musings, thoughts, and writings of Barbara W. Klaser

March 27, 2009

Crane flies and a flying cat

We have crane flies like crazy here right now. I’ve always called them mosquito hawks, but apparently they don’t eat mosquitoes (and we’ve already had a few of those).

Tara’s pretty good at catching bugs. She loves to chase the crane flies that get into the house. I’m not sure which is worse, though, pesky crane flies, or a flying cat. She’ll leap, climb, or fly wherever in the house she needs to go in order to catch one. She got so busy hunting them a few nights ago that she didn’t even eat the chicken I gave her. They must be very tasty bugs.

Fortunately I stowed most of our breakables away when she was smaller, because now she’s a force to be reckoned with when she goes flying through the house after a bug. It’s almost like having a monkey on the premises. An eight-pound fur ball flying at you is no laughing matter. She proved that a few days ago when she knocked over my office chair. I wasn’t in it, I just came running when I heard the crash from the other room, and found the chair lying on its back on the floor with one of its adjustment knobs broken off. I think it had something to do with a running, flying leap into it from front to back. A few days later she tried to knock me over, seated in the chair, with an unbelievably football-like tackle for one so small. No claws were used, it was all in fun, of course, but what a cat. I think her Siamese is showing.

Mice beware. Do not enter here.

— Barbara @ rudimentary 11:57 am PST, 03/27/09

October 16, 2008

Dry weather musings

It’s dry here, desert dry, with humidity in the teens. When it’s hot and dry like this, black widow spiders come out to catch droplets of water from the hose, as the sprinkles shift strands of their webs in the rock wall in the lower back yard.

The other night, a few miles away, people were evacuated because of a brush fire threatening homes, an untimely reminder of last October and our four-day evacuation. I slept lightly, when I slept at all that night, worried we’d get a reverse 911 call, should the Santa Ana winds shift. Now that fire is well contained, and the sky is blue. Yesterday some high, wispy clouds stretched thin feathers across it, so high up we didn’t feel any moisture from them. At least they were pretty to look at.

The cat keeps getting charged up with static electricity when she plays. Then she touches me, gets a shock, and thinks I’m being unreasonable. But she’s a forgiving soul. As soon as the air conditioner chills her, she decides some lap time might be in order. Tara’s coat, which has fluffed out again after a few months in which we thought she’d grow up to be a shorter haired cat, now suffers from static cling, crackling close to her body as I stroke it. Her glorious, bushy tail picks up everything. It’s better than a feather duster.

Last night she cozied up to Barack Obama during the debate. I had the little desktop TV on, and she sat right in front of him, blocking my view, gently patting his face now and then. She completely ignored John McCain. I think Tara has cast her vote.

I’m still inner focused and in reading mode, sometimes online, sometimes in books. As soon as I post this, I’m off to read some more. Someone let me know when autumn starts for real around here. In my experience that’s around Halloween, so maybe my “autumn’s here” notice will be a knock on the door by little goblins.

I would be envious of people like Marion who are expecting snow soon, if I didn’t realize how many months of it she’s in for, away up there in Canada. Extreme weather for months and months — or just weather that’s too extreme, period — isn’t fun, at either end of the spectrum. I wish us all longer, gentler autumns and longer, gentler springs.

Kitten pictures follow. (Click on thumbnails to view larger images.)

The first two are from 3 months ago, when Tara was 3-1/2 months old and Indi was still with us — um, training her? Apparently they didn’t find anything good in the trash that time. In the second one, that was my clothing Miss Bigfoot was digging her claws into with the look on her face that said, “Gotcha!” She’s usually gentle with her claws when playing now, though she has yet to completely understand about not biting. Maybe when she’s finished teething in another month and a half. She’s gradually getting gentler altogether when we play, because she knows if she gets too rough, playtime ends, and she would prefer that it never, ever end.

Anything good in there?

The next two are from yesterday, at 6-1/2 months. I caught Tara in a quiet moment lounging on an office chair that she’s not really supposed to be on, but I’m just happy if she doesn’t claw it. The first shows a glimpse of her fluffy tail.

Bushy tail What again with the camera?

She’s starting to settle down, except for her desire to climb every mountain, which involves knocking things off high shelves. I have most of my breakables put away safely now, so if she doesn’t kill herself dragging a heavy, blunt object onto her own head, we’re all safe.

