A Season of New Things

Spring Has Sprung and So Have the Cats

Our cats are so happy to be released from their long winter’s confinement. We’ve had some lovely weather lately and they’re making the best of it. Other creatures, too, are popping out of hibernation.

Yesterday afternoon I looked out and saw Pookie sitting on his haunches on the lawn, with a magpie facing him about two metres away and another one standing about that far away on his right. Lying between the three of them was the limp body of a full-grown gopher. (Aka, thirteen-striped Richardson ground squirrel.) Whatever it was once known as, the dead critter had become the object of a property dispute.

Magpies are thieves; we see it all the time. If the cats catch something and haven’t eaten it yet, there’s usually a magpie peering hopefully from the garage roof or strutting in the grass nearby. And they often work in pairs. Like: “You distract the cat and I’ll grab the corpse.” Even if there’s no loot magpies often work in teams to torment cats.

So when I saw this standoff I opened the window and shooed the magpies away. With the birds gone Pook went back to playing with the thing awhile, even if it offered no exciting resistance. As soon as he got tired of the game and wandered off the magpie was back, snatching bites of the prize, which Pook didn’t tolerate. He rushed back to reclaim the gopher, then a few minutes later our black cat Angus sauntered up and began gnawing on it. Pook went back to wait beside the gopher hole for another one to pop out. Poor gophers. It’s a hard life at the bottom of the food chain.

Angus likely caught the thing in the first place. Pook is a bit of a thief himself. As I said in an earlier post, he’s an invasive species; he has this habit of pushing his nose into whatever interesting meal Angus is eating and slowly takes over the dish. Or mouse. Or whatever. Anyway, an hour later all trace of the victim was gone, so I imagine whatever remains remained when Angus left the magpies snatched.

Tuesday en route to the city we saw ducks in the ponds. This morning my husband opened the window and heard a meadowlark singing. Bliss! I went outside a bit later and heard the honking of a goose. I looked up and saw a line of snow geese headed by what looked like a Canada goose and he was the cheerleader. So spring has returned to our land.

A New Home for My Stuff

Since spring’s a time of beginning again, I’m going to catch that wave and move to a new blog home.

I’ve been contemplating this for awhile, wanting to bring all my writings under one roof but not quite sure how. I shut down Swallow in the Wind a few months back, but still have Christine Composes for my fiction, plus this site. Now I’m going to bring all my writing to Christine’s Collection’s new home. I contemplated a major renovation, but the categories and tags on my posts would all need reworking to fit the new plan. Easier to start from scratch, I decided.

I’ve had a “spare” private blog for a couple of years, using it to test out new themes before going to all the work of installing them on my public sites. Last week I enlisted the help of Bruce at WordPress Support and he’s been guiding me through this move, bless his heart.

Bruce says it’s no problem to switch the domain name for both active sites so that anyone who types in christinegoodnough.com or christine composes.com will land up there. All subscribers from both sites will be switched to the new one. And I will only have one better-organized blog to contend with. This sounds great to me now, given my health issues.

So I’ve been going back and forth for a few days now, carrying and unpacking a few files, scheduling future posts and generally preparing the site for visitors. I’m delighted with the new look, though I’m sticking with this basic layout. I’ve learned how to build Categories into the main menu, now my category “closets” are easily accessible and every genre will have its proper place in the grand scheme.

I thought I’d give you this heads-up a week or so before I do the final move and open the new site for public viewing. But the only difference you’ll find is that this current site will revert back to the pre-domain address of christinegoodnough.wordpress.com, so if you want to check out some post in these archives you’ll need to type in that address. Christine Composes will go back to christineevelynvance.wordpress.com.

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The Smell of Murder at Midnight

Word Press Daily Prompt: Pungent

Account taken from my Journal, May 16, 2013

Have you perhaps driven through a town with a pulp and paper mill spewing out sulfurous fumes? Have you ever had a bag of onions go bad in a cupboard where you perchance forgot them for several months. You know the whiff you get when you open that bag and dispose of the stinking things? Have you had a gas leak in the house and smelled the odour they put in natural gas? Or sniffed some perfume gone rancid?

Now imagine all that rolled into one and think of sleeping through it. No way. We were wandering around outside at 1am, seeking some relief.

