Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The Price of a Cute Photo

It seemed to be a good idea at the time.  It would make a cute photo, for sure.  I stuck our youngest rat, Jenny, into one of the birdhouses which we recently posted out in the yard, after it sat way too long (more than a year!!) on our kitchen counter.  (Ironically, last year's post talks about hoping to post the houses before the big company BBQ last July, and it is this year's BBQ (this coming weekend) which finally prompted them to be posted out.

After a long wait, I was able to get a wonderful photo of her (him?) poking her nose out the doorway of the bird house (click photo for a slightly larger view):
Cute birdhouse
Of course, it occurred to me only after she was in the house, that the rat with the darkest face was probably not the best choice for this photo.  This photo shows her face a bit better:
Adorable birdhouse
Well, getting a rat into a small cozy dark space is easy, but getting one out is a totally different story.  Good thing I was on a lunch break (I work from home on Fridays), and the weather was wonderful for being outside, but I didn't plan to spend half an hour on this photo.  But once Jenny got in there, she didn't want to  come out, even with my attempts to call her, entice her with food (which she bit and then retreated inside to chew), poke her with a stick (she thought that was fun, playing with the stick!).  Finally I had to stand some distance away, wait until she was curious enough to start coming out, and then snatch her up before she changed her mind and went back inside.

My immediate feeling was "I won't do that again!"  But soon I began wondering if I'd be better to try this with Sam, who would be too big to find the house so comfortable, and is better trained to come to my voice, or more easily enticed by an edible "treat"....  I may just get myself into trouble again, but sometimes that's the price of a cute photo!

Here are photos of the other bird houses, mostly set on the posts holding the supports for our 3 espaliered trees.  This one is not too colorful, since we bought it already painted.  We may eventually paint it more within our bright color scheme:
Bird house
This one is surrounded by the red currant bush which grows between the espaliered asian pear and espaliered european pear:
Brightly colored birdhouse 
The twin posts holding up my monstrous yellow perennial (I've forgotten if it's a Heliopsis or what) had a bird house from long ago, but it is now joined by a tiki bird feeder:
Birdhouse and bird feeder

Saturday, July 17, 2010

Girls Camp Out and Ratty Dilemna

My daughter had two friends over last night, and the 4 of us "girls" slept in the tent in the back yard last night.  I didn't sleep well.  Not because the girls didn't settle until close to midnight, and a robin perched in a tree in our yard and started singing loudly at 4:30am.  No, I wasn't sleeping anyhow, I was tossing and turning, and trying unsuccessfully to solve our rat dilemna.

Our first rat, Sam, is a girl.  When we bought her, we had no intention of having more than one, so didn't even think to ask about gender.  Not that it mattered, since the pet store staff may not have gotten it right anyhow.  So when we realized she was a girl, I was a bit anxious, since my friend Andrea, who is a wonderful ratsitter for Sam when we go on vacation, had in the meantime adopted 3 boy rats.  Sadly, her 3 boys caused terrible allergies, and needed to find another home.  But I was still a little anxious about having a girl rat, considering the frequency and size of litters if she were ever to become pregnant.

So when we realized that she would be happier with a companion, we set out to find her a female one.  We ended up with a sweet dumbo eared rat, Berry, and curly "Rex" rat, Jenny.  But last night we realized that Berry is now Bear, a boy rat.  Since we bought him July 6, and I'm guessing he was maybe 3 weeks old, that would make him approximately 5 weeks old.  Although not likely, females are able to become pregnant as early as 5 weeks.  So as I tossed and turned in the tent, I kept trying to work out the age of Berry.  She was probably 2 weeks old when we bought her on July 9, so she is about 3 weeks old now. Assuming she's a girl, at what point is it no longer "safe" to have Bear and Jenny together in the hamster cage?  Probably best if we sort out this living arrangement within the next week or so, just to be sure.

Bear may almost be big enough (that he can't squeeze out) to join Sam in the big cage, but that is no longer an option for us.  Jenny is probably still too little to join Sam.  But can we leave her that long with Bear, or need a separate hamster cage for her?  But then I end up with 3 rats in 3 cages, with no companions for any of them!

