Tuesday, December 28, 2021

It Must Be The Heat

The weather here is beginning to heat up with temperatures in the high 30's (Celsius for those overseas readers).  The Spring Rock menagerie always seems to go a bit loony as the days warm up.  This year has been no exception.

Venus cannot settle.  She is always on the wrong side of the door, no matter how many times she goes in or out the back door.  As her personal doorman, I just wish she'd make up her mind.  When she's outside, she is tending to stick close to Cleo.  Venus is absolutely besotted with Cleo, and Cleo finds it very embarrassing.  Recently, Venus has taken to bringing little love tokens to her favourite Saint Bernard.  The first one was a dead mouse, which Venus proudly brought up the porch steps and deposited between Cleo's front paws with a very smug expression on her face.  Venus has noticed that despite Cleo’s enormous size, she’s not much of a hunter and clearly needs Venus’ offering of tasty morsels.  I had the privilege of witnessing this gift being delivered.  Venus stood in front of Cleo and waited for the thank you she so obviously deserved.  Cleo, just looked at the mouse, then turned her head to look at me with a what-am-supposed-to-do-with-this look on her face.  I had no advice for her though.

Dead mice gifts to dogs I can cope with (even if Cleo can't), but Venus' next offering was for me and I had to have words with her about it.  When Venus catches something and brings it to the back porch, meowing that special meow cats have when they think they have been particularly clever, I always go and check in case whatever the victim is, it may be something that can be saved.  This time it was still alive, but it was a baby brown snake!  I was barefoot and without any means of scooping it up and removing it without danger to my person.  Venus was sitting next to it, away from the head end, and making sure it didn't escape.  Thankfully, Graeme was outside and was able to safely deal with the "gift".  Venus was disgusted that we didn't appreciate her present and has returned to showering love on the ever-reluctant Cleo.

Hedwig and Hermes have their own snake problems in summer.  The brown snakes find their cage irresistible - either because of their water trough, or to investigate mouse holes.  Hedwig and Hermes screech their, “IT'S-A-SNAKE!” screech and either Graeme or I go out to send the snake on its way.  The last snake to visit was made of sterner stuff than most.  I donned my gumboots, grabbed the snake deterrer and answered the galahs’ call for help.  I found a very large brown snake actually hunting the poor terrified birds.  It was climbing up the sloping branch the galahs use as a perch and road to the aviary floor, and the cage we keep in the aviary for bird transport emergencies, and attempting to reach the galahs who were flapping around inside the aviary in mad panic – they’d never actively been hunted by a snake before.  I banged the outside of the aviary with our snake deterrer (a large metal pole with a flattish end), but that just turned the snake’s attention to me rather than the tasty galahs.  He flattened his neck to threaten me, doing his best cobra impersonation, but I too am made of stern stuff and I continued to bang the outside of the cage.  Eventually the loud noise and vibrations gave the snake a headache and he left the aviary and hopefully vowed never to return.

There’s also been an interesting development in the chook yard.  George, who has just ended her longest ever broody session, has decided that she must have had two very large chickens hatch when she wasn’t looking.  George took to the nesting box about two months ago and sat firm well after the eggs I put under her should have hatched.  I checked her progress every day and George grumped that I was disturbing a very delicate process.  About two weeks after the eggs should have hatched, I removed them and gave George a short lecture on knowing when to give up.  George ignored my advice and continued to sit on her now empty nest for a few more days.  When she finally emerged, she found two very large chickens scratching around the chook yard.  To George it was obvious what had happened - two of her eggs had hatched while she wasn’t looking and the result was before her eyes, scratching around the yard in the care of Emu, our other Silky hen (who just happened to be the hen who actually hatched out those two chickens).

George is very proud of how quickly her chickens grew, but she’s treating them like newly hatched, baby chickens.  She is finding tasty treats for them and calls them over to eat them, she won’t let Cookie and Monster (the two chickens in question) out of her sight and fusses over them non-stop, clucking away in that special cluck mother hens use when talking to their chickens.  Cookie and Monster are a Faverolle, Hamburg cross, which means they will grow into quite large hens.  They are already taller than George, but she knows they are just overgrown babies and need her careful guidance to grow big and healthy.

George with her two World Record sized newly hatched chickens with Opportunity (the rooster)

Emu is fine with this.  I think she feels she has put enough effort into raising Cookie and Monster and is now entitled to a rest.  She has handed over full chicken raising responsibility to George, and is once again living the single, carefree life, without so much as a backward glance towards her chickens.

I’m not sure what Cookie and Monster think, but they aren’t knocking back the offer of tasty treats from the slightly deranged Silky with the over the top, fluffy fringe.  I think the two chickens are getting close to the age where mother hens send them out into the world on their own.  Cookie and Monster don't seem to need to know where Emu is any more and seem content (or resigned) to being stalked by George, but then they are being nagged into submission by the deranged Silky, so maybe they are just trying to keep a low profile so George doesn't put them in time out.

Emu enjoying the single life again.

Tuesday, October 05, 2021

The Vet Visit En-masse.

We took the puppies and Tristan to the vets' today.  Graeme is still reeling from the bill.  Late last week I noticed an ugly growth on Cleo's side.  It was nestled under her winter coat and I wasn't sure how long she'd had it, so felt the best course of action was a visit to the vet.  Aslan was overdue for his blood and urine tests.  He is supposed to be tested every twelve months, but with Covid making life difficult for everyone, I've let this slip for a while.  Aslan is the picture of health, so I wasn't worried.  Tristan, who is 19 next month, has recently been having seizures.  They have been spaced out over months, and he recovers reasonably quickly after an episode, but I worry.  Therefore, an appointment was made for all three members of the menagerie to visit the vet.  

The morning began with me following Aslan around the garden with a honey bucket in hand ready to catch his first dribbles of urine.  I thought it best to arrive at the vets’ with the sample, rather than have them try to get one once we arrived.  I knew from experience that while Aslan is all for socialising with all his fans at the vets’ he is rather shy when it comes to producing samples.  The last time we tried, a vet nurse and I walked Aslan all over the grounds, the vet nurse pointing out favourite toilet spots for other dogs to Aslan while I tried to get him thinking about flowing streams and waterfalls.  Aslan did not co-operate and I had to acquire a sample and bring it back to the vets’ at a later date. 

Aslan was not impressed to be accompanied on his early morning toilet break and kept stopping, looking at me as I dived for his nether regions with the little bucket, thinking better of it and moving to a new spot in my very large garden.  Each time he would give me a look that clearly said, "Can I have a little privacy here please?"   Eventually we manage to sync the sample collecting process with an actual sample production and I returned to the house triumphant, little bucket carried ahead of me like a trophy - it doesn't take a lot to make me happy.

