Author Archives: Stacy's Funny Farm

About Stacy's Funny Farm

I'm just a little old lady with cable ties and bits of wire in her pockets, and poop on the bottom of her shoes.

Daily Drama 82 Back to School

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Daily Drama 82 Back to School

Once upon a time, my days were simple. Dobby, the ducks and hens, the cats and I had a daily routine. I’d go out to the aviary, check food and water, come back in. I let Dobby decide whether or not to help. In the afternoon, I fed the cats and secured them in their section of the barn. The ducks and hens exited the aviary for their garden party in the back yard. Everyone shared some bird seed, and then Dobby and I went to the front yard. At dusk, everyone went to bed.

Dobby was the best helper, ever. And he knew it, too.

Everything, and I do mean everything, has changed. Dobby is gone. The sheep have arrived. One cat has departed and the other has diabetes. Two new ferals have arrived. One little hen has a heart murmur and lives indoors. We recently went off daylight savings time, blasting our days into darkness before cocktail hour. The Garden Party starts shortly after lunch and there’s never enough time for me to run out during the day to do an errand. There have been enough changes lately to disrupt everything and everyone, and it seems I am constantly training and reorienting the flock.

No no no, Princess! Not on the sink again!

Princess moved indoors a year ago and gets meds 3x a day. She sleeps in the bathroom and spends her days in the living room. In the late afternoon, she goes outdoors for the garden party where she gets to be a chicken for a couple hours. In summer, I give her 4:00 meds and out we go. This time of year, I toss her out the kitchen door, feed the cats, move the sheep to the front, locate Princess for her 4:00 meds, and go back out to supervise the sheep in the front yard. At dusk I can hear her hollering for me to let her into the kitchen, so I go back there to let her in the door. The Bartender hears her cackling in the kitchen and escorts her up to the bathroom. She walks all the way through the kitchen, turns right into the hall, hops up half a flight of stairs to the bedroom, all the way coaxed by The Bartender. She stops where the bathroom tile starts and wipes her beak on the carpet until he gives up and sets her onto the edge of the bathtub. A couple minutes later he goes back in, takes her down from where she has flown up to perch on the edge of the bathroom sink, and sets her back down on the edge of the bathtub, where she sleeps. Until I wake her for her midnight meds. And clean the sink. Those fancy feathered feet pick up and carry in a lot of mud.

She really is a princess. (Photo by Briana Bell)

Princess moved indoors a year ago and gets meds 3x a day. She sleeps in the bathroom and spends her days in the living room. In the late afternoon, she goes outdoors for the garden party where she gets to be a chicken for a couple hours. In summer, I give her 4:00 meds and out we go. This time of year, I toss her out the kitchen door, feed the cats, move the sheep to the front, locate Princess for her 4:00 meds, and go back out to supervise the sheep in the front yard. At dusk I can hear her hollering for me to let her into the kitchen, so I go back there to let her in the door. The Bartender hears her cackling in the kitchen and escorts her up to the bathroom. She walks all the way through the kitchen, turns right into the hall, hops up half a flight of stairs to the bedroom, all the way coaxed by The Bartender. She stops where the bathroom tile starts and wipes her beak on the carpet until he gives up and sets her onto the edge of the bathtub. A couple minutes later he goes back in, takes her down from where she has flown up to perch on the edge of the bathroom sink, and sets her back down on the edge of the bathtub, where she sleeps. Until I wake her for her midnight meds. And clean the sink. Those fancy feathered feet pick up and carry in a lot of mud.

Poor old Kitty Hawk, before he moved into the infirmary. (Photo by Briana Bell)

Princess is fairly well trained, though we still think she can make it up to the bathroom by herself. But here I am trying to write this blog and my alarm for Kitty Hawk’s evening meds just went off. He is at my mercy for his insulin, and no amount of training can make him do it himself. This training is for me. Gone are the leisurely mornings over coffee and current events, checking my email. In order to give him insulin twice a day, evenly spaced, night owl that I am, I have chosen 9:45, AM & PM, for his injections. If I drag myself out of bed early enough, I can still enjoy my coffee and be out there for the morning “stabbing.” No, Kitty Hawk is not curled up on my couch, he’s out in the barn. Jacket on, boots on, cat food, duck lettuce and treats all ready to go. My chores take from half an hour to two hours, depending upon a million variables. It’s the evening stabbing, in the dark, that’s the most fun. That’s the one I just did. Kitty Hawk is doing okay, but lately he had a setback and is locked into the infirmary. He’s so wobbly I am afraid he’ll topple into Swimming Pool #5, currently deteriorating and barely functioning as a duck pond.

