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  • Archive for July, 2012

    When we first looked at our house, Mother’s Day of this year, we saw a couple of cats running around. Two or three, no big deal. Maybe it would be fun to have a yard cat or two. Then once the ball got rolling with the process of purchasing the house I came for the inspection and sat outside on the porch because the owners had decided not to leave while the inspection was going on, choosing to move some things out at the time. While on the porch I noticed a kitten and thought, well, ok, I get a kitten too. I saw a few of the adult cats but nothing else.

    Then we moved in. We saw just one kitten and a couple of adults again the day we moved in but it wasn’t until that night when we returned from making a trip to our other house that we saw just how many cats there were. There were kittens everywhere! At the height of the cat count I counted 15 cats. It was then we knew we were in deeper with our little cat colony than we thought.

    Our only experience with strays was that of our cat Leo. in 2004 we were living in the west Kendall area of Miami, almost as far west as you can go without hitting the Everglades, when one night we heard what we thought was a baby bird….all. night. long. At one point I went outside with a flashlight to look for a bird that might have fallen out of the strangler fig tree that was behind our apartment. I didn’t find anything. It was in the morning that Chris got up and found our cat Samson staring out the sliding glass door to a filthy little grey and white kitten on the other side of the glass. We managed to wrangle Leo back to the porch after he wanted to run away, giving him food and deciding that if he was still on our porch by the end of the day that we’d bring him in and make him ours. He was still there and eight years later he thinks he owns the roost most days. He went from a scrawny, mosquito bitten kitty to a long-legs-pink-nose-whacker.

    Initially I thought adopting out the kittens would be our best option—and we still would love to do that. I’m leery about placing ads in newspapers or on Craigslist for fear of the people who will adopt them. The adults, well, we figured that they would just have to stay around because we doubted that they could be adopted out having been feral their entire lives and if we turned them over to a shelter they would likely be put down. I put out my plea for help on Facebook and a college friend living in Austin responded with a link to a trap-neuter-return group out of Katy, Texas. I was familiar with TNR as my friends in Florida, Marc and Eliana, spend a lot of their time running the Meow Mobile in Miami. I’ve seen them in action, neutering a stray cat in Bolivia as well as one in their own neighborhood in Miami. It’s an interesting experience to watch.

    Within the first week of living at our new house I put the feelers out to the FCAP in Katy and got in touch with a volunteer who had me fill out a form regarding my needs and sent my request to their chain of volunteers with cages that I could borrow. I thought this would be an easier process but because I’m in the far-far reaches of Houston, not really in Houston at all but just a stone’s throw, it seemed most volunteers were not anywhere nearby. It took a few weeks of sending out emails again, following up before I was able to score three traps from a volunteer. I had to meet her at Spay Houston to pick them up, a centralized location for both of us and I decided to do some of my first TNRs at that clinic instead of driving all the way to Katy.

    The traps themselves are fairly easy to use and once I watched Debby, the volunteer, set the trap I followed suite and set the trap too. Simple! Back at home I put the traps on the north side of the carport so the cats could get used to them. They were oblivious to them; hiding, running and rubbing up against them. Finally on Tuesday night I decided to go for it, planning to take them the following morning. I stopped by the Dollar General on my way home from work and picked up three cans of sardines and three cans of tuna. Eliana and everyone else had said that the stinkier the food, the better. I withheld their evening meal from the entire colony before finally deciding in the dusky hours of the evening to go set the traps.

    The cats are so funny because they are used to us now and will get within a few feet of us, particularly at meal times. We honestly don’t want to feed them much when the kittens get larger and can hunt better on their own. I see the adults hunting all the time, bugs mostly. In my head I kept thinking, oh, you don’t know what’s coming for you kitties! Chris thought I was being too positive on the trapping, thinking it would come too easily. I wasn’t so pessimistic, knowing that hungry cats will probably go after anything they can get their hands on.

    I set the first trap under the carport, lining the cage with newspaper and opening the can of sardines on the end of one side, the side that doesn’t set off the trigger. Then I put a second cage along a strange, little deck we have on the side of the carport. This was the popular cage with all of the kittens sniffing around on the outside. Finally, out in the open of the grassy part of the driveway I put another trap.

    I stood by on the porch waiting and watching when the light orange kitten decided to snoop out the third cage in the grass. It didn’t take but a few seconds and in he went, the trap door shutting. The kitty didn’t even jump, continuing to eat his booty of food. Score!

    I went inside to let them keep investigating and when I came back out my favorite cat, a sweet little calico (there are two calicos) had found itself inside the second cage. Again, it wasn’t distracted and instead was enjoying its meal. Pleased with the process, I was very happy to see this working faster than I expected.

