Garden Visitors Update

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In the last post I talked about the Monarch caterpillars that had somehow found my pot of tropical milkweed. Since then, we have witnessed both miracles and tragedy.

Three of the caterpillars made chrysalis under the lip of the pot. Quite ingenious really as they are hidden and protected from the rain. Here is a picture of one emerging and one in chrysalis stage. The last one is set to emerge probably today or tomorrow depending on the temperature.

I had one more caterpillar feeding, and when I went to the wildflower preserve over the weekend for the member’s plant sale, I brought another caterpillar home on some extra milkweed I purchased. Sadly, they both perished, probably of NPV or another bacterial infection. It happens. I’d been finding silk moth caterpillars all over my neighborhood that had fallen to the ground sick, probably from the same virus.

Even still, that monarchs found my lonely little plant and that I had 3 out of 4 caterpillars get to butterfly stage is pretty amazing. 75% success rate in nature is damn good.

I did buy more plants and also more seed to sow in October, so hopefully I can boost the numbers next year.

Until then, here is this years’ crop of baby deer. The pic isn’t that great since I had to take it through the screen so I wouldn’t spook them.

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Garden Visitors

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I’m not doing too much these days except editing, and that’s pretty boring, so I won’t be talking about it. Both the kittens are doing well, so there isn’t really anything new on that front either. The garden, however, does get interesting in the fall while everyone is scrambling to prepare for winter.

This year, I purchased a tropical milkweed at the local nursery. I had a large empty pot on my patio, and the flowers were just gorgeous.

I have heard the rumors about Monarch butterflies and milkweed, but I seriously didn’t think they could find my lone little plant over miles and miles of nothing to eat. Milkweed grows in the park and in pastures and fields, but I haven’t seen any even remotely close to my house. We have wild parsley, which attracts the Swallowtails, so we see them more abundantly than Monarchs.

Imagine my surprise at seeing this. I’ve got 3 Monarch caterpillars on this plant, and I fear it’s not enough to get them to the chrysalis stage, so a relocation to a more plentiful food source may be in order.

 

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Yes, that brown ball is caterpillar poop. Just sayin.

 

Starting the Home Stretch

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I finally finished the rough first draft of my novella, so that means at least 6 months of rewriting and editing before it will be ready for my lovely and dedicated proofreader to have a crack at, then, hopefully, it will be off to the beta readers in January.

It’s been almost 2 years since I put it away so that I could focus on Rupert’s rehab, so it’s time to clear the cobwebs outta mah think-hole and get back to it.

I’ll be going back to my roots on this one. Like Kissing Room, the storyline has a simple trajectory and a brief timeline. No murder. No mayhem. No sex, and No psychosis. Well, maybe a little crazy, but it is a comedy. My first intentional bit of comedic writing, so

If my cat posts are sporadic, it’s because I am here:

1ttqzr

 

Major Frustration…

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If all the world were apple pie, and all the sea were ink, and all the trees were bread  and cheese, what would we have to drink?

I am sure at this point, Moon feels this way about cat food. I certainly do and am frustrated beyond belief.

I was thwarted again. I thought, finally, I found a rabbit cat food that he likes and one that is low carb and doesn’t have peas in it. I’ve always liked Instinct as a brand, but every single one of their foods had some sort of issue. I thought this one was the ticket to a little more variety in his diet. Variety that wouldn’t set off a shit storm of atopic reactions.

61E0QP+M7JL._SL1000_Sadly, no more of this for Moon. I bought a case last month and switched our feeding regime to this on weekdays and the kangaroo at weekends. It took just 3 weeks before the dandruff and manic itching returned. The poor thing is so uncomfortable. Now don’t get me wrong, this is a good food with a limited ingredient list, and the shitty peas are at the bottom of the list and it doesn’t have a fuck ton of potatoes, either. So what’s the problem? Apparently for a cat with food sensitivities and seasonal allergies, FLAXSEED can be a serious problem. This food has a lot of it.

So we are back to the boring old Hydrolyzed Pork diet from Young Again and the Rayne Kangaroo maintenance. I’d like more variety for him, but every single thing we try gives him issues, that is, if he will even eat it at all.

It’s been suggested that I go raw, but I do not have the freezer capacity for that and with Moon’s stone issues, I do not feel comfortable getting the calcium/phos ratios right for him. This list is becoming a tall order:

  1. No beef, fish, lamb, or poultry
  2. No unidentified meat by-products that may be one of the above
  3. No carrageenan
  4. Low Carb
  5. Low Mineral ratios
  6. No Grains
  7. No Peas
  8. No Pumpkin
  9. No Flaxseed

The Rayne isn’t perfect. It has a really high carb load from the potatoes, but it doesn’t make him itch himself to death. We just got all his bald patches filled in, so I guess we’ll just stop trying.

