Animals of the Homestead- Sadie

Sadie is our one and only dog.  A Catahoula mixed with who knows what and  I couldn’t have asked for a better dog.  She has the sweetest disposition and loves other animals.  She loves playing with other dogs at the dog park and even tries (annoyingly so) to make friends with the shy dogs or the nervous dogs at the park.  She follows them around trying to help them relax or if they are being extra feisty she will herd them away from the larger pack of dogs at the park.  She loves and protects all her cats, even if they don’t necessarily love her back.

The cats, as well as my husband, child and myself, are part of her pack and she takes care of her pack.  She is extra gentle with my parent’s 15-year-old dog when she comes over when my parents are out of town.  She even did fairly well with the rabbit for the short while we had him.  She was surprisingly wonderful with our son.  When he was a baby she growled at me when I blew raspberries on his tummy because she thought I was growling at him and she didn’t like it.  She kept close to him when new people came over to make sure she trusted them with her newest pack member.  She puts up with his often rough man-handling (because he also shares his food with her) and is almost always a part of our frequent park adventures.  She wants to make friends with everyone, child, adult or animal.  She has a gentle soul, and old soul, and is so incredibly wise for a dog.

So how did we get so lucky as to obtain this dog you might ask?  It went something like this. . . I was at the vet with my diabetic cat and I ran into someone I had worked with during my rescue days.  Her rescue worked with both dogs and cats whereas the one I had worked with was cats only so I asked her if she had any Border Collies or Aussie Shepherds available for adoption.  She did not, but had received an email from a woman needing help placing what she thought was an Aussie Shepherd, so she forwarded the women’s information to me.

The women was a park ranger and the dog in question whom she called Sadie was abandoned in one of her parks.  After she had been at the park for about a week and it started to flood the women couldn’t take it any longer and brought the dog home.  She already had a German Shephard puppy in an apartment and didn’t feel it was fair to have two large dogs in such a small space so she was looking to find a home for Sadie.  When we met with Sadie she was sweet and happy so we decided to bring her home.

After we had Sadie for about a month I could totally understand why someone might have abandoned her in a park.  She was very high energy and needed a LOT of exercise and stimulation, a far cry from the low maintenance Pit Bulls that I had owned previously.  She also couldn’t be trusted home alone not to find something to amuse herself with while we were gone, she had a fondness for nibbling things like my books and my favorite shoes. . . After Crate training, finding the dog park, and my husband being able to take her to work either to ride along with him or play with his bosses dog all day, she settled down enough to where we no longer wanted to abandon her at a park.  She got along great with the cats inside the house and she was a great exercise companion for me.  All in all, after we learned how to handle a smart working dog, we feel in love with our Catahoula Mix and I’m so glad we have had the pleasure of owning her.

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Animals of the Homestead- Bella

We’ve recently had an upheaval in our animal pack as two new unexpected additions have been introduced, so I thought it was time to tell the stories of each of our critters.  Every one of the animals under our care is a rescue of sorts.  I worked in animal rescue for about 10 years before I became kind of burned out and took a break from it.  I was recently thinking about taking the plunge and delving back into it when two new cats appeared on our doorstep. . .

I’ll start with out oldest critter and tell her story and make our way through down to the youngest and more recent additions.

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The Story of Bella

I originally brought Bella home 20002ish to be a companion to my male cat at the time, Scout.  She was part of a litter of 6 kittens that was brought into the shelter I was volunteering at.  She and her littermates were found in the attic of a vacant house by a realtor.  The mother cat couldn’t be found but the realtor managed to gather up all the kittens.  I wish I had pictures of them.  They were tiny little fluffballs when they first came into the shelter.  They looked like little Chow Puppies they were so incredibly poufy.

Five of the kittens were solid black and one was a little brown tabby.  They were all so incredibly sweet.  You could place them in your lap and they would just roll around to be loved on and pet.  I’ve never since met a litter of kittens that were all so charming.  After sitting with all the kittens at an adoption event all day,  I decided that I wanted to bring one home to be a companion to Scout.  I picked  the remaining little girl and brought her home.  I named her Bella for the little black beauty that she was.

Bellas is all beauty and sweetness.  She is mild mannered and shy.  She can often be found hiding or sunbathing in a window.  She was an awesome companion to Scout until his death from his diabetes a few years ago.  They could often be found cuddling together (or him pinning her down cleaning her while she made annoyed faces.)

