Thursday, June 28, 2007

Sixteen Tons, again!

I worked at the bookstore for four hours today and managed to pack about 27 boxes of books to send back to publishers. Most of the boxes were small, around 10 pounds or so, but I managed to clear most of a bay of books. So, I got some work done.

Then I went to the grocery store. On my list I had "Coffee, cat food, toilet paper." So how did I spend $64? Well, I decided I needed bird food for my cockatiel, and for the wild birds (they really like black-oiled sunflower seeds, and I can't find them in the town where I live); I bought marjoram (I ran across a recipe that uses it); I bought six Lean Cuisine dinners (they were on sale--six for $10--a good deal); and, of course, I needed ice cream and a cheese grater (I can't find the one I had), and then I bought some Cheez-Its.

Do you see a connection between any of this? I don't, and I can't figure out how my brain works. It never takes me to the beer or wine aisles; I totally avoided the vegetable section and the canned goods' section. I had a list. So how did all the rest of this stuff end up in my basket? It's a mystery to me. But at least I have a good balance between the "diet food" and the junk food; I also have tomatoes and squash from the garden and a stockpile of frozen veggies to go with anything I choose to cook.

Besides reading student papers (a given), I have a few other projects to work on (Norton Oral History Project, Fall courses, mowing the grass at some point, weeding the garden), and I'll be working at the bookstore on Monday (8am to 5pm--a whole day--yikes!). I won't be idle on my "vacation," that's for sure!

I hope all of my students have a relaxing break! I've tried not to load them down with too much work!

Update on the Budster: We (the vet and I) think Buddy may have gotten into rat poison--what's called a "rodenticide anticoagulant." It's a poison that thins out the rat's blood and eventually kills it. If Buddy ate a rat that had eaten poison, or eaten some of the poison, that could have caused the "spontaneous" bleeding. The vitamin K pills seem to be working. Bud's doing fine, except when I have to give him his medicine. I have to wrap him in a towel to give him the meds so he doesn't scratch the hell out of me. He goes back to the vet in the morning to have his stitches removed. Hooray!

Monday, June 25, 2007

Buddy's Home!

And seasons 1 & 2 of The Closer came today, so I'm typing this, watching The Closer, and holding Buddy. He's needy today. I have to read/grade student essays, and will get on that in a minute.

Dr. Jeff told me that Buddy had been doing fine, but, when Dr. J. went to check on him Sunday, Buddy had blood in his feces and had hacked up blood, too. So, Dr. J. started giving Buddy vitamin K shots to help his blood clot. I have antibiotics and some vitamin K to give the cat, and we'll go back to the vet's on Friday to have the stitches out. As soon as Buddy heals from this, he and Bubba are going in for sex-adjustment surgery (They need to be neutered; snip-snip). Then we start the shots for everybody.

I'm glad I've found a local vet; I'm really glad Buddy's home, and I think the other cats are glad, too. Last night, I was sitting on the couch, surrounded by cats. I think they were afraid I was going to take them away, too, so they tried to cozy up to me.

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Muffin Day

I love to bake. I especially love to bake when I'm angry or upset because I can work out some of my frustrations mixing and chopping. Today, I made about four dozen muffins (most of which I will give away--if I ate all of them I'd gain way too much weight)--strawberry-banana, blueberry-orange, and the best of all, zuchinni-chocolate. As the cook, I had to sample one of each, of course! The zuchinni were the best of the bunch, though each flavor has its merits.

Why was I angry/frustrated? I've just spent an extraordinary amount of money to find out that my little cat didn't have a blockage in his stomach, as the emergency vet insisted. In fact, Dr. Jeff said that Buddy didn't have anything in his stomach. No bird's head, no feathers. Something irritated his stomach, but, whatever it was, it wasn't there when Buddy got to Dr. Anderson's. The matter in Buddy's intestines resembled a black peppermint stick, according to Dr. Jeff; basically, he gave Buddy an enema--the doc flushed out his stomach and his intestines. A very expensive high colonic, if you ask me! Anyway, Buddy's recuperating at the clinic over the weekend. Dr. Jeff wants to make sure that Buddy's over his vomiting episode.

So, here's the lesson I've learned. Cats are cats. They will eat stuff they shouldn't and, while bloody vomit is scary, caution is best. Next time, I'll just lock the cat in the bathroom for 24 hours and let his digestive system calm down. If he's still sick after that, he goes to Dr. Jeff. No more emergency vets. That's the same as using the emergency room for a cold. Dumb!

So, I think I'll bake some bread later. I need to punch something, and dough is, at least, safe.

Friday, June 22, 2007

Cat Tails/Tales?

