Thursday, September 13, 2007

The Fish Saga

Two weeks after I released two dozen small goldfish into my pond, I noticed white spots of Ick (a fish parasite) on several of them. My fish expert friends assured me there was nothing I could do for them in a "wild" pond. Some ponds just aren't meant for fish.

I was so depressed by this news I didn't visit the pond and fish for a week. I didn't want to watch my fish dying. On Monday I steeled myself and followed Charlie to the pond.

Where I immediately saw a cluster of bright red-gold amid the cattails.

At least 10 fish survive, all plump, all noticeably larger than when released. None of them have Ick. They are healthily wary, keeping to the safety of the plants, keeping a distance between critters on the shore and themselves. They sink when birds fly overhead.

Perhaps my pond is a good place for fish. Now to get some waterlilies...

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Peafowl Puzzle

Monday night a half-grown peahen committed suicide by flying head-first into a window. She must have been frightened by an owl, raccoon, or other predator - she'd been sleeping outside the Charlie-protected perimeter in a tall fir. My neighbors found and buried her Tuesday morning. Her mother was pacing in front of the house crying. This is very sad, we were looking forward to having another hen.

Tuesday afternoon they saw a hen and half-grown chick walking through the tall grass.

We only have 2 hens. One has one half-grown hen chick, the other has 3 younger chicks.

I saw Mom and Chick this morning. I saw them tonight, in their usual nesting place, along with her daughter who has 3 chicks. Another hen must have moved in with her baby. I didn't see her tonight, I hope she's still here.

I haven't seen or heard any peafowl except my own all summer. Where could she have come from, with a young chick? Puzzling Peacocks.

Alex in the NY Times

Even up through last week, Alex was working with Dr. Pepperberg on compound words and hard-to-pronounce words. As she put him into his cage for the night last Thursday, she recalled, Alex looked at her and said: "You be good, see you tomorrow. I love you."

He was found dead in his cage the next morning, Dr. Pepperberg said.

NYTimes story]

Monday, September 10, 2007

In Memory of Alex

Alex the African Grey died September 6 at the age of 31.

Quoting from the Alex Foundation website: "Dr. Pepperberg’s pioneering research resulted in Alex learning elements of English speech to identify 50 different objects, 7 colors, 5 shapes, quantities up to and including 6 and a zero-like concept. He used phrases such as “I want X” and “Wanna go Y”, where X and Y were appropriate object and location labels. He acquired concepts of categories, bigger and smaller, same-different, and absence. Alex combined his labels to identify, request, refuse, and categorize more than 100 different items demonstrating a level and scope of cognitive abilities never expected in an avian species. Pepperberg says that Alex showed the emotional equivalent of a 2 year-old child and intellectual equivalent of a 5 year-old. Her research with Alex shattered the generally held notion that parrots are only capable of mindless vocal mimicry."

Alex was also learning to read.

For parrot enthusiasts, Alex was rather a hero - the symbol of parrot intelligence that we all understand but that the scientific community scoffs at. Dr. Pepperberg has continued her work for 30 years in spite of lack of peer support and funding problems. She has two young Greys she's still working with, who will hopefully step into the very large footprints left by Alex.

We can help. Go to and make a donation. There is also a tape you can buy on how to train your bird to communicate "the Alex Way", three publications by Dr. Pepperberg, and many other items. Check it out.

Dr. Pepperberg has supported the Avian community in many ways. It's time for us all to return the favor and support her research and her projects.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

More Lovely Seniors

One of my favorite email lists is LGD-L (Livestock Guardian Dog List), hosted by Listserv. It started years ago with a small group of LGD owners, including the owners of these two Caucasian Ovtcharkas. I feel we "grew up" in LGDs together - along with the owners of Ursa's family members featured earlier.

Mishka is the beloved companion of Cissy Stamm, living in New York state. She has recently retired from being Cissy's service dog in NY City. Mishka is a beautiful 11 years young. She went through several homes before she found Cissy, and her perfect place in the universe. Mishka turns 12 September 6.

Nushi also lives in New York state. Originally imported from Budapest as part of a breeding program, her Hungarian birth name was Feleghazi Hetordog Aida (Hetordog means "seven devils"), and the breeder's call name for her was Garra (Claw in Portuguese). At 4.5 months Nushi had other ideas, and instead found her way to Pamela and Joel Rose where she has been their joy and delight for 11 years. She diligently protects her home and family, including the cats.

And, since this is my blog, here's another picture of Ursa, taken a couple months ago. The huge tumor on her jaw is now getting smaller - since I've been putting raw honey on it. Very odd, but very wonderful if it continues. Ursa wasn't a rescue but was rehomed to me at the age of 5. It took her some time to adjust to country life (she grew up in Boston), but she now loves it, and spends most of her time outside helping Charlie protect their world. My life has been richer since Ursa has been in it.

Monday, September 03, 2007

All in a day's work...

On days that I'm home I like to let the sheep, goats and donkey out to do road work; that is, to eat down the excess vegetation on the sides of the lane. They tend to agree that this is a good job for them, and are happy to oblige.

It's late afternoon, and the goats and some of the sheep think it's time to come back inside. Charlie - perhaps the only one who truly dislikes the flock going to work - greets them at the gate.

There's always a treat when the flock gets back into the field - I want them to be eager to go both directions - and intrepid hens claim flock membership.

It's difficult to get a picture of a donkey that isn't either all nose or from a great distance. It took a lot of coaxing to get Polly to come close without trying to eat the camera.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Heady Scents

Each night as I walk into my bedroom I'm met by a heavenly scent. My night-blooming jasmine is in bloom.

This lovely plant has been blooming for the past week. The one in the living room hasn't bloomed this year. That may have something to do with the heavy pruning it received from the sheep when I left it outside to get some fresh air. It's so fast growing, within a week it was again covered in new leaves.

I love flowering houseplants. I need more with scents. The ones below are some of my favorites - even if they don't smell pretty, the blooms make up for it.

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House Guardian

Berna was feeling left out, and I had to agree she hasn't been getting a lot of camera time. I decided to take a couple of pictures of her doing what she does best - actively guarding the house and all of its contents, including me and the herders.

A working dog needs to conserve energy for the moment she is needed. Berna can make it from this position in the middle of the house to any threatened area in a nano second, and in full roar.

Sometimes it makes more sense to guard from the living room, on the cushion.