Three Weeks…

I’m not sure if I’m in limbo or hovering on the edge of hell, but it’s been a rough time since my last post.

I’m down to one last surviving baby rabbit – neither Catkin nor Fatty Lumpkin, but the one between them, who went by ‘T’other’ for a bit but is now just ‘Bunny’. He (or she?) is now coming up on 7 weeks, lives in the lounge in a big indoor cage and is officially the most expensive rabbit I’ve ever raised – between vet fees, the UVB lamp because I suspected he wasn’t getting enough vitamin D and a mild eye infection requiring antibiotics, he’s up to £250 and counting! His latest exploit has been to jump off the top of the heater plate and damage a hip, resulting in him putting too much weight on his immature front legs so the knees deformed. He’s now splinted on both front legs with vet wrap and cardboard, which has straightened out his legs and enabled him to stand up properly, but he’s quite dis-chuffed about it! The hind leg will just have to wait and do its own thing – he’s moving the leg alright, it just seems to have parted company with the pelvis and he’s too young, his bones too unformed, to have any hope of surgical intervention. Rabbits are also impossible to bandage around the hips! If it is a dislocation it might just reduce itself back into place over time but he’ll cope even if the joint doesn’t re-organise itself – rabbits manage remarkably well as ‘tripods’ even when a hind leg is completely amputated! He has sensation and can move it, and there’s even some strength in it, it’s just not articulated properly in the hip, so there’s no need to consider amputation – time will do what’s needed there and the splints will enable his front joints to straighten out and strengthen up.

The silkie chicks have discovered sweetcorn and as a result they’re learning to jump onto my hand on request – all I have to do is put one hand flat in the cage at about three inches off the floor and hold sweetcorn in the other, just out of reach, and chicks immediately leap onto me to grab the treats. I’m hoping to refine this into a proper ‘hop onto hand and wait’ in time.

Two of the young ferrets have gone off to their new homes – Cassandra and Hecuba – and I’m looking for new homes for Hector, Ulysses, Penelope and Iris, all now nip-trained and ready to fly the nest. I moved the ferrets back out to the barn – their cages were taking up half the lounge and I was spending too much time changing puppy pads, so they’re back outside with deep beds of wood shavings, which is more absorbent and much more fun to dig in anyway – but impossibly messy inside, since they throw shavings all over the place! They have a playpen full of toys and spend a couple of hours a day in that, which means they can all play-fight, wrestle, chase, hide, dig, tunnel and sleep together, then go back to their cages for food and rest. It seems to be suiting them all well.

I’ve picked up another couple of geese – one’s a Sevastapol cross, with a few long curly feathers but not as ridiculously frilly as a pure-bred, and the other is a Greylag – which is confusing. Technically almost all domestic geese are Greylags (Anser anser) but the ones who still have the ancestral colour markings are called Greylags. They’re quite young, about 7 months, and after a slightly tense first 48 hours Hannibal and Lucy have accepted them and they’ve formed a tight-knit little flock together. The Sevastapol is blind in one eye so tends to panic when startled by anything on her right; she also loses track of the others if they go off to her right and needs to yell until they call back and she can track them down.

I’ve been job-hunting since Mum went to the care home and at the end of September I landed a job which was supposed to start at the beginning of October. Only the company have run into a problem importing the equipment required to set up their covid-testing lab for their workers, which I’m supposed to be working in, so I’m sitting twiddling my thumbs and waiting to be told when the induction training and re-arranged start date will actually be….

Definitely limbo. Possibly Bunny’s face says it best – this was just after he’d had his front legs splinted with sections of cardboard loo roll tube cut to wrap around each leg from just above the paw to just below the elbow, so they’d stabilise his little bent knees. He was not thrilled…

Bunnies, Chicks and Ducklings!

I’m down to 5 surviving bunnies and one is trying hard to make it 4 – she’s had two complete respiratory arrests needing resuscitation now, and since she (or he!) seems to feel multiple lives are in order, I’ve named her Catkin. Here’s a video I made tonight of the biggest one, Fatty Lumpkin, hoovering supper down.

How cute are those little feet?

The two ducklings are still fine and growing away nicely. I tried offering some crumb for them but they weren’t interested and they have bulging crops every time I see them, so they’re clearly doing just fine without any extra feed!

