Thursday, September 23, 2010

Monkey Rabbit

Being an absolute animal freak since I was a child, I have always had pets of almost every variety there is. One of the things I used to do quite frequently during the breeding season was to stop the car and get out to check the pouches of any possums I saw lying on the road to see if there were any babies in there. I had successfully reared several and so had some experience at doing this, especially from mums who'd been shot by overzealous farmers. This particular morning, I was on my way to the school where I worked as a teacher, when I saw a freshly killed possum obviously hit by a car as she had tried to cross the road. As usual, I got out to check the pouch and there was a minute baby so young that it had barely any fur and, as I'd never had success with one so young, I didn't think its chances of survival would be too high. However, I decided to try anyway and took it – “it” turned out to be “he” – home with me. He was very cold and wouldn't attempt to suck at the formula I offered. (Young possums attach themselves to a nipple in the pouch the way kangaroos do and I had detached him from his dead mother's nipple). I put him into my bed wrapped in a woolly jumper with the electric blanket on, in the hope that he would warm up and so decide to suckle. Not so!! I was desperate, when I had an idea. I owned a red and white Manx cat named Monkey Rabbit, who had just weaned a litter of kittens and still had some milk. We all know what great mothers cats are and so I decided to give the idea a try. I put the possum into the kittening box with Monkey and, to my amazement, she started to purr immediately. After a bit of coaxing, the possum found a nipple and started to suckle!!!! Monkey licked him all over and stayed in the box with him for some time, then decided to leave him to sleep. However, he had very different ideas. Possums cling to their mothers' backs and this was to prove no exception. It was the funniest thing to see Monkey trying to rid herself of this "thing" which had attached itself to her and would not let go. In the end, she gave up and the baby possum was permitted to ride around on her stomach, hanging on for dear life with his tiny "paws". This story had a happy ending as, thanks to Monkey Rabbit, a very helpful vet and an excellent milk substitute, the possum grew into an adult who became known as Sugarmagundi. He became a bit of a nuisance as he grew, because he believed he belonged inside with his "mother" and she believed that he belonged outside in the trees with the other possums. Sugar was very tame and no matter what we did to try to make the house possum proof he always found a way inside to curl up with Monkey, even when she had other litters. Eventually, he discovered that lady possums were far more interesting than his "mother" and he found a mate to live happily ever after with.He always came to visit around dusk each night to say hello and to get his piece of bread and sugar - hence his name. He loved to lie in wait after dark and, hanging from a low branch by his tail, would grab the hair of anyone who passed by beneath him. This was quite a scary thing when you weren’t expecting to be swiped by his sharp claws. He got my mother-in-law on a number of occasions! Sugar’s nocturnal visits into the house eventually stopped but he continued to hang from the trees to play his practical joke on any friends or family who were foolish enough to visit after dark.

Just Like A Man (JLAM)

