Bolton Ferret Welfare

Diary of a Highland Lady - January 2006

Ivy on her tartan - 4KbHappy New Year to all ferrets and ferret people everywhere. I never really like this time of year. It's not just that it seems flat after all the parties and so forth, and it's not just the hassle of trying to exchange unwanted Christmas presents (an electric kettle that whistles 'Tea for Two', I ask you!), here it's the smell!

Every year, after all the Christmas decorations have been put away and the tree taken down, Dr June goes berserk with the furniture polish. Two or three weeks of cards, decorations etc all over the place means she can't give her treasured antique furniture their regular waxing, so she really goes overboard in the New Year. The smell is atrocious, at least to us ferrets (I gather silly humans find it quite pleasant). Poor Foss had obviously never come across anything like it before, and, with her over-active sense of drama, she thought we'd been invaded by dangerous animals, toxic fumes or radio-active pollution. She fluffed up her tail, stamped about, hissed and skunked - which didn't help with the smell of the polish! By the time she'd gone to every room and skunked her disgust we were all on the verge of evacuating the house. Luckily the weather has been kind and we've been able to open windows to release polish smells and Foss-skunks. We may be almost fumigated by the end of the month!

The other New Year activity here is early spring cleaning and sorting out of cupboards. The days are so short this far north that everyone has to find things to do that don't rely on daylight. For Dr June and Dr Jeff, one task was wardrobe and drawer tidying. I have to say that I found this rather boring and went to sleep in the sock drawer, but Laurie was fascinated at all the peculiar things found in wardrobes and drawers, especially all the odd socks and the dozens of redundant wire coat hangers. Laurie says he vaguely remembers reading about something called the G.I.T. (Generalised Iceberg Theory) which states that seven-eighths of everything isn't obvious. Based on this theory (though goodness knows how), Laurie believes there is a significant relationship between odd socks and wire coat hangers. That is to say that socks are actually the embryonic form of wire coat hangers. You may just think you've lost a sock, but it's actually crept off to pupate in the wardrobe, later to emerge as a fully grown wire coat hanger, thereby accounting for why people always have fewer socks and more wire coat hangers than they ever thought possible. I'm really not sure how far Laurie's theory will be accepted. After all, it has to challenge the dominant existing theory that pairs of socks consist of an alpha sock and a subordinate sock, and, if conflict arises, the alpha sock will eat the subordinate sock, thus resulting in an odd sock in your drawer. I'm not sure I'll ever care, I just wish Laurie would lighten up!

There's been yet another new arrival here on the croft. This time it's another ram, a Soay ram to be precise. He's called Sean and looks quite spooky, I'm told. For a start he looks like a Neolithic cave painting - all dark brown, raised mane and spindly legs with yellow eyes and huge horns. He's here to help with the Rare and Minority breeds breeding programme. Well, that was the original idea but Sean took things into his own hooves. He proved himself very adept at undoing bolts, locks, ropes and everything else, and let himself into a field with a mixed assortment of ladies! Goodness knows what he managed to get up to before he was returned to his own field. We'll probably not know until next spring when the lambs arrive! I just know that Dolcie (previously known as the Lamb from Hell) will present us with dark brown twins or triplets. She always was a tart if you ask me.

In fact, I'm not sure that the behaviour of some of our other animals has been much to be proud of either. Dr Jeff is in charge of wine making and made the mistake of tipping all the semi-fermented fruit on to the compost heap, much to the delight of the hens, wild birds and (later in the night) the badgers. The result was a large number of inebriated wildlife. The hens were definitely worse for wear and staggered off like a gaggle of dishevelled feather dusters to their nest boxes to lay pickled eggs, while the smaller wild birds just went to sleep on the path! We all had to go out and watch over them until they woke up so that the pine martens, wild cats and eagles didn't get them. But it was the badgers that were the worse cases. I guess the birds only took a little of the fruit but the badgers turned up during the night and ate the lot! The following morning we were all greeted by snoring, farting badgers in the barn. (Just when we got all clear of Foss-skunks!) Eventually they woke up and somehow got themselves home to their setts, but you can be sure that no fermented fruit will ever find its way on to the compost heap again!

This year is looking busy for me. I've already done a few radio programmes this year and I'm booked for a couple of TV programmes quite soon. I do enjoy all the visits but it would be nice to share the load a bit. Dr June's no use, she just leaves most it to me, and my hopes that Foss might be able to help out aren't working out at all, she's far too scatty and over-dramatic for that sort of work, even though she is very loveable. I'm wondering whether Laurie can help. He's got the right sort of steady temperament if I can only get him to be less serious. Can you imagine him and Foss on a chat show?! They'd turn a light-hearted conversation into a cross between a Grand Opera farewell and a Parliamentary debate.

Any suggestions on how I can calm Foss down but get Laurie to lighten up? It's true what they say - you simply can't get the staff these days!

(From Ferrets First Issue no. 28e January 2004)

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