Bye-bye, Bubba

 Though he had been fading for several weeks 
and – as a 19.5-year-old diabetic – had long outlived his actuarial expectations,
 it was still hard to lose Bubba on Jan 23.
 His story goes all the way back, in a roundabout way, to Skygge
 who was the Farmers' first cat (a shelter adoption), when they were youngish students in Minneapolis
 and way before they became farmers.
 Skygge moved with them to Blacksburg, Virginia, for 7 years and then to Duluth in 1986.
 By 1994 Skygge was 19 or 20 years old, well set in her ways, and not in the mood for feline companionship.
 But that summer a feral cat deposited 4 kittens in the garage of our Duluth home.  Barb made a refuge for them under the bathroom sink
 intending to first socialize them and then find them good homes.
 But orange Julius proved to be so timid, shy and frightened that we knew he would be impossible to place.
 Barb worked long and hard to get him to come out of the bathroom, and gradually he felt comfortable in the house,
 to the consternation of Skygge; she loathed the attentions of this energetic young guy who wanted to play all the time.
 Looking for a playmate his own age to distract Julius from bothering the old puss, we found Bubba at Animal Allies Humane Society.
 This feisty little kitten was rescued from a live trap in west Duluth; he had been stabbed in the back of the neck.
 Although he was a few weeks younger than Julius and (for awhile) smaller, he didn't hesitate to administer a good licking.
As intended, the boys played together
snoozed together
and watched the MacNeil-Lehrer PBS News Hour together,
 but they also tag-teamed up on poor Skygge, who decided to check out in Oct 1995 at a ripe old age. 
 It wasn't long before Bubba outweighed Julius
 thereby serving as an even more comfortable pillow.
 The two alternated between being best of friends
 and sparring partners who chased each other all over the house.  Here Bubba sports a scratched nose from one of their skirmishes.
 They moved to the Farm with us in 2007 and enjoyed country life together 
 until Julius died in 2010. 
 For months after, Bubba would start each day looking for Julius in all the places he usually haunted.
 Although overweight and asthmatic as a youngster
 and diabetic for many years (Barb gave him insulin shots twice each day), Bubba lived far longer than his veterinarians predicted.
He always had ratty long fur and was never much for bathing himself, so he easily developed mats and tangles.
Last summer's "Lion's Cut" at the vet's office took care of the problem
even if he looked dorky for a few months.
 Bubba had cozy beds all over the house, but usually preferred to choose his own spots for hanging out.
A basket of laundry hot out of the dryer was a favorite retreat
(which is why the Farmers' clothes always sported white and tan hairs)
and a warm lap would do in a pinch.
He would often park in the front window
to keep track of the wildlife outside
and on cold days he knew all the sunny spots.
He was always willing to help out in the office by warming the desktop
or holding down books and papers.  
 He lived a long and happy life and is probably now up in Kitty Valhalla, howling in the middle of the night to keep the other inhabitants awake, as he was wont to do,
and carefully walking past linoleum floors in order to barf in a carpeted area that is harder to clean.  Farewell, Bubba!


Swirling in the Polar Vortex

 December was the third snowiest on record for northeast Minnesota
giving us the look of Antarctica or the North Pole.
 We got 40 inches of snow for the month
 (22 inches above normal) 
 amounting to 150 inches for calendar 2013.
 Vigilant Cat is at the bottom of a snow bank
 and the neighbors' pooch struggles to reach the road so that she can harass walkers.
 The goats take advantage of the shoveled driveway
 to scamper madly up and down
 caper furiously
 gaze hungrily at the trees protected by snow drifts 
 nosh on pine needles that the squirrels have knocked down
 and fight over said pine needles.
 On Dec 28 the three former inhabitants of the Ladies Lounge joined the other goats in the big barn
 leading to considerable head-butting as the social hierarchy was renegotiated.
 When they weren't instigating mayhem themselves, Geisha & Viva enjoyed ring-side seats.
 The very practical Momo simply ate as everyone else duked it out.
 Brutal cold moved in late December and early January, with warning of life-threatening conditions.
 From Dec 29 to Jan 10, we enjoyed 13 consecutive days of sub-zero temperatures, the coldest in 20 years.
 As windchills dipped to the 50s below zero, Gov. Dayton canceled school statewide for 2 days, and even local ski areas and skating rinks were closed.
 The smaller heated bucket in the goat barn couldn't withstand the challenge;
the water froze solid and forced ice out the bottom.
 The Farmers got a scare when their indoor propane monitor flashed a warning that they were down to 3% of the tank, since it had just recently been refilled.  Turns out that the monitor freezes up when temps dive so low.
 Barb didn't need to cool milk in an ice bath as usual; a snowbank worked just fine on a day like Jan 5, with a high of minus 8 and low of  minus 29.
Feral kitty comes out from her hiding nest behind the hay bales to enjoy a little sunlight.  With voles and mice safe beneath the deep snow, she's been living on crunchies provided in the barn
and a daily dish of microwave-heated store-bought milk (now that the girls are being dried up in preparation for spring birthings).
The goats are handling the cold as well as Boreas, god of Winter.
The smart ones cozy together in the sun
and they've all developed puffed out winter physiognomies (or are sneaking steroids and getting moon-faced). 
One upside of the killer cold is that it will wipe out a substantial number of emerald ash borers in our area.
Unfortunately, the survivors might give rise to a new generation of more cold-tolerant insects.
The Polar Vortex won't affect forest tent caterpillars, who are due for a major outbreak this year and the next.
According to the Duluth News Tribune, “Forest tent caterpillars (sometimes wrongly called army worms, which are a different species) often emit a greenish-black fluid when disturbed that stains paint and clothing. During the height of defoliation, their excrement often rains down from tree branches above.”  Some fun!
Bubba has been spending a lot of his waking time in front of a heat vent.
Of course, he stubbornly refuses to use the comfy bed placed near the vent
or the comfy bed fitted out with an electric heating pad.
For nap times, he retreats to his usual refuge in the bedroom closet.
Lately he's been showing his age (19 and a half years, the equivalent of 95 human years).  He's slowed down considerably, doesn't eat very much, and is losing weight.
At his check-up last November, the vet said that he's well past the age that most cats (especially diabetic cats) live.  We suspect he's preparing a migration to Cat Heaven.
In cheerier news, blood tests reveal that the entire MeadowWild herd is CAE free and 5 of the ladies are incubating bundles of joy.  Momo is due on March 12
Eclipse on March 25
Cheeky on March 27
Viva on April 2 (what do you bet she's a day early?)
and Geisha on April 6.  Check out Barb's website and put in your order for some cute little goat babies.