Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Introduction to a handsome fellow...


This is an Eastern Towhee and this is not my picture, but one of these little guys has been hanging around the feeder for several weeks.  I think I saw him in early spring drinking at the pond but he disappeared during nesting time.  If he came back to drink, I missed him.  Having the natural pond invites so much more wildlife than the more formal pond we used to have.  If you want to know more about this fancy guy, vist:  http://birds.audubon.org/birds/eastern-towhee where you can also hear their wonderful song. 

In other nature news:  the little possum came to visit us last night.  He drinks from the birdbath on the deck and then heads down the stairs to the bird feeders.  Ugly?  Cute?  Jury is still out.  We saw the doe with the twins a couple of days ago.  She was just walking down the street.  I suspect she's pregnant again and will be ditching the twins for the new baby/babies.  Maybe we will be lucky enough to see a hidden fawn this spring - always a joy.

Wednesday, January 21, 2015

The litter box has a new home...

This is our guest bathroom and has always had a litter box in this corner.  This looks sooooo much better.  The real test will be:  will either of the cats use it?  I will let you know.  I know I love it.

Monday, January 19, 2015

The cats get new furniture...

In the middle of a reorganization project at home I finally decided to take the leap and order this piece of furniture for our guest bathroom.  I've always been unhappy with having an open litter box in the guest bathroom but the cats seem to like it.  I've had this box on my wish list at Amazon for about two years watching it fluctuate in price, first up, then down.  I ordered it this morning along with the recommended litter box.

I'm hoping that they'll like it.  We have already used a closed box with them, Sadie seems to like it more than Sassy but this is just one of six boxes so we can afford to experiment.  If this works, I'll get another set for the living room which isn't our main room to relax in; we have a family room we spend all our time in.  Our living room is devoted to Carl's desk and my treadmill along with the litter boxes and cat toys.  I will let you know how it works, how easy it is to clean (we clean boxes several times a day) and will post pictures when it arrives and we have it set up.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

My daughter married a wookiee...

My SIL belongs to a Star Wars Costume group - The 501st Midwest Garrison.  This conglomeration of characters from the dark side of Star Wars movies attends events to help collect money for charities, hence: Bad guys doing good.  There is also a group of rebels (the good guys).  Brad for many years has been a Stormtrooper but is leaving the dark side temporarily for the good side.  When finished, this will be a full-fledged tarfull.  (Tarfful was a male Wookiee Chieftain of Kachirho who was an old friend of Chewbacca and fought in the Battle of Kashyyyk during the Clone Wars, at least until the battle ended during the start of the Great Jedi Purge. During the battle in 19 BBY, he had good relations with Yoda and was behind him for the entirety of the battle. Tarfful, while not a general, carefully planned out the placement of troops and warriors with Jedi Masters Luminara Unduli and Quinlan Vos. Vos also led the charge with both him and Chewbacca.)  OK, that's more than you wanted to know, right?
This costume is being created with football padding, an adult jumpsuit made out of cargo netting, hair and stilts.
The hair was purchased from a beauty shop in many different colors, boiled to straighten and individual strands were mixed to create this lovely color.
Now it's just tedious latch hooking the hair to the mesh underlay, hoping to be finished by spring.
The end...

Saturday, January 17, 2015

Dividing my blogs...

For the last three days I have been combining blogs, editing, repairing spelling.  My butt hurts but I'm glad I did it.  This blog started out being about creating greeting cards.  It evolved into lots of other things.  I've removed the greeting cards and moved them to:  http://kardmkr.blogspot.com/.  If you like the cards, card making tools, tutorials and my digital sentiments, please follow me there.  If you like the nature related posts, photographs, and my musings, please follow this blog.

Monday, January 12, 2015

Home again, home again, jiggity-jig

We returned home last night after two weeks in Southern Florida.  From the 80s in Key Largo to the 30s in central Illinois.  We were not looking forward to the weather but I was soooooooo happy to get back to my bed and pillow.  On the home front, we were regularly in touch with our cat sitter who is wonderful with our cats.  She understands their issues and doesn't get mad at them when they act out.  Sassy, apparently, was back to her old tricks, pooping on the carpet.  She had been using the box when we left after an extended stay in lock up.  It could be separation anxiety.  This morning I asked her if she had to go potty and she hopped right in the box and went.  Fingers crossed.  Sadie has been on her pill for about eight weeks.  She has been using the box regularly, we've found no marking around the doors in several weeks.  The Prozac needs about six weeks to really start working according to the ASPCA web site.  While we hate to medicate her, our alternative is to return her to the shelter.  We've tried every other suggestion we've found and she still would mark the doors.  The only downside besides having to give her a pill every day is it seems to make her more unwilling to be affectionate, to be touched or brushed.  I've picked her up several times since we got home and once she even purred but that's the exception, not the rule.  Carl hasn't been able to touch her without growling. 

