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Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Surviving the Cold

For the past couple of days, it has been unusually cold again. Even on the day when  Bow was giddily hanging off the rafters, later that afternoon it rained and rained, and the next time Bow went outside that day, it was suddenly much, much colder.

Bow looked out at the pen. It was much less inviting than it had been a few hours earlier. But he went out anyway, because he likes to be outdoors.

Leo is always willing to play some more, but I think you can tell by looking at the picture closely that Bow was feeling cold. This, however, did not keep him from expressing his thoughts.

Meanwhile, I was looking at the plants. First of all, there were tiny shoots in Bow's planter, despite the fact that he had toppled it over twice since planting.

Tiny shoots in Bow's planter on the afternoon of April 13
The cherry tree was now in full bloom.

Bees buzzed by the tree, even as the weather threatened to be stormy.

The pear tree, which up until recentlyhad been completely bare, now was covered with leaves.

And the tulip tree was sprouting leaflets right next to the old, dead flowers from last year.

The next day, April 14, things got even colder and I eventually had to start heating the inner pen again. I was concerned that it might freeze, so I brought Bow's planter with its tiny shoots inside.

The tiny shoots on April 14

The tiny shoots were a little bigger, almost imperceptibly so. I was worried about the fruit trees, because I could not bring them in. In other parts of the state, it even snowed last night. Luckily, not here so far.

This morning, Bow asked to go out repeatedly all morning, but I told him it was too cold. Finally, around eleven I gave in and agreed.

I took the planter with its tiny shoots and put it out to bask in the sun. Bow enjoyed sunning himself, too. But it was still very cold out. Soon Bow asked to come back inside. The tiny shoots in the planter, however, said nothing. So they stayed put. 

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Spring Giddiness

It is easy to feel giddy when spring is in the air. Everything all around us is blossoming.
the cherry tree in blossom
Bow has his moments of quiet contemplation, of watching nature as it unfolds, of being a spectator and not a participant.

But at other moments, he becomes active and the center of attention.

This morning, playing with Leo, Bow became progressively more active. Sometimes I forget how naturally athletic he is, climbing the walls and hanging from the rafters.

Even when we think the game is over, it may not yet be. In the following clip, Bow was grooming my hand, and Leo summoned him to play some more. Bow went to join him and in the process he suddenly remembered how much fun it is to hang upside down from the ceiling.

You might think the swing is there for Bow to exercise on, but he often takes his exercise from the walls and beams of the enclosure, and then uses the swing for quiet relaxation.

When everything is in bloom, it is hard not get giddy sometimes.

One of our peach trees in bloom

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Dreams of Paradise

I'm still dreaming of that island for Bow, but here are some of the things that are keeping it from happening. It's not just the cost of building the island. I think maybe I could raise that money from supporters. It is also what might happen to my property taxes if the local tax assessor saw such an island and whatever shelter I may put on it for Bow as an improvement to the land. If taxes go up, this impacts my ability to keep going.

I could try to claim some sort of tax exempt status, but I have looked into 501(c) (3) organizations, and the paper work alone is daunting, and I would need to have a board that would end up being able to outvote me, and in view of recent events, I would seriously be concerned about the government's being able to cause me trouble if they did not like some of my opinions.

 Whatever I do for Bow has to be self-sustaining from both a financial and an ecological standpoint.  It should be something that will live on for more than one generation, and I would like for that paradise to include a companion for Bow.

How many primate lives could be supported on a mere five acres? They couldn't live by foraging alone. As much as Bow liked those wild onion chives, he prefers fruits and berries that contain a lot more calories. We are not ruminants who graze all day. That is why we primates prefer berries to grass, nuts to fruits, and we enjoy meat when we can get it. Calorie dense food is important to us, because we have better things to do than eat all day.

Bow enjoying a strawberry at dinner last night'

To that end, I have fruit trees on the other half of my land, and I am thinking of planting even more. The cherry trees are getting ready to burst into bloom.

The pear trees have got buds on them, too. Remember the one with a nest on it? This is how it looks now.

How many fruit trees would sustain a chimpanzee family? How could reasonable limits be placed on population growth without de-sexing anybody? These are all valid questions that require serious thought.

Living in Missouri may not be natural for chimpanzees, but it can be a very nice alternative to a completely natural life where nothing is guaranteed, if we make reasonable provisions. I hear that Jane Goodall is transporting some of the chimpanzees from her sanctuaries to an island. How big is the island? What sort of food does it grow? How has she taken into account future population growth and normal migration patterns? I would love to know the answers to these questions.

In the meanwhile, Bow and I manage quite well under a less grandiose scenario. Bow's pens are more spacious than many an urban apartment. He gets to sun himself outside every day in good weather. And there are store bought strawberries!

It's not a primeval paradise. But it's home for now, and it is good.