The Silkie chicks had an interesting experience on Friday – they all had extremely mucky feet and bottoms, so they’ve been washed! Washing a live chicken, let alone a chick, is not something I’ve ever had to do before, but I’ve had to clean a few quail feet up in the past. Quail hate having their feet soaked and cleaned, but the chicks seemed to enjoy the fuss and even came out hopefully to see if there were more baths on offer the next few times they saw me!

I’ve finally got the electric fence working again – first the old energiser died, then the new one I bought collapsed into bits when I set it up (one of the clips came apart). Harbro exchanged it without hesitation the following day, and then I had to clear the weeds and almost the first stroke of the machete tapped one of the clips and, yep, it came apart.

The wire on that clip is just a spade connector, so I cannibalised the old one for the matching intact clip and got it going again this evening. George looked a bit discontented when he heard it ticking, but Dancer put her tail up and galloped off!

One of the young chickens, Blackbird, is hopping on one leg. I suspect she’s been stepped on by a horse but she won’t let me examine it – I’ll have to catch her by torchlight one evening when she’s gone to roost, since she roosts at a convenient height to be caught!

The 7-week-old quail are laying – just an egg every other day or so, as yet, but it’s a great start. The older ones have finally decided to slow down and I’m only getting 3 or 4 eggs a day from them, so having the new ones coming into lay is good.

I want to make a quick trip to the village tomorrow and pick up a jubilee clip – the ducks think it’s funny to pull the hose off the tap while I’m trying to fill up the horse buckets! I also need another tub of kitten milk for the bunnies, so I’ll get all that organised first thing, then settle down to mucking out for the rest of the day. The henhouse was done yesterday and I want to get the quail cleaned out and re-bedded tomorrow, too.

Having the ferrets in the house is great – but they do need cleaning out twice a day or they get quite stinky! Next spring I hope to build them a permanent secure outdoor home with a good running-around space for them to use all the time, not just an hour twice a day.

Major Catchup!

A great deal has happened since I last posted – not all good, but also not all bad, either.

For a start, the rabbits who were running around outside have all died, very suddenly and within 48 hours of each other. I suspect they picked up one of the 2 Rabbit Haemorrhagic Viruses that are endemic in the UK now, which can be carried by midges, are exceedingly infectious and almost universally deadly.

Mistletoe had a burrowful of kits in the lawn, however, so I had to dig the little orphans out. I found 8 youngsters in the nest, all still blind and barely crawling – about 8 days old, at a guess. It is horrendously difficult to hand-rear baby rabbits, for various reasons, but I had no choice! I brought them in and started phoning around local vets for a kitten replacement milk, Cimicat, which is the closest commercial replacement for rabbit milk, and for a probiotic called Avipro, which I’ve used before for orphan bunnies and which helps to keep the digestions going properly. I was also able to buy a kitten feeding bottle and some extra-small rubber teats, which make life very much easier and safer for the kits than trying to syringe feed.

It’s always a struggle at first with hand-rearing orphans. They’re accustomed to their mother’s milk and nothing else tastes right, it doesn’t suit their digestions as well and it’s the wrong temperature. There’s no warm furry Mum to nuzzle into, either, just a bare hand and a nasty rubbery thing that pokes at their mouths. For the first few days they lost weight hand over fist and I was just trying to get a single gram of milk into them at each meal, but then they started to catch on and learn to suck the rubber teat.

Baby rabbits have evolved to get a whole day’s nutrition in five minutes. They can suck like vacuum cleaners! They suck so hard they’ll pull the plunger down a syringe and I can feel the pull on my thumb on the end of the kitten bottle. This is great, in that they can suck down a bellyful of milk (about 5-7 grams) in ten seconds or less – but it’s also risky, as they can also suck the milk straight into their lungs. Rabbits have sensitive lungs anyway and filling them with milk almost guarantees either respiratory arrest or aspiration pneumonia, so every cough and sneeze makes me cross my fingers!

I lost one of the kits the first night, which was probably shock at being dug out and moved into the house. I lost another on day 4, just refused to feed and lay curled up and unresponsive. Probably gut stasis, which is always a risk with a bunny – if they get a stomach upset their digestive system just shuts down completely and refuses to start up again. It’s an emergency in an adult rabbit that requires a vet visit and probably a stay in a vet hospital, but in a tiny kit it was just impossible to do anything to help.

