Monday, April 26, 2010

Morning Mysteries

 This is the scene after a bit of tidying up was done (we had to be able to reach the toilet after all).  And to think that I'd given the laundry a thorough clean up just that day!

Today began with a mystery.  I was woken around 5.30 this morning by the sound of mini galloping.  I lay in my warm bed for a while rifling through options in my head.  Possums on the roof (no, we have a tin roof and this wasn't a metallic sound).  Something that Tristan had caught escaped and he was now chasing it around the house - possibly, but there was only one set of footsteps and they sounded a lot lighter and faster than our large orange cat.  A very miniature horse race being held in my house with fairies as jockeys? - Wake up Rosemary!!!!  As the galloping came close to my side of the bed yet again (whatever it was seemed to be doing laps of the bedroom) I put my hand down to catch whatever it was and believe it or not I did catch it.  I lifted the body up off the floor and tried to figure out what it felt like.  I'm not the best at 5.30am so it took a while.  Thankfully it wasn't a rat accidentally released by Tristan, or a wild possum that had got inside.  It would have been better if these possibilities had gone through my head before I picked up whatever this furry body was.  Then my brain clicked into gear and I realised I was holding a ferret.  Obviously one of the female ferrets because it was a sable ferret.  Whether it was Jocie or Cecilia I couldn't tell.  It was too dark to sort out the slightly different face markings.

Well, that was easily dealt with.  I dragged myself out of bed, mumbling to Graeme who had just come to, that I had a ferret and was returning it to its indoor cage in the kitchen.  Graeme left me to it and and went back to sleep.  I returned the disgruntled ferret to its cage and performed a cursory check of the cage for the escape route but couldn't find one anywhere.  To prove there was no escape route from the ferret cage, all four ferrets are still in there a couple of hours later.  If there was a way out Jocie and/or Cecilia would have used it by now.  That was mystery number one.

I then decided to visit the toilet while I was up.  I went outside to the laundry (where we keep our only toilet) and met the second mystery of this very early morning.  The laundry was A MESS!  Chaos reigned supreme.  No dogs were to be found anywhere - I suspect they'd taken to the hills when they heard me in the kitchen, and I don't blame them.  If they had been anywhere in sight serious questions would have been asked, and one thing my dogs don't like is me asking them serious questions.  They have to go to the trouble of putting on their sorry faces, hanging their heads and trying to look innocent all at the same time.  That's no easy feat that early in the morning.

I surveyed the chaos.  The bin had been upturned, emptied and its contents strewn around the room.  The top of the bin was missing in action (Graeme located it under the rubble when he got up this morning).  The vinyl cover over the dryer had been pulled off and the various bottles and jars I keep on top were in the strangest places you could imagine, three heavy boxes stacked on each other and holding my hand dyeing equipment had been moved out from the wall and the top box was now tottering precariously, threatening to add its contents to the already overloaded floor, the large bag of kitty litter was dragged out from under the sink but otherwise unmolested, the cat food bin was barely jostled.  This is a mystery in itself because all three dogs love dry cat food and if they were going to this much trouble to create a mess, surely they'd take the time to tip the bin over and eat the contents.  It wouldn't be the first time they'd raided the cat food after all . 

And most mysteriously of all the cardboard box of tinned dog food had been dragged to the middle of the room and chewed down to the level of the remaining tins.  Why had the dogs mauled the cardboard box?  Had they had an attack of the munchies during the night and ignored the cat food and had a craving for cardboard?  Had the box in some way offended them and they reacted violently?  Had they taken time out from their nefarious night time destruction and absent-mindedly gnawed on the box while plotting their next move?  It appears that they actually ate some of the cardboard because there
wasn't enough cardboard litter on the floor to match the amount missing from the box as far as I could see.  Then again there was so much that was on the floor I might have missed it. 

I stood there for a few minutes trying to get my brain to make sense of this.  Unfortunately I can't make sense of anything during an ordinary morning, let alone all that lay scattered before me!  My brain just whirred with useless ideas like they'd chased a mouse, a possum had got into the laundry and they chased it (I don't know why I kept coming back to possums - we've never had one close to the house in the 13 years we've lived here, but possums kept intruding anyway), there had been a mini tornado, or possibly a very concentrated earth quake isolated to the laundry had struck.  An intruder had come along and looking for our valuables in the laundry rather than the house had created the mess and the dogs were off chasing him - that would explain the lack of dogs on the back porch at this time of morning at least.  But none of these scenarios explained the chewed dog food box.  It occurred to me that maybe I needed to go back to bed and think about this when I could think clearly in an hour or two. 
I returned to bed, told Graeme what I'd found and then lay there wide awake, questions whirling like dervishes in my mind.  He just grunted once or twice, so I told him I hadn't cleaned it up yet because I just wasn't up to it at this time in the morning.  Another grunt greeted that statement.   I get up at 6am anyway, so I got up ready to start my day.  My mind kept going over possible explanations, but other than you never know what my menagerie is going to throw at me, I couldn't find any rational explanation for this morning.

