Diary of a Highland Lady - September 2005
Summer arrived with a vengeance, didn't it? It seems no time at all since I was snuggled in my thermals writing my last piece. Now we're baking in summer sun and everyone seems to be shedding layers.
The hens are dropping feathers left, right and centre, and Tennyson, the turkey, is positively disintegrating, plumage-wise. The Royal Scots Raccoon Guards are moulting like crazy and exhibiting rat-tails unsurpassed by most ferrets even during a mega-moult. (This keeps them nicely embarrassed and therefore a little less rumbustuous than usual) Even Dr June has shed her polo-necked knickers. I've had my hammock repositioned to a nice shady spot so I can recline in the cool. We're all coping but the poor sheep had to wait for shearing time to feel more comfortable.
July and August is shearing time up here. It's about the only time we let Dr June loose with anything sharp. She's not too bad where shearing is concerned, although I gather there were a few unappreciative mutterings about 'artistic' top-knots and pom-pom tails. Alfred, the Goat, has a Mohican ridge all down his back, but honesty compels me to say that this is nothing to do with any whimsical shearing, it's just the way his baby coat has dropped out. Consequently he has been spared the shears, this year at least. But weren't those sheep pleased to shed their winter fleeces?! Even Sherman, the ram, was skipping about like a lamb after he'd been stripped down to his undies. 'Fleece off, ear-tags on', is the motto up here at the moment. After shearing, the sheep have their ear-tags put in so that they can be set loose on the hills to graze. The problem is that nowadays sheep have to have so many tags. One for where they were born, another for current identification, another for being out on the hills etc etc. They hate it - well, except for Dolcie. She thinks multiple tags of various colours is cool. In fact, she says she's thinking about having her belly button done next.
Dr Jeff is not too keen on the sheep being loose on the hills. He seems a bit over-protective if you ask me. I don't think it's anything to do with the number of hill walkers around at this time of year, tramping about with backpacks and their pockets full of Mental Kink Cake (Ivy probably means Kendal Mint Cake- June) Perhaps he thinks 'his girls' will mix with the wrong sort of sheep or fall in with a bad crowd and start nipping behind the barns for a sneaky fag. Or maybe he's worried that one of the Boreray ewes will elope with a common or garden Cheviot ram instead of one of the potential breed aristocrats he has in mind as a suitor for them. Dr Jeff gives much thought to the breeding of the flock. Only recently he was looking at the lists of rare mountain breeds and wondered if crossing a Mouflon with a Soay would give you a Souffle - but he might have been joking. He said something similar about crossing a stoat with a mink to get a stink, so I'm not taking him entirely seriously.
Summer up here also means lots and lots of baby birds. The swallows nest in the cattle byre and there are dozens of other bird's nests in our trees and hedges. Most find that ferret food and poultry grain is a marvellous addition to their diet. This means that anyone entering the barns or stables or other outbuildings where ferrets and hens reside meet a barrage of birds all trying to make a quick getaway after being discovered stealing food. It's like a scene out of Hitchcock's 'Birds'. I shouldn't be at all surprised if someone ended up with a blackbird impaled in their forehead. It's just a matter of time, mark my words. Either that or someone is going to be concussed by a low-flying swallow.
There have been yet MORE arrivals to the croft this summer. Several young ferrets have come to join the clan. All have been taken in as rescues or unplanned litters although no less welcome for that. And then there's Foss. I confess I've been feeling a little lonesome on my own so I thought I'd send out feelers for a companion - of the right sort, you understand. I mean, she'd have to be well-mannered and educated. I got a response from a young jill called Foss who has her roots in Cheltenham (Ladies College, I hope, although this hasn't been confirmed). Such a charming name, 'Foss', and quite apt for up here as I believe it is Gaelic (or old Norse) for the white spray above a waterfall. I have to say she sounds most suitable. I'm inviting her up for a trial period so I'll be able to say more when she arrives. I'm hoping she will be sufficiently trainable to take over some of my PR duties. I'm not as young as I was and this year I have had to forgo some of the big events I usually attend. I just feel I am letting everyone down, especially when some of the other less refined ferrets have to take my place. I heard that Lester was drinking beer from a can at one show, and that Hattie actually went out in public wearing a harness and lead that didn't match or even co-ordinate! You can see my work's cut out for me here. Foss can't arrive quickly enough to help me out. Let's just hope she's an asset and not a liability - I've enough of those!