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Sunday, December 12, 2010

Animal Slave

Animals have enslaved me.

Over the past couple of years there have been some interesting programs on PBS and articles in Psychology today by Nigel Barber, Ph.D. about humans domesticating animals. Dr. Barber writes that dogs and humans domesticated each other, producing a symbiotic relationship that benefited both species.

Symbiotic. Right. Tell that to my cat and the birds that bully me in my yard.

I am quite the attraction in my neighborhood for bird opportunists. I have several projects that require a lot of digging, and as I am moving soil around, I uncover a lot of grubs. Big white juicy grubs.

At first I just squished them, but there were so many that I started packing a cottage cheese container to toss them into. My thinking was that I would drown them and then just add them to the compost.

However, there was a Robin that started hanging out. Pretty soon I was just tossing the grubs to her. She started following me around like a chicken and ended up building her nest in my front tree.

Last summer a Cardinal and a Blue Jay regularly patrolled my vegetables and ate up the cabbage worms that kept attacking my cole crops. In an attempt to save my cabbage, I installed a row cover. As I was clipping it into place the Blue Jay flew over and started scolding me for covering up the groceries. The language he used! Turns out I should of listened because I lost the crop despite my best efforts.

This weekend I began digging out an area for a flagstone patio. As soon as the first spade full of soil hit the wheelbarrow, a Mockingbird flew in to investigate. Yes, you guessed it, pretty soon I’m tossing grubs to him. When I stopped to take a break he flew onto the clothesline and started yelling at me to get back to work.

So much for mankind being the dominant species. It’s kind of humbling, really, to think that I am so easily domesticated by my feathered friends. I try to find some dignity in that at least I don’t spend hundreds of dollars on birdseed like other folks I know. There has to be limits to how far we humans should go in accommodating the beast of field and air.

Now if you’ll excuse me, I must sign off. The cat wants to be scratched.

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Grandpa, Why are their Christmas lights weird?

This was the question posed by my neighbor’s grandson. He couldn’t wait to tell us how he tried to explain that we were protecting the citrus trees from freezing, but his grandson just couldn’t process the information.

That’s okay. I’m used to being misunderstood. But you can bet that the same grandson will be presented with an orange next summer.

Frost protection is a tricky business. I’ve often joked with Ed that what I really need is a couple of smudge pots. There’s nothing like the aroma of burning oil on a frosty morning. It smells like victory.

Instead, I use plastic and lights to ward off the cold. I drape 6 mil clear plastic over bent PVC pipe hoops, and then fasten it with clips I made so it doesn’t blow off. To protect my trees I used the same idea of forming a frame over them then added floating row cover or plastic. The trees are still small enough that this contraption works. I’ll have to come up with a new strategy as they grow.

Finding lights has not been easy. We go to the thrift stores to try to find the old fashioned kind that emit heat. The trouble is that you can't find replacement bulbs. Eventually I think I’ll just have to hang a heat light.

I wonder what the grandson will say about that?