Tag Archives: Spring in the Shenandoah Valley

Cats and Springtime Go Together


Owl Cat in the garden

(Owl Cat in the garden)

Kitties love our garden(s). We have a lot of cats on our farm, both the outside kitties who found us, or their mama’s did, or were dumped, and the five rescues I’ve taken into the house. Thanks to our local cat rescue organization, Cat’s Cradle, in the Shenandoah Valley, all our outside barn cats and strays, except one or two that avoided the cage, were humane trapped, neutered or spayed, medicated if needed, given shots, and returned to us in late April. Big sigh of relief here. Nineteen cats and older kittens were fixed and tended to thanks to these fine folks. I couldn’t have afforded to do all of this on my own, and I don’t have the traps or their trapping skill. I made a donation and entourage everyone to support them and other no kill rescue organizations for cats and dogs. Note: Our local SPCA has the highest kill rate in Virginia.

What about yours? Check before you take animals to these places. Seek the humane no kill rescue centers and groups. We also have good ones for dogs.

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(Owl Cat in the catnip)

Back to the farm, a shy young adult kitty we call Owl Cat, because of her notable head tilt, is apparently fine, according to the vet. The tilt may stem from an earlier injury. We’ve noted she’s gotten better since early spring when she first gained our attention. The angle of her head and intensity of her gaze gives her a deeply contemplative look. She lives in the old red barn or my garden and is one of the regulars who collect outside my kitchen door for meals. She has a lovely climbing tree there and a small cat house she likes. All the kitties are enthralled by the catnip that grows in a nearby flower bed and have favorite nooks among the herbs, flowers, and shrubs. In the summer, they stalk the rows of sweet corn like jungle cats.

Little white kitty drinking his bottle

With spring comes the kitten rescues which get very tiring, and I was hoping to avoid with the many spays and neutering we’ve had done. So far, I’ve taken in three kittens. Cat’s Cradle kindly took the two tiny Siamese babies from me when they became sick and needed more care than I felt up to giving. I was sick myself. These babies will be adopted through them in late May. Their elusive mother is one of the two adults we were unable to catch, and haven’t ever seen. She left the pair squawking in the barn. My son later caught sight of two more Siamese babies and a tabby infant that she (or some other mama) was caring for, then she moved them. She and they are hidden here somewhere,, unless she relocated  to the neighbor’s farm. The humane trapping of the other cats may have upset her. A young adult Siamese male also shunned the traps. We suspect he’s deaf. He’s a frequent visitor outside my kitchen door, and I’d like to get him tamed enough to catch and neuter.

dilute calico kitten

A third calico kitten was dumped on our farm last week, and found by my ten-yr-old-niece Cailin. The poor thing was crying its head off and hiding in a piece of farm machinery in the upper meadow. I snagged a good home for that little cutie. There may have been siblings with it, as it’s unusual for a single kitten to be dumped alone, but we couldn’t find anymore. If there were more, they didn’t make it. People shouldn’t dump kittens on farms assuming someone will find them in time. Not everyone will go to the efforts I do to take care of them, and farmers have plenty of cats already.

Five kitties live strictly inside our house–all rescues–ranging from Minnie Mae, 14, Percy, 12, Pavel, 4, and the latest are the dastardly duo, Peaches and Cream, the itty bitty buddy brothers I rescued last fall. I had bronchitis by the time I got them through those first exhausting weeks. They were had a respiratory infection too, and had to be medicated and bottle fed, plus, plus. They are forever up to some sort of naughtiness, unless it’s nap time. It’s gotten so I don’t even bother to investigate all the crashes in the house unless I hear something shatter. Their antics are the reason I’m not keeping any more kitties inside for quite a while. When I hear them purr-talking and chirruping together, I know they’re up to no good. But I love them dearly. Peaches and Cream, plus Pavel, are especially enamored with the sun porch and love my geraniums. Not that’s it’s done the plants a lot of good. They’re blooming beautifully, though, despite the nibbling.

Percy likes to snooze in a sunbeam out there. Who wouldn’t?’

Apricot tabby in geraniums

(Peaches, an apricot or buff tabby, nosing in the geraniums)

“A dog will flatter you but you have to flatter the cat.”- George Mikes

“After scolding one’s cat one looks into its face and is seized by the ugly suspicion that it understood every word. And has filed it for reference.”- Charlotte Gray

(A Peaches and  Cream are shameless and ignore everything I say. Pictured below in a deceptively innocent pose. Cream is a Siamese orange tabby mix.)

Peaches and Cream snoozing in the Sunspace

'Cream' Siamese orange tabby mix

(Cream a Siamese Orange Tabby Mix. Smart, Curious, and into everything)

“You can’t help that. We’re all mad here.” – The Cheshire Cat from Alice in Wonderland (Definitely)

“Actually, cats do this to protect you from gnomes who come and steal your breath while you sleep.” – John Dobbin (This quite was so random I had to include it. Of course.)

