Category Archives: Wild Things

Daily Drama 71 – Another Brown Hen

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Daily Drama 71 – Another Brown Hen

Miss Emmy Lou, like Conchita, has to go UP.

Chickens come in many colors: white, yellow, brown, black, and all sorts of speckled and blotchy mixed colors. Mine are brown. All kinds of brown, subtle markings, slight variation in comb shape. Well, there is also the puny white/orange/black speckled Princess Blur, the banty Mille Fleur. Due to her diminutive size, she could be brown and I could still spot her a mile away. Emmy Lou Harris, the new hen, is brown. Of course she is.

Samantha, otherwise known as Miss New Hampshire.

The arrival of Emmy Lou means that Samantha, otherwise known as Miss New Hampshire, is no longer the new hen. She has been here since October 2017 and has totally integrated with the flock. Norman the goose has accepted her as a full-fledged member and he’s as protective of her as he is of the rest of them.

Princess Blur, the Puddle-jumper.

Princess Blur, on the other hand, has yet to admit that she is a chicken. The cats are terrified of her and she chases mallards in the yard. Dobby tolerates her, and she successfully lobbies for extra garden time. Are all Mille Fleur hens kooky?

Front to back: Emmy Lou, (beyond fence) Eartha, Frieda, Windy, Adelita, Samantha, Conchita. All brown.

New hens are sequestered (in the bully pen) from the flock until they accept each other. I had Emmy Lou only a week when I discovered bossy Conchita (yes, the one who broke her leg . . ) in the separate pen, and Emmy Lou happily exploring the larger yard with the other hens. Other than a few scurries and quick departures, Emmy Lou was getting along nicely. Since then I have found her back in the bully pen, taking a break, but she’s generally well accepted.

Emmy Lou hasn’t been to the garden yet, though. She is able to explore the aviary in peace when the others are out in the yard. It also means she hasn’t met Dobby, though he visited the hens in the aviary this morning. Emmy Lou kept her distance.

Samantha, the Greeter.

Here’s Dobby helping me put the poultry away after the garden party. (FAIL)

Dobby: the obstacle.

By the way, this is what the back yard “grass” looks like after our wet winters. It looks like dirt.

 

This is why Dobby goes to the front yard to graze, especially in winter and spring. There is even new grass coming up on the path between the aviary and the gate to the front yard.

“Really? Oy vey, the humiliation.”

I re-seed with a pasture grass mix in late spring and this year the germination has been fantastic. The yard has almost complete coverage already. Unlike your lawn, which is probably a mix of perennial rye and Kentucky bluegrass, pasture grass is food grass. It has some perennial rye, but it mostly has timothy grass, orchard grass, and tall fescue. It would get tall and shaggy if Norman and Cubicle (the geese) weren’t such good mowers. They are much more efficient than Dobby.

Rose: ‘Queen Elizabeth.”

Phoenix the pigeon moved out to the aviary in Spring. He discovered my female pigeon, Cor-ten, and they keep laying eggs. Phoenix is very helpful, taking turns on the nest, and he seems very content. That is, until I remove the eggs. Every egg that hatches means one less rescue I can take in, so spring is all about finding nests and taking away eggs. I’m happy to let the resident wild mallards raise the neighborhood ducklings.

Phoenix

Speaking of wild things, here’s Conchita and Dobby. You might be able to see the three crows on the roof. They have been making quite a racket, because “Three” is a baby who begs constantly. They are teaching him that my yard has the best treats.

Dobby and Conchita

Unlike lovely Emmy Lou, Brutus the guinea pig is not quietly joining the herd. She can’t get along with sweet Squirrel, my funny boar. She and Cookie Monster share half the pen.

Brutus and Cookie Monster.

Squirrel is a very entertaining guinea pig, and a gentleman, too. A sow’s dream come true. He always got along with Stevie Ray and was crushed when he died. Brutus and Cookie Monster were intended to become his new herd.

