This is what it looks like

Who is the real blogger?
Who is the real blogger?

It’s been three weeks and I am still not caught up on this blog. The European trip takes so much time for just a little bit of research. Meanwhile my knee hurts and so does my hip. We averaged more than 8 miles a day for two weeks. I’ve been trying to rest the legs and, still, I cannot catch up to present life.

We already worked in Alpine, OR. Currently we are working for Baja friends in Seattle. Burt is working. I am typing. I help some. Seattle is nice and cool. We’ve played some Bridge and some music. My mandolin went in for much needed maintenance and it is way more fun to play. The dogs have a good yard to visit. There is also a dog park 10 minutes away. Elvis thinks he is the doorman. Nobody can enter without a thorough nose frisking.

Mimi wasn’t eating when we got back from Europe. It was also in the high 90s. She has resumed eating but is noticeably odd and smelly. I wonder how many years she can hang on as odd and smelly. I remember that tune from the TV show Friends, Smelly Cat. It might be time to learn it. HERE it is. According to the song it’s all my fault.

When we finish this artist’s studio here we will return to Oregon. We have more work in Alpine and Oakridge.

Back to European vacay mañana.

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Olive is disgusting

Olive in the smelly mud.
Olive in the smelly mud. The skull is just in front of her nose.

Swamp water and mud has a mighty aroma.  Smells like love to a dog. Yesterday we took the dogs to Playa Las Palmas and did a bird stroll. I’m prepping to take out a pair of paying clients next week so I thought I’d tour the local bird hot spots and see what I could see. Most of the water is gone from our local oasis and a bunch of deep dark mud remains. Olive and Elvis plunged into the reeds and found some fetid, foul water and happy danced among the green. Swampy water reminds me of the back of a forgotten gym locker or a particular closet in my grandma’s house. Stale, anaerobic, moist, decay. The decay turned out to be actual rather than imaginary when Olive dug up the skull of a raccoon from her wallow. Mmmmmmm, good!

From the swamp we headed to the beach. My dogs took off at a run and left me trying to decided if I was seeing Common or Belding’s Yellowthroats. I counted 8 house finches and decided it was a Common Yellowthroat. When I finally looked up to find the dogs I saw them about 100 yards away rolling in a dead sea lion. Great Googly Woogly. This was a banner day to be a dog. Not such a great day to be a canine companion. Sara Gay and dad had mentioned seeing this poor dreature the day before and I had forgotten. My poor excuse for a nose could not detect the rotting flesh but it was obvious the dogs smelled it from a long way back. I saw the dogs see me and hear me and they got in one last roll when they decided I was too far away to exact a punishment. As I approached they ran off and kept a safe distance from me. They knew the fun was over.  I looked over the carcass and decided it was too disgusting to snatch the skull. The smell was overwhelming up close. The turkey vultures hovered nearby waiting to get back to their feast. I remembered reading vultures don’t like putrefaction and pondered how far along flesh can be before it is too gross for a TuVu. Maybe a sea lion is just too tasty to pass by even with maggots.

You wanted Olive, come and get her.

Maggots: perfect rolling substrate after mud bath.
Maggots: perfect rolling substrate after mud bath.
Maggot home: sea lion carcass
Maggot home: sea lion carcass
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En Español Hoy

Olive ready to snuggle/ ella esta lista a apapachar.
Olive ready to snuggle/ ella esta lista a apapachar.

Today’s assignment work within a limitation. Zoë had some good ideas and then I remembered a friend who told me I should try and write my blog in Spanish. Voy a empezar hoy. Here is a link to Google Translate if you want to see what I wrote about.  This is a piece I wrote directly in Spanish for my Spanish class.

Mi tarea de hoy es crear con limitacions. Voy a escribir en español. Aquí es Google Translate si quires traducir a inglés.

Primero, la noticia mas importante: Olive esta mejor. Ella tiene energia y hambre. Todo esta bien. Elvis esta mejor tambien. El doctor  dio a elvis paletas contra el dolor.

