Two Pairs of Keds

"One for dress, one for everyday."


August 2014

Pink Ladies

On my windowsill, there is an apple called a “Pink Lady.” Isn’t she glamorous? I love that name. Not scarlet, lest she be too lusty, or red, lest she seem a common tramp. She is blushing, delicate. You can almost imagine how she would taste.

Not so, Granny Smith. Named, as the story goes, for Maria Ann Smith, Granny Smith was brought to the Australian apple market back in 1860 (according to the Washington Apple Commission). Maybe your grandmother was tart and crisp, but for those of us with sweet, pie-baking grannies, we have cause to wonder.

According to, there are more than 7500 types of apples, with over 2500 grown in the United States. On another site, the number leans toward 10,000. Who knows?

You probably remember the ones from our lunch boxes: McIntosh (with could often be too soft) and Jonathans (which could often be mealy). My mom used to like a good Red Delicious. My son likes Golden Delicious. Today, I love Braeburn, Honeycrisp, and Gala.

I must be attracted to variety. In my kitchen, above an old pine pie safe, I have four vintage botanicals of different types of apples. They show the skin and the heart of the fruit. Maybe it’s that subtlety I like. Sliced open, you have to look closely to discern their difference.

We have so many types from which to choose. Everywhere you look, that’s the case. Cars, candy, cereal, careers. You’d think we’d be delighted. But everywhere, I see people struggling with the weight of discontent. It’s as if all the names and choices have weighed us down.

There are several different routes to see me home, but tonight, I wanted the straightest route. And I couldn’t have it. When I walked in, I went straight upstairs and flopped down on the bed, flattened.

Is that it? Do we want to avoid detours and sideways? Would we rather just get there? One road. A straight shot.

Variety lends itself to people, as well. There are no straight shots, there. Nope, not a one.

Would we be happier with less variety? Everyone the same? Same color. Same tastes. Same likes and dislikes. They want to go where you want to go, do what you do, eat what you eat, wear what you wear, speak like you, walk like you, sit in your spot. Why wouldn’t they? They could substitute for you.

This would make us happy? It seems that way, since we cannot find our way out of a paper double-handled apple bag toward peace. We fight over borders, color, money, power, and our right to say what we want, when we want. Even if it’s stupid.

Does the old-fashioned McIntosh wish to obliterate its flashy cousin, Pink Lady? It’s a good thing that humans are the only creature on the planet that engage in this show of jealously.

We’d have fewer options.


Note: This thinking came about from a video I saw of people from all over the planet, dancing to the same song through the vehicle of one guy. I don’t know his story; presumably, he traveled about saying, “Hey, wanna dance?” And all I could think is, if we can do this, all of us, all over, why can’t we have world peace?






Back Then: Peach Pie

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Two Pairs of Keds

This used to be my grandpa’s second dinner.

He’d come in from milking in the barn, his final chore of the day, and sit down to a bowl of warm pie and milk. And I would sit with him. We didn’t talk a lot, but we had the pie between us.

Pie was present at every meal I can remember on the farm, even if there were molasses cookies with hard white icing. Along with the three carbohydrates at the dinner table – potatoes, butter or beef noodles, and bread – you had your choice, usually, of a couple different fruit or berry pies. Maybe a meringue.

Making pie, today, I realized how efficient a product it is. Fruit too ripe? Add tapioca. Fruit not quite ready? Macerate it in a little sugar. Same, if the fruit’s too tart. Overflowing with berries? Make one for your neighbors. Or freeze it…

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Back Then: Peach Pie

This used to be my grandpa’s second dinner.

He’d come in from milking in the barn, his final chore of the day, and sit down to a bowl of warm pie and milk. And I would sit with him. We didn’t talk a lot, but we had the pie between us.

Pie was present at every meal I can remember on the farm, even if there were molasses cookies with hard white icing. Along with the three carbohydrates at the dinner table – potatoes, butter or beef noodles, and bread – you had your choice, usually, of a couple different fruit or berry pies. Maybe a meringue.

