Celeste and gravity
Sunday, August 3 2014
This morning we made two french presses of coffee and then had a well-rounded and surprisingly complete breakfast of parfait (it contained muffins, fresh peaches, and vegan cultured sour cream) out of drinking glasses, which we ate out on the east deck. Dina & Gilad's two kids have more mature food preferences than other kids that age I know, but they still freaked out about the "sourness" of the sour cream (which I thought was delicious and essential to the parfait). A problem with two siblings is that food dislikes quickly propagate as memes from one to the next, and after Mia the seven year old squawked about the sour cream, the four year old jumped on the bandwagon, and so the parents then were tasked with somehow separating sour cream from not one but two glasses of parfait.
Meanwhile tiny Celeste the Kitten was being a delightful presence. She'd quickly warmed up to the children, who were being surprisingly good with her. Out on the east deck, Celeste was romping around with great kitten energy, chasing her tail and performing other random expenditures of energy at the very edge of the deck. Dina asked if we were concerned she might fall off, and we chuckled, saying it was impossible. Just as we said that, we heard her crash through the bushes below the deck. She'd fallen. But Celeste is small and rubbery and the fall was only eleven and a half feet (I measured) and cushioned by several layers of vegetation. I immediately went down there to bring her back. She was looking a little bewildered but was otherwise completely fine. Less fortunate was the skeletonized remains of a bird lying in front of the sliding doors to the basement master bedroom. Looking at the beak and grey feathers, it appeard to be a Robin or something similar. What had killed it but left it to rot uneaten? It was a mystery of forensic pathology. Then I remembered a tiny patch of downy feathers I'd seen on the outside of one of the windows of the upstairs master bedroom. When I'd seen it a couple weeks ago, I'd wondered if it had been left by bird that had hit its head on the glass. Now I had my answer, and looking at the skull confirmed it; the whole back of the cranium had caved in by as much as a quarter inch, which is a lot on a skull that size.
After breakfast, we went on a walk down the Stick Trail (entering it via my Mountain Goat path). The four year old immediately began complaining, mostly about the fact that he was wearing sandals but no socks. Evidently he doesn't like nature being so close to his toes (and my example of being barefoot did nothing to allay his concerns). He raised such a fuss that Gilad had to take him home. The rest of us, including Mia the seven year old, walked a mile down the Stick Trail, turned around, and walked back. Along the entire route, Mia focused enthusiastically on the mushrooms we encountered to the exclusion of all else. She was delighted by the red cap of the common Russula emetica and the milky excretions from the many examples she found of Lactarius subdulcis (or whatever the American equivalent of that species is), enthusiastically showing these things to me, Gretchen, and her mother. Mia gathered as many mushrooms as she could carry and then put them down in caches that she couldn't possibly carry home on our return. I was surprised to see a kid that age being so excited about mushrooms.
Everybody but me went into Woodstock for a few hours (there was also a visit to Little Deep). Meanwhile back in my laboratory, Oscar the big fluffy new cat kept making appearances. He is an extremely conservative cat and hadn't ventured out of the bedroom for a couple weeks after we retrieved him from being on the lam. Now, though, he's ranging as far as the laboratory deck (and later today he briefly went down to the first floor). Meanwhile Julius (aka "Stripey") has been less than pleased to have what he considers his territory (the laboratory) invaded by an interloper. Cats are slow to adjust to other cats, and Stripey has a reputation for excessive hostility to strangers. But something about Oscar's attitude and bearing seems to defuse and frustrate Stripey's rage. Oscar is never hostile under any conditions, though he is a bit curious. So when he sees Stripey, he immediate marches up to him in hopes of sniffing noses. Stripey responds by hissing or emitting a long, continuous quiet wail. Oscar responds by looking away and walking on, and so nothing bad ends up happening. Several incidents like this happened this afternoon, and every time they did, Stripey seemed slightly less perturbed, as if he was gradually becoming acclimated to Oscar. It probably helped that I was being a bit liberal with the catnip, causing both cats to stretch out on the floor and roll around in their respective places. (By contrast, back when Stripey used to be antagonistic towards our old cat Nigel (the two never got along), Nigel would respond in kind, and inevitably a vicious fight would break out and tufts of hair would go flying.)
