Wednesday, September 30, 2015

Hail House to the Rescue!

Well folks, the weather here has been downright weird this year.

First we had the abnormally cool and wet spring and early summer, then we had crazy hot and dry weather for most of September. Seriously, it's been in the high 80's or low 90's most days without a single drop of rain for 6 weeks...

...until last night.

But here's the crazy part, it didn't just rain, we got nickle-quarter sized hail. Seriously, it's nearly October and we got hail! WTF???

Good news is that the hail house performed brilliantly!

It all just rolled off the top and sides and collected along the edges leaving my little plants safe inside. Yay!

For the sake of comparison, here's what happened to the part of the zucchini plant that was growing outside of the "protected zone."

I'm just hoping that the "impact resistant" shingles did their job too...

They made it through the last 2 storms unscathed, while everybody in the neighborhood who didn't pay the extra few hundred bucks for the upgrade is replacing their roofs... The people across the alley just finished getting their roof replaced last week! I sure hope they went for the upgrade this time around!

So my next step is to work on covering up any sharp pieces of metal sticking out on the hail house so I can put the plastic cover on it when it gets cold without worrying about it getting torn. That is if it ever gets cold! Seriously, our nighttime temps have been in the 50's and 60's! I'm not exactly complaining about that since it's meant that the garden has been producing overtime, but it is odd.

Anyhow... I've been making refrigerator pickles to deal with the surplus cucumbers...

And I'm freezing the extra cherry tomatoes so I can toss them into stews or roasted veggie mixes if it ever gets cool enough for that sort of thing. I've also got 3-4 limb sized zucchinis that got away from me in the fridge waiting for it to get cool enough to bake zucchini bread. (I'm giggling about the misplaced modifier in that sentence... picturing the zucchini running around in the back of the fridge or something.)

I think the hail house was definitely worth the investment, and hopefully it will mean many years of gardening bliss in the future!

So tell me... how are your gardens doing? Is the weather as crazy where you live as it is here?

Saturday, September 19, 2015

The News from the Funny Farm

First of all, I want to thank all of you for your very kind words and thoughtful comments on the loss of my sweet little Princess.

Things here have been... well... a bit crazy.

Of course there's been the cleaning up and digging out from the land of sick kitties. I still haven't been able to bring myself to get rid of her litter box. The boys don't use it, and it's really sorta in the way - it was an accommodation that I made to make things easier for her. Somehow, the thought of getting rid of it makes me too sad to contemplate, but I'll get there eventually.

But I've removed all of her beds and heating pads, and my hall closet now, once again holds the vacuum cleaner instead of a Princess hideout. Heavy sigh.

In reality though, there hasn't been too much time to grieve her loss because so much else has gone crazy since she died. My television and computer both died. When it rains, it pours, you know?

I managed to get the computer to come back to life (long story) and the TV is at the repair shop. I'm hoping it can be salvaged so I don't have to go buy a new one.

And my step-mother has been out of the country, so my dad has needed my help with some things...

And I FINALLY finished my web page revisions to make my pages all mobile compatible. YAY! Of course, doing that part made me realize how much more work there really is to do...

I think I'll wait a while before jumping into any more huge projects though, because I am pooped!

Anyhow, I keep meaning to write a post about my garden, but haven't really had time. It's been goin' great guns though, and I'm overrun with tomatoes, cucumbers & zucchini - and I've even harvested a few peppers and eggplant.

The "hail house" was a great success - even though we haven't had any hail since I finally completed it. I closed in the west side with a door, and extended the hardware cloth down the north side to protect from anything falling sideways, and the result is that it really feels like a nice little enclosed area.

The benefit I didn't expect is that the cucumbers have been using the walls as a trellis, and it's made it soooo much easier to tie up the tomatoes so they don't fall over and hurt themselves.

I do keep the door open most days though, because a few times a bird got in there and started to panic because it couldn't find its way out! I need to cover up any sharp edges of wires etc so that I can put the plastic cover on when the first frost comes, and hopefully that will extend the growing season a bit.

One advantage of life going crazy is that I've made great progress on eating down my freezers! I haven't had time to do a full inventory, but the upstairs freezer looks practically empty, and it's finally getting cool enough that I may make some soup in the next few days.

The other piece of news is this little guy.

I've seen him around the neighborhood for a few years, but when he showed up with an injured leg a while back I took pity upon him and gave him some food. The leg seems to have healed up, and he's been coming around regularly for food.

Not sure what I'm gonna do about him. He's not fixed, but it's quite possible that he does have a home and is just a moocher. I've asked around a bit and nobody seems to know for sure, though some people have said he might belong to an immigrant family up the street.

Anyhow, he won't let me get closer than 5-6 feet. but he loves to hang out with me while I'm out in the garden so we'll see how this evolves. More detective work is certainly in order. But for the moment I'm calling him Gray Boy and enjoying his company when I'm outside.

Sooo that's about all the news from the funny farm...

Hope you're all well and enjoying this last little bit of summer.

Friday, September 11, 2015

Rest in Peace Sweet Princess Kitty

A few days ago I made the very hard decision to have my sweet little Princess put to sleep.

I say that the decision was hard, because it's never easy to lose a creature as precious as she was, but when the time came she was in obvious pain so the decision to end her suffering was actually rather easy.

She had been doing fantastically well up until a few days ago when she took a sudden and severe turn for the worse. I thought her bad teeth had finally caught up with her, but the vet said it looked and acted a lot more like oral cancer. Given everything else that she was battling, and the fact that she was in severe pain that wasn't responding to either pain meds or antibiotics, I opted not to put her through a biopsy.

