Good Things Come In Sevens

I discovered something this past week.

Kittens are really really hard to photograph. They are worse than kids, because they are faster. And they don't know how to sit and pose for you! At least a kid, by the time they are mobile, has seen a camera enough times that they will occasionally humour you when you whip it out. Not so with three- and four-week-old kittens.

There are seven of the little furballs--five male, two female. Congrats to those of you who deciphered it correctly! The winner of the draw for the Amazon.com gift certificate is....

Jamie R!

Now for some pictures, so that you can enjoy all that kitty cuteness vicariously.

I have four kittens spoken for. That means THREE are still available to you, oh Cuddly Kitten-Lover! I have labelled the kittens in several pictures, so that those of you wanting one can let me know which ones to set aside for you. The names were made up for labelling only, and are NOT actual names of the kittens! You are welcome to name them whatever you wish!

"Shadow" and "Patches" are the two females. (Shadow is not in the first group shot.)

 These photos taken one week ago, at 4 weeks old. This was their first time in the house, so they weren't too adventurous.

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"Fluffy" seems to be the feistiest little boy. Here he is, hissing at the nerve of me:
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These photos taken today, at 5 weeks old. The kittens are definitely feeling more comfortable around us, and were starting to play while they were in the house today. Here is Shadow, checking out the situation from the safety of the box we transport them in:
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Fluffy: Even fluffier than before!
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Patches: "Are you finished, yet?! This is only fun for one of us, I'm sure!"
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Also in the realm of "sevens", this is my 700th blog post. I'm not sure what kind of a landmark that is, but it just seems like such a nice celebratory number. So, Happy Something, Winters' Day In!


As I was desperately busy working out daily lesson plans today, Jude commented to me that he wished he and Noah were starting school at the same time as Jabin. (Originally, I thought we might wait until mid-September, a week or two after Jabin begins kindergarten in town.)

"Well, you're going to pretty much do that, now," I commented back, relating the change in schedule. "Why?"

"I want to get it over with," he replied. I choked back a guffaw of laughter at this unexpected response.

"Only nine more years, buddy... And that's just high school."

He didn't seem that phased by the number. Maybe, since that is longer than he has currently been alive, a scope of time that long has no meaning for him. Kind of like I can't grasp the scope when I say "a billion dollars."

It's just too much! Well, in Jude's case, it might be best to keep it that way for a while. No need to overwhelm the little guy.


"I wonder if Nala's pregnant?" I pondered aloud to Jason. I was doing evening chores, and he was outside building a compost bin. Nala was being very affectionate and hinting that she would like to go indoors. (She hints at that frequently. She hasn't yet figured out that she is now an outside cat.) I picked her up and noticed that she was starting to get rather thick in the middle--considering that she is normally a little raily, this is worth noticing. I flipped her over and felt around some more--swollen pink nipples, round abdomen. A quick Google search confirmed it. Pregnant.

I have no idea when she is due, but I'm guessing not for another month. So, uh... anyone want a kitten in November?


My 12 three-and-a-half-month-old chicks (10 Red Rocks, and 2 Ameraucanas that I just bought) all went into "The Big Coop" tonight with my older birds. It is just getting to be too much to move them and feed them as much as they require, and I am fairly confident that Koda will leave them alone, now. (Well, as long as he is tied up while they are out, as is his usual state in the afternoon.)

One of them has a gimpy leg as a result of getting it hurt during a move of the chicken tractor when she was 10 weeks old, and she limps around on the top of her foot on that side. I'm just glad she survived, but needless to say, she is at the bottom of the pecking order. I hope that she and the smallest Ameraucana (also low in the social order) are still alive in the morning.

I am thinking of moving two of my teenage "boys" into "the small coop" by themselves until I get to butchering them, so that my young and adult "ladies" aren't kept quite so busy (if you know what I mean), but that would mean they wouldn't be able to free range--which equals more work for me. And more chicken food that I have to pay for. I'm just excited that as of tomorrow, I will have twenty-two free-range birds, instead of only ten. And none to move around!

