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Thursday, June 23, 2016

The Things We Know and Take for Granted

I have seen a lot of deer on my property over the years. I have also seen deer making wild dashes into the road while I was driving through the countryside, as if no one had taught them how to cross the street when they were little. But city deer are different from country deer. They don't make a mad dash in the blind faith that they will be able to get across. City deer cross deliberately without haste, giving the cars a chance to slow down and avoid hitting them. City deer are sophisticated.

The video embedded above is of a deer I saw in Bloomington while visiting my mother. At no time did it run away. Its movements were slow and deliberate, and it eventually crossed the road safely, continuing on its path. This deer knows what to do, because it lives among humans. It has been assimilated into our society, at least a little bit -- enough to know how to cross the street.

We are all so steeped in the culture we live in, we sometimes take for granted most of what we know about how things work. For instance, when you open a book, which side do you look at first? It might depend on the language.

The bilingual version of In Case There's a Fox opens on both sides. It depends on which language you are reading it in,

Bow knows which way to go, depending on the language. In the video below, at about 38 seconds in, he is pointing at the Hebrew word for fox at the exact point when I read that word from that page. But notice which direction he arrives from when he gets to the word. He moves from the right to the left.

There are a lot of little things that show us what Bow knows. But we have to stop taking for granted that everybody should know these things, in order to observe the evidence. Bow is an enculturated chimpanzee. He behaves quite differently from a wild chimpanzee. But he is also bilingual, and he is literate, and he knows the conventions of each language he reads. He knows how to approach a Hebrew book, and he knows how to approach an English book, and his way of reading changes, depending on which language the story is written in.

Someday there will be a formal way to quantify this. But for right now, think about how differently a city deer behaves from a country deer. If all deer were exactly the same with hard wired routines common to their species, why would the difference in their behavior around roads be so obvious?

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Bilingual Edition of In Case There's a Fox

We came home from a brief visit to my mother, and the proof for the bilingual edition of In Case There's A Fox was waiting for us. You can open the book on the left side, and it's in English. If you open on the rights it is in Hebrew. The two versions meet in the middle of the book, where the two endings are side by side.

Bow likes to point to words in the book sometimes when I am reading them. Can you see where he pointed at the words ראית שועל  "did you see a Fox" as I read them out loud?

Bow points at the Hebrew word for fox while I read it out loud

Wednesday, June 15, 2016

A Bird in the Pen

A tiny bird somehow found its way into the outer pen yesterday afternoon. This happens every once in a long while.

Bow felt the need to chase the bird around and even to display at the tiny intruder.

I asked him not to hurt the bird, but he seemed to be trying to catch it.

The bird managed to avoid  Bow.

Eventually, it sought refuge in the indoor airlock,

There I was able to trap it in a tupperware container. And then I released it safely outside on the front porch. It flew away. End of story.

Sunday, June 5, 2016

Home Again

It is good to be home, even though we did not get the Libertarian Presidential Nominee that we had hoped for.  Bow was well cared for in my absence, and on my return, he took time out from his dinner with Lawrence to greet me warmly, and then later to thoroughly groom me.

Bow getting read to groom me in the outer pen
It rained constantly while I was away, and for the first few days after I got back. This was a big contrast to the constant sunshine and ninety degree plus weather in Florida. But all this rain has paid off for my cherries.

These are small, extremely sour cherries, and most people I know don't like them in their natural form, though they enjoy them as maraschino cherries, which are preserved and sweetened. However, Bow and I like them just as they are -- very tart!

Bow enjoys the cherries so much that he sometimes eats them whole, pit and all. I tried to slow down his eating and asked him to give me the stems and the pits.

Later in the day, the dogs were barking at something on the other side of the fence, and Bow wanted me to go check it out.

Bow concerned about something going on outside
It was a beautiful black rat snake.

The snake was long and fat, but it may have recently eaten, for it was quite calm and perfectly harmless toward me, even when I got close.

On my property, life and death happen naturally. Many beings every day give their lives so that other beings may live. For all animals, including humans, food is a living thing, whether animal or plant. We are all predator and prey in turn. I eat meat, and I plan to continue eating meat, because that is the healthiest and most effective diet for me.  But I do not kill unnecessarily, and I know that for me, that black rat snake is more friend than foe.  So the snake and I went our separate ways without hurting one another, and I reported to Bow that all was well outdoors. He looked at the picture of the snake briefly, then went back to grooming me.

I wish that my fellow human primates could recognize when someone is not threatening them and avoid killing others unnecessarily. I am not sure I understand completely why it was necessary to kill Harambe at the Cincinnati Zoo. In any event, a zoo is clearly not a safe environment for a great ape, as there are not adequate barriers in place, and any time there is doubt about safety, nobody cares whether a human is trespassing in an ape enclosure or an ape is trespassing on human territory.

