Sunday, November 30, 2008

Gibby Loves Eggs

Gibby had a treat today. Since we are having a snow storm, I wore my down jacket to the farm. When I gathered the eggs, there were only two, and I put them in a side jacket pocket with my keys. I bent over to clean out the chickens' water dish and heard a scrunch - when I reached into my pocket there was a severely cracked egg. I put it in the palm of my hand and walked over to Gibby - somehow, he knew whatever was in my hand was for him, and he raced over and very gently took the egg out of my hand. In a few minutes, he came over to me and looked for another egg, but I saved the second egg to take home.

It was much harder to walk around the yard with him, the snow was very wet and slippery and I'm afraid it will be icey tomorrow. I probably should have taken out the big tractor and driven it down the driveway a couple times to pack down the snow, but I had left Mother at home alone and she wasn't feeling well so I decided to deal with the snow tomorrow. It's supposed to snow all night and be pretty bad by morning.

Some friends came out from town and helped me put up some of my mother's Christmas candles.- they're little figures, like Santa and angels and snowmen and wisemen, etc. Mother has the largest collection of Christmas candles in the world - at least that is what we have thought for the last twenty-five years. She started collecting them before I was born - so, quite a long time ago. The boxes they are in are very heavy, so I made a decision to only put up a few this year, we probably put out a couple hundred. It's kind of nice to have only a part of the collection on the mantle, the bookshelves, window sills, etc. because it's easier to see individual candles. There are a lot of memories connected to those candles.

The candles put me in a Christmas mood, so I'm going to get my Santa antique replica rug out and get some hooking done.

Gibby Found the Flatbed

I thought I'd post some photos of the surviving cats - even though a dozen are gone, there are still a lot of cats. When I'm feeding them, an old picture book story I had when I was in nursery school runs through my head, "Cats here, cats there, cats and kittens everywhere". I found a copy of that book when I was teaching and used to read it to my kids - I suppose today I'd get into trouble for reading it because it's kind of gruesome, the cats get into a huge fight and there is only one survivor. At the moment, I can't remember the name of the book, but I believe the author is Wanda Gag.

Gibby was really active today - running like a wild dog as usual, rolling over and over, getting tangled up with Blue and Patches, and even exploring in the weeds. He dove into the weeds next to the garage and found the flatbed trailer. He danced around on it, left it to run around some more and returned to dance again, several times.
Today, I used the sport speed setting on the camera so I could catch Gibby during his race-around. Here he is at one end of the yard,

and here he is three seconds later at the other end of the yard.

Gibby may have looked silly chasing his tail, but he was smart enough to stop once he caught it!

I think Gibby liked being up high and hidden. I don't think he knew I could see him. He really has good balance, the top of the flatbed was a sheet of ice and snow - its completely shaded by the garage so the snow didn't melt like it did in the yard- but he never slid across it.

Saturday, November 29, 2008

Gibby Howled

How strange that I mentioned the farmhouse doors in my last blog and I arrived at the farm today and immediately saw the new front door open. Gibby was howling an unusual howl, I thought maybe he was stuck inside the house again, but he was out in the pen by the time I got far enough in the driveway to see him. I fed the cats and then walked out to see what the problem was with the front door. The snow has been melting, but there was still enough snow to see footprints if there were any - there weren't. The door was open, but no note from a neighbor or anything else I could think of to cause the door to be open. It's funny, when I started to enclose the front porch, I had great plans for using it and now it's just piled with stuff and I have no time to see what's there. Oh, I just realized what's missing - I had some old library chairs from the school where I taught back in the sixties - chairs I loved, but they took up a lot of room in the small dining room in the house, so I had stored them out on the porch and I think they're gone. I'll have to go back and look tomorrow. I did pick up the keys and locked the door. Very few people knew about those chairs and I can't imagine why the people who knew would want them, so I guess I'd better do some better investigation tomorrow.