Sir Squirrel

Cookie Monster adores Squirrel, and so she visits him frequently. I can’t leave her with him all the time, because Brutus is bossy when she returns. I’m afraid that eventually Brutus would reject Cookie Monster if she spent too much time “next door.” So she commutes back and forth and everyone is happy, at least some of the time.

Cookie Monster and Squirrel

I though April was wild, but after 17 years here, I have deer in the front yard. Coyotes have been pooping in Dobby’s front yard, and I have even seen cottontail rabbits next door. Dobby had a cottontail out here several years ago, and he loved that bunny. I hope he has another one visiting this summer.

Dobby’s Deer

I put up a mason bee house in March and was stunned to see how popular it is! Look at how many of the condos have sold!

Mason bees pack mud into the hole after eggs are laid.

The squirrels have been crazy this year. They’re always nutty (sorry, couldn’t resist), but this year’s squirrel games are wild!

Stacy’s Funny Farm Gift Shop, in Real Time.

This is a subtle reminder to visit the Gift Shop. Briana and I are making lots of jewelry, and I will post a bunch of new stuff when the finished items overflow our “finished” basket.

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Daily Drama 69 – April Goes Wild

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Daily Drama 69 – April Goes Wild

Even without Dobby and the rescues, it would be wild and crazy here, especially in April. The songbirds are singing, the hummingbirds have migrated from the feeders to the flowers blooming in the yard, and I listen for peeps that might mean an imperiled duckling.

There are at least a couple hundred geese in this flock. They are probably Snow Geese on their way up to Mount Vernon.

Distant honking caused me to look up at the kitchen skylight in time to see a flock of geese flying back north. I have seen a few “V’s” fly by, but this is an entire flock.

Click on the photo if you can’t see the three deer. Our World Famous Mailboxes are stage left, out of frame.

Half an hour later, my neighbor knocked on the door. (WOW! I have forgotten what 9 months pregnant looks like!) She saw three deer walk out of my yard, and knowing how wild it can be here, wanted to make certain they weren’t escapees of mine! (Note to self: invite her over, let her boys feed the guinea pigs, give her a tour and a dozen eggs.) The deer were down at the end of the street, and I’m sure we have all seen better deer photos than this, but after 18 years here, I am stunned at the idea of deer wandering through. Over the fences. Eating Dobby’s grass and maybe even his bamboo!

Not the boot print, silly! The deer hoof print. This is on a narrow Dobby-trail in the front yard.

Sure enough, deer hoof prints all over the yard. There are other prints, too, out at the street by the garbage cans. Who was this?

Guess now, and I’ll let you know who I think stood around here in the mud.

We have coyotes, raccoons, opossums, squirrels, songbirds, hawks, owls, herons, and six kinds of woodpeckers. And ducks. Mallards are common, but I have had a Wood Duck drop by in the winter. A Bald Eagle swooped through here a month ago. No Mountain Beavers yet, but I keep hoping. I think it’s too flat and wet here.

There were two aqua eggs in the nest when I checked. The duck nest is the brown swirl of junk, lower middle of photo.

This is a mallard nest by my front door. I watched her drop from the sky and scuttle into this nest. It looks the same whether or not she is in it, her camouflage is so perfect. She abandoned this nest, leaving two pretty blue eggs. She’s been hanging in my back yard for maybe 12 years now, before Dobby came. She’s brought her brood into the house, taking the front-door to kitchen route that Dobby craves when he begs by that door. Everyone knows that route exists, like the Northwest Passage, but only Mrs. Mallard has had the privilege of using it. No wonder Dobby is jealous!

Proud Mrs. Mallard with six ducklings

This year, I can see her next door with her precious brood. You can count six in this photo. There used to be seven, and I chased “seven” back to her more than once when I found the little explorer in my creek. Alas, nature does not reward the babes who stray. No ducklings survived here last year, and neighbors later told me that Bald Eagles got them all. The angst can destroy you. Take a deep breath and do what you can, let the rest go. Yesterday she had only two ducklings. I’m afraid to look today.

Mr. Mallard is never far away.

