Wednesday, October 17, 2012


Dogs are very useful animals. They make good alarm systems, theft deterrents, bed warmers, exercise buddies, and dish washers. Awesomedog is particularly good at removing every single molecule of edible substance from any surface. This makes him a very convenient alternative to a mop.

I'm pretty sure this cleaning method cannot be used on other surfaces, but there are those who would disagree.

Monday, October 15, 2012


I discovered a few years ago that, when you have birds, people give you birds. This summer I learned that birds aren't the only thing that works like that. It all started when I began teaching my annual Animals and Art class, and got back in touch with a family who brings in their reptiles every year. If you are a weird and interesting person who owns a lot of strange animals, you end up making friends with other weird and interesting people who own a lot of strange animals. Then, when someone tosses you another unwanted creature, you have a whole network of people who might like to add it to their menagerie.

My friends have tortoises and had divided their enclosure to make a space for the box turtle, but she had been sitting in a corner and refusing to eat, and they weren't sure what else to do with her. After reading quite a bit about box turtles, I still had a few questions, so I called the awesome turtle sanctuary in town. I've read about the sanctuary a lot and was dying to visit, but it has been closed to the public for a while.

So we made plans to go visit and I started building a turtle enclosure in my yard. In the interest of being sustainable, green, and cheap, I asked the local Freecycle mailing list for some old boards. I was immediately offered a few 2x4's and also a second box turtle.

When you love exotic animals and someone offers you one they clearly have no clue how to care for, the answer is always "yes". Freed from a life of boredom in a plastic tub with a small dusting of potting soil, Turtle #2 immediately took to a life of burrowing in the yard and foraging for fruit and bugs. I took the turtles to the sanctuary with me and learned that they were both girls, and I got to see all the wonderful turtles, tortoises, snakes, lizards, and birds at the sanctuary. When I described my turtles' enclosure and diet, they offered me a couple of boy turtles to keep them company.

And that is how I ended up with four three-toed box turtles. They are a lot of fun to watch, they each have distinct personalities and favorite spots to hang out. It turns out that Turtle #1 is just grumpy by nature and prefers to spend her time hiding. Now that we have convinced her to each something other than peaches, she has relaxed quite a bit. She still immediately turns into a box whenever I pick her up, though.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Mud daubers.

When we first moved into our current house, I was horrified to find a wasp nest stuck to the wall above the back door. We sprayed it with poison and knocked it down. Later I was dismayed to learn what makes this type of nest.

You see, this is the nest of the most magical and wonderful member of the order Hymenoptera, the mud dauber.

This noble beast is truly the greatest of all wasps. What makes the mud dauber so beautiful and special? It eats spiders. Especially black widows. Mud daubers are also solitary, so one wasp doesn't mean there are dozens more somewhere plotting your demise., and they aren't territorial either. Our mud dauber can be spotted hanging around the pond in the turtle pen, her nest is once again above our back door, but we've never actually seen her up there. It has at least six cells now, each filled with an assortment of horrible arachnids that will never bother anyone ever again. Thank you mud dauber!

Thursday, October 11, 2012

What kind of dog?

If you live in an area with a lot of chihuahuas or a lot of people with Mexican heritage, you are probably aware that a lot of people from Mexico absolutely love chihuahuas and enjoy pointing them out to their children when they would ignore any other type of dog. I imagine this is somewhat similar for dogs with other readily-identifiable nationalities, and I am simply not around when someone from Australia spots a kelpie or an Australian cattle dog. In my mind Irish people like to point out Irish setters and Irish terriers, and people from Japan are quick to point out akitas  to their kids. (I could be completely wrong about this and it's just a chihuahua thing...)  Anyway, this morning we passed a probably-Hispanic guy and matching kid.

I've been laughing my ass off about this all day.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

The saddest thing at daycare.

This is easily the worst thing I have ever witnessed while working with kids. I know for certain that the kid was just really happy that his mom was officially in remission and wanted to announce it to his friends...

Sunday, October 7, 2012


I occasionally do transports for the local seabird rescue. This usually involves driving down the coast and picking up the birds from animal shelters, coast guards, and other agencies. Most of the time somebody else has already picked up the birds and driven them part of the way. When I've got several birds to transport at once I like to say I have a car full of pelicans, because it conjures up this sort of image:

The truth is that the birds are always transported in cardboard boxes; the dark makes them feel safe and secure, and they can't accidentally poke out anybody's eyes. So far I've transported pelicans, cormorants, and a grebe. Even in boxes, seabirds make my car smell like fish.