So how about the new feral cats? What kind of training do cats get? In addition to my usual chores, I spend about a half hour a day with the new cats. Considered unadoptable by the Alley Cat Project, I took them on. Half-Stache had done well with his foster owner. Before that, he had a dismal but not surprising feral response to adoption and refused to leave his cage. He was shy when he came here, but he’s been very responsive, probably because I am kind of stingy with the cat treats, so he had to beg for them. For this cat, it was an excellent strategy and we are best buddies, now. His partner, a female named Larry, had never warmed up to her previous owner or her foster. She’s so pretty, I think everyone tried to make her into a house cat. She got fat and frightened. Here, she is continuously on the prowl. She climbs trees and races around like a wild thing. I think she wanted to be an outdoor feral again, and she can be that cat here. Every day she approaches closer and closer to me, and I have even been able to pet her– under her terms, only. So there is that training, which is that both cats have trained me to allow them to approach on their own terms. On my side, I have some strict rules: they must allow me to lock them up in the cat barn during the garden party. The gates are open to allow the ducks and hens to return to the barn whenever they want to, but the kitty cats are not allowed to leave the aviary. They have been quick to learn the routine and I find them napping in there, waiting for their food, every afternoon. They have been extremely cooperative.

Hamish & Charlie (Photo by Briana Bell)

So guess who have not been cooperative? Charlie & Hamish, the ridiculous sheep. When I open the gate for Garden Party, the geese, ducks, and hens are supposed to come out into the yard, as they have been doing for almost twenty years. But the sheep are, well, intimidating, and they stand by the door. Nobody comes out. The sheep are not allowed to go in, so of course, in they go! I have some little fence panels* I arrange like chutes to keep out the sheep, but then the ducks can’t come out. So the sheep go in, then the ducks come out. Next, I race to close the barn door, because the sheep like to eat the chicken food. Dobby liked it, too, but his big schnozzola couldn’t really fit in the bin. The delicate narrow sheep noses fit perfectly. And they can eat enough chicken food in about five minutes to make them sick. Or so I have heard, but I don’t want to find out whether it’s four minutes or six.

Jump up and touch your nose, Hamish! (Photo by Briana Bell)

So the sheep are locked out of the barn, but gallivanting about in the aviary. The ducks are in the garden waiting for their birdseed and cracked corn that I have been giving them for almost twenty years. The wild mallards are patiently waiting on the roof of the house. The squirrels and crows are gathering for peanuts. The birdseed and peanuts are stored in galvanized garbage cans on the deck. I ever-so-quietly lift the lid off the can– gallopy gallopy and the sheep run out of the aviary and clatter across the deck and I suddenly have one set of ram horns under each armpit. Mind you, the birdseed and cracked corn can make them sick, too, but I can dole out a safe ration, and anyway this is for the geese, ducks, and chickens, right? I am still working on this, but I think they are training me to escort the sheep all the way to the front yard before I dole out the garden party treats. That means convincing the sheep to follow me through a gate, into the chute, through another gate, and then out another gate (this one stays open) and into the front yard. At which point I have to run back and close the middle gate. then I can open the chute so the ducks can go through. Now I can give the ducks their treats. As I lift the lid off the galvanized garbage can, I hear Baa (Charlie makes the classic sheep sound) and Aaaargh (Hamish sounds like an old man falling backwards off the top of a ladder). They heard the lid and came back from the front yard already, and are waiting for me at the closed gate. We’re still deciding who is training whom on this activity.

Charlie loves visitors. (Photo by Briana Bell)

Target training for the sheep is literally crackers, as in Saltines. They both touch their nose to the target on command, and after the training session they continue to touch their nose to it, “just in case.” Charlie does a very nice “turn around” while Hamish prefers the classic “jump up.” I’d like to weigh them, but getting them to operate independently is problematic. Using the target I can get anywhere from zero to eight feet on the scale, which is perfectly useless. I guess I need to work on “taking turns” first. I’m also working on halter training. They love to stick their mouth through the halter opening to eat crackers and are getting used to the feel of it on their head. Will I eventually be able to take them for walks? Runs, maybe. Sheep like to run and they are speedy!

Hamish thinks he is in charge, but Charlie is more patient and wins out in the end. (Photo by Briana Bell)

So, we’ve made it to the front yard, the sheep have done a few tricks and are settling down to eat the shrubbery (There’s a rumor going around that they eat grass, but so far, no.) I decide to sit down for a few minutes, close my eyes, relax. Quack quack quack! That’s my alarm going off. Time to give Princess her 4pm meds. She’s in the back yard and we are in the front. That means sneaking past the sheep and getting through that gate without them noticing. Even if I sneak in, they are always waiting for me when I head back out. And Princess? Takes her meds like a champ. She’s all trained.