Below is the old red barn where the outside cats shelter. Images are by daughter Elise, except the ones of Owl Cat, DH took those.

barn cat and roosters

The sun was warm but the wind was chill. You know how it is with an April day. ~Robert Frost


Oh, yes. I know. April in the Shenandoah Valley is up and down and all around. Some days are heavenly blue and balmy. I ache to capture the beauty, and can’t bear to come inside from the garden.

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Daughter Elise brings her camera over, but even her talent cannot totally convey the beauty. A wash of rich green spreads from the yard down across the meadow. Tender new leaves flushed with rose blend in with the many shades of green in the woods on the hills behind our farm. Daffodils, tulips, Virginia bluebells, lilac, pears, bridal veil spirea…beloved blossoms return as old friends to color the trees and flower beds. Wild flowers star the roadside and the creek bank. A wonderland. On those days, we are like ‘The Shire’.

spring flowers in the Shenandoah Valley

Other days are cold, gray, and windy–as if the Norsemen are coming in their dragon-headed ships. Or the furious wind fairies are gathering to attack, as our resident fairy expert, my niece Cailin, would warn. Soft rains are gentle and sooth the earth. Animals, plants, and people hunker down on the chill-you-to-the bone blasting kind of days. Spring is ‘right mixy’ to quote a local country woman.

Beauty of Apeldoorn tulips
The first day of spring is one thing, and the first spring day is another. The difference between them is sometimes as great as a month. ~Henry Van Dyke

The sun has come out… and the air is vivid with spring light. ~Byron Caldwell Smith, letter to Kate Stephens

April hath put a spirit of youth in everything. ~William Shakespeare

The front door to springtime is a photographer’s best friend. ~Terri Guillemets

_MG_8464_1 (1)       (Elise made an arrangement of daffodils)

A little madness in the Spring
Is wholesome even for the King.
~Emily Dickinson

A wizard must have passed this way
Since—was it only yesterday?
arrangement of violets in an old lavender bottleThen all was bare, and now, behold,
A hundred cups of living gold!
~Emma C. Dowd, “Daffodil and Crocus,” in Country Life in America: A Magazine for the Home-maker, the Vacation-seeker, the Gardener, the Farmer, the Nature-teacher, the Naturalist, April 1902

(Elise made an arrangement of violets in an old bottle we found on the farm)

It’s spring! Farewell
To chills and colds!
The blushing, girlish
World unfolds
Each flower, leaf
And blade of sod—
Small letters sent
To her from God.
~John Updike, “April,” A Child’s Calendar, 1965

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(An arrangement in our kitchen window by Elise. All images by Elise)

Spring: the music of open windows. ~Terri Guillemets

***Many of our flowers are heirlooms.

In the spring I have counted one hundred and thirty-six different kinds of weather inside of four and twenty hours. ~Mark Twain


daffodils in March snowWill a t-shirt suffice, or do I need my heavy coat? The question of the hour.

An encouraging flush of green spreads over the fields of rye and grassy meadows, still muddy from melting snow. Crocus brighten drab flower beds, while daffodils, tulips, and hyacinths push up leaves. Here and there, the hint of buds. The promise of new life stirs around the base of herbs and perennials. Like an elusive butterfly, spring hovers in the air, but tomorrow winter will chase it away for several days. Then spring returns again. Then winter–the back and forth dance that is March in the Shenandoah Valley. April can also be a fickle shuffle, though generally May is more.stately waltz. (Image of daffodils in the snow from last spring–also likely to happen this year)

But, hey, “Spring is when you feel like whistling even with a shoe full of slush.”  ~Doug Larson

snow crocusThis afternoon, Daughter Elise and I plan to make a start in the garden and get the early greens and peas in. A little tardy for us. Normally we’ve accomplished this first planting of the year by now, but the season is running late. In the greenhouse, tiny seedlings shiver when the sun disappears–the trouble with a solar greenhouse. But the warmth holds for a time and they’re shielded from frost and biting winds. Oddly, the heat loving flowers and basil are emerging just fine, but nary a sign of tomatoes and peppers. I suspect the seed rotted and replanting awaits me. There’s much to do in the greenhouse and the garden when spring stops hovering and declares herself. Winter hibernation ends and the mad rush ensues. The dance takes off.

“In the spring, at the end of the day, you should smell like dirt.” ~Margaret Atwood

And so I shall.

