Thursday, April 24, 2008

Blind Dog, Still Hunts

Object of desire #1.

Object of desire #2.

Be very quiet, he's hunting squirrels.

Despite being blind, our dog Cassius still hunts squirrels for the better part of most days. And when I say better, I mean both quantitatively and qualitatively, for he certainly considers this to be the penultimate fun activity. The only thing better is eating anything, including cat poop.

He may not be able to see the squirrels but he can sure hear them. He spends hours racing around the yard guided by their chattering. Sometimes we even catch Cash quietly and slowly stalking the squirrels like a cat, apparently not realizing that although he can't see them, they can very much see him.

Occasionally the chases end with some collateral damage, but when you get right down to it, he doesn't need those eyes anyway!

Disclaimer #1: This injury was only to the skin outside of his eye and is now healed. His vision, however, remains the same. He has none.

Disclaimer #2: For those of you grossed out that he eats cat poop, I was just kidding. He only eats Tucker's poop.

Disclaimer #3: For those of you grossed out by any discussion of poop and in particular eating poop, it was all just a big joke. No, really.

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Duck, Duck, Mallard

This little pair of mallard ducks has been visiting our front yard for several weeks now. They discovered the bird seed buffet that falls to the ground from the feeder in the tree above. We really enjoy having them, but I worry about them hanging out in such an urban setting with all the dangers of dogs, cats, and cars.

I could, however, do without the Saturday morning 6:26 am wake up call I got today. Only the female was in the yard and she was quacking incessantly; our bedroom window is about 15 feet from the tree and feeder. I assume she was calling for her mate as he wasn't around. Should I be concerned?

Saturday, April 12, 2008

Peace Out

What a season! This year brought some of the best snow in decades to Bogus Basin. Yesterday, I got up to the mountain and found some new powder. Can you believe that? New powder in mid April. I was very impressed with the season as a whole. I certainly abused my season pass to the fullest extent. Thank you Bogus, and until next year...Peace Out!

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Chemistry Widow

This school semester has been particularly tough for both Jon and me. In addition to starting nursing classes, Jon had some prerequisites to finish up as well. Anatomy and Physiology 2 and an accelerated Chemistry class round out his course load at 17 credits. (A normal load is 12 credits.)

I started a Master's program in Technical Communication and am taking my first graduate class this semester, too. Being back in school has been a challenging adjustment for me. I haven't found the course work to be unmanageable, but those of you that know me well know that I like to do exactly what I want, on my schedule, my terms. I really dislike activities with compulsory attendance so until recently, Tuesday night from 6 - 9 pm just grated on my nerves.

The other thing I resent is the thought of homework that persistently lurks in my subconscious. I started having dreams about walking into class to find that not only had I not studied the material, I had forgotten to go to class for the entire semester.

With a little over a month to go, I am finally rounding the corner. I don't grimace when Tuesdays roll around and I feel like I am getting a handle on the course work.

I still hate Monday nights and Thursday nights, though. Jon chose a chemistry class taught in the Boise suburb of Nampa because former students said the teacher was excellent. We talked it over and decided that we could handle a semester-long break in our dinner routine but I think we both hate it. Monday, Tuesday, and Thursday, Jon leaves the house at 4 pm to get to class by 6 pm and avoid the stop and go traffic heading out to the suburbs. On these days I don't even see him until 9 pm and we both forage for dinner alone.

Our dinner routine is a favorite thing of mine. I relish the remaining nightly meals, but I long for the return of those few nights. Planning meals, cooking together, sharing the day's stories, cleaning up, and discussing the merits of the meal; these things anchor our marriage in a way. I think we will both be glad to have this semester under our belts.

Saturday, April 05, 2008

Finches Can't Read

In the last century, bluebirds have suffered an alarming decline in their numbers. Loss of habitat and nesting cavities due to logging, competition from swallows and other species, and the use of pesticides are some of the factors contributing to the decline. Bluebirds were once as numerous as robins!