It’s not that we didn’t know there was a skunk hereabouts. Michelle actually saw one on our step and warned us. However, we never saw it again and, in a supreme act of wishful thinking, we assumed now that spring is here he would have ambled off into the woods beside us and we could all live in relative peace.

It appears said skunk, before he ambled off, started a hole at the edge of our trailer with thoughts of burrowing under – or maybe just hunting mice? However, this past week we caught no more traces of whiffs of skunk and our cats have been using that hole to prowl under the trailer – which they sure wouldn’t have done had there been an occupying skunk. Bob put a log over the hole to discourage this, too.

It was on the To Do list to fill in the hole and put an end to this nonsense.

Thus it may well be that the skunk lived elsewhere and just happened to be passing through the yard last night on his way home. Or maybe he happened to remember his past efforts and decided to see what had become of the burrow he’d started. And he checked around under our step, too, for old times’ sake.

Some people like to portray nature as a gentle force, even speak of Mother Nature and her care of the little critters out there. They say if we could get back to nature a bit more, life would be better and we’d live longer. Nevertheless, our Creator has blessed the pokey skunk with a powerful deterrent spray just in case there are altercations.

It’s hard to imagine that ANYTHING would want to attack and kill a skunk. I’ve read that great-horned owls will because their sense of smell is very poor. But we know this was no owl.

Something frightened that skunk in his amble past – or whatever he was up to. It smells like he was near our back step when this happened, for when Bob opened the door he remarked on the aroma of skunk outside. In skunk’s apprehensive state, he remembered that old hole and chose to take refuge there. That we know. In fact it looks like he dug himself in frantically beside the log Bob had put there to keep him out.

And something went in after him. That we smell.

Just before bed one of our cats wanted in urgently. And yes, I caught the familiar acrid smell, but surely our cats would never tackle a skunk. Angus came in and began sniffing all the registers. The bathroom was taking on a very bad smell, as if a skunk were coming up through the plumbing opening beside the vanity.

My hearing isn’t the best. Even with my hearing aids I didn’t hear the squealing Bob heard, but I did hear a number of thumps just a few minutes later. Slow to catch on, I assumed our cat Pookie was bumping around on the step outside, wanting in. I opened the door and in he rushed. Both cats began sniffing around the heat registers (set in the floor) and the trailer was now full of the stench.

I put old towels over all the register openings; it didn’t help much. We lit candles, opened windows and took refuge outdoors for while. The cats came, too. Out there we could catch a faint whiff from our farmer neighbour’s pig barn, but this was infinitely preferable to the reeking air inside.

Our bedroom is in the addition, on a cement base, so the skunk odour couldn’t come from below us. Enough came in through the hallway, but with windows open and ceiling fans running, I was able to get some sleep there later in the night. Bob chose the recliner in the living room, with all windows open and ceiling fan running.

I’m afraid the smell of murder at midnight is not only a right-then overpowering stench, but will linger for some time to come, too.

Next-day note:
It has. We spent a good part of yesterday away from home.

Winter’s Icy Blast

Yesterday morning when we left for the city the weather was cloudy and calm. We wondered if the forecast for a stormy day with rain turning to snow wasn’t rather overblown. However, by noon the wind had picked up and the rain had started. By 2pm the wind was a gale tossing rain mixed with snow at us us as we rushed from car to store to get our shopping done. By 4pm we had wet, slushy snow that splatted us all the way home.

Strong winds and snow continued all evening, rattling the windows of our mobile home. The sound made a person very thankful to be indoors, warm and dry, while the storm carried on outside. Mind you, our cats want badly to go outside and paced around by the door every now and then. If we opened it, they stood there and wailed for us to do something about the awful weather.

When we get such a heap of clouds above us it usually interferes with our satellite internet service, sometimes all day. Yesterday evening it was pretty sporadic; even this morning it’s been iffy at times. And sometime in the night — about 2:30am — our power went out and was off for at least four hours. We woke up in the darkness, not a glimmer of light anywhere, and I grabbed a flashlight to stumble my way to the dining room to check the battery-operated clock: it was 4:45 am.  Then I went and snuggled back under the covers again since, of course, the heat was off.  This is the third power outage in a week and we wonder what’s causing it. Last night we could blame the weather, ice on the lines and all that, but not the other times.

