Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Pet Birds and Other Things

If anyone posted a REAL LIVE comment to this blog and didn't see it show up until now, it's because I've been spammed to death - so please forgive me!! 

As some of you know one of my pet birds met with an unfortunate end last week.  I slipped up just ONE time and my killer cat got the bird. I had Mrs. Greenberg, a peach faced lovebird, for over 7 years, so I had a good track record.

I sobbed and cried over the sweet little thing.   It was the most affectionate love bird I've ever had.  Never bit.  Loved to be petted and get it's feathers rubbed.  

But now that the dust has cleared, I am - I'm ashamed to say it - relieved.  I have too many pets, most of which were acquired from my daughter or, in the case of the cockatoo I have, Beasley, a rescue bird.

As much as I loved the little peach faced boy bird, he had some peculiar habits that grossed me out.  He thought he was about to find the love of his life every second, so he took to heaving up half digested food on favorite objects, making a sicky sweet smelling mess that hardened  into cement.  He did this on stuffed animals, he did this on the top of my new curtains, he did this on various toys in Beasley's cage.

I got the lovebird as a sort of companion to Beasley.  Cockatoos are very high maintenance parrots. They need constant love and attention, and, if you work full time, like I do, it's hard to satisfy that type of bird. He was a rescue from a local tourist attraction because he was a feather plucker and was no longer attractive for show purposes.  Poor baby - that immediately put me in his corner.  That and my daughter, then about 12 years old, begging me to bring him home.  Sucker that I am, I did.  I had always secretly wanted a parrot but don't think they should be pets, so I would never buy one, even if I could afford it.  

I bought him a giant cage.  At that time, I had a middle aged 13" beagle named Shady. Period.  No cats.  So Beasley was allowed to walk around the house, threatening to bite people's feet (my daughter ran up onto a chair more than once to save herself).  He rode on my shoulder, and slept in my bedroom in his giant cage that I bought and placed by a window looking out at a golf course.

Life changed when I got remarried and my daughter went off to college.  She tried to keep a cat in her dorm, got caught - I took the cat, incidentally, this is the killer cat that did in my lovebird last week - named Neko ("cat" in Japanese - I did not name him).

When my daughter moved to an apartment and took Neko back, my husband and Imissed him and wanted a cat, so we both went to the shelter and brought home Buster.  For some reason I can't remember, Neko became ours again. So now we have a very old 13" beagle, 2 cats and a big cockatoo.

Beasley decided he did NOT like my husband - his competition - and so he was relegated to my computer room, no longer sharing my bedroom.  He had slipped to second place in my attentions when home and he knew it, although I spend a LOT of time in my computer room.

A few years went by, Shady passed away, daughter got another kitten and over time decided to move to Colorado from Jacksonville, FL - as one does.  This kitten was the all time cutest, most adorable, most cuddly Maine Coon cat I'd ever seen.  I wanted him, and when Ashley moved, she let me keep him.  So now we are up to 3 cats and 1 cockatoo - Neko, Buster, Squeebles (best name EVER) and Beasley, the bird.

After hurricane Wilma in 2005, friends of ours brought over a peach faced lovebird that had been lost in the storm.  When they opened their front porch door after the storm passed, a small bird just walked in.  Luckily, they were looking down.  They had several cats and dogs and did NOT want to keep the poor little orphaned bird. We put up announcements and signs around the neighborhood, but no one came forward to claim him, so I now had acquired a peach faced lovebird.  Not knowing whether it was male or female, I named it "Mrs. Greenbird" or "Mrs. Greenberg", whichever came to mind.  Once I realized this bird would never lay an egg (as previous lovebirds I had in the past-and THAT is a whole 'nother story) as he was not a she, it became Mr. Greenbird/Greenberg.

Able to get in and out of the bars of Beasley's big cage, Mr. Greenbird could come and go and hang out with Beasley.  They got along famously and the big bird never tried to hurt the little bird, although he chased him around the cage now and then.  Beasley would wait patiently while Mr. Greenbird was belly deep in his food bowl eating Beasley's food or taking a bath in Beasley's water dish.

I only let Mr. Greenbird out during the day, but once he started chewing my books and my bookcases, as well as heebing (my term for his unfortunate upchucking for love habit) on curtains, stuffed animals and other various things, I curtailed his "out" time to when I was actually in the room.  Even then, he made a noise when he was preparing to upchuck food that positively made my hair stand on end.  I would have to put my headphones on so I couldn't hear it.  He couldn't help it - this is what male parrots do, although Beasley is a male and - THANK GOD - never exhibited that habit. Maybe it's only certain parrots that do it.

So - now that Mr. Greenbird has moved on to heaven, along with Shady the Beagle and a couple of hamsters my daughter had when she was small, I am finding that it's a relief to close the curtains at night and not have moist bits of birdie seed upchuck come flying down on me and my surroundings.  It's nice not to hear that noise, and it's nice to have one less cage in my room, and one less area of bird debris to vacuum every day.

