email: cavebear2118 AT verizon DOT com

Friday, July 29, 2011

Its Been A Hard Week

Well, I should summarize the week...

Sunday - Ayla suddenly started extruding pus from her vulva.  I spent the afternoon and night keeping her as clean as I could.

Monday - Brought Ayla to my regular vet first thing in the morning.  He did some tests to eliminate urinary infections, then did x-rays to search for a reproductive tract problem.  He scheduled surgery for Tuesday.

Tuesday - Ayla was opened for exploratory surgery first thing in the morning.  At noon, the vet called to say that he had found the spayed uterus remnant was infected, which led him to discover her left ovary was intact.  He removed both.  Considering that the breeder's vet had done both a first and a followup spay operation, he was quite surprised!  I was very angry towards the breeder's vet.

Ayla (and I) have gone through frequent and lengthy heat cycles for 3 years.  Most times lasting for 10 days separated by 2 weeks of calm.  Occasionally, there was a whole month between heat episodes.  The news that my vet had found the cause was a matter of extreme joy.  I was thrilled.  The $800 was well worth all the trouble.

Tuesday night I picked Ayla up to give her the antibiotic, and I discovered she was dripping with red stuff all over the incision.  I assumed it was blood and brought her to an emergency pet hospital.  I was there for 2 hours.  The ER vet put a pressure bandage on her, did some tests, and decided she should see my regular vet in the morning. 

Wednesday - My vet was upset and distressed that I had had to go through all the ER stuff.  He explained that scar tissue is difficult to seal and that sometimes there is seepage.  But he apologized for not having advised my of that, and I am OK with the apology.  It DID cost me $1,000 at the ER hospital to learn that Ayla COULD have just lain on a thick towel all night.  The ER vet COULD have told me that, but he is running a business and I DID request service.  It was still pretty shoddy, though.

Anyway, my vet kept her for observation and examination all day at no charge. 

Thursday - Brought Ayla back to my vet for further observation.  He found the incision healing, not seeping, and he removed the IV catheter.  No charge, more apology, and lots of discussion.  And he gave me his home phone number in case of night time problems.

I hate the cone she has to wear, so I went out and bought an inflatable collar (XS dog collar, if you want to find one for a small cat, S for a regular size cat).  Ayla doesn't mind the inflatable collar, it even seems to make a decent pillow!

Friday - Ayla is alert and walking around, eating, and drinking.  She seems fine now, healing well with no "sera" seepage.

I spent the morning giving her lots of attention and scritching the itchy incision area that she can't get at with the inflatable collar.  She enjoyed that a LOT!

In the afternoon, I unwound by watering the veggie and flower gardens.  I have a nice system.  Stab a spading fork with a "D" handle in the ground, fit a hose nozzle in the handle (most will fit one way or another), and turn the water on for 5 full minutes at each spot.  Move the spade and repeat.  All afternoon!  Sit in a chair in the shade and drink a beer while listening to classical music on a little boom box.  Very relaxing and theraputive. 

It was 100+ outside, but I was sitting in the shade and there was a slight breeze.  There was water spraying, birds around, etc.  I NEEDED that!

Speaking of the gardens, the reason I was watering was because we are so dry here in MD.  There have been rains, but brief and hard and not much for several weeks.  How dry has it been?  The hosta bed still has dry crunchy leaves from last Fall.  They won't decompose!  Too dry.

More bad news!  A sign at the entrance to my neighborhood advises that electricity will be turned off for 5 hours August 1st!  Oh joy...  The forecast for that day is over 100 again.   I see that Verizon is digging up the neighborhood for some reason, so that must be the cause.

More bad news!  Have you ever used a garden hose and forgotten to turn the water off?  And the hose burst?  And not gone out there for 2 days?  That happened to me Tuesday.  I don't know exactly when the hose burst.  If I am lucky, it burst just before I went out and noticed.  If I am unlucky, it happened shortly after I went inside and it spewed water for 2 days.  And, of course, the water was not even spewing near any of my plants...  I will find out on the next quarterly bill.

