Friday, November 20, 2009

A Big Birdie told me: every Dog has his day...

Recently I made a trade with an amazing expert gardener and budding artist (pun intended). If you've not visited GetSoiled, I urge you to go on over and pay a visit. There you will find some of the most luscious photographs on the web - but that's not all. There's advice and information on food and nutrition, plant science and healthy meals, all offered with keen wit, humor, and a dash of panache.

Whenever I "Get Soiled," I am further convinced that when people are creative in one area, that creativity spills out into another, and another and another. There's photography, mosaic work, the building of raised beds and wonderful paintings!! I was lucky enough to barter one of my landscapes for this fabulous Birdie and I smile every time I see her (I decided it's a her).

And now for a happy ending...

When Bad Dog showed up, I made posters to distribute to the coon hunter's headquarters: the local feed store.

And today - hooray!! - one of my neighbors spotted the pic and called to claim him!! Seems he's been missing for two weeks, ever since the last cattle round up. Yep. Apparently BD was a failure at coon hunting (good boy!!) but was a natural born herder. Perhaps that explains what he was trying to do with my horses...

I kinda gave the guy a hard time, as the dog didn't get that thin in the five days before he showed up here. My hope is that he'll worm him - and increase his rations. And yes, he's earned a new moniker for not being so insipid as to chase after raccoons. He shall now be Good Dog as far as I'm concerned. That's him waving farewell with his ears and tail!!

My kitties are relieved...

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

No good deed...

...goes unpunished.

Okay - so Wednesday has never been my best day. All kinds of rotten things seem to happen on "hump" day. (I think of Wednesdays as humpff days.)

It was bad enough that I had an appointment for a checkup at 8:15 am. I figured I'd be out of there by, say, 9:00 or 9:15 and have plenty of time for the drive up to Tallulah Falls for my demo day at the Center. But as I was still sitting in the very chilly waiting area at 8:55 am, I called to get someone else to go and open up for me.

I finally get out of there at about 10:00 and head for the Toccoa post office to pick up a package that has been waiting there for me since Saturday. That accomplished, I head up the mountain, figuring to stop for gas at a station near the top of the climb. As I turn into the station, my van stalls. This is not good. I let it glide to a stop and try to start it, but it it immediately dies again. Now I freak. A million half-formed thoughts and solutions race through my head, each shorting out when they run up against the tiny balance in my checking account. No money for towing, no money for repairs, no way to get the damn thing home without busting me completely.

After about ten minutes of stewing, I decide I must get it home somehow. I turn the key, stomp on the gas, and it roars to life. I put some gas in, call my friend Carol, and start for home advising Carol of my progress in case I get stranded. It stalls once more but restarts and I make it!! The dogs greet me - my three sitting for their pats - and Bad Dog by jumping on me with muddy paws. I'm all (well, reasonably) relieved and happy. I call my mechanic, and the Center, and cancel all my Wednesday and Thursday obligations.

I have to borrow some cat food from close neighbor and friend Carol, as I was afraid to stop on the way home. She comes right over and then leaves with Bad Dog following along. Ten minutes later she's on the phone to me. Bad Dog has clambered under her house and somehow managed to break or knock loose a pipe. Water - HOT water - is streaming and spraying everywhere, and Bad Dog won't come out from under there. As her water comes from my well, this is another thing that is not good. I tell her to turn off the water, and I put on boots and sweats and fetch the pvc pipe repair kit.

Sure enough, there is steaming water flowing out of a disconnected pipe joint. We turn off the hot water heater and drain it completely, make the repair, and get Bad Dog out from the scene of the crime. We replace the barrier to the crawl space that had been removed by Carol's son-in-law when he came to do a pipe repair!

So who's to blame? Me for letting the dog stay? Carol for being followed home? Bad Dog for being a dog? The son-in-law who didn't put the barrier back?


It's just a Wednesday thing. Luckily, it comes only once a week.

Monday, November 16, 2009

Is this your hound dog?

'Cause it's not mine...

Once again, a critter has wandered upon my back 40. I came home quite late last Friday, tired and chilled, and just wanting to chill out. I climbed out of the van and right away I noticed my two Pyrs cause they show up even when it's really dark with the security light shining off their white coats. It's harder to see Freda, but I'm used to her being right smack in front of me waiting for her pat-on-the-head greeting. Well, that night, I kept glimpsing Freda over here - and then over there, and then back over here. I could see her long ears flapping about and I wondered how she moved so fast. Then I opened the rear door and ka-whomp - a dog jumped right in, ran right over my groceries and paintings - and plopped down in the driver's seat! So that's it - four ears flapping in the night...

You guessed it. Not Freda - but some free-loader.

So here he is. Sad, skinny, and sans the giant chain that someone was using as a "collar". He looks like an old dog, but he's not. He's just got that Bloodhound droopy look. And he's definitely got that stinky dog smell.

