Saturday, February 27, 2010


A package arrived today, a box of books. Most of my reading material I purchased from a local used book store. Every few months after reading several books I would take a box of books back to the bookstore and sell them. It was a perfect arrangement until the roof feel in last month during the large snow store. I heard the entire inventory was lost.

A few months ago a blogging friend in New England recommended Why Zebras Don't Get Ulcers by Robert M. Sapolsky. We found the book at the local library but someone placed a hold on it before we finished it and we couldn't renew it. We read enough to know it's a book we want to read.

Books to read.

I decided to buy the book and went in search of it. I found it and some other books by that were reasonably priced and highly rated by readers. I've seen Sapolsky interviewed briefly on two programs that aired on PBS in the last couple years which also affected my decision. I bought three of his books.

A few years ago I realized my reading had become too narrow. I read only non-fiction related to World War II. I've broken that habit and am reading more widely but I've confined myself to non-fiction. For some reason novels aren't satisfying.

I've broken the habit but occasionally dip into my comfort zone. I'm nearing the finish of Operation Iceberg by Gerald Astor. It's an oral history of seventy-eight men who fought in the battle for Okinawa. Their memories after fifty years are at times it rough, painful, moving, disturbing.

As soon as I finish this book I'll find another to read by myself. Julie and I will read Sapolsky's books together and discuss them.

Friday, February 26, 2010

Class Dismissed

It's 9:22 PM. A short while ago Julie and I got home from class.

This is the weekend we enrolled in a scuba class at the community college. Class met tonight and will meet eight hours on Saturday and Sunday. This will be a full weekend with little time for work.

I've become accustomed to being the oldest person in many groups. I expected Julie and I would be in a class with a group of young people in their twenties and thirties. Surprise! I'm probably the oldest in the class and Julie is probably the youngest. OK, it's a small class of two couples and an enthusiastic fifty-something instructor.

Tomorrow morning we have more classroom instruction and we meet at the University pool after lunch.

I'm looking forward to class tomorrow! As Julie often says "How fun is this!"

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Two Weeks, Two Days

Two weeks and two days of anticipation before the start of six days of adventure in the Grand Canyon.

I began planning the Royal Arch Route trip about 7 AM on January 1, 2009, as I was talking with a ranger at the Grand Canyon while waiting for the Backcountry Information Center to open. I first heard of this route in May of 2008 when a couple became lost for a few days and search and rescue became involved.

Final preparations are underway. I began dehydrating food last weekend. This weekend I plan on purchasing the rope needed for a rappel, two canisters of fuel and some additional food.

One concern is the weather. The trail head is two hours drive west of Grand Canyon Village over forest service roads that become impassable after heavy snows or rain. I'll check on the condition of the road a few days early and try to change the permit for another route if needed. Hopefully the roads will be fine. I want to do this trip.

We've had more snow this winter than usual and work at the University has been unusually heavy. As a result the average miles per day I walk has declined. But, I'm good for the trip. A few days ago I began doing squats with weights and can feel the consequences in my upper legs. A good feeling.

I've never done any physical preparation for other backpacking trips but this time I'll be going with guys in their thirties. Six months ago I recruited three coworkers for the trip. Two canceled recently but my son decided to go so there will be three of us.

Julie is flying to Dallas to visit her children while we are in the canyon. This will be only the second backpacking trip in the last fifteen years that she hasn't been with me. A few years back I did a solo trip in the Wichita Mountains without her. It was OK but not as enjoyable as it would have been had she been there.

In spite of the fact that she won't be with me, this promises to be a great trip.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

Concentric Circles Image

I sometimes write things that call for challenge or clarification. A recent comment from Mojoman was welcomed because what I wrote raised a serious issue. Here's a portion of his comment.
I also like your concentric-circle image. Sounds a little like a 12-step thing. Only thing I wonder about: If we pay no attention to the outermost circle, do we get the kind of government we have now?
Let's try a word association exercise.
  • You say "government". I reply "hopeless".
  • You say "politician". I reply "disgust".
  • You say "democracy". I reply "unicorn".
We live in a republic, not a democracy. Under media manipulation we vote for representatives but do not vote for laws. We have an antiquated constitution that contains some excellent principles but also contains some ideas that made sense in the late eighteenth century but not today. The constitution was written by educated and wealthy men who debated long about wealth and property with an eye to preserving their power and position. Advances in media, sociology, psychology and marketing have transformed elections into profitable events. We are male and female, conservatives and liberals, introverts and extroverts, poor and wealthy, young and old. It seems like most of us (myself included) cannot communicate with those who differ from us or have dissonant values.