Squirrel is getting a lot of attention these days. (Photo by Briana Bell)

Some events are easy and bedtime is one. Unlike human kids, animals seem to know when bedtime is, and are eager to settle in for the night. How refreshing! But I’m not through yet. Squirrel the guinea pig has toenail fungus, and needs a foot soak. I know, sounds crazy, doesn’t it, but it’s similar to ours. Soak the foot once a day for a month or two, and it might go away. He’s also losing weight for no apparent reason, so he gets a ration of oats, and he’s enthusiastic enough about the oats to sit still for the soaking while he munches away. He still likes to step on the dish and spill the soak solution, so we have a bit more training to do.

So here’s the nutshell version of the training schedule:

  • Morning cat stab
  • New cat orientation
  • New cat feeding and naptime lockup
  • Garden party shifts and treats
  • Sheep target training
  • Princess meds
  • Bedtime for outdoor birds
  • Princess bedtime
  • Squirrel foot soak
  • Evening cat stab

Hey, I’m looking for volunteers! Anyone want to come do the evening cat insulin injection? Pretty please?

*Lately I have observed Charlie calculating the height of the little fence panels and analyzing the length of the runway and landing strip on both sides. I don’t let him rest his chin there any more.

Photo Credits: Many of these photos were taken by my board member, Briana. Thank you!

 

Cats? What cats?

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Cats? What cats?

Kitty Hawk and Grover

I rarely mention my cats. It’s the little prey animals I care for: hamsters and doves, parakeets and gerbils, rabbits and guinea pigs. When you have chickens, you soon discover the utility of cats. Most urban poultry experiments end abruptly due to raccoons, or over time after giving up after months of watching chicken feed disappear to expanding armies of rats. Professional exterminators can rid your home of vermin, but they roll their eyes and back away from promises to rid your chicken coop of pesky rat-devils. “Barn cats” are indispensable to a farm, even a tiny urban farm.

Smokey

My first cat was a feral stray. I lived a mile from my mailbox, and that rural home came with a feral cat. I tried to trap her and failed, and she disappeared for a couple years. When I discovered her kittens in my woodpile, I fed her until I could take the little ones to Safeway in a cardboard box for “rehoming.” I had friendly mamma cat Smokey spayed and she lived outdoors until the dog left (he protected her from bears and cougars) when she moved indoors. I brought her with me to the suburbs and she lived here until her death at about 18 years old. She was what could be called an “adoptable feral stray.” My current cats are “unadoptable feral strays.” So, what’s the difference?

Kitty Hawk, pretending not to be a thug

Kitty Hawk is an unadoptable feral stray cat. The Alley Cat Project received him from the Seattle Animal Shelter where they regularly adopt out FIV+ cats. Feral cats are not adoptable (as pets), and FIV+ adds another complication. Hawk is an FIV+ feral thug. Kitty Hawk had broken into the basement of a house and fought with the resident cat in order to steal his food. Unfortunately, the other cat ended up in a veterinary hospital and the owners had Kitty Hawk sent to “the pound.” The Alley Cat Project fostered him until I contacted them in search of a “barn kitty.” He’s been here since 2011, and he arrived on my birthday! He still bites and scratches sometimes, but mostly he waits for me at the gate and rubs against my legs as I perform chores in the aviary. I discovered recently that he is diabetic and now I am out there, morning and night, injecting him with insulin and opening can after can of the most expensive cat food available. He lets the rats meander unmolested and I know now who was the true barn kitty.

Grover, looking like a kitten. He had a kittenish voice and never learned to meow like a Big Boy.

About six months later, the Alley Cat Project contacted me regarding a second feral FIV+ tomcat. By now they recognized me as a soft touch and before I could change my mind, they had dropped off Grover. Grover had been living near/at a local high school. He was friendly with other cats but would not warm up to humans. Don’t touch the Grover! Another feral FIV+ who could not be released, he was truly unadoptable. He lived in a large introduction cage until I was sure they wouldn’t fight, and eventually, he and Kitty Hawk became best buddies. They slept in a heap and the few remaining rats left the neighborhood. Grover didn’t tame down for six long years, and then he initiated “nose-bumps” and allowed me to touch his tail. He even let me comb and snip out some horrific hair mats, and I hoped some day he would let me pet him. A month ago I crammed his reluctant but distressed self into a carrier and took him to the vet where they pronounced his dental disease* too advanced for treatment. I drove home in tears without him and Kitty Hawk and I are still getting used to Life Without Grover.