I put out cracked corn: proper poultry food gets sour and moldy the moment it touches ground. Wild bird seed attracts “undesirables” and it is available in my back yard for “Ducks In The Know.” The food I put out is mostly for the momma ducks, anyway. The babies just mess around. They ate their proper baby duck food already. It’s called “duckweed.”

Western Redback Salamander (Plethodon vehiculum)? Can anyone confirm this?

I suppose they eat other stuff, too. Connor was here today and carefully moved some wood in the front yard. Sure enough, there was a salamander under it. In this neighborhood, life lurks in out-of-the-way corners, and you might as well anticipate it. Inches away, the Creature From the Black Lagoon watches us.

Pacific Mudback Capybara (Hydrochoerus hydrochaeris pacifica)

Dobby has a mucky wallow in the front yard. Sometimes it’s a little pond, sometimes it’s a mud hole. It depends upon the groundwater, which, in turn, depends upon the rainfall. It suddenly dried up today. He was so disappointed!

“Come here!”

Instead of rolling in the mud, he traipsed through it and then led me back to the Duckling Viewing Area. He used to sit back there and gaze at the pond, but he has been too busy to do that lately.

Really?

Well, how about that! Mr. Opossum is at the Duckling Viewing Area. Harumph! Move along, dude! He skedaddled to the Opossum Highway on top of the fence, and headed toward the back yard. Terrific. All my hens and ducks are out, but Norman the Goose will watch out for them. I know this guy, anyway, and all he ever catches is eggs, empty cat food cans, and occasionally he massacres a discarded corn cob overnight.

Route 66 at Stacy’s Funny Farm

Dobby and I checked on the ducks and still saw six ducklings. This momma Mallard now has two drakes watching over her and her brood. Whatever it takes, I don’t judge.

To tell you the truth, Mr. Opossum is too slow to catch a duckling. (Note woodpecker holes on the tree trunk.)

Mr. Opossum wasn’t easily deterred, and I saw him in the back yard a while later. He’s perched on Opossum Highway, but outside the aviary. There’s a bushy evergreen growing through the fence and it creates a nice little observation platform. I wonder how often he perches there, watching my flock. He’s going to be sad when he discovers a nasty wad of chickenwire jammed in there.

Those were my footprints out by the street.

Dobby is back inside the aviary, sitting in another lovely mudhole. So perfect.

Jaunty stripes courtesy of Fergus the Fig Tree

Next, Dobby went into the hot tub to get clean, with a fan club cheering him on. It’s also slightly possible that they were waiting for him to get out so they could get in.

Shamrock, Cubicle, Emilio, and Carmen Miranda

If you don’t get all the way in, and don’t scrub or use soap, bath results can vary.

Nice job, Dobalob.

Oh well, I guess he wasn’t through testing all of the Funny Farm mud holes. This one offers tender new raspberry sprouts. When he eats them, I don’t get raspberries later in the summer. That’s why I carefully fenced them off.

Nice fencing, Farm Manager.

Wait! What about the hot tub? Don’t you want to go back in before you go into the kitchen? Please don’t shake! Dobby? At least it’s only mud this time. That’s how bad he is: I’m relieved that he’s only covered in mud. If you have to ask what’s worse, then you haven’t read his book! You can also follow him on his secret Facebook profile.

There’s a capybara underneath the patina.

 

Daily Drama 65 – The Duckling in the Bathtub

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Daily Drama 65 – The Duckling in the Bathtub

We’re hurtling through the summer at breakneck speed.

With the Funny Farm a tad over capacity I’m grateful to have two summer volunteers.

Before we get to the duckling, Let’s see how Cookie Monster and Brutus are doing!

Cookie Monster: every foot is a different color. Brown, white, black and the fourth one is a hodge-podge.

Remember, they took over the “Floor Suite” of the Dude Ranch in June. Brutus is about 18 months old, and big enough to be “fixed” but little Cookie Monster is still growing. The big plan is for them to eventually live with the dudes, Squirrel and Stevie Ray. We’re more likely to have a successful introduction if the girls are spayed. Stevie Ray and Squirrel were taken care of years ago, but that doesn’t guarantee against rivalry, especially with two girls as attractive as this!

