Doing the Mundane

You never appreciate doing boring laborious chores more than when you have been unable to do them for so long. For me my weekend was filled with fun everyday boring stuff and I’m so glad I was able to participate. I still had some pain but often forgot about it as I kept busy. I’m sore as heck even two days later. My muscles are still getting stronger after being laid up for so long. But I’m feeling good and I’m happy.

So let me bore you with my mundane weekend. For me it was not a bore. It was bliss. 

There was Friday night dinner out -with my mom and my hubby as my dates. 


On Saturday there was a little butterfly watching as we began to spread sand over the dirt and stone of our chicken enclosure. 


We worked. The boys shoveled over four yards of sand and since I still can’t shovel  (maybe I’ll be able to rake again someday!) I moved sand along with my feet and that proved to be a great workout. 

We had time for a little communing with the animals. 


And fixing a Rooster with bumblefoot. 

And I have to share Kevin with his new gas powered power washer. He loves it. 

And we did  a large amount of gardening. We created a lovely area. 



My work posse didn’t want their photo taken but I bribed them with ice cream. It pays to have an awesome ice cream shop minutes from our house! I am So very thankful that my two sons worked so hard all weekend with me and even did shifts at their “real” jobs.  

(Look how tall they have gotten!) 

And of course we communed some more. 


We sanded and gardened our way through the weekend. I spent it with two usually surly sixteen year olds but somehow they were gracious and hard working. Maybe they also got the brevity of the moment. I was doing normal things again. Maybe they didn’t get it. But I sure did -and as I worked I kept marveling at what a blessing it was to put my hands in dirt again and work with the animals.  This is a part of me I’ve missed -being able to do work -I couldn’t shovel at all or lift much-but I did use the hand trowel and planted some plants.  Yes I did a lot of pointing and telling people where I wanted stuff but I spread sand with my feet and tended to a hurt chicken. I groomed my horses and I sat and enjoyed being with them. There is much I can’t do still -but there is much I can do and thats the gift. And for that I’m so grateful. 

Being part of the farm again. 

For the last two days I have been able to go out and work a bit on our little farm. This is such a big deal for me. I have been unable to do anything for months because of the pain I had. “Had”being a key word. I amstill not pain free after the surgery but I’m able to be part of life again. That’s so huge.  I can’t do that many things physically out at the barn yet but I can do a little and I can give orders! 

It felt good being part of things again. It’s hard to put into words the things I feel right now. I’m such a mix of emotions all the time. But feeling like a normal human again at least some of the time is really awesome.  

I don’t have the stamina yet that I want but it will come. If I do too much I have pain.  I still have some of the pain I hoped would be gone as a result of surgery-but it comes when I do certain things which leaves me with hope that as I gain more mobility with my arm that some of these issues might go. And I’m told it may take a year to heal fully. There is a chance that some of the nerves that were bothered for so long may not heal 100%.  But I’m hoping for the very best outcome. 

But that’s just stuff I don’t want to worry about now. I enjoyed today -being outside with my animals. Just being part of the world again. I came back in before the gale force winds we are supposed to get began. I think it’s blowing away our Indian summer. I’m not looking forward to winter really I’m not a fan of the cold but I’ll not let that keep from being part of my little farm. I’m thankful I’ll be able to go out and enjoy the season. 

I took a number of photos today of basic farm happenings. But to me they are such a gift to be able to be part of such a place. The sights,the sounds, and the smells of a farm. Somehow I feel like farms are part of my soul. There is an amazing comfort for me when I’m on any farm.  I feel it’s where I’m supposed to be.  Well here and the beach and in nature.  I have a large soul I suppose! I’m lucky to have found my places where I can find my center. Some people search a long time for that. 

Hope you enjoy today’s farm photo s. 

Airy my mare

harley my gelding and the horse i ride.

asking for a treat!

the storage area pf our barn . it geta quite a collection of junk and needs to be tidied up periodically

looking out on the back forty. our land is only tonthe fence but i love backing up to preservation land!

molting hen. she is on her way to new feathers.

me standing on manure pile. sums up my life of late!

new 100 gallon water trough w heater!

inside looking out.