More bad news!  Because of Ayla's apparently finally successful spay Tuesday, I contacted a radio vet show (The Animal House).  I had been a guest in June of last year discussing unsuccessfully "Twice-Spayed Ayla, and they asked for followup.  So I was scheduled for a taping Wed afternoon.  Well, Wed morning I had been up all night and morning, so I had to call to cancel (because I needed to collapse in bed).  They didn't want to reschedule for the next week, so they are just going to read the email I sent them.  I sure wish I could have been on-air to talk to them.  That would have been thrilling!  I guess I missed my 15 minutes of fame...

It will be broadcast in August and I will give details for that later.

I think it is finally safe to have "too much to drink tonight"!  And I plan to.  I just haven't decided whether it will be my favorite cheap wine (Twisted vine Zinfandel) or my own Sling recipe (1/2 oz gin, 1/2 oz pomegranate liquer, a shot of real pomegranate juice, fill up the glass with ginger ale over ice, and drink through straw).

I HAVE had worse weeks, but not often, and this one ranks way up on the list.  My baby sister died last Summer, Mom died last Fall, Skeeter died in Dec 2008, LC died in Jan 2010, I failed out of college in 1975 (I returned and graduated in 1993), and I got fired from a job because I couldn't roll tires off a truck fast enough.  All considered, I think this week places 5th.  Maybe 6th because I think at least Ayla IS finally spayed and that's good.

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Door Visitors

I had a strange visitor today.  Someone selling garbage collection service.  She asked how many bags of garbage I had per mnth.  I said "one"  She looked at me oddly and repeated the questin, emphasizing "month".  I laughed and said "really, one per month".  I don't think she believed me...

SO I asked if they would pick up one bag per month for $5.  That's what it costs me at the landfill.   She said weekly pickup was $42/month.  I laughed.

Then she said they could do bulk pickup for $30 per ton.  I pointed to my hauling trailer at the street.  She said I was very weird and left.  "Yes, yes I am" (a la Phineas and Ferb).  And I love it...


Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Planning To Move

I would like to move.  For many reasons.  As I mentioned last time, it is getting hard to garden here, and that is a major hobby these days.  But the neighborhood is going downhill (crazy drunk neighbors and gang fights becoming more common). 

Parts of the yard have always been a problem.  I live at the bottom of a long sloping neighborhood, the front yard has standing water for days after heavy rains.  I'm across the street from a swamp (something no one pointed out when I bought the property) and the mosquitos are fierce.  When the Asian Tiger mosquitoes moved into the area, it got worse.  I get bitten just going out to get my mail!  Some of the very old huge trees near the house are looking weaker, and I don't want to be here when one finally falls on it (and it would cost a fortune to have them removed).  The house is 25 years old and will need serious maintenance in the next 10 years (roof, driveway, fence, deck).

I'm 61 years old and need to plan for my older years and I am getting tired of stairs.  I want a flat house!  Nothing big.  Basically, a ranch house with an attached garage and a workshop.  I have been finding some decent houseplans.

And, I have to admit, I did a lot of DIY stuff when I moved in here that I wasn't experienced at (and before I had decent equipment).  I want to just escape all that and start fresh (I'll limit my future DIY to furniture and birdfeeders)!  I chose this place because it HAD mature trees.  I'll choose the next place because it DOESN'T.  I'll hope to cover a new open roof with solar panels and put in a geothermal heat pump.  A system that just blows in 50 degree air from the cool underground all Summer sounds very good to me.

I would LOVE to start landscaping again from scratch.  I did everything piecemeal, and it never did quite come together.  Its not UGLY, but a fresh start would be nice.  I could stay and try to fix everything the way I want it, but some parts (like the shady neighbor trees) can't be fixed.

