Thursday, July 24, 2014

Beetles, Be Gone!

CM editor Ed Waggoner's tongue-in cheek intro says it all.
Jim's better beetle buster went a bit viral on Face Book last evening with family and friends eager to try his remedy.  I'm off to concoct one for the 'other house' garden.

Columbia Magazine

Tuesday, July 22, 2014


This brilliant moth caught my eye when I walked to the garage at about 7:30 this morning.
I have seen these in the past but don't recall that I had searched for their identification.
Anisota Senatorea, the Oakworm Moth.
There are several variations, one with a pink stripe on the body.
Daughter G. seeing the photo claims it inspires her to want a garment in fake orange fur!

A tattered little moth, in quiet colors.
I am less than positive about the ID on this one.
I found many similar photos online, but identifications were inconclusive.
It appears to be the Common Gray, Anavitrinella Pampinaria.
[I'm considering how I might drop that name into a conversation!]

This pretty thing is a Regal Walnut Moth, Citheronia Regales. 

Side view of the fat body and gripping little feet.

A marvel of design.

Cecropia Moth.
This one appears a bit battered.

 "Although they only live five or six days, the adults capture the eye of anyone lucky enough to see one at night. The adults hatch from their cocoon on mornings in spring -- May through June throughout much of their range. Their first day as winged adults is spent clinging to a branch as they allow their bodies to dry and quickly pump their wings to get blood flowing to them and lengthen them. The females remain perched due to being egg-laden, and send out a pheromone to attract males just before dawn. After mating, the male will hide during the day and continue finding females just before dawn. The female, however, will almost immediately begin laying eggs in small clutches. She diligently spreads out the small clutches of eggs to help minimize the risk of competition among larvae. Once she's done, she'll have laid about 350 eggs."

I found this Cecropia clinging high up on the building when I went out late in the afternoon.
Not sure if it is the same moth I watched in the morning.
This one seems less frayed.

Isn't this a stunning creation?
Giant Imperial Moth; Hyalophora Cecropia.
This one was clinging to the top of the garage window frame.
After several attempts to zoom in on it, I dragged out a crate and clambered up for some closer shots.

At such times I wish I had a camera capable of refined detail--and, of course, the wits to use it!

Trying to hold the camera steady.
Fortunately, the moth was oblivious to my presence.


This battered and damaged cecropia clung to the bottom of the door frame.
By afternoon it was obviously near the end of its lifespan.
The two black spots on the body were crusty--wounds? Parasites?
Sadly, I found a cecropia crushed and dead, lying at the edge of the carport when I returned from gardening at the other house.
The boy cats will swipe at a moth or butterfly which lands with in their reach.
Did the moth of the morning blunder down from the top of the window frame and become an instant victim?
Or were there several in various stages of their short lives who found our dooryard appealing today?

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Sharing My Cats

Eggnog, unbelievably, is still clinging to life. She is very thin and frail, yet still greets us each time we go down to the basement.  She stretches up to be stroked--ever so gently, gives a little chirping mew and settles back down.  I sit beside her, feeling her faint purring beneath her now ragged fur.
As you can see, Teasel has appointed herself Eggnog's companion. The contrast between my emaciated oldster and her very plump 'nanny' is evident.

When I decided to allow Eggnog to 'die at home' rather than cutting her time short with a trip to the vet, I couldn't imagine that 8 days would pass in this process.
There were two episodes when I felt that she was stressed: that first spell of vomiting and another shaky session 24 hours later.  Since then there has been nothing but the slow and quiet diminishing.
Her eyes are clear, there is no indication that she is in pain or distress.
She is clean, not smelly.
I've had my moments of stress, questioning my decision.
 In addition to sadness at the looming loss of a pet who has spent her 16 years of life with us, there was concern that I hadn't been right in my choice. 
This is not the course I would take with a very ill cat or one who was in pain.
In the many years of sharing my home with cats I've many times made that final visit for the vet's merciful needle to be administered.

On Tuesday evening I worked in my flower gardens till darkness was falling.
As I snipped faded flower stalks and carried them to the trash heap, the boy cats skittered around me. Birds were settling for the night, their voices mere sleepy chirps.
In the pasture across the fence a neighbor's cows munched.
As dusk deepened the cicadas began their scraping tune.
Inside I scrubbed my earth-stained hands, picked up a book, went downstairs.
I shook out Eggnog's bedding, holding her bony body for a moment before putting her down. I brushed her fur very lightly. I found a stool and pulled it close to her bed, settled myself with the book.
Eggnog laid a gentle paw against my thigh, moved closer.
Teasel hopped onto the bin and wrapped her furry self around her friend.
Often I closed my book, reached to stroke, murmur endearments.
It was nearly midnight when I left them, still curled together.
The peace which had stolen over me while working in the twilight had deepened as I kept my vigil with the two cats--the one so fragile, the other so attentive.
It was in some odd sense, my real 'goodbye' to Eggnog.
I don't know how many hours or days she has left--it can hardly be many.
Her persistent spark of life has amazed me.
I think I can see this through.

