Sunday, July 18, 2010

Noticing/not noticing/being noticed by things

Last May I visited Powell Gardens and was entranced by some of the combinations of the native flowers. Native columbine (Aquilegia canadensis) is always delicately pretty but when combined with blue flax (Linum lewisii), the two together become something extra sweet and lovely.

Add some bluestar (Amsonia hubrichtii), even more gorgeousness.

The flax had self sown itself just about everywhere (or maybe it was by human hand). In any case, that flax made friends with every plant it was growing next to and made everything look better. I've never had much luck with artemisia but it's worth a try again after seeing it growing next to all that blue flax.

There was one native flower however, that was my favorite. Clematis fremontii (Fremont's leather flower). Not only is it a native to the U.S., but grows naturally in this area (Kansas and Missouri).

I followed it around the rocks taking as many pictures possible of all the various ways the clematis had tucked itself in among them.

I was busy poking my camera in and around those rocks when I was interrupted by someone tapping me on the shoulder and pointing at something almost directly in front of me.

Gooooood grief. I was so busy looking at the clematis, I never saw what was taking in the sun just a little behind it. We laughed at my surprise.

Uh huh, kind of a lot of baby snakes. If I had taken any pictures on the other side of the rock, maybe I would have noticed the momma snake who was taking in the sunshine there. But who knows? Maybe not. I was on a leather flower picture taking mission.

I thought of those snakes this morning when I stepped out on the deck. I looked over to where all my potted plants are piled up (they're there temporarily so that when I get my new gutters installed some time in the next couple weeks, the plants won't get stomped on). There in the middle of all those disorganized plants was Cathy Jean giving me a good staredown. Can't see her? She was the first thing I saw when I looked in that direction.

She's right there in the middle.

Kind of made me wonder. How could I have missed seeing eight snakes out in the open just three feet away from me yet immediately see one turtle hunkered down in the euonymous maybe fifteen feet away? The only thing I can think of is that that Cathy Jean has perfected one compelling and powerful staredown. And when that turtle locks eyes with you, you're obligated to return the acknowledgement of being noticed with your own version of a staredown.

And hurry up and get started on that turtle breakfast that apparently was determined to be late in getting served this morning. :-)

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Future naughtiness, I just sense it

Last month I had to clean the fishpond, something I try to resist doing every year. The pond is small but it's hard to get into and clean because it's surrounded on three sides by the deck. I scoop what I can but eventually I have to jump in all that muck and bail out the water and sticks (and I'm not going to think about what else) while standing in it. Eeeugh. Eeeugh. Eeeugh. Luckily it doesn't take that long and usually Eddie is outside coaching me with wolf whistles and "Pretty!!!!!!!"s. That stuff at the bottom of the pond is noncompostable though, as well as being heavy and wet, so I filled a garbage bag with the stuff and left it open to dry before setting it out for the trash later in the week.

Violet and I like to sit out on the deck at night and watch the fireflies and listen to the cicadas. We were sitting outdoors enjoying the night when I saw some movement in the middle of the yard...where that stinky bag was sitting out. My eyes got used to the darkness out there and I counted four raccoons (four!) very carefully open the bag and reach in to see what smelled so fish-stinky good. They surprisingly did not leave a mess. I probably would never have known a raccoon (let alone four!) had even been there if I had not seen them up to their sneaky business that night.

The next night Violet and I were sitting on the deck doing the same thing, enjoying fireflies and cicadas, when I heard a tiny little unusual sound coming from the fence by the driveway. I looked up and saw the silhouette of one momma raccoon being followed by 3-4 baby raccoons along the top of the fence. They got to the garage, climbed to the roof and then they were over the peak and then...gone.

But they came back. I can tell. The turtles' water dish and the containers that hold my aquatic plants are always muddy in the morning. I thought it was from what seems like the near constant rain we have been having but about a week ago, I looked out the back window and saw four baby raccoons playing pattycake in Violet's waterdish (which I forgot to bring in). So now that I know the raccoons and their raccoonettes are back, it's time to stock up on grapes and reopen the coontina.

My first blurry customer...

The scamps. Who knows what kind of stories will be written about the naughty visitors (which I think is a good descriptive word for when raccoons are being good!). This summer has had a theme of bold, assertive, non-apologetic behavior from the animals I have been crossing paths with and I now have to wonder, why should my two new little goldfish be any different?