I would never send Bow to live in a zoo or in a sanctuary where a breach of protocol by a human could result in Bow's being shot. But I am afraid, very afraid, that with US Fish & Wildlife tightening the noose around the necks of primate owners, my time for idyllic grooming with Bow and quiet time together may be rapidly drawing to a close.

Delegates from Missouri
Austin Petersen,
 Aya Katz,
 Thomas R. Fiedler,
 Rebekah Fiedler,
Jeremiah Barnett
I went to the Libertarian National Convention in Orlando to help select Austin Petersen as our presidential nominee, because I trusted that as President, he would direct U.S. Fish &Wildlife to stop sending our tax money to Africa and to stop harassing the owners of primates here in the United States. But Austin Petersen was not chosen. Gary Johnson was chosen, and I have no earthly idea where he stands on this. I suppose I will now have to reach out to his campaign to find out.

While there, I met the National Chair of the Libertarian Party and got to interview him for LibertyBuzz.

We Libertarians disagree about many things. We are individuals, and we vote our conscience. No two Libertarians agree on everything. But it was encouraging to see that we all at least agreed on this: Taxation is theft!

If taxation is theft when it comes to redistribution of resources here in the United States, how much more so when taxpayer money is sent to Africa for conservation efforts by an agency that seeks to nationalize all chimpanzees, here in the United States!

Saturday, May 21, 2016

A Quiet Saturday Afternoon Before the Libertarian Convention

Bow swings in the Outer Pen While the Mowers Are Mowing
Things have been growing and blooming outside, even as my mind has been more on politics than botany. By the mailbox, the wild roses blossomed and twined until it was almost impossible to open.

I think this has been an unusually fertile year, because never before was the mailbox totally engulfed by roses.

It was so pretty that I did not dare disturb it. But then a couple of days after I took that picture all the blossoms and leaves on that rosebush mysteriously died, while the rosebushes all around it on my property continue to thrive. My current theory is that a government agent -- the postman possibly -- took it upon himself to protect access to the mailbox and sprayed weed killer on the roses. In hindsight, maybe I should have trimmed the bush. Because it's dying now.

A wildflower in my woods

However, I had this momentary fantasy when I saw the rosebush twined around the mailbox -- something out of sleeping beauty -- that if only I allowed  everything to grow wild around here, maybe we would be left alone by the government, because no one could penetrate the thorns of the wild rose bush.

A daisy with a ladybug in my pasture
Of course, I can't let everything grow wild , and today the mowers came. And as usual, Bow did not like it. But when I went to mow using my reel mower in the backyard, he contented himself with swinging vigorously on his swing, instead of displaying at the mowers.

And after the mowers left, we had a very quiet Saturday afternoon together.

In two days, I take off on the long drive for the Libertarian National Convention. Lawrence will be here with  Bow. I have paid half his fee in advance and will pay the other on my return. If you would like to contribute, there is still time.

I am doing this to help Austin Petersen become president so he can take over the government, so it can leave us alone! That should be more effective than surrounding my house with an impenetrable wall made of wild roses -- don't you think?

Monday, May 16, 2016

Leaving the Nest is Hard

A lot has happened here since the last time I reported in. We have had a hail storm and casualties and empty nests and more Pickle Ice. Happy things and sad things intermingled, as it happens in real life. Because real life is not a Disney movie, and not every sparrow is watched over by an Unseen Hand.

Here is a glimpse at the four baby robins the last time I saw all four in the nest.

There was a hail storm on Wednesday night or more accurately in the wee hours early on Thursday, and Bow woke up the household with his howling and displaying against the gods of the storm. In the morning, when I checked on the the nest, it was lopsided, the rosebush had been bent over by the winds, and there was one baby bird on the ground that I saw right away.

Then later I saw that there was also another baby robin on its own, standing on the ground.

It was too early for them to fledge,  because they normally would do that at thirteen days, and they were only nine days old at the time. However, when baby robins do fledge, they don't exactly fly away. They jump out of the nest, flapping their wings inefficiently and still have to be fed and watched over by their parents. I learned this by looking it up, as I did not know anything about it at the time.

Two baby robins on the ground after the storm
Of the two baby birds in the picture above, the one in the background died of injuries from the fall. The one in the foreground survived the fall intact and I later saw it on the lawn being fed by its mother. This does not necessarily mean it will survive to adulthood, but at least it has a chance. But there are predators about, and a bird that cannot fly is especially vulnerable to snakes.

On Thurday afternoon, Bow's friends came by with the bananas as usual, and she also brought him issues of the Missouri Conservationist and some more Pickle Ice as a present.

As Bow's friend was leaving, she saw a young rat snake on the prowl and alerted me to its presence. I came out with my walking stick and a tupperware container, to see if I could relocate the snake to a place where it would not go after the baby robins. But the snake ran away from me and disappeared by the tulip tree, which means it could have gone back later for the birds. However, I can safely report that much later that day I saw the healthy baby bird being fed by its mother on the lawn, and the one who died I disposed of uneaten by snakes.

