Whatever happened to hibernation?

Forgive me if I am a bit cranky, but that is what the exotics pets said to me. The elder, smart-arsed cat said I am essentially a turnip.

The time is now eighty-two minutes since I emerged from my bedroom the first time, wearing too little clothes to stay warm.

So far I fed two ungrateful pet skunks – twice.  Sort of fed one cranky, finicky, decrepit old cat. Missed the boat in caring for my beloved, lame Newfoundland dog.

Oh… and I dressed – twice. The lovely new Edenpure heater being set too low during the coldest night of the year was the catalyst for all my problems.

Usually, I release the skunks from their den-carriers then shuffle barefooted around the kitchen with my strappy nightgown hanging off one shoulder. The goal being to feed my sweet little princesses in the timely fashion to which they are accustomed.

Rule number one with exotic pets, very old dogs and grandfather-like cats is to never break routine no matter how cold you are or unglamorous you look.

Today, I let them out and poured granola, shivered unnervingly, and went into the bedroom to dress.

Two skunks followed, complaining and eventually digging my bare feet to hurry me along.

“Mama is sure taking her own sweet time today,” Blossom said as I brushed my hair. Lacey shook her head and went back to bed to wait while Blossom continued to hurry  me along.

"What do these two know of time?" asked the twenty-four year old cat.

Snuggies, the twenty-four year old cat, rolled his eyes. “What do these two know of time?”

I was all dressed, loving my soft pink velour pants, the long-sleeved tees, my brown wool sweater and socks. Slid into my slippers to protect toes from Blossom’s skunk digs and off we galloped to the kitchen for her really late breakfast. Milk on my granola to soften. Plated up their lightly scrambled egg, milk and fresh blueberries. Coaxed Lacey back out to eat.

Pet skunk care tip: Mind you, always make sure skunkies are eating when doing anything where you do not want them to assist. Like feeding the dog, which is another story altogether. Also feeding the cat, doing laundry or going outside. I repeat, hyper-energy, super intelligent exotic pets must be eating.

My pet skunks were eating.  So fed the cat on a plate next to them, took dog food to 130-pound Newfoundland dog on doggie sleeping porch. Intent now is simply to go watch skunkies and cat eat while I eat, pick up plates and intervene as needed. Then take dog outside. Then work. Not bad for twenty minutes out of the bed.

You can feel sorry for me anytime here. I used to be a Pollyanna. Today changed me forever. The reason I am cranky.

Was heading in the door to supervise their breakfast, but my snowplow guy showed up three hours early. Good thing I’m dressed then.

The ice mound PlowGuy made on my flowerbeds.

Wade out door through snow I was going to shovel when doggie went out. Am in my soft slippy slippers.

Give my plow guy the garden parameters for the year. “Don’t pile snow on flower beds, please, flowers need spring sunlight, not ice piles with a Newfoundland dog on the ice piles on the flowers.” As we laugh and shake on it, I slide onto my arse under his truck. Unsmashed, I come in with snow in my slippers, cold socks, wet pants. So much for gratitude. At least the snow is clean. Pants will be dry in a few…. hours?

Dog says he is ready to go out. “Wait for plow guy to finish,” I say, knocking snow from slippers. I strip my pants off one frozen leg and peel embedded snow off the hem.

Do I hear the cat upchucking? Are the skunks in his food already?

Oh man, lots of windows. Snowplow guy can see me. I cover my abundant bikini-clad arse with the not-large-enough blue dog bowl. Wade through skunks to get in the door.

Shuffle through the kitchen with a pant leg dragging. No puke. (No no wait for it.) Pick up cat dish he only licked sauce off. New brand for him but the only can in the store last night… we live in the middle of nowhere… really. Not even the skunks wanted this food.

In the bedroom, I take off my lovely soft pink velour pants. Notice cat’s upchuck streaked across the dragging pant leg.

Eh.

Now you can say it.

