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Playing tree

When the cats want to come in, they jump up on the windowsill outside the livingroom and importune. When it’s the big cat, there’s an extra step: you open the door and go out and he runs up this elder tree here and puts on a little show. When he’s ready, he steps off this fence post into your arms.

We call this ‘playing tree’.

I’m convinced he’s reliving that awful 18 hours he was stuck high up in a tree as a kitten. I sat under the tree most of the night with him. If I stepped away for a moment, the horrible local brute of a farm cat came and circled the tree trying to get up to him.

It wasn’t the only time that cat came after my boy. He clearly had some kind of grudge. We think maybe they both came out of the same feral cat colony.

Anyway, early the next morning, a plumber turned up at the neighbors and, in the face of great personal danger, managed to crawl up high enough to grab kitty by the scruff and hand him down to me. And I think that’s the origin of playing tree.

Sorry for blurry. This is the only known image of a game of tree.

Good weekend, everyone!

July 16, 2021 — 7:25 pm
Comments: 6


Uncle B’s been entertaining his buddies. This is almost certainly a young bachelor. Year-old males are kicked out of the sett when they reach sexual maturity to fend for themselves.

These boys go off on their own and scavenge for food. Kind of sad, really.

Uncle B called the local badger group for advice, but there’s not much to do. Get rid of the outdoor chicken food. If he starts to claw at the chicken pens, electric fence. Badgers are a protected species.

Uncle B asked the badger lady whether it would be okay to feed the poor boy and she said sure, she did that 25 years ago and now she’s feeding a whole colony of his descendants and she’s head of the local badger group. So, no.

Good weekend, all!

June 25, 2021 — 7:53 pm
Comments: 14

Gammon pride

If you have spent any time at all on Limey social media, you will have heard a wokester call an Englishman a gammon. This is especially meant to invoke, I think, a white man of a certain age, pink and fatty. For reasons we can guess, gammons seem to be particularly found of calling other gammons gammons.

I say we own it. And why not? Gammon is a cut of pork they sell here – it’s simply uncooked ham. And who doesn’t love ham? Except, of course, strict adherents to certain pig-deprived religions.

The pig – the wild boar – was sacred to many ancient Germanic gods and goddesses. Tacitus, writing in the First Century, said the Germanic tribes wore boarskins into battle. Boars were a symbol of ferocity worn on the helmets of Anglo-Saxon warriors (Beowolf, for a famous example).

The spectacular Iron Age Garton Slack chariot burial, in East Yorkshire, featured a whole chariot, two horses and a warrior with the head of a pig split open, food side up, on his chest. A last meal in the afterlife.

The archaeological evidence tells us that for hundreds of years, people came from all corners of the island, driving pigs before them, to a giant pork feast at the Winter Solstice at Stonehenge. Among other sacred sites.

In short, pigs: a wonderful, magical animal.

June 17, 2021 — 8:54 pm
Comments: 12

Hot cross bun

It’s Summertime, the season when we wake to find bunny bits strewn across the livingroom floor. It’s 50 shades of disgusting.

We think we can tell which one did for ’em. The old boy, former feral, eats his buns and leaves only fragments. Welly, a young and pampered beast, completely loses interest when prey stops moving. Worst is when one or t’other brings them in alive and drops them on the floor to scamper about in panic.

This little peep was lucky. Uncle B managed to throw a box over him until the boys lost interest. We later released him to wriggle away in the undergrowth looking largely unhurt. Which isn’t to say they won’t find him again.

Interesting. They were definitely hunting together this time.

June 14, 2021 — 8:17 pm
Comments: 8

Important survey

Laser pointers: fun toy or cat torture device?

I got this with loyalty points because I buy so gosh darned much catfood from an online place. It’s much cheaper and so convenient, but I’m getting really tired of the mountains of corrugated cardboard I have to dispose of. Allll the junk we order.

Training tool. Training cats to do what, exactly? Run psychotically around the house screaming in frustration and slamming into things? Mission accomplished.

That’s the image the laser projects, by the way. That little fish with “Training Toy” for a body. In blue.

It’s Friday! w00t!

April 30, 2021 — 7:32 pm
Comments: 10

Poland Express ready for takeoff

My boy Po flapping his flappers.

It was nice out today. Warm in the sun, still cold in the shade.

I tried chasing the chickens around the garden with the lawnmower, but my mower is unwell. It’s the first mow of the year and motor catches but peters out immediately.

I know not to put old gas in it (it goes off), though there was a little bit left from last year. I’m now working on the theory the air filter is clogged. I have washed it and am waiting for it to dry. That gives me at least one more day of not mowing the stupid lawn.


April 27, 2021 — 8:14 pm
Comments: 11

Possum stories

As I am stuck, immobile, under a very fat cat, allow me to tell some possum stories. Three times in my life I have encountered a possum, and all three times it played dead and I believed it.

The first time, I was about fifteen and on our small farm. I startled it, it fell over in the grass and just passed the hell out. I had a varmint gun with me but I just couldn’t shoot something limp at my feet. I am wuss.

