Monday, June 28, 2010

FEELING SILLY.


Ha-ha-ha-ha-ha….


RAWWWWRRRRRR!


Nyah-nyah.

Exhibit: Interpretations Of a Yawn.
Models: Peanut, Sandylion, Franklin.

Wednesday, June 23, 2010

DAY ON THE DECK

Porch deck, that is. Spent the entire day yesterday puttering around my little front deck. It is on the smallish side, relatively speaking, and having it packed with both outdoor flowers and indoor plants out for the summer means it's now even smaller. I'd like to extend it, and I have the room to do so, but… Well, a wild grape appeared in the "garden" just off the front of the deck some years ago; "Yes!" I thought, and took the opportunity to train the vine all along the front rail. And then it went up into the mulberry tree. And then all along the step railing… Which means by now it is quite well established—and smack in the middle of what could have been the deck expansion. Oh. Oops.


At least that's one way to rein in my natural tendency to fill in blank spaces. When it comes to the deck, this means potted plants. Lots of potted plants. Have to use pots and the deck, given that the yard hasn't been mowed in about five years and the deer would eat anything I put out there anyway. (As it is, I'm convinced that one day some enterprising, or very hungry, deer will eventually figure out the steps.) Not increasing the space at least means I won't have to water more than I already am. (And for any of you who container-garden, you know how frequently that can be. Naturally, after watering two days in a row, we finally managed to get a bit of rain last night.)


Even though I have yet to catch a deer on the deck, there is a lot of fauna that does drop in for a visit, such as this red admiral, just waking up first thing in the morning. (It didn't like me sticking a camera in its face and it left, perhaps sooner than it wanted to. Oops.)


I went to water a pot for the second time later in the afternoon, and noticed an unexpected pattern in the soil.


Hello, Mr. Toad!


Er, Mrs. Toad? I've seen dozens of Bufos (Fowler's; I don't have the species name to hand) in the dozen years I've been here—some even a bright brick red all over, very cool; this one had red spots—but this specimen has to be the biggest one ever.


Speaking of specimens… I didn't need a(nother) specimen plant. I mean, I love them, but my house really isn't as humid in the winter as it should be to keep most of the normal-sized plants happy three or four months out of the year, never mind the giant ones. (It is quite humid this summer, however; my hoya is growing again and is putting out aerial roots now as well as new leaves.) I can usually keep my large ficus under control with a good pruning, and the once-full-sized schefflera has become rather stunted (the dry conditions and a really, really bad case of scale), but I did know full well what I would be getting myself in for with this one...


There's a reason this plant's genus name is Monstera; the black bench whose end you can just see to the left, peeking out from under the foliage, is about five or six feet long. Eep. Evidence indeed of my extreme lack of will power; I found a nice-sized, still-in-decent-shape plant at Wallyworld late last summer and telling myself I'd already killed one or two baby monsteras over the years didn't stop me from buying it. Much to my surprise, however, it not only survived the dry winter in a sunny window in the cat room, as soon as I started upping its water it responded by popping out a half a dozen new leaves. At least one new shoot is even peeking up from the root crown. Yikes. I'm going to need a hand cart to get the sucker back inside this fall. (And its new support stake is likely going to have to be anchored to a wall stud.) I may be able/tempted to take some cuttings if it gets too broad to wrangle up the stairs. (And then I can have a house full of monster plants. What on earth was I thinking??? [Um, well, that it wouldn't survive…])


Also known as split-leaved philodendron for obvious reasons, although I prefer it's scientific name Monstera deliciosa. Delicious indeed! This is pretty much what broke my will; I love the leaves of these plants. The one baby I have managed to keep alive over the years hasn't been happy enough to produce the split leaves yet. (It's a matter of plant age and growing conditions.) I'm hoping that new soil and a summer on the deck helps. I suppose it's ridiculous to hope that it will have small split leaves instead of platter-sized leaves?


