Wednesday, September 30, 2009

The Kitten...and the Chips

I'm sure that some of you think that it's all sweetness and light here in WannaBe Land. Well, I'm here to tell you that we have our tales of woe.

Take yesterday, for example. My husband was at the grocery store, and decided he wanted a bag of chips. He doesn't eat them very often, but he got himself a small bag of chips as a treat.

Have I mentioned that Irving, our new kitten, has a cold?




The connection? My husband got home, opened his little bag of chips, set it on the desk, and turned to the computer screen to do something. He turned back, and saw Irving's head buried in the bag. He reached for him, since the chips were still salvageable at that point.

Then he heard the sneeze.

Life's just tough sometimes.

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Sunday, September 27, 2009

How to Say 'I Love You' In Cat Language

Halley, the white cat we've had for about 6 weeks, has had about 48 hours to come to terms with having another new cat, Irving, in the house. Irving would hiss mildly at her at first, but then this morning when I tried to feed them at the same time, he leaned over and rubbed his head against hers. It was very sweet, though I have to say that he did take up the middle position at the two-bowl cat food dish, which I assume means "I eat first, girl" in cat language. She submitted and waited until he had finished.



Several times today, I've noticed her giving him very slow eye blinks. I was curious, so looked it up on the Internet, and it turns out that's how cats say "I love you" to each other...or at least, "I like you enough not to attack you," which of course is important information in a cat's world.



I was thinking how sweet it is that they like each other already. Then I remembered that neither is fixed yet.

All of a sudden I feel like the mother of a teenage girl who has foolishly invited a teenage boy to stay for a while.
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History in Our Backyard

My husband and some visiting friends were exploring the road we live on, and discovered an old church near an American Revolutionary War site. I suppose it's easy to find these sites in South Carolina, but we were excited to know we live so close to one.



The church was delapidated, but very moving in its simplicity.



The sign says it was founded in 1768 as part of a religious revival sweeping across the American colonies. It's not clear to me if this building dates from then.



Can't you just imagine the locals worshiping here? I wonder what happened to the pews. There's a small graveyard out back filled with gravestones carrying local names we recognize...because they're the names of roads and small businesses all around here.

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Saturday, September 26, 2009

New Cat Irving

Irving, the young cat who showed up unexpectedly on our back porch yesterday, got to come indoors a little earlier than we had planned, mainly because of this....



The vultures never hang out in that tree, and they were showing a disturbing interest in our back yard. We can't protect the ducks, but we brought all the cats in.

Unfortunately, Irving wasn't quite ready to become a house cat. Part of being a house cat is knowing what to do in kitty litter, and even though I showed it to him, it didn't quite dawn on him what it was for. So when he had to go, and didn't know what to do, he did something I wasn't expecting.

He peed on me.



He doesn't look like a cat that would pee in your lap, does he? Sigh.



I rushed him to the kitty litter and held him in it until I could almost literally see the light bulb going off over his dim little head, and he used it then. He also figured out the cat door pretty quickly, and he's learning what N-O means when he tries to claw the furniture.

He's a darling cat, unfortunate urinary incidents aside. He's a purring machine, a lap sitter, and a born house cat with no real interest in the outdoors. I'm happy he showed up, and that we were in a position to help him out.

It's going to take a while before he lives down that peeing thing, though.
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Friday, September 25, 2009

What Are We - A Cat Magnet?

So I came home yesterday, and looked out on the deck to see if my husband was there. He wasn't, but my sister's cat was sound asleep on the deck.

Wait a minute. My sister's cat is 150 miles away.

Rewind.

That's not my sister's cat. It's a cat I've never seen before.

I found my husband and asked him when we got a new cat.

He said, "What?"



So it looks like we have a new cat.



His temporary name is Irving. See, we name our cats in alphabetical order, and it's "I" time.



We were a little worried about how he and Halley ("H") might get along, but I think it's going to work out. In the picture below, that's her passed out on the chair above, and him on the ground below. I couldn't go aside to take the picture because the instant he sees a person, he becomes a purring machine that has to be petted.

I'm guessing he's about 6 months old. We'll wait a bit to see if he stays, or if anyone comes to claim him, and then we'll start the vet procedures. He's an awfully sweet boy...but shhhh, please don't tell anyone that we keep cats that show up out of the blue. The word seems to be getting around....
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Wednesday, September 23, 2009

The Boat Works!

It's a beautiful afternoon out here in WannaBe Land....



...and my husband and a visitor got our boat motor working!



The builder/owner had given us the boat, saying the motor didn't work, but my husband got a battery for it, and they got it working today. We took a little spin around the the pond, and it was gorgeous. On cool days, I'm going to read in the boat while my husband fishes.

What could be better?
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The Luna Moth Caterpillar

Remember this beautiful Luna Moth? It has a wingspan of 4-5 inches, lives for only a week or so, and has no mouth -- it doesn't feed after it becomes a moth. I'd never seen one before moving out here.



Well, today my husband called me out to see a huge, fat, green caterpillar.



Of course, it turns out to be the caterpillar stage of the Luna Moth.



Here's a shot of it against someone's remarkably ugly foot, just to give you an idea of the size.



Nature is truly remarkable.
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Saturday, September 19, 2009

Odd Goats

Goats are really amusing creatures. Who'd have thought that meat goats would have such distinct personalities? Watching them is certainly pushing me toward vegetarianism.

Here's Arlene. That look means: "Why did you even come down here if you don't have a carrot?" She's much shyer than her sister Emma, but has warmed up to us considerably and lets us pet her freely now, when at first she was wary of even a touch.

Note the red knees. Good 'ol South Carolina red clay.



