Feral Cats & Kitten – Round 2….

We knew there were more feral cats that we’d need to trap, and we’re starting to get an idea of just how *many* more….

Over the Christmas break, I set up a trail cam near the feeding area to see who showed up.  I could tell (by the clipped left ear) that one was the orange and white female we’d trapped and had spayed earlier in the month.  But who were these other cats?

 

I set up a feeding station (that my friend, Kim, let me borrow), and today I saw the orange and white TNR girl again.

 

Aha!  SHE has kittens!!  One is a fluffy white and orange, and the other is a more solid orange.  These kittens appear to be at least a few weeks older than the first kittens we trapped.

  

I don’t know if these babies are too old to be socialized or not.  I guess we’ll try to figure that out once we trap them. (As a side note, the first 4 kittens that we trapped are doing well!  A couple of them may be ready for adoption soon!)

After this mama cat and her kits had eaten their fill, yet another adult cat showed up.  At first I thought she was a white and black kitty, but once she got closer, I could tell that she was mainly white with some calico markings (meaning it’s very likely that this is another female).

  

  

She was very skittish and wary, and this might make her more difficult to trap…. I also saw the long-haired black cat again today, but he (?) didn’t come for food.

I’ll start borrowing traps again next week to try to catch the new ones.  In the meantime, we hope to have at least one feral shelter ready to go by the end of the week.  It will be an insulation-lined large, plastic storage tote that we’ll fill with straw.

I really hope that we can trap all of these cats and have them spayed/neutered before kitten season begins again in earnest….

Posted in Animals & Wildlife, Feral Cats | 2 Comments

New Year’s Day Tradition

For the last several years, we’ve visited a Virginia State Park on New Year’s Day.

In 2014, we visited Douthat State Park:

In 2015, we went to Smith Mountain Lake State Park:

In 2016, we visited one of our favorites, James River State Park:

For our January 1, 2017 trip, we decided to go to High Bridge Trail State Park.  Some of my cousins went to this park in November, and since we’d never been, we decided to check it out.

Here’s the route we took:

(Interactive map: http://www.dcr.virginia.gov/state-parks/high-bridge-trail#general_information )

There were several entrances to the trail.  We saw the first sign in downtown Farmville, VA.  After parking the car and walking over to the trail head, we realized it was a 4+ mile hike to the bridge from that point. Um, no.

The next entrance to the trail–the one we went on–is 3 miles outside of Farmville on River Road.  The walk to the bridge from the parking area is just under a mile.  In terms of mileage, the trail to the restroom seemed much more do-able. 😉

There’s no visitor’s center at this entrance (there wasn’t one in town, either), and the long, wide trail is completely straight and flat.  It’s a shared-use trail for hikers, bikers, and equestrians, and all of the above were out and about on this New Year’s Day!

  

We were blessed with a pleasantly warm January 1st, with temperatures close to 60 degrees.  It took us a while, but we finally reached the bridge.

  

Pretty impressive–the bridge is more that 2400 ft. long, and 125 ft. above the Appomattox River!

  

  

Now had we planned a bit better, we probably would have opted to go to the 3rd entrance to the park, which is on the east end of the bridge.  From the parking area on that side, the distance to the bridge is only .3 of a mile and it’s also much closer to the river.  We’ll try to remember that for next time!

  

Wayne got some really nice shots of the river and the reflections in the river:

  

  

  

New Year’s Day selfie on the bridge, and Wayne’s shot of me with the Appomattox River behind/below me:

  

Funny story: So there we were, in the middle of this very long bridge, and I noticed a family walking towards us from the opposite direction.  Well, whaddya know?!  We’d seen them at a restaurant 25+ miles up the road an hour or two earlier when they came in and sat at the booth behind ours.  I thought it was very “coincidental” to run into them again!  I can’t tell you how many times in my life such things have happened.  🙂

As we started back towards the parking area, I paused to snap a picture of a hoof print next to Wayne’s shoe.  Many of Virginia’s state parks now have facilities (including stables) for horses.  I also took a picture of the # 4 (or possibly #14) that I spotted on the trail.  Significance?  No clue. 🙂

 

Truly a beautiful, sunny day at an historic location.

  

  

We drove through downtown Farmville again on the way home….

  

We hope to have the health and good fortune to continue our tradition of going to one of Virginia’s state parks on January 1, 2018, and I hope that you’ll make a resolution to explore some of the wonders in your own back yard in the coming year!

Happy New Year, everyone! 🙂

Posted in Adventures & Travels | Comments Off on New Year’s Day Tradition

Feral Cats & Kittens

In early December 2016, I discovered that a beautiful calico mama cat and her four kittens were living behind the art building at my school.  When I saw one of my co-workers setting out a can of food for them, I got in touch with her and we began planning a way to safely trap them.

