Of Rats and Jen

Tales of a Perpetual
Work In Progress

Drip, Drip – See How Much I Love You?

Filed under: Crafting Miscellany,Rats! — folkcat at 1:31 pm on Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Whew! I’m exhausted, folks.

Lola has settled in enough that she is still energetic, but isn’t quite as frantic, as she crawls on me and my chair outside Castle Rattie. But it’s still tiring just watching her, or sitting there while she explores all around me.

She’s also comfortable enough that she’s started pee marking as she runs around. She’ll, say, run across your arm, and there will be a couple little drops of liquid left behind as she goes. If there’s a smell to it, it’s slight enough that I can’t detect it. So I just grab a tissue, wipe myself up, then surrender the tissue to Lola who heard it come out and now demands to be able to drag it back to the nest.

Star and Sable never did this, but then, I’ve figured out with Lola’s presence that I don’t know how much I can use Star and Sable for markers of normal rat behavior. It seems that they’ve always been much more laid back than one should expect from female rats. But, as first time rat owners, who knew?

As for what the pee marking means, female rats seem to use it a couple of ways. They will pee on each other to indicate “this is a rat I like.” They’ll also mark places they like in a similar fashion. So I suppose my appropriate response is to take it as a compliment that Lola leaves little droplets on me so often.

I don’t have much to say about current crafting today. I did work on the Pixel Hobby picture yesterday, but not as much as I might have liked. I can’t have it out when I’m allowing the Ratties roaming time outside the cage. Especially Lola, who hasn’t met a single object she didn’t like to taste, and drag back to the cage if possible. In Lola, we’ve got both Sable’s love of tissues, and Star’s fondness for plastic objects, all wrapped up in one fireball of energy.

I’m hoping to get some more Pixel Hobby time in today. I want to see this project finished, and hanging on the wall. There’s only about three and a half tiles to go, then I have to decide what we’re doing about a frame.

Castle Rattie

Filed under: Cooking - Folkcat in the Kitchen,Crafting Miscellany,Daily Life,Rats! — folkcat at 1:16 pm on Monday, July 30, 2007

Well, my hopes to get out to a farmstand on Friday were squelched when Gryphon came home from his morning job and told me in no uncertain terms that he didn’t want asthmatic, allergic me to go out in the oppressive heat. I’ve seen him express concern about me and the weather before, but seldom with such conviction in his voice. So I respected his wishes and stayed in on Friday.

Saturday was a big day. Finally, all three Ratties would be introduced to the new, spacious home we’d bought them. Here’s a picture of Castle Rattie, in its place by my chair:

Castle Rattie In Situ

First floor, water, loose bedding, and Igloo; Mezzanine, rolled grains, pellets, and produce; Third Floor, sleep furniture and rugs. There are two doors, one located to the right between the first floor and mezzanine, the other centered on the third floor at the top.

We started the day by setting up bedding, food, and everything we thought the Ratties might need. The cage impressed us by how roomy it was – we had space for everything, and to spare. We were even finally able to use a large plastic Igloo we’d bought a couple of months ago for Star and Sable, but which didn’t fit in the old cage.

Star and Sable w/ Igloo
Sable (on top of Igloo) and Star, checking out the new digs

Once everything was arranged, we gathered up the Ratties, and introduced them into the new cage through the same door, at the same time. We then shut the doors, and left the house to do errands. We figured it was probably better for them to sort things out and do their exploring without us watching their every move.

We’d either come home, we figured, to a bloody mess and dead rats, or to a scene of relative domestic bliss. (We didn’t really expect carnage, but Lola is so…fizzy…that we didn’t know if she’d finally push Sable too far when they couldn’t get away from each other.)

We were quite pleased to find this scene when we returned:

Lola, Star, and Sable Sleeping Together
Sable in the Hammock, Star in the Cloth Bowl, Lola curled up with Star

So things are working out. Sable still gets a little annoyed with Lola, but we do notice that they spend more time together – or at least, not running away from each other – than they do apart.