    One of the adults, a big grey male was heavily snooping the cages and made a beeline for the third and final cage. A bit of timidity and then in he went. I was afraid he would outwit me and escape with a sardine but no, the trap door closed and I had my third and final cat for the night.

    I grabbed the towels I had to cover the cages and went to approach the trapped cats. Initially oblivious to what had happened to them, my appearance shocked them into reality as they bounced around the cage. Quickly I covered them and shuttled them all to Chris’ man-cave, our converted garage. I’d cooled the air down and prepared and area for them to hang out. They were all spooked so I let them be for awhile, coming to check on them a few times before I went to bed for the night.

    Sleep was not heavy that night. I tossed and turned, worrying about the cats, wondering if they were ok, wondering about arriving at the clinic the next morning, and in turn my own cats had started feeling poorly and I was having to deal with two sick cats on top of all of this.

    I went in to check on the cats the next morning and I’d put the two kittens a little bit close together. The light orange cat had pulled in the towel of the calico a bit, weaving the towel through the wires of the cage. This caused the room to be visible and all I heard when I entered was a slightly hysterical cat.

    Overnight my other worry was transporting the cats. I’d initially decided to put them in the back of my truck, covering them to transport them. I didn’t have room inside my truck for all three cages. I did a little research and saw some negative things about transporting cats in the back of trucks so I decided against it. In the mean time I had thought I could configure the inside differently, putting up the arm rest in the middle and stacking at least two of the cages, possibly putting a third next to them. The third one wasn’t going to work out as it would prevent me from changing gears on my stick shift.

    I thought for a few minutes as I was loading the truck what my options were and I sadly decided to let one of the cats out, knowing that possibly I wouldn’t catch it again in the future. Because I loved the calico so much I decided to let it out. If Chris would let me have another inside cat, the calico would be it. Though, some of the other kittens are warming their way into my heart now.

    Out the calico went, not happy with me, and off I went down the highway to the clinic. During the drive I would peek into the cage and see how the cats were doing. The kitten was most active, meowing and whining, but the adult male was practically catatonic—staring straight ahead and shaking. I felt incredibly bad for these guys, especially the adult, because I knew they’d never had this much interaction with humans, much less a car!

    I arrived about twenty minutes after what I’d want to arrive at, and found the place much busier than I expected. People with their own pets, dogs and cats mostly, were there for low cost wellness visits and surgeries. It was pretty crazy. Though I’d been told I could show up with three or less cats without an appointment I was worried that I’d be turned away because I didn’t have an appointment. But, it worked out. I signed in the cats and paid for their visit and then turned around and drove back home to check on my cats before heading into work.

    The one frustrating thing about the clinic was that their hours on their website for Wednesdays say pickups for ferals are between 3:30 and 6pm. I had been planning to arrive closer to 6 so I wouldn’t have to leave work so early but they’d initially told me 3:30 was the only time I could pick them up. Exasperated I told them their website didn’t say that and then they ‘remembered’ it was Wednesday and I could pick them up no later than 5:30. So, I had to leave work early anyway—and then when I arrived the cats weren’t even ready! Two other ladies were there waiting on their own ferals, the place dead otherwise. The crowd of that morning had vanished. One of the ladies said that it was unusual for them to be so behind, but I was thankful because otherwise ‘my’ cats would have been waiting around.

    The tech/secretary at the front desk gave me the cats’ paperwork, some general information and vitals plus the information on what was done to them, and then finally I had the cats back. Traffic was horrendous going the other way, out of town—of course, everyone goes into Houston in the morning and then escapes at night—but we finally made it home. Unfortunately that wasn’t the end of things for the cats. They had to stay in the cage for at least 24 more hours to make sure they were eating and they had no side effects from the surgery. Back to the man cave they went!

    The sardine cans from the night before were still around so I mixed up some of the dry food I normally feed the colony with a little water and opened one end of each cage slight to shove the food in. The cats weren’t all that interested in being near me, so they huddled up on the other end anyway. I replaced some of their newspapers with fresh paper and let them chill out for awhile.

    When I went back a little while later the food was devoured so I refilled it again. The kitten was a little spastic and enjoyed dumping the water everywhere so I had to replace papers a few times. As the cats were awake and acting fairly normal, I wasn’t keen on leaving them cooped up in a cage for a full 24 hours. I consulted with Eliana who thought 12 hours was more than enough if the cats were acting normal and no side effects were occurring.

