Rivenrock Gardens Cactus Blog

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Patience My Ass, I'm gonna kill something!

   We have Turkey Vultures in this area. They are pretty amazing animals….. they can eat dead animals felled by disease, and their systems can clean the disease out…. they are called the ‘trashmen of the wilderness’… they are a necessary component to our local eco-system.

   They are also terribly pest-ridden creatures…. infested with little crawlies… and stinking really bad… really, really, really bad.

  But I like them a lot…. they taste a bit like a cross between a Peregrine Falcon and a Spotted Owl! (Joke).

   They are an amazing little creature to watch… they will sit high on a treetop or cliff waiting for the sun to cause the thermal updrafts that they ride so effortlessly…. a simple jump into the breeze… a short downhill glide to build air-current causing lift (the curves of the wings causes a vacuum that actually lifts the animal up), and the animal can turn into the updrafts… letting the upwelling column of air lift the bird up gradually… they must spin in circles inside this column of air….. each circle will bring them a bit higher than they were before…. all of this is done with just small ‘tweaks’ to the feathers… the birds can control some of the flight feathers giving small adjustments to balance and steering.

   Amazing creatures really….

   Incidentally… they have to take several running steps to build momentum for lift if starting off on the level ground. A Turkey vulture in a five foot pen cannot fly out due to this take-off restriction. I’d say  a Turkey Vulture takes thirty feet horizontal-run to get six feet off the ground.

Turkey Vulture on a tree

Turkey Vulture on a tree

    I saw this Vulture in a  tree over the creek…..

Turkey Vultures on a tree

Turkey Vultures on a tree

   Moments later a cousin (they nest in family groups) came to mess with him…..
They squawked for a few moments, then left off together to do some Vulture stuff I’d not understand.

Guinea Hen on a bumper

guinea hen on a bumper

guinea hen on a bumper

 

   This is our neighbor’s Guinea Hen.  It likes the sheltered area that this bumper gives… solar radiation is concentrated here by all the black paint…. it is sheltered from the breeze…. a good spot for a bird.

  Guinea Hens are very interesting birds…. I think they are a bit smarter than your average fowl.
   This one likes cars and often runs alongside our car when we go to visit the neighbor’s.
   It runs alongside Vickie’s car… sometimes in front of her bumper…. its head almost level with the bottom of her window….
   They make a screeching sound that a lot of people find annoying.  As far as I know, people don’t raise them for meat or eggs….. they mainly have a reputation of being an ‘easy-to-have bird’… they don’t really need to be caged… anyone we’ve known that had Guineas just let them roam free. They tend to find the place they want to live, and hang out there, eating the bugs all around… they are also very vocal, and when someone comes onto the area, they will sound an alarm…. it’s hard to sneak up onto a house with Guineas, Dogs, or Geese.  These birds used to live at another place up the hill… but they wandered and became friends with ‘Little Man’ the pony and lived with him in his pony run. Since they had no fear of cars, and would try to chase people away… one got run over by a car and died. Now there is just this one Guinea left.. and Little Man.

a deer fawn

   We leave water out for the local wildlife… even though the deer love many of our cactus plants… I like having them around. Our best cactus is behind a seven foot tall fence….

   The local does (a female deer) have their babies here… it is a safer place than further from the house. Local predators do not come to our house that much because it riles the dogs…. the dogs bark like crazy at the deer, but don’t worry them too much. The dogs are preferable to coyotes….

   Our dogs are chihuahuas… so mostly all they do is make a ruckus. They get scared by anything larger than them… so they fright up when they see a rabbit.  But they do keep predators away…. believe me, foxes, coyotes and lions don’t worry about a chihuahua… but they know there is usually a human nearby… so this is a relatively safe place for deer. Sometimes we get to see the babies nursing…. so sweet.

 

   Here’s a photo of the little fawn near our house. I took this photo from our open front door.

 

a deer fawn

a deer fawn

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A salamander in the dry oak woodlands

We came upon a salamander in the woods.
We took a picture, and set him back into the forest duff.
This was underneath some massive giant Coastal Oak trees.
It’s amazing that these little guys can survive in such a dry climate.

