Archive for the ‘Wildlife’ Category

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!

Also:

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

Easter Egg Hunt

April 12, 2020

Easter Egg Hunt

Jim took this picture of some of the birds in our front yard.  The male quail really does look as if he’s hunting for Easter Eggs!

I Said It All

October 23, 2019

Fred Poutre, Me, and Michael Kilman Discuss Mythology

I said it all this weekend at MileHiCon 51.  Seriously.  So right now I’m really stretched for things to say.

On Friday the topic was Urban Fantasy, what it was, what it is, what it might become.  I read from my Asphodel, part of the scene with the creepy cherubs and the cathedral.  Fun.

Later, much chatter with friends old and new.  Went to bed still vibrating from all the talk.

On Saturday, we started with the KaffeeKlatch, because why not?  Before I’d finished my coffee and bagel, I’d discussed art, representation, and the distinct possibility that maybe, just maybe, Milton’s daughters might have played an active role in the composition of Paradise Lost.

After a lovely panel (see photo) discussing “Building New Gods: Mythologies in SF&F,” I ended up talking for an hour with a Jesuit brother about how mythologies are developed.  I was so very glad I’d recently re-read Will Durant’s Caesar and Christ, since that meant I had my data points fresh.

Then I went off to a fun panel on how hobby activities can feed your creativity.  Carrie Vaughn was there costumed as the angel Aziraphale from Good Omens, and I did kumihimo with beads live.  Our other panelists were a costumer, and a nurse who kept insisting she didn’t do hobbies, but kept giving examples that proved her wrong!

Somewhere in there, we met the local chapter of the Royal Manticoran Navy (sometimes known as the David Weber fan club), and were made very welcome indeed.

Later still there was the mass book signing.  (I’d also done a signing Friday night).  That evening we had dinner with one of the author GOH’s, Marie Brennan.  After dinner, we sat up with Marie, discussing gaming and other things, as one does at these events.

Sunday we KaffeeKlatched again, during which we had the chance to meet and chat with the other author GOH, Angela Roquet.

After coffee, we let ourselves go watch some panels.  The thing about a good panel is that afterwards you want to talk about the new ideas.  Happily, we found several interesting folks with whom we could chat, including New Mexico friends David Lee Summers and Elizabeth Leggett.  One minor regret is we couldn’t be in two places at once, because I would have liked to sample the re-boot of the Fruits Basket anime.

Mid-afternoon I gave a talk on finishing Roger Zelazny’s two unfinished novels: Donnerjack and Lord Demon.  The audience wasn’t very large, but it was wonderful.

Later still, we went out to dinner with David Boop, editor of Straight Out of Deadwood, in which I have a short story, “Doth Make Thee Mad.”  If you’re short of ideas for your themed Halloween party, I would like to recommend “Weird West.”  You can get ideas for costumes from the stories…

Eh…  This really isn’t doing justice to the weekend.  Busy.  Lively.  Chatty.  Framed on either side with long drives through mountains and plains.  We saw antelopes, hawks, a bald eagle, and a squirrel who reminded us of our kitten, Mei-Ling.  Something about how it ran with its tail straight up in the air.

And here I am.  Still beat, because I probably talked to more people in three days than I usually do in a month.  Feeling happy, because I didn’t meet a single person who was even mildly annoying.  Happy, too, because when my head stops spinning, I’ll be back to Wolf’s Soul and immersed in my writing, which is one of my favorite places to be.

More Weirdness Than You Can Imagine!

Wolves, Gardens, And Cool Stuff!

August 14, 2019

Zinnias Uncaged!

This week, in addition to getting back into the storyline for Wolf’s Soul, the sequel to July’s new Firekeeper novel, Wolf’s Search, I did some work on another project (which I will tell you more about when the contracts are signed), saw a new depiction of Firekeeper (sneak peek below!), and assessed my garden.

As you may recall, Jim and I did a variety of experiments in our garden this year.  Now that it’s August, I’m trying to decide what worked and what didn’t.  Complicating matters were the depredations of a baby rabbit we dubbed Frippery Wigglenose Scamperbutt.

For those of you who have been in suspense, we did save the zinnias out front, and they are now looking marvelous.  As I suspected, once the leaves were large enough to get coarse and prickly, Frippery lost interest.   A greater availability of the wild plants that are a more usual part of his diet doubtlessly helped.  We’ve seen both him and PF “weeding” our front area’s gravel for us.  Nice to have helpful wild bunnies.

We tried several new varieties of beans this year.  Most didn’t really do well.  I think when catalogs say “good in heat,” they don’t mean New Mexico heat, and especially my yard.  However, a new variety of liana did great and we’ll definitely repeat.  Not surprisingly, given that they were originally bred by the indigenous peoples of Arizona, all three varieties of teppary bean have done fine and are beginning to set pods.

Well, except for those Frippery got to.  Those are a bit behind, and part of one row never did recover.

Our eggplant is doing pretty well.  Our squash (mostly zucchini) is thriving, so we’re giving up on what “everyone” told us to do, and will go back to planting in the early spring and simply praying the squash bugs don’t bother us.  Our peppers have been very slow.  I blame cooler than usual nights early in the spring.  However, some are finally coming on.

Tomatoes are mixed.  We’ve lost quite a number to curly top virus, but have enough to begin to decorate our salads.  And give the guinea pigs.  Ziggy’s new favorite food is tomato.

I’ll replant chard and arugula when daytime temperatures settle in the mid-nineties, rather than spiking over a hundred.  That should be coming soon, and hopefully we’ll have autumn greens.  The herbs are doing very well.  I have made the cats happy with lots and lots of catnip.  Soon I’ll be clipping basil to freeze for later pesto.