We started feeding the kitties regularly, and this allowed me to photograph them from my classroom using the telephoto lens on my camera.  From what I could tell from my pictures–and by watching them–the kittens looked very healthy.  They all were active, playful, and beautiful!

 

My friend, Kim, has experience with feral cats, and she arranged for me to borrow a number of safe traps from the local chapter of “Voices for Animals.” My co-worker and I continued to feed the kitties as we prepared for “trapping day.”

Early on Wednesday, December 14th, I placed a small amount of canned cat food in the far end of each of 5 traps,  and set them out near the feeding area.  Within an hour, I could see that two of the traps had closed!  I drove my car around to the back of the building and saw that the mama cat was in one of the traps, and an orange and white cat that I hadn’t seen before was in the other trap!  Was this unknown cat the father of the kittens?!

   

I put both of the trapped adults in my car, and after waiting about an hour (hoping to catch some of the kittens), I drove to our local SPCA.  A “no kill” shelter, CASPCA offers free spaying and neutering of feral cats, with the understanding that these kitties will be part of the “TNR” program: Trap, Neuter, Return.  TNR cats are “fixed,” receive vaccinations, have their left ear “tipped” (to indicate that they’ve been sterilized), and then returned to the area where they were trapped.

Unfortunately, most truly feral adults are simply not adoptable–and there are thousands of wonderful, adoptable cats languishing in shelters because there are not enough adopters….  At least through the TNR program, cats are returned to the area where they were trapped, no longer capable of producing kittens.  With regular feeding and simple shelters, TNR ferals usually do well.  I got the mama cat and the orange and white kitty to the SPCA early enough on Wednesday for them to have their surgeries that day.

I drove back to school, relieved to have trapped the two adults, and by early afternoon I could see that two more of the traps were closed!  YAY!  I’d trapped two of the four kittens!  I made another trip to the SPCA (after removing the remaining traps from the area to avoid catching a kitty–or something else!–that night), and these beautiful babies were accepted into a foster program.  As foster kittens, they’ll be given lots of TLC, spayed/neutered, vaccinated, socialized, and ultimately available for adoption.

 

At this point I should note that if situations were different, I would have gladly brought all four of the kittens home with me instead of taking them to the SPCA.   Yes, I’m a “crazy cat lady.”  I got my first kitten, Missy, when I was five years old, and there have been few times in my life when I haven’t had at least one cat….

In 1964 (when the picture below was taken), Missy was primarily inside, though she went outside some during the day.  Now, however, all of my cats are inside, exclusively, and I’ve had as many as eight under roof at one time when my sons lived here with their cats!

And a bit more of the back story: On November 14th, exactly one month before trapping these kitties, I lost Kai, one of my four elderly cats.  I’d adopted him and two of his siblings from a shelter in 2002, and his death was completely unexpected.  It still hurts, but I like to think that my love for ALL cats–including ferals and shelter cats–is part of my beautiful Kai’s legacy….

  

Sadly, all of my remaining old ones have health issues.  It wouldn’t have been good for them to deal with 4 rambunctious, mostly-wild kittens, and it also wouldn’t have been fair to expose the kittens to some of the illnesses that my elderly cats have.  I knew this (and still know it), but I have to admit that I had an especially hard time surrendering the little calico baby I’d trapped.  I hope she finds a wonderful–truly WONDERFUL–loving home!  <3

On Thursday, December 15th, I set out the traps again, feeling somewhat desperate about catching the remaining two kittens.  With their mama cat and their siblings gone–and with temperatures forecast to plummet into the low teens that night–I REALLY wanted to trap them!

Just before my second exam period of the day (all of this was happening during exam week at school, by the way!)–I could see that two of the traps were closed.  I asked my students to watch from the windows while I drove around to the back of the building.  YAY!!!  Two kittens!!

I put them in my car, drove around to the front of the building, and my students helped me carry them upstairs to the classroom.  (It was already really cold outside, and I didn’t want to leave them in their traps in my car since they couldn’t move around much to keep warm.) We placed them on a table and covered the traps with blankets while the kids took their semester tests.  It was a very quiet room, interrupted by the occasional “meow.” 🙂

 

As soon as the students were done, we carried the traps back to my car and I headed–again–to the SPCA.  These two kittens would join their siblings at the foster mom’s house, and I needed to pick up the two adults who’d had their surgeries the day before. I’d paid to board them at the SPCA on Wednesday night, but there was no space available for them to be kept another night.  I REALLY didn’t want to release the female that evening since it was supposed to be so cold–but to my surprise, the orange and white cat that I’d assumed was the “baby daddy” was a female, too!

With both cats in the car and no good plan, I called Kim again.  She had previously let me borrow a large dog crate (which I’d put in my basement, in case I needed it for the kittens), and she said she had another crate I could borrow.  I stopped by and picked that one up (and returned some of the empty V.F.A. traps to her), stopped by the store to buy a couple of disposable litter boxes, and went back to school.