Making pie, today, I realized how efficient a product it is. Fruit too ripe? Add tapioca. Fruit not quite ready? Macerate it in a little sugar. Same, if the fruit’s too tart. Overflowing with berries? Make one for your neighbors. Or freeze it. That is, if you have any problem with people simply eating it up.

Lots of people don’t want to make crust, but they should. There is something about cutting the shortening, shaping the pie dough into a ball, gently rolling it out on a cutting board or counter top that is therapeutic. I wonder, if more of us were involved in the actions that go into good food if we would be a happier people.

Oh, it’s true there are secrets to producing blue-ribbon, fair-contest- winning pies. Here are a few.

  • Use ice cold water in your crust.
  • Lard is better than vegetable shortening.
  • The more you handle it, the tougher it gets.
  • You can bake your crust for a few minutes to “set” it, before you add very juicy fillings.
  • Cornstarch or tapioca will help absorb fruit juices. You can also slice them and let them set for 15 minutes, pouring off the liquid (which I hope you drink, for goodness sake).
  • Cutting the fruit in same-sized pieces makes for even baking.
  • Real lemon juice in the filling mixture will keep your fruit looking fresh. Don’t try lemon concentrate. It’s not the same. Blech.

Still and all, no good effort at pie baking goes unrewarded. Everyone is impressed, even with the attempt. You will have people willingly line up just to taste an experimental batch. You can’t say this about a casserole.

peach pie 2014.08.24 003
Get your ice water ready to go.

I bought this cookbook for a friend of mine who just graduated from U-M and is at Wayne State Medical School. It cost $5.25, a cheap “well done,” but he won’t care, because the insides are wonderful. I decided until I can get it to him, I’ll cook from it, since it’s used anyway. Here is my version of Basic Plain Pastry and Berry Pie (adapted for peaches), from My Better Homes & Gardens Lifetime Cook Book (Meredith Publishing Company, copyright 1930).

Basic Pie Pastry
There are two minds, in making crust. One is to make it before you handle your fruit, covering with plastic wrap or a damp towel, so it’s ready to go in the oven. The other is to make up your fruit and let it set, especially if it needs maceration or to set up with tapioca (see bullet points). The original recipe calls for smaller amounts, but as with so many other modernities, our pie dishes are bigger now, than 85 years ago.

2 cups flour
1 teaspoon salt
3/4 cup shortening or lard
ice water (about 5-7 tablespoons)

peach pie 2014.08.24 006
Pastry cutter (it was an old friend’s mother’s…or the equivalent of my great-grandma’s).

Sift flour and salt together (don’t miss this step – it helps make a flaky crust – so if you don’t have a sifter, tap it through a strainer). Add the shortening and “cut” in (this process is easy if you have a pastry cutter, like the picture, but if you don’t, use a butter knife or fork and press through it for the same results). You want a crumbly mixture, pea-sized or course. Add the ice water a tablespoon at a time (you will want to rush this, but don’t – you can’t make pie dough more dry after you’ve made it wet and gummy, even if you add more flour — you just have to start over) until dough forms a soft ball. (Hands are made for this, although I’ve heard people use food processors…but why?) Divide the dough. Roll first ball out on a flat, floured surface with a flour-dusted rolling pin. Press into the bottom of an 8″ pie pan. Adding fruit filling goes here! Roll second ball out. Gently lift and place over fruit filling.

You’re lucky that today’s fad is rustic crusts whose sides are folded and pinched together. Back in the day, there were any number of fancy sides. My go-to is the pinched thumb and forefinger toward the inside of the pie, with the opposite forefinger pushing a crescent between them. Some people like a pressed fork edging. Have fun.


peach pie 2014.08.24 010
Coat with sugar mixture gently, taking care not to bruise berries or fruit.

