Big Kitty on the prowl!

Happy Saturday to you! 

This morning I got up early to clean out my mailbox, send a few notes. As I was sitting up here in my control tower, staring out my window at Orion, I heard this weird noise outside. A raspy, weird growl.  If you’d watched as much World of Disney and other “nature” shows as me, you’d have recognized it too – Big Kitty!

He/She/It has been coming around about every two weeks for over a month now.  The first time, it sounded like two of them, but lately it’s just one. It starts over to the east side of our property and works it’s way, very quickly, down below our little shack. As it moves, the neighbors’ dogs go off in succession, all the way down the canyon. 

The very first sign was a mauled deer, laying at the end of a neighbor’s driveway about a mile up the road. Ass chewed off – that’s not dogs. As we made our way back to Chico that morning we saw a Butte County Animal Control officer headed up the hill, and when we returned later in the day the carcass was gone.

But we knew something was out there. And sure enough, a few nights later, that weird raspy growling sound, moving quickly around the outside of our puny hogwire fence. 

So of course we started patrolling our property during the day, looking out and around the neighborhood for signs. My gramps showed me a cat foot once at the river, where he used to have a license to mine gravel. We used to wander the river banks while he was loading the truck with his little tractor, until that day he found that cat foot. He came searching for us, in a sweat, showed us the foot print, then told us, dentures chattering,  “Get in the DAMNED TRUCK!” “And STAY THERE!” 

But foot prints are hard to identify, they get messed up. The print my gramps found was in wet sand, along the river.  It’s so dry up here, the dust is at least 4 to 6 inches thick on the trails.  In this neighborhood everybody seems to have a big dog and walks it regularly, so there’s footprints all over the place. What’s easier to distinguish is cat skat, and it’s surprisingly easy to find. They don’t try to hide, they crap right on trails. Sometimes  they even crap on top of another animals crap,  very clearly marking their territory.

So we weren’t surprised when we found a pile right on the road,  right at the end of our elderly neighbors’ driveway, where the deer trails zig zag all along their property line.  It was a big pile of hair, dressed in an outer layer of tarry black poop. To the casual observer, it might look like dog poop, but if you take a good look it’s not. When cat skat dries out, you can see, it’s just a big rope of deer hair, with little bones and teeth littered through. Like house cats, the  big cats swallow a lot of hair, only it’s not their own. They also oftentimes scrape together a pile of leaves and dirt and then pee/poop on it. Dogs don’t do that, not even wild dogs. 

We’ve known fox since we had this property – he eats a lot of manzanita and other berries, and you can see that. He also eats birds, feathers and all. But his turds are small, and they disintegrate within days. That pile of cat skat, bigger than any pile our dogs have laid down, has sat at the end of the neighbor’s driveway almost since we saw that mauled deer. 

Scuse me – TMI? Well, up here, it pays to be an amateur skatologist. And keep a pig sticker on your belt. 

 

 

 

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Dog Days: where would we be without our four-legged friends?

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Back to normal – less than a week after the snake bite he was his old insane self again. I pity the fool who tries to touch the sock, Sucka!

Life’s been flying by, I don’t even remember how long ago Badges was bitten by the rattler. Two important points I left out in my last post –

  • we’d had him immunized every year since he was a tiny pup – those rattle snake shots turned out to be worth the money. Less than $100 a year for both dogs. We ended up spending about $1,000 on treatment. When our neighbor’s un-immunized dog was bit last year it ended up running about $6,000 with follow-up. 
  • be careful with painkillers, vet lady likes to dish out the opiods – the vet gave Badges a very powerful Fentanyl patch, and warned us that it would be deadly if he happened to chew it off and ingest it. Dogs don’t like bandaids, we’d been there before.  So we had a couple of sleepless days and nights, freaked out over that patch. Even while the bite was quickly healing, he started to act weird – weirder than usual, attacking Biscuit out of nowhere, snarling at us. So we decided we’d all had enough of that patch and ripped it off. What a wrestling match that was, it was so sticky, it ripped out hair, and he immediately started licking the site. Before we could restrain him and get his foot washed, he’d got himself an overdose of fentanyl. We called the vet, and she told us that if he started having diarrhea or vomiting, bring him in immediately. He was panting, staggering, and acting as though he was having hallucinations, it was a tough hour and a half or so, but eventually he came out of it. If I had it to do over again I would have told them to skip the patch, the oral pills (also opiods) were even a little much. We started cutting those down to half and quarter doses the next day, and he was fine.
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Old lady in waiting – she’s mad about the boy!

