Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Cats 101

My cat is . . . well, a cat. She is precocious, funny, lovable, and willing to bite to draw blood.

I was talking with a neighbor this week when he saw me out in the garden. He told me about his relationship with my cat. That sometimes she wanted to talk and hang out, and other times she has no interest in him whatsoever. The worst was when he told me that sometimes she asks him to let her into my house. Like all cats, she sees no harm in asking -- again and again and again. Just in case the answer changes.

She will also walk into any open door in the neighborhood. One of my neighbors was visiting another one day. It was warm, so they had left the door open. The next thing they knew Naomi had joined their little get together. She will also do this with open cars. One day she almost left with a workman, but fortunately the same neighbor #1 pointed her out on the seat of his truck before he took off. She used to be welcome in a different neighbor's house until the "unfortunate incident." This was when she was in the house without the neighbor knowing it and had to go. She went on the bedspread that was lying on the floor. Now she is banned, though the neighbor is still friends with her.

If I go to visit a neighbor, she will come along. She went with me over to another neighbor's house and he let her in. We had a great time watching her once she discovered the boa constrictor in his cage. He suddenly became more active, moving like he was enticing her to come closer. She would, very cautiously, and then jump back suddenly. She is used to garter snakes, but that thing was huge!

Another time she followed me all the way down the street when I went to the neighborhood garden club meeting. She sat outside the whole time asking to come in. It made everyone laugh and me blush. Late comers kept asking if they should let her in, only to receive a chorus of "No's."

About a week ago I heard yet another neighbor scolding a cat. I couldn't tell whether it was her Shadow or my Naomi, but one of them had caught a mouse and she was imploring the cat to let the poor little mouse go. I was laughing at this. That kind of logic doesn't work on a cat. They are just doing what comes naturally -- and a good thing too, or we would be neck deep in pests.

Cats also like to find little "nooks" to curl up in. Suitcases and bathroom sinks are highly favored for this. Naomi also likes the linen closet and I have given over a portion of it to be a permanent bed for her. Lately she has found a new place to curl up.

When not filling up a bucket, she likes to curl up in the garden, in the lettuce, or instead of the lettuce.

Needless to say she is NOT happy when I make her move. She is 100% cat and I wouldn't have it any other way.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

I Bee-lieve

I was gardening a lot this week and had a great opportunity to spend some time with bees. I working in one of my raised beds, extremely close to the blossoming sage. The perfect purple blossoms were being plundered as I worked. This was the longest period of time I have ever spent around bees and was keen to watch them on their quest to collect and distribute pollen. Since I was not making a move toward them in any way, they were completely ignoring me. This is something I could not say about the yellow jacket who kept showing up to nose around me, making me intensely nervous.

The last time I got stung was by a yellow jacket was in the privacy of my own bathroom. And in an intensely private place. I was doing my usual bathroom business, as one does, on the throne when I realized that something didn't feel quite right. I reached down to check and -- yikes! My hand came away with a yellow jacket perched upon it, but not before he had given me what for in the nether regions. Talk about freaking out! I threw the offensive little creature into the toilet and flushed. Then cleaned and bathed the painful area repeatedly.

Needless to say (but I'm gonna say it anyway) it was a little touchy trying to sit down at work for the next few days. I had to tell my coworkers what had happened so that they would understand the strange little dance I was doing trying to sit comfortably. Who ever heard of getting stung in the. . .?

The last time I was actually stung by a bee was several years ago. We had had an unseasonably warm autumn and I was out cleaning up leaves and such on the Saturday before Thanksgiving. I woke up a bee that had been snoozing in a warm fold of a plastic garbage bag. I didn't notice him until he got me on the wrist. Who ever heard of getting stung in November?

My conversation with the gentle bees came, by chance, on the same day as the Colorado Rockies baseball game was interrupted by the sudden appearance of two swarms of bees that sent players, photographers, and cameramen scrambling.A beekeeper came and vacuumed them all up with his bee vac.

It must just have bee-n one of those unbee-lievable days!

Friday, May 11, 2012

The Buck Stops Here - Well, There, Actually

I live in Boulder, Colorado. It is a fairly affluent city with a strangely diverse population. It was once featured on the Today Show as having the largest cross-section of religions of any other city in the country. This is a place of big money living side-by-side with New Age granola types. On Thursday evenings a group of hundreds get together to ride their bicycles all over the city - just because it is Thursday. I live in a trailer park, so obviously, I am not on the money side of things, as to the other side - you be the judge. My neighbors consist of an astrologer, three massage therapists, a Rolfer, a junk dealer, a recycled building materials dealer, and a young woman creating her own business of crocheted fashions. The first time I saw one of my neighbors she was jogging past dressed as a butterfly.

