Saturday, April 28, 2012

The Houdahenians

Been searching for the camera
to take a new set of pics of the kittens. It's probably under some stuff that got piled up as we tried to make space for the kittens. It'll turn up. They have not eaten it. I'm sure of it. Right now, Saturday mid-morning, they're asleep. Their momma woke up Libby about 7 asking for breakfast from outside the window. Of course they heard momma, and were quite ready for breakfast too. I slept in, till about 8. Libby was sitting guard in the middle of the living room--the kittens' play area. We have gotten them several things to play with and on. A tubular padded thing with two soft, possibly inviting holes where a kitten might want to hide and peek out, called I think a "kitty condo." Also a more pyramid shaped climbing and scratching thing with a wide base and a small flat top, which all the kittens prize as a mount of advantage, and enjoying fighting each other for. There's also a collapsible horizontal tube that rolls around on the floor, crackles, and although at first it frightened them with its noise, this morning they were all charging through it and rolling it around. They also managed to carry a plastic wand with a pendent of some kind on one end into the tube--missed seeing that action, just noticed it was there, with one of 'em wacking the pendent back and forth. Of course the kittens are themselves kitten toys, each finding the other two of endless interest what with all that quick movement and a tail no less. We wait for them to tire. The waits are longer and longer. It was nice of momma to start them off in a dark shed--when we finally tire ourselves and put them back in the wire kennel for some sleep time, they settle down willingly and quickly snuggle together in a ball in their new soft kitten bed. We got a second kennel and are trying at the moment to figure out how to connect it to the first in a better way--so's the doors are at the ends and not in the middle. You'd think the geniuses in China would have thought of this already. I believe cats are quite popular in China. Possibly they don't pass out their cat secrets to the pale ghost devils who still imagine they rule the world.

Among still pressing needs. A better waterer--one that they don't jump in and kick over when they're not thinking about needing a drink. We want them to have constant ready access to water when they're in the kennel, or out. But this at present requires a cooperation which they do not possess. Kittens are quite shortsighted, in every sense. One reason we don't just forgo the kennel thing and just let them have a bed in the middle of the living room is that they want to check behind the book case, and under the furniture, and behind the records and CDs, and up the walls and stairs, and behind the claw-footed tub which leads to a seldom used storage area under the stairs, and up the other stairs to the loft where we sleep, which has entirely open access to the stone floor below, where a kitten could confidently stride into space while possibly attacking a bug it spots through the fixed-pane window set just past said opening. Or whatever. The general concern is to find neither a whimpering kitten with a bad fall injury, nor to hear muffled and mysterious cries from...somewhere... It's tiring, without late night high-anxiety searches. There's only so much coffee can accomplish, even high-test from Sumatra.

I'm going to try to tack cardboard temporary walls to some of the book and CD storage cases this weekend. The perfect situation for the next month or two will be the kennel with the door ajar, in the middle of a truly kitten-proof living room. It might be possible, without calling in experts from some cable teevee show. Libby and I both have degrees from the University of North Carolina after all. They must mean something? Only last year, at the age of 68, I figured out how to install a new alternator onto my truck. How hard can it be.

Meanwhile, we find distinct personalities in the three. The grey one, which seemed back in the shed days to be merely curious, has become "Bruiser," a possible lad who has the fierce eyes of his warrior pops and with his weight can win any battle with the other two. He likes to drink water, eats well, is still curious, is almost too big to fit on the little top of the pyramid thingy, which is pretty funny after he wins the battle to climb up there. At first no one liked the kitty condo caves, but I put him into the top one last night, with a play-ball, and he stayed in there, peering out with a lordly visage at the other silly kittens scampering around below, having no sense of decorum. All this suggest he's a male, and possibly even a Republican. But drop him back down in the melee and he returns to reality, just another kitten and actually a little on the chubby side, truth be known.

The short-haired black one--who used to be the runt--is now the most curious, and most person oriented. He/she purred first, meows at the sight of either of us, likes to be held but also squirms to see and do the next thing. Wuzzy eats well, poops well, seems still to be bamboozled a bit by a simple water dish, leaning down to drink and invariably getting her nose wet and sneezing. We make sure she has some milk in her food. (Bruiser, on the other hand, does not like milk with food and definitely likes to drink from the dish, when he's not tripping over it or flipping it over during a jump.)