But the idea of moving is daunting!  I have SO MUCH stuff accumulated.  And the idea of moving all my heavy woodworking equipment seems difficult and expensive.  Cabinet saw, floor drill press, joiner, planer, radial arm saw.  Same with the yard equipment:  Riding mower, push mower, chipper, tiller, snowblower, large slow-smoker; stuff a yard person accumulates in 25 years...

Then there is all the inside stuff.  The major furniture is simple to move, and I don't have that much of it.  No sofas, big chairs, beds, etc.  A waterbed folds up into small parts.  Its all the small stuff...  I guess I could have several yard sales.  But I have so many small things difficult to pack up.

The last time I moved, I was renting.  I had to pack up a dozen boxes of books, kitchen plates and cookware, a few standard pieces of furniture, a few boxes of hand tools, and a simple bedroom.  I have 10 times as much stuff now, at least!  And I want to keep most of it.  It's scary, but I am making plans...

Monday, July 25, 2011

Aquarium, Finished

Having finally gotten the plant light stand finished, I went after the aquarium again.  I tried sealing the leak in the old one twice, and failed.  Evidently, a structural failure in the glass just resists sealing.

So I bought a replacement 30 gallon high tank and got it in place.  It took a lot of pitchers of water to pill it 1/2 way.  I added all the plastic plants in.  I set a 12" long bubble aerator in place.   Oddly, it works better than it used to.  Bubbles all along the length instead on just in 2 spots.  I have no idea why, but I'm glad of it.

It was also good to get the several stylers of fake plants arranged into groups.  It looks a lot more natural now.    "Natural" being a relative term in such an artificial environment.  But I do what I can.

It is not a really fancy aquarium.  I have 8 tiger barbs, a few old serpa tetra, a couple of some rasbora that got added to a bag once by a really incompetent Wal Mart employee, and one really old plecostomus plecostomus (hypostomus plecostomus?).  That guy (gal?) is 8" long and my favorite indidual fish.  I think it is about 10 years old.  Possibly 15.  I didn't record the date.

It is SO LARGE I can't get it in a net.  To get it out of the old tank, I had to use a sieve.  To get it out of the temp tank, I had to put a pitcher in the water and encourage it to "hide" in there while I covered the opening with a net.  Fish are very strong.  I grabbed the pleco once and, at 8 ounces, it was like handling an angry cat!  And it had spines!  Not easy to handle.

So it was a relief to discover I could offer it a lace to hide in a pitcher and then cover the pitcher up with a net and slide it into the new tank!!!

You know where the pleco likes to hide?  Along the back of a piece of petrified wood!  You know where that petrified wood came from?  My dad brought it home one day in (guessing) 1957!  I've had that ever since and it is precious to me.  Cuz Dad gave it to me and I know about fossilized trees.

Hurray for the Pleco!  And hurray for the new fish tank!  I'm so glad it is finally up and running again.

Sunday, July 24, 2011

The Aquarium

I mentioned weeks ago I had a problem with the fresh water "30 gallon high" aquarium.  It popped a fracture in the glass and leaked slowly.  I spend a long afternoon dragging stuff out of a deep closet to finally get at an old "20 gallon long aquarium" (same base size as 30 gal high).  I successfully moved all the fish to the 20 gallon long sitting on the floor (so I could siphon the water down).

I emptied the 30 gallon high of water, took out the plastic plants, and scooped out the gravel, and let it dry for days.   Then I bought a silicon aquarium sealer and applied it.  I let it dry for several days.  When I refilled it, it leaked again.

I drained it, let it dry, dried it mechanically  with paper towels and left the vaccuum cleaner exhaust blowing on it for hours, waited a few days, and re-sealed it.  It leaked again.  So I gave up and bought a new 30 gal high aquarium.  A 30 gallon high glass aquarium is not light.  I struggled to get it into the car from Petco (they had the vastly better price for the same aquarium).