White coral bells, upon a slender stalk… (Bet you get stuck singing that song off on and for the rest of the day if you know it.) Also in a pot on the deck and happier than ever this year. The hostas (started with just one plant rescued from the "garden" where the grape came up) are going gang-busters in their new huge pot as well. Maybe I'll post photos when the buds open...

Monday, June 21, 2010

FEEDING FRENZY

Something wounded my Pin Oak (it doesn't look like one of the sapsucker holes) and it's leaking. But the flies and this Wood-Satyr were taking full advantage of the weeping sap Monday evening. Personally, I think it's a Viola Wood-Satyr because of its rich color and large silver spots, but my Butterflies through Binoculars book says that it's Little Wood Satyrs for anywhere north of Florida. The author does allow that Viola is likely a subspecies of Little... On the other hand, butterflies have wings (as we are fond of saying about the birds around here) and given the amazing migration and seasonal wanderings of other butterfly species, I'm not ruling out the possibility of a southern vagrant.


Unfortunately, at least three individuals of this charming little butterfly were flitting about (the book perfectly describes their flight as "bouncing") but this was the only one to sit still long enough for a photo. (It sat so still it let me touch it in an attempt to get it to open its wings. It declined to cooperate and continued to eat.) I've a shout out to the local butterfly people for their opinion on species--not that it matters to me, but it's good citizen science to report possibly unusual sightings. (We have lots of butterfly people around here; I maintain that it's because the bird people became so good at bird ID that it ceased to be a challenge any more and they needed a new venue for their skills.)

ED. NOTE: For those of you who like to be precise: Little Wood-Satyr. Has to do with the "transverse lines" and "post-median lines" bending or not and which way they bend; the spots are, apparently, highly variable from individual to individual... *lol* And that is why I'm happy just calling it a wood satyr. Many thanks to the Cape May Brit for doing my research for me! (Be sure to visit his blog; the link is to the right.) Um, anybody wanna ID the fly...?


Remember my mentioning that I know for a fact that ticks hang out on the end of grass stems waiting for lunch to walk by? Photographic proof, thank you very much... I stopped counting after finding about a half dozen ticks* on just the grass stems at the end of my front walkway (that fiber on the seed head is probably cat hair that came off my clothes), although I admit that even I was surprised to find two (one deer, one lone star) sharing a seed tip.


Wish I had macro video, because you really need to see the madly waving legs, as the tick took notice of my nearness, to fully appreciate the situation. Then again, maybe I'm the only one to find it incredibly funny and the only person who would sit there giggling madly while teasing the ticks instead of having a major case of the heebie-jeebies like pretty much any normal person would have done.** (I gave up on tick heebie-jeebies the first time I had a group of kids in the field and couldn't have a fit of the heebie-jeebies over a tick on one of them.)


Just a really cool bit of lichen on the oak, catching the light just-so, that I noticed while I was taking Wood-Satyr photos.

* I would like to speak to the management about the long, cold, snowy winter not making so much as a dent in the parasite population...

** Yes, the ticks around here carry Lyme Disease; given the density of the tick/deer/mouse populations, I wouldn't be at all surprised if it turned out that we have a very high incident rate of it compared to other places. It ain't pretty; many people I know have had it. Knowing what it can do to a body should give anyone a good solid case of the heebie-jeebies. But I choose to live where I do and to maintain a place for wildlife, so although I keep an eye out for symptoms, I don't freak out over ticks. (Or fleas, or mosquitos, or black widows, or whatever other little "nasties" we have around here. No rattlesnakes or copperheads or water mocassins down here. Yet.) If the coyotes were to be a bit more visible, however, then I could probably work myself up into a good tizzy... (Given the first-hand photos I've seen and reports I've heard, our coyotes aren't as small as the western race and they aren't as shy as some folk would like to make them out to be.)

Wednesday, June 16, 2010

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, HOOLIGANS!

