Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Saga of the Urban Critters

This is going to be a fairly long story so make yourself comfortable. I think I should provide a warning about not drinking or eating anything while you're reading. I don't want anyone to choke.

I'm a country girl transplanted into a big city. Sometimes I wonder just exactly how I got here in the first place. I mean, I grew up in tiny little hamlets that weren't even on most maps. In most cases, the "town" had been built around a cross roads and had a tiny post office and a school. The closest grocery store was sometimes 45 miles away. Now I'm not a big fan of towns *that* small, but I'm most comfortable living in places where the population is around 20,000. How the hell did I end up in Denver?

Anyway, as a child of rural areas, I'm not unfamiliar with critters. All those years of 4-H, FFA and FHA ensured that I'm well acquainted with all kinds of animals. And may the gods continue to bless 4-H which is undoubtably one of the best things in the world for children. The gift of self-assurance, confidence, the ability to speak in public and learn how to reach logical conclusions based on independent thought..........these are all things that 4-H gives to kids and they help develop leadership skills that are carried into adult careers. The world would be a better place if every child in it were able to be a member of 4-H.

So in addition to all those things, I also learned how to do things like judge livestock. It's been awhile but I'm pretty sure I can still tell you the best breeding stock characteristics for charlet bulls. I've spent time hanging out on ranches and farms watching cattle being branded, dehorned and de-other things. I like to talk to chickens (they're exceptionally good listeners) and I know how to ride a horse. I can get a mule to take a bit in his mouth and I've helped birth barn cats. I raised rabbits one year till a hungry mountain lion came into the back yard and ate them. I didn't really hold it against the mountain lion since it had been a hard winter and she was hungry. I'm just glad she had a taste for rabbit and ignored me sleeping on the back porch that night.

I've seen some odd animal behavior including calves that will play fetch. But nothing..........nothing............prepared me for the behavior of urban critters.

I didn't even know that the big city had critters! I expected rats and pigeons but the first time I saw a deer crossing sign in the city I was totally blown away. I thought it was a joke till I saw the deer.

Denver may be unique in it's urban wild life since there's actually a national park in the midst of the city. Seriously! There's a big reservoir about a mile from where we live and that's where all the critters come from. We see deer grazing on the medians between 6 lane streets not far from our house! We also have fox and raccoons in our yard. More about them later.

Before I go any further, I should 'splain about the attitude of these critters. In rural areas, the critters still have their own space so they can ignore the humans and go on about their business. We don't see much wild life because of that. But in the city, the critters are forced to share their space with the humans who have intruded upon it and believe me, they're still pretty pissed about it. That's why they have so much attitude.

Those deer in the median? They don't even flinch when semi-trucks go high balling down the street and they'll stare you down at traffic lights. The city is full of canadian geese who regularly stop traffic when they decide to take a stroll across a busy street during rush hour. If you honk your horn at them, they honk back. I don't speak goose, but I'm pretty sure that they're making reference to the driver's mother. Some cities have problems with road rage, we have problems with goose rage. We came out of a mall one day to see a goose parked on top of an SUV. It appears that he had figured out that the things with wheels will take you places without having to use wing power and was just waiting for a ride. I wouldn't have wanted to be the one to tell him to get his feathered ass off my truck either coz those things get aggressive if they're challenged!

The fox in our neighborhood isn't a problem at all. It's a vixen and about the only time we see her is when she's out on midnight forages. We see her more in the spring which is normal since that's the time they whelp and she's looking for food for her kits. The owls aren't a problem either and I kinda like listening to them at night especially when they sing in duet with the nightingales. The woodpeckers are a different matter. We have woodpeckers from hell who prefer siding to pine trees. Putting up a plastic owl doesn't do any good to scare them away since they're wise to that trick. On the other hand, at least one real owl hasn't figured out that the girl by the window is plastic. He regularly sits in the tree and sings to her, trying to woo her affection. Either he's not real bright or he thinks that she's just playing hard to get.

Raccoons are some of the smartest animals in the world no matter where they live. In the city, they have a totally different kind of smart. Yep, around here the raccoons are street smart. I'm not sure how one of them figured out how to get the cap off our chimney, but she did. Then she moved in and I'm pretty sure that she brought along some furniture, a few pictures for the walls, some nice curtains and some throw pillows because she obviously intended to stay. In fact, she set up a nursery and gave birth.

She was very, very quiet about the whole thing but then a single, expectant mother probably shouldn't be throwing wild parties anyway. The first time we realize that something was going on in the chimney was when Napoleon began sitting on the fireplace hearth, gazing up into the chimney. He wasn't upset or agitated, just calmly sitting there with head cocked to one side and an air of responsible watchfulness. That's a look that I normally associate with Napoleon when he's around babies. He has a real love of babies (human and animal) and assumes he's a guardian when there's one around. They really fascinate him. But since it was a chimney he was staring at, I didn't associate the two.

