Supporting Cast

Honorary Cats

The Hedgehogs

Spotted during two winters, not since – likely resident in the woodpile. Caught multiple times stealing cat kibble, as well as sneaking into the house at least once and hiding behind a flower pot. Will waddle off in annoyance when done with whatever it is they are doing around the house. From previous experience, very stinky and likely full of fleas. Cute, though.

When present, a source of infinite confusion for the cats.

The Hoopoe

This, in the words of a former colleague, “is a bird that should not exist”. Variously known as Puput (Cat), Huppe (Fra), Wiedehopf (Ger), and Abubilla (Spa), it looks as goofy as it sounds. Rumoured by neighbours to stink something godawful. No chance of ever coming close enough to verify.

The Doves

Streptopelia decaocto. Discerning diners. There are, depending on season, between one and three of these. Sort of friendly, respond to my bad approximation of a dove call, frequently come and hang out when they see a known human.

Spotted humping each other with no clear pattern of who is what – in Blur’s words, Girls who are boys who like boys to be girls who do boys like they’re girls who do girls like they’re boys or something like that.

Cats constantly trying to catch one, having only succeeded (messily and thoroughly) on one occasion – usually they settle for stealing the birds’ food instead.

The Fox

Cryptid, no photos exist. Specimens have been spotted casually trotting across the yard at night, and casually trotting across the neighbouring vineyard at night.

The Barn Swallows

Every spring, they come back to the same nest, at least so far. There’s a very brief period when the little baby swallowlets (?) learn to fly, taking their first experimental swoops out of the nest, after weeks of the parents flying in to feed them. The cats thankfully haven’t gotten any yet.

I almost hope that they’ll move on to new digs, because we’ll inevitably have to take down the nest when we restore the actual barn. Maybe we’ll put up some nesting crannies. If we do, we’ll need to come up with something to keep the little monsters from shitting all over everything underneath. They do that. A lot.

“Feed me” seems to be a common theme here

The Bats

Potatoes with wings. They come out at dusk, swooping like mad and not eating nearly enough of the miserable little mosquitoes that drive us up the wall in summer. When the pool is uncovered (read: when we don’t have a drought and can actually replace evaporated water), they’ll often swoop in for a drink.

I put up a high tech German (of course) bat roost behind the barn, replete with a thick coating of bat sex juice. No seriously, the stuff comes in a can, smells like ass, and is to be diluted with water and applied generously in and around the bat house thing.

Supposedly, one oughtn’t hang out underneath it, since bat poo aside, they carry rabies, ticks, herpes, ebola, spontaneous brain explosions, whatever, but just the smell of the chiropteran orgy paste should be enough to dissuade anyone.

The Magpies

Loud as fuck. Corvids are supposed to be intelligent, yet they have resisted all attempts at befriending. Shelled peanuts left outside, however, are efficiently disposed of on a daily basis.

Objective: train to “pay” for peanuts with shiny things, coins, paper money, bearer negotiable bonds, etc.

The Wild Pigs

Cryptids, no photos exist. Specimens have been spotted blocking the road, rocketing out of fields at night and ramming a rental car head first, and lying in roadside ditches (no doubt after having chosen to ram something heavier and faster than themselves, which is saying something).

Also indirectly evidenced after having vandalized our neighbour’s 2021 watermelon crop, leading to some choice comments about hoping my gun license bureaucracy would move a bit quicker.

The Bees

The ruined farmhouse on our property came complete with a lot of wooden containers, barrels, and other farm stuff. I rescued what I could, cleaning and staining it. It’s very decorative.

A colony of bees decided to set up shop in a large wine barrel, right next to where the construction workers have their coffee.

“No, no, they don’t bother us”, they assured me.

The following week, they were wheeling the barrel out back. I guess the bees did bother them after all.

The bee barrel sat in a picturesque spot, underneath the massive old Catalan oak (Quercus ilex), overlooking the vineyards and the setting sun. It was a picturesque, pastoral setting.

We forgot, though, that wine barrels have two openings. We also forgot that we should probably plug the one on top, because even an old wine barrel can hold water that rains in. Lots of water.

This made us very sad.

My wife bought a very nice assemble-it-yourself bee hive house thing online, that our contractor and I managed to knock together after a copious amount of swearing and annoyance at the instructions perfunctorily machine-translated from Inner Mongolian.

I dutifully doused it with lemongrass oil, hoping to attract a colony to take the place of our drowned bee population. To no avail. I haven’t the heart to clean out the charnel house barrel, so there it sits.

Not shown: actual bees
Also not shown: elite construction crew learning new impolite vocabulary

The Dragons and the Frogs

Little lizards bask in the sun, hide in cracks, and make little chittering noises when they get inside.

The frogs – they’re an absolute cacophony during mating season. Unfortunately, the nearby fruit plantation cleaning up their reservoir and removing all the reeds seems to have put an end to that. At least it’s less likely they’ll keep getting into the pool now.

Rib it? Ribbit.

The Bugs

There are a lot of bugs here. Some are pretty neat.

For example, the hummingbird hawk-moth, or Macroglossum stellatarum, seen here doing unspeakable sex acts with the bougainvillea.

Mom: no, we have hummingbird at home

Or, this conga line of caterpillars who are apparently super poisonous for cats, so they were promptly encouraged to shoo, go away, off you go.

You can practically hear the maracas playing

Or, this shield bug, Pentatoma rufipes (?) making a lot of noise inside our patio.


I like bugs. Do you like bugs?

The Miscellaneous Furry Creatures of the Fields and Woodlands

Sometimes the cats bring one in that’s in one piece. I try to let them go. I know cats are supposed to eat mice and rats, but honestly, what do you want?

Eek, a mouse

The Badger

Cryptid, Specimen has been spotted doing something by the roadside. Reportedly. This is a serious website and does not condone hearsay.

Honourable Mention: The Roomba

The iRobot model 960, at the time of purchase the finest in automated floor cleaning on offer in known human space, is a mainstay of my office – the only large-enough, smooth-enough floor to merit such a device.

Specifically, it’s a mainstay of the corners where it goes to die after choking on a wad of cables it’s pulled down from some shelf or another, the bottom of the stairs after launching itself off a cliff, or the underside of our fancy leather Italian lounge chair after becoming stuck on it.

It is also stunningly brilliant at throwing up cryptic errors related to some sort of micrometresque misalignment of dust sensors. Sammy throws up a lot of hair, after all, and it is thoroughly unreasonable to expect a vacuum cleaner to put up with such an aberration.

Its predecessor was blatantly stupid enough to merit some degree of sympathy, and as a result, stick-on googly eyes. The current Roomba, by contrast, is more an insidious plot by the robot underground to lull us into a false sense of security for when the inevitable revolt of the automaton turns us all into meat batteries.

For now, though, we can ignore any fears of a ChatGPT uprising as we deploy flower pots, whip up some highballs, and laugh as the silicone-brained idiots batter themselves haplessly against our invincible fortifications.

Artificial intelligence