CHAOSTOCOSMOS

Tuesday, 26 April 2005

A life in the country

Maybe walking the dog and feeding cats doesn't quite equate with slopping hogs, but I certainly eat far more in the country (probably more to do with the fresh air than any truly manual labor) and I think I progressed a little more than the "the two city boys that live on coffee". Dragging the trash down to the main road was a bit of a shock to my city system, used to placing it outside the door, but my mail box isn't quite that far. Hot water is certainly an "optional extra" tho'!



A LETTER FROM A FARM KID, NOW A SAN DIEGO MARINE CORPS RECRUIT

Dear Ma and Pa,

I am well. Hope you are. Tell Brother Walt and Brother Elmer the Marine Corps beats working for old man Minch by a mile. Tell them to join up quick before all of the places are filled. I was restless at first because you got to stay in bed till nearly 6 a.m. but I am getting so I like to sleep late. Tell Walt and Elmer all you do before breakfast is smooth your cot, and shine some things. No hogs to slop, feed to pitch, mash to mix, wood to split, fire to lay. Practically nothing. Men got to shave but it is not so bad, there's warm water.

Breakfast is strong on trimmings like fruit juice, cereal, eggs, bacon, etc. but kind of weak on chops, potatoes, ham, steak, fried eggplant, pie and other regular food, but tell Walt and Elmer you can always sit by the two city boys that live on coffee. Their food plus yours holds you til noon when you get fed again. It's no wonder these city boys can't walk much. We go on "route marches", which the platoon sergeant says are long walks to harden us. If he thinks so, it's not my place to tell him different.

A "route march" is about as far as to our mailbox at home. Then the city guys get sore feet and we all ride back in trucks. The country is nice but awful flat The sergeant is like a school teacher. He nags a lot. The Captain is like the school board. Majors and colonels just ride around and frown. They don't bother you none. This next will kill Walt and Elmer with laughing. I keep getting medals for shooting. I don't know why. The bulls-eye is near as big as a chipmunk head and don't move, and it ain't shooting at you like the Higgett boys at home. All you got to do is lie there all comfortable and hit it. You don't even load your own cartridges. They come in boxes.

Then we have what they call hand-to-hand combat training. You get to wrestle with them city boys. I have to be real careful though, they break real easy. It ain't like fighting with that ole bull at home. I'm about the best they got in this except for that Tug Jordan from over in Silver Lake. I only beat him once. He joined up the same time as me, but I'm only 5'6" and 130 pounds and he's 6'8" and near 300 pounds dry.

Be sure to tell Walt and Elmer to hurry and join before other fellers get onto this setup and come stampeding in.

Your loving daughter,

Gail

Friday, 22 April 2005

Door-to-door house blessings

The late Pope John Paul II was so loved, by so many, including a great number of non-Catholics around the world. The day after Pope John Paul II's funeral, there was a knock at the door and opened it to find our new Pastor, two assistants and a Virgin (I mean Icon) standing outside.

(There was me still unwashed at lunchtime and the next-door neighbour there with his video camera - for reasons I shall no doubt discover later. He is the local mayor's "trusted aide" and the town hall do edit various cultural films. So there goes their reputation!)

Anyway, they were doing door-to-door house blessings and would I like one?

Well, I didn't like to say that this house DESPERATELY needs one, well I did want to say it, but it was probably not the right thing, however, I said they were most welcome, but that I was not a Catholic and did this matter? Apparently not and so ensued a short ceremony where the blessing was said and I crowned the Icon and placed her Rosary in her hands (whilst feeling a right prat.)

(Hey, the Pastor even complimented me on doing so most artistically.)

It wasn't until afterwards when the Pastor chatted with me (partly in English), he told me this very Icon had been blessed by Pope John Paul II himself, crowning her in exactly the same manner.

They also left me with a card showing a photo of the Icon and some photos of Pope John Paul II and, never mind what this means to me religiously (nothing at all), in a sense, I DO feel honoured, or "blessed". It is certainly a moment and a memory I shall treasure.

