Thursday, March 29, 2007

Field of Reams

gh. I am in such a terribly grumpy mood this afternoon that has me already feeling unneighborly towards people who aren't even my neighbors yet.

The reason? The field across the street has been sold.

It doesn't surprise me that it was sold, since the "Christian" neighbor who owned is in dire financial straits and has both local businessmen and creditors pressing for payment of his debts. (Advice for the day: If someone gives you his word as a 'Christian,' check his credit before you shake his hand.)

For years, the housing boom was confined to the eastern, coastal side of our county. Now, as people flee the high taxes in the nearby city and follow development up the Interstate, land values here on the western agrarian side are skyrocketing. Farmland is being sold almost as soon as it is listed and everywhere there are little white flags marking lots where future houses will sit.

My dim view of neighbors doesn't spring from general misanthropy, but from the knowledge that people who move to the country from the town tend to bring a town mentality with them. What they might initially find "quaint," - like the sight of working dogs and horses - will quickly get on their nerves and they'll start bitching about noise and flies. Then they'll start seeking to incorporate the rural communities (or run for town council if the area is already incorporated) and propose rules limiting pets, livestock or anything else they decide doesn't fit in their vision of New Suburbia.

If this sounds cynical, it's only because I have too many friends who have seen their rural corners of the world transformed by newcomers who move to the country not to enjoy it, but to change it. It starts with a field being sold and ends with a Wal-Mart down the street because the people now living in the field don't want to drive back into town to buy the crap they need to fill their new houses. Sure, all the development increases the value of rural property, but for people who appreciate peace, quiet and freedom it comes with a decline in quality of life.

Larry and I are already scanning the real estate ads on a daily basis, praying we'll luck into some affordable land somewhere, preferably enough that we will have a natural buffer against the encroaching cookie-cutter houses that will soon fill our side of the county. Hopefully we'll find something so we can continue to live in a rural area that's truly rural in every sense of the word.

Monday, March 26, 2007

Wow, kids really will do anything for a dollar...

Oh, all right. Alex didn't actually kiss him. But it's still a good shot. Larry told her if she kissed him he'd turn into a Prince. But if he did I'd beat him to death with an axe handle before he got halfway through with Rasberry Beret. Frogs are one thing. Freaks are something else.

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Dropping in...

"Ma'am, I'm here about your rat problem...."

Sorry for the slack posting. A picture of one of my most obnoxious patients ever and a caption is the best you're going to get. Spring is sprung and outdoor projects abound. On the list are new enclosures for the raptors and upgrades to the kennels and stables while the price of lumber is still at pre-hurricane season rates.

Alex and I have resumed riding now that the weather has warmed up and that's taking up quite a bit of time. The ponies, spoiled and lazy from a long wet winter of doing nothing, didn't take it well at first but are coming around. The farmer's market is about to begin and we're busy preparing for that, too. In short, there's too much we want and need to do outside to spend that time in front of the computer, unless I'm getting paid for what I write.

So posting will be spotting and most likely consist of photographs and the random thought here and there as the mood strikes me. But unless a rainstorm traps me inside please don't expect too much. And don't think it's because I don't love you all, because I do. It's just that life is too short to spend so much time in front of the computer when there are better things to do.



Tuesday, March 13, 2007

Three words for '300'

Totally. Freakin'. Awesome.

I took Larry to see this last night. I'd made plans to go see it Sunday with Wesley before realizing that it was Larry's birthday. So I made a date for us to go yesterday. I think I was more excited about the movie than he was. I'm a Female Oddity in that I hate chick flicks, and there's nothing warm and fuzzy about 300 except one brief moment of paternal introspection from a father who's just lost his son on the battlefield.

Everything in this movie worked for me. The heroes were heroic and the villains were villainous. Is it gory and violent? Oh, yes. But in the context of the story the gore and violence is beautiful. It's an on-screen graphic novel for grown-ups, a pure action movie blissfully free of gratuitous romance.

When the king leaves for battle, his queen doesn't cling to him and cry. Instead, she tells him, "Come back with your shield, or on it."

Oh, yeah.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Octavia, The Sequel

I have wonderful news today. Octavia's egg sac has hatched, yielding dozens of plump spiderlings to carry on her legacy.

Regular readers already are quite familiar with Octavia, a golden silk spider whose daily life I documented after bringing her home from the local arboretum and setting her up in the orchid room. I'd fallen in love with the spiders during a newspaper assignment on the local establishment of Nephila clavipes, which aren't native to our area. I'd never seen a orb-weaver that large and wanted some at home to spider-spy on.

