I, Generator

We moved up to Boulder Creek in 1992. Both of us, my husband Bob and I, had lived all over the Santa Cruz Mountains for years. So we knew what we were getting in to and were able to reassure our anxious real estate agent that, yes, we knew about bad roads, extended commute times, difficulty getting services, and most importantly, power outages. Now, this house is not really remote by BC standards. The access roads are paved and mostly flat, we have garbage pickup, mail delivery, and (eventually) broadband access. Although I do treasure the AT&T response to my query about DSL: “Oh, we’re never going to have it out there. Why bother?” So when, lo and behold, they did have it and the sales person pestered me, I was able to rip a strip off them. By then I had broadband through Comcast, which is a whole other blog post and probably libelous, never mind.

I had learned, from all those years in La Honda, the first thing to do when the power goes out is take a shower. Because if your landlord has installed a cheap electric hot water heater and the power is out for several days, you want to start clean. After that, you whine at friends or shower at work. So I double-checked that this house had a propane hot water heater. For those of you not living in the mountains in California, we don’t have ‘gas’, or more properly natural gas lines. That goes right along with sewer lines which we don’t have either. Instead we have septic tanks and propane tanks. So the hot water problem was solved.

Under protest, Bob bought a generator. I have no idea why he fought this so hard, unless he had some visionary ideal of candles and wood stoves. You would think he would know better. Anyway, the wood stove in the house promptly disintegrated, a complete non-starter. I was adamant, so he bought a cheap little rebuilt generator. Which we used frequently. It sat in the garage, we ran extension cords through the kitchen door and laced all over the floors, it rattled and pounded, we had to unplug that lamp to plug in that coffee pot. So we sold it and bought a bigger one. And a bigger one. And so on. At one point we were out of power for over two weeks and the damn thing ran from early morning until ten at night. Life with it was so much better than unpowered life without it. And it powered the (propane) furnace electric fan.

About the third generator upgrade, we cleaned out the storage shed behind the house and put the generator in there. We also experimented with wiring the generator directly into the power box and found a tame electrician to help us out. This was, the first time out, amazing. No more extension cords and so much quieter. Also, Bob had made the unpleasant discovery that pull-starting a generator was getting more and more difficult for him, so our next upgrade (and boy did we debate this) was to a key-start unit. Which was again, bigger. By now, we had a pretty good system in place. Power goes out, flip the main switch off, fill the generator with gasoline, start it, and switch over. Problem solved. Sort of.

All of these generators were gasoline-powered. This meant we had a collection of gas cans, most of them five gallons, stored in the garage and the generator shed. Bob was particularly proud of the twenty-gallon tank he had installed in the generator shed, with a gravity feed stopcock. As power outages became fewer, this gasoline would age, so Bob would dump in stabilizer and do this elaborate rotation, ending with pouring the unused gas into the cars. We didn’t need the generator as often but when we needed it, we really needed it.

Until the day the power went out and Bob insisted on starting the generator. He was having difficulty with balance and walking and he didn’t have much strength. But he did get it started and returned to the couch. Suddenly he got up and moved as fast as I had seen him move in years. He made it out the back door to the generator shed and turned the thing off. The carburetor had stuck open and was spewing hot gasoline all over the floor of the shed. Which had at least 30 gallons of gasoline stored in it. Which was ten feet from the house.

So, after much debate, we bought a propane generator. We had to have a gas line dug from the tank to the shed but we did get it all installed and working. We could have gotten a gas/propane unit and on reflection I’m not sure that wasn’t a mistake. But right then I was terrified of all that gasoline and the fire danger. There was no way Bob could lift heavy gas cans anymore and I wasn’t too thrilled about that myself. With a direct propane line, you don’t have to refuel.

The day after Bob died, the power went out. And I couldn’t get the generator started, or rather I could get the generator started but there wasn’t enough power to open the garage door. That’s when I made the unpleasant discovery that no one, repeat no one, services propane generators. Luckily that outage was the last in a while, because it took me three months to call the right person (the propane company) and have a technician check the lines. We had a leak, which lowered the pressure, so the generator wasn’t getting enough fuel. Leak fixed. Bob had insisted on installing his own cut-off valve on the line and that’s where the leak was. Unfortunately when someone is dead it’s hard to yell at them.

Now it is perfectly possible to get an automatic start generator, wired into the house. It’s just not cheap. But if this one dies on me, that’s the way I’d have to go. So far, fingers crossed, it’s been great. It doesn’t get that much use and therein lies a problem.

Because I’m frightened of the thing. It’s a large engine with an explosive propellant. You have to stand next to it to turn it on. Generally, you have to do this in the dark with a flashlight clenched in your teeth. So I tend to ignore it and that’s not good, because it has a battery for the starter and (Bad Mary) the last time I needed it the battery was dead. I’d accidentally disconnected the battery charger. So I swore I’d check the thing every month, no matter what.

