Black Cat Houdini

Or: Where there’s a will there’s a way

Felis Triumphans

Black Cat wants to be with us. Mostly with me, but also with my husband. Pre-renovation she would follow me about the house. If I was doing something that appealed to her (as in creating a lap, working somewhere she could have a view of the world, etc) she would stay with me. If I was doing something boring like ironing in the basement she’d see what I was doing and then leave for more comfortable/interesting locations. During the renovation she’s had great fun walking between my husband’s keyboard and my keyboard – she can annoy both of us without too much effort. *grin*

How it began – ah, the innocence

During the work day all is copacetic. Her preferred spot is the cat tree next to my “desk” but sometimes she neeeeeds to be on the table with her tush on the edge of my keyboard. Hey – if that’s what she needs, that’s what she needs. My friend Honour understands this and understands who sets the priorities in a household. 🙂 Lately BC has taken to walking across my keyboard. We have been having many discussions about this habit.

Let’s see you push THAT door open

It’s been 2.5 months since the renovation and the Second Great Incarceration began. Apparantly BC has lost patience with being incarcerated. Oh sure, it’s fine during the day when there is almost always one of us incarcerated as well. But she has THINGS to do at night, especially walking on us while we are sleeping and meowing loudly at 2:00 am. Being incarcerated impinges on the things she needs to do.

Insufficient # of shoes and brick placement

In our defense I need to remind everyone that WC and BC are incarcerated to PROTECT THEM. Upstairs the walls are opened, there are holes in the floor, splinters and dust. Yes I try to keep on top of all those things but still. Our friends have a horror story of how THEIR kitten managed to get up in the walls and get herself dry-walled there before anyone knew it. They had to tear down the wall to get her. We’d really prefer to avoid such a situation.

So to protect our fur babies we blocked the doorways, creating the Second Great Incarceration. It has been working well. Then about 2 weeks ago my husband informed me that I had forgotten to latch the door to the dining room and when he came down in the morning there was BC – on the stair landing, NOT incarcerated. Then he told me the same thing the next morning. Well, one night of forgetfulness I can believe but not TWO nights. I investigated. I discovered that if one tapped on the door with enough pressure (and it didn’t need much) the hook would pop out of the latch and the door would open. Such a BRILLIANT kitty!!! I switched the latch to a carabiner AND began putting the paper recyling bin in front of the door when I went to bed.

reinforced the netting

She got out again. We realized it when my husband got up in the middle of the night to “use the facilities” and I heard him call her name. He came back to bed and she followed. The next morning we went to check. Carabiner & bin in place. Plastic door, brick and shoes in place. Did she teleport??? We discussed this. I investigated and noticed that there was actually a lot of space above the bookcases in the living room, part of the plastic doorway setup. I thought maybe she jumped up there, walked behind the plastic and then jumped down to the hallway. I spent a good hour the other morning putting up screening, enforcing all the tape on all the existing screening and plastic. I was sure that would be the solution.

Reinforced door – notice addition of screening to block passag

That night we hadn’t even made it to sleep before BC was up in the bed with us. I confess that we both adore her and it was NOT a hardship to have her snuggling. She does NOT try to escape when there are workers here, nor if we are also incarcerated. Even so – this was a mystery that needed solving. There might come a time when we do NOT want to risk her wandering about and getting stuck/hurt. In the morning I said the only way she could have gotten out was by wriggling UNDER the plastic door in the front hall. There were shoes there, and a brick on one of the zippers, but she’d seen me go in and out that door. When I checked I saw that yes, a cat COULD fit underneath, but only if it didn’t mind wriggling and pushing through a tight space. I didn’t think cats really did that kind of thing.

I am Cat. I am Strong. I am Determined.

Last night I determined to “win” this game. I moved the brick, I put my husband’s shoes, my sneakers, my sandals all onto the plastic flap on the floor. You’d have to be one very very determined kitty to push ALL of that out of the way to get out. BC is a very very determined kitty. When *I* got up last night to use the facilities, eyes closed, still half asleep, a little furry head brushed my hand. Yep, there were 3 of us in the bed again last night. Where there’s a will, there’s a Black Cat.

