Sunday, May 30, 2010

RETRACTION and UPDATES

"Are you mad at Houston?" asked my mother this morning. "No," I laughingly replied. "Exasperated, suffered a momentary tiff, but not mad." Houston can't help but be who he is; it's probably the main reason his biography was written in the first place. Most of my favorite people march to a different drummer; Houston dances to some other kind of music altogether. It's his most endearing and his most maddening trait. He'd be the first to be thrilled that I look as good as I do at forty-mumble-mumble and that I'm happy about it, that I can poke fun at myself. (I think I'll do a whole exhibit of those freaky photos!) He'd also be the first to be mortally offended that I was taking shots at him at all, let alone in a public forum such as this. Ah, well, there were many reasons why I'm not living a very different life today than I might have once upon a time…

In the interest of rambling on about something more weighty on these pages, I simply wanted to point out that I am as susceptible as anyone else to all those odd, mean little human foibles lurking in the darker side of our personalities. And pride certainly does come before a fall... Momentary tiff at old boyfriend brought low by a camera that doesn't lie. Laugh with me, folks; it was funny.

I also find it funny to now have the ability to compare the snapshots of myself as taken from the three books in which I have made cameo appearances. (Self as seen by ex-boyfriend, close friend, then-new acquaintance now-old friend; meat for another post, indeed.) Alas, my natural laziness and lack of ambition! Showing up in the books but never writing one myself. *tsk tsk tsk* Surely this blog counts for something? *lol* As I pointed out on an author's blog forum; what a pity blogs don't even buy chocolate. (For those of us who refuse to advertise, anyway.)

Update #1: I found the photo of the real live and living-in-Cape-May river otter! I will tuck it into this post after I ask the photographer if I may snatch it. I'll also link to his blog; not only is he a gifted naturalist and talented photographer, but he's a Brit now living in Lincoln's Land (really bad attempt at a reverse "Yankee in King Arthur's Court") and so has a unique perspective on all forms of life here.


Update #2: The hen turkey was back! Again I spooked her when I didn't realize she and her brood were just outside the window. But I snagged a photo of one of her young'uns; look fast, those little things can move! They are about dove-sized right now and quite beautiful; the delicate patterning over their backs doesn't show at all on this blur of motion. Mostly I only see the grass tops waving as they go by and perhaps a brown shadow slipping through the stems. I don't even have an accurate count, although five paused briefly in the open as they rounded the corner of the house. I still have to check to see what the quality of the video is that I managed of Momma T-bird walking and eating. Presumably she was eating the ripening grass seeds, but perhaps also or else insects—incidentally or on purpose or maybe even both. "They" say that guinea fowl eat ticks. On purpose? I have to wonder. I know for a fact that the ticks certainly do hang out on those seed heads, just waiting for their meal (me, the rabbits or the deer, they aren't picky) to walk by.

::much itching from a wait-until-they-bite method of tick checks:: Lousy approach, but very effective because I'm quite allergic to tick bites and usually react pretty quickly; of course, by then it's too late. *sigh* One more welt (well, about a half a dozen more from that ill-considered rush through the yard last night in an attempt to track down the burning-wood odor drifting in the window) that will now itch all summer with every successive bite. Especially bad method of finding the bloodsuckers now that "they" say you can get tick-borne diseases faster than only from a tick attached for at least 24 hours. (Doh! Well, yeah… Soon as they bite, they're through your outer defenses.) Oo-oo-oo... Time to re-stock the meat tenderizer. (Seriously, when moistened with water [or anti-histamine cream in my case] it works a treat on itchy bug bites! Feels great, too.) ::scritch scritch scritch::

[Update #3: You may notice some subtle changes to the look of the blog this week. From a suggestion on the Cape May Brit's blog about justifying text, I have begun to delve back into HTML code; haven't done much of that since I created my first (now long-defunct) webpage entirely from scratch about ten years ago. I actually love the work; it's like a mental puzzle. So I'm delving around and making little changes here and there as I am able. Those annoying dotted lines all around the posts? Sorted! Hah. I'll try not to disappear anything important.]

