Furry Tails from the Woods

A rather well fed feral cat…

This is our outside feral cat, Katniss.  Yes, she of the wooden palace…  She is a solitary little soul and I often wonder if she is lonely or am I anthropomorphizing?  At 7.30 am she is usually waiting for her breakfast and 6 pm for suppertime.  Although she is one claw short of a paw, she has finally figured out that the new wooden house in our garden is for her to shelter in.  Monsoon season is here and she has been inside the house, peeping out, looking for her human.

On a tangential note, our street has had a variety of feral cats; some fools have rescued them and others have disappeared.  One particular black and white tom cat, named Adolpho in our street, was quite a character.  He looked like he was wearing a scruffy leather jacket and smoking a tote.  One of my neighbors noticed that there was a poster of him in the street.  He was well known in every street and each had a different name for him – Bud, Tank etc.  A text chain started and we all sadly found out that he had been killed on the road.  RIP Bud, Tank or Adolpho.

Back to my black and white beauty, Katniss – a few weeks ago she was asking for food more often than usual.  I accused her of being pregnant but she just stared at me with those round green eyes.  Then Teddy and I figured out what she was doing.  I had noticed a very small mother raccoon, slightly smaller than Katniss, who had swollen teats.  Presumably her kits were nearby or under the deck.  Katniss was leaving some of her meals for the raccoon and just sitting happily with her.  Do cats make friends with other species; apparently so?  It was so lovely to watch them.

We didn’t want to encourage the raccoon to join the family so we cut back on the food.  Life went back to normal until Griff, our surviving feral tomcat, gray with pretty crossed eyes, started lurking around and made Katniss very skittish.  I chased him but he was quite determined to get Katniss’s meals.  To tempt her to another part of the garden I put out some human salmon – just a spoonful.  Before Katniss could find it, the little raccoon sniffed out some delicious food from heaven.  She was tucking in when Katniss appeared, outraged!!  She went straight up to the raccoon and hissed in her face.  The raccoon was cowering but she had never tasted anything quite so wonderful and she had to keep eating it.  Then Katniss biffed her on the head with her paw but nothing worked.  Laughingly, I went out to give Katniss a different plate but she was sulking by then because the delicious human salmon was in the raccoon’s tummy.

I haven’t seen the little raccoon for a while but she has probably moved on with her kits to a more prosperous garden, full of grubs and mice.  Every so often I open the window with the net down so that she and Toffee, our old inside feral cat, can sniff each other.  Toffee is also solitary and loves to watch Katniss from the top of her condominium.

My new camera gives some lovely detail to Toffee’s beautiful little face with her hooded owl eyes. She is 15 and a half years old, born in Cairo, Egypt.

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Perfect peace on the site of a battleground

Following on from my last post of Blakeley, Alabama, the site was serenely quiet and tranquil.  In 1865 the Civil War battle of Blakeley commenced.  Ultimately 261 people died, hundreds were injured and over 3000 Confederate soldiers were captured by the Union.  You can tour the battlefield, seeing the Confederate fortifications and other details.  Prior to this sadness, Blakely had been occupied by the Apalachee who had fled their home in Florida after a British led Creek battle.  Then it was chartered as the town of Blakeley by an early settler, Josiah Blakeley in 1814.

In the early days it was a thriving community but as I previously mentioned yellow fever and malaria killed so many people that the place was abandoned, to all intents and purposes.  No one really knew what the cause of the illness was and it was referred to as “Bad Air”.  Anyone who lives in the tropical south knows how oppressive a hot humid day can be but by comparison to Houston, the air seemed as fresh as a daisy.

Calahaba Lily

There is a Calahaba Lily River Association – it is an aquatic plant found only in the south-east.

Wild or Louisiana Iris

The state symbol of Louisiana is the fleur-de-lis based on the real Iris above.

The residents seem peaceful these days…

Lady Blue Dasher with black lace wings

Mr Lizard

Battlegrounds often have a pervasive feeling of gloom but the wildlife has taken over most of the area leaving a sense of ‘life goes on’.