Napping after a hard night’s work moving shoes and bricks.

NYC in the Summer

Patience & Fortitude, NY Public Library

If you read this blog you know by now that I go into the city (and btw – there is only ONE “the city”) every winter and often in the fall. I go in more often but not that often in the summer. NYC is no different than central NJ in July & August – hazy, hot, humid. Of course there ARE exceptions. Last year we went into the city in the summer for the Interactive Van Gogh exhibit and my birthday. I never did finish blogging about that wonderful trip, did I? I got you on the ferry across the bay and never finished with the great walk down the East River to the restaurant. My bad. That was a FANTASTIC day.

Fortitude, sitting on the north. (Patience sits to the south)

My husband and I are both Senior Citizens which means we get to pay lower train fares. It used to be VERY expensive to take the train in – 2 or 3 round trip tickets cost more than driving in and parking in a lot. In addition there was no easy place on this end of the train trip to park. Now with the cost of gas, the high tolls, being senior citizens, and the new very convenient very large parking deck next to the train station, we’ve stopped driving in. A good thing too as they are discussing imposing “Central Business District” fees on motor vehicles, and that would include us trying to reach our favorite parking deck.

Fountain on Rockefeller Center promenade

I work for an international company and so I have many coworkers who I’ve known for years but either never get to see in person or almost never get to see in person. One of these is the wonderful woman who is my technical support. She is fantastic and over the years I feel that we’ve become friends as well as colleagues. She lives in California, however, so we’ve only met 3 times over the last 10 years. A client was flying her in to NYC last week and we knew we had to meet.

Rocking Horses on Rockefeller Center promenade – how appropriate, right? 🙂

Of course the day we were meeting for lunch was day 5 of the current heatwave, temperatures over 95F, the humidex (is that a word?) over 105. I didn’t care. 🙂 I found loose-fitting clothes, comfortable walking sandals, blocked my calendar and headed for the train. Getting the right train is always an interesting endeavor. We were meeting in midtown at noon. If I took the 10:40 am train I’d get in at 11:45 and would have only 15 minutes to make it 12 blocks uptown, which is about 3/4 of a mile. Hmmm. When I do my morning walk I average a little better than 3 mph. But not in this heat, not on crowded city streets, not in sandals, and who knows if the train would be on time. On the other hand, the train before that was at 10:17 getting me in at 11:15 – 45 minutes early, a long time to hang at the restaurant waiting.

Prometheus – HE can jump in the water to cool down

Of course I opted for the earlier train and decided to do my traditional sight-seeing BEFORE lunch instead of after lunch. That gave me something to do with my time as well as freed me to go-like-crazy after lunch if I wanted to catch a train back home without having to wait 30 minutes or more. Penn Station NY is much improved but not THAT much. 🙂 I got out at 32nd and 7th and headed uptown. I had a lot of friends to see. I made my way to 5th Avenue & 42nd to see Patience and Fortitude.

In the summer the ice skating rink is a roller skating rink – 30 Rock

I checked my watch but I thought I could make it up to 30 Rock and Prometheus and still make lunch on time at Carmine’s on 44th between 7th & 8th. Walking a bit faster despite the heat I trekked up 5th. Ah, home sweet home. There was a time, gentle reader, when I worked for RCA, and 30 Rock was the RCA building and I was up there regularly. I couldn’t get a good angle for a shot of the entire promenade so I started walking to Prometheus. I loved the fountains in the middle of the promenade and was delighted to see the rocking horses!!!! Oh my! I really wished I had time to get on one and take a selfie. 😦 But time was pressing. Hastened to say hi to Prometheus – you can see I was less than careful with my camera angle. Then off to 6th and 48th for my traditional photo of Radio City Music Hall. The plaza in summer is much different than in winter. Now I knew I was going to be late – but only by 5 minutes. Indeed I was less than a block from the restaurant when my friend texted me to say she was there. I said “go in, I’m right behind you.” I was – sweaty and disheveled but I was there! The waitress was lovely and brought me some paper towels so I could mop up. 🙂 Lunch was wonderful! We started with fun summer cocktails, the lunch was delicious, and the company superb!!! And I made the 2pm train home – got to Penn Station as the train was boarding. Now THAT is timing!