Saturday, May 29, 2010

"NEW" BIRD FOR THE YARD LIST

Well, not exactly new, but positive visual confirmation of a bird that I'm pretty sure I'd counted twice before as found in/on/over/around/by* my yard.


Don't bother looking for it here, I missed the shot. You would think that after nearly twelve years of driving down my looooong drive I would learn to look around in case something interesting was waiting for me—or not hanging around waiting, as the case may be.

::much frantic racing around to get into and through the house to get to a vantage point out a back window before the opportunity for a photo is missed::


There she goes! See, it's a drab (wow, I knew they weren't much to look at, but she's really dull), marvelous, "Hello, beautiful!" hen turkey. American turkey? Wild Turkey? What are they officially called, anyway? ::rummages around:: Oh, now that's just plain sad… They really are listed on the (admittedly out-of-date**) county checklist, and also in my first edition Sibley, as Wild Turkey. Couldn't anyone have come up with something a little less obvious and a little more visually descriptive? Exciting, even? A tom in full regalia is an amazing creature! "Wild turkey," bah.

The population of wild turkey (I'm not even going to bother capitalizing that) has been exploding around the county in recent years; they've even managed to cross the canal*** to reach the very-most tip of the state, which is no mean feat if you've ever seen one of these things try to fly. My only other yard records were from 1999, when I thought I heard one as it flew up into a tree, but an awkwardly flapping and cackling big brown blob isn't the best thing on which to pin a name. Then I had a note that I had heard one in 2007. I've had plenty of sightings nearby; there are fields backed by maturing woods around every bend out here.

But even still, I never really expected to see one sauntering through the yard. And certainly not one purposefully and carefully sauntering away—but not so fast as one would expect—so that the tiny, barely-visible-above-the-grass, balls of fluff scattered around the end of the driveway would be able to follow her.

Hen turkey with chicks!

Who knew that I would have to keep my yard mowed in order to facilitate bird watching and the taking of photographs? Rats, I'm going to have to put that push-mower# together after all. ::much resigned sighing::

---------
* One of my favorite quotes from one of my favorite books from one of my favorite authors: "English has too many prepositions." You may find the link to her blog to the right. +

+ And now I'm foot-noting like her…

** It was a new, up-to-date list when I bought the house.

*** Decades ago they disconnected the tip of the peninsula by digging a canal from ocean to bay in order to provide safer passage for ships. WWI? WWII?

# Still in its original box in the shed for, what, two years now?

Friday, May 28, 2010

IT'S ALL ABOUT ME...

Of course it is; it's my blog, after all. *lol*

Eight years after an ex mentioned me in his biography (long story; too much info and the world will be able to find me! If you are a really good Googler, there's probably enough here already on this blog for you to figure out who I am in real life. I prefer to keep the mystery going awhile longer yet if at all possible), I was searching out a mutual acquaintance with whom I had, regrettably, lost touch (gotta love Google!) and I finally decided to look up the reference today. (Did you all know that if you have an Amazon account you can search through books they have in their inventory?) No, I have never actually read the book. I had had a rather intimate relationship with the man, for crying out loud; a book really wasn't going to tell me anymore than I already knew about him, and if it could, I'd just as rather not know it, thank you very much.

The little sh*t mentioned me by name! Ahem. But yes, as I had been told by said mutual acquaintance, it was (for the most part) a rather complimentary mention. Still… Well over fifteen years have passed and although I've tried to keep that part of my life in a musty, dusty box in the back of the deepest, darkest closet I own, and although I did get out of the relationship early enough to maintain to this day an exasperated affection for the man (rather than the deepest, vilest hate others took away with them), there's still that little human quirk of nature that just wants to say "Nyah, nyah, nyah, nyah, nyah. *phhbbbttt* " So of course, since I was looking rather good today for 40-something (50-ish is soooo not treating him well; for goodness sake, Houston, at least trim the beard!), I had to snap off some shots to send him for his trophy book. (Oh, yeah, he has one. As I said, EX.)