Back to the kitchen with an armload of pink and white laundry.  From this angle, I see the cat puke in middle of kitchen floor. The sunlight enhances its aura. Drop laundry to go for cleaning bottle and paper towels before skunks track it too. And notice my first tracks of cat puke leading all the way to the bedroom. And back through it.

Step out of my fresh slippers and into more cat puke. Strip off that sock. I clean it all up and scrub the path only to feel through my other sock that I have stepped in it a third… or is it the fourth time.

You can call me a turnip anytime now. Take the second pair of slippers into bathroom to wash then redress. I’m okay. Life is good. Back to kitchen.

Remember, never break stride, never give them a chance, never ever turn your back.

"We were playing in cat puke. Why does that bother you so much?"

Yes, skunks tipped over the can of pukey paper towels they did not want, digging for anything good in the bottom where there was nothing at all. I could have told them that. As far as the upchuck…. they didn’t want the food, didn’t play with the puke when they had the chance. Now they have tracked the mess in a circle. At least they were busy in one place.

I tucked one shocked skunk upside down under my arm, busy with the other getting her hands and paws washed in the sink. It can be done. Dry her, wash and dry the other. Tuck them in the den-carriers and shut the door.

Where is that cat before he barfs again?

The dog has stopped barking at snowplow guy. I go out to admire plow guy’s handiwork. Help my lame old dog to stand by using a towel for a lift. I smell it. I smell it, I smell it. Poor old guy was barking to go out more than at plow guy’s truck. Poor dog pooped in his bed. Washed his hiney, my hands, took the bedding out to freeze since my laundry will go in first.

Then I find cat upchuck on the bottom of the laundry pile I had dropped onto the kitchen floor. I look at the cat.

Lacey would have been grooming Joseph, had she not been on time out.

Now, honestly, the twenty-four year old cat is most of the time quite confused about where you are when you call or feed him, he is pretty much blind, cannot really hear. Definitely cannot smell or taste. We know that because he would never have eaten the sauce or any canned cat food which he spent a quarter-century refusing, preferring instead premium dry food, steak, shrimp and salmon.

Today he looks at me. Yes, he is sitting on the sleeping porch daybed rolling his eyes at me. “Mom,” he says, “Wasn’t it just yesterday you said, with sarcasm, to your sweet husband something about ‘live and learn’?”

"Like I will remember that," said the ancient smart-aleck cat.

“Next time puke in your litter box.”

“Of course, like I will remember that. Just gag me.”

“Living with my great-great-great-grandfather could not be more enlightening,” I said.

I went back inside and let my skunks out of their den carriers.

They charged to the kitchen like they had never been fed.

“Mama sure took her own sweet time getting us up today,” Blossom complained to Lacey.

I gave each of them a spoonful of my soggy granola.


Skunk Medicine: There’s A Skunk In the House! and other Tail-raising Stories –pet skunk memoirs  —  On Amazon in paperback

A Breath Floats By Paperback —Novel with three pet skunks and two Newfoundland dogs in story Amazon.com paperback, Amazon Kindle version, or as an ESSA Books e book for $8.

Visit Women’s Fiction Blog – more short stories – quite often about skunks, dogs, cats. Plus myths, dense observations and the lies we are told – written by a woman.  Need I say more.

WOMEN’S FICTION OR MYTH — We must never use dog poop to take out our frustrations on anyone.

A LADY-LIKE ESSAY

ladylike-essay-on-dog-poopFirst, what to do with the neighbor’s dog poop?

  1. Recycle coffee cans for neighborly gifts.   Fill them with dog poop destined for the dump where it acts as compost heat. Of course, when the sun beats down on a coffee can with a plastic lid, the ripeness is overwhelming and you might want to think twice about that lid ever coming off while in your yard.  Deliver it to proper owner.
  2. Keep composted cans for our hydrangeas, mix with coffee grinds and cottonseed meal.  Wear an oxygen mask.  Cover fertilizer with decorative gravel or woodchips.
  3. Wing dog pile at side of neighbor’s garage. When it sticks you know they might get the idea.

An explanation may be in order. I will try to advocate this fine idea without giving away my brother’s identity.

