Saturday, November 22, 2014

Farm cat

A couple of months ago, likely mid-late September, my husband came home one night later than usual (this was before he switched to night shift), and found a black/grey cat in the carport. He almost did away with it, but didn't want to wake me to that unexpected noise, and by the next morning, I'd convinced him that since we have the chickens, gardens, and yard fenced, having a carport cat wouldn't cause cat-dog interactions, and wouldn't be likely to have cat poo in the gardens, and I wasn't too worried about my chickens from a cat.

Anyway, I figured the cat was an abandoned or fire/flood refugee cat, likely partly wild or feral, but would be great at controlling our rodent population without resorting to poison like I had been on the brink of for a good six months to a year, after a mouse chewed the kids car seat straps (unsafe costly inconvenient event, that). I picked up some cat food at the feed store, and we started feeding it. For the first while it wasn't eating much every night, and some nights it didn't eat anything at all. By the start of November we'd convinced ourselves that it must belong to someone down valley, and be wandering up. But that would be about 3/4 of a mile, which didn't seem like it would be conducive to a long-lived cat (lots of hungry coyotes around here!).
First picture, first daylight sighting, on the right side of the door opening. She came out to visit us from somewhere in the mess of a garage, hungry for attention, happy in the sunlight.
But we kept feeding it, as the group we thought were possible owners were renters who wouldn't be staying the winter, and we figured maybe we would be adopted when the renters left. Then Little M spotted a calico late one afternoon, shortly after sunset. We followed it and it ran up valley. We were puzzled, but wondered if there were just a fair number of cats roaming around after the fires.

The calico started coming nightly shortly after dark, but that was all we were seeing of her. We started assuming that she, too, must have another home. Then last week we saw the black cat for the first time since that first time my husband saw it. And there was the calico with it. That's when we put it together where they must be from. A quick phone call to a neighbor up valley and it came out that they used to belong to the folks up from us whose house and outbuildings burned in the initial push through of the fire that first night. The cats had been rehomed to one of the adjacent neighbors in their little group of three, and were supposed to be staying in their barn. In fact, these new owners said that they had never seen the calico out of the barn.
Giggling sisters sledding down the hill, photobomb courtesy of the calico cat

Well we felt really bad and stopped feeding them, not wanting to put these two in danger of coyotes, tempting them down for food, especially after dark as they had been doing. We assumed it would end, the nightly visits. Little M was devastated, and I started keeping an eye out for people needing new homes for barn cats. Then one night my husband left the garage door open over night, and the next morning he saw the calico cat stalking/playing in the field beside the garage.

Not wanting to shut her in the garage, not knowing how much time she was spending in there vs in her 'old' barn, we left the garage open, but didn't see her again. Then yesterday/night we got about 7 inches of snow, our first snowfall, and with it dumping down outside I assumed she would have headed back home. Except there she was, looking for food, right on schedule. I checked tracks with flashlight, and saw some coming out and then back into the garage (I assumed). I went back out with some food, and went to the garage, then came back, and with no new tracks out of the garage, there she was in the carport, friendly as could be.
Thanks for the breakfast, and the petting.

I rethought it, and she must be staying in the carport, and have ventured into and out of the garage, the tracks I assumed meant she was living in the garage. I called Little M out, and she was able to pet her as well. I have no clue what prompted the change, before last night anytime we rattled the doorknob when she was eating in the carport she would be off like a flash, but suddenly it snowed and she decided she liked us.

Anything interesting on your mitten? Treats perhaps? No? Oh well, back to breakfast.
Today we were out playing in the snow, and she was out with us the whole time. I don't know whether to assume she's now adopted us, or if she will venture back and forth still, but she's a cute friendly little calico, and I know exactly how Little M feels about her ('can I go back out and check on my cat?' - all day!). We will never have an inside cat, so outside she will have to stay, weathering the cold, snow, wet, heat, coyotes, cougars, and all. But from all accounts she's always been a barn cat, which is why her initial owners weren't able to take her with them where they are staying now while they figure out what their next steps are. So maybe she will be fine. And hopefully she will eat lots of mice and no birds and snakes... As a biologist I have a very hard time with outdoor cats, but in our situation, where I was on the verge of putting poison in our vehicles for the mice, which I feel has worse/bioaccumulating/longer term impacts on the ecosystem, I guess I'll have to live with her eating some birds and snakes. As long as she kills mice while she is at it...

The pictures here were the first I was able to take of her, today, the first time in daylight that I had more than a fleeting glimpse of her, during our frequent excursions outside to play in the snow, and 'take care of' the cat, who Little M has of course named Golden Rabbit, although she generally just calls her Cat, or The Cat.

Wednesday, November 19, 2014


We found out after the fire evacuation that we were expecting a third baby - due in late March/early April. We hadn't quite decided if we wanted to try for a third, and were definitely planning to wait another year, but the stress of the fire apparently changed my body's mind. Oops! We are very excited, especially because we recently found out that this third (and last!) baby is a boy!

Obviously I've been pretty absent around the blog these last few months, there has been a lot going on to get our property back in shape after the fire and flood, and being pregnant on top of that has been enough to handle. Now that I'm past 20 weeks (and the shingles episode of weeks 17+, yikes!), and my energy level is getting back into the normal realm, I'm hopeful that I will begin to post more regularly again!

