Thursday, December 31, 2009

Garden Blogger's Death Day :: December 2009 :: The Wrap Up

Ding, Ding, Ding… bring out your dead!
Welcome to Garden Blogger's Death Day for the final month of 2009! This is the day for gardeners who overwater, underwater, maim, prune or otherwise neglect their plants to a state of dismal droopage or untimely death. This is the day for gardeners like me with black thumbs who kill more than they cultivate, for cadmium-green-thumbed gardeners who have a lapse in judgment and commit accidental planticide, and for any poor soul whose plants fall victim to that fickle mother who controls us all - Mother Nature.

I had grand plans of posting a wonderful Year in Review wrap-up story about what's lived and what's died in my garden in 2009, along with photos of the current state of things, but it just didn't work out. Between the new puppy, family in town, Farmer B off work, the boys off school and everything else involved in the holidays I just plain ran out of time to sit at the computer. But at 9 pm on New Year's Eve I am squeezing in a quick wrap-up before the year ends.
I know that this year brought some great changes to our household and it's amazing to think about how much life has changed in 12 months.
In January 2009:
  • I had a beloved dog called Baillan who was happy living out her golden years on a rumpled burgundy bed on the corner.
  • I had fantasies of owning chickens, but thought people who actually did own chickens were a little bit weird.
  • I had a 468 square foot vegetable garden that wasn't doing especially well and I was considering giving it all up.
  • I had two little boys who were facing their 3rd and 5th birthdays and asking all sorts of questions about preschool and "real school"
  • I actually didn't blog for the entire month of January 2009 - my first break from blogging, and from gardening for that matter.
  • My confidence level with gardening was about a 2 on a scale of 1 to 10 and we had barely had anything worth harvesting.
A year later, December 2009:
  • That beloved dog has passed, but a new little puppy has bounded into my life and is reminding me constantly of my old best friend.
  • I actually own my own hens and have come to enjoy chicken ownership, all things egg-related, and spending too much time on the Backyard Chicken Forum.
  • The 468 square foot vegetable garden is gone and in it's place are two raised bed square-foot gardens.
  • My two little boys are now facing their 4th and 6th birthdays and each has a year of preschool and "real school" under their belts. They've grown up so much in the past year and I'm having one of those "where did my babies go?" moments.
  • My confidence level with gardening is now about a 3.5 on the 1 to 10 scale and we've actually eaten all sorts of meals from the garden including some awesome leek soups and quiches!
  • I have found that gardening and blogging are two of my favorite things and I have no intention of giving up either, no matter how unskilled I may be.
So although my final post of the year was anticlimactic, the year wasn't. It was a great year with lots of change, plenty of death, but lots of new life and growth too. I'm looking forward to a new year of family, pets, planting, blogging and reading about the gardening lives of my garden blogger friends around the country.


Wednesday, December 30, 2009

The chickens were not amused

Turns out that Rommel and Saffie get along quite well if Saffie has a place she can go to avoid Rommel's teeth. If they're out in the wide open of the back yard it quickly becomes the National Geographic lion on an antelope scene, but if she has a place to squirrel away from him, they seem to understand each other.

Much to the chicken's dismay, her favorite place to hide from Rommel is underneath their coop. It's sorta muddy and gross under there - even more perfect for a bright white puppy.

She gets under that coop like a rat up a drainpipe. Then she sticks her head out and snaps at Rommel's face with her needle teeth.

It's kind of like a game of Whack-a-Mole. There are about 6 different spots where she can stick her head out. Rommel runs around trying to find her and whack her with his gargantuan paw before she pops her head out of another opening.

The chickens were not amused. Poor Maggie missed the whole thing because she was laying an egg. Maggie misses out on a lot of events due to her poorly-timed egg laying. Clementine and Sookie gave them both the chicken-stink-eye and disapprovingly bok'd the entire time.

And the dogs drew first blood today. White puppy - bright red blood. It looked like a crime scene. But Rommel didn't even seem to notice that she gave him a tongue piercing with her needle teeth, although Saffie seemed quite pleased with herself.

Just for good measure Rommel gave her a few good head-engulfing nibbles, just to put her in her place. They aren't best friends yet, but every day is a huge improvement so we're definitely moving in the right direction.

