Voyager Says Hi

Master of Mischief, Jinx

Hello, Dear Readers. I hope you’ve all been navigating well through the craziness.
It’s been a long time since I said hi, so hi there. You can’t see me, but I’m wearing my usual awkward grin and waving my paws in greeting. I’m seriously out of practice writing, so this may be a bit rough, but I owe you an explanation for disappearing so suddenly and staying away for so long. The short answer is that I’ve entered the late stages of scoliosis. My spine is contorting and collapsing, and I’ve been experiencing increased disability and pain. A more detailed accounting may come in future posts, but it won’t be the focus of my writing. I still prefer to focus on life’s simple and gentle details, and I want to reflect that in my posts.

My corner of this blog began as Jack’s Walk, and there will still be nature (with less walking) and animals, but now mainly of the feline variety. That handsome boy up there is Jinx, who has grown to be a whopping 14 lbs. of floof and mischief. He and Sophie have passed their first birthday, and they’ve both accumulated a few stories I’d like to share with you. There are other things I’d also like to share, but for now, I want to keep it simple and try to post about once a week.
The timing of my return feels right, and we’ll see how it goes. I’m looking forward to becoming an active part of this community again. It feels a bit like coming home.

 

Degupdate: Candy is back, and this time she brought reinforcements!

After our sweet Estelle passed away, it was clear to us that since we didn’t want to give up Candy, we would need new friends for her quick. Thankfully our breeder agreed to take her in and socialise her with two young degus. This went really well and left us just a week to get Degustan back in shape again*, since Candy and Estelle had eaten away quite a lot of the wood holding the wire in place. Of course we ran from problem into trouble, since most parts are cobbled together from leftover pieces, so what used to fit the last time doesn’t fit now. But we finished yesterday and went to pick up the crew today. So please meet Candy, Sky and Lulu.

An adult brown degu, a juvenile white and a juvenile brown and white degu snuggled together in a carrier.

©Giliell, all rights reserved

When we brought them home they were a bit shaken from transport, so the two babies snuggled close to Candy.

Juvenile brown and white degu held in  hand

©Giliell, all rights reserved

Lulu is a shy little girl. She has already claimed what used to be Estelle’s favourite spot: behind the running wheel.

Juvenile white degu sitting on a girl's upper torso. The face of the girl is not visible, only the mouth

©Giliell, all rights reserved

Sky, on the other hand, is more like Candy. They will probably have some fights about who’s the boss when Sky grows up. It’s funny how much juvenile degus look like adult mice.

Adult brown degu nose to nose with juvenile white degu in an enclosure.

©Giliell, all rights reserved

Here you can see Candy encouraging Sky to go exploring. It is clear how much comfort her presence gives them. When Candy went on a short trip outside of the enclosure, they both hid and only came out after Candy returned. Now, please, let those three have a long and happy degu life, my heart can’t take any more breaking.

 

*I’m afraid my colleagues think I’m crazy. We were chatting on Friday, with me mentioning that I need to finish the project and a colleague shared that yeah, with his hamster he always had to replace the wooden boards not just because of gnawing, but also because of the pee. I said “oh, that’s no problem for me, I put down tiles” and they all looked at me like I had sprouted an additional head…

A Day at the Zoo 3: Because the Night

Night zoos are one of my favourite things because they have the coolest animals. They’re also bad for taking pics. Even my most light sensitive lense isn’t much good, mostly because it’s too dark for the auto focus but also too dark for me to use the manual setting. But there are some acceptable pics.

Dark image of a tree porcupine

©Giliell, all rights reserved

The tree porcupine was kind enough to step into the little light and my focus. This is where digital cameras with their near limitless image storage play to their strength: I probably deleted 100 blurry images to walk away with about 6 decent ones.

Very dark and blurry picture of an echidna

©Giliell, all rights reserved

Nope, that’s not a worse pic of the same animal, that’s actually an echidna. No, I don’t care that the father next to us told his kid it was a porcupine. Zoos offer many learning opportunities, but obviously no learning obligations.

And now, are you ready for one of my absolute favourites? The aardvark!

Image of an aardvark, full body

©Giliell, all rights reserved

We were very lucky: on our second visit to the night zoo, the aardvarks (3 wonderful animals) had their enclosure cleaned and the caretaker had turned up the light there. They didn’t mind (they could have gone to their dark burrow) and posed for some nice pics.

Image of an aardvark, front view

©Giliell, all rights reserved

Aardvark in action!

Side view of an aardvark

©Giliell, all rights reserved

Look at that snout!

There is a story that goes with the aardvarks: The zoo in our state capital also has a night zoo with aardvarks, but while this here has the glass all up the enclosure, our zoo only has it about a metre high, just enough so the aardvarks cannot escape. Some years ago when we visited the zoo, Mr looked at the aardvarks, not realising that there was nothing between him and the animals at the level of his nose. Well, the aardvark obviously thought it was only fair game that if Mr got to look at it, it got to look at Mr, went on its hind legs, put the front legs on top of the glass and put its snout almost into Mr’s face. The look on my beloved one’s face was something I still treasure to this day.

