Monday, December 20, 2010

What I've Learned From our Barn Cats

As of this blog, we have 11 barn kitties living at Paradise where they enjoy hunting and playing around the barn, buildings, and house. They also enjoy a robust diet of M&Ms (milk and mice). We have our kitties spayed and neutered to avoid overpopulation, but we keep one intact male and female to produce litters. Due to our resident coyote population as well as owls, hawks, eagles and other predators, we have a pretty high attrition rate. We encourage the kitties to stay close to the barn by feeding them their milk there.

Only some of our kitties are named. There's Annie, which is short for Anonymous (I couldn't think of a good name for her when I named the others in her litter). Depp started out as Johnny Depp, but I dropped the Johnny when I discovered she was a girl. Snow White is not a solid white, but she's grey and white with a white face. Bob and Julia are tabbies that our vet named when they got fixed. Nip and Tuck are two solid black cats who were born with short tails. Nip's tail is just a tad shorter than normal. Tuck's tail is just a stub about an inch long. I had a Grinch until I discovered that I have three tabbies that look exactly the same and I can't tell them apart.

I bottle fed Annie after her mom was killed by coyotes.
Chore time is always fun with all the kitties hanging around. Like our dogs, they have there own ranch wisdom to share.

I've learned the following things from our kitties:

1. Cover up your poop.
2. Keep your face clean and be well-groomed. You never know when someone might see you.

Simon left the ranch to join a family in Washington.

3. It's best to kill things after dark.
4. Don't be too picky. You'll starve.
5. Many things are good and bad. Mice taste good, but they give you tapeworms.
6. It's warmest where the sun shines.
7. Friends are especially nice on cold nights.
    Bob & Julia enjoying the sunshine.


It's a little chilly!

8. Don't wander too far from home. You're not the only thing hunting.
9. If you don't drink all your milk, it curdles in the summer and freezes in the winter.
10. Stealth is good until you get stepped on.
11. Whether you can count or not, live like you have ONE life.
12. Don't kill more than you can eat. Eat everything you kill.
13. Noone is the boss of you.


What I've Learned From Our Cowdogs

    Ross has had border collies for many years and can tell tales about a lot of tails. Today, we have two young dogs, Joie de Vivre (Joy) and Easy Living II (Easy). Ross picked them both when they were puppies and we've trained them to be well-disciplined cowdogs. I got Joy before I actually moved to Oregon, and since making Paradise home, she has become my constant companion, faithful cowdog, and friend. She makes it clear to everyone that I'm her boss and she could care less what anyone else things. She barely tolerates Ross. I gave Easy to Ross for Christmas last year to replace his beloved friend who was the first Easy. This was the Easy that introduced us. He died last summer after a short, early retirement due to a brain tumor. Ross and I still miss our old friend very much. But "little" Easy has brought a lot of fun and joy into Ross's life and is becoming an amazing cowdog who is a lot of fun to work with. He'll take pets from anybody.
    Joy's piercing glare stops most people from trying to pet her.
    I've learned a lot from Joy and Easy.
    Joy and Easy
  1. Enjoy what's in your bowl today. Don't worry about what'll be there tomorrow. Whatever it is, it'll be good too.
  2. Joy loves kitties.
  3. Don't hold a grudge.
  4. When you're not working, you should be playing or sleeping.
  5. Don't sniff her butt unless she wants you to sniff her butt.
  6. Share. There are lots of bones.
  7. Be faithful. People love that.
  8. It's OK to eat gophers. Just fill in the hole that you make.
  9. Mean people are mean. Stay away from mean people.
  10. If you have to barf, don't barf on the carpet or in the truck.
  11. Don't kill a chicken. It's never good to start a bad habit.
  12. It's great to ride with the windows down. Don't worry about messing your hair up.
  13. Don't poop on the path where people walk.
  14. Get wormed regularly. Parasites cause problems.
  15. Never eat off the boss's plate.
  16. It's OK to wag and bite. Just not at the same time.
  17. Don't pee on someone else's tree.
Joy is working hard at the job she loves.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

The Best Christmas Present Ever

I have a wonderful daughter. Her name is Alexandra. And this year she gave me the best Christmas gift ever.

Some background:
When I decided to be brave and move from Redmond, Washington to Medical Springs, Oregon, Alexandra was away at college. She was far away at Temple University in Tokyo, Japan. She graduated last December and returned to Washington, but her home had been sold and her Mom was gone. In the year since, we have missed each other very much. I miss her smile, her laughter, her intelligence, and her wit. I miss her very much.

Last weekend, I enjoyed a brief visit with Alexandra when I was in the Seattle area. She works very hard at a Bellevue chocolate shop and has been learning the skills of a chocolatier. She put those skills to use and made my gift.

I've always loved the Russell Stover chocolate/coconut bird nests with jellybean eggs. So, my gracious daughter made me a HUGE box of her own version with her own hands. This box must weigh over 5 pounds. And they're already disappearing at an amazing rate. DELICIOUS!!!!!

But the part of her gift that is wonderfully touching and unforgettable, is her Christmas card. Here is the text:

"Dear Mom,
As I've grown older and mayhap wiser, the more I appreciate the awesome upbringing I got. I totally brag about you to friends and coworkers. I tell them about the late-night last-minute essay fixer-upper sessions, the first driving lessons in the truck, and all those early mornings that you got up at 4:00 AM to braid my horse. All those memories, both everyday & unusual, are the dearest things to me in the world.

I made you these nests because a) you liked them back when they did 'em right, and b) it's my way of saying thank you and letting you know that I remember all those Reeses' eggs and marshmallow ghosts.
P.S. You're the greatest mom EVER."

Because Alexandra is an amazing woman, she also remembered Ross. Even though he's partially responsible for her not having a home in Washington when she returned from school. She made him dark chocolate ganache specifically for making his hot chocolate that he drinks everyday. And she wrote him a beautiful card as well.

"Dear Ross,
I gotta tell you, for a long time I despaired of ever seeing my mom truly happy & with somebody to share that happiness with. Even though I snickered when I heard of the venture, I'm so glad she did it. Even though I'm not down there too often, I can tell how much you mean to each other. And since you've made my mom so happy, here's a little something to make you happy in turn: real, delicious hot chocolate. Melt 1 block and mix with hot milk for an 8 oz. cup. It's easy to adjust if it's too rich or not rich enough. Enjoy -
P.S. - I like you, and am glad I've never had to inflict bodily harm on you. :-)"

Me and Alexandra when she visited Paradise in March 2010.

So, this Christmas, I don't need any gifts under the tree. (Actually, our house is so small we don't even have a tree.) I've already opened the best Christmas gift ever.

Thank you, Alexandra.