Sunday, November 29, 2009

Cat Shelters

Yesterday, my husband looked at the weather report and saw that we are expecting a storm. That made him leave his environmental assessment paper to build a couple of more emergency cat shelters.  In managing a feral cat colony, we provide food, medical care, and adequate shelter. We also have what I call transient cats--those who roam several neighborhoods. They usually look for food, females, and temporary shelter during inclement weather.  

Here's how we make emergency shelters.

You will need a plastic tub-the kind with a lid, sheets of 3/4 to 1 inch thick Styrofoam, duct tape, and bedding.  

Step 1: Get a plastic tub that has a lid. By the way--these also make excellent covered litter boxes. Cut a hole in one side just large enough for a cat. 

Step 2: Measure the inside of the tub and then cut the Styrofoam to fit. Be sure to measure for the floor and roof of the shelter. You may have to adjust and trim a bit to make a nice fit. But you can always use the duct tape if you over cut. 

Fitting the bottom

Using duct tape to fit the pieces together to make a tight fit.
Good thing Styrofoam is flexible. Some may call this cheating but it works in a pinch.

We build in layers. The foam doesn't have a great R-Value but it does provide some padding.

While most feral cat organizations feel that straw is better for ferals, we ran out of bales. We use old cotton blankets that will help cats stay warm. They can burrow under the layers or just nestle down into it if they choose. With eleven cats in the house, we can always get a feline opinion in such matters as well.

Tilly made herself right at home.  That's one cat's approval.
Merlin is asking Tilly how comfy the blanket is.

The Feline Seal of Approval 

Then add the roof or the top. It needs to fit snuggly and work with the lid of the shelter. You can see that D used pieces to make the top. He's the Duct Tape Master, I swear. He can fix anything as long as he has a roll of duct tape.

For the final touch, D adds a bit of duct tape on the outside edges to help seal air leaks. 

The shelter of the Blues Brothers: Buddy and 2B
We added an old runner so they can sit on top in the sun and D added a rain flap made from a garbage bag.  

This morning I awoke to this sight. Lovely but cold. The ferals and the transients have emergency shelters on the side of the house, away from our backyard colony. For extra measure, D added a tarp for added insulation and wind break.


Saturday, November 28, 2009

My Neighbor

If you have been following my blog for a bit, you would have read my mention of my neighbor. Mrs. C is 80 years old and is a lovely, lovely woman. My husband runs her to the grocery stores when she's in a bind, and she makes him food. If she has problems that he can fix for her, she makes him food. We wash her windows a couple of times a year so she can see outside and she makes my husband food. I go over to visit several times a week, and she makes my husband food. I fixed her clogged vacuum cleaner and she made my husband food. When she's ill, I take care of her and she makes my husband food. You see where this is going, right? 

You're probably wondering why I don't get any of her foods. Remember, I have dietary restrictions and unfortunately I can't eat her foods. She makes delicate puddings, a mean chile, and to die-for empanadas. She makes a lot of foods I just can no longer sample--but I remember the flavors and textures very well. It's one of those things that I had to sacrifice in my life's journey. Nonetheless, my lovely, lovely neighbor is very good to me.

Mrs. C takes me walking. About every other day, she drags my happy butt around the park or other places and I let her. That's right--I LET HER. It keeps us both healthier by going for these walks. It gets her out of the house and gets me away from my computer. Walking gives us fresh air, exercise, and time to chat and visit. Our doctors are all happy that we've both been walking. 

Mrs. C's plan is to have me walking all over town by summer. Last summer we went to our local Farmers' Market twice a week. This fall, we've concentrated around the library park, but occasionally, we go other places. I thought I'd show some of the places we see on our walks.

