Monday, August 26, 2019

A Complete Eejit

Chester-cat is not bright. Intelligence, savvy--however it might be labeled is not a quality we should have expected given Chester's background.
Chester, his parents Charlie and Maisie, his sister Jemima, were rescued from a neglectful situation on the Wind River Indian Reservation and delivered to the Lander Wyoming Pet Connection in autumn of 2008.
My SIL, Matt, saw a poster of the kittens and declared that I should adopt them.
When a month passed and no one claimed them, I visited the shelter, bundled them into a cat carrier and with a feeling of resignation paid the adoption fee and brought them home

Fast forward two months when time was running short to home the parents, Charlie and Maisie.  Because I often donated food or funds to the shelter, adoption fees were waived and the feline family was reunited.

From the first it was evident that Charlie was a 'people cat.'  He was [still is]  loud, gregarious, a boisterous clown.
Maise was a sad creature, weary, given to walking about the house wailing like a lost soul.
Her teeth were bad, her tail had at some point been broken.  We suspected that she and Charlie were likely too closely related to have produced a litter of 'normal' kittens, the bad treatment on the Rez not with-standing.
We did what we could for Maisie; she had been spayed at the shelter, we fed her well. Her health deteriorated badly when we had been about a year in Kentucky and the most merciful solution was having her put to sleep.

Charlie [named 'Otis' at the shelter] learned the joys of being an indoor/outdoor cat.
It took him a good deal of demented dithering and 24 hours spent in a tree from which he had to be rescued. A revolving door would suit him well as he likes to come in one door, then stomp to the other demanding to go out again.

We lost Chester's sister, Jemima, early in February, after several rounds of antibiotics failed to deal with a mysterious wasting illness.
Mima was shy, velvet-furred, a lap sitter, a cuddler.
Like her brother she was not endowed with any common sense.
Mima got outside twice at the farmhouse and immediately lost her head. When we approached her, coaxing, her eyes rolled  wildly, and as we drew closer she scooted away, darting behind shrubbery, crouching out of reach beneath the car.
We eventually caught her by setting a saucer of tuna in a Hav-A-Hart trap.

Chester, lodged behind a chair in the camper where we--and the cats--spent the winter of house building.

Chester takes the prize for witless behavior.  As a young cat in Wyoming, he several times hurtled out the front door and flung himself under the low porch that ran along the front of the house. Flattening myself on the ground, aiming a flashlight into the darkness I could see him beneath the porch. Sometimes he replied to my calls with a plaintive mew.  Mostly he huddled, staring and refusing to come out even when the night grew cold. It was as though on exiting the house he lost all sense of domesticity.

On the third day of his self-imposed exile I removed the screen from the porch window that opened into my sewing room and leaving the window raised, shut the door into the rest of the house. Why he chose to eventually slink from under the porch and creep in through the window, is beyond reason.

During the past two weeks we have been opening the front door early in the morning to look out over the mist-swathed meadow, watching for the first rays of sun to peek round the barn.

The cats, Chester included, wander out to sit on the steps. Chester is quick to dash back inside, seemingly convinced that bogeymen are lurking.  Once he walked around to the back of the house and forgot how to make the return journey to the door. 
Jim discovered him and was able to carry him to safety.

Yesterday after closing the door  against a burst of rain, I realized Chester hadn't come in.
Chester's only use for me is to sleep in a heavy lump by my knees once the bedroom light is out. Only at such times am I allowed to stroke him.
In a sociable mood he courts attention from Jim; when Howard was with us to build the house, Chester developed an affection for him, rubbing round his ankles, wanting to be brushed.
I am viewed as a menace.

I spent a good deal of time yesterday searching for Chester, plodding about between rain showers, peering into dim corners of barn and shed.
I went out again at nearly midnight, aiming the beam of my flashlight toward any likely hiding place.
I felt concern for him spending the night, supperless, outside.
I was out again this morning bundled against the rain, calling the wretched cat.

In the barn, the side aisles are still a clutter of bins, empty boxes, tools, as well as three tractors, the riding lawn mower, the 4 wheeler.
I moved a big packing box, crouched to look behind a large feed bin left by the former owners.
There, wedged beneath a stack of staging, I spied Chester.
He might as well have been deaf for all the response he gave me.

I hauled aside the Troybilt tiller, edged around the bin.  Chester's eyes glowed red in the gloom.  I expected that he would bolt.
I went creakingly to my knees, reached cautiously under the staging.  My right hand made contact with his fur, but he is so stout that there is no 'scruff' to grip. I got both hands round his middle, began gently to haul him out.
Finally I had him--and surprisingly he didn't pee on me!

Hoisting myself from the gravel with both hands full of a cat who weighs upwards of 15 pounds was a feat of contortion and balance.
Once inside Chester went immediately to the water bowl. 
He eyed the other cats as though they were complete strangers. If I moved toward him he scuttled behind the furniture.


On this dark and rainy afternoon the cats have drowsed quietly on cushioned chairs and sofa.  Even busy Charlie is content to nap.
Chester has appropriated Jim's recliner. If I walk past he twitches nervously, opens a beady blue eye.

I'm reminded of John Cleese in the role of village idiot--a trait apparently passed from one generation to another.
It is well that this family of eejit cats was not allowed to continue the line!

Friday, August 23, 2019


Movement beyond the window, across the lane, caught my eye.
I watched as tree branches tossed in a sudden wind, letting go of leaves that yellowed and curled in the long weeks of drought. 
I stepped out to the covered back porch, camera in hand, watched as a flurry of leaves sailed through the air, somersaulting, then scudding along the gravel, drifting onto the grass. 

