In Which Kili Does Not Want To Be Ulysses. And contractual obligation kitty photos.


Here’s a thing. When Kili works out that we’ve done a loop and we are now heading home he indulges in a small protest, which generally consists of standing still and looking doleful for 20 seconds.

Now I could understand that if turning round meant the curtailment of the walk or his lead going back on. But on our usual longish walk, walking home takes 45 minutes, the first 35 of which are almost all off lead. We will go through playing field, wood, watermeadow and park. We will play ball a bit and he will probably meet some other dogs. Turning round is not the trigger for anything unwanted happening, or anything nice stopping. It’s the same with all our walks- they are almost all long way out, long way back. Turning round marks the half way point, not the end.

I’m hesitant to ascribe too much comprehension of abstracts to animals, but it really does seem that Kili objects to the concept of going back towards home again! The other possibility I suppose is that he has somewhere nicer in mind as a destination (that will be the deli) and regardless of where we are, turning round indicates that we aren’t going there. That would work better if we didn’t in fact sometimes visit the deli on the way home, (where he is given a bit of cooked chicken on arrival, chicken and sausage to eat while we are there and another piece of chicken on departure  Not so much dog friendly as dog adoring.)

Anyway, other news. Pests- the kittens aren’t rid of their earmites yet- second week of treatment. I have shifted to cleaning their ears in the morning on the basis that when they wake up and play in the evening they might have forgotten how horrible I am. We have a plague of houseflies (the non buzzing type) which means that the cats have left a small animal decayed behind one of the bookshelves. Sigh. On the other hand, I have discovered that a litter tray scoop makes an excellent flyswat. There’s synergy in there somewhere.

All animals are now considered safe to leave in each other’s presence, except snake and fish. Gryphon has discovered that if he rolls over, Kili will tickle his tummy. Tatty curled up against Sputnik this morning for a nap. Sputz made the most horrendous squawky protest noises but didn’t actually move. I’m off to see the kids on Saturday so hope to have some new photos of them to post here.

Kittens are now insured (Petplan- not the cheapest but we’ve always used them and they’ve paid out on some very large claims over the years without fuss.) Doesn’t cover existing conditions so not the ear mites; the treatments’ cheap but going back and forth to the vet is less so.

Wildlife news- a blackcap has been feeding on the fat balls frequently over the last week.    Saw the kingfisher in the field behind us for the first time this year; it flew a huge arc around us rather than just go straight up the stream.  No sign of the water vole yet though.  The roe deer are out there quite often at the moment; they have a couple of calves (fawns? Calves I think for roe deer. I know they have bucks and hinds rather than stags and does.)

And I have just a few minutes ago managed to cut Kili’s front claw down too far and it started bleeding. Very careless of me- never done that before with cat or dog. Flour stopped it bleeding but now he wants to lick all the flour off because it tastes nice so I’ve had to cover it up. We had better stay indoors for another hour or so I guess.

A few more pictures of kittens;

Ninja kltten!
Tatty demonstrating his Very Long Legs


Kili waiting to see if Gryphon will make the jump














And a Sputnik


The last post didn’t get actually posted so this is two apparently in succession but actually written a week apart.

Kittens are now settled. a week in, and after many many hours of supervised contact I am now satisfied that the dog won’t hurt them and that they aren’t frightened of the dog.  Mostly Kili just follows them around to see what they are doing.


They are very friendly and relaxed kittens; no scratching or biting and they like laps a great deal.
Tartarus weighs 1,100g and Gryphon 900g, which surprised me because Tartarus is the lean and hungry looking one, but maybe ears and legs weigh a lot?  Image
Vet yesterday- they are both now fully vaccinated and microchipped, and being treated for ear mites and fleas!  Ear mites I’ve never encountered on a cat before.  I have to clean out their ears once a day and take them back for a check up next week.   Otherwise they are fine; slightly loose bowels still but I’m moving them over to Pets at Home’s Advanced Nutrition kitten food so I think it’s just a response to that.  We are down to relatively minor problems to sort out, like the fact that they want to eat the dog food and the dog wants to eat the cat litter.
I bought them a basket to sleep in and they obligingly sleep in the basket!
Sputnik is still not impressed but no longer fleeingImage
Tartarus is still the most adventurous one;
finally in other menagerie news, my hayracks have arrived, also my agricultural holding number 🙂
I did quite a lot of fussing over hayracks.  I could have built something, but I was going to be filling them twice a day for 15 years I decided I wanted something that was well designed for purpose and would last. Just over £100 for 3 hayracks (from Frenchall Goats) was a significant budget item, but i’m pleased with them.


