Seeing Triple

I’ve shared a number of pictures of Amelia and Madeline (Mia and Maddy, as I call them for short), and in case anyone was just dying of curiosity for the next chapter in their story, I felt I should give an update.

Mia and Maddy have settled in as best friends with Polly the Kitten, and their little cohort is known affectionately as Polly and Pals. They have survived this cold snap just fine using the buddy heat method and greet me at the door every morning, eager for their breakfast.

Yesterday morning I went out to do chores and fed the cats as usual on the deck. Polly and Pals as well as my old cats, Ember and Cinders, generally get in on this meal. I had to pop back inside for a moment to get hot water and the fermented mash for my chickens and as I walked past the cats, I did a double take. I looked hard and then looked again. There was an extra cat. No, there couldn’t be. Yep, it was. It was Mia and Maddy’s feral big brother.

I quick grabbed my phone and tried to call my mother-in-law, and when she didn’t answer I called my father-in-law. “Laura!” came the standard greeting from the other end.

“Dave! Does Starla know where her white cat is?”

“No, she doesn’t.”

“Well, I do! He’s eating breakfast with my cats! I thought I was seeing triple.”

Turns out they hadn’t seen him in a few days, since before the storm blew in at the beginning of this week. Either he hitched a ride under or in a vehicle from their house to ours, or the crazy thing walked six miles through bitter cold coyote territory to our end of the ranch. Wild.

Battened Down

All of South Dakota has been gearing up for a major snow event, since the meteorologists first started talking about the potential a week ago.

For ranchers in drought-stricken parts of the state, including here, predictions of moisture can be pretty disheartening, since the outcome seems to always be less than hoped. We watched as this storm seemed to drift further south and tried not to get our hopes up for any significant moisture, but we were still a little disappointed when at 3am there was little to no snow yet.

Well, it has blown in, and we are just trusting God for His provision of the needed moisture over this winter, and praying for safety as the temps plummet and the wind kicks up. There isn’t much snow yet and it seems to have let up, but this is supposed to be a multi day snowstorm, so it should keep coming.

We have plenty of water in case of power outages, have oil in the lanterns, and are thankful for a working generator. Brad brought the calves closer yesterday and into the timber, and now the order of the day is just keeping critters fed and watered.

My usual entourage of cats had no interest in chicken chores this morning, and stayed snug in their cat house, looking pretty miffed. Except for Polly. She darted inside and since she’s getting a little daily doctoring (and will keep me company while I work on some projects inside…) I didn’t feel like stripping down to go catch her. And she really is good company, even if rather obnoxious.

The chickens needed a fair amount of coaxing and a makeshift windbreak before they’d set foot outside. My footsteps had already drifted in when I trudged back up the hill to the house.

But those cold, blustery, blizzardy days make for the perfect opportunity for finishing some Christmas presents, doing some mending, photo editing, a couple online webinars tomorrow, and getting a start on my Christmas cookie baking.

There’s always something!

And so we’re battened down.

More Shenanigans

What started out as an uneventful eventful day turned into a fiasco when the new mother of a litter of five brand new puppies vanished. Just vanished.

I was going down to check my chickens and she acted like she wanted to go out. Okay, I thought, she’s been inside all day and her puppies had full bellies. So I let her out. I took care of my chickens and went to locate Pearl, who popped up from down past the shop. I did my due diligence and made sure there wasn’t a surprise puppy down there, and Pearl headed up towards the house. I was close behind her, but just needed to grab something on my way. I took my eyes off her for all of three minutes. And she was gone.

I looked everywhere. And I mean everywhere. I looked for about forty-five minutes before calling my husband, who was up north getting grain. And I kept looking. I took the ATV out and looked, as I said, everywhere. Calling, shouting, scolding, and finally melting into an angry, crying, but still functional mess.

I figured she’d had another puppy in her and went off somewhere to have it. I remembered the elk carcass a mountain lion dragged away, up on top of the ridge and north a ways, and the mountain lion scat I saw closer to home. We’ve had some good sized coyotes getting rather bold. And then the sun started going down.

If it could be gotten into or under, I looked there. And looked again. And Brad got home and we looked again. And then she appeared out of nowhere from by the house, pretty dirty and looking guilty again. We had looked under everything. Except the front deck. We didn’t even know a dog could fit under there. But she did. And sure enough, we could hear a puppy squealing, not near one side or the other, but under the very center of the deck.

