Friday, December 30, 2011

Go Me!

If I do say so myself. I think I can see a light at the end of the tunnel.

Tonight I caught the last of the kittens, thanks to the local shelter letting me borrow a smallish trap. She (at least I've been assuming it's a she; I still don't really know) is in the dining room right now with her two brothers, Rory and the one I've been calling Flufius Maximus. (Latin, you know; in the Greek it's μεγαφλωφιος, if you're wondering.)

I'd caught the second one a couple weeks ago now. He was quite shy at first, enough that I wondered if he was ever going to warm up to me; but over time he saw Rory running to greet me purring like crazy and came to the conclusion that I was probably all right. Plus, I had ham.

So he, too, warmed up to me little by little until now he sits at my feet and mews at me to pick him up so he can also purr like crazy.

I took them in for their first round of shots &c at the shelter yesterday. They were very good with the car, and I am grateful.

Hopefully the two of them will be able to convince their younger sibling that I am okay in the same way. I don't know; this one has unavoidably been left till last and is probably older than is ideal. But I'm going to make a go at it.

I don't have a picture of the new little fluffy one, but I do have one to show you of her fluffy brother, Flufius Max, a.k.a. Fizgig, a.k.a. Young Scratch:



So with any luck, that should be about it for the feral cat situation around here, or at least as good as it's going to get. In theory, there shouldn't be any more unspayed mommy-cats showing up on my doorstep, since the ones that are here are an established family group and this is their territory. With luck.

ETA: Also, the three smaller ones we took in, Ratty, Danny, and Maurice are all neutered as of last week, so that part is done, too, yay.

But do you want to see something strange? I noticed about that time that Danny had two fangs on one side of his mouth, the top right side. I got a picture, even:



Well that's weird, I thought. Then I went and checked Maurice and Ratty, his littermates, and sure enough each one of them also had two fangs on the upper right. My guess is that it's a baby tooth thing and the grown-up teeth are replacing the littler fangs. It would make sense that keeping the fangs working at all times, even as they are being replaced would be a priority in a predator; lose one fang and maybe not make it through the winter, you know? I don't think it's some kind of shared genetic mutation; they are since back to one fang each in that spot. Still, who knew?

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

One Out One In

Goodness! It's only been three days, yet who should show up again but our Rusty Jones? Our tireless, persistent, ever cheerful Rusty Jones. What a thoroughly decent man.

So today the red Saab convertible's lease on life was up. Or rather, it's lease on its parking spot in my yard was up. This one didn't actually get junked; it was simply moved to Tara's yard, where, since it is after all her car, she can do with it as she will. I suppose technically this could count as churning from Tara's point of view, but from mine I'd say it's all good, since it's no longer here at the Best Little Hoardhouse in Massachusetts, and that's what counts.

About a week ago we moved it to the driveway, to make getting it on a ramp truck easier. Here's the spot over by the shop where it had been for a while. I don't remember how long, but it was long enough to kill the grass under it.



And here it is up on the ramp truck in an action shot of it leaving the driveway:



Woo-hoo!

So that then puts us at twelve cars down, with fourteen to go. One more and we'll be at an even thirteen/thirteen split. (Why that's my lucky number!) It occurs to me now that if from here on in we can manage to get rid of one car a month, it'll be all done in a year or so. I hadn't thought of that.

*****

Now. On to the important stuff. Or at least the really, really cute stuff.

Because I have a couple more kitten pictures. When last we met, Splotch, Smudge and Spot, the three feral mommy-cats, had had their mommy abilities surgically removed, and all their previous kittens had been fostered and adopted, or were hanging out in the kitchen getting up to no good as permanent residents. That left the last batch of kittens, the ones Spot had sometime in September (though maybe it was October. It all kind of blurs together honestly, and kittens have a way of both slowing down and speeding up Time). At any rate, that's three more kittens to socialize and give up for adoption. The last three, knock on wood.

I feel I must clarify something, though. I got a bit mixed up with them, because two of them look exactly identical and at first I could not tell which was which. So one of them managed to get named twice, the bigger of the two extremely fluffy kittens. That was the one whose face looked like the grouchy old tom-cat Old Scratch, so I'd called him Young Scratch; he was also however the bigger of the two and I'd also named him Fizgig, not realizing he was the same kitten.

I am about 90% certain that that twice-named kitten is male. It is surprisingly hard to tell, because, seriously, his butt is just way too fluffy. It's all just a haze of grey fur which is hiding important details like oh the possible presence of testicles. But I got him to play a little and roll over and I think I spotted some.

The third of the three however has been quite shy and I still don't know. So it's 50-50 with that one. Though I'm paranoid it may never warm up to me; it really is quite shy. If it's male, then that's not a big deal; it'll just be a tom-cat, which, while not ideal, is still okay; if it's female, though, I will have to trap it and spay it or the whole thing starts all over again.

I do think that probably with some more work it will come around. I have played with it a bit, so the process is already under way. It's really a very dainty little thing, with a face that is much sweeter than Young Scratch's; if it's a girl, I shall call it Mademoiselle Zéphirine Chatonne-Gris. If it's a boy I'll have to come up with something else I guess.

Anyway last week I managed to entice Rory into walking into the cat carrier. I promptly shut the door on him then, though he didn't like that at all, hoo boy, and brought him into the house to the dining room, which is where we'd had the other kittens over the summer as it's out of the way and can be easily closed off from the rest of the house. Rory of course promptly spent the next twenty-four hours or so hiding in a corner, poor little guy.

I was worried about him, a bit, though I know that cats hate being moved into a new environment and it can take them a while to get used to it. Place and familiarity are so very important to them.

I needn't have worried, though. By the next night he was curled up in my lap, purring himself to sleep, and in the not quite a week since he's been inside he's really become a first-rate house kitten. He instantly knew just what the litterbox was for, I can walk around all tall and up on my twos and not freak him out, I can even pick him up now and he'll just purr and purr and purr.

I am hoping the next two will be as adaptable. I'm aiming to get Young Scratch inside in the next couple of days.

So anyway, you know you need some pictures. Here is Rory (code name: Rory Adorable) in his grey and white splendor. The grey spot on his right back foot, which envelops one entire toe, just kills me.



And the out-of-focus close-up:



He really is such a good little guy. Whoever adopts him is going to be one lucky, lucky person.

Saturday, December 3, 2011

Triumphant

I wasn't honestly sure I'd ever see this day. It was just too impossible, too far-fetched, too dreamlike. But remember: with Rusty, all things are possible.

For today was the day the Triumph TR3A, that poor sorry beat-up dry-rotted bondoed mess of a British car that has been hanging out in the upstairs garage since Time Immemorial (or at least since the late 80s), went away. And not only did it go away, someone actually gave us a pile of cash to take it away. That's right; the guy paid us money for it and brought his own trailer. (Well, his buddy's trailer).

Do you believe this? Here it is, out in the sunshine, something it hasn't seen in oh thirty years:



Ostensibly the guy is going to fix it up. Though frankly I've heard that one before. Still, it's no longer my problem, now is it? And for that I say REJOICE.

And here it is, up on the trailer, just prior to going away:



And now for the best part—feast your eyes on that big hunk of empty space. I don't think I have ever seen the garage look like that.



So that puts us at eleven rusty cars out of here, with fifteen left to go. Two more and we'll have gotten half of them out of here. Well, half of them counting from when I started this blog, anyway. If we start from the seventy-eight junk cars that were here when the yard was at its very worst in the mid 90s? That gives us sixty-three down, with fifteen to go. Which, doing the math out of curiosity, means we have gotten rid of 80.8% of the cars here since the mid 90s, and only have 19.2% of them left. That's pretty impressive, even if it's taken more than ten years now. So go us!

ETA: Swapped out the trailer picture because Tara sent me a better one. So if it looks different it's not you.

ETAA:Whoops, did the math wrong on that; I've fixed it above. I subtracted the eleven when it should have been the fifteen left.