Just before we left we noticed what I considered 'play' among the cats.  They were chasing each other.  No growling or hissing, just a little back and forth which encouraged us that someday, they might actually enjoy each others company.

Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Merry Christmas to us...

Life goes on.  Sadie is still on the meds, she's got another week before we pass the 6 week mark.  She's not very keen on being touched, you have a better chance if you wake her up, you'll get in a few strokes before she growls and moves away.  We've noticed no hissing at Sassy or growling, they now sleep in the same room (our bedroom - Sadie on the bed, Sassy in the window).  Sassy is still in lock-up every night.  Carl locks her up in the laundry room when he goes to bed and if she's pooped in the litter box when he gets up, he lets her out.  Some days earlier than others.  I don't know if she's getting the idea but she's been getting out around 5 a.m. most days.  He feeds them - Sadie gets her pill in a teaspoon of food and after she's eaten that, he fills her bowl.  Sassy has been getting more knots than usual so I brush her every night and after brushing, we play.  Sadie plays around the cat tree and in our bedroom only.  We still can't get her comfortable in the family room where we spend the most time.  Sassy is almost always close to us but Sadie doesn't seem to feel the need for company.  We keep hoping that will change.  Time will tell.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Kitty jail again....

Sassy has officially gone into kitty lock-up at night.  Last night was the second night and both nights she has used the litter box.  She was also most anxious to get out of jail this morning.  The rule is, she doesn't leave jail until she poops in the litter box.  She has the run of the house all day but when Carl goes to bed, into the laundry room she goes.  About two weeks of this and she'll be good to go again.

Sadie is still less than 30 days on her medication.  December 9th would be a month and we need six weeks.  She's still untouchable most of the time.  She has been much friendlier in the past so we hope it is just the medication.  Time will tell.

Friday, November 28, 2014

A hair's worth of progress...

We're still having problems with the elimination outside the box.  Sadie is still peeing around the doors although not as much, we do see progress there.  Sassy goes from carpet to mat to litter box with no reasons that we can find.  Last night both girls pooped in the same box, but I cannot find any pee from Sadie, perhaps it's in the basement, I didn't check that box.

We have noticed two things:  one is Sadie is carrying her tail up once in a while.  She's NEVER done that before, her tail is always dragging the ground.  Our research says a tail up belongs to a confident cat.  Sassy is 70% tail up and 30% tail down.  Sunday will be the end of the 3rd week for Sadie's meds, so we still have three more weeks.  Also, it's the end of the first month for the Feliway, we just put in two new bottles in the two of the diffusers.

Something else we've started - giving treats only when the cats are close together and in our bedroom which has pretty much been Sadie territory since we got her.  So, if the cats are within three feet of each other and no hissing or growling, I have two silver bowls I keep on my dresser with a big bag of treats and I put treats in both bowls and set the bowls in front of the girls.  So far, so good.

So, baby steps....

Thursday, November 27, 2014

Busy, busy, busy...

I've managed to get myself into a world of busy.  I was commissioned to make glass blocks and tumblers for a fundraiser to raise money for the Washington, IL tornado victims.  I've just come up for air and will be starting a new project in just a moment.  I never feel more helpless than at a time like this.  The devastation was widespread and it happened within spitting distance of our home.  We know people who live in Washington and our hearts go out to them.  If you are feeling charitable, there are plenty of organizations that could use your help.

Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Two days of quiet...

On November 9th we started Sadie back on her medication.  The  ASPCA website says that it needs to be administered for at least six weeks before behavior change.  Sadie has been marking the doors in the house; our front door, garage door and on occasion the sliding doors to the deck.  Females marking could be caused due to territorial issues or issues with other cats in the household.  Sassy doesn't have a mean bone in her body.  We've never seen her aggressively go after Sadie.  That's not to say it doesn't happen when we aren't looking but it's been almost two years we've had them together.  We're not sure what Sadie's issues are, but we're both tired of cleaning up after her.

