Friday, December 07, 2012

That Time I Almost Got Rabies (but not really)

For the past four weeks, Gamerboy and I have had a project: there's a litter of semi-feral kittens that lives in our parking lot, and we've been catching them, socializing them, and taking them to the shelter to be adopted. The first three were little silver tabbies, all girls, and various amounts of adorable.

Seriously, look at these faces!

(We didn't get pictures of the rest of them, since my camera is currently AWOL and has taken my phone with it)

So this had been working out fairly well for us, and the kittens are now around 10 weeks old. Wednesday night before work, I put out a trap and some tuna for the two remaining kittens, who are both dark grey, and caught the larger of the two, who for reasons that will be made aware, is now called Nips.

Nips, of course, was terrified when I released her into our bathroom. While outside with me, she had approached me for food, and allowed me to give her light strokes, so I thought that she would calm down quicker than her siblings. Eager to see what sex she was, I swooped in to pick her up, and like any scared little creature, she bit me (She also peed on me, but I blame that on the entire can of tuna she ate in the trap).

Now, with rabies being at epidemic levels in Texas, I did what any good citizen would do, and I called Animal Control to report the bite. I figured they'd quarantine her for a little bit, and then let me know if I should be going to the hospital.

WELL. As it turns out? The state doesn't like to pay for quarantines when it doesn't have to - so the person on the phone with me let me know that if I didn't manage to scrape up $250, Nips would be euthanized, and her brain checked for rabies. Of course, I was heartbroken. Gamerboy and I left messages with his Aunt Awesomevet and his parents, hoping that we could either quarantine her with Aunt Awesomevet or borrow money from his folks. Since I knew that the folks over on LSG are kind and caring, I started a chip-in and posted it on the Mojo (the cat) thread, then fell asleep so Gamerboy and I could run errands and try to arrange things for Nips in the afternoon.

By the time I woke up - a mere 5 hours later! - the chip-in was fully funded and more. The Hoar Collective had decided that BiteyKitten (as she was then known) would get a chance at life, and I was completely blown away by the generosity. Seriously, the folks on LSG are the best bunch of people I have ever had the joy to meet.

Animal Control had let us have a whole day to get things sorted, and we spent as much time as we could working with Nips, to get her used to people. I did most of the handling, since I'd already been bitten, and Gamerboy was a little wary about picking her up (he just reached down for his loving on her). After only one night of rest, she was letting herself be pet and handled, turned upside down like a baby, have her toes messed with, her ears cleaned, and even let me open her mouth and check out her gums. I'm not a vet, so I have no idea what I was looking at, but I figure giving me access to her mouth without chomping has to be a good thing. By the next morning, she was leaning into the scritches, eating out of my hand, and falling asleep snuggled up in my shirt.

The animal control officer who picked her up this morning was really nice, confirming that she wasn't showing any signs of rabies, and that the quarantine will probably be fine. He noticed Gamerboy's Warhammer tattoo, and we all talked nerdery for a while. On the 17th, we go to pick up our little grey girl, and see if we can find her a good home - the animal control officer I talked to on the phone had said that with "a history of biting" the shelter can't adopt her out, but we're going to confirm that with the folks who actually work there just in case.

Oh, and the name? Simple evolution. Bitey became Nibbles, which became Nipples, which became Nips. We told the nice officer that she was called Nips because she'd nipped me, and we think he bought it ;)

Tuesday, September 04, 2012


So, today I crushed up the oak galls I had collected, using my very favorite tool:

I put them in a plastic bag, smashed them good, then transferred the smashed galls into a big stock pot. I didn't have my camera at the time, so I don't have any pics of the ground up galls, but they looked like very chunky cocoa powder, and smelled just about as good -- like warm earth and tea. I had planned to just dump them in some water and let them go to town for a week or two, but then I got antsy, and decided to simmer this batch for a while. They simmered for about an hour, and made the house smell heavenly! Dark chocolate, cinnamon, and tea, all mixed in together. Still no camera at this point, but the water turned a lovely chocolatey brown. While I was in the kitchen doing SCIENCE! (and randomly yelling SCIENCE! at Gamerboy while he played League of Legends with some friends) I cleaned up a little, since I've actually had energy since starting to take iron again.