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

We Came, We Sawzalled, We Conquered

I have to give my mother some credit. Because for Tara's last birthday, my mother gave her a Sawzall. You know, the type of hand-held reciprocating saw that cuts up just about anything you can put your mind to. Boards with nails in them, hunks of fiberglass, old panelling, irritating neighbors and/or their Jack Russell terrier who just won't shut up oh my God I hate that thing, and of course, our specialty around here, rusty hunks of rusty rust.

Between the shop and the shed there is the front end of an old Citroën DS; it's been sitting there for ages. I mean at least I think that's what it is; it's a little hard to tell what with being a rusty hunk of rusty rust and all. But no more. Because today Tara took her trusty Sawzall, and hacked the thing up a treat.

Tara loves her power tools. Her enthusiasm is a little frightening, at times, to be honest. But so long as I stand back, and pray, she seems to get the job done just fine.

And so today we shoved the pieces (all except the engine proper, which is still too big and will need more bits taken off it probably) into good old Larry the Volvo station waggon and hauled it away. It would have gone into the Bus, except on the way over the other back bearing decided to start going pop-pop-grind-grind-grind-crunch. I suppose that's not surprising as the two back bearings were original to the car and therefore the same age and in the same state of wear; of course Tara sounded a little less than enthusiastic about doing that job again.

Here's Larry:



Though the pieces were rather big, still they were on the light end; and though it looked full enough it turned out to be one of the lighter loads we've taken, only weighing in at 460 pounds. Still, it brings our total up to 34,540 pounds of iron removed (at least; again, before we brought it to the scrapyard, where they give us proper receipts, we'd been bringing it straight to the dump. And we did more than a few of those loads let me tell you), or 17.27 tons. And, this time marks our fortieth trip, which, honestly boggles even my brain, and I'm sorta used to it around here. And of course, ha ha need you even ask? THERE IS STILL MORE.

I didn't really get a proper before, but here's a shot of the same area from a little over a year ago. The thing Tara Sawzalled up is that dark hulk on the left. The other stuff has been going away a little here and a little there over the summer.



And here's today's 'after', from more or less the same viewpoint (note Tara's energy drink over there on the right, directly in line with the tree trunk):



It's getting there.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Rust Bus Run

Well, after resorting to a blowtorch, the freezer, and a Sawz-all, Tara finally got the back bearings out of the Bus. You know, the ones that were going pop-pop-grind-grind-grind-crunch for a while there. And so she was then able to put a new set in, hurrah. Which means that today, finally, after rather a protracted period of parole, the Bus was back to its purgatorial task of haulin' junk. So after muscling some sort of engine block (don't ask me what kind; they all look the same to me) and the cart it had been sitting on into the thing, off we went. Here's the side view:



And a close up of the usual rusty hunks of rusty rust:



We also got rid of several old vacuum cleaners, ones that we would have thought were enticingly vintage; except when Tara put them up on Craiglist, no one seemed to care, or if they seemed to, never came through. So they went too, and the flakes of the world missed their chance. Which, I suppose they do most of the time, don't they. Poor flakes.



It was a moderately warmish day today for November in New England; and, yes, I have to admit, the air coming out of the defrosters just inside the windshield of the Bus was kinda warmish. Though perhaps the word is more like warmesque. It did appear to have increased by maybe half a dozen degrees (Fahrenheit, let's not get ahead of ourselves here). So while that is certainly a step in the right direction, still I can't in good conscience call it heat.

So it was the usual not-particularly-comfortable ride in the thing. But it's done now! Although, Tara has already said she wants to start putting stuff aside for the next iron run in a few days (holiday notwithstanding I guess). Because, yes, there is still more. Duh.

So, even though it doesn't look like a whole lot in the pictures, today's total was a solid 1080 pounds of iron, to bring our totals up to 34,080 pounds of iron, or 17.04 tons removed so far, and marks our 39th trip to the scrap yard since we've been keeping receipts, which has been about three and a half years. I can imagine we easily have another ten or so. Well, okay, I can't imagine it, since I can't imagine this place actually clean, since that state has never existed in my lifetime, but at any rate I don't see how ten more trips would finish it off. So we'll hit fifty trips, sooner or later.

Fifty. Holy crap.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Interview Up

Also, I have apparently been completely out to lunch for the last couple of weeks: the Writing Goddess over at OCPD - Scattered Thoughts from the Front Lines has an interview with me up over there. I mean it's not like I didn't know I'd been interviewed, I just hadn't realized she'd posted it. I have been totally out to lunch.

Warning: there is rather a lot of honesty involved.

Part One
Part Two
Part Three

Quick Note

I am very pleased to announce that Spot the Cat's kitten-making machine days are now officially over.

Friday I brought her in to the clinic, after trapping her Thursday night, which, hoo boy was a job. What with her skittishness, and Smudge and Splotch's lack of skittishness, she just wasn't going in the trap. For a while there it was everybody but her, including her little kittens, who, luckily enough, don't nearly weigh enough to set the thing off. But still, I'd put the tuna out and everybody but Spot would gobble it right up.

But I got her, finally, around eleven-thirty pm, after having started the whole endeavour around five-thirty.

I put her in the garage overnight, with a sheet thrown over the trap to calm her down. When I went to get her in the morning, though, the sheet was gone. The trap was closed, and she was still in there, but for a moment there I thought she'd pulled some weird Houdini disappearing thing.

Then I looked closer. Somehow, through the night, she'd managed to pull the entire sheet into the trap with her. Not a corner of it was sticking out. The wires in the cage are like an inch apart, and yet, there it was, neatly inside the cage, fluffed up into a little nest, in the middle of which was Spot, clearly satisfied about the whole thing.

Anyway, just thought I'd note her new lack of a uterus. She's the last of the three mothers, so they are now all taken care of. And guess what? I haven't seen (or smelled) a tom-cat in ages. I'd have thought they'd stick around for the friskies, but no, female cats in heat are higher on the priority list. Who knew.

Now it's on to Spot's kittens. There are actually three of them, though I haven't gotten any good pictures yet to show. There is the little grey and white shorthair (the one who was climbing the tire a couple posts down), who I have named Rory, after Rory Pond, and there is the little fluffy one called Young Scratch; and then there is the big fluffy one who is Young Scratch's bigger, fluffier twin who I am calling without any exaggeration at all Fizgig.

I am working on them now, playing with them and bringing them food and such; they are pretty skittish, still, though they are better than Aleister was, and I managed to socialize him just fine. Aleister, in fact, is a total absolute trusting sweetie. You can (well I can) hold him in your arms and he'll just sit there. He'll even start to groom himself he is so comfortable with being held. (I'm really, very proud of the job I did with him. I mean, I know, his personality has a lot to do with it, but it was work.) So hopefully quite soon I will be able to grab them and bring them inside, get them their shots, de-fleaed, all that. They look healthy so far, and very importantly, have no eye infections.

As for the yard clean-up, it's been on hold a little as we've all been having car troubles and that's been the priority (as well as cleaning up downed tree limbs from that freak snowstorm we had). Tara did yank some of the giant ugly creosote-soaked posts out from where the Pen was over by the shop, but we wanted to make more progress over there first. There isn't much to show just yet.

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Kitten Addendum

Just as an update on what-all is happening/has happened to the older kittens around here:

Healey and Spridget went off to the shelter, finally; I don't know how quickly they were adopted but I'm quite sure they've found lovely homes by now. Tara took Austin, so I get to see him here and there still. When she brought him to her house he was (of course) all wigged out being in a different place; but one of her other cats, a real sweetie named Xander, pestered her and pestered her to let him in to Austin's room, so, after some thought, she did.

Austin immediately came out of hiding, tail up, and proceeded to fall in love with Xander, and Xander with him; since then they've been fast friends, and Austin is doing quite all right.

The other four, well, I'm keeping them myself. There are various reasons, some of which are rather long stories all on their own, but as the house is big enough, we'll do all right. I do figure it is in part my responsibility to take them in if I at all can, since they come from my yard; the fewer going into the overburdened shelter system the better chances other kittens (and cats) have.