  • When the dog poop does not belong to your dog – that means we can all recognize what comes out of our dog and we find a dog pile in our yard that is not like the other.  This usually happens in a pattern. Neighbor’s dog visits, does business, goes home. Neighbor does not wonder why his dog is constipated. They know full well dog is fine, they can see piles over the fence rotting in your backyard.
  • But that’s okay, the neighbors know it will all come back to them. That is because when you go out and scoop your own dog piles you throw their dog piles back over the fence. You used to gingerly drop them over the side into a polite little mountain. But then you just started winging the pile to randomly fall where they may, after all that is the way you find them. One day you have had enough shit and give it a whirl off the shovel. Splat. On the side of the garage it sticks. Oops.
  • What would you do? Scrape it off with a long stick? Use your power washer? Leave it? My brother smeared it with the stick, not intentionally, he did feel badly. Then he left it there all summer, seems the neighbors never came to that side of the garage to notice, never missed that pile at all. Finally, I want to belive with all my heart, that my sister-in-law, dear long-suffering woman, wearied of looking at it every evening when she retired to an iced tea on the patio.  Perhaps she hosed it off.  Perhaps bro did.

Garth and SusannaWhat to do with your own dog’s poop?

  1. Pick up before the lawn crew arrives. We only have the giant-sized to worry about.  Nice tidy poop from eating highly digestible dog food.  We always tred to get every bit, especially before the lawn crew comes to mow.  Still, there was once a pile missed and the youngest guy mowed it.  He’s mowing with a potentially deadly machine, for crying out loud.  How can he miss a rock?  Would he mow a rock?  A Newfie dogpile is not boulder-size, but definitely noticeable.  The lawn crew owner complained because his tractor and trailer and inside his truck was tracked up with dog poop.  Don’t look at me.  I wouldn’t have done it.  If the kid had mowed a rock, he would have worse problems than smeary dog poop.   Now we mow our own lawn.
  2. Install a second septic system just for the dogs. This is for townspeople with Newfoundland-sized dogs.
  3. Little plastic baggies, turn wrong side out, pick up stuff, turn right side out and zip closed. This is for city dwellers who walk dogs in the street while wearing their career threads.  Biodegradeable plastic is environmentally-correct.
  4. Country dwellers. Some fill wheelbarrows and actually use their dog poop on the compost piles that feed the fruit trees. I wouldn’t want it on my vegetable garden, but this is ponderable use of fine energy, at the very least.  Very eco-friendly.   farm
  5. Country dwellers. Throw it onto the farmer’s field at the roadside without the plastic holding bag.  Extremely eco-friendly.  But the farmer might have an opinion.
  6. Wait until it freezes then rake it into piles and pick up.  Beginning of September is when it starts at our house.  Hubby tried it a few times.   Oh yes.  The one in charge of these piles is usually identifiable as a husband or teenage son-in-training to be a husband.  Picker-upper must have unfailing hope anda positive attitude.  a)  Must hope for no rain.  stars mom and daughterb)  Must hope for no leaves on the piles of poop so the unaware woman of the house will not skate through the poop.  c)  Must hope for no leaves on the piles so the woman’s young children will not dive into the leaves and dog poop.  No, we would not want that.  d)  Finally, the person in charge of the piles who decided to let them freeze before scooping must hope for a very short autumn to pull this off.    This only works once a decade really.  Once the visualization of the wife skating free-form through a pile of wet leaves over a few piles of dog poop, well there is no getting that out of your mind.   So the person in charge keeps seeing it happen and there is no hope of it never happening again.  Even in this rare form, it is still the power of attraction.  The Law of Victimization.  The Power of Humour.  Or whatever you want to call it, it’s still your ass.

Essa Adams is a publisher and writer, her latest novel … with two Newfoundland dogs and a second septic for the house …  is published under the penname Thayne Hudson.   A Breath Floats By is available from Amazon, with more information at ESSA Books.   She is author of pet memoirs,  Skunk Medicine: There’s a Skunk in the House! and Other Tail-Raising Stories.  She publishes the Women’s Fiction Blog and Pet Skunk Medicine blog where one will find excerpts, short pet stories, a bright array of essays and rants.