Building a chicken coop by non-handy people – part 2

Read Part One here!

Well here we are back again for part 2 of the chicken coop build.

We left of last time after we put up and secured the wall frame. Once we did that part we left it for a few days in the rain (its been a rainy spring in Central MD.). And the good news is that it didn’t fall down.

Roof Joists – After the wall frame went up Kevin cut the joists for the roof. It can be a little tricky. It is very clear in the plans and once you get the hang of it things go smoothly. One thing about putting up roof joists- they need to all be even. Later when we put the roof sheeting on we had a bump – a gap- whatever – a leaky place – which occurred bc one joist stuck up a little higher than all the others. We made it work as I will explain later. But just be careful so you don’t have to stress about this later on!

img_3871Pre-painting – I decided to paint all the trim and siding before we put it up. I knew we would have to touch up the paint once the walls and trim were on but it would be much quicker than starting to paint it from scratch when it was up. I have bad shoulder and it would have been too hard for me to do it that way. So pre-painting ended up working really well for us.

Choosing the colors is much of the fun for me and I chose a pretty golden yellow and a blue/green for the shutters and a basic white paint for the trim. I had the paint mixed at ACE. I can see where some might opt to stain the T1-11 siding as it sucked up a lot of paint- thus increasing the cost of the project (we used 2 gallons but bought a third for touchup etc. $30/gallon – yikes!). Again in hindsight I should have either stained it (if I could have found a stain in a fun color) or I should have gotten a cheap tinted primer first and then painted it with the paint for the second coat. We used rollers meant for rough surfaces and I still had to brush in the grooves of the panels. Painting the trim was straightforward.

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Siding – The plan calls for T1-11 siding. You could use whatever you like really. We stuck to the plan bc we are novices. We ended up getting the thickest of the T1 siding. You can opt for thinner. I just wanted to be sure we got a product that would not break down and this stuff seemed very durable. It was $30 a sheet. So it wasn’t cheap.

We made an error – well I made an error and it turned out ok but lets me tell you what we (I) did so you know what you are getting into if you make the change. When we went to cut the siding I wanted the siding to match our other coop and the other coops T1-11 siding has the panels running vertically and not diagonally. So we made that change. When we went to put up the siding on the sides of the coop the pieces were was a bit short bc there is a lip on one end that is meant to be used to join the pieces together. On the plan it said to cut that lip off- I am so glad we didn’t otherwise we would have not had a piece that fit at all. In our case we could still put the piece on and then cover the small gap with trim..it was a small gap.

In hindsight this is where I learned not to make a change unless you think it out or have more experience. Had we planned the change the direction of the siding from the start we would have been able to adjust the wall dimensions some to accommodate the change in direction of the panel. Which would mean making the side wall a tad less than 4 ft wide and the front and back a tad less than 8 ft wide. See how accurate I am being?! OR you can make the dimensions the same and use an extra piece of T1-11 and close up the sides using 2 sheets on each side. Or better yet just use the T1 in the horizontal position!

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Trim – The instructions say to cut the trim to fit the dimensions needed. So you need to measure and cut. The reason for this is that there is a variation in thickness of T1-11 siding. So we measured for our trim and we changed it up by putting the side trim up first and then the front and back pieces. It was working better for us because we needed some forgiveness on the side since we had short siding (see above under siding). Make sure you cut the back pieces at the 15 degree angels as noted. ALSO make trim flush with the siding which is hopefully flush with the roof trusses. We had a little issue with the roof board laying flat – see below.

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Roof – So the roof- that feels so great getting to the roof. Its like so close to the end right?  Well the roof was a pain. I don’t know if it was because we turned the siding or our measurements were a bit off but we could not follow the roof directions as explained in the plans. We could not cut three pieces of plywood and make the roof fit. So we ended up having to get another piece of 1/2″ plywood and we made the roof out of two pieces cut to fit. We almost had Armageddon over this issue but in the long run who cares what went wrong- we just needed to get a roof on and thats what we did!

