Monthly Archives: December 2014

Daily Drama 30

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Daily Drama 30

I was away for a couple days, and when I returned, Dobby kept his eye on me. He can see me in the living room from this vantage point.

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Note the resident mallards.

Dobby was extra naughty to teach me a lesson.

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Boom! Crash! Garbage cans make a big noise!

So I rewarded him with a nice hot soaking tub. Also known as a wading pool.

In other news, a new Muscovy Maiden has officially joined the flock just a short ten days after her arrival and quarantine here. In comparison with the bullies I picked up from Pasado’s Safe Haven who took about five months to integrate, this is a stunning achievement. In fact, none of the mallard-derived domestic drakes (and including my gay Muscovy Drake, Romeo) are interested in a Muscovy hen, so she has been an uncomplicated addition. Plus, she easily passed muster with Winky, my Muscovy hen, who doesn’t seem to know she’s a duck, so no contest there.

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Carmen Miranda, crest up

Carmen Miranda, the new Muscovy hen, earned her name by flashing her crest readily and constantly, as if forming a question mark over her head at each new discovery. She is still young, a spring bird transitioning through her first year. She is very poised, but aggressive when appropriate. She has been very excited about joining this flock and convinced me that she could hold her own among them. She has a little story, and a duck friend and five hens who may join her here, sooner or later. I stopped asking questions when the words “stem cell” came up and seemed to hang in the air. At that point, I just asked what I can do to help.

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Romeo, front center, Carmen’s little white head behind pool

She must have been eyeing the pool from her pen, because she went directly to it and now spends a lot of time near the steps.

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Run! Godzilla is coming!

When Carmen emerged from her isolation pen, all the drakes charged in there to check out her food and small wading pool. I almost got a photo of them all milling around in there, but suddenly they came out almost as fast as they had gone in.

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“Mine”

Dobby had to check it out first, apparently.

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Norman the goose keeps an eye on little Carmen, center right of photo. Note the blurry crow landing to her right!

Carmen’s hen friends should pose no problems here, but I am concerned about the duck. My drakes will no doubt find a white Peking duck to be the most exciting thing at the farm since Cleopatra, my last remaining female Rouen. I rehomed her to bring peace to the farmyard. Carmen’s friend might as well be named Marilyn Monroe for all the excitement she will cause around her, yet I am reluctant to separate her from her friends. Carmen is already here (she had to have her wings clipped) and she suffered no separation anxiety, but I know not where poor Marilyn will end up. I can keep her here, in her own pen, indefinitely, but it is not a good long-term solution. Please let me know if you hear of a suitable home for her. And stay tuned for The Carmen Story, which will be written when it is time.

Foreground, LtoR: Vinny, Sal, Fabio, Emilio, Tony, Norman the goose, Shamrock, Boxcar, Cubicle the goose, & Boondock. Back behind the fence, LtoR: Carmen, Winky, & Romeo

The flock was pretty excited about getting into the yard, again. They were more excited about their freedom than the new duck, so it was a good time to let her out.

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The Lurker

Dobby just had to be in charge, though.

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Run! Godzilla is coming!

He kept rounding them up and putting them away, like a Border Collie being paid by the piece.

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The following day, Dobby is still watching me like a hawk.

Now that we are past the solstice, our early winter has backed off enough for fall weather to try again. With milder temperatures, dry ground, and even some sunny breakthroughs I was finally able to clean out the dovecote. I wish I had been able to do it earlier, before my December birthday, because my back has aged another year with the rest of me, and hauling out over 100 gallons of sodden wood chips set me back a bit. Fortunately, the Funny Farm has a bartender on staff. This no joking matter.

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Indian Ringneck Doves

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The hardest part is keeping them from breeding.

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They are so friendly, and the cooing is soothing.

I counted 21 in there but it’s not easy to feel confident about the count. There’s a pigeon in there, too.

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Dobby wanted to come in as much as I wanted to keep him OUT. That white dove is The Pirate’s mom.