Graeme thinks the escaped ferret (no theory on how she escaped though) ran out the open front door (we leave it open at night so Tristan can come and go as he pleases), around the house, up the porch steps to the laundry at the back, ignoring the fact that it was full of dogs, caught the dogs' attention, they chased it around the laundry (in complete silence!?) until it finally escaped unscathed and then ran back to the front of the house, inside the front door, threw a right into our bedroom and started doing victory laps until I caught it.  It seems Graeme can't cope with two different mysteries this early in the morning and has to combine them to explain both.  He won't be swayed from this theory, even though, once again the chewed box isn't explained, nor the scattered bin contents for that matter.

I am a bit worried about Graeme.  It seems the animals are finally getting to him.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Winter Is Almost Here

Billy and Shadow.  Billy is about to bowl Shadow over so he can sniff her thoroughly. Shadow is not going to enjoy the process.

Looking back through my old stories (the ones I wrote before I began to blog), I came across this one from long ago. Many of the pets in this story are no longer with us, and new pets have arrived, but strangely little else in the story has changed. I now bring the ferrets inside during winter so I don't worry about them feeling too chilly (this has brought about a new set of logistic problems), Mum-Puss and her combative family are no longer with us to battle at dinner time, TOD the duck has gone to ducky heaven and the new breed of chooks are less panicky and therefore less interesting too Billy. Still, I thought you might enjoy reading about the menagerie way back when.

Winter is here at last. The days are getting shorter, the air has that sparkling, icy-misty look that only freezing winter days can produce and the countryside is finally turning green after months of brown. The reason I’m waxing lyrical about the cold weather is that winter is my favourite time of the year. In my opinion the only good thing about summer is the cricket matches. Take that away and all I’m left with is a menagerie of over heated animals all vying for the prime piece of real estate on the kitchen floor under the air conditioning duct.

In winter my thoughts turn to keeping the now decidedly chilly menagerie warm. The ferrets bring new worries as the days grow colder. They no longer lie in their cage looking like they are at their last gasp, rather they hibernate in their quilted polar fleece sleeping bag, coming out only to have dinner, seek the warmer climes of the house or, during one of Billy’s assaults on their cage, threatening to give Billy the thrashing of his life, if only he’d show some spunk and come into their cage and say that! I have now added a hand spun, hand woven woollen table runner I made years ago during my spinning and weaving phase, to their bedding. This entails going out into the freezing back yard, well after the sun has set, quietly opening the cage door, feeling around for the table runner without disturbing the sleeping furry ones and tucking them in for the night. If I disturb them Miette will come struggling out of the sleeping bag to find out what is going on in the hope that it’s Billy coming to start something. When she sees it’s only me, she’s perfectly happy to settle in for a chat. Persuading her to return to bed so I can go back into the warm house, is a lost cause. There’s nothing to be done but, return to the house and have another go in half an hour – when the night air will be even chillier. If I am very careful, I manage to tuck them in without disturbing the sociable Miette and once this little chore has been done, I go back inside with a clear conscience with only the duck and galahs to worry about. So far I haven’t figured out a way to keep these feathered pets any warmer than they can keep themselves. Graeme assures me that the ferrets have thick winter coats to insulate them against much colder weather than any Australia can throw at them. He also says that the quilted sleeping bag with two layers of polar fleece and two layers of batting would be enough to keep me warm should I want to spend the night outside. This could sounds like a veiled threat, but I’m too busy sorting out the cats to give it much attention.

Mum-Puss, Lancelot and Guinevere have different needs when the weather turns chilly. They spend their summer days lying on the kitchen floor within close proximity to the fridge and freezer’s cold blasts of air – always providing that Billy isn’t having an inside day. If Billy is amongst those present, the cats retire to the dining room, an extension off the kitchen with only the metal strip where the vinyl and carpet meet to indicate where the kitchen stops and the dining rooms begins, to poke their collective tongues out at Billy who’s not allowed to put one paw onto the carpet. Their winter days are spent following the sun around the lounge room carpet and cuffing any other cat who seems to have a better bit of sun. I repeatedly tell Mum-Puss that she is in dire need of parenting classes. “No mother worth her salt,” I say to Mum-Puss, “digs her claws into one of her children because it has the softer chair or warmer patch of carpet.” Mum-Puss glares at me with her one beady eye and asks for help disengaging her claw that seems to have somehow become hooked into the body of her daughter or son.