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Bella is the type of cat you wouldn’t know we even have.  She is a night owl and you often don’t even notice her until evening time when she comes out to cuddle with you on the couch or curl up in bed with you.  She loved her Scout and I felt horrible for her when he passed.  He was her protector,  smacking the dog around if she bothered her.   Her snuggle buddy, and slightly annoying little brother cat.  After I felt like I could have another cat I got her another buddy, Smudge, who even though a lot younger, took to Bella as Scout had, becoming her protector and cuddle buddy. (I’ll tell you his story later).  In any case.  Bella has been by far one of the best cats I’ve ever had the pleasure of owning, and despite being an older cat she is still a bit feisty when the newbies or the dog need to be put in their place.

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Spring 2016

Spring this year has been rough.  It seems like every week has presented new challenges and I have already been looking  for the fast forward to fall button.

Challenge number 1: The Great Flood of 2016

In April here in the Houston area we saw more rain in one day than some place see in a year and if you know anything about the Houston area, lots of rain means lots of flooding. We live in a pier and beam house so our house didn’t get water in it, but our back door had enough wetness that it needed to be replaced.  We were without power, water, or both for 4 days, and while we were quite lucky compared to some,  I’m pretty sure we passed the zombie apocalypse training the floods gave us.

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Challenge Number 2: Soggy Ground Leads to Uprooted Trees.

This is a challenge we are battling slowly.  We had two trees fall during all the rain.  Luckily nothing was damaged, but it takes time and a lot of elbow grease to power up the chainsaw and cut up massive amounts of tree, so this will be an ongoing project, headed mainly be my husband. If you need any firewood feel free to swing by and take some off our hand. We still have piles from the last tree that fell.

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Challenge Number 3: Starting a New Chapter

A while back I attended a meeting with the Holistic Mom’s Network in Houston. I loved it. I loved the people and the sense of community so when I found out another lady wanted to launch a chapter on my side of town, but was having difficulty finding a Co-leader I decided to step up to the plate. It’s challenging and rewarding so far and I can’t wait to see what amazing people we will meet and what wonderful things we will learn.

Challenge Number 4: An Unexpected Addition

Normally when you have a few outside cats and a crazy Catahoula, other animals tend to make themselves scarce. Not at our house. A little black kitty showed up in our yard a few weeks ago and hasn’t left yet. When the dog first saw her she ran over and nudged her, the cat didn’t budge, so the dog quickly accepted her as one of the pack. The two boy kitties who are 2-3 times larger than her both act scared of her and go out of there way to leave her alone. My son loves her, picks her up and carries her around and already christened her “Boo” kitty, so I guess she’s a keeper. She is incredibly sweet.

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There have also been dentist and doctor and chiropractor appointments. New babies being born and birthday parties and more birthday parties. Work and house chores. Trying to make that one dinner you’ve been wanting to go to. Toddlers to chase, you know the normal activities life presents.

In any case, that’s most of what I’ve been up to this Spring. Hopefully, yours has been full of fun packed adventures as well. Here’s to hoping for a more laid back summer.

When you Have a Handy Husband You get New Floors!

So, two weekends ago we ripped up the floor on the sitting area of the living room to bring the floor up level with the rest of the house.  That was the project before the project.  This weekend it was time to tackle ripping out the carpet and installing the new floors.

When we ripped up the carpet under the living room we found that there were pretty nice looking hardwoods under the floor.  We had a lot of comments that we should restore it, but since the front room is now a plywood base and our house is a bit on the cold side I wanted the extra layer the new flooring would add.  Also, when we ripped up the dining room area, the hardwoods had been covered with a thin layer of vinyl.  It was disgusting. We had to rip and tear and scrape the vinyl off the floor.  We ended up spending most of the first day scrapping vinyl and glue off the floor, and didn’t get to get started laying the underlay and actually start installing the floor until late in the day so we didn’t get very far.

Day number two started off better.  We got to work cutting and installing.  My husband refreshed my memory on how to use the chop saw and I had my first experience with the jig saw.  We had a productive morning until we realized we were going to have to make some really narrow cuts in the flooring and neither the chop saw, skill saw or jig saw was going to work.  We decided to break for lunch, a trip to the hardware store for a table saw, and to pick up our son.  When we returned home my husband made the needed cuts and we were able to get back on track.  Having the right tools makes all the difference. At around one o’clock in the morning we decided to call it quits until the morning. Everything hurt. EVERYTHING. (Note to self.  Make sure the bathtub is clean before you do anything that might make you think a soak in an Epsom salt bathed a good idea.  I didn’t have energy to clean the tub, and had to make do with a shower.)