Of course Biscuit knew something was wrong, and she moped around the house, watching Badges, even when he was nasty to her. 

So it was about a week of misery, between the smoke and the heat, and the mopey dogs. We decided we needed to break it up a little with a grill party.

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Grill it!

We had one last tri-tip from Cash and Carry in the freezer, so we decided to do it right with corn and potatoes. 

So, you know it’s Dog Days? That’s when dogs and old ladies go crazy.

 

California on fire, three digit heat wave, rattlesnake bit my dog! But if you think I’m beat, you’ve got another think comin’!

Sheesh what a week!

As you may know, California is experiencing a three-digit Heatwave and fires in every direction. Right now we are keeping our Windows shut all day because the smoke from the “Carr” fire in Redding is rolling right up the canyon at us.

And then night before last, as we were getting ready to go to bed, our  little blue heeler, Badges, had a run-in with a rattlesnake near the corner of our cabin.

It was dark, there was a scuffle, my husband swore out loud, telling me to get the dogs into the house. He had his flashlight, and there in the beam was the littlest rattlesnake I have ever seen. I was almost sorry to see my husband dispatch it with a shovel. Then I realized what happened and started to feel Panic crawling all over my body.

Badges was holding his paw and hopping around on three legs. Biscuit wanted to get the snake, I had to take her by the collar and drag her into the cabin. All I need is an old blind diabetic dog that’s been bit by a rattlesnake.

It was after 9, which is late for us. I’m usually out cold by 9:15, so I was a little sleepy already. We loaded the dogs into the F-150 and headed for the only vet that’s open at that hour, the Taj Mahal vet there at the south end of Chico.

As we drove down the hill into town, I was overcome with nausea, I cling to my seatbelt trying not to throw up. I was already exhausted, I’d been up since 5 in the morning. The last thing I remember about the drive is asking my husband to slow down, telling him I thought I was going to throw up.

I don’t know how long I was asleep, I woke up in the parking lot at the Veterinary Hospital. I could tell it was late, there was hardly a soul around. I heard voices just outside the truck, my husband and another man talking about the Veterinary Hospital, and what a poor reputation they have for gouging people in the middle of the night. The other man was saying, he’d come all the way from Fall River Mills on his vets recommendation, but that he had not found one good review of this Hospital online.

Yeah I know, vets seem expensive. Especially the Taj Mahal vet, it’s hard to believe they aren’t there to take advantage of people when their pets are sick in the middle of the night. We’ve had to go to our regular vet for an emergency, and they were a lot cheaper. But after 10 pm all you get is a recorded message telling you to head for the Taj Mahal vet because they’re open 24 hours a day.

What are you going to do when your dog has just been bit by a rattlesnake? At least we have a 24-hour vet.

My husband came to the car to tell me that Badges was going to be fine. He said the anti-venom would take a couple of hours, so he had told the vet we would wait in the parking lot. He had been walking Biscuit around the building in circles when the other man had come out to offer her some water. We saw that he had his travel trailer parked in the empty lot next door, generator running. I wondered how hot it had been in that treeless lot earlier in the day, with temperatures in Chico hovering around a hundred and five.

At 1:30 am we approached the door of the building. Of course it was locked and there were no loitering signs. We wondered how many homeless people they had to field every day. The man who was staying in the trailer told us transients had knocked on his trailer door a few times but he just ignored them.

A woman came to let us in, said Badges was almost ready to go, and went about preparing our bill. I could tell by the tone in her voice as she gave us our total that she was ready for us to be angry, but my husband just stepped forward with his credit card and dealt with it. At least we have a credit card.

The technician who brought Badges out was pretty brusque. She let us know that if he ate the pain patch on his leg it would be big trouble! She treated us like delinquent children. I felt she was kind of pissed that we weren’t going to leave him overnight. I let it roll off, but she put the fear of God in Me. The thought of him eating that fentanyl patch kept me awake the last two nights. We didn’t leave it on the three to four days they recommended, we cut it off last night. Every time he so much as licked it I felt like I was going to go through the roof.

All I could think was, fentanyl is what got Prince. It scared the s*** out of me, after my husband cut the patch off I made him wash his hands about 50 times.

The last two days locked up in the cabin with a sick dog and an old dog in a hundred plus temperatures with our generator running to power our tiny air conditioner have just about got me beat. My husband has to remind me constantly, we knew there would be challenges about living up here.

I’ll tell you what though, it still beats the hell out of living in Chico California.

When we moved here, we were very aware of rattlesnakes. Within the first couple of years we had this place, we encountered two large snakes that we had to kill. We found one to two three foot snake laying along the path in the yard, and the second had taken up residence under our tool shed and had a habit of coming out and threatening our dogs.

