I Refuse the Winter Blues

Sooooo, it’s November. And that means (1) October, my favorite month, is over, (2) Halloween, my favorite holiday (aside from my birthday) is over, and (3) those of us who live in very silly places such as Louisville, Kentucky, have, through some clumsy arrangement, probably owing to an ill-natured fairy, been subjected to the sadness of Daylight Savings Time, which means now it gets dark at, like, 6pm, and will be dark by about 4:30 by Winter Solstice. BUT! I refuse to submit to being miserable just because it’s going to be dark and cold and rainy and…well…miserable for the next 4-5 months.

So here is my list of things I love about winter, in case I forget the bright side of the dark season:

  1. Appreciating the fact that you have heat, light, and hot food to get you through the winter. It’s nice not to freeze your ass off with nothing but candlelight to read by!
  2. No chiggers, no ticks, no mosquitoes, and barely any spiders. In my line of work, this is especially joyous.
  3. I don’t have to worry about heat exhaustion in the field. Again, as an archaeology tech, this is a big bonus.
  4. Hot chocolate, hot cider, hot chai, hot tea, hot APPLE JACK (heat apple cider, add desired amount of whiskey). AND SEASONAL DARK BEERS ON TAP…someone pass me a bourbon barrel stout, please? Or an Old Rasputin?
  5. All the excuse I need to hunker down and read/write/build up my guitar chops/draw. Why do you think Russian literature and folk art are so amazing?
    Hand-carved bone picture frame, hand-carved wooden toy set, hand-carved wooden sculpture, hand-painted bracelet, all in the Russian State Museum, St. Petersburg, Russia.
  6. I can take my chinchilla out to the park in her runabout ball, and she won’t overheat while she’s playing!
  7. Snuggling, space heaters, blankets, wool socks, sweaters, and the opportunity to wear an array of jackets. Plus, nobody gives a damn if your layers match or look good on you by February.
  8. Christmas cookies, pot roasts, and other comfort foods.
  9. Christmas (or whatever winter holiday you & your family and friends celebrate) and New Year’s and camaraderie.
  10. Striking winter landscapes, especially with snow on them.
  11. Looking forward to spring again and planning your next garden.
  12. Watching the light come back after the solstice.
  13. Learning to appreciate sticky-hot weather you know is gonna come in the summer.

Dasha’s Diary: Entry 002

Chinchilla’s Log, Entry 002

Dasha here.  The humans’ behavior continues to baffle me.  I have noticed some inconsistencies since my last entry.  First, the humans walk around in The Great Habitat, the floor of which has no bedding at all!  I know they have access to bedding, because the small human provides my home (the Lesser Habitat) with a fresh supply of it every week.  I watch her do this from my runabout ball, so I know it is the small human who brings me provisions.  It is bad enough that they walk around with all their weight on their hind limbs all the time, which must be a great strain and very hard on their back paws, but to do so on the bare, hard surface of the Great Habitat must make it even worse.  I know their hind paws need protection from such abuse, because they wrap their lower limbs in tubes of fleece to help alleviate the problem.  However, when I try to help them by sharing the bedding from my Lesser Habitat – and make no mistake, it requires effort and athleticism to get the majority of my own bedding spread as far out into the Greater Habitat as possible – the humans are unappreciative.  The small one makes a kind of cooing noise by blowing air through her mouth and nose at the same time, and uses the “brume” (a large chew toy with a wooden handle attached to a bundle of dry grasses) to take away all the bedding I so generously offered.  The big human makes a loud noise, STOPIT, if he sees me at my work.  I don’t think they understand that I am trying to help them.IMG_2400

Additionally, I have noticed that the humans do not get enough exercise and that they seem lethargic much of the time that they are in the Great Habitat. They do spend a lot of my sleep-day Outside, so it is possible that they exercise while I am asleep.  However, when I have been Outside with the small human, I have not seen any human-sized exercise wheels, runabout balls, or other athletic equipment, so I fear that this is not the case.  I know from experience that lack of exercise can lead to an unpleasant state of mind and body, so I try to encourage them to play now and then by unexpectedly dashing from the Lesser Habitat when they open the door, leading them in a merry chase around the Greater Habitat.  Strangely, they seem to appreciate this even less than when I share my bedding with them.  The big human gets loud (his usual tactic) and the small human gets agitated and grabby if I don’t respond when she calls my name.  It is particularly strange that it distresses them for me to demonstrate my agility, speed, and gymnastic prowess under such conditions, but overjoys the small one when I display these skills while in The Hallway (i.e., Playtime).

