Tag Archives: critters

Wait a moment!

Me, crushing up a Tums from the “assorted fruit flavor” bottle to mix with some water and swallow down thanks to the sheer amount of food I’m trying to get in myself:

According to the bottle, the green ones are supposed to be lime. I’m not terribly sure about that, and they may indeed need a little ripening.

Speaking of green things, I encountered this guy/gal one afternoon, hanging around one of the plants on the front porch.

“Ugh. Humans.”

Now, there are lizards all over the place here at the ranch. Usually, I just say hello to them or gently urge them to get out of the way when I’m trying to do something. This one caught my eye because of something I saw on its tail.

Green lizard with a forked tail
“I didn’t say forked tongue, I said forked TAIL.”

To be more accurate, it wasn’t something on its tail, but the tail itself: it looked as though it may have injured its tail at some point and this is how it healed.

It was pretty chill about the whole thing, to the point of allowing me to invade its space to have a better look.

Chilled out lizard
“It’s cool.”

After our little chat, we parted ways, as of course it had things to do, just as I had.

The fact that we even have lizards and frogs and squirrels and birds and snakes around here is directly related to all the backbreaking work I’ve done on the property over the years. When I first moved in, there was no grass, and there was no soil in which most things could be grown. It looked like a house plopped down on a white, fine sand beach. The builders had scraped all the topsoil off and sold it – that’s what they do. With a lot of rehab, the ranch has really come to life in the critter category.

Social media note: another day without twitter. Today I didn’t really even think about popping on to it at all. That’s progress of the good variety.

Until next time, peeps: be well.

My life with critters

Critters I have rescued from inside my house and relocated back out into the world where they belong:

Honeybees, of course. If you keep bees, you’re going to wind up with some inside here and there.  Fortunately, they generally head for the windows, where they can be captured and let loose outside to head back to their hive. This catch and release does not apply to hornet, wasps, or yellowjackets, all of which have met their demise for their arrogance in invading the house.

Birds. One day while going about my business, I heard an odd fluttering and some soft thumps. After tracking down the sound, a small wren was hanging out under the table we use to fold laundry. That came in handy, as it allowed me to grab a light towel, toss it over the wee thing, and let it back outside. There was a sequel to this, with another wren, but this time he/she evaded capture for about ten minutes, with the chase moving from the dining room to the kitchen to the laundry room until finally I cornered him/her and took her back outside.

Lizards. We have, on several occasions, found lizards using the outside of the house as their fun sexy time pad: on the columns of the front porch. On the gutter downspout in the pool area. On the handle of the fence that someone is about to use. In the gardens. The lizards don’t even have the decency to blush and move away from one another as, say, teenagers would when caught in a delicate situation in a not-well-thought-out location. Nope, nope, nope. They simply stare at you as you move past them, and continue their business that you have rudely interrupted. Luckily, I have not encountered any duos getting it on in the house. Single lizards looking for a good time do sometimes wander in, though. I have to say that attempting to catch the lizards is often frustrating and not entirely effective with a head-on approach. Instead, I use the same technique I used when herding the chickens toward the coop: with my arms spread out to either side, the lizards generally move away in a fairly straight line. This allows me to direct them to an open door and send them back outside. I have caught two with my hands out of sheer luck, but most of the time, it’s a lizard roundup and herding.

Frogs. A number of them. Summer and spring brings out the peepers and tree frogs. I generally use them as a harbinger of when to transplant seedlings from the barn to the gardens: the more frog butts on the windows I can see from my desk, the better, as they are not terribly fond of cold weather. We have that in common, they and I. Most of the time it is tree frogs that must be captured and taken outside. The trick is to get the captured one back out into the wild without allowing another to pop in and take its place. Generally, I capture them with my hands, as it’s much easier than using, say, a tall cup as I do for the bees. To demonstrate their thanks for the rescue so they don’t starve to death in the house and turn into a mummified little body that I have to remove (because my mother and my sister refuse to touch them if we’re all together and we find one), they usually pee on my  hands.

By far, however, the oddest critter I have had to remove from the house is the dragonfly that somehow managed to get inside yesterday. I heard wings and the tinkling of an insect hurling itself at the recessed light bulbs in the kitchen. In the past, that has usually been a wasp or other critter that I am not terribly charitable toward, and is an omen of impending death. Yesterday, however, the dragonfly got tired of that set of bulbs and moved to the ceiling above the dining room fan, and that’s when I realized this was a brand new experience. Using a broom to extend my reach, I crawled up on chairs and tables and tried to urge it to the door that I’d opened in the dining room. It was near dusk, though, and the dragonfly was very confused and continued to bang against the light bulbs. We turned out the lights and tried to push it a bit toward the door, but the light coming in through the windows in the dining room was brighter, and it headed there. That was my big chance! I held the dragonfly down gently with the broom, and softly pushed it into the cup we use to catch bees. I released the dragonfly out in the poolyard, and it flew away without so much as a thank you. Such is life in the wild, I suppose.

That’s all for today, peeps. Until next time: be kind. And be well.

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.