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Christmas cactus tour
It was so cold some were turning blue!
December 22, 2008

The rain stopped so Rusty thought he'd take a tour of the cactus farm. Bobcat was eager to accompany him.

He was an enthusiastic kitten. The other cats were snoozing in their warm cat condos, Raccoon Girl was watching TV, but he wanted to go exploring with the big guy.
The outdoor potted plants
These potted plants were left out in the rain.

San Pedro liked cool temperatures with winter rains. They exhibited what Rusty called "winter growth", a phenomena where the tips turn shiny green as they grow out—during California's winter rainy season.
Drainage is very important—both soil and container holes. Light winter rains, cold temperature are OK with San Pedro.

"Cold winter rains seem to agree with you guys" thought Rusty. "You look great."

Rusty remembered email photos from Florida of rotting San Pedro in those containers molded to look like stone, or terra cotta. "What is wrong?" asked the stranger. "They just get rain water." Rusty replied "Where are the drainage holes? I can't see any in your photo."

There were no drainage holes on the sides. If the only hole is on the bottom it may plug up, causing the poor roots to drown under water.

Professional nursery pots always have side holes; usually 4 square ones punched out or molded in.
Rusty moved these to the Seedling House
There they would act as thermal storage, absorbing warmth during the day to release at night.

He was concerned that they could get too wet & soggy if left out all winter.

Inside the seedling house they'd be happier, drier, warmer. And not soggy at all. In fact, they could be an inspiration to the little cacti by acting as adult role models.
In the greenhouse

Rusty spotted the resurrected Bridgesii

After Kate Jackson in Watsonville (Desert Theatre) died in 2003 her acre of plants turned into a weed choked ghost town.

This specimen was only a dried up stump in 2005. Someone had ripped it out of the pot, I guess to get the pot, then tossed it under a bench. The first time I just left it there where is was. But on a subsequent trip took it home to see if it could be brought back to life.

At first it rotted. Cut off the withered branches to root separately. I trimmed back the base to new tissue, let it dry, then set in dry potting soil. The second time it put out feeble roots the first year, then got better the next. Today it is a nice source of cuttings for rooting into new plants.

"Well, look at you!" said Rusty.

"Oh, thank you for rescuing me" said Bridgesii.

Thank you Kate.
Another rescue plant from Cactus Kate's

Bridgesii Monstrose form. This was just a fist sized stump in 2005. It looked like not much of anything then.
The Penis Plant, also known as the Penis Cactus, is a monstrose form of...Trichocereus bridgesii... each stem segment is smooth and spineless, resembling a penis. ...The German name ..., Frauenglück, is more euphemistic ...it translates as "Women's Pleasure".
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Penis_plant

The cat Angels looked over it as it was resurrected by the life force. Starting in 2008 it became a source of numerous cuttings for new plants.

These days it looks like it drinks Viagra.
 


Thank you Kate.

The tip donor bank
This is where numerous San Pedro, Peruvian Torch and Bridgesii produce tips for spring propagation (rooting into new plants).

Bobcat came prancing down the cat walk. Rusty swung the camera, clicking the shot without looking. Hey there Bobcat!

Rusty checked the viewfinder to see if he captured the shot. Yes! Got it!
Trichocereus Peruvianus, stock plants
Every year I can only sell a few and have to hold on to most in order to keep the stock going.
See how dry their soil is? Rusty had not watered anything for 6 weeks. It had been cold at night with dense fog. Recently it had been raining on and off for 2 weeks.  When days get short, temperatures drop, the humidity is high from fog or rain, the greenhouse plants don't need watering.

Cactus go dormant in the cold winter months. They won't need to be watered.
Stop Bobcat!
"Ssssttt!"
said Rusty. "That's far enough Bobcat. Do not jump! Just back up." And he did back up.

Kittens learn not to walk on cactus. The sharp spines sort of train them that way.
Help we're turning blue from cold!
"Bobcat told me you were turning blue from cold."
Rusty said. "But you're always blue. You're supposed to be blue."

"Aren't you exaggerating a bit?"
The cactus confessed they were just playing with Bobcat about turning blue.

"Yeah, we're fine. Just got lonely and hoped you'd come out for a visit. Thanks for checking on us. By the way the cats have been wonderful to us."
said the cacti.
The big containers outside the greenhouse
"You look fine, too!"
Rusty declared to the big containers outside in the field.
The Bridgesii patch
"Hey Bobcat! Everybody looks great."

"You've been a good cat Angel looking after the plants. All the Trichocereus say they like you."
Bobcat beamed back with cat pride—
"Trichocereus are my friends. They cool! They rock! They love me."

"That was a fun tour." said Rusty. "Its cold so I'm going back inside."