I feel hopeless when trying to participate in the political structure. Hopeless is not a good, pleasant or healthful emotion. If issues related to government are related to such strong negative emotional reactions then one solution is avoidance.

Though I feel hopeless and want to choose avoidance I continue to feel a sense of responsibility. Last Friday Kathryn Grace wrote a piece that elicited some guilt. I feel hopeless, responsible and guilty.

I resolve this unpleasant situation with the concentric circles image. I devote most of my time to things that I can control, to things in the inner circle. This is the most rewarding circle. I devote less time to things over which I have some control, to things in the middle circle. I devote some time to things in the outer circle which I cannot directly influence.

My blog is a tool for the inner and middle circle. I think it is futile to use it to affect the outer circle. Don't interpret this to mean I think others should not use their blogs in efforts to affect large issues. Our personalities, experiences, training, beliefs and values are different. Our chosen efforts should be varied.

I work in the outer circle of trying to exert a positive influence on government, climate change, national health care and other large issues by limiting my time and exposure. I avoid rants and seek out balanced and non-volatile sources of information. I'll watch news broadcasts on PBS and I'll watch Bill Moyer's Journal. I'll not watch major network news. I sign some petitions and I've phoned the governor's office. I encourage Julie in her efforts when she supports a cause like the local food bank.

My main effort to act responsibly is to employ those who have the personality, training, skills and resources to have a direct influence on large complex issues. I financially support the American Civil Liberties Union, the Sierra Club and the Nature Conservancy. I'm an amateur. It's foolish for me to think I can directly influence professional politicians, corporate lawyers and wealthy organizations. I think I can do the most good by contributing to organizations that have direct influence.

Some responsibilities are never completed. I'll never reach the point when I can stop exercising, managing my weight or learning. These are life-long tasks. Likewise I don't think there's any hope of creating a perfect government. Rather it's a continuing task of maintaining balance and avoiding extremes. Nature illustrates the importance of balance between populations of predators and prey. Perhaps there's political lesson in this. If either political party ever gained complete control then we would be in serious trouble. I may not like it but perhaps the government that we have is about the best we can realistically expect.

I think balance is important in my personal life. I worked to get to a position of peace. I like who I am regardless of which party is in power. The concentric circles image has been a useful tool to attain balance.

I found some some books exciting and useful in searching for balance in my thinking about political issues and efforts to exert influence. These aren't political science books. I highly recommend them.
  • Our Inner Ape by Fans de Waal
  • The Age of Empathy by Fans de Waal
  • The Tipping Point by Malcolm Gladwell
  • A chapter near the end of The Happiness Hypothesis by Johnathan Haidt.


Sunday morning as we prepared to walk we decided to take a route that we had not walked in over a month due to the depth of the snow. I was interested in what changes we might see. I thought about taking the camera but decided against it.

It's not unusual to see hawks on this route. Generally as we get close they will call out in anthropomorphized irritation and fly away. On this walk I saw a silhouette that seemed too large and a little unusual for a hawk. As we got closer it appeared the bird was facing away from us. As he turned his head toward us I saw a flash of white against the bright sky and tried to think of species of large birds having a white throat. Then I saw a glint of white on his tail. A mature bald eagle! I've seen eagles flying high above the house but this is the first I've seen perched close to the house.

We walked to the national forest fence where there were tracks running parallel to our side of the fence. From a distance they were too large for deer or pronghorn, too small for cattle and shaped unlike these three animals. As we got closer we saw scat that confirmed the identification. Elk! This is the first time I've seen signs of elk on this side of the fence. They aren't common this close to the house.

It was a good walk made better by these and other discoveries.

Monday, February 22, 2010

Our Weekend in Photos

Flowers moved from the work area.
Flowers moved from the work area.

Helper number one.
Helper number one has an itch.

The layout is confirmed.
The layout is confirmed.

Laying the tile.
Laying the tile.

Helper number two.
Helper number two takes a break.

Ready for grout.
Ready for grout.

Awaiting sealer.
Almost finished with a few flowers placed on the counter. Final cleaning and sealing will be done in three days.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Four Generations

My paternal grandfather, to the best of my knowledge, has nine children and 24 grandchildren who were born after his death.

My father has three children and six grandchildren all of whom he lived to hold.

I have two children, five grandsons and one great granddaughter.

There is a good possibility I will live to see my first great great grandchild.

My son and his granddaughter.

