Saturday, December 11, 2010

Getting Help With Christmas.

 Nefertiti defending her stash of decorations.

Christmas is almost here.  I LOVE Christmas.  The house begins to explode in Christmas decorations on 1st December.  It takes me a few days to get all the decorations up and where I’m happy with them.

Graeme brought in my decorations from the old farmhouse where I store them all year.  As he hauled in the last of the boxes he said, "Please don't buy any more decorations."  I tried not to let my eyes shift to the huge bag of decorations I'd bought at last year's sales and kept in the house all year securely hidden until this moment.  I think I got away with it.  Nothing has been said about the huge bag anyway.

I don’t know if it’s the result of the trauma of carrying all those heavy boxes inside but Graeme has gone into Scrooge mode and is bah humbugging all my decorations.  We had stern words about it for a while.  I pointed out they weren't actually hurting him.  He disagreed, and my thoughts turned to Graeme carrying those heavy boxes.  He is now learning to live with the decorations quietly, but I imagine he shudders every time he thinks of returning them to storage.  Graeme does like the tree lights though.  Apparently they can be set for a few different sequences and fiddling with electronic boxes is just what Graeme likes.  So he’s in charge of the sequencing and happiness reigns once again.

I'm having a lot of help with the decorating - unfortunately.  The first thing I put up is the Christmas tree.  Decorate it heavily, complete with lights and angel on top.  This year it took twice as long to decorate – not because of all the extra decorations we’re not going to mention to Graeme (please remember that if you meet him), but because of all this help I was getting.

 Ambrosia followed me around the tree and stood  on her back paws, put her front two paws together and plucked off the decoration I’d just added and dropped it on the floor.  At first I didn't notice what she was doing and looked back to see all the decorations scattered around the base of the tree instead of on the branches.  Christmas trees experience an autumn?  I thought.  I sighed heavily and rehung them all.  That’s when I met Ambrosia coming around the tree from the other side, plucking decorations as she went. The guilty look on her face said it all.  Nefertiti was keeping a low profile under the tree, but was just as involved with the deciduous decorations.  From time to time a little tortoiseshell paw would delicately hook around a fallen ornament and scoop it under the tree to be inspected and chewed just a little bit.  She had amassed quite a pile before I noticed her there.  She left the real dirty work to Ambrosia as usual, but found her own fun in it all.

Ambrosia then decided that if removing decorations was going to be that frowned upon she’d wait until I’d finished and walked away, when she could de-decorate the tree to her heart’s content.  In the meantime she’d find other forms of amusement with this wonderful addition to the house.  What are trees for?  She asked herself.  Climbing!!!  She answered herself and fitted the thought with the deed in no time flat.

 Ambrosia with the evidence.
Once again I was taken by surprise.  I heard here scuffling around under the tree and decided to investigate after I’d returned all the decorations to the lower branches.  Before I’d accomplished that a striped paw shot out of the branches and tried to take the decoration I was adding out of my hand.  To say it took me by surprise is an understatement.  I screamed, jumped back and nearly landed in the boxes of decorations.  When my heart returned to its approved site within my body I thought this needed documenting pictorially so I got the camera and you can see it all.

Once the photos were taken I was left with the cat in the tree problem.  I knew that just removing her would do no good.  She’d be back up that tree as soon as her paws hit the ground.  Ambrosia was having so much fun communing with nature (even if nature was in the form of a plastic Christmas tree).  I could see her imagining herself back in rainforest with her wild ancestors, the Asian Leopard Cats, hunting the wild life (in this case Christmas ornaments) and living the good life of a beast of prey.  I brought the trusty water spray bottle into play and by the end of the day tree climbing had been reduced to only very occasionally when the call of the wild was just too hard to resist.

Next up was putting up the tinsel.  This activity was soon reduced to a tug of war between me and the two cats.  As I climbed the kitchen step ladder, trailing tinsel as I went, I’d feel a gentle tug on the free end which soon turned into all out warfare.  I did try draping the hanging part of the tinsel around my neck and shoulders but from time to time it slipped off and Ambrosia and Nefertiti were waiting at the bottom of the step ladder to deal with any tinsel ends that came their way.  Of course I won the battles every time with my superior human strength, but the tinsel did suffer damage.  By the time the tinsel was up in the loungeroom, kitchen and dining room the floor looked more sparkly that the walls!  This was fine by the girls.  Ambrosia and Nefertiti stalked the highly dangerous glittery stuff, pounced on it, threw it up in the air and generally reduced each bit of amputated tinsel to a quivering heap on the floor.  Thankfully this battled raged for quite some time, allowing me to get the rest of my decorations up. 

Decorating this year was much more a case of putting the delicate ones up high and the sturdy and/or soft ones lower  rather than putting them in the spot to show them at their best – just like decorating with a toddler in the house.  I’ve had to drastically reduce the number and type of decorations in the bathroom.  Ambrosia and Nefertiti sleep in there and as they are unsupervised, fun was had by all - except the decorations.  Each morning I’d pick up the decorations from the floor, throw out the more chewed ones and find a new home for them.  In the end I found that one handmade, sewn and stuffed fabric tree, one large felt reindeer and a basket of pine cones are the only decorations that can cope with all the nocturnal attention.  I still have to return them to their rightful spots most mornings but at least they are unharmed.