Tuesday, April 8, 2014


Yesterday afternoon it occurred to me that I should give Bow some pointers on foraging. If we ever convert that five acre pasture to an island for him, and if he still refuses to do any work, then he will at least need to know what naturally growing plants are good to eat. Usually chimpanzees learn this from their mothers. I therefore decided to pick some of those chives, or wild onions, as well as a sprig of redbud. Since presentation is everything, I place them in a big blue willow china bowl.

Bow saw me do this, and he knew it was supposed to be food, since it was in a bowl, but he did not ask for it until snack time rolled around. Then he just said he wanted the bowl. He did not refer to the things in the bowl.

Bow examined what was in the bowl, decided that it was not food after all, and handed it back to me. Then it was my job to demonstrate that it really was food, by showing him that I could eat it myself. He took great interest in my eating, watching closely, and then sniffing inside my mouth, so he could get a good idea of what it tasted like. While I was still busy eating, Bow decided to try the chives. He liked how it tasted, so he had some more. He never took to the redbud, though. I guess he's  not a native American! Or maybe they did something to the redbuds before they ate them. I'm not sure.

Monday, April 7, 2014

No Need to Water

Native Americans used to eat redbud flowers

Everything is starting to bud, and my internal hunter-gatherer is at war with my inner farmer. Look at all the things that grow by themselves, it says. Why on earth would you water a plant in a pot? How is that even profitable?

Tastes like chives

For instance, there is this plant that is springing up everywhere in my unmown grass that tastes just like chives. Maybe it is chives. What do I know? If I had taken the trouble to grow a garden, and I had planted chives, I would have been very proud of myself for producing food by my own labor. But... what do we need labor for, when it grows on its own? Any time I want to add chives for a salad or to a sandwich, all I have to do is go and pick some. Why water?

That's what Bow is thinking, too, most probably. He thinks I am a fool for trying to water our seeds.

I have ten acres. Properly managed, they could support a lot of people. There are hungry people out there who might benefit from the yield of this land. What right do Bow and I have to keep them out? President Monroe thought that "the earth was given to mankind to support the greatest number of which it is capable." I don't believe that, though. There's got to be a place on this planet for hunter-gatherers, human and non-human.

For instance, yesterday I encountered a cat hunting in my pasture. It ran away as soon as it saw me. You might think I am supporting no one by leaving my fields all fallow. But there are mice living on my land, and there are snakes and hawks and even an occasional cat that live on those mice. Where would they go if I devoted all my land to feeding the greatest number of which it is capable?

Bow asked to go outside this morning, after the rains died down to a drizzle. He declined to step into the flooded pen, but he gave me a push to get me going. Brownie was waiting for me by the planter. It was soaked. Definitely no need to water it today!

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Snake Season Begins

With the weather warming up, it is snake season again.Yesterday on my walk I met a black rat snake. Snakes are much slower than rabbits, so this one stayed very still.

He was sunning himself out by the well house, and when I came in closer to look, he flicked his tongue in and out.

Here is a different view of the snake from the other side, so you can see the length of its body.

I left the snake unmolested, since he is guarding my well house from mice. But if for any reason he ventures into the back yard where the dogs are, he is unlikely to survive. Let's hope he is smart enough not to try that. Leo is already quite agitated by squirrel sightings.

This morning Bow and I went outside into the outer pen, and I brought along the watering can. But Bow refused to use it, so I had to water the seeds by myself.

In the interest of full disclosure, I think I should tell you that Bow knocked over the planter once yesterday, and all the dirt spilled out on the floor of the pen. I scolded him for it, and he has not done it again, but I have a lot of doubt as to the outcome  for those seeds. I picked up everything I could and put it back in the planter. This morning I saw that one of the pea seeds had moved up to the surface and was trying to germinate. I pushed it down a little, so it would have a dirt covering.

Bow seems to be against the idea of gardening. He knows all about it, for when he was much younger and not yet in the pens, we did have a flower garden up front. We all took turns watering the plants, and even children who came to visit enjoyed doing that. But not Bow.

It would be nice if Bow would cooperate just a little in earning his own keep or growing his own food. But he has to want to first.

Saturday, April 5, 2014

Planting the Seeds

Bow can be very cooperative sometimes. Yesterday he was prepared to take a nap, and I thought he looked very cute, so I came and took his picture.

But the picture did not seem clear enough, so I moved in closer. "Don't move," I told Bow. "I'm taking your picture." He didn't move a muscle!

This cooperation is not something I can count on, though. It's only when he feels like being cooperative that he does as I ask.

This morning I decided to start a small experiment in gardening. I have been admiring my friend Julia's container gardening for several years now, but I do not have a green thumb, nor time to devote to gardening away from Bow. But what if Bow could help?

I apologize for the quality of these videos shot with my cell phone. I am not good at multitasking, and when I handed the camera to Bow to film what I was doing, it did not really turn out the way I wanted. So you will some unsightly footage of my finger and and some dark spots where Bow was holding the camera. But this is how it went.

Once he was done planting, Bow was really done. He handed me the watering can and asked to go back inside, where he took a long nap after all that work.

Bow handing me the watering can as if to say "We're done here."