My first reaction last night was that clearly Bear had to find another home, and soon.  But then as I tossed and turned, I wondered, what if Jenny was actually Jimmy, a boy, too?  Even then, I couldn't bear to give him away, too.  In which case I should have kept Bear, and then we'd have 2 boys, would could be good friends, and poor Sam, who is still without a companion.  Two large rat cages in our kitchen.  Make sure we don't let the boys and girls out at the same time, but otherwise we could still play with them whenever we wanted.

Without being clear on Jenny vs Jimmy, it is hard to know what cage to buy next, or whether to start advertising to find a home for Bear.  So when the robin started singing at 4:30am, I took the opportunity to step out of the tent to scare it to a more distant tree, and search the internet for some answers.

I found many pages on "sexing rats", and the best one was this one.  But without being able to hold her side by side against similar aged rats, I am still not sure which of the photos more closely match our dear Jenny.  So even though I turned her over a number of times to look at her, I couldn't be sure one way or the other.  But I do know that I can't trust that the pet store staff thought she was female.  They thought the same of Bear.

So then I found myself reading about curly haired or "Rex" rats, with mixed result.  Although Jenny's curly whiskers will always be curly, there may be various moults and regrowths of her curly hair which may not be as curly as I had hoped.  I learned also that her colouration is actually called "bareback" instead of "hooded", since she  has the "hood" part but doesn't have the stripe running down her spine.

Then there is the sneezing.  Both Bear and Jenny sneeze a fair amount, even though they are in the recommended aspen bedding, and there are no obvious reasons why they would have allergies.  Sam, on the other hand, has never sneezed, at least not that we've noticed.  But my reading didn't answer my questions, and even the people who went to their vets didn't seem to get clear answers why their rats were sneezing when they didn't exhibit other signs of sickness.

So finally, I ended up on Craigslist, searching for another large rat cage.  Rather than a second hamster cage, this way we'd be prepared long term for whatever decision we end up making.  I found a good one at a good price, and emailed the owner about it, but just need to wait until I can follow up, since it is only 6:25am.

The 3 campers are awake now, and in the house.  They all have freshly painted fingernails and toenails.  My son just came downstairs also.  So I guess that's it for any attempts at sleeping.  I'll catch up another night.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Third and Final Ratty Girl: Jenny

When my daugher picked out Sam some 3 months ago, I found a beautiful little hooded (black head, white body) rat with curly hair.  The curly hair is really different.  (It's apparently only the occasional rat that comes out curly, and none of the adult rats there seem to have curly hair.)  But we only wanted one rat at the time, so we brought home our beautiful Sammy:

Since then, we have realized that it was not fair to Sam to leave her alone, and I set out to find another curly haired rat.  We've stopped in at the pet store a few times, without success.  Then on Monday, I found my girl.  But she was still too small to remove from her mom.  So I told the ladies at the pet store that I would be back Friday, and take her if she was ready.

At the same time, my daughter found the little dumbo eared girl, which she adored, and wanted as well.  So we ended up returning for her on Tuesday.  She is called Berry. 

Then on Friday, we returned for my little girl, Jenny.  She is the most adorable rat I've seen, with her curly hair - and even curly whiskers!

Now that we have the 3 girls, I think we are done.  Our household is complete now.

Berry and Jenny are too small to join Sam in her cage (they could squeeze between the bars), and after some initial skirmishes between Berry and Jenny, we had all 3 in separate cages for a couple of days.  Then this morning, I moved Jenny into Berry's (hamster) cage, because she had dumped over her small water dish (in a bottle cap) in her tiny cage (which is actually a carry-cage), and in the larger cage with Berry, she would have a more consistent supply of food & water.

There were a few tense moments, just before we headed to church this morning, watching them pouncing and rolling on each other, some foot and tail biting, and some squeaking.  But by the time we had returned, they were both together in their makeshift hammock formed by a sock with the toe cut out.  So I think they should be good now.  When the two get bigger, they will join Sam in the multilevel cage.

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

Another Girl in the (Ratty) House

...or at least we sure hope she's a girl!  Since we are not looking to breed more rats!