Yup, definitely pregnant. Starting to not fit in anything but pregnancy shirts, and even some of those are too short! Yikes third pregnancy!
I certainly have a backlog of fun pictures to put up, as we did manage to have some fun this summer and fall :)
About when I started visibly showing, during a visit to my parents home in Ontario Canada earlier this fall (pics to come!)

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Inspiring blog post titles & random ramblings on

I read a title to a post the other day, and without reading the actual post, the title just fits where we are at these days: When the dream comes true but the reality is slow and ugly. I mean, wow. So fitting. Not in any particular way I can describe, but it is exactly how I am feeling about our present. Although of course I might use different/stronger language to describe the reality than 'slow and ugly'. (stupid and stressful? irritating and heartbreaking? you get the point!)

Regardless, we are moving on from the fires and the debris flows/floods. Moving on from the bummer summer. Moving into fall, keeping our fingers crossed for light gentle fall rains, for a snowpack that doesn't melt all at once, for spring regrowth that quickly starts holding the soil together. Looking forward to snow and the peace and calm and quiet that falling snow lends to our landscape.

We haven't decided what to do with the gardens yet. The lower garden got scraped off, but I couldn't bear to put the energy into it to rake, hang fences back up, and seed a fall cover crop. I just didn't want to sink myself back into it not knowing what even the rest of the fall would look like. Not knowing if we would decide to start a garden elsewhere (but where?) next spring, or wait a year to see if the majority of the debris/dirt/rocks were down from that chute. The side garden we will likely keep going next summer. It is big enough that apart from the soil being much poorer than what the lower garden had, and the weed bank being MUCH larger, we should be able to plant everything we want in it.

It is funny, initially when we started the side garden, I imagined letting the lower garden go back to grass, to pasture, so maybe this will end up happening after all. After all, the side garden is much easier to defend from future debris flows, compared to the lower garden, where defending means putting up a berm to keep the debris flow material on our neighbors property, where the flow originated from. They aren't the friendliest of neighbors even now, and I imagine that could send them over the edge into certifiably crazy.

And if we do pigs (currently dependent upon the irrigation for our little valley being repaired which isn't looking all that good) next summer they will be on the east side of the property, about where we had the pig the first year. They are just too smelly to have in the garden, beside the play structure. Besides, we have plans down the road to have a little patio type area in the garden, which definitely means no smelly pigs along side! We'll just have to haul the manure across every fall I expect, which is quite worth it to have the smell and the flies on the downwind side (most of the year) of the house.

Anyway, that is our little update here!

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

When it rains it pours

So Thursday evening last week I was supposed to go to book club about 20 minutes away, but part way there I had several signs that it might not be the smartest move, so I turned around and came home. Little did I know that the danger wasn't where I was headed, it was to my home. Not even an hour later we had self evacuated with no notice (aka grab kids, the baby's carseat, the dogs, get out into the truck, worry about seatbelts and installed carseats down the road while the driveway is still somewhat passable while fearing for the house's future) due to extremely heavy rains bringing debris flows down off the hillside to our north.
As the flood waters moved across the alfalfa field next door.

One flow came down headed for our garage, and split, coming down our driveway, across the chicken yard, through the side garden, and down on through the pig area. The other part of that flow veered to the other side of the garage, and went down the field there to join with the stuff coming out the bottom and side of the pig area. Another flow came down just on the other side of our property, and curved in and took out our lower garden. Then the creek and some irrigation lakes let loose and the bottom and middle fields flooded, and were covered with silt and mud.
Blurry photo of the entire alfalfa field covered in flood waters, as darkness fell on the landscape and the heavy rain finally started to let up a bit.

When we left for the first time that evening, we didn't get far. Another much larger flow had eroded the road, and was mohawking water, mud, rocks, and other debris. We call the drainage up above it big valley for a reason, but we've never seen it flow at all, let alone that much. Later on, after returning to our luckily still standing and not impacted house, we were evacuated again by the county, as they were concerned about not knowing whether all of the irrigation dams had blown, or what was in store for the rest of the night. We went to a coworkers cabin and spent a restless night, returning in the morning to find all animals accounted for, although pens and gardens were all rather the worse for wear.

Debris flows on the left of this picture met at the bottom of the garden with the flood waters, which swept across the entire lower and part of the middle field, bending fence posts clear to the ground if they weren't swept away entirely.

We've mostly dug the salvageable produce out of the gardens, but clearing the 1.5-2 foot deep sand/silt/debris off the top may have to wait until we know more about whether/how often these flows will happen in the next few years before the burned areas revegetate.
flows swept through the chicken runs, underneath the chicken coop, through the garden, pig pen, and then down to meet with the flood waters.
We are hoping that this rainstorm, which produced the heaviest sustained rain (about 2 hours of steady very very heavy rain, perhaps the heaviest we have seen here), and which got stuck for several hours on top of us/the drainages that feed down to us, was an anomaly, but we aren't sure how optimistic to be at this point.
The lower garden was covered in about 18 inches plus of debris and sand, totalling squash, zucchini, lettuce, and making harvest of onions, leeks, carrots, and potatoes extremely challenging. Not to mention knocking down and covering the garden fencing.

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