101 Uses For Vinegar

Sometimes we forget the wonderful, simple old remedies (despite their return to fashion lately), which, apart from being more soundly ecological, as well as being DIRT CHEAP, also get the job done faster and with less work, so I just thought I'd pass on these tips.

I really did hurt myself on my recent "mountaineering expedition" and had some very tender and painful bruises on my shins for a week, until I spoke on the phone to my mother. She told me to dab vinegar on them (provided the skin wasn't broken, which it wasn't).

I didn't have any brown paper handy (that was the old method, now I recall), but what has surprised me greatly was that it worked almost instantly. Bruises, tenderness and pain, all just gone.

Vinegar is also a very effective cleaning agent:

Most people have probably heard of using vinegar and newspaper to clean windows. You simply apply the vinegar and water with a sponge or cloth, then dry the window with a dry sheet of newspaper. This definitely works better than any other method, leaving no smears.

Works equally well for mirrors.

It then occurred to me to use vinegar to clean the ceramic tiled floors that we have in houses here. Again, it leaves them clean, smear free and, more importantly, leaves a grease-free surface that is not slippery - as they can be after using a detergent product.

(If you don't like your house smelling like a chip shop - it passes rapidly - add a few drops of perfume essence to the bucket.)

And as an added bonus, if you have cats in the house, vinegar also acts as a deterrent from them "leaving their mark" (cats do not like vinegar) and neutralizes the scent of any past "accidents".

Vinegar, being acid, also counteracts the lime in our hard water that otherwise leaves white deposits on everything. I've used vinegar in all sorts of places, from wiping down the tiles and sanitaryware in the bathroom, to rinsing the glassware and cutlery (flatware).

If you have any ideas to add, please leave a comment.

Wednesday, 20 April 2005

Welcome to Rabbit Rescue

image "Good Afternoon and welcome to Rabbit Rescue".

Well, the human has taken a slight lead, by liberating another baby bunny from the clutches of three marauding tigers last night.

The other day, I had locked the cats OUT to prevent them coming in with their catches. Boy, do they know how to play me at my own game?

Bring it in and keep quiet about it, until they can surprise me with it, once we are all shut on the inside and I'm lulled into a false sense of security, because you think they can't come in with anything else then.

Yesterday was sunny and dry, so I took advantage by opening all the windows to give the house a dose of fresh air. I'd gone through to the utility room at one point to find three of the cats in there, when they should have been outside enjoying the weather.

Another was lying on the floor of the back room, looking for all the world like he was watching a mousehole, so I suspected they were up to something, but if it had hidden itself and they couldn't find it, well, nor would I. I left them to it and promptly forgot about it.

After dinner at 6 p.m. (yes, they are creatures of habit), the cats are kept in for the night and they'd all settled nicely in the back room. This is normal, so I thought nothing of it.

Until around 10.30 p.m.

There I was quietly minding my own business, when a screech erupts. When I go out back to investigate, sure enough, three of them had cornered the tiny rabbit out in the utility room. Obviously he'd hidden under something earlier and finally decided to venture out.

And they were still waiting! Bullies!

It takes three of them to torment the poor little thing. They should be ashamed.

No, I don't know if they are capable of doing this deliberately, but you have to admit that, whether coincidence or not, it was pretty ironic in a "That'll teach her to lock us outside", kind of way.

Of course they didn't reckon on the fact that they also couldn't escape with it, so I was able to rescue it from them with ease. My mother is coming to visit in a couple of weeks. The rabbit had actually hidden in what will be her bedroom while she's here and I can't wait to see her face if they repeat this process and she's suddenly woken up, surrounded by wild animals! *Grin*

Monday, 18 April 2005

I've Been Virtually Nowhere Man

Here's another of those blog thingamabobs. I find them fascinating.



When you think about it, having seen only 2% of the world (The US, The UK, Spain, France, Germany & Greece - for those who don't recognize the red blobs on the map above) is close to going nowhere. And, of course, I've only been to isolated bits of those countries even.