So instead, we pumped her full of morphine, and I got to spend a few last precious minutes with my little sweetheart before saying goodbye. Heavy, heavy sigh.

I've told Princess' story before, but just in case you've missed it...

It was a little less than five years ago when I was outside working in the yard and my neighbor came over to ask me if I knew that there was a cat living under my big pine tree. At first I didn't believe her, because surely I would have seen a cat hanging around. But I got down on my hands and knees and sure enough, there was Princess curled up in a nest of pine needles.

She looks huge in this photo, but that's because she was covered from head to toe in horrible mats.

It took 6 months over a long cold winter to get her to trust me. I worried endlessly about her and spent untold hours building various sorts of kitty houses for her and crawling under the tree to be sure she was OK. I even rigged a house with a heating pad to help her through the nights that got down to 20 below zero.

Then sometime in March she started playing a little game where she would dart past me... sorta like she was daring herself to get a little bit closer. So one day as she darted past me, I decided to stick out my hand and see if I could just brush her fur as she went past.

Well, as soon as I touched her she whipped her head around. At first I thought she might attack me, but instead, she climbed into my lap and started purring. It was as if a little switch had flipped and some long lost memories of being a coddled lap kitty came roaring back. From that point on, there was no way I was letting her stay out under that tree anymore, so little Princess got to come inside.

We went through some rough times the first few months after she came inside, but she surprised everyone over and over and over.

The first surprise came when I took her to the vet the day after I brought her inside. She had mats several inches thick over her entire body and the vet said they'd have to put her under to shave her. But there was one particularly big one on her chest that was really bothering her, so I asked the vet if they could just try to remove that one. A few minutes later I started hearing sounds of incredulity coming from the vet techs. "OMG! She's purring, she's kneading!"

Sweet little Princess, a cat who, a few days earlier wouldn't let anyone even come close enough to touch her, was letting complete strangers shave her entire body!

Princess sporting her shaved look
So then came the next surprise. There had been numerous stray and/or feral cats in the neighborhood that had tested positive for FIV or FELV, and we thought the chances that she was infected were probably quite high. But since I was already pretty attached, I was making plans to keep her separated from my other cats. But miraculously she tested negative.

So I brought her inside and set her up in a private suite in the basement so she could adjust. But a day or two later she suffered a grand mal seizure, and I thought she was gonna die. I rushed her to the vet but they couldn't find anything obviously wrong. At the time we thought perhaps it was a reaction to the vaccines, but I'm now pretty sure it was because she had undiagnosed high blood pressure. I think the stress of the situation combined with her already high bp just pushed her into the seizure.

At that point my hopes for her were not high. I kept expecting her to have more seizures, but instead she settled in and decided that being indoors was OK. I kept her in isolation for another 6 weeks to be sure that she wasn't carrying anything that could be a risk to my other cats, and to let her adjust in peace. She didn't want to be far from my lap, so I wore a big old bathrobe when I was with her to make sure I didn't inadvertently infect the other cats by something on her fur.

Princess in my bathrobed lap shortly after she came inside.
And after another 6 weeks she went back to the vet and received a clean bill of health!

It didn't take long for her to adjust to her new home and she quickly staked out her territory under the desk. So I set up her heating pad and a kitty bed under there and she was in hog heaven.

She even learned to get along with her brothers. The boys she tolerated, though they were a bit rambunctious for her taste, but Sputty protected her and the two of them became quite close.

About a year ago I started noticing that she had really bad breath, so I brought her in to have her teeth looked at. Her teeth were indeed bad so we made plans to have them taken out. But the pre-surgery blood work revealed that she had advanced kidney disease.

The vet didn't think she'd make it very long given her numbers, so we put aside any concerns about her teeth and started her on fluid therapy.

At first she was terrified by getting fluids, but I soon realized that what really scared her was not so much the fluids, but the whole process of locking her in the bathroom so she couldn't run away etc. So one day I got the crazy idea to try giving her fluids while she was in my lap. I brought out her favorite roast chicken treats and miraculously she just sat there chowing down her treats and didn't even seem to notice the needle!

It soon became a ritual for us. I'd get the fluids set up and she'd happily jump into my lap and purr her way through the entire process.

But then, in April of this year she took a sudden downturn. I rushed her to the vet and he determined that she was in congestive heart failure and had extreme high blood pressure. He said the chances of her pulling through were minimal, but somehow I just didn't have the feeling that Princess was ready to go quite yet. So we put her on diuretics and blood pressure medicine and miraculously she came out of it.

After that we cut her fluids down to a few times per week, and she did amazingly well. In fact, it seemed like once her blood pressure was under control, she became happier and more active than ever. One morning I got up and couldn't find her in any of her regular spots. I started to panic and went hunting for her all over the house. Turned out she'd gone down to the basement and climbed to the top of the garden level kitty tree to enjoy the sunbeam.

It almost sounds crazy, but I really think the last few months of her life were the happiest,  and in an odd ironic way, the healthiest!

I am so very sad that my sweet little baby had to move on, but I am forever grateful for the time we got to spend together, and for the fact that she let me love her. She was a true gift, and it was an honor and a privilege to get to care for her.

I buried her next to Sputty, and it gives me some comfort to think of the two of them together again somehow, somewhere.

Rest in peace my sweet baby girl.

Thursday, September 3, 2015

My Internal Radio

Nothin' much to say here... just have some songs on infinite repeat in my brain, so I figured I'd share. I'd say the mood is nostalgic with a tad bit of melancholy...

So tell me... what's playing on your internal radio today?