Friday, April 29, 2016

Spring Happenings

Happy Friday! With all the chaos going on with the cats, painters at the house, being sick, and general spring busyness, I haven't updated you on what's going on with our house sale.

We were all set to put the house up on the market last month after we had our upstairs ceilings and trim painted, but then we changed our minds at the last minute. When I sat down and thought about it, we would be basically selling our house and moving to be closer to a job that neither my husband nor myself have right now!

Right now, I work from home and my husband's job actually transferred him to an office location that is closer to where we currently live, so that didn't make any sense. On top of that, we would be moving to a much more expensive area without an increase in our income, so that didn't make any sense either.

Lastly, we really believe that people are going to be holding off on making a big purchase, such as a house, until after the Clowntown-Reelection-Circus that is going on right now. I think this year's election is making a lot of people nervous, including me and my husband.

So, we are staying put for another year (at least). Our neighbors, who have the exact same house model as us, weren't happy to hear the news, but they haven't budged either. Maybe they are thinking the same thing? Either way, I've decided to let it go and there's nothing we can do to change what happens with our neighbor's property.

Maybe I'll finally get to see some of these gorgeous Bearded Irises that I bought 3 years ago thrive and bloom! I bought them in the fall and for the first year, they lived in pots and didn't bloom. The 2nd year, I planted them in an area that didn't get very much sun and they didn't bloom. Last year, I transplanted them to our backyard where they get full sun and they finally bloomed but were devastated by iris borers.

I was able to save most of them and treated them with grub control pesticide granules (systemic) when they broke ground a few weeks ago. They all seem to be doing well and hopefully, we'll get more flowers this year! I'm not one to use pesticides, but when it comes to my beloved irises, all bets are off!

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

The Garden in April

Things have been busy this past week, plus I've been sick, so content has been a little light. Things are starting to pick up in the garden, but first an update on this year's winter sowing project:

I had to resow most of my seeds about 3 weeks ago due to a late spring freeze. Even though I covered my tubs with their lids, the new seedlings weren't acclimated enough to handle warm weather and then a freeze, so most got zapped. The greener, lusher seedlings you see in the back are mostly Giant Italian Parsley, which seemed to fare perfectly fine. There are a few borage and poppy seedlings back there too. I am going to have a ton of parsley this year!

A mental note for next year's winter sowing - stay away from peat pots! Those things are horrible for winter sowing and wick out all the moisture from the soil. I won't use them again!

Most importantly, my reseeded heirloom tomatoes came up! They are only about an inch tall right now, but I'm hoping they catch up:

Elsewhere in the garden, things are doing well. This year's greens are coming along. I have mixed lettuce, spinach, baby bok choi, and pea shoots growing up the trellis. I learned from last year to put my greens in the shadier, back beds:

Since most of my zucchini and squash seedlings got zapped by the late freeze, I broke down and bought some "Black Beauty" zucchini seedlings and planted them. Only one of these is a surviving "Fordhook" zuch from my winter sowing batch. Other plants here are parsley, catnip, and rhubarb:

My garlic looks fabulous this year! I've decided to try something new and plant only 4 tomatoes per bed to give them more air circulation and a stronger fight against fungus. This is 4 "Early Girl" seedlings:

Elsewhere in the yard, my back porch perennial bed is looking nice. The dianthus is blooming here and it is so pretty. I've been slowly pulling out the invasive yellow, echinacea, which is a beast. It's pretty when it blooms, but it needs controlling.

I heard my first hummingbird "squeak" yesterday afternoon, so it was time to mix up a batch of hummingbird nectar and put out the feeder. It's funny, as the hummers showed up on the exact same day last year (according to my notes). It's said they can remember and recognize people's faces, much like crows, so when they see you in the yard, they call out.

All the furniture for the back porch is down in the basement until the heaviest pollen "sludge" is over with. It's such a shame that one of the most pleasant times of the year to be outside is also a time I don't want to be out there! April and May are our worst-of-the-worst pollen months.

Lastly, a pretty columbine flower. I grew this from seed and almost lost it to voles this winter, but it came back. I love these things and could have a whole yard of them!

