Cats Do What Cats Want

60706thumbAnyone who has ever owned a cat knows that no one owns a cat. They do whatever they want to do, whenever and however they want to do it. They take orders from no one. If they decide to use a dry spot in the garden as their litterbox, or a tree trunk as their scratching post, it is impossible to dissuade them. They are so smug and arrogant. It is no wonder that so many dogs dislike them.

Cats live in our homes and gardens because we are not as sensible as so many dogs are. We succumb to their charm and devious mind control techniques because they really can be adorable when they want to be. Fortunately, most of us would agree that this sort of symbiosis is mutually beneficial. An occasional delivery of a dead rodent proves that some cats actually work for a living.

As pompous as cats are, they are surprisingly tactful about their poop. Cats that are confined to a home leave it in their litterboxes, and even bury it with kitty litter that absorbs the objectionable aroma. From there, it can be collected and disposed of by human servants. In the garden, cats seem to put considerable effort in burying it out of the way, where it is less likely to offend anyone.

However, what is out of the way to a cat might not be so conveniently situated for others. The most refined and regularly watered gardens might not leave many options for cats, who prefer dusty and dry spots. There is not much to deter cats; so the best option may be to plant and occasionally water something in problematic spots, in conjunction with providing a litterbox somewhere else.

Sneaky cats sometimes use flat or parapet roofs where there is plenty of dry gravel and perhaps other dry detritus. For most single story roofs, it is nearly impossible to obstruct access; but in rare situations, it might be as simple as pruning trees and shrubbery back farther than cats will jump. Obstruction of access to the dusty dry soil of basements and crawlspaces is easier since it usually involves relatively simple repair of vent screens, access hatches or windows.

Advertisements

Weeds Might Produce Hazardous Seeds

90710thumbWeeds are weeds because they grow where they are not wanted. They might be desirable plants in the wild within their native ranges, or beyond their native ranges where they are useful, but for one reason or another, are undesirable in other situations. In fact, many of the most invasive exotic (non-native) weeds were imported because they were useful for something, and then escaped.

Many invasive exotic weeds that were not imported intentionally by humans likely stowed away intentionally by their own means. Some produce edible fruits that contain their seed so that animals who eat the fruit transport and disperse the seed. When animals such as cattle, swine, sheep, horses and chickens are imported, they can bring such seeds with them, and have already done so.

Not all plants have such mutually beneficial relationships with the animal vectors who transport their seed for them. Rather than expend resources on fruit to appeal to, and reward the animals who eat it, they produce seed structures that cling to animals. Most get tangled in the hair of mammals. Some get wedged into cloven hooves. A few are just sticky enough to stick to the feet of birds.

It is sneaky and exploitative, but effective. Most of these sorts of seed structures stick to the fur only for short distances before falling to the ground, where they really want to be. Some types cling for longer distances, in order to take advantages of larger migratory mammals. Dispersion is their objective. Even though they provide no benefit to their vectors, they do not intend to harm them.

However, they sometimes do. Sharply pointed seed structures that are designed to slip smoothly into fur, but not come out easily, can get into eyes, noses, ears and throats of innocent animals. Foxtails are the most dangerous, and sometimes need to be removed by a veterinarian. Burclovers get tangled in soft fur, and sometimes do so in very uncomfortable clusters.

Domestic dogs and cats are more susceptible to the dangers of weed seeds than wild animals are, because their fur is longer, shaggier, and maybe curlier.

Six on Saturday: Rhody In Pictures

 

All I wanted was just one good picture of Rhody in the weeds for an illustration for the gardening column. I wrote about weed seeds, such as foxtail and burclover, that are dangerous to pets. That article will post on Monday, but can be found now at the Canyon News.

Anyway, Rhody would not cooperate. His defiance was so annoying, . . . but also adorable. I used a picture of another terrier on the lawn at Felton Covered Bridge Park instead. (The article in the Canyon News does not use the thumbnail image.) These are a few of the pictures of Rhody that I did not use.

Even though they are irrelevant to horticulture, I posted these pictures here because they are too amusing to delete without sharing. My primary ‘Six on Saturday‘ article was posted separately.

1. Rhody really can be cute until he realizes that I want to get a picture of him.P90629K

2. Then he gets pompous.P90629K+

3. He briefly considered trying to cooperate.P90629K++

4. He did not consider it for longP90629K+++

5. Then he got annoyed that I was still trying to talk him into being cute for pictures that he wanted no part of.P90629K++++

6. By this time, it was obvious that I needed to turn the camera off.P90629K+++++

This is the link for Six on Saturday, for anyone else who would like to participate:

https://thepropagatorblog.wordpress.com/2017/09/18/six-on-saturday-a-participant-guide/

Six on Saturday: Rhody

 

Everyone loves Rhody. Regardless of how interesting I like to believe my articles are, nothing gets as much attention as the few illustrations that are photo bombed by Rhody. There are not many good pictures of Rhody, and it is difficult to get good pictures of him. He is too active, and when I try to get him to be still for the camera, he looks sad. I suppose that part of the problem is that I am not very proficient with taking pictures of him in action, rather than while he is trying to cooperate for a posed picture. These pictures are not exactly horticulturally oriented. Except for a few background bits, the only horticultural subjects are a big California sycamore that does not fit into the picture, a dead box elder that is mostly gone, and an uninteresting lawn.