Star, btw, absolutely loves the new cage. The ramps between the floors are much easier for her impaired mobility to handle, and she’s going up and down stairs more rapidly than she was able to manage in the old cage with the wooden bird ladders. Her mobility, then, has actually increased a great deal in the new cage, between full grid ramps with gentler slopes, and simply more space to move around in.

Lola runs around like a banshee on amphetamines. The good news is, the new cage has room to include an exercise wheel for her to run on. The bad news is that it will take a couple of days for it to arrive in the mail.

Meanwhile, I was pleased to remember that we still had a rat-sized exercise ball in the house. We’d bought it last year to try with Star and Sable, and they both absolutely hated it. Lola, while still not sure whether she likes it or not, seems to be quite willing to drive this thing around the floor at high speeds:

Lola In the Exercise Ball
Run, Lola, Run!

Star Watch

We have discovered a new tumor, a large bean-sized one hiding in a fold of skin under her chin. We’ll be watching this one closely to see if it hinders her ability to eat.

Star has already been having issues with her mouth and teeth. Her teeth have been growing in unevenly, and we’ve had to trim them several times now. And the stroke we suspect she had seems to have impaired her use of her tongue – where once she licked yogurt from my finger, she now nibbles it off in little bites, as if her tongue isn’t as dexterous as it used to be.

She’s still eating hearty, though we are cutting her vegetables finer to make sure she can handle them. And there’s been no sign that she has trouble swallowing, no evidence of choking. So fear not – the girl is still fighting as hard as ever!

Apple Crisp

In spite of our failure to get to a farmstand even on Saturday, I did pick up some Braeburn apples from Washington State at the supermarket. Okay, not as local as I’d have liked, but at least from this country. I whipped up a quick apple crisp that night, and, well – there’s a reason there’s no picture! Gryphon and I had inhaled the entire thing by Sunday afternoon.

The Braeburns turned out to be a great choice – not too sweet themselves, but good flavor for a baked dessert. I’m going to remember that. The other thing I did that I liked a lot – after the apples were sliced and in the pan, I sprinkled them with my favorite seasoning for homemade applesauce – Chinese 5-spice. Then I covered the top with the crisp mix – a simple blend of flour, brown sugar, and cold butter, cut together with a biscuit mixer. The recipe is from the Joy of Cooking, the edition from the 70’s. Best cookbook I’ve ever owned!

Pixelating

I’ve continued to make good progress on the PixelHobby picture. There are now eight tiles completed. That’s four each in the top and middle rows of the image:

Pixels In Progress (PIP): 8 Tiles Done, 4 To Go
Two Thirds Done

And here’s a look at the detail around the wolf’s face.

PIP: Detail of Wolf Face
Pixel Detail

Each of those little squares is a tiny piece of plastic that I placed on a peg on the baseboard, using tweezers. The squares are one-tenth of an inch – there are 100 of them in every square inch of the image. The final picture that I’m working on is 12 x 20 inches.

No, I’m not going to do the math. I don’t think I want to know! But I am enjoying this a great deal, and I’m looking forward to seeing it all come together at last.

Knitting. No, Really! Oh, and Ratties, too.

Filed under: Knitting,Rats! — folkcat at 2:16 pm on Friday, July 27, 2007

Okay, so I can still knit. So long as it’s a fairly mindless project, with a useful, desired, and finite goal.

I worked on Socks for Gryphon, Pair Three, Sock One (SG/P3S1) at Panera last night. The good company and pleasant conversation made the knitting sail along. At this point, I’m only about a half an inch away from binding off the leg on this sock.

SG/P3S1, Half an Inch to Go

I’ll cast on for SG/P3S2 immediately, of course, and keep the sock progress on track.

As to the Ratties, we won’t be getting them into the new cage until tomorrow. I figured out that the set up is just involved enough to need both Gryphon and me working together. Not to mention, we want to introduce all three Ratties simultaneously, which is difficult without enough hands to hold all three at once.