So of course I fed him and made up a bed in the shop for him - and wondered why he was still here the next morning.

Lots of my neighbors are "coon" hunters, a despicable activity carried out under cover of darkness with big guns, dogs and flashlights. Why anyone thinks this is sporting defies not only logic but humanity. So I'm not about to go ask any of them if they're missing one of their black'n'tans. I tried out a few dog-sounding monikers on him, but he only seems to react to "Bad Boy" and "No". (I found this out when he tried chasing any of the kitties who offered to run.)

He tried to protect me from the horses, too, but after two days he's given up on that. I figure he needs about fifteen pounds of muscle to look good. I really can't afford another large dog, so if you're a doggy lover in need of a real pal, here he is! He wants to ride in the car, so someone must have given him rides. And he always tries to come in the house, so someone must have let him in. sigh... Poor boy...

The Pyrs don't mind him - except when he tried to eat their food, but a truce has been declared during which they pretend he doesn't exist. The cats are wary - and Freda wants to play. But "Bad Dog" only wants to bay at unknown things out in the pastures. Better not be my any of my kitties...

And Elvis? Elvis can't wait to shred that doggie's nose.

Monday, November 09, 2009

Who lives here? And here? And here?

Ever since I was a child, I've been drawn to places that appear marginally habitable... This fascination includes not only old houses and outbuildings, but spaces and openings in stone, earth and trees. I find myself peering into these spaces, and wondering who lives there?

Perhaps it could be me?

Perhaps it is the desire to escape - to go and live among the wild things where the only rules and constraints are those of the natural world. If the worry of survival was simplified down to the basics of food, shelter and water, would stresses be lessened? Perhaps it's the need to "make over" a space to suit my particular comfort level. Or perhaps it's just the fantasy of becoming someone or something else - trying on another existence...

I can see myself much as Alice In Wonderland - shrinking down and down, smaller and smaller until I might fit inside the little doorways, the small openings, the tiny thresholds - of mice and moles. My tiny abode could be filled with the fragrance of wintermint or wild roses or sweet clover and dishes of acorn and hickory nut shells would serve up fresh berries.

I'd make garments from the petals of Rose of Sharon, the leaves of sumac and gardenia, and sleep on a bed of the softest fern fronds. I'd float down the creek in a pecan husk canoe, and walk out on the water lily leaves to bath in the "cup" of a lily's bloom.

In summer I'd build a treehouse out of Sycamore bark and camp high in the sky in my private arboretum.

I'd catch a night ride on a flying squirrel or hop a treefrog - and I'd sleep the sleep of the just, the innocent, and the contented - waking with the warmth of the sun...

... sigh

... and now for a walk - and then on to the business of this other life.

Wednesday, September 30, 2009

Wild themes, continued...

Bogo posed for flight. Does she know that white horses are sacred?

I know, I know - this was last weeks theme... but wild horses do fly. If you've ever been astride a horse soaring over jumps and streams and galloping over the earth, you know what it is to fly.

Ever since I heard his album "Graffiti Man", I've been a fan of John Trudell - and an admirer of his activist work. This video, with the beautiful voice of Anne Humphreys singing, is a favorite of mine. The flight of insects, the flight of birds, the flight for survival of wild things , the flight of Native Americans to avoid extermination. When fight is certain death, only flight remains.

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Who's all powerful?

I saw this over at The Clever Pup, which I came to via Polly Jackson's new website - and I wanted to pass it on. Think about it. When you go to build a home or studio or whatever, who determines what materials you can buy and who does the wiring, plumbing, etc.? If it doesn't meet insurance standards, then you'll get no bank financing. If you want to drive, you gotta have insurance. Want to own a home? Mortgage insurance. How about medical malpractice insurance and double indemnity insurance and flood insurance and dental insurance, and business insurance - and bonding and floater policies for craft and art festivals?

So tell me. Who's really responsible for the high cost of everything? Who's pockets are full?

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Wild Things... Theme Thursday

When despair for the world grows in me... I go and lie down where the wood drake rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds. I come into the peace of wild things who do not tax their lives with forethought or grief. I come into the presence of still water. And I feel above me the day-blind stars waiting with their light. For a time, I rest in the grace of world and am free.
- Wendell Berry
I wish I were with some of the wild people that run in the woods, and know nothing about accomplishments. - Joanna Baillie

It seems no matter how we hack away and groom and "landscape" our surroundings, nature will persevere the moment our eyes and energies turn away. The spirit of the wild is stronger than civilized humankind.

Even goldfish born and raised in the tiny tanks of a Wal-Mart know how to be wild when given over to the possibilities of freedom in the natural world.

