Thursday, November 29, 2018

A New Beginning for Willow


We don't rejoice at the arrival of yet another feral cat. When those who turn up are half -starved kittens, my anger is kindled toward the always anonymous individuals who take no responsibility for the animals sharing their space.
My response to the discovery of a feral kitten in our Gradyville woodshed wasn't one of open-hearted welcome.
For several days I set out small helpings of kibble and water;  I crouched in the woodshed, coaxing softly whenever I spied the kitten. After nearly a week of this, we set up the hav'a' hart trap and captured a stripey male kitten, carried him, hissing and spitting into the guest bedroom where we stationed a litter box and food dishes in the little bathroom.  My computer desk lived in the guest bedroom, thus I was in there frequently, talking to the kitten, attempting to stroke him.  We called him 'Wilbur.'  Wilbur scarfed down our offerings of food, resisted our efforts to socialize him.
A few days later, glancing out the kitchen window I saw a striped kitten stepping daintily along the retaining wall by my herb garden.
A quick check found Wilbur stretched on the guest room windowsill.
So, there were two kittens!


Kitten number two was easier to capture.  Jim and I took up positions at either end of the wall, The kitten dithered between us, frightened, but she stayed on the wall.  As she darted toward me I snatched her bony body and, holding her closely, carried her indoors.
Placed side by side, it became obvious that Wilbur was slightly the larger and had a white streak on his nose. The kittens were siblings, which made their arrival together the more suspicious.
I expect that when I was seeing the 'shed kitten' both were in residence, skittering into the wood pile so swiftly that I didn't discern there were two.

As the summer progressed, the kittens lost their starved appearance, their tabby coats became soft and sleek. Willow, the little female, often sat on the edge of my desk if I typed or read, welcoming conversation and petting.
Wilbur remained sullen, not so much fearful as disinterested in humans.
Any attempt at cuddling or stroking evoked flattened ears, struggles, 'huffings' that were barely above a growl.


Spay and neuter, inoculations, were carried out.
The kittens were given the run of the household and the dooryard with the other feline residents.
Wilbur's surly disposition seemed to keep the other cats at bay, but Willow, with her shy demeanor, was often the target of bullying.
Nearly a year passed in this manner. Willow tip-toed warily about, happy to find a vacant lap, or to sleep at the foot of the bed, a bit removed from the furry heap of the regulars.

Wilbur, steadfastly offish, was a greedy cat, blimp-shaped. My suspicions were confirmed that he was the culprit who was habitually leaving smelly mounds a few inches from the litter box.
It took me a half hour one evening to lay hands on him. With him finally in my grasp, I announced,
"You're an ungrateful wretch! You don't like us, you don't want to be a pet." 
I lugged him outside, certain that he would find his place in the familiar yard, eat and coexist with the other outside cats.
I saw him less than a half dozen times after that evening and then he was gone.
I still sometimes wonder what else we could have done to 'save' him.



Willow, always shy, continued to have both yard and house privileges.
She was three years old when we began the transition to the Amish farm.
Our son was staying in the Gradyville home and appreciated Willow's company. However, the adverse attentions of the yard cats intensified, sometimes leaving Willow cornered, trembling in a puddle of her own urine.
We wished that we could find her a home where she could be a pampered 'only cat.'


For the past four years Willow has shared the barns, the porches, the padded baskets of the outdoor cats at the farm. She didn't suggest coming into the house.
We've often needed to protect her from Crumple the Interloper or Sally the Troll who have threatened to take over her food dish.
Willis, that Lord of the Manor, often gave her a cursory swat on the ear as he strolled by--letting her know that her status was a humble one!

Willow was alarmed by the uproar of the new farm owners moving in, and as we were collecting our belongings to move out, it seemed that I saw her only at a distance, hovering near the stable or darting away from the lower porch.
I knew that things needed to quiet down before I could catch her and insert her in a cat carrier for the move up the ridge.

