Spring has returned. The Earth is like a child that knows poems. ~Rainer Maria Rilke

Thursday, July 21, 2011

Walking With Annibel

There is a beautiful color in the sky just before the sun goes down.

 It's  pinkish and a bit of yellow with tinges of pale blue.  The hills to the east reflect the last rays of the sun going down into the Pacific Ocean to the West, many miles away from our foothill home.
I don't see sunsets anymore. We chose to build a house on the east side of the mountain because this is a hot climate and the sun clings painfully to the dry hills in the summer. Also our best view is to the southeast .
The wildflowers dry up and turn brown in the heat of mid summer.
They have their own beauty as the flowers fade and the stems lose their green.
Last night we were ending a long hot day and, as the evening came to a quiet close, I decided to take a  quick walk up to the orchard and back before it got dark.  It's all uphill in that direction and good exercise for my pathetic feet. My heart is fine but my feet are failing me. I think there was some retched foot DNA that was passed along to me by some distant relative. So, I keep walking because life is short and I don't want to end up sitting in a chair for the rest of my life.
Annibel, our cat, reluctantly followed me.
Last night, when it was time for her to go into the garage, she was nowhere to be seen.  We guessed that she, because of the warm weather, decided to go hunting and stalk the wild things all night. We never know for sure because if she stays out all night we just leave the small garage door open for her. Then she can come in to the garage for safety in case the "wild things" decide to stalk her instead of the other way around.
So maybe she was miffed because we let her fend for herself. She seemed a bit upset. Oh well Annie...If the paw fits...

She was being very distant and basically ignored me. She usually walks with me and then runs ahead of me until I catch up with her. But last night I would stop, look back and call her... then she would just saunter slowly up the road toward me.
Cats are so different that Dogs. All I have to say is "Walk?" and stand still in front of Carl or Cutter. Then they start running around the house whining and acting like I just said "Biscuit?" or "Kitty cat?". They go crazy. They love their walk and can't wait to get their leashes on.
But, Annibel is a CAT. She waits. She weighs the situation.... " Do I want to go with Farmlady or do I want to just sit here and look at her?" She, as the joke goes, will get back to me.
So, it appeared that she was still trying to decide whether to walk with me or stay around the homestead. 
Finally she caught up with me and we headed for the orchard.
We don't really have an orchard anymore. When we first moved here we fenced an area so we could plant some fruit trees and grow some berries. We chose a place between the well and the septic leach mound. We piped and did a hose system for watering, cleared the land and planted the trees. The only thing we didn't think about was how far away from the house it was and as the years went by, we realized that water was a BIG issue and with our garden near the house and the animals we kept accumulating, our water was not going as far as our big ideas. So, after 15 years we have basically let the orchard go. A Pear tree struggles, and the two olives trees survive without any water during the summer.
The rest is gone, but  it's OK. It's one less thing to have to take care of. We have two persimmon trees in the veggie garden below the house and that's enough until we drill another well and have more water.
I walked up past the orchard and looked for any signs of wildlife. I knew that they were there hiding from me. But they were not to be seen. The deer, the fox and all the smaller creatures of the area were waiting for the human and her spoiled calico cat to leave so they could start their nightlife. 
Annibel kept looking up the hill...
Then, as if she had surmised that there were no threats to her catness, she started being frisky. She ran toward me and stopped.
Flipped around and ran back through my legs...
Turned around and ran back between my legs again.
Then she rolled over on the ground and wanted to play. It was like she has lost her "tude" completely.
Now she just wanted to have fun. She rolled and stretched.... and when I reached down to rub her belly, she pawed at me and wanted to nip at me. The attitude was gone. All of a sudden she was the playful kitten again and was just being downright silly. She went from Garfield to The Cat in the Hat  within seconds. We had a few moments of playtime and then she sobered up.
We started back down to the house and at some point I realized that Annie, again, wasn't with me. Then I saw her.

She was sitting near the well, looking up at the ridge above us. I walked back up to her. "Annie, what are you looking at?" She didn't move. She was watching something.
You know how a cat lifts and lowers their body, slowly, crouching a little, trying to see something?
She had seen something. I looked up on the ridge.
About half way up the hill a fox was sitting there watching us.
This is what I live for.
I looked down at Annie.

When I looked again...  the fox was gone.

I picked Annie up and carried her for a few feet. Then I put her down and she followed me. She even ran ahead of me.
Then she laid down and waited for me. When I got to her she ran ahead and laid down again... and waited.
 This was what we usually did together on our walks. I knew now that she had sensed something way before I knew anything was there. She was acting differently because she was being cautious.... and now she knew what it was, so she was taking me home.
By the time we got back to the house it was getting dark. I opened the gate and went though to the back door of the garage. Annie followed me and went in. I gave her a couple of cat treats and closed the door... " 'night Annie."  She was already heading for her bed. Tonight she would sleep safely.
I wondered what the fox thought about the cat and what the cat was thinking as she watched the fox. At sometime in the past their ancestors were living together, surviving in a hostile environment. The Wilderness is still out there. Annie is not a part of it because she is "our cat"... or is she.
I turned the light out and closed the door, walking over to the back porch. As I started up the stairs, I heard one of the goats say something to me... just a small sound. I looked over at the goat house and said..."Goodnight boys." and again I heard the quite, soft "maaaa".
I"m sure the fox came and drank water out of the bucket across the driveway later on and then checked to see if he could get into the chicken house. I'm sure that is what he does at night.
I walked into the house. Carl and Cutter greeted me like I had been gone for days.
The Prospector asked if I put Annie in the garage. I said "Yes, she's safe tonight."