Now that the presents are wrapped and under the tree the cats seem to think that there must be something in there with their names on them.  To this end they spend as much time as they can get away with under the tree investigating the parcels.  I’ve had to repair a few already and the wrapping, never wonderful to begin with, is looking decidedly second hand.  Never mind, my family is used to this.  The ferrets love nothing better than to get in amongst the presents when they come in for a run from time to time.  Now they have the cats to help them, the presents are in mortal danger each day.  The spray bottle won’t work here because the water may damage to paper and or gifts.  Constant vigilance on my part is the only answer. 

Ah, Christmas.  I do love it so, but this year it seems to be more hectic than usual.  I wonder why?

Saturday, November 27, 2010

My Day

Billy here. Mum usually writes to tell you all about the happenings here at Spring Rock, but I thought I'd put paw to keyboard and tell you about my day yesterday.

Wednesday afternoon Mum discovered something I'd been trying to keep secret - a big abscess on my right front foot. After a bit of prodding which I could have done without she surprised me by leaving it alone and just going inside and talking on the phone to someone.

I knew something was up yesterday morning. First up, no breakfast. I love my breakfast, but no amount of rattling my dish or looking hurt when Mum or Dad came out got them to fill the dish. Then Mum came into the laundry and gave me a bit of a wash. Not a whole wash, she just rubbed down my legs, head and chin with a cloth and soapy water. I helped by moving around a lot and the laundry ended up flooded. Mum wasn't so happy about that, but I thought at least I'll be allowed out now to go and roll in some dirt. Mum must have read my mind because she kept the laundry door tightly closed and cleaned up the floor. She left me in there and mumbled something about I'd never dry in time now. I decided to try to ignore my tummy rumblings and have a nap.

Later in the morning Dad came in and put a lead on me. Hmmm, I thought. I never have the lead put on. Something is definitely up. We walked to the back of his four wheel drive and he told me to get up in there. Well!!!! That just never happens unless there is a visit to the vet in the offing. That's OK with me. I love the vets'. Everyone there makes a big fuss of me and I feel like a king. But this hopping up bit was just asking too much. I put my chin on the floor of the car and swiveled my eyes around to Dad to show him I was willing but would need some help here. Mum was there too by now and told Dad I was never able to jump up that high. She made some unnecessary comments about my weight, but I'll just move on with the story here. Dad tried to lift my paws onto the the car's floor but that wasn't as successful as you might think. They just slid off. Dad then got a big tub and put it near my feet. I still had my chin on the floor to show willingness, so I couldn't get a good look at it. He then told Mum to lift my left paw again while he lifted the right paw. Then he put my back legs onto the tub. Well, I was now a lot closer to the car floor but I wasn't about to try to climb up myself. What if it didn't work. That would be just too embarrassing. Dad finally gave in and lifted my back end into the car, strapped me in and we headed off in the car.

I love car rides and enjoyed the trip. Mum put all the windows down and said something about wet dog smell and how she had to go shopping smelling like that. I can't see the problem. After I'd rubbed my wet fur all over her I thought she smelled rather good.

We got to the vets' ( I was right you see) and I walked in and waited for the attention to flow. There was only one girl in the room, but she was very nice and said complimentary things about me. Then she decided I needed to be weighed. She wasn't sure I'd fit on the scales and neither was I. I wasn't keen on letting everyone know my weight either, it could result in a nasty thing called a diet and I didn't want anything to do with one of those things. So every time Dad maneuvered me onto the scales I turned to the side and stepped off, usually before they had managed to get my back feet on. Mum tried to guard my exit but I just moved off and snuggled up to her. In the end they decided to estimate my weight at 70kgs. Dad is inclined to think I weigh more, but he'll never know.

We sat and waited in that room for a while and I started investigating all the treats and toys. Mum got a bit worried about this and moved me to a spot where there was absolutely nothing to investigate. I lay down and tried to get some sleep. Then this little lady come into the room and called my name. I sat up and looked at her and Mum and Dad took me into this room. We all looked at this little metal table and Mum said, "You don't want him up there do you?" The little vet agreed she'd rather look at me from the floor. The first thing she did was grab my sore foot and try to look at it. I politely withdrew it, but she grabbed it again and Mum moved to my front and told me to let her have my foot. I heaved a big sigh and dropped to the floor so the vet had to get right down there with me if she wanted that foot. She did!!!!! There was a lot of talk backwards and forwards between Mum, Dad and the vet, but I wasn't paying attention. I was smelling all the smells some interesting others very concerning. The vet stood up and took my lead from Mum's hand. Mum stepped back and the vet tried to lead me out of the room. Without Mum!!!!! No way. I just kept moving over to where Mum stood and dragging the little vet along with me. Mum asked the vet if she'd like her, Mum, to take me where I had to go. The vet said no, she could manage and tried to move me towards the door again. I didn't budge. Mum moved towards the door and said, "Come on Billy," so I followed her and walked through the door. The vet said she'd see Mum and Dad later and closed the door. Well, that was a nasty trick. I thought Mum was coming with me. I kept moving around the vet in circles, trying to get back to the door where I last saw Mum. The vet kept pulling for all she was worth trying to stop me heading for the door.  I was winning though. I saw another door open briefly and Mum and Dad were standing at the desk in the first room again. The vet tugged on my lead and told someone to close the door as I tried to reach Mum again.

