Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Poop for Profit

Read an article in the paper this morning about how the Chinese are converting panda poop into souvenirs and making a profit. Seems it's big enough news that Business Week picked it up.

I hate to disillusion the enterprising Chinese, but poop for profit is nothing new.

When I was a tender young girl of 19, I took off on a grand adventure; I hitchhiked to Alaska. Did I mention that I was also very stupid?

The Canadians wouldn't let me across the border as a hitchhiker, so I flew red-eye standby and arrived in Fairbanks late one mid-summer evening. Having spent most of my money on the plane ticket, I hitchhiked from the airport to a campground where I spent the night.

I had heard of "Land of the Midnight Sun", but hadn't fully understood what it meant. I kept waking up through the night thinking it was morning because it was light and wondering why I was still so groggy. When my watch told me it actually was morning, I crawled from my tent to face the day and ended up staring at a big pile of droppings.

My still fuzzy mind was boggled. I'd seen rabbit poo before, and this looked just like rabbit poo, only bigger. And in a great big heap. What weird kind of rabbits lived in Alaska that used communal poo heaps? Was it snowshoe hares or some other kind of bunny?

Eventually, of course, I found out that it was moose poop. Received a good little bit of ridicule from the fellow who enlightened me, but how the heck was I supposed to know about moose scatology when I'd never seen a moose.

The Alaskans, being every bit as resourceful as the Chinese, have been hawking moose turds to tourists for decades. They make earrings and necklaces out of it as well as "Genuine Alaskan Moose" (two pellets, pipe cleaners, two google eyes, a slice of tree branch for a base and glue it all together.) Talkeetna, Alaska has a Moose Dropping Festival every summer.

If this has sparked a mad desire in you to own such a precious gem, you can buy them on-line from Grizzly's Gifts in Anchorage, Alaska.

Monday, July 30, 2007

Hummingbird Heaven

In the back northeast corner of the yard is a scrofulous thirty foot upright juniper. It is hummingbird heaven.

The hummers set up housekeeping in the juniper tree every year in May and they've come to know the humans pretty well. As soon as they arrive, they start buzzing me, knowing that I am the one who fills the feeder. Being a well trained human, I go back into the house and cook their elixir.

The first few feeders full in the spring I mix one cup of sugar to three cups of water because I figure the birds need a little extra oomph in their food after their long migration. I put cold water into a small pan and bring it almost to a boil, then pour in the sugar and stir until dissolved. It keeps in the refrigerator for weeks if necessary. I have a special plastic bottle boldly labeled "Hummingbird Food" so that no one accidentally drinks it (yuck!)

After a couple of weeks, I use 3 and a half cups of water to one cup sugar and in a couple more weeks I do four cups water to one cup sugar, which is what I've been told is the traditional formula. It seems to work because I have the busiest feeder of anyone I know in the neighborhood.

This has been a spectacularly successful year for the buzzy birds. I think that all of their chicks must have fledged because they are zooming and fighting in flocks around the feeder. I'm putting out twice as much food as usual and the feeder is drained dry about every 36 hours.

I do miss my North Carolina hummingbird feeder, though. I had it hung on a shepherd's crook at one corner of my 5 foot by 5 foot back deck. I would sit out there reading and watching the hummers feed and fight at close range. Usually Esmerelda would lay on the deck rail beside me, keeping me company and ignoring the hummingbirds. I think she thought they were big bugs and thus beneath her dignity.

Then one day there was a major twitter fight -- two hummers making like World War I dog fighters, buzzing and diving at each other, twittering madly the whole time.

Esmerelda sat up and stared at them. I could practically see the little light bulb over her head.

"Wait a minute! Those are birds!"

She dropped into hunting cat posture and began creeping towards the feeder just as the losing hummer zoomed away. The winner chased for a moment, then turned back to the feeder and saw Esmerelda. It zipped up to her and hovered inches away, bird beak to cat nose, totally unimpressed and unafraid, and twittered at her.

I could see the tension of an immanent spring in her legs, so I tapped her gently on the rump with my paperback and said, "No!"

She went one way, the hummer went the other, and the next time she lay out on the deck with me, the hummers had regained bug status. She never stalked one again.

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Down the Foundation and Into the Basement

I think there's a curse on the end of July.

We finished breakfast at the picnic table this morning and the Engineer went to the basement to gather tools for his day's activities. He came pounding back up the stairs shouting, "The basement's flooding!"

My mouth said, "Not again!" You don't want to know what I said inside, it would singe the skin right off of you.

Fortunately (yeah, right) we haven't gotten half way through the repairs on the basement from last summer's flooding, so there was no carpet on the floor to be ruined.

Late last July, the sprinkler system of our behind neighbor up the hill broke at the junction box and ran all day flooding our basement. This time it was his next door neighbor whose sprinkler broke. When I went around the block to try to find out what was going on, I just followed the stream in the gutter to the geyser in the neighbor's front yard.

The Engineer had claimed that my raised beds would cause our basement to flood, but I think they helped in this case by absorbing enough water that the fill was sodden.

Months ago, the Engineer in his worry dug a trench behind the raised beds that spreads out towards the sides of the house and put down french drains then pea gravel. The water didn't get into the back of the house, it mostly flowed around to the side. Looks like we will have to spread those drainage ditch wings farther and do a little grading.

Sure wish the flooding had been from a big rainstorm instead of the neighbor's sprinkler system. Then it would have done some good as well as some damage.

I Want to Take a Poll Tonight.

