Friday, March 27, 2009

It's Not My Fault!

Feather Duster, my ancient rooster, is getting dottier all the time. Feather Duster is approximately nine years old. We've had him since he was an egg in Justin's Year 10 Agricultural project to hatch and raise a clutch of eggs. From his early adolescence Feather Duster was a pain in the neck. He bullied the ducks until I had to move them to a safer yard for their own protection and he bullied the hens. He didn't threaten the hens' lives as he did the ducks', but he still needed stern talking to's about his behaviour on a regular basis. In fact I named him Feather Duster to remind him that if he didn't get his act together and find some chooky compassion for his fellow fowls his beautiful feathers could be put to another use. It was an empty promise and he knew it.

As time went on and he matured his attitude mellowed a bit. He took a vow of peace and love for all. Life became peaceful in the chook pen for a while. Then the girls saw an opportunity for revenge and turned on Feather Duster and he had to be removed for his own good. I attempted to return him to the chook yard from time to time and he kept his vow and refused to fight back until on one attempt to reintroduce him to the chook pen he lost his resolve momentarily and pecked back at one of the chooks as she moved in for yet another peck. After that they left him alone and peace was restored.

In his old age he has a spring/winter romance. He's in love with a tiny black Chinese Silky named Pepper and then he became totally reformed. He became a SNAR (Sensitive New Age Rooster). He could be found wherever Pepper was in the chook pen every day, looking after her and protecting her from the perils of the chook pen. You never know when a worm might get vicious! Yesterday he took his SNAR duties to a new level.

I collected the eggs yesterday and Pepper is going broody again. Chinese Silkies go broody at the drop of a feather and Pepper spends as much time trying to incubate eggs, while we try to steal them from her without incurring physical violence from Pepper. The first time she was broody Feather Duster was broody along with her. He sat in the nesting box with her all day and whispered sweet nothings in her ears. When he realised she was going to spend so much of her life in the nesting box contemplating chickens that were never going to be (Feather Duster is just too old and past all ideas of fatherhood), he left her to her own devices during subsequent broody sessions. He did visit Pepper during each confinement to exchange compliments and I love you's but mostly he stayed out in the yard doing what rooster do when the love of their life isn't by their side. He scratched around looking for tasty morsels in the dirt.

Well, he's gone one step further in becoming a supportive and caring partner. I forgot to collect the eggs on Wednesday so there were eight eggs to collect yesterday. Eight full size chook eggs are too big for one little Silky to sit on no matter how she spreads her feathers out so ever the gentleman, Feather Duster took four of the eggs and sat on them for her! I found him sitting there by Pepper's side both snuggled up together and murmuring private conversations. When I tried to steal the eggs Pepper was indignant and looked to Feather Duster to protect their potential brood. Feather Duster tried a few stern words to make me see the errors of my ways, but when that didn't work he decided to sit firm and make getting the eggs as difficult as possible. And believe me it's very difficult to get eggs out from underneath a rooster! He's heavy!!! At last I had what I hoped were all the eggs and left the chook pen. Pepper and Feather Duster stayed in the nesting box and I expect they'll be there this afternoon for round two. I just hope they aren't planning anti egg theft strategies while they sit and wait for my next assault.

I keep saying, "It's not my fault!" but Graeme goes right along with my kids' theory that I take perfectly normal animals and make them wacky. I repeat It's Not My Fault!

Saturday, March 21, 2009

Farrer Is A Bad Influence

I helped with a lot of drafting last week in preparation for scanning our lambs for our LambPlan data, and got my quality time with Farrer our most friendly stud ram again. We only needed to draft off the ram lambs so in an act of self preservation Graeme had excluded Farrer from the sheep yards and Farrer was sitting outside the yards all on his own. If you would like to know why it was an act of self preservation on Graeme's part go and read Sheep Drafting Spring Rock Style, my 19th January blog entry. Other big rams were excluded too, but they didn't take it personally. Of course I walked over to Farrer before I got to the yards to give him a pat and have a chat. As soon as he saw me he jumped up and hurried away from me. I thought our beautiful friendship was over, but all he was doing was trying to get to the gate before I did so I could let him in thus putting him front and centre for more pats in the yard during the drafting. Graeme vetoed this idea and manoeuvred Farrer away from the gate, so I gave Farrer some sympathy along with pats and head scratches and promised more when I had the chance. Farrer just waited patiently outside the gate, plotting his evil plans.

