Saturday, November 28, 2009

Irving Becomes Part of the Family

New cat Irving is passing the final test for becoming (and staying) part of the family. Our 18-year-old cat Boot predictably put up a fuss at the new arrival. Boot's lived in six countries, and has seen his share of impudent new cats, and he was NOT happy with this latest one. Lots of hissing and screaming, but we finally got to this...

Eating in the same room is huge. And this afternoon we saw this...not a good photo, but the story it tells is a good one: Boot asleep on his favorite porch chair, while Irving watches the world nearby. No screaming, no hissing. They're certainly not best friends, and young Irving is still too rambunctious for poor frail Boot, but they're coming to an accommodation.

Irving's been through so many 'tests' since showing up as an abandoned cat on our deck. He's survived peeing on a new almost lethal cold...and scrutiny from two other cats and a husband who were thinking 'we don't need no stinking new cat.' With a lot of tolerance from my sweet husband, skillful care on the part of the vet, and an 'oh darn it, okay' from the cats, it looks like he's found his home.
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How to Make a Man Happy

No, not that - this is a family blog!

THIS is how to make a man happy....brand new 'Black Friday' HD TV and a good football game...

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Thursday, November 26, 2009

Counting Our Blessings...

It's been a beautiful Thanksgiving so far. I'm grateful for so many things...

* This beautiful new life we have out in the country. We love having animals, watching the scenery change, and enjoying the peace and quiet. I'm grateful to have a stable job in this dire economy so that we can afford to live here.

* Most of all, I'm grateful for my husband. We've had 27 great years together. I always appreciate him, but this week especially, after a dear man at work lost his wife last weekend. Truly life is a fleeting thing, and we must make the best of it while we're fortunate enough to be healthy and happy. We sat on the front porch together this afternoon, and enjoyed the sunshine.

* I'm grateful that new cat Irving can't catch anything bigger than a grasshopper. I'm also grateful that slightly-less-new-cat Halley doesn't catch birds very often, though I have to say I'm amused by the drama when my husband sees her heading toward the house with a bird in her mouth, and he leaps to close the cat door. And I'm ashamed to admit that I laughed last time at the audible 'thunk' when her head hit the door.

* I'm also extremely grateful that our immediate and extended family are all well and happy this Thanksgiving of 2009. I miss my Dad today, but I'm happy we had him as long as we did. I wish we were with our families in Arizona, Virginia, and California, but I'm glad they're all enjoying the day together.

May all of our blessings last....and the same to all of you!
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Recipe for a Bath

Take one goofball, naive young cat.

Add one wily, slightly older, farm-smart cat with a dash of humor.

Mix in a couple of goats.

What have you got?

Wily cat teaching goofball cat to roll in GOAT PEE.

Post-recipe cleanup: Goofball cat's first bath.
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Sunday, November 22, 2009

Irving is WELL

It's been a week since Irving the cat came home from the vet, and it appears....fingers crossed....that he's completely over his horrific cold. We really thought he wasn't going to make it, so this is a huge relief.

Irving looks relieved too, don't you think?

Actually, he just looks goofy. That's because he's a goofball. He blunders around, and can't understand why the other cats don't just accept him right away. We're getting there, though.

I don't want to think about how much it cost to get Irving to this point. Multiple vet visits and a week living at the vet's getting mega-antibiotic shots every day, not to mention keeping him shut up in my sewing room for over a month, giving him pills twice a day, watching him struggle to breathe on his bad days, and gritting our teeth over the mattress he peed on. (Yeah, that's right, Irv, you thought we'd forgotten about that one, didn't you? Uh-uh, bud -- that's going on your permanent record!)

Why on earth would we go through all that for a cat someone else just abandoned? But what was the alternative? He's such a sweet, quirky little guy, and so accepting of everything that's happened to him.

We're all just weird about our pets, aren't we?
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Sunday, November 15, 2009

WannaBe Rider

It was a beautiful day here again today, so we decided to try saddling Gus and riding him. I got him saddled, and got on, but had the same problem with him refusing to move, or refusing to go in the direction I wanted him to go in. I decided that I must have saddled him wrong, because clearly he's a very good horse and he wouldn't just refuse to do what I asked him to do.

So I got off, and then my husband said, "I want to try." I was surprised, because he had already made it clear that he didn't want to ride. He mounted, and gave Gus the same signals I had given him. Gus immediately moved forward, and my husband was riding.


