Friday, December 30, 2011

The Seasonal Cat

For 8 months out of the year, I'm only on feeding terms with one of my cats. Magic is more than happy to let me scratch his back for a few seconds in return for his breakfast and supper, but getting him to spend any more time with me during the warmer months is almost impossible. He hangs out under the porch and sleeps in the bushes under the dining room window. He takes naps on the seat of one of the porch chairs and goes off alone on frequent hunting trips, returning occasionally with a mouse or swallow.

The other two house-dwelling cats have an uneasy truce with him. There is much hissing and growling through the office window whenever Callie or Orion spots Magic lounging on the deck or in his chair. When the cats do have one of their infrequent meet-ups outside, they spit and swipe at one another, though thankfully there hasn't been any out-and-out combat.

Magic is, of course, neutered. And as the house sits about 1/4 of a mile off the quiet country road I'm not worried about him getting anywhere near traffic. Besides, he's pretty much spooked by anything that moves, so I trust him not to try to make friends with hungry coyotes. It's not that he can't come in -- I have two doggie doors, one of which is open 24/7. No, he just prefers to keep to himself and live up to the stereotype of the totally aloof cat for those 8 long months.

Once the temperature starts dipping below freezing, though, Summer Magic disappears and Winter Magic arrives to take his place. Winter Magic is a house cat who can't be enticed outside even on mild winter days. Winter Magic does his best to avoid Callie and Orion the first week or so after he moves in, during which time there is much hissing and spitting and swipe-taking that happens neither outside nor through the window. While they never fully accept one another, Callie and Orion eventually and grudgingly come to tolerate the interloper.

For his part, Winter Magic naps in one of the spare rooms upstairs and takes his meals downstairs in the dining room. He meows pathetically in the kitchen for me to hurry up while I'm preparing his royal feasts and demands I lift him up to the window sill where he can gnosh without being challenged by the other cats.

Winter Magic even plays. His favorite game is dunking the plastic ring off a milk jug into the water bowl, retrieving it out of the water, then starting all over. Most wonderfully, Winter Magic at night snuggles up in bed and snoozes away with the rest of us, purring in my arms.

Who is this Winter Cat and where does he come from? Selfishly, I wish he would stay and not, like Frosty, come spring simply melt away.

Do any of you have a seasonal friend?

Friday, December 23, 2011

From Our Farm to Yours ...

Here at Rainbow's End, we have our own version of the chorus to "The 12 Days of Christmas."

12 snakes a-sleeping
At least we hope these guys are hibernating now!
11 novels selling
Other new titles can be found at Steel Magnolia Press
10 blog posts waiting

With 3 blogs to contribute to, I always seem to be behind in my posts!

#2 on New Year's resolutions is to get ahead and stay ahead in 2012.

9 hens not laying
The flock is older now, and winter is a poor season for eggs anyway.
But who cares as long as the girls are all healthy?
8 'keets a-singing

Well, OK, there's a zebra finch in there, too.
7 roosters crowing

Generally crowing at 4:00 am
6 dogs 'n cats a-fighting
Well, maybe we're exaggerating the fighting part a little.
From left: Loki, Angel, Ginger and Orion, the cat.
Not pictured: Callie and Magic (both cats)
5 po-o-nies

Pic on right (from left to right): Bella, Ricky, Bonnie, Cody, Lyssa
4 Pekin ducks
There's also the boy mallard, but his character was cut during the edit.
3 silly guineas
Best alarms for alerting us to coyotes and stray cats ever.
The guinea at the top is a pearl, the other is a lavendar.
Both of them, and the third, are boys.
2 goats a'buttin'
And they do use those horns - especially Lucy on the right (that's Rowdy, her son, on the left).
And an iguana in a pear tree
Technically Fafnir is in a crabapple tree here, but there IS a pear tree right next to this one that she also hangs out in.

Wishing you and your beasties a holiday full of peace and love and, most importantly, warm beds and warm laps for all.

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Christmas Duck

No, it's not what's for dinner! I thought I'd share some pictures of happy ducks getting their Christmas wish: a pond full of water. Recent rains are slowly filling the reservoirs again. The duck's pond gets a lot of runoff, so has been quicker to fill than some of the other ponds in the area.

As a reminder, this is what the pond looked like during the drought (and, in fact, the water level got much lower than this).

And here is the pond today, along with the little flock splashing away.

Also, today, I opened up one of the pastures for the horses that they hadn't been in since last May. There isn't much green grass in the pasture right now as if was hit pretty hard by the drought. I'm hoping it recovers in spring. Meanwhile, the horses can play in a new area for a few weeks.