Qué pasó cuando yo estaba lejos de aquí?

Beto é yo tuvimos la intencion que no vamos a trabajar. Casí lo logramos. Despues de tres meses visitando familia y amigos en Montana un cliente nos contactò sobre un trabajo. No quisimos trabajar pero esto fue diferente. El trabajo estaba en el estado de Virginia. Virginia esta a dos mil millas de Montana estabamos en Virginia.

Tuvimos que decidir. Debemos tomar el trabajo ó no? No pudimos empezar antes de octobre. En octubre tendriamos que estar en Arizona. Despues de arizona habiamos planeado ir a México. México y arizona son vecinos. Virginia esta tres mil millas deEl Pescadero en México y dos mil millas de arizona. Oi. Oi. Ai.

Los detalles de trabajo fueron misterioso tambien. Somos carpinteros. Hay reglas sobre algunos proyectos. No supimos que hacer. Ir ó no? Finalmente decidimos a tomar el trabajo. Quisimos explorar una nueva area del pais y el trabajo estuvo cerca de mi familia.

Mi mamá tenía alzheimers hace catorce años. Ella estaba muy enferma. No pudo recordar a nadie ni nada de su vida. Ella necesitó cuidado completo. No pudo comer, ni bañarse…nada. Ella estaba en un estado similar de una coma.

Tomamos el trabajo. Empezamos a mediados del octubre. El trabajo fue fácil. Visitamos mi mami en noviembre. Ella se miraba mala. Era dificil de comer y beber. Yo dí a ella mis saludos ultimos.

Cerca el fin del trabajo mi mama se murió. Fue un milagro. Estabamos cerca y tuvimos tiempo de ayudar a mi papá.

El Fin

Elvis quiere visitar el veterenario tambien. El sintió jeloso.
Elvis quiere visitar el veterenario tambien. El sintió jeloso.
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Time Flies When You’re Having Fun

Sun bathing
Sun bathing

All fly photos sent in to me as inspiration by Karen Ekstrom. We do not know who created them/ If this is your work please contact me and I will assign credit.
This is the best assignment of the month. I was sitting under the palapa with Burt and Ed and Rosemary contemplating life. Where to settle if any of us ever settles, what to eat, how long will our intestinal upset last, why is Elvis humping Bowman’s head, whose art shall I steal for my blog? The usual yak yak yak when an email from a snow bound Helenan that we all knew came through. What a lovely surprise to hear from a long absent friend. I sent group salutations back. The four us us kept talking and then I recalled that Karen was one of my favorite painters and that I had even modeled for her. The great mystery of my disappearing ass painting still remains unsolved and Karen is the key player. It was she that painted my not so dainty derrière and hung it in her garden. Somebody absconded with my ass. It gives me a fit of giggles whenever I consider where and what might have been done to my bodacious butt in oil. Recalling that bit of Zazzali bottom lore I asked Karen if she had any recent art I could steal for my blogging project. You read that right. Today’s assignment was to change, steal, or copy somebody else’s work. The point being that all art is derived from other art so steal some and make something new.
The easy work for me is all my music is cover tunes derived from someone. It might be a 400 year old folk tune or some current alt-country but all my music comes from elsewhere. Boring. So done. So once I came up with Karen I thought maybe she has a nude or landscape or dog painting I can recreate in photography. Alas, Karen had terrible news. Karen has not painted in 6 years. On the up side she remodeled a house, tool care of elderly parents, and started to play music. I learned all this today because of this assignment. What a gift. No art from Karen. I guess I’ll use my Andy Warhol ripoff of Elvis. It’s a favorite piece of mine because, well, Elvis. Get it? No? Pop icon? Now?
I would have explained but now I won’t because a few hours later Karen sent me this fly work. OMG. It hits all my buttons. Simple, balanced, black and white, DEAD things!!!!!!! I haven’t had time to create my own but I will. Sadly I missed the opportunity to collect a massive dead cockroach today. I just wasn’t thinking. But now I am all over it. Stand by.

Love to you, Karen. This is really fun work thanks for sharing it.

