Friday, March 26, 2010

Playmates...Sort Of

I think our cat Irving has attention deficit disorder. Our other cat, Halley, tries to get him to focus on playtime, but he gets distracted easily.

She's just dying to play, but he doesn't even notice.

She finally gets him into it....

...and then he's distracted again.

Poor Halley...

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Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Vultures...Uh-Oh

After the vultures finished off the remains of our duck, Mrs. Howell, they settled in on the fence. My husband got this picture of them apparently watching to see who might be next.

Hmmm. If you look at the picture a little more closely...

...the second vulture from the left is actually watching the house.

I think I'm glad they were gone by the time I got home.
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Tuesday, March 23, 2010

When the Vultures Come

Mrs. Howell, our white female duck, died last week. She was fine one day, and then all of a sudden she was floating in the pond.

We're pretty sure this fellow caused it. I probably shouldn't say how, but when I saw him at the flea market and thought how beautiful he was, I wasn't thinking about how much bigger he was than our female ducks.

Let's just say that ducks can be rough with each other this time of year. I've read that drowning of female ducks has become a bigger problem as domestic ducks get bigger and wild ducks don't, but I would have thought Mrs. Howell was big enough for it not to be a problem.

The vultures showed up for her today. Cycle of life....

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Sunday, March 21, 2010

Playful Goats

It was really pretty here yesterday, and the goats are starting to feel like spring. They were romping and playing all over the pasture, with Irving the cat sitting watching them. They almost ran him down a couple of times, and he never flinched.

In the scene below, Emma charged Arlene as she reared up and stomped...

...and then Arlene chased Emma out of the frame...

....leaving only a cloud of dust behind.

Today is rainy and back in the 50's. We're all so ready for spring to arrive and stay!

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Burning - Scary Close

Yesterday I posted pictures of the smoke caused by a controlled burn of the large pine forest behind our house. At the same time, I got pictures of the fire by standing at our back fence line and pointing the camera through the trees. You can see how close the fire got. It's not on our property, but just barely.

I could hear it crackling.

It was in a line all along our back property line. I'm speculating that they were making a firebreak. We're not sure if it'll stop with that, or if they'll continue to burn more of the forest.

I'm confident it's well controlled, but it definitely gives me more empathy for people who have had homes (or lives) threatened by wildfire. I can't imagine looking at that and knowing it was uncontrolled and couldn't be prevented from taking my home.

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Saturday, March 20, 2010

Controlled Burn...We Hope

There are two hundred acres of commercial pine forest behind our home, and the owner set the part directly behind us on fire today.

We own about an acre and a half of the woods on the far side of our pond. It slopes downhill to a small stream, with a logging road on the other side of it. It looks like the fire was set in the forest along the logging road. You can see in the pictures how close that is.

From our pond-side bench, we could hear the men working on setting it. From what I've read, controlled burns are part of pine forest management. We have to trust that they know what they're doing, and I know that controlled burns are regulated, but it was scary close.

I mean, if you saw the scene below from your house, wouldn't you be concerned about how competent the people who set it might be?

A couple who lives down the road saw us outside and stopped to ask us if we knew what was going on. They were worried, of course, since it was close to their home too. Fortunately, we had seen it last year so knew it was done on purpose.

We never actually smelled the smoke. I went down to the far side of the pond, and I could see the fire and hear it crackling, but I couldn't smell it. It was really surprising, and very reassuring, since we know they'll be doing more of it, and my husband is sensitive to all types of smoke. We're wondering if they had to wait for a day when the winds were blowing away from the handful of homes in our little area. It's also supposed to rain tomorrow, so maybe that's part of how they selected the day. It would be interesting to know, and this isn't a heavily populated area, so I imagine some day we'll meet someone who knows how it works.

In the meantime, I'm just going to imagine that the people who are doing it are all highly trained professionals who have the equipment to handle it if, say, the wind should suddenly shift. I'm pretty good at deluding myself, so that's working for me so far...

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Friday, March 19, 2010

Goats Like Treats

Our two goats, Arlene and Emma, get a carrot and apple as a treat every afternoon. I'm sorry to say that they're not dainty eaters.

They definitely gobble. We have to dole out the treats so that they don't try to get too much into their mouths at one time and choke.