Sassy seems to have regressed, also.  She had been doing so well with the litter boxes that we quit looking for messes and now she's started making them again.  95% of the time her messes are on the mats we put down under the litter boxes, but one was actually on the carpet.  I purchased three bottles of essential oils:  lemon, eucalyptus and lavender.  We've cleaned the areas that both cats mess on and then sprinkled them with one of the three essential oils.  We started that about four days ago.  Today, for the second day, we have no messes, both cats are going where they are supposed to go.

Sadie has been a little aggressive since we restarted her meds.  You have a 50/50 chance of being able to pet her.  First she will growl, then hiss and then put out her claws.  I'm usually gone at the growl but she did walk up between us in bed last night - a first since 11/9.  She used to wake us up by licking our hands or, in my case, my hair, but she hasn't done that since we started her meds.  An adjustment period, to be sure. 

I - quana show you some pictures....



This little guy used to live in our local hardware store.  A friend of mine who is iguana crazy asked me to take some pictures of him because she couldn't afford to buy him.  I never realized how many gorgeous colors an iguana has.  All though not my cup of tea, the photos turned out well.

Thursday, November 6, 2014

Our junkie cat...

Day three of Sadie's meds.  We haven't found any marking in the last two nights but Sassy is still using the litter mat to poop on.  At least it's consistent and always on the mat which is easy to clean up.  Sadie joined us in the living room, stretching out on the couch this morning.  She's not very social as a rule and doesn't like to be anywhere that Sassy is.  Sassy walked up to the couch and Sadie growled and slapped at her.  While the medication decreases Sadie's stress and tension, I do believe it increases her aggression.  If it continues, we will find out if there is another medication we can put her on.  I really wish I knew what happened that changed everything, we had been doing so well.

Thursday, October 30, 2014

D├ętente...

For several days at the end of last week and the first of this week we've had lots of growling and hissing.  Every time one cat rounded a corner and encountered another cat, we had noise.  Sadie had stopped sleeping in our bedroom and Sassy started sleeping in our bedroom.  For eighteen months Sadie has called our bedroom home.  She's either in the window, on the bed or under it.  All of a sudden Sassy (who has never shown any interest in our bedroom) is sleeping there every night and even on the bed once in a while.  We thought perhaps there was a power struggle but after eighteen months of living together, what could have set that off?  Sadie had started peeing on the floor by the front and garage doors, even once in the dining room by the sliders.  We've racked our brains trying to figure out what the hell is going on.  Sadie, who was getting more affectionate with us since we stopped her meds, both bit and scratched me yesterday while I was petting her.  She got a claw hooked in my arm and while I was trying to disengage it, she bit me and I bled.  Real blood.  And Sassy has taken to pooping on the new large mat I bought to put under the two living room litter boxes.  In her defense, she always uses the same corner and keeps it on the mat.  Easy to clean up and she's been consistent.  For a couple of months we had no problems, every one was using the litter box and all was calm.  Something started them off again but we have no idea what.

I finally broke down and purchased four of the Feliway dispensers with Feliway and an extra six pack of the inserts.  The literature says it could take a month to work.  I installed them Wednesday morning and right now both cats are asleep.  Sadie was active early this morning but Sassy has been asleep since we got up.  I checked - she's breathing.  Sassy has always slept more than Sadie after we discontinued Sadie's meds.  Let this be a lesson to anyone reading - if you have a female cat and want another one - get a male.  Two female cats that are unrelated are like two women in a kitchen, it often doesn't work out well.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Tomato hornworm....


Tomato hornworms can be up to 5 inches long—which can be quite a shock when you first come across one! They do the most damage in the caterpillar, or larvae, stage. They are pale green with white and black markings, plus a horn-like protrusion. (They are not capable of stinging.) The life cycle is as follows:
  • In late spring, large adult moths lay eggs on the undersides of foliage, which will hatch within a week.
  • Caterpillar larvae will feed from 4–6 weeks before creating a cocoon for overwintering in the soil. If the weather is warm enough, larvae may only burrow for as little as 2–3 weeks.
  • Moths will emerge in the spring, and can be identified by their orange markings. They will then lay eggs once again. More than one generation a year may be possible in warmer climates.
The larvae blend really well with the plant greenery. Just get used to a daily patrol, looking for hornworm eggs and small caterpillars. Here are some cues of infestations:
  • Look closely at the TOP of your tomato leafs for dark green droppings left by the larva feeding on the leaves. Then look at the underside of leaves and you'll find a hornworm.
  • Look for stems missing some leaves and wilted leaves hanging down. You may find white cocoons and their hornworm hosts nearby.
  • Look for an entire tomato plant disappearing while you are at work.  These guys are voracious.

