Saturday, June 27, 2015

Beware of Bee

I discovered this morning:  Who the hell needs a guard dog when one has a guard bee?  I have a purebred German shepherd who is extremely territorial, but she isn't much of a guard dog.  She barks at the neighbor's cat when it trots down the street and she'll glare at the neighbor who lives across the street when he is outside puttering around.  She has a great vantage point at the top of the deck in the backyard.  She does a great job protecting the flowers.  However when someone actually comes over she is completely embarrassing.  She gets so excited when I actually have visitors that she would probably hand over the silver just for a belly rub.  I'm fairly certain that should someone try to break into my house, as long as they don't set foot in her beloved yard, they would be free to rip off the TV and the laptop as long as they play with Tess and give her a doggy pop.

Wally on the other hand is a fierce protector of his home.  Also, Wally appears to have multiplied.  As of this morning there were three Wallys buzzing around the garden next to my front door and as soon as one flew off, another one would land on the front step and crawl under the porch.  I thought bumblebees were solitary but apparently Wally has created himself a family.  And now, since I'm not sure which one of them really is Wally (or Wilma as the case may be) I'm just calling them all Wally.  I did happen to piss one Wally off though.  My columbine routinely  needs deadheading so I was taking care of this while Wally and his friends were taking care of their own business. They really are quite remarkable.  Sometimes it looks like they can barely hold their fat little bodies up with those wings.  When they are airborne their wings are invisible.  They just look like yellow and red blobs hovering in the air and their butts droop.  If they are close to the ground, gravity actually pulls them down, but when they get high enough in the air they take off like little airplanes.  They can be seen for quite a few feet in the sky, they are that big.  There is a quote I've always liked by Mary Kay Ash:  "Aerodynamically, the bumblebee shouldn't be able to fly, but the bumblebee doesn't know it so he goes on flying anyway."  Metaphorically this works for those of us who dream of a more creative, fulfilling life too.  I feel sometimes that my dream of writing novels is impossible.  But if I take a lesson from Wally's playbook and pretend I don't know this, I can go on and achieve this anyway.  Wally is not just a pollinator of my flowers and an adorable guest under my porch, he is also a source of constant inspiration.  So I sat on the porch step for a moment to watch the three of them fly back and forth and crawl under the step.  One little guy seemed a bit confused.  He kept hovering over the porch like he knew where the nest is but couldn't quite figure out where the entrance is.  He must be the doofus of the trio.  There's always one.  They probably keep him around because he's the biggest and carries the most pollen.  He sniffed my hand a few times but continued to circle around in confusion, trying to find his nest.  Meanwhile here came who I believe is the original Wally because he knows right where the entrance is and always goes straight for it.  I must have pissed him off because he flew right into my face and the buzzing was loud enough to rival the humming of my refrigerator.

If you've never seen an angry bumblebee right up against your nose I can tell you.  It's the beginning of a horror movie. They seem to triple in size and Wally is not a big guy to begin with.  I am not generally afraid of bees but for a moment I felt like my life was in Wally's stinger.  Swatting at him didn't help.  He's quick.  He decided to express his displeasure in my hair.  I ran down the walk a ways to get away from him but he was not having any of it.  He chased me and buzzed spirals around me.  It actually sounded like there were six or seven of them circling me, that's how loud the buzzing was.  And he was zinging around me so fast it kind of looked like there were several of him as well.

Those little bastards really know how to intimidate someone.

To get away from him I had to run into the house.  That little beast actually followed me in and now I had a bumblebee in my house.  Of course now he was so disoriented by being in the house and trapped by a screen door that he left me alone.  I went back outside to give him a break.  We stared at each other through the screen and I'm fairly certain he was giving me the finger.  I am not proficient in bees.  I know wasps will sting you at the drop of a hat because they are assholes.  Bumblebees on the other hand, especially my little bumblebees, seem fairly harmless unless they are threatened as Wally so passionately demonstrated.  I was more worried, should he sting me, that it would kill him so I was really trying to avoid that.  Turns out bumblebees have smooth stingers so apparently they can sting more than once.  I've become rather attached to Wally but that doesn't mean I want him to use me as a pincushion.  I opened the door to usher him out and he responded immediately, disappearing into the sky.  Smart little bugger.  The flies that come into my house, to say nothing of the moths and mosquitoes that slip in attracted to the light, cannot figure out where their rear ends are let alone the way back out.  They either get eaten by the spiders, smushed by me or the cats, or die frying next to the light bulbs in my light fixtures.