Mrs. C

Carnegie Park
 Mrs. C usually hikes my butt around this park every other day

Immaculate Conception Church 
Going around the park means transversing the ICC with its two parking lots.
This is Mrs. C's church and she adores Father George.  
 The Las Vegas Peace & Justice Center
In my final year of graduate school, I completed my practicum at this wonderful little center.
 You wouldn't know by looking at this place, but the people of the center are all volunteers and have worked towards stopping herbicides from being used on our local watersheds, assist the local jail in being more humane, and were the forerunners in developing state voting reform.
Semilla Natural Food Store
Our local health foods store where I get some of the foods I can eat.They have a small selection--nothing you will see at Whole Foods, but their selections are excellent. 
I also get my Burt's Bees products here along with other of life's necessities!

Sometimes, if we are lucky--we get to see some of the local wildlife on our walks.
The other day, Mrs. C needed to visit her bank. So we walked downtown and found the city was putting up our holiday tree. It was a delightful surprise!

They were getting it centered before adding the tree topper. I'll take another picture when it's lit up.
Thanks for "walking" with us! 

Friday, November 27, 2009

Is IT Done YET?!?!?!?! The Day After...

Yesterday meant a day of giving thanks for our blessings...of feasting on delectable delights...of relaxation and family...

Yesterday meant hearing the cats ask "Is the turkey DONE yet?!?!?!"  

 Tilly giving eyeblinks in hopes that the turkey is done finally! 

In our home, my husband cooks the holiday birds.  In the seven years we've been married, he's never had a turkey come out underdone, overdone, dried out or anything else that can a person can do to ruin the centerpiece of the meal. I also need to mention that because he does the turkey so well,  it's taken a lot of the pressure off me. It also means I get to concentrate making the the side dishes. 

This year I chose do squash, mainly because it's part of my husband's heritage, and because I found some awesome recipes.  Ree Drummond over at The Pioneer Woman has simplified squash cooking and made my life easy. I got a lot of compliments from making her Butternut Squash Puree this year. At Christmas, I'll make her Sweet-Roasted Rosemary Acorn Squash Wedges.

Now because of my allergies to food preservatives, I haven't had pumpkin pie or pecan pie for three long years. My food preservative allergies include anything made with corn or soy, including high fructose corn syrups. The past three days, I've been searching online for recipes that I could modify, substitute, or adapt to my needs. Yesterday early morning, I found two of the best. I was so excited that I just scribbled down the ingredients, the amounts, and what temperature to turn the oven on. Yes I did. Took that piece of scribbled paper into the kitchen and proceeded to make pie. 
They came out beautifully. Thin crusts, but flaky. The pecan pie was made with maple syrup--the real stuff, not that colored-flavored stuff that's called syrup. The pumpkin was also made with maple syrup and organic half-n-half, rather than evaporated milk--which I cannot have.  I only had a sliver yesterday of each of the pies because I was also worried about the glutamate acid content. I have to watch the glutamate acid content in foods, thanks to my preservative/additive allergies. 

This morning I realized that I didn't save the two recipes to my recipe files. No I did not save those recipes. Now I have to hunt through the 'Net again, looking for those two perfect recipes. I cannot find my paper scraps with the list of ingredients. Silly me. 

Wednesday's newspaper was full of advertisements, screaming about Black Friday sales. Again, and for another year, I sit smug at my computer. I will not participate in Black Friday Mental Breakdown Shopping-Frenzy Madness. I will not get up at o'dark-thirty to stand in line at freezing-my-toucus o'clock to get a "limited supply" of anything. I will not fight crowds of people trying to obtain the same limited supply something.  I will not watch humanity at its worst in this season of when we are supposed to be sharing and giving our best to all. 

I'm liking the simplicity of giving from the heart, which means handcrafted or handmade gifts. I'm enjoying the thought behind the gifts I give and the process of making them. It soothes me to know that I can plan in advance what I want to make and give, rather than get caught up in the last minute turmoil and fury. It means I can enjoy taking my time during the holiday season. It gives me time to reflect and volunteer at the charities I support, enjoy friends and family, and brings a sense of peace to my soul. 

It means taking life the way a cat would! :D

Tryptophan cats

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Counting Blessings

"Not everything that counts can be counted, and not everything that can be counted counts." ~ A. Einstein

This is one of my favorite quotes. As busy as every one seems to be and I am just as busy, I'm reminded that I need to count my blessings. Count the things that really matter most to me.


  One of my blessings that I count is the love and support of my husband. 
We had been friends for 13 years before we married 7 years ago. 
We drive each other crazy 
and still are crazy about each other after all these years.

My son is another blessing. 
As much as we differ/disagree on nearly everything and most topics, he gave me my only chance to be a mom. He survived my bad parenting decisions and 
still graciously gives me credit for the few good ones.  

True friends are a blessing in any life. 
I count true friends among my blessings.
True friends are those who can see you through your worst and celebrate your bests. They will admonish you when you need a "spanking," cheer you when you need a lift, and share with you the joys of reaching milestones.

The animals who shared their lives with me is another blessing. 
Some were not able to stay very long, and others experienced life with me. 
But they all shared their love and trust with me. It is an honor and privilege to know each of them.

Family is another blessing. There are times when we get on each other's very last nerve, or we don't speak to each other for long periods of time because we are busy with our own lives, or we aren't as close as we'd like to be. Nonetheless, family is another blessing. 

Another blessing I have is my health. Many would think that having chronic high blood pressure, arteriosclerosis, and bad kidneys as not being a blessing. At this point, I'm blessed I'm alive and that I'm healthier now than I was before these problems were detected. It's one of those things that counts, but can't really be counted in a tangible manner. 

I've been blessed in my teaching. It provides me with an income to meet life's daily needs and challenges and it also enriches my life. I may complain about grading papers all the time, but I'm grateful to have them to grade. I'm blessed by my students--they have given me the daily strength to do my best for them. I've met many wonderful people that I wouldn't otherwise have met through my teaching. 

This may not be a blessing to most people, but I'm blessed to have computer skills and access to the Internet. I've found knowledge and information, met people from around the world, gained access to different cultures, and keep in touch with friends and family. It helps me stay connected. 

There are other blessings that I haven't counted today. But I'll be thinking of them in between feeding cats, preparing for the holiday, grading papers, and doing household chores.  What are your blessings?

Saturday, November 21, 2009

The "Blues Brothers"

(I'm going to be  very busy tomorrow, so I thought I'd post this early.)

My husband refers to them as the Blues Brothers since they look so much alike. I'm talking about Buddy and his brother-son-uncle-grandfather-father-cousin-littermate 2B. Yes, we call him 2B as in "To Be or Not To Be."  

Buddy was brought to us by our feral girl, Java before she was hit by a car. 2B showed up just about a month ago. We were actually surprised to see him, mistaking him for Buddy for a bit, until we saw them together. We know they are related, because they look so much alike and because they act like recent siblings--ones that have a long association with each other.  Surprisingly enough, Buddy who challenges every cat (and dog) that ventures near the front porch, did not challenge 2B other than a minor hissy spit. They also like to intimidate dogs, cats, and humans they don't like out of the front yard. 



 They were both full males, meaning that they haven't been neutered.  Buddy's age has been estimated to be about 5 years old, so we are surmising that 2B is the same age. They are strays and recent ones at that. We know they are strays because they don't act feral. That means they don't hide or run away from us and they allow close contact by humans, like petting. Although in Buddy's case, he has to pet YOU first before he allows himself to be petted. It's just his feline prerogative. On the other hand, 2B allows you to pet him and then thinks about returning the favor. 

Buddy eats while 2B looks on 

We had Buddy neutered and vaccinated this week. We opted not to get his ear tipped, in hopes that we can find him his people or a new home. By the way--we aren't holding our breath for either case.  2B will get his soon.  

So why do people get cats, make them pets and then dump/abandon or mistreat them? There are as many reasons as there are grains of soils. With the current economic crisis on hand, many people are having a hard time feeding their families in our little town, let alone pets. There aren't any services or food pantries for pets. Even the town pound is having problems. 

But the current economic crisis is fairly recent and people have been dumping their dogs and cats for a long time before it hit.  I believe the reason why people dump/abandon or mistreat their animals is a combination of reasons. Our society operates on a "disposable mindset." We get rid of, throw away, trash, toss things easily. We've been conditioned to throw out the old and acquire new or do the latest trend. Our society still looks at animals as "property" rather than living souls/beings and that makes it easy to toss them away. Our society also lacks commitment to anything that may be a long-term responsibility. Pets take long-term care and responsibility. 

Not every one feels this way or behaves this way. I know many people who work hard at reusing and recycling materials and resources; who take long-term care and responsibility seriously; and who do not toss their pets away or mistreat them. Many of them see pets are as part of their families, vital members of their families. They are the ones who give their time to their communities and are committed to their communities. I'm glad we have caring and committed people.

Many people also mistakenly believe that cats "can survive" or "take care of themselves." They believe that cats can hunt mice and birds and they will do well out in the world. They have to hunt, kill, and eat the equivalent of eight mice per day just to survive.  Pet cats often do not survive because they don't have the training, skills, or knowledge of how to survive.  This is not information they will gain within a week.  Many pet cats will die from exposure, starvation, malnutrition, disease, being hit by cars, savaged by dogs, fights from other ferals, and at the hands of inhumane humans when they are dumped or abandoned. 

If you can not keep your cat, find him or her a good home.  

Lucky Cat 

Friday, November 20, 2009

Bead Trade!

Recently I joined this threadkiller contest. Never having done this before, I read the rules--which seemed fairly simple: Post as often as you wish, but each post must be 7 words or more and be the last one to post for 24 hours. The prize was $20 credit in the Etsy store. Woooooohoooooo! I was so there! I like this particular store, having purchased beads and crystals from there before.  So I figured I could be the last person to post within 24 hours and hopefully win some easy credit at the store. Right? Right.  

Well, so far I'm NOT doing good at killing the thread. I seem to be adding to it. But that's ok--I'm meeting some wonderful people there. One of the wonderful ladies I've met is Jo Gallagher. She is the owner and designer at Jo's Jewels. During one particular and interesting exchange with several of the ladies there, I mentioned that I take the beads I know I won't use or can't use to either one of the local child development centers or do bead trades. Jo immediately jumped on the bead trade part of my post. 

Before I knew it, I was taking pictures of the various beads I wanted to trade and sending them to her.   She sent me an email, stating which ones she was interested in and asked me if I had any cabochons. I only had one--a pink fiber optic oval that I kept for two years because it was so pretty. The next thing I knew I was digging through more beads, trying to find her "extras" that she may enjoy with the ones she wanted. As it turns out, she was doing the same for me! 

We both sent our respective packages Monday and got our bead trades by Wednesday and Thursday! It was so exciting to see all the extras in the trades, to make a new friend, and get some extra  new beads we didn't have before.  

This was my very first Internet Bead Trade and I have to deem it a grand success, largely because of Jo! I'm eagerly awaiting my next Internet Bead Trade to come along. Thank you Jo for such a wonderful experience!

(The extras I received. I wished I had remembered to take a photo of the beads I sent to her!)

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Solar Powered!

Cats are solar powered creatures. They need the sun. Forget all the hype about sunshine gives them natural Vitamin D. (It does, but cats think differently from humans!)  It's all about worship and being the objects of worship. Cats were once worshipped as gods in different ancient cultures. That little tidbit of knowledge has been passed down from cat generation to present day.
(Max-catching afternoon rays) 
A house with one or two cats (or more) will find them claiming the best spots to catch a few sunbeams.  
(Arby and Merlin) 

At times when the afternoon sun is strong, even conflicts can be set aside to catch those solar rays. A favored spot can be shared, despite the different personalities that inhabit the home.

(Chile warming her tummy)

 Sometimes, solo is worth everything for a few rays of golden afternoon sun. It's a great time for cleaning oneself, communing with the humans on a sub-vocal level, and just enjoying the simple pleasures in life.  And sometimes, it's just the best time to catch a nap.

(Harley napping in the sun)


Tuesday, November 17, 2009

But Kitty! Oh...Kitty Butt

As feral colony managers, we've become accustomed to kitty language.  It took us time to understand that the first rule to managing cats is that they are tele-empathic. They can feel your thoughts. They communicate to you through telepathy when they choose to do so. For the most part, they prefer to train you (cats see human as somewhat inferior beings--don't forget that!) because it's easier.

So when we plan to catch/trap a cat for speutering purposes, we don't even think the words TRAP, CATCH, SPAY, NEUTER, VET'S OFFICE around any cat. We learned to talk in code. 

"Have you seen Buddy today?"

"Not yet. He's usually around about this time or that time." 

"Oh good. I wanted to give him some extra time to pet me this evening (or special treat, depending on the cat) and he's no where to be found."

An hour later, Buddy will show up, demanding his time with me. That's just the first hurdle to trapping/catching a feral/stray. My point is that cats are tele-empathic. That's why they stress if we we stress, get manic at times when we are extremely happy, or have hissy-fits if we're having one.

Anyway--back to kitty language. Here are some examples.

The slitted eyes are a warning that things could get ugly between you unless you have a favorite food or treat on hand.

Note the crossed-paws. That's an extremely happy kitty.
(Sunny & Graycie: Adopted) 

 Hunting is play-time to cats. Notice the forward pointing ears, the intense expression on the face, and the whiskers. The whiskers can tell you when a cat is about to pounce--either in play or during the hunt.

Totally relaxed kitties. This signifies trust in their environment--not so much their trust in you. 
(Chile, Max, Lacey) 

Some cats actually smile. 


The famous Kitty-Butt. It has several connotations. It could simply be "You disappointed me." It could be part of a sulk--"I'm not ready to talk to you!" If the ears are laid back, you have one mad kitty--"I'm seriously considering packing my fur and LEAVING you!" You will have to do some serious groveling to even get to the negotiation stage before forgiveness is allowed.

"I'm listening."  

 If you want to calm a stressed out or fearful cat, eye-blink slowly. Slowly turn your head to the side so you aren't directly looking into the cat's eyes, and then eye blink. Again, keep this slow and even. Eye-blinking tells the cat that you are no threat and the situation is ok. If your cat is calm and you want to give him or her  a special message, look at him or her and then eye-blink slowly. It's a way to communicate "I love you"  to your cat.

Topaz in the middle of an eye-blink, telling me she likes the tent I made for her. 

Saturday, November 14, 2009

My Other Vice

We all have vices, habits, addictions that we find it difficult to break. Naturally there are vices, habits, addictions that we are just not going to attempt to break because we enjoy them so well! That's where I'm at in my journey. I've given up a lot of my favorite foods, disgusting habits (like smoking) and have sacrificed convenience for quality. I've formed new habits, spend hours--literally, spend hours reading labels on my foods, doing lots of research, and I let my 80-year old neighbor drag me around the park every other day. I've even stopped doing chores in the most time-saving and efficient manner so I'm that much more active. 

I have two vices--I call them vices. Whether or not you do is up to you. But I call them vices. These two shall not be touched. I won't give them up. Not now. Not ever. Don't ask. 

My first vice is my coffee. I was willing to give up smoking just so I could have my coffee. Seriously. Most smokers think I'm a total headcase because I was willing to throw away the cigarettes but not the liquid. Don't ask me to give it up. I won't. You don't know the pain I went through just cutting back from 2-4 pots (and mostly drinking that by myself) down to three measly cups per day. I made others miserable. It ghastly. It was difficult. Giving birth to my son was easier and less painful than cutting back on my coffee. 

(And here comes Harley as I type this. He has to "neck" when he feels traumatized. I mean do the nursing-mama-thing and suck on my neck--complete with kneading. I'm guessing he's feeling my pain at giving up a lot of my coffee and it's traumatizing him. He wants to neck. It should make me feel better. It works for him. But I digress...)

My second vice is beading. Don't ask me to give it up either. The need to bead is strong within me, do you hear?  And please don't ask me which one I value most--my coffee or beading. It's no competition! I've got to have both.

The need to bead goes back to my first real release from the hospital back when I was sick in 2008. I was hospitalized the first week in March and had four more hospitalizations by May. In June, although still pretty frail, I was feeling somewhat stronger. I still had the last vestiges of the suicide ideation which was caused by all the medications shoved, poked, and needled into my body during the past two months.  (Yes, being allergic to medication can cause suicidal thoughts.)  I decided that if my time was limited (and I felt at the time, that the end was fast approaching), I couldn't leave without first making some sort of memento for my sisters. I have two younger sisters. Middle Sister and Baby Sister. Despite all the fights, bickering, slap-downs (verbally--not literally) and miles between us, I still love my little sisters. 

I had seen this Sisters pin of three female figures-each figure done in silver, copper, and gold. Well at the time, I couldn't afford it and at the time, none of us would ever wear a pin. But I loved the idea of symbolizing the concept of "sisters." So I used silver, copper, and gold metal plated seed beads. I wanted a stone that would represent women, sisters, bonding. I found some beautiful rhodonite. I didn't want to make the necklaces exactly alike, but make them to reflect our differences despite us being connected by blood. I chose different colors of 6/0 seed beads.

That's Arby's paw in the upper left, holding down the shot.

The concept began growing in my mind. I realized there were several women in my life that I recognized as my "sisters." I wanted them to have a necklace too. So I made one for the special women in my life.  Unfortunately, I was in a hurry to mail out their jewelry, I didn't take the photos I should have. I wasn't quite thinking that clearly yet. 

Beading helped me get my life back into perspective. It gave me purpose. It helped me to get my brain functioning again. I temporarily lost the ability to read, count, do simple thought processes. It was a scary, scary time for me. Beading helped me by giving me something to focus and concentrate on and work through logistics of putting a piece together. It helped me burn the last of the medication effects out of me. 

The first piece I put together that helped me to start functioning again.

 It also gave me my new vice. My other vice other than coffee. I may not be able to drink coffee all day long any more, but I can certainly bead all day long! Well, when I can. When students are demanding lessons and graded papers back. When I don't have to clean the house and plan dinner. Or shop for food. Things like that.

I found I could make my own funky but stylin' earrings. I found these beads on eBay, created by Terri Stone at TLSClayDesign. I need to finish the bracelets. Did I mention I have a bunch of her beads?  

Middle Sister's birthday is in December. Last year I decided I wanted to give her something special. I found these beautiful clay shields on eBay, designed by Linda of NKDesigns. I saw one that would be perfect for Middle Sister. When it arrived, I discovered that really liked it. I kept telling myself that once I made it up, it would look like it BELONGED to Middle Sister and I would be happy. Which reminds me, I need to visit her shop and pick up a few more of her beads. It's an addiction, I tell you!

Naturally, this set didn't make it to Middle Sister. I LOVED it when I was finished the necklace. I loved it so much, I had to make earrings and a bracelet that can be worn with the necklace or separately. Yeah, I kept the set. Couldn't part with it. Which meant I had to find new beads for Middle Sister's birthday present. But that was ok since I'm up to the challenge of finding new beads. It's like getting a daily fix. It's rewarding. It's thrilling. It's an addiction to put it simply.

This is the set Middle Sister got for her birthday last year. The flowers came from a very talented artist, Mary Ellen at BeeTreeByME.  I told her she could have the clay shield set after I die. 

A close up of Middle Sister's birthday necklace.