I Annoyed my Cat and I Laughed Like Hell.

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Spot loves to be cuddled under my right arm when we (rarely) settle in front of the TV. His place, every time, is to be squished under my body and covered by my couch-blanket, head and all.

Well. Couch-blankie (crocheted by Socks and much beloved) has good-sized holes in it. Holes that just happen to be the perfect size to poke kitty-ears through.

So I did.

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I can’t remember the last time I laughed so hard. Poor Spotty-Cakes.

My Slimy Nemesis!

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I rarely dislike any critter. Be it vertebrate or invertebrate, warm- or cold-blooded, furred or scaled, no legs at all or a hundred legs.

However. Since I’ve lived in Ireland and discovered my love of plants, I now have an extreme dislike for a certain invertebrate.

The filthy nasty disgusting destroying slug!

Holes in my hostas, strawberries with caverns eaten into the lovely red pulp, seedlings arbitrarily chewed off at the base of the stem. Augh!!!

I have an Irish Wildlife book. It has exactly six pages of mammals for a total of 43, which includes whales (and the bastard American mink an ecological group released from a fur farm and now has overrun the country, due to well-meaning dammed idiots). Rather an astoundingly tiny number of mammals, but it is a small island after all.

The ‘Terrestrial molluscs’ section, on the other hand, has 21 types of slugs and snails. What the HELL, Ireland?!? I know it’s wet and green, but really?

I’m not squeamish when it comes to easily-squished things. I have been known to flail about like a Whirling Dervish when I’ve walked into a large spiderweb in the dark, but who wouldn’t? I have a dislike of ants when they surprise me, and maggots are just disgusting. I have stories to explain both the ants and the maggots. Not today. Today is when I admit to a shudder, a step back and maybe an involuntary sound of horror when a giant-ass-slug surprises me.

They do, they do. After nine years here I still can’t get used to seeing slugs the size of my thumb in my compost bin. Yeeuch! Even better, at the bottom of a pot I want to use. Which is where I found monsters.

I had an olive tree that didn’t survive (not surprised) but I kept it as I could grow snow peas up its dead trunk. Well, I’ve not done that in a few years, so I moved the dead tree, soil and all, into another pot it didn’t quite fit into. It was a nice pot and I wanted it for a more permanent planting. Anyhoo, the tree has been in the temporary pot for a year, and I decided to move it. Picked it up by the trunk, and damn if it didn’t just pull right out of the pot, dirt and all.

And there were huge slugs in the gap at the bottom.

I put the tree back in the pot and moved the whole thing from the bottom, leaving it alone until I could face the slimy suckers.

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That’s them. One big sumbitch and one younger version, both Limax flavus, or yellow slug. They look more green to me. It must be because of all the lovely tender plants I feed them! Just look. Nasty nasty nasty.

Me being me, I got over myself and knocked them onto cardboard so I could take pictures. I also wanted to know just how big they are, so I got out the tape measure.

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That’s the smaller one – the juvenile. It woke up first and tried to get away as fast as slug-ly possible. I didn’t let it, of course.

While trying to get the older one to wake up and stretch out, I found something even more disgusting. Slugs have mites. My camera wasn’t good enough to get them, but both yellow slugs had tiny cream-coloured mites running over them. Ewwwwwwwwwwwww. They must be pretty specific to slugs, these mites, because how the hell didn’t they get stuck in the slime? I know more about slugs than I ever wanted to know.

Swift had it right:
“The vermin only teaze and pinch
Their foes superior by an inch.
So, naturalists observe, a flea
Has smaller fleas that on him prey;
And these have smaller still to bite ‘em,
And so proceed ad infinitum.”

I don’t feel that superior. These slugs are unstoppable!

I finally got the older one to unfurl, and it gave me a perfect measure.

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An inch, Mr Swift? How about four? Gaaaah!

The book says that is maximum size for this species. But. There is another one that can get up to 25mm in length – almost ten inches long. The ashy-grey slug, Limax cinereoniger. At least this Limax doesn’t come into gardens, otherwise I might actually faint away if I am surprised by one of those.

Oh: I killed them all. With glee, and table salt.

Facebook Thinks I’m Into “Woo”.

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Facebook suggests Pages You Might Like. More often than not, they have no friggin’ clue what I like!

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Really? Orbs? Really? Because I take a lot of pictures, like everyone else on FB? I can’t think of any other reason they think I’d be fascinated by a group that believes photographic anomalies equals … well, whatever they think! Spirits, ghosts, souls, aliens…? I’d be more likely to believe these photos are capturing the remnants of a fart than anything paranormal.