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

21 lbs of trouble finally has a name

I'm very careful about naming pets. I give a pet a name and see if it sticks. If it doesn't we move on to a different name - if it sticks, then it's official. My last dog went through a series of names for about a month before her name, Baillan, finally stuck. This little puppy's new name seems to have stuck.

Introducing Saffron - although the nickname Saffie is what she's being called the most.

Rommel is coming around to this new loud nippy little creature in the house. It's a slow process, but he's warming up to her. It's funny that each new day is a learning experience with the two of them. Just yesterday we learned that her entire head fits inside his mouth.

Like all puppies she plays hard, chews constantly, yaps when left alone and sleeps a lot. She had a few very noisy nights where I thought my brain might just explode, but last night was a bit better.

She loves to chase the boys around the yard and is like a little shadow to them. My youngest son thought he'd outsmart her by running up the slide.

Turns out she went up too. And grabbed his pants.

And pulled him down.

And dragged him off the slide.

And then attacked him in a mad puppy frenzy.

Right now the only thing getting us through the day - and night - are Kong toys stuffed with peanut butter and then tossed in the freezer until we have a frozen puppy grenade. Throw the grenade in and run fast. She's 21 lbs of trouble and today we've officially had her one week.


Thursday, December 24, 2009

Look what I got for Christmas!! WOW!

Farmer B took the boys out for some last minute Christmas shopping on the 22nd. He went awfully late in the afternoon and was gone a bit longer than I anticipated. When he got home he called me from the driveway and told me to meet him outside, but to leave our German Shepherd inside, which I thought was strange.

He had this in his arms.

Wow, huh? Do you see the size of those paws? Complete with pot-belly, milky breath, extra skin, a soft head and that new-puppy smell.

She was born on October 2nd and she was flown in from Tennessee. Apparently Farmer B and the boys were at the airport picking this fat little bundle of joy up from the cargo center.

She is yet without a name, but we welcome suggestions.

What an amazing Christmas present, huh? She's adjusting well to life in our family. She's slept through the night both nights and has already scared the feathers of the chickens just by looking at them. Rommel is a bit put out by this new creature in the house, but he is coming around fast. He's been an only dog for only the past 10 months, so we know he'll get used to her quickly.

I think she'll fit in just fine.

Merry Christmas everyone!

Monday, December 21, 2009

We rode the Polar Express!

We took the boys to Sea World the other day to show them some of the Christmas awesomeness at the park. The big highlight of the trip was the Polar Express exhibit. It's held in The Wild Arctic ride, which is a motion-simulator ride that takes guests to the frigid north and once you get there, you walk through into the cold exhibit with the beluga whales, polar bears and walruses. At Christmastime they change the simulator ride to a Polar Express ride and decorate the entire exhibit to match the scenes from the movie perfectly.

Like most little kids, my boys are huge Polar Express fans so they were coming out of their skin when they saw the Polar Express sign. When you first walk in they lead you to a small room and show you a short movie on the screen. This time the room was decorated just like the boy's room from the movie, complete with a hanging airplane from the ceiling and a radiator under the movie screen that let out steam when the train pulled up. The screen looked like a window, so when the train pulled up it was totally believable.

When his bedroom door opens, you're led to an area that looks like it's covered with snow - complete with the oven mitt snowman from the movie. The Wild Arctic ride has been painted to look just like the Polar Express train. The employees are in conductors outfits and they're pumping in a very realistic pine tree smell into the room that smells nothing like the little tree that hangs from the rear-view mirror of a car and everything like a real forest.

When you board the ride, it starts a simulator experience like you're going to the North Pole - just like in the movie. The boys were squealing with excitement. When the other doors open, everything is completely decked out with lights and garlands, but it's dark and cold and the beluga whales are swimming in a faux-ice enclosure. They're pumping a freshly-baked chocolate chip cookie smell into this area, which was so amazing.

They have a real-ice wall that my Florida boys are completely intrigued with and in the middle of the room is a replica of the big Christmas tree from the movie.

On the other side of the tree is something that made my boys do a dance and run around and stare - the Santa and sleigh from the movie, complete with the big red sack of presents. Do you see my little one looking up at Santa with a total WOW vibe?