The remaining six, however, have started to gain weight again, their eyes are now open and they’re beginning to nibble a little of the dried grass I buy by the sackful for the horses. There is faint light at the end of the tunnel, though they’re far from out of the woods yet! Here they are this morning, lifted out of their between-feeds nest (under one of the chick heater plates, on a towel in a cardboard box) and into their mealtime box, where I’d put the hay. They get a minute to run around in that box and relieve themselves before I pick each one up, weigh them, feed them until they’ve had enough, weigh them again and then pop them back into the between-meals box again. If they’re still hungry they climb out and run around again – if they’re full, they settle under the warmth and snooze until they’ve digested their meal properly.

I also had a hatch of chicks; six white bantam silkie eggs went into the incubator and a stunning six little chicks came out! One failed to thrive and died a couple of days later and one had splayed legs and needed a tiny hobble making to hold his legs in place while his muscles developed properly, but the five chicks are growing strongly and doing fine now.

Making a hobble to fix splayed legs in chicks is fairly standard – you just take a drinking straw and cut it to the right length, then thread a strip of sticking plaster through it and wrap the plaster around each of the chick’s legs to fix it in place. By the time the plaster falls off (about a week) the muscles have strengthened and the joints are able to function correctly, so then you have a perfectly healthy chick again.

The ferrets are all now in the lounge for the winter – I bought another big cage to add to the two big indoor cages I already had, so I have a complete wall of ferrets! Ajax, Rambo, Fido, Paris and Hector are in one cage, Ivy and her babies Helen, Ulysses, Iris and Penelope are in the new cage, and Holly, Yarrow, Cassandra, Hecuba and Angus are in the third cage. They’re all enjoying themselves enormously as they get to come out and run amok all over the lounge every evening while I clean out their cages!

The dogs are thrilled as the ferrets scatter some of their kibble on the floor!

The horses are fine, as are the geese and hens. I had something of a drama with the ducks as Little Madam suddenly appeared with 8 ducklings in tow, but she managed to lose 6 of them within a couple of days by staying out in a rainstorm, so I incarcerated her in the barn for a while. She’s just been liberated again today and I have my fingers crossed for the ducklings!

Gosling Update

Very kindly, the goslings’ new guardian has sent me a photo and said they’re settling in fine, starting to explore their new home and mix with the other poultry there – runner ducks and chickens.

McGoose and McGander, apparently!

Hannibal and Lucy seem totally fine despite having their babies reft away suddenly, which is a relief. It’s possible I’m missing the gooselings more than they are!

So much for my plan to ask if I could ride Abe on the stubble fields – the combine was working on Monday and today the field’s ploughed!

Goslings Away!

I’m just home tonight after delivering the goslings to their new home in Perthshire – they’ve gone to be pets and lawn-mowers in an idyllic spot near Aberfeldy, miles off the road with lovely people. Hannibal and Lucy were very upset about it this morning but seem settled tonight.

Now, if I can find new homes for the ducklings as well, that will be fantastic! Especially as both Black Duck and Little Madam are broody again and have nests they’re busy sitting on….

Apart from this, all continues steadily. I’m working pretty much flat out between catching up on work here, writing new courses and lessons for students to do online and job-hunting – I like being self-employed but it’s going to take time to build my income back up there and in the meantime I need to pay bills now, so if I need to spend a while scrubbing floors to keep the critters fed, so be it.

I managed to get 6 white silkie bantam eggs last week and they’re all candling fertile, so hopefully in another couple of weeks I’ll have the last (definitely, the last!) batch of chicks this year and the incubator can go away for the winter. I’ll make sure it’s stored out of rat reach this time! Fingers crossed I get some hens when they hatch instead of more roos, but I intend to rear this batch with lots of handling and get them really tame so I can ask them to work with people next year without stress.

First Week of Freedom

It’s 7 days today since my mother went into the nursing home, and I’ve spent the time cleaning, tidying, moving furniture and tying up loose ends.

Abe had such a nice time on his walk, he asked to go again – this time while I was sitting on him! I had just intended a quiet walk around the yard with him, but he carried me firmly to the gate and stood by it with an expectant air. I turned him away the first time and he walked down to the field gate, posed looking so smug his ears nearly crossed in the middle for the other horses to go green with envy, and then took me back to the road gate and asked to go through it again!