For Those Who Live In Or Long For The Country~


Gardening requires lots of water – most of it in the form of perspiration.  ~Lou Erickson

Weather means more when you have a garden.  There’s nothing like listening to a shower and thinking how it is soaking in around your green beans.  ~Marcelene Cox

There can be no other occupation like gardening in which, if you were to creep up behind someone at their work, you would find them smiling.  ~Mirabel Osler

Gardening is a matter of your enthusiasm holding up until your back gets used to it.  ~Author Unknown

The best place to seek God is in a garden.  You can dig for him there.  ~George Bernard Shaw

The greatest gift of the garden is the restoration of the five senses.  ~Hanna Rion

I used to visit and revisit it a dozen times a day, and stand in deep contemplation over my vegetable progeny with a love that nobody could share or conceive of who had never taken part in the process of creation.  It was one of the most bewitching sights in the world to observe a hill of beans thrusting aside the soil, or a rose of early peas just peeping forth sufficiently to trace a line of delicate green.  ~Nathaniel Hawthorne, Mosses from and Old Manse

Gardening is about enjoying the smell of things growing in the soil, getting dirty without feeling guilty, and generally taking the time to soak up a little peace and serenity.  ~Lindley Karstens, noproblemgarden.com

No two gardens are the same.  No two days are the same in one garden.  ~Hugh Johnson

I think that if ever a mortal heard the voice of God it would be in a garden at the cool of the day.  ~F. Frankfort Moore, A Garden of Peace

Last night, there came a frost, which has done great damage to my garden…. It is sad that Nature will play such tricks on us poor mortals, inviting us with sunny smiles to confide in her, and then, when we are entirely within her power, striking us to the heart.  ~Nathaniel Hawthorne, The American Notebooks

I have never had so many good ideas day after day as when I worked in the garden.  ~John Erskine

As much as I converse with sages and heroes, they have very little of my love and admiration. I long for rural and domestic scene, for the warbling of birds and the prattling of my children.  ~ John Adams

“The quality of mercy is not strained,
It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
Upon the place beneath; it is twice blessed;
It blesseth him that gives and him that takes…”
~ Shakespeare

The problem with cities is that people don’t learn what really matters. Don’t really feel or know the rhythms of the earth. When we are separated from that vital center place, we grow lost. Sadly, most people will never know what they are lost from, or where they can be found. ~ Beth

I looked out the window and the swallows are back, skimming over the pond. They weren’t there this morning. Not a single one. Now they are, and a flush of rose suffuses the trees on the hill above the meadow. I love the tender new leaves.

Our meadow is as lush as I’ve ever seen it. Thick grass, reaching past my knees, spreads in a green swathe from fence row to fence row and sparkles with bright gold dandelions and buttercups. The elusive meadowlark, my favorite songbird, trills sweetly from secret places hidden in the green. Rarely, I catch a magical flash of yellow as it flies, just before it tucks down again. Sandy brown killdeer dart around the edges of the pond on their long legs, sounding that wild funny cry peculiar to them.

The green-blue water that fills the banks of the pond now had dried to a painful parched puddle last summer. Migrating mallards and ruddy ducks ripple over the surface, bobbing bottoms up, and fill the air with busy gossipy quacks, content and happy creatures. Not so the plump gray and white barnyard geese. Their honking clash and chatter punctuates life on the farm, more or less, depending on their current level of hysteria.

Some of the geese have been here time out of mind, waddling about with their broken useless wings, reminding me of nervous old ladies who can’t find their glasses and are forever misplacing their grandchildren. More than once we’ve had to rescue a frantic gosling inadvertently left behind by its addled elders in a hole wallowed by the cows. Silly, silly geese. I scold the dogs when they’re tempted to chase and annoy them. Too easy, and it doesn’t seem fair.

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In my garden, I have a sea of herbs and flowers continually changing with the season. Some perennials are lost each winter and new ones are planted by Elise and me, others by the birds. I’ve a wild aster that blooms in late spring, covered with small white flowers. It’s very pretty really, although hard to contain. I like white flowers glowing at dusk while all else fades.

Several plants reign supreme because of Elise. ‘Magic flowers,’ yellow evening primrose, have taken over a generous quadrant at the edge of the vegetable garden. She rushes me out at twilight to view the wonder as they pop open, charged with fragrance. Hummingbird moths swoop in like little fairies to feed on the blossoms.

She doesn’t like the bats that also come. I love the nighthawks. Dill is also taking over because black swallowtail butterflies lay their eggs on its leaves and hatch into little caterpillars which she watches closely, puts some into jars and feeds until they make a chrysalis, then one day they emerge with wet crumpled wings and she releases them to the sky. I feel a bit like those uncertain butterflies, taking those first tentative flights.

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*Pic of wash day at a neighbor’s farm.

*My garden in a sunbeam

*Pics of our farm and the valley

*Evening Primrose

*Spring in the Shenandoah Valley