Tag Archives: critters

Animal kingdom

This mating ritual of a couple of hooded grebes is hilarious for all sorts of reasons, not the least of which is the almost tango they’re doing at the end.

Here at the ranch, it was shave the dogs day, which took an hour and a half. The (not) puppy doesn’t like to sit still for his, and he absolutely hates having his front legs shaved. For some reason, he is not as nutty about his rear legs getting the once over. The big guy came over, laid on his side, then didn’t complain when I flipped his 64-pound body over to his other side so I could continue. He is a border collie (mostly), so under his hair that looks like human hair, he has a dense, tightly woven almost mat-like hair growth. I imagine this is what helps keep them dry and insulated against running into water or being out in the elements as they work. Except mine doesn’t exactly work at much of anything except running crows off and barking his big boy bark at people who are checking the mail.

I promised pics – here’s a snap of my hippie dogs, desperate for a hair cut.

More to come, peeps. Until then: be well.

What’s that smell?

“Your upper lip.”

That was a joke in my family that, as kids, we found vastly amusing. Another one that was equally giggle-worthy to our pre-teen brains was when someone said “excuse me”, and someone else would say “There’s no excuse for you!”

Kids are silly.

The smell was not, as it happens, my upper lip. Today was round one of mowing. It’s rare that I will do all the mowing on the property in one go, because it takes about three hours plus change to do that on a regular-size growth of the areas that need to be mowed. Because I’d been in the hospital, I missed my mowing date earlier this week, and things were a bit higher than usual. In addition, all the areas that had flooded with the daily rains we received in June are now dry – because we haven’t received any rain of significance since July 1. Such is Florida. Those areas could not be mowed while they were under water, and the grass in those areas today was almost up to my hip. Today’s session of three parts of the first group of areas I usually do in a batch took almost three hours by itself.

One of those areas is outside the gates of our tiny development here. We don’t have a HOA (how I hate them!), which is terrific, but that also means when something needs to be done, like a fix for the gate, someone has to organize it, then divvy up and collect everyone’s share of the cost to fix it. No problem for me on that; there’s a guy down the road who handles those sorts of things.

It also means we don’t have a HOA to hire a lawn service to deal with the hedges at the gates or the grass that we are responsible for, from the gates to the main road. For awhile, the guy across the street from us – the guy who has a garage mahal that’s almost as large as his house – had a lawn service, and they would mow out there. He dumped them at some point, and a couple of times he did the mowing outside the gates, then for some reason, he stopped. Since it needed to be done then, and needs to be done now, I’m doing it.

Today was one of the few days that the county doing their mowing jobs of the strips on the sides of the roads and in the ditches/swales coincided with my mowing, something that doesn’t happen often. They, of course, are in air conditioned cabs. Yours truly is on a lawn tractor, without a shade. As I started my run out there by the road, I noticed they’d missed a spot at the end of their responsible area. No big deal, I figured, I’ll just run over it and it will be done, too.

As I neared that spot, mowing around the telephone/electric pole in that side of the of the outer gate area, the breeze kicked up and I got a snootful of the most horrid smell, but one I know: death. For awhile now, I’ve been wearing a mask as I mow, as it isn’t good for my lungs to be inhaling all the things that get kicked up during that mowing time, but some of the odor managed to get through then and a few times as I went back and forth on that side of the areas outside the gates.

I thought, ugh, something has died, fairly recently, and the wind is bringing it to us. I got up on the spot the mowers had “missed” and found that the wind was bringing that smell from much closer than I imagined: there was a dead raccoon at the edge of the road there, baking in the Florida sun (it was 96F when I went out to mow). How did I know its death was fairly recent? I’ll tell you:

First, the body was pretty intact. A lot of times around here, when something dies near the road, they’re usually run over a few times. This poor creature wasn’t.

Second, it wasn’t bloated (yet). If something sits long enough in our heat, it starts to bloat as the insides get hotter and hotter. It didn’t look too much bigger than a regular sized raccoon to me.

Third, and finally: nature’s clean up crew had not yet arrived to start dealing with it. We have tons, and I mean TONS, of turkey vultures around here. Last weekend when I went to the store, I saw not one but two individual examples of those birds at work. Today, as I was mowing, I’d not seen any on that raccoon, hopping around as they jockeyed for the power of having the first go, and there were none circling above in the sky. That tells me the raccoon’s death was recent: they had not gotten to it at that point.

I had to stop after just those three sections for a few reasons: almost three hours bouncing around was eating into time I was supposed to be on the helpdesk, I’d used almost a full tank of gas on the tractor (that one tankful usually allows me to finish four or five sections in this particular area group), I was getting hungry, and I was sweating so much that my hands were slipping on the wheel, no matter how often I was wiping them on my equally sweaty and wet shirt.

It was a bit windy, as I mentioned, everything is quite dry from no rain, and I was filthy, covered in dirt from head to toe. After getting the tractor cleaned and back in the shed, I got a shower, had some lunch, and worked.