    So, a little over 12 hours after their surgery, the following morning I took the cages outside to the driveway, opened them and shooed them out. The kitten meowed his way out, running to his brothers and sisters and stayed nearby. The grey cat dashed out and around the storage building, before I saw him running across the backyard to the fence on the south side. He did not want anything to do with me!

    I thought it so funny that the kitten wasn’t more afraid of me than he was, but he gathered with his siblings and followed me to where I keep the dry food for them and joined in the morning feast.

    When I returned home this evening the grey cat had returned, though he eyed me suspiciously. I’m glad he is ok and has returned so that I know he is doing alright.

    This is definitely going to be a long process and I hope next time I get the one mother that is left. We had a tortoiseshell mom who I haven’t seen in over a week. I’m worried about her but I was told she may be in heat. Great…

    I know that some people are strongly against trap-neuter-return programs, citing diminished bird and wildlife populations, and to some extent I can agree and see their view. I watched the tiger-striped male chase a squirrel up one of our pine trees a few weeks ago. The squirrel won, but it frustrated me a bit. I want wildlife in my yard but I also think it sucks that the previous owners (and the other people who feed these adults—because some of the adults are fatty fatties and I see them go to my south neighbors all the time) don’t take responsibility for their animals and spay and neuter them. Had the adults been fixed I wouldn’t have all of the kittens right now. (but man, that calico is ohhhhh so cuuutte!)

    Anyway, I didn’t mean for this post to be so drawn out, but it has been a stressful week dealing with the outdoor herd of cats and then my two sick kitties inside. Shoving pills down cat’s throats is no fun.

    sweetie
    The sweet kitten that was fixed. Look, you know you want him! If you look closely you can see his left ear has been tipped, helping to signify to others later on that he has been neutered.

    littletortie
    This one is growing on me too—he camouflages well. I guess it could be a female, I’m not sure. I’m thinking the tortoiseshell momma was his momma.

    grey
    The adult grey cat giving me a stare down. He was pretty calm in his cage, I expected more chaos from him.

    caliandred
    My sweet calico….

    I’m sure I will have more thoughts as I slowly go through the stray herd. If you have any questions I can try to answer them, or if you are local to Houston and want a kitten, let me know.

    June came and went and now July is nearly gone. I have not stayed on top of my daily photos but here are some of the ones leftover from June.

    streetsign
    I’ve seen a handful of these old street posts around our area. And handful meaning two. This one was literally around the block from my last house.

    cleetus2
    Cleetus the donkey—will miss seeing him.

    cleetus

    sunflower1

    datura

    cukes

    cosmos

    Maybe August will be better with the photo documentation.

    I’m sure one day things will calm down and life will be semi-normal, instead of days filled with unpacking, cleaning and getting my head on straight. If I said I didn’t feel overwhelmed in this month I’d be lying. It’s been one big overwhelming thing after another. And while most of it might seem rather innocuous, things begin to wear on you. To the point that watching episode after episode of season 1 of Alias makes things all better. Well. Mostly. Because you know that season 3 will come eventually and that was the crap season.

    We’ve had two weekends of visitors, the first bringing Chris’ brother Neil and his girlfriend. They were the heroes that helped us unload our POD and help Chris get our burn pile down to a nearly non-existent size. Well, at least the pile in the backyard. The front yard is still one big pile of dead loblolly pine trees.

    This last weekend my mom, brother and his wife, and their two kids came to visit. We got a lot of boxes unpacked and some cleaning done in the midst of chasing after a near 4 year old and near 1 year old. And laughing a lot! I’m liking the feedback we’ve been getting on our house—everyone likes it so far and we’ve been nominated to host Thanksgiving this year. With the exception of a few years, our normal Thanksgiving routine is camping of some sort. However, if folks want to come for Thanksgiving I think we can accommodate that! Plus, we can always camp in our backyard!

    So, my days have been to get up, go to work, maybe come home at lunch if the house is navigable, come home in the evenings and unpack. To get ready for my family and for my visitors next weekend (three of my friends and a total of their four kids) I’ve moved all of the boxes I have no desire to open yet (shells, decorations, photo albums, and more) to our third bedroom along with other wall photographs and furniture we don’t know where to place. With that done the space seems more manageable.

    The last thing my family helped in unpacking was my art studio. The furniture was arranged and some boxes were unpacked but I’ll have to spend some time this week putting things where I want. I was amazed at how much stock I had and what variety too. I am pretty sure I can entertain myself for hours! I do know that looking at my fabric stash I am itching to make a rag rug for the room.

