Solved By Machete

I’m in a positively dreadful mood this morning–indeed, I’ve been tetchy all week, for a variety of reasons. Maybe it’s the heat, though it breaks at night to allow for sleep; maybe it’s work, though I’m always happiest with a surfeit of that; maybe it’s the state of the world. The Princess concurs, for she’s been in somewhat of a mood too; she thinks perhaps it’s processing a bit of last year’s (and ongoing) trauma.

The body remembers, no matter what the rest of one would like.

Consequently I’m trying very hard to be kind, especially in small invisible ways. There is nothing better than performing a few acts of kindness to lift one’s mood. Of course it’s selfish–one should be decent simply because it’s the right thing to do–but it’s at least enlightened selfishness, and it will do. Or so I tell myself, and hope like hell it’s true.

The damage from the heat dome is still rippling through plants in the neighborhood, and I’m sure through the animals as well. Some of the laurel volunteers I put along the back fence have crispy-crittered, and since the sprinklers are Having A Moment (someone will hopefully come by to diagnose them today) much of the yard is too. The tomatoes and other seedlings, watered by hand, are holding on; the pennyroyal that wasn’t grubbed up by squirrels (WHY, for godsake?) is actually thriving. So there’s a win or two lurking in the greenery.

Including the Zombie Rhubarb, which used to be near the lilac volunteers but was moved to a sunnier spot because it frankly refused to die even after the late, lamented Odd Trundles did his best to nest in it. I don’t know what that dog had against rhubarb–maybe he simply knew it’s not my favorite?

Still, I admire the plant’s absolute refusal to lie down and die. That kind of stubbornness is near and dear to my heart, so I’m even watering the damn thing. It’s flourishing like the hellebores now. I’ve told it flat out, “We don’t have to like each other for me to do my best by you. Uh, sorry about the dog…”

I think it’s forgiven me, despite Boxnoggin’s desperate desire to water it on his own. What is it with dogs and rhubarb? I have no clue.

Anyway, the day is jam-packed. There’s subscription stuff to get out the door, groceries to grab, dog walkies and a run to squeeze in, and damn it but I want these revisions done. Time to make a list on an index card, or I’ll get absolutely nothing accomplished. It’s a shame none of these problems can be solved by a machete, for I’m in just the mood to take a few swings. (Related: I really do need to get a wooden baseball bat…)

I suppose I should also get some breakfast, too. But before all that, it’s coffee to soothe my nerves somewhat, and Josh Groban on the play queue to do likewise. Something about the vibrato is entirely calming.

I’m hoping Thursday will decide not to be overly difficult. But if it is, I’ll get out the machete.

Marshmallow, Sun Storm, Tuesday

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It’s a grey Tuesday morning and there is not enough coffee in the world. A solar storm is expected to hit the earth today, and frankly I’m not bloody surprised, the way things have been going.

At least the cicadas are quiet, since the temperature drops overnight. They’re probably waking up the same as I am, lethargic and blinking, staggering towards their version of coffee, preparing for an entire afternoon of screaming in the treetops.

Lucky bastards.

Even the dogs are a bit beside themselves this morning. They won’t eat their breakfast and Boxnoggin is in a fractious-toddler mood. I’d say “you need a nap, dog,” but we literally just rolled out of bed. It could be he’s sensing my crankiness.

There are bright prospects, though. The other day I made an offhand comment about using Cocoa Pebbles and Rice Krispies to make treats–you know, butter, marshmallow creme, all that. The Princess got That Look, and when she came home yesterday she was loaded with Cocoa Krispies, tiny chocolate chips, marshmallows, and a plan.

I pointed out there were Cocoa Krispies but no Cocoa Pebbles (her very favorite cereal) in her supplies and my eldest child fixed me with an arch look of amusement. “The recipe I found was for Krispies, so I’m doing it that way first before I alter it.”

I could only nod sagely and mumble, “That means more marshmallow treats for us all, so I can’t complain.”

To which my child replied, just as her mother would, “Damn right.”

She even divided the pan into quarters. One was plain, one was studded with sea salt flakes, the third had tiny chocolate chips, and the last was drenched with homemade salted caramel sauce. Needless to say, that last bit was my favorite, though everyone else in the house is split between the plain and salted quarters.

So, there’s a crispy-crunchy experiment at some time in my future, possibly with caramel. That’s not a bad prospect; it’ll get me through a day of internal wires sparking through worn-off insulation, a both-hands deathgrip on my temper, and my fingertips aching from keeping my claws sheathed.

In any case, I should probably get some breakfast to balance out the caffeine once my stomach settles, the it’ll be time to walk the furry brats. I’m sure there will be hijinks; Carl the Crow has taken to accompanying us on walks around the block. She flits from tree to tree, eyeing me sideways and occasionally letting out raucous yells. I’m not sure if she’s adopted us or is waiting for me to look away so she can torment Boxnoggin–I believe she has not forgiven him for the Jerry Incident.