Art may imitate wild nature; less often does it dare to place itself in the midst of it, and when it does, it may come out second best - John Hart
They could just take you up yonder, honey, you're already wild and blue...
- John Anderson
And some only seem to be tamed. If you catch them unawares - wildness shines from their eyes, and shows in their actions...
Wild skies, wild animals, wild woods, wild horses - the spirit of the wild, wild at heart.

Susan Boyle singing The Rolling Stones Wild Horses

Monday, September 14, 2009

Night Night, Cereus...

Please, please - click on photo/s to enlarge. The structural detail of this flower is deserving of notice!
About six weeks ago, I was shocked to find that my Cereus had bloomed without me! When I noticed two new buds a couple of weeks ago, I was determined not to miss the rather rare phenomenon of a Night Blooming Cereus in all its glory.

Here are the tiny bud stalks which appear right where a vein from the center ends at the edge of the "leaf."

I remembered to go out for the nightly check right around midnight and found the blooms already wide open.

The flowers are showy and quite complex, reminding me of lotus blossoms or water lilies. There are many, many stalks (stamens) tipped with pollen that sweep out of the center - and what appears to be a bloom within the bloom suspended out in front of these. This is the male organ, or pistil. And those who are attracted by the Cereus' lovely perfume must climb past the pistil, and over the stamens. Quite ingenious!!If you look closely at the throat of this bloom, you can see a small brownish thing that looks like a pointed tongue. I thought this another quite amazing feature until I looked inside the other bloom (see below) and there was no brown tongue! It's a little slug! I can't figure out how it managed to find its way up and into there, but then - I probably underestimate its abilities. Just because it's a slug, doesn't mean it's a slouch.

I apologize for the change in viewpoint. Even though I rotated this photo during editing, each time I loaded it here it rotated back. I gave up. Anyhow, you can see the inner structures better in this shot - just turn your head sideways to get the right perspective... (ha).

I moved it, pot and all, out to the plant table in the front lawn so that light from my mercury vapor light would illuminate it some. I thought it would have a better chance of fertilization if moths, etc., could not only scent it, but see it as well. Last time it bloomed during a full moon, but it was overcast and quite dark last night. The scent is so sweet and powerful, my efforts are likely superfluous, but then it is a desert plant and its native insect population would differ. Couldn't hurt!

"Good days are to be gathered like grapes,
to be trodden and bottled into wine
and kept for age
to sip at ease beside the fire.
If the traveler has vintaged well,
he need trouble to wander no longer;
the ruby moments glow in his glass at will."
~Freya Stark
(French adventurer and explorer...1893-1993)

Sunday, September 06, 2009

Into September... the bonny Bunny Days

What's this? The bunnies are back - and new colors are arriving just in time for Fall.

This summer, I was delighted to see a spotted bunny and her (?) friends nibbling the grasses along the mowed edges of my quarter-mile long drive. They must be escapees from my creepy neighbor - who likely eats them - or perhaps his wife/girlfriend let a few go.

I can't be sure, but based upon past history, it's difficult to believe any sort of altruism is involved. So this past week, I toodle down my driveway and get another bunny surprise.

A lovely little buff bunny with a cottontail!

Adorable and cuddly looking - but still smart enough to allow me no closer than 25 feet. So here's a blow-up.

And along with Buff Bunny was this hybrid. It has the agouti fur of a wild bunny, but the more rounded plumpness of tame rabbits.

Oops! That's not a bunny! It's the mighty tyke known as Dinah. She thinks the bathroom sink is just right for a nap, especially right after she's been harassing all the other kitties. Lately, she's taken to creeping up and cuffing them quickly, before scampering back to the safety of her sink.
- from Through The Looking Glass:
"One thing was certain, that the white kitten had had nothing to do with it - it was the black kitten's fault entirely."
Ah, yes. The black kittens are always blamed. (Sometimes rightly so.)

Have a three bunny day - and may the black cat bring you luck (as they do in Britain).

Out of August...

Among the delights of living in the boonies are chance encounters with prehistoric creatures. I'm pretty sure this one hasn't changed much over the millenia. With its raptor-like front legs and fantastic camouflage, the Praying Mantis is among the most successful of insect predators. Mantises were imported to the US from China and Europe to aid in control of crop-damaging insects. At least three varieties and their multi-hybridized offspring are now found here.

I caught a glimpse of this one as it flew from one place to another to escape my riding mower. I was astonished at the size of it - at least five inches length, possibly more! Just as I turned to run for my camera, I heard a horrid snapping noise. My bad dog Freda had spotted the fluttering mantis and had her muzzle buried in the butterfly bush where I had last seen it. Oh crap! I yelled at Freda "No! No!" and she backed off looking both hurt and chagrined (see below).

