Monday, April 28, 2014

Life on the Unfarm: an illustrated account

The photos above offer definitive proof that Maximus is a true cat: no cat that I have ever lived with could resist sitting in a puzzle box. I must admit that Max is the first cat who has decided to entertain themselves by diving across the table, knocking half of the puzzle onto the floor. The first, also, to eat the pieces. If Maximus seems to be showing up a disproportionately large amount of the time in these photos from the Unfarm it is because he is a kitten, and by definition he can be found doing something amusing approximately 78 percent of the time. The rest of the time he's sleeping. He walked on the stereo in the master bedroom today and turned on "Dancing Queen." After he spent two minutes playing with the curtains he decided he'd had enough of the music and he turned it back off again.

Friday, April 25, 2014

Rat TV, cancelled until further notice

A couple of weeks ago I wrote a post about Rat TV, our local special interest show, airing nightly here on the back porch at the Unfarm. Unfortunately, despite great ratings and loyal viewership, the show has been cancelled. This note, which I found taped to the kitchen door in the morning (at Maximus height), explained the abrupt cancellation:

 "From the owners of local TV station CAT....
We regret to inform our loyal viewer that the popular program 
has been cancelled until further notice.
Unfortunately, the 3 principal stars of the show met with
untimely deaths. It's not know if the show will be available
in the future. We sincerely hope not!"

After several weeks of using peanut butter bait with no results (other than providing free food to the rats) we decided to switch things up and used canned dog food as bait instead. It proved too tempting a treat for the rats and they finally succumbed and took the bait without the proper amount of caution. We were fairly surprised to find three rats in traps the next morning as we had only been aware of one rat. Maximus, I am sure, will miss his nightly entertainment and will have to amuse himself with raiding the kitchen counter for food he shouldn't eat or things he shouldn't knock off onto the floor. The ducks and chickens are considerably less distraught at the prospect of no longer having to share their food, water and nest boxes with the rats.

Monday, April 21, 2014

Life on the Unfarm: an illustrated account

It's Monday, folks, which means that it's time for... pictures from the Unfarm of course! I call this one "You snooze, you lose." This is another common sight on the Unfarm - Maximus knows that the dogs get some canned food mixed in with their dry food during dinner time and he wants in on the action. The canned food is actually an incentive to get Maia to eat as her appetite has shrunk over the years - she is 18 now and entitled to a little special treatment. For her part, Maia is convinced that if she holds out long enough something even better will magically appear in her bowl. These items might include ham, chicken, eggs, cheese... you get the idea. So while Maia procrastinates Maximus takes advantage of her lapse of attention and scarfs down bits of meat and gravy until he is caught and sent out to the living room with his consolation prize of canned kitten food.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Tasty Vegetarian Chili

I'm not usually a huge fan of chili but this one is pretty good. A few notes: I tend to like my food more on the mild side so I only use one tablespoon of chili powder and I like my vegetables best if they are small enough that I can't recognize them as actual vegetables unless viewed under a microscope so I tend to chop the pepper and onion pretty small. I have also found that I like the chili a little bit more moist than this recipe turns out so I just add in a small amount of water (approximately 1/8 cup to 1 cup chili) into my individual bowl before I eat. That way people can choose the amount of liquid they want with their chili. I eat this plain, but it would probably also be good with a little bit of shredded mozzarella sprinkled on top and melted, or sour cream.

1 tablespoon vegetable oil
1 chopped bell pepper (3/4 to 1 cup)
1/2 chopped onion (about 1/2 cup)
1 (15 or 16 ounce) can of 50% less sodium garbanzo beans
1 (15 or 16 ounce) can of cannellini beans (white kidney beans)
1 (29 ounce) can of gold hominy
1 to 2 tablespoons of chili powder (depending on how spicy you like it)
1 (14.5 ounce) can of fire roasted diced tomatoes
1 (15 ounce) can of tomato sauce
1 tablespoon brown sugar

Heat the vegetable oil in a large pot over medium high heat. Add the onion and bell pepper and cook until tender, about 4 or 5 minutes. Drain and rinse well both beans and the hominy and add it to the pot along with the chili powder. Stir and cook about 2 minutes. Stir in the tomato sauce and roasted tomatoes (undrained); add the brown sugar and stir. Bring the chili to boiling then reduce the heat, cover the pot and let it simmer 25 minutes. Stir occasionally. Serve warm. This recipe makes enough for about 4 servings.

Monday, April 14, 2014

Life on the Unfarm: an illustrated account

Pip, taking a nap
Pip again, cuddled with a towel and heating pad
This one is Squeak, she was a little bit older than Pip
Squeak, look how tiny she is!

These are a few photos of Pip and Squeak, honorary Unfarmians who were with us for a short while. They were wild baby cottontail rabbits that the neighbor's cat (Chico, the terror of the neighborhood  I've mentioned before) caught somewhere and brought, still alive, to the neighbor's doorstep. They gave the bunnies to me to take care of but they were very little - Pip didn't even have his eyes open yet - and they both passed away last week. It takes very little time for me to fall in love with an animal and both of these two wriggled their way into my heart in a matter of minutes. Squeak lasted several days but even top notch vet care couldn't save her. I am having them cremated together and the urn will be placed in my room next to all my other children. I fear that by the time I am 80 I will have to add another room to my house simply to store all the urns from my pets. At any rate, I hope you enjoy looking at these two cuties as much as I do.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Rat TV

Maximus has always been a fan of quality entertainment. He finds great joy in sitting down in front of the TV to watch whatever might be on. And I mean RIGHT in front of the TV - he sits two inches away and blocks half the screen. This situation is advantageous to him because it satisfies two cat loves at once: being entertained an making a nuisance of himself. Of late, however, he has found a new channel to capture his attention: Rat TV. Now before you go checking your cable listings, I regret to inform you that it's a local channel, only available here on the Unfarm. 

