I Am I Am I

Annual report time! I’ve been avoiding this for over a month because wild things have been happening. We’re having a winter without snow! My sisters and I have been fighting! The restaurant I work in part time is on the market! My office has gone full-metal weird, and in five years, it’ll be nothing but me and six Vice Presidents standing at my cubicle doorway, shouting, “MAKE MY PURCHASE ORDER BEFORE HERS!” Hahahaha – I’m on break! But let’s get this annual report into the books, shall we? To recap:

This started out as the Cat Blanket Project. The Lovely Georg, Ceiling Cat Remember Her With Fishy Treats, asked friends to knit or crochet blankets for animal shelters, which I did. But then people from all over – possibly including you – sent me yarn in large boxes; other agencies/organizations asked for yarny help. So! You trusted me with art supplies. This is what I did with them in 2014, in 2015, in 2016.cornery

In 2017, I was making blankets for the animal shelters, baby blankets for the hospital, lap blankets for veterans, etc., but in 2018, things changed. The hospital developed new rules that did not allow for baby blankets. My connection to the veterans in need of lap blankets moved away. I made lap blankets for the cancer treatment center but haven’t had the chance to deliver them yet. They will make my 2019 stats super shiny! Look at me go!

I made 56 cat blankets and 58 cat toys. They’re supposed to be 1:1, but as we know I cannot count and yay extra toys!

I made piles of pussy hats that will be delivered at a time when I can account for them, in the fuuuuutuuuuuuure!

The other thing I was doing with my hands in 2018 (watch it, you!) was writing postcards for Postcards To Voters. Last year was a crucial year in the history of our country and I started writing postcards to overcome my despair. Writing each postcard was an act of desperate hope in the beginning, and then the candidates I was writing for began to win races. I won’t lie. I needed them to win. I needed them to win enough that I wrote 405 postcards last year, putting a crimp in my 2018 crocheting schedule and making my hands, which don’t work well on a good day, feel like reheated crap. For 2019, I’m going to try turning out 30 postcards a week, but we shall see how desperate I feel and how many special elections fill out the calendar. By the way, if you’re feeling desperate, you too can write postcards. It’s easy to join up and it really does matter.

In 2018, two stitchers died and their projects, tools, patterns and materials came to me. Thank you for trusting me! Tiny, tiny crochet hooks went to a friend who teaches people how to crochet lace. Some of those hooks were smaller than any my friend had ever seen, and they were certainly too tiny for me to use or even see. Seriously: they were tiny. When my friend died, projects, tools and materials came to me and they were special, because that stitcher was my friend and mentor for decades. I sent her many knitting needles on to Georg, Ceiling Cat remember her with fishy treats! I finished one project and gave it back to her family. This was really emotional for me, because it’s hard to work in the stitches of another person and think of their hands touching the same project. Nearly all of the yarn has been made into blankets that will keep people and animals warm, and all of it will eventually move on.

So: 2018 was really different from previous years: productive, but really different. I haven’t got the faintest idea if I can keep turning out more blankets for the animal shelters each year. Anyway, I will keep trying. Thank you for trusting me!

 

 

 

 

Faith And Hope And Charity

Wut?

I’ve always been afraid gravity would lose its grip on me.

Here we are in the dark of January. It’ll be another two and half to three months before we can quit thinking of murdering people who touch us with cold feet. They deserved it! No jury would convict us! COLD FEET!

But I hope you will curb your murderous urges. Spring will come soon and you’ll think you were out of your mind to take out the garbage in January wearing flip flops. Shoes were a hassle. You were just taking out the garbage and you couldn’t find your other boot. One of the cats was probably wearing it, to go with the gloves you find everywhere, migrating around the house at night like there’s some sort of glove exchange you don’t really understand. By you, I mean me, and I’ll bet my feet are cold.

Drink Sangria In the Park

Often, I think I’m not ready for things. I’m not ready for autumn, despite being ready to quit sweating every minute. I’m not ready for Halloween, though I can’t wait to dress up and give candy to kids. I’m sure as hell not ready for Christmas shopping. You can’t make me do it!

So pretty!

My friend Diana recently completed a Masters of Fine Arts in creative writing and just took a job in Newark as a graphic designer. She’s absolutely glowing. I’m deeply impressed by her fearlessness, and will miss seeing her every day.

Turns out, though, I’m almost always more prepared than I think I am. I’ve brought plants into the house ahead of the cold and dragged out warm clothes. My closet is full of costumes, and candy is at a drugstore four blocks away. At this point, no one has to go to a store and Christmas shopping is on everyone’s phone. No need to stomp my foot and shake my tiny fist at the sky!