 

Failure is An Option: A Confession

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I was a bad ferret mom, and sometimes the regret over that breaks my heart.

But let me start at the beginning. My first ferret was a rescue from a lonely deplorable state at a pet store. This was back in 1992 when ferrets were not common pets as they are today. They were mainly raised for laboratory use here in the states. Not much was mainstream knowledge about their care and feeding other than that they use a litter box and eat cat food. Cat food at that time was pretty much the worst of the worst because pet nutrition wasn’t like it is today. It’s getting better, but we still have a long long way to go.

Couple the lack of knowledge with my OCD and a bad marriage, and well, you get bad pet mom. The foundation of my pet care knowledge came from childhood:

  1. You fed the dog whatever crap you could get at the grocery store.
  2. You disciplined it with an iron fist when it was bad, i.e. keeping it in the cellar or the garage when you weren’t at home, or worse, keeping it in a crate; hitting it with newspaper; screaming at it, etc. All the things my parents did to discipline us back then.

My OCD presents as an obsessive, albeit unattainable, need for perfection, coupled with the rigid control of my schedule and environment, then slathered in a constant dripping anxiety due to persistent thoughts of being inadequate. Grocery shopping had to be done on Fridays. House cleaning on Saturdays. Nothing could ever be out of place. I could never be late to anything.

Add to that, seven ferrets (over twenty years.)

Ferrets are unadulterated chaos, which was basically me throwing jet fuel on a house fire. The bad marriage didn’t help. I cried. I screamed at their little faces. I crated them for time-outs. I punished them with hysterical meanness. I’m probably over exaggerating, but that’s what it feels like when I look back on it.

There is an upside though. Many OCD people have a relentless need for knowledge. When we tackle a project or a hobby, we apply all that learning and skillage into a meticulous work ethic. We keep doing it, and we keep learning until we get it right, knowing full well that right doesn’t mean perfect. If you channel the Obsessive part of the OCD into something constructive, you can learn how to mitigate the anxiety and you can do some pretty awesome things. Once you understand what perfect really means, it doesn’t have to cripple you, and Divorce was the first step in the process of gaining real control of my life. Not the illusory control I thought I had. Once I got that churning pile of shit out of the picture, I could refocus my energies on something else. I could focus on the truest joy in my life: animals and nature. I’ve been a tree-hugger since I was a very small child who could stare at a duck until it got dark, causing her parents an undue amount of anger and worry.

So I joined ferret clubs. I read every scientific paper on nutrition that was published. I read a ferret veterinary manual cover to cover, several times. I talked to behaviorists and naturalists who understood how these creatures lived in the wild, and I focused all my energy on how to live with them versus being just a pet owner. There is a difference, and it worked: For me, and for the ferrets. I was even interviewed for Ferrets USA magazine for a “Living with Free Range” article. My ferrets were not caged or sequestered. My last ferret, Baldrick, lived to be almost 9 years old. Never sick a day in his life, aside from being deaf from birth.

My ferrets were loved and pampered and adored beyond measure. I eventually learned to live in chaos. I learned to let things go in order to stay calm through parvo, through various cancers, and eventually, through Baldrick’s old age.

 

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Lightly Orchestrated Chaos

 

I applied that same obsessive knowledge seeking into my garden, which has become a twenty-year compromise with Mother Nature. Failure is an option because it’s an opportunity to learn and to try something else. Even if it’s cat litter, or in this picture, some new Rudbeckia.

I also wrote five novellas and hundreds of published flash fiction stories with that same obsessive delight. Probably because writers control their fictional worlds, though it never seems like it when we are actually in the throes of the writing. It always seems like more chaos and obsessive thoughts, but in a good way, I guess.

And lastly, for twenty years I have had the privilege of living alongside a myriad of wild creatures, including feral cats.

My need to know expert-level shit has allowed me to appreciate all of them from the skunks to the snakes, and it has given me the opportunity to care for two of the most beautiful creatures in the world.

It hasn’t been easy with Moon and Rupert, even after seven ferrets. It’s been frustrating and tiring with setback after setback, just to get to this point. And this point is still tenuous, but we’ve come a long way from two scared creatures who had never felt love or comfort. I like to think that the small successes are because I’ve come a long way too in that I have come to appreciate that true perfection lies in the cracks, scratches, chips, nicks, pits, dents, blemishes, stains, spots, and frailties.

