Saturday, February 25, 2006

City vs. Country

Silly me! I thought I was having a very "city" kind of day, one filled with errands, clothes shopping and a visit with friends. I started off the day by going to buy chicken feed, well, okay, that is kind of country. Then I went to visit a friend in the hospital. That is both city and country. Then I went to a winery tasting room to pick up some donated wine for a friend's son's elementary school in San Francisco. country mixed with city. Then I went to my favorite yarn store's new location and gave them crystals as a welcome present. VERY SONOMA WEST COUNTY. Not sure that could be called either city or country. After that I went shopping for Ann Taylor... makes it city. Then to J.Jill for pants., I think. Then I went to Macy's for shoes and some lacy underthings. CITY!!! (but on a new country girl!) After the shopping was over, I went home.

Once home I could see the rats down in the chicken pen. YUK!!!!!!!!! Can't stand the little buggers. I immediately switched into country mode and grabbed the big bag of 10 rat traps I had been hesitating to use and smeared them all with a handy little dish of Niman Ranch bacon fat! Organic! (city!) After having slathered the trap, I set them and carefully carried them out on half sheet pans (city!) I placed the traps carefully around the pen and then stood very still to see if the traps were properly placed.

The sound of the rats rustling in the blackberry underbrush was creepy. It sounded like water running downhill in a gutter filled with dried leaves. It was a very fluid sound with barely discernable little squeaks and chatter. I could see the motion through the wire deer fence and then they entered the pen.

What I anticipated were the rats. What I did NOT expect to see was the sheer number of mice. There were streams of them flowing in, crawling under the fence and THROUGH the fence. So much for chicken wire keeping out mice! Another project: hardware cloth!!! I was so mad!!! Every once in a while, a rat would wander in but only if they could get past the mice!

I left the pen and came into the house to finish cooking dinner. All the while the rat/mice issue was going on, I have also been trying to trap the feral mama cat from the porch group. I am afraid she might be pregnant and really don't want to have another 6 feral cats to feed for 12 years. I already have the six and really don't need any more. I have been trying to catch her for 6 months and actually was able to pick her up the other day, so I was taking my chances AGAIN to catch her.

At the moment I picked up the flashlight to go out to check the rat traps, I heard the trap on the porch spring shut and a bit of a scuffle. I went outside but failed to take the flashlight, and since I didn’t have a flashlight, I couldn't tell who I had caught in the trap. I was really hoping it was Mama Joleen...but would also be happy if it were Tiger, the last kitten to be fixed. I got the flashlight and shined it in the cage and here you can see exactly who/what I caught.

That thing snarled at me, lunged at me, hissed and scared me to pieces. I had to re-group and come in the house! I called my friend that had supplied the trap to ask if it had a secret back door. It I collected my wits, what was left of them, went back outside, and threw a cover over the cage. I carefully lifted it up, turned it towards the stairs and investigated how to get the back door unhitched, all the while with an audience of wild kittens. I am sure they were sitting back to see exactly WHO was in the cage THEY had all been in!!!

Once I got it open I had a chance to snap a picture of the poor critter, now with a slightly bloodied nose. Once the flash went off, it flew out of the cage and you could hear the cats running ahead of it, convinced the raccoon was chasing them!

And what about the rats and mice, you might be asking? Well, I had planned on putting Julian out there to catch the mice...but then Farmer Jeff heard about the rats again and off he went to buy a pellet gun.

See...we really do live in the country!!!

Wandering in the US

My "Clark Kent" job sometimes sends me off on travels around the US. I found myself in Phoenix, Arizona on the way home from one of these trips and was thrilled to be able to squeeze in a visit to Frank Lloyd Wright's winter getaway/architectural studio and school.

It was very awe-inspiring to see what the very driven and somewhat egotistical man had accomplished in his many years. He was very inventive and very willful. I guess that is the healthy ego speaking!

One of the many things that impressed me was his set of "Taliesin Organic Commandments".
Love is the virture of the heart
Sincerity the virtue of the mind
Courage the virtue of the spirit
Decision the virtue of the will

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Getting to know you...getting to know all about you...

