Saturday, August 30, 2008

A pre-introduction to Starlinka

Emma and Ellie have requested an introduction to Starlinka but I don't have any good pictures of her yet (hopefully tomorrow or soon). But in the meantime, Starlinka did pose for the poster I did for last year's Kansas City Irish Fest. And by the way-this year's Irish Fest is going on right now (right this minute!!) so if you're in the KC area, think about going, if just to watch The Elders perform because they are fabulous! Just watch out for little girls that can't contain themselves anymore and then burst out in front of you with their step dancing enthusiasm. You could get hurt. :-)

Last year there was a contest to name the Irish Fest cow and Teresa Sudduyn of Oak Grove, MO was the winner with "Sinead O'Moolihan and the Tra La Las." I think that is a great name for an Irish musical/dancing group. Here is a close-up of the Tra La Las that were modeled after Starlinka...

Starlinka is a starling, probably the most common bird on the planet. If you go outside and look for a bird, it won't take you very long to find a starling. They're little black birds with white spots (or stars) that have short stubby tails and bright yellow beaks in spring. They're not native to the United States. They were introduced to America around 1890 by Eugene Schieffelin, a Shakespeare enthusiast who wanted to bring all the birds mentioned by Shakespeare to New York. Starlings in the U.S. now number 200 million because they're so darn smart and have no problem adapting because they're such flexible thinkers. Unfortunately, they're looked down upon because they take over nesting areas of native birds. They also poop quite a bit. In Independence, Mo they had such a problem with starlings pooping they had to remove all the trees in the square so the birds would stop ruining the paint on cars.

Most people don't know that starlings are excellent mimickers. I spent some time listening to a starling in my backyard one day to see exactly what his repertoire was. He made the sound of crows close up and crows far away, a car alarm, what sounded like a nail gun (there were a lot of roofs being replaced in the neighborhood that year), an ambulance and a lot of other birds which were not starlings. Starlinka has a pretty big vocabulary and has even taught Eddie how to say "Hi baby." I tried for years but Starlinka was the one who finally got Eddie to say it.

Mozart had a pet starling. It is rumored that when his starling changed a note while mimicking one of Mozart's compositions, Mozart liked the change so much he made it permanent. When his starling died, he had a formal funeral for it because he loved his starling very much. Konrad Lorenz, a Nobel prize winner, had a pet starling Friedrich who went on rounds with him when he was a doctor in a Russian prison camp during World War II. When Lorenz was eventually allowed to leave the camp, he was given permission to take Friedrich with him (he also loved his bird very much). When your starling has such devotion to you, you will very likely have that much devotion to it.

Starlinka likes to sit on my shoulder while I type on the computer but if it gets too late and she doesn't like the brightness of the screen, she will hop to my knee under the table and try to sleep there. Starlings like to get as close as they can to you but you are never allowed to touch them. Those are the starling rules. :-) Remember the M C Hammer song "U Can't Touch This"? That could be the starling anthem.

Friday, August 29, 2008

Postcards from 1909 and 1910

The old maid postcards are odd and compelling (for me at least) but they aren't that clever or funny, actually they're kind of mean. However, I think these kitty cat cards from the same time period are funny and just as odd...and maybe a little mean spirited too but they do make me laugh. Probably because I'm not a cat. 

I wonder whoever that can can be
Who's keeping his gaze so fixed on me.
In case he thinks that frightened I'll be
I'll stare, as long as he stares at me.

The Interfering Parrot
"These kittens are sweet" said the parrot,
"I admire their Mother too."
"Then please keep away" said the big cat,
"As I can't say the same of you."

(I love that little kitten clawing its way up the tablecloth. Those memories of bad kittenhood are still pretty vivid for me and Violet is 14 years old. The macaw on the wood chair? That's not so realistic. That bird would have that chair shredded to sawdust in no time flat.)

Errrrrgh. They're back.

I didn't write anything on Thursday because I was too stunned with what happened over a five minute period. Lightning was involved.