Sunday, October 26, 2014

Mantis of a different color....


Praying Mantis come in lots of different colors.  This one was a remarkable green hiding in a vine that was planted on the deck. 

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Praying Mantis...

We usually have many praying mantis in our yard in the summer.  It's a great place for them to catch insects.  The praying mantis is named for its prominent front legs, which are bent and held together at an angle that suggests the position of prayer. The larger group of these insects is more properly called the praying mantids. Mantis refers to the genus mantis, to which only some praying mantids belong.By any name, these fascinating insects are formidable predators. They have triangular heads poised on a long "neck," or elongated thorax. Mantids can turn their heads 180 degrees to scan their surroundings with two large compound eyes and three other simple eyes located between them.

Typically green or brown and well camouflaged on the plants among which they live, mantis lie in ambush or patiently stalk their quarry. They use their front legs to snare their prey with reflexes so quick that they are difficult to see with the naked eye. Their legs are further equipped with spikes for snaring prey and pinning it in place.

Moths, crickets, grasshoppers, flies, and other insects are usually the unfortunate recipients of unwanted mantid attention. However, the insects will also eat others of their own kind. The most famous example of this is the notorious mating behavior of the adult female, who sometimes eats her mate just after—or even during—mating. Yet this behavior seems not to deter males from reproduction.

Females regularly lay hundreds of eggs in a small case, and nymphs hatch looking much like tiny versions of their parents.

We had an egg case hatch the day of a summer party and watched in awe as hundreds of tiny translucent baby mantis raced up the side of the garage to the roof.  An egg case is a little bigger than an acorn and looks like it's made from Styrofoam.   This picture was taken in the pots where we grow our vegetables.


Just cleaning litter boxes...

So, that little victory we had reducing the litter boxes by one has been cancelled by the new litter box in my husband's bathroom.  For the last three days two of the boxes have not been used but the new one in the bathroom has been.  In fact, he didn't think this litter box through.  In the middle of the night, Sadie uses the box but she never scratches in the litter, she only scratches the sides of the box, it's very noisy at 3:00 a.m.  And then she runs to her sisal cat scratching post and does that for a few minutes.  Thoroughly awake now, we put up with her on the bed grooming us.  She's sound asleep on our bed now and I'm tempted to run in and wake her up.  I do use the opportunity to clip some of the big knots she has that she won't let us brush.  Sassy is now spending more time in the bedroom, it's like she can't be parted from Sadie.  No fighting and they both play with the string, just not next to each other.  Also no peeing outside the box that we can find (at least for three days).  Fingers crossed again.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Tithonia...

This is another picture of the Tithonia I plant every year.  If you look closely, you can see the pollen on the petals.  The surplus of pollen is one of the reasons that this plant is such a hit with insects. 



Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Black wasp on milkweed...



Asclepias incarnata (Swamp Milkweed) is a top butterfly garden plant and host plant for the Monarch butterfly.  It's only one of the Asclepias that can be grown in a midwestern garden.  It's very easy to grow, hardy to zone 3 and native in all but 7 states.  It's a neat, attractive, bush-like plant loaded with fragrant, attractive rose pink flowers and a favorite nectar plant of many insects.  It blooms from June to August and thrives in sun to partial sun.  You can start this plant from seed but you need to refrigerate the seeds for 1 month or plant in your garden in the fall.  This perennial takes a while to mature into a full grown plant.  Swamp milkweed can be transplanted while other forms of this plant have a taproot that cannot be disturbed after the plant reaches maturity.  This photo was taken in our backyard where we have both the yellow and rose milkweed growing.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Where is Sadie peeing?...

We've been worried about not finding pee from Sadie in any of the litter boxes.  It seems she's pretty set on using my tub.  I'm of mixed emotions about that.  I love my bathroom, I hate the thought of her peeing in my beautiful new jet tub.  On the other hand, I hate the thought of her peeing in the hall, by the garage door, on my craft room floor or any other place that might take her fancy.  This behavior increases when she's off the meds.  We'll have to keep a close eye on her.  We hate to re-medicate her, we like her when she's herself, but she obviously has issues that we can't deal with.