Sometimes I think the Engineer was put on earth to make me nuts.

If he has a piece of knowledge that I need, he thinks I know it because he knows it. Does he think I acquire this knowledge by osmosis?

Or he will be talking about one thing and change the subject without letting me know, or pick up a lapsed conversation hours later without any warning, then act like I'm an idiot because I don't understand what he's talking about.

This evening, he was talking about wearing his New Balance "river sneaks" in Idaho on vacation and asked, as he was staring at my new pair and my old pair of New Balance shoes, if I had shoes good for the trip. Then commented he guessed I did since I had a new pair.
I said planned to take the old New Balance, but I didn't want to wear them to wade in the river because I didn't like squishy shoes. He looked at me like I'd just grown a second head and said, "No, I mean flip-flops."


I keep reminding him that I am not the Twin, I cannot read his mind, but he keeps assuming I can.

Is this normal spousal behavior, is it Engineer behavior, is it just plain weird, or am I an especially unperceptive wife?

Would you folks out there in the blogosphere who are reading this, please, drop me a comment about communicating with your current or previous spouse or significant other? Any insight or editorial comment or "my partner does such and so" story will be appreciated.

And hopefully enlightening, scurrilous or amusing.

Saturday, July 28, 2007

Leaving Well Enough Alone

I can't do it.

I'm one of those people who has to poke and pick at everything. From the time I was crawling, I made my Mom nuts because I picked apart anything I could dig my prying little fingers into. Fortunately, I always had an empathy for animals, so I never tried to take a critter apart, but plants were not safe.

One of my favorite dismantling memories was my Big Ben alarm clock. Ever taken the back of one of those off?

When I took the last screw out and eased the back off, I saw a confusing bunch of gears with a big spring in the middle. I poked it. It sprung. Scared the beejeebers out of me.

What scared me even more was my Mom finding out I'd done it again. She had real trouble distinguishing between intellectual curiosity and wanton destructiveness.

I couldn't figure out, for the life of me, how the heck they got that huge spring into that little case. I rolled it up as tightly as I could and tried to wedge it back into the case. All I succeeded in doing was knocking a couple of things I didn't know what they were out.

Finally, holding the clock between my feet so I'd have both hands free, I managed to stuff everything back into the case and got the back screwed on. It didn't look quite right, but it was subtle enough I didn't think an unsuspecting parent would guess I'd transgressed again. And I knew the subject would come up, because the darn clock sure didn't work any more.

Even in those days, Big Ben alarm clocks were too cheap to be worth trying to fix. All I got was a suspiciously raised eyebrow from my Dad when I told him that it didn't wind right any more and a new, electric alarm clock.

Which I never did try to take apart.

A couple of decades later, I found out that a lawnmower starter cord is attached to a spring that's almost identical to the one in a Big Ben alarm clock -- only bigger. And just about as hard to put back in.

Thursday, July 26, 2007

Waiting For Harry

And it's hard, oh so hard.

I ordered the book from Amazon months ago. It came Saturday, as promised. I tore open the smiley faced little box and held the long awaited book in my hands, turning it over and over, looking at the front and back and fly leaves, ruffling the pages, but not peeking.

You see, I'm going to be traveling a whole lot in August and spending a week up in the Sawtooth Mountains of Idaho in a 100+ year old trapper's cabin (fortunately much refurbished.) The family does this every year. The Engineer and his Twin spend most days fishing. I love to fish, but not like they do.

The Doctors Demento (they have matching PhD's) don't consider it fishing unless life and limb has been risked.

This is Birch Flats, one of their favorite fishing holes.

To quote their annual joke, "There's no birch trees and it ain't flat." Then they laugh uproariously.

They scramble down the baking, black rock cliffs to the river, wade through the rushing current, swimming when necessary, to get to the productive spots, then they fish. They carry Motorola radios with them. Whenever one catches a fish, he radios his brother to taunt him - especially it it's a big fish. They take lots of nice Utah beer (next thing to water) with them to drink so they don't get dehydrated (and I know they pee on the fishes' heads to get rid of it, I've been fishing with them.) When they've either caught their limit or run out of beer, they head back to the car (usually a Cadillac referred to as "the rental heap") after stuffing any fish they've caught into their day packs and pockets. (Guess who gets to do the laundry for both of them at the end of vacation.)

To facilitate their ascent, they have a favorite culvert that's been well colonized by poison ivy. They use the poison ivy vines as climbing ropes. Oddly enough, one or both of them ends up with that particular rash every year. Since they have no nerve endings it bothers them not a bit.

So, no, I don't go fishing with them. I enjoy nature and the tumbling creek beside the cabin, take some photos and read.

I'm saving Harry for Idaho. Don't dare tell me how it ends!

Just a Quickie

I'm not sure how I landed on this page, http://heatercats.org/humor/resolved.html, but I laughed until I could hardly breath. I suspect anyone who's owned by a cat will have a similar reaction. Number 4 had me on the floor.

Brianna with a nasty suspicion that someone's making fun of her.


I suppose the Engineer and Twin stories I've been telling may have stretched credulity just a wee bit. It's true though, there are two of them. And they are maniacs.
There was an identical brother,
Who looked very much like the other,
As to which twin was who,
There was hardly a clue,
Sometimes they could fool their own mother.

P.S. I've only patted the wrong rump once.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Cat Food

Every morning one of the first things I do is to give the girls their breakfast of canned cat food. Because of this, morning is Sachi's favorite time of day. She climbs on top of me as soon as I start moving around in bed and purrs ecstatically, then, forgetting I am not flat, she flops over to roll and falls off. She lies, which ever side up she lands, still purring in happy anticipation.