I spent an hour removing all the plants from the old aquarium and scooping the gravel out.  Square food containers do a wonderful job of that!   It took some lifting to get the old leaking aquarium off the stand and onto a chair.  Then the new one in place.  I spent several minutes making sure the new aquarium was positioned properly on the stand.  That was after removing the background sheet from the old one and attaching it to the new tank.  It's just a colored sheet, but it gives a sense of depth to the tank.

So I filled up the new tank slowly, watching for any leaks at each rise in water level.  I didn't see any.  Sand first with square food container.  Then water, 2 qts at a time.  Man that is tedious.  A 2 qt pitcher takes 30 fills to get 1/2 way up!

But at least I could put the plastic plants back in at that point.  At least it looked better this time than the last.  I grouped the several styles better.  But having arranged the plants in the gravel, I couldn't just randomly pour new water in from a pitcher. Water-force too strong that way.  So I filled up a 5 gallon bucket on the top  and siphoned the water in slowly.   I filled the upper bucket continuously until it neared the top. 

I had an 12" long air bubbler working on the bottom to recirculate the water while the chlorine got evaporated out.  I remembered I had some powder that claimed to eliminate chlorine, chloromate/chloromine, and ammonia immediately, so I added some of that.  But I will still wait til tomorrow to add the fish back.  The old an new aquaria are both at room temperature right now so the fish won't suffer any temperature shock.  But room temp is too low for them in the long term.  As soon as the fish are transferred back to the new aquarium, I will raise the temp 1 degree per day to get the tank temp up to 76 where I think they do best.  I know, some people say 78 degrees, but they live longer at slightly cooler temps.

It will be great to have the fishtank working again.

But I have to tell you something that made me laugh about getting the new tank home.

I found the fine print of the guarantee on a small sticker inside the tank, facing away from view...

1.  They specified that the 5 year warranty only applied to their tanks on their own brand of stands.    What are the odds of that?  My aquarium stand is 50 years old and as solid as rock.  No new company builds them that solid anymore.  But it invalidates the warranty.

2.  They also demand that "the aquarium has not been lifted by the frame"...  Um, do you know any other way to transport one from store to stand other than handling the frame?  At some point, don't you HAVE to lift an aquarium onto a stand?  But there goes the warranty.  Who writes these things?

Idiots...   LOL!

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Garden Harvest Starts

I finally got some garden harvest a few days ago,  Not much.  1 zucchini an 1 small tomato.  But they were good steamed together with some red onion!
I HAVE started getting italian flat pole beans and a few small cucumbers, but I forgot to take pictures (I had dinner on my mind).  My first main season heirloom tomatoes are getting large enough to start developing color soon.  The corn is sad again.  I JUST don't get enough sunlight for them.  They are tasseling at 3' high with 4" ears.  The celery is actually growing.  I've never successfully grown celery before. 

The flowerbed is doing OK.  I've kept the weeds clear better than usual, and the annuals are finally flowering.  They are in one large patch where I had some runner grass invade.  I kept digging it out and got rid of most, but I decided to just plant annual flowers there this year and dig it all up in Fall to get and the last of the runners.  I basically just used up all my annual seed packets, so there are marigolds, carnations, salvia, forget-me-not and wave petunias in small groups.  It will do for one year.

I need more sunlight.  Over the 25 years here, the neighbors' trees have grown huge and I get 6 hours sun at best.  I'm amazed I can still grow decent tomatoes (and they are getting leggier each year).

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Kitty Litter and Trash Bags

I think I set a new personal record.  18 buckets of kitty litter, 5 bags of trash (and they didn't smell a bit),  and various non-recyclable stuff.  And a 30 gallon aquarium that refused to be re-sealed.  Old tape drives, a single CD player that was broken,   Old fluorescent bulbs...  Took 6 months. About 300 pounds,  $5  flat rate because it all fit in the SUV.

See those small trash bags?  Each is a whole month here.  I recycle or compost EVERYTHING possible.  Some stuff ISN'T possible.  I wish I could have NO trash bags.  But I do my best.