Getting through the gate did involve a lot of manoeuvring and valuable work on understanding each other’s signals as I attempted to explain to him how to stand next to the gate, allow me to lean down and open it, back a couple of steps so I could pull the gate open and then walk through the gap, turn around, walk into the gap, allow me to grasp the gate and then reverse while I pulled it shut, before stepped forwards again alongside the gate so I could flip the latch shut again! It took a while and a lot of discussion, but eventually we achieved it and he strode cheerfully up the road, very pleased with himself.

All was well until we reached the corner, at which point Abe realised That Road Sign was still lying in wait and he stopped – luckily in a wide part and where I could steer him off the tarmac so he could think in peace – and after a little dithering on his part, I picked one of the three available options (get off and lead him past it, start a fight about him walking past it or go home) and suggested to him that he’d done very well and home was perfectly acceptable. He accepted it and carried me back to the gate, where we repeated the earlier performance in reverse (excellent learning for us both!) and then he carried me to the normal dismounting spot and waited while I hopped off again. He richly deserved his handfuls of oats!

I’ve been concentrating on just being with George, hanging out with him, offering to scratch itches and generally just chilling, and he’s getting much more relaxed and chilled in return. I did have a session complaining about him while detangling Poppy’s mane the other day and she kept heaving huge sighs at me until I asked if she was bored, but apparently she was just showing me a useful calming signal. I tried heaving a huge sigh at George later when he was rassling me with his nose a bit and he looked startled, took a step back and moderated his nose politely, so it works!

The rabbits are still free-ranging around the yard. I haven’t seen Nightshade for days, but she was looking a bit old and tired then so perhaps she just went off quietly and died – a thing rabbits are quite good at – but Sage, Mistletoe, the surviving black one (now called Dubh) and the two young white ones, Medium and Titch, are still in evidence daily. Sage is of the opinion that Dubh is female, though Medium and Titch are still too young to be of interest.

The two young quail from the lounge went out to the barn today as 6 quail hatched yesterday and are now squeaking in the brooder cage. The remaining 6 eggs are still in the incubator and I’ll leave them until tomorrow night, but I’ve just found some silkie hatching eggs (something I’ve been looking for all year!) and will be collecting them over the weekend, so Sunday the incubator will be cleaned and prepped for the last batch of eggs of the year.

With my luck they’ll all be cockerels!

All Change!

It’s been an extremely stressful, exhausting and upsetting couple of weeks since my last post, culminating in a huge upheaval.

To begin with, my mother’s mental health continued to go erratically and decidedly downhill. The local social care people came for a visit and said they thought it was time to talk about full-time residential care, and after another meeting for assessment they found a place in a nursing home 16 miles away. Two days after that Mum succeeded in slipping into the kitchen behind my back and managed to turn the cooker on, naturally choosing the ring under the frying pan to leave on full blast.

I tracked down the smoke before anything but the pan was on fire, but it’s left a lot of damage in the kitchen.

Frying Pan Fire – caught in time, luckily!

The work of cleaning up is slow and tedious, and I’ll have to replace the charred cupboard at some point.

That did at least put a stick of dynamite under the admission process for the nursing home, and the covid-19 testing team arrived two days later, the test results took 30 hours to get back and Mum was admitted into the nursing home on Friday 7th August.

I went home, collected lunch and the dogs and went to my local stone circle, 15 minutes’ walk downhill, to sleep for the afternoon. After nearly a fortnight of 22 hour days and catching a couple of hours as catnaps sitting in a chair in the lounge waiting for Mum’s next excursion, I badly need sleep! The dogs also thoroughly enjoyed their first walk for a year!

The animals are all fine, however exhausted I am. The goslings are now known as Attila and Tamurlane. They’re both big and sturdy, regard any sight of me as a reason to run up cheeping for food (with parents in hot pursuit) and have discovered bread crusts. The ducklings are all growing up well, too – Mother Duck’s brood are fully-feathered and as big as the other adults, although the young drakes aren’t as hefty as their elders just yet. Patchy’s eight are feathering up well and looking more like ducks with less ‘ling’ about it by the day.