When we'd drafted off the older rams I opened the gate to let them back out into their paddock. Farrer imitated a salmon swimming upstream and dove into the mass of exiting rams, headed the other way and managed to get himself into the yards. From there it was a simple matter to stalk my every move and offer his head for scratching. Drafting was seriously slowed down, but I didn't mind. Farrer is such a gorgeous ram it's hard to resist him, well it's hard for me to resist him, Graeme finds no problem resisting him at all. Graeme had a moment of panic when he saw that one of our newest stud rams decided to find out what Farrer was up to fraternising with a human, and came up to see what I was up to. I shared the love between the two of them and the new ram, Ash, found having his head scratched rather pleasant. I ended up with two rams to pat and love while trying to help draft the rest of the rams. At least Ash, unlike Farrer, didn't plant himself directly in the path of the rams we were trying to move. Still, Graeme was not impressed with a new addition to my pet stud rams.

Drafting was eventually finished. All ram lambs in a holding yard and nearly all larger rams back in their paddock. Ash followed the last lot of older rams out of the yards and into their paddock but Farrer held out hopes of more love and attention if he just stood still and looked hopeful. I literally pushed Farrer out of the sheep yards and told him the love fest was over for another day. He reluctantly strolled off to join the other rams when it became obvious that the pressure on his rump was my gentle hint for him to move off and join the boys.

It remains to be seen if Ash comes back for more pats and scratches next time we draft the rams. Graeme is hoping against hope that he forgets all about it and returns to being a normal, scared of humans ram, but I think that as soon as he sees Farrer lining up for the pats and head scratches Ash will make sure he's close by for his share.

I have a dreadful feeling that drafting at Spring Rock is going to be even slower from now on!!!

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Hannah, Billy & The Gum Boots

Billy is sorry. Truly he is. He doesn’t know how it happened. One minute he was being his usual friendly self and the next minute he was chewing on a small, yellow gum boot for consolation. He just doesn’t know what came over him.

Frances, Joshua, Hannah and Erin came to visit last weekend and Billy was thrilled to add more family to his list of those to be drooled on. He made himself very busy getting close and personal right from the start. As Josh and Frances fought their way out of the car with armfuls of small children, Billy was there as the advance guard of the welcome wagon. He bustled about, doing all the things expected of a good host, the obligatory tail wag; the welcoming bark; the attempt to get as close as possible to everyone as they were trying to wend their way to the door; the apology for getting too close and nearly knocking someone over – in short he didn’t stint on any of the niceties.

Once they’d gained the shelter of the house, Hannah hit the ground running and a great time was had by all the humans. Billy once again found himself on the wrong side of a closed door, but with his usual sangfroid he heaved a heavy sigh and settled down for the night.

The next morning Hannah, Frances, Erin and I ventured outside to inspect the new lambs. Hannah takes a keen interest in new lambs and their mothers and is always anxious to get to the lambing shed and disperse food, hugs and positive comments to all the inhabitants. I took the precaution of locking Billy in the laundry before we headed for the shed because he too enjoys a chat with the new mothers and babies to the point where he can induce hysteria in a normally placid ewe. After Hannah had spread love and lupins from one end of the shed to the other we returned to the house and I let Billy out for a bit of social interaction with the short people.

Billy was thrilled to get this chance to catch up with Hannah. He hadn’t really had much quality time last night to have a good chat with her, what with the tail wagging, general welcoming chit chat and apologies, he found that he soon ran out of time for really personal exchanges. He began this tête-à-tête with a big lick and a smile.

This proved to be a big mistake. Hannah was left with the unalterable impression that Billy was in fact having a taste prior to getting down to the business of eating her. She therefore not unreasonably, began to cry and request to be lifted out of the reach of that huge mouth. Billy tried to explain that there was some misunderstanding here and that he’d like the chance to properly explain himself. Hannah wasn’t in the mood for further explanations, so we decamped to the lounge room where Hannah soon regained her composure. We settled down to some serious sewing (Hannah, at two years old, is a budding quilter already) and tried to forget the whole sordid incident. Billy’s name wasn’t mentioned and peace reigned throughout the house.