But it was a good day at the landfill.  I  resent leaving the litter buckets, but I ran out of space to store them and I can't find a use.   I have used all I can as growing containers.

Any suggestions?

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Weird Neighbors

I had the strangest experience with some neighbors last night!  Basically, my side of the street are homeowners, the other side are renters.  The house across the street was rented by some nice quiet guy for 5 years.  Last year, two couples rented it.  They have been nutso from day one.

Right off the bat, there was a screamng late night fight between a guy and gal involving the guy trying to drive away and the gal standing in front of the car pounding on the hood.  Good start.  They generally sit outside on the side steps smoking, so I guess they are forbidden from smoking in the house.  They also seem to love having screaming yelling arguements.

Did I mention they also love to work on cars with outstandingly loud bass stereos?  At night and early morning?  Yes.  Yes they do.

They went at it again last night.  Screaming hateful arguements.  It penetrates my double glass windows and is louder than my radio plays.  I lost it.

I went out and yelled at them to keep the noise down or I would call the police.  I knew that was an empty threat.  The police have better things to do than worry about domestic noise complaints.  But one of the guys threatened to come over an beat me.  THAT was interesting!!!  But I was more worried about the threat to the woman there, so I went inside and got my cordless phone, flashlight, and camera and came back out to sit quietly on the front steps putting my flashlight on them.  They especially didn't like THAT, but quite frankly, I didn't care!

There ARE times I am willing to sit in quiet evidence.  I expected violence.  I told them they were better than most "reality TV shows and I had 911 on speed-dial".  THAT got some attention.

The guy got mad and said he could destroy a car.  He got in his and peeled into the street, then into the driveway.  I thought he was going to ram the car there, but he changed his mind and peeled off down the street out of the area.

The woman went and knocked on the neighbor's door.  Several times over many minutes.  With no reply.  I know that that neighbor and they seem close in some way.  But with no reply, I went to the street and again asked her if she needed any help.  I was prepared to call the police, but she said NO!

Here is where it gets strange....

I ended up talking to her for an hour.  She is the mother of the guy she had the screaming arguement with.  And the (she says) ex-wife of the neighbor who refused to answer the door she was pounding on.  I regretted getting involved immediately, but she had ahold of my wrist and wasn't letting go.

And she was drunk as hell!  I suspect they all were.  I drink a bit myself (I do like wine with dinner), but good lord, nothing like THAT!  On my worst day, I was better off then them on their best day.  You know what I mean?  As far as I can tell, they are all permanently drunk.  Or high (there were "druggie" accusations flying).  It seems that it takes all 4 (5?) of them to manage to work enough to pay the rent on a 1 bedroom ranch house that I think goes for $500 a month..

But as I said, I talked to her for an hour (wrist freed).  Such a sad story poured out.  Bad marriage, cheating, divorce, hateful (and hated?) children.  She had a cat she loved SO much, but lost it (I can't IMAGINE why it left, ahem). Ex living next door...

I pointed to the house next to mine ) on the "owner" side of the street) and mentioned that the guy there had an affair with HIS neighbor and that when it was  revealed, she killed herself and he has become an absentee owner.  She didn't even blink.

I think I need to move.

I can hardly conceive such a life.   And I didn't USED to live in the wrong part of town, but I've been here 25 years and things have been changing. There was the first gang war here 2 months ago 2 houses away.   A dozen kids with baseball bats going at each other and several police cars.  Adults screaming at the police who were trying to stop the fights.  Several cars (2 abreast sometimes) screaming down our dead end street to try to escape the police.  I sure never saw THAT before!  I guess I didn't notice what was going on.  My current home is no longer my sanctuary.


Groundhogs, and a Rant

I have a long-standing relationship with groundhogs.  Most people have never seen one.  I've seen too many.