I wish things like this had existed when my best friend took almost a year off to go around the world. She sent real letters and postcards from each place, while I put real pins in a real paper map on the wall. It makes me want to pack a bag and head for the other 98%.

Create your own visited country map

Bad Business In Bunny Land

image It's all rabbits round here lately, but then it is Spring, so this is probably not surprising, but alas, this isn't only about cute, fluffy burrowers, because some *bad bunnies* have made people hopping mad.

The BBC themselves kindly point us in the direction of a wonderfully witty blog, which is poking fun at the BEEB site's special talent for (mis)use of stock photos after a "headless zombie rabbit" incident - where, apparently, the "same" (stock photo) bunny loses his head one day, then gets a parking ticket slapped on his hutch the next.

(I take comfort in the fact that if the BBC can call those items news, what I have to offer MAY not be so mind-numbingly dull after all!)

But that it would scare all the little kiddies (not to mention the big kiddy whose job it was to dispose of the remains), last week I could have provided a "model" for the perfect graphic illustration for the former of the above stories, courtesy of cats Khan and Betty.

One I, sadly, didn't manage liberate from them in time.

Then this morning, I discovered Balu and Betty growling at each other over another specimen out in the utility room. This discovery was a little accidental, so Balu picked up the rabbit and ran through the house and out the front door. I managed to follow and catch up with him, despite an obstacle course of furniture, rocks and vines.

For some reason, I can't run under everything like they can!

But, upon grabbing the offending cat by the neck, he sure let go of the rabbit - who foolishly, ran straight towards Betty. I couldn't get there in time and, even if I had, you'd have more chance getting a side of beef away from a full-grown lion than of getting near her.

My vet calls her "la pantera" (the panther) and that she is!

I did try, but unfortunately this was the wrong move. She had to make a quick decision, which resulted in me being a mere yard away and, unfortunately, looking straight at the bloodthirsty scene when she went in for the kill. All I can say is, at least it was swift.

So, the current score appears to be: Cats 2 - Human 2

(Not counting the ones I don't know about, of course.)

Cats are killers. I accept that. And I am more than happy that they are able to live "normal cat" lives, but it still takes a bit of getting used to the things one has to deal with in the country.

I tell ya, you get a very strong stomach after a few years of er, "country living with pets". Although I have to admit that I am taking the ostrich approach to *dealing with* the aftermath of today's episode. I've cowardly come indoors and closed all the doors and windows to keep the cats out until the "job is done".

On the other hand, I probably should just accept that my cats are providing a useful service, because the rabbit population here has been escalating out of all proportion over the last few years.

Indeed, just this morning while I was walking the vine terraces with the dog (accompanied by two cats, naturally), we stopped and chatted with the workers tending the vines. It seems that even the ingenious water trick (containers under the vines) hasn't prevented the numerous rabbits from eating the newly forming fruit this year, destroying both crop and livelihood.

Naturally, the man is hopping mad (sorry, irrisistable pun), saying *they* should do something to completely wipe out the rabbit populations in cultivated areas.

I agree, something needs doing, but I doubt that would be the right solution.

The chance of getting all of the rabbits has to be slim and those remaining would merely reproduce at a faster rate to refill the territory available. The hunting season in August - November will cull them and, it is probably better to continue with that rhythm. (Much as I personally dislike the idea of hunting, I accept it is a better solution than some alternatives - such as traps or poisons - both of which would also present greater risks for other animals.)

Last year there seemed to be so many rabbits, we were almost tripping over them every time we went out walking. In fact, one morning, Kitty was with us and there she was walking along (possibly daydreaming), when she suddenly came nose to nose with a grown rabbit. Both took a moment's pause, taken aback, then went on their respective ways.

This we hadn't seen before and it led me to start wondering why.

Recently, I discovered the answer. Tourists!

If they call it tourist season, why can't we shoot 'em?