Well, and there is a point to this post assuming you’ve read this far, we have a storm coming in tonight and it is supposed to snow. Coastal California is one of the most unprepared-for-snow places in the world, aside from Fiji, and I expect the power to go out. So today I gritted my teeth and marched over to start the generator just in case.

Dead battery. And I had the charger plugged in. I overcame my self-flagellation of incompetence and actually traced the charger wires and checked the circuit was live. I’d simply plugged the charger into the wrong place. So I’d checked the generator before the storm (Good), discovered I’d totally fucked up (Bad), and hopefully fixed the problem (Good?). If the power goes out and the battery doesn’t have enough charge to start it I do know how to use the jumper unit. Which is fully charged.

I want to stay in this house. I love it and I love the area. To stay here I have to be as self-supporting as possible, and if that means checking the bloody generator every month, by god that’s what I will do. I so swear.


Little Boxes Full of Me

First off: I’m fine. As of today, as far as I know, I’m perfectly healthy, if you don’t count that mosquito bite on my ass and a distressing tendency to break into tears whenever anyone mentions Mingo.

But a few weeks ago someone asked me about the Neptune Society and “pre-need” cremation and I remembered that, while Bob and I had done this for him, we’d never done it for me. It worked well after Bob died: the hospice guy notified them and a few hours later two strong young men showed up in a van and hauled the body away.

It was around 10 pm when they arrived and one of them said to me, eyes rolling nervously, “Sure a lot of TREES around here.”

I said, “Dude. You’re driving around with a dead body in the back and you’re worried about trees?”

The ashes were returned to me in a plastic bag (with a cheap urn mandated by state law) and I scattered them. The urn went in the recycle because, really, what was I going to do with an empty plastic urn? None of my friends were dying to get in.

We’d signed the contract lo those many years before, something like 1995, and we’d misplaced the paperwork but they had everything on file in 2016. Straightforward and simple. So I decided to get this done for me because either I am a very considerate person and I want to make things easy for my executor or I have a passionate need to control everything even from beyond the grave. You decide.

The Neptune Society rep came out to the house and I signed a great many multiform papers and received the yellow copy and a temporary card to carry in my wallet in case I died in the next ten days and they wanted to know where to toss me. She explained I’d only receive the pink copy and the permanent plastic card after payment was received. Bureaucracy, even surreal bureaucracy, is always the same. I also got a bunch of extra paperwork explaining everything, including four sheets of A4 paper with the California Code regarding funerals and cremation in 4 pt. type. I have not read this but if anyone wants it, I have it. I assumed the next thing would be the envelope with pinks and plastic which I would file and forget. I checked all this crap off my to-do list.

Today I found this carton outside my gate. Not a box or an envelope. A carton. Inside was:

PRE-NEED KIT CONTENTS (people, there is an inventory list and here it is word for word)

  • Protective Foam Sheet
  • Removable Foam Tray Insert
  • Velvet Memento Tray
    • Glass tea light holder and candle
    • “Forever Loved” keepsake for family (cremated remains compartment is located on the bottom)
    • Closure plug, bag and twist tie
    • Box of thank you cards for memorial follow up
  • Cremation Planning and Information Book
  • Urn
  • Memory Chest (with photo frame holder)

Obviously, in the twenty or so years since Bob and I had done this there has been a certain amount of feature creep, as in when you have a nice piece of functional software and they keep adding ‘improvements’ until the thing is unworkable and unusable. Thank god I didn’t pre-order a rosewood casket with brass handles and a pink lining is all I can say. John Donne may have kept his shroud in the corner of his office but, frankly, I have enough to dust around here already.

I returned to the stack of paperwork and discovered I’d paid $1,338.00 for this tosh and,yes indeed, it said I’d get it pre-death (as it were). So I called the sales rep who explained it was part of the package and if I paid piece by piece it would actually cost more to just pick up my dead body, transport it to the crematory, burn it, and return the ashes to my executor in a plastic bag. I told her I planned to toss the entire thing in the recycle. She suggested I donate it to the VFW or the Salvation Army and take the entire amount off my taxes.

Well. Ahem. Not what I was planning but okay. The alternate was to cancel the entire contract and let my poor executor battle it out. It’s possible to get a cheaper cremation going with a funeral parlor directly but there’s those pesky transport fees which, as I know from my own past experience as an executor for a friend, can be a nightmare. So I’m keeping the contract, donating the crapola, and returning to my original strategy of file-and-forget.

Mingo — Guilt, Grief, and The End

This will be a short post. I’ve put it off for six weeks, because I couldn’t bear to write it. But it’s not getting any easier, so I might as well do it and get it over with.

As most of you already know, Mingo’s gone. I let him out into the yard in the early evening on June 27th and he never came back. I don’t know whether he managed to get under the fence or climbed over — I think he left voluntarily, but something happened and he never came back.