Little did we know that outside on the back porch dreadful atrocities were being performed on Hannah’s footware. Hannah in true farmer style had left her gumboots on the back porch when she came inside and it didn’t take Billy long to find them, smell Hannah all over them, and begin to console himself by snuggling up the to them while he tried to figure out how things had gone so terribly wrong. Unfortunately snuggling wasn’t all he did. At sometime during his cogitations Billy began to absentmindedly have a chew on one of the boots while he pondered the capriciousness of dog/little girl interactions and how wrong things can go when there is a misunderstanding of an innocent dog’s intentions.

I found the thoroughly chewed boot when I next went outside. Billy tried to explain that he didn’t know how it had happened. One minute he was treasuring the boot and the next he found he had a mouth full of plastic! It was a total mystery to him as to how this came about. Billy listened attentively while I had a few words to say on the matter, nodding at my more insightful phrases and commenting that boot munching was definitely a bad habit he thought he had kicked months ago.

I then returned to the house to apologise to Hannah on Billy’s behalf. Hannah was shocked that there was a dog in the world who could take a bad situation and make it so much worse. We decided the best course of action was for Hannah to give Billy a victim’s impact statement concerning his vandalism and we’d all move on from there.

Hannah came out with me to give Billy a piece of her mind about boot eating. She chose the cleverly strategic position of sitting on my hip up high out of Billy's reach. Or so we thought. Billy was so glad to see she'd forgiven him his two indiscretions that he raised his paw in a friendly wave and managed to scratched her foot!!! Hannah couldn’t believe the perfidy of this large dog. First he tries to eat her, then when that evil plot failed he settled for second best and ate her boot and now, here he was scratching her bare foot (and why did it have to be bare we ask ourselves – because Billy ATE HER BOOT, that’s why!!) in an obvious effort to knock her out of Nanna’s arms and have another attempt at Hannah eating! More tears and a hasty retreat to the lounge room and Billy/Hannah relations were severed for the rest of her visit.

Billy was still on Hannah’s black list when they left the next day. He tried to get close enough to once again explain how all these misunderstandings had come about, but I thought Hannah had endured enough of his clarifications – her foot and boot still bore the scars of some of these, so I kept a firm hold on his collar while Hannah was safely ensconced in her car seat. Once they were all safely on their way back home, Billy and I had a heart to heart about big dog/small child interaction and once again Billy sadly agreed with all I had to say. It was clear that Billy needed to do something and quickly to get back into Hannah's good books if it was at all possible. I braved the drool and we put our heads together to come up with a suitable apology, all the safer carried out from a distance of about 500 kilometres away.

I would buy Hannah a new pair of gumboots and Billy would write Hannah an apology, sign his name and hope that he could be forgiven. He gave me the gist of what he wanted to say and I typed the letter for him (his paws are just too big to type correctly on small human keyboards). The letter was duly written and signed "Billy". I then had the great idea of adding Billy’s paw print. Like a lot of my great ideas involving Billy, it was fraught with problems. If you’ve ever tried to rub a very friendly St. Bernard's huge paw on a stamp pad and them print it onto a letter you'll know it's a near impossible job!

Billy was less than co-operative. I’d lift one huge paw off the ground and try to pull it in the general direction of the stamp pad while Billy valiantly tried to return his foot to its original position on the ground. The ensuing tussles resulted in nothing but an inky back porch. It would have been fun for anyone watching! Imagine if you will one slightly unwise Rosemary, one large, friendly, but determined not to co-operate St. Bernard, and add ink to the mix and you might begin to see the chaos that ensued. As usually happens when I try to make Billy do something he’d rather not, I found myself on the ground with Billy standing over me smiling and spreading drool far and wide. It’s not as if Billy actually gets me in a judo hold or anything, he just resists for a while and then sneakily gives in, resulting in my toppling over. Billy is always anxious to help me up and start all over again. After all a dog’s got to have some fun from time to time. I was tempted to get the paw print by rubbing the paper over one of the many paw prints on the tiles, but that would have made the letter far too grubby for a little girl to handle. After a few more fruitless attempts and a promise to myself to clean the tiles later, I gave up, dusted myself off, wiped off the more accessible drool and looked about for a suitable picture of a paw print that would do the job. I found one (it’s a cat paw print, but don’t tell Hannah), enlarged it to St. Bernard size and added it to the letter.