So once the roof was on we realized that one of the trusses was a bit higher than the others so a gap was created in the roof. Gah! It seemed like it could be a big deal but we solved it but adding a drip strip to all sides of the roof. It lays on the roof and helps direct the rain off the roof. It also hid the gap in the roof – yay!

We were lucky in that we had some roofing paper and shingles already in our barn. This is why you never throw stuff away on a farm! So we laid the paper on and I think Kevin put the drip strip on after the paper. Except the back side where the issue was – he put the drip strip on just before the final shingles went on as we had not planned on having a drip strip in the back at first. (hey we aren’t roofers lol!) Kevin watched a number of videos on laying roof shingles. Youtube was a huge help during this project! Once the paper and drip strip were down Kevin put on the shingles. The roof came out great. You could choose do cover your roof with many different materials I am sure – I kind of wanted a metal roof but we had over spent on the project already so using the existing material was a must.

I will report it has rained a ton since that roof went on and there have been no leaks. Yay! I do think in the winter I may add a layer of insulation to the underside of the roof to add some warmth for the girls.

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Door/ Chicken door – For the front door we pieced to leftover T1-11 siding that i painted in a pretty blue green. You must measure your door and if off square build to fit. Our door was not square we built it 1/4 smaller (see directions in this blog for help).  I bought Kevin a small Kreg pocket tool for this project. It is the mini one and it worked really well for the door frame assembly. We also had a sander to help if there were any sticky parts. But the door went on really easily. Kevin got some nice hardware for it. Kevin had been stressing about the door and he did a great job on it. In fact he took what he learned and applied it to build a new chicken door on my run that is part of the other coop.

I built and installed the chicken door. Well Kevin cut the hole but I painted the trim and door and installed it. I attached a hook and eye so the door can be latched in the open position. I think it is so cute.

Can you see how cute this coop is?

Shutters – For the shutters the original plan was that we would put mesh screen across the windows and have working shutters that cold close in the winter. Again – I learned something in hindsight. I went to build the shutters and realized we would either have to cut a piece of 1×3 in half to make two shutters that would fit together (so 4 1x3s and 1 1×1.5). We didn’t have a table saw to make a clean cut like that so we had to go with shutters that were too narrow. Had I planned this all out better we could have set the trim pieces in more on each side of the window to allow the shutters to fit.  I made the shutters after we installed the trim – and yes we could have unscrewed it and moved it but I was too lazy. We decided to just live with the shutters that don’t close well and in the winter plexiglass the windows – leaving some ventilation – for warmth and protection.

I will say I had fun building the shutters. I winged it – not like me – but the plans didn’t really explain how to build them. This is the first time I ever used a chop saw (Miter saw) and I must say it was fun!

For the shutters I took 1×3’s cut to length and measured a cross piece (x2 for each shutter). I lined up the pieces- used glue first and laid the cross piece on top and then nailed it together. My son, Zach, gave them a sanding since furring strips can get splintery. I painted them and let them dry overnight. We installed them and added hardware and aside from the fact that they don’t really fit they are super cute!

So now we are just about done! I went back and painted the trim and touched up the siding.

Kevin added nest boxes for me. I bought big plastic nest boxes that were going to mount inside. He hated them (they were ugly). We opted not to have an external nest box because we were not feeling 100% confident building something that hung off the coop. So Kevin built three nesting boxes inside. It may be hard to collet the eggs since they are so low but I have some ideas if that is the case. Think doors like the chicken door!

Kevin added a couple roosts above the nesting boxes. I hope they work but we can always move the roosts if needed. I wanted to leave them above the nest box platform in hope that maybe I could clean that platform often and the rest of the coop less often – but we will see!

