Monday, August 30, 2010

A Cat Flap

One of my few faithful readers remarked that I don't post very often any more, and it's true. After four years I have posted about everything I have to say about day-to-day life in a travel trailer, and I am about to change gears. Oh, I'm sure the odd day will hold a bit of trailer life excitement; yesterday we began the somewhat arduous task of installing a cat flap for the four-footer that rules our lives. This was no picnic and we only got half way done. I feel like someone took a cudgel to me this morning. In a few days we hope to proceed with the second half of the project and then I'll have something to report.

It's a small flap rated for a 1-12 pound cat. If I reverse the 2 and 1 I get the number our boy weighs, i.e. 21 lbs. He is a bit of a chunk. But we confirmed that, while the flap is a snug fit, he can scrunch himself through this itty-bitty flap pretty easily. I made him slide through it several times just to make sure. I would have been gutted if I'd done all this work and he wasn't able to stuff himself through the flap.

We now have an opening framed in which is only slightly larger than the cat flap will be when it's installed. He grumbled a bit last night when we refused to open the big door for him (it was really cool and breezy outside). He finally started going in and out of the opening for the flap, but not without telling us how he felt about it, which was not very impressed.

It will probably be easier for him once the actual cat flap is installed in the opening, since it has smooth sides, and right now he's climbing through a tunnel of pink foam and coroplast, which pulls his hair. (He says to tell my readers that we try his patience at times.)

And here I started saying I had nothing to say, and now I've said it and will get up and turn the potato pancakes I'm making for brunch.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Don't Pick on the Big Boy

There was a big fight at our house this morning; no not us, well that's not quite true, it was one of us, and one of the neighbours.

That young upstart of a mouser, Mr. Blue, who lives next door, has the very bad habit of taunting Salvador. Just out of reach, he walks on Salvador's pathway, sharpens his nails on Salvador's favorite log in the garden, climbs Salvador's tree, and strolls leisurely across the clear roof of our deck, driving Salvador absolutely around the bend. In this photo Sal watches Blue walk across the deck roof.

Our evening walks have become little more than searches for Blue, and when Sal sees his furry nemesis the walk turns into something very like keeping a giant sailfish or marlin on the hook, after it's taken your bait.

Sal can swivel sideways, slip his harness, and be gone, in an eyeblink. To prevent that from happening you must keep the leash taut enough so that he cannot turn sideways. If you relax for an instant he's off.

So far, any time he's managed to slip the leash Blue has made it to safety before Sal caught him. One time Sal leapt up and smacked Blue on the bottom as he was sleeping on the covered BBQ grill standing near the fence next door. No claws, just one mighty thwack! He was mighty pleased with himself.

This morning I headed for the community garden to pick tomatoes, and Tony said he'd follow so we could water. I was happily picking tomatoes when our neighbour on that side called to me and said, "There's a big cat fight going on out there in front of my place!"

I hurried around but by the time I got there nothing was happening at all, other than Tony chatting with the neighbours. But I learned that Sal had rushed out between Tony's feet as he opened the door. Blue was lying in the grass not six feet from our deck. Sal had been standing up on his back feet, watching Blue enjoy that nice cool patch of his grass. And he'd been grousing about it. Cats and people - very territorial.

Blue may have been asleep, at any rate Sal landed on top of him and began cuffing him and swearing in Catanese. Tony said you couldn't actually see Blue, buried under Salvador's bulk, but you could hear him shrieking like he was being killed.

Tony grabbed Sal, who did not resist, and carried him back in the house. Blue headed out for territories yet undiscovered. Sal huffed around the house for a while, then had a snack and laid down for a nap. He was too tightly wound to be examined for injuries, but didn't have anything obvious. Art has since said they've gone over Blue carefully and he doesn't have a scratch on him, so 21-pound Sal must have been cuffing five pound Blue with a soft-paw as he read him the riot act.

I have an idea that Blue may be more respectful from now on. Just a theory. Last year Elvis kept hissing at Sal, when Sal was trying to be friends, until Sal finally walked up to Elvis, hauled off and slapped him. Then Elvis rolled over on his back, showed Sal his belly and said, "Hey, I've got an idea! Let's be buddies. You can be boss!"

Wednesday, August 11, 2010

Love Before Lunch

Not many x-rated stories begin with the words, "I was out walking the cat," but this one does.

We were walking up the gravel path between our place and the next door neighbours when Sal stopped to sniff what I took to be a bit of rusted metal hanging from the wall.

Whaaaat? I went for a closer look, and discovered that what I had taken for a spiral of rusty steel of unknown origins was actually a pair of "Limax Maximus", or Giant Leopard Slugs, entwined around each other in a spiral.

They were whoppers, about four or five inches in length, and they were quite busily engaged in exchanging genetic information, so that my garden could be blessed with hundreds of gigantic, voracious slugs next season.

They were hanging by a four foot strand of substantial slime but were suspended over a long stretch of sharp, dry gravel. The chances of survival would be slim once they fell on that. So, being the kind-hearted slugatarian that I am, I picked them up by the strand and moved them around to shaded spot in the garden, into a thick stand of spearmint. I'm sure being dropped on their heads ruined the mood, but they should have had the good sense not to make whoopee in such an exposed location.

Should you be in the mood for a bit of slug porn you may watch the following clip narrated by sir David Attenbourough which shows a pair of leopard slugs doing precisely what my slugs were doing this morning, in far less photogenic surroundings.