The next hurdle to get over was getting the puppies into the car.  Tristan was remarkably easy to pop into the cat carrier.  I relied on stealth and a dozing cat's slower reflexes and picked Tristan up and popped him through the very large top opening of the carrier and job done.  The puppies were another matter.  While both are always eager to get into the car, neither possess the required athletic ability to actually jump up and in.  Cleo's system is to put her chin on the tail gate and give Graeme a sidelong look with a clear "A little help here would be appreciated." message attached.  It's a relatively simple matter for Graeme to then put Cleo's front paws on the tailgate (why she never thinks of this herself I don't know - the chin on the tailgate method so obviously doesn't work) and then lift her back end.  Aslan, who feels that even resting his chin on the tailgate is too much help for Graeme, stands away from the tailgate and looks at Graeme hopefully.  After many aborted attempts and a lot of harsh words about tubs of lard and how useless they are, Graeme calls for my help.  Aslan, realising the big guns have arrived, puts his front paws on the tailgate as soon as I pat it invitingly and then it’s no small matter of Graeme lifting the rest of Aslan’s bulk into the back of the car. 

Neither of the two vets who regularly deal with Aslan and his wonky joints was working yesterday, but our vet practice is blessed with many lovely, knowledgeable vets so I wasn't concerned.  With Covid rules in place, we arrived at the vets' car park and I rang the office to say we were here.  The receptionist asked what car we were in and I told her.  Graeme said I should just have mentioned the two big dogs whose heads were now sticking out from the back window.  While we waited, two young girls came over and asked if they could pat the dogs.  Cleo was already trying to introduce herself to these two new, potential friends before they even reached the car, and of course I said they were welcome to pat the puppies.  After following my instructions to let the puppies smell the back of their hands first (the universal way of a dog getting to know you), both girls dived right in and were soon as covered in Saint Bernard hair and drool as Graeme and I were - it's spring and they are shedding like there'll never be another winter.  The two new puppy fans stayed with us for quite a while, patting the puppies and asking questions.   

Two vets duly arrived to deal with our mass booking and while Clay concentrated on Aslan, Jen turned her attentions to Cleo.  Tristan made small, complaining noises from his cat carrier on the back seat and was promised attention as soon as the puppies were finished.  

 While Cleo was being treated in the car park, Clay took Aslan inside to take the blood sample and considering the time he was gone, allow all Aslan’s veterinary staff fan club to greet him and have a chat with the big fluffy fellow.  Clay also took the opportunity to weigh Aslan.  This takes great skill.  Aslan has never been in favour of revealing his true weight and usually approaches the scales in such a manner as to give whoever holds his lead a false sense of security, and then veers off at the last minute.  Last time he was weighed I tricked him into it, walking on the scales myself and quickly hopping off as Aslan followed.  He weighed in at 75kgs last time, and John, Aslan’s personal vet, said that that was an appropriate weight for such a large dog.  I’m afraid John would have been shocked at the tally yesterday, and doubt he would have risen to Aslan’s defence this time. 

When Clay returned with Aslan, he asked me if I had any idea how much he weighed.  I replied that no, I didn’t, but I was sure it would be an embarrassing number.  Clay nodded solemnly and told me Aslan broke the vet practice's record for fatness - he weighs 104kg!  Clay told me they have never had a dog reach triple figures before.  Apart from his tubbiness, Aslan is doing well.  The blood and urine tests were all clear, so he can keep taking his medication for his wonky joints.  Short, slow walks are now going to feature heavily in Aslan’s future.  We will be going on these short, slow walks until Aslan manages to shift a lot of that extra weight.  I am working on the premise that he should weigh around 75kg, so he is basically 30kg overweight.  He doesn't get much exercise because his hips and elbows are problematic, but Aslan does enjoy a walk when I take him.  I've been leaving him home because I can't walk as far as I want to with Aslan along, he just can't manage long walks, so from now on the walks will be for Aslan's benefit, not mine.  Cleo will just have to suck it up and accept her long walks around the farm are over for a while.

Cleo’s consultation revealed she has five hotspots on her neck and chest; most of them were hidden by her winter coat.  She also has a yeast infection in her ears, so antibiotics for the hot spots and drops for the ears.  The growth, which was the original reason we took this lot to the vets', is most likely just a cyst, an ugly red/black cyst, but not a problem.  When Cleo goes back for another ear swab to check the infection has cleared up Jen will check the growth again next week, to make sure it’s not growing.

Finally, it was Tristan’s turn.  Jen moved around to the side of the car, after asking all sorts of questions related to an elderly gentleman cat.  She was pleased with most of the answers I gave and worried that the seizures might be related to kidney or liver problems.  Tristan was taken into the surgery for blood and urine tests and a general physical.  I warned Jen that Tristan now feels that old age comes with privileges, one of which is he is entitled to be irascible, growling and sometimes even swiping at a well meaning victim.  Tristan gave Jan his most angelic look, implying it was all hurtful lies aimed at a defenceless old man.   Jen thanked me and told me she always liked to be warned beforehand. 

Tristan, determined to get even for being stuffed into a cat carrier and driven miles away from home, behaved like a perfect gentleman.  He won Jan over in a very short space of time and a friendship was born.  He even had blood tests without complaining (at home he growls if you so much as look like you are going to move him off his comfy heat pad), but because his bladder was tiny when Jen palpated it, she decided not to try and get a sample.  Jen gave him a thorough checking over and told me he was in remarkably good health for such an elderly cat.  Jen attributed this to my taking excellent care of him.  Tristan insists it’s all down to the, active, adventurous life he led in his younger day, which toughened him up, and his daily mushed egg in his later years which is the highlight of his sedentary day these days. 

I was given a very interesting little pack of pseudo kitty litter and told if, when the blood tests come back, they weren't good, I will need to lock Tristan in a room for a while with the litter box filled with this litter.  It is non-absorbent and I will be able to fill a pipette with Tristan’s urine, for quick delivery to the vets’.  I’m hoping the blood tests all come back with good news, for more than one reason.  I feel I have had far too much to do with my pets urine output over the last few days and would be happy not to have to revisit sample collections for a while.  Tristan now is also on some wonder medication for arthritis.  Jen says it is amazing stuff and really makes a difference to old joints.  She said it isn't available for humans yet sadly, although elderly owners of elderly pets have asked hopefully if it is safe for human consumption.  As I said earlier, Jen complimented me on getting Tristan to one month off 19 years old and still purring, and in such good condition.  Really I haven't done much - apart from getting him a heated pad for winter and preparing that mushed egg for him each day, it's all Tristan's doing.  I do call out the ages of very old cats when I come across one on the internet, and encourage Tristan to aim for that age - maybe it helps.  