Well, I didn't associate it until a week or so later when I noticed that our fireplace was whimpering. It had never done that before so it definitely got our attention. Napoleon had obviously been hearing it for a couple of weeks before we did but his hearing is much better. By the time we heard it, the raccoon babies were probably about two weeks old and starting to practice their glee club homework. At least a couple of them were in the band since there were noises that sounded like a squeaking clarinet and a badly tuned violin.

We weren't sure what it was at first. My initial guess was probably rats or mice and since the flue was securely closed, I didn't worry about it much. We figured out it was raccoons the night that Bruce looked up at one of the windows downstairs and was nose to nose with Mrs Raccoon. She quickly put her paws over her eyes so she couldn't be seen in the dark and melted away into the bushes. But when we heard a heavy thud on the roof shortly after that, and the sound of paw-steps going from the corner where the pine tree grows across the roof to the chimney, we knew who had moved in.

But what do you do with baby raccoons in the chimney? We're both animal lovers and certainly didn't want to smoke them out. We thought we'd give it a little time and see if they'd move out on their own.

That plan was quickly discarded when the noises from the chimney started getting louder and louder. Either space was becoming a premium in there and wrestling matches were being held, or the babies had become teenagers and were throwing parties when Mom was gone. Even Napoleon would shake his head and mumble about irrisponsible kids. We knew that we couldn't leave it to natural plan anymore and called an animal control company that specialized in raccoon removal.

Wait a minute! There was actually an ad in the yellow pages for raccoon removal! Apparently this happens a lot around here.

So, the raccoon removal specialist (RRS) showed up, peered down the chimney and said that yes, there was a family of young raccoons living in there and one had just flipped him off. Told ya they had attitude. He tried using his catching stick to grab them but they had moved into a little depression right over the fireplace and were backed into it laughing at him. Every time he poked the stick down there, they'd just point and giggle.

The RRS told us that he'd have to go to Plan B and pour some "liquid deterrent" down the chimney. I told him not to be coy. I know all about coyote piss. Apparently the raccoons did too because it didn't do the slightest thing to deter them. I think they sprayed around some Febreeze, plugged in an Airwick and ignored it. On the other hand, Napoleon is a farm rescue kitty and even after 15 years, he still knows the scent of predator piss. He growled at the fireplace and stayed out of the den for three days!

The RSS came back the next day, peered down the chimney and this time when the raccoons flipped him off, he gave them the finger right back. He poked around with his stick again, hollered at them and finally told us that he'd have to escalate it to his supervisor. At this point I'm not only marveling that there are such things as urban raccoon removal specialists, but that they actually have a point of escalation for extremely difficult raccoons!

Turns out that they didn't need to escalate it after all. Later that night, we heard a lot of stomping............yes, actual *stomping*....... on the roof as the raccoons moved out. There was a lot of racket during the whole process. I'm guessing that they had a hard time getting the sofa out of the chimney. As angry as they were about it, we figured we'd be hearing from the Raccoon Civil Liberties Union but so far there's been nothing in the mail from their lawyer about the eviction.

They didn't move far away since we see the mother around from time to time. I think she's living under the spyria bush out in the back corner of the yard. It's as big as a Toyota and the cable pedestal is behind it so she probably figured that there's plenty of room and she can tap into the cable line. This could explain all those On Demand charges on our cable bill.

Bruce did see the whole family one night when he was working in the garage. He happened to look up just in time to see them walking up the middle of the street in single file......about six of them in a row. He said it was like some surreal version of West Side Story. He expected the raccoons to start snapping their fingers and breaking into a dance. I'm positive that somewhere up the street there was a gang of foxes waiting to rumble. I'm pretty sure I heard the distant wail of "Mariaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa".

Now if you think the raccoons are bad, you should meet the squirrels.

Squirrels are rats with good PR. Sure, they're cute and have fluffy tails, but that's about the only thing that separates them from rats. In fact, we have a lot less trouble with rats than we do with squirrels around here. Last winter, the police department kept getting calls from a woman reporting vandalism. Someone kept getting into her yard and cutting pieces from the middle of her christmas lights strung on the front porch. They were cutting about 12 inch sections from various places. It wasn't till the spring when she found a squirrel nest in her eaves that she realized who was doing it. Yep, the squirrels had a stash of pretty strands of christmas lights in their nest. Fortunately they hadn't figured out how to splice them together and hook 'em up to an extension cord. Given a few more weeks, I'm sure they would have.