The water level got a little low on the galls, so I topped it off a bit. I'd initially had 16oz of galls, and now with them reduced down, I had 48 oz of gall-goop and tannin juice. Then I found my camera!

Because I am not exactly known for my patience, I decided to spoon off a little bit of the juice and see if it would react yet. I crushed up a few of my iron pills, mixed them with the juice, and set them going through a coffee filter. It turned black!

I got impatient, again, waiting for it to filter, so I squeezed the last bits out of the filter with my fingers. It definitely stains!

I bottled them up so I can compare them to later batches, with fermented galls. Aren't they handsome?

Then I took a swatch video -- look at that color change!

As it turns out, according to a very smart man on the Fountain Pen Network who is a professional chemist and makes his own iron gall inks for fun, what I need to make these pen-safe is some 25% hydrochloric acid (evidently this can be had from hardware stores). That stops the Fe(II) from becoming Fe(III) (which is what turns it black) while it's still in the bottle or the pen, but once you write with it the HCl evaporates out and it turns black just fine. Lots of folks evidently use simple pen-safe dyes to make sure you can see the ink while you're writing with it -- the HCl turns it back into a clear yellowish liquid until it hit paper. Looking more into that, it looks like some of the stuff I got for nail polish will actually work for that!

Seriously, guys, I'm crazy excited over here. You don't even know. If I can make this work, I might pop up a few bottles on the shop, or mail them out to friends or some such.

Sunday, September 02, 2012

Oak Galls, Oak Galls, Oaky Oaky Oak Galls!

I've been getting (back) into fountain pens and calligraphy lately, and while money is tight right now (oh, is that an understatement!) some things in life really are free. Today I was out on our patio, which is next to a large oak tree, and noticed that there were a few galls on it. I couldn't reach any of them that were still on the tree, but I went outside and collected a good number of them from the ground surrounding the tree. The iron pills I've been taking are ferrous sulfate, which is (handily enough!) the very kind of iron that's needed to make iron gall ink! I'm really excited -- I'm going to set this batch fermenting on the patio tonight, or possibly in the morning so I can take pictures, and then in a few weeks I'll collect the liquid from the galls, add the iron, and have me some ink!

Since there are about a million different iron gall ink recipes out there, and I live in Texas, Home of the Live Oaks Motherfucking Everywhere, I'm thinking that tomorrow I'll go out to some of the local parks and see if I can collect any more galls. I'd like to try fermenting one batch, boiling another, and just crushing them up and soaking. If I can see which one makes the best/darkest ink, I'd like to try bottling it up and giving it to some of my geekier friends. An ink that gets darker over time would be pretty goddamn sweet.

I've also thought of trying to make some actual verdigris -- copper and vinegar and scraping and time. I don't think I could powder it fine enough for ink, but what the hell, why not try? Copper sheets and vinegar are fairly cheap.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Ups and Downs

Today is a weird day. Or tonight, or is it yesterday still? I work nights half the week, including today, and it never quite feels like tomorrow until I've gone home and slept. So, let us call it still today, shall we?

I don't think my meds are working. Or rather, they're working, just not as effectively as they used to, and they need to be adjusted. I'm having more frequent depressive episodes, and stronger ones, that are lasting longer, and that's no kinda good. In the past few years I've fallen out of the habits I used to have to manage my episodes -- I'm not nearly as dissociative; I no longer try to split myself up into my thinking brain and my feeling brain so that I can ignore the latter and do whatever the former tells me needs to get done. There are other little tricks I used to use, but writing them down here makes me feel self-conscious, and like I might be crazier than I want to admit.

I realize that this is the second negative-sounding blog post in a row, but I want to emphasize here that when I'm not having a depressive episode, things really are okay. Money has been tight over the summer, but Gamerboy is working again now that the semester's started. We have a new creative project that we're working on together, and that we're both very excited about. I've been feeding two different colonies of feral cats, one who hangs around at the hotel and one who's nearby, at the local walgreens, and so far I've only come across one unspayed female (who just had a litter of kittens; she gets extra food while she's nursing, and I hope to catch her for fixing around the end of september).