Having this many cats is ridiculous--unreasonable.
Jim's elderly Raisin on the far right--the three 'moggies' who appeared two years ago this month--the two Siamese-y rescue cats from the Indian Reservation in Wyoming.
I won the ebay bidding for the vintage white bedspread last week--how long will it stay white with the bed being appropriated for cat naps?

Bobby trolling the meadow as evening gathers.

"Could I interest you in a mouse?"

Nellie and Bobby--never far away when I am gardening.

Willis trails along as I gather up my tools and return them to the shed.
The evening song of coyotes rings from a ridge to the west, is answered by an echo far across the creek.
The hummingbirds make a bedtime dash to the feeder.
Willis sits on his observation rock, head snapping from side to side, making sure that no coyote could stroll into the dooryard unseen.
[They usually keep their distance, but one must be alert!]

Cats make messes.  They dig in the garden, leave hair and muddy pawprints on my bedspread.
They hawk up hairballs.
My heart is sore when it is time for them to pass on.
I can't imagine my life without their company.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

The Dilemma Of Waiting

Dilemma: a situation in which a difficult choice has to be made between two or more alternatives, especially equally undesirable ones.

Unbelievably, my little cat, Eggnog, still clings to life. She is so thin that I fear anyone seeing her might call me to task for abuse or neglect. 
She spent a day upstairs [ Wednesday] curled in her usual spot on the windowsill that looks onto the front porch. She ate perhaps half a teaspoonful of the canned food which I offered. She seemed contented--she's never been a bustling creature. 
Late in the evening she had another of the distressing spells of choking up a white froth, was twitchy and restless. I thought her heartbeat was shallow and too quick. I spread a soft blanket on the loveseat for her and braced myself to sit close by and see her out. She folded herself near me; I gently stroked her head.
After an hour she suddenly hopped down, headed for the stairs. By the time I turned on the light and followed her, she had clambered onto the storage bin where she had spent the preceding 24 hours. I folded a clean fleece for her to rest on, hovered over her until it seemed I really must go to bed. I expected that when I went down in the morning I would find her life ebbed away.

She hangs on--staying downstairs, becoming thinner, if such is possible.  She greets me each time I go down--appreciates being lightly brushed, petted. Sometimes she seems tired, other times she chirps, butts her bony head into my palm, encouraging me to rub along her jaw. Tonight while I was tidying litter boxes, I saw her hop down and drink from the water bowl--tiny, tiny sips. 

I wanted this painful time shortened--for her--and, in truth, for me. I know there is a tendency to attribute human ways to our animals [that lovely word: anthropomorphizing?]  I know I don't have to follow through on this commitment to let her 'die at home' without the stress of the half hour drive to the vet. I can change my mind, have it over.
Part of this is about me, of course--about my reticence in sharing the moments of parting with anyone else, no matter how kindly. I have usually made this 'last trip' with my cats on my own, cat carrier on the seat beside me, fingers of my right hand stretched through the wire of the carrier, to try and sooth the occupant. I can drive while crying!
There have been times I've handled the final moments without breaking down--not making conversation, surely--but keeping my hands on my pet while the merciful needle slips in. Other times, tears have blurred my eyes as I wrote the check at the office desk, I've felt too choked to make much response to the comments of the vet or the assistant.
Eggnog's death, however/whenever, is going to be one of the more difficult ones. 
So, I wait--and I observe--and I feel the sadness of this stretching out. I question my decision endlessly.  I tell myself, 'Surely, tomorrow. Wait for tomorrow.'
There is no indication that Eggnog is in pain. She is fragile, diminished, tired, but still responsive.

The ready tears sting my eyes as I read your expressions of sympathy.  We don't know the cadence of each others' voices--but we recognize the kinships of the heart--the bond of those who treasure animal companions.

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Vigil For A Beloved Cat

Eggnog perched on the footboard of our lodgepole bed in the Lander, WY house.

My dear cat, Eggnog, was 16 years old in April, 1914.
We adopted her in June, 1998, soon after our move to Wyoming.
A female Siamese cat had taken up residence in the tack barn at the home of Jim's niece.
There were two batches of kittens on hand--and we've never been sure if Eggie was born to the Siamese mom-cat or to the black and white cat who lived in the woodpile.
We brought her home, along with "EJ" --her brother, or half-brother, as the case might have been.
[EJ succumbed to a cancerous tumor at age 4.]

Eggnog doesn't have the strident voice which is so noticeable in her sister from the next litter--Jim's spoiled darling, Raisin.
Eggie has always been a cheerful, companionable creature, conversational, a very pleasant little cat.
You can see that her fur is not the silky smooth coat usual to a Siamese.  Rather, she has always been fuzzy.