Now things get a bit blurry. I was heaved and hauled onto a metal table by a great number of people all commenting on my weight. They then discovered their table was too small and someone had to stand by to make sure I didn't overflow and fall off. My leg was shaved in a little spot and I was given a needle!!! Another needle was put into my sore foot and very soon I couldn't feel a thing in my foot. Ahhh, the relief. I started to feel very pleased with the whole world. Then this little vet tried to hold my paw again. I withdrew it gently and told her we hadn't been formally introduced. She took hold of my paw again. Again, I withdrew it and told her I only hold paws with best friends and loved ones. She grabbed it again and tried to hold on tightly! I withdrew it and said I'd rather not. She grabbed it again, I withdrew it and said make me! I was polite the entire time, careful not to show my teeth (humans hate it when I get a bit mad and show my teeth so I haven't done it since I was a puppy) but there was no way she was going to hold my paw. I only let her hold it in that little room because Mum said I had to. She left me with my body guard (the one making sure I didn't fall off this tiny table) and rang someone. It turned out to be Dad. There was a bit of a conversation and I thought I heard Dad laugh a bit, but when it was over the vet returned, shaved a bit off my other leg and put another needle in.

Well, that's the last thing I remember for a while. When I woke up I wasn't on the table anymore but in a little cage. My foot felt a bit better and I noticed there was a big cut in the sorest part. I went back to sleep. After a while I heard Mum's voice out in the first room again. The girl at the desk was saying something about me being a big, gorgeous puppy. I liked her too - she didn't try to get too familiar with me while still being admiring and friendly. I forgave her for trying to reveal my weight to the world. After a short while she came to my cage, put my lead on and walked me to the door. Things were a bit strange and I couldn't figure out where Mum's voice had come from. I walked around the room with the girl attached. All the people in that room came over to say goodbye to me. I nodded to each of them and said I forgave them all. I also politely accepted good bye pats. The girl opened a door and I heard Mum call my name. I dashed off (well dashed as fast as my foggy head would allow) and headed for where I thought the voice had come from. The girl tried to pull me a different way, and then I saw Mum!!!! Everything was going to be fine. I walked over to her and we started to leave when a woman with a little dog spoke to me. She asked me if I'd like to go home with her instead. I walked over, taking Mum with me on the end of my lead, to say hello and explain that I was very happy living with Mum and Dad, even if Mum does love ferrets. I was patted and complimented yet again. I do love going to the vets'. Mum took me out to the car where Dad was waiting with the back door open. Now I had the best excuse there was. I couldn't see straight, so there was no way I'd get myself into that car!!! Dad heaved a big sigh and put my front leg into the back and quickly lifted my back legs in as well before my front legs could slide off. I settled down and we headed home.

When we got home, mum put me back in the laundry and gave me some of my favourite food. I went back to sleep. After a while I thought I'd go outside and make sure all was well and nothing drastic had happened while I was gone. Maybe Mum had seen the light and got rid of the ferrets!!!, but no, they were all still there making rude comments about the bald patches on my legs and toes. Then I saw it. The back door of the car was open. Dad said later that he was trying to get the wet dog smell out. I made the supreme effort and jumped into the back all by myself (if anyone asks I'm going to say the Kelpies helped me up there) and settled down for a nap. Maybe they'd take me for another drive. Maybe back to the vets' for some more love and adulation - but no paw holding though!!! When Dad found me in the car he seemed rather upset. Words were said about him having to lift me twice today and I could do it all by myself even when drugged to the eyeballs. I explained about the Kelpies but Dad didn't believe it. He pulled me out and closed the door almost shut. When he wasn't looking I tried to open the door to get back in, but I couldn't get it opened enough. I returned to the laundry and settled down for a big, well earned sleep.

So you see that was my day. I think I handled the whole thing rather well I thought. I was firm but kind with the vet and enjoyed meeting all the new people. I managed to keep my real weight a secret still and my foot even feels a lot better this morning. I think I'll just wander over and see if the back door of the car is open again.


Monday, November 01, 2010


Young rams on the move.  These boys behaved themselves today unlike the two mentioned below.

I've gone off rams a bit this morning.  We were out in the sheep yards at 6.30 drafting the ewe lambs and ram lambs for LambPlan scanning this morning.  LambPlan for the initiated is a system where lambs are weighed at different times in their development and scanned for eye muscle and fat depth when they are a few months old.  This allows them to be compared to all rams in the LambPlan system and rated according to breeding quality potential.  

When drafting ewes all I have to do is wave my arms gently while making a quiet shooshing noise to get them into the race yard and down the race where Graeme moves a drafting gate in one of three directions according to where he wants that particular ewe.  The rams are a bit more difficult.  I have to fill a race yard and then get in there with them and forcefully encourage them to move up to where Graeme is to be drafted.  Rams aren't as frightened of humans so it takes that bit more effort to draft them.

