'I'm always looking for the Hows and the Whys and the Whats,' said Muskrat, 'That is why I speak as I do. You've heard of Muskrat's Much-in-Little, of course?'
'No,' said the child. 'What is it?'
- The Mouse and his Child. Russell Hoban.

Go here to find out more.

Saturday, 8 September 2012


A Scottish artist friend and his wife have a small farm near Whakatane.  I've been working on them for some time, doing a 'Gaslight' on them; suggesting that they are tired, need a break away, etc., hoping that they would believe me and let me stay and look after their farm animals.  Finally the idea took, and here I am, having a super time!

For three days I am in charge of a number of assorted creatures.

My menagerie consists of two goats, a cow, assorted poultry, two blue budgerigars, two cats, five neon tetra, a small school of guppies, and two dogs.

Chloe the cow, Milo and Lily the goats.

 Chloe the cow's broad head looks a lot like a beef breed to me.  This gentle monster lowers its head for a scratch but was quite aware this morning that it had got on the chook-run side of the tape and was quite happy to be moved back with very little persuasion.  She's not silly, though; She was very careful not to touch the electric tape that I'd laid down on the ground for her to walk over.  Just in case it was on.

The two goats Lily and Milo are the 'good cop/bad cop' team. Lily lures you into a false sense of security while Milo gets her horns sharpened ready on a nearby post.  I don't trust either of 'em!


Good goat Lily luring you close.

Bad goat Milo.
 Ingot the fuzzy-headed (silkie?) 'house hen' is practically blind and needs to have her food-bowl tapped so she can locate it.  She is about 12 years old and lives in the spare room.

Fizzy Lizzie and Whitey are two hens that, like Ingot, are getting well and truly past their use-by-date.  they are allowed a whole run to themselves.  As they are topped up with copious water and pellets, I don't need to worry about them.  Anyway, to get to them I'd have to get past the cops first.

Ingot the house-hen.

The gorgeous, strutting, yodelling-at-four-in-the-morning rooster leads his small posse of hens into the garden for early morning raids.  I've no idea how they get in, but he just flies over the gate and back whenever he chooses.  He shows them the corner of the garden where the budgie seed is discarded, and then they go back to join the rest of the golden girls happily wandering the field. Judging by their combs, I'd say at least three are laying, but despite exhaustive searches based on my years of experience, I haven't found their nests.  Cunning creatures.

'Quick girls, we've been spotted!  Back to the run!'

'Come on girls, gather around, stay together!'

'It IS a rather fabulous tail, isn't it?'

'Make sure you take my best side, won't you?'

Meeka and Neo are the two cats.  Neo is as friendly and charming as Meeka is nervous.  Neo has been around the house almost constantly since I arrived, leaping on benches to see what I'm doing, patting my knitting needles and attacking hummocks of grass as I pass.  I've spotted Meeka hurrying across the end of a field, or frozen, watching me from near a woodpile.  It looks like I'm not even going to get near her in three short days.

'I'm going to hold on to this patch of grass.  Don't even THINK about stealing it!'

The budgies talk constantly when I am out of the room, but stop the second I enter.  They are clearly talking about me.  They have resisted all my attempts at friendship.  I expect I don't have the right accent.  

'Shh, mate.  Pretend you were just preening.  Don't even glance her way'.

The fish are familiar to me since my sojourn in the pet shop!   It is good to see my old acquaintances the guppies and also the neon tetras.  However despite having them all to myself, they have still proved incredibly difficult to capture with my camera.

Which just leaves the dogs - two handsome, intelligent, border collies.  Clyde, who is older and wiser, barks less but knows every snippet of noise that indicates the soon approach of neighbor's tractors on the adjacent tracks.  Borders love to chase.  A lot.
Maddie is noisier, but keeps an eye on me, and is usually very happy to return if I indicate that the games are over.  Well, mostly.
Clyde has a idiosyncratic way of showing when he wants to play:  He chatters his teeth and smiles.  Delightful dogs.  But loads of energy.  If I had these two I'd have my work cut out.

Clyde.  Look at him summing me up.

Maddie.  Watching for the tractor.  Or the ducks.  Or a car on the road.  Or a calf.

There are two other things I should mention:  The small box of delectable Swiss chocolates left on the bench for me as a 'thank you' (for me having a lovely weekend?), and the exercycle in a corner of the lounge.  I've calculated that if I spend three hours on the exercycle each day I'm here, my calories should just about balance out.


  1. Sound like a great way to spend a few days. Apart from the cats. I'm not keen on cats!

    1. Each to his own SP. Why don't you like cats?

  2. I'm not aware that you can tell whether hens are laying by the size/color/whatever of their combs, but I was taught in Vocational Agriculture that paleness of legs is a good indicator. Bright yellow legs are not a good sign. There is another way, but as this is a family-friendly blog, I won't go into the details.

    1. Robert, these chooks are a stabilized cross between the Red Shaver and the Ross Brown. (Originally from the Rhode Island Red) and don't have yellow pigmentation anywhere, even on their family-friendlys.
      The comb is usually plump, red and shiny if a hen is laying an egg a day.
      And I heard two do their cackle thing early this morning. I KNOW eggs are out there somewhere!

  3. So are you at least sketching that wonderful rooster? And I will also join RWP in his comment about the combs on the hens.What do you look for?

    1. Helsie, I did do a painting of their rooster a couple of years ago. It was in an art nouveau design style. They have it in their kitchen. But I would love to paint him some time.
      Right now I'm busy rushing to complete a painting deadline for a 'fight breast cancer' auction.

  4. Lucky You. Enjoy!

  5. I see an element of anthropomorphism creeping into this blogpost. Perhaps you should scribble a children's story starring the various creatures you have encountered during your farm-stay. You could call it "Animal Farm"...but where are the pigs?

    1. YP, it is rather anthropomorphic, isn't it. I don't know how it happened. It just sort-of crept in when I wasn't looking. Like a nasty, sneaky cockroach.

  6. of course the exercise bike isn't for riding.... it's for hanging your washing on, just like everyone else that owns one does!

    1. Sorry Foxy. I'll know better next time.

      Actually, I found it fun to ride. I wonder how much they cost....?