Tuesday, July 13, 2010

And Then There Were Nine (so far)

More Kittens
New Arrivals

I got up this morning with the intention of taking the four kittens and their mother to the county where they could find homes for them. I was a little surprised to find nine kittens instead of four. Momma kitty had four new kittens during the night. Hopefully they will all find homes eventually. I guess we picked them up at just the right time.

The little black dog slept with Edna last night and she named her Lyubov which is Ukrainian for the word love. It just seemed right since she was so full of love. We call her by the diminutive, Lyuba. I don't think I can pry her out of Edna's arms so it looks like we'll be keeping her.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Lost and Found

Four kittens and a very pregnant momma cat

On the way to the Men's Discipleship Evening at church, Joshua and I saw a sad sight. Someone had dumped a little black dog along with four kittens and their pregnant mother. The little dog was standing guard over the cats as it sat under a lone oak tree on the side of the road. We turned around and watched them for awhile and noticed the little black dog diligently herding the kittens away from the road as cars passed. We felt helpless to do anything since it was over 100 degrees Fahrenheit and we were supposed to help out serving in the cafe at church. We reluctantly drove on, but Joshua prayed that they would still be there safe and that we could rescue them on our way home.

Four hours later, all six animals were as we had left them. I made a valiant effort to capture the little dog even getting a hold of her several times only to have her struggle free. She refused to leave the kittens so I had to rethink how I was going to capture them all. (I vowed to Joshua that I wouldn't leave any behind.) I scooped up the mother cat thinking the kittens would want to follow. I was wrong. All they wanted to do was run around playing in the grass and running up trees. Did I mention I was doing this in the dark with only the headlights from our Jeep for illumination?

After about an hour I managed to get hold of the last kitten. To Joshua's dismay, they seemed perfectly happy to carry on their playful antics throughout the Jeep leaping from seat to seat chasing each other. With all the cats wrangled up, I finally coaxed the little black dog into letting me pick her up. She was happy to be reunited with the kittens.

Our drive home was anything but uneventful, but we made it. You can only imagine the scene as I tried to drive with one kitten pawing at my legs, one in my lap, and another climbing on my shoulders as I juggled my cell phone to let Edna know why we were so late.

When we got home Edna immediately snatched up the little black dog and informed me that we're keeping her. By the time I got all the cats situated for the night, Edna had already given the little dog a bath and made a spot for her on the sofa (as well as in her heart I suspect). We'll see what happens. All I know is that what was once abandoned and lost is now found.

Happy to be loved

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Going Batty

Say hello to my little friend

The old hay barn on the ranch where we live is filled with bats. As a kid, I remember watching them come flying out of that barn around sunset every summer evening. Now our boys enjoy watching the same spectacle. I started thinking about how many bugs they must eat and about how much I hate all those bugs on a warm summer evening. I wanted to find out just how beneficial those little flying mice really are. Here's what I found:

"Bats make good neighbors. As the only major predators of night flying insects, bats play an important role in controlling many insect pests. A single bat can consume as many as 500 insects in just one hour, or nearly 3,000 insects every night. A colony of just 100 little brown bats, the most abundant species in the Northeast, may consume more than a quarter of a million mosquitoes and other small insects each night.

Big brown bats, which live primarily in agricultural areas, feed on June bugs, cucumber beetles, green and brown stinkbugs, and leafhoppers. Research has shown that over the course of a summer, a colony of 150 big brown bats can eat 38,000 cucumber beetles, 16,000 June bugs, 19,000 stinkbugs, and 50,000 leafhoppers and can prevent the hatching of 18 million corn rootworms by devouring the adult beetles."

I decided that making a bat house would be a great way to increase our bat numbers and teach the boys something in the process. I realized that all the materials I needed were just lying around waiting to be used, so I went to work.

Bat Box
Inside the bat box

I settled on a "rocket bat box" design and went to work modifying the design to fit my needs. It turned out to be a full day project and then some.

Bat Box
12 foot 4'' x 6'' redwood post

Bat Box
Complete with three covered plexiglass viewing ports for Joshua

Today I went into the barn and gathered up a few bats that couldn't squeeze into any of the already overcrowded crevices. These became my first tenants. We'll see if they decided to return.