Point: until it’s really cold, I hate socks, but the other day, I bicycled to work in ski pants. I’m ready for all kinds of shit. What I am never ready for is the antics of my siblings. This morning:

Anya: Are you missing a black kitty?

Me: What? I’m starting to panic. What are you talking about?

Anya: Last night we found a little cat wandering around. We took it in. It’s small and black but it’s a dude. We’re hoping to find the family that owns him because we can’t keep him.

Me: Okay, whew! You found a little guy.

Anya: He’s fed, healthy, very much a people cat. Liked to be cuddled, doesn’t mind being picked up. He has humans. We stood and watched him for a while. He kept meowing and followed us and ran into the street here and there. I couldn’t leave him outside.

Me: Facebook is your friend. Ask people to describe their missing cat.

We refer to my sister Anya as the Deputy Mayor. She does not actually hold any office but when Anya leaves for a weekend, the entire town has to find someone else to confide in, depend on and gossip to. That’s a lot of prepositions for one tiny town. Anyway, if anyone can find the tiny dude cat’s people, it is Anya. In the meantime, my bet is that if the cat’s people don’t turn up, that cat will still be the luckiest cat in a town of lucky cats.

 

We’ll Be Able To Fly

Months ago, one of little Swedish Black hens and sometimes Chicken Chicken started kicking up fusses just after dawn. Local ordinances forbid residents from keeping roosters because sunrise squawking makes the neighbors cranky. Anyway, In June and July, I found myself running down the stairs before dawn and out the back door to shush chickens almost every day. Andie, who is not an early riser, was calling the little hen “Chicken Soup.” I developed a plan: we would identify which of the hens was the complainer, if there was only one, through the clever use of chicken jewelry. Yes, I bought different colored plastic leg bands. Andie and I chased the nearly identical chickens until we caught them and gave them name tags. Sort of. We determined that the tiny hen with the white leg band, LaVerne, was our vocalist.

As a matter of fact, those are hot dog rolls on the ground.

LaVerne, in the corner, evading capture. Chicken Chicken, nearer, acting nonchalant.

The professor from the organic farming course of last summer agreed to take LaVerne to the Chicken McMansion on her farm. When the day came, Ellen arrived with a cat carrier. Andie was working, so I resigned myself to chasing LaVerne without backup.

You haven’t lived until you’ve climbed halfway into a chicken coop in your street clothes. Remind me to burn these garments later.

Note: no part of this is not gross.

Of course I’m dressed badly. How should I be dressed to chase a chicken through gross shit?

This went on for quite a while. Before I climbed in here, I’d warned Pete, “You have two jobs here: take pictures and heckling.” As you can see, it’s not easy to photograph a chicken roundup. Or my butt.

So glamorous!

I am literally chasing a small chicken around the coop with a cat box pooper scooper.

Finally, I got my hands on the little bird, who pecked my hands, but settled right into Ellen’s arms. After a few minutes, we stuffed LaVerne into the cat carrier and off they went. I still get up before sunrise most days, but with the solstice behind us and the equinox ahead, that time is a bit later every morning. Chicken Chicken, without the goading of her sidekick, sleeps in. This morning, I didn’t see her in the run until just after 7.

Wait, I'm not your real Mom?

The recipient of this chicken finds her charming. Her feelings are reciprocated. I feel left out of this lovefest.

Ellen says she holds LaVerne in her arms all the time. I could never get near her. It was obviously meant to be.

To Lose These Walking Blues

And now, an interesting travelogue, if you don’t mind.

Not a great car seat.

Yesterday, Andie took Chicken Chicken, the artist formerly known as both Cat the Chicken and Other Chicken, on a pest control field trip. In other words, Andie took Chicken Chicken out to lunch and said, “No thanks. I’m good.”

Eyeing the menu.

Years ago, I read that the ancient Chinese battled swarms of locusts armies of hungry ducks and chickens and I told this story to Andie.

Turns out, this practice has carried on into the present day.

This is like chicken paradise.

Andie watched Chicken Chicken chase bugs around a garden for a couple of hours and brought her home, stuffed and happy.

Go ahead: google “locusts chicken army” or “locusts duck army.” Nobody can resist an awful pun. Pesticides are nasty shit. If you have bugs, what you need are chickens or ducks.

Imagine how scary this must be for the bugs.

I’m thinking of going into business in my retirement as the lady who brings goats to your overgrown yard for a constructive nibble, but now I visualize a side gig where I bring chickens to gobble Japanese beetles. I’ll be rich!