Friday, April 22, 2016

Sometimes it Snows in April

"Life is just a party, and parties weren't meant to last."


Monday, April 18, 2016

Gratuitous Kitteh Monday - Redirected Aggression Therapy

Well, we are two weeks into Miss Thang being on Prozac. So far, the reintroduction process is going well, but I can tell that both Chaz and Miss Thang still don't trust each other completely. I think the Prozac is working, but it can take 3-4 weeks for it to be completely effective. I have a stand-by prescription for Elavil for Chaz in case he needs it. Prozac helps for aggression and the Elavil will help with anxiety.

Sometimes in these cases, you have to treat both sides of the equation/problem. Like I mentioned before, Miss Thang is the alpha/aggressor and Chaz is submissive/fearful. If you only treat one cat with medication and behavior therapy, then you are only fixing half of the problem.

We've graduated from cracking a bedroom door and allowing them to see/smell each other, all the while giving treats and calm praise, to interactions through a baby gate, to putting one of them in this kitty pop-up-tent so they can get comfortable with the other being in the room. I am doing this 2-3 times a day.

This tent would not provide protection if one of them decided to really attack the other, but it's more of a psychological barrier. They are playing with Da Bird here:


It's been a major kitteh herding effort and one of them has to be closed off in one room before I let the other out to have "yard time". Miss Thang is still secluded in her "fortress of solitude" most of the time, but these interactions are very promising. No hissing, growling, or lunging, but pupils are dilated and they intently watch each other.

When doing reintroduction therapy for redirected aggression, it's very, very important to monitor the cat's body language. You can never simply separate your cats for an extended period of time and then open the door and expect them to be buddies again. In their minds, they are still reliving that bad experience or episode and need to have hands-on monitoring during these re-introduction sessions. You should never, ever let your cats "work it out" after a redirected aggression episode either, as they will only learn to be fearful or aggressive with each other. Each negative interaction will only reemphasize the fear and aggression, which will inevitably lead to other non-desired behaviors like improper elimination, high-levels of stress, and associated illness.

You want every episode to end on a good note, so if you are reading that one cat is getting agitated, it's time to end the session. What you are doing is desensitizing them to being around each other, and you want them to associate good things with each other. Over time, these re-introduction sessions will be longer and more personal.

How do you know when they can be trusted together? Well, the most stressed-out or agitated cat will be the guide for that. If one cat is calm and playful, but the other cat is obviously tense or scared, you must move at the tense/scared cat's pace! When he/she is calm or playful too, then you are ready for the next step. Do not try to rush it! If an encounter backfires by trying to rush re-introduction, then you could very well be back to square one.

How long will this whole thing take is anyone's guess. I think it really depends on the strength of the bond between two cats before the aggressive episode. Some cat's re-bond after only a few days, some cats take weeks or months. Some cats will end up hating each other for the rest of their lives and a more serious decision will have to be made. Chaz and Miss Thang had a pretty strong bond beforehand, and I'm sure that has helped immensely. Next week will be one month since this whole mess started.

In the meantime, here's Leo up for adoption. I don't know if he's been adopted yet, as they won't tell me, but I am trying to find out. I have a feeling that he was and I hope that he is happy and being loved by his new family.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Nutty Spiced Granola (Low Carb)

Hubby and I are still doing well with our low-carb diet. So far, we are both at or close to a 20 lb. loss. My goal for the year is 50 lbs., and I'll make it if I keep making and eating yummy, low-carb granola like this for breakfast:

This granola is nut-based, containing no grains, and I actually prefer it over other oats/grain-based granola I've had in the past. It stays really crunchy, doesn't go stale at all, and packs a wallop of protein.

I like to eat it will a dollop of Fage, whole, plain Greek yogurt and some berries. It's also great as a snack all on its own.

The only "special" ingredient you will need for this is some sugar-free coffee syrup, like Torani. I have a whole collection of these syrups and if you're lucky, you'll find them in your grocery store. If not, order it from Amazon.