Our traditional shot of Radio City Music Hall. 🙂

That’s a BIG Cat!

At least it wasn’t driving

I was running an errand the other day, driving to the store. I was stopped at a light and happened to glance in my rear-view mirror. OH. EM. GEE. That cat is HUGE!!!!!! I spent way too much time staring in the mirror to realize that I should have been grabbing my phone and getting a photo of it. When the light turned green I stayed in the lane and hoped the car & cat would stay behind me. There was a woman driving the car, but I was fixated on the cat. 🙂 We stopped at another red light and I was a little more prepared this time. Unfortunately I was in the convertible and it is difficult to see the camera view easily in the bright sun AND when I was hoping not to be obviously taking pictures of my rear view mirror (not sure why I thought I needed to be discreet). I finally managed this one photo before we parted ways. I hope you can see the cat. Then – what do I see in my media feed this morning? The advertisement for said cat!!! I might have to indulge.

Ahhhhhh

I guess not all pictures are worth a thousand words. Last night I posted a video of 18 seconds of my idea of paradise: ocean waves at the Jersey shore. Apparently that was an insufficient post. Let me supply some context. It was day 8 of the current heat wave, temperature at 95F. My meetings were done at 1:30 pm. There were no contractors in my house (that’s not really a good thing, imho). My car is always loaded with beach chair, umbrella & blanket. Obviously I was meant to go down the shore. As a further validation of that action the friendly park ranger let me in for free. 🙂 It was a slice of paradise that I share with you here.

18 seconds of Ahuva’s idea of heaven

AhuvaNet 2.0

After my first attempt at netting my garden seemed to have holes in it *giggle*, I decide to up my game. 🙂 I wanted to move the nets up and out from the plants, so that nothing could nibble through the netting. My neighbor mentioned that the deer had totally stripped her mandevilla plant, although to date they’d not touched mine. They (or the groundhogs) had consumed nearly all of the potato vine in the base of that pot, but not the mandevilla itself. I decided that as long as I was going to re-work the netting along the front walk, I’d do “something” about protecting the plants in front of the hedge – which is where there is no longer a pale orange gladiola.

if you are walking by on the sidewalk, you still see flowers first, and then the netting

I stared at all the different net and screen material in the store, some nylon/plastic, some wire. I chose nylon netting for 2 reasons: easier to handle and a little less obvious. I stayed with the chicken wire (as opposed to screen material) because I think that webbing is sufficient to deter the deer but still let the insects move about, and let the flowers be seen.

the green plant stakes do a decent job of keeping the netting off of the plants themselves

I wanted to drape the net over all the pots along the front walk, but not on the plants directly. I realized that I could use the plant stakes I had already to lift the net up above the plants and out to the sides of the pots. That worked quite nicely. I’ve anchored the bottom under various pots and so far it appears to be stable. It’s only been 3 nights but no obvious damage in those 3 nights.

the front netting wraps about the side of the gladiola

Protecting the front garden was going to be a bit more tricky. I wanted it protected but not obscured. I needed a fence stretching across the whole front, and hope that the deer would not be smart enough to figure out they could go around the side of the house and come in through the back. 🙂 The only draw-back to the netting that I’ve noticed so far is that I’ve made it difficult for butterflies to get to the flowers. 😦 I realized this when I saw a huge beautiful butterfly on my zinnias. I’m not sure I can have it both ways – No to Deer, Yes to Butterflies – but I’ll give it more thought.

there’s easily 2 feet between the hedge and the netting, and the stupid gladiolas INSIST on poking through, no matter how I try to rearrange them

Did We Annoy Someone?