Farrer has rubbed off on a couple of the adult rams and they now want scratches and pats too.  (You can read Farrer's story here )  Farrer is getting old and slow so he doesn't tend to be rounded up with the rest of the rams if he's not actually needed these days so thankfully he wasn't present for today's fun and games. 
Today two rams gave me a lot of trouble.  Adult rams weight around 150+ kgs each and when they want a scratch they want a scratch.  The Ashmore Ram (we bought him from the Ashmore stud so we call him The Ashmore Ram) was very eager for scratches today.  In true Farrer fashion he planted himself in front of me at every opportunity and hinted that a scratch would be more than welcome.  His hints basically consisted of refusing to get out of my way until a scratch was administered.  I gave him a scratch in passing each time he stopped in front of me, more in self defence than because it was convenient.  More about him in a minute.

The other trouble maker was  ram lamb.  He is one of this year's bottle babies and had a vague notion that he knew us and we should be giving him something tasty.  He weighs in around 60+kgs.  He wasn't 100% sure what it was he wanted from me, or why he wasn't afraid of us, but this general lack of fear gave him quite a bit of bravado.  Now a young ram lamb in his teenage stage is a pain in the neck at the best of times.  They think they are good stuff and tend to take some convincing as to why they should do what you want them to do.  Add to this that this young ram knew he wanted something from me and wasn't getting it and things heated up a bit.  He got increasingly annoyed with me and began to pretend to butt me, lowering his head and jerking it at me.  I fended him off with a touch to the head each time and he backed off temporarily.  I don't think he was really going to butt me, but I had to let him know I wasn't going to just stand and let him either.  I had to find a happy medium between doing nothing and being too aggressive in my reaction thus egging him on, so just a touch to the head and a stern word seemed the best idea.  It worked well, but I had to keep doing it. 

Most of what I've described above took place in the sheep yard that leads into the race yard.  Of course the young ram and The Ashmore Ram were in the last lot to go into the race yard.  They hung back in the sheep yards until they were made to go into the race yard where they stood together and compared notes on how to make my life just that bit more difficult while I moved the other rams along.  They hit on the most effective strategy they could.  The Ashmore Ram wandered up and pushed me from behind at regular intervals,
asking for a scratch, while I was occupied moving the rest of the rams up the race.  He and the ram lamb kept to the back of the mob so that they weren't pushed through the race earlier.  While I was dealing with him the young ram would prance up, lower his head and jerk it at me while my hands were occupied with The Ashmore Ram.  Some times they co-ordinated themselves so well that while I was bent over fending off the ram lamb The Ashmore Ram pushed me from the back at the same time.  This sandwich effect is not something I'd recommend the faint of heart experience. It's a bit startling to find yourself squished between a huge, friendly ram's head and a much smaller, but far less friendly ram lamb's head while they both push towards each other.  Needless to say that my back has had it for the day.

And that's why I've gone off rams.

Tuesday, October 26, 2010

In Need Of A New Screen Door

Today I priced new screen doors for the front and back doors.  The old ones have been here since the house was built in the early 1960's by the looks of them.  The front door has the fly screen separated from the bottom corner and all the cats who have shared the house with me, except for Ambrosia and Nefertiti have used it as an entrance and exit spot - so too, I'm sure have many, many flies and other creepy crawlies in summer.  The back door no longer shuts properly and all you have to do is push it to open it - no need to use the handle at all.  It's because of this door that I've decided to buy new, modern screen doors - because of the door and Ambrosia to be truthful.

When I first met Ambrosia she was communing with nature (while heavily supervised) in her owner's front yard.  Ambrosia, her sister and her mother were having a wonderful time ambushing each other from the undergrowth and exploring every bit of garden they came across.  Their owner told me the cats came out twice a day and loved it.  I thought of my very large garden area with sheep wire for fences and populated with a large and beautiful variety of native birds and made the decision that hence forth Ambrosia would be an inside cat.  Her hunting instincts and supreme skill meant that little of our beautiful bird life would not survive if she were to go out and commune with nature at Spring Rock. Ambrosia was young, she had a little friend in the shape of Nefertiti coming to keep her company so I thought she'd adjust to the rugged life of only having carpet under her feet and soft furniture to sleep or sit on.  Nefertiti is also an inside cat, more in solidarity with Ambrosia than because she's a threat to wild life.

Ambrosia hasn't taken well to her enforced homebody status.  Whenever I go out into the garden I'm stalked by a little leopard cat who follows me around the house from window sill to window sill starting in the lounge room at the back of the house, moving to the bathroom window at the side of the house and onto our bedroom window at the front.  The only window on the fourth side of the house is the kitchen window and as the sill if full of pot plants she can't get herself up there to complete here complaints.  She doesn't follow silently either.  Ambrosia has the loudest wail I've ever heard from a cat.  My time in the garden now is always accompanied by accusing wails from a cat demanding to be let out for her share of the fun.

During the day she lurks around the back door waiting for an opportunity to streak outside and lead us a not so merry chase around the farm. Worse still, lately she has learned to open the door by pushing on it.  Thankfully she is not successful in opening it far enough to get through before it closes again, but with persistence she manages to escape at least once a day if we don't remember to close the back door. If she hears the front door open she is there and out the door almost before it's been opened, and with that gaping screen at the bottom she doesn't even have to wait for us to open the screen door.  Graeme and I now take a few precautions before going outside.  Like maximum security prison guards we ensure that the feline prisoner is contained or at least impeded in nay planned dash to an open door, before we open a door. 