Interior decorators at work.

The boys are unconcerned, but they can’t see into the girl’s area where they are working on some very distinctive decorating schemes. I have had excellent luck with introducing new boars, but this is a different can of worms.

Stevie Ray and Squirrel massacre some wheatgrass. Six year old Stevie Ray has gained 1/4 pound since his abdominal mass was discovered in April. He’s more frisky and is doing great! You just never know, do you?

There is an orphan duckling in my bathtub. Her mother and siblings perished in a hit-and-run accident on the highway. Turkey was being raised with some, well, actual turkeys, and was doing great but came here where she could be with ducks until she is ready to be released. There have been guinea pigs and ducks in this bathtub, maybe a turtle, and even a baby capybara! It doesn’t get much human use.

Miss Turkey takes over Dobby’s old stomping grounds.

I think Turkey’s bill is too narrow and upturned and her legs too long to be a Mallard, but the older she gets, the more mallardy she becomes.

Turkey is sitting on a heated pad in this photo. It is positioned so that she can be on or off while she is near her mirror.

She is very well-behaved. Quiet and dignified, there’s none of that annoying non-stop peep-peep-peep-peep-peep nonsense.

In this photo, she is sitting beside- not on- the heated pad.

She loves her mirror and has lengthy conversations with it. She joins the afternoon garden party in a secure cage and adores the ducks and geese. My wild resident female mallard has been by once and was very interested in Turkey, but she hasn’t returned. She lost two broods of ducklings this spring. It was a horrific year for prey animals locally.

She may or may not be a Mallard, but she’s 100% duck. Duckweed is tiny floating pond plants that wild ducklings eat.

Turkey has her own swimming pool in the shower stall where she can splash and eat the duckweed I collect in the pond next door.

Dobby loves his stinky front yard mud puddle. It has dried up some summers, but this year it has stayed perfectly wet and mucky.

There’s no duckweed in my own pond. the pond scum is thick and brown. Oh, oops, that’s Dobby!

The Ding Dong can’t reach the ding dong.

Dobby still fantasizes about the living room and spends part of every afternoon standing at the front door. I’m glad he doesn’t know about the doorbell.

A great big bucket of grass is a great big distraction.

He wastes so much time at that door that I have to gather his grass in a bucket. His gait is still wobbly and that makes him timid and wary in the front yard. The bucket of grass actually helps him stand still for the k-laser therapy he receives for his broken back. The therapy has helped a lot, but he isn’t 100% cured, and we’re not sure how much more muscle control he’ll regain. Maybe his new therapy pool will help.

One entire refrigerator for Dobby-food.

Meanwhile, his refrigerator empties and refills like clockwork: corn, romaine lettuce, potatoes in the drawers, apples and pears in the door.

The car finally got washed between trips to the grocer and feed stores. Sitting in there, pulled along as soap and brushes removed a year of grime, it occurred to me that getting my car washed was the most luxurious event I could recall enjoying during the past six months. I need a break.

Shadow Rat

In spite of the piggies, the duckling, and volunteer help, Dobby’s injury overshadows everything. I don’t plan trips to Paris or Shanghai, there will be no house-boating craziness for a while. Dobby’s functioning well and seems generally content, but I can’t bring myself to leave him with anyone but The Bartender for now. I hope that will change.

Dobby’s book has been making fantastic progress, in spite of him! Sonya and I are well into the final edits and our plan to have books available later this month is on target! I will send out postcards announcing its release, so gimme your address if you want one!

Daily Drama 62

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Daily Drama 62

I am tempted to proclaim April as Veterinary Care Month. Last year we had the disastrous fractured incisor incident, and I’m not at all certain that Dobby didn’t fracture his vertebrae at the same time. It took me quite a while to recognize his stumbling swagger as a constant, increasingly frequent miss-steps. We have had him on pain meds, calcium supplements, and UV lamps since December (six months) with no perceptible improvement. In fact, his stumbling is even more pronounced, and he walks like his old Farm Manager, with her sciatica. With that information and consulting with three veterinarians, he has been on gabapentin for a week. Yesterday, I upped his dose, and this morning his swagger is more controlled, back legs not buckling so often. He has good days and bad, so it will be a while before we have his dosage adjusted properly.

