the critters deck the halls

Twelve more shopping days until Christmas. My holidays are getting complicated more than I wish–trying to get things done for the holiday and travel at the same time is a huge challenge–the usual traditions, cookies, fruitcake, the holiday cards, shopping, etc. I didn’t need the additional complication of a rheumatoid arthritis flareup too, but got it all the same. (Someday I’ll try to explain how RA differs from Osteoarthritis, as the difference is dramatic.) My oncologist told me that the chemo treatment I received often inhibits RA for long periods. Alas, I only made it around seven months.

Since we’re trying to be prepared to leave the country, it’s become necessary to reinstate the RA treatments. We’re trying now to get the necessary insurance permissions as well–all before we leave. Once begun it should be reasonably easy. Two intravenous solution every six months at an interval of two weeks. That means I’ll need to have the first one accomplished by Christmas, with the second part done two weeks later, in order to make it in time for traveling.

Since it’s also an open enrollment period for Medicare, that points to additional delays as insurance companies are busy. Meanwhile the clock ticks down. Nothing to do but believe things will work out.

It’s pretty well accepted among health professionals that pets have a calming effect on a lot of people. I no longer have any pets, so I kinda use my backyard critters as substitutes, but I can’t invite them in to sleep on my lap like my cats (and my Bichon Charley) used to. So when I found this video featured on my Facebook page a short time ago, I watched it several times. And laughed and laughed. And felt better. So if the holiday flurry or a health related issue is beginning to get to you, do watch it. If you love animals, I guarantee you’ll love it. And it’ll only take two minutes and 46 seconds. I have a feeling I may need to watch it a lot next week.

more snow brings a new critter

We’re snowed in again. Remember the snow-upholstered outdoor table and chairs from a post last week? Well, a picture is worth…well, you know, so here you are:

Last week there was about 14 inches and some melted down over the week. This is more like two feet. Personally I’m okay with it, but I feel sorry for Hubby who is at this very moment outside beginning yet another driveway clearing–that would number about the 4th time since yesterday morning as he kept trying to keep up with it while it was falling. Good thing, too. But his back is beginning to feel very stiff.

Poor Hubby. I wish I could assist him, except that I went into an RA flare on Wednesday and really can’t without wreaking havoc on my mobility. (This is a fine time, I think, to remind ourselves that, come the middle of January, we’re skipping out on winter for a whole month in the warm south of India!) In the meantime, as if we didn’t know it before, we’re slap dab in the middle of another Utah winter–probably the snowiest we’ve had in our five years here.

I’m not here to complain, however. I’m here to tell you about our latest critter. On October 31, 2007, in a post called All God’s Creatures I first introduced you to the little fellow seen here peering into our family room from outside the French doors leading to the back porch. He was mostly white with big black eyes and a streak of brownish/black fur atop his head. At first we thought ermine? mink perhaps? But further research and later winter sightings and signs on the nearby snow shoe trails showed that he’s a snow weasel.

Ever the worrier, I immediately decided this one was looking for food. Food is the answer to all problems, right? Having no idea what weasels eat, I ran to the fridge and fished a few things from the veggie tray to offer him. Since ours is largely a meatless household it was either this or opening a can of tuna or white chicken I keep in the pantry for when an it ain’t fit if it ain’t got no meat hungry guest happens to drop by. Of course he ran off when I proffered the goodies–or more accurately disappeared, literally without a trace–as he leapt up and vanished under a bank of snow.

The veggies disappeared, but I wouldn’t know until spring that they were actually done away with by a family (or two or three) of rabbits who set up housekeeping under the porch. At a level of a few inches above the ground, laden with snow that stayed throughout the winter, it made a great haven for creatures of all kinds. So for the rest of winter, we watched eagerly to catch another fleeting glimpse of this glamorous little tyke in the beautiful white fur coat. For his part he seemed as curious about us as we were about him.

The following year he didn’t show up. There was a probable explanation and I confess I felt a little bit guilty about it all the same. And I missed the beautiful little snow weasel that reminded me of a little snow clown.