The weak point in all this has proved to be Tristan.  I think I've mentioned before that Tristan hates being on the wrong side of a closed door. Whatever side he's on is the wrong side.  Pre-Ambrosia Tristan spent a lot of his time (and mine) going outside, changing his mind, coming back inside and starting the process all over again.  Now, because he is huffy that once he goes out no-one rushes to let him in again straight away, he takes his time considering if he wants to come inside 9or go outside as the case may be) while I hold the door open waiting for the big decision to be made.  While he ponders the advantages of inside versus outside I usually have my body blocking the small space created by the slightly opened door while Ambrosia does everything she can think of to squeeze through and escape to the countryside.  Graeme tells me to leave Tristan out there, but those of you who know me by now will know that I can't do that, especially if it's raining.

Once Ambrosia has managed to get outside the fun is on.  She skips past Billy and the kelpies, barely giving them a looks as she zooms bywhere she proceeds to roll on the ground and wail in triumph. With a resigned sigh (because I know what is going to happen) I go after her.  Ambrosia waits until I've almost caught up, just lowering my hands to grab any bit of her I can reach,  She then cannons off again only to stop a few feet away and repeat the process beginning with the wailing in triumph. Thus we do circuits of the house, sometimes moving out to the paddock outside the house for a change of scenery - Ambrosia zooming off for a few feet, stopping to look back at me and wail a taunting phrase or two, sometimes even going so far as to lie down and roll on the ground just to rub in how unlikely I am to catch her. 

Billy likes to help with the cat hunt and in the past has actually been a big help.  He often manages to corner her, and hold her there until I catch up.  Unfortunately Billy is now getting too big for his boots and has tried to take a nip at Ambrosia for good measure.  While I'm all in favour of the nip after having stalked Ambrosia around the house for far too long, I'm not inclined to encourage Billy to bully the cats.  I'm worried he'll take his duties a bit too seriously and all I'll get back is a thoroughly chomped cat. Ambrosia is becoming a bit wary of him, but not enough to give him a wide berth or to prevent her initial escape.

While all this is playing out Nefertiti sits at the back door on the inside, and dreams of being as bad as her spotted sister.

Saturday, September 25, 2010

How To Put A Ferret In Its Place

Life here with the Spring Rock menagerie has been very quiet lately.  I've been busy buying rams and selling rams (different rams of course) so nothing story worthy has been happening here.  I've delved into my archives and found this story about the ferrets.  I know a lot of you are big ferret fans so I thought you might enjoy this.  Since writing this story Jocie has become a permanent member of the menagerie.  Troy and Erin gave her to me when they moved to Queensland where ferrets are illegal!  Every now and then I can see a far off look in Graeme's eyes and I know he's thinking of moving to Queensland and while he's at it trying to convince that very sensible state government to make St Bernards and cats illegal while they are at it.

I know what everyone who has ever met a ferret in real life is thinking. “You can’t put a ferret in its place because ferrets believe their place it at the top of the pecking order!” Well, let me tell you, it can be done.

First of all, my big news is I have another ferret coming here to live with us. Her name is Jocie and she belongs to Erin and Troy, a lovely couple who are friends of Justin’s. Erin and Troy needed to find a home for Jocie and for some reason thought I’d make the perfect ferret foster mother. I agreed to take custody of Jocie and broke the news to Graeme as gently as possible. He must have been in shock because there was no protest at all, just a quiet, “Oh,” and that was that. I thought maybe I’d broken the news too gently and he didn’t realise that an actual real live ferret was being added to the menagerie roll, but thought it best not to labour the point. I’m waiting on tenter hooks for Jocie’s arrival on Sunday to see what transpires with Graeme.

A few weeks ago Erin and Troy brought Jocie over for some playtime with The Gang of Three. Jocie is only three months old and an only ferret so of course has lived her short little life as boss of the household. She saw no reason to adjust her attitude when her circle of acquaintances was increased to include me and three much older ferrets. Jocie was very excited to discover that the world contained other ferrets and was more than happy to play with them.

First up though she had to make sure they understood who was boss. We let all four of them have a run in the hall to get to know each other. It’s a confined space and it was easy for Erin and me to rush to anyone’s assistance should a ferret battle to the death break out.

Ebony was a push over – literally – Jocie bounded up to Ebony who is at least twice Jocie’s size and jumped on Ebony’s back. Ebony flattened herself to the floor and cried uncle right from the start. Great, thought Jocie, one down and two to go. She then turned her attention to Horton who put up just al little, token resistance then decided it was all too much effort so let Jocie believe she was the boss. It didn’t make much difference to Horton; he had every intention of doing just as he pleased anyway and could always find an escape by going to sleep should the going get too tough with this new, bossy ferret. Ebony and Horton are experts at dealing with a megalomaniac little ferret; after all they have lived with Miette since they were quite young. Anything for peace has been their motto almost from the minute she grabbed them by the neck and pointed out that size didn’t matter, she was the boss.

What Ebony and Horton didn’t do while caving in to Jocie’s power play was warn her that a much tougher nut was waiting in the wings to meet her. I don’t think Jocie had paid much attention to Miette. She doesn’t look like a threat to ferret world domination these days (actually she’s never looked like a threat – that’s one of her biggest secret weapons), she’s very, very old and grey, has cataracts and is the tiniest ferret God ever put on Earth. I imagine Jocie didn’t even think it was worth the effort to grapple with Miette, it was a foregone conclusion in her mind that Miette would just recognise superior ferret power when she saw it and there would be no contest. Poor Jocie, she didn’t realise what was in store for her.