Critters in my mug

   We have a few cats that live outside year-round.   They sleep under the porch and in some of the sheds and trees we have on the property. They serve the vital function of helping keep the numbers of rodents down. some of our neighbors are overrun by packrats and mice…. we don’t have any such trouble… generally…

   That’s because outdoors cats eat rodents outdoors.

   We’ve also got two kittens we bottle-fed as their mother had been killed. They barely had their eyes open when we found them…. the rest of the litter had died, and these two were cold to the touch, unresponsive and immobile…. but we warmed them up, and got them hydrated again using an eyedropper and kitten milk replacer….Chica the chihuahua served as a surrogate mother to them.. and they still run to her to say hello. They have some dog social habits…  we raised them as indoor kitties but let them in and out the doggie door as they pleased, and when we walk the property… we often have the two dogs and the two kittens all accompanying us. It is cute seeing the kittens playing in the field with the chihuahuas.

   All was fine until they started to hunt…. and I don’t want to discourage them from this activity as their predatory instincts… while deleterious to the local small animal population does reduce the numbers of gophers eating our cactus, mice getting into sheds (and house), and rabbits causing HUGE damage to our terraces with their large tunnels.

   But we have to draw the line at them bringing rodents into the house to play with and eat. For months we’ve found bloody evidence of their nocturnal forays…. we’re happy and proud that they are great hunters… but please, don’t bring rats into the house!  They tend to bring them in alive and play with them before killing and eating them…. and some of their prey have escaped… and I’ve had to catch them….. usually I can be found with a drinking mug in hand… when a cat brings a rabbit, rat or mouse into the house and drops it near our feet… I quickly spring into action… I down the last of my liquids quickly, and set the mug over the erstwhile prey… and take it outside to be released….

   We’ve now taken to closing the doggie door at night, the cats can go out, but they can’t come back in…. so for a couple of weeks, we’ve been able to keep the carpet clean(er) than before. And I don’t have to gulp liquids down so I can use my drinking vessel as an emergency capture device.

   Here’s the last two critters the kittens brought into the house… one is a large shrew.. the other is a small cottontail bunny such as are so common here, and a major food source for local predators.
   I took both critters outside and released them.  It’s a strange thing to release critters when I’m wanting the cats to eat them anyway… but I can’t bear to give a little critter back to a cat, that seems a bit unfair even if I took it from the cat in the first place… and I don’t want to kill them myself….

 

 A joke:     Why don’t bunnies make any noise when they mate?
Answer:   They have cottonballs!

 

bunny in mug

bunny in mug

 

 

Winter toad

  Winter-time toad

   We’re dry and hot in the summer….
   We have a lot of toads that come out in the wetness of winter…
   This was one of them…..
   We don’t see too many toads in the summertime.

Tony and Chica

Domestic tranquility

Chica raised this little kitten named Tony.  They are still very close.

 

Gulls in Grover

 

   We went to Grover Beach. There were some gulls that obviously get fed often from the cars in this parking lot by a fast-food joint.
  Gulls are pretty common… and not especially pretty nor pleasing to hear. But they are masterpieces of evolutionary design. Efficiency….

 

Gopher Snake

Gopher Snake

  We call them Gopher Snakes here…
Some places call them ‘Bull Snakes’, or ‘Corn Snakes’
Taxonomists call them “Pituophis’

Some of the old folks call them ‘Hoop Snakes’…
and say that when frightened in this hilly country,
they will grasp their tail in their mouth,
form themselves into a hoop, and roll down the hill to evade capture.
I’ve never seen it happen….
But my cousin met a guy once who did.

They imitate rattlesnakes….
very interesting.
I’ve jumped out of my skin a few times when one of these guys turned up in the brush.
They’ll form into a coiled striking pattern…feigning strikes,
wriggling their tail and hissing in a strange way that sounds vaguely like a rattlesnake tail-rattle.

This one was sunning on the asphalt roadway.

I like these snakes… they eat vermin…
maybe having them around might reduce the rattlesnakes
as there’d be less food for the rattlers.
The King snake is good also..
and they are known for killing and eating young rattlesnakes….
although I imagine they’d eat gopher snakes also.

