Fox Attack!

I got a panicky phone call up at the shop on Friday lunchtime, “Mum! Mum! Come home! A fox has got Spice!”

Spice is an 8 year old Pekin bantam, eldest surviving bird & the brood mother of most of the rest. A couple of years ago she went menopausal, developed cockerel feathering & stopped laying, but we reckoned she doesn’t owe us a thing after 5 years of laying & brooding & she doesn’t crow, so she bimbles happily round the garden with the other 3 bantams during the day. The big girls are in the run at the back for most of the day as they’re too destructive to be out all the time in a small urban garden, but feather-footed bantams don’t/can’t dig so they can stay out. I’d be heartbroken to lose Spice; she’s a calm & friendly little bird & has done the rounds of all the local schools & playgroups over the years, with various broods of chicks.

Luckily one of my daughters was out in the garden when the fox struck, and although he had Spice in his mouth he dropped her & ran off. I shut the shop up quick, ran home & took her straight up to the vets, fearing the worst as she couldn’t seem to walk, there were feathers all over the lawn & a fair bit of blood. But the vet checked her over, announced that the wounds were quite shallow, and on hearing that she’d been “caught” before, twice, by spaniels (who of course just wanted to play with her, as spaniels do, and put her straight down to wait for the next move) he said, “She’s clearly a survivor, and I reckon she has a pretty good chance of making it…” He gave her an antibiotic shot & a steroid, and I took her home again.

To cut a long story short, today she started to show some interest in food again, and this afternoon she plodded cautiously out of the cat basket and then across the garden to sit in the sunshine beside the chicken run. Relief! We were all cheering her on. We’ve lost birds before now who have just plain died of shock after a relatively trivial injury, and one rabbit who died of fright when a buzzard flew too low over the garden; it’s amazing how some creatures are just born survivors & others aren’t. I think temperament has as much to do with it as luck; the first time we saw Spice, she was a tiny, determined & unflappable 6 week old grower plodding calmly around in a huge pen of wildly overexcited, much bigger birds who were squawking & flapping madly, falling over each other & piling into corners. Unnoticed in all the mayhem, knee-high to all the others, she was calmly hoovering up all the spilt grains whilst the others rushed around chaotically – a bird after my own heart!

Anyway, we aren’t going to take anything for granted; she goes back to the vet for a checkup tomorrow. And Mr Fox is still around; he was outside by the compost heap just after dark this evening & must be very hungry (or feeding early cubs) to come so close to people so often, so constant vigilance is the order of the day for now…

RIP Fudge the Patchwork Puss…

Yesterday I had to take Fudge, one of our 4 cats, for that Final Trip to the vets. It wasn’t a surprise, I’d known for weeks that she was terminally ill & all we could do was make sure she wasn’t in pain & was still enjoying life, within limits, until the steroids stopped working & the growths in her nose & sinuses got big enough to be painful & interefere with her enjoyment of life. Three days ago she was still sunning herself in the garden & trying to catch unwary baby birds, but then she went quieter & her nose started to bleed. Yesterday morning she’d lost all interest in food and just wanted to hide under the bed, so I knew her time was near & I didn’t want her to suffer. It’s a hard thing to do on a personal level, but the only compassionate thing you can do for an animal that’s suffering.

Her two sisters & niece don’t seem to have missed her yet but she’ll leave a power vacuum – she was the shyest of cats to humans, but the boss amongst the cats – and I suspect the chickens will miss her more; she genuinely loved them although she didn’t take any nonsense from them, and often tried to sleep in the chicken shed – not just for the mice, either, there’s no hot water bottle as good as a broody bantam!

She was only 13; I know that’s an average lifespan for a domestic moggy but I think that’s much lower than it should be as I’ve known many cats in farm/rural conditions live well into their 20s, though quite often their tails don’t last that long. I’ll always remember when she & her 9-week-old sisters came to us; they’d been in a small local animal sanctuary that was closing down, along with the next litter up from the same mother & none of them had found homes so they were all going off to be farm cats if I didn’t take them. (Not that that’s a bad life for a cat, by any means, as long as they can stay clear of the machinery) The other two, Tinkerbelle & Tabitha, assimilated into our large & noisy family quite quickly & easily, but Fudge was petrified & stayed under the dresser for 6 weeks – all efforts to coax her out were met with a blank stare of terror. Then one night I felt a warm little head snuggle under my arm and a shy silent purr, and there she slept for the next 13 years, as long as I remembered to evict her from the chickenshed at roosting time! She was very pretty as well as affectionate; a true tortoiseshell (or calico cat, if you’re American) with clear bright markings in shades of brown, ginger, cream, black & white that earned her the nickname of the Patchwork Puss, and little black freckles on her nose.