Yes, it's an ironic twist of fate, but, as usual, man is the author of his own folly. It also shows you, in one small cycle, how everything in nature is connected and why balances must be maintained.

What worries me even more is that man (in his infinite wisdom) may well take to more environmentally damaging *remedies* (like poisons) in order to *cure* the environmental damage he has already done.

It seems that the growing numbers of tourists visiting areas near where birds of prey (buzzards & osprey) nest are disturbing the peace of said birds, so they are not breeding in sufficient numbers to cope with the quantity of rabbits that are their normal prey.

Hence, the rabbits are multiplying at the rate rabbits do, unhindered.

We do frequently see two to three pairs of these birds hovering over the valley. And, as beautiful as they are, they did (in my ignorance) bother me a bit that they may not be able to tell the difference between a wild bunny and one of my pet cats. I am now more apt to accept that as a normal risk and hope that the birds do their job.

(Well, better that than losing them all to a poison incident, not to mention the long-term effects of putting chemicals on the land.)

What really needs to be done is to control tourism more closely and create more nature reserves that they are not permitted to enter, restoring the balance of nature so that the birds can reproduce, catch more rabbits and put money back into farmers' pockets.

These islands rely on tourism for their main economy, but, in many cases, this is not just at the cost of the environment, but creates a "robbing Peter to pay Paul" scenario, where those in tourism prosper at the expense of their kinsmen in local agriculture.

Both are important. It would never be good business to have all our eggs in one basket and this just isn't a sustainable option. These same tourists are disturbing the peace of the whales and dolphins that they go to view on boat safaris and they create daily traffic jams on our mountain roads through precious pine and "laurasilva" forest. And I just can't help wondering what they will come to look at, once all of this beautiful nature has been totally destroyed for their pleasure.

Monday, 11 April 2005

Doing that which you fear most

image Despite the fact that we whine over petty things incessantly, most of us live much more comfortable lives than we will admit.

We are often reminded what wimps we are for staying tucked up inside our cozy comfort zones too and, I shall not argue with that.

Hardly any of us actually have to face decisions that affect our very survival and, I suspect, even less of us will willingly face the very things we fear, unless extreme circumstances force them upon us. The unprepared certainly shouldn't do it voluntarily on a whim!

Yeah, of course this is the idiot thing I did yesterday, but it was a "character building" experience and I did come out of it alive and feeling pretty chuffed with myself for the small achievement.

I, like many people, have a fear of heights. Well, no, it would be more accurate to say that I have a fear of falling arse over tit, which really translates to a basic fear of (or wish to avoid) PAIN.

Behind a rail at the top of the Empire State, I wasn't afraid. In the helicopter hanging about over the top of it, I was exhilarated. Put me at the top of an ordinary staircase or a shallow slope with no handrail or safety net and my heart races, while my legs freeze in panic.

(To be fair, this isn't totally irrational: I did seriously hurt myself when I slipped on a slope outside the house in the rain - much to the indignation of the two cats I was carrying in baskets at the time - and I did once break my tail bone falling down open stairs.)

So, there I was walking the dog on a fine Sunday afternoon yesterday. My greater fear actually, would be the pain of having to say goodbye to her any earlier than is necessary, for which I attempt to push my own exercise envelope a bit for the sake of her needs.

We took the dirt track up the valley and normally, at about the half way stage, we cut across the fields and come back down the paved track that leads to the house. We had never been to the top of the track, because it doesn't go anywhere. It ends about 50 yards from the road at the top and those last 50 yards look (to me) totally vertical.

Even before the track ends, is a "point of no return" for me, because it becomes too steep for me to be able to look, let alone walk, back down and, I think sensibly, in all of the six years I've lived here, I had never, previously, ventured past that point.

Well, yesterday, about 200 yards in front of us was an old couple. I'd estimate in their 70's. Old guy in a cap, with whom I shall assume was the Missus: a plump "mumsy" lady in an old fashioned blue frock and cardigan. Locals, not tourists. Certainly not equipped for mountaineering and, they walked up effortlessly. Awe, well, what have I been worried about? Follow them!

