Monday, January 22, 2018

Step by step. One room done, one more to go.

I thought I'd be further along with four days off, but progress is steady. Here was the middle room after emptying most of the furniture:

Here it is now, totally emptied, caulked (although there's still more to do) and painted:

Here is the next room on the to-do list, with the furniture removed:

The caulking is very important, although quite boring. The sheetrocking on these two rooms seems to have been done in a rush. There are small gaps in the corners, and around the dormer windows. A bored cat can easily note these tiny gaps and start pick, pick picking away.

I thought I'd have to run into Ithaca for white paint, but I found a new gallon of "moonlight white" in my paint stash. I'm not sure what I purchased it for--maybe the kitchen before I decided to go with bright white? I worried that the slight yellow tint in the white paint would clash with the pale violet, but actually it comes across as warm and calming. Bright white would have been more striking, but I think this was for the best...and it didn't cost me an extra $35.

I told my cat caretakers the cats would all be in the house by February so I'm committed to it now!

I'm back to work tomorrow so progress will be reduced to just a few hours in the evening. Hopefully since all the lifting and moving is done, it will still move along.

Pepper and Timea have been helping in their own way. So far we have avoided purple paws, although Pepper almost painted his toes.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

More things from "the old days"

As I was cleaning, I came across these old address labels for Wildrun, my old wildlife control business. This address still exists by the way. Feel free to send me mail.

As I looked at the pretty cat labels, I recalled that I used to pore through a hard-copy catalog to choose them, and I loved their designs. This drew me to my netbook out of curiosity.

Look, the company still exists online and has the same sort of large labels!

I'll have to order some new ones when my current old labels (Vistaprint) run out!

Progress on the upstairs: Day One

There was more junk in the upstairs drawers and closets than I expected, but I did manage to get through it and start pulling up the carpet tile. Again, I'll be saving the best of these (it has only been walked on by Pepper and Timea and perhaps five guests since I put it down) to re-use inside cat furniture cups. For some reason they always line those with white carpet (???) that looks shabby within about a month.

Pepper and Timea are assisting me with this project and are making the process quite a bit more enjoyable than it would be alone. Unfortunately they will have to be shut out of the room once the painting begins. As you can see from the sunshine, even with just the two dormer windows, this room is much brighter than the barn space, with it's many windows.

Cleaning has been quite the blast from the past. Long-time blog readers may recall when I was a very small local personality in my own right, rather than a cog in the larger animal welfare wheel. Wow, has it been a long time!

The NYS Wildife Rehabilitation Council conference was my very first presentation (it was not at all stellar---I was terrified, had way too many notes, and had no podium light. It was definitely a learning experience!). That was back in 1993. The Vertebrate Pest Conference was the most influential conference I was ever asked to speak at in my wildlife control career. Because I managed the cats at Ithaca College at that time, and was employed there as well (in a non-cat position), Ithaca College insisted on me including their name, which provided me with more clout than I deserved. I had to repeatedly explain I was NOT a biologist---just an animal research facility technician and nuisance wildlife control operator. I did get kudos for having actual data on cat colony management--respect I probably wouldn't have gotten had I just been a cat rescuer. The contract I had at Ithaca College took me a long way in the animal welfare field. Being one of the only women in nuisance wildlife control at that time also helped. I got speaking engagements solely based on my gender, I'm sure. Conference organizers allowed me to talk about controversial subjects because they stereotypically assumed (probably rightly) that a woman would not be challenged as strongly as a man simply because it was such an oddity to hear a woman discussing the issues I was asked to discuss.

Sadly, once wildlife control began moving out of the hands of old-time fur trappers to the more modern "pest control" companies that were primarily profit-motivated (versus nature-motivated or challenge-motivated as the fur-trappers were) my star plummeted rapidly in wildlife control. I finally left the listservs I really loved, mostly due to just one or two trolls who not only felt all cats should just be shot or drowned (or that shelters should just kill all stray cats for free), they also felt that their high wildlife control fees should be jacked up even higher if they pulled into the driveway of a really nice house. The old guard, and the newcomers who listened to them, still fight the good fight to keep the profession ethical, but it wasn't my fight, so I bowed out and moved back into domestic animal welfare again.