Berry Pie (adapted)
Know your ingredients. Fruit should be ripe and ready, although there are ways to work around this (again, see bullet points). How do you know if peaches are ripe? They peel like a dream, drip all over your hands, and make you want to eat them before they hit the bowl. If you’ve ever tried to peel an unripe peach, you will know what I mean immediately.

4 cups sliced fruit or berries (10-12 large peaches)
2/3 to 1 cup sugar
1-3 tablespoons tapioca or cornstarch (using flour is not the same, but can be used in a pinch)
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon of butter, diced
1 tablespoon of lemon juice (if you need to hold the color)

peach pie 2014.08.24 014
Sprinkled with sugar.

Blend sugar, binder, and salt. Add to fruit mixture and stir until fruit is well coated. Add into unbaked crust. Add top crust – vent by making slits with a sharp knife (or go crazy and make a pattern). Bake at 450 degrees for 10 minutes, then turn oven down to 350 degrees and bake 20-30 minutes, until crust is golden brown.

Topping variations: sprinkle with sugar or make an egg bath (beat an egg with a little water and brush top crust).

Let cool to serve (or your pie will run all over, which is still delicious).

Note:  Bill and I bought a peck of peaches at Uncle John’s Cider Mill (see Player), so I decided to try and freeze a pie. eHow says you can do it. I’ll let you know, sometime, how it went.









There’s a certain point in time, when you’re a kid, that you think you are such a player.

Nobody confirms this. Why you believe it with such certainty is beyond me. Except that around eight years old, you haven’t usually been knocked around too much in small town Ohio. At least, not in the 1960’s.

You could ride just about anywhere on your bike. The world was your oyster.

You were flying high with confidence on two wheels. So were your friends. We roamed, like the Little Rascals, but cooler. Beach Blanket Bingo was swinging. Surfer music was just coming into style. Rock and Roll detractors, who frowned on Elvis’ pelvic thrusting (this phrase was a gem for an eight-year-old, thank you, grandma) had no idea what to do with kids who listened to Steppenwolf’s Born to Be Wild.

I still remember the first dirty joke I learned from the Andrews kids next door:

It’s this boy’s birthday (he’s probably eight) and he gets a full cowboy costume as a gift (cowboy movies were also big, at least on rerun at this time). He suits up and heads on over to get himself a birthday ice cream sundae.

He walks up to place his order with the girl (no P.C. language those days) at the window. She runs down the list of items:

“Vanilla or chocolate?”


“Chocolate or cherry topping?”


“Whipped cream?”


“Do you want your nuts crushed?”

(With cocking gun motion and clicking trigger sound), “Do you want your boobs blown off?”

Insert eight to ten pre-teen children, busting apart with laughter. Sorry if I’ve offended, but this joke still draws laughs in some crowds.

At any rate, you were a player, until you were shrunk down to size, usually in a family setting. In mine, this was at Jim Beach, on the northern Ohio border, every summer. My entire family on my Dad’s side, which included six cousins, would assemble for baby oil, grilling, skee ball, and summer fun.

The cottage we rented had a player piano.  Here, over scrolls of famous music which I don’t recall, Debbie, Kim, Kelly, my brother and I would pump the poor thing for all it was worth, just to listen to That’s My Weakness Now.

“She’s got gold-tipped butts.
I never liked those gold-tipped butts.
But she’s got gold-tipped butts
and that’s my weakness now.”

I always knew, because I was good with vocabulary, that the butt in the song wasn’t my gluteous maximus, but it didn’t matter. Anything with the b-word was good enough for us. Insert more giggling and laughter.

uncle johns orchards 8.23.2014 1
Uncle John’s Orchards (owned by the same family for over 100 years), just outside St. Johns, MI.

Today, on our way back from moving Anne into her new apartment, we stopped at Uncle John’s Cider Mill, just outside of St. Johns. If you go upstairs for the donuts, which was our particular purpose (sugar cinnamon), there’s a player piano you can instigate for a quarter.