Who needs a man when one breeds Burmese cats? They insist upon accompanying me to bed every night and draping their furry bodies over all parts of mine, even in 38 degree heat, Just Like A Man. They take up more than two thirds of my queen-sized bed, Just Like A Man. They steal all the doona, Just Like A Man and insist that the electric blanket remains on 3. Their claws leave marks akin to whisker rash, JLAM. They get under my feet in the mornings when I'm trying to prepare breakfast in two minutes flat, JLAM. They scatter the neatly folded washing searching for a pair of rolled-up socks, JLAM. They demand their dinner at 7 p.m. sharp (after a hard day employed trashing the house) – yep, just like a man!
If you've shrunk your favourite jumper in the wash, hang it from a curtain rod. They'll think it's a new curtain and leap onto it and hang there by their claws. You know they will - you've seen them do it. Soon that jumper will be so stretched by the weight of their bodies, that you'll be able to wear it again. I used to leave meat out to thaw on the sink. Not any more! They love frozen meat. They drag it around the house like a lion with its prey until the meat succumbs to this treatment and breaks into small pieces as hard as marbles - but they still eat it. I wonder if I could train them to crack nuts? Open stubbies with their teeth? The possibilities seem endless. Who needs kitchen gadgets when one breeds Burmese cats?
How many times have you replaced the wire in your flywire screens? They don't care. They love to sit on the sill staring out at the world when suddenly some frenzy overcomes them and they just have to be outside. I wonder if one can buy chain-mail from the local hardware store? Mine have also learned that, if they persist for long enough, they can get that rolled rubber which keeps the wire in the screen, out. Then they play mad things chasing, with glee, all the flies they let in while I was at work. Another one has learned how to open almost any type of door. I stagger out to the loo in the wee, small hours only to be joined by this furry purry. She jumped up onto the seat behind me one night and fell in. She's lucky I was awake enough to realise what happened before I flushed.
They have cat races regularly at about 10 p.m. I don't know who the handicapper is, but they set out to break each others’ times every night. They get up quite a pace through my rambling old house and they lose traction on the polished timber floors. They fish-tail, hang do-nuts, do spin-outs and skid sideways into furniture and legs willy nilly. They scatter the mats all over the rooms. They race around with Christmas tree tails and eyes like yellow headlights on high beam. I think I'll place rags on the floors strategically about the house. Who needs floor polish when one breeds racing Burmese cats?
It's impossible to read in bed. As soon as you open your book and settle back, one comes and sits on your chest. All you can see is fur. Two more dive under the doona and proceed to belt each other up never minding about your legs and other things which also happen to be under there. They lick your eye lashes and purr in your ear. They walk across your chest and put their tails up your nostrils. (They also do these things when you are trying to write). So, you give up on the reading and settle down to sleep. All is quiet until 3 a.m. when all hell breaks loose and they decide to party. That's when they get thrown out and I slam the door in their faces. They hurl themselves at it like furry "cat"apaults, but I own a heart carved from stone!
I have been woken by an alarm which went off two hours early because they'd walked across the controls and advanced the time during the night. They jump on top of the fridge and re-hang the pictures on the wall. It took me weeks to figure out why the pictures kept hanging lop-sided after I'd straightened them, then the light was right one morning and I could see their paw marks on the frames.
They knock over lamps, tip the pegs out of the basket and send the full ash trays flying - yet they can walk along the mantle without disturbing a thing! They constantly jump onto the table, the sink, the benches. They fish books from the book case with their soft, velvety paws. They spread the newspaper from one end of the house to t'other. They shred six rolls of toilet paper at a time.
You know that they do all of these things, and more. They are wicked in the extreme. Yet, they leap about with joy when I arrive home from work. They entwine themselves about my legs. They rub their heads on my chin and kiss my nose. They purr with contentment on my knee as we sit in front of the fire. They present me with kittens which provide me with endless pleasure from watching their antics. They give me their unconditional love and an abundance of affection. They astound me with their intelligence. They enrich my life with their presence, my beautiful Burmese cats.

Cassandra's one dumb redhead!

