just a very big dog.  Aslan heaved a sigh of relief at the verdict and may even get on scales again if required.  He's not promising anything mind you, but he just might.

The other discovery I made yesterday was that Aslan is very nervous around little dogs.  To say he was scared of little dogs is most likely a bit severe.  The last three visits to the vet have revealed that our vet has a lot of little dogs as patients.   Most of these dogs had owners who wanted to meet and talk and/or pat Aslan and while he was more than fine with meeting and being patted by the humans Aslan didn't want the little fluffy creatures anywhere near him.  If they yapped at him, as many did, our ever laid back Aslan dropped to the floor and tried to look invisible while staying as close to my legs as possible, but Aslan thought it was much worse if the little dog was friendly.  As the small fluff ball (they were nearly all of the fluffy small dog variety) approached on the end of its lead Aslan would sidle closer to either Graeme or me for protection. If the little dog kept coming, tail wagging and a friendly look on its face, Aslan would go into a severe panic for Aslan that is.  Severe panic Aslan style is to raise his eyebrows and look around for help.  Most owners by this time got the hint and handed their little dog over to someone else and approached Aslan alone.  At this Aslan perked up and accepted all pats and compliments while ignoring the poor little dog who just wanted to be friends.

It's only little dogs that bring about the timorous side of Aslan.  He was fine with anything Kelpie size or larger.  He didn't meet many Kelpie size or larger dogs but those he did Aslan was happy to touch noses and generally pass the time of day with.  While navigating the small dog shoals Aslan did his best to ignore such thoughtless comments as to how much he ate, the amount of drool generated, the size of his paws and other ill-considered personal observations by his new adoring crowd.  He simply rose above those comments and demonstrated the irrelevance of them by looking gorgeous and relying on me to mop up the drool before more comments were passed.

Aslan's visits to the vets' were reminiscent of Billy's visits long ago.  When I rang to make the first appointment after a two-year gap I told the receptionist my name and that I needed an appointment for Aslan.  "I remember Aslan!" she exclaimed and proceeded to tell me how beautiful she thought him.  When we arrived for our appointment a different receptionist was at the desk.  She looked up, saw Aslan preceding me and said, "They told me Aslan was coming in today!"  After sorting out his appointment and incidental information she then said she was off to tell everyone he was here.  Aslan just soaked up to attention while trying to ignore the miniature poodle growling at him across the waiting room.  After the consultation, which took place outside so the vet could see Aslan move, I returned to the surgery to pay the bill while Graeme and Aslan waited outside.  One of the receptionists who had been lavishing attention on Aslan while he waited his turn to see the vet looked up from her computer and asked if she could help me.  I told her I had left Aslan outside and had come to pay the bill, but before I got it all out, she said, "Oh Aslan, of course.  He's such a gorgeous boy."  I realised that while she'd been patting and loving Aslan she hadn't looked up once to see who was attached to his lead - which really is just how it should be.  There's no way either Graeme or I could compete with the awesomeness of Aslan.

After spending the entire day at the vets' yesterday Aslan was well and truly ready to come home.  He missed his Cleo and didn't like living in a cage.  It was the largest cage the vets had but still, there was little wiggle room for a St Bernard.  Aslan was still groggy but determined to get into the car.  He forgot he can't do that unassisted even when totally in charge of all his faculties.  He approached the car enthusiastically (well, enthusiastically for Aslan) and after a couple of aborted attempts to get his front legs on the tailgate he plopped his head down on it and swiveled his eyes towards Graeme, inviting him to do the rest of the work.  Aslan arrived home to be greeted by a worried Cleo.  She'd missed him too.  He gave her a perfunctory nose bop and tail wag then retired to his bed in the laundry.

This morning he is feeling much better and ready to face the world once again.  All he needs is his morning cheese (with tablets hidden inside where he can't spit them out) and he'll be good to go.

Tuesday, April 03, 2018

Showering With Friends

Recent bathroom renovations have caused me to look back over the years at the fun and games the old bathroom endured and more or less survived.  The old bathroom was installed when the house was built in the 1960's.  The floor had little square tiles in shades of brown and cream, the walls were pink Lamipanel (that by the time we moved in had lost the top polished surface and were now a porous pale pink and difficult to clean.  The bath was a pink cast iron model that had suffered in the past and had one huge repair in off white waterproof putty or some such material and a newer (around the 1980's possibly) missing chunk where the iron had gracefully rusted.  This bath thought was big and deep and a joy to lie back and relax in a bubble bath whenever our tanks had sufficient water for me not to feel guilty about using all that water.  The real joy of this bathroom was a tiny shower with a brick high step over into it, a 2 metre high Lamipanelled wall with a wooden shelf like top on it and a shower curtain.  The old bathroom had no toilet - that was in the laundry attached to the outside of the house.  The new bathroom has no bath but it does have an inside toilet.

