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!