Mini Holiday 2: Fishes!

Aquariums are always cool. Fish are cool. Glass fish are double cool, just hard to take pics of.

A translucent fish

©Giliell, all rights reserved

A small blowfish

©Giliell, all rights reserved

A tiny but relaxed blowfish.

The head of a fish üoking out of the ground

©Giliell, all rights reserved

What’s up?

A piranha

©Giliell, all rights reserved

Nobody ever told me that piranhas are sparkling!

A striped scalar with several smaller fish around

©Giliell, all rights reserved

several clownfish

©Giliell, all rights reserved

a clown fish ion front of anemonae

©Giliell, all rights reserved

No trouble finding Nemo here

A yellow and blue fish

©Giliell, all rights reserved

All of Frankfurt is decorated in support of Ukraine, and it seems like even the fish are showing their solidarity.

Mini Holiday: A Day at the Zoo 1

For the easter holiday we wanted to do a day trip with the kids, but given the ongoing pandemic we didn’t want to do a theme park with all the screaming and close contact that entails. But even my two very cool teenager can be lured into a nice zoo with interesting animals. This time we chose Frankfurt. It’s easy to reach by train, not too far for a day trip, and the train tickets were still in the affordable range, though they only were because the kids were free.

And my camera got something to do (it’s getting bored in here), with the stalker lens giving insecure men inferiority complexes. So stay tuned over the next days for a lot of animal pics.

A male lion lying on a stone, looking relaxed.

©Giliell, all rights reserved

This chill boy has his enclosure near the entrance, and showing off his amazing talent of chilling 20hrs a day, he didn’t move once between us arriving and leaving.

A ball of fur in a green canopy

©Giliell, all rights reserved

A ball of fur in a green canopy

©Giliell, all rights reserved

I saw a sloth! At least that’s what the signs claim. But it had moved from the canopy to a location unknown between our first and second visit.

A binturong family with 2 babies on top of mum

©Giliell, all rights reserved

Look at those babies! Binturongs are seriously cute, even though they always look ancient, even when they’re babies.

Walking in the Woods

Two weeks ago Mr and I went to our local woods for the first time this year. Living next to swamp and marshland has its advantages, but it also meant that for most of this year the paths were unwalkable, unless you wanted to recreate that child-traumatising scene from the Neverending Story where Ayax drowns in the moor. It was nice, apart from the fact that the mosquitos must have been starved before they got us.

Two round mushrooms

©Giliell, all rights reserved

We found lots of common earthballs (though I really like the name “pigskin poison puffball”, which would make an amazing name for a band), which are nice to look at, but not good for eating if you value your survival.

Puffbal mushroom with a hole in the top

©Giliell, all rights reserved

puffball growing on a tree

©Giliell, all rights reserved

And I met a frog. I don’t think that they are poisonous.

small brown frog sitting in green leaves

©Giliell, all rights reserved

Teacher’s Corner: A Trip with Donkeys

The federal government decided to throw some money at schools “to make up for lost learning because of Covid”. While the higher classes who need to write their finals can have some free remedial lessons, we decided that the younger kids didn’t need more maths, but more social skills and hired a guy to do “Erlebnispädagogik”, outdoor education with us. Last week it was time for year 5, which is usually not my year, but because our school worker was sick, I got to cover for her and provide an additional adult, which was good, because in the end I was the one to bring the kids back to school.

The program for the day was a trip with donkeys and a dog.

Picture of a black and white border collie puppy, 4 months old.

©Giliell, all rights reserved

Meet Luna, the hyperactive border collie pup. Of course all the kids wanted to be the one to walk Luna, and they all learned that walking a pup is more work than they thought.

Head of a grey donkey with a white snout

©Giliell, all rights reserved

Meet Bruno, the more stubborn of the two donkeys. His friend Fridolin is more docile, but also the boss. these two have the patience of a stone. The gladly took all the kisses and snuggles they could get.

The class was split up in 4 groups with rotating tasks: one for each donkey, leading them and making sure they’re not eating anything their boss didn’t declare safe, because people are assholes who throw away anything and some years back a donkey almost died after he ate something he shouldn’t have, one group walking the puppy, and one group walking in front with a map. Meet “my” happy group of rascals with Fridolin:

Six kids holding the leads of a grey donkey. Their faces are covered with stickers that say "We don't post pics of kids here"

©Giliell, all rights reserved

Of course I obscured the faces, it goes without saying that you should never post a kid’s face without permission. Us adults told them that we’d only intervene if they did something harmful for the animals. Apart from that, they were responsible. When it was my group’s turn to lead the way, they mixed up paths and used one that wasn’t actually a path but the destruction left after heavy machinery collected wood. Incidences like that are actually a good thing. The kids have to take responsibility, come up with their own solution, work together. When the ground became difficult to walk because of all the branches left by the machines, they decided quickly to work together and clear it for the donkeys.