I’ve been torturing myself daily, hourly, with horrible scenarios of him being lost, starving, trapped, tortured, dying. It’s not getting easier.

Almost worse than all that is the guilt: I should have put up a cat-proof fence. I didn’t. I’m not really sorry I let him out, because he was so happy to be outside. He loved it. He stopped tormenting the other cats. But I should have found the money and put up the fence. It’s my fault he’s gone.

Ming’s the first cat I’ve lost in 20 years. My actual outside cat, Goldie, lived in the garage and yard (and all over the neighborhood) for seventeen years and died in the yard of a heart attack. My other two stay within the fence and my Siamese is 18 years old. But Mingo was, as you all know, independent and aggressive and self-willed and ballsy. It took him over the fence and away.

I miss him. The house is so empty, despite the other two cats. I miss him so much.

Do Not Read This If You Are Fond Of Mice

Yes indeedy, Mingo is now the Great Hunter. Mercifully he is not bringing his prey back to the lair, i.e. my living room or worse, my closet. He passed me on the deck at a fast trot with a tiny foot and a bit of tail hanging from his mouth. It was either a mouse or a lizard but I did not investigate.

Unfortunately, Squeaky DID try to bring the prey back to the lair and I stopped him just in time, took it away from him, and gave it a funeral. The corpse was long dead and (sorry) eviscerated, and I suspect it was Ming’s leavings. Squeaky was extremely bereft and howled for his mousie for half an hour. I hardened my heart.

Mice are only cute to people who have never had an infestation of mice in the house, so I’m not too fussed. Nor do I worry about the lizards. Part of me wishes the damn banana slugs would move fast enough to interest Ming, but the saner part of me thinks about a slime-covered Ming and shudders. Getting bits of twig, seeds, and weeds out of his fur is hard enough. I’m not sure how I’d handle slime.

Everyone says “What a beautiful cat!” but getting repeat volunteers to restrain him while I comb the trash and mats out of his fur is another thing entirely. Once is generally more than enough, because his fur is very thick, his skin is loose, and he’s extremely strong. He’s able to twist around and bite hard, all the while making the pitiful chirps and tiny mewps of a tortured kitten. Nerves of steel and good gloves required. Actually, nerves of steel and gloves of steel would be best.

Pre-Mingo, I was toying with the idea of a bird feeder on the deck. I’m so happy I never followed through. With all the cat activity the local birds have declared the yard a plague zone which is sad but safe. A crow or two stop by to make rude comments from upper branches — Ming hasn’t take to tree climbing, probably because the redwoods and firs are so damn big and vertical and the branches don’t start until twenty feet off the ground. Or at least, he hasn’t taken to tree climbing YET.

I keep Ming in the house after dark. I get him inside by running the can opener. He’s nice and exhausted from a hard day of patrolling the yard. I feed him, he naps, and when he wakes he’s reasonably civilized and hardly bites anyone at all. When he wants something he leaps on my chest (whether or not it is occupied by another cat) and gazes deeply into my eyes. The photo below is not enlarged or cropped. I wedged the iPhone between my chin and Ming and pressed the button.


Mingo and the Decline In My Living Standards

Mingo’s 9 months old and he weighs 12 lbs. He’s the same weight as Squeaky, but a completely different silhouette. Squeaky is rounded and, well, cat-shaped. Ming is rectangular, like a furry shoebox. With an 18 inch tail.

Since he’s been spending most of his days outside, at his own request, life for me and Rainy has calmed down. We can take a nap without being harassed by a bored Ming trying to dig us out from under the quilt. (He doesn’t want to join us, he wants us to entertain him. I’m relatively polite; Rainy snarls.)

Life for Squeaky has changed too, or rather Squeaky has changed. Ming goes out, so Squeaky — for the first time in 15 years — demands to go outside too. Of course, once he is out he has no idea what to do once he’s there, so he howls to get back in. Then he realizes he’s in and Mingo is out, so he howls to go back out. This gets old, and the old person in charge of the door yells at him.

I don’t have a cat door currently. I’m still trying to keep track of who’s in and who’s out. Plus I’m attempting to cat-proof the yard so Mingo and Squeaky stay inside the fence. This is a joke. The fence is 5 feet high. Ming is a climber and eventually it will occur to him to simply go over it. As several people have pointed out, they make cat-proof fencing, but as I am still in the swamp of house remodeling and I spent far too much money last year on boring fence repair, I’m resisting paying for this.

Besides, after yesterday I’m fairly sure it wouldn’t work. Ming found a hole in the old section of wire fencing and was bouncing around the driveway. I corralled him and devoted an hour to patching the hole with chicken wire. When I let him out again he bee-lined back to the hole and ran smack into the chicken wire. I expected him to turn away. Instead, he tried to get through again. When he couldn’t, he stared at it in outrage. Then he tried to BITE HIS WAY THROUGH THE CHICKEN WIRE. This cat is awe-inspiring, and that’s not a compliment. He’s awe-inspiring in same way other catastrophes of nature inspire awe: tornadoes, hurricanes, earthquakes.

