What’s My Line?

February 13th, 2009


Yellow Lab and Cat

“Um…you know I’m a dog, right?  No, really… I am!”


Country Critters and Friends

April 8th, 2008

A few days of beautiful weather really brought out the spring. We’ve been busy moving plants, and generally tidying up the place. And there’s always something happening to get your attention. Usually I wander from one project to the other, often pulled by the “Daddy come here!” calls of the nearly wild youngster. Later he led the family on a hike through the woods to his secret spot and he was so excited to show us the big spot of pretty little flowers in the grass. He asked me to put this up here to show everyone.

Flowers in the grass

We didn’t find any morels, but saw lots of lush green moss.

Moss in the forest

Of course later I remembered that I left Sparky the cat in the barn. The cats will follow us everywhere and they have no idea about predators really. So I locked him inside while we went hiking around. We came back and found the cat nosing around a workbench. I didn’t think we had mice in the barn this winter, but apparently Sparky begged to differ.

Sure enough upon looking between some boxes on a shelf, two little beady eyes peered out at me. Cornered by the cat in back and me staring at him in front, the mouse didn’t want move from his hideaway. In a moment of unusual inspiration, I grabbed a large bucket and scooted the mouse from behind. The little guy thought he could outsmart me and leapt off the shelf making a perfect plunk! noise in the bucket, after which time he hunkered down realizing he was caught.

Naturally the young boy admired this mousy cuteness and wanted to keep him for a pet… not! And of course Sparky the cat glared at me after taking his prize away. So after much deliberation, and with the boy’s earnest concern, we took our friend for a walk across the pond and let him go.

A lucky country mouse

Be free little mouse! He was lucky I was delinquent on setting the mousetraps this winter. But the experience of helping the little critter and letting him go was important to the boy. I remember years ago when I was about his age, and catching my first trout with my Dad and brothers in a lake in Oregon. We fished all day to catch just a few for dinner, and then I pleaded to let my fish go back in the water. He helped me do that.

The weather warmed up enough to bring the turtles out. I think that’s why I like a few stumps and logs in the pond, as it makes for perches and hideaways for the critters.

Pond turtles in Missouri

Late in the afternoon yesterday I found two friends walking home together. Justin the Basset Hound and Sparky the cat.  Justin likes to follow the cats around, and they seem to enjoy his gentle disposition. He’s over 10 years old now.

Two friends walking home, Basset Hound and Cat

Changing Colors of Leaves and Sky

October 17th, 2007

     Another windy day, with a little rain and cooler weather.  And yes, the leaves are most definitely changing from day to day.  Here’s a branch of a Red Oak tree this morning- I love how the leaves begin changing color at different places on the branch, with green leaves mixed in between.  Sometimes the entire tree will blaze with red or orange brown colors.

Red Oak leaves in Autumn

I couldn’t resist another sunset picture of the sky the other evening.  It seems like fall and winter offer the most beautiful sunsets, or is it just that the path of the sun through the sky is different now, and as it sets earlier in the day we notice it more? 

Pink sky in October

Princess the Cat loves exploring around the house and barn.  After healing from breaking her foot this summer (really it was all her little toes!) she is none the worse for wear.  She “meowwls” to get outside and explore with her brother Sparky.  She’s the wary one and an excellent hunter.  He seems to enjoy chasing grasshoppers and lying on the window sill!  And yes, they have bells on their collars, which is a whole different story.

Princess the Cat

Colorful Sky and Snuggling Cat

October 2nd, 2007

     The weather forecast says we may have frost within the week!  Hard to believe the first frost of the year is almost here.  I always enjoy the last of the annual flowers and outdoor plants, yet the frost will snap most of them for the year.  The leaves have begun falling from the trees and slight color changes are beginning with sumac and maples.  It seems the grasshoppers are the most abundant insect around.  I cut the grass this evening and hundreds of them were jumping and flying as the mower passed.  Tonight we have rain, and I hear the steady falling of rain as well as the roar of heavy downpours as the thunderstorms pass.  We need the rain so much, it’s nice to finally know the ground will become saturated as we head towards winter.  The sky always amazes me… we were having dinner as I glanced outside last night.  “Look!” I said as I saw the clouds turning pink and red.  I grabbed the camera and raced outside to get a picture of the sunset’s painting in the sky, knowing it only lasts but moments.