Well, I should find out tomorrow, but I'm thinking the sparrow's head is in Buddy's stomach. He threw up blood Thursday afternoon, so I took him to the emergency vet in Shreveport (my second round trip of the day!), where I paid almost $500 to have the vet tell me that Buddy had a blockage. Duh! So, at 1am, I was driving the highway homeward. I went to bed around 2am Friday, got up around 7:30am, and took Buddy to the local vet. I taught my class, went to lunch with a former student, then drove back to the vet's office.

I like Dr. Anderson. He's a large and small animal vet, which means he deals with horses, sheep, cows, as well as dogs and cats. I love sitting in a vet's office--I've met some wonderful animals and their owners in the last two days. At Dr. Jeff's (that's Dr. A's first name--that's what everyone calls him), I met a Rat Terrier named "Shorty" who was in for a toenail clipping (which Dr. Jeff did himself), a cat named "Lucy," (an orange-striped tabby), a lab named Jojo, who loves to have her head scratched, and a Jack Russell puppy named "Gigi," and her human, who's name is "Daisy." Last night/early this morning, I met a Cocker Spaniel named "Petunia," a Rat Terrier named "Abby," a miniature Shnauzer named "Abbie," a lab named "Hunter," and a lab named "May." No other cats, though.

Dr. Jeff took the time to talk to me about Buddy--is he prone to eating hair scrunchies, rubber bands; does he throw up often? Answer to both questions: No. Buddy likes to play with scrunchies, rubber bands, and yarn (yeah, he's such a typical cat), but he knows the difference between toys and food. He and Bubba will tear the hell out of a catnip mouse, but they won't eat it. I told Dr. Jeff about the sparrow and the missing head. He said he checked the x-rays from the emergency clinic and said he planned to do an exploratory surgery on Buddy and keep him overnight. I expected the doc to call, but he might have had a large-animal emergency. (And I found out that, at night, he only deals with large animals. So he doesn't come in for small animal emergencies.)

I trust him--even though he seems to be rather youngish (but how do I know?). Dr. Jeff is personable, asks interesting questions, and seems to know the animals he cares for quite well. He wants to know and he treated my concerns seriously, even the money question. How much? About $150, unless he has to resect a bowel! Next time, I'll just wait for Dr. Jeff's office to open to take in a sick animal. But now I have a local vet to vaccinate my cats and treat them when they swallow birds' heads whole!

But the question that's plaguing me now is "How much is an animal worth?" If I had to choose between paying $1,000 to save my cat or $1,000 to save my child, of course, the answer is obvious. But my children are grown; my cats are my companions. They share my life and complete my home; I couldn't imagine living without them. I think that, because I lost Judas to the dogs, I'm particularly vulnerable right now. I've raised Buddy--he wasn't more than six week's old when my neighbor handed him to me. He's my puppy-cat and follows me around. I would hate to lose him, especially when I can do something to prevent it.

I can't wait to get him home. But I think I won't let him go outside for a while!

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Another "Gift"

When I sat down to read my students' second drafts today, I noticed feathers. I looked closer and found the body of a sparrow, sans head, on my desk. The last time one of my cats left me such a gift, I received the head and tail feathers of a Cardinal. So I guess I should be happy I didn't find the body of a red bird on my desk. But, really, these "gifts" are annoying. I'm still finding feathers in the nooks and crannies; I'm really afraid I'm going to find the head, too. (reminds me of the famous scene in "The Godfather"--the horse's head in the bed! Yikes!)

I love my cats, but this is too much. And, to top this off, Buddy, one of my younger cats, keeps throwing up--food, water, grass. I'd blame it on hairballs, but he doesn't seem to shed much. I'm thinking he ate something he shouldn't have. I'd blame his gastrointestinal problems on the food, but none of the other cats are throwing up, so he might have gotten into something he shouldn't. I need to find some homeopath remedy for this. First, though, I need to keep him away from food for a day or so. I think I'll lock him in the study (that's one way to keep the others from leaving me dead birds!).

I welcomed the thunderstorm tonight. I thought I'd have to go out and water the garden in the morning so it would get its one-inch for the week, but I think it will be fine for a couple of days. I picked quite a few tomatoes tonight and a squash. I'm still not sure when the peppers will be ready, but I may just have to pick one and try it out. I had a salad for dinner and threw in a couple of the cherry tomatoes. Yum!

Sunday, June 17, 2007

A (Mostly) Mowed Yard!

Hooray! I (sort-of) mowed my grass today with my new riding mower! Of course, I flooded the engine once, and it backfired on me and scared me to death. I rode the clutch. I was afraid I wouldn't be able to get the brake all the way down, but I did it! Hopefully, the next time will be better. At least I mowed down most of the really tall grass. But the cutting job is erratic--I got so wrapped up in getting the tall grass that I skipped some of the other parts. I have cut sections and not-cut sections, but I'll do better once I'm more comfortable. I'm hoping I haven't stripped any gears or blown any gaskets! I only took two hours to mow, though, instead of two hours a day, five days a week.

