Tuesday, March 26, 2013

Hunting Fawn Lilies

One of the things that has brought me much joy lately is watching the variety of wildflowers popping up on our new property. We have a mixed woodland of Madrone, Incense Cedar, Black Oak, Ponderosa Pine, and Douglas Fir, and underneath on the forest floor, almost everywhere you step, native flowers are beginning to bloom.

Shooting Stars

So I've been busy rekindling an old passion - one quite dear to my heart. Some years ago I started and ran a native plant nursery, where I grew and sold plants, trees, and flowers native to this region of the west. On the cover of my catalog was a line drawing of a favorite wildflower - a fawn lily, which sports a precious bloom sprouting up between two spotted leaves.

So imagine my delight when I noticed tiny spotted leaves popping up beneath our trees. I've been busy marking the ones in this lawn area with little orange flags, so that someone else in this family *cough* does not mistake them for a weed, and "accidentally" mow or spray them.

I've been patiently waiting for these fawn lilies to bloom. The ones that I've seen before are white - a common variety. And some, called glacier lilies, are yellow. But oh, my goodness, the ones we have on our property are - PINK!

They are Henderson's Fawn Lily - Erythronium Hendersonii - and while not exactly rare, only grow in a rather small geographical area. Pink Fawn Lilies! Right here in my yard! Honestly, I thought I had died and gone to heaven when I noticed this bloom.

So if you don't see me much, it's because I'm out communing with wildflowers. I have rekindled an old love of mine - for native plants of every kind.

Tell me - are wildflowers popping up where you live?

Have any favorites?

Thursday, March 14, 2013

Two Questions

Yesterday I had an interesting discussion with a good friend about the difference between Paint and Pinto horses. Basically, there is no distinction between the two colors, but there are two separate breed registries in the US, with different requirements.

Then we talked about color in horses in general and what exactly, constitutes a breed? And because my brain moves in funny ways (hey, I'm a writer) I started thinking about two questions I was recently requested to answer on a form to see a new medical doctor. Two questions that really, really irk me.

You've probably seen them before, on all kinds of forms. They are:

Race: ____________________________

Ethnicity: _________________________

As an amateur genealogist who has studied my family's roots back several generations, I've discovered that I am German, Danish, English, Dutch, maybe Irish, and quite possibly Cherokee Indian. And who knows what else?

Lots and lots of us are many, many things. So why do we have to be categorized at all? For what earthly reason?

(Which leads me to another things that upsets me - not being a "person of color." Is white not a color? (Oh, right, white is the absence of color. But wait, I get really, really tan in the summer. Like, brown. So then would I be considered a person of color?) Okay, I'll stop now.

But in general, I really hate being pigeon-holed in any way, especially on a stupid form. Which is why I do not answer the second question - ethnicity - at all. And as the the first question, I always answer it like this:

Race: ___Human_________

I mean, aren't we all??

Monday, March 4, 2013

Moving with Cats

Need to move? If you have to take Rover, it's usually not a problem. Woof! Dogs usually like to go anywhere their owners do, and if they are anything like ours, you have to spell the word R-I-D-E around them. So a move usually involves a longer car r-i-d-e, some days of reassurance at the new home, and the immediate need for a new dog tag with Rover's updated identification.

But with cats, it's a little different. Cats do not like changes of any kind - in their surroundings, in their schedule, in their family life. So moving a long ways (or even a little ways) can be highly stressful to both feline and doting owner. Here are a few tips to make it easier - if you have to move with Darling Kitty:

1. First and most important! Invest in a secure cat carrier. Maybe like this one:

A wire crate may work well, too. Do not use a cardboard box, or even those cardboard cat carriers they give you at the humane society or the vet's office. A stressed cat can claw right out of those (ask me how I know) and your freaked-out cat may, too!