The girls get Fancy Feast cat food. True, it's expensive, but it comes in little 3 ounce cans, of which they each get a quarter can a day. Three-quarters of an ounce of food is hardly extravagant and it only costs about 20 cents a serving. With the little cans, they have one day fresh and one day from the fridge. Kitsu does not like her food refrigerated, so I nuke it for a few seconds to bring it up to room temperature. Fancy Feast Elegant Medleys is her absolute favorite. Sachi eats anything out of a cat food can that doesn't eat her first.

Why am I making excuses for gourmet cat food? I went surfing for a picture of their favorite kind and came upon this picture. Laughed my derriere off then read the blog entry. Funny too, but I don't know if this guy understands why cats keep humans as slaves. I do. It's to spoil them and make them as happy as possible. Making them happy makes me happy too -- I've been well trained.

Found this blog too, which I got a kick out of. Frank, the baby goat, is really cute. I wonder if he and Sachi could get a little something going in cyberspace...

Monday, July 23, 2007

Contemplation of Disaster

I didn't feel like writing last night, so I looked through my photo archives searching for a pretty picture to post. Instead, I found the photo in my last blog entry.

To me, it's a make-you-think photo. I took it early one morning in a park. The man looked like he'd spent the night on the bench and was contemplating a fat pigeon for breakfast. He sat there, silent and unmoving for the 15 or 20 minutes I was in the park, seemingly transfixed by either the pigeons or his own thoughts.

There have been a couple of times in my life when I was one pay check away from disaster. Luckily, I never became sick or was hurt badly enough to miss that cover-the-rent paycheck, and I always managed to scrape together tuition too. I've also always had family that would bail me out if I was in serious trouble.

But what if I was bereft of both luck and family? Once you've fallen, how do you get up again?

There But For the Grace of God...

Saturday, July 21, 2007

The Feast

A friend of mine is moving to Houston. I found out Friday that she's flying away Sunday morning, so I invited her and another couple of friends for dinner tonight. We were sad to say goodbye, though I'm sure we'll see each other again. It was a lovely feast.

For appetizers, we had a wedge of brie and thin sliced baguette along with little round red pickled peppers stuffed with fresh mozzarella.

Dinner was seafood shish kabobs -- ahi tuna fish, scallops and shrimp alternated with red and green peppers, mushrooms and Vidalia onions. After I skewered the kabobs, I poured light Italian dressing over them. Since one of the attendees is a good ol' Missouri farm boy and the Engineer is a bottomless pit, a filet of wild sockeye salmon was grilled beside the kabobs just to make sure no one went hungry.

We had fresh corn on the cob and home made potato salad. The enormous Armenian cucumber (see July 19th) sacrificed itself as a salad. It was delicious.

Desert was blackberry cobbler warm from the oven with genuine, whipped on the spot, cream. I bought the blackberries this morning along with the corn at the produce stand.

I think everyone in attendance left the table sufficiently suffoncified (as my Dad always says.)

Easy Blackberry Cobbler Recipe

Pick over, wash and drain 3 pints of fresh blackberries.

Heat oven to 375. Put 1/4 pound (1 stick) of butter or margarine in an 8" x 8" deep baking pan and melt it in the oven.

As the butter melts, mix together 1 cup of flour, 3/4 cup of sugar and 1.5 teaspoons of baking powder with 3/4 cup of milk.

Pour batter evenly over hot melted butter, then distribute the blackberries over the top. Do not stir.

Bake at 375 for 45 minutes. Serve warm with ice cream or whipped cream (I like mine topped with yogurt.)

Random image of a bonsai that I trained for a year and a half.
It died while I was on vacation.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Once More Into the Fray

The tree killing next door neighbor has been at it again. (See April 26, 2007.)

I'd been hoping that she would be satisfied with her chemical incursions this year, but, alas, she wasn't.

This spring, as every spring, she sprayed herbicide under the fence between our back yards. It's the only logical explanation I can come up with for why there's a three foot wide dead strip in the plant material right beside the fence between our yards each spring. Fortunately she lives on the vinca jungle side, so most of what she's murdering is vinca - which grows back with astonishing speed. The spray has also badly damaged a small pine tree. This year all the needles on the bottom branches of the tree fell off at the same time the vinca died and the needles that have grown in to replace them are short and deformed.

I've never said anything about it to her. I don't figure it would stop her and I don't want to give her the satisfaction of knowing how much it annoys me. I wonder if she thinks I don't notice it or if I'm too dumb to realize what she's doing.

She tends to be terribly petty too. Before she butchered my big pine tree a couple of years ago, I heard her one afternoon instructing her two boys on how to dispose of any pinecones that fell into her yard.

Throw them into the trash can?
Toss them over the fence into the yard where the tree was?
Hurl them hard and high over the fence to make sure they land in the next door swimming pool?

This June she decided to murdilize the insect population as well as the plants and had an exterminator out to fumigate her yard and house. I'm allergic to most aerosol pesticides, so I had to flee for several hours and wheezed every time I went outside for a couple of days. Combining that with the memory of the pinecone bombardment makes me really, really want to throw any snails I find into her yard. The snails couldn't slime their way back into my yard, because the fence between our yards sits on a tall cement footer, so it would be a good way to get rid of them. I suspect the only thing that stops me is the knowledge that they wouldn't do any harm. All the vegetation she has is close-mowed grass, so snails wouldn't have anything to eat or any place to hide.