Dobby was perturbed by my lingering in the dove area. He watched and “helped” for a long while, but I was later informed that he managed to register *3* complaints in the kitchen while I was occupied with Not For Dobby activities. Spending the day outdoors, but not with The Prince, is NOT APPROVED.

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“Sit? That’s so lame. How about this?”

I told him to sit for this photo, but he struck this pose instead. He stood there like this for quite a while.

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Harness schmarness

No day is complete without a trip to the front yard to eat corn, grass, and bamboo. As you can see, he suffered a terrible mishap out there: his harness is wonky. It was so dark by the time we got out there I didn’t manage to get his harness on correctly. He doesn’t seem to mind as much about that any more.

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Whiskey Sour, Specialty of the House

I wasn’t joking.

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The End

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Bath Day

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Bath Day

It’s easier and more fun to bathe the guinea pigs when you have a volunteer to help. Still, there is quite a bit of equipment to round up, the kitchen has to be cleared, and you have to have a plan for getting them all wet and then dry efficiently. Once you have your ducks in a row (Yes, I have bathed ducks before, too.) Eventually, you take a deep breath, say “Okay!” and dive in.

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“Why did I have to go first?”- Frederick of Hollywood

The shampoo and bath part goes fairly quickly. The hair drying takes FOREVER. Fred has the shortest fur, so he goes first. When you are bathing several pigs, it is easy to get ahead of yourself and end up with a bunch of soggy pigs. I’ve learned not to bathe the second pig until the first one is dry.

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Jillian was on drying detail this time.

Meanwhile, #2 pig, Carl Sagan, is sweating bullets. Wait a minute! That’s not sweat and those aren’t bullets!

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Bean maker extraordinaire

Stevie Ray is such a handful, he’s been asked to wait in the other room. He’s last for a variety of reasons.

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Still drying.

Even short-haired guinea pigs take forever and a day to dry.

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“Oh no!”

Little Carl is next. Like the others, he enjoys the warm water until he realizes he is wet, and then he panics a little and tries to jump out.

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“Aaaah! So nice and warm!”

I pour a bit more warm water on and he relaxes. Then he realizes he is wet, and then he panics a little and tries to jump out.

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“I think I can get out of here!”

Repeat.

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“What’s that noise?”

Carl’s fur is a bit longer, so we have to keep fluffing it up to get it dry underneath.

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“I like this part!”

They all seem to like the hair drying part. It’s noisy, but it’s warm, and they all want to be the center of attention.

Stevie Ray Vaughn has to be last because his fur is so long it takes a couple forevers and then another week to get it dry. Plus, he’s a snippy little guy with a lot of attitude, and it’s good to practice on the NICE guinea pigs first. Stevie Ray is such a handful that I was unable to get any photos of him in the tub. Between the shampoo and the voluminous hair slowly expanding to fill the entire tub and the constant bean removal and the frantic jumping from one side to the other, there will probably never be any photos of this guy in the tub.

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“I’m hot stuff.”

Stevie Ray likes the hair dryer, but it takes a long, long time and he gets bored. After a while he starts horsing around. He spins and slashes at us with the toenails on his hind feet, and the beans start flying. He stands up in the drying box- good! We can dry his belly fur! But no, he drops and spins. We get a dry clean towel. I hold him on his back like a baby, the way he loves to be held. Jillian takes advantage of the new damp exposed areas and he lets us dry him for another minute and a half.

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He looks good in the photos, though.

We take a break, but all-in-all it probably takes over half an hour to dry this turkey. We’re wet, now. The kitchen is wet. I’m thinking ahead to dinner, maybe we’ll go out.

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So handsome, Stevie Ray!

Meanwhile, back at the Dude Ranch, snacks are served. I wonder if they have noticed that they smell like raspberry shampoo.

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“Go away, we’re busy.”

Right.