Violet raced in the house because her doppelganger appeared. I had never seen this gray cat before but I had to make sure the right gray cat was in the house and the other remained outside. A few minutes earlier, nothing. A few minutes later....this. Look at the one on the right, how many party dudes  is he expecting? Those other two grasshoppers...I have no idea what they're eating, I'm just assuming they brought their own chips.

And of course these two were going at it again.

And then it started to hail. Hail!!!

Mysterious evil twin cat, sudden appearance of a dozen grasshoppers, hail and lightning, all within a five minute time period. So for the rest of the night (because that's a list of omens if you ask me) I stayed off the computer, stayed indoors, locked the doors and made myself a drink.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

There was an old maid in a garret, who lived with a cat and a parrot...

I'm right on track for living the spinster life the way it should be lived according to these postcards. I never got married (got asked, just didn't want to) and I do live with a cat and a parrot. That there were postcards made a 100 years ago about this way of life is just way too weird and coincidental for me to not think about collecting them. :-)

I think the whole spinster and parrot thing came from an old Irish song called "The Old Maid in a Garret." It's been sung by the Clancy Brothers, Steeleye Span, lots of people. The last line of the song goes "...And I'm away home to me own wee bit garret. If I can't get a man, then I'll surely get a parrot." So is that really the end of the world? I hear "You're so beautiful" and "You're so smart" all day long from one of my birds. How many married women can claim that? Ha ha ha.

This first postcard "Old Maid's Honeymoon" is the first of the spinster cards  I collected and my favorite because there's no snotty editorial attached to it (really, these cards are mean. Who would you send them to?). She's an odd looking thing but I'm hoping she's wearing glasses and is busy reading a good book. It's dated 1910. Not sure what to make of the lemon though.

This one reads, "Don't become a cross old maid. If you can't get anyone to marry, try to live like other women. Don't show your disappointment." 

"Oh, what a relic of centuries past!
It's dollars to doughnuts that you cannot last
Quite long enough to catch if you can--
What you are smirking for--a good old man."
(from 1905)

"No wedding bells for me." (from 1908)

"This is no place for a self-respecting bird!" The small print in the parrot's word balloon reads "Aw, go chase yourself!" (from 1910)

One hundred years later, women are still divided up between the marrieds and the ones who haven't married yet (men too, I guess). I remember when I was shopping for a washing machine years ago, the saleswoman couldn't figure me out because apparently only married people bought washing machines. When she showed me a model she thought suitable for me, she seriously introduced it as one that was popular with the widows. That made me laugh.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Bad guests leave but a favorite one arrives

No grasshoppers (or should I say grass"stoners") in the yard this morning. And they did not return tonight. They are gone! Gone!!!!! I'm so happy my Hitchcock movie set is not there anymore and that they took their party somewhere else. 

But I did get a brief visit from one firefly who is probably looking for all his friends who left a month ago. I love these little bottom heavy flying bugs. It's hard for them to maneuver because they're so busy concentrating on those lighting signals, they really have no idea where they're going. It's amazing they can stay in the air and that they don't get hurt (or even that concerned) when they collide with something on their way to anywhere.

Early summer in Missouri is so pretty when these guys are all out. I'm happy to just watch them in my yard but when you're driving past a large open area and see their lights slowly flashing up and down, there just isn't anything prettier. Sarah says that at Redbud Ranch, she and Terry like to get out the lawn chairs and grab a beer and just sit out and watch the lightning bugs. I just love the little things. I'm happy for this guy's visit. Hope he finds his friends.

Monday, August 25, 2008

Grasshoppers (continued)

I went out this morning, looked down at the datura, and those two grasshoppers were still there!!! A little out of focus but still giving me a good staredown. Oh just as proud and happy with themselves as they could be...sprawling in the sun, getting a good la la...

I had heard that grasshoppers could eat a plant right before your eyes but had always thought that was an exaggeration until I witnessed this. Look at this guy! Chomp. Chomp. Chomp. That flower was disappearing in front of my eyes. I could hear it disappearing! 

