Sunday, June 26, 2011

Apricots and Seven

Well, it's apricot season in Patterson. The tasty fruit is getting ripe. I realized I post pics of all kinds of trees, mostly in bloom, but not much for the apricot.

Patterson claims to be the "Apricot Capital of the World". At one time it may have been. Most of the varieties of apricots grown now were developed right here in the Patterson area. But so many apricots are imported now that most of the apricot orchards have been pulled out and nut trees put in. But I did see a fairly young apricot orchard recently and a peach or nectarine orchard that's very young also. So now many of the apricots that are left are organically grown because that is the only way they can compete with the import market. Such is the way of commerce. All I know is enough people around here still have a couple trees so I can get 'em fresh if I beg.

We have turned the boy cats outside and they are doing well. We thought we had all the feral cats pretty much gone. Until this morning. We caught number seven. Man! Those cats are mean! So the traps are set again and we will see if any more turn up. They seem to all related if you look at the coloring of them. No we are not catching the same ones over and over. I assure you that they have been relocated far from people, where the hunting is good, but they could wind up being prey. Good luck to them. I hope they get lots of ground squirrels. Which is what we bought the traps for in the first place.

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Chapter Two in the Great Cat Saga

Patches is pissed. Very pissed. She will not let the other cats use her dishes or her favorite scratcher thingy. She sits next to her scratcher thingy and guards it. All gathered up in a tight stance like she it going to leap out at any moment. I had to put more dishes in for the other cats to eat and drink from. The above photo is the first time she has been on the bed since the other two cats have been inside. And that was just for a minute. Alfalfa looks at her like "so what!". I'm just darned glad she lets them use the litter box. Which I must change today because with three cats it doesn't last a month like with just one small cat.

This is Barley. He's getting fat being inside. We let him out for a day but found there were still feral cats around and brought him back in. Let's just a simple "kitty, kitty" and he ran back inside. It would be nice if they were all just in and out when they like. It's much simpler that way. But I fear that Patches has no street smarts and would get hit by a car. So inside she will stay.

I'm not sure when Barley puts that eye liner on but he has it on every morning when I get up. he does a pretty nice job of it. It's purrfect every day!

The bedroom door is open and the cats are free to roam the house but they purrrfer to lounge around on my bed all day. And then sleep on the bed all night. Patches is the only one that will come into the living room.

I may have to change her name to princess. I'm telling you, she could give a Diva lessons! She will sit on the floor and give me this look with her eyes half closed and her ears kinda flattened on her head that is certainly telling me where to go. Last night she finally got up on the bed and slept on top of me for a while. If she deemed that too close to those boy cats she slept between me and the edge of the bed. She doesn't even want to look at them.

We caught five feral cats so far. They have been relocated down by the river where the hunting is good and the people are scarce. We think there is one more kitten. They aren't little cute kittens. They are about 3/4 grown and mean as hell. I'm sure we are being kinder than a lot of people would be.

What to do about feral cats is the big question. I'm not in favor of just shooting them. Animal control doesn't have the budget to deal with them. Ideally, I think they should be captured, tested for disease, neutered, then turned back out into the wild to live out their days with no off spring. But I can't afford that and neither can the county. I can't bear the thought of shooting them either. And neither can my tough guy husband. It's certainly a problem. My animals are neutered and that's about the best I can do.

Wait until you hear about Charlotte and Alfalfa. I'll try to get the photos a bit clearer before I post them.

Thursday, June 16, 2011

The Tale of Three Cats

This is Alfalfa. This photo is remarkable because he is asleep on my bed, in my lap, and he's not sick. We got Alfalfa about 15 years ago from behind a small store in town. Okay, all the stores in town are small stores. I mean the Post Office has six parking spots and I can only remember twice having to park on the street. Even at Christmas. Anyway, we got this little kitten and he was pretty much feral. He never would come in the house without panicking so much we feared for his health and put him back outside. When he was about a year or so old he went in the street and got hit by a car. His back leg was broken. Like dangling broken. I don't know how long it took us to catch him but he was hiding in our garage. If you have ever seen our garage it would be like hiding in a fun house that's been meshed with a junk yard. But we caught him and he was wild! We jammed him in a crate and took him off the vet. They pinned his leg together and he's been just fine ever since. He used to fight any cat that came into our yard. We noticed in the last few years he just lets other cats go where ever they want to. He doesn't hunt like he used to either. D would have to show him the mice in the hay barn and maybe Alfalfa would go after one. He's fine and healthy, he's just slowed waaaay down. For Alfalfa Darryl and I are the only humans he can tolerate.

