Monday, June 29, 2009

Danger Lurks

A landscaper came over yesterday evening, and we were talking about whether our front yard was graded properly to prevent moisture from seeping under the house.

He decided to prove it by going under the house. As my husband went to open the hatch door that leads underneath the house, he focused on a spider web, and suddenly realized that there were two black widows in the web. Unfortunately, I didn't get the camera out in time, but the landscaper confirmed the identification before they scampered away. I had never realized that the red spot on the black widow spider belly was so distinct and bright.

The landscaper -- OMG -- went under the house anyway, and a minute later pushed a board out with this on it.

He said it was the black widow's egg sac. Sure enough, when he poked at it, all the little baby spiders went running. All those little specks of dust you see there are baby spiders.

We almost never go under the house, but the builder's nephew had told us that he had killed a bunch of black widows under our deck, where we do go, while the house was being built.

You can probably tell from the alarmed tone of this post that black widow spiders have not featured prominently in my life to date, except in horror stories. I'd prefer that they keep to the story books, frankly, but I was interested to see how blase the landscaper was about them. He said that one year he saw so many that he was thinking of collecting them and taking them to the local hospital so they could milk them for the anti-venom serum.

You can imagine that's going right to the top of my 'to do' list. Yep, I'll be out there each morning creeping around under the house trying to capture little poisonous spiders so that I can save the lives of others. A regular Florence Nightingale, that'll be me.


Or maybe I'm just going to declare that entire side of the house off-limits.
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Sunday, June 28, 2009

Very Weird Weekend...Who Is This?

So I came home early on Friday to take our 17-year-old cat to the vet, worrying the whole way home that I was going to have to have him put to sleep, only to find when I got home that my beloved 5-year-old cat Gus had been killed by a car that morning.

I still took Boot, the 17-year-old, to the vet -- and he's fine -- only now I was also taking Gus's body with me.

I've spent all weekend grieving for Gus, and my husband and I solemnly decided that we'll have no more cats. It's just too hard.

So who's this?

I went out to the unfinished part of the workshop this afternoon to start working on figuring out where to put the stuff left over from moving. I rearranged a lot of things, then spent about 45 minutes in the house to cool off. When I took my husband back in there to see what I had done, we found this cat.

We've never seen her before. She appears to be 6-12 months old, very sweet, and used to human contact. We're guessing that someone dropped her off during the 45 minutes I was in the house.

How weird is that? We've fed and watered her, and we'll call around to see if she belongs to someone around here, but I don't think she does. If she's truly a stray, we'll get her fixed, if she isn't already, and she'll be our new barn cat. No one can replace Gus, but we can't turn away someone who needs help.

Life is truly strange sometimes....
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Saturday, June 27, 2009

Goodbye, Gus

Just a quick note to say that our sweet cat Gus was killed by a car yesterday morning.

We're devastated by his loss. We raised him from a kitten found in a garbage dump, and his zest for life, quirky nature, and attachment to us never ceased to amaze us. He was a very special animal.

I wrote about his beginnings in this post:

I'll probably write more about him later, because he deserves to be memorialized, but for now it's just....

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Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Goat Heaven

The goats have been taking it easy lately. Well, actually, it's not like they ever don't take it easy -- there's not a lot for a goat to do, really -- but they've been even more relaxed than ever lately.

It's hot and muggy, and the sand by the pond is cool. Don't they look comfortable? This is baby Ben and his mother, Emma.

Wait a minute. Doesn't Emma look...odd? Almost like...a mutated goat?

She turned out to just be scratching an itch. Whew!

You can see why they'd be relaxed, with this to look at...

Sigh...I wish I could sit on the pond bank all day and stare at the scenery.
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Miss Penny Got Snatched Bald!

We were out by the pond tonight, and realized to our horror that Miss Penny, the female duck, now has a long narrow bald spot on the back of her head. We haven't noticed it earlier, but we don't normally get that close to her.

Poor Penny. I hope the other ducks didn't do that to her.
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Too Close...

I took a camera tonight when my husband went down to the pond to fish, because I knew what would happen.

Sure enough, after a few minutes, Gus the horse came pounding down the hill to hang out with his bud.

He just stands there and eats the entire time.

Sometimes he wants to chat.

It appears to be a very satisfying time for Gus. He loves to hang out with the humans.

It's not as satisfying for my husband, who has to constantly be on his guard against this:

...and even more so against this.

Those are some honking big feet, huh?
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Monday, June 22, 2009

Update on 1200 Lbs Worth of Friendly

I posted about the horse accompanying my husband on his walk around the pond. Well, tonight we set out together for a walk, and it happened again. We were on the narrow path beside the pond (where the water moccasin was before), and we heard the pounding of hooves. He came right up to us, nuzzled each of us, then started to walk with us. If we stopped, he got a little ahead, then stopped and waited for us. If he stopped to eat grass, and we got ahead, he ran to catch up.

