Tuesday, August 8, 2017


I hated dogs, you see. All my life. From the time I grew up on a farm where every night at five-thirty the sheep dog herded me and my ten brothers and sisters to stay on our swing set while Mamma fixed supper until the day in my twenty-first year when this Doberman chased me for six blocks through Reading Pennsylvania after I'd accidentally entered the wrong home in one of those projects with assembly line houses.

If ever a species was worthy of extinction, canines were the perfect candidates, I decided. When I left home after college, I planned on never being near another dog.

Things worked out fine for five years while I progressed in my work for the Environmental Protection Agency in Florida. Of course I had to keep silent about my feelings toward dogs. After all, what kind of nature lover would hate part of nature?  My secret stayed hidden for--oh I guess--ten years, but then fate played me a horrible trick.

When I received the honor of being named Environmentalist of the Year, my life changed for the worst. You see, along with a bronze plaque came a puppy. I thanked everyone at the banquet and gingerly accepted the small fluff of golden fur already making me nervous.

Walking to my car, I wondered what kind of mutt I'd been stuck with so I asked the thing, "What kind of mutt are you?"

"Murff, murff," the dog said and wagged his tail in a coquettish way that made me laugh.

"Oh well," I said to the hopeful dark eyes looking at me, "maybe you won't be so bad since I'm getting you from the very beginning."

"Murff, murff," the dog said again and wagged his tail in a coquettish way again that made me laugh again.

"So be it. I hereby name you Murphy," I said and let the small bundle hop onto the front seat of my BMW.

Murphy smiled at me while I drove onto the Expressway and then Murphy tinkled all over the seat. I scolded him and swatted his nose and his cute little tongue hid behind sharp teeth and Murphy tried to bite me.

I stopped the car, ran out of the car, opened the passenger door. "Out," I said in as mean a voice as I could muster over my mounting terror.

Murphy cowered and whimpered. I was sure I saw little tears trickle out of those big sad brown eyes.

"Oh heck." I went back to my seat and drove to a shopping mall to see if I could buy doggie diapers.

Life went on like this for the next six months in which time I stopped wondering what kind of dog Murphy was because it didn't take me long to realize he was a bloomin' German shepherd. The horror stories I'd heard about those animals! Every night I had nightmares about my sweet pet becoming a demon dog.

This was why I let Murphy get away with a lot of things. If he wanted to tinkle on my oriental rug, I said that perhaps the rug needed to be washed. If he chose to sit on my recliner, I sat in the dog basket. He ate my T-bone steaks and I ate hamburger. When Murphy got bigger than me, I called him Sir.

The only advantage about Murphy was that he kept people out of my yard and that was the only reason I kept him.

Besides, everyday when I went to work, my supervisor said, "How's the Murph doing today?"

I told cute little stories and showed scads of pictures in hopes that I'd win another award and maybe this time it would be a fish that would turn into a whale and have Murphy for lunch while I was at work.

But that never happened and Murphy only grew bigger, stronger, and more demanding. Every time I dared think about disagreeing with his demands, he bared his large sharp teeth and growled and then he bit me. Oh not hard. Just enough to let me know he was the boss in this home.

When Murphy was two years old and chewed up my eight hundred dollar dress, I lost my sanity. I called my pet a stupid mutt. I grabbed a broom, swung it at Murphy but hit my glass figurines, sending them flying to shatter on the tile floor.

Murphy ran behind velvet drapes framing the picture window in my living room and he ripped them twenty ways from Tuesday when he escaped. I swung at him again and smashed a cut glass ceiling lamp with the broom. My beautiful house was becoming a disaster area but I didn't care. All I wanted to do was get rid of that stupid dog!

At last Murphy found an opening and dived through a screen in our front window. I ran after him around the house. Again and again and again. Then he stopped as if realizing something was wrong with this scenario. He pivoted, bared his teeth, growled his meanest growl and I made a U turn and Murphy chased me around the house. Again and again and again.

I raced for the door, ready to call 911 and report a mad dog but realized that it was the wrong kind of mad so I made a U turn and threw a flower pot at Murphy. The pot bounced against Murphy's head and for the first time, Murphy yelped and ran from me in real fear. He ran across the yard and toward Atlantic Boulevard with its six lanes of cars and trucks and buses.

"Murph!" I screamed but it was too late.

A car hit Murphy, sending him flying backward at least ten feet where he fell in a heap on a patch of sand spurs. Cars swung around the driver who had made a wild stop and was running to my precious pet.

"I'm sorry, lady," the young man said. "But I couldn't stop."

I was crying too hard to say anything. I just dropped to my knees and pulled Murphy's head onto my lap. "It's okay," I told the driver. "Go into my house and call my vet. His number's by the phone. He'll send someone out here."

The man obeyed and I took off my cashmere sweater and covered as much of Murphy as I could.

"Come on, mutt," I said, trying to stop the tears racing down my face. "Stay with me. You can do it. You're a fighter. Fight now to live." I choked back a sob and used my Irish linen handkerchief to wipe blood from the side of Murphy's face.