Would you believe this:



That grey and white cat on the left bottom is Aleister Meowley, who has already been neutered, yay. The top yellow kitten is Danny Lyon, who, let it be said, purred all the way through his last vet appointment. Well, almost all the way through; they did take his temperature after all. But for the rest of it there he was standing on the exam table purring up a storm. (And no, it wasn't that scared purr cats sometimes make, though I've never heard it. The vet himself said, his eyebrows raised, 'No, that's a happy kitten purr.') I'm surprised I made it home with him; the vet techs were so in love it's a wonder they didn't try to sneak him out the back.

The next one down is the Kitten Formerly Known As Snotty, now thankfully just Maurice.

And that grey one on the right? That handsome, handsome grey and white kitten with the green eyes? That, my friends, is Ratty.

I guess it was just an Ugly Duckling phase after all.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Event

Now it may seem like all kittens all the time around here lately, though I suppose I won't apologize for that because if you're going to start complaining about kitten pictures, well. But there is still a yard around here that has things other than kittens in it.

Like old Volkswagen parts. Well, okay, most of those weren't in the yard, per se, but in places like the garage (upstairs and downstairs), the shop (up and down), the shed (again, up and down, though they've been having to share the upstairs with a few raccoons lately) and the cellar, not to mention the breezeway, on occasion.

So this past Sunday Tara and I bundled both ourselves and more than a few boxes of parts up into her old red VW bus and got up to that annual old VW festival we've been hanging out at a couple of years now. You remember the one. The one we made a killing at last year.

The day promised to be unseasonably warm. The morning was a bit cool, of course, and so I wore long pants. I didn't wear my jeans, as I figured it would be too hot, but I didn't think long pants would be too much.

I way, way, way, overdressed.

It was really really freakin' hot. And sunny, too; and where we ended up setting up on the showfield there was no shade at all. And given that, like last year, people immediately swarmed over as soon as we started unpacking, we didn't get much of a break. Well, Tara didn't get much of a break; I was a bit freer to say run off and buy bottles of water since I wasn't the one setting the prices and can't, really, talk knowledgeably about the stuff. Which is fine, great, even; it means I've successfully repressed all that old VW blather my father used to keep up incessantly. Go me.

Check out this spread:



I did feel a little sorry for the vendors to either side of us. Next to what we had, they had nothing much at all. Then again, one might look at that as just the tiniest bit of payment for growing up with a hoarder father, and dammit I'll take what I can get.

We even got a nibble on that old Triumph TR3A that's been sitting in the garage for a couple decades now. We'll see if it pans out, but it would be great to get that thing out of there. I still have plans to turn the garage into a wood shop one of these days.

Poor Tara, though. By the end of the day she wasn't quite right. I know, I know, So what's new? har har. But in the restaurant afterwards she drank glass after glass after glass of water before she got her core temperature cooled enough to feel all right. Dehydration can really sneak up on you, and that's not good. But she was all right in the end. Well, you know, as far as I can tell.

All in all we did pretty well this time, though not quite as stupendously as last year. Still, it was a decent chunk of cash and will enable me at least to pay off my tab at the local cat shelter/kitten clinic.

The crazy thing is that even with all the stuff we must have sold, I can't really tell that the amount of stuff went down all that much. I mean it must have; we did get to throw away a couple of moldy boxes and consolidate the rest. But the bus looked just as full on the way back as it had on the way up.

I guess that's not necessarily bad. People will actually pay for this particular type of stuff. But how long is this going to take?

The Plan

My father could argue with a lot. His arguments, in fact, could be absolutely completely stone-cold-from-another-planet illogical (not to mention more selfish than the average three-year-old's), but that made no difference to him. Of course; the main point was to defend and justify the hoard at all costs. Logic was such a little thing.

But somehow, my father couldn't really argue with gardens. I don't know why; he certainly didn't care about flowers. And usually he didn't care about anyone else at all or what they wanted (or what they needed, as in actual physical needs). But something about the amount of effort involved with gardens meant he would generally leave them alone. Or at least he did when he got older, after he retired.

It was about then, when he was in his late seventies, that he was persuaded (by Tara, and I don't begin to fathom how she did it) to actually start getting rid of some of the junk cars around here. I don't know why. I don't know if being retired made some kind of difference to his thinking, or if he started to not care so much anymore because he was older, but in the late 90s and early years of the 2000s he and Tara started, in earnest, to get rid of some of the cars.

I was back here by then. And I was afraid, with good reason, that these newly clear areas would soon get refilled with junk, either through new acquisitions, or through shuffling other crap around. So I made a plan.

It was a loose plan, but it worked. When he moved a car, or a pile of junk, or wood, or whatever, I planted a garden. Now not everywhere, of course; just in the places that made sense, like along the back of the studio, or in front of the shop. And, because we're talking about me, that means I double-dug those gardens, and hauled in compost from the dump er recycling center, and bought the plants myself and everything. I don't know why it worked, but it did. Somehow, and in a way I would have thought completely uncharacteristically, he was actually able to accept that I would have some kind of legitimate grievance if he then parked a car in front of (or on) that nice new garden I put in.

Honestly I still don't know why that should have worked. Maybe he just got tired in his old age, I don't know. But it did.

So when my sister rented a wood chipper (oh my gawd the warning icons on those things!) and reduced the giant pile of brush sorta kinda over by the shed to nothing much at all, I immediately claimed that space for my vegetable garden.

It's still there, though this year it was rather neglected, both because I was busy with kittens and because even though I managed to rabbit-proof and groundhog-proof the thing there was no chance of it being deer-proof. The fence just isn't high enough.

But I was out there today anyway trying to see if maybe there was some kind of harvest I could make, it being the day before grocery shopping and so a bit of a scrounge in the kitchen.

And as I was wondering I saw Spot. Spot the Cat. Spot the mother cat who had some kittens presumably about three weeks ago now. I hadn't seen her for a few days and was worried she'd do one of her disappearing acts, like she did this summer. Because, you see, she's scheduled to be hysterectomized at the end of the month, when those presumed kittens are around five weeks old, old enough to eat solid food and be without her for the day or so it takes to trap, spay and release her.

She was just sitting there, curled up over by a tree not far away. She was watching me, but not moving, which is a bit unlike her. She's pretty skittish usually, though she is one of the ones who will come all the way up into the breezeway for some cat food.

She was just sitting there, watching me. And I realized that probably meant that her kittens were not far away, probably in one of the junk cars around there.

So there I was standing at my garden fence, just by that brown Saab that has been moved from out back, wondering.

And then two little grey kittens came out from under the car, right by my feet.

I was shocked. Not that there were kittens after all (though I was certainly surprised to have found them without even trying), but that they didn't look very young at all. I had figured they should be about three weeks old now; but these were walking around just fine, and though they were quite round they were steady on their feet. They looked more like five weeks old to me.

I guess my math was off rather a bit. Which means that old Spot can be getting fixed sooner, rather than later, probably. So now I am going to see about getting her an appointment for next week.

Later I came out with some food and my camera. As far as I can see there are two of them, or two of them brave enough to come out into the open a little, anyway. I suppose I don't know that there aren't more.

The braver of the two is in the front here:



There is a tom-cat around here I've been calling Old Scratch, which is, actually, a name for Satan himself. Old Scratch (the cat) is kind of a grumpy-looking thing and a bit rough around the edges. I think he may be the father, since this second one is rather a dead ringer:



I am naturally (and provisionally) calling the second one Young Scratch. To be fair, he only looks like an evil grump in this particular picture. Otherwise he looked like a fine young cute little kitten, in a lovely dark smoky grey with the loveliest little silver feet.

I did manage to get a decent look at the first one's butt, and he is quite certainly a boy. The other one I'm not sure; s/he may be female, actually.

Here they are together:



Not long after I took that picture the little grey-and-white guy started climbing the tire of the Saab. Would you look at that:



I was surprised because I really didn't see how they could be that old, since as far as I know a kitten has to be about five weeks old to be doing that. I don't know. I've since googled kitten pictures by age and I don't think they can possibly be any younger than four weeks.

So, here's the plan. It's the usual one.

-Get Spot to somehow get herself into a trap, again. This may be a bit tricky as I've already caught her once and she naturally enough didn't really care for the experience, though I let her go once I saw she was lactating. I figure tuna will be my friend here.