I met some amazing people (John Hadidian and Dave Pauli from HSUS, Laura Simon from the Fund for Animals). I miss arguing with Laura -- she was the one serious animal right's advocate I could argue my animal welfare stance with. She would get right into it without taking any offense whatsoever. The fur-trappers as well--you could sit right down with a beer and explain why people expect humane options for handling wildlife problems and you could hash it out in a friendly and respectful manner. Some of the fur-trappers were also the local dog control officers. They understood why the legalities and ethics of why a DCO or shelter could not just kill cats when they were brought in the door--unlike the profit-motivated newcomers.

Sadly, many people who just want to make more and more dollars (not just a decent living, but a bigger and bigger living: as much as they can get away with) don't care much about their customers, their neighbors, or the animals. Happily, they are not the majority. But as I said, it wasn't my fight. There were others better suited in the industry for that.

That was 15 years ago--so much has changed both in nuisance wildlife control and in animal sheltering! I'd like to think the good people outweigh the bad ones. We all go stumbling through life and make mistakes. But those genuinely bad people--they are a different breed.

Here I am with the cats. Onward we go!

Friday, January 19, 2018

Four days to getting my shit together

I have four days off. I should say "sort of" off because I also use my days off to catch up at work, because days off mean no meetings and very few IMs, so I can get my head around anything I might have fallen behind on.

But this four days off, I want to make a very large dent in getting the cats out of the barn space and into the house space. I've gone into some of the reasons in the previous post but here are some others:

Facebook is changing their algorithm so pages will get less exposure UNLESS you use Facebook Live. The barn space is not the sunniest spot for video and photos. So it's time to get into a shiny bright space where photos and video, and maybe even a webcam, can be part of their future adoption experience.

I really want to enjoy their presence, and therefore I want them closer. But...bears. Yes, I do get tired of chanting "Hey, Bear, hey bear!" every time I go outside to wander down my path and cross the road to the cats at dusk or dark...and sometimes even during the day. It would be nice to not have to go "Well, there's a bear. Since I'm not sure where he went in this darkness, I think I'll stay indoors." Big bears bring baby bears, and while in general bears aren't dangerous, I tend not to stake my safety on "in general."

So hey, four days off here we go.

We had a quick spat of very warm weather in which I was able to let the house cats out on the porch. The house thawed out from the previous week of minus 6 degree weather, and I actually was able to enjoy morning coffee in a house that wasn't as cold as a slab of ice. However:

It didn't last long. We went back to minus 6 for a bit, and now we are a normal winter temperature in the 20s. My house can handle the 20s, so I'm ready to get to work on the upstairs.

I'm trying to save money. One purchase I did really want was something to sleep on in the room with the woodstove, in case temperatures tanked again. But I didn't want to spend a lot of cash on something I would seldom use, and I didn't want it to take a lot of room. This Army cot showed up in my Facebook feed on the local swap and save. The Kitty Kia crunched up a hill in Alpine NY during a minus 8F early morning. Luckily it was warm enough in the house near the woodstove to give it a coat of paint.

Of course the cats took it over:

It is genuine military as well, it appears.

It came with a non-original but vintage wood trundle bed that I absolutely plan to turn into a sleeping platform for the new cat space. The wheels are in amazing condition, and it is as solid as a rock, much like this cot. I'll cut a piece of plywood, paint and seal it, and add a mattress or cushion. It can be rolled out of the way when I sweep. If the rescued cats like that as much as my pet cats like the cot, we'll be golden.

With my comfort assured (and apparently my cats) it is time to head upstairs and (shudders) tackle STEP ONE and open the two locked closets I haven't touched since Mark left almost 10 years ago.

Here we go!