Kathy's Nutty Spiced Granola (Low Carb)
Recipe source/modified from: Carrie Brown

1 cup cashews, roughly chopped
1 cup unsweetened flaked coconut
1/2 cup hazelnuts, roughly chopped
1/2 cup pecans, roughly chopped
*8 T whole flax seeds
1 cup silvered almonds
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp salt
2/3 cup sugar-free vanilla syrup
1 T coconut oil, melted

*Note; The flax seeds are from the original recipe, but when I make this again I will omit them and add more nuts, as the flax seeds get stuck in my husband's teeth. :-) I guess I could use flax seed meal, as flax seeds are really high in omega-3.

Preheat oven to 300°. Mix all the nuts, coconut, seeds, spices, and salt in a large bowl. Add the syrup and melted coconut oil. Mix until everything is well coated.

Spread the mixture on a cookie sheet and bake, stirring occasionally, for 45 min - hour, until golden brown. Cool completely before storing in an air-tight container or Ziplock. This will last for at least 2-3 weeks.

Monday, April 11, 2016

Gratuitous Kitteh Monday - Goodbye Leo

This is a very sad kitteh Monday, as we had to rehome our kitten Leo this past weekend. It really wasn’t anything he did, but simply a result of a very, very scary incident between Chaz and Miss Thang.

My gorgeous little boy
Long story short, two weeks ago, only a few hours after my last post, Chaz slipped out the front door while I was coming home from my afternoon walk. My neighbor’s dog had followed me to my front porch and when Chaz saw the dog, he froze. I managed to pick up Chaz to put him back in the house, but he freaked and Miss Thang was on him in full attack mode the minute Chaz’s feet hit the floor inside the house. A very vicious cat fight ensued, with me getting bit several times while trying to break them up. All three cats were eventually separated in separate rooms in the house. I had to go to the emergency room for several injections and antibiotics, but I am very fortunate nothing got infected and I didn’t need to be hospitalized.

What happened between Chaz and Miss Thang is called redirected aggression, and it’s pretty serious. Poor Leo had nothing to do with it and was a scared mess, hiding during the whole thing. What happened afterwards, with Miss Thang still separated and then Chaz and Leo having run of the house, made me realize just how stressful it has been on Miss Thang this past year after we got Leo. At first, we were set on rehoming Miss Thang, as she is alpha and has had dominance issues in the past. She was the one that attacked Chaz. But after seeing how much more relaxed and even “happier” she was to be separated from Chaz and Leo, while also Chaz and Leo seemed to be much more relaxed and well behaved being away from her, I realized there was some dominance volleying going on between Miss Thang and Leo.

Miss Thang never took to Leo, although he tried to be her friend
She has hated him from day one, even though I took a whole month to introduce the two. Since we got Leo, Miss Thang had also started to display some other quirky/aggressive behaviors. After going over it a thousand times in my head, I realized the only way to give all three cats a chance at happiness and success was to rehome Leo. He’s still a kitten at 10 months, cute as a bug, fixed, micro-chipped, all medical vaccines and check-ups, and a great, over-all kitteh. He’d have no problem fitting in at another house with other kittehs, cat-friendly dogs, and even kids.

Back in happier times - The only time Miss Thang let Leo snuggle
Miss Thang, on the other hand, would not do well in a home with other cats, dogs, kids. Plus, who wants a 6 year old cat with behavior issues? She is still separated from Chaz and is now on Prozac. This introduction process (which I’ve done before for non-recognition aggression) will take a very long time and there is no bet that it will be a success. Many cats who go through a redirected aggression episode often become mortal enemies afterwards, so only time will tell.

In my heart-of-hearts, I think Miss Thang and Chaz will mend, but it will fail if Leo is in the mix. Leo just stresses Miss Thang out, makes her irritable, and causes her to display dominant behavior.

So, my sweet little monkey was given up to the rescue organization that we adopted Miss Thang from. I am confident that he will find a good home, and even though he was a handful, I miss him terribly.

So, goodbye my little man. You were loved very much and I'm glad that we had a chance to have you in our lives. You are going to be such a cool cat someday. 


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