We also have to worry about them getting their heads stuck in the fence trying to get to the food. It has happened before. My husband had to cut the fence once to get Arlene's head out.

Their pasture is greening up now, so they've got grass to eat again, and pretty soon they'll have weeds (yum). We've had a good bit of rain this year so far, though, and the ground is pretty saturated, so they have to step carefully in some places. The picture below was from a couple of days after the last rain, when the water has normally drained off.

This weekend is supposed to be our first really nice weekend of the year. I can't wait!

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Sunday, March 14, 2010

Irving Learns a New Skill

We were walking around the pond the other day, with Irving the cat eagerly trailing us, when all of a sudden he ran up a tree.

We haven't seen him do that before. I'm not sure if it was a sudden impulse, or if he's been practicing it and wanted to show off. It's not exactly a skill that's going to help him in life, but he was very excited about it.

He did it again, and got down easily both times.

He was so proud of it that he decided to get up on the fence post. Yes, this is what we need -- a sentinel at the gate.

Beware, all ye who enter here...
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Saturday, March 13, 2010

Irving the Great Hunter

Irving, our cat, continues to be intensely interested in the ducks. He's picked out the smallest female as either prey, or someone to play with. Sadly, with Irving, it could be either. (To my knowledge, by the way, he's never caught anything larger than a cricket, and he's about a year old.)

Here the duck is getting ready to enter the water, with Irving crouched behind her.

She went into the water without incident, so he came up to sit on the bench while I took more pictures of the ducks. Most of those didn't come out, because -- like most people taking photographs of ducks -- my arm was getting jarred by a goat pulling on my jacket, asking to be petted.

I gave up and scratched Arlene the goat behind her big floppy ears for a while, and Irving resumed the 'hunt.'

Doesn't he look dangerous? The duck, who had come back up on the bank close to where Irving was, was clearly terrified, though she was brave and didn't allow the fear to disturb her nap.

I don't know how the ducks know that he's useless as a hunter, but they obviously do know...

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I was in the back the other day, and looked up to see our white cat, Halley, sharing a moment with the goats. She and Arlene, the goat who's closest to her, seem to have some sort of relationship.

When Halley first showed up at our house last year, she spent a good bit of time trying to interact with the goats. She partially succeeded with Arlene. I'm not really sure why either would be interested, but it's definitely a friendly sort of relationship.

Our older cat, Boot, also tried to come down into the pasture, and the goats chased him out. Again, I have no idea why. He's over 18 years old, and pretty cranky these days, but not really a threat to anyone at this point in his life. I think you can see the crankiness in the picture below.

He was born in Cairo, Egypt in early 1992, and has made five transatlantic flights, and lived in more than 10 houses, apartments and hotel rooms with us in various countries.

I guess he's entitled to be a little cranky.

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Light in Red Clay Land

Much as I curse the Carolina red clay when it's ground into my carpets and bedspreads, or when it turns our white cat a blushing pink, it does produce beautiful colors when the light is right.

We're in the spring stage where the buds are starting to show promise, and a few small bulbs the previous owners planted are coming up. Down the street, a cherry tree is in full bloom, and the Bradford pears in so many yards here are greening up.

On the other hand, we have to lose an hour of sleep tomorrow to the time change. My husband tries every year to convince me that this is a good thing because we'll have light for longer in the evening, but all I know is that it's an hour of lost sleep, and as he will be happy to tell you, I don't handle lost sleep well.

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Saturday, March 6, 2010

Beyond Detente To Bizarre

I'm starting to suspect that Irving the cat may actually be trying to be friends with the ducks, rather than working his way up to attacking them.

Here's some evidence.

He's not there for the food. It's cracked corn and he has no interest in it. He sat there and waited while the ducks came up from the pond to feed. They paid him no attention at all, finished a leisurely meal, then strolled away.

He got distracted -- can cats have ADHD? -- but stayed there. I'd say that he was lulling them into a false sense of safety, but honestly, that would be a plan, and I don't think Irving can plan things.

Corky, the big Muscovy duck, stayed until the others had left, probably as a protective measure, but he also didn't seem disturbed at all by Irving's presence.

Irving seems more disturbed by my presence than the ducks. He's got a huge duck with claws behind him, and he's upset because I'm taking a picture?

Irving, what are you up to?
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