After we killed the second snake, we started to look into snake prevention. I started raking the yard clean, whacking low brush, and my husband got wire mesh to line the bottoms of our  sheds so that snakes could not get underneath them. I found rattlesnake repellent at Walmart, a jug of granules scented with cinnamon, and decided to make my own repellent out of cat litter and cinnamon spray. I sprinkled the cat litter around the perimeter of our yard, and then loaded a tank pack sprayer full of cinnamon oil, clove oil, and cedar oil in water. I sprayed this on the cat litter, as well as the base of all of the sheds.

I did that for a couple of years, and since we did not see any snakes in that period, I guess it worked. I dropped the ball this past spring because we were so busy moving I just forgot about it.

I’d also drop the ball lately on raking the yard, it’s been so hot and Dusty. I can’t wait until burn season, I’ll have to start raking piles again.

Yes, there are challenges to this lifestyle. But thinking about living in Chico again makes me feel up to the challenge.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The container garden is working out good!

While I am pretty frustrated with my computer service here on the hill, one thing that’s working out for me is the container garden.

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All the tomatoes we potted are producing well.

We planted Early Girls, which are usually smaller, salad size tomatoes. We haven’t been disappointed, they’re big enough for sandwiches too.

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They’re coming in fast, I have a dozen or so in the cooler.

I will probably end up making a batch of sauce. I like my sauce pressed, so I’ll have to dig my tomato press out of storage. But won’t it be fun to open a container of sauce in January?

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We got these yellow striped cherry tomatoes from our neighbor, and this bush is really starting to pay off, with tiny green fruit all over it.

So every day we can eat tomatoes, I never would have believed that. 

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Tomato sandwich for lunch, and plenty left over for dinner salad.

The Big Heat

I haven’t been posting much these days because my computer is slow – I dumped Comcast, which is great, but now I’m on a mobile hotspot, and that’s kinda sketchy. 

Remember Dial Up? 

We’ve also been having all sorts of distractions. My son and his girlfriend came for a couple of days and we got to take a road trip up the canyon. We did a lot of cooking, my son made dutch oven brownies. We watched old movies on our little tv/dvd player.  As soon as they left the Big Heat set in. 

Yeah, that’s one of my favorite movies, with Glenn Ford and Lee Marvin, but I here mean, very high temperatures. 

90 degrees is pretty hot up here, 100 is almost unbearable. The cabin gets up to about 90, it’s nauseating. The little loft where I keep my computer is a hot box by 9 am. 

So we get up, take the dogs for a walk, and do whatever chores we have lined up, and then we spend the rest of the day trying to stay cooled off. 

We have a tiny Intex swimming pool. We have enough electricity at our pump house to run the filter and jets, and who needs the heater. We get in the pool between chores, it’s a life saver. We have the dog pool right next to it, in the shade, and the dogs spend their day between their little pool and the ruts they have dug under our 10 x 12. 

Yesterday was awful, I kept thinking I was going to barf, and my feet swelled up in my sandals until there were pressure marks across the tops of my feet. So today my husband is going to get out the generator and set up R2D2 – our little portable air conditioner. We can run it for hours on very little gas. We tried to tough it out yesterday, but it was miserable. Today is predicted to be even hotter, so we’re doing it. 

I’m planning to sit at my kitchen table and write letters to friends and relatives, drink Kool Aide, and lounge with my husband in the pool. We bbq’d a bunch of chicken the other night, which is fantastic, cause we won’t have to cook again until tomorrow night. 

Time to  get out there and get what we can out of the day before we scurry in to the AC. 

Epic year for mosquitoes, get your Deet!

Dogs don’t care about the days of the week. It’s Saturday morning, Dad wants to sleep in, but Biscuit is restless to go for a walk. Badges persistently nudges the bed, where my husband has made a little fort out of pillows around his head.

They like to hit the trails, and by 9 or 10 am the sun starts to get a little testy. But if you go too early, the mosquitoes come at you like a pack of Saturday night B-girls  – “Hello Sailor!”

So I  give them some breakfast and leave them outside long enough to relieve their bladders and then hustle them in, brushing off the bloodsuckers as they squeeze through the door.

When the sun breaches my husband’s pillow fort, he surrenders the bed and we spray ourselves down with Deet and hit the road. I don’t like Deet, especially after a news piece I watched the other day – they were very clear and repeated a few times, SHOWER well after you use it. THAT’S  not going to make me paranoid!