Gd Ch Chattan Cassandra ("Flea") is a very beautiful, but very dumb, broad. Burmese are supposed to be intelligent cats, but apparently Flea has not been informed of this fact. Having lived inside for all of her seven months of existence, I took pity on her and let her out on this beautiful Spring day. She had spent hours sitting on the sill chasing birds through the window of her imagination. I put her out with three of my other cats and watched them having a wonderful time playing "chasey" on the lawn, rolling about in the sunshine and longingly watching the birds, mainly thrushes, in the many trees in the yard. Things went very quiet and I assumed that they were all asleep in some snug nest they'd made, just for that purpose, in the hay stack. I went out to bring in the washing at 6 p.m. and all of them, minus Flea, ran up to me to be fed and locked up for the night. I put them all away and folded up the washing. Then I went out to get Flea. I could hear her raucous cry which seemed to be coming from under the house. I called her, but still she didn't come. A cold dread seized me as I realised that her cry was coming from far above my head. I looked up and there she was right at the top of a fifty-five feet tall sycamore tree, high in the uppermost small and flimsy new growth.
My heart fell like a stone into the pit of my stomach. How could I get her down? The trunk of the tree was huge and smooth with no footholds and the branch nearest to the ground was at least 2.5 meters above my head. She was crouching there looking down and calling to me. As I watched, horrified, she lost her hold and fell through the thick foliage onto the next branch. Luckily I had not clipped her claws recently, so she was able to get another grip before falling any further. I raced inside to get my nine year old daughter, Stephanie, with the intention of giving her a bunk up into the tree in the hope that she could get high enough to reach Flea and help her down. Stephanie was not a great tree climber and the height and the smooth, slippery trunk overwhelmed her. Flea had come down only so far and then retreated to the top as I helped Stephanie out of the tree.
I went back inside and brought Charlie out. She loves climbing trees, so I put her up as high into the tree as I could reach and asked her to help Flea down. Charlie scooted up to Flea and they had a long conversation in Burmese which I could not understand. Then a thrush flew into the tree and they were off after it right up to the top again! After some time of playing tag, Charlie came to the lowest fork and shinned down the rest of the way backwards with her front legs wrapped around the smooth branch hanging on like a koala, then dropped the last two meters safely to the ground.
As I watched, I realised what the problem was. Flea, having never climbed before, would only come to the last safe fork forwards. She did not realise that she had to turn around and come down the rest of the way backwards. I called and called to her, but she would come no further. By now it was 7:30 p.m. and I was becoming concerned.
I heard voices and, by looking over the fence, I saw two men who were complete strangers to me having a conversation on the footpath about fifty meters away. I called to them and asked if they could help. I explained that we lived alone (stoopid!) and had no ladder and we could not reach Flea. The younger of the two willingly agreed to help, but could not get much closer than I had. We held out a large broom to her, but she would not take the hint. He left, continuing on his way to a meeting.
There was one last thing I could think of to do, but I felt very sheepish about doing it. I rang the local Country Fire Authority and explained my predicament to the man who answered. To say he was amused would be doing him an injustice, but he managed to control his mirth. It was 8 p.m. by now and Flea was very distressed. About fifteen minutes later I saw the huge shiny red fire truck coming up the driveway, lights flashing. I went out to meet it and two firemen with twinkling, mischievous eyes got out of the truck - in full uniform. I wanted to die! One of them, Ron, said he would "survey the scene". The other one, Roy, stood back with a grin splitting his face saying that they had a 60 ft. ladder at their disposal. Ron donned a hard hat and a pair of leather gloves and climbed up into the tree far above my head. Flea, seeing her rescue close at hand, climbed down to him. Rotten cat! Ron carried her safely to the ground. As we stood around laughing about the dangerous calls that the CFA answers, a group of people from the local branch walked into the yard. They had heard about my call over the CB radio hook-up and had come to watch the fun. After many thank-yous and the promise of a voluntary contribution from me, they all left in high humour.
Flea was by now back inside the house, but I couldn't find her for over an hour. Dratted cat! Needless to say, her only day of freedom will also be her last! She doesn't know, either, that she made the front page of the local newspaper. It could have been worse, I suppose. There is an ancient monkey puzzle tree, over 100ft. tall, in the front yard. I noticed Ron and Roy eyeing it with trepidation as they drove away.