All humor aside….no really….

Gracie's sister is running from plastic to window. 'Help me help me.'

Gracie's sister is running from plastic to window. 'Help me help me.'

The life principle of this winter story is respect in marriage.

Relationships aside, Gracie is about respect for nature and balance with our God-given environment. 

ENTER THE CONTEST FOR A NOVEL — Read Gracie – The Freezing Fake Ladybug. Our January Contest Feature Story to win a novel.

First the marriage.

I read all creative writing to hubby. He at least smiles. Yes, I warned him.

Before I ever hit the punchline, first me then his window of plastic film started to get the I-know-what-you-did-to-my-airlock look.

Holiday spirit, zip. He ripped off a foot of duct tape. The hole is an inch, geez.

Phoebe, little sister of Gracie the fake ladybug.

Phoebe, little sister of Gracie the fake ladybug.

Humour aside, his especially, Gracie’s sister is in there now. I can’t go in after her. Huh-uh.

The FAKE Ladybug in My Window

Christmas short story by the Women’s Fiction blog.

Feel good holiday humor, really….

Fake ladybugs are not to be confused with holiday ornaments either.

Fake ladybugs are not to be confused with holiday ornaments either.

Did it move just now? The fake ladybug in my office window behind the plastic film? The thing is right in line with my view of the winter snow garden. Really bugging me.

One of those fake ladybugs.  An imported Asian lady beetle, orange-red with nineteen black dots on its back. The kind that bites hard.  Pees in your mouth this liquorish poison that makes you wail and spit for ten minutes.

How do they get in your mouth? They drink from water glasses. Crawl into salads, mixing with slivered carrots and tomatoes quite nicely.

See how they would fit right in?

See how they would fit right in?

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My office has wonderful walls of windows, so we purchased an EdenPure Heater like the one on Paul Harvey, just to keep me warm.  I love mine more than Paul loves his. Then hubby bought me a radiant Heat Dish.   Now our pets sleep in baskets by me where I spin them like rotisserie chickens.

Ask the ladybugs.  Winters are rough in the Great Lakes region. So he applied lovely plastic film to the windows to give them one more layer of insulation. Since I refuse to use drapes or blinds because I don’t want to lose my view of the winter garden, the film is a compromise.

The problem with this bug-thing staring in at me is that hubby is very protective of the film. The technique is in the airlock. So he spends the rest of the winter accusing me of pushing stacks of books, the lamp shade, and my purse into the film which does leave dents. I cannot deny evidence.

One must understand the dynamics of our relationship, of him bringing me sustenance while I create my prose in the office. Autumn onward, I would don gloves, many sweaters with hoods, scarves, jackets, then coats and boots, frozen fingers typing numbly.

Stubborn me with my walls of vintage windows on my vintage office-porch I would not change for the world, freezing to death.

fotolia_1964785_xs-up-cottage-gardenWhat a lovely winter garden though. Birds, wildlife, a tiny lacy cedar tree tipped in ice beads dancing beneath the grey skeleton of the high bush cranberry. I love my trees. My blue wind chimes.

Hubby loves me. So he contours the film, trims the edges within a sixteenth of an inch from the two-sided tape so I never know it is there. Then he uses hair dryer heat to coax the film to completely disappear as it spreads tighter and tighter.

Who would mess with the airlock? Not me. I’m not even touching it.

But the poor fake ladybug got caught between the windows and the plastic film.

Day before yesterday, the bug was lively. Being the coldest day of the year, I felt sorry for it, doubting its survival for more than a few more hours.  I know, I am a heartless fake ladybug hater. That evening when I turned out the lights, I do not remember noticing Fake Ladybug. She had probably frozen to death quite painlessly… right?

She? Yes, she. All ladybugs are feminine in fairytales.