The Hooligans, once collectively known as The Kittens for years before it became too ridiculous to continuing calling them "kittens", are eight (8!) years old today. (June 19; the post date is when I uploaded the draft copy.)

Warning: Nigh unbearable cuteness coming up...

I'd never seen newborn kittens let alone expected to have the care of them, but a series of events made sure I had up close and personal experience. I had suddenly and unexpectedly lost a second cat in less than a year (the first to old age and heart trouble) and began to consider the benefits of dog ownership, to the point where I had been traveling to shelters in search of a possible match. Given that I always looked at the cats first, it shouldn't be surprising that I found a perfect cat instead. What I hadn't allowed for were the fosters I ended up offering to take as well once the adoptee settled in a mere two weeks later.


Pearl was the third of the two cats I told the shelter I could take. (The shelter was losing its lease and I ended up with the last three to be placed, the ones no one else would take. I would like to state for the record that I kept them all and they are/were [the eldest passed on] the most wonderfully fantastic cats.) "Okay, we'll see about someone picking up Pearl from you tomorrow... Oh, by the way, she got out of the shelter last week. Oh, and by the way, she had been acting like she was in heat..."

What with poor communication about who was to have the cat spayed and my inability to add two and two quickly enough (bad math skills all around with this situation), I ended up with four more fosters. Nine weeks to the day that she went AWOL, I went to the cat room to check on Pearl and, as if she had been waiting for my attendance, she popped out these creatures so quickly and so effortlessly that she set in stone my long-held decision to never bear children of my own:


The four Most Beautiful Kittens in the World, still literally wet behind the ears. Vet techs I had never seen before appeared in the exam room like magic when we went for check ups and shots. Lots of vet techs. The exam rooms aren't really all that big to begin with... I made sure to count kittens upon leaving.


Day 2. Sooooo tiny....! (RitzCarlton came in just under 13 pounds last month at his annual check-up, and although I want him to lose a pound and the vet says he can spare two, the cat is not by any means fat. You can still easily feel ribs, even if he could do with a bit more of a waist.)


"Like trying to herd cats..." Actually, I find adult cats ridiculously easy to train (well, the trick-for-treat kind of training). But trying to get these rascals to stay still long enough to be in focus and in frame was hard enough; I gave up on getting any of them to look at me and took what I could get.


And when it comes to potty training, cats train themselves! Here Galadriel shows her brothers and sister how it's done. (RitzCarlton was watching; I just caught him when his attention wandered.)

Momma Pearl, as she is now mostly called, was an amazing mother and did all of the work caring for her kids, even though barely more than a kitten herself. She only fussed at me a couple of times early on, and not after she realized I would babysit for a bit. She only ever tried to move the kittens out of their crate once. And although my vet said kittens can be weaned as early as four weeks, I let Momma decide. She fed the Hooligans right up to eight weeks, and beyond that let them sneak in for the occassional snack. But even good mothers have their limits. I think this is when Pearl began to question what she'd gotten herself into:






She still hung out with the monsters kittens until they were a few months old. At about six months, good old biology kicked in and she refused to have anything to do with them from that point on. At least she doesn't try to chase them away anymore. Er, not much; Pearl loves a good game of chase. She takes it very seriously, she does...


I purchased a laser pointer when they were still an office novelty, and I shudder to think what I paid for it. But as far as spending money on cat toys goes, it was a winner. Here the entire family enjoys a game of laser tag.




Smidgen, Galadriel and RitzCarlton when they liked to hang out together. Russell was way off to the right when these photos were taken. He was the most shy of the kittens from the very beginning, so I'm inclined to think he was left out by choice and not because there was simply no more room (or his siblings wouldn't let him in).


I swear upon pain of death that I only put one kitten in this shot; the other three were already there.

Today is also a reunion/anniversary party at my first place of employment! This summer marks 25 years since I first worked there as night cashier. (A job whose experience has stood me in good stead for every single one of the jobs I have had since!) Perhaps I'll share and bring home Springer's Homemade Ice Cream for the birthday girls and boyos...

