Archive for the ‘Wildlife’ Category

Shy Mei-Ling and the Invader

December 29, 2021
Who’s Coming Down the Hallway?

My mom came for Christmas, our first overnight house guest since 2018.  Mei-Ling came to live with us in August of 2019, as a very shy fourteen-week-old kitten.  She had just begun to entertain the idea that people other than me and Jim in the house might be a good idea when the pandemic shutdown hit and she had the luxury of over a year to renew her opinion that visitors were not to be befriended, but to be waited out.

This was her tactic when Mom arrived on the 22nd.  Mei-Ling dove into the closet in our bedroom and refused to emerge, even for dinner.  When Mom settled down in the guest room, behind a closed door, Mei-Ling emerged, which is probably a good thing, since the litter box is not in our bedroom closet.

Roary, who also had never dealt with an overnight guest, was also uncertain.  At first, he hid in the closet with Mei-Ling, but by later on the 23rd, Roary (probably taking his cue from Persephone, for whom Mom is a longtime friend), began to join the party from a discreet distance.  By the morning of Christmas Eve, he even let Mom take his picture.

Maybe this is why, by mid-day on the 24th, Mei-Ling was at least up on our bed, and then, by evening, when we settled down to play mah-jong, actually came out to the front of the house.  It’s not as much fun to lurk and hide all by oneself as with another cat, and she and Roary are great friends.

Christmas Day, Roary came to look at the boxes and wrapping paper, while Mei-Ling lurked at the edges.  Coming out of the back of the house had advantages, especially since if she skittered fast enough, she could go out on the porch, which she loves, and watch what went on in the kitchen from behind the security of a closed sliding glass door.

By the 26th, both Mei-Ling and Roary were behaving relatively normally.  When we settled in for our evening mah-jong game, Mei-Ling actually started meowing, trying to get either Jim or me to come into the living room and play with her.  She’s really quite out-going when she forgets she’s shy.

And on the 27th, Mom departed for her home.  Now we’re waiting to see how Mei-Ling will behave when we have guests next time.  Will she have learned that “stranger” does not equal “danger” or will she try to wait them out?

We’re going to be playing mah-jong later this week with our friend Michael Wester.  I wonder if the clatter of tiles will encourage Mei-Ling to come out and try to tempt us to play with her instead of with those noisy plastic tiles.

And Roary Up in the Tree

December 22, 2021
Stealth Roary

The tree has stayed standing to this point, although Roary has been up in it repeatedly.  Putting on ornaments definitely helped, since they were placed to block inviting openings.

Thus far, Persephone has been viewing the tree with the calm insouciance of a nearly ten-year-old cat who has seen it all.  Shy girl Mei-Ling thinks that it’s terrific that we’ve decided to give her a new place to sit under and feel safe.  She carries her treats onto the tree skirt to dine in secure comfort.

Since the tree is artificial, Dandy and Coco, the guinea pigs, have no opinion.  They would prefer we made a tree out of kale with a celery stalk trunk, and ornaments cut from various vegetables.  Carrot strips could serve as garland.

I made a lot of cookies this past week.  I’m shooting for a total of ten: cookie press butter, butter and walnut balls, pecan/maple, sugar, gingerbread, hermits, fudge, meringues, sesame balls, and…  I’m forgetting the last one…. Got it!  Linzer tarts.

The sugar cookies and gingerbread will be decorated in stages.  It’s more fun that way than doing a marathon.  My collection of cookie cutters is wildly varied, so in addition to the more usual trees, wreathes, stars, bells, reindeer and the like, we have buffalo, bears, rhinoceros, stegosaurus, rocket ships, and, of course, wolves and coyotes.  And cats and guinea pigs.  Can’t forget the cats and guinea pigs.

It occurs to me that I make cookies the same way I write: a lot of variety, not one type of cookie, or theme or motif.  Variety definitely fuels my creativity.

Now to go put jam between the layers of the Linzer tarts.  Last year I used cactus pear, the year before, raspberry.  This year will be cherry.  All three red, all three different.

May these crazy days leading up to the Christmas weekend be filled with fun for you, whether you’re travelling or home, being a guest or having guests, or simply enjoying some peace and quiet!

Seizing Opportunity

July 14, 2021
A Opportunity Accepted

Many thanks to all who helped Jim decide which photo to enter in the little local contest.  With your prompting, he chose “After the Dustbath.”  Responses overall were interesting, but this one seemed to hit people both on an artistic level, and on an “awww-so-cute” level.  It also seemed to appeal because of the sense of motion it contains.

Several comments (as well as e-mails) asked me about Jim’s photography.  So, here’s my very amateur attempt to reply.  First of all, all four photos featured last week were hand-held, no tripod.  Jim used a long telephoto lens for most of the photos, although “Cedar Waxwings” was taken with his regular lens.