We have a huge squirrel nest hanging in one of the trees out front and there are dozens of squirrels in and out of the yard. At first I thought they were cute and then I noticed that there were holes gnawed into my patio furniture cushions and clumps of stuffing were missing. At $50 per cushion, that's really expensive squirrel nest lining! When I went out to stuff the ruined cushions into a trash bag and bring in the ones that were left, the squirrels sat on the patio roof and threw pine cones at me. Seriously! They really did! I had to duck the projectiles! Either squirrels have their own major league baseball team or they've got a catapult up there.

Our house is a tri-level built into a hill so to get to the living room you have to go up one flight of stairs. That puts the living room windows even with the branches of the tree growing closest to the house in the front yard. I love it because I can open the big window, curl up on my loveseat and it feels like I'm sitting in the tree. Napoleon joins me there and it's our favorite "quiet place".

Then we met the squirrel from hell. I mean this squirrel can rant more than Dennis Miller! Usually when the squirrels see me in the tree, they raise one eyebrow and whisper to one another "Who invited her? Is she your relative? No, she's not mine. I dunno. Just ignore her". But little Mr Anger Management Issue Squirrel had a complete melt down.

He climbed as far out on the limb as he could which put him about three feet away from me. First he just yelled at me with a lot of chittering and chattering, then he'd stop and glare at me. From his silence, I figured he was expecting a response so I talked back to him. Little did I know that I was engaging a squirrel in the hottest debate of the century. You think political debates get out of hand? Try having a rational conversation with a squirrel!!

So he'd chitter and glare and I'd laugh and reply and then he'd chitter even louder and glare even longer. Napoleon was sitting beside me calmly watching the whole thing and would occasionaly turn his head to look at me as if to say, "Do you believe this guy?"

Finally the squirrel completly fell apart. He started spinning his tail around like a propellor. If we'd had a good breeze that day, I think he would have taken off like a helicopter. He had a routine that went "Chitter, chitter, chitter, snarf, snarf, chatter, growl" while the tail spun like a crank, and then he's stomp his back feet three times. I didn't know that squirrels could stomp their feet! By the time he had gone thru the routine three or four times I was screaming with laughter and singing "Disco Duck" to him.

With one last shreeching chitter, he flipped his tail up into the air and ran off to the nest. It wouldn't surprise me at all if he had a cell phone in there and was placing a call to Uncle Vinnie and putting a contract out on me.

Out in the country the critters and I have a mutual respect for one another and if I don't go where they are, they won't go where I am. But here in the city the critters are psychotic and those rules don't apply. I'm really careful when I go out in the yard now. Somewhere out there is a squirrel who wants to put me in a pair of concrete shoes.


Thursday, June 4, 2009

On The Cover Of The Rolling Stone.......

Mick Jagger probably wouldn't agree with me, but I think that being on the cover of American Miniaturist magazine is better than making the cover of the Rolling Stone. And I'm as happy as a rock star hip deep in groupies tonight coz I made the cover of AM!!

Okay so this is a bit of arrogance and I think it's egocentric of me to be posting about it here, but hey, blogs are all about egocentric information and this is one of the biggest things that has happened to me since I discovered miniatures. Oh hell, it's one of the biggest things ever!

When I heard that I was going to be featured in AM, I about fell out of my chair. Seriously, I didn't expect it and I was totally shocked.

Then they told me that I was going to be on the cover.

Have you ever had information hit you so hard that it just sucks the air right out of your lungs? And when I got my breath back, I still felt like it was all a dream. I kept expecting that I would wake up and reality would come crashing back on me.

I saw the cover for the first time today and even tho I know that room...........even tho I BUILT that room and everything in it...........I still had that "Oh wow, that's a cool house" reaction to it. LOL! It took awhile to sink in that it was ME!

I love the title of the article. It's "Realistic, Eclectic and Mini Mystic". I'm a Mystic!! I like that! I really like that! I think I'm going to adopt "Mini Mystic" as my new name. Even funnier is that they quoted me when I said that I'm a mixture of June Cleaver and Morticia Adams. Well, that's true! I am. Really. It's kinda creepy sometimes and the guy who told me that for the first time wasn't exactly being complimentary about it. Sometimes we can find insight in the strangest places. Anyway, it's very true and I've been known to wear pearls with black leather. I keep lots of fresh cinnamon sticks in the house because I use it in apple pies as well as in my cauldron. I toss down shots of Jack Daniels while I'm kneading homemade bread. I used to run with biker gangs but I've also been a member of the General Federation of Women's Clubs. "Eclectic" seems appropriate, doncha think? I am babbling away because I'm so very, very, very excited! I read the article today in iMag and it's so cool! It not only shows my fairy house, but also has pics of my samurai's house and some of my beds and one of my little quarter scale houses. I know a couple of my customers are going to be really surprised when they flip thru their copy and find a picture of their dollhouse bed!!