As near as I can tell, Gibby's odd howl didn't mean anything other than responding to hearing me open the gate. He was dancing in the pen when I got to him. He's such a cheerful dog. When I let him out, he ran from me to Patches and back again. Blue jumped at him, to keep him away from Patches, then Patches and Blue got into a barkfest. While they were doing their doggy things, I went over to feed the chickens. Next week, I'm going to have to find some time to go up to the dog pound to find another dog, Gibby really needs a roommate.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Gibby is a Speed-Demon

The cats are still all well today, I think for sure that PetPride food was the poison. One of the raccoon-like cats let me pick her up today. The boss-cat seems to be the one that looks like Blackie, so I'm going to just call her Blackie. There's always been at least one Blackie for as long as I can remember. New Blackie runs first to greet me. She's the only one who comes from the farmhouse, although I know Tiger lives under the pool room and will come from there later. Tiger never participates in the greeting ceremony.

Blackie walks ahead of me toward the red house porch, stopping often and looking back over her shoulder. Each day, she stops at least once, sits up on her haunches and touches her nose to my hand. I can give her tail a little tug and even pet her long body, but she won't let me pick her up.

I tried to take some photos of Gibby, since I haven't posted any pictures of him recently. He was in the yard, running in a large circle, stopping at one side to sniff the ground around Blue and Patches, and then stopping at the other side to sniff the ground near the pool room - maybe sniffing a cat trail. The first photo, above, shows how fast Gibby was moving - he ran right out of the photo.

He slowed down a little bit so I got two more photos.

After about fifteen frustrating minutes, I finally caught him checking out the smells near the pool room. By the time I got this shot, it was getting too dark for more photos.

Gibby still has access to the house. The two antique planes I brought from the shop didn't work, the blades kept slipping out. I'll have to get back to the hardware store and buy the plane I wanted originally - can't do it tomorrow, the store will be closed for Thanksgiving, so Gibby has at least one more day to play inside. Once I can get the door closed and locked, then I can figure out how to install a doggy door.

I guess it's really funny that a door to my house doesn't close. It's odd enough in this day and age that I don't lock my doors, but apparently I don't shut them either. I have absolutely no idea how long that door has been so swollen that it won't close, I guess it could be years. I think when I opened the dog pen for Gibby the door looked like it was closed, but it was just resting against the door sill. When I had some men finish enclosing the front porch this fall (a project I started before I bought the store back in 1994) they installed a door with a lock and keys. They asked me if I wanted to lock the door - and I laughed. A dog pen door that won't close, a back door held shut with a pitch fork - and a locked front door. I guess a polite burglar would be deterred.

Monday, November 24, 2008

Gibby's still a house dog

The Michigan Department of Agriculture moves quickly for a bureaucracy. I called this morning and reached a very nice woman who said she usually didn't answer the phones. She was surprised she couldn't get anyone else to answer their phone and I thought it was going to be like calling any other bureaucracy - when she said she'd have someone call me, I figured I'd either never hear from anyone or I'd get a call weeks from now. Not so. The first man called me within a few hours and explained he was trying to reach the regional representative near my farm. The regional rep called me a couple hours later, and he's going to meet me tomorrow morning. It's a good thing I have a whole bag of the Kroger cat food that I haven't opened, he said they can only test bags that haven't been opened. I'm going to give him the opened bag and the empty bag, too.

The other good news is there were no dead and no sick cats today. I'm more convinced than ever that the poison was in the food - I only wish I had caught on sooner. I counted fifteen cats today - the year old orange cat with the friendly face was back. I haven't seen him for a week or more. There was also one cat caught in the pool room - the long-hair black yearling who looks like Sooters. I can't figure out how he got into the pool room. I had to pry weeds and vines away to get the door open, and then, of course, he wouldn't come out when I called. I had to leave the door open and hope he would come out on his own. I tried to watch from around the corner but all I saw were more cats going in. I played a little with Gibby and then climbed up the broken steps to look in the pool room - while I was looking I heard a little mew, looked down and the little Sooters was sitting outside, just under the ledge below the poolroom floor. How sweet of him to let me know he was outside - he even sounded like my old Sooters (Sooters was my much loved house cat, killed by a friend's pack of dogs eleven years ago.)

I tried unsuccessfully once again to lock Gibby out of the house. I stopped at the hardware store to buy a plane to plane off part of the door so I could get it closed tight again. The girl at the hardware store talked me into another tool, a plastic handle with a sort of rough file fitted into it. It was a stupid choice, not strong enough to deal with the hard wood of the door. I filed down part of the softer wood of the doorframe and was able to get the door halfway shut, but not far enough to be able to engage the dead bolt. I whammed on it from the inside with an old hammer and wedged it in further, but I bet Gibby will have it open in a flash. I'll have to go back to the hardware tomorrow and buy a plane - or, if I have any sense, I'll go to my own store and get one of my antique planes - I bet I could get rid of half a door with one of those in half of the time I wasted today. If I remember correctly, I have eight or ten antique planes.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Gibby is Picky about His Drinks

There were no cats in the driveway when I arrived today. Gradually, they appeared, one-by-one. First, Young Blackie, then one of the raccoons, then a few appeared on top of the woodpile. The welcome was sad, I felt it and the cats seemed to feel it. I walked over to the red house to feed them and it felt all wrong, all wrong because there were no little kittens runnning under my feet. I saw the short hair gray kitten, but she was the only kitten left. She ran to a dark spot on the porch and curled up. The dark spot turned into the two black youngsters who were sick yesterday. They were dead today - but at least there were no new sick cats. I think the change in food stopped the killing. I'm going to call the Department of Agriculture tomorrow and tell them about the cat food - maybe I'll tell Krogers, too. I still have two bags of the damn stuff, one opened and one not. There are only twelve or thirteen cats left - less than half.

Gibby has been busy redecorating the inside of the farmhouse. The two electric heaters are keeping the main floor warm enough to keep the pipes from freezing, and maybe warm enough to feel good to a hairy dog. He's been throwing everything loose into the dining room, including the almost empty dog food bag. I retrieved it, and filled the big bowl in the kitchen. Gibby seems to be having his meals there instead of in the pen. I guess I'm going to have to get some tools out - make that door into the pen close tight by shaving down the side, and then install a doggy door. When really deep winter hits, I can't have that door wide open or the pipes will freeze in the basement - in fact, the water storage tank is in direct line with the stairs and that door. I moved the tank into the basement some years ago when I got tired of spending all the below zero days with a blowtorch trying to melt the ice in the top of the tank where it was buried out in front of the barn. There's no way I have time for that foolishness now.

Gibby and George are apparently never going to be friends, but George doesn't seem to be as wary of Gibby as he used to be. Tonight, he walked right through the circle Gibby was running so he could ask me to let him into the house. That required some pretty fancy footwork to jump over the cable. I guess George must think the dog food in the house tastes better than his food at Grandma's house. I was pleased to see him feeling well enough to be walking around instead of just laying by the car waiting to get back in.

There was only one egg in the hen house today, but it was a beautiful bright blue - almost a robin's egg blue. Pretty soon I'm going to have to find something to do with those eggs. Even though we had eggs for breakfast, I still have three dozen in the refrigerator. I know it's silly, but I love to take them out and look at them - they're blue and green and pink, and some are gray. The pink ones are from the old hens and only appear once or twice a week, but we've been getting three or four of the others every day, until today. I put that one beautiful blue egg in my jacket pocket and forgot to give it to Mother when I got into the car. We had to go to the feed store and I bought a fifty pound bag of chicken feed - and some thermal underwear for Mother. I struggled to get that bag of feed onto the top of the grocery cart, then had to muscle it from the cart into the back of the car. I already had three big bags of cat food in the back (two good ones and one of the probably poisonous Kroger bags) so I had to shuffle them out of the way and then get the chicken feed in - and with all that and several ins and outs under the steering wheel, I got all the way home before I remembered that egg. I took it out of my pocket and it was still whole, tough little beautiful blue egg.

Well, I didn't tell you much about Gibby today because I really didn't spend much time with him. I don't think I even threw one stick for him. He watched me carry the two dead cats to the corn crib and must have understood I wasn't feeling really cheerful, because he didn't even ask me to throw a stick. Oh, he did tell me he doesn't like well water - something I suspected. I dumped the ice out of the bucket by the back door of the house and filled the bucket with fresh clean well water. He chose to lick the icey chunk of rain water and never put his nose in the bucket at all. There are enough chunks of rain water ice around the farm, maybe I should take some in the house and melt them for him. And then again, maybe he should learn to like well water.

Friday, November 21, 2008

Gibby Should Be Warmer

I bought a new electric heater for Gibby's farmhouse. My first heater is running in the living room and I put this one in the kitchen. I'm hoping to keep the pipes from freezing while I wait for two weeks for the energy monopoly to turn on my gas. I can't understand how a company can stay in business and maintain such a monopoly when their service is so poor - two weeks before they can click a button on a computer. Of course, I wasn't expecting snow and freezing temperatures this early or I would have annoyed them sooner. Anyway, both heaters have enclosed heat sources so they won't burn the house down if Gibby knocks them over.

Two more dead cats today, and three who refused to eat. It looks like poison - and my mother asked if it was in the food - and I was stunned. I had already given them two feedings from a new bag, the same Krogers brand as the last bag. They had already eaten quite a bit tonight, there wasn't enough left to remove, but I had a bag from another source, so I gave them some of that. All of the young ones are gone except one very shy shorthair gray, the teeny-tiny black one has disappeared just like the brave little gray. I counted twice tonight, counted 17 the first time and 18 the second time - that's ten less than the highest count during the summer.

I also found a dead chicken. This was not a good day - no sign of trauma, no injury, and not the cold - right inside under the heat lamp.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

Gibby is a Muddy House Dog

This last month has been a difficult one, but everything seems to be looking up right now. Blue had her surgery, turns out she has/had a slow growing kind of cancer, a kind that can return at any time but should be comparatively easy to manage. I intend to take her to visit her vet often, since it was Dr. Lisa Lemke petting Blue that found the lump. It took a long time to decide to do the surgery because Blue was lactating and bleeding. I won't go any further into this, but it did confuse veterinarians at several vet schools.

I went away for a week and a good friend took care of the animals at the farm. That means that Blue and George and Patches had to return home. They returned home and apparently worked with Gibby to provide easy in and out to the dog pen, and Gibby has been a house dog ever since. I don't know if he stays in the house overnight or just goes in to romp around, but it's a good thing I had already decided that the couches and chairs all need to be replaced when I return home - they are completely soaked with mud. It's not as terrible as it would seem, there's not a stuffed chair or couch under thirty years old and not one that was in decent shape before Gibby moved in. At least, Gibby isn't a chewer and hasn't damaged any of the wooden furniture, which I do treasure.

The last few days, there are indications that Gibby has gone kind of wild. He has knocked boxes off of piles, cleared stuff off of tables, and generally made a huge mess. It looks like he was either looking for something or chasing a mouse through the house. I hope he hasn't taken his destructiveness upstairs - I haven't gone up to see. I put hooks on the outside doors yesterday, but they weren't effective - the eyes they were hooked into were gone today.

About a half dozen cats are gone. Little Gray is one of them, just disappeared. I found two dead on the porch. I think it might be coyotes, but can't figure out why they would kill and leave their prey behind. I enclosed the cat porch with heavy gauge plastic to give them a warmer place out of the wind, I hope I haven't created a trap they can't escape.

Winter has arrived too soon - frozen water buckets, frozen hose in the barn, chicken yard tarp weighed down with ice, etc. Despite knowing that winter always comes, I'm never really ready for it, and never expect it before Thanksgiving. I guess my biggest cold weather concern is water - have to get the heater set up in the barn trough, have to set up heated bowls for the cats and Rusty - so Rusty has water when I figure out how to keep him out of the house, where he's been using the automatic fountain in the bath room.