Half-Stache and Larry, when he was still hiding behind her

The Alley Cat Project had been contacting me periodically in case I needed any more cats, but until now, I had two good cats, no rats in the aviary, and everything was hunky dory. But, wait, I have seen a couple rats lately. That should have been my clue that Grover wasn’t well. I certainly didn’t expect the diabetic cat to be ratting, especially since he never was any good at his job. There were two barn kitties available, did I want them? Well, no, I don’t even like cats, but two? It took me a couple minutes to think it through, but I agreed to take their two bonded but unadoptable cats. They are in an introduction cage, just like Grover was, but this one is big enough for me to crawl into. And they were here within a week of our tragic loss, distracting Kitty Hawk, giving him a new complaint, and creating enough soiled kitty litter to fill the multiplying rat holes in the aviary.

Half-Stache trying to look nonchalant

Half-Stache is a gray & white feral FIV- (un-infected) male cat with a distinguished mustache. No, wait, half a mustache! He was surrendered to the Seattle Animal Shelter because he was under-socialized and was scared and defensive when in their care. They transferred him to the Alley Cat Project so they could find him an alternative home situation, like a barn. After six months of their exceptional care, he became an affectionate friendly guy. Whenever he escaped the “catio” and got into the house, he marked the corners of the guest room in typical naughty boy fashion. That’s about as “un-adoptable” as a cat can get. But he had bonded with the other resident of the catio.

Half-Stache, playing “Hide the Treat” with me. He wants everyone to know that he likes chicken flavored “Temptations.”

Larry is a gorgeous but not particularly intellectual FIV+ female. The FIV+ males infect each other by fighting, but the females can become infected by mating. There are probably some “Larry-ettes” out there, somewhere. Public shelters generally euthanize FIV+ cats if they are also feral. The Alley Cat Project adopted her out to a nice big home with other cats and an enthusiastic caregiver. One year later, she still would not allow her owner to touch her, so the Alley Cat Project took her back. After six months of exceptional care, she was as untouchable as ever, and dumb to boot. And fat, as I discovered later. So pretty but dumb Larry and playful Half-Stache left their cozy catio and came to the Funny Farm, leaving the Alley Catio available to other feral cats with a better chance of becoming adoptable.

Larry, “master of the blank stare” as the Alley Cat Project described her

There are many cat adoption agencies out there, but most of them deal with rehoming house cats, kittens, or other “adoptable” cats. The Alley Cat Project works with ferals: trapping, neutering, and releasing them to their colonies. They rehome kittens when possible, and work with the cats who seem to have indoor pet potential. They have a few manageable cats suitable as “barn kitties.” And then there are the Conundrum Cats: sick and/or feral cats with bad habits or no apparent desire for human companionship. My first cat, Smokey is an example of a feral with indoor pet potential, though it was eight years before she would step indoors. The next four: Kitty Hawk, Grover, Half-Stache, and Larry, are Conundrum Cats. That’s what makes this a sanctuary, and not a Crazy Cat Lady situation. I don’t even like cats: they eat all the little critters I really like. (Exception for feral rats, though some of you might remember hearing about Mortimer, the old blind rat that no cat or exterminator was able to kill. I felt so sorry for him I used to feed him.)

When Larry finally emerged, I discovered that she is fat.

Dimwit Larry and gamer Half-Stache have been here a month, and you will hear about them from time to time. FIV+ and FIV- cats can be combined if they don’t fight, as it is passed only through deep bite wounds, so I will be watching closely to see that everybody gets along. It’s a struggle to undo the prejudice against FIV. Many people have FIV+ pets who live long, healthy, normal lives. Kitty Hawk’s diabetes is stabilized, with insulin and diet, and hopefully he won’t revert to his former thug-like persona and instead decide to accept the newcomers as he did Grover. His food and supplies are expensive, and so I’ll remind you about my gift shop and I have “donate” buttons all over the place. I also take donated items like insulin needles and high protein/no carbohydrate food (ask me first!). And finally, keep the Alley Cat Project in mind if you want to help out desperate cats in Seattle. You might want to poke around to see if there are any similar groups in your area.

I discovered this Larry and Half-Stache mashup tonight when I went out to give Kitty Hawk his insulin.

*FIV+ cats often succumb to dental disease, I later learned. It can be treated, but ferals like Grover are extremely difficult to handle.