Blakeley, Alabama

The lumberjack fairy

This is a lumberjack fairy in a fantastic tree root of a live oak in Blakeley, Alabama.  Perhaps this fairy retreat provoked my recent addiction to fairy stories?  Blakeley is located to the east of Mobile, Alabama and back in the day it had the best deep water access for the many ships coming to Alabama.  It is now a historic state park and a ghost town.  Both Mobile and Blakeley are in swampy delta areas – five rivers connect at the estuary.  Yellow Fever was common in this area in the 1800s and when it first decimated the population at Blakeley, the remaining residents decided to move to Mobile or other areas.  Unfortunately, there was yellow fever there too and there is a very sad cemetery in Mobile with tiny little graves.  The survivors made it through and we have eradicated yellow fever in America although it is common in other tropical areas.  It is a virus spread by mosquitoes.  Next time you worry about a snake or a cougar, just think how many deaths the mosquito is responsible for.

No fairies but now you know a full grown lumberjack fairy can fit inside it

Where there is death there is life

Elder live oak

What a magnificent old gentleman, his branches graying with Spanish Moss.  Live Oaks live for hundreds of years which worries me because we have one in our front garden that has grown from a 3 ft sapling to 50 ft in 14 years.  Despite that, I love her and stroke her bark when I pass her.  It gives me such pleasure to see the acorns in the leaf litter feeding all the critters.  Click here for a fascinating story about her – One Sleep until Halloween

Happy Hibiscus Hues

Variegated Peach and Coral

I don’t think I had seen a hibiscus until I moved to Egypt.  Our villa garden was gloriously full of the original red hibiscus.  Since living in the States I have discovered so many other shades but never as many as I spotted in San Diego at Balboa Park.

Pale pink

Aren’t the colorful stamens pretty?  Such perfection in a flower.

Deep orange

Lemon

I love the matching lemon stamens.

Look at those stamens!

I would love dresses in all of these colors, especially this clear red above.

Pale yellow

This was the first time I had seen clustered blossoms of hibiscus.

Deep pink

Cream and crimson

Mauve

Sometimes it is the small aspects of life that make us happy.  These hibiscus were a distance from the Botanical Garden in Balbao Park and outside the zoo.  Only I seemed to be fixated with the variations of color and taking photographs.  Perhaps they are more common in San Diego?  Ironically, my camera had lost battery power, so all these are taken with my Samsung phone.  My beloved Nikon camera is getting old and slow, so Teddy and I bought me my first proper camera at the weekend.  It is a Sony with a Zeiss lens but most importantly it is really light for my neuropathic fingers to manipulate.

Lush flowers in our garden in Cairo

This is a shot of our beautiful garden in Cairo.  Can you see Toffee hiding in the flowers?  Look for the tail in the path…  Click here if you would like to know more about our adventures in Cairo – Letters from Cairo

 

 

Meet our new garden guests…

Mother Gray Fox and pup

These are our new residents who use our deck as an AirB&B.  The first time I saw them, I couldn’t believe my eyes.  What were they?  Since then I have swallowed Wikipedia and discovered that they are Gray Foxes.  They are indigenous to the Americas (with a range from Canada to Venezuela) unlike the red foxes which were introduced from Europe to hunt.  Red foxes are now predominant in the eastern states but our gray foxes are not at risk.

Felicia

Felicia, the mama, is sharing a burrow with the armadillos – I wondered why it was so big…  From our nighttime camera we can see 2 adults and 4 puppies.  Since the pair are monogamous we assume it is a breeding pair with their litter.  I believe that they have recently moved into our area from other green belt areas that houses are being built on.  We live in a protected forest environment and back onto a reserve (behind that fence).

Look at those brushes!