Murphy looked at me, his eyes bright and alert but filled with pain. He nuzzled closer to me, pressing his nose into the palm of my hand.

Cars raced by us, some coming as close as a foot from where I sat and for a moment I understood what it must be like to be an abandoned dog. Who cared for dogs anyway? If they don't bring you your paper and slippers, what use are they? You display your dog like some toy for your friends. "Sit up, dog. Speak dog. Play dead, dog." Dead.

"No!" I screamed when Murphy's head lolled and his eyes fell shut.

A blue van slowed and a woman stuck her head out to peer at us. "Ain't nothin', honey," she said to the slightly obese man behind the wheel. "Just a dead dog."

I began to cry.

A Ford station wagon drove past, its wheels sliding through a puddle, splashing muddy water on my dress and over Murphy. I yelled at the driver who never heard me 'cause he was too far down the road.

The shock of the water must have brought Murphy around 'cause he whimpered and shivered, then opened his eyes. He stared at me with a deep, almost philosophical calmness in those beautiful brown eyes. Only then did I feel the pointy barbs of those sand spurs under me, jabbing my legs and feet, each one a hot needle piercing my skin. I tried to move but the sand spurs sank in deeper. I struggled to stand up.

"Stay with him, lady," a deep voice said over me and I looked up at a large man with a pot belly under old fashioned coveralls. "He knows you're here. Long as you stay with him, he'll keep on fighting."

That did it. That gave me courage and I sat with Murphy in spite of the sand spurs, in spite of the cars racing past us with unconcerned closeness. I talked to Murphy, sang to him, and petted his face and realized I'd never petted his face before.

The man stayed with me, talking to me, and waving the cars away from us but of course the cars couldn't move too far since the road was so crowded and every vehicle moved too fast.

I know it took only minutes--certainly not more than fifteen--until the Saint Francis Animal Rescue Van slid to a stop beside us but to me it had been hours, days, months, years. Two veterinarian paramedics hopped out, checked Murphy, grunted, shook their heads. Consoling my pet whom I had never consoled, they lifted Murphy onto a stretcher and put him into the van.

I didn't wait for an invitation. I just hopped in. The paramedics understood. After looking at me with sad eyes, they returned their attention to Murphy.

Animal ambulances can't have sirens but we reached the hospital in good time. Murphy was raced into the emergency room and I paced the waiting room for hours, real hours.

Other people came and went with their pets. They talked to me about their new litter of kittens, the stray puppy they'd rescued, the cockatoo that could sing "Yankee Doodle."  I told them about my very special dog, how we shared everything and he always gave me lots of exercise, and I let him have the run of the house and all my friends said I spoiled him too much.

Then the vet came out with a smile on his face. "Murphy will make it," he said.

All of us in the waiting room cheered. I hugged a woman holding a cage with a pregnant hamster.

Well, that happened five years ago.  Murphy and I are still together and heaven forbid anyone should try to separate us. I got rid of the oriental rug and Murphy stopped tinkling in the house. He still sits on the recliner but I bought another one for me that he never goes near. And most of all, Murphy doesn't growl at me or bare his teeth or try to bite me.

This isn't the way experts tell people to train a dog but what the hey, no one has all the answers, especially when they have to deal with a scardy cat woman and a super dog. 

Posted by Diana for Margaret

Sunday, July 2, 2017


Tell novice gardeners that there are spiders in their garden and the first thing they will do is run to get the bug spray and spray every critter that even looks like a spider. There are about 3,000 species of spiders, including scorpions, harvestmen, mites, and ticks so trying to rid the world of spiders is an exercise in futility. Spiders have a bad reputation but they are really helpful in the garden. Some of them are poisonous but their poison is seldom deadly for humans. Common sense tells us how to keep from getting bitten by them. The most obvious tactic is to never put your fingers or toes where you can't see them. Hermit spiders love to hide in tool drawers and other cluttered areas and are always ready for a quick meal.

Grammy has a special fondness for granddaddy long legs spiders. It began when she was two years old and the adults in the family were teasing her one day for crying because no one would play with her.

"Poor little cry baby," the adults chanted, "can't get a friend. Go out in the garden and eat some worms."

Being an obedient child, Grammy went to the garden and searched for some worms but couldn't find any. Grammy's mother came into the garden just in time to see Grammy plunk a large granddaddy long legs into her mouth. Screaming for help, her mother frantically tried to remove the spider from Grammy's mouth but Grammy just clamped her mouth shut and kept saying through tiny clenched teeth, "Good. Good." There is no record of what the granddaddy long legs said. By the time the adults had reached the garden the spider was gone and Grammy was smiling.

When she told me this story many years later, Grammy didn't mention what her mother had said to the teasing adults but I don't think I could put it down here even if I knew. I do know that Grammy never ate any more spiders and for many years she loved to entertain the adults with her musical version of "Eensee  weensee spider...."

I do not recommend that you try to eat a spider just to have the experience. Leave the poor creature alone and go get a peanut butter and jelly sandwich.