Tuesday, June 15, 2010

EVERYTHING (and I mean everything) LOVES THE MULBERRY TREE!

As I was composing the previous post on my front porch (coincidentally next to the mulberry tree) Sunday morning, I happened to notice that a couple of branches were still bearing decent fruit that with a little finegling I could reach. A second glance upon catching movement over the patio didn't result in finding whatever I had seen flutter, but what I did spot on the laden branch with my triple-take sent me running for the camera...


Laden branch indeed!!! It seems that everybody does indeed love the mulberry tree. I love snakes, but even I am a bit concerned over the identity of  what appeared to be a slight bulge in this one's body... 


Do I have one less catbird? Cardinal? Wren? Not a hummer, surely?! Nah, this was a big rat snake; a hummer wouldn't have caused even a ripple going down. [Unlike that eel I watched a cormorant swallow last month; the fish was as big around as and even longer than the bird's neck. Gaugh!] It does make a perfect sort of sense to find a predator hanging out (literally) in a spot frequented by lots of prey. And black rat snakes are noted and skilled arborealists.

They are also typically quite docile. I suppose this one didn't want its photo taken; as you can see, I was on the receiving end of a hard stare (well, yeah, no eyelids)

[Yikes! Stupid cardinal--there's a snake in there!!! Sheesh, damn lucky bird; he was six inches from the snake's nose! And was watching me, not the snake. (I didn't precisely scare him off; he just decided mulberries weren't worth dealing with the crazy lady. I'm not certain the bird ever saw the snake.) Eep, it's Wild Kingdom live and in person at the Wren's Nest this morning...]

Where was I? Oh, yeah. The snake rattled it's tail at me while I was documenting its hunting tactics. Guess it didn't like me blowing its cover.

[Uh-oh. I should have been on my way to work ten minutes ago, and what I'm wearing is sooo not even business casual... Eek. If I still worked for Audubon, they'd understand why I'm going to be late. Real estate office might, too, though; to them, I'm now known as the animal lady. *hee-hee-hee* Shocked the beejeebers out of some tenants last week who mentioned their cat was the most wonderful they'd ever had. "Ah, you have an orange tom," I replied confidently. Well-educated guess, and I guessed right; people were stunned, coworkers just laaaaughed.]

HERE WE GO 'ROUND THE MULBERRY BUSH...

A couple of evenings this past week I've looked out my kitchen window and have been amazed at the sudden brisk breeze that had sprung up strong enough from a dead calm to shake the dickens out of my mulberry tree. "How odd," I thought, "that nothing else is moving..."

Closer inspection revealed the source of the "wind".


Hmmm. Apparently, using the flash was not appropriate under the circumstances. But see that gleam?


"Who, me?"


Yes you, you handsome rascal! 

Considering the traffic the mulberry tree has received this year since the fruit ripened, I had decided at some point to see what the fuss was all about. Conclusion? The birds and coons and who-knows-what else have had no competion from me. (Juicy enough, but flavorless.)

I spent a half an hour plucking out-of-reach berries to toss at the masked raider after I had inadvertently chased it out of the tree with my picture-taking. In addition to being too cute to resist, I was hoping to keep the visitor away from the main part of my deck. Cassie-cat, sitting at the front door, had actually spotted the raccoon before I noticed the madly-waving tree last night.


We are rapidly running out of mulberries, especially ripe ones within easy reach, so last night I offered some too old to feed the kitties leftover but not-yet-spoiled catfood which was a readily-accepted substitute. I have about twelve hours to come up with tonight's offering; this young'un (still has that scrawny adolescent look) became bold enough from one night to the next that s/he just might enquire at the door if I don't have anything ready beforehand tonight.

