The Hens of Pumpkin Hollow

20180214_152811They, too, wait for spring when fresh greenery pushes through to be pecked at and enjoyed by the hens of Pumpkin Hollow Farm.  I love chickens.  And the thing we missed most when we were away from a farm was having chickens.  They make a farm a home anywhere you can keep them.  Their colorful feathers, changing in the sun, their strut through high weeds and the way they tilt their head to look at you with one eye.  They are hilarious in demeanor and each one is as different as my cats.

Yogi and Hindi are Jersey Giants and we refer to them as the Jersey girls.  They tend to stick together.  Their large black feathers sparkle emerald in the sunlight.  They lay large brown eggs.  They were late bloomers but seem to be catching up with others.

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Eloise was supposed to be a Marans but she lacks speckles and I think she is actually an Australorpe.  She lays small tan eggs wherever she pleases; outside the coop door, near the chicken food-as if the egg popping out surprises her.  She wants to be pet but then changes her mind.  She sleeps by herself and is a little…um…special.  But she is very sweet.

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Buttercup is the tiny queen here.  A clean, white egg can be found each day.  Her breed is Buttercup which is what led to her name.  She looks like a miniature leopard with a rose shaped crown.  She wants nothing to do with us.  Unless we have a bit of cracked corn.

Owlette is an Auracana.  This lovely breed looks like an owl and lays blue-green eggs.  I would like a few more of these ladies.  They are sassy and good layers.

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We have fallen for Salmon Favorelles.  These girls are beautiful in their French finest and petticoats.  They lay pink eggs regularly and are very friendly.  Bubba is especially sweet.  Our granddaughter named our chickens.  Bubba and Chichi are cute names indeed.

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We feed organic layer feed and organic scratch.  They eat scraps from the kitchen as well.  They have a large fenced in area that was likely a dog run in the past with seven foot fencing.  They live in an adobe house with trumpet vine that climbs prettily up the side in the summer.  We are all ready for a little color and for winter to pass!  They are able to wander the yard on the days the puppy goes to the shop with me.  I don’t trust his puppyness quite yet.  Chickens are very easy to keep.  They require little more than a straw strewn shed or chicken coop, fresh water, scratch, oyster shells, scraps, and feed.  They love dirt baths and bugs and sunlight.  They put themselves to bed in the evening at last light.  All you have to do is open the door in the morning and close the door at night.

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We are vegan but we do eat the eggs from our own chickens.  Our chickens lead a very nice life with pets, treats, and lots of wandering adventures.  They will live here their entire life and so in that way they are lucky.  No factory farms, cages, enclosed barns, or slaughter for them.

So now as spring approaches we have the question to answer; do we “adopt” five more chicks even though the hatcheries are horrific and provide five chickens with a beautiful future or do we wait and see if we are sent five chickens that need rescuing?  There are many moral decisions to be made on a small hobby farm.  We do know that chickens make this mini-farm a happier place to live.  A farm without chickens is not quite a home.

The Farm Sanctuary

20171019_132845I can’t find anything written about it but word from the farmgirls in town is that we can now have two goats or sheep and up to twelve chickens.  Being such a farming community I was surprised that the town was so behind Colorado Springs and Denver when it came to legalizing farm animals in town.

Now this new news may not mean anything to our immediate future.  First and foremost we must pay off our debt.  I have a pretty lofty goal of paying off everything but the house this year.  Fifty grand is not easy to come by but I am determined to scrape and save and send farewell payments to our student loans.  Debt is most certainly a jailor and it is keeping us from our dreams.

And that dream might just be a farm sanctuary.  Years ago, huddled in the cold basement of a friend’s house who was letting us live there until we could get back on our feet, we drew out an elaborate plan one cool autumn night.  A farm.  The only thing we have ever wanted.  Rented farms were fun and disastrous.  Not having money made it difficult as well.  We imagined and created a farm that was a non-profit.  Something folks could get behind.  Our family-run farm would be complete with large vegetable, herb, and perennial gardens.  There would be a building to teach classes like homesteading arts, gardening, art, writing, cooking, herbalism, and preserving.  A place to serve meals and a place to house interns.   A general store would sell preserves and tinctures and produce.