This evening the Engineer and I were eating dinner at the picnic table when we noticed that the damaged little pine, the cedar next to it and our lovely blue spruce were looking rather strange.

Sure enough, she'd been at them with a chainsaw again. Hacked off every branch that could be reached while balanced on a ladder in her yard, then threw all the severed branches into my yard. I suspect that this will be the death of the little pine tree, and it looks like we are going to have to top the cedar to save it.

I honestly don't understand her. Neither the blue spruce nor the cedar ever shed any needles or cones into her yard. The little pine has been so injured by the annual herbicide spraying that it never has the strength to produce cones. And the trees have got to look terrible from her side. She'll see the trunks and a mess of stubbed off branches. I'm scared to death that next time she goes after them she's going to simply top them all as far below the fence line as she can reach from a ladder in her yard. She did it to the row of oaks the neighbor behind her had shading his tennis court. All she left were the trunks, not a branch or a leaf on a single one.

I think tomorrow I'm going to call the neighbor on her other side and see if I can take some pictures of the devastated trees from his back yard. I will take photos from the street and my side. I will compose a letter, in duplicate with pictures included, and have it notarized at my bank. I will send her a copy by registered mail. I want her to understand that if she dares to top my trees, she will be speaking to my lawyer.

Thursday, July 19, 2007

While I Wasn't Looking

Back on July 6, I showed a photo of a male blossom on my Armenian cucumber plant because it hadn't put on any female blossoms yet.

A few days ago, I found the first female blossom.

This is what I found today. -->
This is the same fruit as the one on the left.
Goes to show, when the garden starts growing you've got to check over, under, behind and beside every day or something is going to surprise you.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

What's In a Name?

When I was a kid, I did not like my name. I liked the combination of my first and middle names even less because, when coming from my mother, it usually meant I was in big trouble.

Of course my brother and sister, being clever little monsters, picked up on this and used it to annoy me; an especially easy feat because, while my first name rhymes with nothing, my middle name rhymes with lots of things. And no, I'm not telling what my middle name was. I legally changed it as soon as I had enough cash that wasn't paying for tuition, rent or food.

We had a tendency to embroider names in my family, and rhyming made it so much easier. My brother was Jeep the Creep, my sister was Bub the Grub. Neither of them would answer to their real name, so Jeep and Bub it was if you wanted them to respond. I can't call my brother anything but Jeep to this day, but in high school my sister became a hottie and went back to her real name. Which was fine with me as Jane rhymes quite nicely with Pain. Which she was. All siblings are pains, it's their nature. (I acknowledge that I was a pain too.)

My cousin was, and still is, Creepy Cousin Eddy. Don't feel sorry for him, he truly deserves the moniker, He's one of those lawyers who gives lawyers a bad name and inspires lawyer jokes. One of those lawyers about whom Shakespeare so famously penned, "The first thing we do, let's kill all the lawyers." (I know I'm taking it out of context, but it can be such a viscerally satisfying thought at times.)

My dislike of my own name wasn't arbitrary, it was because I thought it sounded silly and sissy. I had two other names in mind, names I considered infinitely better:

Marie. Mah-ree. It sounded so exotic and sophisticated Surely someone named Marie would have the respect of her peers and even adults would look at her like a person instead of a child.

Fred. I know it's a guy's name, but I really liked it. Still do. Fred is such a sturdy name; it's honest, dependable and straightforward. Fred. I like the sound of it.

Wunx~ is something I picked up at Girl Scout camp. The only place I've used it outside camp is on-line. I like the anonymity, and besides, it sounds less silly and sissy than my real name. Well, maybe not less silly, but definitely more interesting.
There once were four knights made of wood
In a Latvian forest they stood
One cried, "Tallyho!
"Which way should we go?"
His friends sighed, "If only we could."

Monday, July 16, 2007

Stand Up For Good Health!

I awoke this morning to the ambrosial smell of bacon frying.

As I sniffed the air and thrashed around trying to get a lung full, Sachi leaped up beside me crying, "Bacon, bacon, feed me bacon!" I sat up coming fully awake to the sad realization that the bacon was not frying in my kitchen. One of the neighbors must have been cooking bacon and the swamp cooler was pulling the scent in.

Bacon is the perfect food. It has salt (and maybe saltpeter), sugar, nitrates, nitrites, real or artificial smoke flavoring and lots and lots of fat. Can you think of anything more perfectly bad for you? Must be why it tastes so good.

Why is it that all of the best tasting things are the worst for you? Why do our palates crave sugar, salt, fat and caffeine instead of flax seed and Brussels sprouts? Thank goodness liver has fallen out of favor as a "for your own good" food for kids.

Of course, one of my favorite food groups has recently received a reprieve.

The scientists and medical professionals are now telling us that chocolate contains antioxidant flavonoids. They're good for your cardiovascular system and help keep you young. Even the National Institute of Health is admitting that chocolate can be good for you. The darker the better.

For the sake of our health, we must eat our daily dose of dark chocolate. Let's spread the word and enlighten our fellow man. I feel so noble.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Random (and Probably Odd) Thoughts

We were invited to a house warming yesterday. The weather must have been invited too. It was 104 (40 Celsius.) Of course we took a small gift, a nice glass pitcher. I decided to wrap it from the inside instead of the outside as is traditional, so I filled it with bright flowers, making an ephemeral gift and a lasting one (providing, of course, that no one drops it on the floor.)