North Carolinians love their bluebirds and we were no exception. The entire state, it seems, is part of an effort to rebuild the bluebird population. In fact, just about every state has a bluebird society and there is also a national organization as well. Very serious stuff!

The most common way to encourage bluebird population is to provide nesting boxes. When I moved to North Carolina from Florida, I had never seen a bluebird and had no idea what all those wooden boxes were that dotted the rural landscape on fence posts and tree trunks. Once you see a bluebird, you want to see more. Once you see them in courtship, nesting, and fledging their young, it is easy to fall in love forever. They are beautiful, busy animals.

In the piedmont area of North Carolina, a man by the name of Jack Finch started building bluebird boxes in the 1970s. I picked one up during a trip to the Finch family's pottery and blueberry nursery. When I got home, Jon and I excitedly installed it in the yard, staking a surrogate claim for the first bluebird family to find it.

While the house is clearly stamped with "Homes for Bluebirds", finches in North Carolina can't read. Apparently finches also think that bluebird boxes make for great nesting sites and the only way to keep them out is to destroy their nests as they try to build them. Let me repeat that: destroy their nests as they build them.

Now I know that early bird watchers, Audubon included, shot and killed the very birds they studied and illustrated. To a modern bird enthusiast like myself this is abhorrent; although, I guess lacking cameras the only way to get the dern thing still enough to get a good look is to kill it. To me, the thought of destroying a bird nest is enough to send me into a tizzy of personal debate about ethics, the valuation of one animal species versus another, and whether we should intervene with a hand of destruction. The topic of destroying squatting birds' nests has also led to some interesting marital discussions because Jon can read and he is quite certain the box does not say "Homes for insert name of species here". Any intruders must go; he empties out their nests without hesitation or guilt.

So over the years we have had some finches, some swallows, but mostly bluebirds. I have given over our bluebird home property management arm to chance or my husband, whichever intervenes first. After all, Jon has to live with his choices and frankly, he seems to sleep just fine at night. I sleep alright too, and try not to worry too much about whether bluebird karma is worth more than finch karma. Jon gets to follow his moral compass and I follow mine. Fortunately, most of the time they still point North.

I can't help but wonder, though: Where do the presidential candidates stand on a literacy campaign for birds?

Update, April 25th, 2008: Got a voicemail last night from our old neighbors that our bluebird family has relocated to their yard.

Friday, April 04, 2008

Spring Break Trip Report #1

Spring break seemed to be over just as it started. School work dominated a couple of my spring break days because three of my professors scheduled exams during or immediately following spring break. I had one take home exam due promptly at the start of class Monday after spring break, one exam Monday at noon, and a lab exam on Tuesday at 8:00 am. Oh joy! Thankfully, the exams are in the past now and my GPA didn't suffer as much as some of my classmates.

I completed a few projects around the house during the first few days of the break so we were able to head for the hills on Wednesday. Remember, the time of year is late March and this is spring break for Boise State students.

Spring in Eastern Idaho

We drove north on US Route 20, a very scenic highway through the Targhee National Forest in Idaho, and then into West Yellowstone, Montana. The weather, as you can see from the picture above, didn't resemble spring by any stretch. It sure looked and felt like winter! The road was ice and snow covered from Rexburg, ID all the way up to Island Park, ID. The plows were out and working hard but they were severely out-gunned by ol' Mother Nature. The bad roads didn't slow us down though; we made it to West Yellowstone by 3:30pm to find what was to be our sleepy little mountain get-away for the evening. Unfortunately, someone opened too much ether. The town wasn't just sleepy, it was comatose! It was a ghost-town because the annual snowmobiling events had ended the week prior. Our options for dinner were Arby's or McDonald's!

We decided to move on, checked out of our hotel, and hit the road heading north again on US-191 aiming for Bozeman, MT. The drive through Yellowstone Park treated us to some pretty stunning scenery.

That was the first part of our trip, we'll finish the trip report soon. Stay tuned!