Starting Fresh

There are finally some brilliant blooms in my yard. The earliest of the crocuses have been up for about a week now. Today was a particularly warm and sunny day, so they were glowing in the sun. I guess it’s time to start thinking about spring!

My orchids are in full bloom now, and the final blossoms managed to open just before the first ones expired. All 12 bloom stalks blooming. It’s an amazing feat.

all in bloom

variety 2

Meanwhile, John and I got new cats. It’s sooner than we had imagined, but the world seems so big and there feel like there are so many concerns and threats out there both for the marginalized people we serve and for ourselves. Both of us missed having a cat to come home to–a fuzzy head to pat and soft rubs against our legs.

We wanted two cats who were already friends and who would be happy to find a new home together. We went to the Humane Society and found a mother and daughter who clearly wanted to stay together. Every time we saw them they were smashed up against each other. They’d been adopted once before but were returned because of their adopters’ “unrealistic expectations” (the Humane Society staff’s sarcastic commentary on the cats’ paperwork). They are shy cats, and their previous adopters were upset that they didn’t come out to socialize right away. We’ve had them for three weeks now, and they’re slowly acclimating to our house, though they’re still skittish.

It was not necessarily our intention, but these two cats are very different from Shamoo. They’re fluffy girls who don’t have Shamoo’s air of being impeccably dressed while drinking a martini in the library, reading a deeply intellectual novel, and looking at you with disdain.

However, they have seemed like Ladies from the beginning, so we chose names for them from the Legends of King Arthur: Lady Ygraine (Arthur’s mother) for the grey and white mother cat and Lady Morgaine (Ygraine’s daughter and Arthur’s half-sister) for the calico daughter cat. They are beautiful cats and seem ready for a romp and an adventure in the great out-of-doors and maybe some magic, drinking mead, organizing medieval power plays, or roasting some dead thing on a spit in the fire (they will be doing none of this–well maybe the magic…and the power plays (they did manage to get themselves an extra serving of canned cat food yesterday morning, after all)).

They’re three and four, so there’s definitely the potential for them to be energetic and destructive. John and I hope we’re ready for cats who can jump more than two feet off the ground, though it is nice not to have to provide at-home veterinary care on a regular basis.

The joy of new cats is tempered with some continued sadness for Shamoo. As good as it is to have them around, I still miss him and his ways.

And speaking of cats in a roundabout way: the hawks have been haunting my bird feeders again. I’ve seen at least two of them on three or four occasions in the last month. It has really cut down on the bird activity at my feeders, which Lady Ygraine and I are both sad about.

A couple weeks ago, I was taking photos of the hawk and I went upstairs to get a better angle. It was then that I realized what, perhaps, the hawk was looking at:

the hawk and the pussycat

There was one of the neighborhood tomcats taking a happy bath in the sun. Dude, look up, LOOK UP! Later the hawk was gone, but the cat was still there, and I was relieved.

January Update

There’s not too much to report from my garden. We’re in the dead, brown season but with no snow, ice, or the usual early crocuses to add just a little variety and sparkle. However, I decided that an entire month should not go by without a garden update.


crocuses were blooming this time last year

the early crocuses are behind time

Moon Flower Pod

I finally put in my seed orders this weekend. It felt like even more of an act of faith this year, both on a personal level because I have no idea where I’ll find the greenhouse space that I need to get them started and on a much larger level as I watch news of policy changes that I fear will cause harm to our public lands, our environment, and all the people and creatures that live in this beautiful land. As it is, I breathe some of the most polluted air in the entire country.

bonus orchid

One hopeful point of color is in my kitchen where my orchids are blooming with abandon. I started with one orchid about 16 years ago. That orchid is now three separate plants with 11 bloom spikes among them. I also have another bonus variety of orchid in bloom, too. I’ve never had so many blooms all at once before.

In case you don’t believe me, here is a diagram of them all. Numbers 6 and 7 are obscured by leaves in this photo (so maybe you still won’t believe me 🙂 ), and number 12 is the one that’s unrelated to the rest.

orchid bloom diagram

two orchids

Remembering Shamoo


My final portrait of Shamoo taken on Christmas Day 2016


Shamoo was born in October, 1997 and died December 28, 2016.

He was a wonderful cat who had a very good life. He was aware of this, and stuck around for 19 years to enjoy as much of it as he could. He spent 18 of his years with his person Amy. John provided staffing for Shamoo for 17 years. Shamoo cared about them very much in the way that cats care about their people.

Shamoo worked hard to be dignified, clean, and proper at all times, commanding the title of “Sir”. As a younger cat, he was a little cheeky, but he mellowed with age. Often things happened around him that left him feeling concerned, but he tried hard to never let anything ruffle his fur too much.

To the very end, Shamoo was a handsome cat. He routinely positioned himself in locations that would complement his dapper black and white coat. He loved the camera. Amy enjoyed taking photographs of him. In the early days of the internet LOLCat, he enjoyed a measure of notoriety, being chosen to appear regularly on the website He was included in the pages of three Stuff on My Cat books and won a Stuff on My Cat online contest with his portrayal of the letter Z.

