Monday, October 4, 2010

toola, מִשׁיִי, and the ineffable viscous vivian

Toola has indeed prospered since I wrote about her in January, and the catnip I planted for her then is alive but not exactly thriving. The struggling plant still needs the protection provided by heavy wires* crossed over it. As our Marigold did years ago, Toola lies on the sun-warmed concrete walk, with her head as close to the catnip as it can be, and rolls until thoroughly stoned.

now call Toola our 'surrogate' cat, and she performs this role enthusiastically. When we sit at our bistro table outside, she jumps onto Steve's lap -- kneading and purring with glee. Being allergic to cats, I try not to touch her, but we've had lots of good talks, at the table or when I'm gardening.

Toola is not the only cat who uses our catnip regularly. Her siste
מִשׁיִי (pronounced Meshy but probably not transliterated that way). Jacob told me that  מִשׁיִי is the Hebrew word for Silky, which describes her coat -- much the same colors as Toola's but evidently much softer.

I know how to spell Toola's name (based on the Hebrew word for Cat, but without an initial Cha syllable) because I am able to read her tag. Meshy does not permit this level of intimacy, but I have seen her enjoying the catnip. 

A couple of weeks ago, I spotted another cat on the garden path, and obviously it was neither Toola nor Meshy. This cat was pure black and had only three legs. Spotting a tag I called out to Steve, thinking we could corner the animal and read the tag. Alas! It sprinted clumsily across the street and up a tree in the alley.

Then one day last week I walked out the back door early in the morning and heard loud meows. The three-legged black cat, obviously needing attention and/or food, approached me and rolled submissively at my feet. I couldn't resist petting the silky black fur and was happy to see (and feel) that the coat was in wonderful condition. Viscous was the word on its tag, along with some numbers I wasn't able to read.

Questions abound. Had someone misspelled Vicious (certainly not an apt name for my new friend)? How was the leg lost (it's a very well healed surgical removal)? Was the new submissive attitude caused by hunger, a catnip' high,' or something else? Was this cat new to the neighborhood and now more 'at home' than when it climbed a tree to get away from me? Will I see it again?

A posting on Craigslist and an entry in a lost and found pet database have not produced any results so far.

Without going into a big T.S. Eliot explanation, I think Vivian would be a good name for this ineffably silky cat.
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* Each of the two wires is about 18" long and each of the four ends sticks about 4" into the ground, so this drawing is not to scale. Like most of my drawings, it needs an explanation.of 1000 words or more but is only worth 25 or less. The green stuff is the catnip; the horizontal lines represent ground level; the wires are placed at right angles to each other. Hope it gives you the general idea. 

Saturday, October 2, 2010

drops in the bucket, part 3

Parts 1 and 2 of this title were written in January, when El Niño was filling and re-filling our rain barrels regularly. Now, ending a week that brought record high temperatures to the L.A. area, we seem to be starting a dry and dusty La Niña season. Dr. Jeff Masters' WunderBlog, which may tell you more than you want to know about such things, states that "historically, about 35 - 40% of El Niño events are followed by a La Niña within the same year."

I loved El Niño and so am hoping 2010 is one of the 60 - 65% of years when La Niña does NOT follow in her brother's footsteps. Even a year of NORMAL rainfall would be welcome.

Our five rain barrels have been empty for months (the last measurable rain having fallen in March), but within the last couple of weeks I've found a new source of water to 'harvest' -- the washing machine! Having switched from detergent to a magic green plastic laundry ball filled with ceramic beads, I have a dependable source of chemical-free water, laced with very dilute solutions of dirt, food, and human effluvia -- nothing a plant wouldn't love.

Harvesting wash water is more labor intensive than harvesting rain water, but I'm getting it down to a fairly simple routine -- learned the HARD WAY, of course, with much spillage.

First, siphoning into the nearest rain barrel with a regular garden hose was impractical. Starting and stopping the siphon were tricky operations, to say the least, and a large load of laundry produced more than the barrel's 50 gallon capacity. Running the hose out the back door brought in insects and heat, and would not be practical year-round.

A siphon pump improved the process greatly, but its tubing slipped out easily and the end in the washing machine got blocked by clothes. Steve perforated a small plastic hand-sanitizer bottle and attached it to the sucking end, but all the parts slipped apart too easily so he secured them with Gorilla Glue. Unfortunately the Gorilla Glue rendered the pump totally inoperable. Evidently it expanded to block all the joints where it had been applied.

Steve bought another siphon pump and perforated another hand-sanitizer bottle, and we were in business at last! I started siphoning water into various vessels including our old galvanized watering can (Haws' "Peter Rabbit" model, no longer available in the one-gallon size, but priced at $129.95 for the two-gallon size). Steve  bought ours for $1.00 at the Salvation Army Thrift Store years ago, and I suppose we need to treat is as an heirloom.

I started feeling like the Sorcerer's Apprentice, running back and forth between washing machine and garden with a motley assortment of containers. Fun, in a way, but frustrating to come back from emptying two half-gallon containers to find that the one-gallon watering can is overflowing. A pair of two-gallon plastic watering cans from Home Depot seemed to solve the problem, but they're pretty heavy when full.

Emptying the two-gallon watering cans into a rain barrel permits some relief, but I still need to take the water out of the rain barrel and USE it before the washing machine has to be emptied again.

It is shocking to realize that I regularly use A LOT MORE water to do laundry than I use to water the garden. See drops in the bucket, part 4, (assuming that I ever have time to write it!) for more on this issue.
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POSToccupations by Frances Talbott-White is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 United States License