Fuzzy, the other black one, is in a way the most reticent, although when we met in the shed she was the biggest. She eats, poops, plays, but also tires of playing and retires to a quiet corner if she can find one. (Or he.) If held, Fuzzy will usually go to sleep quickly. We have some hope that Fuzzy might be closer to house safe than the other two, but her curiosity is still powerful, and we've caught her just short of disappearing into the CD collection. They all have a skill of simply pushing their heads forward into a small space and seeing what develops. Now and then Libby takes Fuzzy away from the madding crowd into the next room and holds her. I think Libby may see a little of herself in Fuzzy's situation, as she grew up in a big crowd of other siblings. I was a member of the Fuzzy Mountain String Band too. The stars align.

There is a yen/yang to all situations. The easiest way to get from the kitchen to the back room where we sleep and watch TV is to go outside and walk around to the slider. In the middle are the kittens. Houdahenianland.

From last week: Bruiser. Thomas Nickles took the photo.

Update Saturday PM
: found the cam, though not the moment for fresh new photos of the kittens in their current environment. I might need to get a head-cam anyways, for that project, and see if the google will let me post a "film," as the old folks used to call 'em. Otherwise I guess it's a youtube post and a link. Anyways, here's a rather comical shot from a couple of days ago. It's titled "The Author" and was taken by Libby.

Sunday, April 22, 2012

The Fork


Came home from work, Thursday it was, and checked on the kittens. Momma was out. Kittens were stashed again, amongst the debris of the shed where just about anything might fall on them. At first I couldn't find them at all, but I'd learned where to look, and sure enough, eventually one popped up. The last one I had to poke into reaching room from behind, gently using an available crowbar to nudge his/her backside so she/he would walk into the light. I got them inside, into the kennel, along with their little cardboard box bed we'd made for them out in the shed. Put a small litter box in with them, and some food. Some ate a bit after a while, one didn't. When Libby got home she discovered that they loved beef baby food, of which for some reason we had a jar (actually I think it was a treat for our dear departed Yoey during her last days, when she wouldn't eat at all).

We talked a lot about the dangers to them outside. We live in a good sized oak and hickory forest, in one of the most rural places left in central North Carolina. There are two small streams which meet on our place and then head off to the northeast, to meet the Mighty Haw river flowing northwest/southeast and dividing the county diagonally, the Haw eventually creating Jordan Lake impound, and below the dam joining the Deep and becoming after that a part of the Cape Fear River, which flows to Wilmington and the Atlantic Ocean. Some of these waters were John Lawson's "roads" during his long trek around the country, although he favored the Neuse and Tar watersheds to the northeast of the Cape Fear, which led him eventually to the place that became Bath, NC, the Tar eventually becoming the Pamlico River at what NC oldtimers call "little" Washington. The point being that all these rivers bring sustenance to many wild creatures--deer, beaver, squirrel, rabbit, raccoon, possum, red and gray fox, all manner of snakes including copperheads, water moccasins, and the eastern diamondback, and the black and king snakes, the bobcat (heard 'em now and then), the coyote (sightings near our place), now and then a black bear will walk up from the vast lowland swamps of the NC coastal plain, which we find out about by some absurdity of a suburban or mall sighting, when the rivers run into our cities. And of course we have owls, red-tail hawks, and even some eagles (many nesting pairs are observed around Lake Jordan, a happy side-effect of the efforts of the Army Corps of Engineers). And if you think about it, quite a good percentage of these creatures would find a kitten a tasty breakfast snack.

[Kittens in their box]

Friday went well. The kittens ate and, just as important, pooped. They seem healthy and are due to go to the vet for their first checkup next week. Momma is still around and calls to them from under the house. We're feeding her, talking to her, and hope to eventually get her neutered if we can catch her in a have-a-heart, since she doesn't need to become a kitten making machine, the cat world being much more organized like a very hard-core fundamentalist church than a paradise of freedom and liberty, unless you're in the moment of being top Tom, which is probably pretty fun if short-lived. This is perhaps why many folks think that when they drop off the extra puppy or cat or annoying dog, they're really just letting them "be themselves," free in the wild woods, free to run and whoop and play like people would too, if they didn't have jobs or were looking for jobs. Same for those people who don't "believe" in neutering a pet, or in fencing them in. Dogs, they think, need to run. Or maybe it's just that the struggle to teach a dog that he has a master has been won by the dog. There's a whole TV show about that, by the way.

Saturday morning I was up making coffee and four full grown dogs loped through the yard and just past the kitten shed. None had collars. Our decision was in my mind confirmed. We've barricaded a good sized portion of the living room around the kennel location, where the kits can amble and play, without letting them escape entirely into the whole house, with it's many places where a kitten can get in but perhaps not out, entailing hours of furniture moving on our parts. We do have other things to do. Really we do.

