Monthly Archives: June 2014

Quite A Morning

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So as some of you know, there’s a couple of feral cats that’s been visiting my garden and eating my birds and my frogs.

This displeases me greatly, since I didn’t design this garden to be an ecological sink, like some kind of horrible avian Roach Motel, and I have been trying to live-trap the damn things with no success.

Had to stop trying to trap for the season because it’s gotten so hot that if they’re stuck in a cage outdoors for hours, the cats may well expire of heat exhaustion, and while I have no qualms about taking a feral to the pound, I have a lot of qualms about it dying one of the more unpleasant deaths at my hands. So the cats are back, although they run like hell when a human comes (so I’m pretty sure by now that they are ferals rather than strays.)

Went out in the garden this morning to fix the soaker hoses, not thinking about much of anything, and there is an explosion of fur as one of the cats, who has been lurking around the birdfeeders, takes off at a run…and hits the chain-link fence like an idiot and runs its damnfool head into the fence and is then stuck.

I grab my gloves and run up to discover the cat is in the process of strangling itself in the chain-link. (I’ve heard of this happening with wild animals on fences with a good run up, but it hasn’t happened here in over a decade–everything is undergrowth and trees and vines and you generally can’t get a good enough run at the fence to get stuck. But the cat managed.)

Well, now I’m sunk, because I can’t pull the cat back out without probably breaking its neck, I can’t go and get the wire cutters and cut the fence open because it will kill itself before I get back–its tongue is already hanging out and things are Not Going Well–so I do the only thing I can think of and grab the fence and try to haul the wires apart and hope the cat’s got enough presence of mind to go back instead of forward.

(If you’re familiar with the construction of chain link, you’re aware that this was just this side of useless–I couldn’t get my fingers hooked through the wire around the cat’s neck, all I could do was haul on the wires near it and try to compress them enough to give it a quarter inch or so more to work with. This had my hands awfully close to the cat’s head and I figured if it got loose, there was a 50/50 chance I’d get a really spectacular cat bite, which would be an exciting trip to the E.R. for the rabies shot and the really good antibiotics.)

Well, luck was with both of us. It got loose and my gloves protected me from any random flailing. I had a vague hope I’d get enough time to grab the damn beast before it got far–it probably injured itself, and I still hope to get it off the streets–but it was out of there like a shot, over the gate and into the woods. A ninja could maybe have caught it, but I am nobody’s idea of a ninja.

The cat is NOT in good shape, incidentally–leaving aside any neck injuries it may have just sustained, it’s nothing but fur and bones and there’s some kind of huge scar or mat along one leg that I didn’t get a good look at–and I would very much like to trap it, both for my birds and so it can get either medical care or a good home or a better end than nature will provide.

If you must have outdoor cats, people, for the love of god, spay and neuter them. This sort of thing is unconscionable and it’s entirely the fault of lazy-ass humans and swear to god, it’s things like this that are going to drive me to start drinking before noon.

The Middle-Aged Woman & The Sea (Plus Bonus Turtle!)

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I return from the vacation of vacationness!

It was pretty good. We walked on the beach and wore hats and went to small tacky beach shops and bought small tacky objects that seemed like a good idea and which will puzzle us in years to come. (Though I am quite pleased with my flamingo-shaped birdhouse.) We went out to Shackleford and saw the wild horses, which are not the Marguerite Henry ponies (I was wrong) but probably the descendants of Spanish horses, and are believed to be the oldest population of horses in North America. So that was pretty cool.

I went in the ocean. Having grown up in the Pacific Northwest, I am highly skeptical of the Atlantic, because it is warm and not full of rocks. I suspect it is plotting something. It rewarded this suspicion by slapping me repeatedly with waves. I retired from the field of battle, because it is not possible to win against geography.

Got back home and went into the garden to do some much needed clean-up—the heat over the last week has slain the last of the peas, and the beans are starting to produce big pods that are yellowing up. Built a drying rack out of narrow RV window screens, which fits nicely in the studio window table and should be destroyed by the cats any moment now.