Yesterday was more spring-like. Fake Ladybug was not flying around but she was still there, behind the plastic, mulling how to escape her winter wonderland aquarium. Then she disappeared for several hours. Before I turned off the lights, I checked for Fakie and she was not between the windows, not in cracks as far as I could see.

Fakie? Yes, Fakie. Just as Gracie is a cutesy name for Grace. Fakie. Using ‘ladybug’ in her name is too good for her.

Gracie, still as a nailhead on the iced windowsill.

Gracie, still as a nailhead on the iced windowsill.

Today I come in here to work, five essays exploding in my mind. There is Fakie, still as a nailhead on the white windowsill, staring at me through the plastic film. Eh.

I’m trying to work. And she is either dead or dying.

To my defense, these fake ladybugs can live through the winter. They hide in our insulated homes – all of us – between the drywall and outside wall, then come out in droves in the spring.

Summers they spend in alfalfa fields and when that is harvested, they fly into communities like yours to bite you and your children, stick in your fresh deck stain, pee on your windows, until they settle down and crawl into your house to stink and hibernate – those that are not rolled into the bales to be fed to the poor cows. I wonder if the cows can taste that poisonous vile they spray. Uck.

To my defense, some environmentalist from some agricultural improvement agency decided the United States farmers would be better off with these cold-weather resistant Asian lady beetles instead of old tried-and-true, gentle North American ladybugs who die off in the winter, it seems, and were a bit more sluggish in cold summers ( huh? ) when they were supposed to be eating aphids, I guess, and they say our native ladybugs were not as aggressive on the aphids.

Please. Have you ever seen the close-up images of what North American ladybugs do to a smorgasbord of aphids?

To my defense, once upon a time I always scooped them up to take them outside and make a nice plot of leaves and stones for them to live under far from the house, just like I do for the mice.

To my defense, I used to take my hanging lamps apart to get the fake ladybugs out before they fried their little feet on the bulbs. And when they fry they stink too.

Then one day, hubby got out the shop vac. Who would win? Me, the defender, or him, the warrior?

But too many times the nasty creatures got in my salad.

Sagie, I should have video taped him after he ate the fake ladybug.

Sagie, I should have video taped him after he ate the fake ladybug.

Once my pet skunk  tried to eat one and vomited around the house ten times over, me following with paper towels and the vinegar spray bottle while he squeaked and spit and gagged all over the hardwood floors. You laugh, but it could well be your dogs and cats eating them.

Oh!! Then I drank one of those poisonous devil bugs, so drank ipecac as a chaser to get it out of me.

I let hubby shop vac a gallon of them a week from there on out.

I couldn’t watch, couldn’t stand to hear their little screams as they were suctioned at high power into blackness like a tornado before one is in the center. Could not imagine their little faces when they were left in the stillness of the contractor strength garbage bag he dumped them into everyday.

But within a few weeks of hubby shop vacuuming fake Asian ladybugs, we had no more. And spring after spring our droves were lessened until we gave a sigh.

But now I am staring at Gracie…. I mean Fakie. And I think she was in a different position a few minutes ago. She could still be alive in there.

Not to be confused with iced berries.

Not to be confused with iced berries.

But where would I keep her? What could I possibly do with her? A pet? Humor me. But fake ladybugs are not pet material.

Reminds me of when my daughter kept a slew of horned tomato worms from my garden for pets. But that is another story. Or is it? She, too, named them. Wouldn’t let me toss them in the coffee can of turpentine. Yes, that is what old-time gardeners did with tomato worms, we didn’t want to squish them… it was too gross. Couldn’t let them loose in the woods… they would fly back as a moth and recycle. Tough I should have because they reincarnate as good moths that pollinate vegetable plants.  But what is more vicious to tomato plants than horned worms, I ask?  as I transgress…..

So how do I explain the hole in the plastic film to hubby? Took him hours to contour the film to the window so I would forget it was there.