None of these photos were taken at a zoo, aviary, wildlife preserve, or any location where the birds’ freedom of motion was restricted.  Three, in fact, were taken in our yard.  The sandhill cranes were photographed at a facility created as a rest stop for migrating wildlife.

In the case of the photos taken at our house, Jim often had minimal time to prepare.  The set-up was likely something like this:

“Hey!  Quail out front!  With chicks!”

Camera is then grabbed, pointed, focused, and photos are taken.

Jim doesn’t have any of those fast clicky devices used by professional photographers who specialize in action shots.

The photo accompanying this piece was taken in our back yard, by flashlight (held by me), for no other reason than that we’d never seen a toad actually sitting on the lily pads of the miniature waterlily in our teeny pond.  The toad knew us so wasn’t scared.  In fact, he started singing, and thus the photo.

This brings me to the value of seizing opportunity.  So often I’ve encountered people who refuse to do something because they don’t feel sufficiently assured in advance that it will be worth their while or “pay off.”  The recent trend of self-publishing and the related one of “monetizing” crafts has added to the sense that no one should do anything for any reason except to make money.  That’s such a pity.

The two novels I recently sold (Library of the Sapphire Wind and Aurora Borealis Bridge aka “The Over Where Duology”) were written without any promise of anything except that I’d really have a great time writing them.  And I did.  Even if these books had never sold, nothing could have taken that joy from me.

The Firekeeper books, my most popular series to date, come from the same happy place.  I wrote Through Wolf’s Eyes because I wanted to, even though I was surrounded by people who held forth that a professional writer like me, who already had several published novels (including some like Brother to Dragons, Companion to Owls and Changer, which had received a lot of critical acclaim) should never take on such a big project without a contract.

But I did, and in addition to making me happy, I made a lot of other people happy, too.

So, seize the opportunity, whether to write or craft or dance to your favorite song…  Or join our toad friend, and sing for no other reason than that you feel like doing so.  Joy is its own reward.

The Value of Unlearning

June 30, 2021

In many ways, I live on an alien world.

Last Thursday, our eighteen-day streak of temperatures over a hundred (usually with highs between 103F and 108F) finally broke.  Okay.  Our high was still 98F, and the next day we went back to 100F but, as many people in many locations unaccustomed to these highs are learning the hard way, there’s a lot of difference between 108F and 98F.

(We’ve had a high this year of 112F, and I’m really hoping not to top that.)

Our weekend actually was, for us, cool, with highs in the high eighties, and lows in the sixties and even, one astonishing night, the high fifties.  We’ve even had clouds, although, as of this writing, no rain that wasn’t in the form of individual, nameable drops.

People often think that my part of New Mexico is like the stereotype of Arizona: hot, no “real” winter, towering cactus, like that.  Leaving aside that the stereotype of Arizona doesn’t apply even to Arizona as a whole, it certainly doesn’t apply to my part of New Mexico.

We get cold temperatures well below freezing.  The only reason we don’t get more snow is because on the whole our climate is too dry.  And, as mentioned above, we get hot enough that we could probably (although I’ve wondered why anyone would want to try) fry eggs on the sidewalk.  Our rain comes in seasonal monsoons, the establishment of which watched for with a fervor that goes back long before the arrival of colonists from Europe.

The opening photo illustrates the extremes that our yard has to deal with.  On the left is our pomegranate shrub.  If you look carefully, you can see the dead limbs poking out of the green.  That’s cold damage, a result of our nighttime temperatures in October dropping without warning from the high forties to well below freezing for four nights.  It also hit our ash tree and apples, as well as killing a couple of established shrubs.

On the right you can see our squash plants.  The yellowing on the leaves is not a result of insect predation or disease; it’s from dealing with temperature extremes.  Even with only a few days of temperatures below a hundred, we are seeing indications of recovery.  If we’re lucky, the zukes will start setting fruit.  The plants only twenty feet or so further east, that get less sun, grew much more slowly, but seem to be setting.

When I first moved to New Mexico, back in mid-1994, I came from a very pleasant area in south central Virginia, where growing things was almost ridiculously easy.  Here I had to learn a bunch of new skills, new plants, and face new challenges.

Of course, there are bonuses, too.  One of Jim and my dreams was to create a habitat that would invite quail to come into our yard.  When we achieved that goal, we hoped that someday they’d actually bring their chicks to visit.  As the picture below shows, we have achieved that goal, too!

In a way, my move to New Mexico gave me a lot of insight into what it would be like to be a colonist on a planet ostensibly “hospitable” to humans.  The ability to adapt would be as important, maybe more important, than any suite of technological skills or access to a databank of knowledge.  Unlearning would be as crucial as learning.

On that note, I’m going to enjoy every breath of cooler air while I dive into the final push to address the editorial notes on the second of my forthcoming “Over Where” novels, Aurora Borealis Bridge.