It was ME.

My husband got off, and said, "I could just tell he wasn't taking you seriously." I got back on, and urged him forward more decisively. Sure enough, he started to move.

We went for a ride halfway around the pond and back. The colors are incredible today. It was almost 80 degrees, with a soft breeze, and that crystal clear light that turns everything to gold.

So I still stink at riding, but I'm making progress. At least he goes forward when I ask him. That's kind of a low bar for success, I know, but it's definitely progress over last time.

Next step: riding lessons.

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Saturday, November 14, 2009

Ducks...Cats...Beautiful Day

My husband got some pictures of our new Muscovy duck that show off how beautiful he is.

Check out how the reflection in the picture below shows off Corky's red beak. I love the green tint to some of his feathers. He's really added a new element to the pond, compared to the relatively drab mallards.

Irving the cat came home today! I guess I never really said that he'd been gone. He spent the week at the vet's, getting mega-shots of antibiotics and trying to recover from whatever hellacious virus he's had that's lasted so long. We picked him up today, and he's much better. Now comes the task of reintroducing to our other cats, when they hardly had a chance to get to know each other to start with. Here he is below play-fighting with the other abandoned cat, Halley. At least, I hope that's play-fighting. There's no screaming involved, so I think it is.

It was a wonderful day here today...clear, sunny, and 75. You don't get many days like this....they're meant to be savored!

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Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Rainy Veterans' Day

It's a cold, rainy and windy Veterans' Day here in South Carolina. Everything's relative, isn't it? Cold here means that it'll be in the 50's today. The wind was howling, though, and it's been raining since yesterday, so the animals are pretty miserable.

I went out to feed them this morning, and as I started down the hill with the hay, Gus the horse started neighing for all he was worth, the goats started maa-ing, and Shelby the Muscovy-mallard cross duck started quacking loudly. I burst out laughing, thinking about how my life has changed in the last year. I'm grateful for all our blessings.

A big thank you to all the active duty military and veterans out there for all you've done in serving our country. I am continually impressed by your dedication, willingness to sacrifice, and concern for your fellow soldiers, airmen, sailors, and marines. And let's not forget the Coast Guard!

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Sunday, November 8, 2009

Equine Holiday

It was a gorgeous fall day here, so I thought I'd try riding Gus again. I hurt my back after buying the saddle so haven't done much, but I'm feeling better so it seemed like a good day. My very kind husband carried the saddle down to the pasture for me, and watched with amusement -- and, unfortunately, a camera -- while I saddled Gus for only the second time. (For some reason, those pictures wouldn't upload to Blogger. Very strange.)

We did some trial-and-error and discovered that I really need the step stool to be able to mount without pulling the saddle over to the side, since I can only tighten the cinch so far. I ended up on top of him with the saddle, and me, listing to the side like a sloop in a strong wind. There were some amusing pictures of that, too...perhaps even a video...but once again, technical difficulties prevent you from seeing those. Darn.

Doesn't Gus look great with his saddle on?

Unfortunately, he didn't feel as good as he looks. He was vaccinated and dewormed the other day, and hasn't been himself since. We thought he was feeling better, but he obviously did not want to be ridden. I really appreciated that his method of showing me that was just not to move when I asked him opposed to the more dramatic 'dump the novice rider on her head' method. He was so good last time I rode him that I knew he just wasn't feeling well this time, and there's always another day.

Halley the cat came to investigate what we were doing, of course. She needs to know about everything that goes on. It was fortunate that she stopped by, because it turns out that a saddle is the best cat toy EVER.

It has great has strings attached to play with...and you can hide under it. What more could a cat want?
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Saturday, November 7, 2009

Big Teeth...and Snot

Can I use the word 'snot' in a blog? Can I show a picture of it?

There's really no other way to describe what Irving, our new abandoned kitty, did to the wall by my computer desk. A friend who was visiting recently and insisted on taking this picture was kind enough to illustrate the location of the huge lugy with that blue arrow. Irving hocked it up, spat it onto the wall, and then settled in for a little nap behind my computer monitor. (I picture him mentally saying, "There -- I've decorated it for you.")

