Guests are often interested to learn about my many animals so I thought I’d share my short note to the Pet-Sitter who is looking after them all while I am away in Australia visiting my brother this February…..She should be fine shouldn’t she?
Just a quick note to explain who is who. It really is simplicity itself…
Firstly my beloved dogs Harry and Dixter. Dixter is the friendliest easiest going dog you are every likely to meet though sometimes a little embarrassed by too much cuddling. On the other hand if you are not paying him enough attention he will chase his tail until you tell him he is the cleverest dog in the world.
Harry is gorgeous but getting on – he is now 14 so really very old. If you translate that into human years he would be saying “I’m 98 you know” to anyone who was listening - or not. Which reminds me he is also deaf so there is very little point in calling for him. The trick is to catch his eye and do an exaggerated beckon with your arm and hand Barbarba Woodhouse style.
The dogs have a walk in the morning and the evening just around our bit of land. Harry is too rickety to go further and Dixie is just happy to be with you and Harry. If there is some distance between you and Harry, Dixie will stand somewhere between the two of you, not wanting to leave either one. Loyal little dog.
The sheep are Soays and are the easiest of all the animals to deal with….simply give them something to eat in the morning and evening and check they are alive. There should be three.
The hens are pretty easy too. There are five. They are fed in the morning and evening and roam freely around the place in between. Their stable needs to be cleaned out once a week which is not such a bad job as it might be so long as they are getting their Bokashi mash which miraculously prevents a horrid stink.
The donkeys are bundles of gorgeousness. Don’t be afraid of them – just pretend they are large dogs ( but don’t feed them meat or let them off the lead) Alfie the grey is the more inquisitive of the two and likes to push the boundaries a bit. Sometimes he will rush up to looking decidedly menacing with his head down and ears back. You must stand your ground and he will skid to a halt right next to you, his ears will come forward and he will know you are not in the slightest bit affected by his silly sabre rattling. Talking to the donkeys is a good way of making them relax around you and convinces them nothing scary is about to happen to them. Truly if you treat them as you would a dog you will be well away.
Queenie is the quieter of the two, personality-wise, though she is the only one who can bray properly noisily. (Alfie is still learning and sounds like a teenage boy whose voice is just breaking- his bray is very sweet and funny.) Queenie is the boss of the two and she can give Alfie a really hard time when she is in season. You will know if she is in season by the way she snips at Alfie and generally looks pissed off. Neither of them have ever hurt me but I do take a little more care around Queenie when she is like this. Standing too long behind her back legs would simply be asking for trouble. If either of them bites or kicks you (which they won’t I am certain) you must not waste time writhing around on the floor in pain, but return a swift boot to the bum (or whatever bit of you can easiest reach whatever bit of them ) within three seconds of the attack. After three seconds they won’t associate the two things and just think you are horrid. Shouting loudly works just as well with bad behaviour so if you find you cannot rise to return the thump, do make sure you yell at them.
The donks get fed morning and night, go out in the field during the day and come into the barn at night. This is the most pleasurable part for me – seeing them bedding down happily in their straw, munching on their hay in a nice big dry barn. They will come to the gate to be taken in – don’t go and collect them from the top. They will take their time about it which can be frustrating if you have a million other things to do, but hopefully you will be in roughly the same state of mind as them – perfectly relaxed and not seeing what there is to hurry about. Alternatively you might decide that it is quite true that donkeys are indeed the stubbornest of animals. If they don’t come, go away and come back when they start yelling.
The barn needs mucking out every morning but I am doing a deep litter system which means you only need remove the poo and not the pee-soaked straw. There is a rather dubious idea that this creates extra warmth for them over the winter but I use it because I don’t have the time to completely muck out everything every day and prefer to put off the day in spring when the whole lot needs to come out. Lucky for you you will be well away by then.
So that only leaves the cats. Well, there’s just the thirteen of them.. Eleven are fed in the utility room but Twinkle (small black & white) and Holly (named because she was very prickly as a kitten but is a sweetie now) are fed in the barn.
Willow (tabby with white socks and bad breath) will welcome lots of cuddles. Dilly (tabby with only one eye) will also welcome cuddles and likes to nibble your fingers. Brookie (ginger and white) would love a cuddle but will probably be too shy to ask for one til the day before you leave.
The others will probably only come near you at feeding time in the utility room. Fast movements, noise and normal speech alarms them. Spotty is a tortoiseshell with an orange spot on her forehead, wide round eyes and a kink in the end of her tail. Scally cat is similar to Spotty smaller, thinner, shyer. Keep an eye on her as she is very shy and prone to illness so you need to be sure she is actually getting some food. Albie is the floppy pretty all over ginger, Smithy is the less pretty solid looking ginger. Albie has just discovered the delights of being stroked so you may have some luck making friends with him. Rosie and Molly are the fat multicoloured ones, mother and daughter, Molly (mum to Rosie, Brookie and Willow) is the enormous one, Rosie is the simply large one. Bella is the large tabby and mum to Dilly, Scally, Spot and Albie.
Mincie is the black and white one with wobbly legs. He is a law unto himself and will in the space of five seconds come for a cuddle and then swipe the nose off your face – so watch out! However, it appears he saves most of his aggression for me and has now also started sabotaging my business by doing unmentionable things on the floor in front of potential guests. (This has actually happened just the once and he has been left in no doubt about the error of his ways.)
The cats will eat a box of Felix pouches and two or three tins of food a day. The dogs will push them off and eat it themselves if they get the chance. The cats and dogs will eat the hens’ evening feed of sweetcorn and sardines. The hens will eat the cat food in the barn and everyone will eat the bread put out for the birds. The donkeys will eat the sheep food and the hens’ breakfast corn. All such sharing of feed is to be discouraged as much as possible…..(good luck with that)
And that’s it ! As I said, it is simplicity itself ………………………….(*Heads off to the airport whistling*)