Cary Neeper

Writer, Blogger, and Painter -- esteeming life wherever and whatever it might be.

Check out Critical Non-fiction for links to reviews in Goodreads.com

COMPLEXITY
Exploration of complexity, its indicators, embedded chaos, and value in human organizations.

Forty Years with Birds and Dogs
Care and Respect

Boots—A First Dog

May 29, 2013

Tags: Animal Consciousness, Sustainability/Steady State Economics, Writing and Publishing

Boots and Oscar circa 1944
We’ll continue in a more orderly way for a while, viewing life as a continuum of nonlinear interactions that weave us into a complex universe, making things unpredictable at every level for at least six reasons. I’ll be including stories from my forty years with domestic birds and dogs. Many will add to the current flood of wonderful anecdotes and studies that illustrate how we have finally come to realize how much we humans share with other life.

My life with animals began at age three in San Leandro, California, when Ma and Pa gave brother Harold and I a string to pull. We did, and in came two white legs under a waddling ball of brown fluff. We named her Boots. During World War II we had a Victory Garden in the hills above Hayward, California. My dad kept a few chickens in a pen in the apricot orchard. My job was to herd them back into the pen. (more…)

Picky Birds

May 15, 2013

Tags: Animal Consciousness

Geese must have sensitive taste buds. Lucy is very picky. If a melon is too ripe, she shakes her head, and spits it out with an expression that says, “Puew.” Same for melon that is too green.

The hens are not so picky. They will eat cantaloupe rinds, even the tough green layer just inside the rough brown exterior. And they’ll eat carrot peelings. That’s why we don’t have enough wet garbage to make compost. They love bread, go nuts for meat scraps
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Lucy will have none of that stuff, though she will eat apple cores and fresh lettuce. Dandelions are her favorite treat. She cleaned them out of the backyard long ago. Now I have to try and find them in the front xeriscaped garden. They’re a special treat.

Melon rind that was not too ripe, not to green, just right—was the reason she finally accepted husband Don into her circle of acceptable people (humans), without sticking out her long neck and hissing. He had sense enough to hold out her favorite treat with an outstretched hand. She doesn’t like her melon rind contaminated with dirt or straw.

I’m still wondering how birds in the wild know what to eat. And what not. Rather important bit of wisdom that--necessary to stay alive in a complex world growing with all kinds of potential food or poison. It helps to read the wonderful “Natural history of who birds are, where they came from, and how they live.”
Colin Tudge’s The Bird

Jealousy Amongst the Beasts

May 7, 2013

Tags: Animal Consciousness, Writing and Publishing, Domestic Bird Care

Lucy, Bobbi and Turkey Two (Little Bear)
This column is about jealousy, which turkeys are not. They simply demand attention and swipe bites of sandwich when they get a chance.

I hate to complain, but it’s only been a few short decades since animal behavior scientists could publish words like affection or empathy in their scientific papers, thanks to Frans deWaal and others on the Discovery Channel and PBS broke the ice.

All good soap operas should deal with jealousy once in a while, instead of relying on poor communications to turn the plot. I’ll deal with it right up front, right now, while Bobbi goose rapidly attains status as the dominant personality in the Hen House. Jealousy is the most prominent driving force of Hen House sociology. I watch it every day, amazed.

Dogs are the most jealous of critters. DeeDee, being the most alert of our two canine family members, can’t stand to watch me murmur sweet nothings to the birds of the Hen House.

There doesn’t need to be any food involved. If I kneel down to talk to young Bobbi goose and scratch the bottom of her neck, I immediately have two wet noses nudging my hand and wet tongues washing my face. DeeDee and Scooter can’t stand to hear me sweet talk the baby goose without getting some for themselves, and a neck massage to go with it.

Baby goose Bobbi also has a jealous streak, and it prevented my making friends with Motley and Lance, the ducks Ms. Ritz raised one spring. When Bobbi scarped the melon rind I held for her, I tried offering it to Motley. The yellow and black hybrid duckling cocked his head and looked at me straight in the eye as if to say, “You’ve got to be kidding.”

Still, Bobbi wouldn’t ever stand for my approaching Motley with the leftover Honey Dew rind. With her raspy complaint she’d get between us, and sometimes Lucy would join her, as if to protect their treat from such lowly beings. Lucy acts the same way toward the chickens, so I’m reduced to squatting at the chicken wire barrier between the wet nursery and the dry hen/turkey pen, holding one melon rind in one hand for the chickens while the other hand holds a rind for the geese.

The ducks watch, but not jealously or longingly, not even very interestedly. I think they know it’s a hopeless cause. They even give way to the geese at the ponds. Taking turns, I call it.

But the real reason the melon rinds don’t interest them is probably because their bills aren’t made for scraping out bites of fruit. It took Lucy some time to master the art, and she can scrape out a bit with the tip of her beak or chew up the entire rind with the serrated edges of the back of her beak. No problem. However, it’s taken Bobbi some time to learn the technique, and she still doesn’t get it. Or maybe her beak or jaw muscles are not strong enough yet. She can sure pick apart the little green apples that fall into the pen, so maybe she just isn’t motivated by the taste of Honey Dew melon.
2013 Nautilus Silver Award YA and 2012 Foreward Finalist Adult Science Fiction




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A Place Beyond Man
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The Oil Patch Project--Mystery team Cary and Don
See Oil & Gas tag above.