Day number three was back at it cutting and clicking the flooring into place with a break for the little’s egg hunt.

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When we were done hunting eggs, I clicked more pieces together until my husband sent me with the little to Grammy’s house.  When we returned a few hours later, the hubby was laying the final piece into place.

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This has by far been one of my favorite projects with my husband.  We only wanted to strangle each other once.  There was awesome team work on this project and I got to use power tools, (which if you’ve never done I recommend you try, always under the supervision of a capable adult of course.)  It also just so happened our kitchen project from a few years ago popped up in my facebook newsfeed.  I find it a little ironic that we pick the same exact days every few years to do our projects.  I wonder what next years will be?

Getting Back on Track Part 2

Okay.  So, sometimes getting back on track isn’t nearly as easy as we think it’s going to be.  We started getting somewhat back into a routine only to decide we are going to put down new floors in our little 1950’s house. (Yes, I already know we are crazy).  There is a little 10 x 7 sitting area off our living room that we knew we were going to have to bring it up to level before we actually laid down the floors.  It dropped down about an inch from the rest of the house.  Over the weekend we tore up the carpet, and pulled up the plywood only to find that the subfloor was trashed.  It was kind of expected, but nevertheless was kind of a huge bummer too.  We (and you know by “we” I mean mostly my husband with me helping where and when I can although I do want to give him credit for the majority of the work.) had to rip out the subfloor, reinforce the walls, add new supports for the floor and lay down a new subfloor.  Now we are ready to lay the new floor, which will be our Easter Weekend Project.  In the mean time the furniture is haphazardly moved to random parts of the house and we have to figure out how to squeeze it into the other rooms of the house so we can actually lay down these new floors.  Luckily the babysitter is coming tonight so maybe we can accomplish some of this before Friday.

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On other fronts, I did manage to clean out my son’s closet.  I rearranged some things, finding them a new home with other like things (i.e. all the craft and art stuff that was hiding in the closet is now housed with all the other art and craft stuff so it’s all in one place).  I made a small pile for good will and  I made a huge pile for the burn pile and another pile for the trash. Lucky for us the weather was perfect for a fire so all of that that ended up in the burn pile is gone, along with all the yard trimmings from the tree my husband trimmed.

I managed to make it out for an outing with some like minded women (accomplishing a monthly goal for myself) and somehow persuaded myself to volunteer myself to help start up a group chapter in our are of town.  It is scary and exciting.  It also seems fitting that this fell into my lap since most of the quotes I had chosen for March’s quote of the day had to do with courage.  I definitely had to pull from the courage pool for this new venture.  Keep your fingers crossed for me.

 

Wild Life Lessons from a Reluctant Homesteader

I was raised in the suburbs where there was relatively little wildlife.  Our house backed up to the bayou so we did see some critters growing up.  Raccoons raiding the cat food bowl and snakes and turtles could be found on exploration of the bayou, an assortment of birds and squirrels, nothing too unusual.  When my husband and I purchased our little half acre of land that backed up to the woods I wasn’t quite prepared for all the wildlife encounters that we would have.

Lesson 1: Sadie vs the Skunk

Within a few months of bringing home a dog, we discovered our area harbored skunks. Our poor dog fell victim to an encounter one dark morning around 6am.  I learned that day that you should always keep Blue Dawn Dish Soap, Baking Soda and Hydrogen Peroxide on hand if you live in the country.  After we layered the mixture on the dog by the evening she smelled tolerable enough to be let back in the house. I will say once you smell skunk up close and personal, skunk never smells the same ever again.

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Lesson 2: There will be Bugs

Since living on our homestead, I have to say I’ve learned a lot more about bugs than I ever wanted to know.  I never encountered such a large array of bugs as I have living on our little piece of country, near the city.  Centipedes, millipedes, beetles, stink bugs, velvet ants, carpenter ants, fire ants, grasshoppers, crickets, cicada’s, flies, praying mantis, worms, silverfish, grubs, mosquitos, ladybugs, bees, spiders, caterpillars, butterflies and a host of other bugs I can’t identify.  I’ve come to terms that for the most part the bugs are harmless.  I let them do their thing and as long as they don’t come in the house or touch me we live a relatively harmonious relationship.  If they do happen to venture inside or decide to land on me they will find they have put their little bug lives in peril.