Posted by Diana for Margaret

Thursday, June 15, 2017

The Day I Talked With God

Winters in Ohio are very cold with lots of snow and sleet and driving winds, all of which combine to make life miserable for us Buckeyes. You'd think that we would be happy with our summer weather - hot but not too hot with just enough thunder storms to make life exciting, provided that the tornadoes go to Indiana - but we're not. Especially if we are five year old little girls scared of our own shadows.

Grammy and the other women in the family thought it was funny to see me hide under the bed and cry every time thunder pounded the walls of our home. They told me it was just the angels bowling or God cleaning house. But none of those silly stories calmed my fears. Grampy was also very aware of my fears and decided to help me get over them.

Grampy was a big man; six feet tall with snow white hair and remarkably strong for his almost sixty years of life. One early summer afternoon as dark clouds drifted on the horizon and Grampy and I were alone on the farm, he asked me if I would like to talk with God. I was thrilled at this idea and eagerly held Grampy's hand as we walked together across the road to our corn field where stalks of corn were standing knee high, whatever that meant.

I expected that we would go into Grampy's tractor barn or maybe a patch of sunflowers sprouting along the edge of the field. Certainly God was in a beautiful place. But Grampy led me farther in the field until we stood at the crest of a small hill where the land curved and glided in soft waves allowing us to see for miles in every direction. I took in my breath, gazing at this beauty until I saw distant dark thunder clouds gliding toward us. "We better go back to the house," I said.

"We can't leave," Grampy said. "You haven't met God yet."

"Well, He's not going to come out if it rains," I objected.

Grampy didn't argue, he just tapped his lips with his finger, signaling me to be quiet. He raised up his face and I did the same.

"What do you feel on your face?" he asked me.

"The wind," I said.

"No," Grampy replied. "It's God's breath breathing more life into this world."

Lightning flashed long golden jagged lines to the earth and Grampy said, "What is that?"

"It's lightning," I said and looked for a place to hide.

"No," Grampy said, "It's God's fingers touching the earth He created."

Thunder boiled in the sky, its bass sounds vibrating against my breast bone and pounding against my ears.

"What is that?" Grampy asked me.

I shook my head and clung to Grampy's hand. "It's thunder," I almost cried.

"No," Grampy said. "It's God's voice, calling us to love Him."

The thunder growled, more lightning flashed, and rain began falling.

"What is this?" Grampy asked.

"It's thunder," I shouted.

Grampy said, "It's God's tears falling for those people who will not love him."

For long seconds, Grampy stood in silence, gazing up at the sky, smiling at the wind and rain. Then, looking down at me, he said, "Now that you have talked with God, you need never be afraid again."

I laughed and Grampy laughed and we danced with the rain drops back to the house.

That was 73 years ago. I now live in Florida, the lightning capital of the world. When thunder storms come and even grown up people run to hide, I stay outside to talk with God while Grampy smiles with pride at the brave little girl he helped God create. Where would we be without our fathers?

Happy Father's Day.

Posted by Diana for Margaret

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Dog Gone Mail Delivery

Woofie is a happy dog who lives in a housing development in Florida. There are hundreds of houses and women with cars and boys with bikes, men with motorcycles, little girls with doll carriages, and the most beautiful truck in the world - a white mail truck. Woofie loves the people and their vehicles, especially the white mail truck driven by Mr. McNutter, the postman. Woofie wished that he could get a mail truck to drive.

Every day that Mr. McNutter drove into the development, Woofie jumped up and down, barking and running after the truck to let Mr. McNutter stop and give him a ride. But Mr. McNutter never did that. He just leaned on the truck horn and shouted, "Get out of my way, you mangy mutt!" Poor Woofie was so sad.

One day, however, Woofie saw Mr. McNutter get out of his truck and carry some packages to a house. This was Woofie's big chance. He stayed a distance away until Mr. McNutter bounded up steps to a wide porch on a big yellow house. Woofie ran for the truck and jumped in and landed on the driver's seat and grabbed the steering wheel and looked out the windows. What joy he felt! Then the truck started to move down the incline in the road, slowly at first, then faster and faster as the people started screaming and running after the truck heading for a tree. Woofie thought at last the people knew how to play "Catch the Truck."

Then the truck came to a hard stop against the tree, leaving a dent on the truck's fender.

The boys ran to Woofie and grabbed him as he fell out of the truck.

The girls hugged Woofie and said, "Are you all right Woofie?"

The women petted Woofie and the men praised him for his courage.
And Mr. McNutter said, "You dumb dog. Look what you did to my truck."

Woofie thought that Mr. McNutter just wanted to play with his truck again so Woofie jumped up and slurped Mr. McNutter's face before trotting off to tell his family about his wonderful adventure.

