Unexpected Treats

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Yesterday while relaxing on the couch it occurred to me that the tide was up, the heat and humidity were down, and no storms were in the forecast.   As if catapulted from my seat with this revelation, I made a dash for my camera, life-jacket and paddle and down to the creek I went.  It is rare that I sail out on my own, but sometimes that’s the best way to observe nature and just enjoy the serenity of the creek.

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“Rivendell”

The first unexpected sight I came upon was of a beaver dam.  I’ve heard the beavers slap their tail before when entering their territory, but had still yet to see one.  Yesterday was my first sighting of any dam, so I was excited to be able to see it up close.  I heard the warning slap of the tail when I ventured back for more pictures later, but still never caught a glimpse of the owner of the slapping tail and decided to take his warning seriously, paddling away after a few pictures.  I had been hoping to get a picture of the beaver himself, but they are elusive little characters.

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beaver dam

Further down the creek I spied a squirrel grabbing a small branch to take away to its nesting spot.  He froze when he came up out of his hole and saw me, so I was able to capture some cute pictures of him peeking out.

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I watched as ospreys circled the creek looking for their next meal and observed a smaller bird giving chase to a large flying insect, catching up to it eventually and carrying it back to  its nest.  The butterflies were out flitting about the plant life on the banks, seeming to enjoy the day as much as I was, while numerous dragonflies skimmed the water in every direction in search of insects. Yes, the creek was full of life visually and audibly and I was ever so glad to be out there among it.

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osprey

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magnolia tree gracing the creek bank

On my way back I caught a glimpse of a great blue heron perched atop a large, dead tree in the creek preening its feathers.  I’ve never been able to get that close to a heron without them noticing and immediately taking flight…screaming insults at me all the while, of course.  This heron broke all the rules and sat there after preening for at least five minutes while I let the boat simply drift around as I took pictures.  Finally he or she had enough of modeling and took flight across the creek, but the unexpected photography session was definitely a treat!

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Preening

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After getting back from my rewarding time on the creek, it was still too beautiful to go inside, so I decided to linger by the creek on a bench enjoying a cup of afternoon coffee. My husband joined me, and then we actually spotted him above the water-finally!

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beaver

My last unexpected treat was getting a close up glimpse of a green heron.  In our six years here I have only spotted it once, and that from very far away.  The pictures I got are blurry as I had to shoot as soon as I saw him, but I was very happy to finally see him nonetheless.

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For a much better visual of him and to read more about this particular heron and others check out this link .

Until next time, wishing you unexpected treats as you explore your own beautiful corner of the world!

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∼Jen

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∗ A very informative link on Great blue herons

 

First Kayak Ride of Spring

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Heaven reached down to kiss me yesterday with the convergence of my schedule, my son’s schedule, the tide schedule, and a gorgeous, mild-temperature spring day….all perfect for a mid-afternoon kayak outing.

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The sky was a cloudless blue, the perfect backdrop for the emergence of new leaves budding out next to the evergreens, which brave the winter months gracing us with their beauty  year round…

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My son wanted to head for the nearest little island in the creek, which he and his older brother have enjoyed exploring since we first moved here.  It is a perfect nesting spot for  geese, and evidence was spotted of that before we even disembarked….

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We were fortunate enough to spot the first egg of the clutch, and hopefully not the last.  We’ll come back to check the progress next week and maybe catch mama laying on them as we did a few years back.  The female goose lays eggs about 36 hours apart, and can lay anywhere from two-ten eggs per breeding season.  The incubation period is 28-30 days, so we should certainly get a glimpse of mama at some point during that time.

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The little island is carpeted with luscious, emerald moss decorated with newly fallen red maple buds-mama goose certainly has good taste in homes…

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On our return trip we were treated to “Harold” or perhaps “Henrietta.” Either way, it is always a surprising delight when he or she appears from nowhere, squawking its displeasure at us for daring to enter its domain.