So, all pets are now confirmed to be either in good health, or are being treated for whatever aliment yesterday’s marathon vet visit revealed.  I just hope Graeme survives the vet bill. 

Tristan enjoying his heat pad.

Sunday, August 22, 2021

Speedy Run Fast


Speedy Run Fast looking for her rooster

Speedy Run Fast came from the only egg Emu, my Chinese Silky hen, hatched earlier this year.  Her egg mother is a Faverolle and her father is one of three candidates (either of the two Hamburg roosters or Phoenix, my recently departed rooster).  Chinese Silkies seem to spend more time being broody, whether they have eggs to sit on or not, so they usually get to be mums while the Faverolles and Sussex girls, who tend to go broody only once a season, miss out.  I’d put six eggs under Emu and checked every day that she still had six eggs to incubate.  Three eggs disappeared during the incubation period – we have bearded dragons and blue tongue lizards on the farm, both of which I believe visit the chook yard and steal eggs (it’s that or I’m feeding a lot of freeloaders in the chook yard), and l the last two eggs didn’t hatch before Emu gave them up as a bad lot and concentrated her efforts on raising her one little chicken.

As the chicken grew and grew, Emu seemed very proud of her giant daughter, and took very good care of her, despite the fact that said daughter towered over her mother.  Speedy stuck close to mum and thrived.  When my grandson Elliott visited shortly after Speedy was born, I asked him what we should call the chicken.  I told him I thought it was a girl, but I could be wrong.  Elliott decided the chicken needed to be caught so he could have a good look at it (and a cuddle) to see what name suited it.  Elliott then proceeded to chase Speedy and Emu around the yard yelling, “I just want to hold you so I can think of a good name!”  Neither Emu nor Speedy felt this was a good enough reason to allow themselves to be caught and in the end Elliott decided that as she was that fast, Speedy Run Fast was the best name for her.  He also commented that if she slowed down as she grew up we could then call her Slow.  I am happy to report that Speedy still earns her name and doesn’t need to be renamed Slow.

Lately Speedy is turning into a personality.  I ask myself if I need another personality in the chook yard.  Heavens knows I already have a number of chooks with peculiar foibles, like the Faverolle hen who sits on her bottom with her feet out in front of her, and Bunny, the ancient Easter Egger hen who is the smallest in the yard but the boss of everyone, but, whether I need another personality or not, Speedy is definitely developing quirks.  She began to show an independent spirit a few months back when I thought I’d lost her one afternoon.  I searched everywhere and thought she must have managed to get out of the chook yard somehow and how was I going to tell Elliott Speedy was gone!?  It was about this time, when I was panicking, that I heard a soft clucking noise coming from way above my head.  I looked up and found Speedy sitting about 3 metres up in the pine tree, for all the world looking like she was trying to impersonate a parrot!  I had stern words with Speedy about the dangers of being so high up when her flying skills were practically non-existent, and how much safer she’d be if she slept with her mum and Aunty George.  Speedy ignored me and continued to sleep high up in the pine tree every night.  Some days she’d come down on the wrong side of the fence, but still in the chook yard thankfully.  She’d fuss and bother, trying to get back in with the Silkies, until I’d discover her and put her back. 

When Elliott visited next, I tattled on Speedy, telling him what a naughty chook Speedy was with her dangerous sleeping quarters.  Elliott marched right up to the chook yard, found Speedy mooching around the Silkies’ yard looking for tasty worms or whatever, and proceeded to wag his finger at her and tell her she was to stop sleeping in the tree and be a good hen.  Believe it or not, Speedy has never slept in the tree since!  I tell you Elliott has super powers.  Speedy decided that if the tree branch was off limits, the lintel at the top of the gatepost to the Silkies’ yard was her new, preferred sleeping location.  I was fine with this because there was no chance of her coming down outside the chook yard and into the wilds of the farm.  I told Elliott what a great job he’d done convincing Speedy to stop sleeping in the tree.  Elliott just gave a dignified little nod as if to say, “Well what did you expect?”  Peace reigned for a few weeks. 

Recently, Speedy has begun to lay eggs.  Shortly after this momentous occasion, she decided that she’d outgrown the Silkies and moved herself out to the main chook yard with the big girls, where she spends her days flirting with one of the Hamburg roosters.  She has a favourite, the smaller of the two boys, and she and the rooster spend their days at the far end of the chook yard together away from the general chook population.  I've pointed out to Speedy, that from her colouring and speckles, there's a 33% chance this rooster is her father and a 33% chance he's her uncle (the other 33% chance is she's Phoenix's daughter), but Speedy doesn't care.  Speedy believes it to be true love and turns a deaf ear to all I have to say about falling in love with close relatives.  I've decided that we'll just declare her to be Phoenix's daughter and any future matings between Speedy and the Hamburg rooster (I suppose I really should name the two boys) will be OK.

Speedy and her rooster

Speedy's other quirk causes me no end of end-of-the-day exercise.  Although she is now one of the big girls and lives in the big girls' yard, Speedy continues to prefer to sleep in her usual spot on the gatepost lintel between the Silkies’ yard and the main yard, where she moved to after the dreaded sleeping in the pine tree episode.  The problem is that to get to the top of the gatepost Speedy used to flap/climb onto the top of the nesting box and then flap/climb onto the gatepost.  On the big girls' side, there is no convenient box nearby for her to use as a starting point.  No matter how many awkward attempts she has at flapping and trying to get her very rotund body off the ground, Speedy can't manage to get to the top of the gate.  Now, when I put the chooks away each night, there is an added step before I can go inside for the night.  I gather the feathery population, do my headcount - it goes something like 3 (Sussex), 2 (Faverolle hens),1 (D’Artagnan), 2 (Hamburg roosters) ,4 (drakes), 1 Bunny (the Easter Egger) and 1 (Speedy), remembering to include that extra one count for Speedy, close the main chook yard gate, round Speedy up, and place her on top of the gatepost. 

Rounding Speedy up is not an easy job, despite the fact that I've been rounding her up each day for a while now, and gently putting her on the gatepost lintel, Speedy is sure that this time I'm up to no good and any wise chook would run for her life!  Elliott got it right when he named Speedy.  Despite her tubby appearance, she is very nimble on her feet.  When she runs for her life, she puts her all into it.  The other chooks and roosters realise that there is extreme danger nearby and set up crowing and squawking in sympathy with Speedy, but thankfully that’s as far as their support goes for the chook in deadly peril.  I'm just grateful that her friend the rooster doesn't have a gallant bone in his body, and stays right where he is, out of the danger zone.  Phoenix would have come charging to Speedy's defence, talons first and questions later, at the first squawk she made.