Still, they pet me and feed me and sometimes carry me around so I can look at things not visible from the Lesser Habitat. The big one makes music for me and the small one controls the radio, and usually plays things I like. The small human looks after my needs, and the big human sneaks me extra treats when the small one isn’t looking. Even if they are strange and tend to interrupt my meditations upon the nature of the cosmos, I enjoy their company, and they are my family, whether they accept my help or not.

A Chinchilla’s Life – By Dasha


Toys are no substitute for hours and hours of your attention while I run around and do Olympian gymnastics, human.

Dasha’s Journal, First Entry:

I have managed to take over the small human’s laptop.  This is my first opportunity to communicate with the humans in a way they might (I hope) comprehend.  Humans, if you understand this entry, please take note:  My playtime yesterday was woefully insufficient.  Since you don’t seem to respond to my obvious behavioral communications of ignoring you, gruffing when you try to pet me, and staring pitifully out of the bars of my cage, I feel I need to make this point more clearly.  No, the toys and wheel in my cage are not a consolation.

To the small human:  I do not understand why you make high-pitched noises every time I bark to tell you and the big human to be quiet while I’m trying to rest.  I wish I could figure out the strange noises you and the big human make, because most of the time it sounds like gibberish.  The noise you address me with most often sounds like Noe, and seems to be your attempt to request that I ignore my instinct to chew on everything in sight.  I try to be polite and only chew when you aren’t looking, but you still make loud noises when you look in my direction afterward.  I feel that giving me a treat would be a more appropriate response.


Of course I have plenty of my own things to chew on! But if I am kind enough to make sure your things are chewed on, too, you should thank me, not scold me.

Thank you for turning off your swing jazz music long enough for me to hear some AC/DC the other day – I hope you could tell by my intense expressions of acrobatic appreciation how pleased I was, particularly once the volume was up loud enough for my liking.  Bon Scott’s voice is a joy to hear, and I am sad to learn (through the boxes on your laptop, small human), that he is no more.


I’ll just mourn Bon Scott by chewing on something for a while…life does go on… *sigh*


Cage bars block the proper grooming of the scritchy-spot. For best results, give me an opportunity to escape and run around chewing on things!

To the big human:  The chin-scratch, as practiced by the small human, can only be accomplished with the appropriate cage door open.  Through the bars, you can’t possibly reach the scritchy-spot properly.  Also, you haven’t been producing enough music with that thing that makes the sounds of absolute joy and wonder whenever you’re chewing on it…I think I have heard the small human refer to it with the noises Harm-on-a-cow, which makes no sense because there are no cows harmed in the making of that beautiful music.  I like the music you’ve been playing on the Get-her, however.

The small human makes loud sounds at me if she sees me sitting on the laptop, and she may not understand what I’m doing if she finds me here.  So this is Dasha, signing off.  

Chinchilla Monday!


Since rainy Mondays are pretty depressing things, I’m posting about my chinchilla today, who is cute enough to cheer up just about anybody.  I’ve only been a chinchilla owner for about four months (I’m normally a cat owner), but I definitely enjoy getting to know this little critter.  Her name is Dasha (of course I named her a Russian name!) and her favorite things in the world are chewing on everything, bouncing off of solid surfaces, trying to dig out of her cage, falling asleep curled up in my hoodie, and hard rock guitar solos.  She’s especially fond of AC/DC, Guns ‘N’ Roses, and Led Zeppelin.

Here she is with her “salad bowl” – which is made of woven grass and is therefore edible for her.  Her current favorite toy is an inclined cat scratcher that my oldest sister gave me.  For Dasha, it constitutes a ramp for jumping off of, a hiding place to nap under, a chew toy, and something fun to roll around on.  She has her own toddler xylophone keyboard, but as soon as she figured out how to play it, she stopped being interested in it (except when she’s in trouble for chewing things she isn’t supposed to, when she plays itIMG_0007 to get praise and attention back).

Her natural habitat is the Andes, so she likes the cold and can’t tolerate much over 72 degrees, and she also can’t get her fur wet (she’s secretly a Gremlin).  She takes dust baths in volcanic ash, which she gets everywhere unless well contained while she’s bathing.  She’s mainly nocturnal, although she wakes up periodically during the day and is most active at dusk and dawn (when she begs for treats incessantly).  Her favorite treats are raisins and craisins, although she will get bored with any treat if she gets it multiple days in a row (no, no, she isn’t spoiled, I swear!)  She also likes dandelion treats, dried papaya, rosemary, plain oats, and puffed rice.

And that’s Dasha in a nutshell!