All I can say every time I walk by the coop is “It’s so cute!” and to be honest I still cannot believe we built this and it looks so great. Is it perfect? No! But we learned a lot in the process.  I think in the end I may have enjoyed this project more than Kevin did. But he did the bulk of the work and he did an awesome job. I think there could be a she shed in my future- just saying.

But in the meantime isn’t this coop stinkin’ cute?

 

 

 

 

 

Chicken Coop Building by non-handy people – Part one

My Husband, Kevin, and I are not naturally handy people. I have picked up some handiness over the years and so has hubby. Just owning a little farm requires one to learn some tricks of the trade because something is always broken on a farm and it is expensive to get everything fixed by a pro.  I like to jump in and learn new things and so does Kevin much of the time – but we never have really built anything like a building or anything but ..there are times where one needs to step up…and we were heading into one of those times…

Recently I got some chicks to replenish those we lost over the last 2 years – and since I have two roosters who are now separated bc they fight I needed to find a coop to house the new chickens and rooster Clark and his one girlfriend.The coop they are in now is way too small for 8 chickens. My other rooster- Lucky -has a nice home of his own with his 7 girls.

I love chicken coops- yes its a thing for me –  and we began to shop for one at the fancy store in a nearby town. We got a rather decent deal on a coop a few years back at that same store. But when we looked at the prices our jaws dropped. There were none in our budget. So I began to shop online and everything in our price range was crappy. I know this bc I bought a crappy coop for a few hundred dollars a couple years back when I got ducks. It would fall apart and we would slap it back together and it began to resemble a not so lovely shanty town- then the back fell off and- well- that was that.

I began to think that instead of spending $300 on a pre-made coop we could set out and make our own. I had looked into this last fall when the crappy coop fell apart and I had no home for Clark and his ladies (he had 2 then – one has since passed). But we got lazy and craigslist advertised a small coop just the right size for $100 in a town nearby. We ended up getting a better deal on that coop and we brought it home. I soon began hating the coop bc it was so hard to clean. Then I got chicks and the coop is no good to the chickens anymore because of its size – we needed an 8 seater – not a 2-3 seater (I think it will go to the ducks). So we were in a pickle.

So we decided to build one. It felt good and exciting. I had been feeling more confident in our handy abilities ever since I began painting furniture – we could do this thing! (There was no rational behind this thought it was just blind confidence). But I could not find the plan I liked from last fall on my Pinterest or anywhere on the internet.  Those chicks were living in my office and they couldn’t live there for good. I cant even work in there bc the chicken dust is so bad. Chickens are dusty – look it up! My office cleaning is going to be a bear.

So I stumbled on a plan on a blog that I somehow found- I cant even recall how because I googled “Coop plans” and I looked that up on Backyard Chickens and all over the place. But I found this coop. 3154809834_1336517386Isn’t it cute? And then this blog , Whitney’s Workshop,that actually made the coop from the plans. Hers is so adorable – I began shopping paint colors right away. The plans looked great. Very easy to understand. There was the little note that it was intermediate difficulty – and we were beginners- but that wasn’t going to sway me. I wanted to do this…we needed to do it.

So begins the story of building the coop.

The best advice I have so far is find good plan and follow them and don’t make changes unless you really know what you are doing. I will explain that later on. Oh and make sure you understand the size of the coop- on paper I saw ours was 4’x8’x8′ but until we erected the walls I never realized how tall it is – it towers over my other coop. We could have shortened the height if we thought about it more but we didn’t think about it until it was already standing up (also see my note about making changes to plans above).

We also thought we would save buckets of money on the build but we will save money but not buckets. The pre-made coops online were a lot smaller than this coop I chose except I didn’t really absorb that until we began to build and bigger is going to be more pricey. We are over $500 and I still have a few things to buy – like hardware for the doors that will increase that cost. The coops at the fancy place were well over $800 and they weren’t as big as this one.

In the planning phase I read over the plans carefully and I realized that the folks on Whitney’s Workshop modified the plans and used 2×3 studs to save some money. We decided to go with the plans and materials as is bc I was fearful we would mess something up in the plans with making the change. I think it is safe to say that Whitney and her helpers had done some legit building before. We had not!