The Social Integration process continues apace, however. Last night, I decided to allow both Sable and Star together into Lola’s cage for a visit. As expected, Lola got especially excited over Star’s presence. Given Star’s disabilities, I’ve been limiting her contact with the rowdy newcomer.

Lola made frequent, rambunctious attempts to establish her dominance over Star, mostly by leaping to drape herself over Star’s neck and play fight. I kept close watch, and separated them anytime it looked like Star was getting distressed.

On the other hand, there were also several instances of Sable pinning Lola down, and both Sable and Star working together to give her a good grooming. Or, since this is done by licking, I suppose you could say that the Senior Rattie Sisters gave the Youngster a Good Tongue-Lashing.

Sadly, I didn’t have the camera at hand when this happened. I’m sure there will be opportunities for a similar pose after everyone is in the same cage this weekend, however.

And that’s the news Chez Folkcat & Gryphon. Hope you have a great weekend, wherever you are!

Sable and Lola – Caught by the PappaRatzi

Filed under: Crafting Miscellany,Knitting,Rats! — folkcat at 2:45 pm on Thursday, July 26, 2007

I haven’t touched the knitting since Monday, at least. And I’m okay with it. The last two days, the crafty pastime has been working on the PixelHobby picture that we bought the kit for, oh, seems like many months ago now. It’s been very satisfying, too.

I’m actually thinking that I may steer my creativity into doing more cooking and baking than I’ve done in years. It’s hard to plan real meals when your husband works second shift, and eating around here more often resembles snacking, which isn’t entirely good. But I’ve had occasion to stumble across a new-to-me cooking blog this week, and her recipes and the way she writes about the food is inspiring me to think about the way I used to be in the kitchen, whipping things together on a whim, and making really tasty meals.

I think my first adventure will be to visit one of the local farm stands tomorrow, and pick out some berries or other local fruit to make a cobbler with. Yum!

You will, of course, be kept informed with photos and everything about how it turns out. Blogger’s Honor!

As for the knitting – I’ll be bringing Gryphon’s socks along to Panera tonight to work on. I suspect that socks will continue, regardless of my knitting slump. So don’t worry, the knitting content will be ongoing at least weekly!

Ratties, Caught in the Act of Getting Along

The Ratties continue to get little visitations and play dates. One of the ways I’m getting them used to each other is letting each visit the other cage. (Mostly Sable and Lola – Star is just too slow moving, and probably couldn’t deal with the high ramps in Lola’s cage anyhow.)

Last night, I was lucky enough to have the camera nearby while Sable hung out in Lola’s cage for a while.

There is still a certain amount of “Hey, new girl – cut your rowdiness!” going on from Sable. Here, we see the two Ratties just ending a brief boxing round, where Sable gave Lola a bit of comeuppance.

Sable and Lola - End of Boxing Round
Sable and Lola, After a Boxing Round

But then, mere moments later, you’ll see this scene – Sable carefully licking the fur around Lola’s face:

Sable Grooms Lola
“Hold Still – Your Face is Filthy!”

I think they’re really ready to be put into a larger cage together, all three of them. It’s believeable now that they are ready to live together in peace.

Sable and Lola - Peaceful
Sable and Lola – a Peaceful Moment

Of course, hyperactive young Lola couldn’t sit still for long – two seconds after the above picture, she had to dash over and check out the camera:

Lola - Camera Chasing
“Ooh – what’s that shiny round thing?”

Durned little starlet, that’s what she is! And we love her for it. (“Her name was Lola, She was a showgirl…”)

And Now for the Good News!

Gryphon gave the budget a good, hard squeeze today, and out dropped enough money to buy the cage! It’s sitting on the living room floor right now. Over the next couple of days, I’ll be getting it set up and ready for the girls to all live in together, and we’ll probably introduce them to it tomorrow or Saturday.

Hooray!

I will, of course, be sure to show you pictures of the girls all exploring Castle Rattie. This is going to be so great!

What’s My Wand?

Filed under: Crafting Miscellany,Daily Life — folkcat at 1:01 pm on Wednesday, July 25, 2007

I am, indeed, still crafting, despite what I said yesterday. Time was spent on the PixelHobby picture, placing little plastic squares onto tiny plastic pegs to create the image.