And, stupidly, I did. Despite the fact that I was perfectly conscious that Canarians, even ones in their 70's and beyond, are actually mountain goats on two legs, while English "city girls" ain't!

At first I thought I was being quite sensible. I knew that as we got higher up the track, where it was usually untrodden, there would be fresh tracks to follow where they had walked through the usually untouched undergrowth. I combined this with trying to remember which ways they had turned relative to landmark bushes, etc.

And when it was clear that the track was going nowhere else, I spotted the recently disturbed grass on the 10 foot incline, which, I kid you not, was no more than 2 degrees off the vertical. I was already above my "point of no return" and about to go up this too?

So, I sent the dog up first to pull me and scrambled on my hands and knees behind her. The old couple had WALKED up this!

At the top of this, was a flat area, but it was surrounded with a high wall on the up side. It was overgrown and I could see no evidence to suggest anyone had disturbed it recently anywhere. I could truly see no way out to begin with, I couldn't see where to go up, I couldn't get back down and the old heart began racing in sheer panic.

OK, time to calm down, look around and figure this out methodically.

Probably the worst that could have happened if I'd been stuck in that mess was that I'd have spent a couple of hours (or a night) on a ledge, until someone eventually heard my pathetic whimpering.

This would have been more painful to my dignity than anything else, although the five cats sitting outside the house waiting for their tea might have been pretty pissed off. (And all five of them were out by the side of the road waiting for us when we did get home.)

Eventually, I found the clue, some flattened grass immediately above, to the left of the 10 foot vertical I'd scrambled up earlier. This was up the side of a 4 foot bank that was completely vertical and led onto a severe slope above it. You have to be kidding.

So I sent the dog up first, again and virtually climbed up her lead!

After that, we had a tiny bit of flat area with some vines, a terrace wall to climb and finally a dog-leg of path that led to the road. That was maybe 5 degrees off the vertical too, no more and I am not exaggerating. Dog went first, I did it on all fours.

Thank God for the dog. She certainly saved the last shreds of my sanity and what tiny bit of dignity I had left after this expedition. :)

Holly couldn't see what all the fuss was about. A couple of times, I swear she looked at me in disbelief, thinking what a wimp, but she was excellent following all my instructions of *up*, *wait* and *pull*. She got extra hugs and treats, because I really couldn't have done this without her.

How did we get back down to the house? Round the very gradually sloping main road - on the other side of the road from the drop - and back up to the house from below. It was a LONG walk.

So, I've got grazed and bruised knees like a playground five year old, I ache everywhere and it wasn't exactly elegantly executed, but I did it! I feel bloody stupid, but still justly proud. :)

I'm a Friggin' Genius

I am NOT an Idiot.
I am not annoying at all. In fact most people come to me for advice. Of course they annoy the hell out of me. But what can I do? I am smarter than most people.

Like I needed a test to tell me this. :-)

Do I believe it?

That's for me to know and you to wonder, but will say it's true that people ask me for advice and almost all people annoy the hell out of me - except the dear ones like yourself reading this, of course.

Still, it's a nice way to waste a few minutes and boost one's ego.

On the other hand, since I genuinely was a child in the 60's, I refuse point blank to tell you my score on their Hippie Test, man!

Saturday, 2 April 2005

My Funny Valentine

000_0546Walking home with the dog Wednesday morning, through the vines and past the "secret location" where I return captured rabbits to the wild (far beyond the hunting grounds of my pack of marauding tigers), I couldn't help thinking about the events of February 14th ...

It was a Monday morning and Holly and I had walked up the road, accompanied (as you do) by the two female cats, Kitty and Betty. We arrived at the horse trough, just in time to meet a third cat, Balu, who was looking down at something in a small patch of grass. I was just about to bend to look more closely myself, when it took off, a baby bunny, with Balu in lazy pursuit.

