Meet the Critters

On a farm, there are critters.  Lots and lots of critters.  Eight-legged, six legged, four legged and two-legged.  Some critters are domesticated, some are not.  (Although there are moments when the supposedly domesticated critters, aren’t.)

We have two dogs: Penny, the Labrador, and Ellie, the Cocker Spaniel.  And we have something like 60 barn cats!  Okay, okay, that’s an exaggeration.  Divide that number by 10 and add one or two.  It just seems like we have 60 when we’re buying cat food for them.

At least the barn cats do stuff.  Like keep the mice population in check, as well as the gopher, vole and rabbit populations.  This is how the barn cats look when they’re doing their barn-cat-thing:

That’s Pepper, our black, neutered, male, barn cat.  He is stalking Ellie, who is really worried as you can see:

Anyway, that’s what our barn cats do to earn their keep out here. (Eat mice, not stalk Ellie.)

We also have three house cats.  Lucy, a seven-year-old-grey crabby tabby, lives most of the time in the basement, supposedly to discourage any mice from coming inside to live.  She begs to go outside when it’s warm.  Then five minutes later she begs to come back inside.  I’m not sure why…probably just because she knows it drives me crazy.

Shelley, our one-year-old-short-haired calico lives on the main floor of the house.  She’s a sweet-natured little kitty who lives to please.  I’m not a cat person normally.  I love cats, don’t get me wrong, but I prefer dogs.  But she’s made me a cat person, or at least a Shelley-cat-person.  (I’ll post a picture of her in action later.)

Two weeks ago Arya, a long-haired calico, returned to our home.  She’d been adopted by my oldest daughter who couldn’t take her to her new apartment.  Arya took a week or so to hiss at anything that moved, but finally she’s settled in and taken over.  This is how she earns her keep out here on our farm:

Don’t worry.  She really is alive.  She’s busy warming up my towel basket in the bathroom.  She loves the bathroom.  Sometimes we find her curled up in the sink.  I can only guess that since she’s a long-haired cat, maybe the porcelain helps her to cool off during these hot summer days.  But no one really knows why cats do anything.  They’re very mysterious.

Except that I’m pretty sure the barn cats hate the indoor cats.  They don’t mess with Lucy, she’s crabby.  But they pester Shelley a lot.  By “they” I mean Pepper, and by “pester” I mean he chases her around and up lots of trees.  It usually sounds like she’s dying, but cats make lots of noise when they’re being pestered.  I think this is because Shelley knows that when I hear pestering, I come running to the door and holler at Pepper to cut it out, while at the same time coaxing Shelley back inside to relative calm.

To be fair, Arya tries her best with the whole no-mice-in-the-house thing.  She sits on top of the gerbil’s cage…patiently waiting.  =)

Going Batty

Early this afternoon, Brett hollered at me from somewhere down the hall.  It went something like this, “Mom, come here for a sec.”  I said, okay, and responded with exactly the same level of obedience as my children do when I call them.

A few minutes later Brett clarified.  “…and by ‘for a sec’ I mean right now.”  His voice had gone up an octave or so.  This got my attention at least as much as the words did.

“Where are you?” I called as I walked down the hall.

“Your room!” He yelled.

I opened the door to find my slightly wild-eyed 21-year-old son standing in front of my closet.  “I was looking for a shoe that Dad said was in your closet when something flew by my head and into your closet.  I’m pretty sure it’s a bat,” he said.  “I’m outta here.  Bats freak me out.”

I spent the next 30 minutes going through every item of clothing, every purse, every box, from high to low.  Bats usually like to go as high as they can, so I was puzzled when I couldn’t find anything.  They are quite proficient at hiding, however, so I gave up, put everything back and figured it would come out tonight at dusk.

About an hour later, I was looking at the closet again and trying to think like a bat.  We have those crazy folding doors on our closet, so I was looking between them trying to see if it was hanging inside there when a pair of pointed ears caught my attention.

I grabbed a chair, and my trusty aquarium net, and got down to business, because as much as I admire bats, my bedroom is not a good place for them.  Although I have to admit that if it weren’t for the bat guano, I would probably consider a house bat to combat the many mosquitoes that sneak into my house.

Brett overcame his fear, after seeing the little thing hanging up there like an upside-down mouse, and stood by to watch while I coaxed it into my net.  Once I had it netted (with a kitchen towel behind the net), Brett came closer to get a good look.  He ended up taking the net from me and holding it while I took a couple of pictures.

Amazing, isn’t it?  Notice its little mouth open, trying to scare us away.  It clicked at me when I first caught it (probably trying to figure out how to get around me), but settled down when I began to walk around the house and just went along for the ride.

We took it outside and tried to let it fly off by itself, but it landed on the ground and we were afraid one of the dogs or cats would get it, so Brett picked it back up in the net and took it to one of the trees.  It climbed up to one of the higher branches and rested for a few minutes before climbing higher and out of sight.

Hopefully, now that it’s dark outside, our little temporary house guest is out catching some dinner.

Amy’s Corn Salsa

Feel like something a little different with your tortilla chips?  This salsa is delicious!  Here are all the ingredients you will need (minus the salt and pepper).  And, for those of you who are new to cooking, here’s a picture showing how you dice tomatoes–cut them into slices, then into smaller pieces.
The black utensil on the left is a Pampered Chef corer which also makes melon balls with the other end.  It’s excellent for coring tomatoes and strawberries.  (Can you tell I used to sell Pampered Chef products? The cutting board, tomato knife and towel are also Pampered Chef.)  =)
6 Roma tomatoes, diced
1 can of chopped olives
1 large can of chopped green chilies
1 can of whole kernel corn, drained
2 or 3 green onions, thinly sliced (can use chopped onions if preferred)
Chopped cilantro to taste (I use my kitchen shears and snip it into small pieces instead of chopping it with a knife, but you can do whatever you want.)
A cup of shredded Colby Jack or cheddar cheese
A can of black beans, drained and rinsed (rinse the beans until the water runs clear)
½ cup of Italian dressing (any brand you like)
1 t. of garlic salt
Salt and pepper to taste (remember, you’ve already got some salt from the garlic salt, so err on the side of too little and adjust as necessary when you taste it.)
¼ t. of cumin
Mix together and serve with tortilla chips for dipping.  (Note: I’ve even used Taco Doritos, which were surprisingly good.)  Makes several cups depending on the size of the Roma tomatoes.  Here’s what it will look like when you’re done.  It will store nicely in the refrigerator for a few days.