I must confess, though, I’m feeling a major transitional crisis over the concept of crafting and its place in my life.

I feel as though I spend endless hours making things, but never finishing. I feel as though none of the effort I’m putting forth is producing results. Just when I think I’m seeing the end of the tunnel on knitting rat rugs, we come up with a different size and style we need.

I feel as though the knitting must be put aside for a while, to allow me room to pursue other crafts. Maybe I can finally get past the mice on the miniature knotted rug needlework piece. Maybe I can simply put a burst of effort into the quilting. I don’t know.

I’ll not be abandoning knitting altogether. It’s still the most portable craft to take to Knitting Around at Panera, so I’ll be working on it at least weekly. Probably on socks – I still have a desire to knit multiple pairs for Gryphon and I.

The crafting content here on the blog will be fairly unpredictable while I go through this shift, but it will still be here. I just can’t tell you what form it will take until it happens.

Meanwhile, with Harry Potter on the brain lately, I found this on Sarah‘s blog, and considered it all too appropriate to do right now:

Your Score: 9 3/4″, Oak, Phoenix

You scored 36 wisdom, 27 bravery, 5 emotional, and 44 martyrdom!

Oak signifies wisdom, endurance, protection, and authority. The phoenix tail feather as your core means that you have the capability to be an extremely powerful wizard or witch and that you will defend those you love at all costs.

Link: The Harry Potter Wand Test written by sputnik845 on OkCupid, home of the The Dating Persona Test

Smart, Curious, Ticklish. Rats?

Filed under: Rats! — folkcat at 5:52 pm on Tuesday, July 24, 2007

A blog friend sent me a link to this article at the NY Times:

Smart, Curious, Ticklish. Rats?

It covers lots of information – much of it new to me – about the way rats think and behave. I found it fascinating. Thanks, Elinoir!

Slump

Filed under: Crafting Miscellany,Rats! — folkcat at 1:23 pm on Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Lola is still settling in nicely. The times that all three Ratties get to interact, Star and Sable are acting less bothered by her presence, and Lola is less insistent on being with them every second. Okay, she still does get on Sable’s nerves a little, but I think she’s mostly very excited every time she gets to be with other rats. I’m sure that once we can house them all together, things will settle down. And I can feel fairly sure that, while nerves may still be a little rattled by the newcomer, at least it doesn’t appear that any Ratties will be harmed.

Otherwise, I’m feeling a significant crafting slump. I am absolutely, painfully b-o-r-e-d by knitting Rat Rugs, and need a break from them. I’m also feeling tired of socks. I’ve been exploring patterns for lace shawls, and even swatched some yarn, but I’m not feeling the love for lace at the moment.

The hexagon quilt piecing may work for me, as might some recently neglected crafts. Namely, the PixelHobby picture, and perhaps some papercraft or Perler beads.

I think my approach is going to be to take an official break from all crafting, but allow myself to indulge in anything that attracts my interest. Let’s see what rises to the surface for a bit!

ETA: Just to clarify, I’ll be continuing to blog. So don’t worry, you’ll still hear about what the Rattie Sisters are up to, and whatever crafting does weasel its way into my day!

Something About Lola

Filed under: Books,Rats!,Shopping Adventures — folkcat at 1:23 pm on Monday, July 23, 2007

Hope you all had a great weekend! I had … quite the roller coaster ride, I’d say.

My copy of Harry Potter arrived in the mail on Saturday, as expected. I had precious little time to even glance at it, though – Gryphon and I had plans to go shopping.

We originally wanted to look at one-level cages for Star, but she has actually been doing so much better that we decided we could hold off on that a while.

We did go out to look at cages, but more to assess what’s available in the local stores. We know that when we add more rats to the family, we’ll have to have a larger cage – the one we have now is only just large enough for two.

Knowing, too, that the big-box pet stores often have small animal adoptions, we decided to keep our minds open. Finding a pet by adoption can be such a hit-or-miss thing. We wanted to make sure we were mentally prepared for the concept that the right rat might present itself at any time.