Now don’t imagine for a second that Lancelot and Guinevere are the innocent parties in all this. They have far too much of their mother in them to be above such things as starting fights with mother or sibling just for the sheer hell of it. Their combative natures have led them to developed a very subtle way of letting me know it’s dinner time. For some unfathomable reason, as soon as 4.30 p.m. rolls around, the cat version of World War III begins in whatever room has more than one cat in it and progresses throughout the house until they arrive in whatever room I may be. One minute all three cats are the picture of domestic bliss. Three little furry bodies intertwined in shades of black, white and grey lying on their pillows in front of the heater with not a thought in their heads except familial love. As soon as the clock indicates the dinner hour is approaching the peaceful scene is shattered with snarling, scratching and the most foul cat language you have ever heard. Heavens knows what it is they are saying to one another, but whatever it is it’s guaranteed to be R-rated! It’s times like this that I’m grateful I’m mono-linguistic. All this aggression disappears as soon as dinner is on the table (or in the cat’s case on the floor). Each cat has its own bowl and own space on the plastic place mat. Dishing out the food is an exact science. Others have tried but failed to master the intricate pattern required for all three cats to get their fair share of food while keeping peace in the feline community. I won’t go into the lengthy description of how to successfully feed the family, buy suffice to say it’s taken quite a while to perfect. Once the three tummies are full of the tinned food du jour they return to their fireside pillow, intertwine themselves once again and settle in for the night. Ah peace at last. The Spring Rock Terrors have settled down for the night and won’t return until 4.30 tomorrow afternoon. Now all I have to contend with is Billy’s Winter Pass Times.

Billy, ever true to his Swiss heritage, is in his element in the winter time. This unfortunately means that while the rest of the pets are only interested in finding sunny spots around the yard or house and hibernating until summer, Billy is at his metabolic peak resulting in excess energy and mischief making. He spends his days between terrorising the chooks, stalking TOD, our drake and seeking out other less than desirable (from my point of view) ways of amusing himself.

The chook/duck chasing isn’t too bad when compared to his other pastimes. The hens are safely tucked away in their chook pen with seven or eight feet high wire between them and Billy, but this simple matter of logic hasn’t occurred to them yet. As soon as Billy begins his mad run from the back porch down to the chook yard, ears and jowls flopping as he goes, the chooks begin their crazy, panicked flight to anywhere other than where they are. Given that we have nine hens and one rooster, a fair bit of the chook pen is taken up with chooks when they are as we might term “at rest”. Therefore when these chooks (and rooster) begin literally flapping about they tend to ricochet off each other, the chook wire, hen house and the odd tree in their yard. This in turn causes them to panic further, taking fright at the sight of each other panicking and so on. It’s my belief that one day they will end up bouncing off each other and the various objects in their yard ad infinitum. Add to this TOD’s mini-panic on the outside of the chook yard and our winter back yard is definitely not a peaceful refuge for the summer haters among us.

When Billy’s other winter past time is considered though, I’d choose the panicking chooks and drake any day. With the longer nights Billy has searched for a new form of amusement that can be safely conducted from the confines of the back porch. He’s tried bowling Shadow, the Silky Terrier Type, over and sniffing her from head to tail while she’s in her prone condition. Needles to say Shadow doesn’t take this lying down – well actually she does take it lying down, but as soon as she can get up she takes her little fluffy dog revenge, bailing Billy up against the porch wall while snapping and snarling to let Billy know how she feels about his new found past-time. Billy, squashed against the wall, looking down at the little ball of fury, has all the appearance of a bully brought to book for his sins, promising never to harm undersized little dogs again.

Eventually, Billy turned to other, less risky ways of passing his winter nights. Billy has taken up singing, or in light of his Swiss ancestors, possibly yodelling. Now you’d be forgiven in thinking he’d be a baritone – what with the size of him and all, but no, Billy is a male soprano. He sits on the back porch yipping and howling to his heart’s content, happy in the knowledge that not only is he enjoying his own musical interlude, but he is bringing a little joy into the cold winter nights for his family. It’s obvious that Billy sees us in his mind’s eye sitting in our lounge room, tenderly smiling at each other while commenting on the beautiful musical tones emanating from Billy’s oversized lungs. Billy is so sure that we are as happy about his new-found talent as he is. When one of us goes outside to let Billy know our true feeling about his impromptu recital he turns towards us, leaves off his singing often mid yodel, and invites whichever music lover in his family who has come outside, to join in. The hurt look on his face when growled at to be quiet is truly heart rending. Maybe with a professional’s help, just maybe we could turn those teeth grating yowls to something bearable?