And now, I’m eating again, a bit sleepy, planning my day tomorrow, but planning to write this evening despite the fatigue as my “real” work slows down for the weekend, since that’s the time I have for it. Between Wednesday evening and this morning, I had four more ideas for stories involving the main character in the book I’m working on. Clearly, I don’t lack for ideas, as one of the previous posts showed. Some are more fleshed out than others, and I thought of a title for one of the new ones last night when I was trying to get to sleep, and just as clearly as being overflowing with ideas, I need to write faster. Much faster, and much more regularly. Getting the writing in each day can be a struggle, as of course the “real” work is often unpredictable, given the nature of it, but it’s time to take what I can get, when I can get it, and, as Neil Gaiman says, make good art.

That’s it for this one, peeps. More later, as always. Be well.

Critters

Big mowing day today at the ranch. We’ve had a ton of rain, so there are still areas where it’s flooded and can’t be mowed. There are also places where the water has been absorbed or evaporated enough that the ground is springy, but not under water, so it can be mowed.

The problem with those areas is that they stink: a fetid, dead smell enveloping you as you drive by, cutting grass that’s almost hip high because the area was previously flooded.

In addition, in all of these area, the mosquitoes are heinous, even with the addition of mosquito dunks and granules thrown in to try to keep the larvae to a minimum. The mosquitoes are also gigantic, much like any other pain in the ass annoyance/invasive species down here: giant slugs, giant snakes, giant roaches, etc. I smacked three of them and left a bloody trail where they had landed and immediately tried to bleed me dry. But some of their buddies made it beyond my slapping and got me here and there.

In other news, one of the turtles made an appearance after I’d mowed the front of the property. This is one of the smaller ones. I think there are three living here, one of which is massive and probably quite old.

The kids had a good time crouching down with it, looking it over, and taking pictures. I’m sure the turtle was thinking what a horrible commute it was having.

There was also a small harvest going on: peppers, green beans, and sungold tomatoes. It was raining, so it was a bit of a short harvest, but the bell peppers are doing fantastic, the tabascos are beginning to fruit, the paprikas, anchos, and cayennes are producing crazy amounts, and the giant jalapenos (for stuffing) are just beautiful. There isn’t a ton of bug/critter activity on the peppers, and that’s good since I’ve basically neglected them. I’d love to have some of the green bells to age to red, but down here, leaving them past the green stage is usually an invitation to have the pepper get scalded or go soft. There’s a reason red peppers are generally grown in greenhouses and cost more than greens: they take longer and they need more specialized care.

Of course, once you harvest, you have to wash. There wasn’t much in the way of dirt or anything else on these, but someone loves to wash the veg, so of course…

She did an excellent job, too, even if she was eating every other sungold. Both the soul eating baby (kid, now, I guess) and the monkeyboy ate bell peppers like apples. There’s nothing quite like fresh, right out of the garden veg to get kids to eat their vegetables.

I am not a Scorpio

I’m a Pisces, astrologically speaking, if you’re into that sort of thing. But I had a visit from a member of that group. An actual member.

Scorpion, now deceased

The most common one we see at the ranch is the Hentz striped scorpion – that’s the critter above. It’s the most common of the three types found in Florida, as it happens, and none of the three are lethal. Their stings can be painful on the scale with a wasp or hornet sting, though. How do I know this?

Because that critter there got me, twice, the other night when I went to bed. Somehow, it got into the house. Then, somehow, it made it to my room. After that, somehow, it managed to crawl up into my bedsheets. When I laid down, it went under the sleeve of my shirt, near my armpit, and, feeling threatened at that point by the motions of my arm and the tightness of that space, proceeded to sting me. Twice. I couldn’t figure out what the hell was going on at first – I thought perhaps I’d carried a bee with me all day long and she’d finally had enough, but when I hit the flashlight app on my phone and looked, there it was. I flung it on the floor, and let me tell you this: those things can move fast.

It was just shy of three inches long. Was is the operative word, as that scorpion, like the parrot, is no more. But it did give me the creeps and now when I finally get to bed, at whatever oddball time that is, I have to scout around to make sure no other visitors from that particular clan are looking to abuse my hospitality by invading my house.

 

My hero

The cucumbers, running rampant in he front garden north, got some trellis work today, and the green beans, caught in the tentacles of those cukes, were freed to go about their business.

When I completed multiple levels of trellising on both sides of the cuke runs, I found my hero standing over the dead body of one of his enemies, which he had been stalking for a few days now.

Fearless mole hunter

The common eastern mole, making messes of yards everywhere for eons.

Dead mole

I did not cut it in half with the scissors, no. I just didn’t have any gloves with me during that particular excursion to the garden, and simply used the tool I had to pick him up and toss him over the fence into the ditch area by the road to allow nature’s cleanup crew (vultures, ants, etc.) take care of it.

A day like today

I do not, as a general rule, sleep well or much. My family knows this because they have to put up with my oddball hours. Friends and clients know this because it is not rare for them to receive an email from me at some horrible, zombie-like hour where I, fresh from about three hours of sleep, have logged on to see what is happening in my little corner of the world.