Bit more work on the shed done- this is what the inside framework looks like.  There will be shelves for the goats to climb on on the right as you look in, and securely fastened cupboards including a hay cupboard on the left. Still got the window and the door to do.  I’m hoping to get a chance to visit the kids later this week.

Kitten photos

Kittens are here!   Gryphon (red tabby) and Tartarus (black). They were born on the 14 December so are nearly 13 weeks old.


All is going well so far, though Kili is having a few problems with his chase reflex- he’s very good around them when they are pottering but when they dash he dashes too.   He is tied up to the coffee table while they are around  at the moment- it’s where he would normally be lying anyway and he can climb on my lap from there so he’s not terribly put out.  When they are a bit more used to him they’ll just jump out of his way like Sputnik does.


They are both very friendly kittens, keen to sit on laps and follow us around, but they have different personalities already.  Tartarus is a hunter and explorer, but oddly enough is also the more timid of the two,hissing at Kili.


Gryphon likes cuddles and isn’t bothered by the dog.


But he is fascinated by my laptop!


Right now both kittens are curled up on my lap and the dog is flat out at my feet- all very calm.

Sputnik is having nothing to do with them at the moment but he’ll come round in time.  He’s currently migrating between the kitchen and our bedroom, both of which are kitten free zones, with a quick dash through the living room when he thinks they aren’t around.  When he does encounter them he has a quick hiss and runs away.

The main news this week is that the kittens are yet to arrive 😦 Unfortunately half the litter including Dionysus went down with severe gastroenteritis last week and though I’m delighted that he’s now recovering well (there’s a video of him bouncing around today) I don’t yet know when the vet will give them the all clear for second jabs and to come home.  Still, it’s just a delay.   They’ll get here eventually.

Other menagerie news.  Bob stuck his head out from under his hidey hole to glare at me, which means he’s hungry, so he got fed a couple of juicy large mice (from the freezer, not the cat).  As usual he ate one straight away and the other one after a day or two.  He last got fed on 13 January- two months between meals is about usual, sometimes more like three.  This is not the recommended feeding frequency for an adult corn snake (which is more like two weeks) but the only time I took him to a vet I got told he was overweight and he’s reached 15 years without any problems so I’m not too worried about it. Feeding him before he takes an interest just results in refusal to eat.  He prefers mice to rats, though he’s easily big enough to handle rats if he wanted.

Fish– not particularly good news.  All the Geophagus babies, both left with their parents and separated, died or got eaten after a couple of days. If I really want to raise them I’m going to need  a separate tank for the parents and I’ve nowhere to put one at the moment.  One of the surplus cichlids being bullied lost an eye and I decided to put it down rather than have it harrassed even more by the pair.  Since all the oldfashioned ways of killing tropical fish (put in freezer, drop in boiling water, add aspirin to water) have been demonstrated to be too slow and distressing to be humane,  the approved methods now are adding anaesthetic (which I don’t have any of) or severing the spine with a sharp knife. I tried that- less messy than I’d feared and undoubtedly quick.  I’m keeping an eye on the other non paired one but it seems to be OK at present.  I need to think about rehoming it at some point.

Weather’s much improved and I’m walking the dog for an extra half hour or so- we’re back up to over 2 hours a day. The difference in his energy levels in the evenings is noticeable he’s a happy tired dog.

I did some work on the paddock fencing today. When I first thought about having pygmy goats, 9 or 10 months ago, I went to see the lovely people at  and discussed fencing.  Our garden is already securely fenced to 4 and 6 ft around but I wanted an internal fence to keep the goats in their paddock and out of my washing, eating my few remaining flower beds and debarking my fruit trees, chasing the dog, butting the conservatory windows etc.   We agreed that 3ft fencing should be sufficient for this.

Originally I envisioned a solid timber post and rail fence, but after I’d worked out that I needed fifty metres of fencing and looked at the cost of timber it was obvious that that wasn’t going to happen-it would have cost thousands.  I ended up with a multi-objective optimisation problem- I needed something that would keep my goats inside most of the time, that would be affordable, would look reasonably smart (mostly for the benefit of the neighbours- the paddock goes to within 2ft of one boundary and 10ft of the other and both sides will overlook it- I don’t want it to be any sort of eyesore) and that could be made by someone with a D in woodwork 35 years ago who hasn’t picked up a saw or hammer since.  Spouse has been generous with his time and help for the difficult bits but I needed to be able to do most of the donkey work myself- the difficult bits have ended up taking up pretty much all the time he’s had available and the goats aren’t his hobby after all.