— Barbara @ rudimentary 3:22 pm PST, 10/16/08

July 11, 2008

I promised pictures

Then my computer crashed for a couple of days. Here they finally are:

Tara at nearly 15 weeks and 3.5 lbs, in a rare moment when she’s sitting still —
Tara Still

Tara as a blur (her normal state) —
Tara blur

The first tomato? We’ll see.
1st Tomato

In case anyone is thinking that my fresh interest in gardening means I have a lush, fully planted yard, I have to confess here that these photos are a cheat. They don’t show the ground still barren of any planting. We live on a granite hill, partly decomposed and partly still-composed boulders. We also live in a semi-arid, overly populated part of the country, so water isn’t cheap. I’m also lazy. I’ve planted around what my husband already planted or nursed back to health, and that might make me appear to be a more productive gardener than I am. But I love my few plants, they’re producing, and I have big plans for next year, so we’ll see.

Sunflower front

Sunflower back

As you might have guessed, part of my garden is for the birds, though I like sunflower seeds too, so even the sunflowers aren’t entirely for the birds.

I’ve read somewhere that there’s a German paper company that makes fine stationery from sunflower stalk fibers, and that gets an artsy-craftsy person like me thinking. . . .

Sunflower 01

Sunflower 02

Of the seven or so sunflowers growing in our yard right now, most face east, most of the time. There’s one near the front door that faces the door, to its north, which means I see its shining face as soon as I walk outside. It’s had the same ladybug on its bloom (below) for three or four days now. I hope she’s taken up residence and plans to take care of it and keep it pest free until it’s finished blooming.

Sunflower ladybug

Then there’s this one (below), which faces the southeast (back) corner of the yard. Is it an errant sunflower that thinks it has to stand in the corner — my generation’s equivalent of a time-out? Or does it like the chattering of the caged parakeet the neighbors down there sometimes leave out on their patio during the day? Maybe it’s made friends with the bougainvillea. I don’t know.

Sunflower 03

I almost forgot one of my favorites, a picture of the quintessential Tara — at least when she’s mellow and not stalking whatever prey or toy or window screen is available to do her destructo-cat number on. This is from two weeks ago when she still had a little kitten fluff —

Tara sleeping

— Barbara @ rudimentary 9:13 pm PST, 07/11/08

July 8, 2008

Catching up

Our summer weather has set in, likely until mid to late October, so I have to wake up early to get all my outdoor work done. I’m amazed how fast things can grow in the warm weather and get away from me — mostly things I don’t want to grow, like weeds.

My usual care to wear gloves when working in the yard had lapsed recently, but working outside earlier than usual this morning meant that I happened across two black widow spiders. One, on the lower rock wall, was attempting to kill a big iridescent green June Beetle, or what we call a June Beetle here, aka Fig Eater Beetle. The beetle was 10 to 15 times the spider’s size. Their struggle mesmerized me for a moment as I wondered who would win, the beetle snapping spider silk as quickly as it wrapped around it. It was the noise he made that drew my attention in the first place. I would’ve intervened, if I’d had something handy to kill the spider with, but the next time I walked past, the spider — hiding from me, no doubt — was nowhere to be seen and the beetle was bumbling away. I’ll be more careful to wear gloves and not work in flip-flops anymore, unless I’m only watering. Black widows usually hide from people, but I don’t want to surprise one.

My little friend Tara is growing fast. A kitten in the house means lots of interruptions to play, or to stop misbehavior in its tracks, or just to cuddle. I’ll try to post an updated photo later, but it might be a blur unless I catch her when she slows down to nap, bask in a sunny window, or watch TV. She’s now more than three times the size she was when I took these pictures, and darker since her kitten fluff has been replaced by a true dark tabby coat. She’s a Siamese mix, but you wouldn’t know that to look at her.

Tara watched Mikhail Baryshnikov dance, in an older video on the arts channel last night, and I think she decided he’s the most cat-like human she’s seen. I hope she doesn’t expect us to move like that! But maybe it’s good that she knows some humans are capable of it, just to help us keep the upper hand. Sometimes we call her Rocket Cat, and one day recently, as the dog and I watched in glazed over amazement while she raced around and up and down a room, I commented to him, “You know, cats can almost fly.” Indi seemed to agree.

I’m not really sure what all else keeps me busy, but there’s a lot of it, whatever it is. I don’t work in the garden enough to excuse not blogging, but I do spend some time finding things to do with the excess produce.