Stud Muffin

Billy Ray Cyrus lives at my house and it’s true love! My achy breaky heart has been pounding since I first spotted him one Sunday. One bar of rhythm and blues and I was hooked. His soulful eyes, so full of fun & sweet expression, captivated me. Such soft, sweet- smelling fur. He dances on feet that tread like a gazelle's. His perfectly shaped ears fit closely against his head. Billy Ray Cyrus is my daughter's Scottish Fold cat. (Nikeda I’ll-B-Yours).
She'd been at me for at least eighteen months to buy one for her, but these kittens were not as easy to acquire as a really nifty country and western outfit. Then we found him! Stephanie was determined to have him and, between her and his breeder, I was co-erced. All the articles I've read about Folds are true. He is the sweetest thing, full of wide-eyed innocence, while at the same time being an absolute rat bag. He looks like Benny Hill in that stupid grey beret that Benny used to wear pulled down low over his ears. His head pops up out of the boxes placed around the house for feline adventure playground equipment as if to say, "Here I am. I'll be yours!” (You named him well, Collin).
He is as cute as a button and extremely affectionate. He wraps his front legs around our necks and buries his head under our chins, purring like mad. He is so soft. My Burmese girls have their noses well and truly out of joint. Their catnip mice, previously so well hidden all over the house, have been ousted and killed a thousand times over. Billy loves to tease the girls by racing around holding the mice in his mouth by their tails. The girls sit at the highest vantage points watching him with baleful eyes.
We introduced them by leaving Billy Ray in a carrier in the lounge room while we watched television. The girls hissed and booed at him, making terrible innuendo about his Caledonian origins (they're racist) and much more "pointed" comments about those things on the top of his head. He assured them that his ears worked well, that he could indeed hear them and then he settled down for a good wash and a nap. They continued to insult him. He ignored them. You'd think that they'd be used to strange looking pusses after living with three Manx but, upon reflection, they say rude things about them too!! Billy Ray now strolls nonchalantly about the house and pays absolutely no attention to them, treating them with the distain he thinks they deserve. Nothing fazes him. To be on the safe side, though, he sleeps with Stephanie while they spend the night in front of the heater.
Billy does not like my "Group 1 Black Smoke". She is my Keeshond dog, Bobbie, and has been dubbed such by the regulars at the week-end shows she almost always attends. He sidles up to her, fluffed up to twice his size spitting and hissing, so she averts her head and looks at the floor. Avoid eye contact at all costs. "Och, aye, lassie - I'll turn yae intae haggis afore mae long!" Discretion being the better part of valour, Bobbie breaks the front door down trying to leave the house. Haggis is not one of her favourite dishes, particularly when she is to be the main ingredient.
Well, Billy Ray won't be able to caterwaul like his name sake for much longer. There is a lady vet just up the high road a wee bit and she plans to take a wee snip, curtailing Billy Ray's future musical career for good!
Unless, of course, he'd be content to harmonise "Auld Lang Syne" in top C.

Thomas, the Siamese with a hotline to Heaven

A writhing mass of coiling black scales was proudly presented and waited menacingly at the top of the stairs for me - Thomas had been out hunting again!! He was most offended when his offering of a red bellied black snake, stolen from its hole near the river bank, was quickly killed and thrown into the fire box of the slow combustion stove which burned constantly in the kitchen. Not fully grown, but big enough to kill Thomas had it bitten him; and certainly big enough to instantly reduce my life expectancy by ten years.
Thomas was a neutered seal tabby point Siamese of no particular ancestry, but possessed of a close personal relationship with God who had endowed him with far more than the usual nine feline lives. He was an intrepid snake hunter and catcher and, during the warmer months, he insisted upon bringing home his catch - always still alive. While I was living in the mountains of the high country these catches were invariably tiger snakes and a bite from one would have quickly killed him. Which is what almost happened.
Upon going out the back door to walk up the hill to my small rural school early one morning in late autumn, I saw Thomas throwing into the air and catching, over and over again, a tiger snake about eighteen inches long. Each time that it landed and tried desperately to escape, Thomas pounced on its tail and the whole "throw it into the air and catch it again" sequence was repeated. I hoped fervently that the young snake's mum would not appear and come to its rescue! I managed to get Thomas away from the snake and we quickly left it to escape to wherever its little heart so desired. I took Thomas into the house and after a very thorough inspection decided that he had luckily evaded snake suicide yet again.
I was leaving for New Zealand the next day and the local policeman's daughter (who I was teaching at that time) was going to cat sit Thomas until I returned. When the time came to deliver him to Rachael, Thomas was not a well puss. It appeared that this time he had indeed been fanged. I could not cancel my trip, so the decision was made to nurse him "country style" and to hope that his connections in high places would help to ensure his recovery. By the time I left, his breathing was shallow, he was almost comatose and I did not expect him to survive.
He, however, had sent a catapathic message to his aforementioned powerful, heavenly mentor and upon my return three weeks later he greeted me in his usual exuberant manner fully recovered from his close encounter with the grim reaper. He gave up snake hunting after that but continued to pursue, and become involved in, other equally dangerous feline escapades.
Some of the young louts in this small, very remote country town having nothing better to do one Saturday night, decided to make their own fun with Thomas. He had followed me as usual down to the pub where I'd gone to have a counter tea, the only entertainment during an otherwise very quiet week. He always waited, and then returned home with me when I left. On this particular night he wasn't waiting, so I walked home expecting him to jump in through the bedroom window during the night. He didn't come home.
He was found late the next afternoon behind some empty beer barrels by the publican and he was very seriously injured. Those young sadists had held him down on the road and had run over him repeatedly on a small trail bike. They had also forced a broken stick into his rectum. (We found all this out when Thomas' policeman friend made some very angry enquiries). His jaw was broken, most of the skin was missing from his legs and he had a fractured pelvis. Bone was visible through his terrible injuries, his ears were torn and his tail was broken.
I rang the nearest vet who was over sixty kilometres away and he arrived one and a half hours later. After he examined Thomas, we decided to put him to sleep. The syringe was drawn and I had pulled out his front leg to raise the vein when he opened his eyes and miaowed feebly, then licked my hand. That did it! I knew he was asking me to give him a chance to prove his indestructibility.
My sister Julie and I nursed him constantly. He went to school with me resting on a soft sheep skin on a bean bag, where my indignantly enraged young pupils helped look after him. We fed him raw egg yolk and glucose through an eye dropper and stimulated him to urinate and use his bowels. He improved slightly, but his wounded legs were becoming necrotic and smelled offensive. Once again I decided to euthanase him as he was in such pain and was so sick. Dressing his wounds was a terrible ordeal for him although he never once attempted to bite or scratch me.