One of these days I'll tell you the story Maggie Hammons told me, long ago, about the man who decided to raise up a "panther" from a cub.

Update: I meant to note yesterday that Libby took both of the photos. Re the comment about porch supervised visiting, that idea has been raised in other quarters as well, and is a good one. We have already had the kennel outside (Friday, before the rains came this weekend) so that perhaps momma can visit them, or at least see they're ok. We're a bit concerned that she might herd them away if "unsupervised." She is extremely skittish of people, and will not get close even with the temptation of a full food bowl, if she sees a person--making "supervision" somewhat of a problem. Perhaps we could dress up like big kittens, as per the birding show I saw over the weekend, where a birder was dressed as a tumbleweed so as to view Harris Hawks in the Arizona desert. At least Momma would get a laugh.

Wednesday, April 18, 2012

Olympian Wagers

The kids drove out with their fancy electric buckboard on Saturday and parked at the end of the driveway, wisely walking in to the compound. Our "driveway" isn't as serious as Malcolm Owen's was, back up on Big Pine, where you needed a horse or a '48 4X flatbed Jeep truck with a creeper gear to climb the boulders. We use pickup trucks is all. But apparently they are making the vehicles much lower these days, and there's no reason to scrap off a battery when your legs are young and strong. Anyway, we brought out the dogies for them to examine, and many photographs were taken. There's one other little black one, pretty much the twin of the one you see here, but he's the hang-backer, the one we are a little concerned with that he's not getting enough to eat. Anyways, the kid once adopted a wild kitty down on Ocracoke Island, and she was of the view that Saturday was the moment to be decisive and bring the whole herd inside. We have a decent collapsible kennel which would have kept them mostly in one place, and we did try that option Sunday for a while, and again on Monday in the daytime. But Momma was obviously distraught, searching for her babies, looking intensely at me, clearly feeling like betrayal was in the air, and there was also the plain fact that she was still nursing, and all of them could use nursing as long as she cared to do that chore, and maybe we could make the shed a bit safer. So we put 'em back.

This was a pretty good plan it looked like on Tuesday morning. There was still a risk of Momma just up and moving them off to unknown quarters in the night, but it'd be a chore, and she had the balancing proposition that nice food kept showing up for her, no one was shooting at her or anything, we talked nice (for humans). She didn't move them, and yesterday Libby sat on the steps and talked to them, also got a lot of the junk out of the shed so there was more open safe space for the dogies to toddle around. Things were looking pretty swell--manageable one might say, were one a manager. And then, while she was recounting this sunny progress to me on the cell (as I'd called to check in mid-morning), she reported that a puppy had suddenly arrived, gone under the house, was barking (phone extended so I could hear). Zeus had tossed his dice.

The puppy, who knows where else he came from, if not the sky. Momma was not amused. Puppy toddled up to say "hi," got wacked for his trouble. Momma was in a protective frenzy, would not go near the shed. Libby got pups into the collapsible kennel (damn glad we have that thing, who knows what it'll be good for next). She drove down to the crossroads store to see if anyone was missing a critter. No one was, but some guy said he knew of a good home. Which I think must have been the moment Mercury said "I'll see your pair and raise you three drachma." So as quick as the puppy had arrived, so had a solution. Not that the pebble hadn't made ever expanding ripples across the blue stillness.

When I got home Momma was growling fiercely from inside the shed. Libby'd left the door shut, and wasn't even sure Momma was in--but Momma has a way of getting in by climbing the wall and going in from the eves, so maybe that's what happened. Anyways, kittens were all accounted for, Momma growled, eyes glowing, from behind a table, I slid some food into the shed for both Momma and kittens, shut the door good, retreated to the TV. When Libby got home later she more or less repeated the procedure, reporting that again all were accounted for. In the late night came a big thunderstorm, with wind, but this morning the critters were all dry, Momma growled less intensely (perhaps), kittens were all asleep in a box near the door where I could easily see them, the door had stayed shut in the wind and lightning, no trees had fallen. Libby did report hearing some creature making a retreat through the woods--there are many candidates, including that scarey Tom I've mentioned, possums, raccoons, foxes, or dogs. We shone a light around and saw no lurking eyes. The worse thing would probably be a coyote, of which there are some rumors in the area, though we've not had personal sightings of them yet.

The thunder was clearly Zeus's pique at Mercury's audacious raise. The bets are still down. The game continues.

Thomas Nickles took the photo. All Obama needs to win is to use kittens as the center of his election campaign. No more ideas or plans, nothing but kittens. He'll be a sho-in.