I eventually manage to catch her and gently lift her to her preferred sleeping spot.  Speedy then quiets down, but strangely, before she settles down she does a thorough inspection of the bar, making soft, concerned clucking sounds while the inspection takes place (to make sure I haven't laid any landmines I suppose).  Once she's assured herself that she is safe, Speedy finally settles down for the night.  Once that's accomplished, I can go inside for the night and swear I won't be so helpful the next time - I always am though.


Sunday, July 11, 2021

Vale Phoenix

Phoenix in his younger days

 My gorgeous rooster, Phoenix, died on Friday.  He was a very old rooster and had started slowing down dramatically over the past few weeks.  Phoenix appears to have died in his sleep peacefully after spending the night snuggled up to George (short for Georgina). Phoenix was the only rooster I’ve ever owned who came when I called him. I miss him dreadfully.

Phoenix came to live amongst the Spring Rock menagerie many years ago.  He was hand raised from an egg by my daughter in law's mother, Casey, and little sister, Ivy, and brother, Jasper.  Phoenix was always just a little bit to big for his boots.  When he was put out into Casey's back yard to live with the resident chooks and roosters, Phoenix saw his opportunity to be top dog (or top rooster I suppose it more apt).  He began lording it over the rest of the chooks and roosters and even turned on his human family, not allowing the children into the back yard to play.  Phoenix challenged everyone who tried to access his kingdom (the aforementioned back yard).  By and large, Phoenix managed to intimidate all comers, with the exception of my son Justin.  Justin had been raised with feisty roosters and knew the trick was to take no guff, firmly putting Phoenix in his place when challenged.  Ivy and Jasper tried to standing up the fluffy tyrant, but caved each time Phoenix ran in their direction.

The day finally came when the children wanted their yard back.  Phoenix had to go.  Despite his bad behaviour, Ivy and Jasper still loved Phoenix and wanted him to go to a good home.  The first name that came to mind when thinking of a good home for a badly behaved rooster was Rosemary.  I was asked if I could provide the good home and of course said yes.  Phoenix arrived in a cardboard box, with his loving family who were all eager to see where Phoenix was going to live.  Phoenix was let loose in the chook yard and immediately set about introducing himself to the ladies, without so much as a backward glance to say goodbye to those dedicated people who raised him.  Casey and the children could see Phoenix would be happy with his new harem and returned home, sad to say goodbye to Phoenix, but happy to have their back yard back.

The first time Graeme and I entered the chook yard after Phoenix's installation, Phoenix tried his domination tactics.  Graeme was the first to meet with the fluffy ball of outrage.  Phoenix came at Graeme talons first with order to leave his domain.  Graeme simply batted Phoenix away, using the flat top of his shoe to send Phoenix a short distance from his legs.  Phoenix found himself too far away from Graeme's shins to do any damage and charged back into the lists.  Once again, Graeme fended him off and Phoenix began to suspect he may have met his match.  I doubt Phoenix would have been surprised if he'd been told that Graeme was closely related to Justin, the only other human he couldn't terrify.  Then it was my turn when I came down to collect the eggs.  After one abject failure to cower the human male member of Spring Rock, Phoenix doubled his efforts to show the human female he was a force with which to be reckoned.  I used the same technique that Graeme had found so successful and Phoenix soon accepted the fact that our presence had to be tolerated in the chook yard.

One thing that Phoenix found in the chook yard that couldn’t be tolerated was Eros, our resident black rooster.  Shortly after Phoenix entered the chook yard, he decided that it would be a better world with less black roosters in it.  Phoenix decided that changes needed to be made and needed to be made now!  He immediately turned his attention to ridding the chook yard of the excess black rooster.  With this thought in mind, Phoenix immediately tried to put an end to Eros.  Eros was a rooster of peace and refused to fight back, but he 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 bachelor's quarters.  Eros once again reigned supreme in the chook yard and Phoenix, while not exactly enjoying living in the bachelor quarters was happy enough.  He was able to chat to the hens through the wire and even share his treats with them when I dished out the scraps each afternoon. 

Eros, our rooster of peace.

Life settled down in the chook yard, but I soon felt sorry for Phoenix living a solitary life.  I tried putting a couple of hens in with him so he had female company, but Phoenix suffered with a Jekyll and Hyde syndrome when living with hens.  Alone in his bachelor quarters, Phoenix was a gentle, affectionate rooster who enjoyed daily visits from me, where he sat on my lap and enjoyed wattle and comb rubs.  This would put him in a state of bliss and he always ran up to me with his little welcome dance before I lifted him onto my lap.  When living with even one hen, Phoenix reverted to the Mr Hyde part of his character and became aggressive towards any human who entered his yard.

Phoenix was doomed to live a solitary life, doing his best to entice the hens over to chat with him through the wire.  He pretended to find tasty treats and made little noises of encouragement to lure gullible hens over to the wire.  This worked for a while, but eventually the hens recognised a scam when they saw one and Phoenix only managed to rally the hens to his boundary when I arrived with scraps or treats.  Then he would generously share whatever bounty came his way.  Eventually I decided to let Phoenix out with the rest of the chooks each afternoon so he could socialise and forage.  At first Phoenix’s first stop was to bash up Eros, but after a few interventions by me, where Phoenix was immediately put back into the bachelor quarters, Phoenix learned to ignore Eros’ existence and focus on the hens.

Sadly, his “come and see what tasty morsel I’ve found” no longer worked with the girls, they’d been tricked once too often, so Phoenix had to find a new hen catching strategy.  He accomplished this by the simple expedient of finding a hen or two who had strayed from the flock and herding them to a remote part of the garden where they could all forage far away from any large black roosters that might exist somewhere else in the yard.  This strategy proved to be a full time job, because the hens naturally wanted to re-join the main flock, but Phoenix maintained vigilance and kept the girls he managed to corner with him for the whole afternoon.  This meant he got little else done, including romancing the girls, but Phoenix was happy.

