Our house has always been a little like Wild Kingdom.  We have never, since we moved to this old house in 1997, had any shortage of stray dogs and barn cats.  In fact, when we moved in, we were informed that the house came with two beautiful, tortoiseshell cats, one of whom was pregnant.  We didn’t know it at the time, but when we got back from the beach that summer, we had a box full of kittens in the barn.  Shortly thereafter, everyone was fixed.  And we’ve pretty much kept our vet in business with our constant stream of animals who need to be spayed or neutered.  

 

The past year, we sort of closed a chapter on one group of animals, many of whom lived with us for several years, and we have opened one with a younger group.  Freckles came a year ago this past Thanksgiving and is a super sweet cuddle bug who loves to play AND take naps.  Mabel is Harper Lee’s kitten, if you recall, that we adopted on the Fourth of July.  Despite being the runt of the litter, she has grown nicely and has turned into a murderous menace.  I don’t like the ruthless and horribly SLOW way cats torture and kill mice, so I have historically used humane traps that allow me to trap the mice and then set them free in the woods.  Mabel, being the smart cookie she is, opens the traps and take the mouse out.  How’s that for a little bit freaky?
If this photo had a soundtrack, you would be able to hear a low, threatening growl that doesn’t quite match up to that pretty little face.  She is quite protective of her kill.
Fortunately, this mouse is not Archer, who did pass away last week.  Isaac was pretty upset, but after a funeral in the rain during which we buried Archer the Mouse in a fancy red jewelry box lined with cotton, Isaac put the cage away and said that, “I would like to have another mouse someday, but not for a few months.”  I thought this was very mature for a six year old.  
In addition to our regular cat and dog population, though, I’ve decided to take the plunge on something I’ve been thinking about forever (seems I’m doing a lot of that lately).  Rob repaired, refurbished, and repainted our old chicken house.  It was really a nice building but had fallen into pretty bad disrepair.  Now it’s ready for new chickens.
This spring, we are getting some chicks.  Our neighbor has always shared his eggs with us, but we are just one family of many on his delivery list, so we can’t always count on them.  Besides, my grandmother raised chickens, and I loved feeding them and gathering the eggs.  There’s nothing better than fresh eggs.  I haven’t yet decided on a rooster.  The kids really want one, but I may wait.  Roosters are not always the most well-mannered animals; it might be a crap shoot.
If anyone has advice regarding good laying hens, let me know.  I find that I’m researching all sorts of things recently so I’ll just add this to my ever-growing list.
Next on the list– a goat!  Rob’s not completely on board with this, but Harper Lee and Isaac are agreeable.  
Between our CSA (which begins deliveries again in May!) and my vegetable garden that I’m planning to expand this year and my chickens, I see a lot of good, healthy whole foods in our future.  I can’t say I’ve marked the whole grocery store thing off my to-do list or that I’m as brave as Barbara Kingsolver in her Animal, Vegetable, Miracle experiment, but it’s a start.
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