• 27Dec

    Since I’m not yet to the point of starting seedlings indoors, there’s nothing much gardening to clack about. Back to Phil Hendrie.

    Man, that cat sure doesn’t know much about nature.

    I would never in a million years refer to a dude as a cat, but he does it and it makes me laugh. It makes me think of beatniks, pointy little beards and wire-framed glasses.

    I ranted before about his seeming misperception that organic farming was a refusal to use hybrids. I’ve explained why that was incorrect. Last night, he went off on the episode in California where the Siberian tiger escaped, killed a guy and mauled two more.

    I can understand his dislike of zoos. I get that, and even sympathize with his position. I grew up with a mother who launched into a lecture every time we went to the zoo that was similar. She did the same thing every time I wanted to visit Indian reservations and the “freak show” at the carnival. It was rude to stare, and even worse to take advantage of people’s curiosity for profit. (However, she never hesitates to exploit Native Americans by dropping a lot of coins into Native-owned casinos.)

    But I’ve strayed from the subject: zoo animals.

    Yes, one of Phil Hendrie’s guests did an especially moving reading of “How Deeply Oiled is the Oil Bird,” a delightful poem worthy of some kind of poem prize. But he is kind of misinformed about animals in captivity.

    He advocates opening all the zoos and letting them free. (Personally, I fantasize meeting Tippi Heddren and she helps me start a sanctuary of my own, then PETA frees research animals and I take them in.)

    Releasing animals in captivity into the wild is not practical. A bullet to the head would be more humane.

    Animals that are born into captivity are fed by zookeepers. They don’t learn hunting and survival skills and would have a very small chance at surviving amongst their brethren who would likely immediately kill them for invading their territory. If they survived that, they wouldn’t have the skills to hunt and find food. They would then starve.

    It really is that black and white in my world of mostly grays.

    Look at these fools on Survivor, the reality show. Imagine if they weren’t given a staple of rice and told what fish were safe to eat, how to avoid sharks and other predators, what plants were poisonous and so on. Imagine that there were no camera people and other staff.

    Drop one of those city people – or even a chicken farmer – into the middle of a habitat s/he did not know. A jungle, a lovely beach, a desert. Their instinct would tell them to hunt, fish and find water and shelter. But would any of them know how?

    Phil Hendrie and probably countless others think that hunting skills are inborn. They are NOT. Once again, he’s a city boy and hasn’t had the experience of watching a mama barn cat teach her kittens to hunt for birds and mice. They are NOT born with the skills, just as a farm woman isn’t born with the ability to make the perfect apple pie. It’s learned. The tiger has to learn from its mother how to hunt for food. They aren’t given that class at the zoo.

    Additionally, most of those animals aren’t from the wild, they’re born in the zoo.

    Another point: Jack Hanna is always like that. He wasn’t nervous, he was just Jack Hanna, who is kind of giddy. He does a lot for endangered species, kind of like the croc hunter. That guy didn’t just wrestle crocs, he worked hard to protect wildlife. Hanna said exactly what Hendrie said, but Hendrie turned it around somehow (wtf?): a tiger, even though born in captivity, is still a wild animal and has the instinct to attack.

    I don’t know what the story is, and there’s a lot of speculation. With the media, you need to always sit back and give it a couple of weeks while they have their frenzy and spread a lot of rumors.

    My sadness was that the tiger had to die, and there weren’t tranq guns at every corner with trained personnel who could quickly subdue the animal. (I’m also sorry for the dead and injured, though if the speculation turns out to have meat and they were taunting the tiger, then my view will be “one less retard on the planet, it’s a shame it wasn’t more, and too bad the tiger had to be killed.” BTW, I’m on an anti politically-correct rampage and use terms like Merry Christmas and retard these days.)

    A couple of other points about zoos while I’m at it. The Siberian tiger is endangered and there are a lot more in zoos than in the wild. Part of zoo programs is trying to keep these species alive, even though they have to live in zoos. (But kind of like the Muslim woman in a burqa who doesn’t know there’s a big, burqa-less world out there, the captive animals don’t know there’s a more dangerous but freer life. So they don’t miss it.)

    My cousin is in her second year of college, headed to vet school. She has planned to be a vet since she could talk, but her specialty has changed from time to time. She had really been headed down the path of working with zoo animals (because she’s a cat lover like myself, and enchanted by big cats, and I’m sure she’s devastated over the death of this tiger). At her university, they immerse the students in animals stuff from day one so they see if they can handle the icky side. (Her first semester involved sticking her tiny little arm up a cow’s ass and doing an exam. I have pictures of the happy event.)

    So this past semester, she did Captive Animals 101, and it involved a lot of field trips to various zoos around the midwest, going back where the public doesn’t go, and many guest lectures from zoo vets.

    As it turns out, not only is being a zoo vet not a tidy 9 to 5 with holidays off, you don’t get to really spend much time with the actual animals. The biggest part of being a zoo vet is breeding and doing research on breeding.