Krumpit the Kamikaze Sparrow

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Krumpit the Kamikaze Sparrow

Krumpit was only a House Sparrow, but he was one of the most unique of the many creatures who have shared my life. Brought to me as a nestling by my prodigal daughter, he was all I could not resist. A helpless and unwanted creature for whom I had all the bittersweet hopes a parent has: that he would grow strong and leave my nest. Wildlife rescues never returned her calls, I was unsure of the legal status of an invasive House Sparrow, and none of the nestling feeding information I am finding today was available on the Internet during the summer of 2009. Named, ironically, for a current hiphop dance, I spent his first two years wondering if my ineptitude caused his legs not to grow strong. I know now that krumpit must have been broken from the fall from his lofty nest, and that he would not have lasted the day, had not my daughter brought him home.

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Krumpit, the day he came home

 

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Baby Krumpit

From her descriptions of the site and the horrific fates of his nest-mates, I believe a crow tore apart his nest, high in the poplars towering above the college campus. Setting baby Krumpit in a substitute nest, in hopes that his parents would resume their care, would not have been a reasonable option. The companion who promised to “take him tomorrow” if my daughter would only take him home tonight, well, we know she was never heard from again. And so this helpless creature made his way home to me. How many times did I ask her “Ready to take your sparrow now?” Knowing I could never let him pass beyond this door.

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The angry sparrow child

 

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Becky and Krumpit

The annual fly infestation that we endured that summer supplied baby Krumpit with the best food he could possibly have had. In addition to egg yolk, soaked finch seed, greens, and canned crickets, he was well fed and grew strong. But he never walked. He learned to fly, but his legs never cooperated, so his landings were frightening crashes. Perches were useless. The fleece blankets lining his cage were soft and yielding, his appetite relentless and unfathomable. As he grew, the responsibility for his handicap became more apparent. He would never become independent and releasable.

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Young Krumpit would never walk on his feet.

Krumpit and I explored several cages throughout his life. I tried several open hammocks, but he never seemed to like them. We eventually settled upon a horizontally oriented cage with an enclosed hammock. He never learned to fly into it but would insist at the end of the day that I lift him up to the big hammock for the night. Until I tried the enclosed hammock, though, he spent his days at the bottom of his cage, his nights in a little wooden hut. His toenails would get caught in the fleece from time to time, but generally he stayed out of trouble. One time his bent legs became stuck outside the cage bars, leaving him in a very awkward position. I looked over at the cage, wondering what piece of junk had become lodged up there in such a bizarre way. You, Krumpit, YOU are the bizarre piece of junk!

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One of the first semi-satisfactory hammocks

Yes, I actually do know how he became lodged there in such a crazy position. Krumpit was an angry young bird. He lived next door to The Blues Brothers. I had adopted Jake and Ellwood, two blue parakeets, and brothers, from a local rescue. Krumpit hated them with all the bluster his tiny sparrow body could muster. All day long they would call to each other, hollering their respective sparrow/budgie epithets and posturing in their respective sparrow/budgie styles.

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Jake and Ellwood, top left; Darth, the Gerbil from Hell, center; Krumpit’s green cage with hammock, right; partial guinea pig cage below; obscure species of wild animal, foreground.

Krumpit’s existence, his very purpose in life, was to best those silly blue birds. He very nearly ended his own existence trying to attack them through the cage bars. When they died, first one, then the other 6 months later, little Krumpit fell into a funk. He stopped eating his mealworm salads, he stopped screaming at the popping and sizzling dinner in the frying pan, and he refused to leave the little wooden hut at the bottom of his cage. Then I found Spike the Budgie in the back room at Petco. Nursed back to health, Spike could no longer be sold with the other pets and was one of their “adoptable” pets. Spike came home, the sparrow started eating again, and the raucous repartee resumed.

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Krumpit in the blue cage with the enclosed hammock he loved. He’s just visible at the bottom right of his cage staring at Spike. That’s Spike to the right. Pirate the dove is below, she’s sitting in her seed dish at the far left.