That was the last time Woofie drove the mail truck but he got rides from other places, like the women's cars, boys' bikes, men's motorcycles and girls' doll carriages. As for Mr. McNutter? Well, he moved to a desert island where everyone has to go to the post office to get their own mail. Well, okay, so this story isn't all that true. Mr. McNutter never moved to a desert island. He stayed in his house and delivered the mail for another ten years before retiring and taking up gardening. As for Woofie becoming Mr. McNutter's friend? In your dreams. But it's okay. Every time Mr. McNutter runs after Woofie, Woofie barks in joy because he just knows the man is really playing tag with him and that makes them best friends.

Posted by Diana for Margaret

Thursday, June 1, 2017

Some Cat Facts

Black cat's fur is not solid black. It is black stripes or spots on black background. Look at a black cat in bright sunlight and you should be able to see the stripes or spots.

When a black cat stays outside in the sun for long periods of time, his/her fur will turn red. Once he/she quits staying in the sun, his/her fur will go back to black. This is not instantaneous but takes several days, sort of like us getting a sunburn.

As a cat gets older, his/her fur seems to age with him/her. If a cat has black fur and this fur starts to come out, the new fur will come in white, theoretically turning a black cat into a white cat. Please leave the testing of this theory up to the researchers.

According to The Origins of Cats https://icatcare.org/advice/cat-care/origins-cats, the domestic cats (Felis Catus) are difficult to be distinguished according to their 37 different species since they overlap each other in description making it difficult to tell one from another. Cats are the most intelligent felines and are most closely identified with lions.

As early as three million years ago, cats were prolific in populating the world with their presence known in every country except Arctic, Antarctica, and Australia. There are rumors that the Aussies, upon seeing their country being overrun by rodents have put out the red carpet, so to speak, for all cats, a statement they will neither confirm nor deny.

Researchers say that domestic cats as we know them originated about 10,000 years ago in the Fertile Crescent, about the same time people began storing grain for their food supplies. Some researchers say it was about this time that cats began approaching humans for companionship and for being entertained by the humans while they - the cats - feasted on mice. So the next time you want to pet your kitty's face, you might want to count your fingers just to be safe.

Our black cat Scooter was a voracious leaper, being able to jump a span of six feet from one rooftop to another.

Are Chrissy and Paco black cats turning white or white cats turning black? Chrissy's black spots have been growing over the past two years.

Posted by Diana for Margaret

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Daddy's Mash

There were interesting moments on Granny's farm when she was growing up. Feeding time was always interesting to Grammy since she had to help her Mamma set out the food and call the animals, then clean up after them. Feeding the animals wasn't that difficult since they were always ready to eat. The trick was to stay out of the way of the animals as they charged for their food sources.

The menu never sounded that good to Grammy. Slops for the pigs, hay for the horses, corn for the chickens. The cows munched on grass in the meadow. The ducks ate something from the ponds. Mamma cat fed her kittens fresh meat as soon as she caught it. At least that's how Grammy remembered it. She did remember clearly feeding their dog a bowlful of chocolate cake batter one day and her Daddy patiently explaining that dogs should not eat chocolate while they took the poor canine to the vet.

There was something in the barnyard called mash. Grammy doesn't remember what it was for except that it was made from fermented corn and her parents warned her often to not eat or drink that stuff. I guess they never warned the animals because one summer day the animals got into the mash and had a great party that made them more than a bit tipsey. The four cows - Eanie, Meanie, Miney, and Abbigale - staggered across the yard, dragging dresses, sheets, and long flannel underwear from the clothes line. The chickens kept falling off of their perches. Our dogs howled and rolled on their backs across the yard. Henry the pig tried to sit beside the rooster Romeo on the pig pen fence and tried to crow, but fell on top of Piggy Petunia snorting in her mud. The ducks staggered under the porch where Mamma cat was hiding her kittens. Perhaps the only sober animal around, she chased the ducks away.

That night, Mamma cat meowed a sad farewell at her hung-over companions, then carried her kittens to the next farm. Mom said that Mamma cat should have received honorary membership of the Women's Christian Temperance Union. Grammy didn't know what that was but she guessed it wasn't as much fun as the animals had with her Daddy's mash.

Posted by Diana for Margaret

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Chicken Feathers

Grammy was such an obedient and well-behaved child that I don't think she ever had anything to confess. The standard joke about her by her siblings was that their priest probably fell asleep listening to her confessions. Well, there was this one time when she was about eight years old that Father must have paid attention. The story goes like this:

Every afternoon, her father liked to take a nap on the davenport in the parlor and Grammy's mother always told her, "Now be nice and quiet so you don't wake up Daddy."

Usually Grammy played with her doll or colored some pictures she had drawn on the backs of old letter paper. This one afternoon, though, Grammy had nothing to do except wander around the house, playing with a chicken feather she had found on the back porch. She tossed the feather into the air, then watched it glide ever so gracefully back down. As Grammy walked past the davenport, she looked at Daddy lying there on his back and snoring with much energy.

He exhaled - puff, puff, puff - then he inhaled - snore, snore, snore - then he exhaled again.