Datura is a very poisonous plant to humans. It can be deadly. I'm very careful around this plant but something had been munching on it for the past couple months and since I saw no bug carcasses, I could never figure out what was doing it. Until today. When I walked onto the deck this afternoon, I got the creepy feeling that not one grasshopper was staring at me...I was sensing  more like a couple dozen.

They were everywhere. Little grasshopper heads just staring at me on the deck lattice with their drugged out smiles. I mean really, look at this.  Look at that smile.

And look at this guy...

The reason the grasshoppers don't jump when you accidentally disturb them in my backyard is because they're too darn stoned. Every one of them had this stupid look on their face.

And I do not want to be around when they eventually wake from their stupor. Eeeeeeeee! The things just give me the creeps. Did I say that already? Well, I mean it.

A little beauty break...

...because grasshoppers just creep me out!

This was taken May 31, 2008. Try to remember how pretty this datura flower is (or should I say "was") while the story of the grasshoppers continues (nasty, nasty things).

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Grasshoppers (not for the squeamish...or the underage)

Something didn't feel right...something was watching me.

And I wasn't imagining it because there he was. He had just moved around the corner of the post when he figured out that I was on to him.

And moved around the corner again.

Oh yes. One more time. Why was he being so stubborn about that spot? What had he been looking at?

What the...?

Oh for shame!!!!!!

Monarch Butterflies

Lots and lots of monarchs in the yard today.

Every butterfly in the neighborhood has been talking about the lantana.

It is not to be missed.

Oh, looks like somebody ate too much...

Red-banded leafhopper

Some bugs just don't need to be camouflaged. If you're this pretty, really, every person, animal and bug will have to stop and admire you and let you do whatever you want because they've never seen anything so darn pretty. 

Friday, August 22, 2008

An Introduction to Eddie

I need a break from thinking about Stella. I tried to take a picture of Eddiebird but as you can see, she was uncooperative. Around and around the cage we went but Eddie was not going to let herself get photographed. I think she wants a well thought out formal introduction well separated from anything about Stella. I don't blame her. 

But I will explain the name Eddie since she is a girl, not a boy.  And to make things even more confusing in this post, I'm going to post some pictures of my brother's house soon, and my brother's name just happens to be Eddie too. 

So here goes...I met Eddie, the bird, almost 15 years ago. I was taking care of Liz's pet rat Diva over Christmas and wanted to get Diva a Christmas treat which meant I had to drive to a pet store. I always like looking at birds so I went to the back of the store and visited with the birds that were there. One of the parrots got very excited when it saw me. I swear the sound coming from her sounded like my name. She and three other parrots  had been brought to the store because their previous owner had passed away. I don't remember what kinds of parrots the other two birds were but I do know that the third bird was a yellow nape amazon who hated me but could sing every verse of "Hello Dolly." He'd have to get himself worked up into a spinning state on the floor of his cage but when he got to the right speed, he'd belt out five minutes of a perfectly performed "Hello Dolly (I'm thinking he listened to a lot of Ethel Merman)." He was incredible. But like I said, he hated me. Eddie is a double yellow headed amazon (one of the best mimickers when it comes to parrots, Eddie however, is not one of them). 

I had heard that sometimes birds will pick the people they want to live with and that is exactly what Eddie did. I was not looking for another bird. I already had Stella  and Stella is a formidable attention demanding bird. But I was entranced. I returned to the pet store nearly every day that week and every single time, Eddie would spy me coming through the front door even though she was way in the back of the store. And when she saw me, she would scream out something that sounded like my name. I loved her. I wanted her. I had no money for her. But my sister sent me some money and I upped my Visa card limit (I had just bought a house, really, I had no money!) and brought her home.  I am so thankful she made the decision to come live with me because I still just adore her and she loves me.

When I asked her her name in the pet store, she said "Eddie." She was clear on that. But when I got her home, and after listening to the few things she could mimic, I found out that her real name must have been Bobo. When she came to live with me, she gave herself a new name (and I don't blame her!). And she calls me Judy. That's not my name but if I don't wake up early enough on the weekend I will hear a "Judy?......Judy.......Judy?....JUDYYYYYYYYYYYY!!!!" The really funny thing is that when my mom was a little girl she loved the name Judy so much she named all of her dolls Judy. So I guess we both now have the names we should have had all along. :-) Eddie also likes to call herself Eddiebird and when she's being extra sweet, she calls me Judybird.