Krumpit also had a smaller cage on a shelf outside the kitchen door, and he spent his summer afternoons out there, flirting with the wild sparrow women. Bathtubs were ignored, food and water seemed to go untouched, and yet he positioned himself to be transported to his outdoor cage with enthusiasm. Toward the end he nearly flew into my hand to be moved from indoor to outdoor cage and back again. It was a sparrow privilege he took very seriously.

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Krumpit’s outdoor afternoon cage

When I told my daughter how he had died, she responded that he was always going to go that way. And she was right. I like to let my birds fly free in the house, but she reminded me of the time that we had tried that with Krumpit. He had flown like a demon throughout the house, darting here and there, and then silent. Like some crazed kamikaze sparrow, he had flown til he could fly no more, then dropped to the ground. We looked for him for hours, off and on. I kept thinking he would call to us, would ask for help. But people who rehabilitate wild birds understand that never can be. A wild bird knows that to call out in distress is to invite predators, and so they stay still and silent. Until, what? Until whatever happens next. Of course, we did find him, under my bed, up near the headboard. He must have hit the wall and slid straight down. And so a tiny brown bird stayed under my bed, waiting, waiting until the next thing. He was lucky that we found him, and we decided that he could not fly free again. There was no single room in the house where he could fly free without peril.

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Staring at Spike

The years went by, cages changed, hammock experiments came and went, and we settled on the cage with blankets, the little wooden hidey-hut, and 10 mealworms a day. He also had a suet log like the outdoor sparrows, wild bird seed, and greens. That bird loved his greens! In winter he settled for parsley, but all summer long, he had fresh dandelion greens. The dandelions just outside the steps to the front door yielded a particularly fine crop, just the right size, always tender, and I picked them for him daily as I walked in the door. I still instinctively reach for them when they are the perfect size, but no, there is no sparrow now. Do wild sparrows eat dandelion greens? Who knows? Krumpit ate a tiny dishful daily. A mealworm salad, the ten mealworms stealthily hiding beneath his greens. Sometimes fifteen, sometimes only five, his greed changed with the seasons, the daylight hours triggering his appetite. I cross that threshold easily now, dandelion season has passed, but as they grow again in the spring, for whom will I gather the tiny greens?

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Traveling with Baby Krumpit (green cage) and other unruly beasts

I have known just a handful of wild beings, but had close relationships, to the point where communication flowed both directions. The capybara, well, he is unto himself, and his story is still being told. The wood ducks, the teals, the mallards and the Canada geese taught me patience and restraint. The raccoon and the vole, though, taught me about survival and the peculiarities of behavior when all is at stake. In the dark ages, before the Internet, care of wild creatures was a challenge to be faced alone. On my own, I had to listen to my wild ones and interpret their needs. The raccoon tale is a convoluted story to be told another day. Rocky’s predictable yearning for freedom was a poignant relief and his transition from pet shop prisoner to woodland creature was seamless. Vincent the vole entertained me for over three years with his charm, his reserve, and his passion for pine nuts and his precious blanket.

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Krumpit’s blue cage with yet another hammock configuration; wild animal below

This feisty sparrow argued and resisted me for five years. In just the last six months he had learned to love his summers on the porch, and had reluctantly responded to his name by peeking at me from the bottom of his cage. He was not dumb, just reserved, punishing, as if I was the cause of his handicap and incarceration. After years of responding to his calls, he reluctantly responded to mine, and we bantered though it was clear I was not a worthy opponent. I will never understand why, in his hour of need, he did not call out to me. Why his flock, Spike the Budgie, Jorge and Vincent the cockatiels, and The Pirate did not alert me, why all these redundant alarm systems failed to screech, when they so often do so for no apparent reason. Why his little life had to grow still, with all of us around him, is a mystery and a tragedy I cannot seem to get past. Becky was right, though. He was always going to go like that.

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Fly free, little sparrow!

