January 2015

D’Ni Tame Cat

DNi-RailSittingToday, January 7, is the anniversary of the date D’Ni Wild Cat became a house cat.

The year was 2001. We were out in our back yard when we spotted her – a little black furry thing hiding under the asparagus. At first we thought soft furry Duncan had gotten out – but this cat was smaller. And much more scared. We named her D’Ni: a name starting with a “D” because she looked so much like Duncan; and D’Ni after the people inhabiting our favorite computer games, Myst and Riven.

That fall it became apparent to us that D’Ni was pregnant. Being the cat–loving people we were, we started feeding her. Her favorite hiding spot at that time was under all the flowers next to the fence. That’s where I took her food.

One Sunday morning in September we heard pathetic meows coming from the neighbor’s garage. No one next door was yet awake so I went over there and tentatively tried the door. It was unlocked. The minute I opened the door a small furry black bullet flew off the rafters, shot through the door, and raced away to the house two doors down. For the remainder of the day we heard the plaintive heartrending cries of a mama cat that had lost her kittens. We never found out what happened to the kittens. Did the kittens die because she got shut in the garage and was not able to feed them? We only knew that little black cat was no longer pregnant, but no kittens were ever found.

DNiOnPorchWe still fed her. Pete, despite saying he did not encourage such behavior (that is – feeding a stray, feral cat), began, instead, feeding her on the back porch.

And so began the experiment. Was it possible to tame a feral cat?

We held out our hands to her. By November she began sniffing them.

The weather outside was getting cold. We lined a cardboard box with soft towels. The winds were getting chilly. We took a hard–sided cat carrier out to the back porch, lined it with blankets, wrapped it in an old down coat.

At the beginning of December, all thoughts of kittens gone, D’Ni went into heat. Cats from all over Goshen began showing up in our back yard as we tried, unsuccessfully, to catch her. She was wild; she did not trust humans, and she was fast. The moment she heard us approach the back porch she was out of the crate and running away. We were getting very anxious – December is no time to have kittens.

On Christmas Eve, we were making breakfast – eggs, bacon, toast. We were still in our pajamas. I stepped outside to check on D’Ni. She was in the crate. I crouched down. She stayed in the crate. I slammed the crate door shut and she exploded. All thoughts of breakfast forgotten, we threw on some clothes and took crate and the enclosed struggling wild animal off to the vet. A few weeks earlier, I had already warned them that we were caring for a feral cat and that, whenever we could catch her, we would bring her in to be spayed. It was time.

When we picked her up a couple of days later, the deed done, her chart was coded “feral cat”. I had warned them. But perhaps they did not take me seriously. Apparently the kid taking care of the kennels had opened up her cage and she flew out, claws outstretched. They had to catch her with a net.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAAll winter we fed her outside, attracting raccoons and opposums to our back porch as well. We started trying to feed her in the kitchen. We closed off the kitchen from the rest of the house, opened up the back door, and coaxed her in. She started eating right by the back door, then further in. But we couldn’t close the door behind her. So we would stay there, shivering, until she was fled back outdoors.

When summer came, D’Ni became bolder. At feeding times, we opened up the door between the kitchen and the rest of the house. One day she rushed into the living room, grabbed a toy, and rushed back outdoors. It was great to see her actually playing instead of always hiding and running away.

By the next winter, she was regularly eating in the kitchen, though she still did not want the outside door shut.

Finally, in January, 2003, we decided to try to keep her inside. At dinner time, she came in as usual. We fed her, then shut her inside.

P1010002Oh the howling that ensued! For hours she howled. We went to bed and buried our heads in our pillows while she howled some more. Finally at 3:30am, unable to sleep, unable to stand the noise any more, we let her go back outside. The next day, we tried again. More howling, then silent resignation. She was so frightened that she became totally pliable. We could pick her up, carry her, snuggle her, and she did not struggle.