    As for the garden, I had hoped the apathy I felt about summer gardening in Florida would go away in Texas, but no, it has returned. Gardening in the summer is difficult. What works? Eggplant, okra, peppers, melons, sweet potatoes, sometimes squash/sometimes not, beans for awhile, and corn seems ok. I went the longest amount of time away from the garden, 1.5 weeks, before going again. We’d had rain nearly daily so I felt that at least that aspect was taken care of and I could just hope that the rest would handle itself. It mostly did, but the tomatoes are decrepit, the spaghetti squash completely bit the dust as did one melon bed and another melon bed looks quite unhappy. I will be very happy when we are able to get our garden set up here so I can just manage it from home.

    Somewhere in all of this I will start writing here again. We finally got internet at the house so I will be able to do that. I miss taking photos too. I hardly took any this weekend and I am usually taking some of my niece and nephew any chance I can get.

    So, that’s where I am at. How about you?

    I’m at Sprout Dispatch today. Come say hi!

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    I heard the truck before I saw it, a deep rumbling behind my neighbor’s forested lot. Chris was attempting to organize our storage shed and I’d gone inside to find a towel to wipe off spare flooring pieces that were covered in dirt and various insect bits. I saw the red of the delivery truck first, then the white of the POD storage unit. Immediately a deep sense of wariness came forth and then tears. I would have sobbed if I’d been able to.

    Our ‘stuff’ was returning to us. On Feburary 13, 2010 we haphazardly threw in the last remaining bits of stuff we wanted to keep, rolled the door down and locked it up. You can tell we finished up by cleaning as the Swiffer Duster and Mop were part of the last bits tossed in. We left a huge pile of items we didn’t keep for the trash or local trash-pickers to go through at our old place in Florida. In the backyard were stacks of terra cotta pots we deemed not worth taking along. I kind of wish we had some of them now but I’m not terribly heartbroken.

    I was mostly sad because it seemed that our official vagabond lifestyle was over, though it hasn’t been all vagabond-y in nearly a year anyway. I think it was the freedom of having a minute amount of ‘stuff’ that let me continue feeling as if we could still easily move wherever we wanted. And, we still can. Yes, it might take a bit more effort now that we bought a house, but a house can be sold, stuff can be sold/given away/donated/packed up, and a vagabond life can happen again. I had to remind myself of this. Despite my interest in putting down some roots, hopefully having a kid or two and establishing a flourishing garden, I really miss backpacking.

    Chris easily unlocked the container but it took two of us to jangle the door around enough to get it to roll up. Items had been pushed against the door and we became concerned we’d be unable to even get inside. Up the door rolled and then our eyes widened and Chris exclaimed “Oh Yeah, the terrarium!” Yep, and reusable grocery bags, and flower pot hangers, and, and, and…..

    We unloaded most of the POD that day with the help of Chris’ brother and his girlfriend. I turned my nose up at a few of the boxes, labeled in Sharpie with a general idea of what was inside, still wondering why I kept some of it. A few boxes left me excited and while I did go 2.5 years without them, I was happy to have them back: books, Alias (and a few other DVDs), purses, art supplies, seeds. A few items I thought we had kept I never saw, so I guess we didn’t keep them.

    It’s definitely a strange feeling to put the majority of you contents into storage for 2.5 years and then get it all back. I’m not the same person I was then, my style and wants have changed. Right now I’m unpacking the kitchen items and am completely overwhelmed at the amount of pots, pans, ‘tupperware’, and kitchen gadgets we have in addition to what we had been using this past year. It’s too much. I don’t want a lot of the kitchen gadgets because we barely used them in Florida and I know we’ll barely use some of them now and I’m not interested in items taking up space for the sake of it. Our china, while I love it, I wish we hadn’t even registered for when we got married. There is hand-me-down china from at least my side of the family that I know we could have used and if I could tell myself 10 years ago to not register for china I would. Nice, but not necessary.

    And so I will continue weeding through things, making piles of items to donate and Chris will go through them when he returns home during a break. Now it seems our dishwasher is on the fritz, the one that came with the house. Buttons don’t want to work and a quick Google search revealed that the panel on this model has problems often. Great, guess I’ll be replacing a panel or a dishwasher. This doesn’t help when I have loads of items to run through the dishwasher; maybe I’ll be doing it by hand.

    It’s completely overwhelming having boxes strewn about. Sometimes I escape upstairs because it has the least amount of boxes. Chris is working out of town, I work during the day and then don’t necessarily feel like doing a lot, and now that I’m only dealing with one house instead of the rental as well, I need to start checking in on the garden again. It’s been a once-a-week thing these last several weeks. I know things are rotting on the plants, being taken by others, falling over, but the only good thing is it has rained nearly every day in some capacity for well over a week. At least I don’t have to worry about that—-I think.