What we have ended up with is 50x50mm timber posts held by Metpost spikes or flat bolted platforms.  WeOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA couldn’t use as many spikes as we wanted to because the deeds of our property are pretty unspecific about where the pipes run but are sure there are some, so we had to use bolts into the patio stone for much of it.

Onto these pretty solid 3 ft posts I’ve stapled some reasonably inexpensive wire (cost about £100 for the whole perimeter) – tough enough not to break easily but it doOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAes seem to warp out of shape.   The cross rails are feather board rather than solid timber- a fraction of the price but we will have to see how they last. It may be that they will have to be replaced gradually with something tougher as time goes by.  They are nailed to the posts and wired to the netting.    As you can see, the netting hasn’t been able to be pulled as tight as I’d hoped so today I’ve been adding straining wire to give them more resistance to horizontal pressures.  I’m going to do two horizontal strands for each panel  which should make quite a difference. Like most projects there are things I would do differently next time round (and that’s before the kids arrive!) but it’s fencing, anyway!  I’m fairly sure that it will hold the kids securely, at least. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

This photo shows the first green strand.




And finally, a slightly blurry pic of a long tailed tit on the peanut feeder.  I don’t have a suitable camera for bird pics but take it from me, that’s what it was!  Lots of them this week, and the siskins, who are very bold and happy to feed from the niger feeder while I’m out in the garden. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA Putting up the squirrel feeder has naturally resulted in the complete disappearance of the squirrel, which is good for the survival of my nut feeders even if slightly disappointing!

Long online silences generally mean mild depression and this one is no exception.  It will pass soon enough.  Here are placeholder photos of Sputnik and the first sign of Spring in the garden.    Kittens arrive on Saturday, at last!


For some reason half of the grooming part 1 post vanished, leaving a rather abrupt end.

Briefly I was going to show you this;OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA a very overgrOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAown dog face  (compare with this from yesterday)

and this , which is the state of his coat before undercoat removal;

Finally this, an instrument called a Coat King designed for losing down the back of the sofa and lacerating your fingers but which also doubles up as a remover of undercoat, also some of OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAthe undercoat removedOLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA.

Removing undercoat is easy and fun, and his outer coat lies a lot flatter as a result. But the next job is stripping his wiry outer coat and that takes a bit more time and effort.

A brief explanation of coats and stripping.  Kili has a fluffy undercoat which  builds up under the outer coat and just gets pulled out at intervals. His outer coat is made up of wire hairs that are loosely attached to his skin and which have a soft base.  When these hairs die off they turn brown; OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAyou can see that happening here.

There are two ways of dealing with his coat. The first is clipping; the coat gets cut to a short length all over.  This has the effect of removing the wiry part of the outer coat and the dog ends up with a short fluffy coat.

One of the disadvantages of clipping appear to be that the coat can sometimes change colour in the absence of the outer coat hairs. I can see this with Kili- his ears are trimmed with scissors and they are grey now rather than black.  OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

<— see ears

Another is that the waterproofing provided by the outer coat is lost.  Kili can be out in heavy rain and come back with dry skin under his thick coat.  But in general a clipped dog is not at any particular disadvantage (unless you show, which given that Kili is two and a half inches taller at the shoulder than the breed standard allows is never going to be an issue.)

The other alternative is stripping, which involves pulling the old wire hairs out and sounds gruesome but isn’t. Kili is perfectly happy to lie on my lap and be stripped, except around his tail where he’s a bit sensitive and we have sometimes have a bit of a quarrel.  Generally if he’s relaxed enough he’ll let me do that as well.  I don’t strip him bare, I just take the top layer of hair off until he looks glossy black again. I do that about every six weeks, usually around the same time when I trim his face and ears and cut his claws if they need them.