Oh, I gotta tell you one more thing! When I was looking thru the pictures I stopped cold and thought, "Hey! Since when was there a dog laying on the floor in the fairy's kitchen!!!". LOL! If you're looking for Henry, that's where he is! Spike musta let him in thru the back door.

I've been spinning around in circles all day and acting like I'm twitterpated. And to top if all off, my darling hubby came thru the door tonight with a dozen long stemmed roses for me to celebrate. (everyone say "aawwwww" here coz it was really sweet)

The cover of AM. Wow. That's a long way in the three years since I said "I think I'll build a dollhouse". This is definitely livin' the dream!

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

How to find a fairy

I've given that subject a great deal of thought. It's not like fairies are listed in the yellow pages and one doesn't often run into them at the grocery store. Of course, I understand why fairies don't want to be found. Just think of all the hazards that fairies would face in the human world! There are dogs who would slobber on them and clumsy people with big feet who would step on them and rotten little boys who would catch them and pull on their wings! When you think of it that way, it's no wonder that fairies don't make themselves known to humans.

A lot of people misunderstand fairies and get them confused with leprechauns. If they see a fairy, they'll hold it captive and insist on being given a pot of gold. Fairies just don't need that kind of stress in their lives.

I've personally never met a fairy but that doesn't mean that I don't believe in them. I've never met the Queen of England either but I'm pretty sure that she exists and if you think about it, it's pretty much the same principle. So I followed that train of thought awhile and somehow I came to the conclusion that the Queen of England has a pretty nice house so why shouldn't fairies have a nice place to live too.

I gave that a lot of thought and decided that fairies probably don't want to live in a castle. They just don't seem to be the pretentious type to me. I kept that in mind when I set out to create a series of fairy houses and made them sweet little cottages of masonry, wood and stone and made sure that there were lots of flowers and plants around them. The fairies will like that.

But I worry about the fairies being too visible to those slobbery dogs and mean little kids so I wanted to make sure the houses wouldn't be that visible to big people and their pets. Let's face it, most humans aren't that attentive to their surroundings and overlook things that appear to be normal on the surface. That's when it hit me that hiding the fairy houses inside things like planters, baskets, buckets and washtubs was the perfect solution! How many kids are going to willingly pick up a washtub???

So I did it and I like the way they came out. It gives the fairies a safe place for their homes........kinda like a gated community without all the hassle of a homeowner's association. (given a choice between an HOA and a slobbery dog, they'd probably prefer the slobbery dog)

Now that they're tucked away out of sight, these little homes seem to be very happy. I'm looking forward to meeting the fairies after they get settled in. We'll have tea and talk about why the Queen has never invited them to visit.

You can see the hidden fairy houses by going to my website, and clicking on the link there for the 1:48 scale gallery. These will be appearing in my Etsy store soon too. Or if you like the moving pictures better, click on the video clip right under these words.

Monday, June 1, 2009

About that Tudor........

Just in case anyone was wondering if I left that poor Tudor with a bad haircut, I thought I'd better let y'all know that he came thru the experience just fine. I didn't want anyone to report me to the APTAOD (Association Preventing The Abuse Of Dollhouses). The tiny tudor is tickled to pieces with his comb over. I really like the color scheme of this little fellow too. The house is a pale green with dark brown trim. Everytime I look at it, I get the urge to go find a box of chocolate mints. I may have gained five pounds during the short time it took to build this house!
I've been away from things for about a week after spending a weekend doing yardwork. Doing yardwork doesn't sound like it's a bad thing and it *shouldn't* be a bad thing, but my hands don't always like it when I do things that require their participation. They rebelled by going numb all the way up to the elbow and refusing to cooperate with anything at all for several days. I spent a great deal of time talking to them about their role in life and how important it is that they work with me. It's not like I had anything better to do since the damned things were just going to sit there in my lap and refuse to move. They're behaving a bit better now but I'm going to take them to see my rheumatologist this week. That alone should scare them into submission since the last time I took them there, they got hooked up to something that looked like a car battery and zapped a few times. According to Pavlov, that little exercise should have discouraged them from misbehaving but apparently my hands don't understand the concept of negative reinforcement. Maybe I should send them back to college. Naw, they'd just doodle instead of taking notes just like they did the first time.
Mini thanks to MiniMadWoman for the tres cool awards! I'm so happy! You like me! You really like me!!! You can't see her, but MMW is giggling over that line.
So I finished three quarter-scale fairy houses today and that put me in a good mood. I'm looking forward to the next project which is going to be Victorian elegance at it's finest. I'm waiting for the needed supplies to arrive so I think I'll work on a couple of living room sets to take my mind off of stalking the mailman. He gets so nervous when I jump out from behind the hedges as he's coming up the sidewalk. It's so annoying when he screams like that.