It’s a good thing we were prepared. We had looked at cages at PetSmart, and moved on to Petco. Petco is actually the store that often has adoptions available – it’s just hit or miss if they’ll have rats, and what the rats will be like.

We looked around at the small animal section at Petco, and didn’t see anything going on. Just the usual tanks of store stock rats, hamsters, and such. We knew that some of the stores put the adoptions back by the pet grooming salon, so we wandered back there. Nothing.

At that point, an employee noticed us and asked if she could help us find anything. I said, “Did you have any small animal adoptions today?” To my surprise, she said they did, indeed, have a female rat for adoption, she was right up by the small animal department. She led us up to the area we’d already looked over, and to a fish tank we’d completely overlooked.

Lola Plays Peek-a-Boo
Lola Plays Peek-a-Boo

Inside was a small, grey-colored rat with large ears. The paper attached to the end of the tank said this was Lola, a 5-month old Blue Dumbo female. Blue is the color – it’s like the cats that are called Russian Blue, but are really a bluish-grey color. Dumbo is a variety of rat specially bred to have larger ears that are placed low on the side of the head. Like Dumbo, the elephant.

The store clerk said, “She’s skittish, and a little nippy.” We were told she’d been born in the store – which surprised us. This Petco only has Pink-Eyed White (PEW) rats, because that’s all the breeder that supplies them offers. We didn’t ask, but surmised that she must have been part of a litter born to a rat surrendered to the store for adoption.

The lid to the cage was lifted, and Lola began running around the bottom, excited. I reached in a hand, and she grabbed hold of my fingers with her little hands, and began nipping all over. Not an “I’m going to bite a chunk out of you” or an “I’m going to show you to ever put your hand near me again” type of nip. Just enough pressure to find the boundaries of your fingers with her teeth, that’s all. She was getting to know me.

I lifted Lola out of the cage, and she climbed around my shoulder for a moment before insisting on going back. Another good sign was that she didn’t poop little rat raisins while I held her – that’s a typical indication of a fearful rattie.

Gryphon asked if she came with a cage. Yes, there was a cage we could have with her for an extra $5. That’s in addition to the $5 fee to adopt Lola. The tank was closed up again, and we were shown the cage in a back room.

The final test was to re-visit Lola, and see how she reacted to Gryphon. When the lid was opened again, Gryphon’s hand got the same all over tasting that I’d had. And then, Lola saw me leaning over the end of the tank, and leapt up to climb my shoulders again. She didn’t stay long – she jumped back down in the tank immediately. But she repeated the leap to my shoulders and the jump back to the tank several times. Clearly, she was as interested in us as we were in her.

That was the end of any waffling. Any rat who, kept in a pet store for five months, still displays such an eagerness to be with a human being – she deserves a loving home. Plus, she was cute as anything. We paid the fees, bundled her into the cage to be brought home, and began the drive back to Wilton.

Eager Lola
Eager for Attention

On the road home, Lola continued to show an amazing calmness for a pet-store animal. She spent the entire ride on the middle shelf of the three-level cage, at the front corner that gave her the best view of Gryphon and I in the front seats of the car. Heck, she even did something I’d consider unheard of for the situation – curled up and went to sleep in the moving vehicle!

Since Saturday, Lola has been living solo in her cage, which we set alongside Star and Sable’s cage in the living room. She is consistently eager for us to pay attention to her, and loves coming out of the cage to climb around on me. We have a current favorite game, too – I wave a tissue against the outside of the cage, and she grabs at it and pulls it through, then adds it to her nesting corner.

We’ve allowed small interactions between the rats. At first, the highly-energetic Lola seemed to irritate Sable no end – Lola would try to play-fight with her, and the two would end up chasing and boxing in a clear attempt to establish dominance.

No one got hurt, though, and this morning, each rat got a turn exploring in the other’s cage. Sable and Lola no longer fought for dominance – instead, they just acted like two rats in the same cage, each trying to do their own thing. Okay, so Lola’s thing continued to be seeking attention from Sable. But Sable was less irritated, and even stopped a couple of times to groom Lola a little.