-Win those kittens over and then get them inside. This will depend on how friendly they already are; with Splotch's set they just ran right up to us, but with Aleister, who is Spot's kid, it took a lot of work and patience.

-Foster and socialize them, then get them to the shelter to get their shots &c and eventually let them be adopted. Thankfully their eyes seem nice and clear, i.e. no infections.

Oddly enough I would have thought that would sound overwhelming; after all it's what I've been doing all damned summer. But I feel glad and relieved to have found them. Because if this gets done that's it, and it feels like the home stretch. Because in this case, hopefully, knock on wood, this is not a case of there is always more.

Wish me luck. Again.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Spotted

You remember all those kittens, right? And you remember the mother cats who gave birth to them, right?

It all started with a cat named Spot, after the big triangular grey spot on her nose.

Spot, bless her heart, is the one who originally showed up in my breezeway last December, her three little kittens in tow. And in the early spring she had Aleister; but not long after that she looked to be pregnant again. A kitten-making machine, our Spot, her modus operandi being to give birth to them and then abandon them on my doorstep. Thanks, Spot.

But then she disappeared. I had assumed at first that she was off somewhere I couldn't find nursing her kittens; but something like three and a half months went by and I saw neither her nor any sign of any kittens. I honestly thought she was dead, and even went as far as to break the news to Aleister.

Then about a week and a half ago I look out the glass door into the breezeway and there she was like nothing happened. She was not even a little bit dead; however she did look like she could be a little bit pregnant, maybe. Great.

The next time I saw her though she looked perfectly normal; not scrawny, but not roundish either.

That's when I finally got my hands on some traps, after calling and calling and calling every local charity, animal shelter, and animal control office I could think of. It was Boston that came through, though they aren't particularly local and are a bit of a drive. Luckily though Tara was going over there one night and picked them up for me.

So last night I set them up, with the irresistible bait of some nice smelly tuna. And to my surprise the first one who showed up was not one of the grouchy old tom-cats like Old Scratch, but shy skittish Spot herself. She found the tuna on the plate outside the trap, then followed her nose to the little dollop just at the mouth of it; she gobbled that up then walked a couple steps to the second dollop, a little further in; then on to the third one, just before the trigger-plate. And there I stood in the hallway looking out at her with my fingers crossed holding my breath hoping hoping hoping; and then she stepped all the way in to scarf down the prize of the big pile of tuna way in the back.

And triggered the plate and the door came crashing down and hey presto! she was trapped.

I ran out there and threw a sheet over her so she'd stop freaking out, because she was, rather.

After she calmed down I picked up the trap, because I needed to see something. After a few minutes she finally moved enough so I could see her belly, and sure enough, she had some serious nipples going on there. She was lactating. Which means she has had a litter of kittens, somewhere hidden in this yard or nearby. They would be, I'd guess, not much more than a week old right now. And since week-old kittens cannot survive without their mother for the twenty-four hours she'd be away from them if I were to bring her in and get her spayed, I let her go. I didn't have much choice. I don't know if I'll ever get her in a trap again.

After Spot scrambled off to who knows where, I set the trap again. A few minutes later Splotch saunters up the stairs. Intrigued by the inviting scent of the additional tuna I'd put out, sure enough, one, two, three there she goes into the trap, all the way to the back, stepping on the catch plate.

Except this time nothing happens. The door stays open.

I stand there and curse.

I open the door and Splotch of course runs off. I reset the stupid thing, with more tuna, this time making sure the door is barely held open by the catch. The traps I did get a hold of are larger and sturdier than the usual Havahart traps; I think they are really designed for larger animals, and so maybe these little feral cats just don't weigh enough.

I went back to waiting. Sure enough Splotch is back in a couple minutes; and having learned that the trap—I mean luxury dining quarters filled with free tuna—is safe, has no problem walking right in all the way to the back. This time the damned thing snaps shut and Splotch proceeds to freak out. I throw the sheet over it and she calms down. In a couple minutes I put her in the garage and set up the second trap.

It took Smudge a while but she eventually came by. And sure enough, she didn't set the thing off first try, either. But I got her on the second try.

So after staying overnight in the garage, with no food after midnight, they got packed up in the car stupidly early this morning to go to a clinic in Rhode Island. I dropped them off and then picked them up this afternoon. They are now missing both the tip of their left ears and, and this is very important, their uteri. Splotch, by the way, was already pregnant.

So that's two of them, anyway. Yay.

They are now in the garage again, recovering for a day or two, after which I'll let them go. I imagine they'll eventually forgive me, especially since I have a big bag of cat chow I'm willing to share.

The lady at the shelter said to try again for Spot in a month's time, when her kittens are five weeks old. If, that is, she doesn't just disappear again. And if she brings her new kittens by, if they survive (Aleister was apparently either an only child, which I've never heard of, or the only one in his litter who survived), well then here we go again because I'll have to catch them and socialize them, and foster them and give them up for adoption and all that all over again. Because if I don't—it will never stop.

Wish me luck.

Friday, September 16, 2011

Ironing It Out

A couple of days ago must have seen that rarest of conjunctions, Mercury, Mars, and ex-planet Pluto aligning with the galaxy just by Orion's belt; for, a couple of days ago, Tara got a sticker on the bus. And it wasn't the kind with a big red R on it.

Well, rather, she managed to scotch-tape and bondo the thing together for the fifteen minutes it takes to pass inspection. Which is no small feat, don't get me wrong.

Of course, later, as she was crowing about how everything now actually worked on the Bus, I noticed a tail light that didn't. However a quick whack to the back of the thing and it came back on.

But wait! I hear you say, hasn't she been driving it for like a year now?

Why yes. And?

So today we took the thing on its first legal trip to the scrapyard, loaded up with the bits and bobs of 'precious' metals, as well as a fair amount of regular old iron. Most of the precious being a pile of old wiring and some VW generators, and including a prized catalytic converter. Although, looking at the receipt now, I don't see that particular precious thing on there, though I see something labelled 'Aftermarket' that net us a whole $5, about $70 less than a cat should fetch. I will call them in the morning; the guy who sorted our stuff looked to be new, as I didn't recognize him and he had to ask the other guy what some of the codes were. I will assume it was an honest mistake for the time being. We shall see what they say tomorrow.

At any rate even with that omission which will be cleared up even if I have to use my Scary Bitch Voice (trust me, it's handy sometimes), it was a decent haul. Here's the side view of the bus:



That hunk of rust at the bottom may look unassuming, but Tara assures me it was so freakin' heavy it required an elaborate system of levers and platforms to inch it up high enough to get it inside.

Also, we're apparently being haunted, to judge by that 'orb' left bottom. I suppose it's just the Ghost of Volkswagens Past. Those poor shades do linger about the place, even with the best efforts of that most excellent exorcist Rusty Jones.

And here's the back view:



Those cylinder things are the old VW generators, which are also way freakin' heavier than they look, apparently being made of either dwarf star alloy, or that stuff in the little cube that Avon opted to shove out the airlock instead of Vila. I mean, not that it was his first choice.

At any rate it was our thirty-eighth trip to the scrapyard, and we got rid of another 620 pounds of iron, bringing the total of iron removed from the property since March 2008 up to 33,000 pounds even, or 16.5 tons.

Ai yi. There's still more.

Thursday, September 1, 2011

Bug Out

Well it's been a while, I have to say. I was beginning to wonder if maybe our dear old Mr. Jones had forgotten all about us. Why I was fixin' to have my heart broke, I was. But he came through, old stalwart Rusty.

But not before he had a bit of a tease with us. A couple of weeks ago my sister ran into someone interested in buying one of the old Bugs. Now, I'm not sure there's much left to the things, as I'm pretty sure the only thing holding them together at this point is rust molecules and memory, but I wasn't going to argue with someone who would pay us actual money for the thing. Ostensibly the guy is going to make a rat rod out of it, which, if you don't know what those are, is I think a hot rod that looks like a piece of crap. And no, I can't fathom why anyone would want to do that.