The rest of the exhibit is filled with little props from the movie, from Billy's present to the Believe ticket.

Just past the polar bears you come to a stand where they're selling cups of hot chocolate for a dollar. They're also pumping a nice rich chocolate smell into this area, which all but forces you to buy some hot chocolate. Since sodas are about $5 at Sea World, getting a drink for a buck was great.

It was just a super fun experience for the boys and really added to the magic of the season for them.

When we left there we went to the sea lion exhibit and I got some great photos of a mama sea lion and her baby and a big fat sea lion that reminded me of my Lab that passed away earlier this year.

A note to parents: If you buy a basket of fish for your kids to throw to the sea lions, be sure to PICK UP your three-year-old so they can easily throw over the plastic barrier. If you don't, you risk the child chucking a fish at full force into the barrier causing a spray of raw fish juice to cover you and said child that doesn't go away for the rest of your day. I'm not going to say how I know this….trust me on this one.

Thursday, December 17, 2009

It's a Christmas miracle!

One of my biggest backyard gardening fantasies became a reality today! No, not that one you sickos! My fantasy of eating SOMETHING from the garden as a main course!! Because dividing up 12 green beans isn't exactly a main course and chopping up a few radishes and dumping them in a salad isn't either. But making the Swiss Chard quiche of my dreams is!! Okay, okay, I know I made a lot of leek soups already, but this was something substantial. Something that could be cut with a knife. Something that required side dishes.

You know when I was fresh out of college if someone would have told me that I'd be giddy about making and eating a Swiss Chard quiche I'd have laughed in your face. Funny how times change.

But my armyworm-eaten Swiss Chard made a valiant comeback and was looking like it wanted to be eaten by an even bigger carnivore today. I got five eggs from my hard-working hens and a nice handful of Chard and made a most delicious quiche. I added some baby portabella mushrooms, Swiss and Monterey Jack cheeses and whipped that baby up.

Un-freaking-believable. A Christmas miracle indeed. I will now continue this ridiculous gardening gig…just in case something like this happens again.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Have you picked your snowman nose yet?

My little square foot of snowman noses seems to be coming along quite well. Although every time I think I've successfully thinned the noses I take a photo and find that there are a few who have managed to survive the slaughter and need to come out. The boys think it's hilarious that our carrot patch has been renamed "snowman noses" and they joke constantly over who's going to pick the first snowman nose. I'm not sure at what point I explain to them that we won't ever have the snowman to go along with the nose.

Remember the coconut painted like a jack-o'-lantern that my mom's friend sent to the boys for Halloween? The boys were quite attached to it and didn't want to get rid of it just because Christmas is here. But a bright orange pumpkin vibe wasn't gelling with the Christmas vibe out front. So we painted it.

He's now a snowman! And fits in perfectly with our Christmas d├ęcor outside the front door.

Friday, December 11, 2009

'Twas the Night Before Christmas - A Gardener's Version

'Twas the Night Before Christmas - A Gardener's Version
by Kate

'Twas the night before Christmas when all through the yard,
Not a veggie was growing, not even the chard.
The trellis was strung by the green beans with care,
In hopes that an edible plant would grow there.

The chickens were nestled all snug in their nests,
While visions of pasta worms danced in their heads.
Farmer B with his light beer and I with my wine,
Had just settled down for some nice TV time.

When out in the garden I heard a big noise,
I leapt from the couch and tripped over some toys.
Away to the screen door in four seconds flat,
Flipped open the gate latch and tripped on the cat.

When what to my bloodshot eyes did appear,
But a master gardener with a new pair of shears.
He was pushing a wheelbarrow so heavy with plants,
That I started to do my best happy dance.

He was dressed all in green from his hat to his boots,
And his pants were all muddy with dirt from plant shoots.
A bundle of seedlings he had flung on his back,
And he looked for a place to begin the attack.

His trowel how it twinkled - his hoe was so shiny!
His spade was brand new - his gloves were so tiny!
His droll little mouth was drawn up in a smile,
As he worked with his tools in a whimsical style.

He spoke not a word as he started to plant,
And took out some seedlings that he could transplant.
He filled all the raised beds with veggies galore,
As I stood there watching from my screened back door.