[Alas, a blisteringly hazy, hot and humid day (AC is on again) followed by an early evening rainstorm precluded the begging for and handing out of tidbits today. I know, I shouldn't tame the wildlife.. But c'mon--! Just scroll back up and look at that face!]

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

HELP, I CAN'T FEEL MY TOES!

*sigh* Why do these two have to be the only friends, and therefore comfortable sitting so close to one another, out of all of the Horde? Franklin is average-sized, but Pieces, although slim, is a big cat!


Yes, Franklin shifted a half-hour later and I am holding him in place. Luckily for us both (I haven't had the chance to use the nail clippers on him), he left soon after I took the photo. Pieces, however, is still here and although I can now (just barely) feel my toes, that knee is killing me… Oo! Ow! Moved the cat... Pins and needles… *ouch* Serves me right for still being on the computer. I am not flattered by Pieces' unflagging attention: the desk chair is one of his favorite spots and I am only a minor inconvenience between it and him. Plus, I'm providing heat.

(Okay, maybe he's happy with the attention after all; he's purring, and head-scratching is getting me kneaded. That's my boyo… Downside of too many cats: nobody gets enough individual attention. *sigh again*)

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

SUCCESS!!!


Guess these two were more persistent than the lone male house sparrow I had been chasing out of the box...

OhhhhhhKAY...

I've seen RV's pulling sub-compact cars. RV's pulling compacts, not-so-compacts, trailers with the motorcycles or lawn furniture and the grill. I've even seen RV's towing pick-ups and SUV's. I clearly remember the day one of those RV's built on a tour-bus chassis passed by. (Eep.)


But an RV towing… an RV?

And note that it wasn't a little RV. Either of them.

SUMMER THUNDER(STORM)

Eh, so it was last week; first of June is close enough to count as summer. I had pondered the idea of taking a photo of a rising thunderhead--or what was likely a thunderhead--but although interesting, it wasn't impressive enough to stop for, and it wasn't boiling up as I watched it like some I've seen. When I made it into town, however, I had slipped under the leading edge of a weather front and the sky was rapidly darkening. While in the checkout line at the grocery store, the front hit town like a runaway train. It's been awhile since we've had a storm hit that hard and fast with so much fury behind it. We were looking for funnel clouds--not that we could have seen them, the sky was such a deep inky blue. This video was taken when things had let up enough for the sky to have actually cleared to bright blue and clouds, and for me to stand outside under an overhang without risking drowning. (Or at any rate, a good soaking--which I had already received moving from one store to the next. I knew wearing a white shirt that day was going to guarantee I'd get caught in the rain.)

video

The entire storm lasted less than ten minutes, and I drove home with an eye to the sky, figuring there had to be a rainbow somewhere nearby. I didn't find it until I turned into my drive...


There it is, barely visible (depending on the contrast on your monitor--sorry), coming in from middle left, just skimming the tree tops. (Trust me, it was there. So is my house-- it's behind the two big trees in the middle of the photo.)

This past week, we just missed another big to-do, complete with a tornado watch! Naturally, nothing came of it after I had battened down all the hatches. I did see the top of what I took to be a gorgeous sunset (I love my trees I love my trees I love my trees) and I'm told there was a spectacular rainbow to go with it; in some places it was even doubled.

MY VET ONCE TOLD ME...

… That cats were desert-adapted creatures. Yeah, guess so.


This is RitzCarlton, hanging out. Upstairs. (That's the critter linen, not the people linen.) Before I turned on the AC. (Oi, it was still May; I wasn't turning on the AC in May!) It was 85° F upstairs. (AC went on the next day or so. It was then June.) Half of the Horde was on the second floor when it was 85. Some were even in the sunny window in my bedroom. (ShopCat.com had a photo once of a cat comfortably perched about three feet away from a roaring blacksmith's forge…)

RitzCarlton doesn't look dead, heat-stressed, or even remotely uncomfortable.

*sigh* Cats. Weird, weird, weird beasties.