So here we go!

Step One – the foundation –

We began with a pretty flat area. We cleared the area and chopped up the dirt and leveled that. We then laid the concrete blocks and tried to make it level corner to corner and then leveled the interior blocks from there. We did fairly well and when the foundation was laid on the blocks were were almost level – a bit off but not as bad as the coop we already had (we never leveled that one and it is pretty close – it pools water in one corner when it is spray cleaned – not a big deal.)

I painted the foundation floor with deck paint and then Kevin added linoleum tiles to help with the cleaning and hopefully durability. We had a floor and it felt sturdy!

 

Step 2 – the walls –

On the plan the walls looked pretty easy ( I say that as a novice wall builder) except there were a few angle cuts so that made me worry some. The best thing is that we were very careful with our measurements. The plans began with the front wall and that was a lot of cuts because of the door and headers. But it went well. We took a break of a day or two because we have had rain here for a couple weeks and we waited for breaks in the weather to be able to work on it.  But we have been working in the rain under the cover of the barn patio roof because the weather isn’t letting up anytime soon and we need that coop to be ready soon!

We got the side walls done and the back. We followed the plan but you can adjust the six of your windows. We are not installing an external nest box either. I have some on order that should fit onto an interior wall in the coop and they are said to be easy to clean. We felt like adding the external nest box was a little more than we wanted to tackle now.

We did try to keep the walls square. We measured from corner to corner and none were ever out of square  by much. I know that when we have to build the door it will be necessary to adjust that to fit. The door will not be square. I think maybe the world is not in perfect plumb or square so why fret if it is off a little?

There is just enough we don’t understand that limits us to having a perfectly level and square coop but I am very proud to see how close we were. We do feel we had little help from the beyond as you can read here in one of my latest blog posts.

 

We think we attached the walls together correctly- the plan didn’t really have a picture of how to do it. It seemed simple enough and maybe that is why I questioned the validity of it. Too simple in my head might equal wrong. But the walls were up and they felt sturdy and I felt a sense of pride that we actually were doing this thing and so far not too many snafus!

You might wonder how Kevin and I have faired with each other through this build. We have had one or two disagreements. Often it was bc one of us was confused about what the other one was saying. Kevin is more methodical than I am. I think he is more a perfectionist and I keep reminding him it is a chicken coop they won’t care if there are some flaws. But we seem to work it out and laugh more than we argue!

So far we have put in maybe 15-20 hours into the project. But for this part one as I have written it here I would say this took a good 8- 10 hours. It seems long but we are beginners. That time is a lot of me reading the plans to Kevin and him doing the brunt of the labor. I have done quite a bit of painting but with another frozen shoulder my arms can only take so much so I got the kids painting for me some as well.

Its a never ending family affair here- even if the teens aren’t too thrilled about helping to expand the chicken village.  Oh well, I am having fun- I may be the only one!

Part 2 – coming soon -stay tuned…

See part 2 here

 

winter is here -why am I so surprised? 

I woke up to winter this morning. What? That was a surprise to me. For some reason I was lulled by the warm October and November temps we’ve been having and I began to think winter was still a ways off. My porch mum just died off two days ago(maybe that should have been a sign) My knockout roses are still trying to bloom. It’s like they have been trying to will winter to stay away. I am (we are -hubby included)guilty of being unprepared here for winter. Not a good thing on a farm.

Frozen duck”pond” When the hoses are no good at all that will be the end of the pond fun for a bit.

I should have known it was on the way when I walked out to the barn the other day there was that distinctive nip in the air. I even thought to myself “winter is coming.” I just kept thinking we had time.

Today time was up. An overnight freeze brought us to our senses. We have always planned for winter way ahead. My planning drive being a part of my inner being. This year not so much it seems. In my defense I am über overwhelmed with a crapload of stuff. But I’m still kinda mad at myself for being in winter denial.