When it was time to round everyone up to lock up for the night, I’d call Phoenix before the herding began.  Phoenix would come running towards me, do his little dance then wait for me to pick him up.  I needed to keep him with me because I’d found that during the chook muster, Phoenix would place himself at the gate to the chook yard and not allow Eros to enter.  Eros would arrive at the gate, see the obnoxious red fellow in residence and think of some task outside the chook yard he had yet to complete, wandering off to accomplish this very important (if imaginary) task.  With Phoenix comfortable nestled in my arms the rest of the feathery population would be easily persuaded to return to their yard.  Phoenix chivvied the slow ones from the comfort of my arms and once again, all chooks and ducks would be safely locked up for the night.  Phoenix would be returned to the bachelor quarters, and if I had time, would get his wattles and comb massaged while we chatted about our days.

 As winter approached this year, I began to worry about Phoenix being alone in the cold weather.  I tried swapping Phoenix and D’artagnan (our Faverolle rooster who came to live with us after Eros succumbed to old age), putting D’artagnan (another rooster of peace Phoenix usually bullied at every opportunity) in the bachelor quarters and Phoenix with the girls.  D’artagnan didn’t like this arrangement and nearly damaged himself trying to get back with his girls.  Phoenix, who miraculously had adjusted his attitude to excess roosters, was content to share the yard and sleeping quarters with D’artagnan, so peace reigned supreme in the chook yard during autumn and winter. 

As the days passed, I worried that Phoenix, while not objecting to D’artagnan’s existence any more, wasn’t completely happy with the new arrangement.  Having a young, virile rooster in your face in the twilight of your years couldn’t be wonderful.  I hardened my heart to the Shut Ins (George and Emu, my two Silkies who’d had more than enough of roosters and lived in a cloistered yard – yet another inclusion in the chook yard – rooster free) and installed Phoenix in there with them.  George, ever the gentle, quiet girl she is, allowed Phoenix to snuggle up to her on cold nights in the nesting box and thus Phoenix whiled away the last days of his life.  We continued our wattle and comb massaging sessions, right up until Phoenix final day.

Rounding up the hens each night is now a lonely occupation without Phoenix to help.  He brought a lot of happiness into my life as we sat together, me massaging his wattles and comb, Phoenix listening drowsily to my chatter about how beautiful he was.   Phoenix will be greatly missed for a long time to come.






Saturday, June 26, 2021

The Arrival Of The Header

The Arrival of the Header

There's not an animal in sight with this latest episode of happenings at Spring Rock.

Well!  It's been all fun and games here lately.  After the long wait for the header to get here, it arrived, wrapped in high drama.

Last year’s harvest was encumbered with many header breakdowns.  Graeme would just get back into the swing of things, harvest-wise, and something would break, crack or just plain refuse to work on the header.  It has served us well for many years, and the truth of the matter is, that the poor header is just old and well and truly entering its troublesome years.  With a good harvest behind us, the decision was made to find a newer, second hand header with all the special bits and pieces Graeme wanted.  It took some time to track down the perfect header, but once it was found and our header budget, drastically increased, Graeme agreed to buy it.  There was a long wait between the agreeing and the actual buying, all to do with the header’s present owner’s (who was trading it in on the latest model) wish to keep hold of it until he actually had his new header on his property – a very wise move that ensured he still had a header if something went wrong with the arrival of the new one arrived.

The day finally arrived and the header was available for us to buy.  Getting an invoice to pay for it from the dealers was surprisingly difficult; I suppose they were just busy trying to sell all their other trade-ins, but the invoice was finally emailed the day before the header was due to arrive here and we could now pay the invoice.  At least we thought we could.  First, on Monday the bank made paying for the header very difficult.  Poor Graeme had to make more than half a dozen calls, with each one timing out while the person on the other end went off to find the answers to Graeme’s problems.  When the bank app told Graeme that there hadn’t been any activity for a while, so it was shutting down the session, Graeme had to ring back each time, explain his problem all over again only to have that person put him on hold while he/she went to find the answer and of course, it timed out again.  Graeme, despite the obvious frustrations of this little exercise, managed to stay calm and polite to each person to whom he spoke, but I did think I saw a bit of steam coming out his ears.

Once that was finally sorted and the payment for the header was made all we had to do, was sit back and wait for the header to arrive on Tuesday.  Well, that didn’t go according to plan either.  Tuesday arrived bright and shiny, with blue skies and dry roadways (the importance of which will become clear later on).  The salesman rang to say the truck was having difficulties (unspecified) and hadn’t arrived at the dealership as yet.  This was around lunchtime and there wasn’t enough time left in the day for the truck to drive the long trek to get the header here during daylight, so they were rescheduling for Wednesday. 

Wednesday’s weather forecast was for rain, followed by more rain.  Our 2km roadway from farm’s our front gate to our machinery shed is not a pretty sight after a bit of rain after a lot of rain it’s even worse.  Navigating the sloshy bits and the deep puddle bits is not for the faint hearted.  The day started with 40mm of rain (which our crops greatly appreciated) and rain just kept on coming all morning, only varying between showering and pouring down.  The header left on its long trek at 9.30am and we crossed our fingers and hoped for the best.  Graeme advised the salesman not to bring the truck on to our lane, but to offload the header on the main road (tar) and drive it along the lane (dirt) and then on through our gate and ultimately to the machinery shed where a nice, new spot was waiting for the header to settle down until harvest. 

The salesman, who arrived with the header to teach Graeme how to use all the high tech stuff, and truck driver took this good advice and all looked hopeful for a successful delivery of one header.  That’s when the fun and high jinks began.  The salesman drove the header along the lane and, with a false sense of security, continued through the gateway and on to our farm roadway.  Having never before seen what Spring Rock laughingly calls a roadway, the salesman seems to have lost all confidence and decided not to follow the soggy tyre ruts but to straddle them and choose the ground less waterlogged – big mistake.  The higher parts of the roadway did not have a firm base, made from decades of cars and machinery compacting to ground, underneath.  The header slipped sideways and into the newly erected boundary fence. 

Graeme, who had driven our four-wheel drive out to meet the salesman (well really he drove out to greet the header, but we’ll say he went to meet the salesman), managed to bog our car a short distance along our roadway from the stuck header.  I wasn’t present for the discussions that took place with two stuck vehicles (can you call a header a vehicle?), but the upshot was that the salesman opted to forgo the header tutorial for another day, walk back up the lane to meet the truck there and drive back to his dealership, leaving Graeme with the stuck aforementioned vehicles to sort out.  The salesman did say he’d wait a few days to bring the header comb down here.  He had intended to bring it Thursday, but he wasn’t going to brave our roadway again until it had a chance to dry out a bit.