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I am a professional Landscape Architect. 

Deck repairs are delayed until I am certain we don’t need ramps. Killers during freezing weather, ramps are slick as snot when it rains, too, so they aren’t a great idea in this climate. Meanwhile, an attractive assortment of anti-skid devices still decorate the deck surfaces with the most traffic. They are incredibly effective and I am thinking of submitting this theme to Sunset Magazine for their consideration.

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“I put my foot over the readout because I am embarrassed about my weight.”

I had also lowered Dobby’s bed but the chambermaid has complained that the new surface is extremely uncomfortable on her knees as she crawls in daily to straighten the blankets. Out of deference to her advanced age, I ordered a thin memory foam mattress topper. The bed is still very low, but she is no longer complaining, and Dobby probably likes it, too.

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Dobby and I both have funny hats.

The back yard is a mud hole, but tufts of grass did survive the winter. Now I am looking at Dobby’s huge but useless swimming pool as potential pasture area. Even if he was able to climb up the straw bale steps to dive in, I am not at all certain that he could scramble up the interior steps to exit. Swimming Pool #6, the most expensive pool by far, may be obsolete. I’ve set up another wading pool, larger than his hot tub, which is the puny baby-sized unit. He hasn’t been in the bigger wading pool, and I’m not at all sure he can step up into it. He reaches in and molests the toys that are floating in it, but that’s all. (You can see the blue pool at the far left in the feature photo.)

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Upstairs, downstairs

In other veterinary news, the newer of my two muscovy hens, Beverly, took a beating at the Spring Mating Festival. The vet removed a hardened mass from the site of the damage, and with 6 stitches on her head, she has been unhappily detained up in the infirmary. From there, it’s easier to grab her twice daily in order to toss the penicillin tablets down her throat, and the stitches have had time to heal in a somewhat clean environment. She’s out of there, now, but the drakes are relentless, so she has been spending her days in the back yard with Princess Blur. Without whom, no Daily Drama is complete. Blur still prefers to be carried everywhere. It keeps her foot feathers clean.

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“I’m ready to be carried to the back yard.”

While Princess and Dobby are grazing (Blur’s the only hen with Front Yard privileges), I’ll tell you about Snow White the dove, and the rest. Snowy’s still not flying, so she’s back on antibiotics. Spitfire the Budgie is through with her round. I found Stevie Ray the Guinea pig in distress about six weeks ago, and again late Wednesday night. He was fine the next day, but no younger. At 6-1/2 years, every veterinary visit is approached with caution. At the risk of the inevitable “Yes, he’s old!” diagnosis I took him in for an exam. We’re treating him for invisible mites, just in case, and his buddy Squirrel also gets treated. However, Stevie Ray has some sort of abdominal mass, a tumor, and that explains the weight loss and general malaise, so it’s a good time to pamper him. I had sequestered him at one end of their cage, and now that I have partially opened it again, both pigs have moved into his tiny apartment and are enjoying the new setup. Seriously, they are both holed up in that little area every time I peek in at them. Maybe I should decorate it with palm trees and gold draperies.

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Harness malfunction: that strap is supposed to be between his legs, under his chest.

Dobby has trouble on stairs, so to discourage him, I have been setting out buckets at the bottom tread. That means that when I forget to place the buckets, he interprets that as a signal to immediately go up. Oy vey. It’s painful to watch him come down, but he’s very slow and deliberate. In spite of that, his left heel has a little booboo from hitting the riser on the way down. He tends to scuff the top of his back feet, on the knuckles, on the way up.

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“I would like to return to the back yard through the living room, please.”

The wild mallard ducklings are having a tough time this year. I see ten, then two, then one, then a lone mama, all in the space of a couple days. I have watched two hens have their broods decimated like that. Last year there were dozens, including the half dozen who sat outside this very door with their mama until I finally let them walk through the house to the back yard. Who needs to travel to Memphis to see the Peabody Hotel parade?

