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. 

Friday, March 16, 2018


Last June we dispersed our White Suffolk stud.  It broke my heart but my back injury has meant that as it has worsened over the years I've been able to help less and less with sheep work.  Graeme couldn't manage them alone and finding time for lambing and sheep work as well as cropping, all single handed, something had to go.  I'm sure no-one who has kept up with my life here on Spring Rock will be surprised when I say that I miss the sheep dreadfully.  A farm without livestock just isn't a real farm.  Looking out over the empty paddocks makes me long for the days when sheep roamed at large, most minding their own business and getting on with the job of stud lamb production.  I thought I'd reminisce for a few posts and revisit stories I wrote way back in 2008.  I'll just cut and past them every so often so you can read them at your leisure.  The first one will tell all my new readers about the art of running a sheep stud.

From 16th December 2008
How To Run A Sheep Stud For Fun And Profit

OK.  Got your Akubra hat and your Blunnie boots on?  Right then, here is the Rosemary Small Concise Course in Operating a Sheep Stud For Fun & Profit.
 First you go out and buy an exorbitantly priced ram who catches your eye and says, "I'm the best one here.  Ignore all those zero's at the end of my price tag and take me home with you.  I promise to work hard, prove myself as a good sire and then, just when it will cause the most trouble drop dead in the paddock."  Of course you don't hear the last part of the sentence because you are so wrapped up in his wonderfulness that it’s temporarily affected your hearing.  So you take a deep breath, write the cheque and travel the hundreds of miles back to the farm where you carefully unload your newest addition to the stud and watch him tear across the paddock and introduce himself to the other rams, none of whom seem to be at all impressed with his wonderfulness.  You may wince a few times as you watch a significant portion of the farm budget getting butted from one end of the paddock to the other, but you know that short of installing him in Justin's room, The New Boy has to make peace with the old crowd and learn to survive out in the paddock where he will meet snakes, plague and pestilence on an almost daily basis.
 So, you have your top grade ram.  You settle him in for at least six weeks.  Apparently rams feel the stress of their job even before they've done their job (if you are following me here) and he must spend a minimum of six weeks after his road trip from his home of origin to your farm, contemplating the task ahead and zoning out as only a sheep can.  During this hiatus you sit at home worrying about all the nasties out there that can reduce your costly investment to dog food in the matter of days, and plan to spend all the money his lambs are going to bring in, providing the former doesn't happen of course.
 Then the big day arrives!  You have spent days or even weeks working out just which lucky ewes are going to be introduced to The New Boy and which lesser ladies are going to run with the other rams who have been slightly superseded by the new boy.  It's not that these rams are necessarily of any lesser quality that The New Boy, they most probably are just as good and cost just as much as he did in their day.  It's that he's THE NEW BOY and he promises to add a certain something to your stud that you haven't had before.  If you think that is a bit vague, you're darned right it is.  The New Boy is like all your dreams come true and the pot at the end of the rainbow all wrapped up in one woolly package.
 You muster the rams and run them into the sheep yards.  Once the whole mob is confined to this relatively small space they start flexing their muscles and playfully start butting one another.  It's as if they know that only a chosen few are going to make the grade and get the coveted raddle harness, and they want to be the ones.  The boys are run through a race where you must quickly and correctly identify the rams you are using for mating this year as they come hurtling towards you down the race.  With a deft flick of the drafting gates to the left or the right the rams are separated into those that didn't make the cut and those that did.  The unlucky ones needn't feel too bad.  They are destined to be sold for flock rams and will have their day (or six weeks per year to be exact) on someone else's farm with someone else's ewes.
 The holding pen is now full of the darlings of the stud.  There they stand looking smug and winking at one another while you stand back and admire the supreme masculineness of them all.  It is now time to get very personal.  Their testicles must be checked for size and to ensure they are not damaged in any way.  Failure to pass the squeeze test means that ram will not even have a chance to join the also rans as a flock ram.  Thankfully all your A Team passes the test, even if their eyes bulged temporarily during the examination.  It is now time to put the raddle harness on each boy.
 A raddle harness consists of various lengths of webbing lead, joined together with metal rings and clips that go around the ram’s front legs and under his chest to do up over his withers (the shoulder blades for want of a better term).  Once the raddle is in place the metal crayon holder should sit squarely in the middle of his chest.  All to frequently the crayon holder doesn’t!  It’s either way under his belly or up behind his left ear.  This means that you are going to have to undo all those clips and re-position the harness around a ram who feels that he’d be happier somewhere else and refuses to co-operate. 