2. Prepare ahead of time. Your cat will pick up on the stress and changes happening, especially when you begin putting all of your belongings in boxes, taping them shut, and stacking them all around the house. Sure, it's a fun jungle-gym at first, but when you start selling furniture (including the bed they hide under) and allowing strange people into the house (like movers) your cat will very possibly run out the door and hide, wanting nothing to do with all this upheaval in its life. Don't allow this to happen! Find a spot in the house (bedroom or bathroom) where you can safely shut the cat(s) and their food, litter box, bed, playthings away. Get them used to staying in here at least a day or two ahead of the move. Put the crate inside, so they'll get used to the sight and smell of it, and talk to them and sooth them. Tell them how much fun this will be - (right.)

3. If you use movers - shut the cats in their room with food, water, litter box, hiding spot, and big sign on door that says "Cats. Do Not Enter!" Inform everyone who is helping you that this room is off limits. Make sure there is no chance that your cat will freak out, dart out the door, and run off in a panic, while strangers are hauling furniture out the door.

4. Day of move - when you have a long drive ahead of you - place cats in their cages early. Bed them down, and put a mini litter box inside. If they are super stressed (they will be) they probably won't even eat, so it might be best to withhold food until you arrive at your destination (or at least until you pull over for the night.) When cats are frightened, they want to hide, so a cardboard box or a blanket draped over a wire cage will allow them some comfort and security. Leave them in their cage in the safe room until you are ready to leave. Them load them (cage and all) into the vehicle. Don't try to cradle little Sweetie-Pie as you walk her to the car in your arms. (This is when she might jump and take off.) Have her in the cage first, and then load the cage.

When you stop to check on them (at rest areas, parking lots) they will be super frightened of all the traffic noise, strange smells, etc. Do not take them out of the cage, no matter how much you want to cuddle them! This is a prime danger area for a cat to get lost, run over, or never be found. Leave them where they are safe - in their cage.

5. When you (finally, exhaustedly) arrive at  your new home - the dog will jump out with a smile on his face: "hey guys, cool, where are we?" The cats will huddle at the back of their cage, scared out of their wits, but glad that the rocking and rolling has stopped. Once again, have a "safe room" in the house. A small room where nothing else is happening, if possible. Prepare them food, water, a hiding spot, and a litter box. If it all seems safe, and you can shut the door securely to this room, you may let them out of their cages. Leave them be! You don't want them dashing out the door in this new location, where they will certainly run off and hide, or once again, possibly be hit by a car. Leave them alone, and they will be fine.

6. Introduce them to the new house slowly. They will slink around, checking things out carefully, looking for places to hide in one room at a time. Give them space and time to adapt in their own way. Just like people, cats have their own personalities. Some are brave, and some are not. Kittens will usually start to play quite quickly, while older cats will take longer to make the transition. But if you go slow, and let them do it on their own time, cats will adjust to their new surrounding. They mostly want to feel safe. (I mean, doesn't everyone?)

7. If they will be inside/outside cats, don't let them outside for quite some time. I waited almost two weeks to let ours out, and even then, it was onto a little quiet deck where they sat, smelled the air, and then ran right back inside where they felt it was safe. Leave the door open a crack so they know they can come back to their comfort spot. After almost four weeks at our new home, our brave young cat, Fred, is now running all over the property, and absolutely loves it.

Our old barn cat though, has decided she likes living in the house better than her scary new surroundings outside, and has only ventured out one time. That's okay. She is ten years old, and now lives by the motto: Discretion is the better part of Valor.

But all of our cats made the long move safely and without too much stress. (Oh, there was a little howling from the back of my rig for the first several hours of the drive, but all three of them finally decided to sleep through the move.)

The dog, of course, thinks his new house, his new yard and doghouse, and all the new places to take a walk, are the coolest things ever.

But moving with cats is different, and I hope these tips will allow you and your Feline Sweetie to make the transition as easily as possible, for everyone concerned.


Have you read WALKING THE DOG yet (the newest of my books?) Although there are many dogs in this story, there is also a quite independent orange cat, who has a difficult time making transitions, several times. I hope you'll check it out. It's available as an eBook almost everywhere, including Amazon.

So tell me, have you moved with your cats?
How did it go?
Feel free to add any tips or suggestions that worked for you!