The next time someone comes to my home unannounced, I'm not going to be too worried.  They have to step up on the porch to get to my front door and if Wally doesn't like them, he's going to give them a piece of his mind.  I'm seriously thinking about putting up a sign that says "Beware of Bee."  Also one that says "Please do not harm the bees."  After all, this is their home too.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Only the Fur Babies

I turned thirty-seven this year and suddenly people have become extremely interested in my plans for reproduction. Even my parents, who all through my twenties kept telling me how important it was to get an education and build a career – that marriage and babies could wait – are now subtly dropping hints during phone conversations that they really wouldn't mind another grandchild. My niece, my brother's child, is the apple of their eyes. She is the princess of the family and I love her dearly. I also have another niece and two nephews that belong to my best friend that I also love dearly and would do anything for. Motherhood for myself however is not in the cards.

When I was in my twenties I thought dismissively as one does in their twenties, sure, one day, probably in my thirties because it was such a long way off, that I would probably have a baby. Everyone does it, after all, right? In my early thirties I thought well, there is still time. Now I realize that I will probably never have a baby and even though I like the idea of having that option – that it is a choice still, a door that has not closed – I doubt it will ever happen. I have never been one of those women who desperately wants children or thinks that in order to have a fulfilled life a baby must be part of it. I didn't search for a suitable partner to help me bring this dream to light and build the perfect little family as many of my friends have done. In truth most of my romantic partners have been completely unsuitable fathers or men who have taken care of the possibility that they might have children with one simple operation, almost as if my subconscious romantic sensibilities were steering me away from having a child. 

Honestly, I have never been opposed to having a child. With the right man, the right circumstances, the wrong birth control, I would have one. I am pro-choice but do not believe in abortion personally so if an accident ever did occur I would take responsibility. The point is, I did not want to be a single mother. I would not purposely have a child out of wedlock and nothing but the greatest love and strength of character would induce me to matrimony. Now here I am at thirty-seven, still single, still childless, but somehow the steward of a bunch of animals and plants who get very cranky with me if I do not lavish them with as much attention as they believe they deserve. The closest I got to that great love and strength of character was the Cowboy who is fifteen years my senior, has a son and a granddaughter and a vasectomy, and is a hopeless workaholic and wanderer. He accepts my pets and plants – even the bugs – without comment or question, supports the idea that I do not want to be a mother, and does not judge me for it. As he says, I have too much to do to keep the animals happy. I have a German shepherd who is fairly certain she is the center of the universe – at least my universe – and who would be devastated if she had to compete with a tiny squalling human for my attention. She already resents the laptop as writing has become my “baby” in a sense. I have three cats who do not behave as cats at all. Cats are supposed to be independent and aloof. Mine are needy, clingy, and completely convinced that I do not spend enough time filling their every need. They even visit me in the bathroom, demanding attention in the middle of my most private actions.  I have heard from my friends who are mothers that their small children do the same thing so I guess I am not missing out too much. 

 I also have several plants that require constant supervision. The pansies need deadheading. The rosebushes want their beer and their pruning so they can bloom all summer. The tiny vegetable seedlings I have tried my hardest to keep alive through the extremely uncommon wet weather we've been having need to be covered and watered every night because they have become the victims of slugs. I have two tiny tomato plants hanging on by a thread and one watermelon plant who seems to be thriving. So I spoil these little greenies because they seem to want so badly to live and they depend on me to make this happen.

As the Cowboy has stated many times before, I do not have time for children. He said if I had to meet the needs of children as well as my codependent animals and my fragile plants, I would have to quit my full time job because taking care of my creatures is a full time job.

I admire women who become mothers. All my friends have in some way or another. My mother is the most amazing woman on Earth. My best friend with the three adorable children has always wanted to be a wife and mother – that was her greatest wish in life – and she is phenomenal at it. As for me, I am fundamentally lazy and I am getting too old. I have had people offer IVF and adoption as options for me. “It's not too late!” and “You can still be a mother, but you'd best get on that!” and “You're not getting any younger!” My laziness however believes otherwise. If I have to work harder than the thirty minutes it takes for a romantic interlude to impregnate me, then I feel like I am working too hard to achieve a goal I'm not sure I want and others are sure I should want. I work hard enough cleaning out cat boxes – three times a day, seven days a week. The thought of the doctor's appointments and the flipping through eligible sperm donors, and the rounds of insemination until one finally takes – that exhausts me. I would infinitely prefer a book or my German shepherd. If I want to go the traditional route – which I do should I ever become a mother – that requires hours of dates to say nothing of the time it takes to meet these dates. I should be out every night having drinks with my girlfriends and smiling and wearing little black dresses and seductive perfume – and the thought of all that just tires me before I even get my eyeliner on. I feel like slipping back into my pajamas, brewing some tea, and watching the next episode of Heartland

