Thursday, December 9, 2010

2010 Cat of the Year: Voting is Open

This year I have opened up voting for the coveted title of 2010 cat of the year. You can vote on the right until midnight Dec. 31, when the polls close. As you may recall, last year, Alex was crowned champion of our household. The nominees are listed below- the same as last year. Obviously, this has nothing to do with wildlife gardening or native plant landscaping, other than to say keep your cats indoors.

Squeak (pictured above)

Age: 17

Weight: 6 lbs

Breed:Blue Point Himalayan

Background: Outlived her people. Lead a life of pampered luxury

Pros: Great health, plays with Alex

Cons: Avoids Natalie and June. Requires daily brushing and hates it.

2010 Accomplishments: She has not killed us, plays with Alex, does not require that we feed her from a crystal goblet. She is our fluffiest cat, but also the most flammable.

Expenses: 1 vet visit for yowling, blood work, (diagnosis: dementia)

Cost per pound $16.70

Alex (Defending Cat of the Year)

Age: 9

Weight: 8.5 lbs

Breed: Turkish angora x Persian

Background: Innocent victim of a hoarder. He was at the shelter for 2 years because no one wanted to adopt an adult black cat

Pros: Good attitude. Greets all visitors at the door. Does fantastic acrobatics. Plays hard.

Cons: Rarely purrs. Bites your toes while you sleep.

Accomplishments in 2010: Still modest and unassuming as ever. Defers to Squeak, tries to play with Natalie, and leaves June bug alone (though he recently began sleeping in her bedroom). His ¾ length tail, though not new in 2010, is always worth some points. The cat of the year title was his to lose, but the expensive dental work in November was a blow to his huge lead.

Expenses: 1 vet visit, 3 teeth pulled.

Cost per pound: $47.06

June bug

Age: 11 (her vet did not think she'd live this long)

Weight: 5.5 lbs (up 1 lb since we got her)

Breed: Silvertip Persian

Background: Oh, June. She was kept in an outdoor dog crate for 8 years and badly neglected before someone turned her in to the Humane Society in fall 2009. Struggles with litter box routine.

Pros: Ridiculously cute, and much improved in the litter box area. Big purr. Cuddly, despite her bony little body. Her only two teeth are in pretty good shape.

Cons: Oh, June.

Accomplishments this year: Although June is a finicky eater, she is back to eating soft cat food (after a few weeks of eating only human baby food- read: very expensive). She now grooms herself (mainly just her face). She sleeps by our heads in bed with us every night.

Expenses: multiple vet visits, extensive dental work, daily anti-anxiety meds and antibiotics, only ate baby food for a while (see above). Sweaters. Professional grooming. Etc.

Cost per pound: $100 or more. Priceless, really


Age: 14

Weight: 13 lbs.

Breed: Domestic long hair

Background: Disemboweled by her previous owners’ dog. Medically neglected. Borderline diabetic. Required hernia surgery including a Gore-Tex body wall, and is on a diet. She’d prefer to be the only cat in our house.

Pros: Classic beauty, good stomper, good at polishing things with her declawed paws.

Cons: Little bit of a diva complex. Does not play well with others.

Accomplishments: Natalie continues to be the largest of our cats. No expensive surgeries this year. Glowing report from the vet (who she hates). She has not eaten any of the other cats, nor has she squashed them either. She did go through a phase of wanting to go outside, but that passed. She stopped using June’s litter box.

Cost: Expensive diabetic food, but only 1 vet visit this year.

Cost per pound: $7.70

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

My Favorite Garden Tools, Part 1

Nothing will say "I love you and appreciate you" this holiday season more than a well-made garden tool. The heft of King of Spades 16” round blade spade or even a 17 lb. pencil point San Angelo bar can communicate the strength and endurance of your love and appreciation to that gardener in your life.

I've been threatening to write a post on my favorite garden tools for a while now. Actually, I guess I have been threatening to write anything for a while. Maybe because it is the gift giving season, or maybe it is because I no longer need for these tools now that it is winter. In any case, I thought I'd write about some tools I like to use. * In the spirit of full disclosure, I have not been paid or received any compensation for the following reviews. However I would really appreciate any endorsements or compensation from these fine companies!

Here are some of my favorite garden tools:

AM Leonard soil knife, my favorite all around garden tool. This is the tool I reach for most often. I use it for transplanting, weeding, and any relatively small digging job. It is very well constructed and stout. You won’t bend or break this- it will last a lifetime. It is made with stainless steel and a orange poly something handle, easy to find, and will last forever, no splinters, and does not need any care. I have used a bunch of hori horis (Japanese soil knife) and other soil knives and this is my favorite. This knife has been redesigned and it is much better than the same model I currently have. The serrations are deeper and sharper, and it even has a twine cutting notch (pretty useful). Mine are several years old and probably have decades more use in them. A close runner up is the Lesche soil knife , it looks really cool and tough with the much more aggressive serrated edge and the hand guard. I have both and I like them. They are both made in the USA, which I also appreciate.

Diggit 2 weeding tool. This tool is nearly indestructible (and comes with a lifetime warranty) , with a bright yellow vinyl handle. It is really narrow to cut through compacted soil to get the deep roots of dandelions and other plants. It is so string and stout, that I use mine to pry up or reset concrete or urbanite pavers. For weeding in a small space it is my favorite, plus it is made in the USA.

Felco #2 pruning shears. I wrote a post about these a while back. A fantastic tool- there is a reason everyone likes these.

17# pencil point San Angelo bar (hard to take a picture of it, but it looks like a bar). Here is my shout out to Texas. The one I have been using for years was a wedding present (no lie, my wife and I registered for it). Around here digging holes does not require a shovel, but rather a digging bar and your hands. My favorite tool for the job is a 72”, hexagonal-shafted, chisel point on one end, pencil point on the other end, carbon steel digging bar. A friend of mine recently dug all the holes for a fence with a screw driver and a coffee can. The coffee can was for the soil. It can be really rocky here.

Drain spades- for general digging and transplanting I use one of these (the green handled one in the picture at the top of the post, and most of mine have been bent from using them as a pry bar or something), but they are light weight and good for general use. But when the digging gets tough, the one to use is this one: The King of Spades 16” rounded blade digging spade. This is a real piece of machinery. Heavy, sharp, unbend-able, with and removable and replaceable foot pad. Although not advertised as a pry bar, you can use it for one, and I have (made in the USA).