Grammy suddenly had a great idea. If she put the feather over her father's face, he could make it fly a long time with all that snoring. So she held the feather over his face and let go. Daddy puffed and the feather flew upward; Daddy snored and the feather glided downward. Up and down, up and down, making Grammy giggle. But then, when Daddy was supposed to puff puff, he went, "snert, snort, sniffle, snuhk."

Grammy watched in helpless terror as the feather flopped for a while, then dropped into Daddy's open mouth. Daddy flailed his arms and struggled to sit up while making sounds Grammy had never heard before.

Grammy ran as fast as she could on her little legs through the house and outside to the cornfield. There she hid until Mamma called her and her seven older brothers and four older sisters in for supper.

As Grammy cautiously crawled onto her chair, Daddy looked at her and said, "You know, Francine, the strangest thing happened to me while I was taking my nap today. I dreamed that I was being attacked by a flock of chickens. What would make me have that dream?"

Grammy shook her head and very quietly ate supper. Relieved that she had gotten away with her discretion, she slowly relaxed but when she went to bed, she saw on her pillow, one very tangled chicken feather.

According to Grammy. Their priest had to struggle to keep from laughing when she confessed that she attacked her father with a feather.

Posted by Diana for Margaret

Saturday, April 1, 2017

Kitty Cat Work

Our cats stay very busy every day. They work from morning to night. Or is it night to morning? Anyway, here are some photos of them hard at work.

Feeding the Hungry

Yolkie in his younger years loved to eat. And his outdoor cousins love to eat too. When his cousins look for food, they search the yard and garden for frogs and lizards and rodents and even snakes. Sometimes they look for squirrels and birds but it is easier to catch the frogs and lizards.

When Yolkie looks for food, he goes to the refrigerator. He says that's not as hard work as hunting in the garden.

Doing Homework

Even animals must go to school. Their schools are their mothers who teach them how to fight and hunt and make hiding places.

When Little Bit goes to school she goes to our computer. I don't think she learns much from it.

Yolkie helping Little Bit with his homework.

"Hey Little Bit," Yolkie said, "Do you think Saint Francis might help us? I just found a dead mouse in the printer."

Posted by Diana for Margaret

Sunday, March 12, 2017

Beaver Becomes A Warrior

When Grammy and Grampy found Beaver, he was just a one pound puppy being swallowed up in a ditch by a six lane highway. Grammy grabbed the tiny bit of white fur and puppy dog eyes and held him carefully while Grampy drove to their vet. Beaver almost died that day but Doc pulled him through and proudly presented the puppy to Grammy and Grampy.

"We can't take him in," Grammy said.

"We have five cats," Grampy said.

"We don't know how to take care of a dog," Grammy said.

"You'll do just fine," Doc said. Just be as good to Beaver as you are to your cats."

Grammy and Grampy brought Beaver home and read a book "THE COMPLETE IDIOT'S GUIDE TO RAISING DOGS".

"We have to put Beaver in a crate," Grammy said.

"No way!" Grampy said. "That will traumatize him."

Grammy and Grampy went to the baby section at Wal-Mart and bought a playpen and a fuzzy whale bed for Beaver.

"Now you be a good puppy," Grammy told Beaver, "and play with your new brothers and sister." And Grammy set Beaver on the floor where he was surrounded by five fifteen pound cats expressing their negative opinions of Beaver.

Beaver was scared and let out one long high pitched wail of agony that sent the cats under the couch. After five minutes, Yolkie, the yellow tabby cat, crawled out from under the couch and climbed over the play pen slats to hop into the play pen. He went to Beaver and kicked him. Beaver stopped crying and laid down with Yolkie in his fuzzy whale bed.

From then on, the cats taught Beaver how to be a mighty warrior Gray fur Donny and his little sister Little Bit bathed him every day with their little rough tongues and made sure his ears were clean. Black fur Scooter kept him up every night so he could help them hunt rodents, When Grampy fed the cats their kitty food, Beaver happily ate all of it.

Then Winston taught Beaver how to growl. Winston crunched up his face and howled, "EEEEEEEEEEEPPPPPPPPPPPPP!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!." Beaver crunched up his face and growled, "yip yip yip yipee!"

Neighbor boys, seeing Beaver's efforts, laughed and pointed at him. Poor Beaver was humiliated.

The boys shouted, "Get the kitties," and ran into the yard and Winston shouted, "MEEEEEEEPPPP" which in human speak is "Every cat for himself. Run! Hide!"

The cats ran up trees. Beaver ran under some bushes.

Grampy came to the yard and yelled at the boys. "Better be careful," he told them. "That dog's gonna eat you up one of these days."

The boys laughed.

Beaver was not happy after that. Even when the cats shared their catnip with him, he just lay still and pouted. The cats helped him exercise and jog around the house. Grampy sneaked him pieces of steak and meat loaf and he felt himself start to grow.

Then one day the magic happened. Beaver's voice changed. No more "yip yip yipee." Beaver made this discovery just as the neighbor boys came to his yard and he ran to them and they laughed and Beaver stood tall with shoulders back, head up, teeth bared, fur trembling, and legs quivering. Then the Mighty Beaver ran toward the boys and he growled and roared and sang out in the joy of battle that said, "Stand back for Beaver is coming through!"