I do have a barn loft full of hay but our fields are still the dangerous green that makes our horses crazy for grass and us fighting with grazing muzzles so they can graze in the fields a few times a week. It’s been too nice out.  Winter was not on my mind much. I was still in October or something.  We have been so in denial and we haven’t set up like we normally have for the five winters previously that we have lived on this little farm. And today winter let us know she’s here.

Frozen water. Frozen hoses. That’s the sign and and all it takes for everything else to become clear that we are not ready.  We haven’t set up the heated buckets. We haven’t set up warming lights for the birds. We are going to have to start hauling water from the house BC the pump has a pinhole leak running to it and the cost to replace is huge -though today I’m reconsidering getting it fixed in some way BC it lightens up the workload a ton by alleviating hauling water from the basement.

I am not in panic mode but I am on I better get my butt in gear mode. I have to get some extension cords and a new water bucket to put on top of this cool flat metal disc that keeps the water in the coop from freezing. I need to put some better bedding down in the runs and I wonder if it’s to late to get some stone dust and gravel. I think we are always trying to chase water issues in winter.  We don’t want anything to freeze. Not the pipes not the ground not the water buckets. It’s really all about the water. Then that becomes about electricity. We need electricity to keep some of that stuff from freezing. We worry about footing for the horses- we were supposed to be getting the drainage issue fixed but the company that we hired hasn’t called to say we are on their schedule- I think the ground is too frozen now. It may have to wait for spring. We may have to order a load of stone dust for the paddock – that might help.  Ice and hooves don’t mix. At all.

So today and tomorrow and over the weekend -which is supposed to bring us more of that warmer weather that makes me forget winter – we will be getting prepared. Better late than never. No matter how much I pretend it’s not coming winter is going to be here. Soon. Ok maybe it’s here now.Maybe.

Thanks for reading.

 

our pump that we installed last year. the pipe to it sprung a leak the second week we had it. we couldn’t afford the fix last winter. but now I am wondering if its time.

 

The leak to the water pump is hidden under this table so the dogs wont get to it. Today we had the water on 5 minutes bc we needed to get water to the horses so decided to try the pump – and it began to gurgle under the table. sigh…it is always something on a farm!

 

Back in time 

When I walked down to the barn last Saturday and then again on Sunday I was greeted by a sight that I hadn’t seen in over 2 years. (read about Sheldon’s return here) Our barn cat -Sheldon -sitting on the patio that leads to the gym part of our barn. I almost have to pinch myself because I couldn’t believe it was real. Sheldon was back and it felt like he had never left. But he had been gone over two years.
My husband had told me he felt like he went back in time. He can’t believe this cat is back. He’s doing all the things he did before. He follows us around while we pick up manure. He lounges on the barn patio and he hunts in our back pasture.  I don’t always know where he is. He has his elusive hiding places as does our other cat Mango. You

 don’t find them unless they want to be found. But he’s around a lot now maybe it’s BC I’m taking the time to really notice him this time around.


I forgot what a cool cat he is. My husband found him as a kitten running around at a Shell gas station in the fall of 2010. He had two dogs in the car as we were just completing our move to our small farm. He called me and told me he found a kitten-did I want it. I didn’t. I was in the midst of a horrible move. I wouldn’t be ready for a barn cat for a while -if ever. I’m very allergic to cats so I wasn’t so sure.( I’m very allergic to hay too. Yes I picked a farm to live on. You can’t let a little allergy stop your dreams! )So did I want the kitten? No! But Kevin had asked around and even went to some homes near the station -nobody claimed the kitten. He could have left it there but my mind flew back to the family of feral cats we had a few years back in our old neighborhood and the number I had seen dead on the roads. (Nobody would come trap them). And the road that the Shell station was on was so busy. The kitten had little chance of survival. I couldn’t let that kitten go once it was with my husband. Nothing ever goes according for to my plan anyway-  so yes bring it home I told him. How he got two dogs (who hadn’t  ever been around a cat) and a kitten and a child home all in our smaller car I have no idea. I think it involved a kitten hidden inside a shirt or jacket and some crazed sniffing dogs. Someone may have been clawed up a bit.