We made it back in time and it was such a great experience. Actually we’d need this way more often. At least once a month. Even better would be a school dog or something like that. Or maybe a school donkey? The kids handle the animals with all the care and respect they never show for each other. One boy in particular, who already has a reputation for being difficult, was so totally taken in by the donkeys that he was the most peaceful and sweet kid all day.

a kid hugging the donkey and resting its face (obscured) on the back of the donkey

©Giliell, all rights reserved

Next week I get three days of donkey fun. Sometimes I love my job more than usually.

Midsummer Afternoon – Part 2 – Fish in the Aquarium

Guest posts by Ice Swimmer


There is a brackish water fish exhibit on the island Harakka. The fishes, caught from the Gulf of Finland, spend their summer in aquariums and they are released back to the sea in the Autumn. In the Baltic Sea, both freshwater tolerant of some salinity and marine tolerant of low salinity species live next to each other.

The fish pictured here are less typical or well-known in Finnish waters.

In the first picture, a tench can be seen. In Fínnish, it’s called suutari, which means cobbler or shoemaker (but the name may have nothing to do with making shoes, the fish is called sutare in Swedish and shoemaker is skomakare in Swedish). The tenches were rather inactive in the aquarium. The tench is freshwater fish.

A Lazy Tench © Ice Swimmer, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

There are some pipefishes in the Baltic Sea. The pipefishes are relatives of sea horses. This broadnosed pipefish is one of them. The broadnosed pipefish is called särmäneula (edge needle, neula = needle) in Finnish. The “edges” are lengthwise bony plates under the skin, which make fish look “edgy” according to Finnish Wikipedia. Broadnosed pipefish is a marine species that’s tolerant of brackish water.

Broadnosed Pipefish © Ice Swimmer, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

In the third picture, we see a round goby. It is an invasive species from the Black Sea Area.

The Round Goby © Ice Swimmer, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

In the second aquarium post, we shall be playing a game inspired by “Spot the lizard!”.

Oh Deer!

This is not a common sight. A single male roe deer, grazing near-ish our house in the middle of the day. He seemed quite unperturbed by a few cars passing the road about 100 m from him. And he was so focused on munching grass that he barely ever raised his head above his shoulders, so I mostly got pictures of his ass.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

© Charly, all rights reserved. Click for full size.

Mice: a Modern Fairy Tale

In olden times, the fairies would come to people’s houses and clean up for them, in exchange of a little milk or some other food. But over the centuries, the fairies noticed that this created a dependency on part of the humans. Therefore they decided to help the humans to help themselves and turned into mice.

A small mouse biting the wire of a life catch mouse trap

©Giliell, all rights reserved

This is the 15th time I caught a mouse in the cellar in the last two weeks. There is no way we had 15 mice in the cellar. I know what a mouse nest in the cellar looks like: tons of droppings, shredded fabric and paper, as well as the stink. I’ve been cleaning the cellar and so far I haven’t found more than a tiny bit of droppings. They ate the wax and wood barbecue lighters and the soap, but the rest of the food is rodent proof in boxes. But I also haven’t found their way in yet. We’re trying to mouse proof all the potential entrances, but no luck so far. We’re also putting them out further and further away.

But well, we are not tidy people. We are people who put things into boxes, put boxes into corners and then proceed to ignore the boxes, so in a way the mice are doing us a favour by making us clean.

 

EDIT: We found a small lair. Let the cleaning continue

The Art of …

… Netsuke, a small carved object made to wear with traditional Japanese kimono.

A netsuke is a small sculptural object which has gradually developed in Japan over a period of more than three hundred years. Netsuke(singular and plural) initially served both functional and aesthetic purposes. The traditional form of Japanese dress, the kimono, had no pockets. Women would tuck small personal items into their sleeves, but men suspended their tobacco pouches, pipes, purses, writing implements, and other items of daily use on a silk cord passed behind their obi (sash). These hanging objects are called sagemono. The netsuke was attached to the other end of the cord preventing the cord from slipping through the obi. A sliding bead (ojime) was strung on the cord between the netsuke and the sagemono to allow the opening and closing of the sagemono. Source – World of Netsuke.

19th Century Netsuki, artist unknown. Image from Skinnerinc.com

Netsuke of Mice with Corn, Meiji period (1868-1912). Image from Carter’s Auctions.

19th Century netsuke, artist unknown. Image from Picryl Public Domain Source.

Netsuke, Autumn grasses with praying mantis.Image from Asian Antiques.

 

Mammoth Wasp

An amazing capture from Nightjar,

I didn’t have my camera with me when I saw this huge wasp on a wild leek flower last month, but I didn’t know what it was so I tried to use my phone to get good enough photos that could let me ID it later. I wasn’t surprised to learn it’s called a Mammoth Wasp. It really is big. While I wish I had taken my camera, the photos didn’t turn out so bad and I thought of sharing them since it’s such an impressive bug.

©Nightjar, all rights reserved.

©Nightjar, all rights reserved.