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The houseboat, which appeared at Thanksgiving time two years ago, is still gracing the creek with its presence …

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I would love to get a peek inside this home, and can only imagine how peaceful it must be to live literally on the water.  I am blessed enough, though, to be able to live next to it and am always thankful to be a witness to the wonders of nature the creek brings in all of its seasons.

Until next time, happy spring to those of you in this hemisphere!

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∼Jen

 

A Seaside Winter Walk

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New Year’s Day promised to be a beautiful 60 degrees outside, so my husband, younger son and I decided to head to the beach for a winter’s walk.  We began at our favorite little cafe in Lewis, Olive and Oats, then fortified with a delicious lunch, which included the obligatory black-eyed peas, we headed to the Cape.

 

Below is the beautiful boardwalk towards the beginning of the trail…

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leading to the spectacular scenery just beyond and along the path.

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colorful marsh
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egrets
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gulls and egrets with WWII lookout tower in background

All along the path were the subdued and peaceful colors of winter, and many other friendly New Year’s Day walkers/cyclists as well.

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escaping the crowd

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Before exiting the park, we happened upon the white-tailed deer, always very plentiful here…

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white-tailed deer fawn
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grazing in playing field

One last look at the sea, then back home to a cozy fire and the promise of more winter walks ahead.

Until next time,

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∼ Jen

Tree-top Lunch

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Saturday was a beautiful, perfect-cycling-weather kind of day.  I was mindlessly pedaling along, smiling peacefully, taking in all the natural serenity surrounding me on one of the first gorgeous days of fall.

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Not far up ahead a group was pulled off to the side, looking up into a tree-top.  Oh, wow, was I ever glad I made a vow to never cycle without my camera again!  I pulled over to join them, and as quietly and quickly as I could, pulled the camera out with record speed.  I was so concerned he was going to fly before I could focus, and equally concerned I would send him flying with my movements.

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My concerns were unfounded as he was happily enjoying a feast fit for an eagle…no movement of mine or any other new-comers were apt to disturb him from finishing his lunch.

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I did get pictures of him eating, but I’ve spared you those, just sharing his post-lunch poses.

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Using tree branch as napkin after lunch

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We were able to enjoy him for at least five minutes. After he cleaned his beak and looked down at us a few times as if to ask, “Haven’t you guys ever seen an eagle eating before?” he took to the skies, leaving us all with a profound sense of awe and gratitude for the incredible display of nature we had just shared.

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Until next time, look up occasionally, you never know what spectacle may be perched above your head!

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∼ Jen

The Beauty of Stillness

dsc_0112.jpgIt is a quiet Sunday morning as I write this.  The air is cool enough to leave the door cracked just slightly, allowing the sounds of nature to flow inside.  The birds are singing their morning songs as they flit around in their busy springtime activities.  A tufted titmouse pair are continuing their gathering of nest-building material for the box just outside my window, while a hummingbird stops to sip at the nectar feeder just below the future titmouse abode.

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Tufted titmouse gathering nesting material

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Gabby cat is enjoying an early morning walk around, simultaneously keeping a lookout  for possible adventure with one eye and the approach of our neighbor’s dogs with the other…

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Gabby amid the jewel weed

 A squirrel enjoyed an early breakfast of sunflower seeds scattered beneath the feeders before attacking the feeders directly. In due time he was joined by two other squirrels that soon gave him chase before they all raced up a tree, resembling a reverse playing of firemen sliding down a pole.

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The male cardinal is visiting another feeder closer to our pond, and the sounds of the waterfall flowing fills the air with its soothing sounds, in perfect harmony to the music of the wildlife surrounding it.

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The creek is at high-tide and is still and deceptively quiet under a misty haze and overcast sky. In the surrounding trees, the birds and squirrels make up for its silence aided by honking geese in the distance, while cinnamon ferns, jewel-weed, and iris decorate its banks as they continue to spring more to life with each passing day.  Somewhere nearby a wood duck couple are certain to be enjoying its serenity, while playful otters and busy beavers are certain to be disturbing it.