    I’m ready for unpacked boxes, items in their place, time spent outside in my yard, down by the pond or in my studio. I need to get out and explore our neighborhood on foot, rollerblades or the bikes that we got back from our storage unit. I am so ready for our delayed anniversary trip in August; we have plane tickets and the only place we really have to be is a particular park during our permit period and other than that so far we have nothing planned. We’ll be in the Seattle area and there is just so much to do.

    This wasn’t supposed to be a downer blog post, but my brain is a little bit hectic and fried at the moment. I’m looking forward to family coming this weekend and then a big weekend the following weekend with many friends coming over with their kids. I’ve already looked and I don’t have a free weekend until August 25th!

    Tell me how you are….

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    coral

    Yes. Yes, this is what you think it is. You can finish the rhyme if you like…kill a fellow. Red on Black, friend of Jack.

    I was unpacking book boxes with my brother in law’s girlfriend, Jessica, when Chris beckons from downstairs to come outside, quick! I’m expecting an animal but of the cute and furry type. Was a fawn in the yard? Did the kittens do something sweet? So, we barrel down the stairs and around the corner outside to where Chris is standing, pointing to the back side of our storage shed/carport/my art studio building. It was slithering up against the wall. My initial reaction was that of course this was a coral snake but having been fooled once in the wild with a snake actually being something different, we looked closer to make sure it wasn’t a king or milk snake, but no, it was definitely red on yellow. I ran back inside, hurriedly switching to my 100mm lens after not knowing where in the mess of boxes the 75-300mm lens was, and dashed back out.

    The snake was rather mellow, easing around the building to the deck platform that the kittens hang out at. I was a little nervous for them, but Chris said the only reason he saw the snake was because the grey male cat was staring at the snake. He fears that one of the cats will kill the snake. We aren’t snake killers. If it isn’t bothering us we leave it alone. If it was inside my house that would be a different story and even then we would attempt to shoo it out a door. The killing of snakes is not something we look favorably upon, particularly due to the decline in venomous snakes in the U.S., such as rattlesnakes. I might look up a number to have the snake relocated if I saw it again because I’m not that keen on having it hang around the yard, but if it was passing through I’ll let it mind its own business. With all the rain recently I wouldn’t doubt it was displaced from its original home.

    Honestly, I expect snakes living where we do, but I was thinking more of the water moccasin or copperhead varieties, both venomous as well, but something more expected than a coral snake.

    While a neat and exciting find, I definitely don’t want to encounter them often!

    It’s been a rainy last several days, really starting last weekend it has rained daily in some capacity. On Wednesday, my birthday, we had a good downpour for several hours and the local creeks swelled towards the top of their banks, and the pond in front of my house rose just a bit, maybe covering a little of the fringe wetland around the perimeter as it became more muddy. Chris came home from his field project because the day had been cancelled for rain and so he could spent my birthday evening with me. I remarked that with all the rain that it didn’t seem that the pond really was too flooded or anything, though I’d noted one house on the corner of a turn that had some water in the periphery of its lower spots.

    Then early yesterday morning Chris got up super early to get to Beaumont in time for his morning safety meetings and just when he left it started pouring, not letting up for most of the morning. I peered out the window as I normally do when I get up and saw this:

    7am ish 7/12/2012....it would get much higher.
    Ohhh k I thought. I gave Chris a call to tell him that the pond had spilled into our yard and he told me the normal two hour drive to Beaumont had taken three instead. I got dressed while I texted back and forth with one of the office admin who had said the main artery to our office was flooded and inaccessible and she was going to come around my way to see if she could get in that way. I knew that answer but I got dressed anyway and ventured out. I stopped at the turn where I peered to my right to see the road covered in water. A truck had come from that direction, the man inside rolling his window down to yell at me across the way in the rain to not turn as the next low spot after that was worse. My coworker ended up showing up at the intersection shortly after where we concluded there was no safe access to work.

    I turned around and went back home wondering if it would stop raining or not.

    It didn’t. I ate breakfast, tried to do a few measley unpacking chores but I mostly watched the water.

    120712_0001

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    120712_0003
    The tree damage is from Chris’ felling of several dead pines, not from the rain. And yes, my neighbor has a trolley!

    120712_0004
    So, the front yard became its own pond (mind you, this is where we were planning on putting our vegetable garden…) and I decided there wasn’t much I could do so I went back to sleep.

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    I woke up about 11:30 when I heard a loud thud, thinking it was going to be a tree coming down, but after looking around I didn’t see anything destroyed. The water had come up even further, surpassing the burn pit and making its way to the satellite dish left from the previous owners.