For the next twelve years, Beaver stood guard over his cat community, keeping all naughty boys from teasing the kitties and letting the world know, "Here I stand with my friends. Enter our yard if you must but just be polite."

Posted by Diana for Margaret

Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Life, Death, and Life Again

One thing that some people don't like about gardens is that, sooner or later, they must deal with death. Often this is a shock to them because they think of gardens only as sources of life.

Of course there is death in a garden. New flowers will not grow until the old ones die and spill their seeds on fertile soil. Food plants grow from the seeds of old food. Even seeds from kitchen scraps tossed onto a compost pile can produce new plants. Death in a garden is the same as in the world; it is a part of life.

Giving up life is never easy. A tree, when cut by the woodsman, remains standing for several seconds before falling to the ground. A bird or an animal facing death, makes a final cry before submitting to the last moment of life. Insects and worms fight to cling to their fragile and short lives, preferring to live in the dust of the earth rather than become part of it. Leaves on branches amputated from trees or bushes continue to stay green for days, even weeks, in denial that their life source is gone. Flowers plucked from their beds retain their form and color long after they've been tossed onto a heap in a neglected corner of the garden.

Sometimes there is a perfume from an undefined source that accompanies death. Some people say it is the sickening sweet scent of decay. People of faith say it is the perfume of Heaven. Whatever the source, it is often accompanied by a one note song, turning the last moment of life into a time of beauty and inspiration.

One spring day, I discovered a badly injured sparrow fledgling lying under some bushes. I picked up the tiny bird and held him in my hand. Unable to do anything to prevent his death, I spoke in soothing words to him while his little chest struggled vainly to continue breathing.

With his last gasp of life, this sparrow sang one long melodious note more beautiful than any song created by humans. In the silence of his death, I cried. His short song of good-bye remains entrenched in my memory to  return in joyful celebration whenever my soul is burdened with sorrow. Several other times I have heard other creatures sing this song at the moment of their deaths.


I bury all the dead creatures that I find in Timothy's garden. There is a large grave where an old opossum rests in peace and six graves for cats and dogs who found death on nearby roads. There are even graves for birds, rats, squirrels, and mice. One grave for a black snake is six feet long and three inches wide.


One thing I learned right away was to be sure that the creature I was preparing for burial was really dead. One day, I found a young opossum lying motionless and apparently not breathing in Timothy's garden. I went to the shed to get a shovel and returned in time to see the opossum scrambling over our fence and into our neighbor's yard.

Another time, I saw Stealth - one of our feral cats - lying in a twisted position, one eye shut, the other eye open and staring blankly at the sky. Grampy and I believed Stealth to have been an old cat since he looked so disheveled with injuries from so many fights. I sighed, and started to get the shovel when Grampy called to me that it was lunch time.

When I came back outside an hour later, Stealth sat up, yawned, stretched, and looked at me with his, "Well, where's my lunch?" expression on his face.

I am never in a hurry to bury lizards or frogs even when they look like nothing more than dried up leather. I place them into shallow pans of water and set the pan in a protected area. More times than not, these little creatures soak up the  water and scamper off.


Death can never be avoided but sometimes it can be delayed. When Winston was fifteen years old, he became very sick. My heart breaking, I sat by Winston lying on the little nest he'd made for his last moments and petted him and talked to him. 
He stared at me, each breath coming slower. He was too weak to meow even one little "Eep."

At last I told Winston, "It's okay. You can die now. We will miss you but we will always remember you."

Winston looked at me as if trying to comprehend what I had said. Then he moved his head to my hand and bit it! Then he jumped down from his nest, ran across the yard, attacked Little Bit, ate all the food in her dish, then sat at his usual spot on the picnic table to survey his kingdom.

That night, I woke up to a horrendous cat fight with Winston bellowing a loud and long EEEEEEEEEEEEEPPPPPPPP!!!!!!!! while chasing some poor terrified creature out of the yard.

Grampy teased me, saying that Winston had chased Death out of our yard. I never disagreed with him since Winston lived for another year and a half until he finally went to his glory.

Jesus prayed in a garden before meeting his death and the angels' words - "He is risen!" - were spoken to Peter and John in a garden's open grave. A garden is nature's gospel of Creation, Salvation, Resurrection, and Eternal Life born in springtime, nurtured through the summer, harvested in autumn, and laid to rest in winter to return again with new life in spring. Let us always rejoice in our gardens, God's special gift to us.

Posted by Diana for Margaret

Tuesday, February 28, 2017


Five year old Jimmy was in his family's back yard, arguing with six of the neighbors' children on this bright summer day. They were taunting each other with the usual epitaphs that seem to survive civilization, progress, world unity, and the space age.

"Sticks and stones may break my bones," Jimmy said, then looked at me. "Hey, the flower lady."

All seven children turned to me and said, "Good morning lady."

