Wednesday, July 10, 2013

A Two-Fer: McKenna and Garden Update

It seems that adding a kitten was just what was needed to take up that extra spare time I had lying around.  I barely have time to glance at the blogs I’m reading, and I’m ok with that.  A full life is, in this case, an enjoyable one.

I can’t blame it all on the cat, though.  Work has gotten busier, and I’m about to finish up the training period on that new project I started on some months ago.  Which means I’ve got to get up to speed to work at the level of a fully trained employee, and I’m also able to pull a little overtime.  The part of the job I moved out of is still very slow, so it’s nice to be occupied all day and bump up my income a little.

But that’s not what you all came her to see.  You want more McKenna, don’t you?

Well, first of all, she’s taken quickly to the carpeted podium perch that Miss Chef made for her.


You can see one window behind her, and she’s facing the sliding glass door overlooking three steps down to the patio.  That extra sense of height is very attractive for such a little gal.

In fact, if you’re a cat, you can never get high enough, can you?

McKenna 07 (11)

When I took this picture, Rosie was out on the patio, which of course piqued the cat’s curiosity.  By now, McKenna’s gotten over her skittishness around the dog, and has graduated past the nervous sniffing and tentative touchings, into softpaw swipes and the occasional “just kidding” averted attacks.  Rosie remains confused by such behavior.  She looks, waits for the cat to get out of her way, and carries on. But for most of playtime, Rosie lies on the floor watching warily while McKenna zooms by, galloping crazily from room to room.

I think the most traumatic part of Rosie’s life with a new roommate is when we yell at the cat.  McKenna does react fairly well to curt “No!”s and finger snaps.  But poor Rosie always thinks it’s for her, so she comes over wagging her tail and trying to stick her nose into our hands as we’re reaching for the cat—which gets McKenna worked up and distracted from climbing on the table or playing with the curtains, so the lesson is lost, while Rosie ends up baffled and feeling rebuffed.

Fortunately, that doesn’t happen as often as you might expect.  Thus far McKenna has proven less persistent at misbehavior as Smoky was.  It may only take seven times to get the message across to McKenna, as opposed to 700 times with Smoky (and who has the patience to reach 700?  Not me!)  On the other hand, McKenna is just starting to explore a little more deeply, playing with hangers in the closet, and as I mentioned, thinking about climbing the curtains.  She may be easier than Smoky, but we’re not out of the clear yet.

On the other hand, there’s a lot of sleeping going on, too.  Bedroom…

McKenna 07 (8)


…living room…

McKenna 07 (10)


…she has to try out every spot before choosing her favorite.  Which looks to be this one—the classic back-of-the-couch.

McKenna 07 (16)

“Someday,” she dreams, “I’ll reach both ends of this blanket.  Just you wait and see.”


Have you figured out by now that about the only time we can get a good picture of her is when she’s asleep?

McKenna 07 (13)


With peace reigning for the moment, now would be a good time to check on the garden, don’t you think?  After all, it’s been a while, even for me.  Since we returned from our driving vacation, it has rained and rained and rained.  I’m willing to bet that this morning signaled the first time we got through 24 hours without rain for the past two weeks.  And it rained at least twice this afternoon.  The data from the NOAA website indicates that so far in July, we’ve gotten three times the normal amount of rainfall.  Safe to say, we’re no longer in a drought.

All this to say, I haven’t had much time to spend outside in the garden.  I’ve gotten the occasional few minutes to pick a few cherry tomatoes and try to keep the worst of the weeds at bay, scrabbling at a patch here and a section there.  Sadly, some of my plants are suffering from the imbalance of water vs. sunshine, and I’m not sure there’s anything I can do about it.

Still, warm temps and high humidity are perfect greenhouse conditions.  I often feel like I’m stepping outside into a jungle.  The garden has gone from this (in late June):

garden 06 (28)


…to this:

garden 07 (2)

Sorry, the angle is quite different, but if you look closely you’ll see the marigolds are three or four times their previous size, and the bamboo hoop among the parsnips has been completely overgrown.  You may also notice that the garlic is gone.  I pulled it last weekend, and got about 15 decent-sized heads.  We don’t have a great place to store it, so I’m hoping it can last through the summer and then maybe I’ll hang it in our storage closet outside the house.

