It's been a while since my last post. Life has been busy on Spring Rock with lambing, bottle raising eight lambs, sowing crops and general farm stuff. The menagerie has been misbehaving from time to time, but nothing really out of the usual to let you know about.
Billy is slowing down with old age. He's slow to get started in the morning but still manages to sneak out of the house yard every day and come home with a huge collection of Bathurst burr decorations on his coat. Bathurst burr is both sticky and very, very prickly. Pulling it out by hand is fraught with sore fingers and hours spent with a sharp needle digging out the prickles. Combing them out upsets Billy as they tend to pull rather drastically, so I've been shaving them out of him when they are really stuck. Billy now has a decidedly moth eaten appearance with little holes throughout his beautiful winter coat and no no fur on his tail at all. Every day there are a few new hole in his coat as Billy continues his tiptoeing through the Bathurst Burr.
The new hens have settled in and one of them has proved to be a true Spring Rock menagerie member. When the girls first arrived they were traumatised by the wide open spaces of the chook yard and clustered together in the rather small laying box. The laying box is built for one hen at a time with the possibility of a second hen squeezing in should the first hen in their take too long to lay her egg. Fitting six panicky hens in there at the one time was just ridiculous. Graeme and I would pull each hen out and send her clucking and fussing about her business only to have her return before all six were evicted. In the end we reluctantly barricaded the laying box off so no-one could get in. This meant that I had to perform an Easter egg type hunt for the eggs every day until the new girls adapted to the wide expanse of chook yard. While I was doing my daily chook yard wander I noticed I always had one brown hen accompanying me. After a couple of days when I stopped to inspect a likely egg spot she would come right up to me and peck near my shoes. Of course I started chatting to her on our daily wanders and she chatted back when the mood took her. It wasn't long before I was bending down giving her a scratch on the neck. We became firm friends.
When the time came to open up the laying box again I thought my days of bonding with the little brown hen were over, but she had other ideas. As soon as I walked through the gate she'd come running from wherever she was, often almost running right into me in her haste to say hello. I sat down on the shed beam the better to have our chat and one day picked her up and sat her on my knee so I didn't have to bend over. I introduced her to Hedwig the Galaha's favourite thing, being scratched under the wing, and we haven't looked back. Every day I have to sit, wait for her to come up to me, lift her on my lap and and scratch her under her wing. When she's had enough she hops down and goes and eats the scrap treats I usually bring with me. I worry that she's missing the best ones while we bond, but she's happy to visit, so I'm happy to provide the scratches and chat.
When I told my grandsons about the hen via email, they wanted a photo. I had to bring the hen inside so Graeme could take the photo. I'm in my lamb feeding clothes with all the kitchen mess behind me, but the boys loved the photo and the hen enjoyed her extra wing scratch while admiring the new chook pen she hadn't seen before.
Sadly, I can't I can't tell her apart from the rest of the hens. My granddaughter Hannah named her Patsy because she likes pats, so here is the photo of Patsy and me.
Now that winter is here the ferrets spend wet days and every night in their inside cage snuggled in their sleeping bag. Yesterday, after I changed the litter it seems that I accidentally undid one of the catches that holds the back of the cage down. Jocie and Cecilia both investigate the back of the cage every time they are put in it to see if they can find a weak spot and get out so they can play with me while I try to catch them or better still, quest for those delicious toes. I hadn't realised the catch was up so after dropping the ferrets in the cage I went outside for a while to let the chooks out for a run in the yard. I have to supervise their run for a couple of reasons - they tend to prefer digging up my plants rather than just roaming the grass areas, and Billy finds the soft fluffy feather feel in his mouth irresistible (much like the ferrets and Graeme's toes I suppose). Billy knows if I'm out there I won't allow any chook harassing so he sits near me and dreams of carrying fluffy feathered creatures in his mouth. That's where he and the ferrets differ. The ferrets don't care that they aren't allowed to nibble Graeme's toes. The danger of getting into trouble just adds to the whole toe dining experience.
Graeme came in from the paddocks while I was babysitting the chooks and went inside to make himself a well earned cup of tea. He was only in there a few minutes when I heard, "There's a ferret loose!" I pointed out that I couldn't come inside immediately because Billy would take the opportunity to pick up a chook while I wasn't there. I asked if he could come outside and wait until I got the chooks back in their yard, or come out and watch Billy while I hunted the escaped ferret. Much to my surprise he called out that the ferret was back in the cage. Now the only way it would bet back in the cage was for Graeme to actually pick it up and put it there. This is an unheard of act. Graeme just doesn't interact with the ferrets in any way including touching them. Knowing if a ferret had got out once then two were likely to keep getting out until their exit spot was closed up, I put the chooks back in their pen so I could go inside and retrieve said ferrets. Billy wanted to help so it took longer than usual, but finally they were all in their yard ready to settle down for the night. I went inside expecting to see a battle between Graeme and a couple of ferrets. I was stunned at the sight that met my eyes. Graeme had to broom in his hand and was sweeping Jocie around the kitchen floor. At first I thought he was fending her off. That might be the way it started, but they were playing with each other. Graeme was playing with a ferret!!! He had actually picked up a ferret and now he was playing with one!! He was laughing at her antics and she was having a wonderful time challenging him to battles and being slid over the floor. I really didn't want to break it up, but as soon as I came inside Graeme reverted to his anti-ferret stance and left her to me to put away.
It seems that the first time he put her back in the cage Byron took the opportunity to escape and he took some catching. Of course while he was catching Byron, Jocie made her exit from the cage again. Realising he was on the wrong end of a losing battle Graeme put Byron away (yes he'd actually touched TWO ferrets!) and protected his toes with the broom. Ferrets are fun loving (no matter what Graeme mumbles about vicious little biters) and Jocie was quick to see that Graeme has started a great game. Graeme found he wasn't proof against Jocie's antics and his initial defence of his toes did indeed become a game. I don't think Graeme was aware just how lucky he is that Cecilia has put on some winter weight and couldn't fit out of the little gap in the back of the cage. If he'd been trying to fend off two ferrets working in tandem his toes wouldn't have a chance.
Of course now, that Graeme has been caught playing with a ferret I'm not going to let him live it down. Jocie won't either.