 The ensuing harness fitting begins to take on aspects of an all in wrestling match, but finally it’s in place.  The crayon is a large rectangular piece of blue wax that is clipped in place and will rub off on the ewe’s back end to show that she has mated with the ram.  The ease with which you attach the raddle depends on a number of outside influences.  These can include some or all of the following; the heat of the day, the attitude of the ram, the proximity of the waiting ewes, whether or not you have to be somewhere else in a few hours time, the look on the Kelpies face as it sits outside the race thinking of better things. 
 In short if you have all the time in the world to get those rams into those harnesses you will accomplish the job in no time at all.  If, on the other hand, you have a very small window of time in which to get the boys dressed and out into the mating paddocks it could take all day.  Once the harnesses are in place and each boy is sprayed with a small amount of sheep branding paint (to identify who’s who from a distance - you'll see why later in this lesson) The chosen boys are put aside in the shearing shed while unlucky candidates for the job are returned to their paddock. 
It’s now time to get the girls in.   This usually entails quite a bit of work in getting them all to put in an appearance in the sheep yards.  Invariably, just as you think you've rounded up the entire ewe population, you'll notice one solitary lady off in the distance grazing quietly without a care in the world.  After the third or fourth time this happens it's not unheard of to toy with the idea of letting her stay barren this year, but a nagging little voice in your head (yes, by this time you are definitely hearing voices) keeps saying, "What if she's your best ewe - the one predestined to mate with The New Boy and produce a pair of the best ram lambs the industry has ever seen?"  So you once again head off and round her up with the rest of the mob, only to find that she is the one you were toying with culling earlier in the year.
 Oh well, after only a few stress-filled hours you now have all the girls together and heading for the sheep yards.  This is where you are reminded of something that has slipped your mind.   A mob of ewes has the combined IQ of a jellyfish, and not one of your brighter, up and coming jellyfishes either.  While they have travelled the path to the sheep yards innumerable times they can't seem to remember how to get there.  Those in the lead believe that it's over there to the left and head off that way accordingly.  As you rev up the bike and try to head them off because the sheep yards are actually to the right, where they have always been, the girls at the back decided to do a U turn and see if it's back near where they came from.  This to-ing and fro-ing goes on until the ewes are finally manoeuvred into the yards, or you give up and go and check what price farms are fetching in your area these days.
 Once the girls are in the yards they need to be drafted according to the colour that has been sprayed on the top of their heads a few days previously.  Remember the colour on the rams' heads?  Now you can see what that was for. The ewes and ram are colour co-ordinated to ensure that everyone goes with the right group.  The fun begins here because you have five different mating groups and a three way race.  This entails double handling of a few of the groups but once that is finally sorted the rams are put in with the ewes of your choice and escorted to their nuptial paddocks looking somewhat like a group of punk rockers out for a walk in the park, and that should be that.  In a well regulated world you would go out into the paddocks in six weeks time to find every ewe with the tell tale blue streak on her rear end and a satisfied look on the rams' faces.
 But this is anything but a well regulated world.  It is quite common for the ewes to object to your choice of mate for them.  It's not that they have anything specific against the male in their paddock; he's quite cute in many ways, but the ram over in the other paddock!!!  Wow!  Now there is a ram to get any ewe’s heart a-flutter!  The star-crossed ewe tends to spend her time up against the fence, ignoring the blandishments and downright propositioning of the ram in her paddock, while she lusts after the forbidden fruit in the much greener paddock a few paddocks away.  Strangely enough it’s more likely to be The New Boy who doesn’t appeal to his harem – ewes obviously don’t appreciate quality when they see it.  With any luck the ram of your choice will manage to convince her that she really has no other option and she too will wear the blue streak like a badge of honour.
Once the six weeks (or seven, or eight or nine weeks, depending on how busy you are with other things) is over, all the mobs are brought into the yards again.  The rams are undressed, removed from the girls and put back in the bachelor quarters with all the other rams.  And about time too, think the ewes.  They are all (hopefully) in lamb and have better things to think about than the compliments and longing looks of a ram who has served his purpose and should have the decency to leave them alone now. 
 The rams have definitely served their purpose, and will now rather impatiently wait for next year to roll around so they can do it all again.  In the mean time they will eat, drink and be merry with the other bachelors and once again endure the daily perils mentioned above.  But this time you don't worry about them quite so much.  Not even about The New Boy.  You are too busy planning for all the lambs that are going to arrive in five months time and start sorting your worries into categories including foxes, drought, cold snaps and heavy rains, all of which will seriously deplete your lambing percentages.
 Ahh lambing... but that is another lesson entirely.