 The clouds glow red at sunset

And here’s the young one curled up with Sparky the cat… he loves the kitties!

Boy and cat snuggling together

Kids and Cats

May 13th, 2007

There’s something about cats… they are nice to have around.  They don’t ask for much, but enjoy being part of the family.  I’ve written about our cats before… Princess is the wary hunter.  She spends all day stalking critters and wandering around.  Sparky is the kind of cat who enjoys just hanging around, and being wherever people are.  He likes exploring, but more often than not can be found perched on a window sill enjoying the day.  He is also much more tolerant of being picked up and hugged!  The young one loves to pick up the cats… and they endure his loving hugs as if to say… “Oh well, he feeds us… sigh…”   It’s fun to have the different personalities of the animals, they add character to the home.  Kids and cats… what a mix!

The six year old with Sparky the cat

Sparky can swim!

February 21st, 2007

I wish I had a picture… Out today enjoying 67 degree weather and taking in the sights.  One of which was our adventurous cat Sparky.  He wasn’t satisfied looking at the ice on the pond, even with a 4 foot gap of water as the ice thawed and retreated from the shoreline.  So what does he do?  He jumps to the ice!  You could tell he was proud of himself as he walked around… then decided to walk to the edge again to jump back.  Splash!  His head disappeared and up came a frantically paddling cat making a beeline for shore.  Out he climbs… looking like the proverbial skinny and soggy wet cat.  The fact that the water was close to 32 degrees probably shocked him silly, and he began licking, with an occasional sneeze to get the water out of his nose.  I went back later and took a picture of the evidence… you can see the footprints from the left, and then where they end with little chunks of ice where he fell in.

 Where the cat fell into the water

And here he is a little while later… none the worse for wear, but a little wiser!

Sparky the cat

Other sights of spring today included a Turkey Vulture, Red-Tailed Hawks, insects and a lonely bat flying around for food!  I’m sure we’ll see more of winter, but the march of Spring is coming closer.  I spent some time grading the “driveway” by the barn… I use the term loosely- it’s more like a “mudway” until we get some more gravel.  But it has a nice foundation!  It felt so nice out that I washed the tractor afterwards… then remembering I had to drive back through the mud to put the tractor away… Doh!

Muddy Driveway before gravel

Pond Fun on the Ice

February 11th, 2007

 It’s a lazy weekend… or at least a weekend to catch up. What would we do without them. On Friday, we tested out the ice on the pond… it is almost 4 inches thick!

Cellphone on IceSo I walked around a bit, as did the animals, and then when the little one came home from school- we had a lesson on ice safety. And he was able to walk around on the edges to see what it was like. He thought it was the best thing ever… “Isn’t this amazing?” he said. Seeing joy and wonder in the face of a child is even more amazing, perhaps especially as a parent.





We also laughed while watching Sparky play out on the ice in the middle of the pond. I threw a little ice chip out there- and the cat played for 20 minutes batting it around, jumping and chasing, etc.

Cat Chasing Ice on Pond


He is the adventurous one… Princess stayed near the shoreline watching warily. You know what they say about curiosity and cats… Princess will probably be around longer than Sparky!

Cat resting on Pond Ice

It’s warmer today so the ice is thawing a little- but by Tuesday it will be very cold again. If the ice remains frozen safely, we might even try ice fishing this week. That would be a first for Fox Haven… and me!