Friday, October 5, 2012


Awesomedog does not exactly play "fetch". Sure, he loves to play ball like any herding dog, but we have to play it his way. Awesomedog is absolutely unimpressed by a ball on the ground. Once it has been thrown, his one mission in life is to catch that ball and bite it. He doesn't actually gnaw the ball, he isn't a recreational chewer and has never really been interested in destroying non-edible toys like Nylabones and Kongs. Awesomedog just loves to bite things, and after catching a tennis ball he likes to stand around biting it really hard for a bit.

And then he spits the ball out and ignores it until I catch up and pick the ball up again.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Permanent pink hair dye.

I have pink hair. I only dye it about once a month, and the color lasts pretty darned good in between dyings. When I first determined that I wanted pink hair, I set out on a quest to find some permanent pink hair dye. While such a product does not truly exist, there are definitely ways to get the effect of permanent pink hair dye for permanently pink hair. Done properly, the whole process is a lot kinder to your hair than actual permanent hair dye.

1. "Permanent" is relative.

If you've ever tried to maintain a different hair color before, you know you have to keep dying your hair regularly. Hair grows, colors fade, and even permanent dyes need to be redone every month or so. There is no way to change your hair color without maintaining it regularly.

2. All dyes are not equal.

All dyes are not created equal, and not all colors of a certain brand are equally effective. Pirate? uses violet Pravana dye and it lasts months and months in her hair. I tried their "wild orchid" color and it washed out in a week. I use "fuschia shock" by Manic Panic and it lasts for weeks, but their "cotton candy pink" shade washes out much faster. I have found that the Manic Panic colors that look black or nearly black in their jars (in real life, not on the website) are the ones that have the most pigment and last the longest. It helps to try several different products to see what works best on your hair.

3. Say no to burny chemicals.

Permanent hair dye has a dark side, it's full of chemicals that burn your scalp. Leaving this type of dye on for too long can totally destroy your hair. Likewise, bleach or lightening agents can also dry out your hair and leave it horribly frizzy and gross. Unless your hair is really dark, you can completely forgo "lightening" it and just put your colors on over it. Pick a nice dark shade of your favorite color, you'll most likely end up with a nice vibrant tint over your natural hair color. Semi-permanent dyes like Manic Panic and Pravana's Vivids are non-toxic vegetable dyes that won't fry your hair and can be left on long enough to color almost any hair (or pet).

4. Longer is better.

The cool thing about using vegetable dyes is that they don't fry your hair, so you can just go ahead and leave them on indefinitely. I leave mine on for at least four hours, and often more than eight hours. The dye has to stay wet in order to keep working, so it helps to wrap your head in plastic wrap. Beauty supply shops also sell some nifty cotton ropes that you can stick around your hairline to help keep the dye off your skin.

5. Heat helps.

Heat is recommended by a lot of dye manufacturers to help set the color in your hair or make it brighter. I usually blow dry my hair for 10-15 minutes or until I get bored. Rinse well in cool water, and your color should last for several weeks.

Tuesday, October 2, 2012

The Cat Room.

The tiny dining room off our kitchen is the Cat Room. It didn't start out that this, and it's really all a matter of coincidence. We never intended to have a designated cat room, it just turned out that way.

We never really eat at the dining table, the room itself is super-tiny, and trying to fit more than a couple of people in there is a little silly. We do, however, feed the cats on the table, and although it is tiny, the dining room has two extremely sunny windows that are usually open. Evilcat's litterbox issues and pawprints on the table led to a few more additions.

The stools we keep under the table turned the tablecloth into a perfect place to hide. When the dogs decided to start raiding the litterbox, we put a tall babygate across the door and ended up with this:

It's a perfect dog-free cat habitat, complete with food, water, litterbox, places to hide, and sunbeams. Someday I'm going to add some shelves so they can climb/fall a bit. Yes, the dining room also has a doorway with a rounded top. It is way too cute. (When I'm outside I like to poke the cats through the window screen.)