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    120712_0007
    This is my neighbors house on the far left side of this photo. My property line is the the tree right there on the left and the scraggly gardenia bush.

    120712_0009
    After checking on the thud I noticed that there were cars and people in the street in front of my neighbors house as well as an official looking man riding a towing cart thingy (can’t explain what it was) up her driveway. Instantly I went back inside to get my shoes and umbrella and headed off down the driveway to the street. My neighbor was ok but her garage had water in it now, but her house was ok. The police chief was the man I saw and they had assisted in getting her car out of the driveway so it wouldn’t be flooded. By this time water was flowing from the far side of her yard, covering her driveway, flowing into my yard creating a deep pond, slightly flowing across my driveway (still walkable and driveable at this point) and then off to the other side of my yard and into my other neighbors woods. The only dry areas a this point were the elevated areas of the garage, storage shed and house.

    Thankful she was o.k. I returned back to the house to try to eat lunch. Meanwhile the power flickered a few times and because I remembered that our well is pumped by electricity I immediately filled as many pitchers and pots as necessary in case the power went out. Eating lunch was futile, I heated up leftovers and picked at it.

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    After eating I retreated back upstairs to watch from our balcony. As you can see it rose even closer towards the house from the morning. The pond was swollen and flowing rapidly in the middle, reminding me of the muddy Mississippi River. Debris and trash floated by and I watched the pile of trees we were supposed to burn float around and move. Logs that had been neatly stacked up between two trees tumbled to the ground and found themselves on the other side of our yard. A tire eased through it all, but thankfully it didn’t take up residence after the water retreated.

    120712_0013
    The storage building on the left; it is raised on a thick piece of slab so I wasn’t too concerned—yet.

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    I unpacked some more, cleaning upstairs and moseying around. The water started retreating a little due to a few lulls in the rain.

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    During one of the lulls I went for a walk to see what I could see.

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    My neighbors yard finally draining but mine not-so-much.

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    The spillway working as fast as it could. I’d heard a report that at one point water was flowing across this.

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    And the cascade of water on the other side in the normally very quiet and diminutive creek bed.

    I turned a couple of more corners to where I’d met my coworker that morning and found a fire truck, police car and other bystanders looking around. The police car/truck was dispatching a boat into the flooded road at this point. The water had practically come to the junction of the two roads, much, much higher than it was that morning.

    Finally I turned around and decided a nap was in order. The rain seemed to be easing. I didn’t sleep long but when I woke up the rain had stopped and the sun was shining. The water from the backyard was draining and I could see the fire pit again. I was a little bummed more ashes hadn’t washed away. Venturing into town to the our rental house to get the last remaining bits of our stuff was the next item on my agenda. Water was receding everywhere but many roads were still closed. The main arteries into town had signs up for high water so I knew that the creeks had overflowed their bounds earlier that day. I made two trips successfully and by the time I returned for the last time the water was completely gone from my backyard, though it was a bit soggy. Our deck down by the water had been jacked up by the water and I could see the sediment line on the trees closest to the water, the sediment leaving a nice ring around the lake that I could see across the way. (I use lake/pond interchangeably. I have a hard time calling it a lake, but that’s what it is called.)

    And that was my day yesterday. I’m glad I have flood insurance! The police chief said he hadn’t seen it like this since 1994 so I guess that makes me feel better???? He said Hurricane Ike was nothing like this but I wonder how it was with Tropical Storm Allison in I think 2001. Allison sat on Houston for days, flooding the place; I was in Galveston at the time working as a waitress at a seafood restaurant during college. It was very quiet because no tourists could get through Houston and I certainly didn’t make much in tips those few days.

    If we can dry out a bit hopefully we can make some progress on the house. Our POD is coming tomorrow and I’m kind of nervous about getting ‘stuff’ back again. But that’s another post.

    baloo
    Whenever I think of myself as an artist I usually feel like a fraud. The simple fact is that this is the first thing I’ve drawn in a year. The last thing I drew was a sunflower for my sister in law and the month before that a hollyhock pastel.

    The drawing of this sweet doggie is titled Baloo after the man himself. If you’ve only been reading in the last two years and haven’t followed during my life in Florida, then you wouldn’t know that Chris and I dog-sat this fella for nearly a year and a half with many other fun stays along the way. We became his other parents and would have loved to have kept him but he needed his real momma back. But, he was a joy to have and had the most deliciously biteable cheeks.

    I actually started this in late 2009, drawing the outline and getting the basics down but scrapping it at the last minute when packing for the A.T. began and life became hectic. Of course I ended up starting and finishing the drawing within the last month, another hectic time when I was yet again moving. It was something I really needed to get done but if I hadn’t of felt the crunch of a deadline (Eliana’s birthday last week) I would have mulled it over for longer. (I was scared to death of the eyes, let-me-tell-you. They worked out I think, though.)