Here is a picture of the two goldfish after I put them in their new pond. They set right to work to building up their muscles by swimming "upstream" where the water is coming out from the pump. It's a strong pump. It's also a forceful waterfall. Those two fish swam with such earnestness to stay in place. And then at some point they would just let go and get blasted across to the other side of the pond. But then... they would swim right back up to where that waterfall was coming down so they could do it again and again. I checked on them pretty often during that first day and night and those two were at that game for a solid 24 hours.

I don't know. There's something about them. I've had them for almost a month and those two little fish are getting big and strong. I'm not sure why, but I sense some future no good and scamp behavior coming from those two too...

They came home in a plastic bag with a warning on it (about flammability of all things) but still, it's a bag with a warning. I'm on alert.

Saturday, July 10, 2010

Wild in the city...

and lots of attitude in the country...

Last time I was at Redbud Ranch, this little guy was giving me a hard time when I needed to open the gate to let my car out to the road. Would he move when I got out of the car? No. I opened the gate and it must have passed a 1/4 inch above his head but would he move? No. Since he was so adamant about staying where he was, I took a picture. Did he move when I got to within an inch of his face? No. That was his spot. He was not moving. Would he move if I used the flash on my camera?

Obviously, no. It was getting pretty darn ridiculous so I picked him up and put him down on the other side of the driveway. And while I was carrying him across the driveway, he let out one delayed croak. Just one. Like he just remembered he better put up a protest before it was too late and found himself settled on a new spot on the ground.

As my car proceeded slowly down the gravel road, I saw a couple telltale frog silhouettes doing the same thing. Sitting on the the gravel road and not moving for any reason. I had to carefully drive around their stubborn little bodies and when I reached the paved road, I didn't see one frog profile contemplating who knows what. I don't know what was in their heads. I suppose it was a good quiet night for sitting on gravel and that's what they were going to do...until dawn, I guess.

This stubbornness streak I've been seeing continued into the month of June. I was coming home from work late one night and saw two little animals standing their ground in the middle of the road. Two gray foxes. I turned the car around after I passed them (oh, I should explain that this was in the middle of the city, not the country!) because it was so unusual to see what I first thought was a coyote times two. I got out of my car and clapped my hands and told them to get off the road. Well, they didn't want to. Huh? And I found out that it is not as easy to remove two willful teenage foxes from the road as it is one small willful frog. I had to raise my arms over my head and walk toward them and they finally did get out of the road although they steadfastly stood their ground just two feet away from the curb. Bad little foxes. I know as soon as I took off they were out playing in the road again.

I was surprised last winter, when I was following tracks in the snow on my land in Kansas, that all tracks followed definite trails, the same ones I used when there wasn't any snow, the ones created by the ATVs that used to race through the woods before that land became mine. The dogs, the deer, the rabbits, they all used those trails and they all crossed at the same intersections. Those wild animals out there sure do appreciate human civilization's development of easy transportation through the wilderness (or city). Apparently those roads and trails are heavily used not just by people but every animal and frog out there too.

Eric said he saw a deer walking down the middle of the street in our neighborhood. I know that that deer must have appreciated the extra-wide aisles of the outdoor supermarket (known to us as our neighborhood) and probably thought a silent "thank you" as he or she passed through.

I was talking about all these unusual wild animals I've been running into, animals I shouldn't be running into so easily, to the woman who cuts my hair. Well, she said she had a story for me. Her husband looked out the back window where they live and saw pigs, feral pigs. She thought he was totally nuts but that night on the news there was a story of feral pigs wandering the town. I can't top that story and I hope I never will(!!!!!!).

Wednesday, July 7, 2010

Aussie, Bella and some weevils

This little darling is a cocklebur weevil. He takes down cockleburs and he takes down.....ragweed!!!! When I found that out, I wanted to tell him to go collect his entire family and I would drive them to paradise...which would be my cocklebur/ragweed infested land in Kansas. But dang, he flew off right after I took this picture and I haven't see him or any bug like him since.

But I drove out to Kansas today anyway even though once again the sky was overcast and it was thickly humid and it was probably going to rain again soon. Again! Every day starts the same and as it progresses the weather starts to feel more and more oppressive. Funny thing though, every time I drive out to Kansas, I watch the sun sometimes peek through the clouds in the distance and by the time I get to my land 45 minutes later, it's all sunshine-y. I asked Sarah about that once. Why is the sun always out in Kansas when I drive out there? Sarah says it's because I'm supposed to live there.

I turned off the highway and Aussie was waiting at the end of her driveway for something and it turned out to me. This was the driveway to the house where she is supposed to live, the house behind the one that is across from my land. It was so nice to see that dog again...the dog with the double set of cocklebur earrings.

That mullein I photographed a couple weeks ago is really getting tall...or Aussie has shrunk to the size of a mouse. Regardless, we set off to discover something.