Daily Drama 81 – Everybody Jumps

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Daily Drama 81 – Everybody Jumps

The neighbor’s tree started it. A rotten alder next door leapt across the fence in an attempt to reach my house. It crushed my pigeon loft, a former chicken coop donated by a fellow who dropped off his two elderly hens, Angel and Coffee Bean. The pigeons had moved in, nested, and hatched a baby before I had a chance to remove the egg during a catastrophic snowstorm. They were now loose and Phoenix gleefully greeted me at the gate when I entered the aviary that morning. The tree had rested on the top of a fence post, sparing the fence structure and panels. It touched the dove cage without marking it and reached the roof of my house, sparing the barn beneath by suspending itself neatly between the fence post and roof. Only one rebellious branch poked through the barn roof. It could have been worse, but the strategic placement of the suicidal tree meant that the bulk of the insurance check went toward tree removal. The insurance check that I received within a week of the catastrophe. Thank you. (Most insurance companies do not cover farm buildings. Does yours?)

Repairs kept us hopping. Connor had the tree carefully lifted off the farm buildings and house within a day or so of the disaster. Remik was out here the day I called him and repaired the roof the following day. The Bartender helped me construct a level foundation of concrete pavers for the new chicken coop I am using for a pigeon loft. Meanwhile, in order to discourage the rats living below the dove cage, I spread 17 bags of ready-mix concrete to make a new floor. Icky vermin had discovered that the wire sub-floor was rusted and disintegrating, providing easy access to the scattered seed the doves thoughtfully provided throughout the cage. I have a new handy source of cat poop to drop into the rat holes, and now I see the poor scavenger scurrying hither and yon, possibly homeless. (If I have cat poop, where are the cats and why aren’t they doing their job? Keep reading . . . )

Most of us have seen how goats jump up onto everything, so that’s one reason why I got sheep, instead. I didn’t want goats on the roof of my house. Sheep, as I have discovered, are jumpy, too. I started “target training” by having Charlie and Hamish “turn around.” They immediately caught on and Charlie continued to twirl long after the saltines were gone. A couple days later, I decided to try a new trick, but I was in the front yard and had no “target” handy. Training in the back yard had been so successful that I decided to throw caution to the wind and try it without the target. I asked them to stand up on their hind legs, holding the saltine aloft. They dutifully stood up, one after the other, and then the enthusiasm grew and suddenly they were jumping up for the cracker, and then jumping up on me, and then jumping up on each other, snapping at my hand and then the package of saltines tucked under my arm! The beauty of the target, you see, is that the focus is on the target, and not the hand holding the saltine. We won’t be doing tricks without the target, ever again. Hah! A couple days later, a repairmen was out to the house (a recurring theme around here) and, of course, he wanted to see the sheep. I decided to see if they would do a trick and reached for the saltine package. Before I could grab the target, they were jumping all over the place, all over me, as the repairman slowly backed toward the kitchen door, feeling behind him for the doorknob. He let himself in the door, vaguely mumbling something about how they are certainly well trained when I finally snatched up the target and re-programmed them to turn circles. Next, I’ll try something easy, like getting them onto a scale so I can weigh them.

Shetland Tree-Sheep

Princess, my beautifully behaved House-Hen (she has a heart murmur and receives meds 3x daily) has started jumping, too. She sleeps in the bathroom, but no longer in the bathtub: she jumps up to the edge and perches where she can more easily keep tabs on us during the evening. Earlier this year, we moved her to a day pen in the living room where she is nearer the kitchen flock, though she has never admitted that she is a mere bird. I am not efficient enough for her, so if I am delayed, she will choose a new bedroom for the night. Atop a curtain rod, on the capybara rabbit barrier wall, maybe the kitchen sink. The pet-sitter once found her in the fireplace. Once she is in the bathroom for the night, she generally stays put. Princess hardly ever jumps onto my shoulder when I am brushing my teeth, for instance.

She’s still sick, but stabilized, so I let her out with the other hens for Garden Party in the afternoon. Charlie the sheep quickly discovered that she would shriek and pop into the air if he put his face down at her level and took half a step forward. I had a stern talk with Charlie and he doesn’t tease her any more, though she’s still wary of him. It will be a while before they are sharing birdseed out of the same dish.

Do guinea pigs jump? Of course they do, it’s called “popcorning.” It’s like a miniature Doofus Dance. That’s not really jumping, though, is it? I’m talking about capital J-Jumping, like when one guinea pig catapults herself over a barrier into the other guinea pig cage. Sigh, it’s contagious. I have been working with Daniel Danielle since February, in hopes of moving her in with lonely Squirrel. She was too exuberant for mellow Squirrel, though, and she didn’t really get along with Brutus and Cookie Monster, either. But Danielle was was outgrowing her smaller separate cage. I finally gave up and divided the Dude Ranch into three adjacent pens: Brutus and Cookie Monster kept their section, Squirrel donated a portion of his oversized space to Danielle. My volunteer and I continued to give them floor time in neutral territory, and Cookie Monster’s “Date Nights” with Squirrel became more frequent, and we finally moved Cookie Monster in with Squirrel. I got out my slide rule, calculated the sizes of the spaces, and made adjustments to meet the minimum recommended standards. One big C&C cage divided with more wire grids. It allows them to communicate and eat together without controversy. One day last week, I went in to deliver snacks and discovered Danielle in with Squirrel and Cookie Monster. They were all milling about without concern, but I pulled her out and replaced her to her section and distributed the snacks. In the morning, she was back in with Squirrel and Cookie Monster, snack uneaten. She had jumped back over before I was down the hall. I removed the divider and Squirrel and Cookie Monster quickly investigated their new enlarged territory. I’ll recalculate the areas and fine-tune the divider between Brutus and the Three Musketeers to give Brutus a scosche more space and snug that divider up. Nobody trusts Brutus with other guinea pigs, though she is a sweetheart with people

