Friday, March 3, 2017

A new use for this old blog; a reference

So I haven’t really been keeping up with this blog and frankly I am not sure of its fate. Since I haven’t been updating it regularly like I once did, this blog has turned into more of a static website, and I think that is fine. I think the value of this blog lies in is utility as reference and as a resource to cover topics in depth, but after eight (!) or so years, I find many of the issues with native plants and wildlife gardening keep coming up, so rather than reposting an old article or updating a subject I have written before,  I am thinking about turning these posts into a book (though I have been threatening that for a while). 

When I started this blog in 2009, social media was really (at least to me) in its infancy.  Now, platforms like Facebook, Twitter and Instagram are a more useful tool for updates and news.  As a result, I post garden news and pictures on these platforms, ignoring this blog.  But I do think the in depth articles I have posted are a compliment to a nice Instagram photo.  Having said that, some of the most commonly requested topics are the following:
In general, "why native plants are important" is always a common topic, and the subject of the whole blog!

I still post unique or timely things, like our Cat of the Year or SponCon projects, but day to day social media seems to suit the general needs of this one time blogger!

So, please follow me on Instagram or Facebook!

Friday, January 29, 2016

For Immediate release: Winston named 2015 Cat of the Year

For Immediate release:

Winston named 2015 Cat of the Year

MISSOULA, Mont. January 28, 2016---- In a stunning landslide victory, Winston has been named the 2015 Cat of the Year.  This result was especially surprising to David, who reports voting Alex “6 or 7 times."

“I thought it would have been closer,” a crushed David said.  “It was as though voters overlooked diminutive and unassuming Alex at the polls. That is the story of his life".

David went on, despondently, to explain, “We had some friends over the other night and when they saw Alex, they asked if we had a new cat.  I said no that is Alex, he has been living here since 2007.  I guess they never noticed him before. They quickly returned to yelling Kitty, Kitty, Kitty at Winston”. 

Alex faced an uphill climb especially after all the media attention Winston had received over the past year.  Winston was widely viewed as the inevitable candidate.  Winston has his own Instagram page, a devoted fan base and support from the establishment, including Miles and the chickens, as well as the political machine of the the non-partisan Missoula City Council (though not unanimous, 11-1).  Alex tried to start a grassroots campaign, and was dismissive of support from the Persians, Turkish Angoras, Cats of the Internet and others.  Ultimately that may have proved to be his undoing.  People liked Alex’s message, and his quirky attitude, but they were concerned about his age, and his advancing arthritis, and worried about the possibility of him being an effective leader.   Chester backed him, but he is a political outsider.  Actually, we have no idea who Chester really is, or where he is from.  In the end, the media “blackout” of Alex was ultimately his demise.  Fox News calculated that Winston received 63% of media coverage, Miles (viewed by most pundits as non-competitive) 18%, the chickens 9%, Chester (like the chickens, ineligible) 8%, and Alex 2%.  The mountain lion rug received less than 0.05% (though that might have just been Cryss Anderson).  With so little media attention it is impressive the race was as close as it was. Alex garnered 34% of the vote.  There were no write-in, third party candidates.

Despite that the polls closed on January 12, the official transaction of the award has not taken place.  Release of the results and award have been delayed pending approval by the Republican-dominated Public Service Commission (not that is it the law, apparently their approval isn’t required for anything, really), and for Marilyn to return from her Vietnam trip.  Marilyn’s steady-handed input was required because David was ready to award Cat of the Year to Alex. 


For more information see: 

Winston_is_a_cat  (Instagram)

Sunday, January 3, 2016

2015 Cat of the Year, Vote now!

It is that time of the year again; time to recognize the contributions of some exceptional individuals. Yes, it’s time to vote for your Cat of the Year.

Preparation of this year’s Cat of the Year voting has been slowed by the considerable confusion and even outrage expressed by voters in last years’ contest. As a result of bad faith dealings, a drawn out legal battle, frivolous motions (such as the question of who is the owner), attempts by some parties to sway public option though lies and manipulation, the appointment of and ruling by a three member water panel, and review by the official rules committee, the voting has been delayed. But now it’s ready, and we believe that the City of Missoula will ultimately own the water company   one cat will fulfill its destiny.

2015 has once again brought change and upheaval in the personnel in the Marler- Schmetterling household, and thus eligibility in the 2015 Cat of the Year. For a brief recap, Natalie, our once big and faithful cat, passed away in July 2014, and since she did complete more .5 of the year, so she (according to the official rules) was eligible for the 2014 competition. However Alex took home the prize for 2014. Good job Alex!