Monday, January 8, 2018

Yes it was (and is) cold out there

While other areas of the US and Canada (Maine! Brrrr!) were colder than our 6-below-zero in Central NYS, the refusal of the thermometer to nudge at all above a single degree for days turned my house and the barn space into what felt like a block of nice. The wind also roared each night. I quickly pulled out the kerosene heater for the barn space, purchased and installed a new wick, and trotted down to the lower barn to fetch what I thought would be empty kerosene cans. I felt like I'd hit the jackpot when I discovered I had two full five-gallon containers (I thought I'd saved 40 bucks!) until I filled the heater and fired it up. The fuel must have gotten water in it or otherwise degraded since last winter, because an almost invisible black soot came out. It didn't become apparently until it hit the walls, graying them slightly with soot. Good thing I'd tested it downstairs! I siphoned the fuel back out again and took two empty blue cans into town for new fuel. Luckily this burned clean.

I almost never need the kerosene heater for the cats. I usually only fire it up when I want to build something downstairs in the barn. To need it for a week is unheard of, and I'll be glad with the temperature finally climbs above 30 tomorrow and the electric will be more than sufficient. Once the foster area is moved into the house, worrying about heat can be checked off my anxiety list.

There were still outside cats to worry about. A neighbor with a feral colony of 12 called to ask if I had straw. I didn't, but I went to Agway in Ithaca the next day to pick some up. She insisted on paying me $10 for the $7 bale. Then Janine called from PA (which is only a hop over the border) about a kitten she had rescued. She ended up bringing over another half bale leftover from a colony she had purchased a bale for. I parked it all under a tarp in front of the barn and put a notice out on Facebook that we had straw for dogs and cats.

I had a few people misunderstand, thinking I was trying to get rid of unwanted straw. They wanted it as extra for their goats or chickens. They were understanding when I explained it was for dogs and cats who might otherwise freeze to death. I picked up another bale from the local Family Farm store, and while not as many people as I had hoped responded, some did. It was especially nice when a couple said they had a feral cat living in their garage whom they wanted to provide a cozy spot.

I woke up to a frozen cold water pipe in the kitchen on Sunday. Luckily the hot and cold water in the bathroom were fine. I opened up the lower kitchen cabinets and brought an electric heater over. Tonight I'll be sure to leave the cabinets open. Luckily there's nothing in there the cats can particularly bother.

Today was slightly warmer--just under 20 degrees F--and Buster celebrated by asking to go out the front door and back in the rear door, at least 8 times. I exaggerated in Facebook and claimed fourteen in-and-out trips, but it certainly felt like twenty especially when he lingered half in and half out of the door, allowing frigid air to roll in.

The aquarium has needed cleaning for awhile, but I didn't want to create an ice flow outside the back door dumping 20 gallons of old fish water. Today with the higher temps and bright sun, I geared up for the task. When I put my hand in to pull out the ornaments and clean the sides I realized the cats and I weren't the only ones who were cold. The water was like ice. Goldfish and minnows are quite tolerant of cold water, but brrrrrr!

At least if we are stuck inside to stay warm, the cats and I can enjoy the quietly swimming fish in their crystal clear tank.

Sunday, January 7, 2018

New cat beds from Handmade House in NJ and food from Elizabeth

The day after Christmas my USPS driver parked her Jeep in my drive and carried a big box up to my door. I joked about not expecting anything after the holidays, and then I saw the return address. Handmade House in New Jersey. More comfy kitty beds (and toys)!

I love watching the new and different beds that arrive. Originally they were rectangular, and they didn't survive multiple washings because of their shape. Then we began receiving round ones, which held up to cat claws and laundry quite well. Recently they began including matching spiral yarn toys (some of which I squirrel away in Ziplock bags with catnip for a week or so to make them extra-special).

This time they came in a box instead of a bag, so I lugged the whole box out to the cat facility.

Blinkyn, Nod, and Timmick were instantly curious.

In the cat room, Pitter was the first to check them out (the red hue is from their red basking lamp).

I wasn't at all surprised when Timmick jumped right on in:

The next day, UPS stopped by. also lugging a big box. What could it be?

A huge bag of Purina One from Elizabeth! This was unexpected and quite timely, as I was just headed out to buy more dry food.