As she became more accustomed to the house, her wild habits came back. There was no more picking up and snuggling. She now knew where to run and hide. Claws out, she twisted out of our grasps and fled to her hiding spots.

But she got used to being indoors. And then she never really wanted to go back outside again. As the years have gone by, she became more and more tame. Now we can pick her up and even trim her claws. Now she loves climbing on Pete’s lap to sleep while he watches movies.



No more D’Ni Wild Cat. Now it is D’Ni Tame Cat.


List after List: The January Ritual of Deciding What Seeds to Order

It’s January, and that means that I am starting to get new seed catalogs. There isn’t much to do outside in the garden this time of the year, which makes it a perfect time to start planning what I want to plant in the spring.

I do most of my ordering online, but I do most of my seed selection through those paper catalogs that come in the mail. I spend hours poring over my favorite catalogs.Seed Catalogs 2015

My new very favorite catalog is from Baker Creek Heirloom Seed Company. This catalog meets my criteria of having a great selection of heirloom and organic seeds and being aesthetically pleasing. But, in addition, it features quirky photographs of Baker Creek employees in wonderfully weird  poses with vegetables. The catalog makes me smile every time I open it. It also makes me want to work there, except for the fact that I really don’t want to live in Missouri. Everyone looks like they are having so much fun!


As the winter progresses, my stack of favorite catalogs continues to clutter up the dining room table.


Catalog PageI peruse each page of each seed catalog armed with pen, highlighter, and sticky notes. I circle and star those seeds that I am interested in and highlight features that catch my attention: “bred for overwintering”, “frost hardy”, “an excellent keeping variety”, “dating back to 1880”, “grown from seed provided by our Belorussian friend”, “good disease resistance”, “takes the heat and keeps producing all summer”, “easy to grow”, “very unique”, “high in vitamin C”. As usual, I’m drawn the unusual: Oaxacan Green Corn, Blue Tomatoes, Scarlet Kale. Emmer Wheat. Turkish Orange Eggplant. Sticky notes go on pages that I particularly want to go back to.

In this first run through a catalog, I select anything and everything that looks interesting to me – much more than would ever fit in my garden. This first perusal is my time to be expansive and to dream big.

Eventually, though, reality hits. Even though I do have a large garden, it is not infinitely large. And my budget will not permit me to get everything that I have marked. So my second run through the catalog is a time to refine my selections. This is the time that I go through the catalog again, page by page. This is the time to start making lists. Until I make a list, I have no idea how many things have piqued my interest. Have I selected 20 seed packets or 200 seed packets? With random markings scattered in several 100–200 page catalogs, I have no way of knowing how expansive I’ve been.

First ListNow with my gardening journal and the seed catalogs next to me, I start writing down the list of seeds I want to purchase. Sometimes I have to make choices within a category: only one variety of carrot; only one variety of green bean, actually make that two varieties – one bush and one pole; lettuce  – one mix suitable for hot weather and one mix suitable for cold weather. For each item in my list, I note from which catalog and on which page number that item can be found. The list can be long, usually is long, usually still too long. I still need to pare it down.


At this point in the process, I make a second list – the list of seeds that I have left over from the previous year.


I keep my seeds in the basement, in my canning pantry, where it is cool. I bring the box with seed packets upstairs and begin cataloguing the seeds I have. Then, looking at both lists, the “I have” list and the “I want” list) I make yet a third list, the “I still need” list. By the end of this process, I have a much more manageable list.

The final step in the process is looking at the cost. Now I write down the prices for all those packets on my “I still need” list and bring out my calculator. Horseradish root? Too expensive. Purple tomatillos? Maybe I’ll wait on that – after all, the regular green tomatillos will undoubtedly have reseeded themselves (they usually do). Eventually I have narrowed my selections down. To spread the love around, I often buy from 3–4 seed providers. I make up clean, easy to read lists of what I am ordering, go to my computer, and begin the actual buying.

Coming next month: In February, when my seed packets start arriving, I will look at my seeds and my garden plans, and start planning where I will plant those seeds.