Featured Post

Dubrovnik and a Bit of Bosnia

Mostar, across the Neretva River Enjoyed a hearty breakfast this morning while listening to Lulu belting out 'To Sir with Love' ...

Saturday, September 20, 2008

PLAGUE ALERT, DIAL 911!

Damn it. A couple of weeks ago my home experienced the Amityville Horror syndrome, invaded by a plague of bot flies.

Some honey bees obviously have issues

On Saturday morning I was out birding with friends, at one with nature - or so I thought - minding my own business, looking through my binocs and a Honey Bee - obviously a bee with issues - stung me!

Two realms of the buggy world had taken issue with me but I shrugged it off.

Flash forward to Monday night. I was filling my new composter with a bunch of wilted lettuce. Needing some dried leaf litter, I dragged over a downed limb from the Trident Maple tree. I stood barefoot; it was after dark so I stood in the patio light, stripping off the crackly leaves into the composter. It suddenly occurred to me I ought to look down. ARRRGGGHHHHHH!

Bugs!

A b'jillion little black & red bugs raced around my toes in the dead leaves. I was suddenly doing 'the Dance of the Bugs'. Thank heavens it was bugs, because had it been a Mantis or worse, it would have been the first, and the last time I could go near the composter.

It gets worse. Tonight I needed to water the patio plants. I cheerily headed for my prized, heritage Russian tomatoes.

AAAAAARRRRRRHHHHHHHHHHH!


TOBACCO HORN WORM

I shrieked out a string of very naughty words. The damned worm was like 37 feet long -honestly it was very nearly that big- and it was stuffing it's chubby cheeks with my tomato plant!

I was stunned; the worm was holding on to the leaf stem with HUGE feel that looked sort of like the thing was wearing those Dr. Denton footsie pajamas like kids wear. Did I say it was stuffing it's fat cheeks with my tomato plant? I stuffed the loathsome creatures into a jar and hunted around the plant for more worms but could only find one more. HOW THE EFF did something that HUGE remain hidden from me long enough to get that big?

GAH! I spoke to several savvy gardening friends during the week and they told me the damned Horned Worms in their adult form are night-flying Hawk Moths. I was amazed. Hawk moths are so huge they're often mistaken for hummingbirds! Here's what the effing things look like (p.s., I'm working on my buggie anger issues). The damned things can sniff out tomatoes on which to lay their disgusting little caterpillar producing eggs.

EVIL Tobacco Hawk Moth pretending to be a Hummingbird

Everyone I told about the worms (which is half the population of Northern California) said the same thing. You never notice the damned worms until they are large enough to arm wrestle your for your tomato plant. Apparently the young worms are extremely well camouflaged - the little shites.

So my question is, WHY am I being punished with a plague of insects??? Do I not support the Nature Conservancy? Don't I gently take stray green lace-wings and crane flies and carry them tenderly, outside to safety? Did I not see a Black-widow spider at the light rail station this morning and I did NOT step on the spider (as it was minding its own business)????Next there will be a plague of toads in the pool and blood when I turn on the kitchen tap.

[Management has received word that Ms. Miller's Niece Doris is also experiencing a plague of her own - a web-building spider, the size of a Buick has taken up residence just outside her Brooklyn window. When will it all end????]

Dining on the Other Side

I mentioned a week or two ago that Barbara’s father has been ill. He was taken to an ER but was released again, having had his medications balanced to improve his kidney function. I pronounced him on the mend, ignoring the fact that he newly under hospice care; funny how we deceive ourselves. Hans passed away last Saturday. My first response was “But… but… he can’t go, I was going to visit him!”

Over the years I visited with Hans and his wife Irmgard a hundred times, spending many Christmases, holidays and non-holidays enjoying their company and hospitality. In ‘the old days’ they lived in Cotati California and I’d hunker down in the kitchen, looking at Irmgard’s extensive house plant collection, which made me think she and my mother would have gotten along quite well. I would chat with Hans or Irmgard, my attention occasionally distracted by the hummingbirds flitting around the little nectar feeder just outside the dining room window. I loved asking Hans to tell me about his childhood in Germany, near Poland. If Hans behaved himself he was given a treat of goose fat on brown bread. The first time I heard that story I laughed myself silly! My first thought was ‘how bad a boy would you have to be to have to eat goose fat!’ Then Hans explained that the fat tasted rich and savory butter and when spread like butter on dense, grain filled German brown bread, it was a wonderful treat. I felt a little disappointed – was I a bad little girl, never having had goose fat on brown bread?

That was such a long time ago. There were lots of pets at the old house back then. Tiny yappy dogs with names like Lumphi, the world’s second ugliest Chihuahua, and Tina, more cats than there were probably names for. Most of them were animals kept because Hans was a veterinarian and sometimes he kept animals that owners didn’t want any more or abandoned rather than pay their vet bills.

Bismarck was my old friend, a massive black Great Dane. I used to walk through the gardens with him. Sometimes he would lean on me and I’d topple over. That old dog was like a trained martial arts master, who knew just when to lean into you at your point of unbalance, making you keel over. I swear when I would look up at him from the ground, on my butt, he would grin at me.