Just for form’s sake Jocie approached Miette in her dominant ferret mode and went for the back of the neck. All text book stuff in ferret domination – just grab the neck, wrestle this tiny, inferior ferret to the ground, prove one’s superiority and let go saying, “No harm done, all friends now.” That’s when Jocie’s little world came unstuck. Even at three months old Jocie makes two of Miette in size. Before she knew what was happening, Miette had performed a double somersault with a flip and had Jocie pinned to the ground. I held my breath. Miette is old and frail now and I wasn’t sure she would come out on top this time. Jocie freed herself from Miette’s grip, tried to explain politely that Miette had it wrong, she, Jocie was the top ferret in this outfit and all Miette had to do was realise this and they could form a lasting friendship. Miette just curled her little lip at this suggestion and dropped Jocie again in mid explanation.

Well!!! Jocie was made of sterner stuff than any ferret Miette had ever encountered in all her eight years. Only one other ferret had ever entered into a real contest for the top position on the ferret totem pole before, and you really couldn’t call what Theodore did as entering into the contest. All have caved in at the second or third tussle and admitted that Miette was the best. Theodore? Theodore was one of my first pair of ferrets and he was old when Miette met him. She bullied him for a couple of days while he just tried to keep out of her way. Finally, when she got to be too cocky he grabbed her by the neck, lifted her off the ground, shook her twice and dropped her on the floor. He then moved away to investigate other parts of the loungeroom leaving Miette in shock. I was beside myself with worry. All the time I was watching Theodore dealing out this tough love, I was worried that he’d really hurt the little bossy thing, but I also understood how he felt and that this was his chance to bring this particular ferret war to an end. Miette came over to me for some sympathy. She didn’t get it. She then sought out Theodore, told him she respected a ferret who stood up for himself, and agreed to be top ferret of all except him. A beautiful friendship resulted and lasted until Theodore died of old age.


Anyway, back to the Miette – Jocie battle. Jocie is not the type of ferret to give in easily. Miette is not the type of ferret to give in period. The battle raged over the entire length of the hall for quite some time. At no time though did it deteriorate into viciousness or acrimony. It was just a contest to see who would win with each combatant determined it wasn’t going to be the other one. Ebony and Horton amused themselves away from the battle field, which often involved having to move somewhere else because the battlefield had caught up with them. From time to time Jocie needed a bit of morale boosting so she’d go and drop Ebony to the ground, flatten her out and prove that she, Jocie, was still top ferret in some ferret’s opinion. Miette sneered at such insecure needs – she knew she was top ferret and didn’t need to keep proving it to herself.

Miette had an unfair advantage in knowing the lay of the land in the hall – it was foreign territory to Jocie. Miette used things like the vacuum cleaner stored in the corner and the bookcase as ambush sites and popped out from these hiding places as Jocie rushed passed. Guerrilla warfare was new to Jocie but it didn’t take her long to see the benefits. The problem was the only two hiding places in the hall seemed to be full of Miette whenever Jocie tried to use the same tactics. Jocie started to wonder if there were in fact two Miettes and she was outnumbered.

In the end Jocie agreed to let Miette think she was boss. She didn’t exactly give in. She just stopped trying to dominate Miette and chose to play with the other two instead. Miette was welcomed into the games and all four became good friends. Horton by this time just wanted to find a place away from the waring women and go to sleep so we put all four of the ferrets in the inside cage for a well earned nap. Erin and I were just about ready for a nap too after trying to referee the Ferret Games. Once they were in new territory Jocie thought she’d try another power play. Maybe Miette would be at a disadvantage with no chance to use her guerrilla tactics and in a much more confined area. The war resumed and raged all over the cage. Ebony hopped from one side to the other to get out of their way. Horton slept on with the battle literally raging over him. At one time we thought he was going to get involved. He stood up, looked at the two war mongers, stretched slightly and moved to a more remote part of the cage to give them more room while he went back to sleep.

In the end Jocie was completely worn out. Where Miette managed to find all that energy at her time of life I don’t know, but finally all the ferrets settled into a ferret pile and went to sleep. I went in later to check on them and found Miette to be the only one awake. She was whispering something into Jocie’s ear while she was asleep. I know what it was too.

“Miette is the boss, Miette is the boss.”

So you see, you can put a ferret in its place. It just takes another ferret to do it.

Miette whisperin "Miette is the boss,
Miette is the boss."

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Making Friends at the Adelaide Show

Not the ram in question, but really a little brag from me.  This is Sam, our very first Suffolk ram.

Recently we visited the Adelaide Show.  We go most years for two reasons.  The Elite Ram Sale and fairy floss.  There are members of my family who will tell you I go just for the fairy floss but that's not true.  While it is true I refuse to leave the show until I have some to take with me, I really go to admire the sheep on show.  

This year we needed to buy two rams - a Suffolk and a White Suffolk.  We inspected all the possible contenders for the Spring Rock menagerie, Graeme hoping like mad that he found rams that didn't have too much personality and me chatting to each ram to see if they were friendly or not.  All the rams on our list seemed to be Graeme's type of ram rather than mine.  With a philosophical sigh I left Graeme to talk to their owners about our picking the ram up at a later date should we be the successful bidder.  We don't take our sheep trailer with us - it's just too difficult to find parking in Adelaide at this time of year when you only have a car, just about impossible with a huge trailer on the back.