Most of the time, this does not bother me overly much. After all, I have a great deal many more hours at my disposal than most people, meaning I can come up with grandiose plans about various things, and also cement the reputation I have garnered of being a robot rather than a human being. Since the radiation from the cancer treatments still has not brought me any real superpowers, I suppose it’s as close as I will ever get, although I won’t be doing this anytime soon.

Some days, though, the lack of sleep brings out the cranky, especially if I am also not feeling well. Like today. This makes me want to kick someone’s ass right off the planet for tossing a nonsensical legal threat our way about information in a domain registration that she provided, even though we have pointed out what she is saying means nothing and she readily admits she doesn’t understand the “jargon” – and by “jargon”, I mean English. Apparently, she is simply terrified that one of her “fans” (she is an actress, apparently) will find out her address from a years-old cached pieced of information on google, something that we do not control, last time I checked, and do some stalker-like thing, or kill her, or both. Or something. This is the time when I want to state it flat out for people: you are just not that important. You are not fodder for the next American Justice where some crazed, obsessed person hunts you down and kills you. You may tell yourself, actress aspiring to be famous, that someone would care that much, but let’s face it here: you provided your own biographical information to IMDB which is quite handily on your own web site, and it wouldn’t take a rocket scientist or some weirdo even slightly off their meds to find you. I know: I tracked down someone, including their name, date of birth, current residence, current hobbies, other web sites they visit, and the fact that they coached little league from a single piece of information (an IP address attached to a comment they left on a blog we host). With all the information you have provided on your own, deranged psychos could track you down if they wanted. They haven’t. This should tell you something about your place in the greater universe.

A day where you think it would be nice to be able to eat and drink the way you used to. That an icy cold beer and a pile of wings would be great after sweating off a couple of pounds working on the ranch, except that you can no longer drink alcohol due to the radiation burning off the lining of your mouth and you really can’t eat wings any more because the chewing issues make it virtually impossible. That it would be great to settle in with a margarita and a blackened chicken burrito with extra sweet and hot chile sauce, but the spicy foods are offlimit now for the same reason alcohol is, and you know even as you sow the seeds in the garden that you’re unlikely to ever be able to eat habaneros or even jalapenos again any time soon, if ever.

On the other hand, on a day like today, where I’m having some trouble catching my breath and generally feeling like crap – oh, not to mention having a slight bout of anxiety over the fact that the doctor wants me to have a chest CT because of something they saw on the chest x-ray they wanted before I started hyperbaric dives after having yet another tooth pulled – it’s nice to Get Shit Done. Like sow the cukes from seed that I’ve wanted to do for several days now, for a total of about 140 seeds planted, with a little overflow from my nephew helper, who put half a dozen seeds in several holes while I tried to convince him that really, one was all that was required. I also directly sowed some more tomatoes and peppers, because let’s face it: there are rarely enough, and we intend to do a lot of preserving this year. If we have the space, I want to fill it with something. That includes the newest 8 x 4 frame I polished off today in the herb garden, with a little assist by my sister, who hauled a load of dirt and poop for me amongst the five others that I brought over and mixed in. Tomorrow, while we wrangle a scheduled CT from the hospital people and I stay out of the hyperbaric chamber until we determine what the hell is going on – and if I have walking pneumonia, I will, as I have told several people, be pissed – I will begin work on the final 8 x 4 frame for the herb garden. Tonight, I may just go ahead and sow some things in flats that really want the much hotter weather we will no doubt be heading into very soon, and set them up on the heat mats in the garage, turning on the lights for them in the morning.

It’s a day where you also get nice, chatty mails from certain clients, about their newest projects, and about being a test case who found a bad link on our site. Or from someone who understands the information (some of it erroneous) at some random, invisible data mining company is not the end of the world as we know it, which then leads in a roundabout sort of way to a discussion about critters and gardening/sustainability. Or from someone who congratulates us on ten years of putting up with all of this. Or where a pooped out puppy sleeps on the back of the couch while you work from home on a laptop, ass planted on the couch yourself, his tail slapping against the cushion now and then, his nose crinkling as he sniffs out a rabbit or turtle or whatever populates puppy dreams, every now and again his paws wiggling manically, chasing down a bird he will never catch, growling and then squeaking out what would be a bark were he awake. Or where you watch as your nephew, having discarded his swimming diaper at some point, stands on the patio in the shade, fresh from the pool, with only his water wings on, downing saltines with a slab of cheese between them, crumbs falling from his mouth and sticking to his wet chest. Or where you decide, apropos of nothing, that Saturday would be a great  time for a spaghetti dinner night, and that homemade pork/beef/veal meatballs in homemade sauce, with homemade Italian bread as a vehicle for carrying butter and garlic, would be a rather fine thing indeed, even as you muse about the possibility of making homemade pasta, just to top it all off.

Or where, in general, despite never having as much time as you think even though you don’t sleep, berating yourself for not writing nearly as much as you would want to (or anything at all, for that matter), and having a list of todo items that is constantly expanding, you think this is a pretty damned good life, overall, and that you wouldn’t trade a minute of it for anything.