The beasties were clearly excited about getting to go into the pasture. They followed me from the barn down to the gate and crowded around while I fiddled with the chain latch, butting my arm with their heads trying to get me to hurry up. Then they raced inside, kicking up their heels. Really, the pasture is only about 3 acres, and they've had free run of about 9 other acres for the last couple of months, but they acted like they'd been pent up in a stall for weeks.

All in all, a grand day watching the ducks and horses enjoying themselves so much. I felt a little bit like Santa Claus with presents for all.

Monday, December 19, 2011

Saying Good-bye to an Old Friend

Recently on my quiet country road we had a spate of vandalism. A dozen or so mailboxes were brutally bashed, mine among them. It was just a plain polyvinyl box to be sure, but my dad – gone for a year and more now -- had painted the black box a cheerful red and white to match the colors of my barns. I picked the pieces of the shattered box off the lonely road and said good-bye.
It’s not easy to replace an old friend. Perhaps you remember my daily trek to the mailbox and back? The photo journey is here in case you missed it. I delayed the inevitable. Packages arrived and were routed to the main post office because there was nowhere to put them. But making a trip into town to collect the mail would surely mean a stop at the local hardware store to choose a replacement box and my heart just wasn’t in it.
At last there came a day when I had to post a bill payment through the mail. Damn you, water co-op! Why are you the only rural bill collector yet to offer an easy online payment option? Because of you I was forced at last to plan a trip into town those 8 long miles away.
I woke that morning, mentally preparing myself for the trip and wondering if the late fee was perhaps not too high a price to pay if it meant I could put off making the trip another day or three. One look in the feed bins, though, reminded me there were other necessities waiting in town. I could stretch the time between trips to the feedstore to a month or so, but not beyond.  
Then wonder of wonders my mail carrier showed up at my door. All the other neighbors who’d lost their mailboxes that same tragic night had already replaced theirs and my carrier was concerned about why I hadn’t yet. She was, she told me, afraid when she drove up that she’d look through my windows and find my half-eaten remains lying on the floor. We hugged, and she left with my promise that I would get on with my life and do the necessary thing.
In the store, down an aisle I rarely had need to go, a dozen and more new mailboxes beamed hopefully at me from their faux mailbox posts. Simple metal boxes in gunmetal grays and blacks. Flashier boxes with copper trim. Were there none that were red and white? I considered one of the expensive, pedigreed boxes that tempted me with its ultra-smooth surface and magnetic close. In the end, though, I chose a simple, black polyurethane box, confident it would provide the same service and support as my old friend had.
Its predrilled screwholes didn’t match the holes my old box had left behind in the valiantly still-standing mailbox post. I had to start new holes for our journey ahead. I even had to screw a decorative pull, something my old box never had, into its door. So many things were the same yet different about this box. As I applied new, adhesive-backed, vinyl reflective house numbers to its sides, though, I realized that while this box would never replace the old one in my heart, it could still bring happiness not just to my mail carrier, but to me.
And there on the side of the lonely road, I lifted the box’s flag in a final farewell to my old friend -- and in brave salute of my new one.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Vet Tech Tales: The Early Years Now Available as an Ebook - Only 99 Cents

You may have noticed something different about the blog today: All the Friday Vet Tech Tales have been removed.

That's because the Tales have all been gathered up and published in ebook form exclusively on Amazon!

On Friday, January 6, I'll start posting the new Tales that will appear in Volume 2, so you'll still get to see them here first -- and for free.

Meanwhile, you can pick up Volume 1: The Early Years for just 99 cents. It has 17 Tales that run about 100 pages, plus a bonus 2 chapters from my medical thriller SECTOR C that features a female veterinarian as one of the main characters. Note that SECTOR C does have some sad animal deaths, so may not be a good choice for someone sensitive to that. I can, however, assure you no animal was actually harmed in the making of the book (although a couple of dogs did complain about being horribly neglected while I was writing it) ;o).

Vet Tech Tales: The Early Years is available in English in all of Amazon's Kindle stores: - 99c
UK - 86p
Germany - 99e
Spain - 99e
France - 99e

Monday, December 5, 2011

Here's Mud in Your Eye. And Mane. And Tail...

I promised this week there'd be pictures of the herd masquerading as shaggy mountain ponies, thinking I'd snap a few shots of them in their winter coats. Then we got rain. And more rain. Not Thai-flood amounts of rain, but a deluge measured in inches with more coming as I write this. What a lovely sight!