*sigh*… And so does human hubris bring about our downfall. When will I learn? Natural light is a No-No. Photobooth Effects are my Friends… So I give you this afternoon's much-edited photo session:





Aw, c'mon… "Serious"? Who the heck did he confuse me with?! Serious? Puh-lease; that last one is my favorite.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

WAKE UP CALL

I don't mind getting older, truly, but there are little things that do tend to make you sit up and take notice. The most recent and frequent reminder: labels. I am still trying to reconcile the fact that I must now hold small print farther away from my face, not closer, in order to read it. And yes, I do have reading glasses. Quite a few pairs, actually, scattered in strategic locations throughout the house (and office and purse). Using them consistently is another matter entirely. I will admit to being of an age to need them, but I'm not quite ready to admit how frequently these days the need arises.

I have always been a morning person (just ask my mother) and, once I outgrew a neurotic tendency to not want to get out of bed as a baby (my mother blames herself for that; it seems that morning person or not, once upon a time I was difficult to put to bed and in some twist of toddler logic therefore didn't want to get out of bed in the morning. Mom also accepts the blame for my quite early interest in birdwatching; she used "Let's go look at Daddy Redbird!" as a means to entice me out of bed), getting up in the morning has never really been an issue. (Well, not for me, anyway; my college dorm mates may have thought otherwise. It's lucky the cleaning crew never found me tied up and left in a shower stall; it's possible this never happened merely because no one else was ever awake enough at six in the morning to take me on. I scheduled all of the 8 am classes I possibly could, and mourned [and moaned] the entire semester when a class I wanted or needed was only offered in the afternoon…) Add to this fine-at-5am/sh*t-for-brains-after-3pm trait a very good internal clock (on the whole quite convenient, unless for some reason I want to sleep in late) and I have been quite content over the years.

Unfortunately, whether due to age itself or sleep apnea or whatever, bouncing out of bed upon waking has not been an option for some years now. My body, perhaps, is finally realizing how pleasant it is to simply doze in that wonderful state of not-quite-awake, but not-really-asleep-either. The cats, for the most part, allow me this little luxury; they may start to get restless when they realize I am not completely unconscious (they catch on slightly sooner than I do that I'm waking up) but they haven't yet figured out that lying on my chest is not conducive to getting me out of the bed. (First Cat Franklin, if he's feeling pushy, applies the somewhat more effective method of pat-pat-patting me on the face; this generally works, so long as he is not lying on my chest while doing so…)

This morning was typical of our start-of-the-day routine—me dozing, two cats perched on my chest, Franklin somewhere on the bed deciding if face-patting was in order—when we received an unusual (but not quite unprecedented) wake-up call. As I've mentioned before, living in the country brings with it circumstances not typical for the average urban or even suburban person. The neighbors' roosters don't really count; the dove and pigeon I keep in the house are better at announcing imminent sunrise (although they are not always reliable; the firehouse siren half a mile away will set them off, even at two or three in the morning when someone who is drunk or too tired to be driving misses one of our blind curves). This morning we were forced into more-or-less complete wakefulness by the heavy drone of an aircraft engine seemingly flying right through the back yard. "Aha, the mosquito commission is out bright and early today!" The following-on thought to that was "Hmm, that's a pretty solid-sounding engine for a skeeter commission helicopter." (They have those dainty little helicopters that look a bit like insects themselves.)