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Grover, on the left; some headless zombie cat on the right, maybe Kitty Hawk

The cats are still miffed that the newest hens prefer their favorite spot at night, instead of roosting like authentic chickens. I optimistically set up a similar space for the hens, but the cats moved in. Whatever. They are barely earning their keep. I had one rat tunnel under the fence until it found a rusty hole in the security flooring in the dove cage. I noticed the activity in time and wired on a hardware cloth patch. I now have a greater appreciation for vets who have to suture up a live being from the outside. It’s not as easy as sewing, where you can generally approach from both sides. Then there was the cute baby rat, a fancy black variety our neighborhood is famous for, found asleep on Dobby’s little Harry Potter bed (it’s under the stairs). Oops, not asleep, but not quite dead. I left Little Black Rat in a bucket overnight, under a bench, to expire in peace, but mostly so it wouldn’t crawl under the deck to become a week-long stink-bomb. He was quite dead in his bucket morgue this morning, but disappeared while I did a few more chores. That means a crow managed to spot Little Black Rat Corpse, get it out, and it’s half eaten “up there” somewhere, waiting to drop down onto something . . . or someone.

That’s better than stepping on a full-grown one, though. Years ago, I stepped onto a LIVE rat, at the bottom of the stairs, right next to Dobby’s Harry Potter bed. It was a big one, running by at dusk, and his timing was not good. I stepped right onto him, and, as you yourself would probably do, I shrieked and jumped back. Unfortunately, I didn’t step on him very hard, so he jogged, and when I returned to earth, I landed right on top of him again, this time with gusto. I knew from the sound and sensation beneath my boot that he was a goner. I went directly indoors, not looking back. I don’t remember if I threw out the boots, but I sure don’t recall cleaning them. I’m pretty fearless, but I asked The Bartender to wait a couple hours “to be sure” and then remove it. Please. He’s such a good sport.

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What the squished rat probably looked like: Fat Bonnie

Fat Bonnie still takes over Dobby’s area each evening. She isn’t usually this relaxed, but maybe after three years, she is finally feeling secure indoors. She is the most timid rabbit I’ve ever had. Timid or maybe just dumb. She is capable of a couple tricks, though, and turns a circle for a dried blueberry. She stands up for a rabbit cookie, too. She almost allows me to pet her. At least she’s relatively well behaved, though I prefer a dynamic but naughty pet to a shy one that snubs me. And that’s generally what we have here at the Funny Farm. Bad animals.

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Hoping for a summer 2017 launch!

When I’m not sewing up holes in Dobby’s blankets at midnight, I have been writing. Sonya and I have been producing all sorts of goodies that might indicate that we are nearing the finish line. It won’t be long, now!

 

 

Daily Drama 61

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Daily Drama 61

Editing Dobby’s book has kept me so busy writing that I am neglecting the blog posts. Today, the Funny Farm is sad that my handicapped hen, Lula, has decided to fly up to the big roost in the sky. She came here five years ago, became lame at about 2-1/2 years, and stopped walking altogether two years ago. Daily meloxicam uprighted her, and she hobbled around, avoiding the other hens for a year. I finally moved her to the infirmary about a year ago, leaving the door open so she could come and go on her own.

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Princess Blur and Lula outside Dobby’s kitchen door. A lot of good stuff leaks out that door.

Last September, a tiny opinionated hen came to live with us. Blur’s sister had died and she couldn’t stop talking about it. Once here, she quickly became PRINCESS Blur, but she did quiet down. The size of a pigeon, she fights the cats, the other hens are afraid of her, and even Dobby is baffled. She has never laid an egg. Princess adored big Lula, though. They spent their days together, and when Lula’s lameness progressed, Princess Blur moved into the infirmary with her. In hindsight, they spent this last month beak-to-beak, neither one venturing into the horrific weather. I should have known Lula was not well. It will be interesting to hear what Princess Blur has to say about her.

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Princess whispers into Lula’s ear. They were inseparable.