My living standards have dropped. Ming sheds hair in drifts, sort of instant dust bunnies (cat bunnies?)  and I refuse to vacuum this house every day. I’ve become accustomed to batting Ming’s tail away from my toothbrush, the sinks, and any food I try to prepare. He loves brussels sprouts and sticks his nose under the knife when I’m using the cutting board, so I give him a bit to chew on. Sometime this past year I lost the rule of “no cats on the countertop or the table”, also, “no giving cats human food”. It’s now second nature to check on his whereabouts before turning my back on a plate of food, and he’s really fast.

I keep all the cats in at night because of predators. After he eats, Ming has this habit of jumping on my chest, staring into my eyes, and pressing his paws against my throat. It would be endearing, except I suspect he’s checking the location of my jugular vein in case he feels peckish.

It’s Deja Kitten, All Over Again (Part 2)

Have I mentioned that I do not do well on sleep deprivation? Well, I’m mentioning it now.

Last night was a horrid combo of alternating insomnia and nightmares, punctuated by sporadic bathroom visits to feed the kitten. Apparently my subconscious, that sneaky thing, decided the alarm wasn’t going to go off and so I would lie there for an hour staring at nothing and then be jolted awake by bad dreams. I’d check the clock and realize I’d slept for twenty minutes. And repeat.

At 5:30 am, after a 4 am kitten feed, Squeaky and Mingo decided to have a battle in the living room. Many yowls, punctuated by a heavy body hitting the floor. Repeatedly. I didn’t go look. The human brain can only take so much. I decided either they were both fine (win) or one of them was dead and I’d have fewer vet bills (win) or one of them was gravely injured. In that case I already had a vet appointment in a few hours and I’d just tack one more on. (win) They were both in perfect heath when I crawled out of bed.

By the time the vet appoint was nigh, I’d decided my kitten fostering days — and probably my kitten days — were over. The vet greeted me cheerily with “Hello, Sucker!” Score a point for her.

Anyway, the kitten is male, about 4 weeks old, and healthy. He does not have feline leukemia: I paid for the test even though we were discussing fostering possibilities because some foster programs aren’t funded for it.

The vet called the Santa Cruz County Animal Shelter and determined that they had a kitten fosterer available. I had absolutely no idea they had this program, nor that young healthy kittens are in great demand. Mingo never mentioned this during his younger or bottle-feeding days. Clearly, he knew a good thing when he saw it. Also, so did the vet. (Hello, Sucker!) And of course he’s gotten his claws so deeply into the household — he has his own blog for fuck’s sake — I’ll never get rid of him now.

So I filled out the paperwork and kitten (who remained deliberately nameless because I may be sleep-deprived but I’m not idiotic enough to give a name to a kitten I’m abandoning) was carried off by a cooing crowd of shelter workers. (“How cute! How sweet! Look at his eyes!”)

Now I know what to do the next time a stray kitten crosses my path, or is dumped on my doorstep, or even mews in my general direction.

I’m sure all my loyal readers are disappointed not to have Mingo vs. Kitten posts for the next six months. Since I didn’t have a thundering line of you volunteering to bottle-feed and squeeze out kitten poop every four hours, I say the hell with all of you. I’m going back to bed.



It’s Deja Kitten, All Over Again (Part 1)

Okay. Deep breath.

Last night I received a series of texts from my yard person, the same yard person who gave me Mingo. I was confused, because she was texting photos of Ming as a kitten.

Except of course she wasn’t. She’d found ANOTHER too-young feral kitten by her house. This woman, who reads this blog by the way, appears to be a kitten magnet. Stray cats attach themselves to her bod. And she detaches them and give them to me. More thoughts on this process flow later, but here’s a hint: I’m against this as a life plan.

So we determined, via text, that the kitten was a bit bigger than Mingo had been, probably older, and seemed in better condition. Also, it was drinking goat’s milk and nibbling tuna, so no massive urgency. It was, by the way, past midnight. I told her to keep the kitten warm and feed it in the night. Like Lord Voldemort in Goblet of Fire and it’s a shame she hasn’t read those books. Because that makes her Wormtail.

Bright and on time this morning, she shows up with kitten, who is by my best guess about 3 weeks old. Eyes open and walking. But still very young. I called my wonderful veterinary practice, the Boulder Creek Veterinary Clinic, and my vet the great Dr. Kathy Gerrity won’t be in until tomorrow Saturday. So I made an appointment for the kitten, and the practice assistants gave me some donated kitten formula.

Back at the house I bathed the kitten, who seemed to enjoy warm water with a little Dawn dish soap, blew it dry with my hairdryer, and combed it for fleas. No fleas? So far, no fleas. Also no maggots and its tongue is pink, so it has blood. If you remember, Mingo had a plethora of the first two and none of the last. Then I fed it formula via bottle, and set it up with a hot pad covered by towels in a cat carrier in the bathroom.

