Muffin: Apprentice to Crisco

I've never really used the word melancholy in a sentence before, but I think that describes my feelings right now. Sort of sad, but with a little soft feeling deep inside. Crisco has been gone to 'Kitty Heaven' for only about a month now. And we miss him terribly. But God had already provided us with another love. Not a replacement, for sure, but we do have much love to give. And at our house, there's always room for one more little animal. 

Please bear with me as I tell the story of Muffin...

A few months ago in the middle of the night I was awakened by the sound of crying--very loudly--right outside my bedroom window. 

Believing one of the kittens recently thrown out in front of our house had been accidentally left outside, I tore off outside to get the little baby. Once out there, I realized it was not one of 'our' kittens, but another! Terrified, the little thing ran and hid in the woodpile where it was camouflaged! Yes, the tiny little kitten was about the same color as the firewood. I'd never seen a kitty this color. Brown, beige, and tan, just kind of mottled together, causing the kitten to blend in with leaves, dirt, and sticks. And the baby sure was tiny. 

I couldn't catch it.  I tried and tried, but just couldn't. Since I couldn't do much in the darkness, I went back to bed.

The next day, the little thing ventured into the garage, hiding behind lumber and other supplies being used to remodel our home. No matter how hard I tried, I could not catch this baby! All I could do is put out a little food, water, and milk for the tiny kitten. I'd always find the bowls empty later on.

For two solid weeks this went on just the same. This little kitten had a huge appetite, but would not come to me. 

One day after picking up my children from school as normal--about 20 miles away!!--we stopped at the grocery store, again, as usual, and I'm embarrassed to tell you why, but we drove around behind the store because my 7 year old little fellow had to Pee. As we sat there in the car, we heard crying that sounded just like the kitten crying at home. 

I thought to myself, 'Man...someone has thrown out a little kitten back here!' And my thoughts went to all those ^$$#*!@$ who all too frequently drop off animals on the side of the road.

My little man soon finished the necessary activity, so we started the car and drove on around toward the front of the shopping center. The further we drove, the louder the crying became! Finally, I realized that sound was coming from somewhere inside the car!! 

I stopped, of course, and ran around to the hood. As soon as I raised the hood, there nestled right there in an empty spot in the motor (for lack of knowing all the car part names--forgive me!) was the little brown kitten!

I could not believe my eyes. She had ridden about 20 miles from our house to the school, waited while I sat in that ever long pick up line, drove about 7 miles to the grocery store, went inside and bought groceries, and then drove around back for my little boy to water the bushes. I guess then, she woke up! Wow! 

Anyway, I knew if I didn't act fast, she'd run as she'd done so many times before. But that was at home, and she couldn't get hurt. Now we were in a grocery store parking lot. I still can't believe I was able to think that fast, but I grabbed her quickly, put her underneath my shirt, and hopped in the car. My little boy emptied out his lunchbox and we put her in there for the ride home. 

Upon our arrival home, we were able to deposit her safely in the woodshop, where she could learn to trust us gradually and on her own. Of course, she had left a small undesirable gift in the lunchbox, so we were forced to discard it.

We probably should have named her Lucky, but our children wanted to name her Muffin, because she actually is the color of a tasty homemade muffin.

To make a long story short, as if it isn't already too late for that, Muffin is the best mouse catcher we have. It makes sense to us that she will try to fill the shoes that Crisco's passing has left empty. 

Not only is Muffin a very busy kitty, but she is full of love. Even as she rests, she tries to groom us, always working to gain our affection. She doesn't realize it, but she earned our love long ago.

If you have suffered the loss of a beloved pet as we have, I know you understand, and I hope that you will remember us in your prayers as we try to recover and continue on with our animal-loving lives.

Bluebirds: Landscaping to Attract them to Your Garden

Bluebirds eat mostly insects, but in the winter when insects are scarce, berries and fruits supplement their diet. Plants such as holly and dogwood have juicy berries the birds love that are also attractive in the garden at Christmas time.

When choosing plants for your garden, it is important to select non-invasives. Most often, native plants are the best choice for a wildlife garden. Birds will eat berries from invasive exotic plants too, which helps further the spread of invasive plants.

Some easy to find plants for bluebirds include:
  • Holly
  • Dogwood
  • Cedar
  • Elderberry
  • American Cranberry Bush (Viburnum Trilobum)
  • Pokeweed (yes, in Georgia we consider it a weed, but the birds love it and it is pretty...)
Remember, in Georgia, the absolute best time to plant shrubs is fall and winter. Rain is in the forecast (again), so now would be a great time for planting. We might as well take advantage of this abundant rain for as long as it lasts. I look forward to a beautiful garden next summer full of plants that can withstand the drought that is sure to return.

    Christmas Story

     1And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed.

     2(And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.)

     3And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city.

     4And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:)

     5To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.

     6And so it was, that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered.

     7And she brought forth her firstborn son, and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.

     8And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night.

     9And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.

     10And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people.

     11For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.

     12And this shall be a sign unto you; Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

     13And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying,

     14Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace, good will toward men.

     15And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us.

     16And they came with haste, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.

     17And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child.

     18And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds.

     19But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.

     20And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.

     21And when eight days were accomplished for the circumcising of the child, his name was called JESUS, which was so named of the angel before he was conceived in the womb.