The animals we accumulated on our past farms were never to eat.  At the end we had twenty-four chickens, two sheep for wool and entertainment, two goats for milking, and four ducks for eggs and laughs.  This time around we wouldn’t have the milking goats.  Cashew milk tastes pretty good.  But there are plenty of little boy goats that may need rescuing.  A wethered (neutered) goat is just like a puppy.  I eat the eggs of my beautiful chickens because, honest to god, they don’t care.  Eggs from the store-even organic, free range- come from horrid, cruel environments.  But my hens are named, snuggled, and live out their whole life with me.

If the animals are in a safe, happy environment and people can come to a farm and have a great vegan meal and play with farm animals and see the souls, personalities, and life behind each individual, that could make a profound difference.  To show folks that one person can make a tremendous impact on the environment, saving endangered species, save the lives of thousands of animals over their lifetime, and completely restore their own health would be the best possible work for me.

I know this is a big dream.  (Add to it that we want it in a warmer climate like southern California) I don’t usually dream quite this big.  It probably will not start this complete but will manifest and grow into itself.  We have been learning and preparing for this dream for the past ten years.  Here on this little urban sanctuary I have room for a few more rescued chickens.  Perhaps some ducks.  Maybe a wether.  Really, not much more if even that.

But first things first.  Create a written plan.  Learn how to start a non-profit.  Pay off debt.  Dream big.  Enjoy the present.

The Great, Great Pyrenees (traits and fun facts)

Message_1514674093077I love the individual traits of dogs.  I am fascinated that certain characteristics could be bred into a dog over thousands of years.  I enjoy watching those traits emerge.  The little souls and personalities may be different but there are definitely set patterns.  We decided to get a Great Pyrenees.

We have long looked at that breed when we had our “real” farms but never ended up adopting one.  I wondered about getting one that would live in the city, would he be happy?

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The Great Pyrenees was a mountain dog in the Pyrenees mountains between Portugal and France.  They were bred to cross mountains and guard sheep.  Their double dew claws on their back feet are attached with bone and make them able to stretch out their feet and easily climb rocks.  We have not a huge expanse for them to wander, nor sheep.  We do live in an area, lovingly described to us by a fellow who was out mountain biking while we were hiking, as Colorado’s unknown playground.  It is gloriously spring-like all the time here and we have thousands of trails.  I happen to be extremely energetic and really needed a pup to walk me!  Gandalf and I walk three to four miles a day, usually just around the lake at the end of the block but we also head to the Riverwalk and hopefully this weekend we can take him the short drive to the mountains and ramble around the trails there.  Great Pyrenees do not have as much energy as a husky or a heeler or me.  A few miles walking or a few minutes throwing the ball are perfect for these gentle giants.

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Great Pyrenees are bred to protect.  That is what they do.  My favorite quote is, “The Great Pyrenees dog breed‘s goal in life is to protect sheep, goats, livestock, people, children, grass, flowers, the moon, the lawn furniture, bird feeders, and any real or imaginary predators that may intrude on your personal space.” Their size alone could do that, but their deep, bellowing bark will make you jump out of your skin.  They are quite intelligent.  Gandalf enjoys being around other dogs and he loves, loves, loves kids.  If he is in the yard, anyone that walks by is suspect and he will bark whether it is an old lady, seven year old child, or shady looking character.  While we are out, he carefully sizes everyone up that walks near us.  As is the case of the world, the vast majority of people are good folk and he is happy to greet them.  Only a few times did he bark and refuse to walk until they were out of sight.  He will be great protection for me.

Great Pyrenees have a double coat.  They are fabulously cuddly and snuggly and polar bear-like.  I love a great big fluffy dog.  We were warned that Great Pyrenees shed.  We laughed.  We go nowhere without cat hair on us as it is!  There is a great talk about how, because of these mega coats, that the Great Pyrenees prefer to be outdoors in the cold, even in freezing temperatures.  I am sure that they were bred for that and can withstand that but my Great Pyrenees has no problem being in the house, even with the wood stove burning.  He will lay by the door where it is a little cooler.  He sleeps next to my side of the bed.  He doesn’t mind being an indoor dog.