I then added a photo of Billy's saddest face. St Bernards have a naturally sorrowful look so finding a Billy photo where he looked suitably repentant wasn't difficult.

Hannah has received the letter and gumboots now and is prepared to forgive Billy everything. I have a feeling that the 500 kilometres has a lot to do with her easily won forgiveness and I don’t hold a lot of hope for it lasting more than a few minutes in Billy’s company next time she visits, but you never know, miracles might just happen.

In the meantime, I’ll be trying to impress on Billy the need to treat little people and their possessions with more consideration, not to mention less drool.

Billy's sorry photo He sent to Hannah. Who could resist that sad face?

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

My Friend Jane's Giveaway

My friend Jane has a giveaway running at the moment. If you'd like to be in the running to win a lovely bag go to this site and scroll down to her 600th post. It will tell you there how to enter the competition for her giveaway.

Good luck.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

How Not To Catch A Mouse

A few nights ago Tristan, otherwise known as The Red Head, decided that 5 am was the perfect time to catch a mouse outside, bring it in to tell us about it and let it go in the lounge room, bringing any hope of my getting more sleep to an end. Despite Tristan's early morning start; we've discovered that all three cats are not morning people. Graeme got up to put Tristan and his catch outside (he knew if I got up I'd try to rescue the mouse), words were exchanged between man and cat (the mouse had no say in the discussion), Tristan with his mouth full at first. When he put his mouse down to speak more clearly the mouse took off. There was a lot of insults being traded between Tristan and Graeme, centreing on who was the more responsible for the escaped mouse, then Tristan decided that kibble in a bowl was worth two mice under the lounge and there being only one mouse there, he wandered out to eat his kibble and left Graeme to take care of the mouse.

Graeme was having none of that and removed the kibble from under Tristan's nose. Tristan just glared at him while Graeme carried him back to the lounge room. I was still in bed, but listening carefully to the proceedings and thought back-up might be called for so, I pushed Lancelot off my bed. Big mistake. Lancelot stalked out to the lounge room to air his grievances at being woken so early and found Tristan playing with Graeme, well Lancelot thought it looked like a game. Lancelot lost no time in starting a fight with Tristan and both cats were put outside. Guinevere slept, or pretended to sleep
on the lounge (the one the mouse wasn't under) through the whole ordeal and ignored all the angry males both feline and human.

So the end result was that Tristan stalked off to one of the farm buildings and didn't put in another appearance until he'd forgiven Graeme, Guinevere continued her uninterrupted nap on the lounge, Lancelot returned home and slept on my lap for most of the morning and Graeme was heard muttering about useless cats from time to time.
I did offer to let the ferrets have a run in the lounge room, promising that they would catch the mouse. Graeme actually toyed with accepting my offer, but stopped just short. A good thing too - I was actually counting on that. I hate seeing anything killed.

We leave the front door open at night so the cats can come and go as they please. Yes, I know that's to blame for the Red Head with the mouse incident, but it's easier than trying to sleep through their demands to come inside at all hours of the night. Sadly, despite this inviting open door being available for the last few days as a mouse exit, we still have a mouse in residence somewhere in the loungeroom. We discovered this yesterday when Lancelot began acting more like a cat than a sloth and started trying to get behind our large wall unit. He appeared to be quite desperate to squeeze his not so sleek body into the little gap between the unit and the wall. I thought of camels going through eyes of needles, but refrained from making comments. Lancelot is a bit touchy about his girth (I've been teasing him for years, so I know he's touchy). I pointed Lancelot's attempts out to Graeme and Graeme immediately joined in the hunt. Now don't get me wrong, Graeme couldn't fit between the wall unit and the wall either. Being human and possessing opposable thumbs did give him a slight advantage. He used a long stick to try and shoo the mouse towards Lancelot's waiting jaws at the other end of the wall unit. This might have worked if the mouse wasn't able to dive under the wall unit completely out of sight.

Both Graeme and Lancelot put in a bit more wasted effort to winkle the mouse out of its hiding place, but in the end Lancelot admitted defeat and went to see what was in the feed bowl. Graeme was made of sterner stuff and continued to bash the wall unit, the wall and anything else that might give the mouse concussion and make it wander, dazed out into the open. I began to feel sorry for the poor little mouse and it's inevitable fate and thought a quick kill might actually be preferable. I had hoped that it would just leave peaceably during the night, but seeing that it had stayed put for a couple of nights already, I wasn't confident that it would ever leave. So, I once again offered the services of the ferrets.

