Sunday, February 24, 2019

where the winds blow

A light snow fell last night. Just enough to deceptively cover the ice on the ground.  But it's soft ice. We had had a day where it flirted with the idea of melting, but in the end, icyness won and now it looks like we might have it with us for a while. The thermometer is registering below freezing temps. Still,  I have a very short window where I can try to remove at least some of the softer ice from the pathway that links the farmhouse with the parked cars. I hack away. It's now, or not until spring.

Looking back, I think -- what a waste of time.

The winds pick up, the temps continue to drop (we are getting those dire warnings of -25F, or -32C wind chill readings for the night). The path is quickly covered and any remaining slush turns hard as rock. We're in for a week of slippery walkways again.

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All this takes place quite early. I am up and out, curious about the cats. More than curious -- I am a bit anxious about them.

This morning, I smile as I find Stop Sign in the garage. But she is alone. She waits patiently while I refill the bowls. I notice that they are scattered and empty. Someone came in to eat at night. The suggestion that there is a night stalker is no longer just a suggestion, it's a near certainty. We resolve to pick up all traces of food going forward (we'd resisted, lest the kitties came back in the wee hours, hungry, looking for food!).

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Stop Sign settles in on top of boxes deep inside the garage. She seems to be waiting, but of course, that's just me second guessing a cat's mindset.

I feed the cheepers. I agree with Ed -- with the longer days, they are getting restless inside their enclosure.

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I try not to think about our cheeper options. It's like dealing with farmhouse mice: with those little rodents, there are no perfect solutions and most of the "good enough" solutions don't work on all mice. So too, with the cheepers -- there are no good solutions. We know that. We simply have to choose among the imperfect ones.

I set the bowl of food for Whiskers. It really is windy and cold. I wonder if he'll show up. He has never missed a day since he first started coming here. He is a calm cat, who makes his rounds and this is one of his stops. We're okay with that. Perhaps we'll be able to trap, treat and release him in the near future. It's a daunting task, but when the right moment comes, we'll have to go through with it. Vaccinations will protect him, spaying him will tame the desire to mate and control. But for now, we're just getting him used to eating here.

As I go back to the garage, I keep wondering about the kittens. Are they hiding? And this is when I see Stop Sign's footprints from this morning. She must have arrived fairly recently because they are quite fresh.

Will they tell me where she spent the night?

I follow them (backwards, of course).

I'm not really surprised to see that she had walked all along the driveway. It is one of her promenades. Today, she clearly came from across the road.

And this is when I spot our neighbor. Well, he's sort of a neighbor: he lives across the road and over the hill. An interesting guy: he grows trees over acres and acres of land in some kind of an arrangement with the Department of Natural Resources. He gets some tax relief for this. If he were to allow hunting on his land, I believe he'd get an even bigger break, but he doesn't do that. He likes his trees and I'm sure he doesn't mind the small tax break that comes with doing this.

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But even more interesting is his familial situation: he is married to a woman whose mother was a "Larsen" -- the family that long ago farmed these lands. (Indeed, these were the people who once inhabited the farmhouse where we now live.) He's a sweet guy and we usually chat about grandchildren and the weather when we find ourselves checking the mail at the same time.

Today, I see him trudging back up his steep hill. I call over to him. He stops and we talk. Not about the grandkids this time, but about the cats. I was sure that Stop Sign, Dance and Jacket are burrowing in someone's space nearby. It turns out that at least some of the time, the two little ones hide under his porch. He's not much of a cat person and so he mostly ignores them. I think he worries that they're birders. I'm more inclined to think that they catch his mice, lucky guy! At the farmette, none of them have ever hunted for birds, but of course, we give them food.

I tell him that the whole bunch have been spooked lately and we're trying to figure out why.
Coyotes, he says with confidence.
Coyotes? Maybe. Ed is not convinced. You'd hear them if they were nearby,  he tells me later.
But we do hear them! Just like we hear the owls! In the summer, when the windows are open!

It strikes me that we have quite the large number of predators: hawks for sure. Owls too. And possum, and raccoons, and coyotes. Skunks, occasionally. Foxes maybe. What doesn't come here at night in search of meat?

Eventually, Stop Sign disappears again. I'm imagining they're all guarding against the cruel wind, under that porch across the (dangerous!) road and over the hill. I'm hoping to see them soon.

In the meantime Whiskers comes, eats, departs. At least he offers a touch of predictability! The others? We're still completely surprised by them.

Breakfast, late, after a thorough house cleaning.

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And now we have only a half a Sunday left and it must include a trip to Farm and Fleet for more cheeper food and a better mouse trapping device.  This last item on our list is nothing short of impossible. I will not bore you with the details of what's wrong with each implement. Something I find more or less acceptable is completely unworkable in Ed's view, and vice versa. I grow impatient. Still, we have to improve on what we have. Four of our traps have at some point been successful but this current mouse ignores them all. We are determined to get it out of the house, even if we must resort to banging it on its head and throwing it away with the trash.

Eventually, we stuff some options into Ed's big pockets (the guy will never use a plastic store bag, not for anything!), haul the sacks of feed and grain treats and head for home.

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Was there any playful moment today? Oh yes! On the way to Farm and Fleet we stop for two games of bowling  at the nearby alley. It's not a game I'm good at, but I enjoy watching Ed compete against himself and sometimes I do get lucky. (Today was not one of those days.)

And in the evening, I hurry to prepare dinner for the young family.

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(Predinner munchies)

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(Where Snowdrop discovers that she really really loves smoked salmon. With or without a cracker.)

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(Sparrow tries out a "walker" that Snowdrop once rejected. He loves it, showing a great expertise at moving backwards in it.)

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Did you notice how light it is outside? The longer days, the heightened expectations -- spring is coming. I promise!