Luckily for the mantis - and for me - Freda's jaws had missed. As I shot photos, I bemoaned the shortcomings of my digital camera with its lack of decent focus or close-up ability. Roy or Linda would have had a field day with their high quality equipment - and excellent eye/s for what makes a fabulous photo. The photo above is just about life-size.

As a child, these were/are among my favorite insects. I was thrilled to find an egg case, always hoping to be nearby when the tiny mantises emerged by the dozens or even hundreds, and once or twice I was that lucky. Even now - when their numbers seem to me to be greatly reduced, I get a little thrill when I find a mantis - or an egg case.

Here's Freda sulking. She is a bird-dog, after all - and this mantis was large enough that I had at first thought it a fledgling fallen from a nest. I made sure the mantis was high up in the Magnolia tree and commenced mowing.

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Share the ride, share the road...

Most mornings I back my trusty van up to the front door of my house and load (or unload) it for the day's endeavor/s. Without fail, one or more of my kitties takes it upon themselves to help or hinder. In Madeline's case, it is definitely the hindering deal. She has determined that the indentation of the back door when raised makes a lovely bed - and observation post.
When asked to vacate, she gives me this "how can you even ask?" look, stretches - and promptly sits back down to gaze about. After a bit, and in her own good time, she turns around and ...

stretches again for effect before gauging the distance to the ground. But does she jump? No. And for a good reason. Madeline is the clumsiest of cats - being extremely cow-hocked, and having broken one leg in three places when she was four months old. The leg had to remain pinned for months - with the tip sticking out of her hip!
So I persuade her take a circuitous route, and back over the roof of the van she goes, sliding down the windshield to gaze about in her queenly manner until the next opportunity to attain the throne.
And on down the nearby macadam road, I saw what from a distance appeared to be line like a tar repair. No - it was a very large Kingsnake, Blacksnake, Chickensnake, who stopped right in front of me and refused to move even when I took his/her picture and stomped my feet. I finally gave it a nudge with my foot and off it
went into the tall weeds. It's not the largest I've seen, but it was over six feet at my estimate. These are among the good guys of the snake world, eating small rodents, eggs and such - and not poisonous or aggressive. Quite beautiful - and fascinating as it moved effortlessly away.

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

A Turtle's Tale...

Isn't he pretty? He's a male three-toed terrapin or tortoise, a variation of box turtle. The males have this bright coloration on the head and neck. He looks just like the one I found...

A few days ago we had showers on and off after a month of dry weather. Whenever this particular weather pattern occurs, the turtles come out to cross the roads - and many never make it. Thursday I had already moved two turtles to safety when I spotted a third in the center of my lane. A car was close behind me as I slowed enough to realize this one had already been hit. I turned around to see if it was alive or dead, and saw it retract its head and front legs. The rear left quarter of its shell was broken and there was a gap of an inch with fat and flesh visible. The poor fellow was stuck to a 92 degree highway with his own dried blood. Eeeww.... Lucky for me I am not squeamish. I slid a scraper under him, then placed him in a plastic tub that usually holds cans of paint. I figured he'd likely die of shock and dehydration, but I took him on home and gave it a try. I disinfected the injury as best I could, gave him food and water and checked him frequently over the next several hours. By the time I realized he was pretty stable, it was Friday morning.

The job I was doing (painting a floor on a deadline) took over 12 hours and I had to go back on Saturday to finish. My turtle boy was now sporting a large band-aid to stabilize the broken shell. I had to do this as he kept banging around his container-home making the gap bleed. By the time I got home on Saturday, I all the the area Vets were closed, and of course I couldn't afford a vet bill anyway. I was supposed to go to the opening reception where I was showing work, but I couldn't not try to get my turtle some professioal help.

I called the University of Georgia in Athens, and the nice young veterinary student who was on call said to bring him over. It was a hundred mile drive round trip and I missed my opening, but it was worth it to hear that she (the doctor) thought he could be saved - barring any complications. They will release him in a nature sancuary when he is able.
This is not a photo of the turtle in my tale - but this injury area is similar - and likely my turtle-boy now sports something like this. Non-toxic silicon adhesives with fiberglass reinforcement has been used successfully.

I'm one of those dedicated turtle savers who will slow, hit the hazard lights, stop, and move turtles off the road in the direction they were headed, unless it's a particularly dangerous and/or unsuitable area, in which case I release them on my 40 acres. Apparently it's mostly male turtles seeking girlfriends who are out and about after a rain. Box turtles don't range far from the places they are hatched - usually not venturing outside of one square mile during the whole of their 50 + years. They do need to be near fresh water for cooling off and as a source of easily caught food., and eggs are often laid in soft or sandy soil adjacent to a pond or stream. By now there must be a healthy population hereabouts. Luckily I have two small ponds and a stream on my land.
Twenty years ago I had a wonderful turtle experience that gave me a love for these intelligent gentle creatures which I wrote about here.