That lush growth is hiding a few problems, however.  One of my squash plants appears to be giving up.

garden 07 (3)


It was perfectly matched to the one behind it, but has gotten progressively droopier.  I hope whatever it has is not catching; so far the other plant seems unaffected.  Fortunately, I have a backup—my third, unwanted squash plant, which has finally dug in and started making flowers and fruit!  Here’s a before and after.

garden 06 (30)    garden 07 (4)


The brandywine tomato has been struggling, too.  Earlier this season it had lots of yellow leaves and wasn’t setting fruit.  I ground up some eggshells to put on for calcium, and it perked up for a while and actually made some tomatoes.  With all the rain, however, either a virus has taken hold, or all the calcium has leached from the soil already.

garden 07 (5)

The cherry tomatoes on the left are still chugging along, but the brandywine just looks sad.  We’ve harvested two tomatoes from it, and there are two more to come (hopefully).  Beyond that, all the flowers have been barren.  I’ll have to try another batch of eggshells, and keep my fingers crossed.

The beans were disappointing me, too.  When we came back from vacation, there were hardly any to harvest, and almost no flowers.  Then the rains moved in, and between the dampness and lower temperatures, they didn’t seem to feel like doing anything at all.  However, this past weekend more flowers emerged, and by the end of this week I’m hoping to start my daily harvest again.

One unexpected bright spot has been our mostly neglected blackberry bush.  I managed to get bird netting over it just in time, and it’s started producing some plump, tasty berries.

garden 07 (6)

They’re coming in a big handful at a time.  Many of them are so tart I can’t help making faces, but the truly ripe ones make it all worthwhile. 

Overall, I’m optimistic that the garden will give me at least one more good effort, even if the rain continues.  And regardless of whatever else may or may not come to our table, I still consider this a successful year.  After all, any summer that gives you shirtfront-fuls of this juiciness is a summer worthy of the name.

garden 07 (1)


Update: The Fates smiled upon me last night, and I just happened to have my phone handy when McKenna was exploring a little more slowly in the evening.  So here’s this!


Does she not have the roundest eyes you’ve ever seen on a cat?  She’s actually perched on top of her litter box…which reminds me that I also wanted to mention that for any cat owners out there. 

It’s called the Omega Paw and is a bit expensive (about $30), but that’s nothing compared to most automatic self-cleaning boxes.  And this is a superior design, because it doesn’t use batteries or moving parts, just basic physics.  You simply roll the box over and back to pass the litter through a louvered grate, allowing the clumps to be separated from clean litter and gathered into a scoop that you pull out and empty.  There’s nothing to wear out or replace, and it means you can clean the box without getting your hands anywhere near the litter.

I don’t often recommend specific products, but this one is brilliantly simple—it has exceeded my expectations and totally alleviated my concerns about the whole cat excretion issue.  So if you’re in the market for a better litter box, I’d suggest you check out the Amazon page here, or the company’s product page here.  (Go ahead and watch the second video while you’re at it; I found it oddly endearing and a bit amusing.)


  1. I love the kitty updates and photos. It will be cute to see her grow!

  2. Cat excretion issues are always on my mind. My god, that is one cute Kitty. I LOVE my cats, but when they go, it is Kitten Time. Your garden is doing really well! Lower all those expectations, woman.

  3. Heh heh, typical kitten - go like crazy until they simply drop ... into a deep, deep sleep. McKenna is SO SWEET!

  4. McKenna is adorable-- Those eyes and sweet face! Ahhh.

    And your garden is looking good. I always wonder why a random plant will "give up" when everything else is doing so well. This year I tried my hand a two small cherry tomatoes. One's okay the other is a brown stem. Oh well.

    Enjoy the pets and the produce!
    xo jj


Thanks for dropping by--please share your thoughts!

"Every time we get comment mail, Rosie wags her tail!" (Seriously, you should see that puffy thing go.)