Bobcat ran ahead of Rusty darting through the cat door before he could open the big people door. It was warm & cozy inside.

End of cactus tour!

It's cold! Let's go back to the warm house
How smart are animals anyway?
Bobcat ran into the spare bedroom to watch TV with Raccoony where it was warm & cozy! She put her paw over Bobcat's shoulder as they watched Home Alone 2. Rusty wondered "How smart are cats?" He read about the work of Dr. Peppeberg, a charmingly smart human. She caused science to accept, as fact, animal intelligence is equal to a human child.
Were cats as smart as a bird?
 
Read more about Alex on NPR


 

(Alex the parrot) ...could identify fifty different objects and recognize quantities up to six; could distinguish seven colors and five shapes, understand the concepts of "bigger", "smaller", "same", "none" "over", "under" and "different,"... a vocabulary of about 150 words, ... he appeared to have understanding of what he said ...If asked the difference between two objects that were the same, he said “none.”

When tired of being tested, he would say “Wanna go back,” meaning he wanted to go back to his cage. If the researcher displayed annoyance, Alex tried to diffuse it with the phrase, “I’m sorry.”  If he said “Wanna banana”, but was offered a nut instead, he stared in silence, asked for the banana again, or took the nut and threw it at the researcher.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Alex_(parrot)
Bobcat's Christmas present was his very own cat nest. Rusty purchased the basket at Pier 1 imports, then installed it on a cat condo. Bobcat was thrilled to have such a special cat nest in a basket with a fluffy soft towel.

Raccoony and Bobcat
were wonderful gifts from God. The only problem with the word God was that no one knew what it meant. It was just a word. But what the word meant was so much—everything that no one really understood.

It meant more than anyone could explain. Religions fought about God. Science didn't have the tools to approach it—they had no clue what consciousness was, nor how life was created.

The miracle is that the universe does exist, and that you have consciousness to read this. The miracle is that Angels are all around when you see clearly.
Raccoony had already seen Home Alone 2 but let Bobcat enjoy it without giving away the plot. Bobcat liked action films.
Cat Pack Leaders
Rusty studied how to be a cat pack leader from Cesar Millan—the Dog Whisperer.

The same principles of calm, assertive leadership worked with cats. Rusty learned a lot from that National Geographic show. Cesar Milan was always calm, never yelled a lot of words that animals don't understand anyway.

Rusty learned "Sssstt!" was all it took to say "No!" to a cat. Like Mr. Millan did on TV, he used his hand to poke Bobcat (the equivalent of a bite) that got his attention when he was acting too dominant. This helped Raccoony & Dustball maintain their positions as top cats from the spunky young male.

Dustball had long been shy and high strung. She required special care. Rusty learned from Cesar Millan not to pet her when she was in a fearful state of mind (Never reward an unstable mind). He only petted & patted her when she was calm. Amazingly, she became better. As her psychological health improved she grew more self confident—enough so not to run from Bobcat but instead rear up and threatened a paw with claws bared if he over stepped his place. Rusty was proud of her.

Dustball loved Rusty so much she got on the back of his chair almost everyday holding his head between her front paws in order to groom his hair with her teeth. Really.

Bobcat was intelligent.
A happy, loving friend no matter how many times Rusty had to "Sssstt!" him away from the computer keyboard.

Raccoony or Raccoon Girl as she was sometimes called was in a perpetual state of love & joy. She licked Rusty's nose, she groomed Bobcat; put her arm over his shoulder. She was a loving, grateful cat.
Raccoony was grateful to Cesar Millan for training Rusty how to be a better cat pack leader. As far as she was concerned Rusty was the coolest cat on the farm.
Mostly Rusty had to "Sssstt!" Bobcat to get off the dining table when he ate his own food, or stay away from the keyboard when he was typing. Cesar was right—animals live in the moment (the "now") and didn't take such corrections as personal insults, or hold grudges. As long as they respected Rusty as the pack leader they were a stable family.
At feeding time Rusty used a technique learned from Cesar Millan's Dog Psychology Center; wait for the pack to calm down before setting out the bowls of food. Millan calls this "not rewarding an unstable state of mind". Rusty had to calm Bobcat down, to prevent him from dominating the girls. Amazingly it worked! Sure, Rusty had to put his hand in Bobcat's face like a mouth about to strike. But he got the point. Bobcat became respectful of the older girls. He learned there was plenty of food, all the time. Just be a nice kitten and don't bully your sisters.
 
Want more cats? See the Cat Angel page.
All the cats at Cat & Cactus Heaven had so much to be thankful for. While 2008 had seen the death of legendary Cougar, God sent Bobcat to fill his place. Christmas eve was a long, gentle night where everything seemed right. Not a creature was stirring...not even a gopher.
Merry Christmas 2008

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