Winston, who joined us in November 2014 was not eligible to compete last time, but he is in the game this year, big time.

Chester, our newly added Persian, is not eligible. We got him in November and the rules clearly state a contestant must complete more than six months at our house to be considered on the ballot. Too bad, Chester. But as a means of introduction and in fairness to Winston’s introduction last year, this year we will include him in the overview.
Miles: not a cat
As was brought to our attention in 2013, Miles, our wire-haired Chihuahua is not a cat and therefore ineligible. The rules committee convenient and the decision was upheld in a vote, 11-1.

The chickens and Miles:  not cats
The Chickens
The chickens (Winnie and the other two) are also not eligible. In addition to not being cats, we can’t tell them apart (in the photo above the chickens are being represented by a single chicken.  Don't know who) so they’d only be up for some kind of group award, which Cat of the Year is most certainly not.
Natalie's one true friend, the mountain lion rug: ruled not a pet.
The mountain lion rug
The lion rug has never been included. However one voter pointed out last year that she is a valued part of our home, providing warmth and companionship (especially to Natalie in her final days), and she spent more than 6 months in our home in 2015. The rules committee had to refer to the dictionary definition of “pet,” which is a “domestic or tamed animal kept for companionship or pleasure and treated with care and affection.” In favor of including the lion: she does provide companionship and pleasure, and we do treat this rug with care and affection (except Miles- he disrespects it and we had to move it). We appreciate that we ate her meat, and we admire her beauty. Against including the lion: Let’s face it, she is neither domestic nor tamed. She could turn on us at any moment. Therefore: ineligible. Sorry Cryss Anderson. However we take reader comments seriously and encourage everyone to send feedback when warranted. We should all question the establishment and feel the Bern.

So here are this year’s title contenders. Their order has been randomly assigned to avoid bias.

In a close vote, Alex was your 2014 cat of the year. Whereas the rest of the descriptions will remain the same, e.g., significant accomplishments, background, etc… astute readers may notice we no longer include “Cost per pound” as one of the considerations, because that shit was getting ridiculous.
Alex- he is hard to photograph

Alex is the defending 2014 champion as well as the 2013 Cat of the Year and also winner by a landslide in 2009, defeating not only Natalie, but Squeak and Junebug (a two time champion herself).  He is the reigning champion and the only 3 time winner. It is his title to lose. The prestige and glory of his victory never changed how he goes about his day. He has retained his unassuming nature, almost as if he was unaware of his victories and the dynasty he is establishing.

He has unusually large paws.
Alex still enjoys playing the classic games like "Hit" and "Bite." Unfortunately his weak, arthritic hips limit his participation in "Chase." He understands that not everything is how it was in youth. He is completely unflappable. He has seen worse, he was hoarded.

He lost his one white whisker but recently grew it back (coincidental to the Cat of the Year voting).

He developed a hitch in his giddy-up (from the arthritis) but carried on bravely despite having to crab walk for about a week. He was able to re-arrange his activity schedule so that he could do his things in a clock wise progression (only turning right, and crab walking right). During this time we had to move his litterbox upstairs since he couldn’t use the stairs. Then, because he did not want to inconvenience anyone, he healed.

He still walks a little stiffly but it’s OK. He’s seen worse; he was hoarded.

Alex also went through a phase in late summer when he only slept under the bench by the front door and pretty much ignored everyone in the house. Around mid-Autumn he pulled himself together and rejoined us. He’s back to sleeping on our bed and interacting with the other pets a little. He seeks affection and purrs a little louder than last year. Is this a miracle turn around or is it just a ploy to gain votes in the Cat of the Year contest and retain his title? I guess the voters will decide.

If he is indeed pandering, it might be because he recognizes the formidable opponent that is Winston.

Age: 16+

Weight: 6 lbs 11 oz, down 1 oz in a year, and 2 oz in 2 years.  Amazing consistency.  Way to go Alex.  That is so Alex, a rock.

Background: Innocent victim of a hoarder. We adopted Alex in 2007 from the Bitterroot Humane Association as a friend for Natalie. He’d been at that shelter for 2 years because no one wanted to adopt an adult black cat. We love him and his giant eyes, soft profile and ¾ length tail. And he loved Natalie. Until her last breath in June 2013, she thought of him as her mortal enemy and nemesis. We are not very good at match making.

Health: chronic warts (pre-cancer), arthritic hips. His diagnosis at this year’s health checkup: “Aging.”

