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Decisions, Decisions

The 145th anniversary of the surrender at Appomattox is coming up this weekend. I can’t make it on Saturday because I have class in the morning, then in the evening I will be taking the spare kitty to the airport (provided she still hasn’t given birth, so far so good). So I’ll be going down on Sunday and hanging out for about half the day.

The question is, which dog do I take with me? My choices are Tink or Zille.

Reasons to take Tink: Handles crowds of people well, including re-enactors. Is not terribly bothered by gunfire. Knows the ropes as far as keeping the leash slack while I pause to take pictures, and standing still being quiet and respectful during remembrance ceremonies. Is my best buddy. Will stand at the side door staring pathetically out after me and Zille if I don’t take her.

Reasons not to take Tink: Has hysterical barking meltdowns at the sight of other dogs who do not resemble dogs she already knows, which means if they don’t look like a German Shedder or a Doberman, she’s going to have a fit. Pulls on the leash while walking. Will attempt to mug re-enactors for food since one once gave her a piece of beef jerky out of his haversack TWO YEARS AGO. Refuses to poop on leash unless she feels she has a sufficiently large audience, bonus points if I have forgotten to carry poop bags. Joints are iffy and she may not be able to handle a 4-hour trip with lots of walking without being ouchie later.

Reasons to take Zille: Great leash manners. Does not have hysterical barking meltdowns at the sight of other dogs, although she might quietly gruff at one who looks really funny to her (like Corgis). In fact, the only thing she will have a hysterical meltdown about is me leaving the house with Tink and not taking her, too. Since she is not mostly blind, will not require as much vigilance on my part to keep people from sneaking up on her blind side and startling her. She will be the Emergency Backup Dog for Sesquicentennial Madness and thus needs the training.

Reasons not to take Zille: Crowds make her a little nervous, and she doesn’t have as much experience with gunfire, so I will have to concentrate on her at times I would rather be listening to historians or watching guns fire. Occasionally pulls on the leash while I’m trying to take pictures. Being a dog of obviously high quality, will attract more attention than Tink and require me to answer more dog questions when I would rather be chatting with historians and re-enactors. Gets car-sick.

Taking both is unfortunately not an option since I want to be able to take pictures. Hrm. I may just flip a coin Sunday morning.

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Cat-related miscellany

1) The Spare Kitty is still pregnant. This is good news, as her new owner is flying in to collect her on the 17th. She needs to not go into labor until he has at least gotten her through security. I’m pretty sure that the arrival of kittens on board does not represent enough of an emergency to divert a flight, so if she wants to give birth in the air then that’s just fine and dandy — as long as we get her stripey self on that plane!

She is very mightily pregnant, though, and kind of uncomfortable I think. She spends her time lying stretched out on her side or eating and drinking, with the occasional trip to the litter box. If you cradle her swollen tummy you can feel a kitten kick you, sometimes.

2) After two years of having the thing taking up space in a box in Roo’s room, I have finally installed the Cat Veranda. It turned out to be way easier than I thought it would be, which accounts for why it was sitting around in a box for two years. I propped the door open so the kitties could take a look, and of course it was the intrepid Rooney Lee who tried it out first:

Rooney Lee, an orange and white Cornish Rex cat of amazing handsomeness, sits in the cat veranda and looks like he thinks he might be getting away with something, being in THE GREAT OUTDOORS like this.  The cat veranda is the size of a very very small window-mounted air conditioner, and mounted in almost exactly the same way.

I think he at least will enjoy it, he made another visit to it later in the afternoon when it was full of sunbeam, so he could take a bath in the sunshine and fresh air. I installed it as part of major renovations I was doing with Pagenstecher Group Remodeling to the two cat rooms, which now have fresh coats of paint and Pergo laminate floors, on top of which we’ll put some lovely jaipur carpets, to replace the grotty brown carpet (here’s where we got our carpets from: Next up, putting all the furniture back in them!

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Someday I will breathe through my nose again.

It is definitely spring in Virginia. You can tell because everything that has been outside for more than two minutes has turned yellow under a thick coating of pollen. There’s flowers all over the place but mostly it’s the trees doing it. I have been living on Zyrtec for a month now, y’all, and am anxiously awaiting actual summer when the trees will stop with their airborne romance.