In addition to the rain (edited after looking outside to add sleet and wet snow!), cold weather is moving in. And the horses love it. So much that they're skidding around in the mud and making their own wallows. So instead of the long-, thick-haired mountain pony impersonators I'd planned, we have little horses impersonating mud monsters instead. Definitely not the beasties at their besties.



This is one of the stalls given over to grass bagged from one of the pastures.

I still need about 10 more bales of hay to get everyone through the winter, goats included. I generally buy coastal bermuda as I supplement with (too much) grain and pelleted feed. Right now, I feed my own blend of alfalfa/timothy pellets (the wild rabbits love me to throw a handful or two of these their way, too), rolled oats, sweet feed (which has yummy molasses mixed in) and a special pelleted concoction for older horses who can't digest hay easily. After my older mare, Lyssa, had an episode of choke (a blockage in the esophagus), the vet suggested the special pelleted mix, which is easily digested. When Bella went through two episodes of colic recently, I added it to the mix for everyone. The horses hate it and won't eat it out of the bag as it's meant to be consumed, but it goes down readily with all the other goodies.

Then, of course, they also get apples, carrots, alfalfa cubes and peppermint-flavored treats. Keeping them fed isn't the problem; it's keeping them from getting too fat -- a battle I fear I'm losing with my miniature gelding, Cody.

Some gratuitous shots of the dogs in the rain.


And the cats waiting for lunch.

Callie (l) and Orion (r)

Friday, December 2, 2011

Vet Tech Tales - A Sneak Peek

For those of you who don't know, I'll be releasing the Vet Tech Tales as a series of ebooks over the coming year.

You can continue to read them for free right here most every Friday, but I'll also be collecting about 20,000-25,000 words (80-100 pages) worth of Tales into their own volumes to be released one per quarter in 2012-ish. The first book, which will include all the Tales on the blog so far plus next week's Tale that wraps up my first day on the job, will be released mid-month. It'll have a holiday price of just 99 cents.

After next week, I'll take a short holiday break from posting Tales on Fridays, then start back in posting weekly Tales on January 6.

I hope you're enjoying reading these Tales as much as I'm enjoying writing them!

At the top of the post is a sneak peek at the covers for the first two volumes in the series. I don't have the pleasure of knowing the kitten on the cover of Volume 1, but the pup on the cover of Volume 2 is my own irrepressible Loki. Once Volume 2 is released in Mar/Apr, I have a feeling I'll have a model cover diva on my hands!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Is It Spring Yet?

At Rainbow's End Farm here in North Texas, we're making a slow transition into deep autumn.

Mild weather over the last few weeks and some lovely, lovely rain after this summer's record-breaking heat and drought have the fauna in a tizzy. Tender grass is cropping up, trying to get re-established as morning temperatures flirt with freezing. Even the forsythia seems confused. I'm concerned the drought may have taken out one of the shrubs, but the other has popped out a few tentative blooms nearly three months early. If the plants are using up their resources in a pseudo-spring burst of energy, what will the real spring bring?

The trees that didn't drop their leaves during the summer drought have clung to them long past normal. Not only isn't there much fall color this year, there aren't many leaves to rake yet. Suburbanites would no doubt rejoice over that reprieve, but I try to put a few dozen bags up to keep the goats happily munching away throughout the winter, and I need to put them up dry, not cold and damp.

It's always something.

The photo at the top of this post is of my front yard. The large live oak that dominates the view is one of the few trees showing fall color right now. Live oaks actually retain their leaves over winter and drop them in the spring, which usually means more tasty leaves for the horses and goats just before the grasses get into full growing gear. I love how nature thinks ahead like that.

And since most of us are thinking leftovers right after Thanksgiving, here are a couple of leftover pictures I found as I'm clearing out the albums getting ready for 2012.

The summer harvest of crabapples from the tree in my backyard. I made crabapple-sauce with some of these, but the majority were fed out as treats to the goats and horses.
A roadrunner on the ramp to my porch. During the worst of the drought, a pair of them would come to drink out of the water bowl I left out for Magic, the cat, and any other passers-by who needed it.
 The horses seem convinced the coming winter will be a cold one and are growing in their winter coats accordingly. I'll have pictures next week of how my guys transform into shaggy mountain ponies 5 months out of the year.

Are there other pictures of the farm you'd like to see?

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Black Dog Syndrome

As we slide into the holiday season, I'd like to offer a reminder to consider adoption, rescue or fostering when the time is right to open your heart and home to new forever friends, whatever their species.

It's your reward as well as theirs. I know. I'm mom to a number of rescues and strays myself, animals that either came from a shelter or found their way into my life without my planning for them: 3 dogs, 3 cats, 2 goats and 2 chickens.