The kitten arrived home and we named her Shell of course. I had examined the kitten and decided it was a female. Shell had a nice ring to it for a girl cat. Shell acclimated in our barn garage (now our gym) for a couple weeks and then she(he)  was let free to hopefully kill some mice. At about four months I realized her meow seemed more deep. Hmm …and after a quick check (pardon me) I realized I had made a mistake she was a he. Ok quick name update to Sheldon!

Sheldon was our lone cat until I decided to adopt a couple feral cats -a mom (momma) and her daughter -a tiny kitten we named Mango. They lived rather amicably for a while. Momma was our mouser and Sheldon seemed to like birds. We lost momma to a virus after Sheldon left – I wonder if he even remembers she was there.

When he left a couple years ago and didn’t return we really lost hope after a few months that we would ever see him again. We figured he was next door at the neighbor that he had run off to before. But after a year or more went by in wasn’t so sure. It’s clear someone had taken him in and I’m really glad he looked so well -ok very fat but very well.  It’s clear to me now that he is very happy hanging out with us for the time being.

When he returned  the other day it was surreal and it still is. I think Kevin and I figured he was dead so this is such a cool experience seeing him again. We did decide if someone puts flyers out we will answer them. We will explain his story. It’s quite amazing.  He’s really as much our cat as he is whoever fed him all this time. Well as much as barn cats are ours anyway. I feel like they choose us.

We joke maybe this is a spa vacation for him. Time to shed some of the massive weight he gained wherever he was before. Perhaps as the weather gets colder he might pack up and go back to what I have now imagined to be a warm window sill with great views of birds. I hope he doesn’t though.  I didn’t  realize how much I missed him until he came back.  It’s a gift to get to be with him and I find myself appreciating him each day he is here. I tell him each day how happy I am he’s here and how I hope he’ll stay. I make sure I pet him in case it would be the last time. If  he does leave I won’t take it personally but I’ll be sad and I’ll always hope he’ll return. But for now I’ll enjoy the time and I won’t take it for granted.

Funny how the beings in our lives can teach us so much -human or animal. Sheldons return made me realize we don’t often get second chances with those we love and we best make sure we really see them each day -acknowledge them- and give thanks for their precense in our lives. Tell them we love them. Because one day they may not be there. Thank you chunky,sweet, barn cat for returning and opening my eyes and heart. I hope you stay but if you don’t that’s ok because you gave me a gift of a second chance that I won’t squander.

Thanks for reading.

The prodigal cat returns

  
You know how when you lose an animal and you might wish from time to time that you could stroke it’s fur again or just look into his eyes one more time? I get that way anyway and when I am feeling those feelings I often get a visit from that beloved pet in a dream. I feel comforted and maybe a bit sad when I wake up. I like to think maybe my pets spirit visited me in my dream and that we are still connected. 

Well this morning my wish came true in real life. Our very first barn cat SHELDON the one we called Shell at first BC we found him at the gas station as a kitten and I misdiagnosed his sex as female -then we realized she was a he and he became Sheldon (deep breathe) he returned! Yes he came back after over TWO years. Closer to three. 

Sheldon was always a wanderer. He shared the barn with our two other barn cats Mango and momma. Sheldon would come and go and sometimes was gone for a couple weeks. Once he was at the neighbors and was stuck in their shed. That time -BC he had been gone a week -we had put flyers in local mailboxes with his photo. He was lucky that the neighbor decided they needed a tool in the dead of winter or he may have been dead. When that door opened Out he shot -the neighbor reported -and home he came. 