Aussie had to wait a couple minutes for me to get down to the creek because it was hard to navigate through the ragweed at even a fraction of her pace. The ragweed was getting tall but at least it wasn't taller than me yet (that will probably happen two weeks from now).

Aussie's such a good girl. She waited for me to catch up... and then she was off.

For all the rain that's been happening around here, the creek was surprisingly low. It was pretty easy to walk across and then try to catch up with the dogs.

Dogs? Yes, Bella had finally joined up with us. Here she is at full attention.

And here she is again... a black smudge in the distance.

Aussie and I have no idea what goes through that dog's head but when she's focused, Bella still doesn't "get it" until 15 minutes after everyone has moved on to something else.

I was told that the previous previous owner of this land, the one who was going to develop all this acreage until he found out how much it cost to run a road through it, used to mow and mow and mow this particular area. He took a lot of pride in it. When the grass isn't that high in early spring, it is very pretty. But since I'm a slob and am still totally overwhelmed with what kind of lawn equipment I need, I'm getting used to the even quality and color of all that growing grass...even if it is 30 inches tall.

I don't know if you have figured this out yet but there is a definite pattern to all of my exploring. First thing is get to the creek, stand on the rock, look south and then decide if walking south in the creek could be dangerous. I always decide it is. Aussie is always bewildered as to why she has to turn around.

I always imagine lots of snakes and snapping turtles so I stay out of the part of the creek with the really steep banks. Last time Bucky and Bacon were out there, Burgess found a snapper. I couldn't get a good picture of it so Burgess found a way to get down into the drainage ditch by the road and take this picture. This is the first snapper I have ever seen. I know everyone else sees these guys on the road all the time but I haven't. Since he is at the bottom of a drainage ditch, I know I am going to stay out of his way because I physically cannot get down there. I'm also going to pretend I never saw him.

Once the dogs and I cross the creek and see what's up in the meadow we circle back to where we the garage where the "treatmobile" is parked.

Next to the garage, the first jewelweed flowers are starting to bloom.

I think you can tell I got a little carried away last year playing with the seed capsules that explosively twist open when you touch them. Just about everything you see that is green there is jewelweed.

On the other side of the driveway on the stream bank is a new flower in bloom.

Campanula americana. There is a little metallic green sweat bee busy on that flower just like the one that is busy on the "Busy Lizzie" growing across from it.

The dogs and I then walk up a hill to the area where the giant satellite dish used to be. If we continued south we would run into the miniature horses but today we didn't make it that far.

The Black-eyed Susans were still in bloom...also noticed by this little black weevil.

And here he is again giving me a snouty look from behind the petals.

It's back down the hill...if we can get Bella to roll downhill or something...

And then it's time to drink lots of water in the creek...if you're Aussie.

We could have explored other parts but it just got to be so darn hot...especially when the sun would find us. I needed to find air conditioning fast so we called it a day after Aussie and Bella had another bath. I then got escorted back to the highway by Aussie and Bella. Aussie led the way and had no problem running 30 mph. Bella's method of escorting is to chase the car from behind. Way behind. Way, way behind. There was a black blur in my rear view mirror and since she's Bella, she should feel proud for doing such an excellent job of running forward.

Sunday, July 4, 2010

Sunday morning breakfast wars

I was busy cleaning Shugg's cage this morning when Cathy Jean came over to help.

But that turned out not to be her intention at all. She wanted breakfast. Immediately. She gave me an extra long "Stop what you're doing and get me my breakfast now" look.

"Extra corn on my plate.....................please."

And then Michael Ray showed up from behind.

He wanted his breakfast faster than Cathy Jean's "now."

Thus, the "look."

Message delivered. The turtles split up and ran off in different directions (probably to see who would get served first).

Shugg could care less about what was going on in TurtleWorld. He had just had a bath (starlings adore baths of any kind), he had a clean cage and he was about to get served his breakfast before the turtles got theirs.

Shugg is the smartest, most fearless of birds. And there is nothing better on a Sunday morning than to have everything all clean and fresh and then have breakfast outdoors.

If you were wondering where Violet was in all this morning drama, Violet couldn't be a helper because she was stuck indoors because of an operation she had earlier in the week to remove a small tumor. I am 100% confident that she will be perfectly fine as soon as she heals but in the meantime, it's a sad thing to have to watch a cat maneuver around with a lampshade on her head.

But things aren't toooooo bad if you look at it from the other animals' points of view. It was close to noon and she had already had two breakfasts. And when the turtles were finally served their breakfast, Violet was already enjoying an early lunch.