I may have mentioned some of this before, but it started when my Dad was teaching my younger brother and I how to hunt.  We had been to "marksman classes" at a local shooting range and shown that we could handle guns safely and hit a target with some skill.  Visiting my paternal grandparents in NH when I was 13 (14?) Dad brought us to a field where groundhogs lived.  We sat around for a few hours waiting to see one to shoot at.

This was before I was old enough to stop killing animals for sport.  We saw none.  But just before we left, Dad whistled in a way he had learned to attract attention from groundhogs.  And one stood up a long way away.  I aimed carefully and shot my .22 rifle.  It dropped.  Dad said I missed it,  But I insisted we go find out.  I WAS a good shot.  But Dad never thought I could do anything well, s he laughed and said I missed it.

To his complete surprise, I nailed the groundhog right between the eyes.  To my comfort these days, it probably never knew what happened.  But I remember it mostly because Dad never even said "good shot".  I expect he assumed it was luck.  And besides, he thought I would miss it, so he SHOULDN'T be wrong.  Had to be luck, then.  No children were ever "competent" in Dad's eyes.  He always made it quite clear.

A sad metaphor for our relationship the rest of our lives.  His message to me was always "you are not as good at anything as I am".  I could defend his attitude as challenging me to be as good at everything as I could possibly be.  But I won't.  He was just a mean son of a bitch!

Golf was another problem.  He made me play it.  At 5'6", I am not a natural golfer.  I lettered in golf twice and soccer once in high school through sheer force of will (barely).  Soccer was more natural for me, but I got no support for that.  I was good enough at golf.  But I didn't have the same swing as Dad and he was always on me about it.  He had a classic swing, and I had a baseball bat-grip swing.  It worked for me.  In high school, I broke 90 often.  Not impressive, but good enough for the last slot on the team.  Dad kept messing with my swing.  When I went to college, I got down to 85.

Now, I have to say, Dad was a really good golfer.  When I was young and only caddying, I admired the way his tee drives started out low and rose to land straight down the fairway.  He had a handicap of "0" at one point.  He what what he was doing!  But I couldn't do that with my proper swing on the best day.  So I developed my own.

It worked for me.  A good swing is whatever works for you.  I once got an "eagle"  on the hardest hole on the army base course.  And Dad started messing with my swing again.  I should have ignored him, but, hey, he was my DAD!

I started driving up to NH to participate in the Member/Guest tourneys in the early 1980s.  It had a quota system.  Something about every score below your handicap per hole, you gained a point.  We lost every year.  Dad had me using nothing but 5 irons on every shot through some idea he had.  It was horrible!  His game was about consistency; mine was "go for broke".

It ended when I was facing a pond out in the fairway and pulled out my 4 iron.  Dad said to use the driver because I couldn't possibly reach the edge of the pond.  I stayed with the 4 iron.  And landed in the pond on the fly.  He gaped.  The pond was 250 yards away.  When I hit the ball right, it is awesome, and I knew that.

From that moment on, I ignored everything he told me.  I was pissed!  And guess what?  We won.  He played his exact usual good game precisely meeting his quota, but I obliterated my quota by like 10 strokes.

That was the last time I played golf with him and the last time I played golf period!  I was so tired of all the demanding pressurring crap that I had no interest in the game afterwards.  I proved my point.  I could play the game NOT his way.

End of angry rant.

Sunday, July 10, 2011

Time is Relative

What do you do when you don't fit a 24 hour clock?  I was an early bird as a child, a reluctant waker as a college student.  I managed to keep a schedule that got me up at 5 a.m., home at 6 p.m. and to bed by 9 p.m. for 35 years in a successful career.  But now that I am retired and have no requirements or obligations, I can't keep a 24 hour waking/sleeping schedule.  I mentioned recently that I was on a 25 hour clock.  I understated it.  Its worse than that.

Its more like a 28 hour clock.  I go to bed and can't sleep for hours, then finally sleep for  8 hours on and off.  I end up in bed for 12 hours.  And then I don't feel tired for at least 16 hours.  That's just not normal!