Now Beasley is a different story.  I've had him for over 20 years and the lifespan of a Cockatoo is as long or longer than a human.  Considering I did not acquire him at my birth, and I have no idea how old he is - he could outlive me.  So now, I am looking for a bird sanctuary where he can live the life of a retiree bird.  There is one north of Tampa, FL that looks wonderful.  Beasley will be angry that I didn't put him there years ago.......so I'm working on that.  It will probably be months before we actually take him there, but I will be down to 4 cats then - I forgot to tell you about the last cat, a stray kitten we found in our back yard trying desperately to eat a shelled peanut that we put out for blue jays.  That did it  - we took him in and he is now ours, and, incidentally, Squeebles' best bud.  His name is Junior Beans.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Tent Life in Siberia, and Adventures among the Koraks and Other Tribes in Kamtchatka and Northern Asia

Like that title?  That is the title of a book I've been reading on Kindle.  It was originally written in 1864-65 and it's about a group of Americans who travel to Kamchatka to see if telegraph wires can be installed through Siberia and down through Russia and then into Europe.  The stringing of telegraph wire under the Atlantic Ocean shortly after that made the trip to Siberia a moot point.  However, the adventures of the young men in Siberia at that time in history is fascinating.
One of my favorite activities when I'm trying to fall asleep is to imagine the safest or coziest or most beautiful place in the world in which to go to sleep.  I have imagined small snug cabins built into the tops of huge strong trees - or - being wrapped in layers and layers of furs and warm blankets out under the Arctic sky, surrounded by sled dogs and a fire circle inside of which no wolves will come (I hope).  I have pictured the velvet ice cold sky and me lying warm in the middle of the frozen waste and the painting of the Aurora Borealis across the heavens. 
This book is like that second imagining of mine - the Arctic one, except it really happened back in the time when men loved to adventure in obscure or untrodden places.  Kamchatka at that time, and maybe even some of it today, was wild and untrodden. 
The writer, George Kennan,  was an American explorer, noted for his travels in Kamchatka region and in Russia.  He was a cousin, twice removed, of diplomat and historian George F. Kennan (2/16/1904 - 3/17/2005). 
Here is his picture from Wikipedia:
In his book "Tent Life......." (I don't want to repeat that loooong title) he describes the native peoples and the Yurts they live in.  It doesn't sound very comfortable.  The Yurts are round and fur covered.  In the middle is a fire over which, in the roof, is a round hole.  The smoke doesn't go up through the hole completely, but spreads around inside, and the hole in the roof is also the door into the Yurt.  You must climb up on top and drop feet first into the Yurt.  How you avoid the fire, I don't know.  Little fir compartments are created around the wall of the Yurt by hanging fur robes as walls.  Inside those are the various wives and children of the natives.  The little fur rooms are stuffy, smokey, smelly, dark and cold. The whole inside is cold - just not freezing and windy like being outside.  I did NOT fantasize about sleeping in one of these. 
There are also Russian people in villages that the author travels to.  Invariably, because he and his comrades are important Americans, they stay in the nicest house in the village, maybe of the priest or the mayor.  This turns out to be a snug wooden house with fur and animal skin rugs soft on the floor that your feet sink into.  There is a roaring fire in front of which one can warm up and drink hot cups of tea.  Slipping into clean sheets and blankets (after themselves bathing, of course) just sounds so delicious considering they have been slogging around freezing Siberia getting frostbite and staying in the same layers of clothes for weeks at a time.  It's the coziest reading ever when I come to one of those chapters.  The other delightful reading was when a group of Russian Siberians led the group through an area with trees.  At night, the dog sleds were arranged in a "U" shape and the Russians proceeded to dig a large round hole in the snow inside of the U.  Then many furs and skins were laid down around the outside of the shoveled area and a roaring fire was built in the middle.  The men said they were truly warm in this setup and enjoyed sleeping under the stars.  Later that night the skies erupted with some of the most dramatic auroras ever seen, even by the natives, who were almost frightened by the display.  I have to look up if there was a volcanic eruption in the world - or a giant sunspot eruption at that time to cause such a display.
This has been my go-to-sleep reading on my Ipad as I lay under my own cozy sheets and feather blankets.  It fires up my imagination and I can't wait to read more about this man's travels (he later went to the Caususus region) in Russia back in the Good Old Days.

Thursday, January 10, 2013

After Fear

Phew - as you could see from my last post, yesterday was bad.  My mind just wouldn't let go of fear and self-blame and self-recrimination, guilt - you name it.  It wasn't fun, but my sister and Island Rider both commented wisdom, love and prayers - and I thank you both.  So enough about that.