Also exciting on the chicken front (at least to me!), we are now up to six hens of laying age, averaging about four eggs a day. Considering our family usually consumes between four and six dozen eggs a week, it is pretty thrilling that these birds are finally starting to "earn their keep!"

Well, that's about it for today, folks. Y'all come back now.

The Post That Shouldn't Have Been

This isn't what I was planning on posting about tonight.

I was planning on telling you about the fabulous day I had in Grande Prairie, choosing curriculum for next year, which I had an amazing brainwave about last night--it could be my most prepared (and fun) school year yet.

But that plan all changed when I drove into the yard and saw little chicken carcasses strewn hither and yon, and an almost-empty coop, relaying the sad tale of mayhem so recently enacted there.

There was a hole in the chicken wire on the side of my small chicken tractor--the one housing nearly 50 almost-two-month old chicks--most of which were destined for the freezer, but there were still five remaining dark brown leghorns which were to be our laying stock for this winter and beyond--a prolific laying breed, and an endangered species, to boot. None of the leghorns survived. In all, we only found nine live chicks, four of which were females which are now going to have to be saved for laying hens. That means that, between the five remaining meat stock and the two older roosters from my first batch that were heading for the table, we will have a total of seven birds in our freezer this winter--assuming these remaining birds survive that long.

I am still so upset I can barely type this. Such a waste of time, and money, and energy.

At this rate, Koda will be lucky if HE survives until winter.

Peace Talks

After a long day of being enemies

they finally called

A Truce.

* * * * *

Overheard this morning:

"Dad, can you help me draw a picture of Koda?" asked Jude, paper and pencil in hand.

Jason guffawed. "I'm the wrong person to ask, Buddy. I have hardly a creative a bone in my body. Ask your mom. All of her bones are creative."

* * * * *

Speaking of which, I finally posted something to my fashion blog. More to come soon! (Hint: You can see a bit of the topic of the next post in the last photo.)

* * * * *
On Monday, we went to the river for a while. I was wearing a hat that is slightly too small for my impossibly large noggin (a common problem with me), and it kept blowing off in the breeze. Thus, I spent most of the time carrying my camera and the children's wet socks in one hand, and holding my hat on with the other.

Therefore, when I got home I ordered some hatpins from gardinofweedingirl on Etsy. They are so pretty. I can't wait to get them!

With Heavy Heart

When Jude was still a small infant, I was still doing Pampered Chef shows and business fairs quite frequently. While I was attending one of these fairs--Jude in tow--sometime in the spring or summer of 2003, a tragedy happened. Many of the demonstrators had their children running around outside. We were in a small school gym in a rural community in central Alberta--you know, the kind made up of many acreages close together. One of the small kids had been minding their own business, playing, when a medium-sized neighbourhood dog came up, unprovoked, and took a large chunk out of her face.

As I clutched Jude to my chest, I shivered with fear that something like that could happen to the precious baby in my arms. The event cast a pallor over the mood in the gym for the rest of the afternoon.

Sometimes bad things happen. Sometimes you wonder if bad things like that could have been prevented. Had that dog been a biter before? Could the owner have prevented that little girl from going through life permanently scarred? I guess I'll never know.

Yesterday, Shiloh had to die.

After pouring as much time and love into him as I could this past winter, he was finally starting to bond to me, as well as the rest of the family--but he was my shadow. Anytime I came out the door, he came running from wherever he was (usually barking at some far-away animal to make sure they didn't even think about coming in his territory) to follow me around the yard. His head was just the perfect height so that he could slobber on my hanging fingers as I walked, asking for affection and attention.

Yes, he still had a long way to go, but all of his flaws seemed to be things that could be worked with--he was still in the habit of chewing on (okay, mostly licking, but it was still a violation of their personal spaces) the cats whenever they were outside, mostly for his own entertainment. (I still don't know why those kittens, who are now nine months old, don't just give the dogs a solid, all-claws-bared swipe at the nose whenever they try that and "tune them in," but maybe they were cowed from too early of an age.) He still got a little aggressive while playing with Koda occasionally, but Koda is now big enough to hold his own, so that wasn't a huge worry. He still got a little too overprotective of his food, snarling and baring his teeth at any animal that looked like they were thinking of sneaking something from his dish.