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He saw his first rainfall and had a great time running around the yard trying to catch the invading water.  He also learned to turn on the spigot after watching me fill buckets to water trees.  He had a great time until I wondered where the sound of water was coming from!  A simple shake and all of the moisture was off of his fur.  He pounds through the thin ice near the lake and streams by our house and plays adorably splashing in the water.

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The Great Pyrenees are distantly related to the other breeds, Bernese Mountain dogs, St. Bernards, and Newfoundlands.  Their adorable faces confuse a lot of people.  The city people here have rarely seen a Great Pyr, so they search their memories for what he could be.  St. Bernard is the first guess.  Since mine is French, I joke that he should have a barrel attached to his neck with a spigot for wine.

The bones of Great Pyrenees dogs have been found fossilized from 1000 BCE.  That is an old breed!  They were also used to guard French castles in the 1700’s.  They have been beloved for so long that I am surprised more people do not know about them.  The Great Pyrenees dogs will range from 85 pounds (female) to upwards of 160 pounds.  Gandalf seems to be heading in that spectrum.  At 4 1/2 months old he is already 78 pounds.  He is goofy and lovey, and a really, really good puppy.

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So if you have been thinking of getting a Great Pyrenees, I hope this helps you decide for yourself whether a polar bear would be a good fit.  I sure love this pup.  He is perfect for our little urban farmstead.  He is good with the chickens and the cats and I can see where they earned the nickname, “Gentle Giant.”

Trusting Intuition and Plant Medicines

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My kitten was very sick.  Five months ago I picked Merlin and his brother up at the feed mill where they had been found the eve before.  They were not even a day old yet and their mother was gone.  Merlin survived on dropper-fulls of milk delivered every two hours.  He spent his first six weeks, first in my bra, then in my apron top.  He went everywhere with us because of his feedings.  He is a feisty, furry, sweet little boy and I naturally have a very strong attachment to him.

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Last week I noticed that when he ran (which he seems to always be doing) streams of diarrhea were following him.  It wouldn’t stop.  He also has chronic allergies.  I had cancelled his appointment to get neutered at the “in-and-out-neuter clinic because they wouldn’t listen to me that they would have to be alert to his breathing.

I haven’t been to a vet in over a decade.  Same with the doctor.  I make my own medicines with 100% success and my full faith is in these plants.  If they don’t need to be spayed/neutered or humanely euthanized at the end of life, I don’t take them.  I know as well as I know my name what herbs do what.  I had been faithfully giving Merlin the antibiotic and the super immunity allergy medicine and these keep his sniffles in check.  He had two days worth of tummy trouble medicine that I make specifically for cats (chamomile, mint, mullein, lemon balm).  But fear makes us doubt.  It makes us panic.  And I made an appointment with the vet.

Doug recalled his trip with Merlin and as I read the line by line charges I realized the vet is no different than it was twenty years ago when I was a vet tech.  God love them but most vets (and doctors) are trained on a script, a pharmaceutical drug, and a bill.  She did a fecal sample.  I knew he didn’t have parasites because he had already taken my anti-parasite.  He didn’t but she de-wormed him anyway.  With a chemical.  That made him so bad that night that diarrhea was flying everywhere in large puddles as he screamed and literally climbed the walls.  Then they sold him some “special” food (I cannot believe after all this time they are still pushing that Science Diet stuff as healthy).  Tried to push vaccinations on him (even though he was clearly not feeling well).  Over a hundred dollars later we had a diagnoses.  Diarrhea.

I was furious that my Merlin was worse.  I was furious that I had not trusted my instincts, my intuition, my plants.  The next day, his third day of tummy medicine that I make, he was a hundred percent well.  One more dose and we would have had it.

How many times did I panic when the kids were little (before I was an herbalist) and rush Andy to the emergency room for pink eye (in 2 hours it is better with my recipe), or Shyanne with a headache (feverfew and willow), or Emily with seborrhea dermatitis (she was allergic to her earrings)?