A poop on the floor is just an accident.

Sweeping up cat litter 10 times a day is good exercise.

A 4×4 Wood Post in the middle of the living room is modern art.

 

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An Orchestrated and Tenuous Calm

 

It’s not compromise so much as it is understanding the need and nature of a thing. Like Moon in this picture. He still gets very tense over his perception that Rupert is trying to usurp his territory. Moon is very bonded to me, probably because he has a little OCD as well, and he’s lying on one of my sweaty workout shirts. For some reason it pacifies him when I give him something special, especially if it smells of me. This allows him to share the bed with Rupert like there is some sort of invisible safe space boundary in my stinky shirt. Moon will smack or chase Rupert about something else later on today, but this is a start, and a start is better than fussing over one’s own obsessive thoughts and fears. Moon still succumbs to his anxiety now and then, but it’s much better than it was when we first brought him in.

I can’t say that I always have “it” under control either. When things get really tough, like when Moon and Rupert were in the hospital, or when it was time to let each ferret go, I’ll still reach for a cigarette even though I quit smoking full time a long time ago. Those are the really rough times when I can’t control something, can’t get out of my own negative headspace, and I guess a cigarette is no worse than some of the other alternatives, that is, when I can’t hug a kitty.

I’d always prefer to hug a kitty. Or even a possum if the opportunity presented itself. That’s just how I roll.

Note: There is a lot more to OCD than most people think. Not everyone exhibits the same symptoms, and for obvious personal reasons, I did not go into some of the really serious manifestations that can develop during overly stressful situations. If you think you have OCD, you should seek a proper diagnosis and help to mitigate it.  

A Happy Butthole makes for a Happy Feral Cat

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Yes, I said butthole, and I said it because, the morning, afternoon, or evening constitutional is more important in the cat world than we think.

If you’ve ever had the opportunity to watch feral cats for any length of time, then you know that biological functions are also territorial marking functions. Strategic placement of urine and feces does a fascinating number of things, including the delineation of territorial boundaries.

When we first brought Moon inside, we gave him 3 litterboxes strategically placed around the house to form a triangle so that he would feel like he was properly identifying and protecting the “house” territory. This made him happy. Happy butthole, happy cat.

Feral cats outside never ever pee and poop in the same spot at the same time. Moon has been in the house for 5 years now and hasn’t lost the feral desire to separate his business, which is why Rupert’s appearance in the “house” territory has caused so much litterbox chaos.

I’ve said before that it seems like the act of purging has become a competitive event. I’ve even got the recommended number of boxes for a 2 cat household. 1 for each cat, plus a spare, yet I am forever scooping.

Sweep, scoop, wipe down. Walk away for 5 minutes, then do it all over again.

Seriously. I’ve got a pinched nerve in one knee.

So, since I was replacing the old malfunctioning boxes anyway, I purchased an extra extra of the new NVR Miss box. SmartCat

I also switched from the dusty-assed walnut litter to the Smartcat grass litter (mixed with the Okocat softstep wood) and wow! I think the grass litter is my new favorite. The cats approved as well. Moon found the new extra box last night and was so thrilled that  he now has his own 1 box for pee and 1 box for poo so he doesn’t have to compete with Rupert anymore that he thoroughly christened both.

4 litterboxes for 2 cats. Yes, I’m insane. But anyone whose integrated feral cats into the household knows that any time you can eliminate a source of conflict, you do it.

It’s all about happy buttholes.

Litter Changeover Process

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fe069f97-ce79-494f-bce2-f355de77f20b_1.3cda1b25bac6d104f539b361187ca55eWell, we have finally eliminated all the clay litter. We’d been holding out for the right mix that wasn’t too light and fluffy and also wasn’t too dusty. I’d been using the Walnut litter for a while mixed with a bit of clay, but the walnut can also be very dusty, and I did say that I wanted to try a wood litter. I settled on the Okocat Soft Step. This litter is featherweight, so it does track quite a bit, but since my guys have always been messy, I’ve not found a litter that doesn’t track. I am just destined to sweep. I also think the Okocat is too light on it’s own, so at this point I’ve been mixing it about a 4:1 ratio with the walnut. The Okocat seems to knock down some of the walnut dust, and the guys really really like it. It smells nice, clumps and scoops very well too, though I do add zeolite for odor control. These litters track like crazy, but I think they last longer.

41tqwc7c7ilI also decided to try a new litterbox. I had switched to these Natures Miracle high-sided boxes a year ago with the hope that Moon would stop overshooting the sides with his pee, or what I like to call turd-shelfing.