Now, living where I do means that we have very active airspace in addition to the mosquito commission's fleet being located just down the road. Being on the Mid-Atlantic coast puts us under pretty much every eastern continental route north to south and transatlantic flights west to east. Being on a peninsula in a state with many military facilities makes for quite a variety of overhead vehicle traffic above and beyond domestic flights. (On slow migration days, the guys counting hawks on the Point also tally aircraft.) Being on one of flight paths out of Dover (the aircraft that come out of there are sometimes just downright scary, and the really big ones seem to come in at least pairs or even threes) and the in/out routes of Philadelphia, with minor airports scattered about as well, simply amplifies the effect. Living a few scant miles (as the crow—or helicopter—flies) to the only regional hospital, a respectable amount of undeveloped land, and a Coast Guard base means semi-frequent fly-overs by med-evac (twice yesterday alone), police and search-and-rescue helicopters of many persuasions. Add news filming choppers, banner planes, and the occasional ultra-lite or stunt plane enthusiast (yes, they still exist although I haven't seen one in some years) and we do indeed have very busy airspace. (Not to belittle the significance of the event, but the clear and quiet skies after 9/11 were absolutely incredible…)

So the close deep drone of an aircraft engine winging past my window at a bit after 6am, although somewhat earlier than perhaps was polite, wasn't unusual in and of itself. But the particular sound it was making, and the fact that it came around again for another and then another pass, was. In my half-awake state I finally decided it was too smooth to even be a helicopter. "If it's a banner plane practicing its pick-up runs this early and this close inland" (there seems to be a landing strip or two for this purpose over the marshy areas close to the Delaware Bay but none near my place that I knew of), "I won't be happy." That thought was quickly followed by the realization, as I gave up and got up, that the engine was far too, well, healthy sounding to be that of one of the banner planes. (What keeps those nasty little things in the air is anybody's guess; at least one a year is forced to make an emergency landing somewhere in the county.)

As I stumbled my way through the house (the necessity of coffee to really get my day going is another of those "you are getting older" signals I could do without), I continued to hear the rumble of an aircraft flying back and forth close by. The brain finally kicked into gear—without caffiene!—but it took me a bit longer to decide to grab the camera and run out to try for a shot at photos or, preferably, video for this blog post. I had finally figured out what was I hearing.

This morning was one of the few times I curse the desire for trees that led me to this place. I couldn't actually see from the house or yard what was making all of noise for the blasted trees! And I should know better than to ignore the low battery light on my camera; it always goes when you need more power for, say, lots of photos. Or video. (Luckily, I do keep the extra battery charged so I can quickly change out the dying one.) And although not at all self-conscious about my appearance, standing on the shoulder of a major highway in nothing but a fleecey pink robe covered in hearts is beyond something even I would do, so I wasted more precious moments scrambling into clothes. Then there was the decision to make whether to walk or drive up the road for a look-see. How close was he, anyway? There's that field right next door, but I can't be certain where he actually is because I can't see for the trees! Arrrrgh.

Driving was the faster option. Too bad I live on a really busy highway—and who knew so many people went to work so early? I missed an excellent opportunity to have had a re-enactment of North by Northwest (sans Cary Grant, more's the pity) to show you! But by the time I parked (the second time) safely and out of the glare of the rising sun, naturally the plane had made its last pass and was gone.

Rats. Back home I went to start our daily routine (which included making a pot of coffee). I had just managed to get medicine into my four feline patients (two routine, and the two ill ones who are recovering nicely) and was ready to begin serving out the morning meal to all (but hadn't yet managed to pour myself a cup coffee) when I heard the rumble again. Sorry, kids, be right back… I chose to hoof it this time. (I do drive a monster truck and I try to limit its use to limit its impact. One brief unnecessary and unsuccessful trip this day/week/month was enough.)

Hee-hee-hee. Yes, six in the morning is perhaps a bit early for it even living in the sticks, and it certainly can't be very "green" (simply being human in today's world isn't very green, if you want to split hairs), but being able to watch a prop-driven, yellow bi-plane crop-dusting in the light of the rising sun on a bright spring morning, especially in these days of high technology, is still pretty damn cool, don't you think?

NOTE: For the full effect, make sure your sound is turned on...

video

[Apologies for the rough video; at least it actually posted! I wasn't sure it would, given the frustrations of getting it from the camera to the web and that this was the first time using a newer edition of a software program I never learned how to run properly in the first place, which wasn't being as intuitive as I expect most of my Mac stuff to be. (I may have, however, figured a way to re-orient a vertically-shot video! If I can find the command again and if the program actually does what it says when it offers an "orientation" setting...)]