There was one holiday I remember, I knocked on the door by the side of the house and as I stood there, I noticed I could hear a strange sound like a pony galloping. The door cracked, an arm shot out and I was pulled into the house by the shear strength of Irmgard’s arm! She slammed the door shut behind me just as an enormous ‘WHOOMP!’ hit the door from outside, making the door shake so hard the little Christmas bells on it were jingling.

“What was that?” I asked, stunned but amused. I could hear thunderous barking on the other side of the door.

“That is Bismarck!” said Barbara’s Mother. “He has grown deaf now and his sight has grown worse, so now he bites first and asks questions later.”

My poor old dog friend had grown old, much as many of the people I love are now doing. Great Danes are old at 8 and 9 years old. While it is true people live a lot longer, it is also true seventy years can pass in a nanosecond when you admit to yourself, your aunts, uncles, godparents are ‘getting on’ in years and your little cousins, nieces and nephews have children who before you know it will have children of their own. Same for your friends and their families.

I always enjoyed our chats Hans and I know there will be plenty of good goose fat on brown bread for you on the other side.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

Uh... One More Thing on the Palin Topic

Silly me - I thought that aerial shooting - that kind of brutality - died out when I was a kid. I thought the bounty hunting of wildlife had ceased in the 1940s when wolves, hawks and other predators were seen solely as 'vermin' for extermination. Nope, it's alive, well and embodied in THAT woman.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

Gulag Garden - Autumn Approaches

Future Tomatoes - Assuming the crop doesn't fail

Hurrah! My tomato crop is plugging along nicely. I started some heritage tomatoes from seed in the kitchen. Out of five seedlings, I have two plants that were stubborn enough to thrive despite of my so-called 'help'. It's a bit late for starting tomatoes, but heck, this is the Central Valley so the weather is still on my side. I might still get a few 'Black from Tula' , that is, Russian black tomatoes , out of this.

Wine Barrel Planter with my entire crop: 2 Tomato Plants - Cornered in a 'Tomato Cage', Planning Escape

I put pine cones in my planter containers to keep Rum-kitty from crushing down the plants, constructing himself a comfortable & thoroughly 'green' kitty bed (the little bugger).

[Management understand some believe Ms. Miller was inordinately mean on the topic of the current Alaskan Governor, Sara 'Legs' Mini-McClain. In Miller's defense she wishes to point out that even Alaskans aren't too crazy about the [explicative] Alaskan Governor.]

Friday, September 12, 2008

Amnity... Fair Oaks Horror and Other Events

What Godawful HORRORS kept me away from my blog, lo, these couple of weeks?


Current, National Crime-Against-Nature: Sara 'Legs' Mini-McCaine; 'she who makes wolf cubs cry'*

*click above to see why the cubs cry

1. Got my hair touched up (i.e., braided, crocheted, whatever). Am loving my hair now for the first time in decades. At work today someone said, 'Oh your hair is so adorable!' I prefer to think the comment was sincere & uninfluenced by alcohol or illicit drugs.

2. Spent an entire weekend disassembling & dragging my chest of drawers into the living room; it was desperately in need of an overhauling. As usual with my carpentry projects, several trips were necessary to Home Depot. Suspect I'm the sort of customer known to H.D as 'bread and butter'. Nothing too expensive this time, just nails, little drill bit thingmabos and such. Am LOVING the results of the dresser overhaul; once again can experience the joy of opening a drawer without it careening to the floor.

3. Last weekend friend Barbara was here for a visit. She went to Napa for lunch with her sister Suzi, then on to see her father in Fairfield. Then she was here for the weekend. I visited her father on Labor Day while on my way back from hair 'braiding' appt. in Suisun City. First time ever that Hans did not recognize me - very sad. He was very agitated and cranky in general. But, as it turns out he was very ill. His kidneys were shutting down and a few days later he wound up in the ER. Amazingly enough, they balanced his meds and such, and now he's OK again. Barb saw him and he was still a bit confused - at least she thinks he was, hard to tell.

Barb and I had a nice visit. Spent loads of time yakking; hey - it's what we do. She's back teaching again at a new school. I had to laugh, she, just like me, gets behind on stuff. On Sunday morning after stuffing our faces with fresh waffles n' blueberries, we chattered while she worked on two months worth of bills and stuff she brought from home. Don't you hate when you have to do that sort of thing? the old bills, not the waffles, the waffles were heavenly...

And now for the macabre...

4. I survived living in the house of the Amnityville Fair Oaks Horror!


Forty-third fly down on the right - "Help Heeeeeeelp meeeeeeeee!"

They came from HELL... out of nowhere - one day after work, I came home and they were just THERE... hanging around the living room window. I suspected Rum-kitty may have dragged in a deceased 'play toy', but I could find nothing, and there were no mysterious odors anywhere in the house, i.e., in corners, behind furniture, etc.

Barb was, 'ahem...' lucky enough to observe the tail end of the invasion. As a former insectologist she ID'd the flies; no ordinary house flies, but cattle spooking, carcass chewing, horrifying - BOT FLIES from HELL! She divined some wayward rodent died in my attic, causing a hatch of Bot fly maggots - in the deceased rodent - after which post maggoty, newly transformed Bot flies entered my house through the ventilation system. UGH!

Feel free to gag here a bit.

The EV-IL flies drove me dingy for a week but they're all dead now. No funeral. No condolences. Send flowers if you are so inclined.