I haven't been doing a whole lot of knitting, despite having two main projects that I really want to get done. One is Frost Flowers and Leaves, that incredibly old project I over half a decade ago, who is now intended for Ivy and named George. I've got 11 rows to go plus the edging, so in theory I know I should be chugging along towards that finish line! The other project is a boob hat for my friend AllGreek2Me, who is so close to popping out her first child that we've arranged a betting pool. Neither of these projects are taxing, but I haven't been working much on either of them, because of my wrist.

It turns out that Cysty is not, in fact, a ganglion cyst. My old doctor in Aggieland tried to drain him (which is the way to go for ganglions), and no dice. Instead of being filled with the people-jelly that he should have been, he's just a solid motherfucking mass, who is putting increasing amounts of pressure on the bones, nerves, and tendons of my dominant hand. I can't bend my hand back or forward beyond 40 degrees without pain, and I can't lift anything above 10 lbs if it involves using my wrist to do it. I know I need to see a doctor about this, and CLEARLY about my meds, and I'm hoping that within this next month that will become a possibility again. Gamerboy's folks found oil on their land, and they want to do something nice for each of their children, and in our case that might end up being hand surgery. In the meantime, I'm taking things as easy as I can stand, and seriously considering teaching myself to write right-handed.

Wow, again, this post sounds super depressing. I had an episode tonight (as you might've guessed), but I'm feeling fine now. I swear, things are mostly good. Gamerboy and I found a driving route that is full of oddly suburban deer (and well-grazed lawns), and we like to go by there at dawn or dusk. Sometimes we'll go down to the park, and throw them peanuts and bread, which amazingly enough they accept from us, as will the squirrels and the ducks. I feel happy when wild creatures trust me enough to eat what I offer them, which is probably why I feed the outside cats... all 7-10 of them, depending on the night.

I don't recall if I've mentioned it here or not, but I started a small nail polish company, Just The Tip. I was getting in lots of micas and pigments to make my own, and Gamerboy suggested I give it a shot as a business venture. It hasn't exploded with activity by any stretch of the imagination, but it does a steady bit of business, and I enjoy it. I'm currently wearing two different colors, one a duochrome red-pink that flashes into orange, and the other a milk chocolate with a strong violet shimmer. I ought to take pictures of both of them, and put them up on the shop, but I'll probably wait until the weekend for that. I wasn't able to sleep yesterday, and tomorrow is my tough day, so I need to get as much rest in as I can.

I'm rambling now. It's because I'm tired. I have another hour and a half at work, then half an hour to feed and visit with the outside cats, and then I'll go to bed. I'm glad that I wrote this post, because it's probably a good idea to keep a record of when my depressive episodes happen and around how long they last -- this one was about two hours.

Hmm... the breakfast staff have started to open things up at work. I think I know how I'm going to spend the rest of my shift.

Tuesday, July 03, 2012

Bless me, Blogger, for I have sinned.

It's been two years since my last entry. In that time, the cat count has gone up to 5, the husband count is up to 2, the estranged father count is at 1, and the job meter is down to 0 benefits.

I'm living in New Braunfels, now, where I moved in May 2011 after Gamerboy and I got engaged. I'm working at a hotel, front desk, mostly nights but just enough afternoons to ensure I have nothing resembling a stable sleep schedule.

Heed is now ten years old, Ripley is three, Bucket and Landis are two, and little Moxie Melonhead is just over one. Bucket (black tuxedo mediumhair) and his sister, Moppet (tortie mediumhair), were trapped as feral kittens back when Ivy and I were living together in Aggieland. Before I moved out here, he had gotten to the point where he would voluntarily join me on the bed for snuggles, but since the move he's been more reticent. I try and handle him at least once every six months or so, but mostly I try to give him space. He's not really domestic in the traditional sense, and is still convinced that everyone ever is going to murder him in the face. Landis (orange and white tabby) was Gamerboy's cat, and he's a bit of an asshole. When left to his own devices, he's pushy, rude, and VERY bitey; he's terrified of Ripley, though, so he gives us plenty of love and affection, because we keep him safe from her. Moxie we didn't expect, but she was found in a city dump, with a litter of siblings who had been shot to death, and was only alive because she'd hidden in a soup can. When my (very allergic) friend explained her story, how could I turn her away? She was only 4 weeks old, and sickly enough that her growth was severely stunted; even now she's maybe 5lbs.