 

Summertime
Summertime
Me and my cousin Cara. I was going to say Sue, but Sue is much taller.
Me and my cousin Cara. I was going to say bestie Sue, but Sue is much taller.
Ready, set, fly
Ready, set, fly
We can reach the stars
We can reach the stars
Fly (you thought it was flea) circus, the original entomology freak show.
Fly (you thought it was flea) circus, the original entomology freak show.
Even flies have to wait their turn. Frass lines.
Even flies have to wait their turn. Frass lines.
Elvis ala Warhol's Marilyn Monroe
Elvis ala Warhol’s Marilyn Monroe
Elvis ala Warhol's Marilyn Monroe
Elvis ala Warhol’s Marilyn Monroe
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November is here

Glad it wasn't an 'if it's yellow, let it mellow" moment.
Glad it wasn’t an ‘if it’s yellow, let it mellow” moment.

Slowly but steadily we are making headway on decades of forgotten maintenance at this house. This week I cleaned up an original fan. The year 1965 was a long time ago for an electrical appliance. This fan made a classic racket when you turned it on. Since it is co-wired to the light every time a person goes into the bathroom the wacky fan comes on and starts making its loud rhythmic banging. Racket, racket racket….Nice cover for any bathroom noises but also a loud announcement that you are in the bathroom and kind of takes away from the soothing ambiance many people like when in using comfort closet. I presumed we would replace it. Wrong. Again.

Under Burt’s orders I dismantled the fan and clean it. Unlike current day appliances this thing was solidly built and came apart for easy access to its innards. Inside the vent I found a bunch of sticks and leaves wedged under the vent flap. Could a squirrel have lived here? With all that noise and vibration. It sure looked like it. Burt applied WD-40 to the moving parts. I marveled at the quick to judge bias that lead me to presume we would throw this away. It worked beautifully and is now quieter than a new fan. Yay, Burt!

Yesterday I took a long walk with the dogs. We made it to Fort Hunt and walked along the Potomac. Elvis is getting old and cranky. Mark my words. This is a bit of prepare yourselves for the inevitable. He’s approaching 11 and slowing down like he’s on a freeway off-ramp. I had to drag him home from yesterday’s walk. Burt and I have both faced death in traffic as Elvis refuses to cross a street at a proper pace. He’s nipped at us and even broken skin. We think arthritis might be to blame but he moves very well. He still jumps and gets up and down with ease. Anyway, I tell you this because yo love him too and I don’t want you to be surprised if the end draws up faster than expected. But I hope it’s still far off and we are in a long and gentle geriatric stage.

Departing to visit the parents today!

Before. This fan is as old as me.
Before. This fan is as old as me.
After. I wish I was as easy to maintain.
After. I wish I was as easy to maintain.
Painting helps.
Painting helps.
New storm door.
New storm door.
Halloween spider eating another spider.
Halloween spider eating another spider.
I found a nice tree on my walk.
I found a nice tree on my walk.
Wild grapes are electric with color.
Wild grapes are electric with color.
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It’s all a little too much

PPE or Personal Protective Equipment
PPE or Personal Protective Equipment
Lincoln Memorial
Lincoln Memorial

I have so many hard to articulate thoughts on the Malheur jury verdict. Firstly, it renews my pain of having spent 5 years on an ultimately futile criminal prosecution. I know how hard it is for the feds to win a criminal prosecution. Without actually taking bullets into federal law enforcement bodies it’s easy to say we were only peacefully exercising our rights. It’s either Ruby Ridge and Waco or it’s a stand-off without escalation and these SOBs get to walk free. It’s got my goat. I personally advocated for law enforcement to be patient at Malheur and avoid violence. I find myself hardening against this fringe that thinks all of America feels the way they do. I hate that feeling. I want to be able to see things from their perspective. Secondly, I know I’m dreaming here, but perhaps the right wing conspiracy theorists can see that the deck is indeed not stacked against them. They were acquitted by the same system they say has taken their rights. From their perspective they can say the system is working…