Working ferrets, not my pampered pets, but other people's ferrets, made their living by going down long winding rabbit burrows and flushing out rabbits. Surely one little trapped mouse wouldn't be a challenge once my ferrets' instincts kicked in. When the ferrets visited inside they loved nothing better than playing behind the wall unit and ambushing the other ferrets or me if I got close enough. This should be easy. I felt dreadful for the poor little mouse, but I realised it had to go. Graeme thought long and hard about my offer this time, looked at his soon-to-be-the-target-of-ferrets'-interest toes and finally agreed. Going for maturity and life experience rather than youthful enthusiasm, I brought in the two adult ferrets, Horton and Jocie, leaving the over excitable and inexperienced baby ferrets, Byron and Cecilia in the cage. I ignored the babies' pleas to take them along too and hurried back to the house.

I decided to try the ferrets in order of oldest to youngest and stuffed Horton into the gap. Horton had other ideas and back pedaled as fast as he could only to find himself once again pushed into the small space. Being the laid back fellow he is, Horton decided to go with the flow and see where the tunnel led him. He couldn't believe his luck when he found Graeme's toes at the other end!!!! This discovery was soon followed by yells from Graeme for me to "Come And Get This Ferret!!!". I came and got the ferret and tried Jocie instead. Jocie was a bit more willing to go into the desired gap and even went under the wall unit to explore the entire area. The mouse made a dash out from under the unit only to see Graeme at one and me at the other. The mouse then decided to sit firm and trust in God. It worked. Jocie ran straight passed the mouse, who quickly went back under the wall unit, and headed for Graeme's toes. Once more I had to detach a ferret from those oh so tasty toes and try again.

Don't ask me what it is about Graeme's toes. I've spent years wondering myself. I've owned seven ferrets now plus the two babies I'm baby sitting and Bec owned two ferrets who used to visit - making 11 ferrets in all and everyone preferred Graeme's toes to any other treat we could offer them. Strange huh?

I tried playing on their competitive nature and put both ferrets in there together. All that resulted from this tactic was that Jocie and Horton had a lovely time playing under the wall unit together while the mouse once again waited near the wall too far in for Graeme to reach it.

OK, I thought, I'll give the babies a chance. Maybe their killer instincts are better honed than the older ferrets who have lived a very sheltered life for so long. I put all four ferrets into the cat carrier so I could pull out whichever ferret I wanted to put on assignment and leave the other's locked up away from Graeme's toes. Byron had his turn and squeezed in to the gap did a lap of the wall unit's length, dived under the wall until, met the mouse and came rushing out to me to tell me all about it. Graeme heaved a sigh of relief because even though the mouse hadn't been caught on that try, he toes remained unmolested.

I then sent Cecilia in with instructions to make it quick so the poor little mouse didn't suffer. I think I must have pleaded the mouse's case too strongly. Cecilia made a bee line for the mouse, nose down following its scent. I screwed up my eyes and waited for the worst. The worst didn't happen. Cecilia dived under the wall unit and then fun and games were heard coming from that general area. They were playing!!!!! There were no ferret squeals threatening the mouse, there were no panicky squeaks coming from the mouse. Just running and shuffling noises and no sign of either combatant. Finally Cecilia came out, thanked me for introducing her to her new friend and mooched off in the general direction of Graeme's toes. I scooped her up before more damage was done in that area and as I scooped, I saw the mouse, who had obviously come out from under the wall unit to wave goodbye to its new friend, leave via my now abandoned end of the wall unit and run out into the other part of the house.

We have no idea where it went. I lost track of it as soon as it scooted along the wall into the dining room. Unfortunately all the doors to the rest of the rooms were open as was the front door. I suspect we still have a mouse in residence. I have no idea where it may be living now, but something tells me that its found a comfortable, cat free zone and is settling in for the long haul.

I suppose I'm going to have to start providing food and water for it now. After all I feel it's almost a member of the family after all we've gone through together. And how could I face Cecilia knowing that I'd let something dreadful happen to her new friend?