This is the best deal around for a time machine, especially when it’s played by skeletons (they’re decorated for Halloween hoots and hollers).  Inside the rollicking instrument, a tiny tambourine and cymbal go off on cue. The barn smell is redolent of memories-gone-by, ancient wood, old straw, and sunshine. But the piano, oh, the piano. I wish, no matter how far away, you could come and hear it.

You’d be a player.



Two weeks ago, we were down to two beds for six people.

Our family is in that phase: just married, just moved out, just leased first apartment.

At first, it was all fun and games. Take this! Take that! It felt good to free up the house of childhood furniture. Surreptitiously, I gave away overflow items from the kitchen and unloaded old linens. We’re glad you have it!

pioneer sugar silos findlay ohio
Pioneer Sugar Towers, Findlay, OH. We see these driving down to my brother’s. They’re the first sign you’re leaving urban life. Can you imagine how many people these feed?

The baby, Anne, decided at the 11th hour to move into an apartment this fall. She’s an upper classman at CMU. I should’ve seen it coming, but of all my kids, she’s the slowest to commit (already). They settled on the details while she was working at a summer camp and broke her dorm contact.

I used to say, about homework and class projects, “Your panic is not going to become my priority.”

Usually, I won’t be pushed by poor planning or procrastination into action. I don’t like it. I make bad decisions on the run and I don’t think it’s a good plan for well-reasoned living. Until my husband said to her, “Are you going to take your bed?”

No. No, she is not. If she takes her bed, we’ll be down to the bed we sleep in. All these beds over the years, and now, not one spare? Oh, no. What about out of town guests? Christmas with the family? Not acceptable.

My solution for Anne was an inflatable mattress. Her brother just used one (until he moved his own queen mattress out) for several months on a new job in Grand Rapids. Blow it up, honey. You might do it every night, but you’ll be fine.

Until it occurred to me, I could call upon my living community.

People like to say, these days, that there is no community. That we don’t know our neighbors. That we live segmented, in silos , a business buzzword, although most of them aren’t familiar enough with a farm to actually know the function of a silo. OhioSilo-GadkariIt holds stored grains, in bulk, until it’s sent to market or used for feeding the farmyard, as with dried field corn during the tough, non-growing months.

So, I put out the word. We need beds. She’s moving out…we might need a kitchen table, a bed frame. Can she use the furniture I’m holding for you, her siblings, until you need it or she finds something else? Does anyone, anyone at all, have a mattress?

You never know how you might be “fed” until you ask. In two weeks, we drove the Silverado and picked up or put into the trailer (which, by the way, was also donated):

  • a twin mattress, box springs, and feather bed, from an family of a former student from our old church.
  • a maple twin bed frame for $20, from a friend of a dear friend, who’s moving to Arizona.
  • an Ikea kitchen table and four chairs, from friends/parents of my daughter’s friend, whose own daughter used it in college and sent it home.
  • a king mattress and box springs, from a long time friend and her fiancé, who were updating.
  • two shelving units, loaned by her siblings, who expect to collect…somewhere down the line.


Somewhere, deep down, I think we like to believe the hype: we’re alone. We make it on our own. We are bad-ass and hard core, surviving on wits alone. We could probably skin something and eat it….or scale a sharp precipice to get to a nutritious herb (I love you, vegetarian friends, but this is harder to make sound Survivor).

ancient greek grain vases
Ancient Greek vases shaped as grain silos, 700/650 BC, Kerameikos Archaeological Museum, Athens. (Wikipedia)

We have literature dating the concept of silos back to the Greeks in 8th century BC – they stored grains in large bins, waiting for tough times or the occasional famine. I’m thinking the Bible’s story of Joseph, planning, on behalf of Pharaoh, for the locusts…some sort of container was needed, right? Someone was planning for the collective good.

