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Sunday, January 30, 2011

Saturday, January 29, 2011

Sheila Shortfat the Housecat

The plan was that the two kittens would keep each other company while they were in the
house being treated for their various viruses. For the first month, that plan worked very
well. They came when I called, and I found that if I wore fingerless gloves I could put
drops in their eyes and antibiotics in their mouths without having my hands scratched to
The one I called Shortfat really wasn’t very sick – her eyes cleared up in a couple of
days. But she had to stay in the basement to keep the smaller, weaker grey and white
kitten from feeling scared and alone.
Then, one day, the eyes cleared up and the breathing was back to normal. The kittens
were cured. And they had no intention of going outside. First of all, in the two months
since they had come in, winter had arrived in full force. They had not grown a coat of
winter fur and they were quite shocked by the cold. Secondly, they were now considered
outsiders and threats to the other cats who put up a fight every time I tried to re-introduce
them to the pack.
I put a poster in the vet clinic and grocery store. Someone called and made an
appointment to see the kittens. While I was at work, my daughter adopted out the grey
and white kitten, the smaller and weaker of the two. Shortfat remained. Again I tried to
shove her outside to join the other cats in the barn. She would go and explore, but within
minutes she would be back at the door, screaming for re-entry.
So now we have a housecat. “How did this happen?” asked the Farmer. “I don’t
remember discussing this.”
Well, neither do I. It just sort of happened. I’m allergic to cats. I’m not supposed to have
them in my house. But Sheila (we felt she needed a real name) adopted us. Now instead
of mousing and playing with her friends all day, she entertains herself in the basement
while we’re at work. When I come home I find her collection of treasures at the bottom
of the stairs: a pompom from an old winter toque, an eyeball from a discarded teddy bear;
a crumbled piece of duct tape from my husband’s workbench. She even has an old ratty
baseball that she uses as a sort of yoga-pilates ball, rolling herself over it on the floor.
And the grooming. Sheila spends hours grooming herself every day. I’ve flea-sprayed her
and flea collared her, but she continues to nibble and comb and pick and bite, constantly.
She has white fur, so a flea should be pretty easy to spot upon inspection. I don’t think
she has any. She has just become rather obsessive-compulsive since she became an
indoor cat.
Oh, and thanks to Bill Gooch for giving my cat a taste of Whiskas-in-the-pouch. She is
now addicted. And doesn’t wish to eat anything else. The only place I have found this
food is at the dollar store. Two for a dollar. And she wants at least three of these pouches
a day. I also keep dry food in her bowl, because if it is empty she complains.
This is one spoiled cat.
In the spring we are hoping she will venture out-of-doors once again. Then again, we
might miss her lying in wait around corners to ambush our ankles as we pass by.

Ewe are Despicable

I knew there was a reason why I hated that ewe. I recognized her obnoxious bellow as the loudest of the herd. She always waited until you were right up close to her, filling her water bucket or feeder, and then she would just holler, right in your ear. But there is another reason to dislike this sheep. She is a lamb squasher.
It’s all coming back to me now. Last year she had two lambs. One was very weak and I had to feed it a few times a day with a bottle until it could feed itself. Then came the fateful morning when I went out to feed my lamb and found her squashed, flat as a pancake in the middle of the pen. That stupid ewe had squashed her.
This year the ewe only had one lamb – a big, healthy male. If she lay down on him, he would probably be able to wriggle out from underneath her.
But we put another ewe with her little twins in the pen with the squasher. Eenie and Meenie had been doing quite well, despite their diminutive stature. Until that fat ewe lay down on the smallest of them.
Why does the ewe do this? She has plenty of room in her pen. She is not overly large or unable to locate the lambs under her girth. Perhaps she feels that she doesn’t want to care for more than one lamb and so she purposely squashes the other. Or maybe she routinely eliminates the runt of the litter to allow more milk for the strong lambs. Of course, in this case it wasn’t even her lamb so that’s hardly fair.
I googled the problem but have yet to find an answer. I find this particular “survival of the fittest” behaviour quite despicable.
It was interesting watching the cow, Ginger, when her calf was weak and unable to eat. She spent hours trying to nudge the calf to her feet. After more than a day with little success, however, Ginger began to show her frustration. Instead of standing still so that the calf could find the milk, Ginger would slowly turn in circles to avoid contact. It was as though she had rejected the sick calf.
Thankfully, after receiving that milk drenching and selenium injection, the calf’s suckling instinct returned, it had more energy and was able to latch on to its mother. They were able to bond and appear to be doing well now.
Mocha had her calf a few days later and we ushered the two of them into the lambing area to be warm – with Young Angus the bull hot on our heels. He pawed at the door to the lambing room and bawled. He is very interested in his two new sons.
Mocha’s calf had no problem nursing. That was a relief.
And now it is Big Betty’s turn. (Or, as the Farmer has named, her, Ugly Betty). I don’t think we will be able to fit her into a lambing pen, but we might be able to find a sheltered space in the middle of the barn to protect her new calf from the cold when it is born. It just might be a bit of a rodeo getting her in there.