Meanwhile, we went on a short birding excursion. Yesterday we worked and played Bridge. A few days ago we tried to get in to the National Museum of African American History and Culture. This museum is the latest and last to be built on the National Mall at Washington DC. The NMAAHC (my new acronym) opened last month and tickets are free but all claimed through March. You can show up at the door daily for a limited release of timed tickets but you’ve got to get there very early. Burt and I were strategizing a plan for an early arrival when a neighbor said, “Hey, do you want these tickets?” “Yes!” We were very excited. D.C. here we come! And there we went. Parking is very difficult with a vehicle taller than 6′. After driving from parking garage to parking garage or 9:00 AM arrival turned into 9:45 and we were three quarters of a mile away with on street parking for only two hours. Our tickets would let us in the museum at 10:15. We walked as fast as my slowly beating heart would allow. At 10:09 we were at the door. Sad news is our parking time was already 25% gone. Instead of spending 45 minutes inside or facing the towing of the truck and the Olvis, too, we gave our tickets away to two very happy people waiting outside. Like ticket angels we showed up and delivered entrance to the museum to two strangers just minutes before they were valid.

Once we let go of that dream we took advantage of the fine autumn weather and walked the rest of the mall. We also came up with a leave the dogs in the truck at a metro station and take the train in plan for another day.

National Museum of African American History and Culture
National Museum of African American History and Culture
Lincoln Memorial
Lincoln Memorial
Washington Monument
Washington Monument
Detail from Lincoln Memorial
Detail from Lincoln Memorial
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Goat Day Afternoon

Elvis chases frisbee
Elvis chases Frisbee
but doesn't quite catch it.
but doesn’t quite catch it.

Burt and I and the Olvis and Mimi arrived at the Dearborn Parlor Picker’s Picnic this weekend on Friday. The DPPP has been happening for 30 years. Many, many memorable things have happened at the DPPP. This year it was the goat. As we arrived Friday a young man fixed his gaze upon us from across the field and was headed our way before we could park. Just the way he looked at us from 100 yards out you could tell there was a ‘situation.’ There were only a few early arrivals scattered around. We were the first of the over 50 set. The young ‘uns are slowly taking over the event. They arrive earlier and grab prime real estate. It’s the natural order. We headed to the oldsters side of camp and Dave arrived just as we came to a stop.

Within a few seconds we knew Dave wanted a gun. The grim story that played out the night before made us both happy and sad we had chosen to wait a day because of heavy rain. In the middle of the night Dave and his companions were woken by a horrible ruckus. Their dogs went crazy. One, a big wolf hybrid, took off into the dark. Then silence. The dog returned. At daylight the group found the neighbor’s pet goat had been mauled by a mountain lion. The goat looked okay from top side. He sat upright but he did not move and he had a low moan. When Burt and I arrived at around one o’clock the situation hadn’t changed much. The goat was alive. Nobody knew how serious the injuries were but it was obviously suffering. They wanted to dispatch it but only had a knife. Killing isn’t easy. It shouldn’t be.

I went to look for the owner. Being amongst the oldsters I actually knew this goat and had met his owner. The goat was a handsome billie that thought he was a dog. He would ride in a pick up and go swimming at the river. His owners were Lou and Mike. Mike had died the year before. Lou, it turned out, was in Philadelphia. I didn’t know this yet so I went to her home and hoped she was okay. It was weird walking into her unusual, off-the grid, off-the-beaten-track home. The cat was there looking well fed. Birds were in the cages with food and water. An alarm was sounding: IT’S TIME FOR YOUR AFTERNOON MEDICINE. Over and over. The alarm rattled me. Was Lou okay? Had she fallen and hurt herself? I saw no sign of her. Burt came and we did a second search. Her house is a cobbled together structure resembling a child’s fort crossed with a pirate ship.