(Annoyed aside: why the fuck would you manufacture and sell a hot pad that shuts off automatically after an hour? It’s useless. I dumped it and resurrected my old hot pad, which has worked reliably for the past twenty years.)

Of course, the Big Question: Am I planning to keep this kitten? NO NO NO NO I plan to find it a good home, assuming it survives my bathroom, doesn’t have kitty leukemia, and doesn’t drop dead from mysterious kitten ailments. This is a small house, I already have three cats, or two normal cats and Mingo, who should count as two. My cat care budget is already extreme, so NO.


Obviously, I made a mistake assuming Mingo was a one off. What I should have in place is a list of people and agencies to call, in the event this continues to happen. I will start on that tomorrow.

What I don’t know about the kitten includes age, sex, medical conditions, etc. Tomorrow I should know a bit more, so that will the exciting Part 2 of this post.

PS: I am on the wine.

Oh, and by the way: Does anyone want a kitten?


Mingo: Corrupting Older Cats Since 2017

I haven’t posted much about my two other cats so far. This is The Chronicles of Mingo after all, not the Chronicles of Mary’s Cats.

However, as Dumbledore would say, ‘Recent events must be taken into account.’

Ming’s overwhelming thrust to go outside has inspired my sixteen-year-old black cat to do the same. Mingo went out and Squeaky followed him like the little sycophant he is. Never mind that Mingo is barely 9 months old. He’s a leader and Squeaky is a doormat.  Squeaky has always been a talker, but he’s previously confined it to general remarks upon entering a room, leaving a room, walking around aimlessly in a room, and howling at the top of his lungs when it’s time for his pill. I can’t explain this last bit; I’m merely reporting. Now he howls to go out, and once he is out, howls and howls in general. I let him in; he howls at the door to go out again. Luckily my closest neighbor has this obnoxious barking dog so he can’t complain, or if he does complain I can laugh at him. Besides the howling cat there’s me shrieking SHUT UP! at the top of my lungs. And grabbing the water pistol. It’s a thrill a minute around here.

To say that Squeaky is chicken-hearted is a libel on chickens, who I am sure are very brave. For the first thirteen years of his life he was effectively invisible to everyone except Bob and me. Other people were clearly Cat Murderers. Now, with contractors and friends in and out of the house, Squeaky has accepted that some strangers, a selected few, may not be real Cat Murderers. Perhaps. And even more strange, he’s sitting in my lap for brief periods. I do feel sad that my husband isn’t around to see this, because he spent years coaxing this cat to sit in his lap. Squeaky made it plain that laps were full of Cat Mincers and he was having none of it.

We put him outside once. Our previous cats had all gone outside as a matter of course, but Squeaky panicked. He literally beat on the door with his fists to get back inside and hid in the closet for hours. So we let him be an inside cat and he was perfectly happy. He wouldn’t even peek outside the door. But whatever Ming said to him (probably something like “Dude! You gotta go outside!”) has changed his personality completely. Now I have to figure out a way to have Mingo tell him to shut up.

Rainy, my soon-to-be eighteen year old Siamese has always gone out in a civilized and sedate manner: 15 minutes on the deck, a fast patrol of the garage, a brief trip under the deck for biological reasons, and she’s ready to come in and nap. Mingo hasn’t changed that at all, although she was a bit pissed off the first few times she encountered him out there. (“Is nothing sacred around here?”) No, the behavior mod from Rainy is different. She was on my lap, I was petting her. The tv was on and I stopped petting her.

She bit me.

I pill Rainy twice a day. I stick a needle in her three time a week. I cut her nails. She doesn’t care for any of these things but over the years she’s never bitten me. She mutters under her breath, she yowls that Siamese tone of Very Annoyed, but bite? Nope.

She didn’t break the skin; it was more like “Hey! Pay attention to me!” I have become extremely familiar with this sort of bite, because Guess Who does it all the time. And I suppose he’s done it to her, so she did it to me.

Thanks, Ming. Thanks a bunch.

Please Don’t Eat The Chihuahua

Mingo’s had an interesting week.

One of my neighbors brought over his chihuahua. This dog has been raised with cats, but he only weighs about 6 lbs. and he wasn’t thrilled to meet this huge, furry, aggressive monster. Add to this his heartless, cruel, sadistic** owner dropping his leash and you have the situation below. Poor Pepe kept making little whimpering sounds.

**Adjectives can be altered after proper payment is received.

My stress level, and the stress level of my other cats, has been greatly reduced since Ming started going outside. He’s attacking them less, so they are able to catch up on their nap schedules and he’s bugging me less so I can catch up on MY nap schedule. My friend Kay, a superior cat person, gifted Mingo with a tracking device on a collar. I turn it on, it beeps and points at him. He’s astonishingly hard to locate without this especially since he likes to lurk under the deck.