And laying his shovel right next to his hoe,
I knew it was time for the gardener to go.
But I heard him exclaim as rolled out of sight,
Happy Gardening to all and to all a good night.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

On the 12th day of Christmas my garden gave to me…

12 green beans!

Instead of being frustrated that four boxes in the garden were dedicated to these green beans - two boxes to the yellow wax and two boxes to the green wax - and only 12 measly little beans grew big enough to eat, we decided to allow ourselves to relish in our grand harvest.

Aidan went outside with his safety scissors from his kindergarten box and 'carefully' cut off each bean. And by carefully I mean he lopped off a few plants and even cut a branch off my big tomato plant as he walked by for good measure.

He was amazed by our awesome harvest, which shows me two things.

1) He's only five and finds all of nature's beauty astounding and new.
2) His mom is a crappy gardener if the poor kid is giddy over a 12-bean harvest.

It's important that you realize there will probably be no more beans from these plants. The plants are only a few inches high and withered and droopy. They can't possibly have any more bean production power left in them.

So our 12 beans was a Christmas miracle of sorts.

We cooked them divided them up between the three of us (Farmer B was at work). You should have seen our plates at dinner with four little green beans perched on each plate next to the sausage and pasta. It was definitely Bob-Cratchet-inspired proportions.

It was so sweet to see Aidan savoring each green bean and telling me how great food from the garden tasted. It was so typical to see my 3-year-old take about 2 bites of pasta, then deem everything on his plate inedible and go without dinner again. As soon as he slithered off his chair and slunk under the table I stole his four green bean ration and slowly savored every single one. Sure I could have shared them with Aidan, but he was already on to his ice cream at that point and sometimes eating eight green beans you grew in your garden can be just what a mom needs to make it through the day.

Monday, December 7, 2009

A $200 gas card is up for grabs!!

Do you remember months ago when my article on Blue Spring State Park was featured on Road Trip Journal's website? And enough people voted for me that I WON their Reader's Choice contest for April and received a $100 gas card in the mail as my prize!! I can't begin to tell you how much I loved using that gas card and how sad I was when it eventually ran out.

I was beyond excited when I got an email from Road Trip Journal the other day telling me that in December they hold a "Best of the Best" competition on their site. All the bloggers who won the monthly awards go up for one BIG award in December. The winning blogger gets a $500 gas card. You read that right - a $500 gas card! Swoon!

And to make people more likely to vote, Road Trip Journal is going to randomly select one of the voters and award them a $200 gas card!! I can vouch for the authenticity of the gas cards since I happily used the one I received in the mail for winning the monthly contest. In my books the best kind of gas card is a legit gas card.

So here is my shameless plea for votes. If you'd like to get yours truly one step closer to winning a $500 gas card, please visit Road Trip Journal's webpage and vote for me to win the "Best of the Best" award for 2009. It's pure numbers that will determine the winner, so I need all the votes I can get.

Here is the link for you: Vote here

When you visit the page you'll see a listing of the 11 entrants. There's me hanging out in spot number 4 on April for Blue Spring State Park. On the upper right of the window you'll see an "Enter the Survey here" button. When the form opens, just vote for "Blue Spring State Park, FL" (or any of the entrants if another one is your favorite - after all, it is a democracy) and then enter in your email address, hit submit and you're done.

And if you've got any friends who might like a chance at a $200 gas card and think voting for me is more exciting than Christmas shopping, maybe you could send them off to vote too?

Because I have chickens to feed. And it's a long drive for their food. And nothing's more depressing than a skinny chicken.

Not really. I was trying to tug at your heart-strings. I wouldn't make a very good politician. But I'd be lying if I told you that our little family couldn't use a $500 gas card for Christmas. And I'm sure yours could do with a $200 gas card too!

Thanks all!!

Saturday, December 5, 2009

An age-old question has finally been answered!!

What sort of idiot dresses up a chicken?

That's an age-old question, right? Right?

Well it was late in the day and the boys were bored… and I had a left-over Santa outfit that came with a ceramic duck that broke years ago thanks to an incident involving the boys, the dog and a frightened cat on the run.

So one thing led to another and next thing I know we were in the yard with the chickens and the Santa outfit and...

...well... know what came next.

And a big FYI if you ever want to do this.