Eggnog helps to lay out a quilt. 

When Eggnog was about 8 years old, she had to have all her teeth extracted.
Her little mouth healed well and soon she was eating kibble again.
It was perhaps from this time that she became terrified of being put in the cat carrier.
A trip to the vet for routine shots became a nightmare.
No matter how I tried to conceal the cat carrier, she knew why she was being caught. On at least one occasion she peed down my front as I attempted to insert her.
Once on the road a noxious odor soon announced that in her fright she had once again 
pooped in the carrier.
In the autumn of 2010--our first year in Kentucky, Eggnog presented with a fungus disease which caused lesions over her entire body with hair falling out in patches. 
Treatment included several trips to the vet, bathing with an anti-fungal shampoo, two courses of antibiotics.
You can imagine how gracelessly she endured these frightening indignities, struggling, crying out, becoming afraid of me, avoiding me.
Her recovery was slow, leaving her thin and with a permanent scabby roughness to her hide.
Slowly she befriended me again, though the mere sight of nail clippers or a tube of hairball paste sends her skittering under the sofa.

Eggnog helping to clean the kitchen in Lander, WY

We've noted the inevitable slowing down of Eggnog  in the past year.  A bit quieter, sleeping for long hours in her favorite spot on the windowsill that faces east.
She no longer came into the bedroom at night to curl on my feet.
Occasionally, for several days running, she seemed to have a 'catch' in her brain, being confused as to the location of the litter box. Each time she revived, reverted to her tidy habits. She continued to 'talk' to us, putting out an imperious white-tipped paw to demand our attention.
She knew at exactly what time each evening Jim should pick up the container of 'kitty treats' and dole out the bedtime snack.  If he was late, she marched across the floor and pleasantly reminded him that it was time. 
In the past 6 weeks she has been less interested in food. Her thick coat has matted, needing to be raked with a fine-toothed pet comb. 
Sometimes, coming in from work at the other house, I've watched her in repose on the windowsill, the rise and fall of her sides so slight with her breathing.
I've worried that when the time comes to move to the other house, it would be a major and confusing adjustment for such an elderly cat.
This morning I found that Eggnog had vomited in several spots on the living room floor--no residue of food, just white puddles of saliva.
She hopped down from the windowsill and repeated this process three more times before going down the basement stairs in wobbly fashion.
She stood by the litter box, straining, but producing only a pea-sized kernel.
I brought her blanket downstairs as she seemed disinclined to return to the living room.
Eggnog finally chose to clamber onto a covered storage bin under the basement stairs.
I folded two old T-shirts to pad the surface.
I go down at least once per hour to touch her, stroke her bony frame, speak her name.
My instinct is to bring her upstairs, make a cozy bed, coax her to eat.
I don't think this is what she wants.
Her breath is stale and her fur is dry--dehydration, no doubt.
I have vowed to spare her a last ride to the vet--a last hour of stress and anxiety.
I so want her passing to be over as peacefully and [dare I say it?] as quickly as possible now that the evil time has come.
I went out in the steamy heat of noontime to dig a buryhole on the west side of the barn--a few feet from where I buried Mrs. Beasley in August, 2012.
Tears blur my eyes and clog my voice when I bend to stroke my little friend.
I, who have never had that frightening privilege of watching at the deathbed of a loved human, have so many times hovered over a cat.
How quickly an animal becomes a part of our lives, their care part of our routines, their company well worth the messes or expenses.
I've been told there is a local vet who, though he is a large animal practitioner, will make a house call to put down a cat or dog for a client. He is the same vet we have had for Pebbles the Horse.
I will explore this option if it becomes clear that it is the kindest one.
Go quickly, Eggnog. 
Tears threaten, even as I type these words.
Still--go peacefully.
Go soon, dear Eggnog.

Monday, June 30, 2014

Catch-Up Photos

There is a rambling three-sided shed on our new property.
It was obviously the domain of the former man of the house--who gave up the task of clearing it out before he and his wife moved, leaving a dismal welter of old paint cans, bits of discarded fishing gear, dented buckets, all of which we shall have to deal with at some point.
I try not to venture in, but was lured to a closer view of this bird's nest, unoccupied, but rather cannily situated in an old cupboard.
I think it may have been created by a barn swallow.

I took this photo while standing near our mailbox. It was perfect haying weather [two weeks ago] and the billowing clouds riding a bright blue sky above the tidily mown meadow add up to as lovely a June day as one could imagine.

Sunday morning was showery prompting the boy cats to abandon trolling the meadow for mice.
I keep an old towel on the chest of drawers near my desk--just for damp cats in need of a resting spot.
Nellie has the ability to roll up and look nearly boneless.

Nellie, a bit muddy, sleeping so blissfully that he ignored my camera.