As for Star, since she’s a slow-moving girl these days, her interactions with Lola have been somewhat less than Lola with Sable. Still, there was a moment Sunday when Lola was inside the Rattie Sister’s cage, standing on the doorframe, watching Star work her slow way up the ramp. Lola reached down, grabbed the skin on Star’s leg, and pulled gently. Was she helping her in? I’m not sure, but she didn’t appear to be trying to hurt her, and Star didn’t get upset.

Now that we’ve established that they can live together peacefully, our next hurdle is to come up with enough money for a cage that will hold all three rats at once. We’d build another like we did for Star and Sable, but with Gryphon working two jobs, there’s no way he has time to do it. And the hardware cloth shaping is a bit much for me to cope with. Yeah, I could do it, but Gryphon can do it more skillfully. The local PetSmart actually has a cage that would do, and fit the space we have available. We just have to come up with $130 to get it.

So the budget crunching begins. It’ll be hard, but we’ll find a way. Meantime, just take a look at the pictures, and try to tell me Lola isn’t the cutest rat you’ve seen in a while.

Oh, and I did finish reading HP7 last night. All in all, a satisfying end to the series, I think! But ‘nough said about that, I know not everyone has finished yet. You won’t find spoilers here!

And Then There Were Five…

Filed under: Announcements,Rats! — folkcat at 12:00 am on Sunday, July 22, 2007

Presenting…LOLA!

Lola Introduction Portrait

5-month old Blue Dumbo female. Details and story Monday!

Again, Random Bits

Filed under: Daily Life,Knitting,Rats! — folkcat at 3:44 pm on Friday, July 20, 2007

1. I’m feeling rather better, but still with a bit of a cough. Definite progress, though.

2. Star seems to be doing better for the moment. Still wobbly, but not falling down constantly. I guess it’s not all bad days, just that the bad days come a few at a time now. And we’re still going to pursue a one-level cage, since the return of the bad days is probably inevitable.

3. I located a rat breeder up near Manchester, who may have a couple of litters of rats coming along. Fingers crossed that timing and budget come together to make this work.

4. I finished the first all-in-one-piece rat rug for the bottom of the cage. 14″ by 21″. The rugs are really working as an alternate to all-over fluffy bedding. It makes it immensely easier to clean the cage daily, too, and will save us a lot on the loose bedding, which is now being used only in one small corner.

Sable’s still pouting about it a little – I think she still sees it as a change she wasn’t consulted on. But Star has an easier time moving around on the rug, so it’s staying. Now I just have to knit at least 6 more of them.

5. I’ve removed myself from three Yahoo groups today – KnitList, Socknitters, and FreeForm Crochet. I don’t think I was getting enough personal value out of them, first of all. Then, sometime yesterday morning, the format or properties of the e-mails changed somehow at Yahoo’s end, and suddenly I can’t move any Yahoo list e-mails from one mail folder to another.

Not acceptable! I had rules set up in Outlook that automatically put my list e-mails into a separate folder, so that my personal mails wouldn’t be buried by the deluge. Any attempt to move Yahoo list mails is resulting in an error message, “Can’t move that item” or some such. Any other, non-Yahoo mails, will move just fine.

I’m not interested enough in continuing with these groups to fight with Yahoo Customer Service about this. Besides, you know their first 50 solutions will all be based on the assumption that I’ve done something wrong on my computer, not that anything could possibly be different about their product.

It’s just not worth it.

6. I have about 200 pages to go in Harry Potter 6. Then, tomorrow, HP7 should be in my mailbox from Amazon. Except, I’ll probably be picking it up on the way out to do errands with Gryphon, and it will have to sit in the car’s backseat all afternoon, taunting me.

7. Otherwise, I’m hoping to have a quiet weekend, and to get lots of knitting done on Rat Rugs v3.0. Here’s hoping you have an equally enjoyable and productive weekend!

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