All of them called me Lady because they couldn't remember my name but they could remember Lady since this was also their dog's name.

"Good morning," I said to them and waited for what I knew they would next say.

It didn't take more than a few seconds for them to ask me, "Do you have any flowers?"

This was our daily ritual - them asking me for flowers, me giving them little bouquets from my garden. They always ran into their houses, holding out the flowers and shouting, "Mamma, look what we got."


That day came and went and I watched Jimmy grow up to his fourteenth year when he came to our house and asked if his dad could borrow Grampy's truck for a few hours. Of course I refused because his parents had a not too good reputation for honesty in the neighborhood.

"It's okay," Grampy said. "Let them use the truck."

A week later, when our truck was still missing from our driveway, I drove past Jimmy's house. The yard was empty, the house was closed with windows boarded over. I was angry about not getting our truck back.

"Jimmy was such a pain and he doesn't show much promise of becoming any sort of model citizen for society," my common sense said.

"So when does everyone in this world have to be an icon of perfection?" my heart replied. "Jimmy has his good points. He certainly has optimism and he definitely loves his mother. Maybe he's just a late bloomer. We can't judge a person for an entire lifetime by what we see for a few moments. People change, sometimes for the worse and sometimes for the better.
I think Jimmy will do just fine. I have faith in him."

I waited, listened for my common sense to rebut these statements. When my common sense did nothing but grumble about infernal female day dreaming, I went to our back yard and peered over the fence. The yard looked bare and desolate in its perfect landscaped lines and well trimmed grass empty of toys and basketball hoops and trampolines. My heart could hear the laughter of those children as they raced to our fence for flowers but it was just my imagination. The yard was childless..

My common sense said, "Oh no, here they come again," and my tears started to fall.

I plucked several cosmos and marigolds and zinnias from my garden and tossed them across the fence. They flew in tiny spirals, caught up by a sudden breeze, before landing on the picture perfect lawn. They looked beautiful lying there in the sunshine. My heart could hear the laughter of the children as they shouted out, "Thank you, Lady." My common sense said, "They're gone and so is your truck.".

It was two years later when I next saw Jimmy. He was working for a landscaping company. Walking around their yard, he recognized me right away.

Smiling, he came to our fence and said, "Hey Lady, do you still have any flowers?"

I gathered up a big bouquet and carried the flowers to him.

"Thanks," he said, then he turned and headed for their house, calling out, "Hey Mamma, look what I got!"

Jimmy disappeared into their house and I walked around to the front yard. There in the driveway was our truck.

"Well, daggone," I said and laughed. Somehow, the day seemed warmer, the sky brighter.

I looked at the truck and thought of a Bible verse - "Am I my brother's keeper?"
"Yup," I said.  We are our brother's keepers."

Posted by Diana for Margaret

Thursday, February 23, 2017

Three Squirrel Tales

Just as my biology teacher said that handicapped creatures cannot survive long in the wild, my big brother, many years ago, told me that squirrels cannot live without their big fluffy tails. It is true that squirrels need their tails to keep themselves warm on cold nights and also to balance themselves as they scamper from tree to tree and leap remarkably long distances from tree to fence to garden gate and any other objects to reach their feeders without touching the ground.

After the bush in front of our kitchen window died, Grampy put a trellis there so I could still watch the birds at their feeders. He also put up two chairs and tables for squirrel feeders. The squirrels sit on the little chairs by the tables, then rock back and forth while they gobble down the sunflower seeds I've left for them.

Sometimes they get tired of sitting and run to the top of the trellis, then hang upside down by their feet, swinging while eating. Certainly, their tails keep them balanced while performing this mealtime maneuver. Certainly, squirrels need those big fluffy tails.

That was what I thought until one morning I looked out the window and saw a squirrel there without any tail at all! Nothing! I named him Stubby and kept a close eye on him. Just like the mocking bird with one leg, he adapted quite well to living with his handicap. Stubby stayed in Timothy's garden for five years. He had no trouble climbing trees or keeping his balance. Somehow he kept warm during the winters or he never would have lived so long in the wild.


After Stubby, came Stubby II who survived with only a small portion of a tail. Like his namesake, Stubby II lived a good life in Timothy's garden, flitting over tree branches, racing up and down trees, sometimes hanging upside down by his feet just for fun as he ate at his feeder table. Apparently neither squirrel learned that they had to have tails in order to survive.


A third squirrel had the opposite handicap of his two relatives. His tail was too long. Most squirrel tails go up their back and then fold over to come halfway back down. This squirrel's tail went up his back, then folded over and came back down to its point of origin and halfway back up again!

His handicap seemed much more frustrating than Stubby and Stubby II's handicaps. His tail was so heavy that he couldn't keep it in place very long when he sat at the feeder table. Slowly, very slowly, his tail unfolded and dangled down, down, down while he ate. With a hump! of disgust, he grabbed his tail, pulled it up, and wrapped it around him two or three times while trying to continue eating.

