Saturday, August 29, 2009


I live in a pine forest and I see from my own back deck the effects of the drought. Two of the pines on my second lot have died. One was ill and on its last legs for most of the summer, so it wasn't unexpected. The other is one of the older pines and has turned brown in the course of the last couple of weeks. I have many, many pines on my two lots, but it hurts to lose any of them.

Another of my pines died earlier this year and is beginning to fall over, fortunately away from the house, but it will be a mess to cut up and dispose of. I've also lost one of the nasty red-tipped photinas this summer. That doesn't disturb me, except for the unpleasant reality that once they die their trunk and roots turn into something akin to concrete and are the devil to get rid of.

There were two brief showers this week and have revived the weeds in the front yard enough that I will have to get myself out tomorrow afternoon and fire up the riding mower. I hope it starts. The yard has been completely barren of green for most of the summer and there has been no need to use the mower.

I hope more rain is on the way. My pines need it desperately.


Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Dixie Explores

As I mentioned before, Dixie hasn't quite figured out the jumping up on things that don't give her a good claw hold to assist her way. She's beginning to get the idea, but she's not there yet. Today she managed to clamber up, in a roundabout way, to the top of the work table in my office. She was very taken with the view out the window, which at this particular point in time, included a flock of crows strolling about the front yard.

Then she discovered the little television that sits on that table. She sat, transfixed, for a long time, watching the images move. I gave her the usual Mother's warning about sitting too close and ruining your eyesight, but she told me to mind my own business.

She ran the gamut today, from exploring the new vista of the work table to being so obnoxious to Scout that she ended up in time-out twice. When the Dixie decides to be obnoxious, she doesn't mess around about it. She finally wore herself out and spent a good portion of the afternoon in a deep, restorative nap. After which, she started all over again.

I think I may be too old to be raising another baby.

UPDATE Thursday morning - Miss Dixie and Scout decided to have an all-out sumo-wrestling battle at midnight. Yesterday being the once monthly occasion when I get a massage and actually sleep well, their antics were not amusing. I tried hollering at them a couple of times, but ultimately had to get up and sequester Miss Dixie in the bathroom by herself all night. You would think the little scamp would get the message that rotten behavior equals isolation. I hope it eventually sinks in.


Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Don't Look a Gift Horse in the Mouth

I got this weird letter the other day from Dell Computers. They claimed to owe me $50 and if I did not fax back instructions for how I wanted to claim the money, it would be turned over to the State unclaimed funds. It has been a pretty good while since I've bought anything from Dell, so I couldn't imagine why they would owe me any money, but I'm no fool and I faxed them instructions to cut me a check, dudes.

There was precious little information to work with, but I finally figured out that the money was connected to the purchase of their MP3 player, the DJ Ditty, a couple of years ago. I had long since stopped using the thing and had almost forgotten I even owned one. It didn't cost all that much, so I still have no idea why I should be getting money back on it. But I'm willing to trust they know what they are talking about.

Today the check arrived and I'm going to hustle down to the bank and put it in my account tomorrow before they change their minds.

Now, what to do with my little windfall?


Friday, August 21, 2009

Temporary Peace on the Homefront

This morning's trip to the vet was an expensive one, but it had the unexpected benefit of creating an atmosphere of peace in the house for the day.

Mojo and Coco had their annual exams and two shots each. Both were pronounced in good health and had not gained too much weight, considering we've had to give up our daily walks until this heat wave breaks. They had to have blood drawn for the bi-annual heartworm test and then, the ultimate insult, got their toenails clipped.

Dixie was ooh-ed and aah-ed over and told repeatedly how beautiful she was. I had taken along her first picture to remind the doctor of how far she had come. The first time she had been there, she weighed in at 1-1/2 pounds. Two months later she weighs 4-1/2 pounds, a 300% increase. The doctor studied her much improved physique and guessed that she may have some Persian in her, based on her domed head and long hair. We agreed that she was not your ordinary stray kitten and that she has the potential to be a real beauty. She got her next round of shots, did her best to shred the chair in the exam room while the dogs got their exams, and then we were done.