My co-worker came over to my classroom and we put the smaller crate in the far back corner of the room and added a litter box plus bowls with food and water in them. We set the trap with the orange kitty up close to the open crate, used large pieces of cardboard on either side of the trap to make a barricade, put on gloves, and then carefully opened the trap.  Success!  The orange kitty ran into the crate!

We had to leave the mama cat in the trap while we drove to my house to get the large crate, then we went back to school and used the same method to get her out of the trap and into a crate.  Both cats were very, very scared, but I told them (repeatedly) that they were better off hanging out in the crates for a day or two while they healed than being outside in the cold temperatures–especially with their bare, shaved bellies….

This was the first time I’d dealt with feral cats on an up close and personal level, and these girls were so different from my cats and other “domestic” cats that I know….  They were silent, and I don’t think they slept at ALL on Friday when I was in my classroom.  They didn’t pace around, they didn’t meow–they just sat there, frozen in place.  Only their eyes moved as they warily watched and waited…

   

My co-worker fed them on Saturday morning. Because we didn’t feel comfortable opening the crates, we devised a way to use a long wooden spoon and a spouted watering can to reach through the bars of the crates to add food and water to their bowls.

When I went to school Saturday afternoon to release them (the weather had gotten much warmer), I discovered that the orange girl had pulled the whole sheet that had covered her crate into her litter box! (Both of these feral cats had used the litter boxes…. Smart kitties!)

I mentioned that I had the crates in the far back corner of my classroom.  It is a HUGE room (70 feet from end to end; this picture was taken just after the space was renovated), and I had to figure out how to safely get the kitties from one end to the other and then outside….

I started with the smaller crate that the orange cat was in.  I gently put the crate on a blanket and slowly dragged it to the other end of the room, into the hall, and then to the top of the stairs.  (I’d already propped open the doors at the bottom of the stairs.)  Again using cardboard boxes and large pieces of cardboard as a barricade, I angled the opening of the crate towards the stairs, and (wearing gloves) carefully opened it.  She hesitated just for a moment, then quickly made her way down the stairs, out the door, and around to the back of the building. (Oh, see all the trash down in the woods?  A bear–yikes!–raided the dumpsters earlier in the week….)

I repeated this drag-and-barricade method with the mama cat’s crate, and she also made a beeline for the back of the building.

As I cleaned up the crates–dumping and washing out the food bowls, throwing away the litter boxes, etc.–I looked out the window again.  The mama cat was sitting in the area that we’d been feeding them!  Too funny!

After I finished cleaning up, I drove to the back of the building, and the mama cat was still there, waiting to be fed.

She was MUCH closer than she’d been in the days before she was trapped, and her whole demeanor was just … different.  Instead of the wary, frozen cat in the crate in the back of my classroom, she was relaxed, confident, and clearly in her element.

At that point, I realized that this little warrior princess mama cat–raider of dumpsters and protector of kittens–was home….

Unlike my cats who are never outside, never cold, never hungry, and usually curled up on a bed or on my lap, these feral cats live in a dangerous world filled with weather extremes and a variety of predators (including foxes, raccoons, hawks–and BEARS!)  It’s not always a safe or a comfortable place–and survival is NOT guaranteed–but it is their place, their world, and where they feel at home.

Unfortunately, I’ve become aware of at least two more cats living on our 1600-acre campus, and we’ll continue to try to trap these ferals for TNR.  In the meantime, we’ll make sure that they are fed regularly, and while there are *many* places they can go to get out of the weather, I’d like to make at least a couple of feral shelters for them.

As my friend Tonya said, trying to reduce the number of homeless cats and kittens is kind of like trying to bail out a sinking ship with a thimble.  True.  And our “ship” is obviously still leaking; this is one of the new-to-me ferals I’ve now seen on campus….

So while there’s still much work to be done, I offer my sincere thanks to Kim, Jaime (my co-worker), Voices for Animals, and the wonderful people at CASPCA.  Their assistance, advice, and support allowed me to trap a total of 6 cats in two days, have two adult females spayed, and give 4 beautiful kittens a chance to be socialized and adopted into loving homes.  It’s a good start. <3

 

 

Posted in Animals & Wildlife, Feral Cats | Comments Off on Feral Cats & Kittens

The James & Maury Rivers & The Blue Ridge Parkway – October 9, 2016

Our latest adventure led us to one of our favorite destinations: the confluence of the James and Maury Rivers near Glasgow, VA.   There is something rather awe-inspiring and soul-touching to see one body of water merging into another, and each time we’ve visited this particular confluence, we’ve been impressed with how each river continues to hold its identify until far downstream.