I have, at times, engaged in computer games or discussion boards way too late at night.  I used to think it was because I loved the games or discussion.  But I am realizing that I just wasn't tired.  And who can go to bed when they aren't tired?  What's the point of going to bed when you aren't tired?  You can't sleep.  You just lay there aware and awake.

Its nice to have the cats there to scratch.  They aren't keeping me awake, but they are nice to have something to give attention to while I lay in bed frustrated that I can't sleep. 

So I finally get tired of layin in bed and get up at 4 p.m. one day and 8 p.m. the next and dress to get the mail and the newspaper.  I check the email.  I check the cat blogs.  I would say "depression", but I don't feel depressed.  I enjoy doing things in the yard/garden and playing with the cats.  I enjoy preparing meals.  I enjoy listening to political and news TV.  I feel fine physically.  I'm just OFF the clock and not sleeping well!

There is a reason I am writing this at 4:30 a.m.  I'm fully awake and not tired.  I can't blame the cats.  Iza sleeps peacefully in the corner of the bed.  Ayla sleeps quietly on the top of the shoe shelf or on a pillow on a chair.  Marley doesn't even sleep in the room.  He likes the computer chair or a platform on the kitty condo.  My personal clock is just all wrong....

It is really messing things up.  I am NOT going to try and then get stuck on sleeping pills.  That is not a road I want to travel.  Well, thanks for just letting me complain...  My Mom always said that "getting old isn't for sissies" and maybe all this is normal.  But all the old people in my life just got up EARLY each day.  I don't know what is going on. 

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

An Idea

Hey, I'm over 60, living alone..  And it occurred to me that it would be a great idea to have some telephone or USB device that ya could just plug in and punch a button every day to say "I'm Still Alive" to some company who would visit if you didn't punch the button for 2 days.. 

I can't find one.  Does anyone know of one?

Well, Sadly, NOT The Finale!

It seems the groundhog wars are not over.  I looked out in the yard today to see TWO mid-size groundhogs at my flowers.  I'M INFESTED by them!  Granted, my backyard is semi-wild and rather wildlife-friendly and organic, but I didn't expect an invasion of groundhogs as a result.  And being surrounded by nice suburban expanses of lawns on 3 sides and a swamp on the other, I would have guessed any problem but groundhogs.  Where are they coming from???

But it does mean war.  And I won't feel bad when I kill them in the future.  One small family of them errantly finding a place in my yard is "touching", but waves of them is TOO MUCH!  Even with a dead groundhog on their doorstep, they won't leave!  How stupid are they?

I will be calling a trapper tomorrow to see what they offer, but in truth, I am a person not inclined to ask another to do what I won't do myself.  My only question is legality.  I'll have to call the county animal control office to see what I am allowed to do.  And decide which rules I will ignore.  I'll be damned if I will pay someone $200 to do what I can do for free..

If I have to kill more of them, I won't be as sorry as I was before.  I'M PISSED!!!  This isn't like squirrels in the attic, the groundhogs are eating my food!  It is time to fill the pond and mete out watery doom.

That doesn't mean I will enjoy it.  I won't.  I wish they would just find a better home in an empty field somewhere.  But I will be rid of them, one way or another!

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Groundhog Wars, Finale

A tale of regret and sadness...  And don't read this if you are squeamish.  Groundhogs were killed.

Some of you may know that I have been fighting with a groundhog this year.  It burrowed in under my shed last Fall.  I saw it several times running back to the shed when I went out to the garden.  I got pictures of it with my GameSpy camera a few ties. 

I used to hunt.  I was good enough at it to get a deer several years in a row with bow&arrow.  I stopped when I had to field-dress a lactating doe I killed.  Milk ran out of her.  My heart wasn't in it after that.  I have generally tried to live and let live.  When deer ate all the leaves from the pole beans one year and some neighbors sicced a dog after my cat a week later, I built a 6' fence around the entire back yard.  Prevention is better than cure.