    In highschool you wouldn’t have caught me drawing with pencils. Painting and pastels were my thing, mixed media too. But now, I really love pencils and still love pastels. I love painting too, but there is something about shading with pencils.

    I’m dreaming up my studio being put together so I can finally put some drawings to paper. I’m envisioning a line strewn across the wall with clips of paper hung to them of sketches and ideas.

    Until then, I’ll keep planning drawings in my head.

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    Well, I’m barely coming up for air, I still have a lot to do around here and at our old place. I forsee weeks and week of work! This is the part of the process that drives me nuts for so long, the constant organizing, cleaning and moving. Thankfully we did not get our POD when we thought we would, it arrives next weekend. It would have been even more mayhem if we had of received it.

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    Chris had to cut our counter in order for a regular sized fridge to work. The delivery guys came and then promptly told me it still wouldn’t fit. I could have cried. I just wanted the kitchen to get organized and I would stay semi-sane. I brushed it off and came back later and maneuvered it a bit and then it fit—very snuggly. Happiness!

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    I walked all sorts of places in public with paint on my hands, face, legs, arms, clothes. I really didn’t care.

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    The old man is doing well with the stairs. He had them once many years ago at our townhouse in Pembroke Pines, FL. Leo on the other hand loves them and thinks they are a playground.

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    Owning a little over an acre requires a riding lawnmower. This was our first big purchase right after the closing!

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    This is one of our extra bedrooms, the strange one. The little ‘window’ goes to the laundry room.

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    In the country, you burn things.

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    Part of the insane cat herd.

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    These stairs are going to be a p.i.t.a.

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    You know you want one…

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    Death! to Chinese tallow!

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    Chris installing bat boxes (2)…no bats yet.

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    The first pine tree that Chris cut down…

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    I was looking away right when the tree fell so I didn’t get a great action shot—bummer.

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    Only 8 more to go! We’re getting four taken down professionally because they are too close to structures.

    And that is a quick photo summary of what went on last week.

    I’ll resurface again later this week with more written thoughts.

    I’m taking this week to move into a new house so new writing is scarce. I thought I would find some long-lost posts from before I moved my blog to its current format. This one is from early 2009. Enjoy!

    This past weekend we ventured up to Gainesville to meet Marc and Eliana since they had made it back to Florida. Chris and I had been wanting to go up to Payne’s Prairie for awhile and so we asked them if they would like to meet us and check it out. Our main reason was that we wanted to see some whooping cranes. Whoopers are highly endangered birds, with only about 500 or less existing in the wild or captivity. There are breeding programs out there and the birds in Florida do not migrate and stay in Florida year round.

    So, we drove up late on Friday night, about 4.5 hour drive, and reunited Baloo with Eliana. Baloo was slightly confused, I think, which ‘mom’ does he go to? He went to Eliana and licked and loved on her, but it was a little confusing for him to figure out which bed he should jump on. We hit the sack since we planned on getting up early on Saturday morning. The early bird catches the worms around Payne’s Prairie! And, that is an understatement.

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    It was very foggy when we arrived at the entrance and the large live oaks were draped with Spanish moss which created an eerie, peaceful feeling. As soon as we got out of the car we heard the sandhill cranes in the distances. We weren’t the only ones there, many other birders and photographers were already on the trail that passes the Alachua sink and on to where a huge sandhill crane rookery exists. In the fog we were spying sandhill cranes flying, trying to decide if there were any whoopers in our midst.

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    This is one photo, but there were thousands of sandhill cranes in the rookery. They would take off for another area, land to check out what was good to eat in another, fight over territory, honk to the others and it was a sight to see.

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    Now, I’ve seen maybe 10 to 20 cranes together before, but never this amount. It was truly awesome!

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    Marc has influenced Eliana in birding and so they were spotting all sorts of birds and crossing off some from their life lists.

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    We walked to the end of the trail (yep, I’m wearing my dorky Bolivia hat finally!) and looked on the overlook trying to spy wildlife. Just before the overlook was a huge pile of buffalo dung. Yep, there are buffalo in Florida! Payne’s Prairie also hosts wild horses left over from the cattle ranching days of the area. More on those later! We didn’t see buffalo that day but on Sunday we spied some in the distance!