My grandson and his daughter.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010


About a year ago Julie submitted forms volunteering as a participant in an Alzheimer's research project. Some phone calls and more forms resulted in an interview and blood test in early December. Twice recently Julie commented that she must not have been selected since there was no further communication.

Yesterday she received a call. At the end of the first week of April at the Mayo Clinic she will have six hours of tests including another blood test. I'll be interviewed concerning changes in her memory in recent months.

As Julie's mother first declined into Alzheimer's she was taken periodically to a doctor who would conduct quick simple memory tests. One of the common questions was "what is today's date?". She couldn't remember but she could remember that the question was always asked. She resorted to cutting the date out of a newspaper and taking it with her. When asked the question she would look at the palm of her hand to answer. She has progressed beyond that point and memory tests are no longer appropriate.

It must be scary and extremely unsettling to know something is wrong, to be searching for ways to compensate, to be unable to understand what is happening. Hopefully, research will slow the decline and prevent some instances of the disease.

After finishing this I asked Julie's approval to use it. Here's her reply via instant messenger.

yes, unless you add that witnessing mom's disease sparked my interest in contributing to research as a way to help and compensate for the fact that I can't help M&D out very much because of the distance between us - the post is fine and factual but lacks any emotion on what for me is an emotional topic

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Valentine's Cactus

During a Thanksgiving visit with her parents in Amarillo, Texas, Julie went into a side yard and saw a cactus that had been uprooted and was lying on top of the soil. The cactus was one of several that her mother has had for many years which originally came from Julie's grandmother. She put the cactus in a bag and brought it home.

We planted it in a large terra cotta pot with three other items that we bought at a nursery. It took root and seemed to be doing fine. About 10 days ago I noticed a small bump forming near the top of the cactus. Over next several days it grew slighty until about three days ago when it seemed to enlarge quickly.

This morning at about 7:30 AM I noticed a slight red tint at the point of the growth. About 30 minutes later I noticed it seemed larger and told Julie it appeared to be growing as I watched it.

Indeed it was. The following photos show the progression.

Cactus blossom.
Cactus blossom beginning to open at 8:30 AM. The red blossom to the left of the cactus is a bougainvilla.

Cactus blossom.
Cactus blossom at 9:40 AM.

Cactus blossom.
By 10:30 AM the blossom was fully open. This photo was taken at 4:30 PM.

Cactus blossom.
By 6:30 PM the blossom was well on it's way to closing.

Friday, February 12, 2010

A Fine Friday

I enjoy Fridays immensely. It would be painful to resume working 40 hours at the University.

The day began with the discovery of white specks on a new potted plant. Last winter we battled infestations of fungus gnats and white flies. This winter more cautious watering and installation of an oscillating fan on a timer had kept us bug free until today. I saw about five fungus gnats (or one gnat five times) as we ate breakfast. I checked other plants and found nothing so I sprayed the one plant with neem oil.

White specks.
White specks that caught my attention and sent me for a magnifyiedng glass.

Julie's plans for the day included making Red Beet Rolls. The recipe required three cups of shredded raw beets. The dough is supposed to chill for 24 hours after rising but Julie baked a few for supper. This recipe is definitely a keeper.

Dough for Red Beet Rolls.
Mixing the dough for Red Beet Rolls.

Warm Red Beet Rolls.
Warm Red Beet Rolls.

The day was sunny with a high of 52 degrees. Julie decided the cats needed to be locked outside for the day. Max and Maggie were easy to evict. Pick them up. Macy is too suspicious. We can't pick her up or call her to any location other than the kitchen. I began planning a cat roudup but Julie suggested another solution. Julie convinced her to leave the house by getting the vacuum. Macy always leaves the house when Julie vacuums.

Julie and Max resting.
Julie and Max resting while rolls bake in the oven.

Max, the stray male cat, has been with us for almost two weeks. No one responded to a sign Julie posted by the mail boxes so I guess he's here to stay. He solved the mystery of the cat door in six days. We woke one morning and discovered him in the house. He disappeared for two nights last week but returned one evening shortly after we got home from work. I like this cat. I was working outside with power equipment while he slept a few feet away. When he heard a saw cutting into lumber he would look up a little annoyed but not run in fright like the females.

I checked the covered bed in the garden last week and again today. I could tell a difference in one week. Onions, garlic, beets and parsnips are growing through the mulch. I planted the onions and garlic in the fall. I left a few beets and parsnips from last season. The plastic cover did well. It withstood strong winds and a foot of snow. It sagged some under the weight of the snow but returned to it's original shape after the snow melted. I'm going to cover another bed and begin planting next weekend.