The remaining two baby robins in the lopsided nest

 And this left two baby robins still in the nest by my door, somehow hanging on in  a very lopsided rosebush.

Two days after the storm, they were still in there, being fed by their parents and thriving and growing. And then yesterday morning, when I went out to check on them, I saw one of the nestlings perched on the edge of the nest, and then it ventured forth beyond into the branches of the rosebush.

It was still crying to be fed, but hardly the helpless little baby it used to be.

I had other things to do that day, such as writing articles about Austin Petersen, so I did not actually see the remaining robins taking off. But that afternoon, the nest was empty.

There was no sign of the baby robins anywhere around there, but the mother seemed to have a message for me.

She seemed to be saying "My little ones are grown." Or anyway, that's what I thought at the time. And not expecting to see the newly flown robins, I went on a long walk. On my walk, I saw a butterly in the grass by the fence.

I think it was a Little Wood Satyr Butterfly.

Little Wood Satyr Butterfly
As I continued along my walk, in the grass by the barn, I saw something quite familiar. It was one of the baby robins, just hopping along by itself.

I followed it and saw it take cover in the tall grass of the pasture.

When they leave the nest they cannot fly, but apparently these baby robins can walk quite a distance. Hopefully the parents are still watching over them and feeding them until their wings are strong enough to fly. Leaving the nest is a much more gradual process than we have been led to believe!

So this is what has happened this past week. Time flies so fast, Soon I must leave for the Libertarian National Convention. And Lawrence will be spending time with Bow.

Monday, May 9, 2016

Flying Away: One Nest Empty, One to Go

Yesterday was Mother's Day. Each of my children told me they loved me in a different way. Bow's version was: "Don't go to Florida."

 "Why not Bow?"    -- כי דוד אוהב את אמא - "Because [a] guy loves Mommy." When Bow wants to make himself seem very grownup, he refers to himself as "a guy." It's an odd usage that he perfected himself.

"But I have to go, Bow, to fight for our rights."

Bow loves Lawrence, too, and he will be fine in my absence. But I do need to pay Lawrence for his time. so that is where your help comes in. Thank you to everybody who has chipped in so far! We have had lots of donations, but we still need more. So if you haven't donated, because you thought it was a lost cause, now is a good time to add a little to the pot. Every little bit helps!

The great news is that I am a confirmed delegate from the State of Missouri to the Libertarian National Convention! This means that I get  a real vote, not one out of billions, but one out of a little over a  thousand. The Libertarian Party is small, which means each delegate's vote counts a great deal. I am helping to choose the third party candidate who in the general election will be the only other real choice besides Donald Trump and Hillary Clinton. I want it to be Austin Petersen, I believe he would have the best chance to win, and what's more, I support him on principle. He is the only one who understands that the legitimate function of the government is to uphold our right to be left alone. Freedom of association means the right to say no.

On Friday, there was a choir concert in which my daughter participated. I baked brownies for the choir bake sale. Bow licked the bowl. And as I was baking, I was thinking about how personal the process of baking is, and how important it is that I not ever be forced to bake to support any cause that goes against my principles. In a free country, how could that happen? But as far as I know, Austin Petersen is the only candidate who understands this. Gary Johnson doesn't. Hillary Clinton doesn't. And I would not count on Trump to do anything but toot his own horn.

My daughter took me out to an early Mother's Day dinner on Saturday. But I had a light dinner with Bow beforehand. I asked Bow if he wanted me to get the food ready and he said: כן וגם שתיה "Yes, and also drink." So I fixed him a special pre-Mother's Day drink: Pomegranate juice mixed with club soda. He really enjoyed that!

My daughter drove me to Rolla for dinner. She is almost grown up and almost ready to leave the nest. That's what happened to the fledglings in the nest by the fence, you know. They flew away, and now the nest is empty. Here is the last picture I have of them still in that nest.

Fledgling in Nest by the Fence -- Last Time I Saw Him There

Note that not only is the mouth wide open, but so is the eye. They come into the world with eyes glued shut. But when the eyes are wide open, you know that soon they will fly away.

As I approached the empty nest by the fence on Saturday, I was greeted by what looked like a very young robin.

Do the two robins from the nest by the fence remember me? Are they tweeting to me, "Look, we are all grown up!"

In the nest by my door, the baby robins are growing feathers and starting to open their eyes. Soon they will fly away, too. And just as the robins are growing and changing, the rosebuds on the bush that holds the nest are also in full bloom.

Yesterday, the baby robins in the rose bush looked like this.

And this morning, this is the sight that greeted me.

Can you see that the eyes are starting to open? It won't be long before they all fly away! But I am so happy that I have gotten to see this, and when the last nest is empty, I will be getting ready to go to Florida to fight the good fight!