The new owners suggested that Crumple the black tomcat could stay.
When I apologized for the delay in collecting Willow I was assured that the children of the household had befriended her.
Matters came to a head last week.
Chatting with  J. A. during a chance meeting at The Mustard Seed, he announced that Willow had become so accustomed to the family that he was certain--if I wanted--Willow would allow them to put her in a cat carrier and convey her to us.
There was something hesitant in his tone of voice that caused me to look at him with inquiry.

"You see," he said, "Its like this. The children have become attached to Willow and she and my younger daughter have formed a bond. She curls up in E's lap, purrs,  Willow had a little wound on her leg--probably a bite from Crumple--and we've brought her in to recover from that.  She's fine now, but she's used to coming in. She 'meows' at the lower porch door every evening and E. goes down to let her in for the night.  She has her food and litter box downstairs. We'd like to keep her."

Willow doesn't offer to come up to the main floor, to mingle with the little dogs or make the acquaintance of the beautiful Persian calico.
Willow has at last found her rightful place; familiar territory, indoor warmth on winter nights, and most importantly, the affections of a little girl who has made her special.

My niece, also a lover of cats, posted this meme today.
A bit sentimental, perhaps, those of us who are confirmed cat rescuers will understand.





Monday, November 26, 2018

Blustery and Bleak


A cold wind blustered in during the night, slamming the camper with noisy gusts that tore at the canvas awning, eventually tearing one edge from the metal supporting arms. 

Sleep was impossible. The camper shuddered slightly with each burst of wind, tree branches rattled and creaked, seeming too close. At such times I am very aware that the camper is a mere shell between us and the elements.
We clambered out of bed, Jim to wrestle unsuccessfully with the wildly flapping awning, then to fire up his laptop for a look at the doplar weather map.

I swaddled myself in my long down robe [thankful that I didn't after all bundle it into the charity shop donation box!]   I sat for awhile in the dimly lit living area of the camper, after Jim, stoically ignoring the boisterous wind, retreated to bed.
When I followed him, it took a long time for me to fall asleep again. The large red numerals on the digital clock stood at 4:28 when I last noted them.

We gave up on bed about 2 hours later, rising in the grey and blowy dawn.
The boy cats ventured outside as usual, only to return moments later with damp, wind-ruffled fur. 
I was making the bed with clean flannel sheets when Bobby Mac flung himself in the middle of it, insisting that he needed to burrow in.



The men, thwarted in their plan to pour concrete for the front porch, roared off  to a hardware store and lumber yard.
I had another chiropractic appointment--an on-going effort to correct the damage I recently inflicted on my back.  Fine needles of icy rain pinged against the car's windshield. The thermometer on the dash display reported the outside temperature at a degree above freezing.
I didn't linger in town after my appointment--I'd had a wait although there was only one patient ahead of me.
The car needed gas, so I slowed as I approached the little corner store and cafe at the turning to the ridge road. 

There was no mistaking the red Dodge with trailer attached that sat parked at one end of the lot!
I stood at the antiquated gas pump, hair whipping into my face, as gasoline hissed into the tank while the arthritic numbers on the gas pump's dial clicked noisily to mark the sale.
The teenage son of the owners was hoisting sacks of grain and chicken feed onto a pallet outside the store.
"I'm going to move the car away from the pumps," I assured him.
He gave me a laconic grin and replied, "Your husband is eating breakfast inside--he could pay for the gas!"
I chatted for a few moments at the store, then drove up the ridge.  The flag was still up on the post box although it was almost noon. 
In the camper, I made myself a mug of tea and cut a slice of Dawn's delicious carrot cake.
The wind continued, a steady low howl from the west, stripping leaves from the horizontal branches I watch from my improvised desk. 
Jim stomped in to make phone calls, then back out to cobble repairs to the awning frame.
I was cautioned to stay by the phone [as if I was intending to go out!] and then walk up to the house to deliver the price quotes Jim was expecting.

When the phone call came, I pulled on boots, two layers of hoodies and gloves.
The lane in front of the building site is greasy with churned mud--an expanse to be cautiously negotiated before reaching the apron of crushed rock nearer the house.
A fire in the new wood stove was doing little to combat the chill of the un-insulated building.
My message delivered, I dithered in front of the stove, wondering if I had the stamina to hike out to the road and check the mailbox.
In the end I decided I shouldn't be wimpish and braved the gale.
A newspaper flyer was the sole prize to be collected--at least it served as a wind deflector on the return walk.