Today I worked on a cabinet to enclose the water pump and pressure tank that I installed in a corner of the new utility room. Originally I installed a pump near my large building which is several feet west of the house. I want the pump in the utility room for three reasons. I won't have any concerns about it freezing in cold weather and it is more convenient to check the water meter that I installed with the pump. The third reason is most important. I can hear the pump. I generally know when Julie is using water so if the pump engages at odd times or runs continuously for too long then I'll know I have a problem. Being able to hear the pump is a benefit for water conservation.

That was our Friday.

Tuesday, February 09, 2010

My Theme

I started blogging out of frustration, irritation and some anger from consuming the news media. Initially I created an anonymous blog with the generic identifier of NOAZ for northern Arizona. That didn't last long. I've never respected anonymity. It smells too much like cowardice. I added my name and a photo.

Writing was always unpleasant, too much like work, more painful than physical labor. I forced myself to write a few things and fell in with a group. Over time most of the group has stopped blogging but I continue for reasons explained below.

Some time back I thought perhaps I should select a theme. That didn't seem wise since I didn't want to limit myself. There are too many interesting things and events. Then I realized I have a theme though a description is vague in my mind. "Celebrating my life"? "Celebrating" sounds too pompous as in "grand, solemn or self-important". Rejoicing? That word doesn't sound rough enough for me given my redneck heritage but it conveys the essence of what I feel. Rejoice means "to be very happy, be delighted, exult; to feel joy."

I did my 25 years in hell and over the last 15 years my life has been better than I ever imagined possible. Some of it has been good fortune but some of it has been due to effort over time. I've read books and research about happiness, marriage skills and personal health. One of the things I adopted was the concept of visualization, mental training, controlling my thoughts. For example, a gymnast may visualize a perfect vault. In her mind the sees herself leaving the floor, her body beginning to follow the perfect path in the perfect form. I applied this concept to my life visualizing myself as I want to be, by focusing on the positive and avoiding the negative in entertainment, news and all areas of life.

I have a friend on campus who is a psychologist. I'm indebted to him for several items of knowledge including the concept of three concentric circles which represent things I can control, things over which I can exert some control and things over which I have no control. The inner most circle, the circle of control, includes what I read, how I spend money, what I eat and how I invest my time. The next circle of limited control includes gardening. I can control water and fertilizer but not the weather or hatches of insects. Also in this category are group meetings at work where I can voice my opinion but not make the final decision. The outer circle of no control is the largest. I can't control or affect national politics, global warming, health care legislation and a multitude of other things. I'll give most of my time to the inner circle, devote some effort to the next circle and no thought to the largest circle.

Over time my blog has joined efforts such as healthy nutrition and planned physical exercise as a means of enriching my life. I write not because my life is good but to exert some small effort to make my life good.

Here are the principles which evolved that I try to follow with my blog.

  • I will write for myself. I am my audience.
  • I will write about the inner circle and, occasionally, the middle circle.
  • I will write with honesty and never make up facts or memories other than those my aging brains creates without my knowledge.
  • I will write about good things that I want to relive in five years when I read my blog.
  • I will write about news events only if they are positive and uplifting. (Sorry, Jean. No comment on Sara P. or Pat R.)
  • I will try to be positive to counter balance some of the ranting that is threatening to propel the earth out of it's orbit.
  • I will enjoy the typos and less than perfect grammar in my posts rather than feel frustration when I discover them.
  • I will write with the knowledge that my family (sisters, brothers-in-law, son, daughter and others) read my blog and I want to leave them feeling positive.
  • I will write from the perspective of a father with hope of some possible benefit to my children. I regret that I didn't have my father for more years to impart his experiences and knowlege in his 35 years ahead of me in life's journey.
  • I will write with respect for diversity knowing that people from approximately 75 foreign countries read my blog at one time or another.

I didn't consciously select the theme of rejoicing or celebrating for my blog but I like the theme. I think it's a good one.

Monday, February 08, 2010


Thirty-six years and three months! That's the amount of time I've spent on seven college or university campuses as a student or employee.

It appears Northern Arizona University may be the last and it's a good finish. The University has an enrollment of 23,600 students with 16,000 at the Flagstaff campus. Thirty percent of the students identify their ethnicity as something other than white. I like this! I would find it unpleasant to return to a homogenized ethnic environment. For too many years I lived in a white world with a small minority of blacks only. Other ethnic groups were rarely represented. I've experience diversity and I like it.