But someone does. Someone who cut a check, which cleared. So we moved the thing out from behind the shop up to the driveway, so it could be picked up more easily, without someone having to manoeuver a ramp truck down back.

They were going to pick it up a couple Tuesdays ago.

That Tuesday came and went. Then they were going to pick it up last Saturday.

Well, we had a hurricane coming, and so the Bug stayed where it was.

Now, yes, hurricanes are a bit of an exceptional circumstance. Still, I was a bit worried about it, especially when I heard that the guy was trying to get it home when his wife wasn't looking. Crap, I thought, we've just enabled another hoarder. Or at least an inconsiderate jerk, you know?

I was also worried because it was beginning to sound an awful lot like something that has happened before. My father, way back in the day, once sold a pair of I think Spitfires to some guy. Who paid for them. They even ended up in the driveway, I assume to make it easy for the guy to come and get them.

He never came.

And when I say never, I mean the damned things sat there for ten or fifteen years. I still haven't heard anything from the guy; dude's probably dead.

But it put them in this weird limbo. My father, never one to throw anything out anyway (just in case you hadn't heard), of course couldn't even imagine touching them at all since they were officially someone else's; so there they sat. Couldn't junk 'em, and certainly couldn't move them, since the guy could come by at any time. No, it doesn't make sense. Nothing much did, with my father.

I think we did eventually junk them, finally. At any rate they aren't here now, that's for damned sure.

Of course with this blue Bug I was going to give the guy a bit of a chance. Like I said, I understand about hurricanes. But if I started getting the runaround I was perfectly willing to start charging the guy rent for the use of my driveway, say $100 a week. Yeah, I'm dead serious. I have no patience for that kind of crap anymore, as you may well imagine.

But today when I got back from an appointment the thing was no longer there. I don't recall noticing it when I left, come to think of it, and since yesterday I didn't even get out there to the driveway I'm honestly not sure when it went away. But it's gone now, and that's what counts.

So, here's a before, of the spot over by the shop:



And the after:



I do love me some empty space.

So that puts Rusty's countdown at ten rusty cars down, with sixteen of the damned things to go. We've cracked the double digits, hey. And this one was special (well, to me, anyway), because it was one of those damned old Volkswagens, which you've probably heard by now that I hate hate hate. So it's extra wonderful to see one of those things go.

*****

As for the kittens:

They are all still here, though two of them were scheduled to go last Friday to the no-kill shelter to be adopted out. Except of course the exact two who were to leave miraculously came down with diarrhea the day before. A little too convenient, if you ask me. It's been this whole crazy juggling act where as soon as I think I've got one thing under control another thing pops up, since they can't go anywhere until they get the all-clear healthwise, i.e., no fleas, no eye infections, and have had all their shots and meds. But whatever they had wasn't contagious (I have my suspicions that they chewed on a Christmas cactus they shouldn't have been able to reach), and wasn't even toxic, just disagreeable, since they are now fine and will Gods willing go to a nice lovely home via the posh shelter in the northern part of the state, where, I heard, the last batch of kittens the local shelter brought up there were adopted out within an hour!

We've been keeping Aleister and Splotch's batch in the dining room, which given the way this house is built puts the windows in the back right at ground level by the patio. Now, I feel I must publicly apologize to Splotch (well, not that she reads blogs, I don't think) for assuming she was a bad mother. Because she has been outside that dining room window every day looking in on her kittens. She has in fact taken to sleeping on the other side of the screen, on what there is of a windowsill on the outside, and when her kittens mew for whatever reason she brrrrtts! right back, all concerned. She has also, on occasion, left dead mice on that windowsill, even though her kittens can't reach it and have plenty of tasty Kitten Chow of their own. So, I'm sorry I doubted you, Splotch. You are a good, good, mommy-cat.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

Kittens

So. About those kittens.

We've brought them inside for now, with the intent of giving them up for adoption later. Unfortunately there are only seven of them now, as sweet Morris Minor was killed, probably by a coyote. I hadn't thought they were in that kind of danger, but I was wrong. He was a real sweetie, and so very friendly. Poor guy.

Not that any of this is much to do with the hoarding situation here, though I suppose the whole junk car thing and the open shed means the local feral cats can find plenty of shelter here.

But I thought y'all might like to see some pictures of them. Because, I mean, really: kittens!!

First of course is good old Aleister Meowley, who is at a very handsome thirteen weeks old:



It's that built-in eyeliner. It's irresistible.

Then there is Splotch's batch, the three that are left. They are around nine weeks old. These are the ones who were born in the back seat of an MG Midget and are named after cars. There is Austin (pardon the blurriness of that image; he simply would not sit still):



And Healey (what a face!):



And her sister Spridget, with her little Girl Hitler moustache:



The lady at the shelter marked them all down as long-haired when I took them in last week to get them de-wormed and de-fleaed. I can never tell when they are little, but I'll take her word for it.

Then there is Smudge's set, who are just six weeks old today, which in my fairly extensive experience with kittens is when they hit the absolute pinnacle of adorability. This first one has been dubbed Dennis the Third, as we have in the past had two solid yellow cats named Dennis (the Menace, of course). But while he certainly fits the pattern I'm thinking maybe his name is really Danny Lion. My mother, just last night, announced that she had fallen in love with him and didn't want to give him up. So he may be staying too.



Then there's his brother. Poor thing; when he was a few weeks younger he had a terrible raging eye infection, enough so that his eyes were glued shut and rather swollen. I got them open, but (and I recommend you avert your eyes NOW if you don't want to be grossed out), they were filled with either pus or mucus which just oozed and oozed. But I got them clean, and kept them clean, and he's since had antibiotics. He's still a bit sniffly, but is much much better (and not blind, which can happen when the infections are that bad, so I hear). His name is probably officially Maurice, in memory of Morris Minor, but the nickname he's ended up with is of course Snotty.



And then there's the last one, the little grey one who had the nasty cuterebra parasites. The one I bottle-fed for a week and a half or so. The one I thought was a girl. It's still remarkably enough a little hard to tell; I think that's a little knob of something under its butt-hole, but I could be wrong. I would not be surprised if it's a little delayed compared to its brothers. It is an odd one, that's for sure. Not, mind you that it's, well, slow, or anything, as it's healthy and running around and playing and all just like everyone else, but, well. It just has this way of looking at you all wobbly. Maybe the wounds on its neck have made the muscles there a little weak for the time being, I don't know.

It still doesn't have a name. It's gone through some nicknames, sure, mostly to do with its oddness. Stuff like Sticky, Icky, Stinky, when it was completely covered in formula; but even since I gave it a good bath with baby shampoo it just doesn't look quite right. We've also been calling it Twitchy and Tweaky, as well as Sméagol, but the current name it's got is Ratty. I mean, look:



It's better than it was, certainly. At least it looks kind of like a kitten now.

Which isn't to say it isn't a sweetie, of course. When you pick it up it instantly purrs like crazy and then starts rolling around in pure delight, all while looking at you adoringly. Or, well, at least it does that for me, but then I bottle fed it.

And not like it isn't here to stay, rattiness or not. I do hope it's just an Ugly Duckling phase, though. Cause, man. Look at that thing!

Leap of Faith

Despite the fact that the two of us are leaving on a road trip tomorrow and still have like a gazillion things to do, Tara felt we could squeeze another iron run in today. I do sometimes wonder just how much her world view is colored by the energy drinks she apparently mainlines; but despite the tight schedule there we were filling up the bus again with rusty hunks of rusty rust, which this time included an actual rusty bucket of bolts. As well as some aluminum, brass, copper and a good old double-biscuited catalytic converter, which was most excellent.

All told it was a smallish load, as far as the iron part of it went anyway. Still, when we add on the 560 pounds of iron, from our thirty-seventh trip to the scrapyard, it brings our total up to 32,380 pounds, or 16.19 tons. And yeah, there's still more.

Back view:



And side view:



To top it all off, by which I mean, literally, piled on all the other stuff in the bus like a cherry on a rust fudge sundae, we also got rid of the dryer.

Now, that may not seem like a big deal. So let me explain.