Belling the Cat

January 28th, 2007

     We have cats… two of them.  They were free cats, offered at a local feed store.  The young boy always dreamed of having his own kitty… and providence placed us in front of a basket of cute little kittens at an appropriate time.  Not being satisfied with one, we picked another and proceeded to raise them inside the home.  Being responsible pet owners, they have been spayed, neutered and vaccinated…  and as “farm cats” they have the run of the laundry room and two doors to take them wherever they please outside.  They love being outside… in fact they live for being outside.  Now I know some cat lovers believe one should never let a cat outside… Oh! They might be injured or eaten by another animal!  Yes, that is true.  And we might be run over by a car, or fall down the steps, etc, etc.  And we live in the country.  They still have their claws.   The three dogs know that very well.  They come in at night and we lock the door.  These are not suburban house cats… they were born and bred for enjoying nature in all its glory.  To deny them the joy of playing and chasing each other in the grass… climbing trees… lazing quietly in the sun, or chasing grasshoppers… here it would be to deny their nature. I am thankful we can offer them the opportunity while sharing our lives together.

I™m Sparky!

     We had high hopes for these two lovely animals as “mousers.”  Sparky looks like a Tabby, and is warm and affectionate wherever he goes… he follows me around, jumps in my lap and embraces life with an abandon and freedom of style that shows he enjoys every day. Princess looks more like a Calico, and is wary, skittish, chubby, affectionate on her terms, and extremely capable at getting critters.  They are great with people and don’t mind the dogs a bit.  And yes, they have garnered moles and mice from the property to which I applaud.  But then too- they are skillful birders.  I have never seen them catch a bird, but they lie in wait, and when I least expect it- I find a small bird in the driveway… or somewhere else.  You see, one day I heard quite a commotion in the laundry room… tussling, thumping and wrestling.  I thought it to be two cats playing as they normally did.  I was not prepared later however to find the laundry room covered in blue and white feathers as if a great battle had played out.  Alas, the Blue Jay did not win that battle.  Surprising that it was caught because Jays are normally wary and capable themselves.  But because I love birds, feed birds and study birds… I could not embrace the hunting prowess of our lovely cats with respect to birds.  I admire their skills to be sure… I love the outdoors, fishing and hunting myself.  But after seeing the results of their handiwork, it was time to do something.   Cats are curious creatures- one is never quite sure why they stalk, hunt and gather their victims.  It is their nature.  Or perhaps one is absolutely sure that they do it because it is their nature… I™m Princess!

     So with loving fanfare I finally bought two safety collars (they snap open if the cat is caught on something) and two nice sounding bells.  These bells are amazing… they don’t simply jingle occasionally, they tinkle, jingle and ring no matter what one does.  When the cats turn their heads… “ting….” and when the cats take a step… “jingle, jingle.”   Oddly- the cats don’t seem to mind the gentle noise or the collars- they play with each other, and roam around the outside of the house as before.  Yet a subtle difference can almost be seen… they don’t lie in wait quite so eagerly anymore.  They walk and sit looking longingly at the birds perhaps dreaming of days-gone-by.  I’m sure they will succeed at times simply because of their speed and agility. The cats are fun, and great companions.  But for now, they will have to learn a few more tricks… the birds will know they’re coming!

     The phrase “Belling the Cat” comes from Aesop’s Fables.   It’s a story that I think of with the expression “Easy to say, harder to do.”  

Long ago, the mice had a general council to consider what measures they could take to outwit their common enemy, the Cat. Some said this, and some said that; but at last a young mouse got up and said he had a proposal to make, which he thought would meet the case. “You will all agree,” said he, “that our chief danger consists in the sly and treacherous manner in which the enemy approaches us. Now, if we could receive some signal of her approach, we could easily escape from her. I venture, therefore, to propose that a small bell be procured, and attached by a ribbon round the neck of the Cat. By this means we should always know when she was about, and could easily retire while she was in the neighbourhood.”

This proposal met with general applause, until an old mouse got up and said: “That is all very well, but who is to bell the Cat?” The mice looked at one another and nobody spoke. Then the old mouse said:

“It is easy to propose impossible remedies.”

                                                                                                                                                    Courtesy of the Free Library