We have now done several nights of introductions of our dogs and Tasso, our new dog. The first night was quite harrowing. Lots of barking, snarling, nipping and squealing. Sounded just like a regular old dog fight. This lasted about 20 minutes. Farmer Jeff finally put an end to it, fearful the neighbors would call the sheriff!

The next night went much more smoothly. Lost of licking and chasing each other (Callebaut and Tasso) around the dining room table. They played and romped for about 20 minutes until Tasso went to the front door, signaling to us that he had had enough!

There have been a few hurt feelings of misplacement on India's part, but I think she has gotten over it. Just in time for the skunk!

India's Big Adventures!

See India.
See India run.
See India run under the house.
Why does India go under the house?
There are kitties that hide under the house.

What do the kitties under the house look like?
The kitties under the house are puffy black and white.

Why does India stink?
India stinks because she went under the house to play with the kitties
…and instead played with a pole cat!

India stinks. The house stinks. Our hands stink.

Score card
Farmer Jeff/Chicken Mama 0

Friday, February 17, 2006

Katrina comes to our house

When my I was a young girl, living at home with the family, we had a wall of books in our living room. It was filled with encyclopedias, books of Mexican folk art, map books, dictionaries, and books like the letters of Vincent Van Gogh to his brother, Theo, and the Conquest of Mexico.

My brother, who was 6 years older than I, and very much my role model and guide to most things cultural, could frequently be found on the floor in front of the bookcase reading. He would open the encyclopedia looking for one thing, and end up reading the next 3 or 4 pages.

Well, about 3 weeks ago, I was looking at Craig’s list pet section in search of chickens when my eye wandered, much like my brother Chris’s eye used to, and I came across this heading: URGENT: homes needed for rescued Katrina dogs. My curiosity got the better of me and I looked at the posting.

It stated that dogs were currently being rescued in Louisiana and brought to N. CA and were in need of either being adopted or fostered until they could be adopted. It also stated that the dogs being brought out were: lab puppies, beagles, Australian Shepards and several other kinds. Farmer Jeff and I have been idly talking about getting a yellow lab male somewhere down the road. So I called.

I talked to a very lovely woman named Natalie. She was, in turn, working with a woman that was funding the rescue of the dogs from a “kill shelter” in Lafayette, Louisiana, the last stop for many Hurricane dogs. That area is dealing with the fallout from 3 different hurricanes: Katrina, Rita and Wilma. Many of the dogs that were not rescued have now mated and are having puppies. These particular dogs that were coming out of LA were puppies when the hurricane hit.

The dogs were scheduled to be gassed on Monday, February 7th, but with the help of many different organizations and with the perseverance of Saskia Achilles of Marin County, the dogs were taken out of the kill shelter, put into a transport van and driven away. The first driver was a man that, with his own money, flew from Salt Lake City to Lafayette to drive the dogs to Las Vegas, Nevada. Natalie flew from N. CA to Las Vegas and drove them to Saskia’s property in Marin. It took Natalie 2 days to drive because she stopped every 2 hours and let all of the pups out to stretch and pee! That would take 1 ½ hours!

Natalie called me when she got back to town to let me know the dogs had arrived, and that there was a little yellow lab puppy! She also told me that he most likely would need surgery as he had a birth defect. His leg has a defective bone: it isn’t the correct size for the bone it leans on and surgery is required. She also told me that there was a darling mink-brown dog that we HAD to look at!
The dogs arrived at Saskia’s on Saturday, were seen and vaccinated by Dr. Amy Allen, a vet that volunteered her time and money to the cause. We arranged with Saskia to go and see the dogs on Sunday. Farmer Jeff and I wanted to get a male dog and to see if they had a dog that a friend of ours would want, as they too were in the market for a pup!

We arrived at Saskia’s compound and I think Farmer Jeff was a bit surprised by the living conditions. I told him, just before we arrived, that it was a commune. I don’t think he understood what that meant. I explained that it was simply a place where people came together, purchased a piece of land together and owned all of the structures as a group, not individuals. The only commune I have been on was in Humboldt county, and those folks were basically poor. Well…Saskia’s place looked like it was built out of whatever could be found.