1) You can put any sort of cape on a chicken and they don't seem to mind, especially if you throw down some oats for them to eat. With their affinity for capes, chickens obviously make good superheroes - or so say my boys who often tell stories of the three superhero chickens that live in their back yard. We have Kung Fu Chicken (Maggie), The Bionic Hen (Clementine) and Captain Chookiepants (Sookie).

2) Never ever try to put a Santa hat on a chicken. They really do seem to mind. Really. You can see it discarded behind Maggie in this photo. Part of it is missing. Don't ask.

3) Don't show the pictures to your husband. He'll never look at you the same again.

4) Make sure the neighbors aren't watching you do this. They'll have the same reaction as your husband.

...Because although it seems like it might be a fun thing to do, you really just end up being that crazy chick who dressed up a chicken. And for what it's worth, the chickens don't do much posing to even make the photos worthwhile.

They do a lot of walking away from you pecking at the ground.

They also do a lot of charging the camera to get the oats that are in your other hand.

And even if you Photoshop all the chickens together it doesn't turn out that well.

So probably my best advice is that only a true fool dresses up a chicken in a Santa outfit so maybe you shouldn't do it after all. And I'm well aware that my phone will begin ringing as soon as I hit the "Publish Post" button from my real life friends and family members who are probably organizing a chicken intervention at this very minute.

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Gotta get-get some Black Eyed Peas

My black eyed peas are growing nicely and completely overtaking the rest of the raised bed. I had a feeling they'd do well because they meet my criteria for success:

1) I didn't care if they grew and don't know a thing about growing them.
2) I have never eaten one before and don't know how to prepare them.
3) They were a packet of seeds my son picked out and I thought it'd be fun to let him pick something completely random that we knew nothing about because they probably wouldn't grow anyway.

If I was looking forward to them, loved to eat them and had my heart set on them, they'd be a big fat failure. But of course, they are doing great.

They're doing so great in fact that they have snaked all around the fencing, on top of the leeks, overwhelmed the parsnips and have terrified the green beans. I don't know when the pods are ready to be picked, but I think they have to be around four inches to be good to go. My little pods are about one inch, so I have three inches of growth for my black thumb to kick in gear and decimate them.

An interesting fact about black eyed peas - if you try to research black eyed peas online you can find out a lot about the band, but not so much about the pea. Thanks to my research I now know more facts about Fergie and Will I Am than I care to know, but still don't know much about this big green plant that's overtaking my garden. I do, however, find myself wandering around the house singing... I like that boom boom pow..growin' my cowpeas now… and realizing how completely and totally uncool I've become.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Garden Blogger's Death Day :: November 2009

Ding, Ding, Ding… bring out your dead!

Welcome to Garden Blogger's Death Day for the month of November, 2009! This is the day for gardeners who overwater, underwater, maim, prune or otherwise neglect their plants to a state of dismal droopage or untimely death. This is the day for gardeners like me with black thumbs who kill more than they cultivate, for cadmium-green-thumbed gardeners who have a lapse in judgment and commit accidental planticide, and for any poor soul whose plants fall victim to that fickle mother who controls us all - Mother Nature.

Garden Blogger's Death Day is becoming a bit tough this time of year. Most of the rest of the country isn't growing anything so I'm killing things alone down here in Florida. I have gardening guilt for plain forgetting about GBDD last month. I blame the fact that I was hand-making costumes for two little boys and then decorating the house on Halloween to rival any professional event and then trick-or-treating until the kids dropped. I told myself I'd never let blogging get in the way of the family and I guess October I allowed myself to drop the blogging ball.

I may have dropped the ball in October, but Marie over at Garden in Bethlehem PA did not. She still posted a Garden Blogger's Death Day entry for October and I missed the whole thing. Thanks Marie!! I'm glad someone is showing the Death Day love!

But here we are in November and I've killed some nice little plants this month. You read about the vile little armyworms that treated my Swiss Chard like an all-you-can-eat buffet, leaving me with two stunted plants in one box and only stems in the other box.

I also managed to kill of a yellow bell pepper without even trying. I am not a good transplanter because a plant's most precarious time in my house is when I first put it in the garden. The little bell pepper barely made it a week before it gave up the fight.