While Graeme was making arrangements with the breeders I walked to the other end of the huge shed to meet and greet the Suffolk rams.  The first ram on our list turned out to have won reserve champion at the show.  His ribbons and awards were proudly displayed over his pen while he snuggled in a corner taking a well earned rest.  I admired his awards and congratulated him on his success.  He was watching me as I looked over the certificates and ribbons in his haul and when I spoke to him he rose to his feet, wandered over to me and nudged my hand with his nose.  That's all the encouragement I need to get up close and personal with a ram - really it's all the encouragement I need to get friendly with almost any living creature (humans aside of course!!!).  I began scratching where his horns would be if Suffolks had horns, rubbing the side of his face and between his eyes.  All favourite scratching/rubbing spots for sheep.  

While this little love-fest was going on an elderly man stopped to watch me.  I smiled at him and said the ram was very friendly.  That was all the encouragement he needed to stop for a long chat about his merino farming history.  He was a lovely fellow and the ram and I enjoyed his company immensely.  After he left the ram and I continued our bonding process and I told him he was now top of my list and I'd do my best to get Graeme to bid has high as needed to buy him.  He seemed fine with that and started to close his eyes in bliss.

As he was drifting off into his own little paradise a group of girls walked by.  They stopped abruptly when they saw the ram blissing out. 

"Look at that sheep!"  one of them screamed. 

"Wow!" was the reply from her friends.  

They looked at me with shocked expressions and I smiled at them and said, "I'm hypnotising him."  

They believed me and started watching closer.  "How do you do that?"  one asked.

Oh, oh.  I thought.  They might try to hypnotise a ram that wasn't the big bundle of friendliness this ram is. I had visions of irate rams pounding their hand against the side of the pen while proclaiming he wasn't that sort of ram.  So I came clean and told them I wasn't really hypnotising him.  He was just a very friendly ram and was enjoying the rubbing and scratching session.  They still watched closely.  I think they preferred my first explanation though.

Did we manage to buy him?  Sadly no.  The bidding went way too high even for me to consider buying him. Farrer will not have any competition on the farm here for being the friendliest ram.  Well, I don't think he will.  We did buy the Suffolk ram's brother though, so I suppose there's some chance his friendliness is a family trait.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

What More Can I Say But Billy!!!!

As those who have followed my blog for a while will know, I have a problem when visiting the toilet here - Billy. He sleeps in the laundry where our only toilet lives and as the laundry isn't very big and Billy is, there isn't a lot of floor space left over for essential toilet visiting things like feet and legs (mine, not Billy's).  When Billy is really up close and personal with the porcelain it usually takes a couple of gentle, or sometimes not so gentle, digs in his ribs to get him to shuffle out a bit.  Usually if find it a lot easier and quicker to do my best to arrange my self around him. This of course is fraught with danger, but at least if I'm ever unsuccessful in my arrangements I'll have a soft place to land on Billy's ample belly.

This morning there just wasn't anywhere to put my feet.  Billy was almost wrapped around the base of the toilet.  It's in a corner of the laundry so that was quite a feat for a large dog.  Billy is stone deaf these days so unless I can get him to look at me, and when he knows I want him to do something he doesn't want to do, he'll look anywhere but at me, I can't get him to do a thing.  If I can get him to look at me, hand and arm flailing, serious facial expressions and lots of pointing usually result in Billy heaving a sigh and going wherever it is I'm pointing.  This time he just kept his eyes closed, sleep being the best excuse ever.  I proceeded to perform the digs in the ribs routine only to me met with absolutely nothing from Billy.  He didn't grunt, shuffle to the side or even give a hint that he'd felt my prodding.  I moved my foot and prodded his head.   Billy's response was to open one eye, look at me and then close that eye again.  My back was in a bad way already so there was no way I could bend and grab his collar and forcibly remove him.  Graeme was out in a paddock somewhere so calling for his help was no use and I really needed to move that dog!!!

I resorted to bribery - quite a common theme with my dealings with Billy I'm afraid.  Billy is a sucker for dry cat food.  He will do almost anything for a little scoop of cat food, including take his attention off the ferrets in the middle of an exchange of insults between he and them, so waking up and moving a few inches should have been a cinch.  I opened the bin containing the food and took out a small scoop.  At the sound of the cat kibble crunching as I scooped it up Billy's eyebrow twitched.  I waved the scoop under his nose.  Billy's nose twitched.  I then moved the scoop away but Billy didn't follow.  I brought the scoop back under his nose and once again that nose twitched.  I might add that twitching nose was the only thing that did move on Billy's body though.  I moved the scoop away with no dog removing success yet again.  I decided to leave a little trail of cat foot from Billy's nose to his dish in the hope that he'd jump up and scoop up each kibble, thus creating a free space around the toilet.  No such luck.