The ride home was considerably quieter than the ride to Elgin had been. Both dogs had fretted themselves into exhaustion and even Dixie settled down. When we got home, all three of them crawled into corners and slept hard all afternoon. Dixie even slept through her normal supper time. Scout said it was the best afternoon she's had in two months.

I always cringe a little when I have to settle the bill for one of these group vet visits, but I considered today that I really do come out ahead. If I had 5 children, I would be buying new school clothes and supplies and paying for music lessons and wearing myself out going to soccer games. I don't have to worry about putting them through college or sitting up at night waiting for them to get in.

Yes, I think I've got the better deal.


Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Trials by Cat

For a tiny fluff ball, Miss Dixie has made a huge impact on our quiet household. And I don't mean just the yelling of "stop that" that has become my daily, almost hourly, anthem. She has more energy per square inch than a nuclear reactor. Last night, as I sat at my desk before the computer, she decided she wanted to be on my shoulder. She jumped, reaching for something solid to get her claws in for traction, and that something happened to be my back. I screeched and flung her off of me and then we had a loud conversation, after which she decided she might just spend the rest of the evening under the bed.

This morning she was attempting to be a sweeter cat, camouflaging herself as just another of the pillow cats.

I am not the only target of Dixie's mayhem. Poor Scout is continually hunting for a spot that will put her out of aggravation's way. Dixie hasn't quite figured out that she can jump up on things without there being something soft she can anchor her claws into, so Scout spends her day sitting on the tops of desks or dressers or other pieces of furniture above Dixie's present reach. (I haven't got the heart to tell Scout it's only a matter of time before Dixie figures out there are springs in her feet. I hate to see a grown cat cry.)

I was chagrined to discover that one of Scout's places of safety is endangering some of my miniatures displays. I glanced over at the piano the other night and there was a cat where there shouldn't be a cat. She was curled up fast asleep on a gardening vignette. I've since made a stab at convincing her that it is not a good napping place, but so far she isn't paying the slightest bit of attention.

All I can hope is that she gives up this location before Dixie figures out she's there. I have this horrible premonition that I will be awakened by a horrific crash in the middle of the night and all my hard work will be scattered about the floor and the piano will acquire even more scars. (You may recall that the Taz cat bounced a lamp off the piano, gouging a dozen or so divots in the walnut finish.)

We have an appointment with the vet on Friday morning for a follow up exam for Dixie. I am anticipating that the doctor will be impressed with how much she has bounced back from the scraggly little waif I brought in two months ago. I, on the other hand, may be advised to get a long rest in the country.

I realized this morning that Boo and Scout went through this stage and I lived through it. However, they had each other to beat up on and that spared the rest of us a lot of scars and blood-letting. They've turned into pretty good cats. And it only took 3 years.

Lord, have mercy. Two and a half more years before I can expect Dixie to be a little lady cat.



Thursday, August 13, 2009

Visiting the Ex-Neighbors

I went downtown yesterday afternoon to get my hair done, decided to go back home by way of the courthouse to get my license tag renewal, and that put me within 2 blocks of where I used to live. I decided to drive down the old street and see what had changed. When I reached the block where we once lived, I spotted an old neighbor out in her yard and decided to seize the opportunity to stop and ask her a question that I've been meaning to ask the next time I saw her.

Vickie is one of those people with a major green thumb and works in her yard every day. She has layered in vines and blooming plants and added rustic iron fencing and little statues tucked in among the greenery. She has the knack, as did my grandmother, of being able to snap off a branch of something, stick it in dirt and have it immediately take root. I remembered that many years ago she got a start of the mock orange bush that lived in the center of my mother's front yard and I wanted to know if she would give me a start. The mock orange bush was always one of the first harbingers of spring, bursting forth with white blossoms along about my birthday every year.

We had a great time visiting and she gave me a tour of her yard. Not only did she have many descendant bushes of the original mock orange she acquired from us, she has altheas of every color, a big clump of lilies like the ones I had admired in the yard of our other neighbor Ben and many other tempting plants that she has promised to give me starts from when the weather gets cooler and transplants will have a better chance to take hold.