I drove through Wendy's the other day to get a soft drink because it was so dang hot. They had a big sign up that said: "Natural Onion Rings!" Okay, I'll bite, what are unnatural onions? Do they have a perverse passion for carrots? Do they turn into garlic when the moon is full? Are they made of antimatter?

That last one is from the Engineer. When he was in grad school, whenever he heard something claim to be all natural he would say, "All natural as opposed to what? Antimatter?" I suspect it's a good thing I do the food buying for this household.

When he was in grad school, I went grocery shopping with the Engineer and his twin a couple of times. Methodology:
  1. Get shopping cart.
  2. Go to beer aisle, fill bottom of cart.
  3. Run at top speed down the rest of the aisles, knocking items from shelf into cart.
    3b. If an extra falls in, toss it from the cart while maintaining speed.
  4. Screech to a halt at cash register.
    4b. If not first in line, bounce around making loud comments about people who use coupons.
  5. Throw groceries and beer into car trunk and drive home like a bat out of Hades.
  6. Unload car while applying beer internally.

The reason I went to the grocery store with them more than once was that they would descend upon my apartment every few weekends and eat everything in the kitchen. We would then have to go to the store to restock.

They also required mass quantities of chocolate chip cookies and many pies (but not too sweet.) Eventually I made them buy the ingredients because I was going broke. When they complained that my pies were too little, I told them the simple remedy for that was to buy me a bigger pie pan. They got me two that could have worked as bird baths.

Who ever would have thought I'd end up married to one of those maniacs.

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Ain't Art Grand?

I really enjoy art. Not that I'm a connoisseur or any such exalted thing, but I know what I like. Ah, there's a line that can excuse any amount of bad taste. Of course, since it's my taste it's good taste. My favorite famous artists are da Vinci, Van Gogh, Caravaggio, Gaugan, Klee, Leo & Dianne Dillon (I know the Dillons are illustrators, but to me that doesn't preclude them from being artists -- I love their work.) There are lots of artists and illustrators out there that make me hum happily within myself. Bioephermera blogger, Cicada's, work delights me (and makes me jealous of her skill with watercolor.)

I also know what I don't like. My current number one stick-a-finger-down-your-throat-and-make-gagging-noises artist is Thomas Kinkade. It's not just his saccharine, repetitive, images that I don't like, it's the fact that he seems to think he's a great artist when his real skill is at self promotion. But I have friends (and a blood relative) who adore his stuff (I can't bring myself to call it art.) It makes them feel happy and enlightened, so there must be some good in it despite the fact I consider him to be the graphic equivalent of a snake oil salesman. I even give one friend a Kinkade calendar every Christmas because I know it raises his spirits.

My favorite Salt Lake City artist is a young woman named Randi Lile. http://www.randilile.com/
I have two of her fang face fishes and a couple of her cats.
The big cat is going to my sister-in-law at Christmas, but until then, it's mine. Randi is hoeing the hard row of making it as a professional artist (with a little teaching on the side.) I think she's going to make it. I'm not biased because she's a friend, I just recognize talent when I see it.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

Bad Cats - Again

I have lived with cats most of my adult life and have developed good cat ears. The Engineer, on the other hand, is close to cat deaf. This can be a very good thing as I can intercept them in activities that would get him all excited. The cats and I operate under that classic old philosophy of "What you don't know can't hurt me."

I hear their meows and know which cat is speaking, I hear the faint clink of a collar tag on porcelain and know that one of them is eating. The creak of the cat door lets me know one is coming or going. They purr from simple happiness and they purr to try to bribe their human to do something (they know her weak spots.) There is the horrible howling they make when BadStrangerCat comes into the yard, the "pay attention to me" squeak and the subtle little scuffle when they're trying to get into something forbidden.

Today I heard that subtle little scuffle. And I heard prey sounds. Oh, do I know prey sounds. I've learned those sounds the hard way. So I ran down to the basement and liberated the robin.

Fortunately Kitsu seems to have a very soft mouth. There was no blood on my hand and it few away brightly and with beauty.
It must be that fledgling time of year again.

Summer of Fire

Here in Salt Lake City, it hasn't rained since the first of June and the temperatures have been pretty consistently in the 90's and 100's (mid to upper 30's Celsius.) On the 4th of July a new all time high record for Utah was set at 118 (48 Celsius) in the southern part of the state. Hot, hot, hot! (I've said that before on this blog, haven't I?) The whole state, most of the western USA, is a tinderbox. There are currently eight major wildfires burning in Utah. http://www.utahfireinfo.gov/

Although the major fires are mostly south of SLC, the air here is filled with smoke. The Engineer had to disconnect our smoke detectors Monday night to keep them from waking us with intermittent alarming.

We have a swimming pool. This morning when I went out to clean out the skimmer I was totally disgusted when I saw the water in it. It was covered with a gray scum of smoke dust which coated my hand when I reached in to pull out the trapped leaves and debris. It made me realize that everything is similarly coated. It's not visible because it's not concentrated like it is in the skimmer, but it's there nonetheless.

While the West is burning, the southern middle of the country is drowning.

It frightens me to think where this planet's climate and ecology are heading. It frightens me more when I hear the current administration claim it ain't none of the USA's doing. Why, don't yah know, that the climate on Mars is heatin' up too. That means it's not humanity's pollutin' fault, it's that mean ol' sun and its solar flares.

To quote an old saw, "There are none so blind as those who will not see."

