With April being National Pet Month, I thought it would be a great time to introduce you to the rest of our family – the non-human kind! Stuart and I have always had cats, sharing our first flat in Brighton we looked after my family cat – Buttons, a beautiful tabby, when she was pregnant. That was an adventure, she had four beautiful kittens who would sleep under our bed in one of my hats. When it was time for them to go to their new homes, we kept one a beautiful black and white one we called Maisie. Maisie was Stuart’s baby for sure, one night he had to go and look for her as she had been missing and found her cowering under a car surrounded by mean cats. After that they were inseparable!
Buttons, The Best Travelled Cat Ever – or so we reckon!
When we emigrated to Australia in 2005, Maisie and Buttons came with us, of course. It was so strange dropping them off at the Pet Agency near Heathrow and hoping that they would be fine on their flight and during their quarantine. Quarantine was a month at that time in Australia and we would visit them several times a week, it was a fair drive away and they were always fine. Missing us, but fine. They both acclimatised to hot weather with no trouble but sadly our beloved Maisie passed away after we had been in Western Australia only three months. We were truly devastated. Buttons however enjoyed a long and prosperous life in Australia, despite being bitten by a tick and even returned to the UK with us! Buttons lived a long and happy life until she was 19 years old. Emigrating, moving interstate twice and returning to the UK we definitely think earns her the award of ‘Best Travelled Cat Ever’!
The next generation of Brown Family Cats
When we moved to Orkney we were definitely ready for our next generation of cats. Having
none in the family was so strange and the children had always loved living in a family with cats. We were really pleased then to add Fudge (a pale ginger with thick fur and big paws) and Biscuit (traditional ginger tom cat) to our family and shortly after Betty, a feisty female tortoiseshell. To cut a long story short Biscuit decided to leave home to live with another family, as cats sometimes do!! And poor Betty who was independent and knew her own mind sadly died in an accident. After Biscuit left home, a beautiful long haired black kitten who we called Toby came to live with us, so Fudge was not lonely! Fudge is a gorgeous, sloppy big cat. He loves cuddles and attention and is often found hanging around the distillery when it’s tourist time. He has even been known to get into visitors’ cars in the carpark and then had to be bought back. So, watch out for Fudge if you ever come to visit 😉.
And then there are The Sheep!
As I sit writing this, I am surreptitiously sneaking an eye every so often at our ‘lamb cam’. Olivia our middle child (currently 13 years old) has 13 sheep of her own, although we all help at some stage or another during the year and so they are considered our pets! When we moved to Orkney the girls were lucky to experience helping our neighbour with her sheep (Cameron being too young at the time) and so Olivia started her sheep loving journey when she was 8 years old. At the age of 11 having helped at lambing time at several different farms Olivia was in the position to have her own sheep. So, guess what she got for her 11th birthday? You’ve got it a pedigree Zwartble Ewe. Beautiful black sheep with stunning fleece and a distinctive white strip down their nose. Originating from North East Holland there are a several Zwartble flocks in Orkney but one of the most well known will be the flock belonging to Nancy Fergus who produces Orkney Tweed from hers. Check out her website for beautiful artisan tweed clothing and interior furnishings www.orkneytweed.co.uk . Olivia grew her flock slowly starting with ‘Avery’ her Zwartble ewe and adding 3 gorgeous white crossbreeds, April, Aubrey and Alabama shortly after. A few crossbreed caddie lambs followed; Aphrodite, later to be known as Dizzy, (we’ll get to that in a minute), Coco (after Coco Chanel, a gorgeous white ewe with dark chocolate brown head and legs) and Ariana (Ariana Grande, of course, a speckled white and black ewe with the biggest ears ever!). We soon realised that Dizzy was special. She didn’t like people approaching from behind as it gave her a fright and she seemed to like standing by walls. We think she may have had brain damage from birth and didn’t expect her to live long, but 3 years later she’s living very happily in the flock and is a super pet.
Last year Olivia lambed her own sheep for the first time. What an experience!! Tupping (putting the ram in with the ewes) was timed so that hopefully if the ewes fell pregnant then they would lamb during the Easter school holidays. We were exhausted, and grumpy by the end of the Easter holidays. Avery, Aubrey and April all produced twins, not without drama any of them but luckily we had some help from friends with one or two tricky situations, so all was well in the end.
This year we are hoping 5 of the ewes are pregnant, we don’t scan them as bigger farms may do as we are not breeding commercially but purely to build up Olivia’s flock for when she’s old enough to have her own farm, if that’s still what she wants to do when she’s older – who knows?! So, I’m currently writing this watching Ariana via mobile ‘lamb cam’ in the lambing shed. She is certainly showing signs of being ready to give birth. She’s digging the ground and struggling to lay down or get comfy. The weather is freezing outside, about 3º, wet and windy, so I am certainly better off indoors keeping an eye on her! Olivia is in bed; she is only 13…and I think I’m on duty for the rest of the night. A night on the sofa it is for me (so I can get connection to the webcam), so I’m going to finish here, just in case I have some news for you all tomorrow morning.
Watch this space….
Although I had hoped to jump right back in and finish writing this the next morning it is now 7 days later and yes, Ariana did have her lambs early Monday morning a boy and a girl and she is a super Mum to them. Then yesterday and today, Coco and Aubrey have had theirs, a boy and a girl and twin boys respectively. They say pictures paint a thousand words, so I hope you enjoy our family pet photos.
Until next month, here’s to beautiful Spring weather and lots of Easter chocolate!!
P.S We have 3 hens too, there’s something about the number 3 in our family!!