Thursday, February 26, 2009

Pets in the Garden - Kitty Helpers

Over at Gardening Gold Wild, Nan Ondra invited us to talk about pets in the garden as the subject for February's Garden Bloggers' Design Workshop.
With our 12 barn cats and 2 pampered house cats, I almost always have at least one kitty helper, and usually more than I really need.

Reuben and Peige (brother and sister) are a couple of my faithful shadows. Peige is a fence hugger.

She's always looking for a cuddle....

....but is sometimes content to just act as lookout.

Speaking of which, Murphy, self proclaimed King Cat and protector, seems to think of the birds' feeding tray as his own personal lookout post. I have to keep explaining to him that it's off limits.

In early spring, with the return of warmer temperatures, the barn cats begin to spend more time outside in the yard. Tink and Murphy like to hang out in the lilac bush. Posted by Picasa

Some of the others think the daffodils make a fine jungle for romping in. Here we have Cleo, Jasmine and sweet Kaspurr, who sadly is no longer with us after meeting his match with a ferilizer truck last spring (story here).
Our driveway is a busy place and some of the kitties are not too smart about moving out of the way of vehicles. They really embarrass me sometimes when a vehicle approaches and they just sit like lumps, apparently believing that no harm can possibly come to them in their driveway. I have to race out, arms waving madly, to shoo them out of the way.

Miss Molly (formerly known as Max. Some long time readers may remember her story) hiding in the daffs.
When the kitties decide to play a game of chase through their 'jungle' they make me rather nervous, but surprisingly they do very little damage.

Pretty Tink is never far from me when I'm in the garden.

And Jasmine likes to keep an eye on things.

We haven't made any specific design modifications to accommodate the cats because they pretty much do their own thing. And I don't worry about them eating poison plants because they seem to instinctively know what not to chew on.

Cleo spends a lot of time washing herself while Molly waits patiently for her to play.Posted by Picasa

Now Tink, you know the rules. That's not your tray!

Molly sits on the Lily Garden fence. She's usually somewhere close by when I'm weeding or digging.

Uh oh. That tray really is a popular spot. It's a good thing the birds have other feeders.

Willow followed me over the bank this sunny day as I snapped wildflower photos.

And dear Phoebe came along too.

They love those fences! Posted by Picasa

Miss Olivia is Phoebe's little girl. Posted by Picasa

And there's her sister, Isabelle, on the porch, with Jasmine on the steps, soaking up the sunshine on a golden September afternoon.

The kitties do sometimes use the flower beds to do their business, especially when a bed has newly added compost. Of course this is firmly discouraged when they're caught in the act, but cats will be cats, and while scooping poop isn't my favorite thing, I'm willing to put up with a little inconvenience for the pleasure of their company. Posted by Picasa
We have a saw mill and there's always a pile of sawdust somewhere for them to dig in, which helps keep them away from the gardens to some extent.

Summer and winter they entertain us with their antics and lavish affection upon us. I couldn't imagine our garden without them.

Just the other day I was out taking pictures of the frost on a very chilly morning, and of course my faithful helpers were there with me. Posted by Picasa
These past 2 days have been wonderfully warm and sunny, and quite a lot of the snow has melted. The temperature almost reached 50ºF/10ºC today! Isn't it funny how 50º feels cold in the fall, but warm as spring approaches? It's all relative I suppose.

Molly sits on the plant table soaking up sunshine, waiting for the time to come when she can spend more hours outdoors on days like today.

And Jasmine dreams on the back of the couch.

Do you suppose she's dreaming of being surrounded by colorful, sweet smelling blooms? Posted by Picasa

Friday, February 20, 2009

Great Backyard Bird Count '09

We were away at our son and DIL's for 3 of the 4 days of the count, helping to celebrate our youngest grandson's 5th birthday. I had hoped to count with our 2 grandsons at their place, but the birdies were feeding elsewhere, apparently. They do have a feeder, but their feathered friends were not visiting on Saturday.

During the drive out and back I saw several hawks flying over the thruway and got a brief, but good look at one sitting on the grass by the side of the road. I think it was a red tail.

I chose to count on Monday (Feb. 16th), after we were back home.
These photos were not all taken that day.

Mourning Doves in early January.

The pretty, gentle doves are some of the earliest birds at the feeders each morning.

The weather was relatively mild at around 30ºF/-1ºC so the bird activity was less than it is on a cold, snowy day. We see the most birds when a storm is coming.

Female Downy Woodpecker peeking at me.

Male Hairy Woodpecker

Female Hairy on suet, left....male Downy on right. Posted by Picasa

Blue Jays Posted by Picasa

Black-Capped Chickadee

Tufted Titmouse, Pine Siskin behind.

White-breasted Nuthatch Posted by Picasa

European Starling

American Tree Sparrow.

Notice the spot on its breast. This is how you distinguish them from Chipping Sparrows, which are a little smaller, and migratory. They'll come through in early spring.

Dark-eyed Junco Posted by Picasa

Male Northern Cardinal.

Yesterday we had six males and a female. I've seen 4 males quite often lately, but 6 is a record for us!

Female Northern Cardinal Posted by Picasa She's such a little sweety.

Pine Siskin

American Goldfinch

Female House Sparrow soaking up the winter sun. Posted by Picasa

Male House Sparrow. Posted by Picasa

Here's my count list:

Mourning Dove 9
Downy Woodpecker 4
Hairy Woodpecker 2
Blue Jay 6
American Crow 5
Black-capped Chickadee 12
Tufted Titmouse 3
White-breasted Nuthatch 2
European Starling 11
American Tree Sparrow 4
Dark-eyed Junco 3
Northern Cardinal 2
Pine Siskin 1
American Goldfinch 15
House Sparrow 5

Total 84

Counts are submitted to online at

You can also check reports for all areas and look at the many wonderful photos that participants have submitted.

It's a fun activity.
Maybe you'd like to try it next year.