Dobby lurks.

Grover, in better days. But wait! Who is that lurker? Behind the chair!

My mother always said “You always worry about the wrong thing.” My cat, Grover, passed away a week ago. Not the diabetic cat, Kitty Hawk, but the other one, his good buddy. I had no idea anything was wrong, but then I had him 6 years before he would let me touch his tail, though he finally did a “nose bump” with me most mornings, lately. Apparently, FIV+ ferals often succumb to dental disease, and so went poor Grover. No wonder there was increased rat activity this past couple of months. I jumped right into it, though, and got Kitty Hawk two new feral buddies from the Seattle Alley Cat Project. Larry is a dumb but pretty feral FIV+ female, so skittish she may never tame down, so another Grover-style kitty. Half-Stache has a white spot on half his upper “lip” and he’s feral, but not FIV+. He’s not adoptable due to his distinctly outdoor-only toilet habits. So Kitty Hawk has two new charming kitty friends, caged for introduction purposes. I’ll keep you posted.

 

Daily Drama 80 – Meet the Sheep

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Daily Drama 80 – Meet the Sheep

No pet could ever replace Dobby, and his impact upon my life is immeasurable. Still, looking out at my front yard this past year has been heartbreaking. I couldn’t even step out there for the first six months after his passing. Now his pasture is so overgrown I can’t walk across it. Everyone has been hoping I would get another capybara, but the snow last winter was so deep and persistent, poor tropical Dobby would have spent a month cooped up in my kitchen. It’s time for a change of critters.

Loaded into the car and ready to go! These sheep are small!

The Bartender and I drove to Walla Walla Washington to pick up our Shetland sheep. The boys were born in April, so they aren’t quite full grown and fit nicely in this extra-large dog crate, the biggest one that fit into the back of my Subaru Forester. They came from a small farm where they were already spoiled, friendly little guys, but it is only practical to keep a couple of rams. They were happy to see Charlie and Hamish (hay-mish) coming to live where they will get lots of attention.

Charlie takes his half of the crate in the middle.

I have a lot to learn about sheep, so feel free to correct me and I’ll edit this post. Shetland sheep are heritage sheep and, as The Bartender put it, “not ruined yet.” They are small, the rams getting to about 120# (55kg), so about the same size as Dobby. Tiny Shetland sheep are not worth raising to eat and so are primarily raised for their wool. That’s why they are popular with knitters and weavers. They shed their wool so you can pick it off which is called “rooing.” Most sheep have been bred to be sheared, leaving them dependent upon humans. Check out this hilarious sheep named Shrek.

Hamish (left) and Charlie (right)

They come from the Shetland Islands, adrift out there between Scotland and Norway. Seattle winters will not be a problem, as our climate is so similar. They are more like donkeys than horses, in that they can survive on low quality forage. Let’s hope that they like bamboo! (It has taken over the front yard since Dobby left us.) Now, check out those little horns. As they mature, the horns should curl right around, giving them that classic ram look, like the truck logo. For now, those horns can get caught in anything they can stick their head into. Hamish demonstrated that the first day by getting his head stuck in the back of a chair, then dragging it across the deck. The chair has been removed and so have the tomato cages. Sheesh.

The chute between the back of the car and the back yard, their new home.

It was a five hour drive but the boys were champs. Charlie ate orchard grass the entire time, while Hamish hunkered down, not quite as cavalier as his buddy, but stoic. Dobby was a tame wild animal, but these guys are not quite (yet) tame domestic animals. They don’t know us or trust us, so we knew we had one chance to get them safely from the car to the back yard. If they got into the street, we were doomed. We used cattle fencing to form a chute, opened both gates to the yard (I am double-gated for security) and opened up their crate. And they refused to come out of the car.

The Bartender rattles a sack of grain, as if we would give them that whole bag to eat.