But he had also learned to come when called. He was staying around home. He managed to go through the whole weekend of wiener-roasting without trying to steal anyone's hot dog (a huge improvement from last summer). His incessant, deep-throated barking kept dangerous wildlife (including the garden-molesting deer) away--and I was getting kind of fond of his singing. ("Your dog would be a singer," commented Jason wryly one evening, as we listened to Shiloh calling back to the coyotes underneath our bay window.) And he was beginning to become loyal to the humans that kept him--namely, us. Even Jason, who has disliked Shiloh since I brought him home last summer, admitted that he was beginning to think that he had the potential to be a good dog.

Unfortunately, this past weekend also revealed a fatal flaw.

He tried to bite one of our male guests. He succeeded in biting Jason (all because he came out of the house with a hat on, therefore looking "strange") through his jeans, actually scratching his leg. The next day, he nipped at the gravel truck driver twice while Jason was standing there talking with him.

There are a lot of faults that you can work with... but if your dog is a biter, you just can't risk that someone's kid will go home with part of their face missing.

Jason borrowed a friend's .22. He took Jude and Shiloh out to the very back of the property, leaving Koda howling on the leash.

Later, with a voice strained from emotion, I asked Jason, "Did Shiloh take long to die?"

"No," he said quietly. After a pause, "You know I didn't want to have to do that, right?"

A tight nod. "I know."

Sometimes bad things happen. Sometimes, we need to prevent worse things from happening.

The hard choices are the ones that hurt either way.

Chicks Ahoy!

I got my chick brooder made on Monday. It's not pretty, but it works!

On Wednesday, we went and got our first batch of chicks from local producer Doug Fergusson. There are several little dark Speckladies--Rhode Island Red crossed with Cuckoo Maran (including a rooster--would he be a "Specklad"?)...

...and a few chicks that were (if my memory serves me correctly) crossed between a Light Sussex and a Rhode Island Red. The little rooster chick is all fluffy and golden, just the way you imagine a chick to be...

...and the two little pullets were brown and patterned and pretty.

One of them wasn't doing so good when we picked her up (at four days old), and sadly, didn't live past Thursday morning. However, the other little girl is alive and feisty and doing well! That makes 7 chicks in all, now.

Two of the chicks were already two weeks old, so they are losing their down and getting feathers, and look like porcupines on a bad hair day!

They are so much fun to watch.

Nala thinks so, too.

All the girls are going to be kept as layers when they get older, but since these boys are all relatives (by their daddy) to the girls, their fate is our freezer by fall. We will be going to pick up a couple more chicks in a few weeks of a different cross, and we can keep that rooster for the purposes of the self-renewing flock I am beginning to build.

We will also be getting a bunch of commercial chicks for our meat birds for next winter, and just raising them as we raise the heritage breeds--soy-free. Eventually, I want to build my flock to the point that we can hatch our own chicks in the spring to supply our meat for fall, but that may take up to a couple of years. We'll see--I still have so much to learn!

This last week, I've been cramming my brain full of chick-feeding philosophies. I can't get any soy-free feed here, so I went to the UFA farm supply store, and came home with 25 kg (about 50 lbs.) each of cracked wheat, cracked corn, rolled oats, and oyster shell! Since these chickens will be on pasture for the summer, that oughta last us well into next year! Grit was supplied by the pet food store, and I have been experimenting with what works and doesn't as far as feeding. I'm hoping that my experiments don't result in high mortality rates!

So far, so good, though.

So far, so fun!

Tied Together With A Smile

I've been feeling a bit reclusive lately. This was probably aided and abetted by the deep freeze we temporarily experienced last week--just to remind us how thankful we are that winter is finally over. Between that, and the fact that Noah only had one day of school last week, and Jude is finally done swimming lessons so we didn't have to go to town three extra times, all added up to a nice, socially-selfish week at home.