In his life, Shamoo lived in Evansville, Indiana; Archbold, Ohio; Cincinnati, Ohio; and (again) Evansville, Indiana. He had many roommates and temporary staff in that time who enjoyed his company. During his time in Archbold, Shamoo also shared the house with Josh the dog. The two enjoyed playing tricks on each other, chasing each other, and looking out the window together. Shamoo always felt a little sorry for Josh for being the family pet.

Shamoo enjoyed being petted while he ate fresh crunchies and watching birds. He often talked to the birds excitedly as he watched them. In his younger days, he enjoyed playing with string toys, aggravating his roommates, and jumping into window sills to look outside. In his later years, he enjoyed laying on top of his people, going on walks indoors with John, sleeping in his heated cat bed, and taking short excursions into the outdoors.

Shamoo found new experiences even as an elderly cat. He went on his first vacation to Northern Michigan at the age of 16 and returned to Michigan for two more years. He didn’t mind the car ride and enjoyed the relaxing time with his people.

Shamoo was a very good cat and he will be greatly missed.


Paw Print

Shamoo in Nature: The Year in Review

Shamoo, my cat, has been in significantly declining health lately. I’m not sure how much of 2017 he will see. But looking back, he had a remarkably good 2016, especially for a cat of 19.

Every month, there was at least one opportunity for him to experience the outdoors, something he enjoyed immensely. So here is 2016 as seen through Shamoo’s view of the outside world.

2016 Christmas Tree Procurement


I’ve struggled to be in the Christmas spirit, so it was tempting to skip a Christmas tree and any other kind of decorations. This year has been tough and next year promises to be more so. However, there have been one or two other Christmas tree-less years, and those years I’ve felt regret after the holidays were over. So a few weeks ago John and I went on a tree poaching expedition.

rural scene

Our friends at Patchwork used to organize tree gathering, get permits, form a convoy. As everyone grew older, John and I were the only ones who still went. Now he and I still go to “The Spot,” but it’s spur-of-the-moment, permit-less, and just the two of us. The red truck with a bright evergreen bouncing along in its bed is the same as always, though.

We were committed to avoiding the usual tree gathering mistake: choosing something that requires every inch of our 12′ ceilings. The trees always look so much smaller outdoors!

dramatic tree

We drove by several and stopped at one that was right on the road and a perfect size. Unfortunately, it was composed of 4-6 trunks all bound together into one tree.

We moved on, not seeing anything sufficiently small.

We stopped again. On closer inspection, that tree was not very attractive.

We stopped again. John walked over to a possible option and stood next to it for reference. He thought it looked good. I thought it was too tall.

Finally, we sighted something up and over a rise.


Up a bank filled with tall thorns and suddenly we beheld: the land of the little trees.

Land of Little Trees

We found one we liked and John stood next to it to confirm that our eyes weren’t playing tricks on us. We cut it, hopped in the truck (Hooray! It actually fit all the way into the truck bed this time!), and drove away before anyone knew we were there (though I doubt that anyone cared).

The Perfect Size

We set the tree up, and it looks lovely, as usual. Out cat helped John assemble the new tree stand (I’m not sure why. He’s getting a little weird in his old age). Then the decorations. I’m starting to get a great collection of handmade raccoon ornaments. John put one at the back of the tree so it looks like it’s being sneaky. This year I added a squirrel, too. On the tree, the squirrel has an owl watching him from behind.

I Helped!

The 2016 Tree


I returned from Germany and quickly started to get some things in the ground before the leaves started to fall. These included a nice box of spring bulbs and another one of garlic. I was successful, and now the trees are slowly providing a blanket of mulch. This year’s garlic was the “small garden” collection from Filaree Garlic Farm. The source is new to me. The garlic has sprouted already. Hopefully that’s a sign of a good crop in 2017.

The weather has been unseasonably warm for November and we’ve gone without a freeze for a very long time. Because of this, I’ve been able to harvest a few more handfuls of tomatoes. It makes me think of the guy at the Farmer’s Market back at the beginning of September who I overheard say he doesn’t eat garden tomatoes after August because they don’t taste as good. This year he would have missed out on plenty of tomatoes.

a few more tomatoes

green purple tomatoes

A freeze warning finally came last night, so I spent the late afternoon picking every lima bean I could find. We had a bunch in our supper, I froze others, and I’m drying the rest. I planted four varieties of heirloom beans in a range of colors, including one called “Alma’s PA Dutch Purple” that came from a garden blogger from Bucks County Pennsylvania, close to where my mom grew up. The other varieties were called “Wick’s”, “King of the Garden”, and “Christmas”.

I had also planted two varieties of cowpea called “Holstein” and “Mayflower”. For reference, black-eyed peas are a variety of cowpea that most people know about. I don’t think the cowpeas liked the spot I gave them in my garden, so only a couple plants made it. I didn’t even know that I’d gotten some of the Mayflowers until I was shelling some funny-looking lima beans that it turns out weren’t lima beans.

There are still a few blooms around my garden. I should try to find a few more autumn flowers because it is so nice to have some color as everything else turns brown. I read in the paper today that we haven’t had a significant rainfall since July. I wouldn’t have predicted that I would continue to water my garden through November to try to assure that everything will go into the winter in good shape. Even then, things are more than a little crispy.