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    We had been looking all morning for whooping cranes, knowing they would be distinctly different from the sandhill cranes, but still thinking we would see them when the light would hit the grey feathers of the sandhills just right. I was holding the camera when I looked to the northeast and saw these two coming my way. I couldn’t believe it, whoopers! Now, I am fairly certain I have seen them before at Aransas Wildlife Refuge when I was younger, but I am not sure. At least now I can say I’ve seen them!

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    They flew right in front of us, and I was snapping as fast as I could, hoping my shutter speed was right and that I was getting a good photo!

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    And then they dissappeared off behind some marsh plants.

    We decided to leave and get some lunch and on our way to lunch we spotted a pond in front of a hospital that had hooded mergansers. I’ve always wanted to see these birds!

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    After lunch we went to the pond to check them out. They were kinda shy and kept swimming to the opposite side of the pond, unlike the ducks and geese which were very human friendly (looking for handouts probably!), and so I snapped some far-ish photos. I zoomed in on Photoshop on this next one.

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    very interesting aren’t they???

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    After our bird adventure we went to pick Baloo up from the hotel room and take him for a hike. We hit the Chacala trail at the main park entrance and did about 5 miles, which was paired with the 3 from the morning, making a long 8 mile day for us. Baloo had a good time, only picked up a few ticks and enjoyed chasing many large sticks! He loves sticks!

    On Sunday morning I was the lone person to sleep in. The other three got up even earlier than the day before and went out to see if they could get more photos. Here is what I missed:

    Paynes Prairie Wild Horse

    Wild horses. I did see one the day before after we’d left the main entrance and were about to cross the Prairie on 441.

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    Worthy of a calendar, eh??

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    Chris took this one and turned up some color in Photoshop to create this morning sunrise look. It turned out pretty cool! If you look you can see through the nostrils!

    After a lunch at a pizza place in Micanopy (Mick-an-opie) we said goodbye to our North American traveling friends so they could finish their last week on the road before arriving back in SoFlo.

    I’m taking this week to move into a new house so new writing is scarce. I thought I would find some long-lost posts from before I moved my blog to its current format. Enjoy!

    Day 1 of Tomato Season.

    This is what the yard looked like, finally, after around six or so hours of working on it yesterday. Chris started before I did, working to right the ylang-ylang tree that has been battling itself these past two weeks, as it kept falling over. It originally was in a too small pot and a gust of wind during a rain storm blew it over, damaging one of the roots that had went into the ground from the bottom of the pot. It lay on the ground for a few days until we finally got another large pot for it and it worked well until another gust of wind blew the poor tree over. So, Chris went in search of a barrel pot to put it in and he worked on that for the morning. The rest of the morning was spent weed eating the yard, picking up trash and other debris and figuring out how we were going to set up the tomato pots.

    Now, before all of this started I should have known better to put on my hat and some sunscreen, but I wasn’t thinking it would go on well into the afternoon. By the time we were through making multiple trips back to Home Depot for this or that (more dirt, mostly), and getting the yard ready for enjoyment in the cooler months of Florida’s fall and winter, we were a muddy, sunburned mess.

    This is what I looked like after.

    This is what I looked like after. Actually, this is semi-cleaned up. I had to wash my arms and chest so I’d be presentable enough to walk into Home Depot without looking like a mudwoman from the Everglades. I told Chris I couldn’t believe he let me walk in there like that! I had to scrub myself as good as I did Baloo on Sunday night after his swimming escapdes (see below).

    The Last Gladiolus

    When I planted my gladiolus so late this year I didn’t expect them to really bloom, and here it is September 2nd and this one is beginning to bloom!

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    This is why we had to give Baloo a thorough washing this weekend. We went camping on Saturday night back at Jonathan Dickinson State Park and took Baloo hiking both days. There was water everywhere and he had a ball!

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    This was the deepest hole in the trail and it was deep enough for him to have to swim across. He was anxious to get going since Chris had traversed it first in order to get the photos.

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    He drank out of every puddle he possibly could and therefore had to pee constantly. I stopped counting after 20. It was mostly little tinkles, enough to mark his territory from the pigs.

    He found pig or deer poo and decided he had to rub his face in it! Disgusting dog!!! He was rolling in it like he was the happiest little pitbull on the planet.

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    We made him sit for some pine lily photos, which were hard to do. He was a pooped pup by the end of Sunday and snoozed the entire ride home. I could barely get him interested to get up to take a shower! Overall it was a good weekend with some thunderstorms on Saturday evening that lit up our bedtime but quieted the neighbors and their music. Baloo met a lot of dog friends as well as people friends and some unfortunate tick friends. We only seemed to have issues with them at the campsite and were constantly picking them off of him. One unfortunately made it all the way home with him and now the poor pup has a little bite mark from it.

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