It is a regrettable fact that if you have animals, especially chickens and ducks, who eat their food outdoors, or you regularly leave food out for birds and squirrels, you are at risk of attracting rats. The fact that we are near both a forest and a pasture, and that we have a shed the rats can hide under doesn't hurt either. So in the evenings, once the kitchen is quiet, our resident rat (I would not go so far as to name him an Unfarmian, though) can be found scurrying around on the back deck, fattening himself on what little bits of seeds or duck food has been knocked onto the ground. While the humans on the Unfarm look upon these nighttime forays with dismay, Maximus finds it quite entertaining. He will plant himself in front of the large sliding glass doors and watch his regularly scheduled programming of Rat TV. And thus far, his program has not been cancelled as this particular rat has been quite crafty at avoiding any traps we have put out. Either that or he just has no taste for peanut butter. 

I should note that I do not approve of killing animals, but it is dangerous to have rats in such close proximity to us and our animals because of the diseases they may carry (and the chickens have absolutely no interest in taking on a rat for a roommate, as they are keen to do when the winter cold sets in.) So when we find it necessary to rid ourselves of rodent interlopers we use the snap traps because they kill quickly, as opposed to poison which is slow and painful. Plus, given our success rate (which is low), it would seem that the traps give the rats a sporting chance. More often than not, the rats get away with a free meal. 

So until our rat gets sloppy, or develops a craving for peanut butter, Maximus will be spending his evenings watching his favorite show. After all, it's somewhat interactive and there are never any reruns. The only thing missing now is the popcorn.

Monday, April 7, 2014

Life on the Unfarm: an illustrated account

Dos, not to be confused with Una, showing off her mastery of energy conservation. Why bother sitting up to eat when you can lie directly in your food, cutting out all that bothersome bending and reaching? Dos was the only other squirrel who would come when I called and take treats from my hand, and could be recognized by the notch missing from the top of her right ear. Sadly, Dos passed away a couple months ago and I buried her under the beauty berry bush in the front yard. I still miss that little squirrel!

Interior design on the Unfarm

I generally consider myself to be a fairly decent, if amateur, interior designer. I can organize, tidy and toss furniture around to create something that most people are generally happy with. I am well known for my regular, minor furniture rearrangements - we have a summer look and a winter look for the living room. I am also well know for my major room rearrangements, which may or may not include new furniture, wall colors, and decorative painting. These transformations typically take place when I am left to hold down the fort on my own while the rest of the family is out of town for a few days. If you are a regular reader of this blog you may remember some of those projects. The kitchen, office, and TV/sewing room have been the most recent victims of my I-think-I-can-handle-it-itis. It is a terrible affliction that warps my thinking causing me to actually believe I can pull off a complete redo in only a few days with no help, and not have to spend the last few hours before my parents get home running around the house frantically trying to get paint to dry and clean the disaster zone I have created of the rest of the house. Spoiler: I am never found relaxing with a glass of lemonade or reclined on the couch with a good book when my parents pull up in the driveway. Sweating, breathless, and hiding rags and cleaner behind my back is a more accurate image. It may take a few days for my parents to come around to the new look, but as far as I know, they always do. 

"This placement will do quite nicely. Yes, the chi is good here."

Unfortunately, not everyone has been pleased with my designs. Apparently, my skills as a designer do not translate over for the lagomorph crowd. The rabbits are decidedly unhappy with where I choose to place things. The litter boxes, for instance, are always placed under the water bottles to catch any drips, the carpet is on the opposite side of the cage and the food bowl is in the middle. This is clearly not where things should go, and Ginger makes sure to let me know what she thinks of this arrangement. As soon as I put a fresh litter box in she will grab it with her teeth and hurl it about her cage. This almost always ends up with the hay strewn about all over the cage floor, the litter box on its side in the center, and her food bowl is often dumped out and can be found under one of the mounds of hay. Having done so much work redecorating her house she will then plop down on the cage floor previously occupied by her litter box, stretch her body out and kick her legs to the side. This is Ginger speak for, "I am thoroughly satisfied with how things are."

Ginger playing "king of the mountain" sitting on top of her upside down litter box. She thinks this is the best way to arrange her cage. As you can imagine, I disagree.

My response to her redecorating is to uncover and right her bowl, put her litter box back in its place, scoop up all the hay, and deposit it back into the litter box. The entire time I am doing this Ginger is squeaking and grunting at me and charging at my hand. This is Ginger speak for, "what do you think you're doing?!? I just got that all arranged and now you're messing it up! The feng shui was perfect! How is the chi going to flow in here now??"  I suppose I shall just have to resign myself to the fact that in all likelihood I will never be hired as a professional interior designer for the lagomorph society. I will have to content myself with maneuvering couches and painting walls. Speaking of which, the hall closet really could use a remodel...