Saturday, January 15, 2011


A bull calf named Albert

I was in the barn feeding the New Year lambs when the Farmer announced that Ginger’s water had broken and her labour had begun.
She made soft mooing grunts as she shifted her weight and tried to get comfortable. The sac was visible, protruding from under her tail, which she held up in a careful arc.
“This could take hours, hon,” the Farmer said, as he dragged the gate across the opening to lock Ginger into the pen.
We wandered back to the house and puttered around for an hour. I volunteered to go out and check on the impending birth.
When I got to the barn, I saw Ginger was standing in a puddle of her own making. A small black calf with a white face peeked out at me from behind her legs.
“Well hullo! Welcome!” I called. He had obviously just been born and had yet to stand. Ginger licked, nudged and muttered to her new calf, trying to get him to stand up. Finally he organized his knobby legs underneath him and stood. And promptly fell back down in the muck. Ginger nudged him again, lifting him onto his knees with her heavy head.
Every time I spoke to him, he turned in the direction of my voice. Ginger kept up her encouraging monologue. I decided to be quiet.
The commotion in the barn attracted the bull, Young Angus. The big black bull stepped softly up to the side of the pen and peered in. He mooed low and long. The calf staggered over to him and Ginger followed, holding him up with the strong, Velcro licks of her tongue. I watched as Angus craned his neck as far as he could into the pen and reached his tongue out to lick the calf. My camera batteries had died at this point, otherwise I would have a video of the event. It was very nice to witness.
The next day, the calf was wandering around more steadily on his feet and although I had not witnessed him nursing yet I assumed he had, otherwise he wouldn’t have had the strength to walk around.
After work that night I went back to the barn to check on the calf. He was lying in the corner, and Ginger was mooing at him, nudging him to get up. I spoke softly to her and she looked at me. I swear I could see worry in her eyes. I went back to the house. “Did you see the calf nursing today? Because I haven’t seen him eat yet and now he is just lying there.”
I headed to the basement to mix up some milk replacer for a bottle. The Farmer wrestled the mother and child into a lambing pen (wish I had witnessed that feat) and fed it a bit of the bottle. It didn’t want to suck. Its tongue just lolled around and it struggled against the rubber nipple in its mouth. But we got some milk into its belly. We fed it more before turning in that night, and I was up before dawn the next morning to feed it again. Ginger just watched as I tried to help her baby. She grunted soft little moos as a running commentary and her ears twitched with worry. But she didn’t mind us touching her calf, as long as she could still put her nose on him. I think that’s the closest we have ever been to Ginger, our skittish cow.
As I was feeding the calf, I noticed its nose was bright red and its eyelids were pink. In sheep, that is a sign of a deficiency of some sort. The Farmer/Professor spoke to a friend at the college and discovered that sure enough, the calf needed selenium in order to have a healthy suckling reflex. He went to the co-op to buy some supplies. The next feedings were done with a drench (the calf is made to swallow a tube and milk is poured directly into its stomach) and I couldn’t bear to watch the uncomfortable procedure so I stayed in the house.
The next day, after the selenium shot and a few drenches of milk, the calf was up and heading for its mother.  As I write this, on Saturday, it has a spring in its step and it is nursing normally. Many thanks to Albert Koekkoek at the University of Guelph for giving us the advice we needed to save our little bull calf. We decided to name him Albert, after you!

From Oliver with Love

Thank you to everyone who sent cards, emails, phone messages and texts full of warm wishes over the holidays. It was a wonderful Christmas on the Fisher farm.
One of the notes I received was from Stinky the kitten, who has been renamed Oliver by his adoptive humans. Here it is, in its entirety:
“Still tired from the move – though adjusting well to my new digs.
From what I can tell, the “holiday” season is upon us.  This time of year seems very special – the landlords have set up a beautiful tree and have decorated it with wonderful “toys” for me to bat and swat around the living room. Honestly, every time I knock down one of these “toys”, the landlords pick it back up and return it to the tree – I’m assuming for my later amusement.
I’m enjoying spending all this quality time with my new found family.  They seem nice but, if I were to make a small comment, they’re a little cheap with the treats for my taste.  Don’t get me wrong, they feed me well, but all I want are those treats!!!  I could eat them all day every day - if only they would let me.  I’ve started meowing in protest … I’ll let you know how that works for me.
The new landlords are cool.  They pretty much let me do what I want.  One of them even looks like me – though he’s much bigger than me and makes these weird barking noises - his name is Digory and we sometimes sleep together.  Contrary to popular belief, I’ve never woken up with any fleas.  He’s a veteran so, for the time being, I tend to copy his moves and his sounds – unfortunately, without much success.  The best I can manage sounds like a guttural sneeze.   The other two landlords think it’s cute when I do this but they also really hope I’m not coming down with something. 
Last week they took me outside to play.  Let’s just say, things were not how I remembered them.  First of all, there was all this white stuff on the ground – I’m not going to lie to you, it gave me paws.  Second, there were no lambs, donkeys or horses anywhere.  Being new to the area; I chose to stick close to home.  Besides, I don’t want to wander too far from my treats!!!
Nowadays, I get most of my sleep (see picture hereunder) while the landlords are away.  Playtime mostly happens when the landlords get home from this thing called “work.”  (Whatever it is, it must be fun because they always seem to be in a great mood when they get home to me)  Because I feel that playtime is never long enough, I tend to indulge in a few extra rounds at night.  That’s when the landlords are subjected to the wrath of my Santa Claws.  For some reason, however, this behaviour is being discouraged. 
Overall, things are great and I’m fitting in quite nicely in this new household.
Please extend my holiday “best wishes” to everyone on the farm (especially my brothers and sisters). 
Meow for now, Stinky – a.k.a. Oliver.”
We have two more kittens in the house ready to be adopted, if anyone is interested. Please feel free to visit my blog: to see their photos.
As we head into the New Year, it’s time to clear out the cobwebs, clean out the closets and attempt to stick to our resolutions. I will be doing my annual donation of “stuff I don’t need” to charity, and getting down on bended knee to dust baseboards. My resolution is to avoid sugar. Let’s see if I can make that one last until at least Easter.

Saturday, January 1, 2011

New Year's Baby!