Monday, May 24, 2010

GET OUT OF THE ROAD!

Over the years I have had to swerve, slow down, stop completely or simply pray for a wide variety of wildlife that has attempted to cross a road in front of whatever moving vehicle I happened to be in at the time.

Dragonflies and butterflies. (Most seem to make it, but a few haven't). Toads and turtles. (Best stop I ever made for a turtle was when I was working at a living history museum; got the turtle to safety then hiked my skirts to get myself back across the road. I had forgotten about the red-and-white striped stockings I was wearing. Bet the guy I had been dating at the time still hasn't. Hey, at least I wasn't wearing the hoop skirt that day! Hmmm, or was I…?)

Raccoons, cats, squirrels—par for the course. A family of skunks. (My mother was driving with that one; she and the oncoming driver stopped while I jumped out to shoo across the road the babies who had failed to follow their parent and siblings. That the little ones found me much more interesting than any fear that momma was unreachable across two lanes of traffic is likely what started my abiding fascination with baby skunks. Yes, of course I uttered the cliched words "Can I keep them?"! [My mom put up with my bringing many odd things home, but she drew the line at baby skunks. Funny how she was with me the next time I encountered another litter many, many years later… But that's another story. ;o) ])

A bat that did not quite clear the side frame around the windshield; argh, that one still bugs me. Deer, naturally, although not as often as I expect. Florida panther. (They still have one in that Audubon sanctuary all these years later! I was working there when the first one showed up.) Coyote. (Well, at any rate, mom and I agree it didn't look like a domestic dog.) Songbirds seem to specialize in playing chicken (no pun intended). Killdeer—while nesting in my stone drive, yeah, that's reasonable, but running across the highway practically under my front tires while an idiot driver was practically riding my back bumper last week? Augh!

But last night, I topped them all…

Double-crested cormorant.

Yup, a (what appeared to be) coughing (choking?) double-crested cormorant standing smack in the center of a back road at 11:25pm on a foggy night (precautionary trip to emergency vet; likely UTI, female cat, not serious, just wanted drugs ASAP to make my baby feel better). Took me longer than it should have to id it, but then I wasn't expecting a seabird in the middle of the Macadam in the middle of the night, even here where we have lots (and lots) of cormorants.

Oh, and what they say about diving seabirds, whose legs tend to be set waaaay back on their bodies to facilitate swimming under water, not being able to take off from dry land? Not necessarily true... This one managed, after a brief moment of confusion and panic (on both our parts—eek, what do I do if it runs into the bushes?!), a beautiful running take-off right down the road when I went after it with a towel. Up, up and away, indeed. (Where I had planned to keep it had I actually caught it, since the cat I had in tow was going to be locked up in a crate in the cat room where rescued wildlife is usually held until I can get it to more experienced help [or release it on/near water, in this case], I'm not sure. Give me a break; it was waaaay past my bedtime, even if this time [second trip to the emergency vet in the middle of the night in two weeks, I've set a record! Different cat, now recovering nicely, thank you] I had decided to heat up left-over coffee to drink on the way.) It was still a good thing that I stopped even if the bird didn't need rescuing after all—two cars came down the road before I had even started up my truck again, and I somehow doubt they'd have paused for a bit of birdwatching in that place at that hour.

For good measure, five minutes later on a different road I had to slow down and swerve for a 'possum.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

FASTER THAN...


A flying chickadee? *snort* Nope. Not the camera shutter, at any rate. I'm quite proud of myself (and a bit surprised) that I was fast enough on the cable release button.

Ever since my first experience with the tree swallows, I've always wondered what keeps the birds from hitting the back of the box when they shoot into the hole so quickly.