It occurred to me the other day, I have a family. I am not one of those people who thinks her pets are her children. I know my pets are animals. They are not tiny fur humans. They don't even believe they are tiny fur humans. They believe they are superior to humans and should be treated as such. A baby would not be an unwelcome addition to this family, but it does require more thought than merely going down to the pound and picking out the first pair of big brown eyes and floppy ears that arrest one's attention. For a woman my age, as has been so diplomatically pointed out in the past, the process of acquiring a progeny would take considerably more effort than merely vodka and some black underwear. The older I get the harder it will be. I always believed that had I been meant for motherhood the stars would have aligned to make that happen. The choice was made for me as I had certain conditions in mind for having a baby. I also had certain conditions in mind for having a dog, especially one like Tess. Those conditions were met and she sort of fell into my lap. Now I can't imagine my life without her. I'm fairly certain should I have a baby I would feel the same way about that.  We will probably never know.  The baby has not fallen into my lap at this point (or out of it as the case may be) and therefore I believe the choice has been made for me.  I will stick with the fur babies.


I love summer in Wyoming because it means I acquire more pets. They are seasonal pets, like Fred, my Bold Jumping Spider from last fall who I have never seen again but prefer to think of as happily taking up residence under my house where I relocated him after finding him camped out next to my espresso machine. I wish Fred well and I hope one day to encounter him or one of his offspring again. This year I have a bumblebee I have named Wally. I can't be sure if Wally is a he or a she, but Wally is a very pretty little ball of fluff with a red bottom. He lives under the step of my front porch next to my garden. I imagine that is a haven for bumblebees. I have a gigantic rosebush that has overcome some of the worst Wyoming conditions in the last twelve years as well as a patch of yellow columbine that just appeared one day and started growing like wildfire. From what I understand bumblebees are solitary so I identify quite well with Wally. He buzzes around my roses, then my columbine, and finally pays a visit to the neighbor's bright yellow Corvette. I think that distracts him as it is quite bright and Wally seems to forget from day to day that it isn't actually a gigantic flower for him to feed off of. When he's done with his routine – from what I have observed it happens several times a day – he lands back on my front step and crawls into the crack there where his little house must be. My routine is similar, at least on my days off. I buzz around my kitchen, buzz around with my vacuum cleaner, buzz around my laptop pretending I'm actually accomplishing work, and then go find something to eat before stretching out for a nap with the cats. Sometimes I mistakenly think I miss human companionship and go out for a drink where I encounter numerous irritants that send me right back to my little safe haven.

I like to think, however, that solitary as we are, Wally and I enjoy each others' company and our brief encounters. I water and weed his flower patch and took pains to plant a bunch of daisies and sunflowers for his munching enjoyment, so I hope he doesn't think I am a complete waste of time and space. Also if Wally would attempt to broaden his horizons and fly around back he would find a wealth of pansies I have planted in several pots for him to eat himself silly on. Unfortunately this smorgasbord has already been discovered by a bee three times as big as Wally who is not as friendly. I call him the Behemoth as I was quite sure the first time I saw him that a red-tailed hawk was descending upon me.

Tess, my ridiculous over-energetic German shepherd has developed a habit of chasing and snapping at the wasps that try to build nests under my backyard deck so I'm always worried that she will attack and eat the bumblebees as well. She keeps the wasp population down and it is really quite remarkable that she never gets stung. I always expect her mouth to be swollen with the poison of a thousand wasp stings after a particularly good day on the hunt, but she has a talent unlike any I've ever seen. On hot July days I will step outside on my deck only to find it littered with piles of wasp carcasses, crushed and mutilated, some of them still hanging feebly on to the last dredges of their lives, their pitiful wings shredded and fluttering. Tess is merciless with these creatures so I have no doubt as intelligent as she is, she probably can't distinguish – or doesn't care to distinguish – between the wasps and the bumblebees. Luckily for the Behemoth he is roughly her size with wings so she probably wouldn't risk her life to attack him and he spends most of his time high enough up where the pansies hang that she can't reach him anyway. Wally is safe in the front yard with the roses and columbine and his little house under the front step. Tess never goes out there without a leash.

I sincerely hope Wally has every intention of reproducing as the bee population is dwindling and also because I get such great enjoyment of watching him. He likes to tease my friends on the rare occasion that they come over. He will buzz around them, sniff suspiciously at them, before buzzing away again and finding something else to do. I usually have to warn my friends to not swat at him. I don't want him to get mushed. And also to not make him angry as he is an integral part of the local ecosystem as well as my personal entertainment. I imagine bumblebee stings probably do not feel so great and I don't want one of my friends to get angry and kill him because of a misunderstanding. After all Wally, like the dog and the cats, lives here and they do not. I always make accommodations for my guests when they visit regarding the animals – within reason of course – as I do not expect everyone on the planet to love my animals as much as I do, but I do also remind people: they live here. This is their home. Please do not upset the animals and make them uncomfortable in their own home. That goes for the dog and the cats, and it goes for Wally and Fred should he ever appear again, as well as the numerous spiders that hide out in the nooks and crannies of my walls. I do not squash spiders so I do not appreciate it when others come to my house and attempt to do so just out of some misguided assumption that the spiders are “creepy,” “icky,” or “scary.”