    So she’s rethinking it all now.

    She didn’t grow up around the farm as I did, since the family farm is now almost a relic. But every farm with cattle knows about the artificial inseminator. That’s the guy that comes around with a container full of bull spooge (and the farmer with the lucky prize bull gets big bucks for that liquid). He sticks HIS arm up a cow vagina and does the deed. That, my friends, is his JOB. No one has ever answered my burning question: how do they get the sample? It’s not like you give the bull a Juggs magazine and tell him to go into the bathroom with a specimen cup. Does the inseminator manually do it? I really want to know, because if he does, it makes the job even creepier.

    That’s life on the farm, sticking arms up cows. And the cows don’t like it either, poor things.

    Jack Hanna has the best job in the world, as far as I’m concerned. He gets to play with all the animals. Watching him with baby tigers and little bear cubs on various talk shows…makes me all teary eyed. But they do grow up into big animals that can and do attack when provoked or threatened. (Doubtful that tiger was hungry; their diets are very scientifically controlled and they do get special treats and “enrichment” fun to keep their minds active.)

    Phil Hendrie might give a thought to animals in a circus. How about shutting down Ringling Brothers? That’s some damn cruelty, making them parade around in friggin tutus.

    I love Phil; I think he’s got to be THE most under-appreciated talent on earth. The guy is a friggin genuis. But this cat needs some nature lessons pronto.

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  • 26Oct

    I’ve planted a patch of romaine lettuce for winter. It’s looking great so far. As the temps get colder, I’ll cover it with straw, and remove the straw during warm days to allow the sun to shine down. You can do the same thing with row covers.

    I’m also planning on starting to grow my own sprouts, just for fun. I saw it on a gardening show and was intrigued. You really just need your seeds and a mason jar, and a few days to grow them. First up, I’m planning on broccoli sprouts, just to try them. I love sprouts when I’ve bought them at the store or have them on a sandwich at a cafe.

    We’re also planning on a big basement project, so this will take a little time. For me, the planning stage on these things takes more time than the actual project.

    Then in January, I plan to start some of my herbs/vegetables/flowers indoors to get a good start for spring. In previous years, I start in mid March and some things don’t get big enough for my taste (eggplants, peppers, some flowers), so this will be a head start. Two things I won’t be starting indoors again are impatiens and moss rose. That was a total bust. The varieties were unusual colors you don’t see at the stores, but they were hard to get going, and then they all died in infancy.

    I like to have projects over winter to keep me from obsessing about next year’s garden. I’ll still obsess and plan I’m sure, but maybe less so.

    Oh, I also plan on getting organized. Ha. I say that every year.

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  • 21Sep

    The monarchs haven’t yet started to migrate south I guess, or maybe they are migrating and I’m a stopping point. My butterfly garden has paid off. All of the crazy watching the caterpillars, the delight, the excitement…just exploded.

    They’ve been out there for days and I finally ran to Kmart yesterday to get another roll of film. With digital cameras, it’s not that easy to find film, and when you find it, the choice is very limited. (Unless I wanted to drive 30 minutes to a camera store, which I did not.) By the time I loaded the camera, they had gone elsewhere.

    But here they were again today, along with other butterflies I can’t identify. I shot the entire roll in about five minutes, trying to get shots of their wings opened. We’ll see what I end up with, but I guess I’ll pick up a couple more rolls. Digging out my old camera equipment (that was high end when I bought it all) has been so fun. My friends still in photojournalism have been telling me that digital sucks, film still rules. It’s really true….the pictures are just so much more alive. Or maybe it’s me, enjoying the heavy lenses, remembering when I used to spend hours and hours in the darkroom, hanging out with all my journalist friends, chasing politicians and asking stupid questions. I miss it. I miss the chase, I miss the words, I miss the deadlines and I miss the newsroom.

    Back to the butterflies instead of wandering down memory road…after I ran out of film I had no excuse to chase them. I just couldn’t stand the joy and began swirling, my hands in the air, my heart full of absolute pure happiness.

    For those moments I could block out any stresses, any worries and bad thoughts. It was just me and the monarchs. They sailed, I twirled. I twirled like a child, and wished I had on a sun dress that would flow out at the skirt as I moved.

    If any neighbors looked beyond the fence and saw me, I’m sure they now know I’m really, truly crazy. Maybe they wished they had the courage to just let go like that. It’s not often I have the abandon for it, but the monarchs drew me in, away from inhibition.

    I wish I could have taken a video of myself. Anyone who would have seen me would have at least a moment of gladness.

    For those moments, I swirled, the monarchs sailed through the air, landing and sipping nectar, then sailing back up and around. It was as if they joined me in a dance and we all just soared.

    There was never a more perfect moment in life than letting go with these beauties.