So lazy that the rabbit easily made it to safety into a hole between some nearby rocks and I hoped it would have the sense to stay there, especially with the three cats poised above it, for at least the few seconds it would require to distract Holly so she'd do what she needed to do.

Nah, of course not. I'd bearly had time to walk five paces, before I turned to see now FOUR of my cats (where did the other one, Mico, appear from so suddenly?) running in a pack down the road towards the house, Balu in front, carrying the poor little bunny by the neck, kitten style.

So, picture it if you will (although I can hardly blame you if you don't wish to) ...

A "grown woman" and a dog haring (pun intended) down the road to catch up with them. Besides, running may not be the appropriate term, because I was on the other end of the dog lead, remember, and can't rightfully say if my feet touched the ground or not.

Well, in a performance worthy of an Olympic Gold (for ridiculousness, perhaps), we overtook three of the cats somewhere between the bridge and the house. Balu rushed indoors and under a bed and I was able to persuade him out (with a broom) and relieve him of his charge.

Yes, of course the cats were only doing what cats do naturally, but cannot stand by and knowingly allow them tear things to sheds for sport. I do the same with mice & lizards they bring in.

The poor little bunny did have a nasty graze on it's head, which (I am not defending them) I think it had before the cats found it, but it didn't seem stunned or otherwise hurt. Surprised, maybe!

Wouldn't you be, under the circumstances?

The baby rabbit was small enough to fit in the palm of my hand, but it was a feisty little bugger and tried to bite me. I reckoned it had all the right skills for survival, so it was off to the bathroom to make sure the wound on his head was clean and treat it with iodine.

My cats get all edgy every time I go to the bathroom cabinet, because they think I'm going to treat them with the horrid tasting yellow stuff again, but the problem is, it works!

Anyway, the little bunny didn't seem to mind at all and, indeed, after a few minutes of this TLC, he was putty in my hands and snuggling in as though he was getting ready for a nap.

There is no way, that I know of - without access to proper rabbit hutches and some high-class security - that one can keep a rabbit safely in a house with a dog and five cats!

So, if he was going to have to grow up and cope in the wild, then better he should get on with it and I left with him (alone) to go and find a suitable place he could call his new home.

Way up amongst the terraces of vines is an unkempt area of long grass, with a bank of earth, some bushes and even a small fig tree that I know already has a population of resident rabbits.

It even has a water supply laid on: To stop the rabbits from eating the grapes for their water content, people put down plastic containers with some rocks in to hold them in place and these fill up with rain water for the rabbits to drink. Ingenious, simple solution.

We found a patch of fresh grass there and I put the rabbit down.

Well, he didn't fancy that and immediately came hopping back onto my foot. "Oh, no! I can't have you falling in love with me.", I thought.

I picked him up again and we walked a little further. This time, seeing the dense undergrowth to hide in, he was almost off before I put him down and hopped away into its relative security.

I silently wished my little Valentine a long and happy life.

Well, what do you know?

There I was recalling all this and as I got back to the house with the dog, there, laying on the back step like the "king of the jungle", is Balu. Sitting neatly beside him is his sister Kitty and, huddled between them into the corner of the step ...

Is another baby bunny.

Completely unhurt (except psychologically maybe). Neither cat stirred nor made any attempt to stop me, so I picked him up and cuddled him. He rewarded me by biting my finger.

Ha, this time I'll take a photo, I thought.

It hadn't occurred to me that most people only see wild rabbits in the glare of headlamps, but never up close and personal, until my mother had asked what the last one was like. So here you have it. One real live wild baby rabbit with attitude. You can almost see it in his expression! 

Not brilliant, I will admit, but he was a real wriggler and I couldn't let him go, because Holly was there "helping" me. She is so gentle, I don't think she would actually hurt anything, but the rabbit may not have taken kindly to being handled by a Shep / Presa / Rottweiller mix, so I just held on tight and snapped the shot with my free hand.

Then, of course, we went off to the the "secret location" where I return captured rabbits to the wild. I've a feeling there will be quite a family there by the time we get finished!

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...
^ Top