We also have Barley. I don't have a good picture of Barley right now. But I expect I will soon. Barley used to live next door to us. He was abandoned by his owner when she moved out. But I already knew Barley as he was Oats' brother. Oats is no longer with us. Barley was raised in a house with dogs. So being a relative and all we adopted him. It seemed it was okay with Alfalfa. In the last year or so it's Barley who chases off cats and does most of the hunting. Barley will let almost anyone pet him and doesn't run from the dogs. Which, I must say, confuses the hell out of the dogs.

Then there is Patches. I have posted many photos of her and she's a pretty spoiled princess. She never goes outside. Her dainty toes have never had to dig a hole in the hot summer dirt to do what she needs to do, then try to cover it up. Her food and water are waiting for her whenever she chooses to partake in small bite or two. She even yowls at me if she feels her litter box is no longer fit for her to use. And she doesn't shut up until I change it.

But lately there's been a discord in this peaceful kingdom. There seem to be a few very tough and wily feral cats around here. So much so that I can't put out enough food for Alfalfa and Barley. Barley will chase them away and get his share and he's fine. But poor Alfalfa was suddenly thin as a rail. And he was in the doorway a few days ago and I swear he was asking to come in.

So I talked to Darryl and we decided to bring the outside cats inside for a while so that we could trap the feral cats. Don't worry we take them down by the river where the hunting is exceptional. It's our own personal relocation program. So last night Alfalfa was hanging out by the laundry room door so we picked him up and brought him in the house. We were expecting yowling and pacing and general panic. Darryl showed him the litter box then showed him where the food and water are. Then he ate. And ate. And a little while later he ate some more. He looked casually around and peered at Patches but ignored her. Then he sat in the window and scoped out the outside. The next thing we knew he was asleep in the middle of the bed. Patches is so bent out of shape she can hardly meow. She threw me the most hateful kitty look you ever saw. But somehow managed to tolerate sleeping on my feet that night.

Then tonight Barley was hanging out by the front door so I picked him up and brought him in too. He yowled, and paced, and pretty much begged to get out. We showed him the litter box. We showed him the food and water. He didn't eat or drink it. He wants outside. Then Alfalfa came over to him and rubbed his body all over Barley and Barley seemed to calm down. But Miss Patches is seriously pissed off. Her domain has been invaded by these two interlopers! All three are confined to the master bedroom and bath to prevent dog encounters of the loudest kind. No sense freaking them out any more than they have to be.

We went outside after dinner and set traps for the feral cats. Stay tuned for the Further Adventures of the Three Big Cats! Will Patches ever forgive me? Will Alfalfa want to go back outside? Will Barley ever come in the house again? And how many feral cats are there really?

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Respect the Spindle

This is my drop spindle. You make yarn with it. I've been wanting to be able to be half way proficient with it because it's so darn portable. I've fiddled with it off and on for a while but fairly recently I decided to use some fiber I really like and really learn to use this thing. We got busy and i set it down for a while. Then Shannon gave me a gift certificate for Mom's Day for Amazon. I know she had Kindle books in mind when she gave it to me but I used it a little differently.

I also want to be better with my spinning wheel so I bought a DVD about learning to spin that is going to teach me the ins and out of spinning. I can do it but am not exactly sure what I'm doing. Well, I had the DVD on my order sheet and still had some credit on my gift card so I got a book called "Respect the Spindle". I sat down to look it over and was immediately entranced. So I began at the beginning and every chance I got I read a little further into the book.

It goes into the history of spinning. It turns out the spinning wheel is only hundreds of years old but spindles can be traced back almost as far as man is. It tells about how the politics of textiles contributed to the American Revolution. It talks about types of spindles and why they developed where they did. And the physics and ergonomics of spinning.

And of course, types of spindles and how to spin. The spindle you see in the above photo is my first and only spindle. The clunky mushroom thing is call the whorl. These can be on the top of your spindle or toward the bottom. And it turns out that how this whorl is weighted makes a big difference on how the thing spins. Mine is weighted toward the shaft which makes it spin faster. But a whorl weighted to the outside spins slower but longer. Then I read than top whorl spindles like mine tend to wobble, which mine does from time to time. Bottom whorl spindles are more stable. So now I'm thinking if I'm still learning and am pretty slow at drafting my fiber slower and longer would be better for me at this stage. And a bottom whorl would be more stable. So off to Etsy I go and find two bottom whorl spindles I want to try. They are much cheaper on Etsy than the fiber shows, that's for sure. You can get them for as little as $10. But my book shows you a pretty easy way to make a very stable one with a toy wooden wheel and a dowel.