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Lesson 3: Rapacious Reptiles

Bugs attract a host of other animals that’s diet consists of bugs, especially reptiles.  We’ve seen tons of lizards: Gecko’s, anoles, skinks (these are the ones that look like snakes because they have long bodies and tiny legs), I even spotted a huge salamander.  We see a variety of toads and frogs, including little green tree frogs and leopard frogs.  We’ve also seen a few of my least favorite of the reptiles. . . snakes.  We’ve had visits from one water mocassin and one copperhead and we also have a recurring visitor, a sizeable garter snake.  This one still freaks me out as he likes to make regular appearances, but I remind myself that he is one of the good guys and I stop thinking about making a run for the shovel when he surprises me, the poisonous variety are not as lucky.

Lesson 4: Rodents

When you live near untamed trees you are going to see the usual array of residence that make their homes there.  We have lots of squirrels scampering about and we have pesky moles burrowing holes through the yard.  There are also mice and rats that lurk in the woods nearby.  Luckily we don’t have a mouse or rat problem as the outside cats are avid hunters.  I have yet to see a live mouse or rat that wasn’t specifically brought into the yard by one of the cats and the poor little critters don’t usually last long once they are in the yard.  I’ve also learned from these rodents the appeal of squeaky toys to dogs, as when she discovers that cats have a new “toy” she also wants in on the playtime.

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Lesson 5: Do we have Bats or Birds?

The first year we moved into our house I kept hearing a squeaky sounding critter flying around outside.  I was convinced we had bats, and while we might have bats drifting about I have never encountered one.  Upon further inspection of the squeaky noise I figured out it was coming from Wood Ducks. These ducks nest in trees near water sources (we have a creek just down the road) and make it a habit of flying through our area on a regular basis.  Ducks in trees and balancing on power lines was a new experience for me, but I find myself looking for them whenever I hear the squeaky cries they make. Other birds I’ve seen and heard are cardinals, blue jay’s, doves, pigeons, crows, chimney swifts, woodpeckers, robins, warblers, vultures, hawks, owls, my favorite the hummingbirds, and a host of others that I am unsure of the genus.

Lesson 6: Bunnies, Opossums and Raccoons, Oh My!

While I’ve never seen Raccoons on our property, when we first moved in I frequently saw some huge ones in the neighbors backyard.  I wonder if our outside cats and crazy dog discourage the raccoons from taking up residence or if the family moved on to a different place of residence.  And while we don’t have a resident Opossum that I know about, we have had them make an appearance now and again.  They like to go after that cat food if there happen to be any remnants left in the bowls on the front porch and they take a lot of convincing (usually in the form of a broom) to get off the porch and go away.  My favorite resident who makes frequent appearances are the bunnies.  We must have some tasty grass because they are often make their dusk and dawn appearances despite the presence of the dog (who often fails to notice them until they are on the other side of the fence).

 

I’m sure there are many other untamed creatures we have yet to meet that reside nearby. (I’ve seen deer, armadillo’s and even a coyote while driving a few miles away from the house).  I try to not bother these critters too much as we have moved into their territory as much as they have moved into ours and for the most part I have learned that we can live in harmony amongst each other.  All the little lessons the wildlife teach me just reinforce the reason we moved to our little piece of property.  What better wonderland for a child than to be able to explore a backyard billowing with wildlife.

The Fire that wouldn’t die

We have a lot of wood piled up on our property from our attempts at taming the trees.  My husband lit a fire this afternoon to get rid of a woodpile that was pushing against the fence and causing it to sag.  He put the fire out before he came inside for dinner but the heavy winds stirred it back to life and before I gathered my hunters in for the night I had to extinguish it once again.  I stood and watched the flames dance for a bit taking in the warmth and the sounds of the night before I turned the water on. The embers kept reigniting even after a good dousing so I kept at it until it smoked no more.  I smell like a campfire and I love it.  I love our property.  Not everyone gets to experience the country admidst a huge city on a daily basis and I am thankful and grateful we are blessed to live where we do.image