Before foolishly tinkering with my blog template, I had the Octavia Files linked on my sidebar. I'll have to go back and repost them so those of you who missed the spider saga can read them if you'd like. Even those who loathe spiders (Suspect) kept up with the daily doings of Octavia, who was Terribly Beautiful and a fierce warrior when it came to feeding.

Octavia lived the last half of her lifespan with me. She spun huge webs and allowed me to take close-up photos of her and even allowed me to touch her spindly bottle-brush legs. She kept the orchid room free of pests, sometimes capturing prey larger than herself. Her last meal was a locust that wounded her in an epic battle in which she ultimately prevailed.

The locust turned out to be her last meal. Whether she was just mortally wounded or the fight was too much for an aging warrior I don't know, but afterwards she slowed down. She died when I was away on a trip to Baltimore and I mourned for her. For some time it was difficult to look at her empty web without tearing up a bit.

My solace came in knowing she had left a legacy. A few weeks after arriving, I found a male while on a nature walk and put him in her web. He apparently suited her, because their mating led to the egg sac that has sat tucked on the back side of a leaf for through the long fall and winter months. Now the babies have emerged and huddle together, absorbing their yolks and waiting for the silent signal to feed.

We put out a small bowl of fruit in the orchid room. As the fruit ferments, it will attract fruit flies that hopefully land in the webs the tiny spiders are already building.

I'm not going to be overly optimistic. There are dangers in the orchid room. Carolina anoles patrol the rafters, ready to snatch anything that moves. I can only catch and release so many but even though I do they come right back in. There are other spiders there, too. We already caught one dining on a new baby. With so many spiders they will likely eat each other as well. Octavia herself wasn't above cannabilizing the competition when the mood struck her.

But even if a few live I'll be happy. It's been a mild winter and I expect the Nephila population in our area will be even greater this year and nature trails will be spanned by five-foot webs inhabited by Octavia's regal kind. And if I'm lucky, some of those Webs will be build here as well. If that happens, I'd like to think that Octavia will look down from wherever it is spiders go and be pleased with her legacy.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Dragon Flies

Not being a shopper, I rarely take time to endorse box store merchandise. If I do you know it's because I'm impressed, which I am by our $10 Costco kite.

Larry bought it on Friday, and after one look at it I was sure something both affordable and beautifully detailed would break on its maiden flight and I'd end up spending a breezy afternoon trying to cheer up disappointed children. But I'm pleased to announce that not only did this kite fly beautifully, but survived about a dozen crash landing and an encounter with a Kite-Eating-Tree with nary a rip.

The day was gusty, with breezes blowing between 10 and 15 mph. When the wind stopped suddenly, as it did several times, the kite came plummeting to the ground. Alex designated herself Dragon Fetcher. Each time "Norbert" (the reference won't be lost on Harry Potter fans) crashed, she ran over, picked him up and patiently waited until Larry adjusted the line in preparation for the next release.

Lucas was enamored and couldn't wait for his turn to fly the dragon, which was quite a feat for such a small boy.

John wasn't all that impressed with the kite, or maybe it was the wind he didn't like; after a few minutes of watching he decided to walk back to the house.

But he was more impressed than our two ponies, Guin and Lyric, who made a dramatic display of running from the kite when it flew overhead.

Monday, March 05, 2007

It's not easy being green, so how about...

Roland doesn't miss a trick:
"Is it me, or did the colors change?"

Thimscool then observes:
"Holy cow! Flash back! Somebody get my camera, I see an aquatic ape!"

So last night I took some sage advice and switched to Mozilla Firefox, which interfaces much better with Blogger and allows me more creative control. So I started playing with templates. I put this one up because I thought it looked "earthy" but I take it that Thimscool and Roland might think it looks more like puke.

Please, guys, advise me. I do enough to piss you off without hurting your eyes in the process. ;-)
If this sucks, let me know and I'll try some other templates on for size.

You may also note that I lost my links when I switched templates those of you I lined to like (Roland, Omar, Sammyray,Andrea, etc.) will be reinstated ASAP.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Thursday, March 01, 2007

On 'pro-life' hypocrisy...

Given my recent debate with "pro-lifers" who defend faith-based medical neglect of the unborn, I must say I find this article on extremely interesting.

As I tried to point out to the religious extremists who decry abortion but defend a couple not getting a stitch of prenatal care, the decision to deny prenatal care to an unborn child is just as much a pro-choice stance as abortion.

Of course, they denied this vigorously, but if you read the Salon article you'll see that the very same people who argue for the right to abortion also argue for a woman's right not to get any medical care during her pregnancy, even if she and her baby are at risk of death.

In other words, if you are anti-prenatal care you are in the pro-choice camp.