Our "trailer" park, or, more politically correctly, mobile home community, is not stereotypical of the "trailer park" of red neck comedians, though there is plenty of comedy around here.

We live with a fairly wide range of wildlife passing through. Fox, deer, snakes, rabbits, raccoons, squirrels, skunks. . . Around here it really is a wild life. . .

One fine autumn day I was out in my yard raking leaves. I looked up with a doe came out from between two of the homes across the street. She turned and trotted down the street and then went between two more of the homes. Nothing unusual there. A moment later a huge buck came out from between the same first two houses as the doe. He looked around and did not see her, apparently his sworn lady love. On the other hand, he did see me and I didn't quite measure up. Thus, really ticked off, the horny beast lowered his antlers and started to rush my direction. I froze. What to do? I was too far from the house to make a run for it. I had my rake, but compared to those antlers I may as well have been holding a toothpick. I wondered briefly what impalement would feel like.

At the last moment, or maybe the moment before that, he caught the scent of his lady love, raised his head and trotted happily and lustily after her. I dropped to the ground and tried to get my heart and lungs working again. Not a hole in my person, other than those that are meant to be there.

Most of my wildlife encounters have not been quite so dramatic, but they are plenty. This may be a city, but we are just barely downstream from the whole Rocky Mountain Range. It is probably only a matter of time before I am faced with a bear - or worse.

Tuesday, May 8, 2012

I am Cat Woman!

I am a cat person. To those who know me, this is as enlightening a statement as “I breathe air.” Over the years I have raised, or helped to raise, more than 20 cats. This does not include the litter of feral kittens a mother cat deposited on my door step as soon as she had weaned them. Once she had decamped, the father showed up and spent time hunting for his kids. One day I came home from work and I found them dining al fresco on my patio on the catch of the day – a squirrel. Fortunately, they were very thorough and I did not have to clean up after them. I eventually got them all trapped and taken to the Humane Society.

By far the most entertaining of the cats is my current feline housemate, Naomi. She is funny, feisty, and won’t take crap from anyone. When I adopted her I had planned that she would be an indoor cat since she had been declawed by her previous owner. However, being kept inside she was unhappy, sick, getting fat, and stopped taking care of her fur. I gave in and started letting her out. Within a week she was in perfect shape again.

One day early on in our relationship she followed me into the bathroom. While I was taking care of business, she jumped up onto the sink to take a closer look at everything since she was still getting acquainted with her new surroundings. She was concentrating so hard that she walked off the edge of the sink into thin air. The gravity took over. So much for all that feline grace.

Her outdoor activities are quite varied, from making her rounds of the “perimeter” to waylaying total strangers walking by to get them to pet her. She has also made friends among the abundant wild animal population in the neighborhood, particularly the deer. I have seen her chase a faun out of the yard, only to see the faun chase her back in a moment later. They were playing some form of tag. I have seen her go nose to nose with a skunk without the expected adverse effect.

One day, while I was working in the garden, she caught a garter snake and brought it onto the patio near me. She would look at me and then poke the snake with her paw to make it move. She wanted me to see that she had found a string that moved on its own. After she had played with it for about half an hour she got bored and moved on. That is when I went and retrieved the unconscious snake to put it back into the bushes. There wasn’t’ a mark on him. I checked a few minutes later and he was gone.

Mice don’t fare as well with her. I was lying in bed half asleep one morning trying to convince myself that it really was time to get up. I could hear Naomi playing in the next room. It was a fairly rowdy romp, so I assumed that she was playing with one of her toy mice as she often did. Suddenly something landed between my eyes. I reached up to remove the toy mouse that she had managed to throw in my face, but what I found in my hand was no toy. It was a real mouse that she had caught and played to death. The rush of adrenalin fired me like a rocket. I was out of bed, threw the mouse in the trash, and raced for the bathroom. Thereupon I removed several layers of skin with soap and water.

What else does she do? Well, when I am lying down, she likes to wrap herself around my neck and head and drool into my hair. She has confiscated a portion of the linen cupboard to be her get away spot. If I pick up the phone she will rush back into the house to climb on my chest while I am in conversation. She is particularly fond of licking and chewing on the cords to the mini blinds. If I sneeze too close to her she will punch me in the face as hard as she can. If any of the neighbors leave a door open she will walk right in like she owns the place.

It’s a good thing I love her or there’d be hell to pay.