Feral Kitties – Update

I haven’t seen the original mama cat since the day we released her. ¬†ūüôĀ ¬† My co-worker saw her a couple of weeks ago, but hasn’t seen her again. ¬†Obviously¬†I don’t have time to look out the window all the time (and I don’t have the trail cam set up), but I really hope she’s doing well…. ¬†From what I’ve heard from the foster mom, her kittens are thriving, so that’s a blessing; you do what you can….

I *have* seen the other mom–the orange and white girl who was also spayed in December. ¬†She’s become a regular at the feeding station, and I see her every day. She definitely likes this routine!



I also saw the long-haired black cat on Monday (Jan. 9), and today (Jan. 10) I saw one of the white & calico kitties.


I haven’t seen either of the kittens (presumably the orange and white female’s babies) for a couple of days now. ¬†Worrisome, given¬†the bitterly cold weather and snow that we’ve had recently….

I’m sure these cats know a lot of places to go to get warm and to stay dry on this large campus. ¬†Many of the buildings are heated with steam, so there are probably areas along the pipes that they can access. ¬†But since I don’t know where they’re going, ¬†I decided to put together two more feral shelters, at least for my piece of mind.

Simple shelters can be constructed from a plastic storage tub with a Styrofoam cooler inside, but it seems that¬†large coolers are seasonal items! ¬†I’ve found a few in local stores, but what they’ve got on the shelves now are small–far more appropriate for a 6-pack of beer than an adult cat or two!

Given that I had some leftover Reflectix insulation–as well as some Styrofoam sheet insulation–from various projects associated with our travel trailer renovations, I decided to use those materials in lieu of the elusive coolers. ¬†Using hot glue and duct tape, it was fairly easy to insulate the storage containers. ¬†The hardest part was cutting the hole through the plastic, so I finally used an electric drill to make small holes¬†around the circle, and then used an old serrated steak knife to cut it out. (Kind of like a connect-the-dots game that involved a lot¬†more elbow grease than the paper and pencil version….)


After both were finished, I moved these and the first one¬†to the back (east side) of the tractor shed. ¬†(I’d originally put the first shelter on the south side of the tractor shed.) ¬†It’s not an ideal location since I can’t see them from my classroom to know if the cats are using them, but¬†since they’re a little more secluded, that might make them more attractive to feral cats.

In the meantime, Wayne picked up four¬†Voices for Animals traps today (thanks for coordinating this, Betsy!), and I hope to start trapping again on Thursday. ¬†In a perfect world, I’d set out a total of 5 traps (the four from VFA, plus the one that the school owns), and in a matter of minutes I’d find the long-haired black kitty, both of the white and calico cats,¬†and the two kittens in the traps.

I’m betting, however, that the orange and white kitty (the TNR veteran and daily visitor) will¬†be the first one in… ¬†We’ll see!

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WWOWW 2017!

Each January when the kids come back to school after the break, the first week is devoted to our Winter Week of Wisdom and Wonder: WWOWW!

Special classes and activities are offered, so¬†it’s a time for the students to learn new skills, to try something new, and to have a lot of fun while earning enrichment credits. ¬†It also allows the teachers to do something different and interesting with a fresh group of students. ¬†Here are some highlights from WWOWW 2017 (video by Kim Kelley-Wagner):

I offered a beginning sewing class last year, co-taught with¬†the wife of one of our teachers. It was so much fun that I–and one of our new teachers–decided to offer it again this year!

Due to the schedule, we only had 4 days instead of 5, so before the class started, I went to Jo-Ann’s to buy some colorful flannel fabrics¬†so the kids could make “burrito” pillowcases. I also bought a variety of “fat quarters” for other projects, and my co-teacher and I got everything washed and ready to go before the first class.

We had seven students enrolled in¬†“Sew Cozy,” so we had to scramble to find extra sewing machines. While we didn’t have a machine for each student, it worked out fine and we’re so appreciative¬†of the faculty/staff who let us borrow their personal machines!

On the first day, I taught two kids at a time the basics of machine sewing using my classroom machine and my own (same model) that I’d brought in. ¬†Really can’t say enough good things about this inexpensive Brother sewing machine–super for newbies and experienced sewists, too!

While I was teaching the students how to use the machines (they each did at least one practice session by sewing through lines on paper), my co-teacher showed the rest of the kids how to press, measure, and cut the fabric for their pillowcases. They chose a solid color for the main body of the pillowcase and then a colorful print for the cuff.


Once they had the large pillowcase piece rolled up inside of the cuff fabric (that’s the “burrito” part), they sewed it together into a long tube.


The next step involved pulling the solid fabric out of the tube.  At the beginning it seems impossible to do!

Finally, it works! Yay!!


After pressing the fabric again, they sewed together the side and bottom seams.


For their next project, I told them they could use one of the cotton “fat quarters” to make either a small pillow or a drawstring bag. ¬†To my complete surprise and delight, these kids had other ideas!

With the addition of paint, one student created a stylized soft sculpture of a cat:


Minions, anyone?

Strawberry pillow:

Fiberfill-stuffed mobile of a cloud, lightning bolt, and raindrops, along with a Minion pillow:

What a fun and productive week! ¬†These kids (from the U.S., China, Guatemala, and Saudi Arabia) learned so much, so quickly, and were an absolute joy to work with! ¬†I’m so proud of them! ¬†WWOWW!!




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MORE Cats!!

I was able to photograph some of the usual suspects again today, but when I looked through my pictures, I realized that yet another adult was near the feeding station!!

While many of these pictures are somewhat blurry (I’m shooting through a 3rd-floor window, with my telephoto lens maxed out), this is certainly not the same white and calico cat I photographed yesterday, sigh…

This now makes 3 adults (and counting…?) to try to trap.

This is the first time I’ve seen the long-haired black cat at the feeding station. ¬†I REALLY hope this is the male (and the ONLY male). ¬†At this point, who knows?

I also got some “family” shots of the orange and white mama cat (who’s already been spayed) and her two absolutely adorable kittens.



As to “good” news, I was able to get some straw today, so we’ll put the first feral shelter out tomorrow. ūüôā


We got the first feral shelter put out on Friday morning.  We were somewhat limited as to where we could put it, and ultimately opted to set it on the south side of a tractor shed within about 50 feet of the feeding station.  I really hope the kitties use it.  We hope to add at least one or two more.

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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….

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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.¬†ūüėČ

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. ¬†ūüôā

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. ūüôā


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! ūüôā

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