Monday, June 22, 2009

Belling the cat

When we first got Gwilim, these several years ago now, we had some hope of him as a ratter. Well, actually, Rick had some hopes of him as a gopherer, but that doesn't sound as good. We had a gopher problem of epic proportions. As did our neighbors. One neighbor talked regularly about planting things in his garden, only to come out the next day to find out that they'd been pulled down into gopher tunnels from underneath -- slurp, there go the tomatoes! And other neighbors didn't so much have lawns (or heck, even dirt lots) as shelled wastelands. There was much discussion and conferral regarding the best way to get rid of gophers; it was enough to chill the blood. I hate the idea of traps and poison and flares, and tend to be more of the opinion that if one wants a lawn in a desert, one needs to accept that there is going to be a certain amount of attrition.

For the record, and operating under the theory that every pest has its predator, I suggested a king snake.

My suggestion was roundly ignored.

So, when Gwilim came onto the scene, he was pointed in the direction of the gopher holes, with much encouragement and praise, and the suggestion that he could eat as many rodents as he liked (we were willing to throw in the rats because, well, because they're rats), but he was to leave the birds strictly alone.

Those of you who have ever attempted to teach a cat anything are laughing into your knitting right now. I know. I can hear you. And you're right. He did catch and eat (and share with us, alas) myriad gophers and rats. Neighbors (I am not kidding here) approached us regularly to thank us for our cat. Suddenly everyone's lawns were looking much less pitted, and people were harvesting tomatoes by the bushel. But Gwilim didn't stop there. He tried for birds. He was scolded by us, and pecked at by the big birds he hunted (crows don't take kindly to cats); we rescued many birds, and frustrated many a stalk, but he still managed to take a few every year, and we were cranky about it. But we never quite managed to do more than thwart him most of the time.

Well, the birds took care of that problem. They belled the cat.

Last summer, I noticed a mockingbird doing the oddest, most unmockingbirdlike thing I'd ever seen. He hopped around the yard, from tree to tree, squawking. Again and again, one very loud and abrupt chwaaaaak! I worried that Gwilim had killed his mother and he'd never learned to sing, because I hadn't ever heard a mockingbird sound like that before. Then one day I did hear him sing, which shot that theory all to heck.

I was puzzled for some time, until one day I was in my room and heard a conversation: Chwaaaak! Mrroaw. Chwaaak! Mrroaw. And I looked out my window to see one thoroughly harrassed-looking cat, scuttling through the yard, followed by one very loud (and cheerful-looking) bird. Now I can always find Gwilim in the yard by listening for the bird, whose job it appears to be to follow the cat around, singing out loudly whenever he sees Gwilim, to let all the other birds know where he is. Poor Gwilim looks extremely hunted; he makes sad low mrroawing sounds. My sympathy is low; I have suggested to him that I told him so. I may even have uttered the word "karma". Justice is sweet. (If very loud and obnoxious, in this case.)

I tried and tried over the last couple of days to get a picture of this bird for y'all, but only succeeded in getting this close before he squawked, and flew away in search of the cat:
(Can you see him there, sitting in the tree with the big leaves, just to the right of the palm?)

So instead, I'll share some pictures of the Fraggle socks with you, finished just last night.
These were a very fun knit. I still wonder whether I should have just stuck with the bubble motif and ribbing, but I think I'm glad I gave the whole pattern a shot.
The bubbles go right down onto the heel flap, which I like quite a lot.
The transition from the ribbing to the squiggle lace motif is also very nice.
To recap, these are the Fraggle socks (Ravelry link), pattern by JC Briar, from the latest installment of the Rockin' Sock Club, in the colorway Pepe le Plume, which I adore. I'm quite seriously trying to decide whether to get enough of the heavyweight to knit a sweater. I knitted these socks using size one dpns. I like the little bubble motif quite a lot (and it's easy enough to remember); I might use it on an otherwise pair of plain ribbed socks.

On Wednesday, I'll post (if all goes as planned) for the last time before leaving. I have some blocking shots of Shawl That Jazz to share (I did, in the end, soak it and lay it out to dry, and am very happy that I did), as well as the knitting that I'll be taking along with me (why yes, that is all packed up already; and no, I have not packed my clothes yet, why do you ask?). Plus maybe a few shots of elephants.



Awww, poor kitty.

Great socks! You are really cranking them out.

Aesox said...

That is hysterical! Who knew birds would be so organized! Nice socks, too!

Wanderingcatstudio said...

That's funny. My mom wants to put a bell on her cat Russell because he catches so many birds. He's started raiding nests too. Those socks are lovely. I love the colour!

Rachel said...

Hahahaha,,, good for the birds! we didn't manage to stop Saki from going after them too.

I love the color of your socks!

Have a great trip if I will not have a chance to tell you before you leave.

Jodi said...

That is absolutely hilarious! Wow, nature can really surprise you.

The socks look great.

twinsetellen said...

Oh, you bring to mind our Black Pearl, who would stroll the perimeter of our yard followed by a noisy posse of crows, chickadees, blackbirds - whoever was in the area at the time. He did indeed look aggravated, and yes, he deserved it, too.

The socks are great - especially the transition to the ribbing as you point out. I love that sort of attention to detail.

EGunn said...

Oh, that's so funny! Poor cat! I can just imagine the pique. We bought our cats collars today, since their microchips won't work in Germany. To my surprise, Artemis is prancing around with a bell on her neck with no complaints whatsoever. Who knew?

Miss 376 said...

How appropriate was this post. I've just had a sleepless night after having to get up as our old lady brought home a vole to play with in the night. The birds got their own back on Tugger the other week, they used him for target practise. He walked back into the garden a little subdued with a very white head!
Love the fraggle socks

Alwen said...

Ha ha ha ha!

The gray catbird has a similar alarm call. More than once I've spotted stray cats in the underbrush because a catbird was harassing them.

KnitNana said...

Cats is cats is cats...and birds will be birds!
(my sis had a HUGE house panther who would pluck crows out of the sky and rip their wings off - I saw him - so crows beware!)

The Fraggle Socks turned out great!

Gwen said...

Mom has a bit of wildlife activity in her yard: mockingbird and snake. Have your mockingbirds picked up phone rings?

My beloved husband worked for a golf course one summer. I'm not sure you want to know how he dealt with the gophers. Don't know about his long-term effectiveness though.

You've been having a good run of satisfying (and beautiful) knits! Every time I knit something small with a lovely yarn, I want enough for a sweater. But I only bought a small bit because I couldn't afford a large bit, and around I go!

Willow said...

Squadrons of blue jays would harass our poor gentle Angel whenever she was outside. We never did a satisfactory answer out of the jays. We think they were just jealous of her beauty.

Whenever we travel, I spend 10 minutes packing clothes and at least two hours deciding what books and knitting to take with. I believe my priorities are correct.

Nice socks!

Bea said...

Ok love the socks. And that a mockingbird is following your cat around. Does this stop him from hunting gophers and rats?

Mary Lou said...

Maby our red tailed hawks?

BTW, I don't have any suggestions for shawl pins. I saw some gorgeous ones at TNNA that got me thinking.

Stell said...

no, you are right, you can not teach a cat anything, it just doesn't work that way. And they are surprisingly slow learners .. our Yo-you took over 2 years to work out how the cat flap worked.

nice socks, love how the rib melts into the patterning.