We went inside to get soft drinks and she showed me the renovations she has done since I was there last. Her house is one of the old early 20th century houses with high ceilings and decorative woodwork, similar to the style of my mother's old house. They have been painting and redoing wood floors and installing antique lighting fixtures and she gave me a real case of remodeling envy to see what can be accomplished when you have an eye for salvaging unique pieces from antique stores and Habitat for Humanity.

While we chatted and she showed me pictures of her new grandson and brought me up to date with what her two kids were doing these days, we heard a most unlikely sound...thunder. A few minutes later, we heard an even more unlikely sound...rain. It rained for a good 20-30 minutes, good heavy, soaking rain, with loud claps of thunder. She and her husband and I stood on the front porch and watched it for a few minutes, enjoying the sight of something we've not seen for weeks. You could just hear all those plants in her yard giggling with the sheer joy of the good soaking they were getting.

I waited out the heavy downpour, extending my visit longer than I had intended, and thoroughly enjoying the rare opportunity to pass the time with old friends. Her husband said if I'm going to bring rain with me, I need to visit more often.

I left with the promise that we would get together after the first norther this fall and she will load me up with cuttings to try transplanting to my yard. In return she wants a load of pine needles, if I can spare them. (I just looked at her with my jaw hanging - spare them? I've got pine needles enough for the whole county.) I hope by spring I might have the pleasure of seeing mock orange in my front yard again.

Now for the Dixie update--she has a new devilish trick. She gets on the back of the couch, oozes down over my shoulder, cuddles up next to my face and purrs like mad. Sooo sweet, you say. Gently, she puts her little nose up to my cheek - and hauls off and bites me. She's one little rascal.


Sunday, August 09, 2009

Mystery Solved

When I went out to water the plants night before last, I discovered one pot where there was no longer a plant - just dirt. The plant in the pot next to it was in pretty bad shape. It appeared that something had been either chewing on it or just tearing it up for the fun of it. I moved the surviving plant to the other side of the deck and decided that some bird had been looking for nesting material.

Today, when I got back from running errands, I glanced out on the deck and discovered the rest of the story.

I guess he likes the cool dirt in that pot, which is just the size for a squirrel bed. He saw me studying him through the window and I think I saw a tiny squirrel tongue protrude for a second.

I get no respect.


Tuesday, August 04, 2009

Blushing in the Driveway

You remember the song by Barbara Mandrell, I Was Country When Country Wasn't Cool? There's a line in there about parking at the drive-in movie and turning down the radio because you didn't want folks to know you were listening to George Jones. Mother used to tell me that back when Hank Williams was popular and no one had air-conditioning in their cars, you would indeed turn down the radio when you came to a stop where others might hear you listening to hillbilly music. It was considered somewhat uncouth to listen to that tacky stuff.

I found myself thinking about that this week when I pulled up to the mailbox in front of my house and lowered the window to get the mail. I was listening to an audiobook, the most recent offering of David Sedaris. I am really enjoying the book, but I do not recommend it without a note of warning. His humor and writing gets a little rough every so often and it is liberally sprinkled with language you would not want your mother to know you are familiar with. Funny, yes, but if you have tender ears, don't go there.

I wasn't thinking when I pulled up to the mailbox and lowered the window. After all, it's not like the book is a constant stream of profanity. It's just that a sentence will pop out every now and then that turns the air inside the car blue. And rather than finding it offensive, it usually makes me laugh out loud. The guy is good at catching you off guard and presenting a hilarious comment within a network of words not used in polite company.

Just as I reached out to get the mail, he began to describe a conversation with a New York cab driver and out came a string of words, most of them beginning with the letter "f". OMG, I thought, looking in the rear view mirror and out the side windows to see if any of my neighbors were outdoors and within earshot. I did not see anyone, thank goodness.

So now, for the duration of the audiobook, I am being a little more cautious. I'm switching to NPR as I approach the mailbox. My enjoyment of David Sedaris' writing will be my own guilty pleasure.

That and satellite radio's Bluegrass Junction. It wouldn't bother me all that much for the neighbors to know I'm a bluegrass junkie, but there's still a portion of the universe that doesn't understand that hillbilly and bluegrass music is not tacky.


Do Not Feed the Wild Animals

There's a reason why they say don't feed the wild animals. This is an example of what happens when you do. They move in and take over.

"Are YOU talking to ME?"

Pray for me.