Speaking of Jerry the Crow, his tail feathers appear to be healing, and he’s having a lot more luck with flying. He’s still apparently only capable of short hops, and he tends to hang around our yard all day because I’m leaving sunflower seeds and the like in easy-to-reach places for him. Sandra and Carl are okay with this too; they keep bringing peanuts and cracking them in the birdbath, filling the damn thing with peanut shells. I think someone in the neighborhood thinks they’re feeding squirrels, though why anyone would do such a thing is beyond me.

We also have a ring-tailed squirrel (christened Einstein) who is up to No Good and seems positively bent on tormenting my daughter. Maybe it’s a family inheritance thing.

I do have a Backyard Tale to tell you concerning Norbert (long-time Readers will remember Norbert the Shattered Gargoyle) but I need more time and energy to write it than I possess today, so it’ll have to wait.

And with that, my beloveds, I shall bid you a fond adieu. Getting out the door before the marine layer breaks and the temperature rises is the name of the game, and since I’ve finished my coffee, breakfast is next. I can only dread what sort of hijinks will occur once I strap the dogs into their harnesses and leave the house.

Wish me luck…

Picking Battles, No Not Those Ones

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Coming back after a long, long weekend, looking at a particular thread in email, and deciding, “Welp, I can be done with this issue, it can be dead to me,” is particularly liberating. I’m not sure I would have arrived there without the past few days spent consciously and resentfully Not Working.

Maybe that’s why everyone likes vacation so much; it repeatedly massages one’s sense of the possible and acceptable with a giant stick.

It’s not a bad thing. I already have as much work as I can handle. I just wanted things arranged a particular way and if that’s not going to happen, fine. Moving on.

Today will be all about retrenchment and planning. Fortunately it’s a lovely cool morning and the marine layer is doing good things. This weather is far more to our liking–and by “our” I mean not only the humans and dogs, but the trees and shrubbery, not to mention smaller green things. If I could just suss out the problem with the sprinklers, we might be sitting easy–but as it is, I’m still watering by hand.

Not a bad price to pay for some tomatoes; the seedlings are past the most critical stage. Still not sure why the squirrels seem intent on grubbing up a few things, but I guess that’s arboreal rodents for you.

Speaking of squirrels, the Princess saw one with a ring-striped tail the other day. (Are you sure it wasn’t a baby raccoon, I asked, and she whipped out her phone with a long-suffering sigh. It was, indeed, a squirrel, and she had proof.) “It sashayed right across the deck. It stopped to LOOK at me when it was near the door, Mum. I had to check that I had shoes on even though I was inside.”

Which is, as we all know, the most reasonable thing to do when faced with one of those hyperactive little barstids.

I do have a Tale of the Backyard to tell you, but it has to wait. Today is for other things, like rearranging the ol’ publication schedule and divvying up the day between revisions on Sons of Ymre, an audio proofing (listening as the book is read), revising a combat scene to get it to acceptable zero-draft status, a run, and as much coffee as I can stuff down my word-pipe.

Coffee goes in, gory little stories come out. It’s the circle of life. It’s gonna take a much longer time to finish Cold North‘s trilogy now…but that’s okay. We can wait for good things, and besides, this means it can be told the way it wants to be, without well-meaning interference. So on the bright side, there’s that.

Anyway, as soon as I can, I’ll take a few pictures and tell you all about the Gargoyle’s Body. But that’s (say it with me) another blog post.

Today’s full-up, no more can fit, that’s too many battles, put some battles back.

Over and out.

Whyfor, Carl?

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Normally I do the Morning Walk Report on my Masto instance…but today’s was just a little weirder than usual.

It wasn’t the weather, though yesterday’s heat was only a prelude. They’re saying over 100F sometime this weekend; I’m sure that will be fun. But this morning there was a little coolth, and Sandra came by the birdbath as usual so I knew Carl and Jerry were okay.

Anyway, I strapped the dogs in and got us all out the door, thank heaven.

It wasn’t until we were halfway down the block, a bee crawling on my shoulder and Miss B very interested in some lithadora, that I realized Boxnoggin wasn’t prancing just because he was happy to be out of the house. No, he was dancing in place for an entirely different reason.

If it wasn’t Carl it was his evil twin, standing in a driveway and eyeing us sidelong. I caught a wicked gleam in his corvid eye while Boxnoggin strained at his harness, just longing to get across the street and Make A New Friend.

Given that Box’s idea of “friendship” with smaller creatures is “shake it like a Polaroid until the neck snaps, then look mournfully at the corpse wondering where your friend went”, I felt it was unwise (to say the least) to let him seek a closer acquaintance with Carl.