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In our household and with thousands of clients over the years and students’ medicines made and the people they help and so forth, I have seen plants heal everything.  I beseech you to learn herbal medicines for your homestead.  I have saved my own flock of chickens, helped relieve pain in goats, de-wormed sheep, healed cats, saved dogs, and kept our family healthy and well.  The plants were made for this!

They are burying one of my son’s friends this week.  Oxycodone.

I have classes, I have an online store and shop, others across the world have the same.  Seek out wisdom in library books, with teachers, or if you have no desire to turn your basement into a full apothecary, find a real herbalist.  Not a health food store.  A working, breathing, passionate herbalist.

http://whitewolfherbs.com

Maybe 2018 is the year we all go back to the plants.

(By the way, Merlin is doing great!)

 

 

The Saving Daily Walk (and Hugo and George at it again)

Two loads of wet laundry hit the winter ground with a thud and instantly were covered in dirt.  The entire clothes line had fallen.  I had asked my husband to tighten it for me months before but the real culprit was probably the innocent looking puppy who had pulled half the clothes off the clothesline the week prior and shredded them.  I looked over and two new articles sat on his bed.  I glared.

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Instead of cleaning up the freshly washed clothes I walked indoors.  It would wait a moment for me to compose myself.  Moments later Gandalf had one of my shirts from an open drawer and was running madly around the house.

Instead of crying, losing it, or pouring a shot of whisky, I grabbed the leash.  We both needed it.  We walked three and a half miles.  We made it home just in time for my appointment with a client.  I have found that there is always time for a walk.

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Really, I wish I could get a proper picture of these two blurs, but they are constantly playing and moving.  We missed an opportunity (perhaps it is not too late) to name the four month old, gigantic abominable snow puppy, Hugo and his little black sidekick, the five month old Merlin, should have been George from the Bugs Bunny cartoon (my own little bunny rabbit…”

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The whir was happening right behind me yesterday as I typed but these kids are fast!  The kitten jumped on the chair, the puppy trying to catch him.  The puppy pulled the tablecloth to get to Merlin and down went all of the oil lamps.  Shattered chimneys carpeted the floor.  Gandalf scared himself so much he backed up into the hall.  They upset the big, black, older cat so much that Booboo chased Gandalf in circles until he begged to be let out.

“How’s the zoo?” my husband emailed from work.

“Hugo and George at it again!” I replied.

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The leash came off the wall and we walked.  We passed hundreds of chirping and bleating red winged blackbirds.  They have returned.  The villages of geese congregated for a meeting on the wide expanse of lake as the sea gulls danced above.  The mountains in the distance were a violet hue against great blue sky and the golden fields and reeds stretched out around the glimmering, icy waters in technicolor.  Calming breath entered my lungs as the puppy skated slight on the ice as he licked the frozen water.  We were exhausted and happy as we skipped home.

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A simple walk daily can improve your outlook, bring you back to present, connect you with what’s real, and with the natural world, and will help your heart in more ways than one!  Being a new parent to a puppy and kitten not required.

The Mystery of the Defective Chickens

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One egg.  Buttercup is a sure thing.  Nearly every day we get a small white egg from her.  Owlette the Araucana lays one a few times a week…on a rickety shelf, where it falls and cracks.  Once in great awhile we get an egg from the Salmon Favorelles.  Never two, just one.  And once a month we might get a small light brown egg from either the Giants or the Marans, it’s really hard to know.

All I know is that for having seven chickens it sure is suspicious that I am only getting one or two eggs max a day when I have seven first year laying hens.  Anyone else find this odd?

There are no signs of egg eating.  They have plenty of scraps, sunshine, running room, oyster shells, water, and food.

They have never laid more than this so I can’t blame the lack of light.  Gosh, they aren’t even friendly chickens like the ones I used to have!  I threaten them with freezer camp as they run screaming from me.  I even named them and talked to them sweetly.  To no avail.  No eggs.

What do you all think?  Egg eater?

 

Have Dog, Will Travel

20171209_105230We spent the weekend in Taos with this fine fellow, who at three and a half months of age looks to be a small polar bear.  He was very popular.  Gandalf particularly loved it the last day we were there after we realized the shops were all dog friendly and he didn’t need his vest.  If he doesn’t have his vest on he gets a lot more cuddling.  That is what Gandalf does best.