Kyle arrived. Kyle is the first born son of the host of the event. Kyle and his siblings are transitioning (practically do it all already) into the hosts. Burt went to set up camp. Kyle and I looked at the goat. We did a tough thing. We rolled it over and looked at it’s injuries. Burt had a .22 rifle but we hadn’t euthanized the goat yet because we wanted the owner’s approval. When we saw the injuries Kyle and I were of the same mind. He called Lou and left a message that the goat was too far gone to save. He told her we were going to put it out of its misery.  I called Burt back with one stern,”BURT, get the gun.” The goat had actually been fed on but was still very much alive. There were cat claw marks across its back. When we rolled it over we discovered that haunch was gone and the leg broken. Amazingly there was very little blood. I think the lack of bleeding and the fact that the goat looked okay when it sat on top of its injuries gave us a false sense that maybe it was a superficial wound. Hope dies hard. The goat never gave up.

Killing a goat isn’t easy. They have very hard heads and very small brains. I held him while he died. We all cried. The boys blame me for starting the waterworks.  I blame the fact that the first bullet didn’t do the job. The second one rendered the goat unconscious. I found the spot for the third one with my hands. There’s a soft spot on a goat’s head between the ear and the eyeball. I guess it’s their temple. Goat’s heads with their massive horns and odd shape don’t make this spot obvious. If we had internet we could have googled where to shoot a goat but we didn’t. This was heavy experiential learning. The third shot did the job and we were all relieved. I am please to say a bunch of people showed up to the woods in Montana to camp and we were the ones that had the gun. Normally we wouldn’t either but hunting season is right around the corner and we’ve been collecting our stuff. This helps dispel the notion that all people in Montana are carrying. I think I could have channeled my friend Berna (Former Miss Navajo Nation) and cut the goat’s throat if we had been without a firearm. Miss Navajo Nation competitors must slaughter and butcher a goat or sheep (I can’t recall which) as part of the competition. They slit the throat.

On the lighter side we did contemplate eating this grand billie but it was Lou’s pet so we buried it. Meanwhile Elvis rolled and licked the bloody grass and enjoyed the scene. I can only imagine the details Elvis could share if he could translate scent into words. Here’s what the mere humans came up with. Young mountain lion attacks goat. Takes out a few bites. Goat starts screaming. Wolf-hybrid arrives. Scares off mountain lion. Wolf-dog called back to camp. Goat lies down and stops bleeding with own body weight. Apply pressure is part of the ABCs of first aid. Humans wake up and get involved. Afterwards Burt and I went fishing. We both had a hard time killing our fish.

 

Goat memorial
Goat memorial. Ceremonial beer and his collar.
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Dog-ville

Hiking with Dogs
Hiking with Dogs. Lupita up front, her dad, Plum, and Olive. Elvis was heeling like a good boy.

Today (Tuesday) we are in Whitefish, Montana. Locally known as Whiteflesh due to the pervasive, low-hanging clouds, Whitefish is another Montana spot I have only rarely visited. We were brought up to this northwestern nook big sky country because it is currently the home of Burt’s daughter Jen. Added bonus: Jan has a huge fenced yard and a spot to park the gNash. Even if she was merely a friend she’d be high on the visitation list. Jen took us on a walk at Woods Lake this fine drizzly day. Sixty-four degrees and mostly cloudy. Perfect hiking weather. We’ve all been thrilled to find ourselves in Montana during a wet summer rather than one bedeviled with fires and public land closures and thick smoke. There’s still time for all that but this week of July rain has surely delayed if not eliminated the fire season.

Last night we picked pie cherries from a neighbor’s tree. Today we’re going to have to do it again because we ate the whole pie. Pies must be made and eaten while the season is upon us. Today’s hike was about 3.3 miles. We took an hour to cover the first mile because there were so many birds to try and see and Burt found a ball of mating garter snakes. The ball fell apart as soon as I tried to get a picture but we saw at least 6 distinct snakes. Apparently a fertile female attracts males from all around and they all get at it in one big blob. Since time was an issue (Jen has a job) we finished the last 2.3 miles in 40 minutes. Yay, me. Now I am pooped.