However, I’m not letting him go out after dark because our neighborhood hosts a local mountain lion, or several mountain lions depending on whom you talk to, and they are more active at night. We’ve also seen coyotes, ditto, and even with a fenced yard pets have been known to vanish.

Unfortunately, (and why do I frequently begin sentences with that word? I can’t imagine) Ming is very fast. I rarely go to bed before 1 am and I opened the door to go to the garage and WHAM he was past me and out into the yard. So I cursed and turned on all the outside lights and gave him some time. But at 2 am I really wanted to go to sleep, so I armed myself with the tracker, a flashlight, and a bit of chicken to entice the damned beast back into the house.

The tracker found him, no problem. But I couldn’t get within grabbing distance, even with the chicken, and he had a fine time letting me get close and FLIT he was off down the yard, under the deck, around and around. Please visualize: it is 2 am, I’m wearing my nightie, my bathrobe, and my fuzzy slippers, stumbling up and down the yard stairs, and waving chicken. Not to mention calling “Ming! Ming!” and probably waking up the neighborhood. Thank god I didn’t name him ‘Karma’ or ‘Horny’.

I gave up, went inside, and shut all the lights off. Then I went to bed.

Pre-dawn, roughly 5:30 am, I got up. I stumbled to the door and turned on the outside lights.

Mingo trotted up the yard stairs, along the sidewalk, and into the house. He wasn’t running — he made that perfectly clear — but he certainly wasn’t sauntering either. He looked a bit…subdued. I ignored suggestions from the other cats that I serve early breakfast, locked the bedroom door, and went back to sleep.

The following night Ming showed absolutely no interest in nocturnal travel. You’d have thought the doors were solid bits of wall.

Of course, this didn’t last. He made a serious escape effort last night, but I thwarted him. ‘Thwarting’ is done by grabbing his scruff with two hands and pulling hard backwards. And it’s going to get harder as he gets bigger.

Bad News: His feet are growing again.


Watch Out, World, Mingo’s Out

I let Mingo go outside from pure self-defense. He’s pushing 12 lbs. in weight, he has an endless supply of energy, curiosity, and limited common sense. He’s like a four-year-old. (This might be a libel on four-year-olds. If so, my apologies.)

In the last few days, he’s climbed inside the dishwasher twice, attempted to climb inside a hot oven, and persists in trying to crawl into plastic bags. Back in the fall, I’d had to ask the contractors not to leave plastic drop cloths around since he would roll up in them like a furry burrito and I was worried he’d smother. All those old dry cleaner bags with dire warns of Death By Suffocation— I used to think they were funny. I emptied a plastic bag of broccoli, turned away for one minute, turned back, and the empty bag was full of Ming. He’s all over the countertop when I’m in the kitchen so either I keep an eye on him every bloody goddamn minute or lock him away in the back room. He really wants to stick his nose into a lit burner (what is that funny blue flame?), plus he doesn’t have any awareness of where his tail is and drapes it negligently over the stove, the chopping board, and plates. I’m now accustomed to washing dishes with Ming head-down in the sink. He simply sticks his head under the water faucet, no problem, although he’s not fond of being squirted with the water pistol and hides when he sees it. (Watching him attempt to hide behind the coffee pot is very funny, because in common with Rainy he thinks if he can’t see me I can’t see him. So the coffee pot is surrounded by fur, but he’s invisible.)

What really tipped the scales was his constant harassment of the other cats. They are trying to nap, because old, and Ming is pushing them out of their beds. I know he’s trying to play, or play/fight, and they do cooperate a bit, but it was turning into constant battles and now Mingo is using his increasing weight to push them around.

So I let him outside and I have to tell you: this is one happy cat. So far he’s sticking around the deck and smelling every bush, leaf, and twig. Under the deck is Rainy’s favorite hangout when she’s out, and Ming loves it under there. Lots of dark nooks to explore.

I live in a very remote area; there is little traffic, and my entire yard is fenced. I’m sure if Ming decides to go outside the yard he can achieve this — there’s no way I can make the yard into a total cat enclosure. And I don’t have a cat door because I don’t let any cat roam at night. But I let him out for a few hours yesterday, checking on him frequently, and again this morning. He appears when I call his name; he doesn’t exactly come to me because that’s demeaning for a cat. I dragged him inside after lunch (Nooooooo, put me DOWN!) and he’s passed out at the top of the cat scratching post. He’s actually tired out. I didn’t think that was possible.


How Much To Feed A Maine Coon Kitten?

When you Google “How much to feed a Maine Coon kitten?” you don’t get answers. What you get is miscellaneous posts of plaintive owners asking the same question. Because the short and accurate answer is “Lots”. Or, as we say in the Coon Verse, a fuck-ton.

