Welcome, Lucifer!

Alex and I were in Oxford for a week so I could attend and present at a conference. While away, my sister watched our cat and made sure he didn’t get too lonely. It worked well because Dixon didn’t hate us when we returned late on Sunday night and he hasn’t been angrily ignoring us since we returned.

Well, not because we left him for a week, anyway. He has been slightly upset with us since Tuesday, when my parents dropped off a kitten at our place:

Nothing like a kitten!
Nothing like a kitten!

My parents have a small colony of stray/feral cats in their backyard. For some reason, they refuse to trap the females to have them spayed. (The males are much more aggressive and much more difficult to trap to have them neutered.) Instead, they’ve been watching these cats get pregnant and give birth repeatedly over the last couple of years. Some of the kittens were caught and given away. Others grew up in the colony and the cycle continued. (Others, meanwhile, perished.) With this latest litter, I think my parents finally understood what needs to be done. There’s only one adult female left who comes around (they call her “Seraya,” which means “Gray” in Russian) and they’re finally getting her spayed after this latest litter.

However, they first needed to find homes for the three kittens. They managed to give two away to friends and coworkers, leaving only the little susuwatari to be adopted out. My mom called me and said, “What if we bring her by your place? Just until the weekend.” Yeah. ‘Cause that’s how that works with kittens. You can keep them for a few days and just let them go. But how could I say no to a kitten? So they dropped her off at my place on Tuesday night.

I worked from home the next day so I could take the kitten to the vet to get her checked out. It was determined that she is, in fact, a she and that she’s about 8 weeks old. She weighed in at a tiny 2lb 3oz. She had no fleas but the vet tech did find two ticks on her face. Otherwise, though, she was deemed extremely healthy for a stray kitten. (Everyone in the clinic took a turn holding her and making all kinds of cooing noises at her.)

She was extremely docile the first 24 hours. (She must have been frightened and overwhelmed by all the new sights, sounds, and smells. Also being poked and prodded by the vet must have been nerve-wracking.) However, by Thursday, she was much more mobile and feeling frisky. She’s eating well, using her litter box, and playing with anything that moves:

Die, drawstring! Die!
Die, drawstring! Die!

All that was left was her name. I first named her Zuzu (short for susuwatari, the soot sprites in Miyazaki’s films) but it didn’t really suit her and Alex wasn’t crazy about it. I then called her “Lucy” once when it just slipped out. I told Alex about it and he liked it. So now she’s Lucy. And if her troublemaking tendencies keep up, we can call her Lucifer ;)

We’ve been keeping Lucy separated from Dixon for fear of Dixon lashing out and hurting Lucy. However, we’ve been letting them mingle more together and, while he’s not thrilled with her, Dixon has stopped hissing and growling at the newcomer. They are not friends yet, though, by any stretch: he keeps eating her food, pouncing on her when she’s playing, and chasing her through the house. However, it is now Lucy who has the upper hand: she’s been the one hissing and growling at Dixon! I hope they can forge a friendship soon, though. I love my kitties and want to be able to snuggle with them both.

Bitten by the gardening bug

Back in October, Alex and I moved into a new apartment. (We had spent only a year in our previous place. The apartment wasn’t bad but the landlord was greedy.) When apartment hunting, I specifically looked for one with outdoor space because I was hankering for some gardenin’. At a certain point, though, I’d given up on finding my dream place and started responding to ads without photos. (The shock! The horror!) As luck would have it, one of the apartments we went to see actually had a terrace! The apartment was also very attractive but the terrace was the clincher.

Now, eight months after moving in, I have what’s shaping up to be a dream terrace:

2014-06-01 17.43.59

I have two window boxes that are hanging over the railing that contain mint, parsley, and basil. (I had cilantro but it started bolting in the 70°F weather. Now I’m trying to see what happens when you plant store-bought scallions that have been kept in water…) I have several pots that contain tarragon, oregano, lemon thyme, and sage. I also have three elevated planters that house multiple okra plants and a dozen green bean plants.

I’m particularly fond of my adorable little bistro set on the terrace:

2014-06-01 13.56.36

The small begonia plant I picked up at Trader Joe’s this morning is so precious!

Did you spot the tumbling composter in the panoramic shot? It’s the black drum on steel legs. (Next to it is a non-operational vermicomposter–or “the green thing.” I may put it up on craigslist since I’ve never used it and I no longer plan on using it.) Instead of schlepping my vegan scraps to the farmer’s market, I plan on making and using my own compost. The bin is already full of scraps, getting nice and warm from all the nutrients breaking down. Alex says it’s also forming an earthy aroma. (“It stinks like garbage,” he says, “but not in a bad way.”)

Out front, I have another elevated planter that houses a handful of strawberry plants. (It’s so exciting seeing the berries form! Now to try to keep the squirrels and birds away from them…) There’s also room to plant more things but that may be a project for next year. I’m thinking a blueberry bush and a fig tree in a super sunny spot on the side of the house.

For a girl who thought she had a black thumb, all of this gardening is very exciting! I started slow (planting just the two varieties of veggies) not only because I’m a first-time gardener but also because Alex and I just signed up for the local CSA. I was afraid of being inundated with kale, tomatoes, and zucchini all harvesting season long. I’m eager to see how everything turns out but, in the meantime, I’m enjoying a cold beer on my terrace, watching ships sail across the New York Harbor.

Life is good.

Many names

These are the names I call my cat:

Cat sitting atop bookcase, staring into ceiling light.

  • Dixon
  • Dixie
  • Dix
  • Cat
  • Kitty
  • Kitty Face
  • Kitty Butt
  • Dixie Face
  • Dixie Butt
  • Butter Bean
  • Butt Bean
  • Butt Face
  • Kiska (from the Russian киска, meaning “kitty”)
  • Kiska Face
  • Kiska Butt
  • Butt
  • Bunny
  • Bunny Butt
  • Zayats (from the Russian заяц, meaning “hare” or “rabbit”)
  • Zai

This list has been seven years in the making.

[…]
But above and beyond there’s still one name left over,
And that is the name that you never will guess;
The name that no human research can discover–
But THE CAT HIMSELF KNOWS, and will never confess.
When you notice a cat in profound meditation,
The reason, I tell you, is always the same:
His mind is engaged in a rapt contemplation
Of the thought, of the thought, of the thought of his name:
His ineffable effable
Effanineffable
Deep and inscrutable singular Name.

— T.S. Eliot, “The Naming of Cats”