Speaking of trees, I have planted three more here at the Manor: two pawpaws (Asimina triloba) and one American persimmon (Diospyros virginiana). One of the best places I have found for baby trees is Edible Landscaping. I’ve bought several from them, including two pawpaws that were casualties of a buck whitetail that lives or lived in the area, and they’ve all arrived in great condition and established themselves with a minimum of tending from me, which is exactly what I want in a tree. This is also, not so coincidentally, why I strongly believe in planting native species of tree, and did the research to find out what snack-producing varieties are native to my particular neck of the woods. Many of these native trees are also having a hard time, because their fruits are not commercially popular, or invasive imports are taking over their habitat, or in the case of the red mulberry (Morus rubra) the invasive white mulberry (Morus alba, from Asia) is taking over its very genome, since they can hybridize.

So here I am on the Manor, doing my part to save obscure native trees like the pawpaw. Odds are you have never heard of a pawpaw, unless a) you live overseas where the word pawpaw refers to another fruit entirely or b) your grandmother used to sing the pawpaw song to you like mine did. However, it is a nifty little tree that lives in the understory of the forest. It’s endangered in New Jersey, threatened in New York, and “vulnerable” in Ontario, Canada. The leaves contain a natural pesticide that keep bugs off them with the notable exception of the zebra swallowtail butterfly and the pawpaw sphinx moth, for which it is the larval host (find more details about the control of bugs outside the house and termites East Brunswick NJ). The fruit feeds birds and small mammals. Weirdly, it is pollinated by blow flies, which normally feed on carrion, which means its flowers smell like dead rotting things, and if you want to improve your fruit yield you can hang chicken necks from the branches of the trees to rot. Yum. has great information on the pawpaw and lists it as a PlantWise native alternative to Russian olive. Compounds in the seeds of pawpaws show promise for chemotherapy against prostate and colon cancers. How much more useful and cool do you need a tree to be, seriously? The problem, of course, is that the fruit does not ship well, and therefore it doesn’t have much commercial potential. As an understory tree, it’s also losing habitat as Americans cut down forests and put in housing developments.

You may have seen fruits of the Asian persimmon varieties in grocery stores. American persimmons (Diospyros virginiana) produce much smaller fruits that are horribly bitter and sour until after the first frost hits them. It is a hardy little bugger of a tree, able to handle high sun and low water conditions. Abraham Lincoln had one at his home in Illinois, even! Like the pawpaw, it’s a hardy native tree whose fruits just happen to be not as commercially viable as the agricultural conglomerates would like, so it’s listed as “special concern” in Connecticut and “threatened” in New York. Confidential to New York State: WTF are you guys doing to your native trees, yo?

Still in the plans for this year are a couple red mulberries (Morus rubra) as I think the one I planted last year did not survive the apocalyptic winter, and some hazelnut bushes. I also need to replace my butternut sapling that got mowed down by the neighbor I pay to do my lawn last fall. Meanwhile, I also need to go savage some damn Paulownia that have sprung up on the back acre, thin out the pine saplings from around the sassafras seedlings to give them room, and otherwise continue the grand re-treeification project.

Also, confidential to the person who got here googling “how to sneak up on a spring peeper”: If you find out, let me know! But I am inclined to say that it is impossible, because the little buggers will always hear you coming and shut up. The only way I’ve found to get a good look at them is to be out driving in the rain in the spring and summer, in the dark just before dawn. You will often see them hopping across the road and if you’re very swift and conditions are safe you can stop the car, leap out, and intercept one before it disappears into the ditch on the side of the road. But please don’t take them from their natural habitat, frogs are having a hard enough time out there. If you’re in an area where there are Spring Peepers and you’d like to have some around, may I suggest constructing them a little pond to hang out at?

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Life With Dogs Is Never Dull.

Today I had to go out for a while in the morning, so I crated Zille and Beowulf (Zille is not yet totally house-trustworthy, Beowulf had a housetraining regression and so is crated for the time being), and because I felt guilty about leaving on a Saturday, I handed out chunks of frozen rabbit from Hare Today before I left, so the dogs would have a nommy treat. Rabbitsicles, mmm. finding emotional support dogs is the bets thing that has ever happened to me, seriously!!