I only went out for a walk and finally concluded to stay out till sundown, for going out, I found, was really going in.  ~John Muir, 1913

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Looking for Littles

I went out this morning looking for something to take pictures of. I wanted to find a bee or some cool Praying Mantis... or, yes, some spiders on their webs. I was on a quest to find all things "little".  My "big" camera, the Nikon, is in the camera hospital, in Stockton, being cleaned and having a small operation to replace a worn out part. So I'm using my Canon Power Shot A520. It's a challenge to see what I can do with my old point and shoot.
I really like this little camera. I always keep it in my purse so I can catch shots without looking like some kind of camera professional from the local newspaper. You can be sneaky with a camera like this. The Canon is easy to use and even through it doesn't have the options that my Nikon does, it's a great little camera.
First I went outside and did some watering, weeding and messing around in the garden. Messing around means playing with the dogs, laying down on the chaise just listening to different sounds and watching the big vultures circle overhead. It's a privilege of retirement.
Then I decided to take some a picture of the grapes...
...when I felt something on my arm. I looked down and saw that someone was crawling on me.
It was less than an inch long and just the cutest little cricket you've ever seen. I don't know why he (or she) decided to hitch a ride but there it was, enjoying the view and acting quite friendly. I guess I should have been concerned because Wikipedia says that they are predatory and omnivorous, eating both plants or animals. But, it was so little... and cute. Wikipedia also says that they are harmless to humans. OK, I like that.
I guess it's true because it made a big, and I mean BIG, hop and disappeared into the row of grape plants.
Did you know that there are 900 different types of crickets out there in the cricket world? We better hope that they don't unionize and pack on some weight. They have been known to cause a lot of damage.... of Biblical proportions. Oh wait! That was locusts, which are grasshoppers. Sorry.
So I walked around looking for more little creatures....
On the Elizabeth Taylor rose I saw a bee so loaded with pollen that it could hardly fly...
...and a very young Praying Mantis landed on the Agapanthus but was moving too fast for my camera.
I only got this blurred shot...

It reminded me of an old movie called THE DEADLY MANTIS.... do you remember?.... "This was the Day That Engulfed the World With TERROR".. It was 1957. and back then... this movie was scary.
Take a look...
This is how my mind works. I love to think about some little creature in a different way.
A prehistoric Praying Mantis is "released from the Arctic ice to bring destruction to the modern world".
I could see this huge Mantis coming up from the river across the canyon heading straight for Jackson. Oh no!
And then, as I backed away from this impending doom, I almost fell over the wine barrel with the  French pussywillow in it. As I struggled  to maintain my balance I saw this..

These are Giant Willow Aphid...
Thousands of them... and listen to this:
The giant willow aphid is found only on the stems of willow (including pussy willow and Austree).  The size is approximately 3/16 of an inch with long legs that make it look even larger.
Bark aphids feed on sap from inside the twigs.  Heavy infestations and severe sap loss may result.
And can you believe this?
All these wingless females practice "parthenogenesis". THEY DON"T NEED MALES.
They lay eggs without mating. They give birth by themselves. Wow!
That could be another movie all  together. This could revolutionize the human world, couldn't it?
Now.... think about these little ladies being, oh, maybe a couple of feet bigger and walking the earth
....with us.
Scary thought isn't it?
It would be THE ATTACK OF THE DEADLY GIANT APHID.... like a movie... only REAL.... and guess who would win?
I'm telling you if these little insects, in my garden, ever find some of Alice In Wonderland's "drink me" bottles, we're in trouble.
Makes you stop and think doesn't it?... or maybe not.
I have a vivid imagination.
So, tomorrow, I will save my French Pussywillow from these "giants" with some insecticidal soap or "horticultural" oil.... as soon as I read up on what these remedies are and how they work.
Well, I enjoyed my morning looking for Littles.
The only thing that would have been better is that The Bean and his brother (my grandchildren) would have been here to make stories with me.
That would have been perfect.
Perfectly perfect.

But then I would have had to explain this.
You know.... the stink bug "dance". But one of those stink bugs doesn't look so good. I think it lost it's head... or is that a third party hiding in the leaves? Oh, good grief. I may have to delete this photo. I don't know what's going on here.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Seeing Red

I have to say something about a problem that I'm having. I'm not the only one.
This is for all the wonderful folks who follow my blog and leave me comments.
Quite often I want to respond to your comments. I do this a lot.
I don't do this on my comment page because I don't think that most of you come back to the comments after you have written them. I see this done all the time but I like to be more personal. I like to respond to just you.
But, for some reason ( mine was changed magically by Blogger too) I go to write a reply to your comment on my email and I can't. Your return address is <norply-comment@blogger.com>. This means that I can't REPLY to your comment. 
So, because I'm old and easily irritated these days, I'm going to give you a link that will tell you what this scourge is and how you can remedy the situation. If not, then I can't answer any of your questions or tell you how much I appreciate your comments, or talk about something personal that we don't want the world to know about. This makes me sad, because I like to respond to you and have a dialog with you.
So, here is the link that explains what to do and why.
(This blogger also has a lovely and interesting blog .)
Please go into your settings and change the dreaded <norply-comment> to YOUR email address so that your favorite blog authors can respond to you.
There.... I feel better now. I'm not seeing red anymore.
here's my latest reply to who I have missed. She has been infected by the "norply" address bug and I can't reply to her on my comment email. So Maggie, here is my reply to you....

"Hi Maggie,
No, you didn't get carried away with your comment. Please don't ever feel this way. I love all comments. I appreciate your advice and it makes me feel good to know that others get themselves into jams like I do. I accept all  advice and I listen.
I agree that if I get the bed cleaned off I will feel better.
Thanks for your comment.
Good to hear from you.
Hope all is well.