The ferrets are happily getting on with things as usual, and Ivy’s four young meeps are chewing meat and looking bigger every time I see them – she has one male sandy meep and three females, two sandies and a silver mitt, so I’m calling them Ulysses, Helen, Penelope and another… I need to go read up the dramatis personae for the Illiad and the Odyssey because I can’t off-hand remember any more reasonably pronouncable Greek female characters! I’m not calling a ferret Iphigenia or Clytemnestra….

The hens are getting along steadily, as they do. I found one of the hybrids dead in the henhouse the other day but the rest all look healthy. The three youngest chicks are now known as Cuckoo, Goldilocks and Ginger, and are running about the yard with everyone else.

The bunnies have become free-range. One way or another they all escaped and refused to be caught again until I only had one left in a pen, at which point I gave up and liberated Mistletoe too. They’re apparently very happy living in the yard, cleaning up spilled oats from the poultry and grazing around the place cheerfully. It’s giving poor Wicket the Whippet a few terribly suspenseful experiences as she steps out of the house to find untouchable bunnies sitting up looking at her, but she’s coping!

The horses are doing fine. Abe has had his first in-hand walk up to the carpark in the woods and back last night – he behaved very calmly and ignored a couple of passing cars beautifully, then had an OMG!! moment looking at a road sign! I asked him to walk up to it and tapped it with my hand, asked him to touch it and then he relaxed and ignored it, so that was good. He wore his rhythm beads for the outing – the jingling is supposed to be soothing to the horse and lets wildlife know you’re coming, so startled pheasants don’t explode out of the hedge under your horse’s nose – certainly he was very soothed and nothing jumped out at us yesterday!

The quail are all fine – I have two youngsters in the lounge feathering up well and another batch in the incubator, probably the last for this summer as I don’t want to be worrying about putting them outside as the nights turn colder.

At the moment I’m still tidying, cleaning and trying to reorganise the house so I can get back to crafting and earning some money. I do have a few irons in the fire in that direction – not just proof-reading, which I’ve done now for over 20 years as Aberdeen Literary Services, but also I’m in the process of setting up farm-gate sales for eggs (as Cairnorchies Croft – Facebook page coming soon!), I’m trying to get my crafting work back up and running (Beansidhe Drumcraft) and also I’m engaged on a major new undertaking with my old friend and mentor, Elen Sentier, via our shamanic teaching work on a new site called the Deer Trods Tribe, where we’re offering tuition and experiential courses in shamanism.

How Time Flies…

Particularly when you’re waiting for something interesting to happen so you can blog about it!

A few things have now happened, however, so I shall duly blog.

Ivy has had her new litter and this time she has five! She seems entirely happy and cheerful with them and certainly managed very ably with Yarrow, so I just keep putting the food in and cleaning the muck out, trusting she knows precisely what she’s up to.

The older ones are all doing splendidly, with much bouncing and dooking, Angus is enjoying bouncing and dooking with them and Holly is putting up with the lot of them! I need to spread them out somewhat more, though – 7 ferrets in one cage is quite a lot of mucking out and I’m washing their floors twice a day to keep up with them! Ideally I’d build them a huge run big enough for multiple cages, toys, games areas and all 16 (now) ferrets to share amicably, but that hasn’t happened yet…

All the hen chicks are out in the shed and doing fine. The first three, Partridge, Thrush and Blackbird, are sticking together but exploring right out into the yard, learning all the places food turns up and so forth. The three little ones are also sticking as a posse but they’re not coming out of the barn more than a yard or so to sunbathe yet… they’ll get to it in a week or two more, undoubtedly. The four quail chicks from the last hatching are nearly feathered out and will be coming off heat this week, ready to move out to the barn next week, and I have another batch a couple of days off hatching in the incubator.

Lavender is still sitting firmly. Black Duck has recovered from her grief and is back to being one of the flock again. Patchy has her eight ducklings still and Mother Duck’s five are ducklings no more – definitely young ducks now, with hardly any fluff left and almost completely feathered up. Lucky Duck, the duckling who was shrink-wrapped, is still slightly smaller and slightly fluffier that the others, and she has a tidier cap of black on top of her head, so I can recognise her easily. One of the ducklings is much bigger than the rest, so I think we have one drake and four ducks – I think another week or so and I’ll be certain.