Unfortunately, Irving isn't doing too well. He came down with the cold a few days after someone dumped him on our back porch, and is not recovering, despite several doses of increasingly stronger antibiotics. The vet sedated him yesterday and took a nasal swab to send off to a lab for diagnosis. You know your cat isn't doing well when they have to do that. He's probably the sweetest cat we've ever had, so we're hanging in there with him.

On a lighter note, the same friend got this really classy picture of Gus the horse. I'm pretty sure that the editors of some equine magazine will see this picture and want to put it on the cover, so I'll be monitoring my incoming e-mails for their offer.

The equine vet came last night to give Gus his vaccinations and deworm him. Contrary to what the (clearly doctored) picture above might imply about him, he was a gentleman and took it all calmly. The vet said he's the 'perfect weight for his age.'

I tried to get her to say the same about me, but she said she wasn't qualified to make that judgment. I think she was just trying to get out of it, personally.
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Invaded by Communists

Well, they're not really Communists but that's a more exciting title than 'Bought Some Muscovy Ducks' today, isn't it?

Here's how they came home. We went to the flea market looking for some more mallards, and saw these beautiful huge black-and-white ducks. We wanted big ducks (more on why in a bit), and these are the biggest ducks I've ever seen. So we bought what the seller said was a pair and took them home in a big cardboard box. The seller taped the box, and we watched the tape nervously all the way home. These are BIG ducks, with claws. Who knew a duck could have claws? (Talons?)

They were quiet, though, and we made it home safely without having one of those tragic three-car pileups caused by the usual 'ducks with claws flying around in a car driven by two idiots.'

We took them down to the pond, and with a bit of caprine assistance, they jumped into the water and swam away. They immediately saw our other ducks, and sailed majestically toward them. Our ducks, being smaller, cleverly decided to flee rather than turn and fight, and we were treated to the sight of the two new ducks paddling desperately after the fleeing group all the way around the pond until they were back where they started. At that point, the (alleged) female Muscovy abandoned her friend and joined our group, leaving the poor male to follow the group pathetically at a distance. We're hoping they'll all join up at some point.

Here's the dramatic release.

So what's a Muscovy duck, you ask? I'm glad you asked, because I've just done a lot of Internet research and would have been disappointed not to be able to share it. Muscovy ducks are native to South/Central America and Mexico, and were being raised as domestic ducks by various Indian groups when Columbus discovered? invaded? visited? the Americas. They're the only domestic duck not descended from mallards. The males can get to be 8-15 pounds, which is a very good thing in our hawk/vulture-infested area. The name apparently comes from the original name, which was 'musk duck,' and they actually have nothing to do with Russia or Moscow.

Unfortunately, I haven't yet been able to get good pictures, but here's a blurry one. The whiter of the two is definitely a male Muscovy, but the other one is questionable, since apparently Muscovies should have a red face, and this one doesn't. So it may be a cross, but according to Wikipedia, the Muscovy-mallard crosses are infertile.

Also, according to Wikipedia, Muscovy ducks are called Barbary ducks 'in a culinary context.' I can't tell you how much I admire the delicacy of the phrase 'in a culinary context.' The seller told us that most people buy them for culinary contexts. (He may have phrased it a little differently.)

Here's a closer picture, though still blurry.

I'm thrilled by this purchase -- cheap at $12 a duck -- because I wanted some 'different' ducks, and I also wanted big ducks. We've already lost one of the three mallards we bought recently to a vulture, I'm afraid. My husband was fishing at the pond, and came across a pile of feathers. He looked over at the ducks, and realized one of the new males was missing....and that there was a group of vultures sitting in a nearby tree.

I try to accept the cycle of life, but it's not always easy...especially when we're paying for the vulture feast...

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Sunday, November 1, 2009

Fall Arrives in South Carolina

We had a beautiful, moody day here yesterday. It was a very cloudy day, and we got rain later on (poor Halloweeners!), but when the sun peeked out, we got these views.

If you click on the picture to make it bigger, you can see the range of colors.

A blue heron visited. He comes by from time to time, but didn't seem to catch much this time. I love how the wild shrubs around the pond have changed colors. That tall plant we couldn't identify before is dog fennel. It turns wild and lush in the fall. The county extension agent told us that the reddish plants are willows.

Then the clouds would shade the sun again, and we'd get this....all within the space of a few minutes.

I think fall is my favorite season. We do get four seasons here, just not as dramatically as in more northern climes, but I like it that way. I don't care if I never see snow again...
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