One day, when he was with his girlfriend, his tail got in the way so much that they both were tangled in it. That squirrel stayed for two years in Timothy's garden, then presumably returned to the woods. Perhaps he got tired of everyone staring at his long tail. Strange things happen with squirrels even when they are handicapped.


We humans who claim to have dominion over this world should respect life in all forms. We must never underestimate the determination to survive, even by only a squirrel. Life is sacred and cries out in many ways, "Let us live!"

Posted by Diana for Margaret

Sunday, February 12, 2017

Timothy's School

Timothy’s mother must have been undernourished when he was born since he seemed to have to struggle to learn anything. While the other kittens in Grammy’s garden romped and played and learned new talents each day, Timothy struggled to analyze everything he saw and touched. While the other kittens looked at a tree and eagerly ran up its trunk, Timothy sat in quiet contemplation of what that thing might be. He had no problem at feeding time, often being the first one to reach the food bowls but if Grammy moved his food dish only a few inches from its normal spot, Timothy had to use intense concentration to find the dish.

The first lesson Grammy taught all new-comer kitties was to give them a name and then teach them to respond to that name. It took only a few days for Scooter to know he was Scooter, Winston to know he was Winston, and Little Bit to know she was Little Bit. But many days with Grammy constantly repeating his name passed before Timothy’s eyes lit up and he seemed to smile and say, “Hey! I’m a Timothy!”

Timothy’s greatest difficulty in learning was also his greatest triumph. To get from the yard into the house, the cats had to go through a maze of three cat doors. The first cat door led the cats from the yard to the porch. The second cat door went from porch to pantry. The third cat door went from pantry to kitchen which opened into the rest of the house. The cats not only had to learn how to go through this maze to get into the house, they also had to learn how to travel through it in reverse to get back outside.

This was no easy task but the cats were good students. Winston had needed only a few seconds to learn how to push on the rubber flap of each cat door to gain entrance into our porch. Little Bit needed an hour or so to learn this. Scooter watched Winston enter the cat door and immediately followed but poor Timothy couldn’t learn how to use the cat door.

While the other cats came and went through the cat door, Timothy sat by it and waited until Grammy helped him by pushing on the flap to open it. Grammy tried once to press Timothy’s head against the door to show him how his feline friends opened the doors but that terrified him and he clawed Grammy’s hand in fear.

The next time Timothy wanted out, he sat as usual by the cat door and looked at Grammy in anticipation. Grammy grabbed the edge of the flap with her index fingernail and pulled it back. Timothy went out through the door. Grammy again grabbed the flap with her fingernail and Timothy came in through the door. Every time  after that, when Timothy wanted to go in or out of the cat door, he refused to budge until Grammy used her fingernail to open the flap.

Day after day, week after week, month after month this went on. Finally, after six long months of watching Grammy open the flap with her fingernail, Timothy paused one day to look the flap over very carefully.

He looked up at Grammy as if saying, “Hey, I know how to do this!” Then he held out his paw, and grabbed the flap with one of his claws. Pulling the flap back, Timothy walked by himself through the cat door!

It took Timothy half a year to learn what his friends had learned in a few days but his success was just as great and he learned the most valuable lesson. Never give up.

Posted by Diana for Margaret

Thursday, February 2, 2017

Interacting with Feral Cats

If you can't find a feral cat, look up, the higher the better chance of seeing one.

No one can say for sure where cats came from. There is no mention of them in the Bible and scientists still disagree on who the cat ancestors were. There are many theories. My favorite theory is that cats descended from space aliens who crash landed in Egypt 5,000 years ago.

All cats are feral, having lost nothing of their wild nature. They are credited with having high intelligence and have learned to play the role of a "domestic" or "tame" animal willing to live in comfortable houses, eating the best food and sleeping on the best furniture. Most cats, however, when given a choice will head for the back yard or neighborhood woods or any other rustic area and live as they were meant to live.

If you meet a feral cat, do not look into the cat's eyes. This human greeting of "Hello" is translated into cat-speak as, "Let's fight!" Just keep on doing what you're doing and act as if you don't see any cats. The cat will probably wander off, relieved that he escaped from your presence.

It is very easy to get a cat to stay with you. Just set some food scraps out. Don't get between him and the food and give him a few days to connect you and the food as one. After about a week, the cat will let you tap his nose or pet his head.

When that happens, congratulations are in order, you and the cat are now on a rocky road to some of the best companionship any human and feline can experience. When you come home all tired and frustrated from your job, your cat will be there to let you pet him. When your cat decides to show his love for you, he'll drop a dead rat on your bed. If you get sick and lie on the couch, moaning in misery, your cat will bathe your feverish face with his scratchy tongue and sleep with you until your fever breaks.

The best tactic when living with a feral cat is to treat him with respect. He might roam at night but he'll be back as soon as he finishes eating breakfast at your neighbor's house where you neighbors think he belongs to them. When you're as lovable and cute as a cat, there's enough of you to belong to several families in the neighborhood. Just be sure to get the cat neutered. You don't want too much of a good thing.

Even feral cats say their prayers.

Posted by Diana for Margaret