A patter of rain pinged, staccato, on the metal roof,  increasing, fading, renewing.
From the dry ground and tired grass a stale dusty smell arose.
It was soon over--a 10 minute rain, leaving grass and plants barely dampened.
Slatey clouds moved, shredding, off to the west.

I walked into the lane, noting the crispness of the fallen leaves.

The burst of rain had done nothing to cool the humid air, although the ground along the treeline had a sudden look of early autumn.

Tatttered leaves lay like broken china. 

The drift of suddenly fallen leaves put me in mind of school days in Vermont, shoving me back in time. 
The shower is over, seemingly yet another rain that has 'gone around.

I trudge back inside, settle myself at the table facing the deep windows, switch on my sewing machine.  Moments later, another burst of rain.  The cats who went out with me to watch the swirling leaves, appear at the window, mouths opening in silent meows. When I let them in, they huddle damply on chairs and sofa.
Early in the evening, grey clouds roll up in the east; thunder rumbles.

Robert-the-cat who is afraid of thunderstorms has slipped outside again.
I stand on the front deck, calling him. I search for him in the barn while rain drums on the roof, look for him under the wicker loveseat on the back porch.

The rain is settling in, not a downpour, but the steady fall of moisture so badly needed.
Pulling on a flannel shirt I crunch down the lane toward the shed.
Thunder booms as I step inside, calling, coaxing.
Robert creeps from behind a bin, belly low to the floor.
He is shaking, pathetic.
Robert doesn't like to be picked up or carried, but when I scoop him up he foregoes his usual squirming protest. Clutching him securely against my flannel wrapped front I trudge back through the storm which is growing  in noise and wet.

Mornings have been dense with white fog.

All day the clouds move swiftly, the sky changes from pale grey to blue--from patchy blue to black as fast-moving storms bring more rain.

The veg garden has languished in the heat and drought, too far gone to recover.
I have lost transplants too fragile to flourish in this dry season.
Tonight the earth smells fresh, the air is cool.
We will have more warm days, but summer has begun the transition to fall.

Monday, August 19, 2019

August Doldrums

At 7:15 this evening the dooryard still pulsed with heat.  
There has been no rain this month; heavy dew and occasional morning mist have provided the only refreshing moisture.
We open the front door early, before the sun edges through the treeline spreading bands of shimmering light over the newly shorn meadow.
Within an hour we must close the door, draw the blinds, pull the heavy linen curtains across the windows blocking even the slender splinters of golden light that make their way through the slats of the blinds.
The cats come in, wet-pawed from their forays of exploration through the meadow. 
Seedlings and new tranplants must be hand-watered morning and evening; I have lost some to the inhospitable weather.

Heat was still trapped at the west end of the house as I finished watering.
The sun, sliding away, cast reflections toward the house, even as dusk advanced.

Early morning mist.

Spider webs shimmered in tall grass the morning before the hay was cut.

We have hoped for rain on some of these misty mornings, but always the sky has cleared, the mist 'burned off.'

A single clump of brown-eyed Susans stood in the path of the mowing machine.

August has brought various garden frustrations in addition to the drought.
It took some research to learn what was attacking the coneflower seedlings which had previously been thriving.

The voracious black caterpillars are the progeny of the silvery checker-spot butterfly, a species I hadn't noticed before. I had been grimly picking off and squashing the caterpillars before resorting to a google search. Their identification presents a dilemma. I want to encourage butterflies, but I am annoyed at the destruction of the coneflowers raised from seed, cosseted and transplanted into the garden.

Seedlings of asclepia incarnata were likewise flourishing before I found the stems coated with the sticky orange presence of aphids. I scraped off the first invasion, sprayed the second batch of intruders with a soap and water solution. 
On discovering several monarch caterpillars happily munching leaves I've desisted in efforts to be rid of the aphids, not wanting to unwittingly spoil the leaves for monarch consumption.

A grasshopper finds shade in the lemon verbena.

Jim, weary of listening to me fret about the clematis plants languishing in their pots constructed what he calls a McGyver fence.
I questioned the name and was informed that 'McGyver' was a fictional character who could contrive to make or mend all sorts of situations with whatever oddments came to hand.
Accordingly, the little fence has a personality of its own, but appears to be serving the purpose.
I labored for several mornings, prying up sod and removing stones along the fence til Jim took pity and loosened the hard-packed soil with the tiller. I forked in a bagged compost to create an encouraging environment and carefully set four clematis in place--the two that survived from my Spring Hills purchase and two moved last fall from the farm.

Extracting clematis candida from its tub proved to be a delicate operation.
The plant had become 'pot bound' and once coaxed from the big tub, I sat on the ground for nearly half an hour gently unraveling the mass of stringy roots before carefully settling the plant into a deep hole lined with compost.
New growth is responding to careful watering with tendrils beginning to explore the lower rail of the fence.
I planted a dwarf butterfly bush at each end of the fence after giving them a severe pruning.  I've found that even plants recommended for pot culture cease to thrive after a bit. These bloomed and were pretty earlier in the season, but had begun to droop.  Both are responding to their new situation.
I selected the largest of my seedlings of balloon flower, foxgloves and four rather frail seedlings of pale coneflower to plant in front of the clematis, surrounding each plant with mulch and short plastic stakes which I hoped would discourage the cats.
Sadly, between hot weather and interested feline proddings I lost the frailest of the foxgloves, all that remained of my crop of the variety Spanish Peaks.
The pale coneflowers are struggling and I dare not predict their fate.
Looking back today through last August's journal posts I see that we were lamenting constant rain!
Jim was attempting to break ground for the new house, I was doggedly packing our household goods.
This is our 10th summer in Kentucky.
Each growing season has been different--some more challenging than others.