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To register your pup as an emotion support dog simply go to a site like ESAregistration.org and sign them up, pay for the vest, and you can then bring your trusted friend around with you.  There are no requirements, no questions; simply upload a photo of your dog and who the handler is.  No one has ever questioned us and by law they can’t keep us from entering an establishment.  Gandalf may not be a seeing eye dog but he has his own work, spreading happiness to all he meets!

Taos was in all its holiday glory with the lights and bonfires in place.  The shops were dressed festive and the luminarias were lined across the rooftops and along the paths.  There is just something about New Mexico for me.  I cross the state line (now only two hours away) and I am in my own place of inspiration and peace.  As if the vibration of the rocks and trees and sagebrush match the frequency of my blood.  One day I will be there to stay.  But I am where I am supposed to be right now and a weekend away was good for the soul.

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It was a great opportunity to train Gandalf and he was worn out by the end of our trip.  He was a really good boy, except once!  I let him off the leash because we were about to play ball so he usually keeps his eye on the bright orange tennis ball but then something else caught his eye.  A giant tarp.  That covered the out of season swimming pool!  He ran onto it, like a giant trampoline he raced from one end to the other, his ears back, a big goofy smile on his face, until finally, two heart attacks later, Doug was able to yank him off the side.  No harm done, and hilarious to recall, but not so funny as I stopped breathing praying the tarp would hold that giant puppy!

Here are a few tips for traveling with your dog.

Get an emotional support dog registration or wait until summer when patios are open at restaurants.

Even with the vest, try to find a hotel that already accepts dogs.  (I highly recommend Blue Sky Resort if you are heading to Taos.)

We drove our mini-van so we could lay his bed out, food and water, and toys.  It was much easier to drive around with him!

Carry a baby bag with a bag of food, a quart of water, some treats, a toy, a few washrags, and a few plastic bowls.

Purchase a harness. When training my granddog (a crazy border collie/heeler) and now with my Great Pyrenees, a harness is a life saver!  They can’t pull, you have the leverage, and they know they have to be good kids once you put it on them!

Reward sitting, laying down, and any other good behavior with small treats.

Don’t get stressed out.  Just have fun with your companion!

20171208_131142Even small dogs can be Emotional Support Dogs.  Some dogs were not meant to hang out at home all the time.  Without company and things to do behavior problems arise.  And if you are going to have a puppy, may as well make him a friend and travel companion.  I am glad we decided to get dog!

Note: I must say that I am surprised at the number of nasty remarks I receive about this post (and mind you they will never see the light of day).  I want to make it quite clear that I still stand behind this post.  Did you know that a fully trained, recognized service dog will run between $25,000-$50,000?  There are many people that I know, from wheelchair bound to post-war PTSD, that need a service dog.  Having an emotional support dog is very valuable to many people.  My puppy is now over a year old, over a hundred pounds, and barks all the time, so he isn’t going with me anywhere more than the bank or dog park.  But he really helped me deal with fear and anxiety and if someone needs a support dog, then they should have one.  End of story.   

A Girl and her Farmdog

 

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“It’s easier,” we assured ourselves, committed not to get another dog.  Cats are really a lot easier.  We can run off to Taos and leave them some big bowls of food and water and they don’t mind a bit.  Cats don’t typically eat the couch or leave horse-like piles in the backyard.  “No, we don’t need a dog,” we said again.

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I suppose it began with a one page article in Sunset Magazine some months ago where a blond photographer and her wolf hybrid traveled the country together capturing the perfect shot.  I miss my wolf.  And a dog to travel around with me would be so fun.  I haven’t really opened my heart to a dog since Navajo.

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image_1511665275681Then there was the adorable lab at one of the fairs we did.  Then the movie, A Dog’s Purpose.  Kinda knew that would do me in.  Then I cried when my granddog went home after two weeks at my house.  My other granddog is my logo for my company and he is just too fluffy and cute for words.  I wanted a big floofy dog.