What would I do without The Bartender? He reached in, grabbed Charlie the way we saw the farmer do it, and set him down. (Today, four days later, he confessed that Charlie had nipped him on the shoulder, and he was glad he had a heavy shirt on.) This is why you get two sheep: Hamish immediately hopped out after him. They headed straight down the chute as if it had suction. They stopped for a quick snack at the big green fern you can see mid-photo. A bit of a nudge and they continued on, around the graveyard, past the apple tree and all the way to the aviary!

Nope, sorry boys, you’re not going in there. Not today, anyway.

When they realized they had reached the end of the road, they turned around and started eating grass. They yanked the leaves off the low hanging branches of the apple tree, causing a cascade of apples onto the ground. They checked out the deck with its intriguing feed bowls. Oh, wait, those are my flower pots! And generally poked their noses into anything and everything, including the dish of cracked corn the ducks didn’t eat.

Charlie and Hamish check out the grass and my lovely raspberry plants.

I was especially pleased that they readily went in to investigate Dobby’s old pen, recently renovated to accommodate ruminants. They went in and out half a dozen times that first afternoon. It was already late afternoon, and new residents at the Funny Farm usually have all day to get accustomed to their new home before nightfall. Their obvious approval was a big relief for me.

The night pen met their expectations.

Because they won’t need a heater, I moved the bed away from the electrical outlet, which left more space near the gate. Dobby’s old bed gives them a raised platform off the cold ground in the winter. I put up a plywood privacy screen/windbreak, and broke open a bale of straw for bedding. I cleaned up a couple of hay feeders, two sheep, you know? They go back and forth between them, jockeying for position at the same rack. Of course.

They do everything together. I have only seen them apart a couple of times.

In this damp climate, hay gets moldy fast, so I store it in the bins you can see lined up along the wall. Alfalfa is damp and goes bad especially fast, so I need to figure out another option for that. In that chute photo, you can just make out the first gate at the top of the stairs by the fern. Because of the fiberglass roof, that bicycle storage area heats up nicely in any kind of weather. I’ll find a way to store it in there. Selling Dobby’s old swimming pool would open up the perfect amount of space. Anyone need a slightly used capybara swimming pool?

They love hanging out in the shade of the apple tree.

Meanwhile, Charlie and Hamish are back under the apple tree, chewing cud. Charlie is very dark brown, nearly black and should stay black. Hamish has gray cheeks and his fleece will probably fade to that color. Amazingly, I have a spinning wheel that belonged to my sister. (Who wouldn’t want a spinning wheel taking up a corner of their living room?) The Bartender and I will be going to the fair this year to talk to the sheep barn folks and hopefully get a two-bit carding and spinning lesson.

Charlie and Hamish finish off the Violas in the pot on the deck.

Most all of my equipment is suitable for sheep, so I don’t have to buy much. I decided to look into a shepherd’s crook, though, to complete my Bo-Peep look. After a fair amount of research, I discovered that Martha Stewart, of all people, has sheep and is fairly knowledgeable about them. Who knew? At first I was annoyed that she had beat me to “sheep” but then I realized that if Martha Stewart can do it, surely I can do it, too. I bet she’s never had a capybara in her kitchen. So there.

The Bartender called it: he’ll have to re-install the plexiglas door protector.

The Bartender asked whether he needed to re-install the plexiglas over the lower part of the kitchen door. Nah, I said, they’re just looking in. Four days later I hear nibbling at the door. As Briana quipped, “Double-Dobby!” In the photo above, the chairs had been removed. They had not yet uprooted the pineapple plant on the bottom shelf. I found it on the deck three times before I moved it up. I’m a slow learner.

Charlie and Hamish

From the very first night, at the end of the day they have moseyed to their night pen and settled down. All I have to do is close the gate. It has been less than a week, and it seems too easy. I plan to train them to a halter, and get onto a scale. I’ll get them used to visitors and figure out what treats they like. For now, I am making sure they know their names, as in “Not for Charlie!” and “Not for Hamish!”

P.S. The Bartender and I returned tonight from a sudden trip to the vet. Hamish had, ahem, “Manhood Issues.” He should be fine, but it was scary. On the other hand, now we know where the back entrance to the vet clinic is, and we have met their new vet! And I get to give Hamish his next round of antibiotics (via injection) on Sunday! Oh frabjous day!

Daily Drama 79 Sweet Kitty Hawk

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Daily Drama 79 Sweet Kitty Hawk

Kitty Hawk isn’t sweet at all. He bites and scratches me because I am never fast enough with the food. In fact, he bit the veterinarian and then the vet tech.

North Seattle Veterinary Clinic

Kitty Hawk pretends to be an innocent kitty cat.