Sparrow Time

March 17, 2021
Buddy, Can You Sparrow Time?

This past week was one of reorganization of thoughts and activities. This current week began with me being a bit under the weather. Therefore, I offer you a sparrow with attitude to spare.

I’ll catch you Friday with an update on what I’ve been reading. Meanwhile, remember, I’m always open to questions.

Now for a dose of sunlight and another cup of coffee.

Microcosmic Drama

June 17, 2020

Teeny-Tiny Toad (actual size 1/4 inch)

Jim and I have a very small pond in our yard: 125 gallons empty, a lot less water when one accounts for displacement from plants (blue pickerel weed, aquatic plantain, underwater grass) and the dirt they hold, creating a little marshy section at one end.

Nonetheless, it has become the key element in the miniature ecosystem that is our yard.  One of the many native creatures that benefits from it are New Mexico Spadefoot toads.  This year, we have an ebullient population of tadpoles that are in the process of turning into toads.

The toadlings are super tiny (less than a quarter inch) and easily mistaken for insects.  Until we started watching them go through the various stages from black dots to “Hey, I have legs!”, I never realized all the hazards they face.

Monday morning, I saw a teeny-tiny toad hopping from boulder to boulder that is the small gravel around our pond.  I scooped it up, intending to either to either place it back into the water or into shelter under one of the spreading squash leaves.  To my horror and astonishment, I discovered that it was being attacked by ants.

Not big ants either.  Two really little ones.  One ant each had grabbed each hair-sized hind leg (actually, hair-sized is probably too large) and was holding fast.  Being on the side of the toads, I dropped the toadling into the pond, where it succeeded in kicking loose the ants and diving under a lily leaf.

I think I’ll lower the water level a few inches to keep ambitious toadlings from hopping out until they’re a wee bit larger.

Yeah.  I can’t save them all or the world.  I know ants need to eat, too, but there’s plenty for the ants to eat without eating toads.

Silly?  Sure.  But then, I write books for a living.  Do you expect me not to be silly?

Saturday Snuggles

May 23, 2020

Mei-Ling and Roary

Some folks have wondered how shy-girl Mei-Ling and her new kitten pal, Romping Roary, are doing.

A picture speaks a thousand words….

Romping and Roaring

May 20, 2020

Roary 3

As those of you who have read the Acknowledgements to my new release, Wolf’s Soul (Firekeeper Saga 8, for more details go here), you know that a few months ago, my much, much beloved cat Keladry died without warning, probably from a stroke or aneurysm.

Kel had self-appointed herself my assistant, so her loss left a particularly big hole.  I still expect her to come running when she hears my computer go on or to be able to reach over and pat her when I pause to consider what next.

But, if there’s anything I’ve learned from the losses in my life, it’s that choosing not to love as a protection against the pain of loss is a soul-destructive course of action.

And so, meet Roary.

After we lost Kel at the end of February, we wanted to get a new feline as soon as possible. Kwahe’e (who is now over eighteen and increasingly fragile) has always liked newcomers, but we weren’t sure how either Persephone or Mei-Ling would react.   Persephone is sweet but can be aggressive, while Mei-Ling is very shy.  Right now, Kwahe’e provides the balance between them.

Kwahe’e: Roary’s Calming Influence

However, there simply weren’t kittens available at the shelter until recently.  At the end of April, the shelter started posting kittens to the website (the site provides individual listings for adoptable animals).  However, with the Covid-19 shutdown, the shelter is closed except by appointment.  Therefore, once the site started showing more than an occasional kitten, I made us an appointment.  The closest date I could get was a week out and…

Yep, you got it, by that date (which was a week ago) there were no kittens listed at the shelter.

That Wednesday morning, I had a phone call checking if we were still coming in.  I explained that we were specifically looking for a kitten, and asked if they had any who weren’t listed on the site.  The lady (Cassie) said, no, the only available kitten was at the other shelter and appointments couldn’t be switched.

Very reasonably, Cassie tried to interest me in several young adults. I explained why we needed a kitten, explaining that we’d adopted Mei-Ling from the shelter last August as an excruciatingly shy kitten and, although we’d done a lot to help her be brave, we felt she’d be intimidated by someone bigger than her.

Roary and Mei-Ling

I asked, “Do you have any kittens who aren’t ready for adoption, but who we could reserve?”  Cassie replied, “We’re not doing reservations, but I could talk to our foster-care coordinator and explain your need.”  About twenty minutes later, I heard from a very enthusiastic lady named Carolyn.

Apparently, a kitten who had been brought into the shelter as an injured stray–something had attacked him and sliced through the leg muscles on his left leg so that they literally peeled off the bone (this is called “gloving”)–was now recovered from surgery.  He was doing well, but needed to go to a foster home while he finished healing.  The city shelter has a “foster-to-adopt” program, as long as the household does not exceed the limit for number of cats.  We don’t.