I will be stripping his coat as soon as I’ve caught up a bit with my open university work which has been sorely neglected for weeks.  I’ll demonstrate the stripping knife and my rather ad hoc technique and we’ll talk about furnishings as well (the long bits on his legs and tummy).  And then we’ll be done for another 6 weeks, apart from regular combing.  Kili is always glad when the scissors go away; he’s not a huge fan of me messing around his face with them. (My current trimming face technique involves him lying on the floor on his side while I snip away at one side of his face then roll him over for the other.   Getting his eyebrows even is a two person job.)  He’s fine with the comb and the stripping knife though.

Lots of stuff happening.   Lets start with the fish.  I finally got round to doing a water change and my Geophagus braziliensis (pearl cichlids) promptly turned up with many small babies.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAYou can see the father guarding the fry. They are very devoted parents for all of the three days it takes for the fry to get eaten. This is their fourth spawning and neither they nor I have managed to raise any young yet.   Last time I moved half the fry to the nano tank with the tiny bumblebee gobies (Brachygobius xanthozona) in. It turns out that cichlid fry is the gobies’ favourite food ever.

The problem with leaving them in the parent’s tank is their OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAtankmates.  I have three archer fish Toxotes jaculatrix which are growing fast. I found that they needed warmer water than most tropicals and they don’t like sudden water changes so I have to trickle water in for them.  They do like crickets, which they get fed every time I have to go to Pets at Home for anything else.  They don’t tend to spit at them but they do jump out of the water to grab them.  I really need more- a shoal should be nearer 6 than 3, but nowhere within reasonable travelling distance sells brackish water fish, something I probably should have researched before setting up the tank.   The Geophagus are not according to the books brackish water fish though they are found in coastal regions, but given that they are breeding I think the punt on them doing well in it seems to have been successful.  Back to the breeding…







This is my temporary solution this time round. It’s actually an insect cage but it’s fine enough netting that the fry aren’t going anywhere. I’ll squirt liquifry at them a couple of times a day.  I siphoned out about 15 or so and have left the others with the parents.   I need to find a home for my other two very small pearl cichlids who are getting badly beaten up every time the pair spawn but it’s not that easy since they are now acclimatised to brackish water and are, well,  rather beaten up.   There’s a huge size difference- the male is about 10cm  and the other three are all about 5-6cm.  Since the fish are supposed to grow to 20 to 25 cm, I really do need to do something about the spares.

Anyway here’s a pic of better living through chemistry. It’s not quite Breaking Bad…

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA What it is telling me is that I’ve got 0 ammonia/nitrite in both tanks but my nitrate as usual is too high. This is due to too few water changes and the tap water being a bit nitrate-y anyway. I probably ought to invest in some sort of nitrate removal device, or at least do more water changes (theory is once a fortnight, actually more like once a month).  The odd selection of test tubes is because I break all the glass ones very quickly.

That’s all my fish, by the way- three species. I did have many mollies but I think the breeding cichlids gave them too hard a time.  I would love catfish but brackish ones are few and far between.   Apart from the extra pearl cichlids everything is flourishing now. The gobies eat exclusively frozen bloodworm which I keep chopped up in tiny portions in the freezer (and cichlid fry), the cichlids eat anything that will fit in their mouths and the archer fish are happy to eat flake food when there aren’t crickets to be had, though I think small cichlid pellets are probably better for them.


Next; goats, because goats are fun.  At the moment we are still on goat preparation which is quite extensive. Here’s the view from my kitchen window











You can see the whole of the paddock (or what used to be our back garden).   The absence of the last few bits of fence is deliberate, since we’re still carting stuff back and forth from the shed a lot.

Jobs done so far;

Refelt shed, paint shed, fix fence post supports, cut and paint posts and boards. erect most of fencing, remove most poisonous plants from garden (I’m letting my spring bulbs flower before taking them out) , empty most of shed and find homes for stuff, put up gate, acquire rakes, brushes etc, secateurs for trimming hooves, put deposit down on goats, sort out holiday cover for feeding.  That’s taken about 6 months (fencing in particular is very time consuming).

Jobs left to do;

Erect shelving/cupboards for shed (for goat shelves- they like standing on them- and we’re keeping some tools in there, safely locked away from the goats), put wire over window, convert some of window into a shutter so there will be enough ventilation, buy some rubber matting for the floor (it’s wooden and won’t stay clean/dry on its own), convert one door into a stable door, find homes for assorted tins of paint, acquire some hay racks (for inside and out), acquire and put up mineral lick, finish the fencing, buy leads and collars (cheap dog ones will do), figure out where to store the hay bales,  finish the fencing and put strainer wire all the way round it, buy some goat food, get some buckets for water and put up  bucket holders for both inside and out, mend the tyre on the wheelbarrow, buy basic medications, move the washing line, take out the bulbs after they flower, build a framework for the compost heap for the used straw.   The kids are currently about 3 weeks old so we’ve got 9 weeks left but much of it requires Spouse’s input (as the only one who knows anything about DIY and also the only one who can drive the car) and he’s away pretty much every other weekend so it’s not quite as leisurely a timetable as it seems.