Saturday, April 14, 2012

Up the Pecos Trail

The Momma is now interacting
with us, in a certain fashion. She walks up the path and stares at the kitchen door--at me--then walks back to the shed. If I follow, with a bowl of food, she runs a bit away from the shed and peeks out at me from behind a tree. I leave the food on the step and talk to her as a cowboy talks to his dogies. You know that Wyoming will be your new home. What do they hear? She's up on the step and eating before I get back to the kitchen. Her black fur is a wonderful camouflage and sometimes I am not sure I'm seeing her at all, just the shadow between the steps. When she looks back at me, even when she's standing in the cracked doorway with only her head in view, I can see the gold circles of her eyes, as close to the cheshire eyes are I've ever seen in real life. Last night Libby went into her lair after dark to check on the kittens. Momma hid behind a table and put forth her growl. Libby poured some "kitty milk" into two little saucers at the edge of the kittens' area--the table leans up against a wall beyond that, and that's where the Momma growled. Backing away, Libby could hear Momma lapping the milk. Progress.

Meanwhile, there's a big yellow tom still lurking around. I looked into his face this morning at close range. He happened to walk past and heard a sound from me. He doesn't look in the least friendly, but fearsome. The worry that he might kill the kittens continues to be an active one.

Yippie ti yi yo.

Wednesday, April 11, 2012

The Adventure Continues, Part 2

Sheesh, interfacing with wild things. Who was it thought up the phrase, "herding cats." Something to that. Got home from work Monday and peeked in the shed. Momma was not there. Neither were kittens. All silence. On the way back to the house I saw the big wild tom, who comes around now and then, trotting up the driveway away from the house. After a bit I went back and searched around the shed and more generally. No kittens. At some point in the second search I saw Momma trotting up the driveway in the same direction the yellow tom had been heading.

Libby got home, went out to the shed, stood inside very quiet. Heard kittens. (You need to understand that this shed is a storage building, filled with a jumble of stuff we don't want to throw away for some reason. It is not set up to be a birthing parlor, or a nursery. Momma viewed it as a safe place. That's her perspective.) Searching around, Libby found all three at the far corner from where they'd been. No nice rugs to snuggle on (as we'd put down for them). They were huddled together. Libby could just reach them, handed them up to me, we brought them in, tried to feed them some (pretty mixed results there). Then we put them back in the soft, prepared corner where they had been. By then we could see Momma watching us from a distance. It was dark and her eyes glowed gold. She went back in for the night.

Tuesday it was pretty much a repeat, perhaps in a different key. Kittens had been moved. Momma was absent. But no, she wasn't, after all. Heard growling (she's got one very serious growl that neither Libby nor I want to find out more about). At one AM this morning I was trying to feed one with a little bottle of warm formula, Libby was reconstructing the good shed spot yet again. We found the for a while missing kitten, who'd been deposited in a different spot from the other two when Momma decided to move them. We put all the kittens back in the warm, soft area. By then Momma was again watching from the edge of the light. She went inside. We went to bed.

This morning when I got up she was on the shed steps, possibly looking for the food I'd been putting there when I get up. I went out with a bowl of food. She growled from inside the shed. Left the food. She came out, ate, then walked up the path towards the kitchen door where I was standing, got about half way, looked straight at me through the glass, walked back to the shed and went inside. After a while I took her a bowl of water. Very quietly left it on the step. The food bowl was empty.

There are other things to do, for Libby and I. I have to deal with a car inspection, then go to work. Libby has to go to work too. These adventures in the night are tiring. Communicating with Momma is difficult. Possibly this is rather as it was for those pitiful English settlers who camped on Roanoke Island, NC, back in 1583 or so. The ones now known as the "Lost Colony."

[Illustration "Death of John Lawson" from John Lawson was an early settler in North Carolina, made a wonderful walking tour of much of the state which he wrote about in a book still in print, later founded Bath, NC, and was killed by Indians during the Tuscarora War.]

Sunday, April 8, 2012


This lovely creature appeared in our yard Saturday a week ago, the day before we went off to Martinsville and the races. Her eyes were gold, and she stared through the window at me once, briefly. When we got back Sunday we discovered three kittens in the little outbuilding where you see the cat. She's leaping off the steps at the sound of the camera shutter, by the way, and I had the cam on zoom. Tame she isn't. We put a cat carrier without the door out there near where she had the kittens, and the next morning she'd moved them inside, where it's warmer. Of course there's been a cold snap since early last week--I even had a wood fire last night, the first in a couple of weeks at least. We've been encouraging the mother to stay with the babies, and she is nursing them. We've brought them inside for brief moments when she's gone to get them a little used to us humans--which as you know have fairly recently lost our kitty to old age. Not that we want three cats. Bridges to cross I guess.

