Saturday, January 31, 2009

Snatch and Grab

Early this Saturday morning with the temperature at exactly 0 degrees, we decided it was time to take drastic action to rescue the kitty. Nick attempted to coax the kitten to the door, but once again it would come close then run away. Later this morning, at the exact same moment, it occurred to both Nick and me that perhaps we could open the living room window while kitty was on the ledge and looking in and pull him in to the house. The funny thing is, I was in the kitchen suggesting this while Nick was in the living room actually implementing the plan (we often have the same thought at the same time--scary). Nick unlatched and opened the window and grabbed the kitten before it realized what was happening. I heard Nick calling "come here, come here" and I came running as fast as I could which wasn't very fast since I was wearing footies which don't have a lot of traction on a slippery kitchen floor. He had kitty, who was protesting rather loudly, in hand and our other two cats circling around trying to see what they could do to help. You know, chaos. I happily took kitty from Nick and held him close and within a minute kitty was purring and acting quite pleased with himself for allowing us to catch him. (Yes, we have confirmed the cat is a boy.) At first the cat would cry every few seconds and our cat Gracie Jane would answer. So I sat down on the steps to allow them a look at each other and Gracie licked the kitten on the head. It was so sweet and the gesture seemed to make our little stray feel safe and welcome.

After only a few hours inside it is hard to believe this is the same kitten that hid from us under the shrubs for days. He is one of the most cuddly and affectionate kittens I have ever met. The girls both came over today and did their part to help spoil the new baby.
Until we can get him checked out by a vet we are keeping him away from Gracie Jane and Ralph, but we will still give him a lot of one-on-one time. Enjoy these pictures of the new baby. If we can find him a good home that would be great, but keeping him is sounding more and more like a good idea, too. I guess we have to get serious about giving him a name because it doesn't seem right to keep calling him shrub kitty! We are so glad the snatch and grab technique worked and the kitten is safe and warm at last.

Friday, January 30, 2009

Slow Progress

There hasn't been much progress in the weather or with pet rescuing around here. It's still cold and the little stray kitten is still living under the shrubs. We thought we might coax him (or her) in last night. Kitty seems to want to trust us, and comes close, but runs off at the last minute.

We've noticed the kitten has the cutest little black mask on its face. We never really intended to keep the cat, assuming we can ever catch it. We just want to keep it from freezing and find it a good home. But I don't think it's a good sign when potential pet names start popping in to your head...Bandit, perhaps? Have we already begun to psychologically see this kitten as our own? Could it be that this kitten is actually using the old hard-to-get ploy to make us want him all the more? I have to admit, I think it's working.

Our little guest spends a lot of time peering in the living room window from outside--sizing us up I guess. You would think by now it would realize this is a pretty nice place for a cat. Sometimes our cat Gracie Jane peers back out from the inside, and the little stray rubs up against the glass, wanting to make friends. We've even used Gracie to try and coax the kitten inside. We'll hold her at the front door and little kitty does come very close. But soon Gracie gets a chill and squirms away into the warmth of the house, and we are back to the drawing board.

The view from our porch today is shown below. See why we wish the kitten would come in?! It isn't a very good time to be a kitten who lives in the shrubs.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

The Kitten in the Shrubs

I'm at work right now, sitting at my desk eating lunch, but my mind is at home. Living under the bushes in front of our porch is a little black and white kitten who seemingly appeared from nowhere earlier this week. Every evening, he cries and cries, and jumps up to look through our living room window to see what the inside kitties are doing. He seems to find some comfort knowing there are other cats around. We have been leaving food and water for him, but so far he is too distrusting and fearful to let us get very close. I suspect he has every right not to trust humans, but it seems some part of him knows the people who live in our house aren't all bad.

I have fashioned him (her?) a make-shift house from an empty cat litter bucket lined with an old blanket. At least this gives him a waterproof shelter under the shrubs. What I really want to do is scoop him up and bring him inside. Hopefully a few more evenings of cat food and sweet talk will win him over.

I remember several years ago at our first home when a beautiful Siamese cat set up housekeeping under our shed. She would venture out at night and cry outside our window, but like this kitten, run off whenever we invited her inside. Our oldest daughter, who was about 9 or 10 at the time, spent a great deal of her free time talking gently to the cat as it hid under the shed. One day she triumphantly came to the back door with her new friend in her arms. That was Jheri, and she was a lovely member of our family for several months. Unfortunately, we soon learned that Jheri had feline leukemia, and wondered if this was why her original family abandoned her. We loved Jheri anyway, and are happy she chose to live her final months with us.

With winter showing his most wicked side to us these days, I can't help but worry about all the homeless pets left to fend for themselves, and those pets left outside and largely ignored by their owners. I may not be able to save them all, but I'm sure going to try and help the little kitten living under our shrubs.