The dogs were up on the hillside next to her house. All kinds of dogs. The first one she brought to us was the little yellow lab puppy with the funky leg. We knew we were in trouble when we heard his name was “Big Mouth”!!! He was so full of energy but we knew that we would have vet bills ahead of us that we just couldn’t afford. Not with all of the other mouths we feed right now.

We looked next at a little male mixed breed of: Doberman pinscher or Rottweiler and something else, maybe German Shepard. He was a little darling. We ran through the reasons to get him or not get him and remembered that we once lost our home insurance because they thought our chocolate lab was a Rottweiler. Oh Dear. So we passed on him.

Next we saw the old beagle. BOW WOWWWWWING for the world to hear. Beagles do make cool dogs if they are the only dog, not if they are going to play second or third fiddle to any other dogs.

Then there were 2 SWEET female Australian Blue Heelers/Cattle dogs. SO SWEET, but we were looking for a male. NEXT…

The only dogs left to see were in Saskia imposed quarantine. When they left the kill shelter, they were seen by a vet that diagnosed them with an upper respiratory infection. I asked to look at them, still looking for the dog that Natalie had mentioned.
The first dog out of the carrier was….drum roll, please…OUR BOY!!! This little guy is a cutie!!! He is a mix of Australian cattle dog and Cattahoula aka Louisiana Leopard dog! He even has webbed feet! He is a little guy, just 29 pounds! Farmer Jeff and I immediately fell in love. We were goners!

Then we wanted to see who else was in the crates. Our pops a little beagle hound girl that just wants LOVE!!! She is in my lap, in Farmer Jeff’s lap, licking, bouncing and just so happy to be getting ANY attention/affection!

Then I get the sad puppy eyes…from FARMER JEFF!!! HON, he says, can’t we take them both home? She would be perfect for our friend with kids! Please HON???

Oh heavens, I can’t say no…and off we drive in the car with 2 pups. That car didn’t drive home, it floated home. We were all SO HAPPPY!!!
I promise to post the “getting to know you” pictures next!

Monday, February 06, 2006

What made me smile today?

On a Monday I would usually be at work but I am home today, sick. Somehow I caught one of varieties of the creeping crud and don't feel very well. I am, however, happy! Since being sick doesn't usually contribute to happiness, it got me thinking just WHY I felt happy.

I came to the conclusion that in order to be happy, you need to be able (and willing) to see all of the little things that happen in a day that make you happy for that instant and hold all of those things close to your heart and let them feed your soul, thereby contributing to cumulative happiness.

Okay, I know that explanation was like reading a sentence written in German (long!) but here are all of the things today that made me smile and contributed to my feeling of happiness:
*My cup of tea this morning was just perfect (even though I did burn up the first water kettle!)
*I was able to find that perfect spot on the couch with the pillows arranged perfectly. You know the feeling...when you sink back on them they are in just the right place. The flannel covered comforter that I then pulled over me just made me feel cozy
*Ginger and Julian slept peacefully together on her perch
*India slept with me last night

*The porch kitties slept together in the sun

*It was sunny today! The sun shone in the house in such a way that it looked like golden light, not sunlight
*I had a good nap after watching the movie Cocolat
*My honey, Farmer Jeff, called from his ski vacation with buddies. It was so nice to hear his voice!

*I could hear how excited he was to hear that his tomato seeds are sprouting
*The chickens were happy to see me with apple treats

*I got a good picture of Napoleon Dynamite and one of his girls

*I actually got a picture of Jericho mid-crow!
*Callebaut is back to licking the window when he is hungry (don't ask why!)

*The daffodils out front are blooming

*The hens laid 6 eggs today and one of them, a tiny white one, was from one of Napoleon's girls that have not lain since October!
*The sun is setting and the clouds are painting the sky a beautiful shade of lilac pink.

So, these are all things that made me smile today. What made you smile today?