Graeme walked back to the house, collected me and the tractor and we drove out to free the car from its ignoble position, stuck deep in the mud.  I busied myself taking photos of the stuck header and the bogged four-wheel drive to share with Ethan, our farmer type grandchild.  With the tractor doing all the heavy work, and me behind the wheel just steering the car as the tractor pulled it out, the car was soon out of the bog and trying to look like the whole embarrassing incident never happened.  Graeme decided to drive the car back to the house (for which I was truly grateful), finish his interrupted lunch and have a well-earned cup of tea before tackling the header issue.

To remove the header, Graeme had to dismantle our new boundary fence and drive the header out through the opening, then put the fence back together.  The header wasn’t bogged, it just didn’t seem to want to do anything but snuggle up to the fence, no matter how many attempts were made to steer it in the other direction.  One silver lining to this whole dark cloud incident is that our neighbours decided to plant the paddock on the other side of this fence to crops this year.  He’s run stock in that paddock for a number of years now and if Graeme had to drop the fence with sheep or horses in there, the unsticking the header process could have been a lot more fraught.  Thankfully, the header behaved once Graeme was in the driver’s seat and it was a simple matter of driving it out of the problem area and onto the roadway.  All Graeme had to do then was put the fence back together, drive the header down to the machinery shed, get me to drive him back for the bike and then back again for the tractor and we could put this whole distasteful episode behind us.

The header is now ensconced in the machinery shed.  Hopefully it has now got all its bad behaviour out of its system and will now become a model member of the Spring Rock community who no longer wants to get up close and personal to fences.

Friday, May 28, 2021

Learning At The Paws of a Master


 Mum-Puss Keeping her one good eye out for any mice.

This story is from the archives, written in 2006.  Now, in 2021, the mouse plague in full swing on Spring Rock, with mice in the paddocks, mice in my garden, in the chook yard and aviary, mice in the house’s roof cavity, mice everywhere!  I was thinking that if Mum Puss had been alive today, she would have seen to it that the mouse plague ended a lot sooner.   


Mum-Puss doesn’t care that I’ve done my time at University, gained a First Class Honours Degree and gone on to a successful teaching career, even earning the promotion of Assistant Principal and beginning my PhD. before I was injured and medically retired.  She considers all those achievements as useless, cerebral stuff not worth the lifting of a furry eyebrow.  Nor has she shown respect for my years as a mother, raising three children who have all gone on to lead responsible, independent, and happy lives.  Mum-Puss argues that I’ve failed miserably in my parenting duties in one crucial area and she’s going to address this gap in my education even if it kills one of us!

For the past couple of months Mum-Puss, our one-eyed mother cat we acquired with the farm (or as Mum-Puss prefers to see it – bought her for a world record price paid for a cat and got the farm thrown in), has been gallantly fighting a losing battle to teach the dullest student she’s ever encountered to provide for herself and her family.  Who is this dullard - a new intellectually challenged kitten?  her seven-year-old, thick as a brick son, Lancelot?  No, it turns out that I am the dumbest student Mum-Puss has ever encountered! 

Mum-Puss is getting on in years now and realises if her new family of humans is to survive after she’s gone, there’s only one thing she can do to ensure our survival – teach the matriarch of the humans, that dolt Rosemary, to hunt and catch her own food.  Oh yes, Mum-Puss has heard rumours of my being a vegetarian, but she doesn’t believe that anything that’s grown as large as I have could possibly turn her nose up at a good, fresh mouse.

Mum-Puss began her lessons like all good teachers.  She arrived at the back door, meowing that special meow that cats use when boasting about a particularly good catch.  I went to the back door dreading what I’d find.  Mum-Puss sat at the bottom of the steps with her catch lying dead at her feet, looked steadily at me with her one bright eye (according to her previous owners, Mum-Puss went out one night with two eyes and returned the next day with just one), and suggested that I come and have a taste.  I, not unreasonably to my way of thinking, declined her generous offer, scooped the corpse up with a garden trowel, and deposited it in a shallow, anonymous grave in the herb garden.  Behind me, Mum-Puss gazed at my small, but respectful funeral service in disbelief, meowed once more, this time a “washing my hands of this imbecile” meow and stalked off with her tail in the air - the picture of an insulted benefactor.

All was quiet on the mouse front for a week or so.  Then, one afternoon while I was sewing away without a care in the world, I heard That Meow again, not the “washing my hands” meow - the “come out and share this wonderful treat I’ve caught just for you” meow.  I trudged to the back door and, sure enough, there sat my feline survival coach with another mouse at her feet and a look in her eye that dared me to even think about interring this fine specimen in my ever-growing mouse cemetery.  One look in that determined eye and I quailed.  I didn’t want a fight on my hands or to permanently loose Mum-Puss’ respect, so I took the coward’s way out.  “Puss, puss, puss!”  I called, aimed not at Mum-Puss but at Lancelot and Guinevere, her two kittens who have overstayed their welcome by more than seven years now (Mum Puss's opinion not mine - I love them).  Lancelot, who believes the only good mouse is a mouse inside his tummy, came hurtling down the yard, skidded around Mum-Puss, dodging a swat of her paw as he went, scooped up the defunct mouse and disappeared the way he came all in the blink of an eye.

Mum-Puss, Lancelot and Guinevere taking a break from mousing.

Mum-Puss just sat there looking at me with a sad, almost hopeless look on her face.  Here she just may have met her match, she was thinking.  Never in all her years of training kittens to be self sufficient had she come across one so thick!  True, she thought that Lancelot had been a challenge to teach the fine art of mousing; Lancelot isn’t the sharpest pencil in the box (Hell! let’s call a spade a spade – he’s the dumbest cat I’ve ever met).  He believes he can catch birds by forcing his way though glass, by continually throwing his body at it, and is surprised every time his head makes contact with a solid object.  You can’t get much dumber than that now, can you?  I could see Mum-Puss’s little brain working overtime.  She reviewed her teaching methods and decided that “hands on” was the next method to try.  She wasted no time in putting her new system into practice, returning the very next afternoon with a mouse still alive, but with all the fight taken out of it.  Mum-Puss sat in her usual teaching position, using the bottom step as her lectern, and gently batted the poor little furry offering in my direction.

My first reaction just caused Mum-Puss more anguish.  I screamed at the top of my lungs.  I don’t suppose I need to tell you that I’m not frightened of mice, rats or anything with less than eight legs, but the poor little mouse, still being alive startled me.  I took emotional refuge in yesterday’s successful manoeuvre and once again called the “kittens”.  Lancelot once again performed his “now you see me now you don’t, and you don’t see the mouse anymore either” act of yesterday and peace was restored to my world.  I couldn’t look Mum-Puss in the eye.  She left me in no doubt that I was the slowest, most troublesome student it had ever been her lot to educate, before once again stalking off, mumbling about the need for more funding for remedial classes for the hopelessly slow mouser students.