He doesn’t turd-shelf anymore, but wouldn’t you know that he found a way to overshoot in these boxes. That nice little pouring spout added to the opening there to help the owner dump the litter, well, it’s actually a pee-ramp when Moon is involved. When he hits it, it just shoots the pee all over. Guess the designers didn’t see that coming. Neither did I.

So I decided to try this NVR Miss Litterbox, which is supposed to make them reorient themselves to prevent entry-peeing. It has nice high sides too, for that turd-shelfing thing. product_info_1

I only bought one ($$$$) because I wanted to make sure they would use it first. Turns out, they love it, and surprisingly, Moon has been reorienting himself to pee. The opening is similar to the old boxes, but notice that there is no spout/pee-ramp. SmartCat

The other added bonus is that Rupert has this habit of clawing the top edges of the boxes. The boxes I’ve only had for a year are mangled. This new box doesn’t have a molded ledge, just a slight lip, so it’s curtailed his clawing.

Next in the rotation, I am going to try the Smart Cat grass litter with the Okocat in place of the walnut. So I’ll let you know how that goes next month when I run out of the walnut. My only concern is that with Moon’s seasonal allergies, his itchiness might return. It is grass, though still worth a try if it’s less dusty than the others. That walnut is some dusty-assed shit, no matter what the manufacturer says.

That Whisker Fatigue Article I was Interviewed for…

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Cat’s are silly, and maybe that helps stoke my passion for understanding their behavior and their often special needs. I wrote about the Catsby bowl here when I was trying to figure out Moon’s weird eating problems. We solved those problems, and I wrote a review for the bowls on Amazon, which led a very nice reporter from the New York Times straight to my door. She was doing an article on whisker fatigue, and you know me, I love to talk about my passion projects, and I am always willing to share what I’ve learned to help others. Cats, writing, gardening, doesn’t matter the subject.

So, on to the article. Enjoy.

Capture

A Post Not About Cats – No Shit!

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I write a lot about relationships. Not Harlequin, daytime TV type stuff, but the other stuff. The subcutaneous if you will, or rather, I write about the sinew after the smile has been scraped off of it. Enjoy.

Hiatus Concretion

We roll up top-down-crumpled-clothes-empty to the motor court. It’s a relief. By cygk - Enjoy the sunny Midway Country Motel, CC BY 2.0We’d been screaming highway days long forgotten, and we both stunk of sweaty vinyl, cigarettes, and licorice. There’s so much desert on my teeth that my lips are permanently stuck smiling to them. You wipe yours on your shirtsleeve; smile back at me; tell me I have bugs in mine. I get out of the car, bones creaking in the shifting earth beneath my feet.

Shifting Memories.

Shifting Sand.

A parking lot of sand stretches beyond us, a lone tree clinging to it in the shadow of a snowy mountain range that overshoots the distance so far into the future it seems we might even get there someday. There’s a plaid lounge chair next to the tree, a shipping pallet, and a dog tied up, miserable barking in front of the office door, a rot wood screen door, whitewashed, hanging from one rusty hinge. “Like home,” you say, then you forty-four the dog in the face. The motel owner doesn’t mind. Says he didn’t have the heart for it, and the damn dog was an asshole.

The sickness is coming.

I can already see it in you, your hand shaking when you pay the man with a hundred dollar bill. You don’t want to let it go, and he isn’t sure. Two gnarled hands clasped through sunset over chipped Formica.

I ask him if he has a shovel.

I’ve never been good at running from things. I let a woman seduce me once at a discotheque. There was something about the way she moved across the dance floor, all quicksilver in crimson, nipples pressed tight against silky fabric. We had a few drinks. She flirted with the bartender, not me, so I told her I liked the way her skin looked against the lights and colored glass. Sparkling. Like she was covered in rhinestones. She wasn’t a she though. She was something like me, but more dangerous. She held out her arm. There was barely any flesh on it. Tattooed Bone. Black Market Ivory. The way she looked at me, kissed me in the alley. My Luciana.

It’s getting harder to breathe alms in this vortex.

It’s getting harder to breathe near you.

“It’ll only be a few days,” you say, but I know that’s a lie. The carpet smells of stale whiskey, and the shower drips chlorinated rust onto the floor. The TV is only black and white, but the bed vibrates — for a quarter. We do that a couple of times, pretend we aren’t who we are and giggle until we fall asleep to the coyotes snarling over and tearing at the dog carcass I forgot to bury.

I want to love you.

But I can’t.

Hiatus Concretion was previously published at Metazen, June 2014, and is included in the short fiction collection Kitsch.