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Oh now, so many many more members! These must be the folks that have it all figured out, for sure! I’ll jump right on that.

I can only think my tirades against the anti-vaxers and my distaste for what the Church has been up to recently (800 dead kids found in an old septic tank, anyone?) links me somehow to those people who believe the rubbish they hear ‘from a friend of a friend’ over proper scientific studies.

Local Irish Plants that Found Me

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This might not be terribly interesting, but it cropped up in my mind-web as a blog idea and I want to run with it.

I have plants that I never planted. Some are still a mystery, like this one:

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It’s a tree of some sort… Probably a big old weed tree like my grey willow; now well over 12 feet tall and beloved by the little birds. This one is growing in my planter of irises, and I’ve tried to kill it two years in a row by accident. It keeps coming back – maybe an ash tree?

I gained a fern last year out of nowhere, too.

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This is either a ‘hay-scented fern’ or a ‘lady fern’. Tending toward the former, as it says primarily grows in western Ireland and likes west-facing land (ticks one box, as it faces south). I don’t mind one bit that it landed here.

I dug this up and planted it, a native flowering grass. I believe it is thrift, Armeria maritima.

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And of course the yellow iris we dug up! I don’t know anyone else who has these in their garden on purpose. Iris pseudacorus

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My newest arrival was a mystery for the whole six minutes it was in Facebook. I had a guess, and it was confirmed: native Irish common spotted orchid, Dactylorhiza fuchsii. Did you know that Ireland has at least 14 native orchids?

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It’s getting ready to bloom, too:

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I love what I grew intentionally, but these are some lovely native species that I can’t kick out of the garden.

Spot is Doing Great!

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My best boy and Super-Bengal Spot was diagnosed with kidney failure last year.
I freaked out entirely. As usual for me, I wrote about it (here), talked about it (with iDJ and Socks and probably anyone else that didn’t roll their eyes when I said “I’m upset because my cat has been diagnosed with a fatal disease.”), and I worried about it a lot. So much so that I lost my marbles and the day after the vet visit, I backed the Mini into the wall outside our house, hard.

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I was so mortified by this extreme idiocy at the time that I couldn’t write about it. I have never, ever done something so stupid in, or to, a car.

The car is fixed now, of course, but it set us back financially quite a bit. Which meant our return visit to the vet – meant to be done before Christmas – didn’t happen until today.

I dithered over taking him in. The last time he bit the crap out of the vet, and was so stressed on the drive it hardly seemed worth doing it again. Then I thought hard and realised that if I kept falling short on taking care of my best boy, and he got worse because of it, I’d never ever forgive myself. So we harnessed him up and made the 30 minute drive to the vet this morning.

He doesn’t go into a crate. He just isn’t that kind of cat. He loves a car trip: but only if we stay under 40mph. That speed is not an option when going to the vet! I have to say that today the hollering wasn’t too bad, and he never tried to get under iDJ’s feet (he was driving), so all in all it wasn’t too stressful this time. Our vet has a pet shop next door so I took him over there for a wander around while we waited our turn. The two filthy working border collies and the young Jack Russel in the queue ahead of us were giving Spot some very, very hungry looks…

It came our turn, and Spot was relaxed and calm, not a shiver or a scared meow. He had his arsehole examined, and his belly listened to, and his mouth and teeth checked – his guts were a bit gassy but everything else is excellent. What clinched it for our vet was the weighing. Spot has gained an entire US pound since we last visited! He’s just under 9lbs now (4.05 kilos), which is an amazing improvement and is a wonderful indicator that the disease is under control. Doc didn’t even feel the need to take a blood sample.

Spot has been on Science Diet C/D dry food nearly his entire life because when he was a very young cat, barely past kittenhood, he got bladder stones. They have never recurred due to the C/D, and I am happy to pay for it. The vet is impressed that Spottie never got fat on this food, as it is apparently quite common for cats to pack on the weight with Science Diet C/D. Considering that perfectly healthy Lokii also eats the C/D and also isn’t fat (okay he has little jiggly underbelly flaps, but he does have a waist and you can feel his ribs), I wonder if it is the way we feed it to them, which has been free-choice since birth. They have never known what real hunger feels like, so they never over-eat.