We’ve had loads of squash from just four plants, so far, some of it now in the freezer and some given away. We may need a bigger freezer if I keep gardening. One way that we like zucchini is simply sautéed in a little olive oil with basil, oregano, salt, and pepper. We’ve had some cucumbers, which I personally think would make a good breakfast food, because just one bite seems to wake me up with its fresh, clean crispness. The tomatoes got a late start (from seed), so we haven’t had any to eat yet, but they’re blooming and setting fruit, growing like mad in the heat. There’s a San Marzano Roma about the size of the end of my thumb that I predict will be the first to the table, unless that little cluster of marble sized cherry tomatoes beats it to perfect redness. With the salmonella scare still pretty much a mystery I’m looking forward, even more than I expected when I planted them, to fresh homegrown tomatoes.

Yesterday we discovered how well extra garden produce can pay off, when we gave a large zucchini to a neighbor boy to take home, and later his mom sent over four of the most perfect little quesadillas I’ve ever tasted. Oh. My. God. These were not the quesadillas you find in Mexican restaurants, or the floppy things we usually concoct with flour tortillas and cheddar cheese, in a skillet. Every part of hers was homemade, including flaky six-inch corn flour shells folded in half and crisped. They were filled with chicken, some kind of white cheese, possibly one of the Mexican cheeses described here, and fresh cabbage, and they came with a magical homemade chili sauce to pour over them. I am positive we got the better end of that exchange. You can’t get food like that in any restaurant, and I’m in heaven just remembering them. It’s odd how a really good hot sauce can actually cool you. As my mouth heated up, my body seemed to cool right off. Must’ve been all my pores and sinuses opening. It was positively delicious. Mmmmh!

— Barbara @ rudimentary 12:49 pm PST, 07/08/08

June 23, 2007

Beware the flutter of orange wings

Guess what we found in our yard today? Warning, the answer may disturb you. In fact, if you don’t like insects, you might want to scroll back down to the jacaranda post. Yeah, another bug. We’ve decided maybe our yard is some kind of strange crossroads for wildlife, because all these critters keep showing up that we’ve never seen before, many of them bugs.

Yesterday afternoon, while we sat on the front porch admiring our newest young trees and basking in the flush of their recent growth, we saw a curious flutter of orange wings lit by the glow of the sinking sun. We didn’t recognize the creature, but it looked too small for a hummingbird and too big for an insect. A dragonfly perhaps? But we’d never seen an orange one. Before we could get a closer look, it was gone, so ephemeral it could’ve been a little orange fairy come to celebrate our new mini-grove of trees with us. (more…)

— Barbara @ rudimentary 9:01 pm PST, 06/23/07

July 13, 2006


This is inspired by Eric’s post, Jeepers Creepers. If bug stories bug you, proceed with caution.

Yesterday we had ants, the tiny black ones, in the kitchen. Not scary, just a nuisance that happens every summer. Usually they go for the honey jar on the counter, but not this time. I think they were looking for water, or they knew this heat wave was coming and were seeking a cooler place. We don’t like to use poisons, but when bugs start to take over the house, we’re forced to take action, to draw the line somewhere.

We do try to coexist. We find moths of all descriptions on the outside wall near our porch light. Some are quite beautiful. We leave the hordes of fuzzy caterpillars alone, picturing them as future butterflies, and gently scoop them up if they venture too near the front door. Daddy-long-legs don’t cause us much concern. We get lots of spiders here, outside and sometimes inside where we don’t want them, and now and then an exotic not-so-creepy-crawly wanders through, like the walking stick we found on the screen door—twice. That was kind of cool. Bats eat insects, and sometimes if we sit on the porch at night we’ll glimpse them, fast and silent, swooping in for small flying bugs attracted by the porch light.

Night before last, after a hot day, we waited until after dark to put the trashes out and retrieve the mail. (more…)

— Barbara @ rudimentary 2:06 pm PST, 07/13/06

July 11, 2006

Order and chaos

The cat’s litter box is clean. That mundane detail isn’t your favorite sentence I’ve ever written, I’m sure. Mine either. But my day often seems to revolve around whether that task has been accomplished, and what comes after it. I go through a list of chores, on the days I think to make one, eventually reaching the line that has to do with writing, after checking off a lot of other stuff. Today writing comes after important things like the cat’s box, which is of utmost importance to her, though slightly less to us except through our affection for her, since we don’t use it and it’s out in the garage, easy for us to forget. Vacuuming comes next, mostly pet hair this time of year. That task must be accomplished while the day is still cool enough to have windows open, or not at all. A late-in-the-day shower will be in order, after all the creepy stuff on the list is done. (Bear with me, I do have a point here, this isn’t merely a run-through of my chores.) (more…)

— Barbara @ rudimentary 10:57 am PST, 07/11/06

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