Natural History Notes

Sunday, April 27, 2008

act now or pay more

Peg just sent me a link to an Environmental Defense Fund article that indicates that if we jump on the "cap and trade" model for curbing carbon emissions SOON, the expense will be less than 1% of the GNP. The article is very short on actual numbers, but heartening, if (BIG if) we can get on the train.

Ah! read it more closely. The full report, with the numbers, is linked with a PDF download, about 40 pages.

Saturday, April 26, 2008

feral, and ex-feral, cats

A Natural History of the Sycamore Street Feline Herd (or Horde) —
Many of the ever-changing feline population I merely note the presence of: the black one with the collar, the kind of pretty white-fronted tabby, the long-haired ratty-looking one, the huge part-Siamese tom. But I have had a continuing relationship with one line.

Two years ago in early April, my three-year-old nephew went crawling under the back deck (NOT a salubrious environment) and discovered a litter of little kittens, eyes just open. We began feeding mom, and the kittens when they were a bit bigger. Mom was quickly named Zap, after Zap the cat in Lois Bujold's Memory (if you haven't read it, DO!) Zap would growl and hiss and scratch fingers and purr and dig into her food simultaneously, and so would our Zap.

We were able to pet and handle the kittens to some extent, especially the long-haired creamy one and the pretty little one with the Egyptian-kohl eyelines, that we called Tut. I considered trying to catch and socialize the lot of them, but with my bedfast mother and a house full of caregivers, hospice workers, etc., I couldn't quite see my way. And then one day Zap led them all off somewhere, and I didn't see them for months, and they were wild.

Last year I would see them occasionally. The big beautiful creamy long-haired male, who never got any name more dignified than Fluffytail, was around for a while, but I suspect he has succumbed to the perils of fighting for his status. All three white-with -spots ones turned out to be female, in spite of their optimistic names of Tut, Sam, and Pierre. (I had actually examined Tut, as a little kitten, and thought she was male. Oops.)

Last October my cousin found two scrawny little flea-bitten, anemic kittens in the sunshine just under the edge of the deck. We were on the point of leaving for Houston, but we took the time to take them to the vet. Turned out they were free of disease, and she got rid of the worms and fleas and fed them up, so when I got back to town I got two adorable healthy (expensive) kittens, Agate and Alabaster. Agate was the runt for weeks, Alabaster would just push in before him to gobble all the food. But his tom-cat genes eventually kicked in. She's a neat little 7.5 pound almost-grown-up white kitty now (with tabby leg-warmers on her back legs), and he's developing into a big, beautiful, hunky male (NOT an intact tom) at 9 pounds so far. I do my best to keep them inside, though if I get to move back out to the country, I'll let them be outside-in-the-day cats.

Meanwhile, back out in the back yard . . .
I have been feeding Lola, the muckledy-tortoise-shell spayed female abandoned by one of my tenants. The problem with feeding her is that she doesn't have the self-confidence or the standing in the pecking order to defend her food, and so I am really feeding the neighborhood. I don't want to do this; I can't feed ALL the feral cats in the UNT vicinity. But in March or so, when an obviously pregnant Tut showed up willing to get close to me for some food, I obliged. (She had been around, pregnant, before, though not coming so close. I think Agate and Alabaster are hers, but she might be their aunt.)

This spring she would let me scratch her ears as she ate, or even skritch all the way down her back. I began to envision catching her and confining her before she delivered, and getting her spayed after. But I still wasn't sure how to go about it, though Isabel is gone now and I have the whole house to myself.

Well, February and early March went by. She got fatter, and fatter, and fatter. Every now and then she wouldn't show up for a day or two, and I would think she had disappeared to have them, and I had lost my chance. Then she would be back, even more like a volley ball. I did get the unused plastic trash can washed out, and some wadded up newspaper in it. She disappeared again.

Then to my amazement she showed up again, STILL pregnant, on March 16. So I fed her, and as she was eating, I just picked her up under the front legs and popped her into the can. She didn't even wriggle, much less scratch. I brought her into the house, cleaned everything off the floor and shelves of the main bathroom, and installed her, with food and a nice box of rags, and later that day a litterbox. She was SO pregnant, she just settled down in that box and pretty well stayed there all the time. She did fortunately have no problem adapting to the litter box. I had the little bathroom hall blocked off, but she never even tried to leave the room when I'd bring in food. I think she knew a good thing when she found it. Warm, dry, no other cats to fight, food all the time . . .

Well, she got fatter, and fatter, and fatter, and FATTER. And she developed first one, then three, and four, and five bare spots in her fur, where she evidently just licked her aching back till all the fur came out. In her trip to the vet on March 19 she proved amazingly healthy. No FIV or leukemia, thank goodness, not even any worms. Just hungry and FAT.