A senior moment...

I'm having these more and more these days. So far, it's been pretty funny, but I'm afraid it might get dangerous sometime in the future. Last week I made coffee as I always do. It automatically goes off in the morning just before 5:00 a.m. so my husband has coffee before he goes to work. I'm usually up about the same time and I'm hardly human before I have my coffee. The next morning I went down to pour a cup of coffee and there was just a bit of hot coffee in the pot - strange, hubby is still showering. When I opened the coffee pot, the coffee in the filter wasn't wet. I had not cleaned out the pot nor added water. Just added a new filter and coffee and called it done. Funny, frustrating, but not serious.

So, yesterday, I'm doing laundry. Pulling out the wet clothes, adding them to the dryer, adding detergent, and color booster to the washer, folding up the dry clothes. When I heard the washer stop the spin cycle, I went in to add fabric softener and guess who forgot to put clothes in the washer?

As if that were not enough, I'm losing words, too. I can be trying to tell my husband something and cannot for the life of me think of the word that I need to complete my thought. Of course, he's always sympathetic. I can tell by the way he says, "is this gonna take a while?" That's more frightening than funny, especially since none of the words I lose are anything more than everyday familiar words I use all the time.

Painted Lady on Tithonia...

This Painted Lady Butterfly was filmed on a Mexican Sunflower (Tithonia) in our backyard.  We try religiously to plant this wonderful sunflower because it's a magnet for all the butterflies in our yard, especially Monarchs.  It grows 4 to 6 feet high and I discovered by accident one year that if you cut it back before it starts blooming, it will actually grow as a bush.  I like it tall, however, it's a great back-of-the-bed plant and it's wonderful color will grace any yard.  It needs full sun and blooms in late summer unless you start the seeds early in the season.  If I start seeds in the greenhouse in March, the Tithonia usually blooms much earlier.  I harvest the seeds by dropping the seed heads into a paper bag and store over the winter in the garage.  In late winter, I clean all the bagged seeds into envelopes so they are ready for planting by the time the portable greenhouse goes up.

At this time of year we are putting the garden to bed.  We'll cut down plants that the birds won't use as food, mulch our leaves and cover our beds with the mulched leaves.  The leaves enhance the soil, cut down on the weeds and we don't have to burn them.  My husband picks them up with a lawnmower that has a bag on it.  Since we live in a wooded area, leaves are plentiful and cheaper than mulch.

Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Update...

Sadie's last meds were September 13th.  While we're not having any fights, there is some chasing going on.  Sadie is playing more and sleeping out in the open instead of under our bed.  She has some knots on her thighs that she will not let me tend to.  I can't get her to hold still long enough to either cut them out or comb them out, although she loves to be brushed just not in those areas.  She has continued marking - in my tub, the foyer on the closet door, the fridge next to the garage door and now in the dining room by the sliders.  What used to be a once in a while thing is becoming more often.  We can understand the doors, we have feral cats in the neighborhood and this is common behavior for territorial cats, but my tub?  Every morning we check the cat box and find that Sadie has not peed in any of them - it's easy to tell, she pees copious quantities while Sassy pees drops.  This morning there was no pee from either of them so either Sassy quit peeing or she's following Sadie's lead.  Either way, this can't keep up.  The occasional poop from Sassy on the carpet is easy to clean up and de-smell, pee is entirely another matter.  If she doesn't stop, I fear she'll have to go back on the meds full time. 

This month's topic: Bugs....

We have a large backyard in Central Illinois with many separate gardens.  We plant to invite wildlife into our yard - flowers have to have either nectar or food potential.  In October, we leave the seed plants in place for the birds over the winter.  Our milkweed feeds the monarch caterpillars.  In the early spring the nectar plants feed the newly arrived hummingbirds.  We do have large numbers of bees, both bumblebees and honey bees.  This year we didn't see any until late July.  Our apple tree did not set fruit because there were no pollinators.  It  must have been a harsh winter for them last year.  I was delighted to see two honeybees on our Meadow Sage in late August.  Hopefully we'll see them earlier next year.  This photo is of a bumblebee on a coneflower.  The orange plant in the background is milkweed.  I plan to share lots of photos from our travels and home on this blog in the future.  This particular picture was taken by me with my Dimage Z1 camera in June 2005.  For pictures of my cards, please go to: http://kardmkr.blogspot.com/.