There are presently 5 dogs at this RVers Nirvana. Three dogs (Olive, Elvis, and Plum) are visiting. Lupita, a 3 month old heeler is Jen and Robin’s new canine companion. Lupita is darling. Pita is trying to make Olive love her but so far Olive remains uninterested in her attention. Olive prefers a more mature, tall, dark, handsome dog. We took 4 dogs on this morning’s hike and they were admirably well behaved. A swarm of kids on mountain bikes did not cause a row. Lupita won most of the attention and that was just fine with kid-despising Olive. Not one pup ran off during our almost 2 hour walk. And no fast moving mountain bikers were chased. Coincidentally, this trail system was discussed at length during the trail event where we played music. I can attest that the system is well signed and mapped. They even have posted numbers to refer to if you happen to become lost or hurt. You can call EMS (presuming you have cell coverage) and tell them you were mauled by a bear at sign #77. The EMTs will know where to find you.

Wild bee
Wild bee
Trees
Trees
The remains of the garter snake mating ball.
The remains of the garter snake mating ball.
Going on a hike
Going on a hike
Cherry Pie (half).
Cherry Pie (half).
Railroad bridge in Whitefish.
Railroad bridge in Whitefish. Interesting sentiment.
Graffiti in Whitefish
Graffiti in Whitefish
Cherry pie filling
Cherry pie filling
Pie Cherries
Pie Cherries
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Falta la Voz

Freshwater
Freshwater with a sandpiper

Our symptoms remain unabated. Throbbing heads, laryngitis, mucous, coughing, body aches, fever. It’s the flu. We are just miserable. To pass the time we spent $1000 pesos on a bunch of TV shows on DVD. Game of Thrones, Network…I can’t remember and I’m too drained to look. Instead of dwelling on our discomfort I present you with some pictures of a trip from a couple of days ago.

As part of our effort to bird the heck out of the area we visited a spot behind the dunes that sometimes holds water. I presume it’s brackish given the puddles proximity to the ocean but it fulls with mostly rainwater. I tried to count sand pipers and plovers but my dog and my binoculars failed me. Olive was too tempted by the shallow water and gooey mud. She tore the place up. Meanwhile my binoculars are broken. The center part that hold the two optical tubes together partially detached. The lenses are cockeyed. Looking through is instant vertigo. The only way I can use my formerly fantastic binoculars is if I close one eye and use them like a telescope. Spotting the birds is much more difficult with one eye. Just a big bummer. In summary: I counted a couple of birds with one eye and then Olive chased them away.

Meanwhile Burt was on the beach having a drastically bad time with Elvis. A poor sea lion had beached herself and appeared to be grievously injured and dying. Of course Elvis was onto the situation before Burt. With Burt screaming himself hoarse Elvis chased the weakened animal into the ocean. Elvis went into the waves with it and made some kind of effort to herd the thing back onto the sand. Burt said Elvis took quite a beating in the shore break before he heeded Burt’s commands to leave it. With Elvis back under control the sea lion crawled back onto shore. It was moving poorly. A sad scene indeed. The only thing that could of cheered us up was if a great white shark came out and gave the lobo marino instant death. But then what fun would swimming be after seeing something like that?

Time for more TV.

IMG_1175
Olive ruined the birding and covered herself in stink mud.
Elvis tried to land a dying sea lion.
Elvis tried to land a dying sea lion. He can be a real PITA.
This injured sea lion just wanted some peace.
This injured sea lion just wanted some peace.
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Rough Week in Doglandia

Elvis post 2 AM bath, feeling so guilty he won;t even look at me.
Elvis post 2 AM bath, feeling so guilty he won;t even look at me.

You know it’s a bad week when your human companions are considering taxidermy. While last weeks near debacle with law enforcement was not their fault Olive and Elvis have been a lot to manage recently. The day after we got home one of the Olvis pair scored a bar of dark chocolate. This bar of 72% darkness was in a heretofore safe spot hanging in the fruit basket over our counter. Now all chocolate reside in the microwave when partially eaten. Unopened bars are in the freezer staying safe from the mice and heat.