Goats are not the sort of pets one can just chuck into the garden, it seems.  Still it will all be worth it when they arrive.  Just don’t ask what it’s all cost!  It would have been much worse if we didn’t already have a  8x10ft shed for them, even if refelting is a grotty job.


So that was goats.  Brief dog stuff;

I have tidied up Kili’s face  and ears with round tipped scissors and now he looks OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAslightly more respectable.   The rest of him isn’t yet- I haven’t had time to watch TV so I haven’t had a chance to strip his coat (we don’t do grooming tables, we do sprawled across the sofa in front of Blake’s 7).

We caught the bus into the city and went for a long walk up the river, which has subsided enough for that but has deposited a great deal of mud over all the paths.





It was an exciting day because we had a brand new ball on a rope (£2 from Pets at Home)  which didn’t have triple knots, wasn’t overstretched and best of all wasn’t completely mud sodden.OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA





A couple more pictures because I can…

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThis is Kili demonstrating his lovely feathered tail which miniature schnauzers are not meant to have.  But I really don’t have the heart to trim it short (the fur, not the tail!)  (He gets treats for jumping on and off tree trunks so he does. It’s agility practice, not that we’re doing any of that at the moment, but we might go back to it.)


OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA And this is a rare shot of him at full tilt, He’s generally a loping sort of dog, unless he’s playing with other dogs, but we do sit-stays when we’re out and when he’s called he charges back for his treat.  That was taken on the embankment at Clifton Ings, part of York’s very effective flood plains.


That’s it for the moment. The cat has mostly been sleeping.  Ditto the snake.  It is 19 days until I can collect my kittens!   If you read feel free to comment.

Menagerie update.  Sputnik has had his annual vaccinations and check up. Despite being a huge three legged thing he is apparently in good health. It is still strange to only have one cat; I am incredibly impatient for the kittens to arrive (20 days and counting).

The squirrel has taken apart one of my peanut feeders so I have ordered a squirrel feeder and some squirrel food, along with more seed and nuts for the birds. We shall see how that goes. I now have a small flock of siskins 🙂

I took Kili out for our longest regular round walk from the house today, just under 2 hours. I’m very tired as a result- I’m quite off colour at the moment.  Still the walk was good, if a bit of an obstacle race in places; deep mud and deeper water. We went through a field of sheep who trotted away from us in a non-panicked way. Kili didn’t even pull at the lead this time; he is getting quite relaxed with livestock. He stopped to have a good look at some horses though.

It is grooming time.  Grooming is not optional with Schnauzers; they have a wiry top coat and a fluffy undercoat, both of which grow long and die off and neither of which fall out of their own accord. They are dependent on humans to stay clean and healthy- an ungroomed Schnauzer is a miserable mass of matted fur. (It is sad to think that post apocalypse there will never be packs of miniature schnauzers hunting wild gerbils through the decaying remains of human cities, but life isn’t perfect,)

So Kili is overgrown and needs dealing with.  My hairdresser phobia extends to dog groomers so I always do it myself.

I am not sure about minis being intelligent, or at least not mine!  We had a gas service engineer out today; Kili greeted her enthusiastically, which fortunately she liked, trotted up to see where she was working then came downstairs with me again.

Ten minutes later she comes downstairs.  Kili is shocked. “Help, help, there’s someone in our house!!!”  Bark bark bark.  Greet again, calm down. Trot up to see what she’s doing, come down again.

And again five minutes afterwards.  “Look, look! Someone coming down the stairs!!! Where did she come from?”

And one last time a couple of minutes later. “Intruder alert! Another one! They must be getting in through the window!”

Memory of a goldfish. It’s not like we don’t have plenty of visitors coming and going- he usually greets and ignores- but I guess they don’t usually go off to do things on their own in the house.  Anyway if you want a dog to intrepidly guard your stairs from anyone who happens to be on the first floor, he’s the one.