13 days later she finally had a litter of five. I posted this to ICHC. One has been kind of a runt, and I have given her some extra feedings. She's doing OK.
They're all bouncing around now in their bathroom and the little hall. They are just four weeks old today. Pretty soon they'll be over the barricade in the doorway, and then I'm really going to be overrun. Explosion of cute! I think I better go take some more pictures and get them up on Craigslist. I really don't think I can have eight cats!

So that's the current state of the feline world here on Sycamore Street.
(I'll get back to this this evening to put in the rest of the pics, and to change out what I have for the screen-sized ones instead of these huge ones. oops)

Thursday, April 24, 2008

where's the HTML gone?

or not the HTML exactly, but the activeness of http:// links typed in my entries. I thought they would automatically be links, but it ain't so. Hmmmmm . . . must research. Wonder if they are working in the jewelry blog. Seems to me I have used them.

Later — huh. That's a pain. You can't just type in a URL and have it be active. You have to do by hand the whole [a href="URL"]visible text here[/a] deal. Surely there's a way to do it automatically.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

April shower at last

Well, it was about to feel kind of like a drought, almost a week since the last rain, and temps up in the 80s, drying things out. But the thunderstorm this evening took care of that for a while. Course, I would have preferred it NOT to be at its worst just when I was on the road from Lewisville. I was going 40 and unhappy about it. VERY heavy rain, occasional blinding lightning flashes, and in between the lightning I couldn't see the stripes except where they had white reflectors, which was not near often enough. But I got here, so I guess all's well that ends well. At least it will be cooler for a few days. It's already down in the mid-sixties now, a couple of hours after the storm, and it sounds windy outside, so I guess the front's coming through. Maybe my tenants will turn off their ACs again (though I have no great expectation of it). It's been in the upper 80s a few days recently, and I hear the AC cycle on even in the middle of the night. They pay lip service to the idea of cross-ventilation, but .... sigh. Thank goodness I don't pay their electricity. I will have one last gasp of a high gas bill, because ten days ago we just about had a frost. Oh well, THAT won't happen again.

The heavy rain may about beat down the last of the iris show. The ones at 610 have been extravagant this year. This picture was when they started, mostly purple and blue, and some apricot ones. The last week, the yellow and gold ones have been making the show. I hope Argyle Acres is still having open house this weekend. Yes, just checked. Through the 27th. Here's the link.

Here is a small plug for my jewelry blog. I made some of the irises into easel/backdrops for jewelry photography earlier this week. Quite successful. Between the nifty pictures, and my posts in the forums and AboutJewelrymaking, I got about 300 new views on my Etsy site for the day yesterday, and 50 more today without doing much at all. Now if some of those views would just turn into SALES. Oh, well, keep on plugging.

Monday, April 14, 2008

spring photos, April 2

This tender green unfolding hackberry twig is all out of date now; the leaves are fully open. Spring has pretty fully sprung, in spite of a frost alert last night (no frost here, I don't think). These pictures were taken almost two weeks ago.

The hackberry is at the north end of the garden area at the Ridge. This flowering dewberry vine is in the woods, down the hill from the spot that I am calling "deckhouse site" (because that type of house would go so well there). I went prowling all through the woods there looking for Buddy, becaue I just moved him to the east pasture that Saturday, and then he hadn't come for his food Monday or Tueday. I printed up flyers and went all up David Fort Rd. and around Fincher, stuffing mailboxes.

Along the way I saw this flower in the roadside. I though it was O. missouriensis, or sundrop, but this Saturday at Redbud Day the Native Plant folks had it for sale as stemless primrose. They also had sundrops; the leaves are way different. I got some of both.

Well, Buddy turned up back in the west pasture. I have NO idea how he did it. It hasn't happened again. He did get out again this past Thursday because the insufficient latch-board on the garage gate came open. But he came back on his own. I have that gate tied firmly shut now.

Finally, for the cryptobotany enthusiasts, here is the thallose liverwort along the bank of the lane. (Click on any image for larger view.)

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Father of Waters, alternate version

OK this is not Natural History, strictly speaking. Although I have heaps of pictures and observations from this spring, about which I really should be posting. A few days ago I saw a TURKEY at the gate to Red-bird Ridge!

But this is an experiment to see if I can put in the widget that shows a preview to Lois Bujold's PASSSAGE that comes out in a couple weeks. Plenty of natural history observations in it, Lois is a wonderful writer, and this landscape is pretty much the Ohio she remembers from her childhood.

OK, here goes . . .

Bah, it worked for the preview but Blogger won't accept it to publish. Says one section tag is not closed, though it looks to me like it is. I'll go copy it again and see.