In the old days under my father's, well, regime, as in, the way things are run by a totalitarian dictator, if the belt broke on the dryer, which is what it did a couple of weeks ago, not only would there be no chance of fixing it, there would also be no chance of throwing it away. Now in the case of this dryer, true, it's pretty much unfixable, or, really, way too much of a pain in the ass to bother with, as the broken belt is in this crazy impossible place. Which Tara knows because she looked.

My father, on the other hand, would have just assumed it could not be fixed. Or, well, not quite: he would have assumed it was a huge impossible deal to fix, but he would also have assumed he was capable of doing it nonetheless. Not, of course, that he would actually fix it, oh no of course not. And not that he would let anyone else fix it either, as that would involve spending money on something that he could do, and as I believe I have said more than a few times already he was a miserly bastard. So it would have sat there.

And because it was 'fixable', even if, realistically, it was never ever going to be fixed, no one would be allowed to get a new one, either, since we had what my father considered a perfectly good dryer. Yes, that's right: in his eyes it was of course still perfectly good. Even though it didn't work. Even though pretty much it was never going to work again. And of course if anyone had the temerity to remind him that he had said he was going to fix the dryer and when do you think you might want to do that? he would freak right out and go straight to ranting about how he didn't have time now, or he had all these other things to do, or he couldn't do it because he had to do this this and that first, and anyway everyone always nags him and didn't he have any rights and you couldn't make him! Yes, seriously. That sounds an awful lot like a badly behaved five year old to me now, though of course we didn't see it then. And yet he had so much power over us.

So in the end we would have been dryerless for years, most likely. And since he didn't do laundry, he didn't exactly care, did he. It would only make our lives miserable, and we didn't count.

But anyway. Back to the way things are now.

So the both of us are going on this road trip, and won't be back for a couple weeks; so the plan is (since we have a lot on our plates already) to find a working one via Craigslist after we get back. My mother has said she can wait and doesn't mind hanging clothes out for a little while. Me, I find it a huge pain, and am frankly sick of towels that feel like sandpaper and underwear that feels like cardboard, but hey, it's her butt, right?

But even though we didn't have a replacement lined up, there we were hauling the old one to the scrapyard. That kind of thinking, the thinking that allows there to be a gap, a space in time between one step and the next, would have been completely impossible for my father. Because what it comes down to is a leap of faith. Faith that the universe moves, and faith that it will, that we will, actually follow through.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Treasury

We weren't even looking for it, you know; what we were trying to find last Friday was a little grey kitten who was late for her doctor's appointment. But when Tara removed a jumbled woodpile from the little hollow under the breezeway stairs and peered in, this is what she saw:



In Tara's* own words:

"At first I could see nothing, but presently, as my eyes grew accustomed to the light, details of the space within emerged slowly from the mist, strange shapes, metal, and rust—everywhere the glint of rust.

"For the moment—an eternity it must have seemed to the others standing by—I was struck dumb with amazement, and when my sister, unable to stand the suspense any longer, inquired anxiously, 'Can you see anything?' it was all I could do to get out the words, 'Yes, terrible things...'"

Yes, it was yet another jumbled pile of rusty hunks of rusty rust; this find, this treasure was made up of several metal drawers (quelle surprise) full to the brim with bolts (again, quelle surprise), with some copper and brass thrown in which we surmised had been left from when the pipes in the cellar got redone. Tara seemed to have a vague inkling of the stuff having been put there somewhere around 2003, though I didn't remember it; but given that that's just the kind of information I resent using up my precious brainspace, I can't say it particularly bothers me that I successfully repressed it.

And even though it didn't really look like a whole lot of stuff, it was really quite dense, and man, hauling that crap around on a hot day like today (though I hear tomorrow is supposed to be worse) sure worked up a sweat, oy. Here's the butt-end of Larry, per usual:



Doesn't look like all that much, does it?

All told though it came to a whopping 1180 pounds of scrap iron; with the brass, copper and aluminum bits added in, it weighed just over 1200 pounds. Poor Larry. He's a very good car, that Larry the Volvo station waggon.

So that was our thirty-sixth trip to the scrapyard; and our total of scrap iron removed from the property (since we've gotten receipts from the scrapyard, which isn't all of it, since we took numerous car loads before that just to the dump) now stands at 31,820 pounds, or 15.91 tons. And yes, of course, there is still more.

The little grey kitten, by the way, is healing quite well and is quite lively and vigorous. I've been bottle-feeding her and have begun weaning her (she's four weeks old even today). There is one thing, though—she may actually be a he. Hard to tell, still; s/he's just so teeny!

*Well, okay, maybe not Tara's words so much as Howard Carter's. Details.

Friday, July 15, 2011

Of Cats and Cars

Holy Mother of the Cats—where on Earth do I start with the day known as Today?

I woke up early, which for me means the actual morning, because I was so worried about the cats. There are a couple batches of kittens out there, you see. Of course.

Now before anyone goes all OMGeleventy!!1! on me, let me just say that I've already contacted the local trap-neuter-release people. Because there are going to be some hysterectomies around here dammit.

You may be familiar with Splotch's batch of kittens, the ones charmingly named after various cars, as they were born in the back seat of an MG Midget; I've posted a picture of all four of them a few posts down. But of course Smudge, her sister, also had a batch of four.

She had them, in her infinite wisdom, on top of a pile of wood in the downstairs garage three weeks ago. She moved them shortly after to some place we couldn't find them; but the other day she'd moved them again, back into the downstairs garage. Into the trunk of a Citroën DS, to be precise, which she accessed through where the back seat should have been.

Now though we are cleaning up the yard and getting rid of old rusty cars and in general making decent progress, still, there are places we haven't got to, which includes the downstairs garage. And so this Citroën was of course full to the brim with hunks of metal and rust and sharp edges. And the kittens were there, in the back, on top of it all.

So we (well Tara, mostly) cleaned it all out the day before yesterday, even though she got soaked in a downpour moving pieces of car out and away into the back yard; and we managed to make a nice cozy place inside that car, with no sharp edges, no places they could fall into or out of, and with a nice cardboard box lined with a towel.

Two of the kittens however were not in good shape. One was just tiny, not even really half the size of the others; and the second had some kind of open wound on its neck.

And so I was worried about them, of course. Last night when I last checked the first tiny one was so weak and lethargic I couldn't imagine it living through the night.

It didn't. I buried it this morning, over in the area we have buried all our beloved cats, the ones we've known for years. The poor little thing didn't even get a name, but I put it over there with the others.

Now I do understand that something like one in four kittens just doesn't make it, and that that is how Nature does things. So I was sad, but not surprised.

The second one though had what looked like two abscesses on its neck. The were large swollen areas about the size of marbles. Now I am not a vet, and though I hear it's not that tricky really to lance a boil I'm just too squeamish. And I couldn't imagine it getting better on its own, and so I figured the little thing would eventually catch a raging fever and slowly die.

But here's the other thing. In my state rabies is not uncommon. And so, by state law, if an animal comes into the vet with a 'wound of unknown origin' it is supposed to either be quarantined for a whole six months, or put down. I didn't for a minute think it was actually an animal bite, as it's too young to have been in a fight, and it's been with its mother all this time and so protected; I can, however, imagine that it fell out of whatever cockamamie nest Smudge thought adequate and cut itself on some sharp bit of something. But bringing it to the vet looked like it might also be a death sentence. How would I quarantine it for six months?

Still, when the choice came down to almost certainly letting it die slowly and miserably if untreated, or possibly being put down quickly and painlessly, I called the vet. They made an appointment for 4pm. I know. It's a feral kitten. But I couldn't abide letting it suffer.

Then Tara came over. You see we were scheduled to do an iron run today, a load of light stuff in the bus. But since we were getting a decently early start, we figured we'd have plenty of time to get back for the appointment.

So we loaded up the bus with old doors and hoods, most of which came from behind the shed, where Tara wants to be able to mow. It's almost there now, but not quite yet. The pictures:

The usual side view, filled up with junk:



And the back:



So, despite all the drama with the kittens, otherwise it was all going along just fine.