Felicia is about the size of a cat with longer legs.  Their coat is exquisitely patterned and lush.  I have had so much fun watching them play and hunt.  Mama is mostly silent but quietly mewed at the pups when she returned with a baby squirrel from a hunting trip.  They ran out from the deck, one went straight to her teats but she slapped him off to encourage them to eat solid food.  They first appeared in the Americas in the Pliocene Era, about 3 and a half million years ago.  Gray foxes are the most basic type of canine species and are related to Fennec Foxes.

Like cats, Felicia can hiss and climb trees to hunt or escape predators.  She comes down backwards like a cat.  I found a large dead wood rat on the deck – do you think it was rent for the deck burrow?? They are crepuscular in nature so that is why we have some shots in daylight but mostly they are nocturnal.  Now we finally know why our squirrels are called fox squirrels – they have exactly the same gray with amber coloring.

They have provided much needed balm to my fragile soul over the last few weeks but also terrified Katniss our outside feral.  She finally came back after a couple of weeks, very skinny, so I have been feeding her up.  The foxes still come and go, so she has fixed her timetable to adjust.  The foxes are not a threat to her but she doesn’t perceive that.  I guess they all scent where they have been.

My psychiatrist suggested that I should write another post after the last one about suicide and here we are!  I have taken two months off work and am beginning to feel better.  My apologies for my absence around my friend’s posts – I need to relax.  These little foxes have made 2018 a marvelous year, especially since so few people have seen these little critters in our area.  I hope you enjoy watching the video of the pups playing in my plants – so cute!!!

 

San Diego Mugshots

…and to another brilliant segue by Kerry – from Folsom to San Diego. There is a lovely little seaside community in San Diego called Seaport. As I was walking about I noticed this fancy schmancy shopping and dining center, The Headquarters at Seaport. Even more intriguing was that this was the original San Diego Police Headquarters built in 1939. What a place to work with magnificent views of the water! As the city increased in size they outgrew the original headquarters and here we are today. Amazingly they kept the original 8 block cell intact with some of the mugshots of the prisoners. This is a link to the history and architecture of The Headquarters.

Since I went to San Diego to research my ancestors, I looked with cautious trepidation at the mugshots. Was one my relative – not to my knowledge? What an interesting bunch they were. Such a mix of ethnicities and most of the crimes seemed relatively minor.

Block of 8 jail cells


The cell blocks themselves looked better than most youth hostels I frequented in my youth. You had a bed, toilet and sink all to yourself – wow! I bet there was even hot water…


As fascinating as it was, I was left with a feeling of sadness that so many of them were drug addicts. How little life changes over the generations. At least they had reasonably sized jail cells with the smell of the ocean just outside the door.

Texas Trains

Look at that! A Texas sky and an old railroad with no barriers. Us Texans are brave…

I recently had the good fortune to travel to Brenham in the Texas hill country for work.  It is a small country town, German in origin, north west of Houston.  The last time I traveled for work was in the UK, to grim industrial towns in England.  This trip was much better with perfect spring weather in Texas (hot summer weather in UK).

I used to be terribly frightened of railroad crossings but since moving here, I have had to get used to them.  Most of them around me have no barriers so the train uses the horn for miles – a sound I love.  Sometimes on a quiet night I can hear them at night about 4 miles in the distance.  Now I just stop briefly at the railroad and check there are no trains (not everyone stops…)  The crossing above was right in the middle of the old section of town.

Santa Fe Depot

These train company names immediately bring nostalgic memories of old American movies and I dream of jumping on a wagon to travel across country.

Abandoned train line

Or at least I think it is abandoned – it is sometimes hard to tell out in the countryside.  As I child I would have constantly been on these train lines imagining the destinations.

Yellow train

This is just one part of a very long train that had dozens of wagons.  They sometimes are so long that it takes 20 minutes for one to pass.

Wildflowers beside the Walmart

As I was leaving the Super Walmart I noticed this field of bluebonnets, followed by red wildflowers and finally yellow.  The sky was very overcast and it gave a surreal feel to the field.  I attempted a photo watercolor below.

Watercolor created by using Photoscape