As I've said many times before, I'm SO glad the neighbors can't see us.

Gus was walking between us, just as sweetly as could be. It's amazing how much fun it takes out of the walk when you're constantly having to watch where his feet are in relation to yours. (I was wearing sandals - ouch.)

I have to remember to bring a camera next time...

1200 Lbs Worth of Friendly

My husband decided to take a walk around the pond yesterday evening. He went through the gate and set off down the path, when he heard the sounds of pounding hooves. He looked up to see Gus the horse running toward him.

Gus came to a stop in front of him, so he petted him for a moment, then continued his walk. Gus fell into step beside him and began to accompany him. My husband kept waiting for Gus to walk away but when he didn't, he gave up, put his arm around Gus's shoulders and so they walked all the way around the pond.

That sounds so cute...until you think about those big old horse feet right next to your (relatively) small human feet. Ah, not so cute now, is it?

The other day we went for a walk around the pond, and got behind the ducks, who decided that we were chasing them. They ran full scramble ahead of us in a panic for half the length of the pond until it finally occurred to their pea-size little brains that....wait for it....they can SWIM. Ah ha - a way to escape the evil human monsters! And in they went.

It was so funny walking behind them, with them running faster and faster, and casting anxious glances at us behind them.

I mean, we feed them every day. How scary can we be? (Don't answer that -- Chain Saw Man doesn't want to hear it.)
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Saturday, June 20, 2009

Identifying a Weed

Sometimes I feel so stupid. We have a weed that grows lushly around the pond, and we see it all along the roads.

But we can't figure out what it is.

I'm sure that anyone living around here would look at this picture and know instantly what it is.

A landscaper told us it was dog fennel, but it doesn't look like the pictures of dog fennel we find on line.

It's everywhere, and I'd like to know what it is, and whether it's a larval food for any good insects. If anyone who sees this recognizes it, could you please leave a comment?
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The Chain Saw Comes In Handy

I've blogged previously about our new chain saw purchase. Having a chain saw is, of course, a normal thing for people out where we live, and probably for many people in the suburbs, but it's something new for us. We lived overseas in apartments for 10 years before coming here. Having a chain saw in an apartment is pretty much the definition of a serial killer, isn't it? Having no need to dismember dead bodies, we had no chain saw.

So my husband said we needed a chain saw now and got one. I was reluctant because, man, those things are scary. (Remember the 'you'll shoot your eye out' movie? That's pretty much my attitude to chain saws.)

But then came the storm. And down went the trees. Here's a nice little dead tree doing its best to take our new fence down.

Chain Saw Man to the rescue!

Unfortunately, he had to go in our neighbor's yard to finish the job. (Shhh.) This picture is blurry so it can't be used as evidence in court. (Actually, the neighbors won't mind at all. Not that they would ever know, unless of course some idiot posts pictures of it on the web.)

I'm glad he saved the fence. I still don't like chain saws, though.
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Sunday, June 14, 2009

The Bees Were Real...

A while ago I posted about my husband looking up while fishing and seeing a huge swarm of bees..

Well, today I stopped at a nearby roadside stand because they were advertising local honey. The young girl manning it told me that her family has over 200 hives. Just then, her mother drove up with some more stock. As we were chatting, it occurred to me to mention the bee incident, and ask if by any chance they had a hive near our house.

It turns out that their main beefarm is just down the street from our house, and that one of the hives had swarmed, so it was almost certainly their bees my husband saw.

This is what I love about living in a rural, less populated area. Everything is personal. When we describe where we live, we normally just say, "We bought so-and-so's house." And everyone knows where that is. (She did.) In a more heavily populated county, what would the odds have been of actually meeting the person whose bees flew over our house?

She gave me her card so that I can call her if the bees come by again. I commented that normally you call your neighbor to say, "Hey, your dog is over here again," not "Come get your bees."

I have to say that I kind of hope it happens. I'd love to see how she retrieves a swarm of bees...

Friday, June 12, 2009

Horses Like Goats...or Vice Versa?

We let the animals into the back pasture today. We've had a lot of rain, and it has grown some nice rich grass.

It's interesting to watch the dynamics between the goats and Gus the horse. You may remember that we had a loaner pony for a while to keep Gus company, and we were worried that he would be lonely when she left. Even though there's no obvious interaction between the goats and Gus, they do seem to seek out each other's company during the day, and they all sleep in the run-in shelter at night. It's not really clear to me who follows whom around, but they seem happy.

Emma the goat still likes human contact, though. She really enjoys being petted. Note the ubiquitous red clay on her tail. Sigh.