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Wood duck pair 

 At any given moment an eagle is likely to do a fly-by low along the creek, or perch in one of the nearby trees watching for fish and other small creatures to fill its stomach and feed its young.

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Harold, our resident blue heron, has yet to my knowledge made his daily appearance, but that too could happen at any given moment and may even include a sighting of  Henrietta, seen accompanying him of late…tis the season!

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“Harold”

Peaches, the cat of unknown origins, who has unfortunately decided to adopt us, draws my eye away from the creek again as he takes up one of his favorite spots beside the pond…much to the dismay of Gabby, and Bitty as well, who is perched beside me now glaring at him from her window seat.

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The cardinal seen earlier is now perched closer to my window, almost hidden in the lush leaves, until roused by a blue-jay who was earlier hopping up and down on a branch above him and making a general ruckus.  For whatever reason, Mr. Jay felt the need to antagonize the cardinal until deciding to fly off towards the creek with the cardinal giving chase.

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In a break from nest-building duties, Mr. Titmouse flies over to give his wife a morsel on a nearby branch, and the lone squirrel is back posing for a picture.

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Our door is now shut and the fireplace is lit to chase off the chill-enticing kitty with its warmth-as my husband and I enjoy the quiet of early morning.  The wood ducks paddle into view, and all seems right with the world.

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I purposefully laid aside my camera for the most part this morning-deciding to add in older pictures later-and purposed instead to just sit still and enjoy all the sights and sounds outside the lens…

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…because sometimes in our single “focused-ness’ of life we miss the peripheral beauty going on around us, and that is a lesson in and of itself.

Until next time,

∼Jen

 Psalm 46:10  “Be still, and know that I am God…”

Welcome May!

My favorite spring month has finally dawned…and its opening show is as breathtaking  as always!

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Yesterday opened up the beauty with sunshine and wonderfully mild temperatures.  I had much to do-a shared vegetable garden to be planted at my sisters- so I was not planning to linger long over coffee and nature-gazing.  Then my eyes spotted this sun bather (below) in the creek…

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that ended any coffee time abruptly as I grabbed my camera and spent a sunny morning outside enjoying the peace of nature while gathering the following pictures…

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Last of the spring daffodils, pansies, and tulips…

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Beginning of the azaleas that we eagerly await each spring…

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Unfurling of my favorite foliage plant, the lovely fern…

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Bleeding hearts blending with azaleas…

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A favorite bird garden…

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Fading lenten rose…

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Beauty of new life in the form of a tiny pine tree, with kayaks in the background holding the promise of future adventures on the creek and more nature to be explored …

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Warm wishes for a beautiful month of May in your corner of the world.

Until next time!

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∼ Jen

Number Four is at the Door….

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…Be this an autumn or a spring

My wisdom loses way

One side of me the nuts are ripe

The other side is May

(from The Ones that Disappeared are Back by Emily Dickinson)

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With our fourth Nor’easter, it’s now apparent that March does indeed intend to go out with a roar!  I’m not complaining, getting to sleep in as school was cancelled, leisurely drink coffee while enjoying spelt-blueberry pancakes, in no rush to be anywhere, is fine with me.

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I’m not sure how the flowers and budding trees will feel about it, but it is what it is, so I decided to capture a few pictures and watch the progress as we have transitioned from morning sleet to now thick flakes, on this second day of spring.

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Above, one of our many squirrels enjoying his fair share of sunflower seeds before the rain turned to snow, and below “red” enjoying some seeds of his own in a different spot…

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red-bellied woodpecker

The picture of the cardinal and finches below is blurred by the window panes, but they are a such a cute trio I had to include them…

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The mourning doves are gathering seeds as the snow falls around them…

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A strange sight to see snow on such vibrant pink….

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Ferns, a fun hiding place for Gabby, seeing yet another snowfall…

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Maybe this will be the last snowfall, who knows….but it’s all beautiful nature just the same.  A very happy day to you all, whatever your weather may be!

Until next time!