Julie, who loved him too, suggested we try one last thing. We gave him a massive dose of streptomycin, an anti-biotic capsule prescribed for the horses' use. (This was in excess of all the other medication he had already been given). I took him home determined that he would have to recover very quickly for me to change my mind. The result was spectacular. Within eight hours he was beginning to recover and two weeks later he was shakily mobile once again.
Those young boys were never charged, but the local cop caught them riding their trail bikes on-road and so they got their just desserts for breaking the law in another way. Not long after this distressing experience I re-married and moved a long way from that mountainous region with its unpleasant memories and Thomas had many more adventures. He was always in trouble but as I mentioned earlier, he was on miaowing terms with the Big Boss and so he reached a weary, battle-scarred old age, no thanks to his own intelligence. His final years were happily spent permanently indoors (but not out of trouble!) guarding my baby daughter, who harassed him unmercifully but whom he loved dearly. I could (and might yet) write a very lengthy book about my life, but I will always remember that rascal Thomas.

My four boyfriends

As soon a they hear me get out of bed, they wait to greet me on the back lawn. They sing to me late into the night, roosted in the trees closest to my bedroom...I often hear them as late as 11pm and as early as 4.30am!! They follow me about everywhere I go on the property. They watch me through the big, sliding glass doors. And they sing, just for me! Sometimes their warbling sounds like an out-of-tune distant radio station, but mostly it's loud, full-throated warbling .. and they sound so pretty. They entice me to come outside and feed them with their wonderful singing. They must know the story of Odysseus & The Sirens, because I can't resist either. They always manage to lure me outside with scraps for them. They actually sit right near the sliding door singing to me (see pic far left) at various times throughout the day. I can see them watching for me through the glass. They know I will bring them slices of bread, chop bones ~ whatever I can find for them. They know they only have to sing and I am smitten! Two of them are mature males, yet they allow me to hand-feed them. A third is also now a mature male, but when I found him injured in the middle of a busy road he was just a fledgling. I couldn't leave him where he was ... the morontorists didn't care if they hit him or not. He is still very subordinate because I brought him into other male magpies' territory, but they now tolerate him. They steal the dogs' bones and they squabble over any scraps they find. All four of them arrive every afternoon around 5pm. They sit on the low branches of the grapevine and sing their hearts out because they know this is feed time for the other animals & I always have extras in my pockets for them. That they trust me enough to allow me to touch them is a real privilege, though I must admit that those strong male beaks up close can be a little disconcerting. They always mind their manners though :)
I have never seen their partners but I know they are feeding young. There's a huge, old, scrappy nest right in the top of one of the Salmon Gums. They come back to use it every year. Another pair has its nest at the very back of the property about thirty feet up in the branches of a Red Box tree.
All four of them spend hours together in the horse paddock hunting for insects and tapping on the ground for worms. They steal the chook's feed. They spread the horse manure about with those strong, snapping beaks and find all manner of bugs. They are diligent parents.
They watch our cats very warily - but so do we! No bird killing permitted here.
I'm aware they rely on me for water through the long, hot summer months so have placed a large concrete bird bath where I can watch them come every morning & evening for a drink and a cool bath in the water I put out fresh each day. There's a dark green plastic chair next to the bird bath where I sit on pretty Spring days. Sometimes one of them will land on the back of the chair & sing right into my ear. I am hoping I'll get to see their new babies when they fledge and that my boyfriends will continue to sing for their suppers.