We got used to his absences and didn’t get too worried BC they usually only lasted a day or two. Then a weird thing happened. We had gotten chickens and had had them for over a year. At the time they were free range.  I had gotten a new batch and had just let them out to roam free. Well we realized on hen was really a rooster. Sheldon didn’t seem to like this at all. He was the car that would lay on top of the coop and watch all the hens and ducks.  He kind of backed off as the rooster grew.  I never saw an altercation but I did notice that the cat wasn’t watching the hens like he had been. Then one day Sheldon was gone and he didn’t return. We were used to this but his normal time away extended into a week and just as I was considering putting some flyers out again we got a note in our box from a family who found a cat. They lived two houses down and their land touched ours out In our pastures. 

Kevin went over and sure enough there was Sheldon. Kevin brought him home but in three days he left. Maybe he was put off by that rooster. We decided that maybe life was better at the neighbors. They had fed him so yeah there was free the food thing and no chickens and no rooster. So we left it alone. If the neighbors didn’t want him there they knew where he lived. 

Barn cats are an odd bunch. They live a tough life. Our cats (we have had only one for a while) have a big bin of food at their disposal. They don’t have to find food but they do live in our barn. They come and go. Our cat Mango lives a secret life. Sometimes I see her head in the field looking into the crops waiting for some vermin to kill. She lives in the rafters in the barn and on the hay. She loves to be petand gets  overstimulated  and will scratch when you stop. She comes out when she feels like it -she’s her own “person”.   

Over the last couple years since Sheldon has been gone we all wondered about him. We missed him. One day after he had been gone maybe a year my neighbor on the other side of us told me she found a dead cat in her shed. She though it may have been ours. I chose to believe it wasn’t and that he was living at the other neighbors but as time went on I wasn’t so sure. 

The neighbors where we hoped he was living had been in upheaval for a while as the older resident there Lou had been very ill. There was a lot going on there. I often wondered if Sheldon was still there. But we just felt that if he was still alive he had chosen where he wanted to live and I respected that but I sure hoped I would see him again. And today I did! 

I heard the buzz that says I had a new text on my phone at about 6:55 am. I suspected it was my daughter letting me know one of my sons had missed the bus-but instead there was a photo of a cat with a caption “is this Sheldon?”  Holy cat! It sure looked like him. She had to get in the bus but told me he came from across the street and was rubbing up against her. 

  
I yelled to my son Luke who wasn’t feeling well today and is staying home that Sheldon might be outside. He ran out but didn’t see him. I was still in bed (mom doesn’t get up that early BC mom doesn’t have to catch a bus!) I heaved myself up got in sweatshirt fully determined to find this cat. I open the door and there was Luke sitting on the porch with the cat in his lap. It was Sheldon! No mistaking him as he has a half mustache that is his most identifiable feature. Our cat was back. 

I scooped him up and holy heck he was like lead! I realized our cat had been well taken care of in his absence. He was very friendly but not sure he wanted to be held. I am very allergic to cats but I wanted Kevin to see him. (And I wanted to take him further from the road)   Kevin was training in our gym so I walked in with the cat and the look on Kevin’s face was priceless. 

Sheldon didn’t want to stay in the gym but he was interested in checking out the barn. He didn’t seem to want to run off too quickly. We got to pet him and hug him. And notice how freaking fat he is. We joked that he had been sitting in a cushy window for the last two years looking out at the world getting fat. Then he broke free. We laughed BC he had trouble jumping down from the work table where the cat food is in the barn. A feat that would have been nothing to him a couple years ago. Our boy got soft. Did he even have barn cat sense anymore ?  He didn’t have a collar on but that was no surprise the the couple years he was with us he shook every collar we got him.  We decided finally that barn cats may be safer with no collar. 

Will he stay? I’m not placing a bet on that. I am pretty sure he will go back to whoever has been caring for him after realizing the barn cat life is pretty hard. But maybe I’m wrong       I respect the choices of barn cats (or former barn cats). They are never really “ours”. You can’t make them stay.  But I’m sure glad he came back for a visit at least. It’s like a gift -the chance to touch a being you really missed and it wasn’t a dream. 

Thanks for reading.