We headed south on Rt. 29 towards Lynchburg and then we turned north on Rt. 501.  This scenic byway allows us to follow the James River upstream towards the town of Glasgow.

002-road

003-road

005-james-mountains-bigisland

The Blue Ridge Parkway–the scenic 469-mile roadway through the mountains of Virginia and North Carolina–intersects Rt. 501 at the James River, and we detoured briefly to go to the visitor center and to walk on the trail down to the river.

006-sign-jamesriver-brp  008-brp-wayne

The James was muddy due to recent rains, but we love this view of one of our favorite rivers with the mountains in the background.  A pedestrian bridge is built directly under the main bridge that crosses the James.

009-jamesriver-brp  06-jamesriver-bridge

Near the center of the river, we held up a tiny shard of quartz crystal and paused for a moment to “bless the waters.”  This is something we’ve done at numerous bodies of waters and in many different states over the years. We silently thank each river (or lake or ocean), offer our prayers for the health of its waters, and express our love for it.   Once a crystal has been charged with our love and prayers, we drop it into the water and visualize our blessings being used for the best benefit of all.

011-crystal-jamesriver

As we returned to Rt. 501, we were soon rewarded with a beautiful view of the James River Gorge. Wayne and I both took pictures here.  🙂

015-road  017-wayne-jamesriver-rt501

Descending from this elevated overlook, we crossed over the Maury River and arrived in the small town of Glasgow.  We turned on Jarvis Trail which leads to the confluence where the Maury meets the James.

020-maury-james-road

The Maury River, which is about 43 miles long, is formed by the Calfpasture and Little Calfpasture Rivers near Goshen, Virginia.  It flows south-southeast through Goshen Pass (another one of our favorite places) and historic Lexington, Virginia before joining the James River at Glasgow.  It always amazes us to see the fast-moving, green Maury River rushing into the James.

024-maury-james-confluence  022-maury-james-confluence

You can tell which river is which well downstream of the confluence.  So beautiful! 🙂

The park and trail that they’ve created at the confluence and along the James River are very nice, too.

15-sharon-confluencepark  23-sharon-james

But as we’ve seen on the banks of virtually every Virginia river we’ve visited, there are signs posted that warn of the dangers of eating fish caught in these waters.  In this case, certain fish contain chemicals called PCBs.

025-healthadvisory-sign

PCBs are man-made chemicals that were widely used in hundreds of applications from the late 1920s until the 1970s when their production was banned.  As PCBs do not easily break down, these chemicals remain in the environment and they are found throughout the world.  You can learn more about PCBs and the health risks they pose by clicking on this link: http://www.greenfacts.org/en/pcbs/

Blessing the Maury River….

026-crystal-maury  027-wayne-maury-james

Driving from the confluence on Jarvis Trail towards Glasgow, we could see a Kestrel riding the wind. After it swooped down into the field, it came up with something in its talons.  I was able to get a clear shot of this gorgeous little hawk once it landed.

029-kestrel  032-kestrel

From Glasgow, we drove through the town of Buena Vista and got on the Blue Ridge Parkway to head towards home.

034-buenavista-valley  039-brp  040-brp  042-brp-20mincliff

What a beautiful day! We love our rivers and mountains!

043-brp-sunlight  044-brp-shenandoah-valley

Trip map:

00-tripmap

https://drive.google.com/open?id=1xwcaTbqQWWsKyep5jN9wP1PQz7o&usp=sharing

 

Posted in Adventures & Travels | Comments Off on The James & Maury Rivers & The Blue Ridge Parkway – October 9, 2016

Free Shipping through October 31st!

Enter coupon code SPOOKY2016 to qualify for free shipping on all items at  ArtRageous Spirit! now through October 31st!  You’ll find some frightfully good deals! 🙂

Artrageous-Spirit-ETSY-banner

While the school year doesn’t give me a whole lot of free time, I’m now accepting a limited number of custom orders!  Recently I made two mini doubled-zippered cross-body bags (measuring 4″ wide x 7″ tall with a 59″ strap) for a client who wanted a hands-free way to carry essentials for quick shopping trips.  She chose the fabrics, and I sewed the two bags to her specifications.

batik-small-cross-body-1-090916   kkw-crossbody1-090616

Another custom order was for a dachshund-themed purse.  I love to combine fun fabrics with bright pops of color. 🙂

dachshundpurse-080916-1  dachshundpurse-080916-3

I made an over-sized “place mat” for the table in our travel trailer…

placemat-092416

And that led to some reversible cat-themed place mats for a soon-to-be-married cat-loving couple!

placemat-postcardcats-04

If you have something in mind–a purse, pillow case set, cross-body bag, etc.–let me know and I’ll see if I can make it for you! 🙂

Posted in Artwork, Etsy, Sewing & Crocheting | Comments Off on Free Shipping through October 31st!