Oh Winston. You may recall that at this time last year, we were just getting to know Winston and his many quirks. He was living under our bed and using the bathtub as his litterbox. That’s right. Poor guy, his inability to use a traditional litterbox was the reason he had been surrendered at the Humane Society by TWO DIFFERENT PEOPLE before he came to live with us.

Actually Persian cats are known to have this behavioral issue. We have had to deal with worse (Junebug, the 2010 and 2011 Cat of the Year) She was a two-time champ despite having to overcome her genetic predisposition. So we stuck it out and tried to encourage him to use a litterbox. We eventually guessed that the litter hurt his little paws (all four of which had been declawed by one of the former owners, which is really mean), and we gave him some boxes we line with cloth nappies. It has worked great! He is now pretty dang consistent in using the box, and it is easy to launder the nappies.

Perhaps this was his plan all along: to rid us of society’s disposable tendencies. Instead of the flushable litter, even though it is made of a waste material (we use a wheat based litter), he turned us on to re-usable cloths. Recycled and re-usable cloths that are available at Home ReSource in Missoula for $10/bag, and your purchase supports diverting waste material from the local landfill and promoting re-use in general. Home ReSource, located at 1515 Wyoming, open 7 days a week. Thanks Winston!

Weight: ranged from 4.5 pounds to 6 pounds 15 ounces
2015 was a hard year for little Winston
Age: a hard 11
What could a captiuon possible add to this picture.  Vote already.
Health: Poor little sweetie. You will recall that we were treating him for chronic terrible diarrhea. It was bad. And the flatulence. However in treating that problem, we almost killed the patient. We were giving him prednisone for his chronic diarrhea but unfortunately it had negative side effects. Including (in retrospect) an eye ulcer that refused to heal. We had to take him on an epic quest to Mordor (aka, Spokane Veterinary Eye Clinic) to get it fixed.
The ever watchful eye of Sauron.
One does not simply walk into Mordor.
We spent a three day weekend giving him eye drops every hour and despite the agony it put us and him through he eventually recovered.

Unfortunately all the eye drops made him sick, and although we had already switched him to a kinder and gentler steroid (budesonide), the lingering side effects of the prednisone were holding him back.
Sleep, little Winston, gain strength.
He lost almost 3 pound and about half his hair. It was awful. Eventually he got stronger and he has begun to regain his magnificent coat!
He lost almost 3 lbs this year, but is on his way to recover
Getting nourishment

Accomplishments in 2015:

The cat cheated death.
Staggered teeth, like a shark.  Prominent human lip
Though not new for 2015, he has a HUMAN LIP.  Not to mention that, his tongue is too long for his face and his little tiny teeth are staggered like those of sharks.  This is probably an adaptation to his incredible appetite.  He eats everything, and like a little tiny wolverine, he will force a certain terrified chihuahua from his dinner.  Now one comes between 6 lbs of whoop-ass and his food.  No one.
Verdict:  Winston is a slightly higher functioning Junebug.

Winston had quite a health struggle this summer. He cheated death, and it was a miracle.  But now there is another.

When you look at the dark side..., the dark side looks back.
The force is strong with this one.

Age: 5 or so.

Weight:  He doesn't want to be weighed.

Health: Tooth extraction, abscess, both expensive. We also got is nose opened up a bit, so he can now eat and breath at the same time.  Again, expensive, a but that is what you get with recycled cats.

Background: Shrouded in mystery. This fall he allegedly showed up on the doorstep of two college students and demanded room and board.  He stayed for a couple of months before they posted him on Craigslist for free.
Who posted this add?
This leaves us with so many questions:  Where did he come from? Why did he leave? Was he forced to move? Why so angry? What happened to his previous owners?
We may never know.
Chester is not impressed by Miles and Winston.
Considers himself "surrounded by idiots".
Angry. Judgmental. Strong sense of entitlement. He loves Miles and the cats but that love is not reciprocated. This fuels his anger, anger leads to hate, and we all know hate leads to suffering and the inevitable path to the dark side.
Anger leads to hate
He has an extraordinary side swipe, when he rubs his hips against everything.  He has even knocked Miles off his feet.  Yes, the force is strong with this one.

He apparently likes everyone and everything except Trisha Drobeck.
He will not be mocked.
We are a little concerned about his past, and that coupled with his silent sneaking around the house, makes us sleep a little less easily. Many times, suddenly he is there. And angry.
We are a source of disappointment to Chester.
Accomplishments: Has gigantic paws. Looks good in a lion cut (given to him by the women who saved him and looked for his people before finding him a home). Did not complain about having a bad tooth, we discovered that at the vet at his adoption well check.  Seems to have adjusted to living with us rather easily, perhaps too easily.