Okay, maybe not rich, but not at all bored. Some vineyards deploy ducks to tackle pest problems. I can see myself rolling up to a winery with my team of hungry chickens help them solve their unpleasant problem. In fact, I’m picturing a bottle of gratitude now.

Now To Let Me Go

This is an awful story. Here is a picture of my garden.

Abbott and Costello, now with lemongrass plants.

You remember the greenhouse. It’s especially green now that pollen is falling from the maple tree in our backyard. Note the new, tall solarizing bed.

Yesterday, when I came home from work, I was surprised to find bits of gray furry stuff scattered across the front porch. My first thought was that Andie’s cat Kitty must have gotten into a fight and I was breathless with worry. In the garden, I found Kitty whole and placid amid the plants, so I stopped worrying about her and started worrying about…someone else, but whom, I did not know. Though puzzled, I still had chores to do and did them. Cat boxes don’t scoop themselves, you know.

What do you do with moldy strawberries?

A tumbling composter makes short work of the kitchen scraps your chickens don’t eat, but we’re getting ahead of ourselves.

A short while later, Pete and I sat on the porch for our afternoon adult beverage. Out of the corner of my eye, I saw something move where nothing should have. It seemed so unlikely, I thought I was imagining it. Gradually, I became sure I was seeing motion in an improbably small place where I’ve never seen motion of any kind before. At the bottom of a pillar supporting the porch roof, a small support affixes the pillar to the porch. Beneath that support, something fluttered. Then fluttered again. It was trying to escape.

Seeds and plants, seeds and plants.

The berm is filling out. The stairs, behind the raised bed, are still mostly empty.

At first, I thought it might be a bat. Then, I saw feathers protruding from a gap on the side. Whatever the creature was, it had ducked in there in a panic and couldn’t get out. I told Pete we had to get it out. He reached for a high-powered hose. I panicked and grabbed the hose. I did not want to torture a trapped animal. I texted Andie, who was at work. Neither Pete nor Andie seemed terribly concerned. After dinner, I went outside with a flashlight and my glasses to see if I could get a good look at the trapped creature. I couldn’t see anything. I got a butterknife and ran it across the bottom of the space. The creature flinched. I was horrorstruck.

You would not believe how tiny this yard is.

The lower raised bed, the higher raised bed and the edge of the chicken run.

I realized we were waiting for the creature to die. Believe it or not, I felt completely alone. At 3:03 am, I awoke after awful fever dreams and could not fall back to sleep. At 3:43, I worried. At 4:14, I worried. At 5:07, I despaired. When the alarm sounded at 5:50, I asked Pete to set it for 7:40, when I could call out of work.

Seriously, it's a small yard.

The chickens amaze me every day. I’m not sure how they feel about me, though.

This afternoon, I said to Pete, “We have to get the dead creature out of that tiny space.” Reluctantly, he agreed. I took up the hose and forced it into the small space. Nothing came out but rushing water. Eventually, I saw a foot. I grabbed the foot and pulled. Out of the small space came another foot, then a body. The next slight tug tore the head off the broken body and answered the question of whether we could have rescued this bird. No. The bird fled attack into this space somehow, but it was not coming out alive again.

I put the body and the head into our composter and whispered, “I’m so sorry this happened to you. Go in peace.” Maybe it’s too late. Maybe now is the only time we have.

 

 

 

Goes Far Flies Near

This morning, I fought a chicken for some eggs. I went outside to feed the chickens after sunup. Chicken Chicken usually greets me at the door, but this morning, she was not there. A feeling of dread came over me. Afraid Chicken Chicken, who is quite old, might have come to a sudden end, I opened the coop door and found Chicken Chicken very much alive. She leaned back and revealed an egg, then three more. I was reaching for that egg when the small, feisty black chicken flew at me, landed in the coop and and began pecking at one of the eggs.

The tiny leg there is fragile.

This is about a century of one family’s arts, crafts and major awards.

I picked up that little chicken, whose name is either Patty, Maxene or LaVerne, whereupon she pecked me ineffectually. Weeks ago I realized that the pecking of a tiny chicken didn’t actually hurt, so I could pick her up and put her down in the run. Anyway, peck! peck! peck! Chicken kerfuffle! Wings and feathers everywhere! I gathered the eggs, closed the coop and set the eggs where Andie would find them. Then I went to work and described to my crying co-workers the reason I was covered with chicken coop pine shavings.

No one seemed surprised.