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∼ Jen

Morning Memories…January-February

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male and female Eastern towhee

With three Nor’easters in the last several weeks, March has certainly come in like a lion. It still remains to be seen if this transitional month will exit like a lamb-one can only hope!  As I look out my widow, spring is literally budding forth…time for one last look back at this year’s winter memories.

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female Eastern towhee enjoying sunflower seed

American robin, below, enjoying morning sunlight on rocks before getting drink from waterfall…

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Geese oblivious to the icy waters…

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A variety of birds decorate the bare branches like natural ornaments…

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Tufted titmouse enjoying a sunny morning at the feeder…

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Sparrows breakfasting together…

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Grey squirrel gone rogue… enjoying an acorn instead of raiding my bird feeders…

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Male cardinal enjoying what’s left of beauty berries…

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…and posing beautifully on dried hydragenea blooms….

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Downed holly tree, one of a handful that fell in creek in past few months…lots of spring clean up awaits, but on the bright side, our main creek view has greatly increased….

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The hammock became a convenient platform feeder during the deep snows..

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And many other seeds were enjoyed under the protection of a sleeping vine…

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Blue jays continually beautified our landscape….

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The below adorable site I happened to catch one morning made me really glad I have not gotten around to fixing this bird home….

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I was so glad my husband came to get me one morning to watch a flock of robins enjoying the holly tree berries…

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Our bench sat vacant as a silent watcher over the frozen creek and snowy landscape…

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And so, another winter is almost past in our part of the world, and the beauty of spring now begins to bud forth, replacing one natural beauty with another.  Whichever natural tapestry God is weaving in your part of the world, I hope you enjoy the daily show!

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Until next time!

∼Jen

Let the morning bring me word of your unfailing love…Psalm 143:8

Seeing Blue

 

 

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Over the past few months one bird has appeared very prominent in our backyard…the rascally bluejay.  I’m sure it has nothing to do with the peanuts I put out to lure him in or the sunflower seeds placed strategically about. Whatever the reason, I’m glad he and his many cohorts are decorating the scenery with their beauty and are affording me many pictures of their antics.

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 I decided the blue beauty was worthy of his own post and looked through the many    pictures I have of him to pair up with the following poem by Emily Dickinson. I hope you enjoy!

The Blue Jay – Poem by Emily Dickinson

No brigadier throughout the year
So civic as the jay.
A neighbor and a warrior too,
With shrill felicity

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Pursuing winds that censure us
A February day,
The brother of the universe
Was never blown away.

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The snow and he are intimate;
I’ve often seen them play
When heaven looked upon us all
With such severity,

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I felt apology were due
To an insulted sky,
Whose pompous frown was nutriment
To their temerity.

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The pillow of this daring head
Is pungent evergreens;
His larder — terse and militant —
Unknown, refreshing things;

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His character a tonic,
His future a dispute;
Unfair an immortality
That leaves this neighbor out.

– Emily Dickinson

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Until next time, if a jay’s in your corner of the world, buy some peanuts to welcome in this fun neighbor!
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 ∼Jen

“Gladiator Gabby” and Sub-zero Temps.

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“Mom, Gabby has escaped.”

Those were the words that awakened me from my sound, cozy, oblivious to the -1 degree temperatures outside at 2 a.m. sleep. “What? Are you sure?”  Yes, he was sure…and he was, unfortunately, right.

A little back-story on Gabby…

She showed up one hot, summer day at our old home about 6 years ago, emaciated and timid, lurking in a row of trees behind our above-ground pool.  My older son was the first to spot her so he named her Gabby.  Now, I know the rule about not feeding strays, but I just can’t look at an innocent animal, half-starved, and not offer them a bite to eat.  Not sure of her temperament, we put the food down and stayed at a bit of a distance, though we soon found out, that was how she was going to keep us anyhow.