As of today, Mingo weighs 11.2 lbs. I bought a cat scale for several reasons. One, because weight loss is an important early warning sign of trouble in my two NORMAL cats, and two, because I’m fascinated with how fast he’s growing. And how big he’s getting. Maybe a more accurate word would be ‘terrified’.

Less than a week ago, he weighed 10.2 lbs. My Siamese cat weighed 10.6. He’s not even eight months old. He’s gained a pound in less than a week. Maine Coons can continue to grow until two years old.

I feed my cats canned tuna and dry kibble. The adults get fed tuna morning and evening; the dry kibble, with lots of water back, is out all day. Back in the calm peaceful days Before Kitten, I was going through much less than a 5 oz. can a day — Rainy the Siamese is a picky eater and sometimes ignores the tuna completely. Keeping it unspoiled was a problem, because they don’t like it cold, but leaving it out of the refrigerator once opened is a bad idea.

This is no longer a problem.

Mingo is going through 2.5 oz of tuna each morning and evening, plus he gets another full meal at midnight because still growing. I add in dry kitten kibble on the vet’s recommendation. Plus he scarfs up whatever Squeaky leaves in his bowl and he’s transitioning to eating the adults’ dry kibble. It’s disappearing at a much faster rate and I don’t think it’s elves. So that’s two plus cans a day for all three cats, plus dry kibble.

I’ve always bought tuna in 10-packs. Now I’m ordering the 10-packs four at a time via Amazon. Yes, I know I can get cases of tuna, but not so far in the brand and variety Rainy will eat. When I say ‘picky’ I mean picky. I’m working on it.

So that’s how much a Maine Coon kitten eats. Now you know.


Welcome to my re-designed website! There’s my free short story “The Divvy” for you to enjoy, set in the world of The Bone Road. The Chronicles of Mingo is my ongoing exasperated commentary on involuntarily raising a Maine Coon kitten and I’ve harvested all the old Facebook posts for anyone who wants to catch up with events. And if you click on each of my book titles below, there’s the first chapter. Try it; you’ll like it.

Kitten Electronics Edition

Did you know that HDMI stands for Highly Delicious Munchable Interconnect? Well, Ming did.

So far, his score is 1 HDMI cable, 2 Apple charging cables, one extension cord, and he’s working on the soon-to-replaced power cord for the kitchen lights. Not mention the random tooth marks on the power cord to Squeaky’s cat bed. He did, as mentioned previously, disconnect the internet router, but he only yanked that one out; he didn’t eat it.

Pepper juice seems to be no deterrent, but catching him in the act and blasting him with the water pistol works. Also, it’s fun.

No Room at the Scorpion Inn

Mingo and I had just had an interesting interaction where I was determined to comb the mats out of his tail and he was equally determined to not let me. I had to scruff him, which he hates, and instead of a nice soothing brush I had to use the grooming comb and work fast because Bitey Bitey McBiteCat.

So we weren’t speaking.

I retired to my little old lady armchair to check for blood and he crouched in a corner and stared at the floor. Fine, I thought, go sulk. Then I saw he was poking at a twig on the floor with his nose and jumping back.


It was raining and sometimes when it rains or even when it doesn’t, two-inch brown scorpions get into the house. Normally, they are sessile and flat and shaped like a forked twig, easily killed by the cowardly human. (No, I don’t have a picture and no, I’m not going to ‘rescue’ the thing and usher it outside. They’re icky and they sting. Also the hair all over my body stands up in horror when I see one. You wanna save the big bug, you get over here and do it.)

This one, however, was not sessile and not flat. Its sting was curled up over its back and both claws were snapping at Ming, who dodged and kept coming. I suppose, from its point of view, it had discovered a warm, dry, spot and was taking a stroll when it suffered an unprovoked attack by a furry and annoying monster. I can empathize with that viewpoint. So can my other two cats, come to think.

Anyway, I’m yelling, “Ming, get away! Stop that!” as if he’s going to pay attention all of a sudden. I’d never seen a scorpion so active and while I corralled Ming, it might scurry away and hide somewhere. In the house. Where I don’t know where it is. Ick.

I did grab Ming, who was totally pissed off to have his fun interrupted, and tossed him in the back room. Then I slammed a ceramic coaster on the scorpion. End of coaster, end of scorpion. Mingo spent the rest of the evening returning to the spot, hoping his neat toy had come back.

Do I have to say I had a glass of wine? Probably not.

Belly Up To The Bar, Kitten!

Probably due to all the construction, the one place Mingo hadn’t climbed onto, jumped up on, or generally messed with has been the kitchen countertop, the bar behind it, and the stove. About two days ago, that changed.

No, he hasn’t set himself on fire. It’s still early days yet.

I’m making my usual pro-forma disciplinary noises: I yell, I grab him and drop him on the floor; I squirt him with the water pistol. Nothing, big surprise, has had much effect. Except one thing.