BAD BIRDIES

When the hummingbirds first showed up this year, they were intent on setting up their territories once again, which made them a bit, well, territorial. In addition to the one who had checked out the cardinal, I also watched one chase a Carolina chickadee who was minding its own business in and around the nest box in the front yard. Hummers don't use nest boxes, and chickadees don't drink sugar water. (Well, not typically, although I have seen them try.) If anyone should be picking fights with the chickadees for using that nest box, it should be the downy woodpecker who had dibs on it all winter. And whom I haven’t seen in at least a couple of months—she didn’t even come back when I finally bought more peanuts. (Which may not have been a bad thing; she really liked the peanuts and I didn't want any bird to get too addicted. Just about every avian species in the yard known to eat handouts had figured out how to get at the peanuts by the time winter was over—even the white-throated sparrows learned to cling to the metal-mesh feeder more than long enough to extract a tidbit.)


While outside photographing my kudzu, er, hoya (see previous post for my first experience with this popular houseplant) on Saturday morning, I heard quite a chatter so naturally I looked up to see what was the matter. A pair of tree swallows had found the nest box which has the now-well-established chickadees in residence. Not sure what the chickadee who was most likely in the box at the time said, but I bet the tree swallow got a real earful. It left somewhat abruptly after a brief pause (barely long enough for a lousy photo) on the box top to consider its options. Its partner had already winged away—part of the vociferous contretemps may have been that one lambasting its mate as well ("You idiot! That box is already occupied! Come on, let's try someplace else.")—and they didn't come back.


This is the same set-up (although with a box-style box) over at the Avalon house, and I have been chasing house sparrows away (and cleaning out the beginnings of their nest) once a week since I put it up. I haven't given up and brought it to my yard yet because the tree swallows are also checking it out there as well.

I admit that I was probably quite spoiled by having a pair of tree swallows move in to the very first nest box (one that I had built myself, no less!) I ever put up (at the Avalon house) almost before I was done nailing it to the post, so I may be a bit lacking in patience with them these many years later… Or perhaps I'm just trying not to succumb to the temptation (and expense—the boxes are quite inexpensive if you make your own, but I've had too many tragedies in the past due to lack of a good baffle not to put money into poles and protection) of putting next boxes up all over my yard so no one has to fight over them.

Saturday, May 15, 2010

WHAT THE HOYA?!

It started as a rescue. (Yes, I rescue plants as well as cats.) The satisfaction of a month-late "must have green things NOW" urge. (I usually go a bit overboard buying houseplants when I am no longer able to abide winter's lack of green growing things; typically I last until February before succumbing. This year I made it into March! And I brought home less than half a dozen, thank you very much. I wouldn't even have picked up the orchid if it hadn't jumped off the display behind me and broken its clay to-hide-plastic-grower's-pot pot; what else was I to do other than say "heck, yes!" when it was offered to me for half price? It's currently on my desk at work, impressing the hell out of my co-workers. "Is that a real flower?")


(Not the hoya. Don't-care-what-kind-as-long-as-I-can-keep-it-alive orchid, peace lily behind, dry thing is an iris seed pod.)

Retailers are fully aware of this need-green-growing-things-in-February condition, and plan their first shipments of houseplants accordingly. So there was this green thing at Wallyworld, still in relatively good shape after a few weeks of life in the indoor/outdoor section of the store. Not a bad price for the amount of plant in the pot. Mis-marked label, but I happened to know what it really was. (This time; on rare—thankfully rare—occasions I have brought home plants I can't ID at the store. That rarely turns out well for the plant. Although my last plant purchase at the Big W netted me a lovely no-idea-what-it-is-but-isn't-it-pretty? that I have managed to allow to wilt flat twice and which has sprung back obligingly both times. What are they doing selling terrarium plants disguised as potted houseplants, anyway???)

Where was I? Oh, the hoya. So I found this lovely hoya, twining attractively up its little bamboo trellis. I bought it with half a mind that I may need it to replace at least one of the plants I may have killed while plant-sitting for my aunt. I may have been able to ID the plant before purchase, but I had to look up the specifics in my houseplant book when we arrived home. (Aunt, you may want to give your hoyas trellises… Some [not all, the plant forum tells me] of them are climbers!)