    And now I cry. It was that emotional. Only a fellow butterfly lover could possibly understand such triumph.

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  • 26Aug


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  • 10Aug

    I had seen a few hummingbirds, but nothing like we had last year. In the last week, they finally started visiting regularly.

    When I moved to the burbs (from the boonies) several years ago, my cat had to go from one allowed in the yard (I literally lived in a national forest) to an indoor cat. The only benefit to moving to town was that I could actually put out a bird feeder. Okay, the other benefit was that I could get pizza delivery and could hop in the car and go to the 711 for a midnight twinkie. Woopie.

    Yes, I miss the country.

    Anyway, the hummingbirds seemed to like my hanging baskets of flowers, so last year I bought a hummingbird feeder. At the wild bird store, they showed me this hanger with suction cups so you could stick it to the outside of a window. I bought that too and hung the feeder on the outside of a living room window.

    The bonus of that is the cats can sit on a furniture arm and watch too. I keep safflower seeds in another bird feeder (that I’ve now moved to that same window, probably not so attractive from the outside, but the cats are entertained on a daily basis). The safflower seeds draw in cardinals and finches, but blackbirds stay away. The blackbirds get a yearly buffet from a neighbor’s berry tree and make a purple mess for two weeks.

    Once I put up that feeder and began adding sugar water, they began to come on a regular basis. Within weeks, they were coming one after another, a parade of little hummers. Fabulous!

    Both cats were enchanted, but especially little Jasmine, our deaf kitty. Her deafness is rarely an issue, she has no idea she’s deaf (and even Jack doesn’t seem to realize it, often vocally calling her with a toy in his mouth, ready to play). The down side of being deaf is that she also has no idea that letting out a loud scream of joy when she sees a bird tends to scare them off.

    Deaf cats are typically one of two things: either they’re mostly silent, or they’re vocal, but their communications are inappropriate. They have no control over the volume, and her tendency is to let out these horrid screams. If you didn’t know her and you heard it, you’d swear someone just stepped on her tail. But they are screams of delight, of big joy.

    Last year’s hummingbirds seemed to get used to her, and eventually realized the window was a barrier. She was no threat, just an oddity. Unfortunately, I was never able to get it captured on camera. Maybe this year.

    They danced. There was one hummingbird in particular that was a peeping tom. S/he liked to hover at the window, look in to see what we were doing, and when Jasmine showed up, the bird danced with her. Jasmine was so enchanted by that bird that she stopped her screams, stopped trying to grab the bird through the window, and just placed her nose against the glass, watching, mesmerized.

    The hummingbird would dance up and down, put its beak at the same height as Jasmine’s nose and the two would just look at one another. Then the bird would begin bobbing up and down, left and right, only moving a fraction of an inch at a time.

    It was just too spectacular for words to watch a beautiful little hummingbird interacting with this tiny cat. It always reaffirmed my decision to go organic.

    This year, the hummingbirds seem late, but they’ve finally arrived. I’ve noticed they are most active near sunset, and that’s the best time to sit down and just watch. One after the next, they come and drink. Sometimes one will drink at the feeder while two or three more feed nearby on a hanging flowers.

    I read yesterday that they feed most heavily just before sunset, to fill up for the night, and then start feeding again at sunrise, having grown hungry through the night. Apparently they nest during the night.

    The next time I have a bout of insomnia (an ongoing difficulty), I’m going to go out just before sunrise with my camera and set up a chair nearby. I’ve tried taking pictures through the window, but the lighting is never right and there’s always a glare. Plus it always shows a spot I missed when cleaning the windows. Blah.

    Interesting that it took moving into the burbs to be able to appreciate the beauty of birds.

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  • 28Jul

    A close friend is after me to visit and learn to surf.

    DH says he forbids it, as I’m too much of a klutz and will break my head. Part of me wants to try, but the other part of me has an irrational fear of sharks. This is likely a Midwestern thing because we were landlocked and saw Jaws too many times.

    I did grow up around a lake (and rivers, but those are creepy to swim in because of snakes, except for nice rivers in western Missouri like Jacks Fork and the Current…those are clean and wonderful) and was always a bit grossed out by the bluegills that liked to nibble on me. But summers in the lake were delightful and then in high school we started hanging out at the beach. That was grand.

    Until one day I dove off the high platform, went too deep and got tangled up in a bunch of weeds. It scared me because I felt like it was full of bad critters like snakes and fish and since then I’ve had a real fear of sharks. Yet I love the ocean and love playing in the waves, mostly body surfing (which my cousin and I learned at age 16 from some nice Mexican boys in Acapulco) and a little playing on boogie boards. So it’s a real love/fear thing. But honestly, I’m a tad fearful of paddling out and climbing on a surfboard. Plus I’ve heard that sometimes sharks think a surfboard and surfer look tasty.

    I know it’s irrational, but it’s there. I hope to overcome my fear and go surfing with my friend.

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