Evil loves to move our thinking away from this ‘shared resource’ concept. If we’re separated, we can be defeated. “United we stand, divided we fall” is not just a slogan. If it lives in our minds – that we are alone, lonely – we go down easily.

Nice thing about silos. They’ve got a bad rep these days, but as an icon, they extend in to the sky. Silo living feeds everyone in the barnyard. I’m happy to be milling around in the paddock.

(*Featured image: Silo 3.5 miles southeast of Blooming Grove Texas built c: 1900 by F. B. Cumpston. Used mainly for corn.)




Bucket of Ice

While much of America seems caught up in dumping ice cold water over their heads, we have a sobering reality still spilled across our southern border.

Yesterday, I mentioned that my colleague is leaving for Cameroon with the Peace Corps, ostensibly to provide coaching and assistance for the 90,000 refugees, mostly women and children, who have come into the country since last December (AlertNet, 6/4/2014). They come, starving, across the border, seeking sanctuary and a better life.

While I am all for the raised consciousness for ALS ( and the quite impressive amount of additional funding they have raised, I can’t help but wish someone was crafting a catchy marketing slogan for the children at American’s own detention centers.

Lest you think that our problem is not as serious as the one in Africa, let me point out that we currently have approximately 11 million undocumented immigrants in the US.¹ Reports are circulating that many of the children crossing the border are not being sent away from parents. They are being brought up, trying to reunite with family members who are already here.

Our government, lacking a strong policy within its own borders, has launched a propaganda campaign within the three major countries of deportees, advertising the risks of travel. Reports Laura Carlsen  (Director, Mexico City-based Americas Program of the Center for International Policy; columnist, Foreign Policy in Focus):

“First, parents and migrating youth are not naive. They usually know the dangers, which include injury, rape, extortion, kidnapping, and even death. Parents carefully consider the risks before making the decision to spend thousands of dollars to send their children away.

The three countries responsible for the increase in child migrants are Honduras, Guatemala, and El Salvador. Honduras has the highest per capita homicide rate in the world, with El Salvador and Guatemala in fourth and fifth place, respectively. In certain neighborhoods in these countries, the homicide rate is far higher than the already high national rate, and young people are the most at-risk of all.

That’s why many Central American parents have concluded that the greatest risk is keeping their kids at home.”²

Whether fleeing from or running to someone, the situation at home has become untenable for these people. Current numbers look something like this: “The number of children making these journeys by themselves has doubled each year since 2010. U.S. authorities estimate that between 60,000 and 80,000 children will seek safe haven this year.”³

This was big news a couple of weeks ago. Due to the capricious nature of the internet, news, and our government’s ability to adjust our focus….and our own sad lack of it….we’re on to buckets of ice.

I’m not calling out any of my friends who have, generously and with good humor, donated $10 or $25 and taken the hit. Goodness knows that Lou Gehrig’s disease is cruel and a cure would be a welcome miracle. Any miracle these days is welcome, isn’t it?

The irony is that one of our young employees is leaving to assist in a refugee crisis outside our country while one rages in our southwestern states. Are other countries sending in their young adults to help with our situation?

Or would people swallow a tablespoon of hot sauce (a nod to Tex-Mex cuisine) to raise our collective consciousness?  Eat a habenero pepper and film it?

Actually, that last is a bad idea. Research has shown that people who “support” things online are less likely to become actively involved with it or stay involved.

“Research this year from Canada found the more public a person’s activism is online, the less likely they are to act in a meaningful way.

“By publicly supporting these causes, you say, I’m a good person,” diminishing the need to provide follow-up support for the cause, said Kirk Kristofferson, a Ph.D. candidate in marketing at the University of British Columbia’s Sauder School of Business.

If a non-profit thinks that a public declaration of support leads to meaningful support, “we find that this belief may not be accurate,” according to the summary to Kristofferson’s April 2014 paper published in the Journal of Consumer Research.”

Where is all the outrage from June? Hot tempers have melted away in the summer sun, with a fun, silly, and impacting (short term) campaign. The cold reality is sleeping in cots in detention centers.






