Peevish Pen

Ruminations on reading, writing, rural living, retirement, aging—and sometimes cats. And maybe a border collie or other critters.

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Location: Rural Virginia, United States

I'm an elderly retired teacher who writes. Among my books are Ferradiddledumday (Appalachian version of the Rumpelstiltskin story), Stuck (middle grade paranormal novel), Patches on the Same Quilt (novel set in Franklin County, VA), Them That Go (an Appalachian novel), Miracle of the Concrete Jesus & Other Stories, and several Kindle ebooks.

Sunday, January 12, 2014

Gimme Shelter

This past week has been rough for little critters. We had freezing rain last Sunday, followed by two days of single digit temperatures. Friday, we had a bit of freezing rain early, followed by regular. Saturday began with a thunderstorm and had plenty of non-freezing rain.

The resident humans and the house cats stayed inside for most of the week. When ice is frozen on the outside of the storm window, you know it's nippy out.

For the two days of single-digit temps, ice coated the inside of the storm door. Finally it warmed up a bit. 

When the sun came out, the floor in front of the south-facing sliding glass door was prime kitty real estate. 

Even George the garage cat came inside. Tanner loved sharing floor space with George.

But what about the outside critters? I can't very well bring a large mare into the house, and the barn cats and kennel dogs prefer where they are. What do they do for shelter? The dogs have a large "dog stall" built into the shed. I stuffed in some extra old cushions for them. In case one chose to sleep out, I added pine shavings to the dogloo and covered it with a blanket which draped over the opening. As for Melody, I bedded the stall end of her run-in shed with several bales of pine shavings.

The downside is that barn cats find the shavings a much better alternative than frozen grounds for certain, er, necessary functions. But certain unmistakeable evidence shows that Melody burrowed into the shavings at night. Since ice was four inches thick on her water tub, she used her heated bucket. (Note the cord coming from the blue bucket.) I carried hot water to cat and dog water bowls on the really frigid mornings.

The barn cats had several places to sleep. One of them is the tack room, where someone's discarded comforter and pillows give them a soft bed.

Sometimes they sleep in the shed, so a roll of carpet provides a sleeping tunnel in the straw.

Olivia, who spent a few months as a house cat but decided she liked outdoor living better, sometimes sleeps in a styrofoam cooler halfway back in the shed. I added a cushion and an old sheet for a windbreak. 

I also have made places for both resident critters and those who might be passing through. Under the boxwoods near my front porch is a plastic box filled with pine straw. Judging from the squashed appearance of the straw, a critter sometimes sleeps there.

On the porch, there's an old cushion under the wicker settee and a blanket over it. It's not like I'm using the settee in such cold weather. Might as well make it welcoming for critters.

A lot of the landscaping around the house is critter-friendly. The boxwoods are large and dense—they make good shelter. . . 

. . . as does this clump of dwarf nandinas.

I feed a lot of birds from feeders atop the pergola. Since the pergola is metal, the birds are safe from resident cats (who prefer small rodents to birds anyhow) and other predators.

The nearby trees provide good cover for birds waiting to access the feeders. See the cardinal?

Here's a closer look:

Several clumps of pampas grass provide cover for an assortment of critters, too. . .

 . . . as does the windbreak of white pines between the house and the pasture. Below, a feral cat who's been hanging around for the last few months rests under the pines while he watches me feed the others.

He knows where to find shelter.

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Blogger Sweet Virginia Breeze said...

All the critters on your farm were well taken care of in the cold weather. Good for you for looking out for the four legged residents.

Of course, my three cats refused to go outside. They found sunny places in the house and slept.

6:59 PM  

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