Besides, Carl fights dirty. I should know.

I don’t know if it’s normal behavior for a crow to follow a wild-haired writer and her two canine companions around the block for walkies. But every time I looked up, Carl–or his evil twin, I am certainly not ruling that out–was perched nearby, taking off with a snap-flutter as the dogs finished their sniff stops and moved on. I’m not sure if he was herding us, just curious, or doing recon for a sudden attack.

What I do know is that Boxnoggin was very aware we were being watched, and seeing him alternate between fierce “it’s on the ground, let me go SHAKE IT” and coy “ohai, you are watching me from above, let me display coquettish prancing to entice you closer” was not the most amusing thing I’ve ever seen–but it was close.

That was how I came to be standing on the sidewalk audibly scolding a crow for taunting my poor dog. “He’s not bright, Carl,” I informed a bird slightly bigger than Boxnoggin’s head. “This is beneath you, frankly, and I’m disappointed in your behavior.”

Carl cawed a couple times in reply, clearly unwilling to give up the game.

Once we got to the backyard and I let the dogs out of their harnesses, Carl settled in the cedars, watching while I herded them back into air-conditioned calm. He was gone when I came back out, hair braided and the rest of me slathered with yet more sunscreen for the morning run.

I don’t even know.

As for the run, I sweated sunscreen into my eyes so that was fun. Also, the bees are getting to be a nuisance. I love them, I truly do, but trying to crawl into my nose is not the thing. I suspect the only reason they didn’t go for my ears was the fact those are always blocked with music-delivery pods, and my eyes were left alone because I was blinking furiously trying to get away from the stinging.

They’re leaving my mouth alone, at least for now. Small mercies. I was also afraid I’d crush one settling in my elbow as I ran, but I guess it just wanted a drink? I’m happy to help but dear gods, the little pollinating bastards seem to lack all sense of self-preservation.

I’m hoping Carl’s accompaniment was merely curiosity. If he’s planning hijinks, I may have to stroll the dogs while armed. I’m sure the neighbors won’t wonder at me walking along, two dogs strapped to my waist, a golf club over my shoulders.

It might even add something to the morning…

The Jerry Situation

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So this, my friends, was the Asshole Crow Condo that Jerry didn’t bother using. We left it out all night and I finally broke it down the next afternoon. In the rain. Cursing Jerry all the while, even though I was super glad (for my daughter’s sake) the raccoons hadn’t found and trashed it.

For the curious, the Original Jerry Watch 2021 Situation Thread is here, the update is here, and the finale–such as it is–here. It took a week for Jerry to show back up; I’m pretty convinced either his tailfeathers or some version of corvid drunkenness (there are compost heaps with no shortage of fermented stuff everywhere in the neighborhood) was to blame for the entire incident. He could have been a fledgeling, true, but he was pretty big–as one can see by the size of the box we chose for his (supposed) recovery.

Poor Jerry. I won’t deny I was bloody well relieved to see him again. He does seem to be having some trouble with flying still, but Carl and Sandra are looking after him and there’s plenty of food in the backyard.

He seems to have learned his lesson about taunting Boxnoggin, too. And I perform a Jerry Check upon the yard before letting the dogs out. Miss B doesn’t really care–the most she’ll do is eye the smear she can only indistinctly see but can smell just fine and wonder if she should be herding it but it doesn’t smell like a sheep, so maybe she shouldn’t? But Box is very committed to Backyard Safety, by which he means yelling his fool head off at everything that moves before taking off at top speed to catch it.

Me? I’m just here to witness the hijinks, apparently.

Have a good weekend, my beloveds.

Finding Bunny

It’s Friday, and that means a Friday Photo post! Before we get there, though, I know many of you are aware of yesterday’s JERRY WATCH 2021 SITUATION. The original thread is here; this morning’s semi-update here.

…I cannot believe this is my life.


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Anyway. I thought this was going to be the weirdest thing happening this week. BOY WAS I WRONG, but this is what I got a good picture of, so it’s what we’re doing, I guess.

This is from Tuesday? I think? (Time is blurring together like it did during lockdown.) In the foreground you will see Boxnoggin, so alert he is quivering (you can tell by the faint blur around his ears) and positively straining against his fancy-dancy escape-proof (we hope) harness. I am, of course, holding the camera and my breath, because the harness leash wraps around my waist and he’s sixty-plus pounds of Very Interested Doge.

Miss B, for the curious, is in her usual place to my right and slightly behind me, snoot-down in a fir tree hanging over the kerb which contains one of her usual daily walkies sniffing-spots.

And may all the gods help us if we do not stop in her usual spots. Habit and ritual are Very Important to Elderly Statesdogs.