1. Rhody is an expert of meteorology. He is looking to the gray sky and predicting rain. He will want to get inside before it arrives.p90119

2. Rhody is also an expert of arboriculture. After inspecting this big California sycamore, he concluded that the ‘bark’ is ‘ruff’. He happens to be particularly fond of dogwoods.p90119+

3. Rhody is stumped. He is wondering where all the firewood from this dead box elder went. It is within a protected riparian zone where deteriorating trees were to be cut down and made safe, but otherwise left on site.p90119++

4. Rhody occasionally inspects his big lawns to evaluate their maintenance, and perhaps find sticks or balls left by trespassing dogs.p90119+++

5. Rhody found the maintenance of this lawn to be satisfactory.p90119++++

6. Rhody is finished with his work and is getting ready for the incoming storm.p90119+++++

This is the link for Six on Saturday, for anyone else who would like to participate:

https://thepropagatorblog.wordpress.com/2017/09/18/six-on-saturday-a-participant-guide/

Dogs

 

It is now September 2, the day after both the feastday of Saint Fiacre, patron saint of gardeners, and the first anniversary of this blog. It is also the anniversary of the only day in the last year that I did not post anything. Yes, the second day of the blog was the only day without a post. Early in those first few days, I posted the only article that was irrelevant to horticulture, and an explanation that I would not make a habit of doing so. I wanted to try it just once to see if I could do it like so many others do. It was overrated. Nonetheless, after almost a year since that naughty diversion from my self imposed discriminating standards, I want to try it again. After all, I have not yet posted a horticulturally oriented article on September 2 within the context of this blog, so why start now.

PRIVET
This is Privet. He passed away on December 1, 2004, after about eleven years of devout service since about 1993 or so.
Privet was a feral dog who lived in Thomspson Creek behind a retail nursery in the Evergreen District of San Jose where I worked temporarily in the early 1990s. Late every afternoon, he commuted down Thompson Creek to a neighborhood pet store where food was left out for him. Aster and Yarrow, two angry guard dogs who lived in the nursery, would thrash about on the inside of the enclosing cyclone fence as they tried to get to him, but only damaged the merchandise inside the fence. I would cuss at him and threaten him through the fence. He would just stare at me blankly, and keep a safe distance.
One day, Privet was noticeably absent. He was likewise absent the following day. In fact, I did not see him again until several weeks later when we went to the Humane Society of Santa Clara County to adopt a cat to help with the mice in the office. We happened to go through the wrong door to where the adoptable dogs were. There he was! As usual, I cussed at him and said all sorts of mean things to him . . . .until I noticed that his time was up. I asked someone who worked there what that ominous date on his placard meant, only to be told something too unpleasant to repeat here. They were understaffed, so had not gotten around to it yet. Well, the next thing I knew I had payed the adoption fees, and Privet was sitting defiantly next to me in the Buick as we drove away real fast. We never spoke of it again.

WILLOW
My niece named this cool dude Willow, but we just called him Bill because I was told that Willow is a girly name. He was not planned either. In about 2008, I saw his picture on the website of the Peninsula Humane Society in Burlingame. Without thinking, I drove up and adopted him on the spot. On the way, I telephone a friend who I though would try to talk me out of it. He did not. Those working at the Humane Society asked if I would like to interview other dogs. I told them who I was there for. Bill was a several years old when we met. He became blind and deaf in old age, but was still happy until he passed away on December 4, 2016.

P71014
Rhody arrived only a few months later, early in 2017 and in the traditional unplanned manner. I can not imagine why he was available for adoption for several months in Santa Cruz. It was not my idea for him to come live with me. It was his. I could not talk him out of it. He seems to be remarkably happy with his simple lifestyle, although I can not imagine why. I wish I could provide better for him. Like Privet and Bill, he has more friends than he can keep up with. Privet was a Pontiac man. Bill was an Oldsmobile man. So far, Rhody seems to be a simple Chevrolet man.

BLACKJACK
Blackjack does not live with me. He is not a dog either. He is a big kitty who has enslaved one of my colleagues, although my colleague does not seem to be aware of it. Cats are of course masters of mind control techniques. Blackjack did not get his name from the blackjack oak. It is just a cool name that suits him well. He is not really as demonic as he seems to be in this picture. Nor is he trying to fly upside down. He just happened to yawn while laying on his back and stretching.
Of course, only the names are horticultural. None of these guys cares about gardening. I sort of feel guilty about not writing about a horticultural topic today, but perhaps I will get over it.

Weed Seeds Can Hurt Pets

80725thumbPlants are quite ingenious with their technology of exploitation of animals and people. Many get insects, birds, bats, spiders and anyone who is animated within their environment to disperse the plants’ pollen for them. Plants who prefer to not rely on wind, water or gravity to disperse their seed exploit a different range of animals to do so. They know how to compensate for their immobility.

This sort of exploitation is generally not as bad as it sounds. Many pollinators are rewarded for their service with nectar or surplus pollen. Dispersion of many types of seed is likewise rewarded with the fruit that surrounds the seed. Many types of nuts produce significant surpluses of seed to reward squirrels for burying them, and leaving just a few to germinate and grow into new plants.

However, there are many types of seed that are not so gracious, and several that are potentially dangerous because of the tactics they use to exploit those who disperse them. Mistletoe is an odd parasitic plant that makes very sticky berries. Those that do not get eaten by birds (for later ‘deposit’) can stick to the feet or feathers of unconsenting birds in order to catch a ride to other trees.

It is sneaky but effective. Most other plants that use this technique are small annual plants that rely on mammals instead of birds. Instead of sticking to feathers, their seed are designed to stick to fur. Such seed are not often a problem for wild animals who have short fur that the seed can stick to only for short distances before slipping out and onto the ground where seed really wants to be.

Domestic animals are not so fortunate. They have longer, shaggier and maybe curlier fur that weed seeds such as foxtail and burclover can get very entangled in. Because foxtail is designed to go into fur but not come out, it is seriously dangerous if it gets into the eyes, ears or noses of domestic animals. Because dogs and cats go wherever they want to, it is very important to eliminate such weeds from gardens where dogs and cats live, and to hopefully do so before they go to seed.