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And into our lives entered a ginormous ball of fur.  Gandalf talks like a husky, is huge and fluffy like a wolf, protective already, and at three months old is already forty pounds.  I am in love.  So is Doug.  The cats…well, not so much.  The kitten loves him though!

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If you are considering a farm dog or a city dog, it may be the perfect holiday gift for yourself and for the little soul that you bring home.  If you have extra love to give, there is a pup out there who would be so grateful.

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The Urban Farm Dog (meet Gandalf)

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He’s here!  Eleven weeks old and thirty-three pounds of fluff.  (And muscle and baby teeth and mischief!)

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He is a gentle giant.  My granddaughter ran into the house laughing yesterday to meet the new addition.  She ran right up to him and he began licking her face.  He played with my daughter’s dog.  He loves the kitten.  He welcomed my students to the house.  He is a friendly fellow.

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I know I will be learning a lot in the next year about training; something I have never done.  He’s a smart one.  He outsmarted the baby gates with sheer force.  He doesn’t sleep in the kennel; he wants to sleep on the floor by our bed.  But he is a good boy.  And I am excited to have him here.

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Welcome Gandalf to Pumpkin Hollow Farm!  (He set that pumpkin there!)

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Update on Merlin and How Cats Protect Us

20171009_130249The tiny palm-sized kitten that we brought home not even a day after being born is doing wonderful.  He is three months old now, feisty as can be, and ridiculously cuddly.  We dropper fed him every two hours and he was a little slower to figure out how to eat, drink out of a saucer, or to use litter, but the other cats have different roles in his care and he’s figuring it all out.  The two younger have become his playmates, and the older two are there to cuddle him and smack him if he starts getting out of hand.  Merlin is very social after traipsing around everywhere in my shirt for six weeks.  These days he is just home with the other cats keeping it safe and happy.

20170925_114402It’s almost Halloween.  At the shelter that I worked at many moons ago we did not adopt out black cats during the month of October for their own safety.  In both shelters I worked at, black cats were adopted much less than other colors.  Many people are still wary of black cats.

20171012_215258All cats throughout history have been known to be powerful protection.  I have a lot of students and clients come to my house and shop.  I always watch my three cats at the shop and my five cats at home to see if I can trust someone.

The cats tell me if someone is outside as they stare in unison intently out the window.  If there is a storm coming, cats will tell you.  When someone broke into our car, my large black cat kept pawing me awake.  When I wouldn’t budge he went in to the kitchen and disturbed dishes to make a racket then returned to my side in bed meowing and nudging me.  In the middle ages cats almost became extinct.  The mass killings of cats created an epidemic of infected mice and rats and the Plague ravaged the country.  Cats could have saved them a lot sooner.

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Merlin helping a student with his homework.

People can get ridiculous when they are fearful.  In the 1500’s if cats were congregating in an area it was thought that they were having a meeting whilst plotting more killings of humans through their magic.  Meanwhile women who were healers- herbalists and midwives and wise women- were being killed as witches.  The cats that they kept for companionship (being a healer is lonely work) and to keep mice out of the dried herbs and ingredients were used to prove the woman was a witch.  The color black is used for protection.  So black cats and black clothing are/were common among magical folks.

20171012_193847But cats don’t just protect us against rats and strangers, they sense energies, spirits, and changes that we may not be attuned to.  They protect against negative energies/entities.  That is why they make such a fine Familiar for modern witches.  Witches are probably not what you think, they are men and women who spend their lives trying to raise positivity and light in this world by lighting candles to pray for good, by setting intentions and manifesting, by helping guide others through uncertainties, and by using the traditional healing arts to make real changes.  A cat will stand by while one lights candles and raises positive energy.  A cat will dispel negative energy and will always be a loyal companion.

SnugglesDuring this time of Samhain, when the veil is thinnest, you may think you hear laughter or talking from someone who has passed over.  Odd happenings are common right now, and deceased grandmas and old friends are just popping by to say hello.  Your cat will make sure everyone is on the up and up.

I have had a cat my entire life.  From my first beloved cat of my own, Serina, who slept above the heads of my children in their cribs, her arms around their heads to keep them safe, to the wild kitten stalking my feet right now, my life is all the richer from having cats.