P.S. The maps are live links, so they show the current conditions when you're looking at them.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

The Zoo-Poo Lady

I have always been a big fan of organic gardening. I prefer not to use fertilizers or pesticides if at all possible. Before I married the Engineer, I always kept a compost heap. The Engineer won't hear of it, though, he firmly considers compost heaps to be rat cafeterias and messy, messy, messy. Now that I'm married, I get my compost in cubic foot bags and remember my glory days of homemade compost with nostalgia.

Ah, for the olden days in Charlotte, NC, when I was known as the Zoo-Poo Lady.

Every year the circus came to town and every year when they left, they left behind industrial sized dumpsters loaded with pachyderm poop, liberally seasoned with zebra and horse apples and camel doo. The city got rid of it by inviting the public to dive on in and take home whatever they could carry. The "dive on in" part was quite literal. Close to a hundred people would show up with their pickup trucks, garbage cans, buckets, plastic bags, and mothers-in-law’s old Dodges and clamber into the steaming dumpsters, shovels flashing, to get their share of the black gold. The smell and the chaos were equally astonishing. I usually managed to emerge from the melee with my two garbage cans full and hauled them home in the hatchback. When I mixed that zoo poo in with the leaves and grass in the compost bin my heap really heated up! The neighborhood kids thought it was the funniest thing they'd ever heard of.

Somehow composted steer manure just ain't the same.

A True Limerick

Sachi grabbed up a cute baby quail
Which started to peep and to wail
Cat thoughts full of gore
Sach dove for the door
But the male hauled her out by the tail.

P.S. The chick got away.

Monday, July 9, 2007

Cleaning Cat Boxes

Cats are lovely, dainty looking creatures, but in common with any living creature that eats, they also excrete. If you care to cruise on over to YouTube, and search on "cat toilet flush train", you will see some short films of cats with amazing talents. Some of them use the toilet for its intended purpose and some of them enjoy the flushing action. Although I watched several (and wasn't that an edifying few minutes), none of the cat video stars both used and flushed. Oh well.

My girls do neither. They are old fashion cats. Kitsu uses the cat box exclusively. If the urge comes upon her when she's outside, she runs in to do her business. Sachi goes where ever she happens to be. I take that back, if she's outside, she goes outside, if she's inside she uses the box. She is a very good girl who would never consider leaving surprises for me. Nor does she make that kind of editorial comment.

My beloved Esmerelda Vibrissi, Beauty Cat, Queen of the Universe, whom I had for twenty years and pretty much grew up with, was prone to editorializing. If I was a bad human and really ticked her off, she would place her deposit on the floor right next to the box and glare at me, daring me to say anything about it. I usually deserved it. For minor offenses, she would flip me the tail. Esmerelda never left me in any doubt as to what she was feeling. We weren't pet and owner, we were equal partners and best friends. I will miss her forever.

But, back to the cat box. I had told the Engineer that I wanted to do a major clean the cat boxes (2 cats = 2 boxes) before trash day this Tuesday. Then I forgot. After dinner, when I was talking to my Mom on the phone, he remembered. I said I would really rather do it Monday and continued with the mother-daughter conversation.

Now it's true I am more than a little lazy and a very proficient procrastinator, but I had a reason for not wanting to clean the boxes tonight. I use clumping litter (and bless the chemical company that invented it.) That means that after scrubbing the boxes you have to wait until they are 100% dry to refill them else the litter will clump to the box. Both the cats and I think that's nasty.

Since I was on the phone, the Engineer decided he would force my hand, trotted downstairs, dumped the old litter into a garbage bag and hauled the boxes up and deposited them on the lawn for me.

If I was Esmerelda, I would have made a major editorial comment right in his shoe -- maybe not even waiting until his foot was out of it.

So I had to change my clothes and do the dirty job because the cats are locked in at night and need their KittyKonvenience. I scrubbed and hosed, I cussing under my breath like an X-rated Yosemite Sam. I hate being forced to do things when I don't want to.

As I stomped back around the house, looking for a last patch of sunlight to put the clean boxes in to dry, I stepped on a roofing nail. Frickin' frackin' thing went right through my flip-flop and embedded in the distal end of my first metatarsal. Litter pans went flying as I roared curses while hopping around on the other foot. Fortunately the flip-flop made a good lever to pull the nail out of the bone. The Engineer dived under the picnic table for cover as I hopped-blood-dropped into the house.

Guess I showed myself good.

Saturday, July 7, 2007


I went out to lunch at Ruth's Diner today with a group of friends. Our waitress had the beginnings of a full sleeve tattoo on her right arm.

It looked like it was going to be lovely. It was mostly black outlines of trees with fruits, flowers, birds and bees, quite artfully done. Only the bees were finished. They were two fat, glowing, orange and yellow honey bees. The colors weren't the muddy black, blue and red of most tattoos; the lines were clear and sharp and the colors vibrant. If the rest of the work is of the same quality as the portion already done, she will have a beautiful arm when it's complete.

But she will never be able to change her mind.

Many years ago, when I was young and foolish (not that I'm any wiser now, just older) and tattoos were still for drunken service men, one of my friends and her roommate got tattooed. My friend got the nicest tattoo I have ever seen. It was a lily in shades of peach and salmon with a twining, vining stem and leaves in cool sea green on her ankle. No dark colors at all and it was only about three inches high and an inch and a half wide. Over the years, it has faded to a delicate, nostalgic whisper on her ankle.