I gave Carolyn my references, including our vet clinic, who we’ve been using for over twenty years, through some remarkable pet adventures.  Then I got off the phone and bounced off the walls in excitement until Jim got home from running errands.

I valiantly withheld my news until Jim had a chance to wash his hands and mask, although I’ll admit, this was a struggle.  As I expected, Jim was as thrilled as I was, so I phoned Carolyn back asked when we could come get our new foster.  She said, “Come any time,” and we were out the door with Jim’s mask still slightly damp.

Our new foster was seven weeks old, white with random black spots.  The shelter had called him “ItsyBitsy,” but we’re going to call him Rorschach, Rory (or as Jim wants to spell it “Roary” because he can be very loud) since his blots form different pictures when he moves or bends.

Roary spends his unsupervised time in our spare guinea pig hutch to keep him from climbing and jumping, but he’s very playful and active.  He still has a little trouble with the left leg, but he’s certainly doing his P.T. to rebuild the damaged connections. If you look at the first photo, you can see the healing incision.  It’s pretty impressive.

Roary and Persephone

Best of all, unlike when we brought Mei-Ling home and Persephone completely panicked, our excitable girl seems to really like her new “little brother.”  We guess that this is because kittens are no longer a new concept.  She hisses at him a little, but isn’t terrified or hostile—more like “Keep your distance, squirt.”

 Mei-Ling is also interested in Roary.  Rather than going to hide, she loves to watch him and even lets him play within a few inches of her, as long as she doesn’t get pounced.  Apparently, her great fear is unfamiliar humans, which makes me think she must have had some bad experiences before she ended up in the shelter.

So, we’re optimistic.

Look forward to more pictures of Roary.  My guess is that he’s going to be a really big cat, because in just a week he’s visibly grown.

No matter how big he gets, Roary will never fill the hole that Kel left, but that’s not how love works.  You never stop loving those you’ve lost.  You don’t try to replace them.  You just open up to new love, new experiences, new challenges.

So I Figured

April 29, 2020

Clarence In His Burrow

When the time came to write this week’s Wednesday Wanderings, I had no idea what to wander on about.

I did, however, have ample ideas as to what to write on my current work-in-progress, the yet-untitled fourth book in the Star Kingdom (aka Stephanie Harrington or Treecat) series that I am writing with David Weber.

So I figured as follows…

Most of you who read these wanderings do so because you’re interested in my fiction writing or, perhaps, in snippets from the life of the person who has written fiction that you have enjoyed.  In that case, you’d be glad that I was spending my time writing fiction.

Those of you who look these up because you’re family or friends and want to know what’s going on at Chez Lindskold/Moore would know that a Jane Who Is Writing Fiction is a happy and contented Jane.  Therefore, you’d rather have me writing on SK4 than staring at the screen, trying to figure out what clever thing I could wander on about.

As for the rest of you, those who are reading this for reasons I cannot fathom, here is a picture of Clarence the Toad in his burrow.  I’ll add to it an invitation to ask questions that might plant the seeds for future Wednesday Wanderings.

Now, off to the planet Sphinx, in the Star Kingdom of Manticore, where…  No, I’m not teasing, I won’t know what happens until I write it!

FF: No Pattern At All

April 17, 2020

Inspired Hats for Dandy and Coco

Other than renewing my acquaintance with various classic British mysteries, there’s really no pattern to my reading right now.  Part of this is that I’m immersing myself in the Star Kingdom setting again.

For those of you unfamiliar with this column, the Friday Fragments lists what I’ve read over the past week.  Most of the time I don’t include details of either short fiction (unless part of a book-length collection) or magazines.  The Fragments are not meant to be a recommendation list.  If you’re interested in a not-at-all-inclusive recommendation list, you can look on my website under Neat Stuff.

Once again, this is not a book review column.  It’s just a list with, maybe, a bit of description or a few opinions tossed in.

Recently Completed:

A Guinea Pig ABC  by Kate Duke.  Sharyn November posted a page a day from this, and after we decided needed our own copy.

Death of a Fool by Ngaio Marsh.  Audiobook.  I love the folklore aspect of this one.

Artists in Jeopardy by Ngaio Marsh.  Audiobook.  Quirk in that Alleyne’s name is pronounced incorrectly throughout.  It’s just “Allen.”

In Progress:

David Bowie: The Oral History compiled by Dylan Jones.  Moving into the Berlin albums.

DreamForge, issue five.  About halfway.

Tied Up In Tinsel by Ngaio Marsh.  Audiobook.  Fans of the series will see I’m reading these as I can find them, not in order!


Magazines.  Only AARP and AAA (American Automobile) mentioned Covid-19 at all.  The others were written in an alternate universe.