I can’t stand it. I can tape the hole with clear duct tape. If you don’t know it yet, clear duct tape and plastic wireties really are a woman’s best friend. If you take nothing from this blog, that is what I bestow on you and your life from here on out. May you be blessed with an abundance of clear duct tape and your plastic wireties be all sizes and colours.

Fakie is so still.

I just took out the tiny knife I use for graphics. Sliced a tiny opening, like surgery on Grey’s Anatomy. Put the end of the knife through the narrow hole to pull Fakie out.

And she took off running the other way.

I sliced the hole larger to stop her, but she has quite a bit of life left even if she gave up flying.

I wanted to slice the entire bottom edge of the film along the sill to stop her. I wanted to. But that would be a lot of explaining to do.

I know you wanted me to save her. But get a grip, will you. This is not Tinker Bell. We’re talking Fakie, the fake Asian lady beetle that pees in your mouth when you try to eat her, bites you when you mow the lawn, stinks up the insulation between your walls. Has no natural predators in North America. Apparently not even the freezing winters of the Great Lakes.

So just get a grip.

Gracie freezing in the shade.

Gracie freezing in the shade.

There she is. Hiding around the corner of the window, a little alcove only Fakie can fit into. I feel bad now. At least before I bothered her, Fakie was sunning herself on the windowsill. Now she is plastered to a piece of metal in the shade.

Okay, I need advice here. What would you do? And don’t tell me to spray bug poison through the hole to put her out of her misery. Really, what would you do?

Hours later… Fakie is on the move…. waddles past the slice in the film, to the other side of my window. I try to pull the plastic loose on the other side of the window but hubby has it down to a science, there is no place for leverage without cutting in.

Wait, Fakie comes back by the hole. Thinking fast, I stick the curved end of my bifocals through and scoop her out the hole. She falls on her back on my open journal. Did I mention they spray that noxious poison too and stink up your stuff and hands and when you are trying to get them out of your hair, they spray so you need to shampoo three times? I forgot they do this. My journal, windowsill and bifocals now need washed.

Fakie is playing dead. I forgot they do this too. With no natural predators, one would think that they would not need to play dead here in North America. Do you suppose it will take a few more generations, or could they be thousands of years here before they lose the natural instinct to play dead? I do know they will become even more cold resistant. Good to know for managing winter happy aphids in the winter garden here in the Great Lakes region.

What to do with her? I never did decide. No, I’m not keeping her in a jar until Spring. Get a grip.

I let her fall onto a soft tissue, then tuck her into an old envelope from my office trash basket, fold the envelope securely so she will not get out. Put her into the trash right on top so I can think about what to do with her. Don’t worry, I won’t leave her there. She wanted to hibernate in peace and warmth anyway. While I think where she will hibernate, I will write my next essay.

Obnoxious little fake ladybug.

Read Gracie’s Freezing Little Sister next. Oh yes, and hubby’s response to the airlock issue.

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WIN A BOOK EACH MONTH — Please, use comments to tell me what part of Gracie was fictional. From those guessing correctly, one will be chosen to win the book of their choice. Either A Breath Floats By or Skunk Medicine.  Use the poll on upper right for possible answers. Then write your answer in the comments area for this post / story.  Good luck to you.

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a-breath-floats-by-big-title-13jpg-180x260Essa Adams is the author of a spiritual fiction romance novel.   A Breath Floats By: An Illusion for the Soul. Penname Thayne Hudson.  Yes, attitude and all, she is a writer of spirituality, really. Excerpts and Chapter One are at ESSA Books.

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skunk-medicine-small2She also writes essays on her pet skunks and other fur children, both in blogs and her book, Skunk Medicine: There’s A Skunk In the House! and Other Tail-raising Stories. Pet skunks and Newfoundland dog excerpts are at ESSA Books.

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a_kv_113371This blog is entitled ” Women’s Fiction ” because it is about life as a woman. ‘Write what you know.’  ‘Make sure you have suffered enough first.’ Even though most of each story is my nonfiction contribution to life, there is always a part that’s not very true at all.   May you smile with me. Essa

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© Copyright December 2008.

Contact author for details on permission to reprint.

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