My neighbors and I had an interesting weekend. We are living the Homeowners’ Motto: It’s Always Something. You know that last week for me was the HVAC worker stepping through the dining room ceiling. The fun continued.

Only 3 of the piles in this pic. This morning there were 5 and they were much larger.

Either Friday or Saturday I noticed a huge dirt ant pile between my lawn and the sidewalk. As we were still allowed to water that day (maybe it was as early as Thursday?) I used the hose to wash away the pile. There is also some huge and scary looking flying thing that has appeared in the last few days. I’ve never seen anything like it before and I wish I’d not seen it now. It’s big and it moves very quickly. There had been only one and now there are 2, and they seem to like those ant piles. First there was one ant pile which I washed away. There were 2 the next day. This morning there were 5. Thank goodness for the electricians!!!! Eli kicked them all apart with his big heavy steel protected work boots and he stepped on something icky as well. My hero! Could the extreme heat and drought be causing the ant hills and these bugs? The flying things don’t look like wasps – I don’t see any obvious stinger. But they are intimidating.

UPDATE: Or why it’s important to have your teeth cleaned regularly. According to the folks at the dentists’ office these are wood wasps, and those are NOT ant hills. They are the burrows of these ground wasps. I was told to flood them out. I’ll let you know if that works.

This is the little one. I think that the larger one has a more vibrant, larger yellow/black body

Two houses down from me an ENORMOUS branch came down. No wind. No storm. No noise. They’d had branches trimmed several weeks ago. This was a live branch – not dead wood. No sign of infestation. I wonder if one of those lower branches had been supporting this big one and no one had noticed. My other neighbor snapped a picture capturing how lucky someone was – the branch landed BETWEEN 2 cars, not on any car, not on any person. Lucky despite the bad luck.

Those are soft white pine needles so the cars are not scratched

As Helen and I stood there this morning staring at the tree, my next door neighbor came out. THEIR main is backed up and he’s home waiting for the plumber. Do you think it’s going to stop with us 3 or do we need to warn the rest of the neighbors????

Why does a live branch come down if there’s no obvious climate event?

I Need A Better Net

Let’s see you get through this bamboo cloche!!!!

Something nibbled off the top of one of my grape tomato plants. I understand that hibiscus is to deer as dark chocolate is to Ahuva, but do NOT touch my grape tomatoes!!!! I have a lot of old netting and screen material in the garage from other projects so I decided it was time to be creative.

I had a very long piece of nylon netting that I strung over the potted plants along the front walk. Then I sprayed the netting with Repel-All. I’d like to think it worked but if you look closely at the photos you can see that there IS a big red hibiscus flower under the netting, but that flower is NOT there now. I’m going to guess that means the gaps were large enough for someone to reach in and snag the flower.

I took the screen material and draped it about the tomato cages. I used binder clips to hold it in place. It was actually quite easy to cut and attach, despite the fact that I was attempting this after returning from cocktails with my sister. 🙂 I had one little piece of leftover screen that I draped over the small hibiscus plant and anchored that by tucking it against other pots.

Maybe it’s working, maybe not. What DID happen last night was a savage attack on my gladiolas. 😦 I noticed yesterday that I had a gorgeous pale orange gladiola in full bloom. I didn’t have my camera with me at that moment and then forgot to go back and take a picture. She who hesitates is lost. There is NO beautiful gladiola this morning. There IS a bitten stalk. Sigh.

I think I’ll head out and look for some light-weight netting this weekend. I’ll drive stakes into the grass so I can raise the netting up off of the plants but still protect them. Not quite sure how to raise/anchor the side that is next to the walk. Maybe if I put stakes in the pots to lift the net UP, and then anchor the material under the pots that will be effective. I’d worry about watering through the netting but we’ve been placed under voluntary water restrictions. I’m not going to be doing that much watering anyway. *snort* I’ll be ‘watering’ with Repel-All and Critter Ridder.

Call Me Chicken Little

It wasn’t the sky that fell today. It was my dining room ceiling.