Kitty Hawk is a barn kitty, a former feral tomcat who tested positive for FIV after he ended up at the pound. (He broke into a house, beat up the resident cat and ate his food.) He lives outdoors in my aviary where he is second-in-command to my serious rat catcher, Grover, another FIV+ former feral tomcat.

He still has plenty of energy and follows me everywhere, stopping to take a swing at the hen’s tail feathers if they don’t hop out of his way.

Diabetes is the reason why Kitty Hawk has gotten so skinny, even though he is eating twice as much food. Last week’s blood test told us the bad news and today he had his first insulin shot. Twice a day, evenly spaced, means that I get to traipse out there in the dark to give him his evening injection. It’s going to be inconvenient, expensive, and painful. For me, not the cat. He doesn’t seem to care. He likes his new food, and so does Grover.

The guinea pig room

Let’s talk about something more fun: guinea pigs! It’s great when kids grow up and leave home, because then you get an entire bedroom for your guinea pigs.

Brutus lives in this end of the cage, but where is she?

Squirrel lived alone for several years after his buddy, Stevie Ray, died. He was within sniffing and squealing distance from the others but he wanted a live-in buddy. Cookie Monster loves Squirrel, but Brutus is aptly named and will not tolerate Squirrel. So, Cookie Monster had dates with Squirrel but always went home for the night.

This is the middle apartment. Squirrel is hiding in the log cabin but you can see Cookie Monster’s white nose peeking out of a pigloo.

Daniel was supposed to be a dude buddy for Squirrel, but turned out to be Danielle. She was in a separate cage while I worked to introduce them, but like Brutus, she is very opinionated. Squirrel is a mellow guy and Danny is a speed demon, always rearranging her furniture so she can run circles around it.

Danielle is in her pigloo. Note the fence extension at the right, by the timber hideaway. You can’t be too careful with this maniac.

Brutus tolerates Cookie, but Squirrel adores her. I decided to make some changes. My large L-shaped cage has plenty of room for four, but I had to get clever in order to divide it into three spaces that each meet the minimum space requirements. I did the unthinkable: I put diagonal dividers in.

Here’s Brutus! The diagonal dividers make some odd corner spaces, and now this is Brutus’s favorite place. So I throw some hay in there and she munches away, watching her neighbors.

Squirrel and Cookie Monster have the middle apartment, and Brutus and Danielle each have end units. Brutus and Cookie Monster can still visit through the divider, and Danielle can continue to get acquainted with Squirrel and Cookie Monster. And Squirrel doesn’t have to live alone anymore.

Danielle has quiet moments, too. She is getting some dark pigmentation at her nostrils, like fancy nose make-up.

They still get floor time, of course, and we switch out the piggies to keep things interesting.

This day they had a box maze and wheatgrass treats.

The Funny Farm is getting ready for some new additions, but I’m not ready to spill those beans yet. Instead, here are some short news items.

The doves are pretending to be lovebirds. Every once in a while, I discover an egg in the nest.

The handicapped doves (one can’t fly, the other can’t walk) are, in fact, mother and daughter. Recently I added a soft little nest for The Pirate, the not-walker. Her mom, Snow White, joins her in the nest, and they snuggle on and off during the day. I had no idea that would happen, but it has totally changed the way they interact, and it’s wonderful to see them grooming each other and chatting.

Frieda lays tan eggs. Adelita lays chocolate brown eggs, and Angel lays pale aqua eggs.

The six vintage hens that live in the aviary lay about a dozen eggs a week this time of year. They range from about six to ten years old. We had a raccoon in the yard yesterday afternoon, while everyone was out for their daily Garden Party. I ran out when I heard the ruckus, but the geese and ducks had already high-tailed it back to the aviary so I only had a couple straggling hens to march back in. It was a scraggly nasty looking raccoon, not a big healthy one like I am used to seeing around here. Garden Parties have been cancelled for a while.

Sneaky Pete (AKA Norman) nibbles the edges of a head of romaine lettuce.

Here’s silly Norman, stealing some lettuce. I take out a head of romaine every morning, and distribute it fairly among the geese, ducks and hens. I drop it into the sink until I am ready to fight my way through the spider webs to toss it around. As I throw it into little piles, Norman follows me and takes a little bite out of every leaf. What a guy.

The Bartender raised up the bench to paint it, making the job easier on his back.

The Bartender has been busy painting the Little Free Library. He also painted the old bench from the back yard to match.

Chock full of books!

It’s probably the biggest Little Free Library I’ve ever seen. I put a bunch of books out there at the beginning, but more books show up all the time! There are so many new ones I have been sneaking a few for myself! It’s fun to see people walk up to take a look, and I have even seen people drive up and park!

It looks great, doesn’t it?

Stay tuned. My next blog will be full of surprises!