I returned to my sewing room with relief, hoping against hope that Mum-Puss would abandon all ideas of instructing me in the fine art of mouse catching.  As it turned out it was a futile hope.  Mum-Puss is clearly a never-say-die cat.  She’d taught litter after litter, including the utterly backward Lancelot, how to catch their daily meal just in case the humans forgot to feed them one day (as if they’d allow that to happen!) and if she could teach Lancelot to become a more than competent mouser, surely this poor excuse for a human huntress could be whipped into shape eventually.

With these admirable sentiments in mind Mum-Puss began an intensive teaching program by bringing a mouse to her brick lectern each day and calling me to class.  All these mice were alive to some extent or another.  I attended class each day dreading what I might find.  I couldn’t ignore her call for two reasons, one the mouse might be suffering and need Lancelot’s immediate attention, and two I still had to live with Mum-Puss in her non-teaching hours and I didn’t want to get well and truly on her wrong side.  It was bad enough that she thought me mentally deficient – I didn’t want her to think me insolent as well.  She just might remember that this is her house after all and kick me out.

I adopted two different tactics to deal with the mouse situation.  If it was relatively unhurt, I gently picked it up, examined it for wounds and let it go out in the paddock.  If it was too far-gone I called Lancelot.  You may have noticed that while I answered Mum-Puss’ call neither of her kittens came when they heard it.  This is because they knew that if they sabotaged Mum-Puss’ lesson by stealing her teaching aids she’d exact quick and painful revenge, but all bets were off once I’d invited them to class.  The first time I picked up the mouse Mum-Puss gave a little cheer of a meow, “Now we’re getting somewhere!” she thought.  “This is more like it.  I knew no-one could be that dumb and still walking around.”  When I set it free on the other side of the fence, Mum-Puss gasped with disbelief.  Who had ever heard of letting a nice juicy mouse being set free!?  Mum-Puss considered the appalling action she’d just witnessed and came to the conclusion that I hadn’t really meant to let it go.  Obviously I had taken it away from her to try my clumsy hand at catching it for myself and had stupidly put it over the fence with me on the wrong side.  Mum-Puss gave me points for trying and stepped up her teaching program.  She refused to give in.  She’d teach me to catch mice or die in the attempt.

Just when she was beginning to wonder if the second of these options was the more likely outcome of her quest to turn me into an efficient family provider, Billy the St. Bernard, came to live with us.  Mum-Puss’ bottom step lectern became a favourite haunt of this oversized dog and it was absolutely useless for her to try to teach from there anymore.  Sitting outside and calling me to class wasn’t going to work either, because Billy was only too happy to join the class and change the syllabus to teaching me how to catch cats instead.

Mum-Puss has now retired from the education profession.  She’s biding her time.  One day I’ll come to my senses and beg her to teach me to catch mice.  On that day she’ll generously agree on the condition that Billy goes – she doesn’t care where, just so long as he’s gone.  Then maybe, I’ll pay more attention to her instructions, do my homework and pass all my exams.  Until that time Mum-Puss is in retirement and can be found lying in front of the heater or in a warm sunny spot in the sewing room consoling herself that she’s only had one abject failure in her whole teaching career - and when you think about it that’s a pretty good achievement.


"The Kittens" Guinevere & Lancelot with Tristan thrown in because he was in this photo.  Tristan never met Mum Puss he arrived about a year after Mum Puss went to that big mouse hunting field in the sky.


Monday, April 19, 2021

An Update On Venus

Last time we met Venus she was settling in to domesticated life as a member of the Spring Rock menagerie.  She continues to enjoy the life of a domesticated cat, but the domestication is just a thin veneer I’m afraid.  I imagine there will always be a feral puss, lurking beneath the surface.

Venus is happy to while away some of her time in the house with us and chooses most nights to come inside late at night and sleep with Tristan, Ambrosia and Nefertiti in the bathroom; this is despite the fact that Nefertiti constantly puts Venus in her place by snagging whichever of the two beds she thinks Venus will prefer that night.  When Venus first moved into the house, The Gang of Three (Tristan, Ambrosia and Nefertiti) wouldn’t allow her to sleep on their very spacious, faux fur covered bed in the bathroom.  I made Venus a bed out of a purple furry throw and a pet mat so she had somewhere to sleep.  It’s much more Spartan than the plush bed The Gang of Three share because our bathroom just isn’t large enough for another fully padded bed, but it wasn’t long before Nefertiti had decided that if Venus was happy with the purple bed it must be better than her fur bed.  She soon moved in and wouldn’t let Venus on.  Nefertiti will allow Ambrosia to share the purple bed if she’s in a good mood, and divides her time between the large bed and the purple bed.  Tristan has risen above all this musical bed business, somewhat literally, and slept on the windowsill during the warmer weather – now that the nights are cooler he’s moved back to the fur bed and ignores anyone who tries to turf him off.  Venus, ever the pragmatist, sleeps on whichever bed is vacant or shares with Ambrosia if Nefertiti and Ambrosia decide to spend the night one on each bed.  Ambrosia isn’t exactly welcoming but she doesn’t actually hurl insults at Venus – Nefertiti, who looks like a sweet, gentle cat never loses an opportunity to use the worst cat language I’ve ever heard when face to face with poor Venus. 

On the nights Venus decides not to come inside, no matter how many times I call her, she ends up sleeping in the laundry with the puppies.  Cleo and Aslan are much more welcoming, if somewhat embarrassed about being good friends with a cat.  Venus particularly loves Cleo.  How this came about I’m not sure.  The first time Cleo and Venus met, Venus was still mostly feral and coming into season.  She lived on the front porch at this stage in a seething mass of annoyed hormones.  I was out there patting her and telling her of my long-term goals to have her friendly enough to become a domesticated cat and Venus was listening quietly and soaking up the pats.  Cleo came bounding around the side of the house, saw a new cat she hadn’t introduced herself to yet, and proceeded to do so.  Venus took one look at the huge nose approaching her and hauled back with her right paw, claws fully extended, and told Cleo she did not like dogs and she particularly didn’t like very large, drooly dogs as she took a swipe at Cleo’s nose.  Cleo backed down the steps as quickly as she could, backed down the path and around the side of the house, never taking her eyes off the new cat with the sharp paws.  