Yesterday there were 3 electricians here all day, stringing wire, changing boxes, turning off and on the circuit breakers. All things considered, fairly peaceful. 🙂 I managed my 3:30 pm call without a break in my internet. Today the HVAC team arrived. Four of them in 2 vans. Vadim was the spokesman. I showed him the upstairs, showed him the now-safe drop-down attic stairs, apologized for the stuff in the attic, and showed him the newly pruned section of my garden where the compressor would reside. He asked for more boxes if I had them because they need to move the vast majority of the stuff that was in the attic out of the attic. Of course a lot of that stuff was already boxed up because we’d moved it up there from the 2nd floor.

Had I been working at this computer the ceiling would have come down on my head

I found him another 6 boxes and let them box up my books and move boxes down to the room over the dining room. That was my son’s bedroom and my office, and that’s what it will be again. I was working away at my work computer when I heard a loud breaking crashing noise behind me. I turned around and saw a big hole in the ceiling and plaster hanging from the edges of the hole. I was so shaken. I was terrified. I was calling up the stairs “are you alright? are you alright?” as I picked my way out of the dining room and up the stairs.

that’s a big foot and the plaster is bigger

You might remember from prior pictures that a lot of the floor up there is not there. There are some firmly situated boards, loosely laid boards, and holes. Apparently one of the young workers missed the board, stepped into the hole, and through the ceiling. There are so many blessings given this near disaster. He was wearing long pants. Had he not been, had it been one of the 2 workers in shorts, I’m sure his leg would have been shredded. It was one of the lighter-weight workers, only his leg went through, he didn’t fall but we all had a huge scare. Thank goodness I was “at work”. Had I been on my personal computer some of that plaster would have come down on my head. The falling plaster missed the chandelier. The pieces that hit the monitors were small fragments that hit the frame, and not the screen. There happened to be a cushion on the end of the dining room table although I think the glass there is sufficiently thick that it would not have been damaged. The dining room floor is chipped, but I think that we can fix it without needing to replace the floor boards.

a little more to the right and he’d have been on the chandelier

It could have been so much worse. I was very shaken and I can only imagine how the fallee was feeling. One of the other workers came down immediately to sweep it up and clean things. *laughing* I was lucky to get my photos taken he came so quickly!! Of course now I need to have the dining room ceiling repainted and I did that only 2 years ago. 😦 I can think of all sorts of macabre comments to put here but I don’t want to go that direction. *shudder* Anyway, it was quite an exciting morning. I can do without that kind of excitement.

those little white bits on the floor are pieces of plaster that “splattered” over to where I was sitting

Losing Battle

Denuded Hibiscus 😦

We went to dinner at friends’ house last night. Before I got in the car I sprayed all the tasty plants with Repel-all. Truth to tell, I don’t know if the plants were okay when we got home again – we were both tired and went inside and to bed. It rained last night/early this morning. We’ve needed the rain. It’s been 3 or 4 weeks since it rained last. I went out this morning and the hibiscus plants are denuded. It really is a bit discouraging. I don’t want to live in drought conditions but I have to believe that the deer came by for a post-rain snack. So in that respect the rain is NOT my friend. 😦 If they’d only stick to the flowers and not eat the leaves, the plants would regenerate so much faster. 😦

Bounteous crop

On the plus side I DO have a crop of grape tomatoes! AND I took the hedge trimmer into my own hands and dealt with the hedge. I’ve hired someone to come dig up and grind 3 bushes on the side of the house for the planned central air unit. Randy came by to give the quote either the week I had Covid or the 2nd week when I no longer tested positive but was still completely wiped out. I asked him to add trimming the front hedge to the quote. I had an email from him last Friday that said they’d be here this past week, weather permitting. Let me remind you: no rain for 3-4 weeks now. They never came, they never called, they never wrote. Yesterday morning I got out my ladders and hedge clippers, dealt with the hedge, and sent an email to Randy asking for a revised quote – no hedge trimming. I guess that would count as a winning battle, right? 🙂

“I’ll do it myself” said the Little Red Hen. And she did.