Monday, February 19, 2018

Unwelcome Visitors

Summer is well and truly making its presence felt here at Spring Rock.  We've had quite a few days over 40 degrees Celsius and the menagerie, with the exception of Cleo and Aslan, are looking forward to Autumn.  Why would two Saint Bernards not be looking forward to cooler weather you ask?  During the hot weather Cleo and Aslan are allowed inside (don't get  me wrong, I'd have them inside all day every day, but the menagerie has to make deals with Graeme remember) to lie on the kitchen floor and soak up the air cooler, or in Cleo's case the cool of the refrigerator.  Cleo lies in a very unladylike manner on her back with all four legs spread wide, waving in the breeze, to allow maximum tummyage for the air from the cooler duct while cosying up to the refrigerator to soak up the cool of the metal.  This makes getting cool drinks, milk for our tea or any other item stored in the refrigerator almost impossible to access.  This does not further the puppies' chances of being allowed in on cooler days.  

Navigating a kitchen full of Saint Bernards is a feat worthy of the Olympics.  One has to first get through the baby gate array set up across the opening between the kitchen and dining room where a wall was removed way back in history.  The array consists of three interlocked wooden gates tucked between the ferret cage and the little bit of wall left over on the right and the refrigerator and the other bit of wall on the left.  Half the problem with getting through this gate is Cleo's ungainly position against the refrigerator.  Those waving legs mentioned earlier often get tangled in the spaces between the poles of the gate.  First you have to untangle those legs, only to find that when you've removed one and are concentrating on the other, the first leg returns to its original position, meaning the unfortunate untangler has to start from scratch.  Once this never ending task is completed (if Graeme is involved many loud, unpleasant words accompany the task) the gate is slid along the floor to remove the end near the refrigerator - easy, but then you have to get through the gateway that is full of Cleo.  Asking her politely to move gets you no-where, growling at her gets you a worried tail wag and a bit of a wiggle.   Sadly this wiggle doesn't remove her body from the gate way opening.  Usually it takes sliding her along the tiled floor with your foot until there is enough room to get through the gateway.

Finally our intrepid homeowner is in the kitchen, and if he or she doesn't snag any contents needed from the refrigerator while Cleo is getting her bearings, and before she returns to her favourite spot while he or she boils the water or gets drinking glasses out or whatever, it serves he or she right!  Now is no time to congratulate yourself on a successful mission. 

Once in the kitchen proper you still have Aslan to navigate.  While Aslan assumes a much more compact shape while soaking up the cool, his total mass is a force to be reckoned with.  Aslan lies on his tummy resting on his bib laid along his paws - the picture of a well behaved Saint Bernard (Cleo's bib is useless because she usually manages to flip it over her shoulder and wear it like a Superman cape).  It pays to remember that while Aslan doesn't like to move he also likes to please.  He's watched the battle with Cleo and is determined not to cause trouble.  He knows he is in the kitchen under sufferance and wants to be sure he's invited back.  

As you approach Aslan you have one of two choices.  Abandon the whole drinks/snacks program and return to whatever you were doing or step over his bulk.  Graeme doesn't have the same disadvantage as I do and he'd be surprised to know that there are times, after the Cleo/gateway battle that I lose heart and consider abandoning my refreshment plans when I'm faced with Aslan in repose.  This is because the ever helpful Aslan is sometimes inclined to stand up and get out of my way just as I'm stepping over him.   I ban barely straddle Aslan at the best of times but on a shiny floor with slippers on I'm in serious danger of bare back riding a Saint Bernard!  If the worst happens and I end up straddling Aslan and trying to keep my balance Aslan, ever helpful, will try to get out of my way.  This often results in me trying to grab hold of any object secure enough to support my weight while I try to untangle myself from the big dog.  Let me just say grabbing such things and door and drawer handles doesn't work - they tend to come with me on my wild ride around the kitchen.

If we've safely arrived at our destination now is no time to rest on our laurels.  The realisation that we have the process to do in reverse  while carrying cups or glasses full of liquid is enough to make one jealous of camels.  Once safely in the lounge room once again, drinking our beverages,  we wonder if it had all been worth it.