It rained much of the day Sunday.
We spent the afternoon working at the other house, returning in the damp greeness of early evening.
After a fierce shower the sky lightened for a few minutes before darkness closed in for the night.
I admired the spill of pink achillea in front of the porch--flopping now and many of the flower heads fading to a blushed white.

The man who rents the neighboring pasture for his beef cattle was mowing off thistles and weeds when we left at noon. As night came on his cattle browsed peacefully in the cut-over area.

A beautiful sunset to end the day.

The magnolia tree, a dark silhouette against the glowing sky.

Sunday, June 29, 2014

Progress in House and Garden

This may not look like progress.  The renovation of the bathroom at the 'other house' has proved a lengthy and messy business.
J. discovered a discouraging con-togglement of leaky pipes and badly worn fittings behind both bathtub and sink. Here he works to install new fixtures and Pex lines to replace ancient copper.

It seems to require this entire battery of tools and implements!
Note the mug of iced tea for refreshment.
I took the above photos on Thursday.
I had a appointment at the chiropractor on Friday morning, so rode to the other house with J. in order to commandeer the mini-van--leaving him to drive one of his cars purchased this spring on impulse.
[Best for me not to discuss those vehicle transactions!] 
I decided that rather than returning to play plumber's assistant, I would go home after my errands and attempt some much needed tidying and meal preparation.

The kitchen sink area--with the sink properly re-installed and a new faucet.
I am sorry to report that I damaged a small area of the sink finish today, by soaping and rinsing a paint brush that had been doused in varnish remover. 
I should have thought what a caustic substance that is!

We have been watering the garden at the other house every day for a week.
A few showers which were most welcome at home didn't occur there.
We are harvesting the first of the cucumbers from the vines just visible at the left of the photo.

Blueberries and blackberries need picking nearly every day at home.
J. thinks the yield is less than in previous years, but the quality and flavor are fine. 

First tomato harvested from the home garden, sliced and shared for supper on Friday.

Volunteer sunflowers. 
I am drawn to these with each new blossom unfolding--trying to capture their bold beauty from every angle.

I wondered what was growing in the neglected circular bed on the front lawn of the other house.
I recognized platycodon when the first fat buds began to open.

I discovered two shrubs of hibiscus blooming near the east boundary of the new property.
These are referred to here as Rose of Sharon--hibiscus syriacus--perhaps.

Flamboyant color in the shady dooryard.

The January freeze killed my buddleia to ground level.
It was very slow to put forth new growth this spring and isn't going to be the showy attraction of former summers.  Still--the fragrant blooms of its much diminished presence will entice the swallowtail butterflies.

It is so typical of Kentucky climate that plants which should bloom sedately at the end of summer rush into flower in June--leaving me with a suddenly shabby 'gone-by' garden as July arrives.

A mimosa tree is nearly crowded out by invading locust saplings in the back yard of the other house.
The fragrance of the delicate feathery blossoms has fought quite successfully with the homely odors from the farm next door.

I didn't take my camera today.
There has been progress.
The beautifully crafted vanity cabinet has been placed in the bathroom and the gleaming new faucets fitted.
Beadboard went up around it, J. has declared the water leaks cured with the installation of the new lines.
I dragged out sodden bits of flooring [oh yes, the sub-floor under and behind the old vanity had to be replaced!] sorted and put away tools, carried more paint cans and clean brushes and rollers down to the basement storage room.
Rain fell copiously overnight, so there was no need to water the gardens.
I leaned in to the flower strips to tweak out a few weeds, then gave the shrubbery along the front of the house a good trimming.
Home to a shower and fresh clothes; the soggy old towels and cleaning rags from the plumbing job laundered and pegged on the clothesline, a load of assorted 'work clothes' washed, tumble-dried, folded and put away.
J. declares that the bathroom renovation will be completed this week.
We bought the tile which will be used on the floor and the tub/shower surround; paint for the wall above the beadboard wainscoating is mixed and ready.
I have it in mind to strip the wallpaper and paint the third bedroom--I think I can handle that job on my 
own, however, considering the complications that arose with the refurbing of the other rooms, I suspect I would be wise to wait a bit.
The monumental struggles with the plumbing have put J. in a frame of mind to be done with renovating for now!  I doubt he would appreciate me trailing lengths of limp wallpaper down the hall--or making the unwelcome discovery that the drywall underneath needed his attention.

With work completed on the main floor of the house and the finishing of the basement rooms a somewhat distant possibility at this point, we shall likely begin moving over more of our worldly goods with the thought of maintaining a 'presence' in both houses until a buyer appears for this one. 
The area real estate market, while not booming, was encouraging at the point we listed in the early spring.
Our realtor gloomily admits that there has been a slow-down in viewings and sales.
He--and we--hope that a sale will be timely!
Until then--we wait.