Do you remember our rat, Sam, which we brought home 3 months ago?  She's a sweet little girl, and has added lots of enjoyment to our family life.  We haven't taken nearly enough photos of her, since she's a very active girl, and is hard to catch on camera.  The photo on the top right is when we first brought her home (click for a larger view):

Sam the rat
We have realized for a while now that she needs a ratty friend, especially since she's awake most of the night, while we're sleeping.  Then we're away most of the day, at work/school, so she needs more socializing.  Last night we went to the pet store, to pick out another girl, and I found one I adore, but she is still too young to remove from her mother.  We hope to return on Friday or on the weekend, to bring her home.

In the meantime, my daughter held a dear little tan Norwegian hooded rat with dumbo ears, and instantly bonded with her.  I resisted, since it was my turn to pick a rat, and I had already picked one.  But on the way home, I realized that we wanted this one also, and we really could accomodate 3 rats.  So I told my daughter that if she was still there Friday when we returned, we'd get her also.  But by this evening, we were running back to the store to pick her up.  We would have been very disappointed if she was sold in the meantime.

Here she is, my daughter has named her "Berry" (named in honour of "Bear", another dumbo rat which my friend Andrea had for only a short time, before she sadly discovered that she was allergic and couldn't keep her 3 boys - we still don't know why, since Sam doesn't bother her at all).  In all the excitement tonight, and trying to introduce her to Sam, we didn't get any good photos, but here are a few we managed to capture:
Berry the rat
So far, the introduction went well.  They sniffed each other a bit, but largely ignored each other.  So we let Berry climb around in Sam's cage for a while with Sam removed, and then let Sam back in.  A few times, Berry chased Sam, and it looked like she was hoping Sam would be her mommy, but Sam wouldn't have it.  Berry made herself comfortable inside Sam's usual tissue box, so Sam found her way into the other tissue box, and mostly retreated into her hammock.  We made popcorn to celebrate the new girl in the house, and both enjoyed eating in their separate areas.  Once Berry grows up a bit, she will be a good friend for Sam, I'm sure of it.

Stay tuned for my new rat coming soon.  I can hardly wait to bring her home.  Right now she's pretty tiny, and hasn't opened her eyes yet.  She still needs her mommy.

More Wildflowers at Mt Hood

As promised, I am posting more wildflower photos from our trip to Mt Hood.


Cornus canadensis (Bunchberry or Perennial Dogwood):

Adiantum aleuticum (Western Maidenhair Fern):

Other native wildflowers:

And finally, one of the kids at the fishing dock at Trillium Lake was pulling up salamanders by the bucketful, using only a line with a worm attached to it.  I couldn't resist to pull one out to get a better look and a photo:

It seems that this may be a species of Taricha, or Western Newt.  Apparently they produce toxins, including in their skin, but I didn't feel anything.  It was adorable.  I would have picked it up even if it irritated my skin.

For more lovely mosaics this week, visit Little Red House.

Monday, July 05, 2010

Bear Grass Surprise at Mt Hood, OR

Our family just returned tonight from a wonderful 4 night vacation near Mt Hood, Oregon.  We spent some time hiking, visiting various waterfalls and lakes and other viewpoints, and relaxing at the Mount Hood Resort, mini-golfing, playing tennis, and enjoying some wonderful spa treatments.

Most of the native plants and wildflowers were quite familiar to me, theirs being a very similar climate to ours along the west coast of BC.  But one which I had never seen before, and which really impressed me, was the Bear Grass (Xerophyllum tenax), as featured in the following mosaic.  It was my husband who first spotted the white spider (Goldenrod Crab Spider or Misumena vatia) hiding in one of the blooms (rightmost photo), successful at catching an unsuspecting visitor.  After that, we found many of the blooms inhabited by that spider, many of them successful also.  Click the photo mosaic for a larger view.
Bear grass
I took many photos of the native plants along the trails, including trilliums, Cornus canadensis (bunchberry), Adiantum aleuticum (western maidenhair fern), and the beautiful pink rhododendrons which grew wild in the forests near the base of Mt Hood.  I hope to post more photos soon, but since it's after midnight, it will need to wait for another day.

For more photo mosaics, be sure to visit this week's Mosaic Monday at Little Red House.
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