I broke my "reclusion" on Saturday, having guests for tea in both the morning and the afternoon, which was nice. At the time, I didn't think much of the sore throat and tiredness that had been plaguing me since the day before, just thinking that I was being bothered by some cold bug or other. I amped up my normal defences, got a good night's sleep, and felt not too bad by Saturday morning.

By Saturday night, I was completely exhausted. By last night, I had finally pieced all of the symptoms I was experiencing together, and I am pretty sure I have strep throat.

This is only the second time I've had it. The last time laid me out flat, then triggered an all-over-my-body outbreak of psoriasis which lasted for nearly a year. It was in early 2006. I didn't document it well at the time, since I was so ashamed of my appearance.

This time is not nearly as severe. I'm in better general health going into it, and even though I didn't know what I was facing, I started loading up on all my "secret weapon" stuff as soon as I started to feel ill. So, my throat is sore, but not unbearable. I am tired, but I am functioning. I can eat solid food. I've had a bit of a psoriasis outbreak on my neck, and my face is itchy as the Dickens (assuming that Dickens got into a patch of poison ivy occasionally), but now that I know what I'm facing, I will be able to attack with specifically targeted weapons. (In case you're wondering, I have not gone and got a swab, so when I say "I have strep throat," this is an educated guess based on past experience, the symptoms I currently have, and common symptoms of strep throat gleaned from the Internet.)

Anyway, in my reclusion, I did manage to finish up a few things. One of them was the slippers from my last post. I also made some Mary Jane Booties for the baby (Robin's), and finished some mittens for myself. Just in time for spring! :-D

Now, I am thoroughly excited about the last month of home schooling before us, and getting started on my garden. I have been dusting off my memory of what to do first by re-reading The Gardener's A-Z Guide to Growing Organic by Tanya A. L. Denckla. What a textbook! I am making plans for another garden bed, and chicken-wire covers--to protect from the deer!

Also, I am planning to start raising chickens this year. That ought to be an adventure in itself. I will do my best to keep you posted on these adventures, dear internets... but lately, I'm finding that the energy I have is all used up in living my life, with little-to-none left to blog about it.

This photo was taken on Friday. "This is my best tent EVER!" declared Jude.

Simba seemed to agree.

Happy Tuesday, friends!

Kitty Cuteness

One of Nala's favourite sleeping spots lately seems to be our bathroom sink. Odd, isn't it?

Well, at least it was her favourite, until she didn't vacate quickly enough once or twice and got an impromptu shower! I think she has wised up since this photo was taken.

And, who can resist two cute boys with two cute kitties?

Not me!

(I'm not sure Nala is actually enjoying this, although she really does not mind being handled like a baby--she loves when I hold her on her back in my arms for a cuddle and a pet. Weird, but really perfect for a house cat with small children.)

Fascinated Feline

One of Simba's favourite hangouts when he is in the house is the bathtub. He loves to play with the shower curtain, and the water that is continually dripping from the faucet (since Jason hasn't fixed it, yet.)

Today he discovered that when the bathtub is actually full of water, there are even more interesting little glints of light everywhere to tease him.

He made a few bats at the water.

Fortunately, he never took the plunge completely.

(P.S. I'll clean the rust off of my tub again when the shower gets fixed!)

Sumi's Last Ride

We had to put Sumi down tonight.

Remember when we had that really cold snap in December? The kittens were inside for that, but one unfortunate "recess" outside, sentenced by my husband for "rough play", saw Nala get sogged by Shiloh in -40. As a souvenir, she got frostbit ears and a cold. Thus, the kittens ended up staying inside for about three weeks. During that time, Sumi became even more reclusive than normal, and in fact at one point, I had to go searching for her since I hadn't actually seen her in a couple of days--she had found a new hiding spot behind my dresses.

It wasn't until the kittens were about to be put back outside, as the weather had warmed up and Nala was pretty much over her cold, that I noticed how thin Sumi seemed to be getting. Then it occurred to me that I hadn't really noticed evidence of her eating or using the litter box much for a while. Maybe a week? I wasn't sure. Hard to tell when she only comes out at night. Was it the stress of having the kittens in the house, or the fact that they ate up the food we had been using for her so we had to switch to what they were eating, or a combination of both?