Do You Know?

(Recipe at bottom:
Late Summer Slaw with Balsamic & Prosecco Dressing)

A colleague of mine is leaving for the Peace Corps in Cameroon.

While I could spell it, I had no idea where it is. Likely, you don’t either, so here’s a map.250px-Cameroon_(orthographic_projection).svg Still, I have no idea what’s there. Like you, I looked it up, in the time-honored tradition of Wikipedia. (I figure with a country’s facts at stake surely someone would’ve corrected it, had it been wrong.)

The first indigenous people were Pygmies. Portuguese sailors landed in 1472 – there was a lot of global travel going on then, with Columbus heading out of Spain in 1492 for the “New World.” What did these people hope to find? Gold, riches, escape from their current lives?

Rhumsiki Peak

Today, Cameroon relies on France for its military protection.  English is understood, but by far, French is the dominant language, with about 80% of the population speaking some form of it. The population in 2011 was over 20,000,000, almost equally divided between urban and rural dwellers. Forty percent are practicing Catholics.

It has lovely names for its cities – they make me purse and widen my lips to make round vowels: Douala and Yaoundé, Kumba and Bélabo.  220px-YaoundeUnityPalaceTheir exports include bananas, cocoa, oil palms, rubber, and tea. Inland they produce coffee, sugar, and tobacco, and in the north cotton, groundnuts, and rice. The citizens enjoy football (soccer, Americans) and a wide variety of music. This building is called Unity Palace.

Here is the not-so lovely news. The roads are terrible and are blocked by police and gendarmes, who collect bribes from travelers. The newspapers are corrupt, “beholden” to special interest groups. Their timber industry, which contributes $60M annually to the government, has very little policy in place.220px-Baka_dancers_June_2006

And then, there are the refugees. Let me quote this, since someone went to the trouble of accuracy, here, and I should not complicate it:

“On June 4, 2014, AlertNet reported:

Almost 90,000 people have fled to neighbouring Cameroon since December and up to 2,000 a week, mostly women and children, are still crossing the border, the United Nations said.

“Women and children are arriving in Cameroon in a shocking state, after weeks, sometimes months, on the road, foraging for food,” said Ertharin Cousin, executive director of the World Food Programme (WFP).[115]

Tourist area by Limbe.

I don’t really know where she’s going. I can’t claim to know her well – I sit at the front desk, she sits in back,  and there’s a divide. I care for her safety, but clearly she is called in her heart to care for these people. She’s walking in, a 23-year-old white woman, to speak about health care and personal health risks to the village in which she’s assigned.

We’re having a goodbye lunch, of course, because what else can you do for someone who needs to travel lightly? So I’m posting a Late Summer Slaw recipe I made tonight – vegan, because Emily is, and it’s an acknowledgement: I see you.

Beyond that, I keep thinking of the lyrics to a Diana Ross song (from the movie, Mahogany):

Do you know where you’re going to?
Do you like the things that life is showing you?
Where are you going to? Do you know?

We are, at once, global and colonized, divided and subdivided by race, gender, religion, history, understanding. I hope the learning curve is soft and gradual. I do not really know where she’s going.


Late Summer Slaw 002Late Summer Slaw (vegan)

3-4 cups broccoli slaw
1/2 cup diced red onion
1/2 (or 1 c) diced English cucumber (1 cup)
1 Gala or Fiji apple, cored and diced
1/2 cup roasted (not salted) sunflower seeds
1/2 cup dried cranberries
1/2 lemon (squeezed for juice over salad when tossed)
Assemble ingredients. The lemon juice will keep your apples fresh until you toss with dressing. (Vegetarian version: serve with crumbled goat cheese for additional protein.)  Serving side: sesame sticks.