Now, if you follow Boxnoggin’s ardent gaze (and imagine him making a soft, throaty, whining little ohplease ohplease ohpleeeeease noise), you will no doubt see ONE tiny brown feral bunny. And at first I thought that was all we had to deal with so I greeted said hippity-hop cheerfully with a bright, “Bonjour, Monsieur Lapin.”

I don’t know why, but I always address rabbits in French. I think it’s the ears.

What I did not realize was that Boxnoggin was also quivering because he was presented with a good old-fashioned dilemma. There are, in fact, two rabbits; I didn’t see the second one at first.

Guess that camouflage thing really works.

Boxnoggin might’ve attempted liftoff, dragging me after him, but he could not…quite…figure…out which rabbit to aim for. So, he was vapor-locked. I began to drag him away, sensing that soon the stasis would break, and Street Bunny (the clearly visible one) decided it was time to (ahem) hightail it.

Poor Box lost his ever-loving mind, but one of the beauties of the harness is that I can drop my center of gravity and he is brought to a halt. It’s just like the old days of running with B. Now, of course, I have a harness and waist leash expressly designed for the maneuver instead of just a jury-rigged collection of stuff.

Modernity is wonderful.

Anyway, I did catch this photo before the eerie calm was shattered, so here’s the Friday game: See if you can find Bunny #2.

Good luck!

An Almost-Bunny Brekkie

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“I ALMOST CAUGHT IT, TOO.”

This is the face of a dog who happened across a feral rabbit in our backyard this morning.

I knew it was only a matter of time before the rabbits got up the hill. Their range has been spreading, and we had a comparatively mild winter. They started out on the other side of a major concrete artery, then somehow got across downhill near a watercourse, and it’s been fascinating to see them creep up the hill when I take the dogs on morning walkies. Nonscientific and completely anecdotal field work, you see.

Anyway, uncaffeinated and with my shoes untied, I let the dogs out for their morning evacuations and prancing. It was early enough I didn’t think squirrels were a real risk.

Imagine my surprise when Boxnoggin let out a yelp of excited, pained disbelief and tore across the yard. Imagine my further surprise when I saw Monsieur Lapin (for some reason I always address rabbits in French) hightailing it (literally) across said yard from north to south (south being downhill and, of course, the direction he’d more than likely come from).

You can further imagine my despair when I saw Boxnoggin tearing after him at a speed that seemed unlikely to catch but perfectly likely to overshoot a mark or two and consequently paste him onto the fence. While I could tell there was no danger of a bunny breakfast, Boxnoggin seemed very likely indeed to either hit the fence or attempt to leap the gate.

Upon both those paths lies danger.

I’m not too worried ol’ Boxnoggin will clear the fence, mind you. He has gained a reasonable amount of heft and dignity (such as it is) with the fullness of time and, alas, cannot catch the kind of air he used to. But doing himself some injury by applying himself to said fence at high velocity is entirely possible, and lo I let out a, “WHAT THE FUCK STOP FOR GOD’S SAKE YOU IDIOT,” that shattered the morning quiet.

Of course, he paid no attention. Every fuse inside his doggy skull was blown. The terrier part of his genetic inheritance had burst from confinement like a werewolf’s hunting frenzy, and the tiny cottontail bobbing before him was the sum of all desires.

Fortunately (for Monsieur Lapin) or unfortunately (for poor Boxnoggin), the rabbit had obeyed the number-one rule of reconnaissance: Always know your escape route. (Insert obligatory Princess Bride reference here.) Monsieur was vanishée, and Boxnoggin was désolée. (I had a whole disparue joke here, but it didn’t quite have the ring.)

Ol’ Box did a full circuit of the yard, nose down, while I pressed my hand over my pounding heart and discovered I did not need caffeine to wake up, terror works just fine. Finally, when he had verified that no further rodent snacks were lingering in the ferns, under the redbud tree, among the roses, in the vegetable garden, behind the shed, under the deck, in the shed, under the red wagon, or in any other place belonging to the yard, he consented to come inside and eat his (non-bunny) brekkie.

Miss B watched all this go down with mild interest, being occupied with peeing the whole time. In her younger days she would have added to the circus, but she had a full bladder and contented herself with a single burp-bark of supervision. “YOU’RE NOT GONNA CATCH IT, DUMBASS. MUM, WHERE’S MY KIBBLE?”

So, my Friday started with a dose of exhilarating fear. I hope yours began in a more tranquil fashion. Now that the rabbits have found my yard, of course, no vegetable is safe, and Boxnoggin is going to be searching for more carrot-chewing maniacs as a matter of course every time he’s let outside.

This…will not end well, I’m sure. But it’ll be hilarious.

Have a good weekend!