Flea circus

March 17, 2003

Here is a collage of a dozen plants blooming in our yard this month. Can you identify them all? Click on the picture for a full-size image that you can also turn into wallpaper for your computer desktop. Photos by Glenn.
Our calendar shows a mere four days until the vernal equinox, but who's counting? For all intents and purposes, spring arrived in our neck of the globe at least a month ago with the blooming of the almond and dogwood trees, and a gradual change in the weather toward warmer days and cool yet tolerable nights. But there is another way we marked the change of seasons in our home this month which unfortunately has little to do with sunny weather and colorful blossoms. When you are a pet owner, the other portend of the coming spring is often a reinvigorated flea population, and we've had a doozy of an infestation since mid-February.

Our cats, Eevee and Ariel, are indoor pets that rarely go outside, so we suspect that our flea problem began when we adopted Eevee about a year and a half ago. The little critters go dormant during fall and early winter, but when warmer weather sets in around the start of February they start popping up all over. When it got to the point that we had to fall asleep each night listening to "chew, chew, chew, scratch, scratch, scratch, lick, lick, lick," we knew it was time to take serious action.

Ariel endures her flea dip as Roni prepares to apply a liberal dose of shampoo. Photo by Glenn.
So we embarked upon a three-phase flea eradication campaign that began with deployment of Raid flea bombs throughout the house one Sunday afternoon. We locked the cats in the garage, then we bugged out for a few hours at Sunvalley Mall and the bookstore while the toxic gases performed their magic. Upon our return, we treated our kitties to extended flea dips that did in the most stubborn monsters. Then we vacuumed all the carpets to catch the eggs and many of the escapees. Of course this is not the end of the war, because the flea's life cycle is approximately three weeks, which means we will repeat the bombing/dipping campaign at least two more times before our foe has been eliminated. Our cats still look at us with contempt whenever we turn on the tap, but we hope they will forgive us when they are flea free.

The tale of our personal little war against parasitic blood-suckers provides a natural segue into the topic of America's pending war against Saddam Hussein. Because these monthly missives are not political in nature we won't get off on a tangent about the merits of war arguments pro or con, but we will note that these interesting times we are living through have affected us all in unexpected ways. We are hoping to make a visit to Disneyland sometime this year, but Ben isn't so sure he wants to go there now that he heard a news item recently about how the House of Mouse is one of the top potential terrorist targets in California. We of course have tried to reassure him that the Magic Kingdom is still plenty safe and no less fun than it would be in peacetime. We think he understands, but it is clear that wars claim casualties on many levels, and innocence is among its first victims.

Roni visits with our friends John Papini and Bruce Connelley during the Oakley Citizen of the Year Banquet. John served as chef for the event, preparing a fabulous meal. Photo by Glenn.
For Glenn, every development in the War on Terrorism creates a ripple effect at the newspaper as the bosses plot and plan how to cover the Iraq invasion when it happens. Heightened military activity leads to more editorial coverage, which translates to more pages in the paper and a more stressful workload. Additionally, several reporters and editors have been tapped by corporate to do time in Washington or overseas during the war, which leaves fewer people in the newsroom. Unfortunately, the economy hasn't improved, so there will be no new hires to help take up the extra duties.

With so much strife in the world, it is nice to escape from it whenever we can. Such an opportunity arose March 1 when we attended the Oakley Citizen of the Year Banquet and Casino Night, our town's biggest social extravaganza of the year. You might call it Oakley's version of the Oscars. We left Ben for the evening with his cousin Kristi and spent the next six hours visiting with longtime friends and business associates, dining on some great authentic Italian cuisine and trying our hands at the blackjack table. Because Roni is president of the Oakley Chamber of Commerce, which sponsors the event, we were seated at the head table across from our state Assemblyman, Guy Houston, with whom we chatted about California's sagging economy and other matters political. As a former Citizen of the Year herself (1993), Roni was recognized along with other past recipients, allowing her to take yet another bow on Oakley's grandest stage. The evening was fun, the music was loud, and we came home at the end of it all with armloads of prizes and other goodies.

Glenn, decked out in Mardi Gras beads, tears up the dance floor at the Citizen of the Year event. He still has no idea who his dance partner was, or what he was doing out there to begin with. Photo by Roni.
The arrival of spring has turned our attention once more to our back yard, which is in desperate need of a good weeding. Our honey-do list figures to be a lengthy one. Near the top is Roni's wish for a new gazebo to replace the original redwood lattice one that covers our spa. It is about 15 years old now and showing the effects of exposure to the elements, plus it is inadequate to carry the weight of our rapidly sprawling red flame grapevine and a wisteria plant that is blooming for the first time since we planted it three years ago. We have consulted several books in search of plans for the Ultimate Gazebo, and while we now have some ideas we must figure out how to implement once and how to budget for it.

At last! After three years our wisteria proves it can do more than grow leaves. That's a bonafide blossom in the making on March 7. For the completed bloom, taken 10 days later, check out the photo collage above. Photo by Glenn.
It is hard to resist the urge to get out and garden when everything is coming into bloom and the yard is looking perhaps the best it will look the rest of the year. Our grapes are all putting out leaves, and there are flowers galore — poppies, lupines, ice plant, daffodils, and of course the previously mentioned wisteria. Our evergreen ash is living up to its name, while our mulberry tree recently came alive with pollen pods or whatever those fuzzy little things are that aren't leaves but aren't flowers either. At the house next door, where our newest neighbors moved in the first of the month, there is an ornamental fruit tree of some sort that explodes in a sea of bright white blossoms during March. Its branches hang over our back fence, so while the tree itself may not be ours we almost feel like it is.

It is time now to turn our attention to taxes, and back to our writing projects that have languished since November. The editing process is not one to be taken lightly, but edit we must if we are to achieve our goals of publication before the next millenium. We'll see you next month.

Glenn, Roni and Ben

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