We got about halfway to the scrapyard when the gas pedal went all the way to the floor and stayed there. Now luckily it wasn't accelerating or anything; but something had definitely come undone. We coasted to a stop in a parking lot full of trucks, one of which incidentally was a car-carrier full of old rusty things. Could we hook a ride, I wondered?

Now Tara I swear is a miracle worker. She got right down in the dirt under the front of the bus (the gas pedal is after all right there) and found that the throttle cable had come undone. And luckily, luckily there had been a rusty plate attached to the bottom of the bus that had caught the nut and bolt which had held the throttle cable in. So Tara simply bolted the thing back in, and in less than five minutes we were on our way again. Go Tara!

When we got to the scrapyard we drove around back to the light metals pile. The light blond guy who looks like Mark Twain was up sitting in The Claw, tidying up the place and consolidating the piles. At one point he gathered a fistful of what looked like old crumpled chain-link fence, and using it almost like a dustrag, swept the pile together, making sure to get all the little finicky bits. It was a sight, let me tell you.

I was surprised that The Claw, given its size and power, was so well-suited to such delicate work; however it wasn't long before it was back to its natural state, brute force. Here, apparently, is The Claw's method of engine removal:













I stood well back for that, let me tell you.

Even though it was a smallish load today, 'only' 820 pounds, we managed to pass a major milestone in our total. Because today on our thirty-fifth trip we passed fifteen tons. To be exact, we're now up to 30,640 pounds of scrap iron (not including cars), or 15.32 tons of iron removed from the property since we've been keeping track. And there's more set aside already, including a cache of my favorite, buckets of rusty bolts that we uncovered behind a wood pile today.

And we got back in plenty of time, even with the side trip to the fast food joint, and with Tara swinging by the repair shop to pick up her sewing machine.

Except.

When we got home, Smudge of course in her quite finite wisdom had moved her kittens. I don't know if she was reacting to the nice space we made her (they never like that), or if it was because we'd had to handle them some, or if Venus had moved into Scorpio, who knows. Well, there was still one left in the box, but of course it was not the one who needed to go to the vet. Of course not.

We looked everywhere. In the downstairs garage behind the Citroën, in the corner in the Austin-Healey, up in the battery compartment of both that and the MG in front of it, up on the woodpiles under the windows where Smudge had given birth to the things in the first place; nothing.

Then we looked in the shed, where Aleister and the other kittens have been hanging out. Also nothing. We looked and looked and found no sign of them, save for the yellow kitten who was left.

Four o'clock came around. I called the vet, and told them I couldn't come in, since I couldn't find the kitten. I started to worry again.

Tara mowed the lawn a little, and I took Aleister inside where he was safe (the others are little enough that they hide). That didn't last long though as the mower ran out of gas pretty quick.

Then, for some reason, Tara got the idea to look over by the shop.

You have to understand. The shop is on the north edge of the property. It's rather a ways from the downstairs garage, or the shed. Not that far for a human, no, but for a cat, dragging a kitten?

But underneath one of the old bugs there it was, a kitten, the yellow and white one. We listened for mews. After a few minutes we determined that yes, the other one was there. I called the vet back. They could still take us. So Tara fished the poor thing out and we bundled it into the cat carrier and all three (myself, Tara, and my mom, plus I guess the kitten makes four) went down to the vet. And he examined it.

Well. The good news was that it wasn't actually a 'wound of unknown origin.' So the state didn't need to get involved after all, and there was no choice between a lengthy quarantine and putting it down.

But now this is where it gets pretty icky. Because what it was was this:

There are these things called cuterebra. Basically they are a type of botfly larvae that find their way under the skin of some animals (usually they go in through the nose or mouth), mostly rabbits and squirrels, but sometimes also cats. Each 'boil' contained a, well, maggot, basically. You can Google it yourself (I did) if you have the stomach, but I'll warn you there will probably be pictures.

The vet removed them, over in the back room where we couldn't see it, bless him. He asked if I wanted to see the larvae and I said HELL NO, thanks.

So. This is where we are. This kitten is three weeks old yesterday, born to a feral mother. A feral mother who isn't exactly going to be winning any Mother of the Year awards. Why if there were such a thing as KPS (Kitten Protective Services) you bet your ass I'd be reporting her.

And given her natural stupidity I'm pretty sure that if we just put the kitten back with its siblings Smudge would just move them again. I have no idea where exactly she'll move them to, but I'd bet good money it will be some place completely inaccessible, down in the dirt and the rust. And that little kitten we brought to the vet has basically an open wound, one that needs to stay nice and clean, and which will probably heal fairly slowly, as it's rather deep. The vet even gave us antibiotics, though the amount I have to give it is so small there isn't even a line on the syringe.

This kitten mind you is otherwise quite healthy; it mews plenty and is very squirmy and strong, and it's nice and fat and well-fed. And we'd already gone through all the trouble of getting it treated, and so it seems counter-productive at best to just throw it back out in the wild to take its chances.

So I'm bottle-feeding it for the time being. At three weeks old it doesn't require the round-the-clock feedings (seriously, like every two hours) that newborns do; it should be able to start eating some solid food, or even drink the formula from a bowl, in a few days or a week. Still it's a bit of work.

So I guess we have a new cat, in addition to Aleister (that makes four total, which is still totally doable here). Because from what I hear, bottle-fed kittens turn into very lovey and devoted housecats (after all the person feeding them is basically their mother).

What we don't have though, is a name for the little thing. We're pretty sure it's female (it's pretty small still and hard to tell). Tara of course suggested Maggie, which, though I like the sound of Maggie the Moggie, still, ewwwww. The intake form just listed her as 'kitten', which on the typed-up label for the antibiotics ended up as Kitty Mymom'slastname, so perhaps Catherine would work too. Any suggestions?

What a day. I hope the rest of it is peaceful.

Monday, July 11, 2011

Uncomfort

This past weekend my sister and I actually managed to wake up early enough both days to get ourselves to another car event. This time however it was not exclusive to Citroëns, though there were a few there (including my sister's Deux Chevaux), but to little cars and the people nuts enough to like (and own) them.

And when I say little I mean little. Micro, in fact.

Most of them were made in Europe and date from the 50s and 60s; I'm not sure quite what that says about Europe, though I suppose being infested with medieval towns with tiny alleyways is a reasonably plausible excuse.

There were Goggomobils



And old-school Minis



And the type of Messerschmitt that doesn't fly



Little Fiats (which I understand is short for Fix it again, Tony)



Wait, let's get a bit of scale on that:



As well as a few Isettas, which, and I am not making this up, are actually BMWs:



And in other things I am not making up, the Isetta was created by someone who also designed refrigerators, hence the door:



There was even an old Beetle there, though it was one of the bigger cars and looked, like the Deux Chevauxs, comparatively ginormous. Luxurious, even.

And again, though I don't generally care a whole lot about cars, I will admit to being amused by these tiny little micro cars. They're just so damned odd. And the people who own them and repeatedly attempt to get them running, in spite of the obvious and regrettable lack of common sense and sanity, are for the most part very nice, and quite funny, too.

So we had fun this weekend, and saw some friends. But it got me thinking about whether I'd ever want one. I don't know.

Because my main criteria for a car is comfort (well, reliability is good, too). And these, well, they're not exactly comfortable. First of all if you are a full-grown adult human you don't so much sit in one as wear one. Second, there is no such thing as air-conditioning in them, and in fact some of them don't even have windows that open, which, I'm sure you can imagine, is a whole boatload of fun on a sunny weekend in July. And honestly I don't know how anyone can drive a Goggomobil and remain conscious, what with the cloud of two-stroke fumes it doesn't have the power to get ahead of.

Because that is one of my bottom lines now: I will be comfortable. Because being uncomfortable is one of the things I remember most about my childhood. Now that may not sound like much; it's not really a big deal to be uncomfortable, right? It's not like actual physical pain. Except that it wasn't a temporary thing, a little thing. This was permanent, and across the board.