NAU has a department of Applied Indigenous Studies which is down the hall from Julie's office. Among the indigenous groups represented by the faculty are Yaqui, Hopi, Choctaw, Cherokee, and Navajo and others. Currently there are three resident elders who are Navajo, Hopi and Mayan.

Wall hanging of Ecuadoran calendar.
Wall hanging of Ecuadoran calendar.

Last week a gentleman in the department from Ecuador was selling wool wall hangings of symbols from an Ecuadoran calendar. Julie purchased one which contains eleven symbols of animals. I interpret the symbol in right hand column, second from the top, as two snakes. The remainder, save one, are birds, mammals and a frog. It's the orange figure, the second from the bottom in the right hand column, that I can't identify. This symbol has mystified me. Could it represent some animal?

Wall hanging.
Wall hanging in the sun room. (Larger version)

I've done a quick web search but can't find anything helpful. One afternoon I'll walk to Julie's office and ask her to introduce me to the gentleman who sold the hanging to her. He'll interpret the symbols for me and, perhaps, point me toward literature that will explain the history of the calendar.

I like being on a university campus. More accurately, I like being on a university campus with much diversity, specialized programs and knowledge of which I'm ignorant. This is as close to a religious experience as I ever encounter.

Saturday, February 06, 2010


My subject is partly about propane but is more about options, freedom, suspicion and distrust of corporations, sustainability, self-reliance and independence.

Two years ago I decided to reduce our need for propane. We were using it for heat, hot water, drying clothes and cooking. As much as possible Julie hangs clothes outside to dry. The hot water heater is insulated and we use little hot water. We replaced the kitchen range to eliminate standing pilots on the burners and in the oven. Our major need for propane was for heat.

To exclude the propane furnace we built an addition of 480 square feet with south facing glazing. The extra floor space is divided into a sun room and a utility room. These rooms have ceramic tile over concrete and twelve barrels of water mass to store heat. Heat from these rooms circulates throughout the house. In spite of 240 square feet of glass these rooms are consistently the warmest on cold winter nights. As a backup for cloudy days and extreme nights we installed a wood burning stove. We no longer use propane for heat so we don't need a large propane tank.

In 2007, give or take a year, the company that provides propane mailed us a small-print brochure. Using a magnifying glass I read it. I learned the revised agreement was one-sided and not to our benefit. One of the items stated the company will not be responsible if delivery personnel damage our property. We would be required to purchase two tanks of propane per year. That would be 400 or 500 gallons per year depending on interpretation. Another item stated that if we accepted the next delivery of propane then we consented to the "agreement". Every item in the agreement insured the company would make money without risk or responsibility and that we would be indentured.

Three things happened. We phoned the company and told them we would not be paying for propane up front for the year. By paying several hundred dollars in late summer or early fall the company would guarantee a rate for the year. We assumed incorrectly that we would phone for delivery and pay cash for propane if we needed it. Not long after that we arrived home and discovered the tank has been filled. My intention has been to run the tank low on propane and have it removed and provide my own cylinders.

Second, a delivery driver hit the corner of a fence, forced the fence to the west and broke a line post some distance from the corner. He put a note on our door expressing his sorrow for the accident and hoped the repair was adequate. He had attempted to straighten the fence and had leaned the broken post against a section of the fence. But, since we had accepted delivery of propane that we had not ordered the company was not responsible because acceptance of delivery was also acceptance of the agreement.

Third, when we decided to have the tank removed before the annual tank rental fee was due I learned something new. The tank could not be removed without an additional fee if it was more than 20% full. In the end it was cheaper to pay another year's rental fee of $60 and use the propane in the tank rather than pay the fee to have it removed. Fortunately, we have not been confronted with the fact that we are not purchasing two fillings per year. We haven't bought propane since 2008.

Yesterday I put a tee in the propane line, insalled an auto-switching pressure regulator and connected hoses to two 100 pound cylinders. I tested the new installation, turned off the cylinders and restored service from the large tank. Within the next month the tank will empty and I'll open the values to the new cylinders, light the pilot on the water heater and call to have the tank removed.

In the future I'll take each cylinder to town and have it filled as needed. I'll have the option of choosing which company to use. I'll not necessarily look for the lowest price because customer service, friendliness and honesty are important. I'll install solar hot water and further reduce the need for propane. In the end I'll not have to refill the cylinders often.

I prefer not to be indentured to one company by a one-sided agreement. I like having the option of shopping for propane, the freedom to select a company without long term commitment, a fair and equal exchange for both myself and the company. However, these options weren't free. The cost of cylinders, regulator, hoses and fittings was about $300. But, in five years I'll break even by saving the annual tank rental.