Frustration in the back yard - there is a neighborhood cat and a hawk on vacation that keep scaring the birds eating at my feeders.  Between trying to spray the cat with the hose (when I catch him back there, which is pretty much daily) and clapping loud and yelling at the hawk - I'm ready to put a net over the whole yard.  That would keep the hawk out.  Now what about the cat?  Maybe I'll go to the hunting store and buy coyote urine or something (how do they produce THAT product???) to spray at the 2 entrance areas where Mr. Cat jumps over our fence.

It's very frustrating trying to run a small Eden on this fallen planet, and keep it protected for certain creatures by keeping other ones out.  I'm not even as angry about the hawk as I am about the cat.  Hawks are inevitable - cats not so much.  If people kept them indoors.....rant, rant, rant (fill in the words).

Glad it is heading toward Friday tomorrow - AND - it's my birthday this weekend.  Maybe that is part of yesterday's angst.  My husband turns 60 this year - he's none too thrilled himself.  For better or worse, we have similar temperaments - so he gets angsty, too.  What a pair!!

Next up- pictures from a day out in nature recently. Nothing makes me feel better than a trip into the middle of nowhere for the day.  We went to Dinner Island in Hendry County.  This is a piece of land that is not an island and no one serves dinner.  I have no idea why it's called that, but it's next to Devil's Garden and Cow Bone Slough, so go figure.  It is farming country that has been purchased by the State of Florida and, once the farmer's leases are up, it is being released back to it's original wildness.  It is one of the few areas where, if you are the luckiest person alive, you MIGHT someday see a Florida Panther.  When we pulled into this wildlife area from Rd 846, there were a number of campers parked in a cleared field next to some trees on our right.  A man on horseback was leading a number of other people on horseback - and it looked SO inviting and wonderful to travel that way, then come "home" to a little "house" on wheels with everything you need and a comfy bed.  I pictured them lighting a fire later that night and cooking and sitting out under the stars.  There would be no interference out there with the velvet sky and the starlight.  Maybe hubby and I could rent an RV when it gets cold again, and take it out there overnight.

This is along the canal that goes right through the Indian village on Jose Billie Highway, a.k.a., Rte 833.  It was a cold and beautiful day.

Below is an area of "Dinner Island" that has been allowed to return to the wild.  It is beautiful.  It was SO hard to turn the car around and head home.....

We NEVER are able to photograph Belted Kingfishers, a.k.a., "Bed Head Birds" because they are usually so skittish, the minute you aim your camera and try to focus, they have flown away.  But this day we were able to get a female (below) and a male.  The female has a bit of red on her chest.

Here's the male:

Below is a Scissor Tailed Flycatcher whose tail isn't open so you can see the two strands/feathers.  They have a lovely peachy chest and underside and VERY long feathers.  This is a migrant and not here in the summer.  They love Hendry County and are often scene in a few select locations there, among them route 833 and route 846, which we were traveling.

Another migrant.  Either a red shouldered or a red tailed hawk, I think.  They are VERY common here in the winter.  We have a sharp shinned hawk that goes after doves and pigeons in our back yard.  This fella below is bigger and more formidable. 

A Phaon Crescent butterfly on some roadside plants.

 Another area of "Dinner Island"

Some sort of store, I think, on route 833. They had nice LED Christmas lights on the roof, but we couldn't appreciate them in the middle of the day.  Funny - it was a Saturday - and the place was closed.  I really have no idea WHAT it was.....

Wednesday, January 9, 2013


Fear is a big part of my life these days.  Fear of ending up like my father, only sooner, with Dementia/Alzheimer's.  I'm always forgetting words in the middle of a sentence and have to come up with a work-around.  As I approach the word, I know it won't come and I look like an idiot, stopping half way through a sentence with a vacuous look on my face...searching for a substitute.
Fear of financial armaggedon.  Suffice it to say we're in trouble and working on a solution, but it is going to hurt. 
I'm overweight, so I'm afraid of:
a.  stroke that DOESN'T kill me
b.  cancer
I drink too much wine - and am fighting with this - and I live in fear of brain damage, liver damage, you name it, God's judgement on me because I keep struggling with this.
I'm afraid of losing my beloved animals, illness of any loved one, worldwide catastrophe, which always seems just on the brink, living in an America I no longer recognize in a city that is mostly foreigners.
I'm afraid of moving to a new place and losing my familiar back yard with all it's flowers and birds and butterflies.  I'm afraid of NOT moving to a new place and staying in this old-house-that-needs-work forever.
I know I need to pray, go to church, connect with people (I'm a BIG time loner and intimacy with people is something I do NOT do well, including family), exercise, lose weight, never touch another glass of anything alcoholic.
And the first thing I want to do when I go home is wait until after dinner and have a drink and the calm and good feeling that it brings. 
I probably need to go to a recovery group at the church I don't attend.........
Writing this helps - somebody else out there just might feel the same or have felt the same......