So basically we had to partially take the deck apart, which was harder than it should have been, to rescue the miserable, cold little girlie, and thus the entire ridiculous and beautiful family was reunited. Everyone is warm and dry and bellies are full, tight as little drums. Four little girls and two little boys.

All’s well that ends well, I guess. But Pearl is kind of in trouble.

Pearl’s Shenanigans

So it was at the very end of September, I had just emailed a friend and asked if she knew of anyone with a intact male cow dog, since we were looking to breed Pearl. Well, roughly a day later we were helping a neighbor work some cows and I made some offhanded remark that Joe, his dog, seemed to be kind of distracted by Pearl. He was kind of making eyes at her. You know what I mean. Joe even got knocked over by one cow and stepped on by another and ended up in a cast with a broken paw. Apparently Pearl was super distracting.

Later that day, we (ahem) caught them together, if you know what I mean. Very together.

About, oh, a month later I started noticing just a slight fullness in Pearl’s midsection. Then it became very obvious. Pearl was pregnant. We did the math and we figured she’d have her pups…well, right now. The first week of December.

This morning, Brad left early to haul some open cows to the St. Onge sale barn and Pearl didn’t even budge from her little bed. A couple of hours later, the first pup showed up. I was in the living room and heard something in the mud room and thought a cat had sneaked in. There was Pearl standing in the corner and a little wet pup was wailing on the dog bed.

Pearl seemed confused about the presence of the little alien and paced around looking guilty. I coaxed her over to the dog bed, made her lay down and helped the pup find a teat. Maternal instinct was quick to kick in. It is so amazing to watch!

And just a few minutes ago the second appeared! And then a third. That’s all for now. But I’m pretty darn sure there’s more to come.

Pearl thinks they’re beautiful. I agree.

The Banshees

When Brad brought me that crate full of feral cats in exchange for my beautiful Amelia who laid blue eggs and whom Pearl ruthlessly beheaded, inwardly I scoffed at what was so obviously not a fair trade. They were beautiful cats. Absolutely beautiful. But wild. Completely wild. And then I got to work taming them down. I definitely had my doubts a time or two, especially when those blue-eyed banshees still weren’t even letting me see, much less touch, them a week later, and then more than a week. If I happened to catch one, they trembled pitifully and got all small and pathetic.

But then, finally, after many cans of cat food, Amelia (so named in honor of the deceased) actually approached my hand, and then – wonder of wonders! – she actually let me pet her. And purred. Once a cat purrs, you have her hooked. It was all clear sailing from there, and yesterday Amelia and Madeline had their first little taste of freedom when I let them outside. Today, it was hilarious watching them flit through the snow like delicate white wraiths, pouncing one another, climbing trees, scattering the snow under their tiny paws. Their clear blue stare is mesmerizing, even though Amelia is a little cross-eyed and it is hard to take her completely seriously.

I really expected these girls to tame down to no more than a passively amiable barn cat, one that wouldn’t run away but that wouldn’t be truly friendly. Well, they are two of the sweetest cats, and maybe the prettiest I’ve ever seen. So no, they won’t ever lay blue eggs but I’d say it was a more than fair trade.

Snow Globe

We woke up to a snow globe outside our windows. An almost-windless, beautifully quiet, comfortable wintry day made chores pleasant and I couldn’t resist lugging my 15 pounds of camera and lens with me as I trudged around to the various critters. The chickens were extremely unimpressed, the chicks were even less so, the cats were divided, and the snow was lovely.

They called for a coating to an inch, but it hasn’t stopped snowing. And we are so thankful. This dry ground is so thirsty.

There is nothing quite like the transformation brought by a fresh snow. The delicate, mesmerizing whirlwind of white so exquisitely transforms the most drab, dreariest landscape, drought-parched though it may be, and turns the whole world outside into a thing of wondrous beauty. The trees are finally catching enough snow to be letting it go now and then in puffs of sparkling white. Footprints are getting made and filled in. Critters are hunkered down, and the world outside is peaceful and almost silent. Every dead flower head wears a funny little white hat, fence posts are capped in snow, and every once in awhile a gust sweeps the snow and the snowfall gets heavier, like someone shook the snow globe.

I am so glad to live where there is such a thing as snow.