I don't know who adopted the other two birds that used to live with Eddie but I heard that the yellow nape that hated me got adopted by a man who had no idea that he was going to have to share his life with a bird. Exact same story. The yellow nape fell in love with this man  and made it a point to let the guy know that they were meant to be together. I'm sure the guy has learned the words to a lot of show tunes by now. Maybe he sings them while spinning around in a circle too. :-)

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Stella has been downgraded from naughty to really, really bad.

I heard the chewing paper sound coming from the dining room but I thought Stella was working on one of her shredding projects on top of her cage. No. She found something new and unexpected and in under 2 minutes had done this...

She shredded a book, a library book, and worst of all, I had not even read it yet. Bad bird. Bad, baaaaad bird.

Monday, August 18, 2008

Mingo the "miniature" goat

About 2 1/2 years ago, while on a trip with Sarah to the feed store, Sarah and Terry's friend Dave decided that the miniature goat they had for sale at the feed store was special and Sarah needed to adopt him. Dave's a musician and is on the road a lot so adopting a goat was kind of out of the question for him. Probably for Sarah too (she already had a ton of animals to take care of) but Dave was insistent and....well, Mingo (the name Dave gave him) came to live at Redbud Ranch.

Sarah took this picture of baby Mingo jumping on and off poor Hickory, Terry's horse. She said Mingo was such a blur of jumping activity that she was surprised she caught a picture of him standing still. And surprised Hickory was so still. When she told the feed store owner about this crazy thing Mingo and Hickory were doing, she was pointed to a wall where people posted pictures of their animals. There on the wall was a picture of a goat and horse doing the exact same thing. The feed store owner said that the only way that particular goat could have gotten onto the back of that particular horse, was for the horse to back up in his stall and allow the goat to jump on. Apparently horses really like that hoof action on their backs!

Later that year when Dave came out again to perform in Kansas City, he performed a song that he was probably working on at the time he first met Mingo. The name of the song was "Cowboys to Girls." There's one line in the song that goes "I remember when you got your first baby coat." I think Dave changed "coat" to "goat" just for Mingo and Sarah. Ha ha ha.

Anyway, here's what Mingo looks like now and he's not a baby anymore, nor is he "miniature." 

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Beatrice H. Plummer Bright painting

About ten years ago, I saw this painting at an auction house when I was visiting Michael in San Francisco. I had an instant love for this painting but dang, the auction was going to be held after I flew back to Kansas City. What to do...? I really wanted this painting. The dealer said I could bid via phone when the auction took place the following week. Oh, that was an odd experience. I remember hearing the auctioneer introduce it as a Beatrice H. Plummer Bright painting. He put a lot of emphasis on the word "bright" so I assumed that that was her last name. He only meant it as a description because when I got the painting, there was no word "bright" in the painting's signature. However, I will always think of it as the Beatrice H. Plummer Bright painting because that is how it sounded when it was introduced to me. When the bidding started, the auctioneer said, "This painting is reminiscent of.....hell, I don't know what. Shall we start the bidding at 5000 dollars?" And then the audience went into uproar. Ha ha ha. Oh well. Lucky for me I won the bid and it is mine (the bidding was restarted at a much lower amount). On the back of the painting there is written the word "Sonny." I think that is the name of Beatrice H. Plummer's bright canary.

Pretoria canna lily

My Pretoria canna bloomed today. One of my favorite color combinations in one plant-yellow, orange and green with a red/purple accent.