I will be sad to see the end of summer because it will also be the end of my relationship with Wally, at least for the season. But for now I will enjoy him and make him as comfortable as possible because, as with any of my pets, I will outlive him. People with pets understand that one must live in the now when living with animals. It is really all we can be sure of with them.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Plants Need Love Too!

The codependency does not end with animals.  My plants are just as needy.  I am probably the worst gardener in the history of creation, but that doesn't stop me from fancying myself an amateur homesteader every spring and filling my earth boxes with seeds.  I even start seeds indoors while the weather is still awful, hoping to kick start things and stretch the season longer.

Things did not go as planned this year.

Meanwhile, the pets are back to normal.  Tess is crazed with chasing every fly, bee, wasp, and bird that happens to even think about setting wing in my backyard.  She is up the stairs of the deck and down the stairs, racing through the backyard, growling, and waving her tail around like a bushy rudder.  Percy is back to announcing to the world every time he needs to use the bathroom and now he's graduating to "Hey, human, it's five in the morning, you're still in bed, I'm hungry, and oh, look at this object here on the floor that I can make the most noise with so that you will get irritated and get out of bed."  Percy's new favorite thing is to burrow under the piece of sample carpeting I keep in the bedroom as a sort of place mat for Tess' bowls.  Apparently it is now Percy's mole hole.  Puckett continues to glare at everyone like they are beneath her and shouldn't even be allowed to exist.  She has appointed herself as food police and hawk eyes the food bowls even when she's not hungry.  And Willow, she's just retarded as usual.

I think maybe the animals are jealous of my plants.  In the first place Percy and Willow are obsessed with anything green that comes in a pot.  When I brought my first set of pansies home to deadhead and re-pot, they were so beside themselves, sniffing and pawing at the blooms, I had to move the flowers outside lest the cats expire on the spot with their excitement.  I spend a rather large amount of time deadheading said flowers, watering my vegetable boxes, and watching them like I expect them to start blooming right in front of my eyes.  It's a little more interesting than watching grass grow but about as productive.  I have already killed four seedlings when I tried to transplant them from their starter pots to the boxes outside.  Clearly the plants did not want to go outside, preferring to remain indoors getting their every whim addressed.  When I made the decision to move them outside, they protested by dying immediately.  It has been raining for days here and my carrot seedlings - planted directly outside - were horrified at the amount of water washing out their boxes so they all drowned one by one.  I now have four carrot seedlings struggling for life now that the sun as decided to show its face again; one extremely stubborn cucumber seedling who got it's own little makeshift house to protect it when the monsoon hit last week complete with hail; and two tomato seedlings that seem to glare at me in accusation every time I lean down to check on them.  One has reluctantly sprouted some extra leaves, pretty much telling me "Fine, I'll grow, but you can suck it."

The peppers refuse to show their faces.  I planted those seeds two weeks ago and there is nothing in that box.  They didn't even like the plant food I added to the soil.

As for the beans and the peas, they did great until Tess got jealous of how much time I spent weeding and watering them and dug them up, starting on one end of the box, and leaving a crater the perfect size of her paw in the soil.  One bean plant hung feebly to the dirt, waving its leaves and crying, "Help me, help me!"  Miraculously I managed to save this one, carefully shoving it back in the dirt, patting everything down and watering it until it was tamped down.  Peas and beans are pretty tough and a few of them are fine, but to keep Tess out there are now stakes and barriers all along the boxes.  I also dropped more seeds in the ground, hoping for the best. I can almost see the plants sticking their tongues out at the dog, sneering, "Nyah, nyah, nyah."

Tess continues to let me know of her displeasure by beating on the flower pots with her pouf of a tail every time she whirls around on the deck to go barreling downstairs.  The flowers are starting to wilt in the sun so they get moved to the shade every day at about noon.  They also have dog hair stuck all over their blooms. They are not pleased and they let me know it.

And now the gang has been joined by one little watermelon seedling.  It peeked out this morning, tentatively looking around to see if the forty days and nights of rain really are over and it can actually enjoy a bit of sunshine.  It's just the cutest thing, and despite my tendency to tell my plants, "Sink or swim, guys, sink or swim," this little guy is probably going to get the royal treatment just because I'm so glad it finally broke through the soil.

Seriously, it may not be the pets and plants that are codependent.  Maybe it's just me.