Late June 2009 – October 27, 2014


 

Sparrow by Paul Simon

Who will love a little sparrow
Who’s traveled far and cries for rest
“Not I,” said the oak tree
“I won’t share my branches with no sparrow’s nest
And my blanket of leaves won’t warm her cold breast”

Who will love a little sparrow
And who will speak a kindly word
“Not I,” said the swan
“The entire idea is utterly absurd
I’d be laughed at and scorned if the other swans heard”

And who will take pity in his heart
And who will feed a starving sparrow
“Not I,” said the golden wheat
“I would if I could but I cannot I know
I need all my grain to prosper and grow”

Who will love a little sparrow
Will no one write her eulogy
“I will,” said the earth
“For all I’ve created returns unto me
From dust were ye made and dust ye shall be”

Daily Drama 29

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Winter at The Funny Farm can be pretty grim. Water dishes have to be unfrozen daily, and the huge ice cubes that were yesterday’s water have to be stashed out of the way so they don’t become tomorrow’s hazard. I can get everything thawed and functional with only two gallons of hot water, but so far I haven’t had to bring out hot water just to open a gate. That adds to the drama, for sure.

Winky the muscovy duck pulled a fast one on the coldest night- we had two nights below 20°f. Afternoons are spent ruining the remaining grass in the back yard and chasing the wild mallards away from the cracked corn dish in the back yard. At dusk, Norman the Goose rounds everyone up and they return to the aviary to roost.If anyone dawdles, it is Winky, so if she is settled in for the night, the rest are sure to be in. That night, the ducks were in but I noticed they were settled into an unusual area in the aviary. I couldn’t find Winky anywhere: brown duck on brown ground, brown leaves everywhere. Not finding her was disconcerting, but where could she be? Morning held the answer: on TOP of the aviary! She had flown up and was perched on a net support! A candidate for the Darwin Club, for sure, as the raccoons can be vicious. She stayed up for hours only coming down when the others came into the yard for afternoon destruction derby. Time to do a little wing-clipping!

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“No thank you. It’s TOO COLD out there!”

Dobby had declined to graze in the front yard for days. His feet get cold and he holds up his paws, one at a time when they get cold. In the photo above, I had just asked him if he wanted to go to the front yard to eat grass and bamboo. He looked at me and held his paw up!

 

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Pouffy for all the right reasons.

In the photo above, he is a little pouffy because I had just filled his little hot tub and poured nice warm water all over him. In the winter when it is cold, it is tempting to keep him warm and dry, but capybaras can get skin problems if they don’t bathe. So his slave girl gives him a little bath.

 

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“What are you talking about?”

Capybaras are cecotrophic. Like rabbits and guinea pigs, they need to eat their poop to obtain more nutrients from their food. That’s a “gravy stain” on his bed, stage left of his driver’s side front foot.

 

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“How about a little kiss?”

Those are only freckles, but I still consider carefully if he wants a kiss right after “breakfast.”

 

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24 heads of romaine lettuce in a box, almost 2 weeks worth.

I’m constantly refilling the refrigerator with animal food. In winter, I have to stash the lettuce quickly before it freezes! This lettuce is in the carport, right outside the door. I bag up each head and cram gently load it into the refrigerator.

 

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“Can’t you see I’m busy?”- Buckethead

When Dobby doesn’t go to the front yard to graze, he orders take-out. This is a bucket of bamboo, and he is working to get every leaf!

 

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“What is all of this stuff?”- Godzilla

Lots of activity at the bird feeders, now that the weather has softened. Mallards on the roof, pushy squirrels at my feet, and hummingbirds waiting for me to get away from their food.

 

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“No thanks, I don’t need any help. I can get it down by myself.”

Ever wonder what to do with all that capybara poop when the outdoor toilet is frozen? That’s right, it piles up in a bucket. It must be completely thawed before you attempt to flush it or it clogs the toilet. That’s probably all you want to hear about that!

 

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“Wait, what? I thought I had knocked all this stuff down!”

These plants have been outside the kitchen door for weeks, but Dobby decided to rearrange them today. He knocked down that gray plastic garbage can too.

 

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“So, THERE. Take THAT!”