Mechanical gadgets, while fascinating, still scare me. Driving a lawnmower is very much like driving a car, but I didn't realize that speed is relative--when I was riding on the mower, I probably wasn't going faster than 3 to 5 miles an hour, but without doors and a roof to protect me, I felt totally vulnerable. But I also felt empowered--I can do it myself, so that feeds my sense of independence. Since I can't rely on my brothers or my father to "take care" of me, I need to be able to do these things myself. Scary--yes--but also quite liberating.

I did visit briefly with my dad today for Father's Day. His birthday is Wednesday, so I brought two cards. I chipped in with my siblings to buy him a custom golf club for Father's Day, and I got him an American Express gift card that he can spend anyway he wants. I also had a chance to see my brother Mike, his wife Linda, and his daughter Katie. That was nice. I don't get to see them too often since they live in Monroe, LA.

When my children were still living at home, they used to give me a card for Father's Day! I kind of miss that.

I hope all you fathers had a good day! Mine was excellent.

Friday, June 15, 2007

Cat Sagas, Part Deux

My elation at discovering that Boudreaux was okay was short-lived. I woke up this morning to the sound of dogs barking again, and, by the time I made it out the back door, I discovered the largest of the hounds standing over the body of my cat, Judas. She, unfortunately, was dead.

So, at 7:30 am, I was once again digging a hole. The ground was fairly soft, but I need to put some more dirt on top of the grave to keep the varmints from digging her up. To say that I am sad is an understatement. This cat has been with me for about ten years. My daughter brought Judas to me from Austin. Dorothy had moved into a new apartment and couldn't keep her.

Judas was a one-person cat. She hated every other cat in the house and rarely let any of them get within three feet of her. When the weather turned warm, she would go outside and not come back inside until the temperature cooled significantly. I think that's what caused the problem--I couldn't get her to come inside to eat. I had to put food out for her, which, I think, encouraged the dogs to visit the property.

Judas was part of a litter of kittens that a wandering stray cat had when my daughter was living in an apartment with four guys. They named the mother cat "Mary" and named the kittens after the Disciples--Judas got her name because she was the only black cat in the bunch. Dorothy and the guys didn't care about the cat's sex; they named them randomly. So that's how I ended up with a cat named "Judas." Not a name I would have chosen.

When I got home from teaching today, I called the police department. I let them know about the dogs, that one of them, at least, had killed my cat. We do have leash laws here, I found out, but we don't really have any way to enforce them. We don't have a dog catcher or pound, so abandoned or wandering animals can't be taken anywhere, even if the police do catch them. I asked the officer what the solution was, and he told me that the officer can "dispose" of the animal if he/she considers the animal vicious. If the animal attacks the officer, the officer can shoot it. I think that's what he meant by "dispose." I'm not in favor of killing animals--any animals--unless they pose an immediate danger. These dogs are vicious to cats. Does that count? Anyway, the morning shift is supposed to keep an eye on my property. I am going to try to keep the cats in tonight. They've been in most of the day, anyway, because of the rain. I think I'll go count, now. If they are all here, I'm locking the door.

Oh, and, as an aside, I'm now the proud owner of a bouncing baby riding lawnmower! Alas, I can't use it because the ground is saturated. I probably won't be able to cut the grass until Tuesday. I hope I can figure out how it works by then!

Thursday, June 14, 2007

Cat Update...

I worry too much and I forget that cats are crafty. I started filling food bowls this morning and Boudreaux was first in line for chow! I gave him a quick twice over and he seemed to be fine. He ate and perched himself in his favorite spot on the sofa for a good cleaning and a nap. No doubt I will find him in the same place when I get home later.

When I went outside to look for him last night, I noticed the bugs around the security lights in my neighbor's yard. I searched for bats--they are drawn to the bugs. I'm pretty sure we have bats in the country, but I don't know that I've actually seen any. But, while I was looking for the bats, an owl swooped through the yard and perched in one of the neighbor's trees. Good! Another helper to rid the area of rats. (I really, really, really HATE rats!)

Anyway, Boo is fine--and that means I'm fine, too.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

The Cat Sagas

I mentioned this morning in class that I saw three big dogs this morning that had something cornered under my neighbor's car. I thought it might be one of my cats, Boudreaux (Boo). I haven't seen him all day, and I didn't see anything under the car when I got home. If he's hurt, he may be under the house, or (and I really hope not), those dogs may have come back for him. I threw a stick at them and chased them away, but my neighbor is not the friendliest person. If my cat died under her car, she probably threw him in the trash or on the burn pile in her back yard. I know that sounds terrible (it does to me); I would prefer that she yell at me to come get my cat. I'm holding out hope that Boo is just hiding and will come out when he feels safe. I have been looking for him and calling him, but he hasn't shown up yet.