I also learn that the yarn I've spun and wrapped around the shaft of my spindle is called "cop". I didn't know how much I can wind onto the shaft of my spindle. But the book says usually you can wrap yarn the weight of the spindle before it gets too unstable. So if your spindle weighs 2 oz. you can probably wrap 2 oz. of yarn on the shaft. I just started a second cop of that fiber in the photo. I learned that when you wind singles (unplied yarn) into a ball you need to wind a tight ball. I didn't know that either.

I am getting better with my spindle and will finish up the fiber I have on this spindle because I don't know what would happen should I try one of the new ones and I want the yarn to be somewhat consistent. I figure if I can master this skill to the point I'm not embarrassed to do it in public, it would be nice because the spindle is so darn portable and unlike knitting I don't feel I have to get to the end of the row or of the needle.

I am going to try my hand at making a couple drop spindles soon. I think I have a good idea how many of the really pretty ones are made and where to get the materials. If any of you spinners out there want to give a drop spindle a try I recommend you buy this book, "Respect the Spindle" as soon as you get your spinning supplies or before. It is a fascinating book.

Wednesday, June 8, 2011

I'll Get You My Pretty!

With both spiders and flies in the house I have often thought the spiders actually do pretty good catching the flies. But I never saw one in action until now. I just happened to see this spider attacking his prey on one of my window. I'm not crazy about either one being inside but I dislike the fly worse than the spider. So I say...go for it Spidey!

And I have been busy with lots of other things but managed to get a row or two in on a sock now and then. So here is the pair I finished last night. Okay, Darryl finished the last sock. I hand it to him and he quickly grafts the toe together. The black wedge in the photo is Charlotte's nose. I hope the socks meet with her approval.

Speaking of dogs: I took Charlotte for her one year checkup. She is happy and healthy. Loved everyone until the vet stuffed junk in her nose. She played with a Golden Retriever while I paid the bill. They didn't want to part. But when I told her to heel she snapped to and paid attention the me instead of the other dog. The other day I walked with her to the mail box and let her off lead on the way back to the house. She stayed in the heel position like she should. Of course no cats, chickens or other critters crossed her path to distract her. Maybe she's getting the hang of it after all.

And in the small dog section: Vinnie and Ringo got out of the yard and went after a chicken. They were chasing the chicken and I was chasing them. It must have been quite a sight! They cornered the poor chicken who was cackling wildly. They pulled all the feathers out of her butt before I could grab the two rascals. The chicken is fine and the two dogs feel like big shots. I'm happy the chicken didn't get hurt and the dogs are happy they got to "hunt" a chicken, the chicken is darn happy the dogs are no longer in her turf.

I tell you there's never a dull moment around here.

Saturday, June 4, 2011

Giving You the Bird!

So, I'm minding my own business just doing stuff around the house. I come in the living room and find a bird fluttering around in there. Now, I've had many a bird in the house before but this was a little bit different. It was a humming bird! The pictures aren't that great because I used my cell phone again. The top one isn't that good a photo but there's a darn good reason. My cell phone is in a red case and the bird kept flying right up to the phone! I could feel his tiny wings on my fingers! It was crazy!

He kept landing for just a second or two and was able to get this picture. There is nothing wrong with his wing I just shot the photo before he got it all the way folded.

I could have reached out and picked the tiny guy up at almost any time but was afraid to because if I grabbed him wrong or he struggled too much I was certain he would break. So I got the big fish net for my Bigredmean Fish and used that. This took a little while because he kept landing on the net or he was too close to the edge of the window and I feared crushing his tiny wing. i finally got him safely in the net and released him out the front door. He flew fast and far!

There was a bee on the window and I was hoping to get a picture of the bee next to him but he was just too fast. The bee was about the size of the bird's head. He made an ordinary bee look HUGE!

My new car is great! I went to Castro Valley to my daughter's house a couple weeks ago and I did about 70 mph, maybe a little faster over Altamont Pass. My gas mileage was over 41 MPH. Not bad for a non-hybrid car!

I may have to quit washing the car though. Rain in June?!! This is just crazy! Maybe a sprinkle now and then but never, ever, never a downpour like today. The Spinning in the Vineyard thing was supposed to be today but was canceled due to the weather. It's Apricot Fiesta weekend. I'm hoping D and I will get to town to check it out but I'm not sure any of the vendors showed up. We will see what happens. It's stopped raining for now. I know that I have cousins in Washington and area that read my blog and they might be used to this but I don't know how they deal with it. It's chilly and muddy and generally yucky. No horse riding. No motorcycle rides. And muddy dogs. Yuck again!