I've been noticing this spray of crimson leaves a few yards beyond the lane just below the house.
The bark as well as the shape and color of the leaves suggest a 'burning bush' perhaps springing from seeds dropped by a bird.
I put away the camera, fingers clumsy and freezing, trudged back to the warmth of the camper. Closing the curtains against the deepening gloom and chill of late afternoon, I settled to ponder the kitchen plan.
I expect another session with the kitchen designer later in the week. 
Hopefully a blending of good ideas will result!

Sunday, November 25, 2018

Sunday Evening




There are two armchair/recliners in our camper. they are positioned on one of the 'slide-out' sections, facing the sofa and a window in the largest of  the three 'sliders.'
I have claimed one of the armchairs as my base of operations.  I have a folding wooden stand in front of the chair. It is barely big enough to hold my laptop and the wireless mouse I use.
From this 'station' I look through the window directly into the low branches of a tree still clinging to russet leaves. 
We keep small blankets and fleece throws over the sofa and chairs--in part for warmth, but mostly trying to save the upholstery from the ravages of cat claws.



I stopped for a few moments at our former farm to visit our friends [former renters] J and B.
They had been gifted with this giant planter of mums, 
This mixing of several colors is perhaps a trend--I've seen similar at the local produce market.



                                      

The night of the full moon was crisp and clear.
At daylight the moon was still visible beyond the misty hills.




Jim and Howard put up soffit and the metal trim that edges the roof.


We took time out for the Thanksgiving holiday.  DIL Dawn drove up from TN, her car loaded with the goodies she had been preparing. 
Our family meal was hosted by Matt and Gina.
It was one of the beautiful sunny days we have learned to cherish.
Friday reverted to damp and chilly gloom.
There was an errand at the lumber yard, so Dawn and I piled into the back seat of Howard's truck--with his dogs.
We made an excursion to the South Fork community so that Dawn could enjoy the whole foods store and the mercantile with its beguiling array of kitchen goods.

Home to rummage in the leftovers from the Thanksgiving feast.
Dawn and I made tea and to the delight of the cats, plumped ourselves in the armchairs.
Dawn spread her down coat over her lap where  Mima-cat immediately appropriated the fur-trimmed hood as a snug nest.

The fog was heavy and lingering this Sunday morning, but melted away by noon when Dawn needed to leave for home.
Jim and Howard trailed up the lane to lay out the front porch of the house.  I was requested to sweep up the sawdust and scraps of lumber which have been accumulating. 
This job took me more than 2 hours as I chose to use my regular household broom rather than the heavy industrial push broom that Jim favors. 

I'm still experiencing soreness in my ribs, so not inclined to tackle my cleaning job with reckless gusto. I lingered over sweeping the kitchen area--contemplating the future arrangement of cabinetry; in the bedrooms and living areas I considered how to make the best use of our furniture--I suspect some items in the storage trailer will not be needed.

As darkness fell, rain drummed on the roof of the camper--seemingly a brief and passing shower.  The men hope for weather tomorrow that will allow for pouring the cement floor of the porch. 

Interior work on the house is stalled waiting for the services of plumber and electrician.  Our favorite plumber [our SIL] is up to his neck with overtime at his place of work.
The electrician has made a tentative commitment to starting the job at the end of the week.  He divides his time between several locations.

Work on the house does progress, working around weather and the delays in waiting for sub-contractors.  The plumbing and electrical installations are the only tasks J and H won't undertake.
I continue to 'keep house' in our small space, going outside when weather allows, running errands, When not busy I settle in my chair to read, surrounded [very surrounded!] with the cats. 





Monday, November 19, 2018

November Moves Along


On Friday the sun rose,  Saturday was also sunny.  Sunday began with some tentative sunshine, then the sky glazed over with pewter colored clouds.
There have been so few sunny days this month that they should be documented!
Other Novembers have been mellow with soft air during the middle of the day--times to work outside cleaning up the garden or walking through drifts of fallen leaves.