My other two bell pepper plants are short and stunted and have oddly-shaped peppers on them, but at least they're growing and alive!

So how about all of you? What fell victim to your gardening wrath this month? Feel free to leave a comment with a link to your blog showing what you killed or maimed this month. We're here for you. Let's not judge, but support each other like a good pair of pantyhose or a well-staked garden trellis.

Friday, November 20, 2009

The Swiss Chard tasted GREAT!

This week has been one of those busy weeks that involved moms brag about. Turns out I had an event at my son's school every single day this week. From volunteering at the book fair to going into the classroom and making sugar-cone cornucopias with the kindergarteners, it's just been a crazy-busy week. Because I had such a busy week I didn't get a chance to go out to the garden all week, but the weather has been mild and it appeared green and lush from a distance so I knew all was well.

I went to the grocery store and bought some Swiss cheese, mushrooms and some ready-made crust to make my Swiss Chard and mushroom quiche. I've got a ton of eggs in the fridge and I thought it would be a wonderful brunch this weekend. I went out into the garden today to harvest the final ingredient and stopped dead in my tracks when I saw the Swiss Chard.

Total and complete carnage.

I checked the plants the other day when I saw holes in them and didn't see any bugs on them. I looked under the leaves and on the stalk and figured it was some random caterpillar who had gone on his way. Apparently I need to bring my reading glasses out to the garden.

Today I didn't need my glasses, obviously.

I have never seen so many creepy-crawly beasties on one square foot of greenery in my entire life. After my initial shock and disgust and a not-so-pleasant temper tantrum as visions of my Swiss chard and mushroom quiche faded quickly, I grabbed a bucket and started ripping off leaves that were heavy with these nasty-looking caterpillar things and stuffing them in the bucket.

When I was done, I didn't have any plants left. Nothing was worth saving because the leaves had more holes than green and more bug poop than I cared to wash off. I assume I need to pull these plants and discard them. Luckily I have a couple of Swiss chard plants in the other box that seem to be bug-free…so far. I think I'll spray them with BT tomorrow just to be on the safe side.

I figured the way to make me feel better about this was to dump the buggy chard in the chicken run and let them slaughter the little buggers and eat the holey leaves. My youngest son and I dumped two bucketfuls of Swiss chard and caterpillars into the run and the chickens went to town. Poor Clementine missed out on the feast because she was busy laying an egg. Maggie and Sookie don't believe in waiting and politeness and left her with nothing by the time she waddled out.

Later on in the afternoon I found three of the bugs on my radish greens so I pulled the remaining radishes, that were overdue anyway, and gave the radish greens to Clementine who was finished with her egg and indignantly waiting for her buggy treat.

I looked up the bugs in my organic gardening book and they might be Fall armyworms. Shudder. I'm not down with bugs and any kind of worm gives me the creeps. Wouldn't you know they show up and eat my chard the ONE week I left the garden alone?

So apparently my Swiss Chard tasted great…or so the chickens and caterpillars lead me to believe.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

The Cone of Torture

Thanks so much for all the kind words about my fEARless kitty, Damian.

He's acting as dramatic and sorry for himself as any self-respecting post-surgical cat should. I can tell his ear and head hurt when the cone-of-torture slides forward and rubs on his stitches. They're in a bad place on his head so the cone rubs them constantly. If we take the cone off he begins scratching instantly. It's a no-win.

The good news is that there was no place to put a drain tube on the back of his head, so we don't have to worry about that this time around. He just sort of sits or lays in one place all day looking like his world has come to an end. Then we'll hear a scrape-scrape-scrape as he drags himself around the house in slow motion to a new spot to sit and look sad. I'm sure the 20 days he has to wait for the cone and stitch removal will just fly by! (Please read that dripping with sarcasm).

In other news, I've had some unlucky developments in the garden that I'll be photographing later if all goes well.

Tuesday, November 17, 2009

Guess who's under the knife again?

Poor, poor Damian.

I know some of you have been following his story and know that the final surgery to fix his aural hematoma was guaranteed to be the final fix after those unsuccessful ear drainings. Well guess whose ear swelled up again this weekend? I took Damian to the vet yesterday morning that they were all dumbfounded at the site of his swollen ear. The vet kept looking at him and saying "This isn't supposed to be possible."