At any rate, after trying to get her to eat for a couple of days, I googled "will a cat starve itself to death?"

Apparently, the answer is yes.

Amanda M. is a veterinary assistant by training, so I went to her for suggestions. I checked the things she told me to check and found out that it was not urinary crystals, and noticed that she was actually drinking a little, but just not eating. Then I remembered a can of soft food that her previous owner had given me--I had offered it to her before, when we first got her, and she had not eaten it, so I never gave her the other can. At this point, I figured anything was worth a shot, so I opened up the can (room temperature) and offered her a little bit. She ate maybe a tablespoon. But at least she ate! The next morning, she ate about another teaspoon (cold from the fridge). After that, she never ate any more, warm or cold.

According to the internet (which knows everything, don't you, dear internet?) after several days of not eating (some cats are REALLY picky about switching to new food) a cat will start to develop fatty liver disease, and at that point loses its appetite. Some of the suggestions for picky kitties were force-feeding the cat one pebble of the new food, and often the cat will decide it's not so bad after that and chow down. I tried it--didn't work. Maybe she was too far gone by that point, I don't know. Anyway, once they start to get fatty liver disease, there isn't much besides a hefty vet bill that can bring them back from the road they've chosen.

And while I don't want to be a poor steward of what God has given me, a hefty vet bill was not in our future on Sumi's behalf. Honestly, with the psychological problems this cat has, I'm kind of amazed she lived this long--and she's only about 18 months old.

Anyway, it's been a week since she ate that wee bit of soft food, and at least three weeks since I saw her eat much of anything else. She's all bones and fur. She's started puking up bile. She stinks. I can't handle watching her die this slow, painful death, so as I type, Jason is taking her for her last ride.

I'm sad that I couldn't do anything for her. It also broke my heart to coax her to me, the one person she really trusts, so I could put her in a box for her Green Mile. It all seems so wrong--like Frodo coaxing Gollum to follow him and be captured by the Men of Gondor. No one liked Gollum, but that doesn't change the fact that it kind of ruined his chances for redemption forever. I don't even kill bees and spiders most of the time, just capture them and put them outside. (Flies I kill. And mosquitoes. Don't ask for the logic of my justifications, but really--who doesn't think flies and mosquitoes deserve to die? Well, other than the flies and mosquitoes. But I digress.)

Have any of you ever had to "euthanize" a beloved (or at least needy and tolerated) pet? How did it make you feel?

Meet the Critters Part 3: The Troublemaker

A few weeks ago, Jason was helping me do dishes when he casually brings up the fact that a kind German couple that was selling some Malamute/Shepherd X puppies offered to give him one.

You may recall that when we got Shiloh, I was trying to get a dog well past the puppy stage. This was for two reasons: one, we needed a dog mature enough to actually defend itself--and our property--from the roaming wildlife. And two, PUPPIES ARE A LOT OF WORK!!

Now, although we already have a dog that is good on the defensive line, there were new concerns: said already-owned dog still needed a lot of work and training; our yard had a lot of stuff laying around in it that I didn't want to get chewed up, but it wasn't within my jurisdiction to do something about it (nor did I have the time); although the puppy was already a good size, we really didn't have a spot for it to stay warm in the cold weather that would soon be upon us; plus, this dog would be BIG, with an appetite to match--big $. I didn't say much at the time, though. Jason already knew how I felt about it.

Two days later, on a Saturday afternoon when we were "out-and-about," Jason casually suggests that he thought we could take the kids to look at the puppies. Not to get one or anything, "just for something to do." Right. I figured he thought one look at those puppies would melt my heart. They were pretty cute, alright.

However, we didn't have a puppy in the van on the way home. We had an elephant.

We finally did discuss it, though, and the concerns were addressed and dealt with as best as could be. Jason agreed that this would NOT be an inside dog (I hate dog hair on everything) and I agreed that he could get a puppy.

The next day he brought it home after work. The first thing he did was put it in our front door! That lasted long!