Remember Chester is ineligible this year but look for him again in 2016, when he is sure to be a serious contender, even a phantom menace as Winston is wont to believe. That is, if he chooses to stick with us for the required six months or more, and doesn’t discard us and move new home.
He took Miles' bed, but later returned it, so he could steal Alex's bed, which he has not relinquished.  
Vote now! Voting is open until January 10, 10:00 pm!

If you are using a mobile device, scroll to the bottom and select "View web version" and cast your vote on the right hand tool bar.

Support your local Humane Society, adopt a pet today!

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Native Plant and Wildlife Gardening Classes in September!

This September, my wife and I will each teach a class through the Missoula County Public Schools Lifelong Learning Center.  We each taught classes last year; Marilyn taught a class on composting, and I taught one on native bees and building a native solitary nesting bee box
A successful class!
We both enjoyed teaching such wonderful and engaged students so much, we will be back!
This time, on September 15, I will be teaching a one evening class on gardening for wildlife, obviously one of my favorite topics!
Here is the description of the class from the Lifelong Learning Center's website:
  • Do you want to create a sustainable landscape that attracts and encourages wildlife? If so, join David as he teaches you to provide all the features to draw birds, butterflies and other wildlife to your garden. This is a one night class where you will discuss the various components of creating an oasis for you and for wildlife in your garden.
Native plants attract insects!

Two days later (on September 17), Marilyn, one of the best native plant botanists in the state, will teach about native plants in the fall, how to plant, what to plant and how to identify.  What a great native plant and wildlife garden week!
Fall colors in the native plant garden
Here is a description of her class from the Lifelong Learning Center Website:
  • Who says it’s time to put your garden to rest? With the right plants and methods, fall is the prime time to create a beautiful color landscape. By using native plants (perennials, shrubs and trees) your fall garden will look beautiful for you and for birds getting ready to spend winter in Montana. We'll discuss plants with late blooms, leaves of all colors, and which shrubs bear interesting fruits and pods. We'll also talk about fall planting methods and how much to tidy up the garden for winter.
To register click here.

Hope to see you at one of these classes!

Wednesday, August 5, 2015

Spontaneous Construction '15 is almost here!

SponCon's coming!  This year celebrates over ten years of Spontaneous Construction, Home ReSource's annual festival of creative reinvention.  

It is my favorite event of the year- a day devoted to building something with materials found at Home ReSource.  A day when all I have on my calendar is to build something with our team.  And this year, our team (Butterfly Properties) will have our missing teammate Barry back!  We were the first team to register. 

Every year is a struggle to build something in the allotted time; seven hours goes by really quickly.  Each year we endeavor to make something smaller and quicker.  That never works.  Just the other day, Barry and I were discussing a couple of project ideas for SponCon, and he suggested we build both.  At first I laughed, but then I said, "sure".  We both figure fun is secondary, work comes first.

It is always a good opportunity to see  Barry (he lives in Idaho, and we don't see each other as much as when he lived in Montana).  So on September 19, we will get to stand next to each other, and work side by side all day, probably without any breaks, wearing hearing protection and eye protection, and not mutter a single sentence to each other.  Then at the end of the day, we will say how exhausted we are and how much fun we had together.  WTF?  Maybe we need a new hobby.
Team Butterfly Properties, circa 2011
Team Butterfly Properties:
Marilyn:  Work site custodial engineer, public outreach coordinator, chief information officer, paint application specialist (if necessary)
Marilyn, paint application specialist, inspects her work.  Acceptable!
Barry: Chief Welding Operation Officer, Chancellor of Fabrications, Woodworker
Barry at his happiest.  Getting it done.
David (me):  designer, vice welder,  woodworker, field marshal, resourcing logistician
No time to smile for the camera
So, what will we build?  We don't know yet, but it will be for the garden!
In the last four years our creations have been finalists, and we were fortunate to take home the grand prize in 2012.  All of our projects have used junk inventory from Home ReSource, be we especially endeavor to use stuff that otherwise does not sell well or at all.

 a garden table and chairs made from garden tools, 

Come down and see us and the other contestants on September 19, but you will have to talk to Marilyn, the chief information offcer, because Barry and I will be too busy catching up with each other.
Barrry and me: 7 hours of building side by side and never said a word to each other.