I check on the kittens by talking gently and slowly entering the building. If momma's there there's a very fierce low growl, and I retreat, gently and quietly. I've been leaving her some food when she's gone, near the kittens. Today--Easter--I decided to leave food out on that step, after hearing the growl. Before long she was eating, and I was writing this and watching her from the kitchen window. Then she stopped eating and started loping this way, looking up into the woods. Damn if two dogs didn't appear. Damn. Such is the woodsy life we live. The dogs trotted past, apparently not noticing either her or the food. Momma seemed somewhat to be planning a diversion, and I expect she'd have been willing to even fight one of the dogs if necessary. I went out and shooed them on, and she vanished somewhere--hopefully not too spooked to return to the babies in a bit. The food still sits on the steps where she was eating. Do I remove it to keep dogs from noticing, or leave it there for her.

Such is the problem of interfacing with wild things. Or rather an endless series of what ifs. Shut the door at night to keep them safe, or does that lock out momma, or lock her in when she wants out. Bring the kittens in and try to feed them up ourselves. We tried a bit of that yesterday with little bottles from the vet. The milk wouldn't come out, the kittens were mewling and mystified, and pretty much a barrel of monkeys. One did eat some kitten canned food we had--a good sign unless it is too early and causes her problems we won't know about. Arrrgh!

I wasn't even going to write this particular story--the dogs diverted me as much as they did her, having her nice magical Easter Sunday meal. We'll see. It's as pretty a day as it gets, and the last one before work starts again. I'll stack some wood after a while, and pull for Mickelson. There's also trash to take to the dump, and a mountain of laundry. It was in some ways sorta nice to not worry about getting home to feed the cat(s). Just sayin'.

Monday Update: still dark. I'll go out and open the door to the shed and leave some food on the step for Momma, before I go off to work. I ended up watching most of the Masters, and I'm sure like most I was treated to a wonderful afternoon of, well, racing in a way. First there was the amazing double-eagle. First one in the tourney since 1935. That's pretty Haley's comet if you ask me. There were also two holes-in-one. And the winner, Bubba Watson, now there's a story in itself, a man who has taken no golf lessons, who simply gets how to play, who does his best to play within himself, who'd rather shoot a curve than a straight (one of his press-conference remarks after the win). It was slow-motion NASCAR, without the pettiness, and almost a green-white-checker, the tie at the end of regulation play forcing a playoff that came close to running out of light. All in all, a very nice Easter. Watson may have more wins up his sleeve. If so, we'll get to hear more comments as disarming as his answer to "what were you thinking when you were putting on the Green Jacket?" To paraphrase: "well, I was wondering what kind of helicopter that was taking off over there, and I wanted to ask my caddy about that cause I know he flies the things." That's honesty for ya.

Friday, April 6, 2012

The Obsession Continues

Aside from the continuing travesty
of there being no arrest in the killing of Treyvon Martin, it is even more remarkable that the right cannot stop it's endless justifying of the unjustifiable. This is if not the most important thing, still a very important thing. It is a symptom worth consideration. One of the right wing's more erudite voices (allegedly), Victor Davis Hanson, weighed in. (It must be almost a homework assignment.) Sadly No responds. There is much to learn from such a detailed response. I salute the author for having the stomach for it.

I am beginning to believe the psychological thesis of Corey Robin's "Reactionary Mind" book, something I don't particularly want to believe--that there is an unconsidered yearning in large swathes of the body politic for domination, and that all historical "progress" towards a more democratic union simply inflames this need in those who haven't looked into themselves--or who simply accept as "natural" a world where some of us dominate the rest. I find this way of looking at the world odiously mechanistic--all of us, each and every one, have what used to be called "free will" in my "book." But then, that comfortable view and a buck-fifty might buy me a nice cup of coffee.

I had thought in my youth that this ancient point of view, the philosophical underpinning of kings and fascists, had been put finally in the tomb by World War II, in much the same way that slavery as part of our American heritage had been dispatched by the blood of Sharpsburg, Shiloh, and Gettysburg. Of course such an idea was pitifully naive, particularly in the face of the out right murder of Martin Luther King, Jr., followed by the election of Ronald Reagan.

Still, it was reasonably easy to think of less profound reasons for the various "setbacks" we have all experienced in our lifetime, and anyway, learning a new fiddle tune or a new skill was an absorbing pastime. At this late date, however, it would seem that deeper answers are almost demanded. Either that, or one must face the fact that slogging through the details is required. Here is what that task entails, for example: