Sunday, June 1, 2014

Ready to Get a Little Personal

I have commented once or twice in the lifetime of this blog that I try to avoid getting too personal on my public blogs.  Well, I think I'm ready to, mainly because it will explain the sporadic nature of my postings here.  Truth is, I love this and my other blogs, and I feel terrible when I can't share my photos, tips, and insights with my wonderful  readers!

Despite the fact that I lost my full time job back in December of 2013 and still have not gotten back to work full time, I find that I don't often have a lot of time or energy to sit down at the computer.  Creating blog posts--regardless of the content--takes more time and concentration than people think.  I don't have a lot of either.  The good news is that, recently, I have started temping part time.  I'm going to continue to try and work just part time for a while--at least the next three months or so.  I both prefer it personally, and I am in need of more flexibility due to some family issues.  As long as I get enough hours and the rate of pay is high enough, part time work is adequate.

My life's journey (and indeed those of my other family members!) has taken a rather serious turn, starting last summer.  Last summer, my dad passed away.  My time since then has been spent helping my mom adjust to her new life.  It has gone pretty smoothly until recently, when she started to have some serious health issues of her own.  I was at my mom's home the whole month of February and for a few weeks from March into April.  That was hard, as I was managing the Little Stone House from a distance.  My partner is a real trooper, though, and he kept things running and took care of our cats.

Currently, my mom is recovering from a very serious surgical procedure.  Prior to that (it took place on Wednesday), she had been living with my sister back in my home county.  I have been managing Mom's house, as well as my own.  Once a week, my partner and I go to my mom's and stay overnight.  Her dogs are with a pet sitter, but we opted to leave her cat at home.  Mom has told me she would want me to go to the house once a week anyway, so after deliberating with the pet sitter (she thinks being at home is better for the cat), we spend time with the cat and refresh her food and water.  It's working out OK so far.  The cat is fine.  I would know pretty quickly if that changed.

As for Mom, her recovery will be long.  She will continue to live with my sister until we, Mom, and her doctors determine that she can return to her home.  I have my own feelings about this, but the bottom line is that, if she can't return to her home, we will deal with that as a family.  For now, we are all being just as positive as we can be, and Mom is very strong.

Through all of this, my job search and my volunteer activities continue.  My volunteer job is sporadic, which makes it easier to fit it in, and the project will end in September.   If the sequence of events with my family had been different, I may not have taken it on at all, but I'm glad that I did.  It has been fun, it has been enriching, and it will look good on my resume.  I have even applied for some temporary, paid work with the organization!

Finally, my little adoptee has come back to us, I'm sorry to say.  :(  The couple did adopt her, and they had her for a month.  They tried really hard to make things work, but they just could not.  Marbles has a very strong personality, and she bullied their other cat very badly.  She traumatized her, I'm sorry to say.  After a lot of back and forth and trying different things, I agreed to take Marbles back, so now our household is back to seven kitties.  The timing is not good, considering my financial situation, but we are making it work.  My partner is in contact with the person who adopted him his cat, and I have fliers I can hang.  We will try one more time to adopt her out, but if that doesn't stick, she will become a permanent Little Stone House Kitty.  I want her to have a good life, so I'm keeping my fingers crossed!  She does OK with our other cats, but she's definitely got a lot of energy and is pretty territorial, so she probably will be best off as an only cat.

As you can see, I am dealing with a lot.  I'm also learning a lot, though, which is what's important, and I'm not losing heart.  Life is hard right now, but it is also rewarding in many, many ways, and I'm still counting my blessings.


Thursday, April 10, 2014

Frugal Project: Cat Toy Repair -and- A Quick Update

Spring is coming, finally!  It's been a crazy, long Winter, and now that the weather's warming up, I'm sincerely hoping that Mother Nature has made up her mind.  With Spring on its way in and the shock of my job loss behind me, I'm starting to feel a bit more alive, myself.

For me, part of waking to Spring is getting old projects wrapped up.  The first of these was to repair yet another cat item.  The toy is a mat, called a Boogie Mat (TM).  It's a bag with a zipper and an insert.  The insert makes it soft, and you put catnip inside the bag.  Some time back, the zipper stopped working, and the original liner got ruined.  Since I'm frugal and green, and my cat, Sam loves this toy, I decided I'd go ahead and fix it.  

The fabric itself was fine and barely even faded, and I make harvesting buttons, fasteners, etc. from old clothing a habit, I had a zipper on hand I could use.  The liner is from my fabric stash. Polar fleece was the perfect thing to use for this.  I simply measured out a rectangle about an inch shorter than the toy and twice as wide (minus about an inch, so it would fit inside.)  I folded the fabric in half and sewed it to make a nice, cushy mat.  I sewed in the new zipper, and voila!  The cats were quite pleased when I finished it up and brought it back downstairs last night!  (Part of the reason is that, when I pull out the canister to refresh the catnip toys, that means everyone gets a little!)


Surprise carrots!

We had a nice surprise yesterday.  My boyfriend came into the kitchen and shoved this beautiful bunch into my face!  It actually took me a second to realize what he was showing me:  Surprise carrots!  Turns out these beauties made it through all of the snow and cold that we had this  year in the DC area!  Most of them are smaller than normal, but even those are plenty big enough!  This little blessing could not have come at a better time!

These will be used for snacking and juicing and will probably last us 2-3 weeks.  Happy Spring, indeed!


 The beds are in!

We've finally been home enough and the weather has been warm enough to get our beds in for the year!  For a couple of days, it has smelled like we live on a farm, but I just remind myself that it's for a good cause and keep the downstairs windows closed.

Everything is in but the peppers and tomatoes, which have been started inside.  I think it's still too cold for them at night.  The greens, carrots, and kohlrabi were planted today.  My stone (which you can see in this photo) was moved to the corner to make things flow a little better.  It will be easier to get to the plants and to the clothesline without having to step around it.

I'm really hoping for a good growing season, due to our current circumstances!

We've also changed how we compost.  Before, we were using 5 gallon buckets, which we had hidden away (from the HOA) behind our HVAC unit.  My boyfriend used up all of that for this year's garden, and instead, we're using a more open compost bin.  It's more visible to the HOA, but they'll tell us to get rid of it, and we will...for a week or two...then we'll put it back.  It comes apart easily.  We like this setup better, because it's more open.  Air circulates through better, and we can access it more readily.  More fibrous pieces can act as mulch, while the rest simmers.

That's about all I have for you now.  I hope you'll check back often!

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Times are Tough

The photo accompanying this post is not meant to make any kind of political statement.  I simply feel it is appropriate for illustrating the content of this post.

Times are getting tough at the Little Stone House. You see, back in December, I lost my full time job.  I have some severance, but that will run out in mid April.  My insurance will end at the end of April.  I will go on unemployment.  I am hoping to start picking up work, but it's tough out there!

My boyfriend and I are preparing the best we can. Luckily, he still has an income, so he'll be able to help out with the bills; however, things will be tight.

We can make some small cuts, and having our little garden will help.  Our tendency to thrift, recycle, and barter will also help to some extent.  I will be putting any found money (unexpected windfalls, tax refunds, etc.) that I can into savings to try and keep my cushion going (It's not a large one. Hopefully I can grow it.)

Even though the job market is really tough right now, for some reason, I am not terribly worried.  I'm simply doing the best I can.  I am hoping to piece together a living from temp work, freelance work, and selling stuff.  I need flexibility in my life right now, due to some health issues in my family, and I feel that, as long as I have a little more than enough to cover the mortgage and bills, I will be OK.  I am not as frightened by my job loss as I would have been in earlier years.

I am volunteering, taking some time to care for myself, and trying to pursue some creative projects.

I really think it will be OK...

Photo Credit:  source unkown

Saturday, January 25, 2014

Update: Outside Kitty--OR--My First Adoption

This is the outside kitty from my last post.

It turns out that, in my last post, I was wrong about a couple of things.  I was wrong, for example, about the fact that outside kitty was reverting to feral.  She's very tame, in fact, and I don't think she actually wanted to be outside.  The photo above was taken during the last cold snap we had here in MD, about 2 weeks ago.  This cat was in our yard, hunkered down in that makeshift bed we'd put out, all afternoon.  She did not leave once.  In fact, she cried the whole time she was hunkered down in that bed.

We went out to run some errands, and my boyfriend and I discussed it and decided, together, that if she was still around when we got home that evening, she'd be coming inside.  Well, she was, and she did.  When we got home, she was hunkered down on our stoop in the yard, visibly shivering.  It was clear she did not have a place to go, after all.

By this time, we'd been feeding her for at least a month, so my boyfriend had given her a name:  Marbles.  She's a tuxedo, but the pattern on her back is broken, making her look, to him, like marble.  (I had been calling her "Pepper" in my head, but did not want to name her for reasons stated in my last post.)

We were able to make a room for her in our downstairs bathroom, and we brought her makeshift bed in with her, to make her feel at home.   We took her to the vet, had her checked out, and put out the word that we had found a cat.  We even went next door to try to talk to them, but they never answer their door!
  Marbles, awaiting adoption.

When we realized we would not make any headway, we put out the word that we were going to put her up for adoption.  Now, a couple of weeks later, still no word from anyone in the neighborhood.  No knocks on the door, no response to my email to a neighborhood list, no one answering next door, no LOST CAT signs. I've been conflicted about this, but my boyfriend pointed out that if the owners really cared, we would have heard something (or seen a sign or something) by now.

We had a couple come forward right away wanting to adopt her--a friend of a friend and his wife--so they came to meet her last weekend.  We will take her to be spayed in a week or so, and a week or two later (depending on what the vet says), they will take her home.

We have set and adoption fee, but it's not about making money.  In fact, I don't expect to recoup anywhere near all of my costs.  Asking for a fee is about weeding out the bad element (people who look for animals for fighting bait or sell them to labs or are just sick and do awful things to animals) and about making sure the adopters are serious and committed to the animal for the life of the animal and that they will take proper care of the animal.  It's not about snobbery, contrary to what some people may think. It's about the safety and welfare of the animal.

This is my first adoption ever.  My five remaining cats came with me from an old relationship.  My ex and I thought we'd be rescuers, but I learned pretty quickly that he was not able to let go.  (I have thought back over this, and I now know that I did not have this problem. I would have been OK with adopting them out.)  At my peak, I had ten cats.  I have kept them all, and my numbers have come down naturally.  I do not plan to get to that level again.  

Anyhow, back to my point:  This is the first time I have ever tried to adopt out an animal.  I have questioned myself every step of the way:  Is this the right thing to do?  Is it OK to ask for money?  How long do I keep the animal?  How do I know for sure the adotper will be a good one.  The truth is that, as an individual doing adoptions, you can't know for sure.  You can't control every part of the equation.  What you can control, you do your best at.  It's very important to listen to your intuition, as well.  If anything feels off about an adopter, even if they are prepared to pay the fee and seem to know animals well, etc, you listen to that intuition, and you move on.  Also, while the animal is in your possession, you treat him/her as your own.  You integrate them with your pets. You feed them the way they need to be fed.  You take them to the vet if they need it.  You love them and spoil them and train them just like your own.  ...Because that animal is yours until you find a home.

At this point, we are integrating Marbles.  She comes out in the house during the day when we are around to supervise.  When we won't be around and at night, she goes back in "her room."  In another week or so (pending her surgery), she will probably be out all the time in the house.  She and most of my cats are ignoring one another.  A couple aren't happy with one another, but they will work it out.

...And I know I will cry when she goes to her new home, but I will know that it's the right thing.      

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Stray Kitty

(Not the stray kitty. This is one of my cats, Fujiko. Fuji was rescued en route to a kill shelter in 2003.)

Life is never dull at the Little Stone House.  It's been a crazy year for my family, and we've got some kitty health drama (not serious and on its way out), and life just goes on!
A few weeks ago, we had a friend over, and he pointed out that we had a black and white cat that seems to like to cut through our yard.  This was over a month ago.  A couple of weeks before that, I had noticed that what appeared to be someone's cats were wandering the sidewalk near my home.  They were crying and were clearly confused and scared.  I'm not sure what happened, but I think they came from the house next door, because that was where they were hanging around.  I don't know if they got out by accident, or if the owner moved out and abandoned them (the cat owner--the house is a boarding house, apparently--a whole other topic!  LOL!) or what happened.  That evening, they weren't around, so I assumed they'd been taken inside.
Cut to that night with my friend, and I realized that I was apparently wrong.  I don't know what happened to the other cat.  I'm hoping someone took it in.  The black and white one is still wandering. Finally, I saw it again Monday night.  It came into my yard, hissed at my own cats through the window, hung around for a minute, and then ran back out under my gate.  I didn't try to approach it, but I did watch it for a few minutes.  It appeared to be pretty skinny, so I have started to leave food out for it at night.  I put the food right near the gate where I saw it leave before, and for two days in a row, the food has been gone the next morning.  I think the cat is reverting to feral, but I also suspect it is hungry.
Of course, people have come at me with all of the usual cautions--like they think I don't know any of the things they are mentioning already!  I appreciate people's concern, but I know what I am doing.  I do not have any plans to try to re tame it or bring it into my house.  My boyfriend has put the kibosh on bringing in any more pets.  I have always felt, though, that if you know of a stray animal that seems hungry, putting a little food out is just the right thing to do.  Obviously, if I see it hurt or in distress, I will intervene if I can, but our household limit for pets is fixed.  If I do find that it becomes tame and is not actually a feral, I will try to trap it and take it to a No Kill shelter for rehoming.
I just hate that people abandon pets, and I like for the animals in my vicinity to know that my property is a safe place for them--as safe as I can make it, anyway.  The good news is I don't generally see this cat during the day, so clearly it has a place to hide away until it is safer to be out.  I do worry what will happen come winter, but I have to just trust in the Universe that everything will be OK.  I can't put a shelter in my yard, because we don't have space for it, and I can't put one out front, because of our HOA.
A tip:  If you are feeding a stray or feral cat (or dog--though they are rarer), use recyclable/throw away dishes.  I'm using a plastic plate and a tofu container (for water). These dishes should never come inside.  Take the food and water outside and fill the dishes up.  If/when they get too gunked up/destroyed, recycle them and get new containers.  This way, nothing that that animal has touched has to ever come into contact with your own pets or family. Always wash your hands when you are finished. You just never know.
The cat is actually kind of gray and black and white.  As I said, it's pretty skinny, and I get the impression that it is an older cat.  I have no way of knowing what sex it is, but I suspect it may be a female.  I will continue to put food out for the cat and to pray that it stays safe and maybe even finds a home.  I will pray that it will make it through the Winter and maybe even learn to trust humans again, so it doesn't have  to make it through and instead will find a warm lap on which to curl up.

Saturday, November 2, 2013

Rags: A Beautiful Thing! (Part 2)

cat rags
In my last post about rags, I talked about the ways that I use rags around the house in order to reduce our footprint.  This post is largely a repetition of that, but the focus is on my cats. I use rags for them, too.  The bag pictured here is their rag stash.  (I got the bag itself--a handmade bag--in trade with another artist!)  We keep their supply separate from ours for reasons I probably don't need to go into.  I keep them in the utility closet with the other cat supplies, and they are easy to get to when there is any kind of issue.
(All of our rags have come from either worn out clothing and bedding of ours or dish towels that are too worn out to use for human stuff any more.)
An additional step I have taken to separate their rags from the people rags is to use different colors for theirs. Their rags are the black, navy blue, or brightly colored ones. Ours are mostly various shades of white, tan, etc.  There is some crossover in terms of color, but not a lot, and since I'm usually the one using cat rags, I keep them separated when they go into the laundry.  The cat rags are also mostly smaller than the people rags.
As I've mentioned before, the only thing for which I do not use the rags is urine.  Cat urine is sticky and smells very, very strong. It's virtually impossible to get the smell out of most items, so I use paper towels for those messes.  For everything else, including washing the cat boxes, the rags work just fine.  They can be used with any kind of cleaner, and they can be laundered any way we want them to be.  Rags do not have to be pretty, and who cares if the colors run? (They don't generally, anyway.)
In order to keep our stuff from mixing in with the cat stuff in the laundry, I have set up a separate laundry bucket for the cats, and I do a load of "cat laundry" about once a month or so.  Just depends on how many messes there have been.  I also always throw in a cat bed to make the load a little bigger and save a bit on resources.  First, I soak the load in an Earth-safe bleach in hot water.  I then wash in cold with watered down Dr. Bronner's (TM) soap, and I hang everything to dry.  (Most store bought cat beds, I learned early on, fall apart in the dryer, anyway.)
With the cats, I still go through a good number of paper towels, but nothing near what I used to when I used only paper towels. I can generally clean up a gross cat mess with one to two paper towels, which isn't bad, and I find that a roll of paper towels will easily last at least a month.
The point of this and the other post on rags is: If you are looking to save money and reduce how much waste your household produces, first of all, look around your house.  Do you have old T-Shirts, dress shirts, and bedding you're looking to throw away or recycle?  Why not cut them up instead and start a rag bag? Worried about "being able to" use rags with pets?  Don't.  You can absolutely use rags for pets.  Just be sure to keep them separated from household rags.
Being frugal and green really is that simple!

Friday, November 1, 2013


Kale and tomatoes
Well, here we are, mid-Autumn.  In the end, we did have a good tomato harvest.  Of course, they came in so late, we ended up having to harvest the last few before they were ripe.  They are currently decorating the table by the living room window.  We get a couple every few days that are ripe enough to use, so they'll feed us for a couple more weeks, probably.  They are so pretty, sitting there by the window in their various shades of red and green!  Soon, my boyfriend will pull down the plants, and they will go into our mulch heap.  We've collected some seeds from this batch.
In the end, I will say it was not a great growing season for us.  We did have an abundance, but not like last year.  Our beets didn't really make it, and we had hardly any kohlrabi.  (What's left in the garden is seed stock.)  The few beets we got were very small and, in my opinion, rather bitter.  The plants succumbed to a common fungus, whose name I don't recall.  We didn't get any greens from them.
The carrots continue to do really well, however!  They are huge, and they are delicious, so we are collecting seeds from them, as well.  The greens did so well we ended up having to cull!  I did give away a bag of kale to a friend, but that's all the surplus we had.  We ate a good amount of steamed greens and salads over the course of the year. 
A very strange and mixed year, I'd say.
Meanwhile, the inside of the house is also going through changes.  We were advised against selling the house this year, so we are continuing to make small improvements here and there.  Nothing huge is going on right now, because we've had a lot going on in other areas of our lives, and money's a little tight.
The cats are undergoing a dietary change.  I'm keeping them on a grain free diet; however, they are all being transitioned completely to wet food.  I'm embarrassed to say that we've had a string of urinary health issues with them, and I've finally concluded that it's their diet.  All but one of them were eating grain free dry up until a couple of weeks ago.  After consulting with my vet, I'm making the switch.  We'll know for sure if that was the issue and if switching them helped when I follow up with the vet in about a month.  That's been tough for me.  All of my life, I've worked hard to be a good cat "parent", and now this.  All I can do going forward is continue to be the best I can be.  Luckily, everyone seems to be OK.
The erratic weather we've been having in the DC area has really been hitting me hard!  I have fibromyalgia, and the fluctuations in temperature cause me a lot of physical pain.  This, along with our schedule, has really slowed me down.  That frustrates me, but it's my hope that, as we move into winter, the weather will stabilize and be consistent.  The cold isn't my favorite, but my I am hoping that, if the weather at least stays consistent, I might recover a bit. (Plus, honestly, I'm hoping for a good snow!)
Here's wishing you a happy Autumn!