It's one thing to do without running water for a few days if say the water main outside your house bursts, or if you are camping. It's another thing to have no water at all most summers because the well went dry, and no water in most of the faucets anyway because when they dripped, and they all dripped eventually, my father's solution was to shut them off and walk away. Or to go without hot water for decades, because your father can't be arsed to install the water heater, which is sitting right there. Just like it's one thing to go outside and be cold in the winter, but another entirely to spend a long, long ride in a car with no heat at all, and then come home to a house set at 55 degrees. You simply never get warm in the winter.

It becomes the default, this lack of comfort, this profound unease. In winter you exist from that center of cold-in-the-bones, and any moment of warmth is the temporary thing. It always settles back to being cold, being uncomfortable. Worse yet, if I ever complained I was mocked, told it was nothing, not a big deal, what was I a princess expecting a life of luxury? That was the word my mother threw at me, princess.

And the old, shitty, non-heated, falling apart cars were of course a large part of all of that, especially since my father insisted on dragging all of us to all kinds of places like Import Auto Parts that we could not have cared less about. It was about control on his part as usual, I guess, or something to do with that personality disordered profound lack of understanding that people who were not him didn't naturally like everything he liked.

But getting back to the little car meet-thing. It's not exactly a big community, the micro car enthusiasts, especially given it's Massachusetts. And though the old Volkswagens aren't exactly micro cars, there is a fair bit of overlap in the communities. So there were more than a few old VW fans there.

Now my father worked out of a garage (or shop) on the property for something like thirty years, up until the mid 90s or so.

Saturday afternoon some of the little car people got talking about project cars they had (and trust me, little cars are invariably project cars). They were comparing numbers, how many of the things they had at the worst before they sobered up and came to terms with the fact that some of them were just never going to be fixable, and that they were just never going to have the resources to sink into some of the more hopeless cases.

I interrupted right there, and told them I had them all beat. Seventy-eight cars in the yard, I said. Then, when they looked at me in shock, I explained that my father was a hoarder who was also a Volkswagen mechanic, and one of the things he hoarded was old Volkswagens.

Then one guy looked at me and said, Are you Walter's daughter?

I am. And he knew. Despite the fact that my father hasn't been here in five years, and that he'd retired another ten years before that, and even though we were fifty miles from home, still, he knew my father, and he knew the property.

But then there's this part, and I don't know what to do about it.

Now I know that these people love their little cars; I get that and I think it's great that people have hobbies. I have more than a few myself. I can even, if not truly understand I suppose, accept that there are some people who simply love old air-cooled Volkswagens without being bad people, perhaps in the same way that someone can be fascinated with the history of Hitler's rise to power without being a Nazi. I get that, and while I will never understand why on a gut level I can see that it is true.

It's when they start going on about how great my father was that I get lost.

Although I can even sort of understand that part of it, I guess. If you only knew him through the Volkswagen stuff, if you'd only come by to look at parts, or ask him about your Bug (and he was always very happy to talk and talk and talk about VWs) you might think that he was just some nice older guy who was a bit eccentric, maybe.

Well maybe. Because how could you then look around at the yard and still think that? How could you see seventy-eight cars, even if in your eyes they weren't 'junk' cars, which were obviously taking over the yard, which were everywhere, in every space they could possibly fit, along with all the car parts and all the other stuff that was obviously junk, and also, also, know that there were children there, (Are you Walter's daughter?) and not think Wow this is fucked up? I suppose I could see if the person doing the observing was also a hoarder, but so far few of the people I've had this conversation with have given me that vibe (although occasionally someone really really does).

And then what do I say to that? Yes, I'm Walter's daughter. While I'm not expecting that you should have called CPS on my father's ass, how is it that you are standing there smiling at me about all this? I just said my father was a hoarder. I even asked if you'd seen that TV show and you smiled and said yes. Are you just not thinking? I understand this is a fairly shallow conversation, and I even understand that most people are not as ridiculously introverted as I am (and so deep conversations are not the default for you as they are for me), but really? That situation was obviously fucked up, you saw it, and you are standing there telling me about how my father had all this great stuff?

Over and over that is the reaction.

So where does that leave me? The older I get, the more I recognize and acknowledge the truth of the situation here, the less tolerance I have for just smiling and nodding when people start in about how great my father was and Oh wow all those Volkswagens! The hoarding, which included all those marvelous bugs and squarebacks and fastbacks and busses and campers and 411s and 412s and even that white pickup truck and the odd MG or Spitfire or Triumph or Datsun or old Saab 95 or 96, was child neglect and abuse. Making us live in all that, because his needs came first, was child abuse.

No, it's not that his needs came first, and this is the part that is so hard to articulate and make anyone understand, it's not even that; that implies that there was a hierarchy in his mind, that he had some kind of list in his head of people's needs that he had put in order, with his own at the top. The reality is that he was incapable of seeing or imagining that other people had needs at all. I have no idea, really, how my father perceived other people. Were they simply shadows cast on a wall? Things that could be talked at? Something that makes dinner? Noise, things moving, like some TV that you couldn't turn off? Something that's always trying to take his money? I honestly don't know. I really don't. Can someone tell me?

If I try to tell people well no actually you don't understand about him, he was a hoarder, it was hell growing up in that house, he was profoundly mentally ill, and this last one, that he was 'profoundly mentally ill' was an exact quote to this guy I was talking to on Saturday, it just gets glossed over. Like I said I understand a conversation with me sometimes, because I am so stunningly introverted, can be like wading into the shallows and suddenly stepping into the Mariana Trench. I get that. But they just nod and continue the conversation. I don't know what to do.

But that's the thing. I can't not say something. I can't just smile and nod when they go on about my father. I don't, really, I don't think, want to make someone feel bad, to grab them with a gotcha, to imply they are enabling something, glossing over child abuse like that; but at the same time, not saying anything is for me just more invalidation. It's me keeping silent, once again, as I always did.

I was trying to think the other day about what my father said that was so invalidating. And I couldn't really come up with anything. My mother, sure, oh I could think of plenty she said, but my father, no, I was coming up blank. And yet the almost overwhelming feeling I have of him is of invalidation.

He didn't need to say anything, that's the thing. Everything he did was invalidating to the people around him, his family. He didn't need to tell us we didn't deserve hot water; his adamant refusal to install the water heater until he did X, Y, and Z was invalidation enough. Especially since his reasoning was all couched in terms of his rights, not just what he wanted, but his rights; that he didn't have to, we couldn't make him, we didn't have the right to make him. And that is telling us that we didn't have the right to hot water, that we didn't ever have the right to be comfortable, to heat, to running water, to a yard not full of cars, to not be publicly humiliated (because everyone knew the yard was a junkyard), to have friends over, to have enough to eat, to be warm in winter, to have the lights on in a room with the window open in summer because the bugs could get in with the crappy screens we had, to eat in peace, to dislike certain foods, to have a closet to hang our clothes in, to get a gift that was our own; and anything we did get from him (and it was all from him, as he was the one with a job) was always so grudgingly given, couched in terms of how we should be grateful for getting even that and never forget that he was always entitled to a piece of it as he paid for it.

And still, when I mention any of that, these acquaintances who knew my father as the VW guy still stand there and smile and talk about how great my father was, as if they knew him better than I did. When I try to explain most of them just don't want to hear it. I know we have a problem with dealing with child abuse in this society. I do honestly think has its roots in that this society counts on certain kinds of inequality to function, and so not only wants to look the other way but must. I really do believe that. So nobody wants to hear it, to the point where most people out there will make excuse after excuse for abusers, even the really violent ones, oh he was such a nice guy when I saw him at the coffee shop, blah blah blah. But I just want to scream:

Dude. I knew my father. You didn't. You chatted with him about a mutual 'hobby'. You are making a whole lot of assumptions about him probably based in your own motivations, in your own way of doing things, assuming that he thought about things the same way you do and because you believe yourself to be a good person my father must have been one as well. And then when I say Well no he wasn't you don't want to listen. Do you know what you are saying then? You are saying that you who chatted with my father over a hobby knew him better than I did. Can you not see how stupid, how belittling, how arrogant that is? How profoundly invalidating that is of my own miserable experiences?

I don't blame you, I don't. I understand you don't want to hear it. But it is true, and I lived it.

I just don't know what to do with that.