This morning when we got up the world was white, trees were tossing in the wild wind while shrubs and bushes were seriously bent down under the weight of wet snow and ice. Our little amur maple tree that boasted such lovely red leaves last month is now bare and getting buried. There are still a lot of sea buckthorn berries; they show up a nice bright orange against the snow. The birds didn’t clean them all off this fall.

My husband had to go out for half an hour first thing this morning; when he got home I went to a friend’s 80th birthday party at the Villa where I used to work. The Birthday girl got quite a few tangible gifts like scented soaps and candles, etc. Being a widow who married a well-to-do widower, we all know she has everything she needs house-wise. I gave her a gift card (for two) at a local restaurant.

The “winter wonderland” outside continues to this moment and, looking up at the clouds, we don’t hold out much hope for sudden change. I’m glad I stopped at Value Village yesterday and picked up a couple of second-hand jigsaw puzzles, though I never run out of books to read — or things to write.  You may notice I’ve changed my header, in keeping with the change of season.

Now and then one of the cats comes begging me to open the door so they can check if the climate has changed. When they see summer hasn’t returned, they’ll turn around with an unhappy wail and go take another nap. A couple of times they’ve even ventured out, but are afraid of being forgotten and left out in the cold, so usually they won’t risk it.

The good news is: I am feeling better — as in, more perky — than I was. Still dealing with food issues but it’s getting better. Tomorrow morning I hope to get at some sewing and plan to reblog another blogger’s interesting account here, one I think you’ll all enjoy. (Weather & internet permitting. 🙂 )

Take care everyone, and bundle up warm. Even if we get a brief reprieve, winter’s on its way.

Daily Prompt word: Tree

Monday Morning Ramble

I was up early this morning — in fact I beat the sun by about 40 minutes. At 5am my cat Angus decided that he was getting up, which meant I was getting up. He doesn’t like to breakfast alone. There is no sane reason why I tolerate this, so I won’t offer one here. 🙂

I used my time profitably by checking out some incoming e-mails, having my own breakfast, and then having my mid-morning nap — all by 7:30 am. Thankfully my taste buds are returning to normal; the water I drank wasn’t so bitter and my morning coffee was fair. Joy, joy! Now to do a blog post and then answer a letter from my penpal in the East. Another of my “catch-up” projects I’ve been working on since completing my chemo treatments is answering letters I’ve been setting aside all summer.

It felt chilly in our house this morning so I stayed bundled up in my cozy terrycloth housecoat all the while. We have a couple of electric heaters running but their heating powers are pretty limited to warming up our bedroom and living room,. Bob just checked the weather and tells me the temperature went down to 3 C this morning, so no wonder I found it chilly here in the office. According to the weatherman it’s supposed to freeze tonight. We can’t deny that autumn is here.

On Saturday we were in the city and I noticed the fall mums on display. Wanting a bit more colour around the place now that my summer bedding plants have faded, I bought a couple, cheery yellow and gold, and planted them in two of our planters. The hardy snapdragons are still going at it, too, and will be for some time, so they make a good combo around our doorstep.

Daily Prompt Word of the Day: Zing

Actually I did wake up without the cat’s help this morning, when a memory flashed through my semi-conscious mind and I found myself pondering one of our bright ideas from years ago. One that never panned out. Why is it that at 5am these things from thirty years ago can pop into your head and zing you with a spark of regret? Am I particularly prone to this, or do you others have these “Oh, were you out to lunch!” flashbacks as well?

Anyway, back when we were young and a bit dreamy-eyed we went through this “homestead” phase. Like, “Wouldn’t it be great to keep a few chickens — maybe some antique breed — and have our own eggs? Wouldn’t it be neat to keep a goat or two and have our own milk?” Bear in mind I was a city girl almost all my life and had not a clue what this would actually involve — but it seemed like a great idea at the time. Self-sufficiency and all that. You can do anything you set your mind to, right?

One day we heard from a neighbour down the road, who did keep a few goats, that she had to sell them because her husband’s health was failing fast. At that time we were living in a farmyard, renting the house, and had lots of space in the yard — and the dream. So we gave her a bit of money for her last two goats, an old nanny and her one-year-old kid. Supposedly both would come into heat and we’d breed them and have baby goats and milk.