Chocolate and dogs can lead to gastrointestinal distress. The next day we came home after a brief excursion to poop and egg shells. Elvis stole all our eggs from the counter and ate them. Somebody pooped on the newly cleaned rugs. Time to wash the rugs again. All eggs are now safely stored in the fridge. Our fridge is small so we used to leave them out. The entire world outside of the US does not refrigerate eggs. It’s not a real safety issue. These eggs were especially safe as they were homegrown and had vener been chilled. Also, it was a sad loss because they were homegrown eggs. Oh, the super yellow, glossy yokes I will never see. I hope Elvis enjoyed them. We have re-upped our US citizenry and are now chilling the eggs to keep them out of dog’s reach.

Last night was when we discussed mounting postures for our soon to be taxidermied pooches. It was at 2 AM while we were outside in our PJs washing the dogs with a homemade anti-skunk potion. We weren’t doing this for fun. Despite seven previously unenjoyable encounters with skunks Elvis had to try once more. Just like three years ago a skunk must have peeked in our open door and the dogs blasted out ready to kill. Cue me googling Anti-skunk recipe. I’d used one before but couldn’t remember the ratio. Dawn, hydrogen perixide, and baking soda work pretty well and we always have it on board. Well, almost always. Now we are out of baking soda since I used it all last night. We are also down to our last bottle of H2O2 so I’ll have to refresh that. H2O2 is a purgative and needed at all times for inducing vomiting when dogs steal chocolate and accidentally poison themselves. I’m thinking the taxidermy display should have a skunk so future viewers will understand what happened. Our trailer, I presume, still reeks despite a total wash down. Olfactory fatigue has deadened my sense of smell. Luckily, or coincidentally, the rugs were not reinstalled after the egg fiasco so they don’t require a third washing this week.

On to more upbeat topics. I saw my first dung beetle in action this week. Dung beetles are the sewage workers of the world. They eat poop. They lay their eggs in poop. They love poop. Leave some poop and dung beetles take it away and help turn it into soil. Here’s what might happen to a turd pile near you. A turd is deposited and dung beetles find it. I presume they smell it. They fly or walk in. The males carve off bits of poop and roll it into balls and head away from the pile as fast as they can push. There are lazy dung beetles waiting around to steal balls of poop so if a beetle isn’t quick he could be robbed of his bounty. It’s a high stakes game. Female dung beetles follow the guy with the nice ball of crap. The male beetle pushes the ball in a kind of reverse wheelbarrow pose. His hind legs are pushing the ball and his front legs are pushing on the ground. His eyes are gazing skyward and he uses the sun or the STARS to navigate in a straight line away from the source poop pile and the competing beetles. The female might ride on top of the poop. The dung beetle is the first insect species proven to use celestial navigation. Where are they going I wondered? They are just using simple geometry to get as far away as possible from the literal shit storm of dung beetle competition. A straight line is the most efficient way to get far away. I watched my beetle push over rocks and through grass clumps. Once in a while he would climb on top of his poop ball for a better view but only when a particularly irksome obstacle impeded progress. And since they are pushing backwards it helps prevent them circling back to their starting point. People have a natural tendency to walk in a circle when lost. The dung beetle has overcome this.

After the beetle is safely away he and his lady friend might bury the poop and she’ll lay her eggs on it for the kids to eat. Or they might eat it themselves. All that buried poop does wonders for the soil. Check out the Dung Beetle Derby. I’ve posted a video of my pet beetles push to safety on Facebook. Here’s some more info describing the celestial navigation discovery and a pushing video.

Maybe a rattlesnake would make a better pet?
Maybe a rattlesnake would make a better pet?
Or perhaps a dung beetle. We've got plenty of food for them.
Or perhaps a dung beetle. We’ve got plenty of food for them. This guys ball was not very circular.
Brilliant green star navigator.
Brilliant green star navigator.
My favorite new pet for consideration: Cactus wren.
My favorite new pet for consideration: Cactus wren.
This one wants to move in.
This one wants to move in.
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