My husband caught her in some odd maneuvers today. Here she's clearly stretching in advance of some strenuous goat calisthenics.



I'm not exactly sure what kind of exercise this is, but then goats naturally would have different exercises than people do.



And here's her sister Emma, acting like the normal goat she is, and eating all day long. Emma loves to be petted, and is very sweet-natured but she wants to be the boss of the 'pack.' (Are two goats a pack?) She leads the way to the shed at night, and gets really irritated if Arlene doesn't follow.



I have to say that they're certainly easier pets than dogs are. We feed them once a day, give them treats once a day, and just enjoy them the rest of the time.
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Northern Pine Snake Sighting

While I was away this week, my husband saw an unusual snake. It was on our driveway, then fled toward the front of the house. (Well, it fled because he was chasing it with a pitchfork, but honestly, he was just trying to keep it out of the garage, not hurt it, and the pitchfork was closest to hand.)

It was a 6-foot-long pale snake with black blotches nearest its head, lightening to brown blotches toward the tail.

Yes, of course he got pictures! (That was my first question too.)



When he looked it up later, it proved to be the Northern Pine Snake, a completely harmless snake whose numbers are diminishing. Apparently it's already disappeared from a couple of northern states. It's a burrowing snake that preys primarily on the gopher rat, and as those are becoming rarer due to disturbed habitats, so are the pine snakes.



Isn't it beautiful? It was calm, and didn't hiss (despite the pitchfork). In the picture below, note that its tail extends beyond the black rubber rain spout extender. This was one long snake.



Below you can see the black splotches close to the head and the brown ones closer to the tail.



A Wikipedia article said that the pine snake can use a defensive technique known politely as 'cloacal popping' or 'defensive farting.' It said the snake 'pops' its cloaca and expels air and 'whatever else might be in the cloaca'.

I asked my husband if it had popped its cloaca at him, and he said not that he was able to tell.

Then I later read that it's actually only a couple of southwestern snakes that use this awesome defensive technique, and in fact the Wikipedia pine snake article's reference on the subject is to an article on these other snakes, so it looks like it was a mistake.

My husband said I shouldn't include it in this blog in that case, but come on? Defensive farting? What are the odds that I wasn't going to mention it?

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Sunday, September 13, 2009

About the Black Vulture

After the vulture attacked the ducks yesterday, several people commented that vultures normally only go after carrion, so I did a little Internet research. It turns out that there are two types of vultures in North America, the black vulture and the turkey vulture. The turkey vulture apparently only is equipped to eat carrion, but the black vulture has been known to eat live prey, including other birds. According to a USDA National Wildlife Research Center publication, it can be a danger to livestock, especially newborn animals.



The information I found on line also said that black vultures don't have a strong sense of smell, and sometimes rely on turkey vultures to identify carrion for them. They also sometimes urinate or defecate on their own legs to cool themselves down. Charming.

On the other hand, they also are said to mate for life, and have a strong social network.

Yesterday the vulture hovered overhead for a while, apparently trying to lull us (and perhaps the ducks) into a false sense of security. While he (she?) was doing that, a blue heron flew by, apparently heading for the pond. It changed course when it saw the vulture. Why? Are they rivals? Would it fear the vulture?

The picture below has the vulture above and the heron below.



Hopefully the ducks were just a target of opportunity, but they are easy prey. At our other house, we tried to stock the pond with female ducks, but they were just too small, and we lost two of the three to hawks.

The third one had...mental stability issues, and the last we saw of her, she was waddling down our street quacking madly. I think the male ducks who were already at the pond when we moved there were happy to see her go, as they had been exerting strenuous efforts to help her adapt and it just wasn't happening. Poor duck.
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Saturday, September 12, 2009

You Too, Halley?

Our dear cat Gus, who was killed by a car not long ago, was a charming cat, but not the sharpest knife in the drawer, even for a cat. Below is his version of bird-hunting. He just couldn't figure out why the hummingbirds never came.



The day after he died, Halley showed up. She's very different in personality, and we had some hopes for a while that she might have a little more upstairs.

Alas, it was not to be.



I can't imagine why the hummingbirds aren't letting her catch them.

Not that I want her to catch a hummingbird, but still, it's a little embarrassing, isn't it?
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Video of the Vulture Attack

I managed to get a short video of the vulture attacking the ducks...

video

A Vulture Attacks the Ducks

My husband called me out onto the deck this morning to see a vulture that had landed on the roof of the boat dock. As we watched, he repeatedly swooped our three ducks.



They squawked in terror, and Gilligan, the domestic white duck who's larger than the other two, tried to spread his wings to cover Miss Penny, the small female.

We found Gilligan's white feathers all over the shore later.



Here the vulture tries again...



After a few minutes watching, we ran down to the shore, and my husband stood there to keep the vulture at bay. It finally gave up and flew away.



We can't help but wonder if it'll be back, though.

I imagine the ducks are wondering the same thing.


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How Do You Weigh a Horse?

I've been describing Gus as a 1200-lb horse. Really, I just picked that number out of the air, since it seems to be a standard horse size.

Today we went to Tractor Supply and I got a weight-tape for horses. You pass it around their girth just behind the front legs, and it gives you a weight estimate. Gus is actually about 1050 lbs, and that should be a high weight for him, since he's had a lot of great pasture grass this summer. (When we got him at the end of last winter, you could see his ribs.)

We have to watch his weight because his previous owner tells us that he injured his hip in an accident some years ago, and too much weight will aggravate it.



The other thing I got at Tractor Supply was the perfect shovel for scooping goat poop out of the shed. Goat poop looks just like deer poop, and it passes right through the wider tines of our horse-poop shovel. I came home and used it, and it worked great.

Hmmm, the things that make me happy have certainly changed!

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