Turns out that when you sew an ear in that odd quilty fashion to fix an aural hematoma you do not sew the base of the ear to the skull. You only sew the flappy part of the ear. The base of the ear isn't the part that swells up so vets don’t have to worry about that part. But Damian proved them wrong and the base of his ear into his skull swelled up and completely closed off his ear canal this weekend. The good news is that the crinkled up cauliflower part of his ear did not swell up, so the original surgery did its job.

He is shaking his head, hiding and obviously in pain. The only solution was to do another pricey aural hematoma surgery to fix the base of the ear. This means 20 more days of stitches, a drain tube, a cone on his head and antibiotics. Like the first 20 days of that weren't tough enough for him…and us. I was just commenting to Farmer B that I think I finally got up the final blood spatters from his last drain tube.

So Tuesday morning he's under the knife again and we're hoping it's for the last time. His poor little ear has been through so much - and so has our bank account. Right before Christmas too. But I'm a firm believer that a responsible pet owner does what they can to make their pet comfortable when they still have a good quality of life - and when Damian's ear isn't swollen he's one of the happiest, craziest kitties you could ever meet.

Cross fingers for him this time please?

Monday, November 16, 2009

A cloudy shuttle launch

I wandered outside today to catch the launch of the Space Shuttle Atlantis. It is NASA's last shuttle flight of the year and one of only six remaining. The shuttle will return to Earth the day after Thanksgiving, bringing home a seventh astronaut who has been living at the space station since the end of August.

I figure since there are only a handful of launches remaining I should try and photograph as many of them as I can. Wouldn't you know that today there were two big fat clouds right between us and the shuttle? So typical of my luck. I only got a couple of glimpses of it between the clouds - even the rumble of the rockets was quite muted today. But I'll take this anytime considering most of the rest of the world will go a lifetime and never see one.

(If you'd like to see more pictures of shuttle launches from our neck o' the woods, click here)

Saturday, November 14, 2009

Wildlife Weekend: Gator Crossing

I was rummaging through some old photos this weekend when I came across a photo my mom sent me back in 2002. She is the manager of two beautiful resorts on Sanibel Island, Florida, which is a stone's throw from where I grew up. Sanibel is known for having lots of Florida wildlife and it's hard to spend any time there without seeing an alligator.

It's typical to see gators sunning themselves by the side of ponds or floating around in the pond. Locals don't blink an eye at a sleeping gator, but the tourists get downright giddy. We get our fair share of gators here in Central Florida, but they're so much more prevalent on Sanibel.

This leads to the photo. (You can click on any of the photos to make them bigger.) One of the problems of having so many gators is that inevitably they'll need to do like a chicken and cross the road. This causes a bit of drama when you have tourists with tasty-children walking along the side of the road. My mom caught wind of a gator on her property and walked out front to take a picture of the cops trying to steer it off the road and into a pond.

There are some interesting things to note about this photo. First is the size of the gator. I made marks to show you where the side of the road is in comparison to the gator. If the average lane is about 10 feet wide, how big would you say this gator is? I'd say a good 10 feet.

Do you see the weapon that the cop has in hand? He has a hollow plumbing pipe. I guess he's going with the "10-foot-pole" philosophy when it comes to gators. I can guarantee you that if that gator ran toward that cop he would drop the pole and run, like any normal human being should.

Now notice the car coming in the other direction. You can assume that at that distance they can just see some people in the road with a large moving log. I imagine it's tourists on their way onto the island from the airport, map in hand, oblivious to the dinosaur speed-bump just seconds ahead on the road. And FYI, if you hit a gator while driving, your car doesn't really recover.

It might all seem quite entertaining until you realize that gators actually do occasionally eat pets and even people. I can think of many stories of gators eating pets and a couple of them eating people right there on Sanibel Island. They say that tourists want a photo op and will feed the gators, then the gators see a local a few weeks later and associate them with food and … well… it's not a pretty ending.

I'd say the average gator just wants to live out his gator life and leave people alone, but sometimes someone's pet is in the wrong place at the wrong time and looks appetizing. Since Florida opened up alligators to hunting a few years ago it's safe to say that humans still have the upper hand. I know that alligators taste like chicken… I wonder what alligators say about us?
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