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Woolly the chook

This gorgeous little girl is a blue Pekin Bantam. She was named after woolly-de-rosie a.k.a. Rachel from the wonderful world of Ravelry. She is a second generation of my own bloodlines and she will soon go broody (the chookie, not Rachel LOL). When that happens she will be given some fertilised eggs to sit on and hatch. The eggs take 21 days to hatch and I always have the incubator turned on from about Day 19 ~ JIC any of the chicks need extra care or have trouble getting out of the shell. This is exactly what happened with a baby trying to hatch last week. It pipped the shell OK, but after 24 hrs had made no progress. Over a period of about four hours, I very tentatively broke the shell away with a pin and pair of tweezers. The chick managed to make its escape and once its feathers were dry by around 11 pm I placed it under its mum & it's doing really well now ... eating lots, strong and growing feathers at an alarming rate! Pekins have feathered feet, so they do little damage when they scratch. They are quiet and with sweet dispositions, making them great pets for childen. Who cares about the size of their eggs??!!! LOL

It was such a pretty day ...

Today was the first 'pretty' day we've had for MONTHS, so I spent most of it having fun in my Chrysler Crossfire convertible. It was even warm enough to have the top down!

Red Velvet Cake

This delicious cake has the most amazing texture. It really is like velvet! Not readily available in Australia, so I made one myself. A lot of fluffing about ~ took almost an hour to get organised and into the oven ... but oh so worth it!!! The recipe is below ...

1/2 cup vegetable shortening (softened to room temp)
1.5 cups caster sugar
2 eggs
1 teasp vanilla extract
2.5 cups plain flour
1 tsp salt
2 tablesp cocoa
1 cup buttermilk
1 teasp baking soda, sprinkled over 1 tablesp white vinegar
1/4 cup red food colouring
Cream butter & sugar together
Add eggs (one at a time, beat well) & vanilla
Sift flour, salt & cocoa together
Add alternately with buttermilk, beating well after each addition.

Stir in baking soda & careful! It foams! Blend in food colour.
Bake @ 350F in two greased & lightly floured sponge tins for 30 minutes.
2 X 250g blocks Philly cream cheese
icing sugar & vanilla ... to taste
allow cheese to reach room temp, add sugar & vanilla
beat 'til smooth with a little buttermilk to make it easy to spread
sandwich cakes together with thick layer of cream cheese mixture
spread cream cheese over tops & sides
allow to stand for a couple of hours so cake absorbs some of the cream cheese

Time for a new blog, methinks

I've been blogging about 4 years now, but my posts don't show up on the forum I spend the most time on, Ravelry. So I decided to try the most popular blog creator & see what happens. The thought of losing all those years of posts at the "other place" is annoying ....I just know that I am going to find using this new blog format very frustrating. Anyhoo, this is a pic I took of some beautiful 'Early Cheer' jonquils which are growing in my garden right now. They are heavily perfumed and I love them. There's a big bunch of them in a vase in my bedroom and it smells delicious. See? Already I am having trouble ~ I can't even get the font right!!