The  puppies might give me some difficult times in summer but our uninvited visitors are giving us even more.  It all comes about because the Galahs are messy eaters.  They have a habit of throwing out any seed they don't like that they find in their feed bins.  This usually consists of wheat seeds.  There are wild Galahs out there who would be glad to have a steady diet of wheat, Hedwig got into her original difficulties when eating wheat dropped on the road by a passing wheat truck, but these two spoiled Galahs turn up their beaks at wheat and sorghum seeds, preferring the oats, sunflower seeds and other, more exotic seeds in the wild bird mix I buy from the pet shop.   Of course we grow wheat on the farm and it costs us a lot less than the store bought mixed seed that I like to bulk out with our wheat.  Anyway, I've got off track with my grizzle about Galahs who refuse to save us money.  The discarded seed attracts mice.  There's not much we can do about the mice that won't hurt the Galahs as well so we've just had to learn to live with their presence in the aviary.  I think the Galahs keep the numbers down somehow because, while there are a few mouse holes, we aren't overrun with them.  

Now for the bigger problem.  The mice (and the water trough in droughts) attract snakes.  The snake that abounds in our area, and sadly abounds in the aviary as well, is the Eastern Brown Snake - a highly venomous and often aggressive representative of the breed.  The Galahs don't like snakes.  They take to the perches highest in the aviary, spread their wings as wide as possible and let loose with a series of ear shattering screeches reserved only for the sighting of snakes.  The snake, safely ensconced on the ground and believing it is more than a match for a Galah or two, continues its foray into the aviary.  The wing spreading and screeching escalates and this pattern continues until the snake leaves the aviary.  Snakes tend to take their time and poor Hedwig and Hermes get themselves into a real state with beaks chattering and bodies trembling if no-one comes to their rescue.  

As soon as I hear the Snake Alarm call I lock up the puppies if they are outside (we don't want them helping me deal with a highly venomous visitor do we?),  don by gumboots, grab my snake deterer and head for the aviary.  Now a word about this snake deterer.  We inherited it with the farm.  The couple who sold us the farm were moving into town and didn't envisage meeting snakes while wandering around their garden so were happy to bequeath us the implement.  The deterer consists of an eight foot long metal pole with a flat end. When I first saw it propped up against the back of the house I asked what it was for.  When told it was to deal with snakes that got too close to the house I pointed out that the metal pole was nowhere near long enough.  Now back to my trip to the snake infested aviary.  I'm not scared of snakes as such.  I'm wary of them and sensibly give them a wide berth and live by the leave them alone and they'll leave you alone philosophy, but if one is turning my two Galahs into quivering, screeching bundles of feathers then something has to be done.  I approach cautiously, saying calming things to the Galahs, pointing out that snakes can't climb wire and they are perfectly safe where they are so there's no need for that ear splitting screech.  Either Hedwig and Hermes don't believe me or they can't hear me over their screeches - I'm inclined to think it's the latter.  

Once I've assured myself the snake hasn't moved to outside the cage I pay careful attention to where the two noisy feathered people are looking.  I then move to the opposite end of the aviary and locate the position of the snake on the aviary floor.  I warn Hedwig and Hermes that I'm about to make a big noise, but they are usually too caught up in making their own big noise.  I then whack the snake deterer on the side of the aviary along the wall closest to the snake.  Whacking here brings the vibrations close to the snake.  Snakes don't appreciate that sort of behaviour and quickly plan to leave the hostile environment that has vibrations that puts their fangs on edge.  I make sure I'm not in the snake's exit path and once it's left the vicinity I turn my attentions to placating two overwrought Galahs.   

Soothing words only go so far.  What is called for now is a few long stems of mint plant.  Hedwig and Hermes love mint.  They munch on it with the gusto of a child attacking a lolly.  Once they are munching away at the mint stalks they forget the intruder and all is right with their world again - as long as they don't accidentally spy the hose.  They are usually aware that the hose isn't a snake but after a close encounter with the real thing, they are sometimes a bit twitchy.

These are some of the delights of summer at Spring Rock.  Me? - I'm looking forward to winter when snakes hibernate to some degree.  

Saturday, December 16, 2017

Nefertiti's Crime Spree

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Some of my Nisse.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

When All Around You Are Holding Their Noses

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Note my stoic, brave demeanour while the indignities continue.

Sunday, June 04, 2017

Meanwhile, Back At The Chook Pen ...

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Sunday, May 07, 2017

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

George in the full trows of Wry Neck

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

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

George taking a little nap after a neck rub.