Later this afternoon, the others returned from Woodstock and we had a lupper built around vegan ravioli in two different kinds of sauces. I also harvested our first crop of green beans (both pole and bush), which were amazing. The kids were fairly good about eating their food and not being fussy, though they didn't end up liking the Mac 'n' Cheese style sauce specially prepared for their portion; instead they wanted to eat the artichoke-and-pesto sauce that had been intended for those with adult palettes.
The kids wanted to go down to the greenhouse like they had last summer, so I led a little tour. I'd dug out the west floor of the greenhouse basement since their last visit, and they wanted to join me when I climbed down there, so I helped them both down. Besides myself, those are the only two other human beings who have been down there. "It's cold!" Mia exclaimed.
After Dina, Gilad, et al headed back to Boston, Gretchen and I sat in front of the teevee lazily watching various things on the DVR. We tried to watch the 1997 comic superhero movie Batman & Robin, but it was unwatchably goofball. We had better luck with Charlie Chaplin's classic silent film The Gold Rush, but I became sleepy not long after the character Georgia was introduced and had to go off to take a long nap.
Since getting my Japanese tea pot (the appliance that provides me water hot enough to make tea on demand), I've used a one gallon plastic cider jug to refill it. To make it into a convenient pitcher, I'd cut away some of the plastic near the top. Though the jug dates to 2007, it's worked effectively as a pitcher for nearly four years. Today, though, I confirmed that the pitcher has developed a slow leak. That makes it unusuable, since I always keep it full and ready to add to the tea pot when it is empty. No problem, I thought, and I took another plastic gallon jug and carved it into a pitcher. But when I filled it, it sprayed water from several tiny perforations. I have no idea what these gallon jugs would be leaking; it's not like the jugs are exposed to shrapnel or even sunlight. Evidently, though, they cannot be expected to last more than four years.
Later this evening, Gretchen noticed that Celeste was scratching herself a lot, so she gave her a quick once over with the flea comb and was horrified to discover multiple living fleas. We went on to remove 30 or 40 fleas from her tiny body over the course of two or three combing sessions. We have no idea where the fleas are coming from or how they keep turning up on her after repeated combing. They might be coming from somewhere in the house, but we combed the dogs and several cats and found no fleas or tell-tale blood flakes. So, to be on the safe side, Gretchen gave the dogs (Eleanor and Ramona) Frontline treatments and then she washed our bed sheets. Supposedly Celeste has been Frontlined as well, but I found fat fleas in her fur, which shouldn't be possible if the Frontline is working. The stuff we used shouldn't be expired, so perhaps we didn't give her a powerful enough dose.
Because of all the contemptuous banter in our culture about the proliferation of naked reality shows (that is, reality shows in which the participants are naked), I've recently watched a few episodes of Dating Naked. It's not a great show even as reality shows go, but it's interesting to try to anticipate how various people will react to the appearance and behaviors of others. A better show for seeing this play out is one I began watching tonight, the Australian version of the reality show Dating in the Dark, where strangers are paired up in a pitch-black room and we watch them interact via infrared camera. I watched a few episodes of that, and had that usual mix of ironic amusement and self-disgust that any good reality show should engender. Once takeaway from watching several hours of Australian television is that it is a bit racier than its American counterpart. And evidently it's okay to say "fuck" on Australian basic cable.
A treefrog out on the east deck during breakfast this morning. (Click to enlarge.)
The skull of the dead bird I found this morning. It's 1.75 inches long. (Click to enlarge.)
A tiny bird skull I found mixed in with the soil in the garlic patch today. It's 1.25 inches long. (Click to enlarge.)
Oscar with Julius, aka "Stripey" in the laboratory today. (Click to enlarge.)
Oscar with Julius, aka "Stripey" in the laboratory today. (Click to enlarge.)
Celeste at the entrance to the laboratory today. (Click to enlarge.)
Celeste with Oscar at the entrance to the laboratory today. (Click to enlarge.)
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