See, a possum had been killing our chickens for days. And they don’t do a nice job of it, sometimes mutilating them without killing them outright. Gosh, was my mother mad at me! By the time I went inside and brought her out, possum was there none.

Second time, it was curled up at the bottom of a public trash can. Not my problem.

Third time, I was backing out of the garage and I went over something BIG with my right front wheel. Mind you, I drove a Miata, so everything I went over felt big. But this was genuinely a large and portly possum. Dead, natch. But it had blood trickling from its mouth, so I thought, “this time, for real!”

I was late for work, so I decided to deal with it when I got home. And yup, it was gone.

I don’t often sit around of an evening and reminisce about Possums I Have Known. Somebody mentioned possums on Twitter and it brought it all back.

Pic is from Wikimedia and the taker has kindly put it in the public domain.

No possum post is complete without another mention of the Opossum Lady.

April 20, 2021 — 8:40 pm
Comments: 8

Bantam, my ass

My littlest chicken next to my biggest. Don’t worry about her, she’s quick and agile and more than capable of avoiding surprise chicken sex from that hulking lummox.

It was a GLORIOUS day here today. Sunny, not a cloud, getting near 70F. I sat in the garden most of the day, soaking it up.

I discovered an Ipheion uniflorum growing wild. No, no…don’t worry. I’m still allergic to horticulture. I looked it up with Google Lens.

Maybe everybody knew this, but I’ve just discovered that Lens – an app most known for reading QR codes – will identify plants for you. Take a snapshot, tap the Lens button, and it makes its best guess. I used it to figure out who the survivors are in the herb garden.

Here’s the thing about our little flower friend, though. How the hell did it get there? It’s growing out of a crack in the sidewalk. Wikipedia tells me the variety was brought to the UK in 1820 from somewhere near Buenos Aires and it’s grown from a bulb. We’ve been here 14 years and we didn’t plant it.

How in the Sam Hill did this bulb get under our pavement?

March 30, 2021 — 7:55 pm
Comments: 7


We went looking for lambs Saturday, as it was a bit early for our local woolbabies. Uncle B knew where to go that has early lambs every year.

You’ll notice the fuzzy dude in front is on the wrong side of the fence. He was in a panic because he couldn’t get back through.

Fortunately, we spotted someone in the barn behind, so we drove up and told him he had an escapee. Forty five minutes later, we were able to go on our way. People are starved for conversation.

Same thing happened at a farm stand later that afternoon – half an hour of jawing with a stranger.

Same thing happened to me today. Someone came into the office and spent an hour reminiscing. Then my neighbor caught me outside as I came home and bang went another forty five minutes. They’ve relaxed the rules just a tad and people are tumbling out of isolation.

I have a lot of talking in my future, I suspect.

Oh, and we have local lambs! Quite big ones. They are usually born right in the field behind us, but these appeared by the dozens looking some days old, so they must’ve used a lambing shed.

March 29, 2021 — 8:24 pm
Comments: 5

The shame

Larry the Number 10 cat has been put on a diet. Visitors have been slipping him too many treats. He is fourteen, an age when gentlemen cats may incline to podge, and has been in office for a decade.

His official title is Chief Mouser to the Cabinet Office, which started as a joke title used by journalists but was made official for Larry in 2011. He is a civil servant. He once had a scrap with Palmerston, the Chief Mouser of the Foreign & Commonwealth Office, during which Larry lost his collar and Palmerston got a ripped ear. The latter has since retired to the country.

You’d probably need an FOIA to find out how many British government departments have an official cat.

Larry’s predecessor was Freya (whose tenure overlapped Larry’s) and before her Sybil (named after Sybil Fawlty).

Then ensued a ten year gap when Downing Street was catless on account of that evil hag Cherie Blair doing away with Humphrey.

Before Humphrey came Wilberforce (for whom Margaret Thatcher once bought “a tin of sardines in a Moscow supermarket”), Peta (a Manx cat whose real name was Manninagh KateDhu), Peter III and Peter II.

Nelson has no Wikipedia page, but he was the Chief Mouser of WWII and Churchill’s own cat whose tenure overlapped his predecessor Munich Mouser, whose tenure overlapped Peter I (they were deadly rivals). Churchill nicknamed the Munich Mouser after the Munich Agreement between Chamberlain and Hitler. What Chamberlain called him is not recorded.

And finally, Rufus of England (AKA “Treasury Bill”) who also doesn’t have a Wikipedia entry, but is the earliest Downing Street Cat on record (served 1924 to 1930). He had an allowance of a penny a day.

Budgetary records, anyway. There are reports of cats in government back to Henry VIII, when Lord Chancellor Cardinal Wolsey brought his cat to work with him.

The Downing Street Cat gets lots of press here because journalists are stuck outside #10 for long, boring stretches of time and hey look, a cat.

You can follow Larry on Twitter.

March 10, 2021 — 7:40 pm
Comments: 8