Billy lay there, nose twitching, trying to locate the spot where the kibble lay.  Then, before my disbelieving eyes a huge pink tongue came out, moved across the floor and scooped in the little line of kibble closest to his head.   Crunch, crunch crunch and the tongue came out again, explored as far as it could reach and scooped in the last of the kibble he could reach.  I waited for Billy to get up to get the rest but he obviously thought that the little snack he'd had (all of about six pieces of kibble) would last him for a while and went back to sleep with a satisfied smile on his face.

I had no alternative than to perform acrobatics that a woman of my age and injuries shouldn't even contemplate.  My mission was successfully completed and more acrobatics performed to get me back on my feet while Billy slept on.

The left over cat food?  As soon as I opened the door Juno, the red kelpie type, raced in and scooped it up as quickly as she could (the kelpie types love cat food as much as Billy does) while keeping one eye on Billy's prone form.  I expected Billy to jump up and defend his stash.  Nope.  Billy gently snored and left Juno to it.

Just what was Billy up to last night?!!!!

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Bird World

Last week we had to drive to Melbourne for a car service and, as it was going to take a day and a half to get done, we had to spend the night down there.  We decided to take this opportunity to have a mini holiday and stay at Ballarat for the night and spend Friday being tourists.

We drove down to Melbourne on Thursday and dropped the car off at the dealers for its service.  We then took off in the loan car (a very sporty looking Volvo) and visited with OzJane for a few hours.  Jane made us a very scrumptious lunch and her friend Sue came around to show me how to make a very intriguing needle holder that opens from either side and turns the opposite side into the hinge.  Very hard to explain without a video to show what I mean, but it looks like magic!!!  I am now addicted to making these and will give them as gifts to the quilting group ladies who visit here each month and for all the girls in my family for Christmas as well as anyone else I can think of.  I made my first one that night in our motel room and it was a success!!!

After being thoroughly spoilt buy Jane we drove to Ballarat and went to Bird World   on Friday morning.  It's about a 1km round walk through the sanctuary and aviary but on a board walk, so I decided to brave it.  I'm so glad I did.  The birds were wonderful.  We started off looking at the birds in the cages, a long line of quite roomy cages and plaques with information about each species.  When we got to the black cockatoos I found bits of stick to give the inhabitants because I know cockies love nothing better than to chew a stick to sawdust.  They all came to the wire and appreciated my efforts and were all so gentle.  A few of them were talkers. 

One Major Mitchell parrot went through a whole repertoire of words and sounds - hello, wolf whistle, even a meow and the hackneyed, Cocky wants a cracker.  I told him how disappointed I was in him for being so trite and he hung his head in shame, then went back to wolf whistling at me to try and win my favour again.  It's been so long since anyone has whistled at me that this ploy was a complete success.  While we were talking to the Major Mitchell and tickling the foot of a very big black cockatoo next door - he held the soft underpart of his foot up to the cage for us to stroke -, the owner of the sanctuary came out of his back door and spotted us.  He stopped to talk about his birds and ended up taking us into the cage of the black cockatoo, who's name is Jessie.  I never did figure out if Jessie was a boy or a girl.  The owner referred to him as both he and she while talking to us, and I'm not expert enough to tell by the colour of the white spot under Jessie's tail.

Jessie fell in love with Graeme and hopped on his arm while Graeme was paying attention to the owner.  Jessie then travelled up Graeme's arm, settled on his shoulder close to Graeme's face and lowered his/her head near Graeme's obviously asking for a snuggle (we'd seen the owner snuggle with her when we first entered the cage).  Well, Graeme, might scratch a parrot and even offer his finger for the parrot to hold hands, but there's no way he'll snuggle with a parrot so he pretended not to understand what Jessie wanted, even after I patiently explained the bird's intentions to Graeme!  Jessie had to make do with what Graeme would do, and lots of pats and kind words from me of course.  I introduced Jessie to the delights of having under his/her wing scratched.  I don't think anyone had done that before because at first he/she was reluctant to raise her/his wing, but once I started scratching Jessie's wing stayed up for the rest of the visit and more requests for such scratches were made.  That's my galah Hedwig's favourite scratching site so I thought other birds would most likely would appreciate it too.

All the time we were in Jessie's cage the Major Mitchell was doing everything he could to get my attention, so I divided my time between the two.  I couldn't offer him a scratch of any sort though because he was a biter.

We then said a sad goodbye to Jessie and walked the rest of the aviary.  Through the free flight section we were stalked by a gorgeous red and green parrot who met us when we first approached the aviary by landing on the wire and talking to us.  Once we'd gone in he dive bombed us from time to time, not threateningly, just playing, he came nowhere near us and was so obviously having fun that we weren't at all worried about him.  We didn't realise he was hatching an escape plan. Just before we reached the end of the aviary he left us.  When we got the gate there he was sitting on the post near the exit.  We stopped and chatted to him and he made it plain he didn't want to be touched, so I contented myself with just passing the time of day with him.  While we were chatting he climbed onto Graeme's arm and sat there with an expectant look on his face.  That's when I realised he was hoping to be sprung!  He wanted Graeme to carry him out of the cage and into freedom!!!  When he realised that this wasn't going to happen, he took off in a huff and we left the cage quickly in case he returned to fly through with us.

We had a great time.  Jessie is welcome to come and live here at Spring Rock any time he/she feels the need for a change of scenery.  The Major Michell is welcome too, even though he is a biter.  With his wolf whistles to stroke my ego he'd be a wonderful addition to the menagerie.