Then Along Came Snow

February was warm and toasty. The magnolia bloomed early. The crocuses were up. Leaves were starting to bud. Other plant sprouts started to poke their way out of the ground. I planted a few patches of lettuce because everything looked so nice and because regular precipitation was forecast. Maybe a little of that precipitation was supposed to be snow, but they always say that and it never happens.

Then the forecast got more foreboding. A freeze warning. Snow.

I prepped my bird feeders for the cold weather by adding the seed squirrel I’d gotten around Christmas. I was going to hang it inside my squirrel cage and watch the squirrels be thwarted in their attempt to eat it. But it didn’t fit inside the feeder, so I had to wire it in place and watch the squirrels have their way with it. It was a little disturbing to watch its eyes buggy over being cannibalized butt first.

Because the freeze warning lasted several days, I also cut and brought in all the daffodils that were blooming. I thought of my mom as I did it. When I had my senior art show in college, she brought me a huge bouquet of daffodils that she’d cut from her garden. She said she’d cut them because it was going to freeze at home. They were a special gift.

And then the snow came and it was beautiful. Nothing perks up the drab end of winter like snow covering the early flowers. Many of the magnolia petals had fallen to the ground, which made interesting pink undertones for the snow. The magic was all gone by afternoon.

And the deep freeze hit. It was rough on the plants. What was left of the magnolia blooms turned brown on the tree, but my crocuses persevered. I gave up on the little patches of lettuce seed that I’d started back when it was warm, but then last weekend I noticed a small spot of tiny green leaves: the year’s first seeds were up.

Early Early Spring Blooms

Our magnolia has bloomed about a month earlier than usual. The buds dropped their protective outer husks mid-February. I thought for sure that a subsequent cold snap would ruin the flowers. They did turn a little brown but stayed on the tree, and now we have a successful and beautiful bloom. Here’s their progress over the last week and a half:

And there are plenty of other blooms around the yard. Every fall I’ve been planting new varieties of crocuses, daffodils, tulips, and other spring bulbs. It’s always a surprise what comes up and where.

And the hawk has been back. Two weeks ago, I looked up from my breakfast to see it perched on the fence only a few yards away and finishing off a meal caught at my bird feeders. I hope it wasn’t one of the more unusual feeder birds that it had caught. It was pretty amazing to see so close, though.

hawk eating breakfast

I wasn’t the only one who thought so. I glanced over to the cats’ window perch and realized that Lady Morgaine had been watching the entire thing. She was clearly thinking, “WOW. Best cat TV EVER!!!!!”

OMG OMG OMG

The Ladies continue to acclimate to their new home with us. They play a lot and run around a lot. It’s much different than having a 19-year-old cat. They’re 3- and 4-years-old, so they’ve got many more running-around-years left.

One final story from their adoption: John and I had gone to the Humane Society on a Friday to have a serious look at cats. We visited with both these ladies and another pair. We weren’t sure which cats to take, or even if we were ready, so we went home to think about it.

Both of us thought that these two ladies would probably be our choice, but the others needed a home, too. Maybe we’d go back the next day. Maybe we’d go back in a week, and if they were still there it would be our sign.

“But what if we go back in a week and only one is there?” I asked.

We went back the next day, but didn’t get there until later in the afternoon. “We’ll just look again and see how we feel,” we told ourselves.

As soon as we walked in, we realized that there were other people looking at them. Not only that, the other people seemed to be looking at only one of the two. I didn’t want to be rude, but I couldn’t stand the thought of watching two friends get separated.

I spoke up and said, “Uhh. We’d actually just come to adopt both those cats. We looked at them yesterday.”

“Both cats?” the other people asked.

“Yeah. They’re a mother and daughter.”

“Wow, really? Well, you’ve got yourselves some cats.”

And that’s how we made up our minds.

“Should I box them up for you?” the Humane Society staff person asked.

p1500255

Lady Ygraine

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Lady Morgaine

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.

hydrangea

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 StuffOnMyCat.com. 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

teasel

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.

Maybe?

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