Last time we were in, the doc wanted us to give Spot wet food as a supplement, to help hydrate his kidneys. Doc really wanted us to stay with the C/d formula, and both boys loved it. For months, it was a super-special treat for them. Then we ran out for three days… and when we got more Spot refused to eat it. Dammit! Lokii got to eat it all, the flabby-bellied chow-hound! We’ve been so worried since.

So, since no one was waiting after us, the doc walked next door with us and spent a good amount to time talking over food for not just Spot, but poor Neko who has also been under the weather lately. Now, our vets always take their time, but it seemed a little different when he knew no one else was waiting – more relaxed – but it could be just me because I know how it feels to have impatient people glaring at you. Not that I heard much of the conversation as Spot was intent on walking us to the back of the shop where I had to stand there and watch him rub all over a pallet. Sigh.

We took him to the big garden centre on the way home. He likes it there! he got some love from a Polish lady who works in the small-animal department, and was carted around by myself outside to look at plants.

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So: it is so wonderful to have good news, and while I know the kidney disease will be what takes Spottie-Pants away from me eventually, I know it won’t be any time soon.

Rockin’ the Looking and Actually Seeing

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At work, we have a new parking lot. Less than a year old. It’s gravel, and had to be put in to keep us from parking where a big damn truck might hit our precious car. I park in it every damn day, because I’m the later shift and get there after everyone else.

I also sit out there for my lunch break, weather permitting. There is a raggedy chair that sits inside the back door. It seems to have no proper home in the, so I wheel it out and park it next to an air-conditioner that I use as a table. Classy! But private, for the most part, and I get the sunshine.

I see this stretch of gravel every day: sometimes four times a day, sometimes just twice. But definitely 10 times a week at the minimum.

Today when I went out for lunch, I saw something that caught my eye instantly. Can you see it?

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Weeds – yes. Boring grey rocks – yes. Occasional cigarette butt – yes. There is something else there. Something amazing. Look again if you can’t spot it!

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No, not my stupid damn finger in the shot! The one special rock. The one with a perfect fossil.

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Would you look at that! The most beautiful things can be right in front of you. You only have to really see when you look around. This seems to me a theme with me lately! I’m getting quite visual of late, since I let my meds run out (a tale of complaint for another day). No matter: I’m glad I was the one, the only one of the many many people who have walked on, driven over, spread, transported, and quarried this load of gravel that spotted and now cherishes this bit of beauty that was there all along.

Okay, confession time – I licked it to make it shiny for the last pic. I’m disgusting like that. Do you feel I’ve let the post down by showing off my blurry finger and my spit?

Meh, it had been in my pocket for a few hours, sure it was clean enough…

Growing for Columbine

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I’m doing pretty shitty at the moment. Loads of crap on my mind and I just want to spend time with my plants. I can’t seem to get any decent days to relax and work (not really a contradiction when it comes to gardening).

I’m outside right now, and I can hear someone clapping and hoo-hoe’ing in the near distance as they move cattle. Birds are singing like mad critters, looking for their one true love for a moment. Best of all, an actual cuckoo bird has moved into the neighbourhood, and calls continually. I love it, as I miss the German cuckoo clock I grew up with.

But. Earlier, I was subjected to a massive attack by midges. They love me. Especially my face and ankles. I don’t love them, and I swell up like a cheap hose with a kink in it. It itches, it itches, and the wound doesn’t go away for weeks if I succumb to the itching and rub a hole in my epidermis. I’m quite likely to do this in my sleep – how lovely.

I’m now surrounded by: my own cigarette smoke, a haze of ancient Skin-So-Soft, two citronella tiki torches, and four citronella tea lights. I can still see the little monsters fly in front of my screen, too. I’m miserable but since my shed-house was taken over by a bicycle (the price I have to pay for being the primary car driver), I can’t sit on the Throne anymore to write and still not be in the house.

I love being outside. I just wish it loved me back.

All I have to offer from my garden is one single solitary columbine plant. Grown from seed last year, it over wintered just fine and I moved it to a bigger pot and coated it with aphid/greenfly spray a few months ago. It is happy indeed.

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I knew this as columbine in Ohio – but the Irish use the proper Latin name, Aquilegia. I can’t pronounce that, so imagonna stick with columbine.

May-rry Christmas!

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Yeppers, it isn’t Christmas in July. It’s Christmas in May!

On Tuesday, we received a notice through our letterbox that we had a parcel for pick up. I wasn’t expecting anything, and it was addressed to both myself and iDJ – what could it be? Who was it from?

