animals amok!

it has been rifle season, so of course the horses have been getting out and wandering in the woods. this is courtesy of soni, who is undaunted by the electric fence and has been breaking it on a corner twice a day, every day for three days. they all go to the shed, help themselves to a bale of hay, eat up the goats’ hay, rummage around in the empty grain dishes, dig around on the lawn a bit, then toddle off into the forest, the better to be mistaken for deer. i guess the two leopard appaloosas probably wouldn’t be mistaken for anything but horses, but every fall it seems like someone shoots someone else’s horse during deer season and i’m frankly at a loss to see how anyone could think a horse is a deer, regardless of colour. other than having four legs, they really look nothing alike. i feel certain it’s a question of shoot first, ask questions later.

i finally gave up trying to keep soni in and have been letting him roam loose. this means he’s not breaking the three others out of their pasture, but it means he’s helping himself to free-choice hay (probably not a bad thing with his difficulty keeping weight) and has his nose all up in my business whenever i go out to do anything. i was transporting a dead hen the other evening and i finally had to lead soni beside me by his halter because he wouldn’t stop standing in front of me to check out the bird corpse.

the good news (for both us and for soni), is that soni is going to go spend the next half year with a lonely young morgan gelding who lost his elderly herd. soni’s a great choice for a companion horse and J, the soon-to-be lessee, is going to do some work with him under saddle. depending on how things work out for the lessee, there’s always the chance that soni will end up with her more long-term, but i’d just like to see him in a small herd where he doesn’t get poked, harassed, and bullied for food for a while. and it would be great if my other three would stay in their pasture for several days in a row, rather than several hours. oy.

we’re still fostering oakland, which ain’t no thang except that every once in a great while, someone leaves the door ajar or loses a grip on his leash and then it’s a half hour or so of “oh crap”. a few weeks ago when he got loose, he caught one of my newly re-feathered hens and pulled most of her feathers out. between my mom and i, we managed to catch him before he killed her, but only just. the day before thanksgiving, he pulled the leash out of my hand and went frolicking through the pasture, barking and gamboling and dragging the leash under the hooves of the horses. qohqoh, my appy gelding, finally put a stop to this nonsense with a sharp kick to the offending dog which, fortunately, didn’t break any dog parts but has kept oakland studiously uninterested in horses ever since. because, like the horses, this seems to be the weekend of roaming oakland and he’s been loose twice in as many days. the rescue has gotten no inquiries and the few that we’ve gotten independently haven’t panned out. he’s such a great little dog; it’s really a shame.

my little texas a&m quail (we call her gail) is living upstairs from charlotte, the fierce bad rabbit, in a rabbit hutch in our basement. the day after i brought her home, she commenced moulting and hasn’t laid an egg since. probably being in the basement isn’t going to kickstart her back to laying eggs, but they’re such comically tiny things that i’m not too concerned about it. the same co-worker who brought me gail has three bobwhites looking for a home, too, so my poultry herd is about to expand. someday i’ll have a fancy barn with a fancy semi-detached poultry coop where i can have different species in mini-habitats. in the meantime, as my hens grow older and die, i am steadily replacing them and filling up my little coop with odd birds that don’t pay for their own room and board. the ducks drink (or splash) all the water out of the fount every day, which triples my chores (in winter, i generally fill the chicken water every three or four days) between water hauling and mucking. next summer, i vow to create a proper duck house and yard so that they aren’t happily undoing all my neat chicken arrangements all winter.

the cats have cabin fever, except for mimi who expects someone to stand at the door to open it whenever she has a fancy to go out or come in. there’s a screaming cat fight downstairs at least once each evening and chuzzy, the incorrigible creature, has his paws in everything they fit in. he has lost the cap to the toothpaste tube, knocked down my mother’s magnifying glass (and not broken it) twice, and has a steady flow of pipe cleaner people and toy mice that have to be policed so that oakland doesn’t ingest them.

basically, the animals have taken over and are driving us insane. only five more months ‘til spring?

beware the bad cat

before i tell you that i have seven cats, which sounds like the confession of a crazy cat lady (guilty), i should tell you that i will take in absolutely any sad creature that shows up in my yard. this includes wild animals that bite (seriously, kids, don’t try this at home). i’ve been known to relocate snakes from chicken infested areas to safer stone walls. i’ve tried, unsuccessfully, to foster several wild bird nestlings. if it looks sad, bedraggled, or lost, i will most likely do my best to make it happier, sleeker, or more at home.

so, i have seven cats.

only one of them was actually sought out during a cat-dry spell, young chuzzy who came (with his late brother, ewan) from a neighbour’s farm as a kitten, crusty-eyed and bulbous-bellied and fairly unattractive. the rest arrived one way or another.

it turns out that living in the middle of nowhere will ensure a steady supply of cats that are dumped off on the side of the road at the edge of a wilderness. one summer, it was a mama cat with seven nursing kittens, the tire tracks still clearly visible in the grass on the side of the road. i’d just found a home for the last of the kittens when an adult female cat showed up in our driveway. thankfully, the last kitten-taker took the adult cat instead, leaving the kitten with us permanently. another summer, it was a little black kitten, crying in a ditch, followed the next day by a tabby kitten that our neighbour found in roughly the same place. the road past our house is a conveyor belt into the maw of the savage garden and every once in a while, i find a dribbling that the foxes or fishers or coyotes or owls didn’t find first.

last summer, a black cat strolled out of the woods like it owned the place. my daughters went out and snagged it and shut it up in the bathroom with food and water and a cat box. round-headed like a tom cat, it proved to be a female who was generally friendly, but simultaneously the grumpiest cat ever. we named her mimi, after the noise she made if you attempted to interact with her, which was something like “mimimi-MImimiiiiiiiiiiiiii”. she rarely tried to bite and her claws weren’t terribly serious most of the time, but the caterwauling was like the voice from the mouth of hell itself. who needs pointy bits when you’ve got that kind of intimidation at your command?

mimi quickly became part of the family. she had atrocious manners. despite her cleanliness and friendliness, she seemed to have never lived in a house before. she had a hard time remembering where the cat food was kept and used the bathtub for a litter pan off and on for the first month. she was up on the kitchen counters constantly. she would snarl and yowl and scream any time anyone of any species drew near. she was seriously a bitter little pill.


mimi, the dogs, and i go for a walk down the drivway
mimi, the dogs, and i go for a walk down the drivway

outdoors, she was (and is) a great little cat. she’ll follow you anywhere, for miles, happily. she comes for pettins and has even been known to rub her face on mine every once in a while, if i’m sitting very still. she’ll purr and dart around under your hands, raising the static in her fur. every outdoor chore since mimi came to stay contains a little dose of mimi in it. in deep snow, she’s out in the pasture with me, helping to fix fence. in the heat of summer, she’s creeping through the woods with me and the dogs. every evening, she is dividing her time between looking for mice in the shed and standing in my lap while i wait for the horses to finish their grain. she follows the kids out into the beyond.

the only way to keep her out of your business is to trap her in the house, if you’re canny, crafty, and lucky. she’s fast, determined, and seemingly happiest outside. she spends long winter days out there, never coming to the door. she spends most evenings out there, too, standing under trees and ignoring every attempt to lure her inside. she is, basically and at bottom, a really bad cat. and we love her.