If I see an occasional possum or raccoon on the deck or in the yard, I live with it.  Just yesterday, some raccoon or snake ate all the baby robins in a nest I was watching daily.  And I don't mind what the cats catch and kill the occasional bird or mouse.  Nature is nature, and I can't stop it.  That doesn't mean I have to participate in it.  BTW, I eat meat, so I am aware of my part in killing animals for food.  They are raised to be food, and I support systems that kill them as gently as possible.

But I raise some of my own vegetable food, and I am protective about it.  Groundhogs are a problem here.  In the past, I have trapped them and released them in unoccupied fields.  I read that was illegal. So I had to resort to other means. 

I had a pond and have a Have-A-Hart trap I have used before.  A dip into the pond, a minute of confusion, a few bubbles, and they are dead.  Short of a .22 to the head (which I cannot do in a suburban neighborhood nor safely from a few inches away because of blood-spray), it is the least-sufferring way I can thing of.  They don't seem frightened, just confused,   Then "blurp" and dead.

But the pond is dry from a leak I cannot find, and with all the heavy rocks on the liner, I just haven't replaced it.  I regret that very much today...   I very much wish I had had a pond to drop her into.  It would have been very much easier on us both.

It started when I heard a noise behind the shed while I was weeding the garden.  I ran over to find 3 groundhog pups in a pile.  I had a garden fork in hand, and I used it to kill them.  In spite of her fear, Mrs Groundhog came out of her den to yell at me.  I used the garden fork to set one dead pup in the burrow hole and one in the side of the shed.

I did not enjoy it.  It was far more than slapping a mosquito or stepping on a cockroach.  It was almost like killing a fawn.  They cried.  And I cried.  I did not do physically hard work, but I was sweating terribly afterwards.  It was very upsetting.

I caught Mrs Groundhog in the Have-A-Hart trap after, and tried to release her outside the fence.  I expected her to run straight away from the house, but she ran straight around the fence back towards her den.

I hoped she would leave for a safer den after that, but she didn't.  I caught her eating my lettuce the other afternoon.  So I set the trap back up, unbaited, right in her most-observed exit point.  She was in it today.

I could have spread plastic sheeting and filled up the dry pond temorarily.  I wish I had.  But wasting that much water didn't seem good either.  People are dying from lack of water in places.  I finally decided to "shoot" her with arrows.  A small animal ought to die quickly from that. 

I held an arrow just above her and slammed down a piece of 2x4 on it as a wide hammer.  It didn't even penetrate her body.  All it did was break the nock off the back.  It took several other tries to actually stab through her.  I felt sick.  But badly wounded, she could not be released to die of infection after days.

There are some things you start that you can't stop.  When you injure an animal badly enough, you have to follow through and end it.  My Father was good enough to teach me that.  When you injure a deer fatally with an arrow, you are obligated to spend all the time needed to follow the blood trail and finish it off to stop the pain. 

I was good at that.  One drop of blood in ten feet of woodland leaves, I could find them.  Because it was only fair.  You injure it, you kill it as quickly as possible for their sake.  You kill it, you claim it and end your hunting season. Even if it is found days later and the meat is wasted.  Because it is the right thing to do IF you are going to hunt animals.

I am very sorry that Mrs Groundhog lived an hour after being stabbed with arrows.  If I could have thought of some less inhumane way of eliminating her from my garden, I would have.  I wish I had refilled the pond temporarily.  And it occurs to me now that my bathtub is bigger and deeper than the trap.  I could have drowned her quickly in there.

But I don't want to kill any more groundhogs.  Its the shed that attracts them.  So I have decided to spray herbicides all around the edges, dig up the soil after a few weeks, and install mesh wire all around it.

I don't want to have to hurt another poor wild animal for just trying to live as best it can.  Life is hard enough.  Tangling with humans shouldn't be part of that.  I don't want to have to kill another Mrs Groundhog again. 

I an feeling rather horrible tonight.  I don't want to feel that way again ever...