The geese are still magnificent parents. The goslings are big and sturdy, brave enough now to tweak the tails of even adult drakes, and they’ve developed the habit of seeing me and running up for food. This would be charming if their parents didn’t come running after them hissing the goose equivalent of ‘get away from our babies you filthy pervert!’.

Abe has had his flu jab and is fine. George picked up his feet for me every day for a week and let me pick them all out – and then, yesterday, decided the game was boring and bit me very hard as I was just lifting his near hind. I have bruising the covers pretty much the whole of the lower right quarter of my back. He didn’t get away with it, however – when I’d stopped swearing I put his head collar on, tied him up fairly short and went round all four hooves thoroughly. I did let him off today, though – I’ve stiffened up overnight and it just wasn’t worth the pain.

Tonight has been a rabbit night. I spent ages carefully cable-tying weldmesh inside one of the grazing pens and put the two little black bunnies in it. All seemed fine, so I put the three little white bunnies in as well. Mistletoe, their mother, is out in the big run with Sage, and Nightshade is back in a hutch as she was quite vastly spherical and due to pop. This morning the little black bunnies had tunnelled out and led a small white one astray with them. They’ll just have to take their chances for a day or two – I’m not in a fit state for corralling bunnies just now.

Nightshade, meanwhile, had her offspring this afternoon (an unusual time for a rabbit to give birth). She didn’t build a nest first, which is unlike her; she’s normally a very organised parent and puts a good nest together, well lined with fur, in plenty of time. This time there were newborns all over and she hadn’t even cleaned them up, so I frantically peeled amniotic sacs off noses, checked placentas and untwined umbilical cords from around necks. One kit had suffocated in the sax before I got to them, but the other eleven (yes – 11!!) are fine and healthy. I brought them in and popped them under an electric hen for a while (such useful gadgets!) before building them a nest in a cardboard box, but they’re back out with Nightshade now. She was nest-building madly when I took them out and we had a bit of a Benny Hill episode where she was grabbing mouthfuls of straw out of the nest to build another nest, which meant the kits complained about the draft, so she jumped in the nestbox on top of them and got another round of complains (fairly sure one of the squeaks involved ‘hob nailed hoofs!’) but I picked her up at that point, put her down on the other side of the hutch, buttressed the nestbox into a corner with handfuls of straw and left her sitting on top of her kits looking slightly bewildered. She’s never had such a big litter before – maybe that fried her brain cell. I think she’ll be ok now, anyway.

I’ll check again before bed. As long as the kits are warm they’ll be ok through the night.

Oh yes…. Dancer is now 2 years old!

Again, Catching Up…

Sometimes life gets in the way of blogging.

We had a very bizarre blip in my mother’s mental stability last week; the Adult Mental Health team wanted to increase her dosage of a drug called memantine from the very low introductory dose of 5mg up to 20mg, which is apparently the normal therapeutic dose. As the first step in getting from one to the other, they asked me to double the daily dose, which I duly did – with spectacular results.

It was one of the most unpleasant 24 hours I’ve known, involving stopping my mother burning the house down twice, hauling her back from multiple attempts to walk to the shops (3.5 miles away!) at eleven o’clock at night, outright refusal to go to bed and when I did finally persuade her to go to bed, she was up again ten minutes later and we had to do it again…. and again…. and again. Her various other medications – for blood pressure and heart failure – were rejected flatly and when I insisted she took them, she tried to hide them in her breakfast cereal – then threw that bowlful away and ate four more bowlfuls, one after another.

That was the end of the memantine. My GP, whom I called the following morning, of course, confirmed I was right to stop giving it altogether and after another 24 hours the situation had returned to normal.

It’s taken me a long time to catch up on the lost sleep, since I rarely get more than 6 hours anyway and I’m by nature one of those who likes a nice uninterrupted 8 hours.

In the meantime, the various animal dramas have continued.

The geese are exemplary parents and the goslings are doing very well, both growing strongly.

Mother Duck’s 5 goslings are feathering out nicely now, getting big and sturdy. Patchy lost another duckling in some viciously cold torrential rain we experienced one night, but the remaining eight are now liberated to run around the yard again, too big for the predators now. Black Duck, alas, lost all her ducklings one way and another, and after moping for a few days, seems now to be adjusting. Lavender Girl is still sitting tight in the workshop, right behind the door – she pops out for a bath and a quick gulp of food every couple of days, then goes straight back again.