I have had occasion to write about the ordeals related to my personal hygiene activities before.  I've mentioned showering with a duck (on purpose but reluctantly), almost getting a bath with Billy (definitely not on purpose and very reluctantly!).  I have also showered with ferrets unintentionally - they just muscled in on my shower one day by walking through the shower curtain and passed rude comments about my weight while paddling around in the water on the shower floor.  I've also written about the trials and tribulations of using our laundry toilet especially during the early hours of the morning. This was mostly due to Billy's presence in the laundry and his determination to become one with the toilet pedestal.  Back before the new bathroom showering once again became fraught with potential bodily harm - my body of course, the menagerie behave very circumspectly around Graeme at all times and wouldn't dream of intruding on his daily personal hygiene rituals.  

When they were kittens Ambrosia and Nefertiti were much like toddlers - they wouldn't let me out of their sight and followed me everywhere I went to see what new and exciting activity on which I was about to embark.  In their efforts to keep tabs on me at that time in their lives Ambrosia and Nefertiti both wandered into the shower at various times.  That's the disadvantage of a shower curtain compared to a glass screen.  Nefertiti visited just once, found the falling water decidedly not to her taste and remained on the outside of the shower curtain ever after.  Ambrosia, on the other hand, visited a few times passing the time of day with me while batting at the falling water before deciding that nothing exciting was going on in there.  She's not adverse to a bit of water to play with but in her opinion I took up far too much of the shower recess to allow for free access to the water, so she stopped visiting - much to my delight.

Back when we still had the old bathroom Ambrosia rediscovered where I disappear to each morning and decided to join the party.  First she'd peek behind the shower curtain to make sure it was me in there and not Graeme.  This despite either following me in to the bathroom or seeing me enter the bathroom if she was already in there. I don't know if Graeme had words with her on the subject of disturbing his shower, or she just preferred to visit with me alone, but when she reassured herself that it was me in there, she would spring up onto the shower wall and sit looking at me for a little while.  While she considered the sight of me naked and dripping wet I began to worry - not because I have body image issues, but because I value my skin in one piece.  All enjoyment of the shower disappeared and I had to  stay sharp and keep a wary eye on the Bengal above my head.  If Ambrosia jumped up there before I had washed my hair I was in real danger of getting soap in my eyes as I tried to lather up and keep an eye on her at the same time. 

Photo of Ambrosia visiting (taken after I’d finished my shower and dressed)

Then she'd get the brilliant idea that now would be a good time to ask for a pat or a tummy rub.  She indicated her readiness by flipping over on the timber wall top and attempting to display the tummy area needing attention. I was always quick to comply so that her contortions were kept to a minimum, trying to get the pat in before she actually flipped on her back because you may remember that Ambrosia has a terrible sense of balance (actually she has no sense of balance to speak of at all) so my showers became a very exciting activity fraught with all sorts of painful possibilities.  When Ambrosia flipped on her back on a narrow surface she invariably ended up on the floor with a confused look on her face.  Sometimes she ended up on the floor on the outside of the shower wall and sometimes she ended up in the shower with me.  I would pin myself against the opposite wall, withthe taps wedged against my spine, in an attempt to avoid the claws - sometimes I was successful, sometimes not.  The fact that my naked body stood between Ambrosia's fall and the floor was always painfully obvious to me - an anxiety I could have done without.  

Ambrosia didn't seem to mind my wet hands - as I've said before she doesn't mind water at all.   Ambrosia, as you can see in the photo, teetered on the edge of the wooden ledge and didn't consider her balance challenged nature while she performed all sorts of contortions in an effort to receive a pat or two while I was otherwise occupied.  Heaven help me if I ignored her and she felt obligated to try harder!  I'm just lucky that the man who built this house felt the need for a very wide top to the shower wall.  I doubt he had shower visiting cats in mind when he chose that bit of timber for the top, but I blessed him every morning.

I wasn't  comfortable excluding her from the bathroom while I was in there.  Her plaintive cries on the outside of the door I could have endured but the litter tray has always lived in the bathroom and Ambrosia wouldn't have been above finding somewhere else to use instead if she was denied access, even if it was just to get even for closing the door on her.  So it was, and still is, access all areas, or at least access the bathroom for Ambrosia at all times.  The new shower has a very good glass shower screen all the way around with no convenient ledge for a Bengal to sit.  When the new bathroom was finished and I took my first cat free shower Ambrosia accompanied me into the bathroom as usual.  When she discovered there was no space for a cat to sit, recline or otherwise occupy while watching her mum shower from a great height, she gave me the look that is reserved for someone who has bitterly disappointed you.  

Well, I'm off to have my shower now.  Ambrosia will still follow me in as she always does, but these days she spreads out on the bath mat in front of the shower door and chats to me, most probably sadly remembering the good old days when she felt more personally involved with my daily ablutions.  She complains when I open the door and step out because she either has to move from her comfortable spot or get dripped on.  Usually she just shuffles to the side of the mat and allows me a small amount of shower mat to stand on.  I think she's still miffed that her shower ledge wasn't incorporated into our new, modern bathroom.

I will managed to enjoy my shower none the less.