And then, as I was chopping back the native creeping St. John’s Wort, I saw this little guy digging into the mud alongside the path…


As you can see, he’s got something swollen on the side of his head. It turns out that ear infections are common in wild box turtles and cause abscesses. (Who knew?) It’s a pretty easy fix—you drain it and give them antibiotics—but well beyond my skills, so I started calling wildlife rehabbers in my neck of the woods. Fortunately, I got a gentleman on the second try who was still taking small stuff (I think, based on his cautious answers, he was afraid I was gonna dump a fawn on him or something) and said “Oh, that we can handle!” So I put Turtle-Bob here in a box and ran him out to the rehabber. (Big house, huge garden, peacocks and beagles roaming the grounds. I took him up to the front door, and the porch was covered in peacock feathers. My kinda people.)

The rehabber said that Turtle-Bob was quite young and that they tend to be pretty hardy with this procedure, so he’ll give me a call if he pulls through and we can bring him back to the garden. Box turtles have very small, very set territories, and while this one may not have settled yet, if he has, we don’t want to stress him out by trying to introduce him somewhere else and possibly having him get hit by a car. (We lost one to a UPS truck that way awhile back, and lots and lots of box turtles die on roads every year.)

Honestly, I occasionally think I’m running box turtle hospice here–I found another one a few years ago, and he hung out in the garden for a week or so, eating my tomatoes, then expired quietly. There wasn’t a mark on him, so for all I know, he died of old age or something. (I can at least be sure he didn’t get into any pesticide laden veggies here, but reptiles are hard and they get weird diseases that don’t make sense to us mammals. Anyway, I at least know he had plentiful food and peaceful final weeks.)

Hopefully Turtle-Bob the Third will pull through and be able to return, and if not, at least he got care.

And the rehabber told me to take a bunch of peacock feathers when I went, so I’ve got a couple in my studio now.


ETA: The rehabber just called—Turtle-Bob survived surgery just fine and is doing well! If all goes well, he’ll be ready to come home in a week or so!


By | Insects, Stuff In My Yard | No Comments



Found this guy (and a bunch more like him) making leaf nests in the Amorpha fruticosa, aka Tall Indigo-Bush. He is either a Silver-Spotted Skipper, or a Hoary-Edge Skipper–they’re nearly identical and while Silver-spotted are common, there have been a crapload of Hoaries around the garden this spring, which is somewhat unusual. So I am leaning toward the Hoary-Edge Skipper, though in other years, I would’ve leaned t’other way.

Once I’d photographed him, I returned him to his bush, tucked in where the birds and wasps hopefully won’t get him. It was rude to clip his little nest open, but rude for science.

I am staring out the window now, willing it to rain. It is doing little noncommittal droplets and damnit, we need a good hard rain-barrel filling frog-strangler of a rain. If they find me with my brain popped and my tongue hanging out, that’s what I was trying to do at the time.


By | Day-to-Day, My Garden | No Comments

Today in the garden, an indigo bunting took a bath in the puddle that formed from the run-off of the broken soaker hose, which is supposed to be saving water and kind of isn’t, and I ought to fix it because I’m not sure how much good it is doing, except that it leaves puddles that are immediately swarmed by our neighbor Wade’s honeybees and by puddling butterflies, and in this case, by a male indigo bunting.

Wade swears the bees have lots of water and he constantly puts out pans for them and they just ignore it. He thinks they like our water better. I am okay with this.

When they can’t get broken soaker hose, they have taken to mobbing the bog garden pot, with its rather bedraggled pitcher plants that I thought were dead but are somehow slogging back to life from a root ball slightly smaller than a quarter. I would really like to refill the bog garden because it will dry out soon and the lady’s tresses are not looking happy, but it is wall to wall swarming honeybees and I do not want to drown them or make them angry at the person with the hose.

Today the pasture rose bloomed, perfect little single pink flowers with clusters of golden stamens. It’s beautiful. It’s far too aggressive for the spot it’s in, but it’s a bit late now to do anything, absent a truck and a winch. Someday it will eat the rain barrel.

And the yucca fell over. I didn’t know that yucca flower stems got heavy enough to fall over and take the yucca halfway out of the ground with it, but apparently they do. I don’t have any stakes, so I jammed the cultivator into the ground up to the top of the tines and tied the flower stem to it. It is the third least elegant solution in the garden, the second being the hardy Russian pomegranate that I bungee-corded to an arbor to try and correct the lean, and the worst being the fig tree which put out a really heavy trunk that wanted to fall over, so I used the big metal pole that I was supposed to mount a birdhouse on and an Ace bandage and we got an amazing crop of figs last year and that’s the important thing.

¬†Also, I bought a poem from a woman selling poems at the Farmer’s Market today.