I’m off now to go and look through phone books to try to find coaches for Swiss yodelling.

Sunday, April 11, 2010

A Great Visit Was Had By All (Except The Tigers)

 Bec and the boys have been visiting for a few days.  They've gone home now so I get more computer time, but really I'd rather have more grandchildren time if I could.  We filled the days with lots of thing to do and seemed to be busy nearly all the time.  There was so much to do and so little time to fit it all in.

We all had a wonderful time feeding lambs, making interesting things, collecting eggs, going for walks to see the new lambs out in the paddock with their mums and generally enjoying farm life.   Ethan, (aged 3) is almost physically incapable of passing a large piece of farm equipment without getting into it.  Liam (aged 2 and a bit) is happy to follow and Michael (aged 5) likes to keep his options open, sometimes choosing to climb aboard and sometimes content to watch from the ground.  Ethan quickly attaches himself to the wheel of whatever piece of machinery he is in and proceeds to "drive" it.  Unlike a lot of little boys he doesn't bother with revving motor noises, he just enjoy the experience of being the tractor, header or truck driver, inspecting all the levers and pedals, trying them out to see if they can be moved and discussing the uses of most of them with me.  To tell the truth I don't know what half of them do, but Ethan doesn't mind if I don't know, he makes his own speculations about their purpose and we are both happy to accept that they do whatever he believes it is that they do.

 Michael driving the big tractor.  (I couldn't find one of Ethan or Liam too)

On the last visit here Ethan and I were sitting in one of the tractors admiring all the bits and pieces when he asked me if we could start the tractor up.  I said no or course.  Ethan then asked why, of course, and I responded that I didn't know how to drive it.  Ethan looked at me with his serious little face and said, "That's OK, I know how to drive it.  Granddad taught me last time we were here."  Well, how do you respond to that statement?

Meanwhile back to this visit.  On Thursday night Bec offered to cook dinner for us all.  Liam was feeling irritable while dinner was cooking and nothing would make him happy. There was no particular reason for the bad mood, just the general bad mood toddlers seem to adopt the minute Mum is busy cooking dinner. Seeing that Bec had taken over the kitchen, I lifted Liam onto my hip and took him outside to distract him for a while -that was my contribution to dinner preparation.  Ethan decided he'd like to come along too.  Michael was very busy saving turtles on a computer game and couldn't take time out from his mercy mission to go with us.  We put our farm boots on and I switched on the outside light.  We wandered down to the ferrets to get them out of bed so we could say hello.  Horton just raised his head out of the hammock, looked at us for a second out of bleary eyes and went back to sleep.  The others thought there might be a game in this and came out of the hammock ready for fun even though the sun had  gone down a while ago and it was past their bedtime.   Liam and Ethan had a great time talking to the ferrets.  They both like the ferrets as long as they have some bars between them and the little rogues and watching their antics.  The ferrets love all the grandchildren.  They are closer to their size, scream deliciously when pursued by a feisty little ferret and generally add to the excitement level of any play time the ferrets have, so they were very pleased to see the two boys and try to initiate games from the wrong side of the cage bars.

Once Liam had enough of the ferrets we returned to the house, but instead of going inside and finding Liam's bad mood again, we sat on the back steps until dinner was announced to be ready.  Billy was on the top step and welcomed us with lots of paws on the shoulders and sniffing of the back of our heads. Drool was shared too, but we won't dwell on that.  Ethan is fine with Billy but Liam is still a little scared of him, so I kept my back to Billy with Liam on my lap. It worked well.  Liam was happy not to be looking at all that dog and Billy was happy to share some quality time with his beloved short people.  

We sat quietly for a while,or as quietly as you can when Billy is amongst those present, looking at the stars and watching the ferrets make their way back to bed.  We discussed the stars (Ethan estimates there are about 100 stars in the night sky), aeroplanes that looked like stars and how dark it was out there.  After a short while Ethan went very quiet and sort of hunched over a bit.  I looked over at him and was just about to ask what was wrong when he looked at me very seriously and said, "I hope some tigers don't get us."  

The relief on his face when I told him there were no tigers in Australia except in zoos was a sight to see.  He straightened up, smiled and enjoyed the rest of our time sitting on the steps.  We discussed what night time animals lived on the farm and he was perfectly happy to share the night with possums, owls and bats.  When I thought about it later, I realised what a faithful little boy he is.  He honestly thought there was a chance that tigers would come out of the dark and get us, yet he sat on the steps to keep me company.  He didn't cry or carry on in anyway or run inside at the first opportunity to abandon me.  He sat tight and worried about tigers instead.  Now that's love!