I thought that would be that as far as Venus and the dogs finding an amicable living arrangement, but after her visit to the vets’ Venus became a much more peace-loving cat.  We soon set off on our two-week trip to Central Australia, leaving Venus living on the front porch (complete with comfy bed and sufficient food to last a couple of months).  When we returned, Venus came to greet us and then headed off to rub herself along Cleo’s legs.  Cleo had a look of panic on her face and was definitely trying to tell us to please, please save her!  I got the idea that this wasn’t Venus’ first efforts to befriend Cleo so left her to make amends for her previous bad behaviour. 

Cleo has now settled in to a friendly relationship with Venus.  Venus was late turning up this morning.  She chose to sleep outside last night, and when she's out and about after we've gone to bed, she usually spends the night snuggled up against Cleo in the laundry.  Cleo is her dog.  This morning I went out to the back porch and called Venus, with no tortoiseshell cat appearing.  The second time I tried calling her Cleo pitched in to help.  She picked up her newest squeaky toy and, with tail wagging, went looking for Venus.  If Cleo finds Venus when I call for the cat, Cleo will bring Venus back to me - Cleo leading the way and Venus following.  Cleo didn't find Venus this morning and came back empty-handed and tail drooping, but with her squeaky toy still held firmly in her mouth.  I then turned to go inside again, beginning to worry where Venus was, when I found her, sitting on the kitchen floor on the other side of the screen door.  She was clearly wondering what puss, puss, puss I was calling.  Cleo came up to the door to say hello as well and Venus just assumed a superior air and walked away after rubbing noses with Cleo through the screen.

We struggled with Venus’ weight for months.  When I say we, I of course mean I have struggled – Venus is quite happy to be a very rotund cat.  Venus found free food too tempting to pass up, wherever it was and to whomever it belongs.  She’d sit at the bowl of cat food and just keep eating until I removed her and closed the door to stop her returning to the bowl.  She ate the dog food when she was outside, along with a variety of wildlife, despite the bell on her collar.  By the end of winter, Venus’ weight had ballooned up to alarming proportions.  

I can’t keep Venus inside as I do the other cats because Venus simply refuses to use the litter tray.  She’ll go to the toilet behind a chair or some other very private spot if I don’t let her out in time.  Her preference is the garden, but if she’s desperate, Venus will make her own arrangements inside.  Needless to say, this makes Graeme and me super aware of when Venus asks to go outside. 

Thankfully, when summer arrived, Venus put herself on a weight reduction diet.  I really wish I knew her secret!  She has gone from a grossly overweight feline to a very svelte young lady in the matter of a few months.  When one of our cats lost weight when I was a child, my Nana always said that the cat was eating lizards.  I don’t know if this is true or not, but I do hope Venus isn’t catching poor defenceless lizards in her quest for a better figure.  I have noticed as we move into autumn, that Venus is now beginning to put on a bit of weight again.  I have a dreadful feeling we’ll have a very fat winter cat and a trim and terrific summer cat as the years go on.

As I wrote earlier, Venus’ domestication is just a thin veneer.  When there is just Graeme and me at home, Venus’ behaviour is very much like the other three cats’ behaviour.  She’s a bit more standoffish than Tristan, Ambrosia and Nefertiti, but she’s happy to lie on her back with maximum tummy exposed to the air cooler or heater depending on the weather.  She occasionally honours me by settling in on my lap and going to sleep, but mostly she prefers to have her personal space respected.  Venus is always happy to receive a pat or scratch behind the ear from me though, and she adores Graeme – choosing to sit on his chair as soon as he vacates it and looking very offended when he puts her on the floor on his return.  Her feral nature comes to the fore whenever we have visitors.  If she is inside when they arrive, she shoots out the back door as soon as she can, looking terrified.  She then doesn’t reappear until she thinks the strangers are gone.  If she has miscalculated, and the visitors are still present Venus will keep a very low profile under the dining table or demand to be put outside again.  I’ve tried to explain that no-one will hurt her, but Venus just isn’t comfortable with anyone but Graeme and me.

On the one occasion she visited the vet, to be spayed, I had to stress and restress that, although Venus looked the picture of a gentle, calm cat, she was still basically a feral cat for anyone she doesn’t know.  Venus sat in her carrier looking very chilled out and insisting it was all a lie.  When I picked her up after her surgery, the vet nurse told me that Venus had remained a quiet, calm cat until they did something she didn’t like, like getting her out of the carrier or anything else they needed to do.  Then Venus showed her feral side with a vengeance and she soon lost all the friends she’d made by looking calm and beautiful in her carrier.  Thankfully, no mortal injuries were dealt, but Venus left everyone who came in contact with her in no doubt that she didn’t like them, didn’t like their surgery, and didn’t like humanity in general.

Venus continues to refuse to use the litter box, despite being a house cat for eighteen months now.  Because she has to be put outside when she indicates she wants out, she now blackmails us.  Her favourite way of telling us is to jump up amongst my very delicate ceramic owl collection and wander back and forth causing the owls to make little clinking sounds.  She is promptly told to, “Get down!” and does so begrudgingly, but is confident that either Graeme or I will now open the back door for her.  With her tail in the air, and a triumphant look on her face, Venus regally escorts us to the back door and leaves the house. 

One problem we have is that Venus is one of those cats that firmly believe that the other side of the door is the best place to be.  She no sooner goes out than she’s back at the door asking to come inside.  Once in it’s not long before she wants out again.  Her personal record was the day she came inside, did a U turn and went outside again before I’d even had a chance to close the door.  I feel that I spend my days as an unpaid doorman, opening and closing it multiple times a day just to allow one rather spoiled, ex-feral cat to come and go as she chooses.  Venus is happy to believe that this is just how it should be.

Now that the days are getting cooler, Venus is taking full advantage of her domestication and spending more time inside.  She is happy to nab Tristan’s heated bed before our elderly gentleman can get there first.  Venus settles down with her back to the room and does her best it ignore Tristan’s affronted look.  While Tristan is usually happy to share his bed with Ambrosia or Nefertiti, Venus is built on a much larger scale and takes up the entire bed.  The fact that she stretches out to her full length to expose as much of her as she can to the warmth, doesn’t help at all.  I intervene and put Venus on a quilt or the furry bed at the top of their scratching post and with a resigned sigh, Venus settles down to the second best spot in the lounge room.  Tristan makes a show of hurt feelings and not wanting to sleep on the bed now, but the warmth soon calls to his old bones and he settles happily on the bed to sleep the day away.

The cool nights are also working on the bond between the Gang of Three and Venus.  Snuggling up to the larger cat at night is much more comfortable than letting Venus have the whole fur bed to herself.  Venus is more than happy to mend fences and welcome any of the Gang of Three who wants to snuggle and conserve warmth.