Well, dammit, it was too late to go and find out by the time iDJ got home at 6, so we had to wait and wonder a day longer.

The next day, the universe conspired to give us a small disaster and we were both home from work by noon. He drove up to an post and oooh! it was from my sister, now living near Anchorage, Alaska. We are a well-traveled small family – she more than I! In any case, they had only recently settled into their new digs in Alaska when the holidays rolled around. Dealing with all the paperwork and phone-call crap that comes with moving, their adorable three-year-old, unpacking, and having (of course!) our mutual genetic tendency toward being late as hell for anything that is supposed to be on time, sis got a parcel off to us at the end of March. As she said in her card*, “if I wait any longer, it will be next year!”

*I sent an email off to the creator of the card because the photo is too funny and I’d like to post it, but will not without permission and appropriate links. I’m too impatient to get this post up to wait for a response, however!

Do I care one bit about late? Hell no! A surprise is even better, actually – and since it came during aforementioned small disaster, it was even more welcome!

Hubby got two shirts – one I really want to steal that has our brother-in-law’s work logo on it. So wonderful to have a bit of his work uniform and feeling a bit closer to him. Also, it’s long sleeved jersey material – ooo, so perfect for work this time of year! **Rubbing hands in a crafty gleeful shifty-eyed way.**

But what I got? Way more awesome. Oh yeah.

Please bow down to the awesomeness that is: Hairy Leg Slippers.

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Now, my actual legs aren’t quite as hairy as the slippers, but the fur upon them isn’t lovely soft and blonde – oh no. I’m quite the brunette. Why doesn’t grey hair grow on my shins? It would save a lot of effort. You know, on those very, very few times I bother to run a dull razor over my legs…

When is the last time I changed those blades…

Anyhoo! They are totally awesome, because of this:

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Incredibly my sister had saved this photo and held on to it for years. She had an idea, a pattern, and the ability to crochet, and now my new slippers have my toenails! I can’t tell you how awesome that is – I can have my rainbow toenails even in the winter now!

By the way: I just re-read the post that the toenail pic came from (the shot is tiny, I know – I was new at blogging) and it is actually quite funny and explains an awful lot about my world view. Only two fellow bloggers even saw it at the time, being as it was my early days. Please have a gander – I think it is pretty good! Rainbow Toes, Fake Flowers, and the Fabulous Cow Coat

My sister is one of the very few people in my life who could conceive such an incredibly creative idea, and know exactly who would love it to bits.

I love you, sis – and thank you, thank you, thank you!!!

Little Lokii is Six Today!

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I can’t believe my kitten is six. My little man who once fit in the palm of my hand. How does time go so fast?

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He was so brave, as long as nothing scary was happening. He still is. Please ignore the drool.

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As long as he has his big brother there to protect him, of course.

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Or me to cuddle him close.

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He might still show his wicked side at times…

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But he will always be my Lokii-Pokey, my Lokiimon, my Lokester, my wonderfully Lokquatious Siamese boy.

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For more Lokii-ness, search his name or start by clicking on Let’s Meet Lokii and Let’s Meet Lokii’s Dark Side!

Tulip Trifecta

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I can’t believe that I’m posting about tulips yet again. Seriously, they never get much time from me on the blog. Considering I have a total of six blooms, I’m even more astounded at the press they are getting this year.

I have four solid-purple blooms. They all came up together last week, tidy tight blossoms in one repurposed Celebrations chocolates tub. Before they fully opened, it got windy as hell and one succumbed to the wind and broke off at the base. I brought it inside and stuck it in a vase; and begorrah bajezus, it is still going strong.

Yesterday morning I moved it from the fireplace mantle to the kitchen windowsill, and was awestruck by the light coming through the base of the stem.

I did my best with the iPhone, and we intend to get out the real camera for better photos if and when we have some damned sunshine in the morning. It’s just been miserable out there all weekend, which really sucks as it is also a bank holiday and we have tomorrow off, too. Nothing but misty rain and clouds, FFS.

This is a pic without flash – it is overexposed due to picking up the backlighting. But I can’t care that much, it is stunning.

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The centre rather looks like a giraffe’s head, doesn’t it?

I used the flash here, to see into the centre of the flower. It is much more true to the actual colour of the petals, but I hate seeing all that rubbish out my window.

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Amazing, isn’t it? I love my people, and my pets – and I also love my plants. I could never create art as beautiful as this simple flower.

*I didn’t mess with these photos at all, other than to crop them.