After a tremendous amount of indecision and second-guessing pre-construction, I decided to replace my tiled bar top behind the granite counter with a wood bar. It’s a beautiful piece, so beautiful that I moaned to the contractor: “I’ll probably kill the first person who sets a wet glass down on it.” The contractor said, “Won’t hurt it at all. Multiple coats of sealant. Trust me.”

It also has another property. You know those old westerns where the bartender fills a mug of beer and slides it the length of the bar to the gunslinger? Replace the beer mug with Ming, sliding on his ass with a surprised look on his face. Now, Ming is not a cat who is easily discouraged. He keeps trying. If he jumps from the floor directly onto the bar, he can’t land at all, too slick. If he jumps from the countertop to the bar he can’t stop.

I confess to a surge of joy as I watch him jump, slide, and FOOMP disappear over the edge like a magic trick. So he’s jumping onto the countertop and walking slowly onto the bar: any fast move and he’s gone. Of course, food prep on the countertop is now a battle and I can’t leave anything uncovered for more than 5 seconds but neatness is a virtue. I just wiped down the bar and checked it for scratches or scrapes. Not a mark on it.

Insert Head Here

Despite the Head Cold from Hell, I feed the cats on schedule. (Because if I’m late I’m surrounded by reproachful felines with huge, accusing eyes, that’s why.)

So I was crawling out of bed this morning on day 6 of this pestilential cold, and I heard Squeaky yowling on the other side of the bedroom door, plus this odd thumping, thudding noise. I open the door, there’s Squeaky and Rainy. No Mingo.  I wander from room to room calling him. No Mingo. And trust me, he’s always on time for meals. I go into the bathroom and see photo below.

Anyway, I was simultaneously feeling dreadful and laughing like crazy, which is why only the one crummy shot. In case you can’t figure out WTF you are looking at, Ming had rammed his head into a tissue box and was unable to get it out. I don’t think he was stuck for very long, and he wasn’t hurt, although he seemed reluctant to discuss it.

Rosemary’s Kitten

Really, it’s like trying to raise Rosemary’s Baby. We’ve been asking ourselves the wrong question. It’s not “How did the itty bitty kitten survive until rescued?” It should be “Why, after he manifested — I hesitate to say ‘born’ — isn’t that corner of Boulder Creek a smoking ruin?”

He’s just under six months old and weighs, near as I can tell, about 9 lbs. (No, I’m not going to get on the scale with him and subtract my weight, are you crazy?) One of the kitchen chairs, solid wood, is shoved every day from the center line of the table to the corner: Ming hits it at top speed and moves it closer to the window. I move it, he moves it back.

Last night he gnawed through two layers of plastic and paper to dig into the adult cats’ dry food. (I thought it was suspiciously quiet and peaceful out there. I should have known.) The exact same food was in a bowl four feet away. He won’t eat it. I’ve hidden all the dry cat food and treats in the oven until I can get a lockable plastic container.

Biting: Oy, the biting. It’s not a case of will he, it’s a case of when. Unlike most cats he doesn’t lick people; he gently lips your face until he finds a good spot and then he sinks in the fangs. Normally a thumb applied in the corner of a cat’s mouth will make them release. Do I have to say Mingo bites harder? I didn’t think so.

Did you know that catnip mice do very well in a clothes dryer? They have to, since they spend the rest of their time in the water bowls. Ming has his own bubbler and thank god I put in tile floors and have a good supply of shop towels. True, the kitchen floor has never been cleaner. I had hoped the bubbler would decrease the amount of time he spends in the bathroom sink. A vain hope.

The other cats (see, we told you he was the Anti-Christ) are attempting to live around him, aside from frequent episodes of either combat or play, take your pick. This morning I heard this horrible scrabbling sound, with wailing, from Squeaky. He tried to jump up on the coffee table but Ming had his forelegs wrapped around Squeaky’s hindquarters and was pulling him backwards. The scrabbling was Squeaky’s nails trying for purchase on the top of the coffee table. Which used to be a nice piece of furniture, dammit.

I have three heated cat beds, I’ve had them forever. One is a double and Rainy slept there for years in lonely Siamese splendor. About a month ago she moved to one of the smaller beds, which was sad. Guess whose bed this is now? It’s a cat decision and I won’t intervene unless he tries to claim all three beds. I’m not sure what I would do but I’ll do something. I’m hoping that once Ming claws his way to the top of the pecking order, which is inevitable, a certain peace will descend.

I thought I’d adopted Orphan Annie. What I seem to have is Rasputin. Anyone know a good exorcist?

Cat Detente, Briefly

We have achieved detente! (Please note that the two on the left are fully grown and the one on the right is a five months old “kitten”.) A peaceful half hour where no one is trying to murder anyone else.

In other news, Mingo the Evil Kitten ripped down all the plastic sheeting protecting the house from the kitchen construction. Tomorrow I find out if the contractor has a sense of humor.