Many of you are already aware of breed discrimination when it comes to shelter dogs. Pit bulls, Dobermans, German shepherds, and rottweilers often aren't given the same chance to find a new home as the dogs without breed stigma have. Did you know there's also color discrimination at work too? Black dogs, mainly large ones, are often overlooked at shelters. Are they too common? Not colorful enough? Too intimidating?

Please take a few moments to watch and share this video to help educate others about the plight of black dogs in shelters around the world.

A new Vet Tech Tale will be waiting when you're back from holiday shopping.

Happy Thanksgiving to my fellow animal junkies, no matter where in the world you are. And special thanks to everyone who has given a beastie or two a home not just for the holidays but for forever.

Monday, November 21, 2011

The Lonely Bones

Winter 2010
Photo taken from the warmth and comfort of my desk

Mowing the pasture farthest from the house last week I ran across what should have been an unusual sight: the skeleton of a coyote. The back half of the skeleton lay undisturbed among some tallish weeds while the front half had been dragged maybe 50 feet away. Otherwise, it was pretty much intact.
Because that pasture’s fencing isn’t reliable enough for me to use for the horses and because the drought had kept the vegetation in check, I hadn’t been out to mow those 7 or 8 acres in a few months. The area is mostly hidden from the house and barn, and I rarely have need to walk it. Even after nearly 7 years here, I’m still awed by the fact I own land I don’t often see.
It was clear the coyote had died where its back-half bones were. What wasn’t so clear was why. Not just why it had died, but why there. Close by, a large pecan tree offered shelter. In fact, an armadillo or fox or something has made a den near the base of that very tree. But the coyote wasn’t under the sheltering branches. Nor was it in a nearby hollow or anywhere else a sick or injured animal might normally seek out. It was in the middle of a field. Perhaps it had been in a fight and fallen there. Maybe it had a heart attack or stroke and couldn’t move to find a more welcoming spot to die.
What saddens me is that such a death scene could play out so close to me and I be so unaware of it. So much life is going on all around me – so many little dramas and big consequences – and I want to be a part of it all. I try to keep up with the nesting swallows and robins and their offspring in the spring. With the handful of squirrels and rabbits that live nearby. I even check in occasionally on the hawk that nests in a copse of trees not quite far enough away that I don’t worry for the chickens when it’s about. I keep up with the coyotes through their songs in the night and by the rogues that come around in the daylight, only to be encouraged by me and the dogs to move along down the creek and away from our vulnerable beasties.
What’s oddest about finding the coyote skeleton in the field, though, is that this isn’t the first one to show up in that little 8-acre plot of land. Two years ago, there was a similar occurrence: bones found in the tall grass in the middle of the field, these a few hundred feet from where the new skeleton turned up.
Coincidence? Or do coyotes seek out certain areas to die as some elephants do? Two incidents does not a trend make, of course. Still, I’ll be keeping an eye out for any more skeletons that might turn up.
Meanwhile, I’ll be wondering when next I hear coyotes howling with the rising moon whether it’s the song of a hunting pack or the ghosts of those passing in the night.  

Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Rescue Orgs Have Much To Be Thankful For

This week's guest post is by Landra Graf.