So rest in peace under the rosebush by the chickenrun, Fudge. We’ll all miss you a lot. But the garden birds & the mice can sleep easier in their nests now…

Sometimes less is more…

…and perhaps this week has been proof of that, on the recycling front. I have only managed two forays, thanks to my still-recovering hip and other commitments; one to the Tip and one to a nearby car boot sale. But both outings were well worthwhile.

At the tip, I found some oddments of textiles needed to complete a couple of projects I heve on the go, including a fair few metres of curtain fabric still on the roll, ideal for Morsbagging. Also a complete game of Absolute Balderdash – that’ll keep us happy for a few evenings!

At the car boot sale (outside Wimborne Market on a Saturday morning) the first thing my eyes alighted on was pure treasure; an apple press. I know I already have one, but I’d been racking my brains to think of a way to raise some money for TTWimborne to buy a fruit press. Obviously, for public use, we’ll need a bigger one, and will have to fundraise; however, I’d just found out we have been allowed a stall at the Minster Fair on the Minster Green during the Folk Festival this year. What could be better than raffling (or some kind of contest, if they have stern rules about games of chance) a household-sized apple press? I know from experience how hard they are to come by and how many people would love one  – hopefully they’ll think risking a pound for a ticket is a good investment, especially as that pound will be going towards a bigger one for community use, so if they don’t win, they will at least have that to look forward to!

Then at one of the house clearance stalls, I found a bag containing several pairs of bamboo knitting needles & other oddments. He wanted several ££s, which half of me thought was too much, but it was still early in the morning’s trading & he didn’t look to be in bargaining mode, so I paid up. When I got home, I found to my delight that most the the bamboo needles were still in their packets, and thus saleable from my own stall or web shop, AND there were three sets of circular metal needles, also still in their wrappings, AND a box full of Simanco fashion cams, AND oodles of old lace snippets! I shall be uploading them (and lots of other things too) early on this week, whenever I’m not planting up my hanging baskets or front garden.

On Tuesday, Wimborne played host to Steph Bradley, who is walking the length & breadth of England telling & gathering Transition Tales. I met her at Canford Bridge and gave her lunch & a chance to rest her feet a bit before meandering through Wimborne to meet up with Tom from the Gaunt’s House community, where she was staying the night – read about it from Steph’s viewpoint here. And what a lovely, sparkly entertaining lady she is!

And last but not least, the chicken saga continues; I have had two broodies sitting for 6+ weeks. I didn’t think they’d stay put at first because it was so cold, so I didn’t arrange any hybrid chicks for them. But they sat it out, and just over four weeks ago, I was at a friend’s house who keeps a cock bird, so I begged some hopefully-fertile eggs from her and popped them under. But sadly, one of the broodies at least was turfed off the nest by someone looking for a space to lay in sometime in the first few days, and when I candled the eggs at 7 days development, two were obviously clear. I couldn’t see much in the other two because they were blue eggs, but one did look a bit darker – maybe it had a thicker shell? Anyway, day 21 came & went with no hatchlings, then day 22, day 23, etc. I was a bit worried that they’d starve, so on day 27, the first day I had any spare time, I rang round the local breeders, located one (Race Farm Poultry – thank you, Shelley!) with day-olds, and went & bought 4 best-guess-female pure breed chicks for them.

I left the warm box peeping in the shed for an hour, to get the girls used to the idea of impending motherhood, then slipped two chicks under each broody, removing the “blank” eggs, all but one. That evening, I went to take the last egg away, so that Nutmeg would be free to bring her chicks out the  next day. But horrors! There was only half a shell – oh no, I thought, it’s burst & the chicks will get infected & die! But there was no foul smell… I lifted Nutmeg up slightly, and there were altogether too many legs… THREE chicks! The last egg had hatched, at 27 days. Maybe the little sturdy, stripey chick inside needed to hear the other chicks cheeping around it before it found the strength to break out? Or maybe it incubated really slowly because  of the cold weather in the first couple of weeks? Who knows… but it’s a lovely healthy chick all the same.

The Silkin, Nutmeg & surprise legbarX chick...