Well, he has been an outside dog for the most part. However, last weekend, with the temperatures hovering around the -40 mark, all the animals (except Shiloh) spent most of their time inside.

We have now had Koda for about two weeks. He has a sweet personality, and he has grown a LOT already.

This is where Koda flaked out on his first night here with us (until we put him outside)--right on top of my pile of laundry! That just doesn't even look comfortable!

Koda at 9 weeks (a week ago). He's gaining about three pounds a week right now!

As puppies go, he actually hasn't been too bad so far. He gets along with the cats (well, not Sumi, but she doesn't get along with anybody!) and he is pretty smart. He made a few messes inside, but I think he's learning about that, too.

We are all glad that the super-cold weekend has passed--the temperatures stayed down there for about 5 days. It felt like 3 weeks. Thankfully, we are back up to right around freezing temperature.

That means the dog is BACK OUTSIDE!!

Meet the Critters Part 2: The Kittens

The day after I went to get Sumi, I was supposed to pick up a mother cat and her two six-week-old kittens, a good forty-five minute jaunt away. The plan was that they would be outside kitties, keeping the general mouse population in check around the yard.

I packed all the kids in the van and drove a few miles before pulling over and calling the owner back for directions, since the cell phone service at our house is beyond bad. (One of the "perks" of living at the edge of the wilderness, I guess!) I was a little chagrined to find out when I called her that the mother was no longer part of the package, as the owner's daughter had a weeping fit when she found out about it. However, since we were already en route, and the kids were SO excited about getting kittens (okay, I was excited, too), I decided to go for it, anyway.

The plan would have to be revised, somewhat. These two kittens were too small to be put outdoors on their own just yet, so they would need to be inside for several weeks, at least. You can imagine how thrilled my feline-allergic husband was when he came home that night to find that the inch he gave was being pushed to three miles with the new additions!

But they were so CUTE!

Simba at 6 weeks.

Nala at 6 weeks.

Of course, being kittens, they hadn't learned their manners yet, either. Oh, yes, they were very friendly and social, (and were already litter box-trained) which we all loved, but they also did some not-so-lovable things. Such as climbing up the furniture with their claws (well, they were too little to just jump up, right?) And tearing the batting out of the inside of our nice reclining couch. And climbing up the inside of the couch with their claws! And chewing on cords. And digging in my houseplants. And pulling the difficult-for-humans-to-access television cord out of the wall.

I loved having them in the house, actually. They were very entertaining, and I'd never had a house cat before. Not only that, they actually came and had naps in your lap, and enjoyed being petted (unlike Sumi-the-sociopath). However, after several weeks of coming home and having his head stuff up immediately, Jason spent an entire weekend building them an insulated cat house and they then got to move outside.

It took them a bit to adjust. They actually were able to climb up the weather stripping on our front door and get on top of the trailer. I rescued them once, but the next time they did it, they were on their own. Actually, Simba injured his paw while jumping down, so he cured himself really quickly. He limped around on that thing for a few weeks. Nala decided it was no fun up there by herself, and by the time Simba's paw had healed, they had both found better, safer ways to get away from Shiloh.

Poor kitties on the roof, about 10 weeks old. The ugly green tar-dripped part of the trim is where the previous addition came off, and will be hidden by the new one we will build next summer. For now, pretend not to see it, 'kay?

Yes, he was the real reason they were so desperate to get to the highest point they could find. He just wanted to play, but he was about 8000 times their size. The poor little tikes really had no defence against his ginormity. Simba, the feistier of the two, was pretty funny to watch as he stiffened up and spat ferociously, but Shiloh just seemed to think it was part of the game, and it encouraged, rather than discouraged, him.

Despite all this, I thought the cats were doing an okay job of staying out of harms' way until one day, when we came home from church, and I saw Shiloh out in the field (far away from the trailer, the shed, or any form of shelter) playing with some kind of critter in the snow. When I got closer, I saw it was Nala. He was picking her up and tossing her around like a beach ball. I was not impressed, to say the least. Not only that, but I was surprised that Nala had let herself be driven that far from safety. The poor thing was soggy, and it was below freezing, so she got to come in for a few hours to warm up. It was the day of Jude's birthday party (early November), and she just cuddled into my mom's lap and slept for about two hours.