The newest member of the group, Golem, caught a rat in the backyard this afternoon. Well, think about it--bird feeders, tall grass, and chickens/chicken eggs across the ditch--a rat's paradise! And, of course, the rat snakes indicate that rats live around here. Golem dispatched the rat in short order, leaving only the head (in the grass; I closed the back door to keep him from bringing it in to the house). The other cats displayed typical cat curiousity and tried to get a look at his snack, but he wasn't sharing. I need to thank the professor who gave Golem to me; he's a good ratter.

I'm going to call for Boudreaux again. I'm hoping he's just chilling somewhere--he does that every once in a while, even though he's neutered; my cats stay close to home, but they'll go on short forays, mostly to chase chickens. I'm hoping that's what Boo is doing.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

In High Grass...

Okay, that's it. I'm not spending one more minute trying to mow an acre with an electric lawn mower. I went out yesterday around 11am; the temp was already near 90 degrees, and I managed to mow a square of lawn before the sweat blinded me. Tomorrow, I'm going to Lowe's to buy a riding lawnmower. The temps won't get any cooler, really, and this is only June. Besides, I don't really have 10 hours a week to mow the grass. I can only go for an hour or two a day before I collapse in a puddle on the living room floor--I'm useless for the rest of the day. At this rate, I have to mow some of the grass every day. And, of course, after a week, I have to start over, so it's a never-ending chore. At least a riding mower will help me dispatch this job more quickly. The picture shows part of the backyard; walk to the right, and you'll find more. I took this picture to show the fence my neighbor was putting up.

I have a long list of "needs"--a tiller (I want to plant a ton of flower beds and enlarge the garden, and I can rent it out to my friends!), a wheelbarrow, a ladder. I just keep adding to the list of necessities. When I bought my house, I had forgotten about all this. When you rent, you don't worry about cleaning out the gutters or sweeping the pine straw off the roof; you might have to mow the yard, but the yard's usually not that big; and, generally, the landlord's not overly enthusiastic if you dig up half the yard for a garden.

I'm also wondering if I should buy a chain saw (it would need to be extremely light-weight so that I could handle it) since I'm constantly dealing with large limbs that fall when the wind kicks up. I mostly drag those to the burn pile, but some of the limbs are too much for me to drag, even.

Women with power tools! I love it! I can remember how excited I was when I bought my drill/electric screwdriver. I couldn't wait to try it out; I went all through my house hanging curtains! I love to master tools. One day, I may actually buy a table saw and start building my own bookcases.

Sunday, June 03, 2007

A Yard Full of Cardinals and One Big Turtle!

The rain brought all of the birds out, but I counted at least six Cardinals--mostly female, though I did see (I think) two males. These guys seem to have a harem between them!

And this was just a fluke, but, while I was looking out the back door, I saw this HUGE turtle lumbering across the yard towards the ditch. I at least had the presence of mind to take some pictures. Here's one. He sat still while I crouched down in the rain to snap his pic! And anyone who says that turtle's are slow didn't see this one booking it across the yard! He/she was really moving. The picture doesn't do justice to it's size--it was at least 12 inches long. Amazing! And very weird that I just happened to look out the door at the precise moment it decided to make a run for it!
Nature offers all manner of sights if we just pay attention! Along with the dog, the snake and the birds, I have an abundance of distractions to occupy me.
I've picked five yellow squash from my garden, medium-sized, not really huge. But I ate some for dinner the other night and they were yummy! I'm just waiting for the tomatoes and peppers now.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

A Narrow Fellow in the Grass...

or, as I have to tell my students, a snake. I noticed that the stray gray and white cat who hangs around was tossing something in the air yesterday, so I decided to check it out. The snake was long, but only about an inch around. Flies buzzed it, so I figured it was almost dead. Wrong! I keep forgetting that some snakes "play possum"; they figure the predator will lose interest and leave them alone. I used a stick to pick it up and throw it on the burn pile. I figured it would die, for real, or it would go away. It wasn't there this morning, so I'm guessing it slithered off. I'm glad I wear my grandmother's boots when I'm walking through the tall grass.

The snake was blackish-brown with a white underbelly. It had a narrow head--not triangular, as with most poisonous snakes. I figure it was a rat/corn/chicken snake. Not too many markings on its back; since the neighbors have chickens, I'm guessing it came from across the ditch. But, who knows? Snakes ignore boundaries; it could have come from the woods behind my other neighbor's house.

Cats like to play with snakes, but I'm worried that they will get bitten. Even a rat snake will make them sick, so I keep a lookout for snakes and work to keep the cats away from them. This is only the third time I've seen a snake in my yard, but, in the country, they're always around somewhere.