Friday, August 15, 2008

Thursday, August 14, 2008

The naughty or nice list

I just realized I've been describing all my pets as being naughty or bad. Time to make a list to see if that is really true...
  • Michael Ray...naughty
  • Cathy Jean.....naughty by association with Michael Ray
  • Stella..............naughty (but just 90% of the time)
  • Violet.............formerly naughty (but naughty level is still approximately 10%)
  • Eddie..............99% good/1% naughty (we've had some lapses with some accidental furniture chewing)
  • Starlinka........100% good/0% naughty (every single day of her life!)
I'm not sure what to make of this.  I'm definitely drawn to independent thinkers combined with some scamp behavior but wasn't aware of just how much until I started writing this blog. :-/

Stella's art projects

This one is easy to figure used to be an old Yellow Pages.
But what did this used to be?
Any ideas?
Duct tape.

Wednesday, August 13, 2008

An Introduction to Stella

I wasn't sure what I was going to write about tonight but I just looked to my left and saw this:
This is Stella. She's a Meyer's parrot, 17 years old and was named after my grandmother on my mother's side. I also liked this name because I knew I would be yelling her name a lot (because parrots can be very stubborn and naughty) and the name Stella is a theatrical classic for yelling long distances.  I don't know what it is about me but I am very drawn to willful, naughty animals. I like willful, somewhat naughty kids too as long as they have a sense of humor and recognize that they are being naughty when they really shouldn't be. I'm also drawn to stories about naughty kids....such as "The Liar's Club,"  "The Secret Life of Bees" and "The Little Friend." Those are just three novels I could think of offhand but I am sure there are others (oh those Bronte girls could come up with some good independent thinkers). But Stella is just a little bit beyond naughty. Michael calls her the BB Bird because she's such a bad, bad bird. She can be very moody and when this picture was taken, she was being pretty moody.

Stella was mad because Babe the cockatiel (who is staying with us temporarily) got to come out and play before she did so she pulled Babe's night cover off and hid in this bowl to give me a good staredown....Like I said, bad. But when she's sweet, she is the best little friend ever. I think her normal state of mind is naughty though.

Stella has many talents. She can imitate every door and cabinet door in the house, opening and closing, fast and slow, winter sounds (from lack of humidity) and summer. When you open a cabinet door, she will start the appropriate sound before the door is opened (when you live with birds, you get used to hearing normal household noises duplicated in other rooms at the same time). She is also very good at imitating my former neighbor's screen door which he got a kick out of because every time he went in or out, he got to hear that sound coming from another yard. My neighbor on the other side was not so fond of Stella though. One time she was in the bathtub, heard her security alarm go off, she jumped out of the tub to see who broke into her house....nobody. She got back into the tub, same thing happened, the sound announcing that a door had been opened but nobody was there. The third time... she realized it was "that bird." You see, my neighbor and I both have the same security alarm system and until then, we did not realize just how good Stella was at imitating it. 

Stella also knows where the keypad is to activate the alarm. She also figured out a way to raise the plastic protective door to reach the emergency police button. Try explaining that when your security alarm system's support calls to verify a break-in. Like I said, baaaaad.

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Jack-O-Lantern (1909)

I got this little jack-0-lantern at a flea market around 1995. It came from a small collection of drawings that belonged to a schoolteacher from a long time ago (the date on the back of this little pumpkin is 1909!). He was drawn in pencil on newsprint with an applied watercolor wash and then he was cut out.

I just love the two little nostrils at the bottom of the triangle nose. And those individually drawn teeth create quite the expression. :-) Reminds me of the look I was getting from the turtles today when I was cleaning up their favorite side of the backyard. They were not happy about the cleanup. If turtles had teeth, this is the exact expression I was feeling from them today. 

Monday, August 11, 2008

Secret overnight art project

I have no idea who did this. What little bug chews his way across a leaf in a straight line with evenly spaced bites 2.25 times? I think this little bug spent some time in art school. :-)

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Giant Swallowtail Butterfly

I followed this guy around in the backyard because he just couldn't figure out what he wanted to land on. Lantana? Lantana? Excuse me Mr. Butterfly, but can you 180 it and look at the LANTANA? That's what that other butterfly did.

Gawd. Took him forever. 
So much rapid wing action and just getting nowhere until I chased him over to the lantana with my camera.
Which he did like a lot once he settled down.
Liked it a lot.
Not that the wing action ever slowed down (I'm surprised any of these pictures are in focus!).