Since then, the kittens have been soggified several times, but they are also growing. They can hold their own a little better against the dog, and they seem to care a little less, too. I don't think he usually hurts them, just licks them all over (not a good thing in this weather.) Maybe they feel it less, now that their winter coat has come in so nice and full. They are pretty chunky underneath all the fluff, too!

Jason keeps trying to get me to take Sumi back by saying that then Nala can come inside. (Nala loves laps!) I think I would just feel like I let Sumi down if I take her back. Or maybe it would be more like I failed and let myself down. I don't know. I don't mind her as much, now, anyway. She still minds a lot when the kittens come in on the odd cold day, but that's easy enough to deal with, so I dunno--besides, the kittens both being outside together do a better job of staying warm.

Pretty soon, though, it's going to be spaying/neutering time. Ugh. The poor things have no idea what's coming.

Maybe it's better to be innocent...

Nala at 4 1/2 months. (Dec 2, 2009)

Simba at 4 1/2 mos.

Next post: The Troublemaker

Meet the Critters Part 1: The Queenie

A long, long time ago, I posted about the first four-legged creature to join our farm. It's about time that all the more recent additions got a proper introduction, I think.

In all honesty, I think that before Shiloh even arrived, the first critters to move in were the MICE! Having our trailer sitting here, unskirted, and with plenty of places that you could see daylight from inside that weren't windows, was pretty much the equivalent of an open invitation to the little rodents. Actually, it was less like a civilized invitation to an afternoon tea party, and more like a Vegas Casino, with big neon flashing arrows saying, "C'mon in! The food's in here!"

So, despite the fact that my allergic-to-cats husband had once promised that we would NEVER have a cat indoors, the little mouse droppings in all the wrong places soon persuaded him to allow me to go pick up some freebies.

The first one to come home was Sumi. "Sumi" is Japanese for "psycho cat with severe antisocial tendencies."

She came from a single male owner who was renovating his house, and seemed concerned that the noise was bothering her. Also, it wouldn't be long before his floor was ripped up, and he thought she might run away. This maybe should have been my first clue that what we were getting wasn't exactly the ideal "lap cat" I was looking for. However, he seemed to think she was a good mouser, and that was all I really cared about at the moment.

Of course, as I was picking her up (and it's not like she was right in town, or anything--it was a bit of a drive to get there), he mentions that she doesn't really like new people, and that it takes her about six months to get used to new cats. Hmm. Well, since she was already in the van, I felt somewhat committed, so she came home anyway.

Sumi has got to have more psychological problems than any other cat I've ever known, and given the fact that most cats tend to be a little psychotic, this is really saying something. When we got her home, she disappeared under our reclining couch. Then she didn't come out. At all. For two days. Finally, after deciding that this was ridiculous, Amanda M. and I hauled her out forcibly and put her in the cat litter box. Apparently, she had been holding it for two days! (Thank goodness that there were no messes anywhere.) Then she promptly went looking for another place to hide.

Thanks to the kittens that we brought home the day after Sumi (more about them tomorrow), who were very social and preferred the active, "living-room" end of the house, it wasn't long before Sumi decided that her preferred hiding spot was under our bed. This annoyed Jason because of his allergies. This annoyed me, because I much prefer sleeping with my bedroom door closed, but if we did that, she would wake us up meowing at ungodly hours, regardless of which side of the door she had been on when we retired.

Her encounters with the kittens were brief, hiss-and-run affairs, and we saw very little of her at all until they were moved permanently outside. Sumi was so reclusive, in fact, that nearly two weeks after we got her, she went streaking by Jabin up the hall towards our bedroom (her only speeds are "full out run" or "full stop"), and he exclaimed, "What was that?!" Because of this, she has been nicknamed "The Invisible Cat."

The first photo was taken September 4, not long after we got her. Here, she has decided to hide between the washing machine and the wall, behind the bathroom door. She would also hide in the pantry (until I got the door re-hung after painting) and behind the pressure tank, until our water actually got fixed and she decided it was way too noisy and busy in the bathroom from then on.