The whole plan wasn’t such a major fiasco or expense; just a lot more work that we expected and for no return. Plus, we were “transients” — just passing through. Somehow we never took that into account seriously. Seems to me now it was only a few months later that we found a really nice place in town and left our country home for a situation much more suited to our needs. Then we had to get rid of the goats, so we sold them to friends, who weren’t any more equipped to keep them than we were, really. They kept them a few months, but ended up sending them to market.

Poor animals! I hope they were bought by someone who did know something about taking care of goats. And we learned that not all bright ideas are feasible for all people. We were not homesteaders. In my wiser old age I now tell people that animals are living things — they need something more stable than bright ideas. Pets and livestock are a long-term investment; be very sure you know what you’re getting into, and how long you’ll be living in the same spot, before you commit yourself.

On the other hand, we’ve had a lifetime of experience taking in and caring for stray cats. At that we’ve been quite successful. 🙂

I’m glad that over the years our daughter picked up some wisdom from watching Mom & Dad’s trial and errors. As an adult she hasn’t been the kind to chase a lot of bright ideas without stopping to count the cost first. In fact, she put the brakes on one bright idea I presented for her approval.

We were again living in a rented home with a huge, open lawn and I had the bright idea this would be perfect for a volleyball set-up. We could invite the few local church youth over for games in the evening. Our daughter looked at the matter practically.
— There were only a few young folks we knew in that area.
— These young folks were mostly busy working. How many games would we actually have?
— How much would it cost to set this up? (“And you really can’t afford it right now.”)
— How long would we live in this place? (Ten months, it turned out.)

Then she told me flat out. “Mom, that’s a foolish idea.”

Sometimes it stings a bit to have your bright ideas shot down, but it paid to accept her advice. Too bad she wasn’t old enough to put in her two-cents’ worth when we wanted those goats. 🙂

A New & Brighter Morning

Vive la Difference!

Yesterday was a bad day for me. One of those days you try to survive and hope it soon passes. I wasn’t sporting my “Little Miss Cheer” button, either. Nope, I told everyone I talked to just how rotten I was feeling. Thankfully they all listened politely and sympathized. Bless their dear hearts, no one said, “Just think. It could be so much worse.”

Food tasted flat, water tasted contaminated by some unknown chemical, and it felt like my belly was coated with slime. No nauseous churning, but icky and ready to eject if I’d think about it hard enough. I took antacids all day and kept it all down, but the taste lingered. Plus I had almost no energy and got very short of breath at the least exertion like preparing food.

On days like this I grumble a bit, then opt for a “mind over matter” approach. Escapism, you might say. I dive into a storybook and try not to think about how my body feels. One day I told a friend that I read to escape the present reality and she wondered if that did any good any good — after all, you have to come back to reality sooner or later. I always hope that when I land back in reality tomorrow it will be more bearable than it does right now. What do you think? Do you have an escape route for when you feel rotten? In the evening I did a jigsaw puzzle and finished it off this morning.

Anyway, “it came to pass…” and I woke up at 5:30 am feeling much better energy-wise. This improvement was followed by a second: my morning drinks tasted somewhat better. My meals went down well; my stomach felt more like normal, not so icky. I was feeling well enough that I even baked a cake for dinner desert! “Vive la Difference!” Any relief is worth singing about.

We’re enjoying a beautiful day, too. Sunny and fairly warm, but I did notice upon my first glance out the window that a few yellow leaves were drifting down to join others scattered on the lawn. Yesterday our farmer neighbour swathed the canola in the field right beside our yard. This will sit and dry up for a few days, then comes the combining. The sea buck-thorn berries (in our west hedge) are turning orange; soon the robins and other birds will be harvesting them; the birds have pretty much cleaned up the chokecherries already.

Free Range Dining

Our black cat, Angus, showed his preference for “free range” cat food yesterday when he brought a fat — I’d say a full-grown — gopher to the step and proceeded to work away at it. The thing is about the size of four adult mice, so Angus only got part of it eaten, then abandoned it to our other cat, Pookie, who always seems eager to help when there’s a snack around. I noticed a magpie ambling around nearby, clearly hoping Angus would decide gophers didn’t suit his taste, but I don’t think it got much. Magpies must have an incredible sense of smell; they show up whenever the cats have caught anything, hoping for some leavings.