It’s November. A time to give thanks. For our rescue, Pawsibilities, November is indeed a month that we can reflect on some of the profound things we’ve accomplished this year and give thanks to those who have helped us in our efforts. During these times, giving thanks is the one true way to offer appreciation to those who may think their efforts to assist go unnoticed. So here is Pawsibilities’ Top 10 list of things our rescue is thankful for. We hope that you’ll think of some of these ‘thankful’ things as the season of giving starts, and possibly gain ideas for other ways to help, support, or become involved.
  1. Our families.  In rescue, the best support comes from those closest to you. At times, helping the animals takes away from family time. Without the backing from those you live with it’s hard to keep going, and fortunately those involved in our rescue receive a ton of help from the ones closest to our hearts.
  2. Misty
    Foster Families. Fostering a homeless animal can be a trying but very rewarding experience. Finding families willing to sacrifice their homes and time to help these animals is also difficult. Our rescue has had several come and go, but we’ve had others that go the distance.
    Including a special family that has fostered and even adopted a foster; we couldn’t do this without that family.
  3. Other Rescues. The heartache of being in rescue is the realization that you can’t save them all. We rely on other rescues to help assist in the saving. Sometimes these rescues can help and sometimes they can’t. One rescue that has always been there for Pawsibilities is Colorado Animal Rescue Express. With their help we have been able to save more animals this year then we could have ever dreamed of. Their sense of responsibility goes way beyond their own borders and if you have a chance you should visit their site.
  4. Joe
    Other businesses. Animal lovers are everywhere, and over the last year we’ve learned that businesses are willing to help if you ask—from boarders keeping an open kennel for us to pet stores that continuously host our pet fairs. This year we’ve been blessed with their support.
  5. The fundraisers. When I say fundraiser, I mean people. In rescue you run across those that want to help, but they may not have the skills needed to care for a foster. We’ve met several, and in return they help by organizing fundraisers for our group. Every little bit helps and those fundraisers can make the difference between helping 1 dog to helping 20.
  6. Shy
    Our furry foster dogs. Most of the dogs we rescue have been through hell and back, yet at the end of the day these dogs, once in our homes, become the most loveable and appreciative animals. At times they also provide some much needed comic relief.
  7. The social community. We wouldn’t be anywhere without Twitter, this wonderful blog (thank you, Phoenix), Pet Finder, or Facebook. Every rescue should be using these sites not only to promote their dogs, but to connect with others who may know something you don’t. Time again when we’ve been in a snag or needed additional help we’ve found that help through the connections that these sites provide. So don’t discount the help you can find in the most surprising sources.
  8. Jack
    9 & 10. The Rescue Community. This one mention takes up the last three. When our rescue first started we had no idea of the scope and reach other rescues or people in this community had. We were located in a small, overpopulated area and wondered how we would find homes for the dogs we were rescuing. We soon learned that there is a massive, international web consisting of directors, fosters, transporters, cross posters, and the list goes on. Soon our animals were being saved by fabulous rescues in Colorado, Nebraska, and Minnesota. There are also groups that are advocating against Breed Specific Legislation and groups focused on education. Research and communication have certainly opened our eyes to the opportunities and the passion of being in the rescue world.
So, as you sit down to your Thanksgiving dinners and surround yourself with the ones you love, foster dogs included, remember to give thanks to those in your personal rescue top 10 or the ones we’ve mentioned.

Pawsibilities…Are Endless is a tiny rescue located in Central-West Missouri not far from Warrensburg, Sedalia and Whiteman AFB. We specialize in helping animals in need find their forever homes. To assist in these efforts, not only do we provide local adoptions, but we work with other rescues to find homes for our furry packages across the United States. In Pawsibilities' mind, nothing compares to helping an animal find their happy-ever-after.


Monday, October 31, 2011

Horses Have to Eat Too, Right?

All my horses tend to be chow hounds. In late spring and summer they live strictly off pasture and a daily treat of fruit or carrots. In fall and winter, I supplement with grain in differing proportions depending on how much green grass and hay is available. The grain ration is never enough for my guys.
And that can be a problem, both physically and behaviorally.

Cody puts on weight easily. Already this fall he's a fat little butterball, which is a problem because miniatures are especially prone to diabetes. Yet he's only getting a bit of grain right now to counter the pasture they're on where the drought's sucked much of the nutrition right out of the dead grass.

Cody pretending to be slim - he was too vain to have a new picture taken.
When I'm distributing their grain, Bonita follows me from feed bowl to feed bowl, trying to snatch a mouthfull from each. Because she's the baby of the herd at just a year old, I put feed in her bowl last. Eventually she'll learn patience. Her mother, Bella, did.

Bonita checking out the "treat wagon"
After being Hah!'ed at enough and told "Not your bowl!" a hundred times, Bella figured out it takes me as long to put grain in everyone's bowls as it does for her to walk once slowly around the outside of the barn. She learned to self-regulate! So now I don't dawdle when I feed because I want to be sure there's food in her bowl by the time she comes back in.

Bella had colic recently and I stayed up with her during the night walking her a bit and rubbing her tummy and generally worrying over her. A fair percentage of horses die each year from severe cases of colic, so it always requires a sharp eye to be sure it's not developing beyond a simple, mild case. Luckily, Bella responded well to pain meds and being fussed over. It took her a couple of days to come back 100% but once the crisis point was past, I was grateful.

Bella, feeling much better thank you.
So much to worry about with the horses seems to be over what they're eating or how they're eating it. May I just ask how horses survive and thrive in the wild? Do we over-coddle?

Of course, my little beasties love to be coddled.

Speaking of which, Ricky showed up Saturday morning with this mysterious coiffure.

Reminds me of those mysterious crop circles that appear overnight.
Hmmm... isn't it Queen Mab of the Faeries who comes in the night to braid horses' manes? Or perhaps it's the little girl who lives on the other side of the pasture.


No guest post for Wednesday, but I do have a story about a very naughty lizard. Plus, I've got a meme in my back pocket that I haven't forgotten about...