One of the grasses has grown tall and germinated, and another is still short. I think the tall one is Bahia grass, but I'm not sure about the short one. Gus eats the short grass, and the goats are snipping off the tops of the tall grass. That's a nice synergy.

Miss Arlene still likes her trees. She can stand upright for a couple of minutes at a time. I'd love to have a weeping willow near the pond, but between the beavers and the goats, I might as well just eat the money for it myself.

On a human, those would be called love handles, wouldn't they? My goodness. I'm sure it's considered attractive in a goat, though.
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Idiot Cat...and the Snake

I love my cat Gus. He's quirky and sweet, and has a real personality.

But he's not very smart.

He likes to think he's king of the hill.

But he's not.

Tonight we were strolling around the yard, when my husband saw a black snake out front by one of the oaks. I don't know if it saw us, or if it was waiting for something, but it was so still we thought at first that it was dead.

Then we noticed that Gus the cat was about five feet away. He looked up, saw us and started strolling toward us....right across the path of the snake. As we gasped in horror, he casually stepped right over its head and kept walking toward us.

He walked over a 4-foot snake and NEVER SAW IT. As you can see below, it wasn't hidden.

Isn't it cool? I love the ridges. It started moving slowly and we watched it glide across the yard to the flower bed in front of the house.

When I got close to take the picture, it reacted.

Then it slowly slid along the front steps and made its way to the pasture.

We're happy to have it and all its friends. When we first moved into our house, the air ducts weren't sealed properly, and we had mice all through the house. That got taken care of by the builder, but it's nice to know that nature's pest control service is on the job.

I'll bet you're not surprised to hear that Gus wasn't helpful with the mice situation either?
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Monday, June 8, 2009

Arlene Gets Her Way

I've mentioned before that the goats prefer shrubs and weeds over grass. Well, my husband has really enjoyed their reactions when he finds a patch of weeds or a small shrubby weed, and gives it to them. They react the way I would if he turned to me and said, "Oh, look. I just found a huge box of chocolates."

I've been a little concerned about this because I've seen him walking around the property eyeing various shrubs, clearly evaluating their palatability for goats. I LIKE our shrubs. I don't want the goats to eat them.

A landscaper came last week, and one of the things he said was that we needed to cut down a small tree that was growing up against one of our other trees. I saw my husband's eyes light up, and I knew what was coming.

One chain saw purchase and a lot of cussing later, the tree was down. And where did it go? The goat pasture, of course.

The goats came running like someone had rung a dinner bell, and proceeded to demolish that poor tree.

You can hardly tell, but there are actually three goats in the picture below. Arlene has practically buried herself in the tree.

So why did I title this 'Arlene gets her way?' Arlene loves shrubs and trees. She stands on her hind legs for minutes at a time to get at low-hanging tree branches. And she knows my husband is a sucker. Whenever he's around, she comes to the fence and stares at him mournfully until he pulls a weed and gives it to her. After weeks of that, there was no way a tree wasn't coming down to feed her.

And now he has a chain saw.

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The Man I Married

I married the funniest, sweetest man ever. He can keep you laughing all day long. It's not so much that he tells stories, as that he can say the exact right thing at the exact right moment to just crack you up.

He has some...peculiarities....though.

Okay, here's a quiz. See this coupon below? How many of you would have gotten it at a carnival, and decided that it meant you had to keep it?


This coupon is more than 20 years old.

When I ask why it's still in his wallet, he just looks at me like I'm crazy, and says, "What does it say?"

How can I argue with that? And, yes, it makes me laugh every time.
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Sunday, June 7, 2009

Ben Gets His Head Stuck

My husband went down to the run-in shed this morning to pick up the manure, and Miss Emma, our mother goat, ran up to him crying. Just then, he heard a goat screaming in the shed. He ran in.....and found Ben, our half-grown male Boer goat, with his head stuck in the gate. He had been trying to reach the food, which is of course not reachable, and got stuck.

I don't have pictures of the actual event, so you'll just have to imagine it.

Ben is screaming. His mother is anxiously pacing. Gus the horse is staring at him with...what? Concern? Interest? Disdain?

John reached down, gently tilted Ben's head sideways, and pulled him out. A minute later, all's right with the world.

I have to say it: Ben is an idiot. And he doesn't seem to be getting any smarter as he gets older.

But he's so sweet. I wonder how much longer he'll stay cute?

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Saturday, June 6, 2009

Happy in the Country

I can't be positive, of course, but it looks like our cats might be enjoying themselves here at the new house.

We were planning to sit in these chairs. Have you ever noticed how hard it is to evict a sleeping cat from a chair?

Uh, I think we'll just go sit somewhere else.
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