(Look at those lovely, compact little leaves... Three and a half inches, tops. Remember these.)

Ok, not so bad, I can do this. I especially liked the "repot as a last resort" bit. I don't like repotting; I never feel it goes well. (For every few successes there is at least one abysmal failure: my five or so year-old ming aralia [you can't always believe the books; this "not a houseplant" was going gang-busters for me for years] was crashing, so I recently repotted it. Suffice it to say that at least it seems to be sending out tentative shoots at every leaf scar, so it's not quite dead yet…)

I put the hoya in a sunny window. Its thick waxy leaves have not been (much of) a temptation for the cats. (Yay!) I'm getting the feel for when it needs water; it has reciprocated by not keeling over. Indeed, it had even sent out a couple of tentative tendrils (funky way of putting out new leaves, this plant). Some more water, some more tendrils.

And then this past week or so… WHAM! More little tendrils. A lot more little tendrils, which then sprouted little leaves which, in mere days, have become bigger leaves. Much bigger leaves. And what had been a nice, compact little perfectly-balanced and apparently happy-in-its-little-pot plant only a week ago has suddenly, practically overnight, become kudzu.


What happened to the nice little oval leaves? What happened to the nice little cream edges? My bought-in-ignorance on-a-whim little houseplant seems to be reverting to some kind of tropical monster! Those new leaves are 5 inches long and possibly still growing.

If this is the plant's way of thanking me for rescuing it—! *sigh* Guess I will have the chance to build it its own fancy copper trellis after all. Looks like it will be needed quite a bit sooner than expected, is all.


(Hmmm. It occurred to me as I was editing these photos to wonder if perhaps there are two different kinds of hoya here... Wouldn't surprise me; I bought hibiscus last year with two plants each of two different colors in the same pot.)

Saturday, May 8, 2010

FLATTENED FAUNA

I've been trying to keep this blog upbeat and fun, but sometimes the darker side of real life can't help but make itself known. For all of the good efforts of many nature societies and government agencies with regards to public education and land conservation here, I still live in a county that is also struggling to support a populace trying to survive economically. (The summer tourism population is poles apart from the resident population.) As everyone knows, for all of the successes nature and people more often than not do not mix well.

So I suppose it shouldn't be surprising when I must admit that two out of only three sightings I have ever had of this animal (all here in Cape May County in the last 15 years) have been like this:


Bit hard to tell at first glance what this is as it seems to be more than a few days into decomposition (and the photo was a one-off as I was standing on the very narrow shoulder of a major highway to take the picture), but it is indeed (what's left of) a river otter. The color and quality of the fur and the size and shape of the body is what id'ed the remains for me as I zipped past at 50mph on my way to work the other morning.

(One hopes the flattened middle is not due to a tire; I didn't notice any obvious tread tracks, but the position and location of the body still make me suspicious as to the cause of death… I'm cynical enough, and have a low enough opinion of the general feeling of many people towards wildlife, but I sincerely hope no one is so sick as to purposely run over a river otter.)

For all of their vaunted playfulness, river otter (at least our river otter) seem to be very shy animals. Pity, that; they are lovely and amazing creatures. And apparently they aren't overly particular as to what kind of water they are in; they can be found in the fresh water lakes around here, this one and the other dead one I have seen must have been coming up from the brackish creeks that the roads cross, and I've seen a live one swimming in a much larger, and therefore more salty, inlet. I first learned that we had river otter in Cape May County when I asked a friend about some unusual footprints on the ocean beach at Cape May Point and he confirmed the only logical explanation for the traces of dog-sized webbed feet marching over the dune crossover…

[Here would be a photo of and a link to a real, live otter photographed in Cape May this spring, but the View From the Cape archives are missing two weeks of posts. After a twenty minute search, I'm concluding that the otter photo is among the missing pages.]