 Sun rising through a shimmer of grey fog, remnant of a blustery night that brought our first snow.




Contrails wove a pattern on the morning sky.



Frost crisped the edges of leaves swept down in gusty wind.


Snow, even when unwelcome, looks better when it sparkles under the sun.
By noon the last of it had melted away.


I haven't lingered at the house in progress during the chilly weather. Jim had crushed rock hauled in around the foundation but more is needed.  When I go up, slogging along the lane in my wellies, I try to avoid the patches of thick mud.

My spatial concepts aren't good; even taking rough measurements of a space in the making fails to give me much sense of the room to be.
The interior partitions are now in place, the staircase created.  I can walk from 'room to room' and begin to visualize where furniture will be placed.


Jim had time on Sunday to help me with the specific measurements of the kitchen area.  I have managed to transfer these to graph paper.  I have been immersed in the booklets handed out by the various makers of kitchen cabinetry. The illustrations are always of huge upscale kitchens showcasing every possible 'innovation' and 'storage option.'

My actual kitchen space will be fairly compact with a large walk-in pantry a few steps away.
We buy food in bulk--various flours, grains, dried fruit, raw sugar---these staples store well in glass jars on open pantry shelves as do large kettles.  

There are almost too many options offered by cabinetry makers: dozens of similar door styles, stain or paint finishes, and more recently, the option of 'distressed' or 'vintage' applications. 

I often wonder if those customers who opt for an ornate style are forgetting that this is a kitchen--a place where food may splash or spill--not easily wiped up if a cabinet door is detailed with grooves and 'fine furniture' embellishments.
This kitchen, like the ones I've ordered for other houses, will have simply styled 'Shaker' cabinetry.
The next step is to make an appointment with a kitchen designer and then compare prices and quality on the three brands that interest me.

Last week I spent more than an hour at a local appliance store and put together an appliance package.  There again, model kitchens were mocked up with appliances from mid to high price ranges.  Various humbler ranges and refrigerators were marshaled in ranks in the middle of the showroom.

When we were building 'spec homes' for sale, we created fine kitchens--none of the so-called 'builder grade' appliances and cabinetry.
That said, I am wary of appliances that have too many computerized features.  I selected a range and matching microwave from one of the mid-priced displays, but replaced the mammoth and high priced fridge with a less grand model.  I don't want a dishwasher.
I have been allowed to select the hardware for the exterior doors, and to pick up the paint for them [a cheerful shade of dark red.]
Other than that my remit is to keep the men stoked with hearty food, trudge up the lane with coffee and donuts mid afternoon, keep up with the laundry.

As camper/caravans go, this one is roomy, with storage cubbies, a small stall shower, a sofa, comfortable chairs, queen size bed.
In spite of my housekeeping efforts I feel that we are mildly grubby!  In tight quarters things spill; dealing with the cat litter box is a constant duty;  There seems to be little space to stow away a legion of shoes and boots and heavy jackets.

I don't have to cook this week!  My dear DIL sent up enough food for a small army: pot roast in brown mushroom gravy, mashed potatoes loaded with sour cream and chives, a container of Spanish rice, a delicious cranberry cake, loaves of moist pumpkin bread.  
Our children and their spouses are collaborating to put on Thanksgiving dinner on Thursday.
My only contribution is to be several bottles of sparkling grape juice. 

I am nursing strained muscles in my back [foolish old woman determined to lug boxes that were far too heavy!] so will be contented for few days to spend a little time tucked up in my big chair with a heating pad and several cats for comfort.

So, this strangely chilly and bleak November is passing into memory; the house is continuing to become more than stacks of lumber and bales of insulation.  There will be interesting decisions to make, things to be ordered. 
Hopefully there will be a few sunny days to raise our spirits!

Thursday, November 8, 2018

Progress Through The Week


Sunday was as lovely a fall day as anyone could desire.


The sky was brilliantly blue with soft white clouds.  
The wind was a gentle intermittent breeze.