With winter electric bills so high gifts like these are not only wonderful for the cats, but wonderful for me. I have more to post as well! Thank you for the merry New Year!

From human house to cat house. "Before" photos of the upstairs.

New NYS regulations state that rescues must be registered, and the rescue must permit access to a state agent at any time. As I travel frequently for work, I've decided I can't maintain the separate building any longer. While I currently have wonderful caretakers, the barn space operates correctly on a very slim margin. It requires two visits a day at a minimum, just for cleanliness. Temperature must be monitored. Windows have to be opened and closed. When we have a deep freeze, additional heat sources must be added and checked. The cost of electricity is astronomical ($300 a month in the winter).

It just isn't worth it, when I have an entire upstairs that is essentially vacant. I'd always hoped I would find an housemate who likes cats as much as I, but as that hasn't happened in the four years I've had my ears open, and given how much I love privacy, it's time to renovate and move the cats on inside.

There are three rooms, plus a hallway, two closets, and a sizable landing. Pepper and Timea currently have the run of the upstairs as well as the option to come downstairs, and they are the cleanest, least destructive cats in the whole world. However, for a regular cat space, the carpets and any non-cat-tolerant furniture need to go. I've slowly been selling things off so the upstairs is beginning to look quite drab. The entire upstairs will need waterproof paint, and when I have some money for frivolous things, I thought vinyl wall murals (the removable type) might be used to protect the walls, and could be pulled right down and replaced if they get torn or dirtied.

This room has newish carpet that I can store and use to re-cover cat scratching poles as needed, or I can use part of it downstairs. It's only about a year old. The futon and the Poang chair are both cat-friendly. The futon can get a waterproof cover, and the Poang chair cushions are washable and also fairly cheap to replace ($30). This room needs trim so cats don't dig at the corners, a new vinyl floor (thank goodness floor vinyl is much improved in the past 2-3 years), and I have a glass door that needs to be cut and hung.

This middle room needs trim, a new closet door, and new vinyl flooring. The carpet tile is only two years old and was a major mistake. A stretching cat can pull it right up. However it is clean, and can be cut with scissors, so will be good to keep and line the bottoms of the bed platforms on cat furniture. Ultimately this room, and the room to follow, will be gutted and the wall between them torn out. This is the "new" section of the house (1920?) and I'd like to remove the ceiling and take it right up to the peak, with plywood and sheetrock.

This is the end room which is right off the middle room. It needs to have the ceiling papered (I already have this), trim, a closet door, and a new vinyl floor. I also need to decide where I'm going to move the bed, which is a family heirloom. I'd love to put it on the landing, but I believe it is too tall, sadly. We'll see. When this and the middle room are eventually gutted, the windows will come out and be replaced by a sliding door, for when a deck balcony and stairs are added outside. Other than new flooring and some replacement windows downstairs, these are the only improvements I plan for this house before I eventually sell it to someone young and adventurous in a decade or so. The new roof pretty much tapped me out savings-wise, and I don't see any sense in putting in an expensive kitchen or bathroom(s) at the expense of my future retirement. It's not like this will ever be a $200,000 house, no matter how many improvements are made (200K in this region is a very nice house).

So off we go. Periodically I'll post updated photos. I really want the basic work done by the end of this month, since I travel again in February and I want the cats out of the barn space then. I can't risk another below-zero week while traveling.

I must say it will be nice not to have to trek outside watching for bears after dark to visit the cats in the evening!

The barn space can still be used to isolate new cats (which means I'll still need to fix some things out there and keep it maintained) and also a a depot for traps and cages to lend to others. I assume the downstairs could also be used by cat owners whom we are helping with spay/neuter, if they don't have space to recover them post-surgery at home. For the most part, however, it will not be hosting any felines.

I'm also working out an SOP for other foster homes (I assume technically they could be visited as well) and I'm putting all my cat medical records in Excel. Currently each cat has their own paper folder. If someone were to ask to see records, I'd really rather pull one Excel file for their initial look-see, than plopping a pile of folders in front of someone.

Nothing like a little regulatory incentive to bring me into the 21st century.