Her roommate, on the other hand, was feeling more flamboyant and had a rampant tiger in brilliant orange and black tattooed across the upper slope of her very generous right breast. It was truly dramatic and she loved shocking people by dropping the shoulder of her shirt and showing it off.

What she never thought of was age, weight gain and gravity.

The tiger is still rampant with curling tail and tongue, bared fangs and claws, but his black stripes have become rather fuzzy and purplish, his orange has faded. He has also become very, very pot bellied.

I look at all the tattooed kids these days and imagine thirty years added to their body art. I suspect their only comfort will be that they are not alone.

Friday, July 6, 2007

Blossom End Rot

It's been hot, hot, hot, but the raised bed veggies seem to be happy with it. Good thing since the WeatherLiar predicts more of the same and no rain. Fortunately we're fairly high up on the side of the mountain bench, so it doesn't stay as hot at night as it does down in the Salt Lake valley and tomatoes are still setting on.

I put black soaker hose in the raised beds and covered them with mulch. Even with the temperatures in the 100's, I've only had to run the hose once every five or six days. None of my little green tomatoes have blossom end rot, It's amazing how well the stuff I filled the beds with holds the water.
Since I don't have any blossom end rot for a demo photo, I snitched this picture from the University of Georgia web site. Pretty much anyone who's grown tomatoes has seen this ugly sight.

I've heard lots of theories about what causes blossom end rot and have tried all of the assorted cures for it. My highly scientific observations (do paper cocktail bar matches or wooden kitchen matches work better as a source of sulfur? -- or was that for peppers? do eggshells really help? or topical calcium spray?) have lead me to conclude that root development and moisture are what really make the difference when growing tomatoes.

Consider that most tomatoes are grown as transplants in relatively small containers. Though good practice is to remove the lower leaves and plant the tomato deep so that roots can form along the buried stem, it takes a while for those roots to form.

Because of this, I resist the temptation to allow the early blossoms to set tomatoes. I snip them all off.

At the point when I don't notice any midday wilting on the plants, I start allowing the blossoms to fruit. By then the plants have developed enough roots to support the growing fruits and, voila!, no blossom end rot.

I definitely don't get the earliest fruit around (I have a friend who's usually picking a few by the end of March; he's a fanatic), but I have fewer throwaways than most folks.

Once the tomatoes start to color up, I will post some photos, but until then, here are a couple of other garden denizens. The sugarbaby on the right's grown since its first picture two days ago. (Yay, hurray!)

For those of you interested in more scientific information about tomato problems, a friend of mine just had an article published in the Salt Lake Tribune. She's a county extension agent and college horticulture professor, so she knows her stuff.

Thursday, July 5, 2007

My Latest Customer

I do free lance web design to line my wallet. I also do graphics, photography and training -- I guess you could call me Wunx~'s Anything For a Buck Services (apologies to Larry, Darryl, and Darryl from the Newhart TV show.) My latest customer is a nice young artist living in New York City. He took the basic site design and training package.

We sat down together and figured out how he wanted his site to look. I built it along with templates for the pages in his galleries, then trained him in keeping his site updated.

Why am I blogging about it?

I'm proud of him, he's doing a great job. Plus Sachi has a crush on him and says I should give him a plug. So here's his web site: Bryan Drury - Fine Art. It's a work in progress and lookin' good (even if his home page image is a little scary.)

It's wildflower and moose season at Albion Basin.
(Wunx~'s any excuse for a photo gambit.)

Wednesday, July 4, 2007

Happy 4th of July!

A red, white and blue bouquet
for my friends out there in the ether. (Though I surely don't agree with the politicians, I am glad to be an American.)

The Ugly Truth

I may be a certified, card carrying, dues paying, Master Gardener, but I am certainly not a masterful gardener.

This is what should be my main back garden.

I call it The Vinca Jungle.

I've tried many times to make a dent in it, but all I end up doing is killing another spading fork. This fall I plan to do a repeat performance of the raised bed maneuver. When the Engineer goes out of town on a long trip, I'm going to have someone with power equipment come in and rototill the whole mess. Full steam ahead and damn the irrigation piping!

I want to save the few nice perennials that are currently struggling to survive the vinca's strangle hold. Other than that and the big trees, I'm going to start from scratch.

Which could be interesting as I garden by attrition. This is my latest bed. Hopefully it's going to be daylilies and gerber daisies with annual dusty miller in between.

I can fantasize, can't I?

But I do have my successes.

Misadventures in Cat Land

Kitsu was kitty on the spot tonight. She was waiting in front of my keyboard for me even before I sat down at the computer. The competition can be fierce; Sachi also likes the position between my chest and the keyboard. They both think they need to do The Happy Cat March on my bosom. Since both have full armament, that can be more than a little uncomfortable depending upon what I'm wearing. But they purr as they march. They know I've never been able to spurn a purring cat.

Sachi is laying a little low tonight, so she's not trying to jam herself into position too. The Engineer was out of town last night and didn't remember to close his bathroom door before he left. Since we're living in one room, he has many of his clothes in cardboard file boxes in his bathroom. He has one full box of socks, a box of underwear, a box of T-shirts and a box of ties. He is especially passionate about his ties. He will only wear ties from Liberty or maybe a Gucci if it's just right.

Unfortunately, I suspect that his ties smell more like him than his underwear or socks because they don't get laundered each time he wears them. Sachi misses him when he's gone and tries to bring warm memories by burrowing into something that smells like him.