The following spring we felt forced to have a professional exterminator come in to rid the house of pesky little larvae-type bugs embedded inside an outer wall behind the dishwasher, infesting the space under the sink and cabinet drawers. It was impossible to keep the place free of them. They liked to play dead but if you poked them with something, they would writhe in a manner that makes me cringe even to think of it.  The exterminator told us that it was probably a carpet beetle of some kind. The cycle was clear. In the summer the bugs were there, unseen, busy laying their eggs that began to hatch into the larvae that eventually produced another bug to keep the species thriving.

In the meantime, we thought why not have the bug guy extend his expertise to the rats, particularly the mice that periodically invaded the house from time to time. Neither of us had the boldness to face such a mentally taxing ordeal ourselves, so let Mikey do it. If neither of us had to see it or deal with dead mice babies, we wouldn’t be the bad guys, would we? Besides, the hills behind our house weren’t called Rattlesnake Gulch for no reason. A back yard teeming with tasty little mice makes a nice place for a rattlesnake to shop for food in the summertime, simple as that. Supply and demand. We decreased the supply and hoped the rattlesnake took his business elsewhere.

Meanwhile, the larvae problem went away–it took a couple of years–and we no longer found mice floating in the toilet. We let the bug man go. We still had plenty of critters to watch. Deer–sometimes even small herds of them. Rabbits, squirrels, a gillion Gambel  quail families it seemed, endless flocks of noisy, aggressive Magpies and countless other politer varieties of birds, enough to amuse us daily. But we missed the little snow weasel all the same.

Until yesterday. It’s been three years, so it’s not likely the same weasel, although I’ve read they can live up to 10 years. This one doesn’t look the same as the other little fellow. On the other hand, since summer was late leaving from around here, it could be he’s still wearing some of his summer color on his coat, which could explain why there’s more brownish/black fur over more of his back. On the other hand, it’s nice to think that it could be him. Either way, here’s photographic documentation of our latest critter invasion.

As you can see, he brought his own food this time, a dead rat twice his size. Maybe the other little fellow–a cousin perhaps?–warned him that he wouldn’t like the food the lady in our house provided, nor the way the gentleman ran the place–seeing as how he kept moving the snow around–but as long as you brought along your own groceries it was not only tolerable, it was actually quite cozy and reasonably safe beneath that snow-filled porch.

Since all this business took place in the front yard, he did have a quandary or two to deal with. He had to figure out how to transfer it to the back, and he was far too short to lift the gate latch on the other side. Mother Nature must have given her smallest creatures extra wrinkles in their brains to make up for whatever brawn they lack. Here he pauses on the side yard just outside the gate to the back yard while he lets his load of food lie nearby. After disappearing for a very short time over the wall, he apparently planned out his route, then came back for the rat.

Considering that his meat for the freezer is larger than he, it wasn’t an easy feat at all. Welcome back little guy. You’ve got a lot of gumption. Some of our human race should be so lucky.

grand dogs and children

Whenever they go away for a few days, Baloo, our daughter’s family’s Australian Shepherd, stays at our house. We feed him and take him for walks every day, and talk to him some, so he’s come to consider our house his second home, his refuge.

This morning shortly after nine o’clock, we heard something pounding up the veranda stairs. It’s Wednesday, so we were pretty sure who it was, and yes, there he was, standing right outside the door to the family room where Hubby was.

He shows up every Wednesday, almost like clockwork, soon after the maid shows up at their house to clean. He hates vacuum cleaners! So we take him in, give him water and have a nice chat with him, then let him hang out at our place until his other family comes home, then we take him home.

Now that the kids are getting older, they’re allowed to ride bikes to our house (about a block away) for short visits. It’s sort of like when I was growing up and my father allowed me to go with him to Grandma & Grandpa’s house whenever he needed to check on them. Too bad more grandmas and grandpas don’t get to see their grandkids and granddogs on such a casual basis. Not a bad way to spend retirement–as long as they all go home to sleep!

Now who could resist this face?