Feeling invigorated…

Need a pick-me up? Feeling a little lethargic? Difficulty motivating yourself to get off that sofa? You may need the ‘Moss Farm Experience’… For a start, lying on the sofa here is only seen as an invitation to be used and abused as a dog trampoline. As soon as we hear the ‘tap tap tap’ of Patterdale feet approaching, we now automatically tighten our stomach muscles in anticipation of the inevitable … But for a real surge of adrenalin, I recommend doing the evening round of feeding the menagerie…

First, there is the ‘get the horse feed buckets past the goats’ challenge. Do you remember those video games (perhaps they still exist) where you are either on a motorbike, skis, or in a car (take your pick) and have to run an obstacle course of a variety of random monsters, at ever increasing breakneck speed? It comes pretty close, only, you have to do it carrying a wobbly stack of full buckets… I found carrying them on my head works best, giving me the added benefit of a free hand to open and close gates and shove things out of the way (and one can indulge in the fantasy of looking serene and elegant, gliding across the back yard in the manner of one of those very beautiful African women carrying gorgeous earthenware filled with exotic fruit and such like… the fact that I can swear the goats are actually laughing at me spoils the effect a little… plus, have you ever tried to glide in wellies?).

Next are the ducks, who like their wheat in a water filled bucket, so they can ‘bob’ for it. Don’t ask me how I discovered this. But it may have something to do with the fact that the goats hate getting wet, which is why this is the only way of ensuring that they don’t steal it… The other Moss Farm inhabitant with evil designs on the duck wheat is Wilbury, my friend’s colt, who last winter knocked over an entire bin of the stuff and subsequently and perhaps unwittingly (although you never know in his case, he is, regrettably, rather intelligent) created his own little wheat field. The ducks arrived in August last year, as natural slug repellant, something they are rather good at. They used to live in the chicken house, the only downside of which was that they were scared of the little stepladder that led into it, with the result that every night, we had to rugby tackle five ducks to put them away safely… a task not helped by an overly enthusiastic border collie, but on the other hand much aided by the sheep netting that was attached to most of the farm’s fencing (the ducks hadn’t quite worked out that they could not get through the netting, so all you had to do was chase them into it, then plug them out one by one as they invariably ended up stuck in it). Nevertheless, things have improved since they live in a proper duck house that they can get into all by themselves. They must like it here despite the rugby tackling and traumatic fence chasing, for they still have not escaped for pastures new, despite our farm backing onto a lake postively brimming with all kinds of water foal…

Next comes the ‘find a cat feed bowl’ game, which is akin to your average Easter egg hunt, only with a less certain outcome. I swear there must be a special black hole here somewhere into which they disappear. I usually resign and use either a) a cereal bowl or b) a tupperware box (both of which are, unsurprisingly, becoming a little scarce in the Broomer household).

Moss Farm used to have two cats, since last Sunday, we have four. Now seems to be a good a time as any to introduce them.

When we visited Moss Farm last year for our second viewing, the then owner introduced us to Bounce, who was, we thought, delightful. Petite, friendly, and incredibly neat, she is the perfect little white pussycat with large black spots. Of course we did not object to inheriting her. She looked very decorative, perched prettily on top of a barn wall… So, we were left with firm instructions (only a little bit of feed each day was required, we were assured, to keep Bounce’s loyalty, who in turn would reward us with great mice catching enterprise and general cuteness) and under the impression that our little herd of animals had grown (not counting the horses, who deserve a separate blog entry all to themselves) from one at the time (Lupus, our ‘special’ border collie) to two. Or so we thought. Only, as soon as we had moved, I received a text: ‘How are the cats?’ (plural). ‘Bounce and Prin?’ Was I feeding them? Were they ok? Was I giving them ad lib dry feed as well as their small amount of soft feed?  – Now then! Prin, it turned out, was farm cat number 2 and hence also, by default, Broomer pet number 3.  Prin is… where do I start? Boney, arthritic, unkempt, with matted black fur, he is, at least aesthetically speaking, the complete antithesis to Bounce. First time I saw him walking towards us, I could have sworn I could hear the creaking in his joints. But the most remarkable thing about Prin is his voice. Where Bounce does a pretty little Miaow that sounds a little bit like somebody saying ‘Bounce!’ with a high pitched voice, Prin has that deep gravelly tembre of someone who just smoked an entire packet of unfiltered Gitane cigarettes, drank a bottle of whisky, and finished it off by eating the glass. Needless to say, we were impressed, and quickly surrendered the tin of cat food we were carrying. On the basis that Prin looks permanently on death’s door (yet, a year on is still going strong, much to our amazement), I have been shoving food at these cats in quantities that would make your average spoiled house cat green with envy. Feeding them, accordingly, is another task requiring dexterity and speed, as you try to ensure they eat, rather than wear, the stuff, manoeuvring the contents of the tin with the help of a knife/fork/spoon/stick/unidentifiable-shard-of-something-you-found-on-the-floor past two cat heads and, at times, entire bodies into the bowl/tupperware.

So much for the theory that keeping cats would give us very effective mice control. Au contraire. Such has been the cat feed gluttony in the barn that a hedgehog has moved in to benefit from the left overs. We found him/her last Sunday when I was moving some wooden pallets, giving them a good shake to get rid of any loose hay that was lodged in there, and finding the poor thing hanging on for grim life and no doubt feeling rather sea sick. You will be pleased to know that we made him/her a new den in the corner of the barn and are now very much excited about the prospect of teeny tiny hedgehog babies! But I digress…

Sunday, the day of hedgehog discovery, also saw the arrival of two new cats, Molly and Izzy. Molly and Izzy are posh cats. They hail from Harrogate where they have been living on those high end gourmet meals that come in little sachets (you know the kind, steamed lightly smoked haddock, tender strips of sautéed chicken in a chasseur sauce). It is surprising that they are, in fact, ok with normal tap water, I feel I really ought to serve these up with a glass of wine! They even have a litter tray! On a farm! Giggle!

Anyway, Molly and Izzy need to get used to farm life slowly, so we thought we put them in the Equitrek trailer for the time being. The Equitrek trailer is our pride and joy, it arrived last autumn, white, and square, and lovely, promising the end to all horse travelling stress by being side-loading, practical, sturdy, and safe with youngster and nutters (I leave it up to you to decide who the nutter is in this case…). Since then, it had its ups and downs, with husband putting the handbrake on (!) in January (!!), which promptly stuck on and took him until the end of April to release (but more about that particular tale of woe another time), followed by So Fine, my filly, putting her feet through the ramp where it had rotted… the latest is a facebook scare involving the possibility of a broken chassis in this model, which is why I have been spending much time recently underneath it, lying on my back, and pretending to myself that I knew what I was looking at and thus able to attest that ‘all is fine’…

Anyway, the Equitrek trailer promised to be the perfect temporary cat home, and this seems to have indeed proved correct, apart from the word ‘temporary’… the thing is, they have got rather enamoured with their new home! So much so, that even though I let them out every day, they never stray far from it, enjoying rolling around in the shade it provides and sheltering underneath it from the rain. While it is nice to see that they are so happy, I am not entirely sure how this is going to pan out next time we want to use the trailer for the purpose for which it was purchased. It may well be that we will become known up and down the country as the strange people who turn up at dressage competitions with their cats…

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