Speaking of growing projects of another sort (how’s that for a clever transition?), my friends at DreamForge magazine have announced a really cool new contest.

The topic is whether the current wealth of data that surrounds us is a good thing or not.  You can find more details at the link, but I’ll tell you right off: there is a cash prize, and the winning story will be published in the on-line edition of DreamForge Magazine.  Don’t forget, this means it will be accompanied by a full-color illustration, something increasingly rare these days.

This is also a good time to remind you that the first ever Firekeeper short story, “A Question of Truth,” will appear in the new issue of DreamForge.  The story is set before Wolf’s Search, so there won’t be any spoilers, but if you read it, you’ll know something that only Firekeeper and Blind Seer know!  It’s illustrated by Elizabeth Leggett, who gives her own twist to how the now early twenties, slightly more civilized, Firekeeper might look…

Elizabeth Leggett’s Illustration in DreamForge 3

DreamForge is only available by subscription.  They offer a variety of options including their lush print version, a combined print/digital version (for those of you who can’t bear to get fingerprints on your beloved magazines), and a quite affordable digital version.  Details are available here.

Now I’m off to pull out my colored pens and continue working on the reverse outline for Wolf’s Soul.  I got a bit worried last week that I wasn’t speeding along fast enough.  Then I realized I was tinkering and tightening along the way.  I can’t wait to start writing the thrilling concluding chapters.  Tune in next week and I’ll tell you if I managed!

Background Noise

June 26, 2019

Frippery Stalled At the Fence

In the background as I type this, I hear the steady sound of Jim putting up a rabbit fence.  Despite our best efforts to close gaps in our aging fence, Frippery Wigglenose Scamperbutt, the rapidly growing baby bunny keeps coming in to eat our bean plants, as well as whatever else he fancies.  Most recently, he tried some exotic Shock-o-Lat sunflowers, nipping them off where they won’t be able to grow back.  Given that he ignored wild sunflower plants of the same size, I admit to being a bit irate.

We actually have a new fence for the west side of our yard on order, but it won’t go up until sometime in July.  Until then, we’re learning what Frippery likes.  Bean plants are definitely on the top of his list.  Variety doesn’t seem to matter.  He’s sampled three varieties of teppary beans, Rattlesnakes, and Purple Queen.  He’s tried sunflowers.  He’s nibbled Swiss chard.  So far he doesn’t like tomato plants or squash plants.  He hasn’t tried the basil, which is a blessing, because he could mow down the row of seedlings in about three minutes.

We have another reason for wanting to keep Frippery out of our backyard.  Our two guinea pigs, Ziggy and Dandelion, have a hutch outside in the shade of the larger catalpa tree.  We don’t know if wild rabbits carry anything that wouldn’t benefit guinea pigs, but we don’t want to find out.  Ziggy, in particular, is a bit fragile.  She loves grass, which we don’t have much of at the best of times, and in this very dry late spring, early summer, we have even less of.  I don’t want Frippery to eat or contaminate Ziggy’s treat.

Still, at times I feel just a little like Farmer McGregor from the Peter Rabbit stories, although we’d never go so far as to have Frippery or PF in a pie.

On that cheerful note, I’m back to focusing on minutia and the like, as Wolf’s Search moves closer step by step to publication.

Take care!

Frippery Wigglenose Scamperbutt (And Other Denizens)

June 19, 2019

Newly Hatched Baby Quail and Mom

This last week was particularly good for wildlife spotting in the nature preserve that is our not very large yard.   For the first part of the week, we had a family of newly hatched quail chicks and their parents living in our front yard.  Based on watching her herd the brood, Mama Quail was using the landscaping as a play pen to keep her youngsters from wandering too far.

Frippery Wigglenose Scamperbutt Under Cedar

We also had a baby bunny show up.  He was very visible for several days, and somehow acquired the name Frippery Wigglenose Scampbutt.  The picture doesn’t really provide scale, but I could have easily held him on one hand.

PF and Frippery

It’s unclear whether Frippery and PF—our more or less resident cottontail—are related.  Certainly, PF did not seem unduly enchanted when Frippery came bounding up, wanting to play.  Of course, since Frippery’s idea of a fun game is to run at someone with intent to pounce (something we saw him do to sparrows, doves, and even sharp-beaked Skinny the Thrasher), PF can’t exactly be blamed.

Skinny has continued to show up pretty much daily with a younger thrasher in tow.  Last Sunday, I moved the fence around our front flowerbed so I could transplant some of the volunteer tomato plants that had come up.  (Volunteer plants are a consequence of using grey water on some of our beds.)  I left for a minute to carry some of the transplants around back. When I returned, Skinny and Skinny Junior were actively investigating the changed landscape.

Maybe because they don’t have wings, the rabbits are less delighted by alterations to their surroundings.  When Jim left a coiled hose under the ash tree near the bird block, PF would not go near, not even after one of the white-winged doves had investigated the coils closely, up to and including stepping right into the middle of the largest coil.

PF was not to be fooled.  That was a boa constrictor, for sure!  Of course, if we’d put something interesting to eat on the inside of the coils, he probably would have let appetite overcome his apprehension.  I mean, we’re now pretty sure he’s the one who squeezed into our backyard to have a go at the bean plants.  This would have involved encounters with all sorts of new and potentially dangerous items.

Our annual tribe of toads is now making regular visits to the teeny-tiny pond in our backyard.  Most nights, we fall asleep to the sound of their song.  The lizards are very active and, based on the clipped tails I’ve seen, several have had encounters of the not quite deadly kind.

Even if we do need to occasionally replant something, it’s worth it for the fun we have watching our co-residents…  I guess this just means we’re part of the circle of lunch.