Sumi has gradually warmed up to us (at a pace akin to how a captive would acclimate to living with cannibals). She has bonded to me the most, and will often come out in the evening, after the kids are in bed and I am usually employed doing something that gives me lap, and she will sit with me. When she wants affection, she is actually somewhat demanding, like she craves it and is afraid of it at the same time. Unfortunately, she kneads. With claws. That gets her tossed off my lap immediately.

She is getting better, though. She also spends a fair amount of time out here during the day, now. This photo, taken last week, shows one of her favourite spots to sit: by the front door, at the entrance to the hallway. She can survey the kitchen, dining room and living room activities from this spot, but if anyone makes the slightest move in her direction, she can immediately bolt back up the hallway to the safety of her den under our bed.

She is quite pretty, with unusual eyes--mostly gold, but with a ring of green around the pupil. However, this particular look is "We are NOT amused." The cause of her consternation will be the subject of Part Three.

For a while, I had all but decided to take her back once her previous owner's renovations were at a point that would allow it. However, as she has thawed, I am now worried that she would re-experience all the moving stress she finally seems to be letting go of, even if I took her back to her previous owner. Plus, there is evidence that she may have been responsible for the deaths of two mice. If there were more, no evidence was left. Also, mousey activity in general seems to be down, of late, so she might actually be serving her purpose.

Anyway, the jury's still out.

Tomorrow's episode: The Kittens

Our Acreage Has Grown by Four Feet

Meet Shiloh.

He is the first animal of the four-legged variety to join our little "farm." We got him from the S.P.C.A. on Thursday.

I first went in on Tuesday, just before closing time. There wasn't time to really spend with any of the animals, but I asked the gal helping out there which dogs were at least two years old. She said she would ask, and then told us that "any of these dogs here would work, except that one, who isn't good with kids."

Shiloh's cute face caught my eye. Jude and I both thought he looked like a puppy, but after being told that he was over two, I shrugged. Our dog Jenna retained a very "puppy-ish" look well past two, so I thought this might be another example like that.

Wednesday we came back specifically to learn more about this cute little brown dog. Like the day before, while all the other dogs were barking and carrying on at our presence, he simply looked at us, all alertness. We took him for a walk, and he was energetic, but still manageable. We took a few photos to show Jason, and knew that if he said it was okay, this would be the dog we took home, despite the fact that the young guy who was volunteering had now reduced his age to a year! Oh, well, I thought. At least he won't have much "puppy time" left.

The next morning, after a trip to get dog food, we went and "adopted" our new boy. As the administrator was filling out the paperwork, she had Jabin pick a day in December to serve as his birthday.

"December?" I asked.

Hmmph. Eight months. So much for an adult dog who won't chew on everything. Good thing he is to be an outside dog only!

So far, he has worked out really well. He has not shown any sign of wanting to leave the yard--we tie him up at night, since we are not sleeping there, because we don't want him to run off after the wildlife or to come looking for us. He is a little shy of Jason, and we wonder if he may have been abused by a male before the S.P.C.A. got him as a stray. He sure has glommed on to me, though. And he stays with the boys while they are playing in the yard, for the most part (if he isn't with them, he is usually resting close to the trailer door, where I am working). He isn't keen about loud noises, and the only time I have heard him bark has been when there is a gun report echoing from the shooting range across the road, or when a vehicle has driven in. He isn't fond of the generator we are currently using to run the chop saw, either.

However, the first night, I spent about a half-hour with him on leash, and by the end he was starting to get the hang of "down" and "heel." He seems intelligent, and really hasn't chewed anything yet, although he's had opportunity. His biggest bad habit seems to be that he is a bit of a kleptomaniac! He absconded with Jason's tape measure yesterday, and has tried to do the same with several other tools!

So, not the perfect dog... but definitely lots of potential! All in all, I think Shiloh will end up being a good addition to our crew, as long as we work with him. I guess I don't mind getting a puppy that much after all. And really, who could resist this cute face?