Another benefit is health. Full cylinders weigh about 138 pounds. Good exercise!

Thursday, February 04, 2010


Julie's $10 bread machine works well. She's tried various recipes and will try another one tomorrow. Today the book "Healthy Bread in Five Minutes a Day" came in the mail. On the way home we bought beets for a recipe in the book that was mentioned in a recent issue of Mother Earth News. I must admit the machine saves her much time as compared to the bread she was making by hand.

Watching the ease with which Julie makes bread using the machine caused an old memory to surface, a memory of making bread.

About 1953 when I was seven or eight my paternal grandmother lived in a three room log house without plumbing, a phone or a television. Wiring leading to ceiling lights and outlets for small appliances like a radio were mounted on the surface of the walls using white ceramic insulators. The well was just a few steps from the door opening into a small kitchen. Beside the door was a pail of drinking water with a communal ladle. Cooking was done on a wood cook stove.

I no longer have a perspective on the size of the property. Eighty acres? One hundred and sixty? I'm not certain. There were four houses scattered at some distance from one another. My grandmother and an uncle lived in the log house. An uncle and perhaps eight cousins lived in another four room house. The third house was three rooms and was built by my father just before World War II began. Across the creek was a large two story house where my father was born. No one lived in it any longer. A couple years earlier my grandmother had moved from the large house into the log house. I assume she moved because it was larger than needed after her children left home. I have only fond memories of the old house, the large front porch, the flowers in the yard and the time I spent there. After almost 60 years I can vividly remember the laurel lined path that led to the spring a short distance away, the hummingbird that flew in a window one Sunday morning, the cries of a cousin who was bitten by a Copperhead and wrestling with a favorite uncle.

My uncle had a cow that stands out in my memory for two reasons. First, it had one horn that grew at a odd angle in tight curve that caused the point of the horn to touch the upper eyelid of the cow. I wondered if it was painful and questioned what would happen as it kept growing. I never received an answer to that question because the end of the horn was soon cut. The second oddity about the cow was that the tip of one teat was missing. She had attempted to jump a barbed wire fence and had torn the tip off. When she was milked the teat would emit a constant stream of milk.

But, back to making bread.

One summer day I was visiting my grandmother and cousins. I seem to remember six or eight of us. My grandmother who was in her late seventies at the time baked four or five loaves of bread in the wood cook stove and called all of us to the house. She sliced bread and buttered the slices with butter churned on the farm. We ate and ate. In short order every loaf of bread was gone. I remember an unpleasant feeling when I realized there was none left for her. But she wasn't concerned. She had baked the bread for us. I have nothing but good memories of her.

I sometimes wonder how much my enjoyment of homemade bread is influenced by memories of that day and memoires of my grandother and the work she put into making bread.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010


Last Friday Julie opened the utility room door and started a cat. It was wild and panicked. It was about the size and coloring of Lexi, a cat that was trapped on campus last winter. We turned Lexi loose late last summer but haven't seen her in months. It looked similar to Lexi but Julie wasn't certain.

Sunday morning, a noise, the sound of a cat, came from behind me. I was working around the wood pile splitting kindling and wood in preparation for another week of cold weather. I turned around and saw a black and white cat coming toward me. I knelt down and called the cat. He came up to me, purred and permitted me to pick him up. He was healthy, had a full belly and was well socialized. He hung around me as I worked for a couple hours. He climbed on the fence, rolled in the snow, got in my way and had an enjoyable time. On Monday morning as we prepared to leave for work he appeared again. I fed him.

Stray cat
A stray cat.

Then a third cat! On Monday evening the black and white cat met us as we got home. I fed him and set about loading the wood stove. I looked out a sun room window and saw him sitting, staring at something in the low light. It was a large red cat that looked healthy and strong. I wondered if it was wild so I went outside. It was gone as soon as it heard the door open.

In the five and one-half years that we've lived at our current location we've never seen stray cats. Occasionally a pack of dogs will come by and do some damage trying to get at a rabbit or pack rat hidden behind or under something. But never a cat.

On Tuesday morning Julie asked if I had seen BW. It took me a second or two before I realized she had named the black and white cat.

I fed BW this morning before leaving for work. He's found the cat door that Maggie and Macy use but he doesn't know how to use it. He'll sniff around it but hasn't pushed on it.

It will be interesting to see how long it will take before he walks into the sun room unannounced, uninvited.