The first time she went tie diving, he had the tie box on the top layer of bathroom boxes. She lifted the lid and removed ties one at a time, artistically arranging them on the floor into a cozy nest. We know this because after he got back in town and accused me of messing with his ties, he caught her at it the next morning. From the pitch of the hollering, he seemed to find her tie excavations quite exciting.

Being a clever human, he put the socks box on top of the tie box and closed the door the next couple of times he went out of town.

He forgot the door this time.

Sachi discovered she could push the hand-hold flap in and work her paw into the box. This was probably an even funner way to get ties out of the box because once she'd pulled out all the ties she could reach, she went to work on his socks. She made a very large and cozy nest.

After the yelling and scampering away was done, I suggested he tape over the holes to remove temptation. He snorted and growled at me as he started sorting through his scattered neckwear.

He's a true Y chromosome bearing male. About a half hour later, he called me into the bathroom to see how he'd figured out to foil her. He was taping the hand-hold holes shut with masking tape.

I congratulated him on his brilliant idea.
I'm wicked. I'm looking forward to the excitement when he realizes he should have taped the hand-hold holes closed on all of the boxes.

Monday, July 2, 2007

In the Media

I read the newspaper daily and listen to NPR when I drive. The headline on today's paper was about the huge wildfire near Neola, Utah: http://www.sltrib.com/utah/ci_6279751?source=rv?source=rv. It struck a little too close to home. There have been two small wildfires right near my house. Last summer I sat out on the picnic table with a hose until the wind changed at 2:00 in the morning. I didn't think the flames would reach the house -- John Huntsman Sr.'s house was between mine and the flames. He's the richest man in Utah and the current governor is his son. No way the flames would get through his house and down the hill to mine, but I sure was worried about windblown sparks because the roof on my house at that point was lumber and plastic -- just a wee bit flammable.






The shiny bit in the lower right corner is my roof line.

I like to know what's going on in the world, so I keep up via the paper and radio. The local TV news is for the weather report, though a friend of mine has rightly christened the weather man the WeatherLiar.

My BelovedEngineer is addicted to CNN; partially because I won't let him watch Fox News. His identical twin watches Fox News, and the Engineer would like to as well, but their commentators spew so much hate I cannot stay in the room while they rant.

Part of it is simple politeness, I was raised by a southern mother. Her mantra was, "Smile. If you can't say something nice, don't say anything at all." She loves Bill O'Reilly which absolutely baffled me. I think he is the crassest man on television. Calling his show "The No Spin Zone" is totally inaccurate, it should be "The No Spin But My Spin Zone." I call him the RudeDude because he shows no respect whatsoever to other people, he talks over anyone he disagrees with, I've heard him call guests stupid to their faces. I think perhaps, she likes him so because he does what her Fine Southern Lady background won't permit her to do -- he says out loud what he thinks inside. It makes me sad that he has so much ugliness inside.

Ann Coulter is another venom spitter, She confuses vituperative with politics. It's tragic to me that someone gets paid to talk nasty on national television. I think the YouTube clip of her phone call from Elizabeth Edwards shows her true colors. By the end of the phone call, the people in Coulter's audience were applauding Mrs. Edwards. It doesn't matter if I like John Edwards or not, his wife showed herself to be a lady and she has my respect. Ann Coulter does not. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=v6BBDcZqSF0

So I read the paper. If the story is too ugly, I can read the headline and get the gist, but don't have to absorb all the gory details in full sound and color. I always read the headlines, though, because I do want to know what's going on even if I don't like it.

To Sleep, Perchance to Dream...

I love to sleep, but I suspect I'm not very good at it.

I watch the Engineer: he climbs into bed, pulls the covers up and is usually snoring within three or four minutes. Most often he sleeps straight through until morning. He seems to arise fairly alert and aware, though he fortifies that with copious amounts of caffeine. If I have to get up at the same time, he enjoys making athletic leaps about the room, announcing things like, "Ah, morning, the best time of the day." "Rise and shine, the day is half over!" This even if the sun isn't up yet. It's disgusting, he's actually cheerful.

We are at antipodes. It takes me an hour or more to fall asleep and I wake frequently throughout the night. I am aware of the world outside me as I sleep, any little noise wakens me. He, on the other hand, is gone. One night when we were newly married, there was a terrible storm -- pouring rain, thunder, lightning, wind so strong the house shook. I knew a tornado was coming. I grabbed his arm and tried to haul him out of bed, away from the window, towards the safest, most interior part of the house.

He never even twitched. He was surprised in the morning that half of the trees were on the ground and draped over the roof.

Sometimes I ask him if he's dreamed. Only occasionally will he reply that he has. "About what?" I ask.

"We were going someplace."

He can never say where or what mode of transportation we were using, just that the two of us were "going someplace."

How boring!

Dreaming is the best part of sleeping. I dream every night. Many dreams. Some of them good, some of them bad, some of them monotonous, but I dream and I dream about lots of different things.

Most of the time I'm in my dreams but sometimes I'm just an onlooker. Most of the time I'm me, but sometimes I'm someone or something else. Once I was a seven foot tall, skinny black guy with a big afro wearing a silver wireframe crown sort of thing as I strode over the tops of tall narrow plateaus fighting flying, man eating, evil gremlins. I've canoed through subterranean, manmade labyrinths and run through forests. Best of all, I've flown.

There may be a lot to be said for sleeping soundly through the night and waking refreshed, alert and cheerful. But, all in all, I'd rather dream, even if it means being grumpy and groggy in the morning.