The trees, so  long green in this autumn of rains, were wearing rusty hues, leaves drifting silently to the ground.
Walking behind the barn my attention was caught by a single scarlet leaf, spinning in a current of air, floating softly to rest on the trampled grass.


Trees along the east boundary, illuminated in morning sunshine.


Our good neighbor [renter when we owned the farm] volunteered to help for the day.


Jim and Fred devised a method for raising the truss rafters.


Looking at the sky from the main floor.


Monday was a restless day.  Weather forecasts warned of high winds, heavy rain beginning late in the evening. As dusk approached the mostly blue sky turned inky.

Later, I lay in bed listening to the rising wind, the scrape and skitter of leaves blowing across the camper's roof, aware of the seemingly fragile barrier between us and the gathering storm.

At about 10:30 the siren at the local fire station began to hoot.
Rain, propelled by gusty wind, lashed the camper, which shuddered.
We struggled into clothes, Jim pulled up the doplar weather map and announced, rather redundantly, 'We're in for some of the storm!'
Turning on my laptop to access the web page for county weather warnings I noticed that our SIL at the other end of the county was messaging me.
Tornado warnings in effect!
Headed your way!
Jim pulled on a jacket, stepped out to the deck, popped back in, water streaming from his cap, jacket soaked.
I fretted about the house, invisible in the swirling blackness.
"The house will stand," Jim declared. "We braced for this."

Thunder boomed, the sound mingled with the increasing roar of the wind.
The cats hid; Bobby Mac huddled in the windowless hallway, wedged himself against the shower door.  Unable to take refuge under the platform bed, the other cats flattened themselves along the edges. In a camper there is no room to pace. 

From my chair, laptop on its stand in front of me, I watched out the uncurtained west window, cringing at each flash of lightning, eyes glued to the awning that billowed, wrenching at its support posts.
For 10-15 minutes the wind lashed, howled, moaned; rain pounded, streamed down the windows.
Then--"Is it slacking off?" I asked, tentatively, not quite ready to believe the storm was passing.
"Yes, said Jim, "Its moving off."
Shedding his wet cap and jacket, he marched resolutely off to bed.
I messaged SIL--We're OK--the storm has gone through.

I picked up Jim's wet jacket, looked for a place it could be hung to dry; not finding one I poked it into the clothes dryer.
The cats began to creep out of hiding.
I turned off lights, removed my shoes, got back into my nightgown.
Shaken by the storm, I didn't immediately fall asleep., but lay awake listening to the now desultory spattering of rain on the roof, the rustle of falling leaves.



We were up early, reassured to see the framework of the house looming against the dawn sky.


Outside the day warmed into brilliance.  It was muddy underfoot and windy overhead.
Newly bared branches swayed under swiftly scudding clouds.
I stood looking upward, head tilted, watching the movement of the clouds until I was dizzy.



Too restless to stay indoors I squelched up to my makeshift garden.
At the house Jim and Howard were cheerfully sweeping rainwater out of the basement. 
Waiting for things to dry out we did errands, ate an early lunch at Bread of Life Cafe.



In the afternoon the men got most of the underlayment applied to the roof before dark.


Early on Wednesday morning the metal roofing was delivered.
By quitting time the backside of the house was clad.


Today the weather has been brisk--harbinger of the frost and cold front predicted for the weekend.
The rest of the roofing is on, though not the soffit and edge trim.
The house is being wrapped in tyvek.


Late in the morning the men appeared for a meal.
[We don't know whether to term it 'breakfast' or 'lunch' these days.]
I made cream of butternut squash soup, seasoned with minced onion, garlic, curry powder.
I used the volunteer squash which grew out of the compost pile at the farm.
Served with fat sandwiches--canned corned beef mixed with chopped celery and pickle, sliced tomato on whole wheat 'store-bought' bread.

The meal was a success, with a serving of soup tucked away in the fridge for me to enjoy tomorrow.
Gina brought us two loaves of banana bread--lovely with hot tea to ward off the chill.
Each week brings us closer to a new house--even as the days grow colder and shorter.