The first occupant

Some more bat facts:

"Although some mammals are able to glide, bats are the only mammals that truly fly. That is, they actually flap their wings to propel them in flight. They belong to their own unique order of mammals, called Chiroptera, meaning “hand wing,” which refers to how the finger bones of a bat support its wings. The wings of a bat are actually thin membranes of skin that stretch between the fingers of the front leg and extend to the hind legs and tail. The bat’s finger bones are greatly elongated and serve a purpose similar to struts on an airplane wing, providing support and maneuverability during flight. When at rest, a bat folds its wings alongside its body to protect the delicate finger bones and wing membranes.

Bats live in a variety of habitats, including wetlands, fields, forests, cities, suburbs, and agricultural areas. They usually feed in areas where insects swarm, such as over water and agricultural fields, in forest clearings and along forest edges, and around street lights.

All northeastern bats eat insects and take their prey on the wing. Bats use their mouths to scoop small insects out of the air. Larger insects are often disabled with a quick bite and then carried to the ground or to a perch for eating. If an insect takes last-second evasive action, a bat can flick out a wing to nab the insect and draw it into its mouth. This maneuverability makes bats very efficient insect predators: A bat may consume nearly 50 percent of its body weight in insects in a single night!

Although bats can see quite well, they rely on their hearing for night flying. A highly sophisticated adaptation, called echolocation, enables bats to use their large and well developed ears to navigate and catch prey in total darkness. A bat’s echolocation system makes use of ultrasonic sound pulses and echoes to locate objects. Bats open their mouths in flight and emit a series of ultrasonic sound pulses. These pulses bounce off nearby objects—such as bushes, fences, branches, and insects—then return as echoes to the bat’s ears. Using the information gathered from these echoes, a bat can maneuver to capture an insect or avoid flying into an object.

Bats have one of the lowest reproductive rates for animals their size. Most northeastern bats have just one or two pups per year, and many females do not breed until their second year. This low reproductive rate is partially offset by their long life span. On average, bats live approximately four to six years, and there are some incredible records of bats living twenty to thirty years in the wild.

Because few flying insects are active during the winter months, bats that remain in the Northeast year-round gather in caves and abandoned mines to hibernate. Hibernation is a state of prolonged torpor during which bats greatly reduce their normal metabolic activities. Body temperature in hibernating bats falls from a normal level of more than 100o F to that of the surrounding cave temperature, usually 40–50o F. The heart rate slows to only about twenty beats per minute, as compared to 1,000 beats per minute during flight. By allowing their bodily processes to slow this way, hibernating bats can survive on a very small amount of stored fat during the five- to six-month hibernation period, losing from one-fourth to one-half of their prehibernation weight."

Wednesday, July 07, 2010

Reunion with Friends

David, Edna, Will, and Ira

Yesterday we had our friends David Mole and Will and Ira McIntosh over for lunch. David came all the way from Florida and Will and Ira drove over from Morro Bay. We spent time with all of them in Ukraine, but hadn't all been together since then.

We had a great time reminiscing about all things Ukrainian. I think Ira, our Ukrainian national, really liked the green borshch I made. I've never seen someone eat raw shchavel, the bitter main ingredient, so eagerly. I did my best to make everything just like Baba Olya would have. Thanks guys for a fun time and for keeping our hearts still longing for Ukraine.

"Seriously, don't touch my borshch!"

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Ciudad de Angeles (City of Angels) Orphanage, Mexico

Ciudad de Angeles - Mexico June 2010
Edna and Katya

On June 23rd, we drove down to Mexico with a group from our church and met up with others from Calvary Chapel Kern River Valley. We spent five wonderful days serving and loving the children in a small Christian orphanage called Ciudad de Angeles. We took several of the youth from our church, including Dominic, and I'm sure they were forever changed by the orphans they met.

Ciudad de Angeles - Mexico June 2010
Lisa and Monica (all three of the girls in these photos are sisters)

Here's a short video of our time with God's children in Mexico.