This is how I found out the hard way that chunks of frozen rabbit do not agree with La Diva Tinkerbella’s delicate digestive system.

Conveniently, I made this discovery after I fed her dinner, as the normal SOP for a dog who is experiencing a digestive system upset is to feed the dog chickenrice[1] for a couple meals and then reintroduce the regular food. There may be a dose of Pepto-Bismol involved there somewhere, if I know what caused the problem, but I discovered today that I’m out of Pepto-Bismol, too. Whoops.

All of this happened, of course, just before she goes in for her annual exam on Monday. I would like her to be in top form and not, how do I put this delicately, WAY messier than normal in her bodily functions. I swear to God she has only decided to not process rabbit properly because of her impending yearly exam.

At any rate. In the future, I will be ordering turkey necks for Tink, as she has had those in the past with no ill effects, and she will be thrilled to get chickenrice for breakfast.


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Bedtime escapades

I covered morning at the Manor in a previous post, so let me briefly touch on bedtime before I go into the latest way Tink has found to drive me abso-freakin-lutely nuts.

Sometime between 1930 and 2000 (I get up at 0415, don’t judge) I get tired of listening to Roo whine about it being bedtime, and I prepare for bed. I brush my teeth, I turn out lights, I collect my cell phone (which also serves as an alarm clock) and whatever book I’m reading, and then I call Tink. Together, we process into the bed chamber, where I close the baby gate behind us and put up our bed rails for toddlers. The baby gate in question is 42″ tall. Remember that figure, it is important and there will be a quiz later. It also has a cat-sized door in the bottom of it which is left open.

Once in bedroom, I put the cell phone on the dresser and the book on my pillow, which is lovely and temperfoam and sits upon a slightly squished firm regular pillow. I turn and garb myself appropriately to sleep, and when I turn back to the bed it used to be that Tink had inevitably stolen my spot, which features a body pillow in addition to the lovely temperfoam head pillow. This is not the way that Tink drives me abso-freakin-lutely nuts, because I’ve outsmarted her: at the foot of my bed you will find two firm pillows in nice cases, stacked just like my pillows are, and a spare blanket. This is Tink’s spot. Tink requires pillows.

At any rate, now that Tink’s Spot is sorted out, these days I just crawl into bed, arranging myself around Tink who did not have to pause to garb herself appropriately, and then the cats arrange themselves around me, and then I read a bit and eventually turn out the light and fall asleep. In the morning, Tink and I stumble out of bed when the alarm goes off and I open the baby gate and the normal morning routine starts.

Last night, bedtime routine went totally according to its usual plan. Sometime around 0100 or 0200 the rattling of the baby gate half-woke me, but I thought “Zille is attempting to stuff her 70lb Shedder self through the cat door again, Jesus” and went back to sleep. Then the alarm went off at 0415 and I stumbled out of bed, automatically wobbling around the spot where Tink jumps off the bed[1], only she wasn’t there.

“Tink?” I inquired. She has been known to crawl on her side under the bed and go to sleep, from which location she will totally claim she can’t hear the alarm go off, but she always responds by noisily flailing around to my inquisitive “Tink?” No flailing. My next “Tink?!” had a little more urgency to it.

And then I glanced at the doorway and there she was all “Yes, Mom?” except she was on the other side of the baby gate. The closed, locked, nailed down baby gate. Panic! Tink has abnormally fragile skin, so I was quite certain that there would be blood, and possibly shreds of her epidermis, and visions of an extremely expensive visit to the vet flashed before my eyes. I rushed out into the hallway and began feeling her up.

Nothing. No blood, no hanging shreds of skin, no wounds, no broken bones, nothing. My 60 pound dog who is roughly 27″ at the shoulder managed to somehow get by the baby gate with only a touch of rattling. The fact that I have no clue how she did it is what’s driving me abso-freakin-lutely nuts. If it keeps happening, there will be a security camera in my future and hers, because I have to know.


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Mornings at the Manor

Feeding time is an exciting time as one might imagine. The Usual Suspects look forward to breakfast in particular with great relish. Monday through Friday, breakfast happens around 0500, before I get in the shower. Weekends, it happens whenever I can no longer stand to listen to Rooney Lee as he sits on the arm of my chair and whines:

Transcript of video and more post below the cut!
Continue reading Mornings at the Manor