Monday, January 19, 2009

Climbing out of the Deep Freeze

At long last, we are experiencing "normal" winter weather with temperature in the teens instead of in the negative teens and twenties as it was last week. Of course other areas of the country in the north had it even worse than we did, which I can barely imagine. Everything is so complicated when the temperature drops so low and the wind picks up. Cars don't start, schools are delayed and activities cancelled, and outside pets and livestock need extra care. I am happy to say we survived the deep freeze pretty well except for some not entirely unexpected car problems.

To help me focus more on the upcoming spring and less on the present cold weather, another one of my favorite garden catalogs arrived, Johnny's Selected Seeds ( Johnny's caters to the market gardener, but welcomes home gardeners as well. One of the best things about the Johnny's catalog is the detailed growing information they provide for everything they sell. Information on plant culture, diseases, insect pests, ripeness and storage are included, eliminating a lot of the guess work when trying something new in the garden. Johnny's also has a good selection of the latest hybrid varieties as well as open pollinated and organic seeds. If you are looking for it, they probably have it. I also enjoy their selection of garden tools and supplies. Theirs is truly a catalog that you can sit and read cover to cover.

My seed order from Pinetree Seeds also arrived in the mail this past week. All of the seeds in this order will be direct seeded, but receiving them did get me to thinking about starting some seeds inside in a few more weeks. I was a little disappointed to see that my order Indy Gold beans was substituted with a different variety, Gold Crop, but I am anxious to try them all the same.

Thank goodness for these little reminders of spring that keep me going as we climb out of this deep freeze and think ahead to greener and warmer days.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009

Putting the Chickens to Bed

It is hovering near the freezing mark tonight and there is a fine mist of precipitation in the air. We'll have to put the chickens to bed tonight. Our family has always been surprised at what hardy creatures chickens are. They look small and fragile, but they live outside all year round, tolerating Indiana's temperature extremes very well. This time of year, however, we feel our birds need a bit of extra help. Most nights, all of the hens will bed down in one of their houses for the night. Batosi, our lone rooster, a cute little Japanese bantam, is not always so practical. On really cold nights when Nick goes out to check on the chickens, Batosi can generally be found roosting on top of one of the houses. He is usually alone. Now, you might think that this isn't a problem because he would have sense enough to go inside if he were truly cold. You would think so, wouldn't you? But the truth of the matter is, that bird will stay outside even when when it is so cold that there is frost on his back! Chickens are susceptible to frostbite on their feet and wattles without enough winter protection, so we worry. We don't know if Batosi is committed to staying outside to guard the hens, or if he simply prefers some solitude over being hen-pecked in the coop, but night after night Nick has to put him to bed.

This is a task that Nick has taken on himself. It's a good thing he is willing to do this, because I probably would not. First of all, I am not fond of venturing outside when it is cold and dark (especially disliking the cold part), and number 2, Nick simply cares more about the chickens and their welfare than I do. I like them well enough, but I focus my nurturing on our dog and cats and some nights there just isn't a lot of nurturing left over for the chickens.

It is kind of ironic that it is Batosi who needs and gets this extra attention. We weren't supposed to have him at all. Since it isn't necessary to have a rooster unless you want chicks, we did not plan to keep any roosters. We always requested pullets (young hens) instead of a "straight run" which means you get what you get. But sexing chicks is tricky business, and somehow Batosi (who after all was only the size of an Easter peep when we got him) slipped through. A lot of people who keep poultry turn their young roosters into dinner, but we have never eaten any of our birds. Besides, Batosi is a very handsome and showy bird who has always been quite friendly. He is not at all mean as some roosters become. He also pretty much leaves our hens alone, and so we are happy to keep him around. Maybe this is why Batosi feels it is his duty to stay out in the elements and watch over the rest of the flock. And maybe this is why we think he is worth tucking in at night.

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Best Wishes for 2009

Happy New Year! I hope the holidays were wonderful for all, and that good things will come to you in 2009. This new year, I am facing the upcoming months with optimism and hope. Rather than focusing on a new year's resolution for myself, I am going to simply focus on doing my best each day.

Winter can be a time of optimism for gardeners; at least it is for me. By now I have pretty much dismissed my gardening failures from last summer and I'm busy making plans for the next season. In fact, today I placed my first seed order on-line from Pinetree Seeds, one of my favorite companies ( I like Pinetree Seeds because they sell smaller quantities of seeds at reasonable prices. Why pay for more than you need? I've always received my orders from Pinetree very quickly and without any errors or problems. So far, I've ordered three types of bush beans--Dragon Langerie, which I've grown before and really liked, Masai, and Indy Gold. Masai is said to do well in containers. I also ordered Gonzales mini cabbage which produces softball sized heads, Tall Telephone peas which I will trellis, French Golden Radish, Gold Rush Zucchini, and Little Finger Carrot. I am also working on my wish list from Johnny's Selected Seeds and The Cook's Garden seeds, two more of my favorite catalogs. In future blogs I will share with you my choices of seeds from these catalogs, and the reasons I like to order from these companies. I will also share my reviews of some lesser-known Internet based companies that do not produce a printed catalog. As always, I welcome comments from you on favorite sources of garden seed. Until then, happy arm chair gardening and Happy New Year!