Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Ferrets and quilting do not mix

Bec with the Gang of Three. Miette is trying to give her a kiss and Theodore is trying to ignore everyone.

Albus. Ferrets live by the law that whatever is on the other side of a door is better than what's on this side.
Today I learned a very important lesson. Ferrets and quilting do not; I repeat ... DO NOT mix.
I decided today was the day I’d finish the patchwork wall hanging I’ve been making for a couple of weeks now. It's not a very large wall hanging and I’ve made slow progress with it for one reason or anther. So, as I said, today was the day. Unfortunately, I also decided that today was the day for the ferrets to have a run inside the house. They live in a luxurious ferret cage out the back of the house under an old apricot tree where they lie around all day soaking up the sun or taking advantage of my latest invention, ferret air-conditioning - a wet towel placed in a bucket of water on top of the cage for the breeze to go through and another wet towel laid out in the cage for them to lie on and cool their tummies. This cooling system is definitely a requirement in our extremely hot summers. The ferrets don't get much exercise in the cage, but when they come inside that all changes. They take a minute or two to inspect the house and acclimatise themselves to their new surrounding. They try to open locked doors to get into and out of out of bounds rooms, harass any cat silly enough to stay on the floor, check for burglars behind the wall unit, and then once all these necessary jobs have been completed, they sort of explode with ferret joy. Ferret joy involves ferrets jumping in the air with their mouths wide open while swinging their heads from side to side, landing on all fours, challenging all comers to a ferret duel (I've been involved in a few of these - the ferret nearly always wins) and generally covering as much territory as possible with as much noise as possible.

So today I decided to get the two things accomplished at once. I began by closing all the doors that led off the hall except for the sewing room. I then brought the ferrets inside. Theodore, the ancient male ferret, Miette our small bossy, female and Albus, our large albino male who appears to be manic depressive, were beyond thrilled to be allowed into the sewing room. They began by investigating every nook and cranny they could find - actually they found some crannies I didn't even know the sewing room had!

When three ferrets investigate a room, they split up by mutual consent, investigate their assigned section of the room and then, at some invisible signal, swap over and investigate one of the other ferrets' spots. Trying to keep out of the way, lest they lose their place and have to start over from the beginning, I sat down carefully and began designing the wall hanging's borders. Every now and then Theodore sidled up to me and placed a little paw on my leg. This was his signal for me to pick him up and give him a cuddle – now that he's old he likes to take the time to stop and smell the roses, or in Theodore's case to smell anything within reach (on this occasion - me). Everything was going well: do a bit of sewing, stop. Pull a ferret out of somewhere no ferret should be. Return to sewing, stop, give Theodore a cuddle, do a bit more sewing, stop, pull a ferret out ... well I'm sure you get the picture.

I was coping beautifully and patting myself on the back, when it was time to cut out some more border fabric. This occurred about the same time that the ferret room investigations finished and it was time for them to "do the ferret thing" as we in the ferret world call ferret joy). Let me tell you it’s very hard to cut fabric with three ferrets full of joie-de-vive helping you. I no sooner laid it out on the table, with the excess fabric hanging over the edge when Miette jumped up and pulled it all down on top of herself. Was she sacrificing herself in an effort to save me from choosing the wrong colour? Albus then rushed to check that Miette was still in one piece while Theodore heaved a big sigh, rolled his eyes at the antics of the younger generation, and ask to be picked up and be cuddled again.
This went on for a while with very little getting done quiltwise. I kept trying as hard as I could to get some patchwork done and refused to give in, when, during one of our regular Hug Theodore sessions, I noticed that his coat wasn't as shiny as it should be, and it wasn't just because he was covered in feral threads picked up from the sewing room floor.

Time to worm the ferrets, I thought. I picked Theodore up and snuck out of the room. You have to sneak away if you are leaving ferrets anywhere on the other side of a door. They seem to have a sixth sense about such things and immediately run around your feet as you head for a door. Ferrets live by the philosophy that anywhere else is going to be so much better than where they are at the moment. I got the Ivomec (sheep and ferret drench), loaded a tiny syringe with the liquid and returned to the sewing room where the two unsuspecting ferrets were still trying to rearrange the room. I duly dosed Theodore and Miette then called Albus for his share of the Ivomec. …No answer.

My ferrets can't ignore me calling their name no matter how hard they try. Being the naturally curious animals that they are, they just have to come and see what I want. Just as they believe that anywhere else is much better than where they are, they also believe that when I call them something’s going to happen that's much better than what's happening now. I called a few more times with Theodore and Miette helping me look for Albus. Their help was as useful as their help with cutting out the fabric. I continually ended up with a ferret in my face, licking my forehead or arm, making the search for Albus just that much more difficult. I could almost hear them saying, "There, there. Don't worry, you still have me."