I see the Daily prompt word for today is “carry”, so I’ll just carry on with my life. “Live one day at a time,” as they say. At times — like in the middle of the night when I wake up and have nothing else to contemplate — my thoughts turn toward the future and it scares me. Like, what will there be ahead but more sickness? I’ll get through this round of chemo and be clear of leukemia for a time, then the cycle will start all over again and in half a dozen years I’ll be right back to this point again. Tra-la-la.

But then I may not. Who knows? It may take ten years for the cancerous cells to build up again. During those years, what all might I be able to accomplish? Right now I don’t feel like I have much to offer to the world, but once I’m through this, I hope for more enthusiasm and stamina to carry on and reach a few new goals. “Better to light one candle than to curse the darkness.” And peering into the unknown future at 2am is definitely focusing on the darkness.

One thing at a time. Today I’m more concerned with the problem that I’m still using Word Perfect X6, now archaic — especially since the arrival of WP 10. DropBox has given me an ultimatum: I have until the end of the month to upgrade or I lose access to my files. So it’s time to backup everything before the new installation brings unexpected glitches. (Murphy’s Law #?: Always expect glitches.)

Saturday At Our House

We just had a short-lived cloudburst with assorted rumblings. The sky’s a lighter grey right now, but still overcast, so the clouds are still around and may burst again. However, I’ll share a bit of news from our house and hope the Internet connection holds.

Yesterday we were in the city for another appointment at the Cancer Clinic, lunch with a friend then some shopping. The doctor and I were going to review the results of the CT scan I had last week Thursday — the one I grumbled about because of all those needles. The news was good, though; the CT scan showed everything back to normal. No swollen lymph nodes or spleen. The treatment has been quite effective. (Thank You, Lord!)

I was to have another treatment next Tues & Wed but the oncologist says my white cell count, especially one particular component of it, is too low. Thus my next treatment has been postponed until August10th. I’m not at all sad about that — in fact I woke up this morning feeling pretty upbeat about everything. I get to enjoy another week of feeling almost normal.

I still get some bad tastes and/or tummy upset after certain foods but my taster is almost back to normal. Coffee tastes good again! And maybe this respite will give my veins a chance to recover and accept the IV needle a little more willingly? Some of them are still pretty tender if I rub my arm.

The lady we had lunch with works for the veterinarian my husband does bookkeeping for. She’s from Nigeria originally and has only been in Canada three years. Unfortunately her vet qualifications from back home aren’t recognized here in Canada, so she’s in the process of writing her exams and getting certified all over again, meanwhile working as an assistant here.

Last night Bob opened the door to let Angus, our middle cat in. Next thing I knew Bob was calling me in no uncertain terms — and there was Angus with a mouse in his mouth. YUCK! He nicely set it down on the hall carpet, preparing to finish his game, and refused to heed my shouts of , “NO! OUT-side!”

The mouse gave every appearance of being dead so I grabbed a dustpan and broom and prepared to sweep it up. The mouse saw a way of escape and revived enough to crawl up onto the dustpan. (Actually I suspect it was playing possum.)  I put the broom over top of it it so it couldn’t go any farther — like right up my arm — then I carried it out and dumped it onto the lawn. A few minutes later when Angus finally caught on and went out to check on it, the mouse had vanished.

Yes, our world is full of fur and feathers. I just wandered into the kitchen to get a drink and when I came back past the hallway window I scared a hummingbird away from the feeder, which hangs outside about four metres away. I got a good look at his ruby “neckerchief” as he flashed past. “Sorry about that, fella.”

Because we were getting orioles at the feeder so often, we purchased a proper oriole feeder and hung it up near the other one. Now we see the orioles poking into the hummingbird feeder and the hummers slurping out of the oriole feeder. Oh, well — whatever works. I’m thinking the hummers will start heading south in a few weeks.

The wrens have raised their families and gone off into the bush (I’m guessing) because we never hear them singing in the mornings anymore. And the swallows have all disappeared. Seems we have them with us such a short time, I need to spend more summer mornings outside just enjoying them. And taking better care of the flowerbeds. I have high hopes for next year. 🙂

This fall, after I’m done my chemotherapy treatments and am feeling up to snuff again, I want to give my house a really good cleaning. It has been so neglected as well this summer. And Bob is thinking of buying a rebounder (a small round trampoline) so we can both get some more exercise this fall and winter.

I hope you’re all having a great weekend. Stay safe, everyone.