There was a thread on Rav today about student loans, and that's what got me depressed enough to turn to blogger. For some reason, I feel melodramatic writing things here, which is probably why I stopped.

In a few months, I will be 30 years old. I have 18k in student loans, 4k in credit card debt, and a husband who's racking up approximately 5o-60k worth of Master's degree. I don't know if he'll be able to find a job in his field when he graduates, or if/when we'll be able to afford a move if/when he does. Neither of us have health insurance, and my brain drugs cost us $150 every month because of it. Gamerboy is depressed, and would like to get on medication for it his own self, but we can't afford the doctor visits, much less another costly prescription (and then more visits, and different prescriptions, until the right medication and amount were found). He's also hurt his back twice this summer, and very likely pre-diabetic.

I started a small nail polish company, which I'm hoping will make it into the black by the end of the year. I've poured about $500 into it, and made about half of that back. It's not a lot, but the fact that it's almost-kinda-actually succeeding to a degree is sometimes the only thing that keeps me from feeling like a complete failure. I've been having more depressive episodes, sleeping way too much, and not eating much or well.

My goal in life, right now, would be to one day own a very small house, with about 4 or 5 acres of land (10 when I'm feeling generous with myself). I would like to have goats and chickens and a garden, and any livestock above and beyond that would be great too. I would like to have a whole craft room, health insurance, an adopted child or two, and a job where I took home over 20k a year. What I actually think will happen looks more like a series of apartments for the rest of our lives, possibly so much as a townhome one day, and a hopefully-stable population of cats. Maybe a dog if we ever get that townhome.

This isn't a terribly chipper post, all told. The most exciting things in my life right now are taking pictures of new colors of polish, and seeing if I can figure out how to turn some of my dry pigments into calligraphy ink. I splurged and bought some fabric this month, for a skirt that I'm hand-sewing and what I hope will be a shirt to go with it, and also two bottles of pretty ink (bought before I realized I might be able to make my own).

I've also taken to covering my hair when I leave the house, which oddly enough is one of the more positive things in my life right now. I seem to feel more secure when I'm wearing a scarf, safer and therefore more confident, and it makes me happy. My hair's grown out almost all the way back to where it was before I cut it, and I plan to let it get as long as it can from here on out.

I also realized as I was writing all of this that I'd forgotten to take my pills for the last two days. That could explain this mood I'm in. It's also almost 7 in the morning, which is bedtime for me these days.

Not everything sucks. I'm in a weekly online D&D game, a play-by-mail steampunk game (surprise surprise, the root of my inklust), and I've gotten closer to most of my new inlaws. Gamerboy's parents are surprisingly awesome. I pared down my yarn and fiber stash into one small closet's worth, all of it awesome, and I now have a walk-in closet (the Glitter Cave) where all of the polish things live and the cats can't go. It's a nice little sanctuary, and sometimes I go in there just to relax. My weight has been fairly stable, which is nice considering how hard it is for me to exercise, but swimming in the river is free and doesn't put any strain on my wrist (which has gotten worse, unfortunately. I can't put any weight on it, or bend it terribly far in any direction). I've got another shawl design in my head, but I think I need to start it over again - the yarn I began in is too pricey for me to get enough to finish, which is a shame because it's just lovely. I also picked up an absurdly cheap floor loom on craigslist, and I hope to soon learn how to use it.

I think I'm starting to get over the mood I was in when I started this post. Mostly right now I'm just tired, and a little cranky. I think it's time for me to usher in a few cats and go to bed.

UPDATE: Gamerboy just came in, bearing a cat for me to snuggle, and we talked over some of what I've posted here. He always makes me feel better when I'm in a funk. My worries are still there, but they no longer feel quite so insurmountable <3