Thursday 31 January 2013

Are these cats dogs?

We are fairly convinced that we have a couple of confused cats here which seem to think they are dogs or, at least, think they have the right to as much fresh air, exercise and walking, as our dogs. First though, a quick 2 pictures of the first completed rabbit run as promised yesterday, now that it is out in the sun. The cats, though. We first noticed that Blue had a love of coming out on walks when I used to take the pups for their first walks around the perimeter of the 12 acres of this farm (the bit we don't own). The walk is almost a km but Blue would howl to be allowed to come out with us and would then bounce along with us, leaping from tussock to tussock with his tail up like a flag, no mean feat for a small kitten.

Since then the pups have grown up a bit, gotten more adventurous and had started to escape and get into the lane as well as, on one occasion attacking our rooster, so that they are now only allowed out on the lead and we take them for a short walk round our bit of the farm (2.5 acres) several times a day so that they can do the necessary. They also get a proper walk, of course, up or down the lane, also on the lead. During the short ones I generally get out of the front door with my three dogs and no sooner am I gone than both cats are yowling at Liz to be allowed out with us. My route usually goes down the length of the lawn, round to the drive, back up to the orchard and then through the yard and back to the front door. I am barely half way down the lawn when I hear the front door clonk softly closed again after Liz has released the cats and seconds later they come bowling by us down the lawn mixing it playfully with the dogs. The 6 of us then do the walk and at the end the cats either decide to come in or not, as suits them.

In the dark, I use one of those new-fangled LED head-torches which, amusingly, show up the cats' eyes a bright blue-green even when the cat is too far off to see any of the rest of the cat. Amazingly, even if all I can see of the cats is the pair of eyes reflected, I can unerringly tell which cat I am looking at. Blue bounds down the lawn towards me just like when he was a kitten, so the eye-reflections bounce across the dark grass. Rolo is more of a slinky mover, and walks down the lawn so his eyes come at me in more of a straight line.

Recently we also had an issue where Blue tried to follow me down the lane on one of the main walks, yowling at me to wait for him to catch up. Given the fun we have had lately trying to keep pups from getting run over by cars, this was NOT FUNNY. There was no way I could manage 3 dogs on leads and grab a handful of cat when ever a car approached. I had to walk back to the gate and call Liz down to grab the cat so that we could set off again sans cat. We soon learned to check Blue was safely indoors before I set off from the house. Yesterday that all worked fine but I had got half a mile down the lane, way past McG's and John Deere Bob's house, when I suddenly had Rolo with me. He must have snuck along behind us, undetected by dogs and then 'pounced'. Once more I was on the phone to Liz, who I thought might drive down but she came walking down commenting that this was the 'most she'd walked all week!' She carried the kitten home while we carried on the walk. Now we know to secure both cats before we head off down the lane.

My other news is just that we have started to get some damage from the geese on the new fruit trees. I had been warned that geese can damage trees but I had thought that this was just nibbling leaves. I assumed that our fruit trees, which are mostly tall enough to have their leaves well out of reach of even the gander, would be OK. The older trees already have their sheep-proof fences round them and this seems to keep the geese far enough away. I had not got around to fencing the  7 new trees yet as we are not likely to get this year's lambs till August or so.

Well, it is not just the leaves, by all accounts - geese will nibble away at small shoots and buds and even have a go at the bark on trunks. They are creatures of habit and obsession, and will happily start worrying away at a fruit tree's bark till they have stripped the bark all round, ring-barking the tree and killing it. Some of our new trees are so young and small that even the main 'trunk' is still, technically, a fine branch and I was starting to see the geese hovering near the trees whistling innocently and when I inspected the trees, I was seeing nibbled ends and the start of ring-barking on the small ones. Time to invest in some tree -guards. We have bought the hard plastic spiral ones 75cm tall and have now fitted them to all the trees without sheep guards. They came from an on line supplier and were only about 50 cents each. For some of the trees which looked particularly vulnerable, I have even stacked another half length on top, so that I have easily enough protected even from the tall gander.

My final picture shows the three suspects by a tree but is mainly to show off how bright and white they are now in the sunshine and to let you see the view across the turf bog land and forestry to the north of us, the view we 'borrow' for the garden in best Capability Brown landscaping tradition. It gives the geese something to look at, too. I am hoping that now that the geese are not confined to the orchard, they will not focus on the trees and will start to explore other sources of bark-nutrition.


Mr Silverwood said...

Good job on the rabbit run, looks almost professional.

Matt Care said...

Ah! I'm getting reasonably good at this carpentry now.