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We continued putting food out for Gabby, and she continued to keep her distance.  I noticed she would follow me, however, whenever I would go into a certain area of the yard and soon found out why.  I was taking care of our pet chickens one afternoon when I felt eyes on me.  Amazing how we can sense that, anyhow, I looked up and saw two pairs of the most adorable blue eyes staring back at me through the bushes to my left.  Gabby was a mom!

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And, what a devoted mom she was! I was ever so glad I ignored the well-intentioned advice to not feed a stray, and she immediately gained my “mom” respect for taking such good care of her kittens even in her half-starved state.  As time went on, I continued to feed Gabby, and her kittens, now weaned, would come out to eat as well.  Only one of the three would allow me to pet her, and she quickly became my favorite.  She was so pretty we named her “Pretty Kitty” and her sister, the shy, feisty one, we named “Bittie.”

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Bittie in her glory days

Fast forward many months… my precious “Pretty” sadly died and my sweet dog, Princess, was now an accomplice to murder. Gabby was just allowing me to barely touch her, and Bittie, a.k.a. “Miss Pris” or “Fussikins” was slowly warming up.  I tried to find homes for the remaining two, as I am more accustomed to dogs, but quickly found out that cats are very hard to find homes for.  I got them both neutered, up on their shots, and added them to our menagerie of two dogs, seven chickens, and one rabbit, oh my.

Bittie soon showed she had no street smarts, literally, so was held captive inside for her own good.

 She has adjusted quite well…

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Gabby would have none of it, so has remained an outside cat to this day.

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She earned the nickname “Gladiator Gabby” after we moved into our present home.  We have a circular stone area below our back porch, and Gabby soon took to bringing her found objects of prey into the “ring” where she commenced to perform her gladiator show.  I and my sons have rescued what we could by a quick knock on the window, and I have to admit, I have secretly cheered as well when a battered mouse or mole escaped her clutches.

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Though she is now trusting of us and sweet, her love of hunting and the feeling of freedom has kept her from wanting to ever be confined to a house.  Last night, however, I gave her no choice. With temperatures predicted to dip to below zero, I lured her in, untrusting that even her heat lamp could keep her warm in that cold.

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I have to wonder if those in the mid-west, or northern states laugh at our reactions to these temperatures and snow.  It reminds me of a Texan friend I had while attending college in Missouri, where it snowed in November and the ground remained white until April.  On our first snowfall as freshman, we, that is those of us not accustomed to such snow amounts, were sure that all college classes would be cancelled. Not so. Leaving the dorm, my Texas friend fussed and fumed as we carefully picked our steps down the sidewalk to our classes.  This was not until after she had called her mother, reporting the un-Godly conditions, that she, her daughter, was forced to face. I’m not sure if she thought her mother could call the college and convince them to cancel classes or if she was just so overwrought she needed to vent…either way, we were soon on our way to face the elements. Now please don’t be offended if you’re from Texas. I love the grit and spunk of Texans, but my dear friend just happened to have a strong sense of fashion, and heels, not snow-shoes (though she didn’t own a pair, thus the dilemma) were more her style.

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But, back to Gabby and her 2 a.m. escape.  She was put into a large, portable fenced area with a cozy blanket, food, water, litter-box, and a cloth covering to surely keep her from thoughts of escaping to wander the house.  She has, in the past, “claimed” a piece of furniture in a way that neither I nor the furniture appreciated, thus the enclosure.  Unfortunately, the fence was no obstacle for Gabby, and in the wee hours of the morning she was off to find another couch.

After coaxing her back into her enclosure, my son and I were quite the early-morning team of “walking” the fence to the nearest bathroom, with Gabby following along inside.  Despite her howls of protests, and a few more escapes, she, and I, eventually fell back into sleep.  I, dreaming of warmer days, and she, I’m sure, of future outdoor adventures.

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Today I woke to -4 degree windchill, but it warmed up to a big °15 by 2:00. School is cancelled for a third day tomorrow, and I’m off to get a much needed 2nd cup of coffee. Gabby got her way and made it out today to play in the snow and has refused all invitations to come back inside, sigh. She is a gladiator afterall.

Until next time,

∼ Jen