     22And when the days of her purification according to the law of Moses were accomplished, they brought him to Jerusalem, to present him to the Lord;

     23(As it is written in the law of the LORD, Every male that openeth the womb shall be called holy to the Lord;)

     24And to offer a sacrifice according to that which is said in the law of the Lord, A pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.

     25And, behold, there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon; and the same man was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel: and the Holy Ghost was upon him.

     26And it was revealed unto him by the Holy Ghost, that he should not see death, before he had seen the Lord's Christ.

     27And he came by the Spirit into the temple: and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him after the custom of the law,

     28Then took he him up in his arms, and blessed God, and said,

     29Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word:

     30For mine eyes have seen thy salvation, (Luke 2, King James Version)

    Christmas Tree for Birds

    Our Christmas Tree usually goes up the weekend right after Thanksgiving. This year we're still involved in a major home remodel, so we won't be putting up the tree for another week or so.

    Decorating for Christmas is a wonderful way to spend time together as a family. Plus, we try to involve the children in providing for our wildlife friends outdoors.

    Decorating an outdoor tree for the birds is a great way to spend an afternoon. When you put your imagination to work, you can come up with all kinds of decorations made from things birds can eat. Materials can be berries, nuts, seeds, and breads along with natural items found outside like pinecones and sweet gum balls.

    Fresh cranberries can be strung on cotton twine to be hung throughout the tree.

    Using regular loaf bread, we used cookie cutters to to cut out shapes and a straw to poke a whole to string twine through for hanging. We then toasted the bread slightly to make it stiff before spreading with chunky peanut butter. A sprinkling of seeds makes the 'cookie' appealing to the birds. We looped cotton twine through the hole in the top and hung these from the tree.

    Additional decorations were made using pinecones. We applied peanut butter to the pinecones before rolling them in birdseed.

    A walk through the garden gave us more ideas. Nandina berry clusters made beautiful ornaments. Creampuff our newest little hen likes those.

    Popcorn looks beautiful on the tree, but I'm surprised to find the birds are not eating that. The peanut butter toast was gone the next day, so we had to make more!

    Crisco: Saying Goodbye to our Beloved Cat

    Crisco, our beloved family cat, passed away at approximately 6:30 pm, December 2, 2009. Crisco was a member of our family and we will greatly miss him.

    One afternoon more than four years ago, the children and I were taking a walk through our shade garden when we thought we heard a baby crying. We followed the sound as it became louder and louder until we found ourselves at the road. We still weren't sure what the sound was, as it was very hoarse but loud. The cry was coming from the kudzu patch on the other side of the highway on which we live. I crossed over and began looking in the vines for the baby, and finally found him--a very tiny orange kitten. The beautiful long-haired tabby kitten had cried so much his voice was hoarse.

    I could not catch him. He wanted to come to me, but was too afraid. He would work his way toward me through the briars and vines until he was almost within my reach. But when I reached out to him, he would run away, frightened. Crying the whole time, begging for help, the little kitten acted like he'd never seen a person before.

    This went on until dark, when we finally had to give up. The next morning I tried again, with the same sad results. Periodically throughout the day, I would go back to the road, trying to show the little kitten that I could be trusted, but he just wouldn't come to me. Later that afternoon after the children returned from school, we heard the little fellow crying again. This time when we went to try to get him, we found him hiding under the azaleas on our side of the highway--He had crossed the road! So then I took the long way around to put myself between him and the highway. This way I could try to catch him, and if he ran he'd be forced to go down the hill toward the house and away from the road. He still wouldn't let me get any closer than arms length, but by dark this time, he was near the house. He would follow the children crying, but when they tried to backtrack to get him, he'd run.

    That night he actually snuck up to the porch to try to be closer to us, I think. My husband was quicker than the kitten's little legs could carry him, and he was able to snatch up little Crisco and put him in the laundry room. Although he bit the fire out of my husband's finger with his tiny little razor sharp teeth, the very next day he let the children hold him while his tiny little body vibrated with very loud purring!

    'He's the color of Butter Flavored Crisco!' my little girl kept saying, so we named him Crisco. He had a few nicknames too, but I think I called him Crybaby more than anything else. He cried all the time. He was the most vocal cat I've ever seen. We always figured that was because he lost his mother before he was ready.

    Crisco had sort of semi-retired recently, leaving most of the mouse catching to the younger kittens. He slept most of the time. I thought that was pretty normal for him, since he'd never really been a very active cat.

    Two days ago we noticed Crisco was breathing very rapidly. An X-ray revealed a heart abnormality we were not aware of. Crisco had a much enlarged heart, and his lungs were filled with fluid. Although the veterinarian immediately began treatment with Lasix to reduce the fluid and a heart medication to slow the heart rate, Crisco passed away that evening. I can't help but wonder what we could have done differently. I've racked my brain to understand how I could have prevented this. But we just did not know Crisco was sick until the hard rapid breathing began.

    Thank you for allowing me to share this with you, in hopes that you will pray for my family and me. The loss of a beloved pet is difficult for us all but especially the children. Crisco was a very important part of our family, and it will take us a long time to learn to live without him.

    June Blooms in my Georgia Garden: Oakleaf Hydrangea

    This time of year our garden is always bursting with blooms, but this year has been a little different. Due to a very mild winter, everythin...