The skeeters are worse than I remember this year. I grew up in riceland, with a rice field right alongside our house, and I’m saying, they’re really bad this year. In Chico it’s easy to clean up the yard, clear rain gutters, mow back weeds, that really helps. But here in the woods we’re surrounded with brush and tree litter, stumps and hollow trees that trap waher where we can’t get to it, the perfect breeding ground.

The mosquito district is useless – several years ago they passes an assessment on property owners, but they only spray out in the ricefields. If we want service up here, we have to bring them onto our property, just to spray our property. They don’t spray the public roads or any of the ponds standing within sight of the road. The $85,000 (plus benefits) /year staffer who answered the phone told me they can’t spray anything without permission. When I  asked her how I could appeal the assessment they put on my property she laughed, a real belly laugh.

So much for the Butte County Mosquito and Vector District, which has over a million dollar pension deficit for a staff of 5 fulltime employees, all office workers. The director makes over $100,000/year, plus about a $30,000 toward his benefits, but only pays 3 % of his benefits.

I don’t feel too comfortable with them anyway, when they do spray, they seem to be indiscriminate. A vectors employee reported finding dead deer and birds in the spray sites, and they fired her, but not until she made quite a stink. So now, rather than taking the proactive approach (send crews in the winter to help clear brush and standing water, like the fire safety agencies), they just don’t do anything.

We work on clearing our own property – that’s when they really attack, when you disturb their resting places. I use Deet in the morning and evening, or when I’m raking the trails, but the rest of the time I find a solution of lemon eucalyptus oil in water makes a nice spray repellant. It actually feels good, you can spray it right on your face. It smells like lemon candy, which apparently throws the little bitches off scent.

The previous owners of the property planted ivy as ground cover – some counties recommend that for fire safety? I really don’t get that, it traps pine needles and other trash, a total fire hazard. And, it is a wonderful place for momma mosquitoes to rest. That’s our first task in clearing our yard, get rid of the ivy.

And now I’m off to feed the skeeters.

 

Change of lifestyle brings new opportunities

We have been camped out at our shack in the woods for exactly two months. We’ve sublet about half of our apartment in town. The hubbub of moving has settled down a little, we’re figuring things out. We don’t have to drive to town every day.

Our revenues are up a little, some of our expenses are down. Money is still tighter than a new pair of shoes, but we are feeling better about the move every day.

One challenge is meal planning. My family lived in the sticks of Glenn County when I was a kid, we had to drive for everything.  My grandma had to “make do” oftentimes,  despite the best planning.

Things just came up. Like the time I fell off my trike and split open the back of my head. It was about 4:30 and Gram had a bunch of drumsticks in the electric fryer. Gramps was out hauling prunes. When I appeared in the kitchen door with blood streaming down my neck she got a positively annoyed expression on her face – “Oh! TEETA!” she said, shaking her head.

But she put down her fork and led me into the back bathroom to wash my head. She wrapped my head in a towel, called the other kids and hauled us all the way to Willows to Doc Fleming’s  office. I was sitting on the exam table when I realized Gram was wearing her apron and a dress and shoes that normally never left the property. And no lipstick!

Then there was the time we really needed groceries, but she couldn’t find the car keys. She used to call that, “dab dinner” – clean out the fridge and have a little of everything.

I try to remember those lessons about living away from town. We try to plan meals at least two days ahead, but food storage is tough up here. We make do with a counter top fridge, plugged in at the pump house, and a really big ice chest. We don’t have a conventional stove/oven, we use our camp stove, an electric frying pan, bbq and Dutch ovens.

We thought we would have to give up bulk shopping, but we found out – food doesn’t spoil as fast as we’d believed.  Produce stays nice in the ice chest. We found cheap block ice at Food Maxx, that actually lasts three or four days.

The mini fridge can actually hold frozen meat. The freezer door had broken off years ago so we replaced it with foil-covered cardboard.

Now we make a game of how long we can avoid going to town. My son needs a big lunch every day for his job, so we grill a giant boneless chicken breast and there’s almost a week of lunchmeat for all three of us.

When we grill meat, we bake something in the Dutch ovens – usually sourdough bread, but sometimes biscuits or cookies. My son is getting pretty proficient at making brownies in the little pot. Last night we made oatmeal bars.

It’s tough moving out of your familiar routine, sometimes I feel disoriented.  I can’t just hop on my bike and go Downtown to Mau Mau the flak catchers like I used to.

So I will have to get back to writing letters to the paper. Tee hee hee.

And we have a new supervisor over in O’ville – Tami Ritter. I’m sure this is the beginning of a beautiful relationship.

Tee hee hee.