There’s usually no need for killing snakes….
beneficial snakes such as this should be left alone to live their lives.

 

 

 

 

  

R.I.P. Little-Dude

    It’s said mankind has been living with their animals for some ten thousand years….    I’ve heard ‘civilisation began when people started hurling words instead of stones’….    Maybe also it can be said civilization started when someone picked up an orphaned baby animal and raised it up… finally figuring out how this could improve the lives of people… the dog was perhaps the first domesticated animal… the social needs of dogs is similar to humans.. so we naturally get along well as a family unit. The keen noses of dogs would alert of intruders.. etc. Dogs are a good animal to have on a homestead. We also like our cats as they eat the gophers that plague our cactus. Actually, I need to talk to our tax man and see if we can expense the cats on our taxes for the rodent control they do… maybe the dogs too since they bark at the deer and alert me to run them off if they try to get in our seven foot high fence.
  Nah.. better not try that. 

  Here’s a photo of our Chihuahua Chica and the two kittens she raised up.
   I imagine heaven is a bit like this… animals that would be naturally antagonistic brought together in love through the Grace of God.
Chica raised these two orphaned kitties for us… giving them the warmth they needed while we fed them kitten milk replacer from eyedroppers. It is so heartwarming and precious to see the way they’ll come in from their nocturnal hunts and lay down next to their momma the dog.  They chase each other around the house in their little play times. Dang… we’ve got it good here…. we were without a TV for years… but the animals always kept us entertained. Between the sheep that acted like goats (Barbados), the goats that looked like sheep (angoras), the domestic and wild Russian boars we’ve had…. rabbits, fowls… etc.

   Here’s Whitey and Little-Dude…. both are shelter-dog rescues. Both were abused in their lives…
   Trauma can do so much harm to a mind and spirit….
   Whitey was found by us before he was mature… after some six months with us he jumped onto my lap for the first time. We had Little-Dude for almost three years… in that time he only jumped up on me a few times in the last weeks before he died.  I always had the worry it would be when he’s old and sick before he loses the edge of fear that kept him from me.  Even then he was wary… eying me suspiciously when I stroked his fur.  No one knows the trauma he went through… he had broken ribs and a tail with several breaks in it. He would cling near to Vickie and stay between her and me as if to protect her… whenever I approached her he would get scared and bite me.. but he was so old.. his teeth worn down to little dull nubs.
   Little Dude had a little spot on the grasses near the garden in which he liked to sit in the sun… we’d laugh and call him ‘Viejo’ which means ‘old-man’…. he so reminded me of some of the southern villages in Europe… where you used to see the old men sitting on benches alongside their houses…. their dark clothes in many layers… a beret-type cap on their head… smoking smelly cigarettes… how the mind works, that a little old chihuahua can remind me of my childhood in Europe.
  Little Dude passed on about a month ago on April 13 … he’d come in from his little warm-spot in the sun, and collapsed by the refrigerator…. he went through some spasms for a time, shuddered and stretched, and stopped breathing.  We buried him at the little spot he liked to sit in the sun…. it was touching because both Whitie and Chica sat on that spot in the sun for the next few days, and would nap on the little blanket he always liked to lay on. Some folks say animals don’t realize death…. but I know they do. When you’re working slaughtering animal after animal as I’ve done in the past… you soon realize the first couple trust you… proceeding along the line willingly… until the smell of death starts to get to them.. then they start to realize something is amiss…. they start to protest and panic… yes, animals in slaughterhouses do get scared… and it makes a difference in the taste of the meat.
   Most cultures have a way of assuaging the guilt of the people when they kill an animal…. they pray that the animal uinderstands the need to take their life and eat them… they pray for forgiveness, and that the animal will understand…. we don’t have that in this modern time when you have others do the killing for you…. if you’re gonna eat animals… I think it is best to kill them yourself… it seems more honest somehow.

   As for Little Dude…. I wish we could have gotten into his mind to see what happened to him….
   At least we gave him a secure home, with good animal friends he could try to be close to. I think he had as good a time for that few years as he possibly could given the internal torment he had.

   R.I.P Little Dude… see you at the Rainbow Bridge one day.