The east coast is not alone when it comes to weird winter weather. We have had cold and snow and many Mallards. Many freeloading mallards. My resident pair are somewhat erratic, so Mrs. Mallard must have a nest, but she isn’t sitting yet. Sitting ducks hold their necks differently, as if they have spent too much time in one position. Their voice also changes, and their message is different. We aren’t there yet, but she has a nest, and it is nearby. I think they even spent the night on the swimming pool. I have never seen that before in the ten years since they have been here.

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Mallards on my roof. What must the neighbors think?

Dobby is making fair progress toward a recovery. He was feeling pretty good when he made these brown footprints. He was leaving the kitchen. Is that better or worse than if he had been coming in? There’s so much medicine in his milk now, that we ought to come up with a better word than “milk” which no longer describes it.

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Brown footprints: the Dobby version of yellow snow. 

Of course, we had a wind storm, too. A big birch branch crashed right through the wire roof of the aviary. It was a missed opportunity for the raccoons because my good neighbor fixed it that day.

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Timber!

The afternoon Garden Party has been damp. On good days it’s moist. Horrible days it is like living under a waterfall. I’m the one who wanted to live in a wetland, though. It’s groundwater, and it oozes up wherever it wants to. The asphalt out front has giraffe patterned cracks all over it. The cracks spit bubbles and ooze, eventually creating a flow down the street past the ambitious city public works drainage project that failed to take into account the source of the water. MY PROPERTY.

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Bird seed anyone? We’re eating it under a table because we don’t like soup.

Dobby IS improving, though he had a setback last week. He slipped on the deck when temperatures rose enough to turn the organics and rain into a coating of Deck Slime. There are now anti-skid rugs everywhere, and a bunch of cheap burlap bags as filler between the gaps. The hardware store guys roll their eyes when I tell them the bags have to be from Brazilian coffee, not African or Central American. Then they obligingly dig through the stack, commenting on the origins, and noticing the different bags for the first time.

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It’s the same bed, but different. For once I didn’t freak out about the change.

We lowered Dobby’s bed, so that the step up isn’t as steep. It used to have a standard box spring, but we switched it out for a “bunky board” which is a shallower mattress support. Now he can step out onto a big wide dog bed, and it’s a lot easier for him.

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Mine, all mine!

He’s feeling strong enough again to go to the front yard to graze . . . on non-existent winter grass. Prey animals are wary and they won’t leave a safe territory unless they have to. When Dobby is not feeling strong, he stays in the kitchen, playing pinochle and drinking mint juleps. Today he ignored the squealing little girls playing next door and went out to graze, so I know he is feeling pretty good.

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If you don’t let me in, I’ll bite the door. Again.

Dobby thinks he should be able to go in through the front door. In eight years, I don’t think I have ever let him in through that door. For eight years he has been begging.

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You’re late with my corn.

Oh, Dobby. He’s not very patient. His “offerings” have been top form, though. In an effort to offset his usual high-starch bad diet, I have been supplementing his vegetables with a bucket of cut bamboo foliage, in addition to what he grazes on his own. The fabulous local grocer, who supplies Dobby’s corn and romaine at a very reasonable markup, has been ordering us dandelion greens, too. The very same greens that I can pick for free from the garden this summer, are now a gourmet Dobby-treat in winter. I dole them out one-at-a-time to make certain Dobby appreciates them.

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Little Spitfire is helping me edit Dobby’s book. If my desk was cleared off (or if someone lit a bonfire to it) I could set up her playpen. She would love that. For now she is happy with the cubby holes and a paper clip. She’s a fightin’-bitin’ female, but my farmer’s hands are like leather, so the joke’s on her! She’ll settle down after a while.

Capy-painting

This is the working cover for Dobby’s book. We’ve been trying out some jacket copy on his fans, and hope to have a finished rough draft completed in a couple days. (Unless I remember to prepare my taxes.) It will undergo various levels of scrutiny, head off to a publisher, and Bob’s Your Uncle! That’s the plan, and I will keep you posted. It will be ready for summer reading, or bust!