After ten minutes fruitless searching I was really worried. The last ferret I lost in the house was Isabella (Theodore's deceased mate). That resulted in me finding her squashed under the lounge and on her last gasp. I needed to give her CPR to save her. And while I’m always prepared to go to extreme measures to save a pet’s life, giving mouth to mouth to a ferret is not my ideal way to spend an afternoon I assure you. Isabella survived that experience and went on to bigger and better stash building, but she did avoid standing still near any furniture wherever possible.

Anyway, back to today. As stated earlier, I wasn't anxious to re-visit mouth to mouth with a ferret so I began moving all the things in my sewing room (including Justin’s set of drums - don't ask - they're not my idea of necessary sewing room furniture either!). With my back injury I’m not supposed to move heavy things, but I was getting really worried. I think Theodore and Miette were worried too because they became rather quiet, began following me around and not getting in the way, or maybe they were just enjoying the chaos I was creating. It was a lot better than the worst they could do, I promise you. Or maybe they thought it was safer to stick close to avoid an avalanche of Vlisofix, rolls of fabric and boxes of fat quarters (small amounts of pre-cut quilting fabric for the uninitiated)? With this thought of other possible ferret devastation running round in my head, I returned the two present and accounted for ferrets to their cage and went back to my search – alone and unhindered. Finally I heard a very faint scratching sound coming from the direction of the fabric cupboard. I forgot to mention that while I was closing all doors off the hall, I also closed and locked my fabric cupboard, realising the fun The Gang of Three could have amongst metres and metres of folded fabric.

Knowing ferrets as I do, I didn't put it past Albus to find a way into the locked cupboard so I opened it up and began tossing all my folded and colour sorted fabrics over my shoulder. I cleaned out the bottom shelf but no Albus. There was a distinct scratching sound coming from underneath the cupboard though. Underneath is a very small space indeed, so it was possible he was stuck. I tried various sneaky manoeuvres to get Albus to come out, like calling Theodore and Miette while tapping a can of cat food and knocking on the floor of the cupboard in an effort to drive him out or give him a headache. None of my sly ruses worked.

Now I was in full scale panic, and some pain from moving all the heavy stuff. I hobbled as fast as my legs could carry me out to the front paddock to tear Graeme away from helping our contractor clean the wheat seed (no he's not anal retentive! You clean wheat and lupin seed prior to sowing to get rid of weed seeds and the undersized seeds that won't produce strong plants.) As you may have gathered from previous stories, Graeme’s not an animal lover, he's barely an animal tolerater, but with a frantic wife, hopping from one leg to the other and wincing in pain at regular intervals when she landed on a stone, he could hardly stay and watch the seed being cleaned while ignoring the drama unfolding in the sewing room.

Graeme followed me back to the house, making ani-ferret noises all the way, looked behind the cupboard and told me Albus was perfectly capable of getting himself out. I noticed Graeme also look around the sewing room, consider commenting on the wreck of what was once a tidy and organised room, decide it was safer to remain quiet on the subject, and return his disapproving gaze in the direction of where Albus was most probably lying gasping his last few breaths. After a short and pointed dispute on whether or not Albus should be left to his fate, Graeme lifted the stash cupboard while I tried to retrieve the ferret (farmers are very strong people by the way!). Albus, now able to scuttle to freedom, recognised a game when he saw one, and this was so obviously a game. He moved further under the cupboard, causing me to yell, “Don’t put the cupboard down now! You’ll squash Albus!”

It was only after I’d said it that I realised I had most probably offered Graeme a very tempting course of action. More anti-ferret noises issued from Graeme’s general direction while he and I worked co-operatively, me watching Albus' nose to see where he was in relation to the cupboard floor and Graeme lowering the cupboard. After that Graeme decided that the seed cleaning needed his personal attention. As he departed he suggested that I find some food that Albus couldn't refuse to persuade him to leave his cubby hole. Now why didn't I think of that?! I was obviously too traumatised to think clearly. With that Graeme bolted for the paddock and the preferable company of the seed cleaning contractor.

By the time I had returned from the kitchen with the food to tempt him out of his hiding place, Albus was out and running around the sewing room thinking, "Now this is more like it - I've got all these boxes and piles of fabric and such to explore, roll in and chew should the mood take me!" With one painful movement, I scooped him up and headed for the door to return him to his cage. As I passed my sewing table I caught sight of the syringe with Ivomec in it (remember how all this started?). I’m glad to say I got my revenge. From his facial expressions Ivomec tastes dreadful. Albus was duly drenched for worms and mites and returned to his cage. The only problem is that, with Graeme hiding out in the paddock, I can't put everything back where it belongs in the sewing room by myself, and I can't get back to finishing my wall hanging because the mess spreads wall to wall and all over the top of my sewing table.

Oh well, maybe tomorrow?