The ferret meeps are meeps no longer – they’re active, playful, sturdy young ferrets. Ivy is back in a nursery run ready for her next litter, looking very healthy and active but with a distinct bulge in the middle. Holly, slim from end to end, is doing sole-parent duty for Yarrow as well as her own four, but Uncle Angus is now sharing that cage with the family. Here’s Angus trying to sleep while Yarrow and one of the sandies bounced on his hammock!

Abe has been working on half-pass again – he can do it superbly going from left to right, but refuses to even try going from right to left. I wonder if perhaps it’s uncomfortable for him with his sarcoids, so I’ve decided to give him time off to concentrate on his health. George’s new roller has arrived and fits, so I’ll work with him more instead. Horses don’t forget anything (rather like elephants!) and Abe won’t come to any harm taking a few weeks off in his education.

I’ll finish with the ferrets – this was their first trip into the house yesterday, where they spent a few hours in the lounge getting a lot of playing and handling from me, along with some gentle but firm nip-training when they experimentally chew on my fingers!

Abe – What a Star!

I managed to fit in a quick ride with Abe yesterday evening, after he’d had his dinner (I know, exercise after meals is bad but… it’s only a small feed and it was only a ten-minute walk around the yard, so he certainly exercises more strenuously going out with the Herd and running round the field!)

He was better at the block (last time he was definitely seeing what he could get away with!) and accepted me putting my foot in the stirrup without all the fidgeting we had last time, though he did put his head up and give me a decidedly old-fashioned look each time! I didn’t use the stirrups to get on, though – he’s not quite ready for that yet – so I just jumped aboard in the usual manner.

He walked excellently, more fluid and confident, and we went up to the road gate, through the gate into the garden bit (badly overgrown with docks and thistles just now!) and then turned a circle and came out again, walked down the yard, round the bit by the house and off into the paddock from the other end, right up to the top and out through the gate again! We did some halt at the gate, which he disapproved of – some head-tossing and pawing of the ground – and then walked down to the mounting block and back up again. We arrived at the top as a car came past, so we stood right up against the gate to watch it pass and he didn’t twitch a muscle, so that was good!

After that we went back to the bottom and I asked him to step onto the pallet there, which he did without hesitation and stood with his front end up for a good thirty seconds before reversing off again. We did a little circle and came up to the pallet again, and this time he walked right up, over and off the other side calmly and confidently – not just very hollow under the hooves but also of course my weight was shifting as I leaned forward on the up and back on the down, so he’s getting used to that sensation too.

We went back to the road gate again via the piece of vinyl flooring that lies in ambush for passing horses (according to Dancer!) and he walked over it without hesitation.

I noticed that he’s starting to respond to my seat before I can put leg or hand aids into action on corners – he’s picking up on me turning my head to look where I want to go, so he’s feeling my balance shift even that tiny amount!

His only complaints were that he didn’t want to halt and stand still, and we stopped too soon – I’ll work on extending his patience standing still, but in a young horse it’s not surprising if he’s a bit impatient and I’d much rather he wanted to carry on than was glad to stop, so no complaints! He’s showing all the signs of making a very sensitive, willing riding partner, which is marvellous. I think the next major step forward in his education will be for us to start taking road walks together in-hand, so he can get used to traffic and the forest paths with me right by his head for reassurance. Once he’s cool with that, we’ll start riding the same routes, and then, when we have the space and good footing, I’ll ask him to move up from walk to trot, and when we have walk to trot, trotting and trot to walk securely mastered, then we move on to canter.

One step at a time!

This morning we have quail chicks – three so far and another egg pipping vigorously. Fingers crossed the remaining eight have at least a few live chicks in them, but there’s nothing squeaking or rocking that I’ve noticed amongst them… yet.

I need to do some research – I noticed Hannibal this morning was doing a very ponderous slow-mo version of a gull’s worm-drum dance and I’m wondering what he’s up to! He and Lucy are still hovering within a foot of their two lively-looking offspring and they’ve spent most of the day sunbathing in the grass rather than lurking in the barn.