Five houses and eighty seven animals – the end of our house-sitting season

Hello and welcome to the latest blog of the Olivia Rose Diaries on 11th February 2022.

We are beginning to pack up, ready to leave our final house-sit for this winter. We began in late October last year, and have stayed in five very different properties, from a small apartment in the centre of town to a farmhouse a kilometre off the road at the end of a bumpy track. We’ve also been responsible for quite a menagerie of animals. Here’s a summary: 15 cats, 2 kittens, 4 dogs, 1 turkey, 2 geese, 2 sheep, 1 goat, 11 rabbits, a pond full of carp, 12 ducks, 36 chickens and one hawk.

The prize for the most exotic of creatures goes to our current house-sit where we are caring for a Harris hawk called Artemis. I had wrongly assumed that this was a male bird because of the name, but according to Greek mythology Artemis was a female name, one that belonged to the goddess of wild animals and the hunt. She was also goddess of chastity and childbirth, which seem to me to be mutually exclusive, but obviously they didn’t see it that way. Leaving pedantics aside, this bird is definitely female and at 22 years of age she is an old lady. Her owner told us that a typical life expectancy for this species of bird in the wild is around five years.  

Artemis, goddess of the hunt.

Birds of prey are bonded to one person, their handler, in a process called ‘manning’. It’s a time consuming process, where the hawk learns to trust their owner, to associate him with food, and to accept the patterns of behaviour that will bring the free-flying bird back to the hand. It doesn’t always work. Some hawks never come back, reverting to the wild and taking their chances in an environment where a plentiful food supply is not guaranteed. There was no question of our handling Artemis or letting her out of her cage as she would surely never be seen again. Instead all we had to do was feed her once a day with three baby chicks (dead ones), that we posted through a wooden letter box into her cage. She would fly down from her perch and take them away one by one.

We also had two cats to look after in this house-sit, an unusual species that we hadn’t come across before. Maine Coon cats are large. Compared to one of our own cats, Blackie, who was the runt of the litter and has never grown to be much bigger than a kitten, they are positively gigantic. They originate from North America, closely related to the Norwegian Forest Cat, but the distinctive tufts on their ears reminded me more of a lynx. Despite their size, we found them to be gentle giants, and very easy to handle, unlike Blackie, who is all cuddles one moment and can suddenly lash out for no obvious reason. 

And lastly, the star of the show, a little cocker spaniel called Coco, just eighteen months old and a true delight.

And so it comes to an end. We are looking forward to our return to Le Shack until we head back to the boat in April, but being at home and in one place for six weeks might take a bit of getting used to. We have been constantly on the move since we left Olivia Rose late August last year and moving on has become a habit, one bordering on addiction. I did suggest to Michael that we could slip in a week-end away at the coast, just us in a B & B with no animals to look after, a proper holiday, but he gave me one of those looks. I get a lot of those, but I guess he’s got a point. Although it’s still tempting……

Hope all is well with you. Spring is round the corner and it feels as if the world is opening up again. Fingers crossed.

MJ

8 thoughts on “Five houses and eighty seven animals – the end of our house-sitting season

  1. Gosh, what a menagerie you’ve looked after! The hawk is magnificent and those Maine Coone cats just gorgeous. I would love one of those (or two). House sitting seems like a great way to see new places. Other people we know who do it have also found it addictive.

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  2. What an exciting few months you’ve had, MJ! You could write a book just about your housesitting adventures. I love that beautiful Maine coon cat… we had a gray one once that topped out at 18 pounds. He was a big boy!

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