Balsamic & Prosecco Dressing

1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
1/4 cup balsamic vinegar
1/8 – 1/4 cup prosecco (a good use for leftover – don’t open a bottle!)
1/3 cup spicy brown mustard
1 tablespoon sugar
salt & pepper
Whisk all ingredients – this binds nicely and has a lovely mellow flavor.


Not Safe to Stray

Last week, my already neutered cat, Kato, was taken off for a re-neutering.

He’d been missing since Monday night. We are that family in your neighborhood that still lets cats mouse and hunt. He leapt out the back door when Bill got home from work and didn’t come back. Not during the thunderstorm overnight, the pouring down rain the next day, nor into the following evening.

It’s common, by the end of the summer, for them to be smug in their hunting prowess, sleeping under the deck or out in the woods, ignoring our calls and promises of treats.

By the second night, we knew something was wrong. I posted his picture and description on the Livingston County Humane Society’s website and prayed for a phone call.

We had a false alarm, some man in Howell who wanted me to come right then and pick up a kitty that had been around his house for two months. He clearly had not read my post. I assured him that my cat would’ve needed more than two days to travel the 13 miles to Chilson Road. He finally agreed and wished me luck finding our true cat, who “sounded like a good one.”

Friday morning, I got a call at work from a neighbor. Pictures were exchanged over phones. He’d been found across the street and two backyards away. I drove home to fetch him.

In the three days in which my neighbor had care of Kato, here is what happened to him:

  • He went to the the Ann Arbor Human Society for neutering.  He stayed overnight. They knocked him out, clipped his ear – the visible sign that a feral cat is spayed/neutered, prepped and shaved him,  and realized he was already neutered. When she picked him up, they “forgot” to tell her about that. They made her promise to bring back vet papers for a full refund.
  • He had a fever, after his stay, so he went to Town & Country Veterinary Hospital (which is, coincidentally, where he goes, when he does) for an antibiotic. His exam totaled $105.82.
  • He bunked down in her garage because her two house cats are “mean” and couldn’t stand him in the house.

And then, our neighbor saw our post. She said she assumed he was feral, because he’d eaten a can of cat food on her deck for two months. It did not occur to her that Kato simply came for the free lunch. I put him in my lap and drove him around the corner to his home.

Having never been sick in his life, even with the wide variety of rodent life he’s consumed (albiet an occasional hairball), he proceeded to recover from a cat cold, but not before passing it on to our second cat, Kota. DSC01816Two sick cats pace the floor, one with a clipped ear and a “high and tight” cut on his backside. They climb the French door screen to indicate their desire to travel. The chipmunk population is laughing giddily.

It’s not safe to stray anymore. Our freedoms, even in the cat kingdom, are more and more restricted.

Oh, we’ve developed all sorts of safe zones – snap-off collars for identity tags, micro-chipping – but most people just pull out their front claws when they’re kittens and keep them inside. Kato in the leaves.An outdoor cat has a 6-7 year expected life span, but those indoor kitties live 14 years and upward.

The thing is, for wandering “feral” cats, there’s a shoot-to-kill ordinance if they trespass into your yard.

Doesn’t matter; if you think they’re feral and they’re on your grass, you can grab your gun and kill them.

This is a modern convention. My mother-in-law, who’s 89, heard the story and was dismayed. Her childhood cats always roamed and wandered, as they performed the job to which they were bred. My own grandfather’s farm had barn cats, always on the prowl. At my brother and sister-in-law’s farm, today, they’ve taken in each cat for a clipped ear, euphemistically speaking, while they keep the mice from eating expensive feed.

Gone are those lazy, summer days with soft sunlight dappling the woods, with two cats roaming and protecting our attic and basement from pesky mice. It’s not safe to stray, and in all our worldly ways of man-made protection, we’ve successfully reduced freedoms.

Cats are not the only ones to which this is happening. We’re just too smug to see it and return home.

The pictures are of our cats outdoors: Kato is grey and Kota is black.


Back Then: Apricot Tarts

Back Then: Apricot Tarts.

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