It's obvious the British Leopard slug is high class and hangs out in posh and mossy English gardens while the BC Leopard slug hangs out in trailer courts and quite possibly smokes cigars and drinks cheap wine out of bottles carried in brown paper bags. Maybe this pair watched the Attenborough, "Leopard Slugs in Love" movie before falling on each other in the throes of passion. Whatever inspired their romance I can't for the life of me figure out how they came to be hanging on the side of my trailer on an August day in the middle of a desert.

Saturday, August 07, 2010

We Love the Mosaic That Forms...

This beautiful country, which opens its arms and hearts to good people from all over the world; and they all seem to land at our doorstep.

Over the summer campers from all over the world become our neighbours. Right now we have a large family of Kurdish Turks camping across from us. They've been dancing for the last hour, and if anyone has worked out a more exuberant expression of the joy and love of life you'd have to look to find it.

I grabbed my video camera and began filming. Other campers had been drawn by the music and laughter. As you can see some had already joined the dance; others brought cameras but dropped them as we were all invited to join the dance, yours truly included.

"It's our exercise, and shows our joy in our family," the man in the white shirt and rolled up trousers told me as I puffed after five minutes of jumping and kicking to the beat of some highly intoxicating music.

No wonder they are slim! They've been at this for the last hour or more, and I can tell you it's a workout. If Health Canada could get all of us dancing like this we'd be 100% better off!

Friday, August 06, 2010

KIVA Loan for August

These ladies are the recipients of our KIVA loan for August. I've developed a bit of a soft spot for these groups of women from Mali, maybe because their lives are so different from mine, but also because almost all are comprised of extended family groups. You note than all of these women bear two surnames, Dembele or Coulibaly, and since they live in traditional families, where plural marriages are the norm, they are probably all not only related but wives of a group of two to four brothers.

In this Group:

Soumba Dembele, Tabi Dembele , Mamou Moussa Dembele, Kanouya Dembele , Bougougnon Coulibaly, Dagnere Dembele , Batoma Dioko Dembele, Gnire Coulibaly , Sitan Baba Coulibaly, Mamou Amadou Coulibaly.

The members of Wolale V Group are married women living in Cinzara, a village in the prefecture of San in the region of Segou Mali. On average, they are 39 years old and have at least six children.

They grow groundnuts, fonio and sesame. In order to ensure that their agricultural investments are profitable, the members of Wolale I Group decided two years ago to participate in the loan program of Soro Yiriwaso, the agency which extends Microfinance in Mali. After having properly repaid their previous loans, they have now applied for their first farming loan.

Tabi Dembele wants to use her loan to buy a large enough quantity of fonio and groundnut seeds to seed her fields, and to buy small equipment and farming supplies at the larger market in San.

After the rainy season, Tabi's harvest will be warehoused long enough for its value to increase, before it is sold at the large market in Dah and at the nearby markets, retail (or wholesale) to cash customers who mostly come from big towns. After their produce is sold, the group members expect to make a profit of about $36.00 each, which they will use to repay the loan and contribute to ongoing family expenses.

In a group loan, each member of the group receives an individual loan but is part of a group of individuals bound by a group guarantee. Under this arrangement, each member of the group supports one another and is responsible for paying back the loans of their fellow group members if someone is delinquent or defaults.

Sunday, August 01, 2010

The Road Less Traveled

I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I-
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

Robert Frost - Mountain Interval - 1916

I belong to a small house forum, where there's been a lively discussion going on, sparked by one man's insistence that we have no choice but to continue with our present levels of resource consumption. He can see no other options.

Despite numerous members (including yours truly) telling him that we had already altered our patterns of consumption quite successfully he refuses to believe it can be done.

Quote from Robert Fritz

Maybe those of us who strive to live low on the resource totem pole are the "Uber-Liberal greenie eco-freaks" he called us in derision; but in my eyes we (personally) are not yet green or freaky enough.

To my distress a life of simplicity (such as we live it) still requires a heck of a lot of stuff and the exchange of a great deal of money. There's rent, the power bill, the propane, the cell phone, the interwebs, groceries, clothes, expensive medications which the provincial plan doesn't cover, all things we cannot live safely or comfortably without unless we move ourselves right along to the shopping cart/refrigerator-box-under-a- bridge-domicile. How do you simplify what has become inherently and almost inescapably complex?

While I keep talking about reducing the amount of stuff we own, so far my ambition has outweighed action. We have cleared out two drawers this week, which is better than nothing, but not a lot better. This is not a problem of reluctance to let go, but one of the strength and energy to sort through the stuff and move it along.

When I get despondent about our slow and bumpy road toward simplicity I pop over and spend time with Peace Pilgrim, who reassures me that; "... progress is [never] over. ... it's as though the central figure of the jigsaw puzzle of your life is complete and clear and unchanging, and around the edges other pieces keep fitting in. There is always a growing edge, but the progress is harmonious."

The central figure of this jigsaw puzzle is an intention to live more lightly, and there is a continuing but ever so glacial progress toward an ever more light state. (Trust my jigsaw puzzle to be one which has 5000 pieces.) But it just feels weird. We have followed the road less traveled, to be sure, but we have ended up in never-never land - with too much stuff to fit in with the 100 Things crowd, and far too little to look anything like "normal" to the village householder with his 2500 sq ft house, three cars, power boat and snowmobiles for each member of the family.

I guess I just have to admit that we are not normal in any sense of the word and probably never have been. But we are what we are, and there's no point pretending otherwise. As Frost wrote, the road we chose to follow is the grassy one, and there's not a lot of company.