It's also a shame that most of my sightings of red fox have also been roadkills, at least two again here on the highway that passes by my house. (I was once scolded by one very much alive in Delaware after returning after dark to the state park for which I then worked. Apparently I was not supposed to be there; "park's closed, no humans allowed" was the message I got from that encounter.)

Okay, happy photo needed. So I give you... SLUG POO!!!

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

TIED IN KNOTS

Although not a "professional" and certainly not professionally trained, I do consider myself an artist (of sorts). Blame it on the genes: the grandmothers knitted and crocheted, mom does all sorts of craftwork, dad was a model maker par excellence and very handy at cabinetry among many other things. I go a bit stir crazy if I can't make something every now and then. (I believe this is just plain human genetics, and is expressed in many ways: music, art, dance, writing, even computer programming. And blogging...) My creativity can, and does, take many forms; generally, it mixes the decorative and the practical. It can be as simple as wrestling a (really heavy!) log that washed into our marsh during a winter storm into the yard to use as a birdbath stand—bah, too plain, so of course I decorated it a bit.


If you were ever a scout or went to the beach for vacation and came home with a rope bracelet shrunk to your wrist, you probably recognize the rope-work even if you don't know what it is: Turks Head. It looks like the typical braid that most people know how to do, but instead of having definite ends it is circular (flat or tubular) and is made up of one continuous line instead of individual strands. Its basic form, the so-called sailor's bracelet or kerchief slide—three strands with however many repeats—is actually relatively easy to tie once you get the hang of it. The strands can also be multiplied as with a regular braid (say, four strands instead of three) but as with a multiple-strand braid, it becomes more tedious to keep track of the knot the more "strands" you add. I'm sure there's a mathematical principle involved somewhere, but suffice it to say that even complicated turks heads can be tied very straightforwardly by following a ridiculously simple grid. Cheating, perhaps? But in defense of having a guide to follow instead of tying free-hand, it still takes time to clean up the knot once you have its basic structure laid out.


Note that this knot is actually five strands, repeated three times for each strand. Hmm, I think I need a couple of more hanks of rope and a wider pattern, perhaps double the strands and two colors…

*bwa-ha-ha-ha* Crafting is also a really good way of procrastinating on other, more important stuff (like desperately needed housework, which I would normally enjoy if I weren't so bloody far behind in it). I'm very one-track when creating, which is why I haven't been able to juggle a real job (read "paid benefits") with an attempt at making the crafting pay off in monetary ways. Some day!


An eight strand knot (technically 8 "leads"); sailor bracelet gone mad...

Saturday, May 1, 2010

WINDOW SEAT

My house has a fair amount of windows—a major factor in my purchasing this particular place. Over the almost twelve (!) years I’ve lived here, I’ve amassed a fair amount of cats. Ah, let me rephrase: a more-than-is-sane amount of cats. The two, naturally, go together like hand in glove, especially so when cats are not allowed outside. Therefore, we have a lot of window seats. Cat-sized-and cat-accessible-only window seats. Of all of the windows in the house, only the one above the kitchen sink and one bank of windows in the greatroom are free of cat furniture. Heck, there’s more cat furniture in the house than people furniture. ("Naturally," reply the felines, "there are quite a lot more of us!")


This is a particularly (and unusually) congenial coagulation of cats enjoying the spring sunshine; most members of The Horde do not typically choose to be this close to one another. (Left to right: Harlequin, Tyger, RitzCarlton and Galadriel.) This location is popular in the winter as well, as there is a shelf below this one, lined with individual cat beds that sit above a heat register. They are more likely to gather there as the beds provide a better delineation of personal space…

STOP HERE ON RED

One of the bridges into Avalon is undergoing (much-needed) repairs this spring. It’s a particularly tall bridge: understandable, as it saves the expensive and trouble of building a drawbridge over a navigable waterway. Tall enough that when on one side of it, you cannot see the other. I suppose this method is quite a bit less expensive than posting two people with walkie-talkies and stop signs on tall sticks at either end… I’m only surprised I’ve never seen it in use before.