Monday, March 29, 2010


I've long said that fall is my favorite season, but I have to say spring has become a very close second. I hate winter so very very much that when warm weather arrives, it is the happiest moment of my life. I also like watching things begin to bloom and grow and working in my garden. But spring in the Chicago area is a total tease, which is maybe why it can't be my absolute favorite season.

A couple weeks ago I started to see signs that it was coming. The main sign was this:

My cats emerged from their warm upstairs dens, where they spent the day sleeping either all huddled together in a pile on our bed or all huddled in a pile on the bathroom rug because the bathroom is the warmest room in the house.

Now they are eager to lay in the sun in the living room and occasionally stare out the window looking for wildlife to return.

Other cat-related signs of spring:

Hairballs. Highly unpleasant but unavoidable as winter coats are shed.

Moments of pure inexplicable madness. The night before the spring equinox, my littlest cat Lars went totally crazy, running around the house like a madmen in the middle of the night, mewing excitedly, attacking innocent house plants. Clearly, he had spring fever.

Other signs of spring:

Driving home from my bartending job late at night something small darted across the road, not a cat or a rabbit, both of which I've seen throughout winter. It turned out to be a robin! This was very exciting until I remembered that he and his buddies like to start singing in the very early morning... like when I'm getting home from work at three a.m. and trying to sleep. This is a part of spring that I could do without.

And when the snow melted, look what happened in my yard!

Why the wee crocuses were blooming and the tulips are beginning to sprout!

Of course unpleasantness in the form of *lots* of litter on my front lawn was also revealed. I really hate living on a busy street. And I really really hate litterbugs! Seriously, how hard is it for you to find a garbage can!!!!

I was up in Madison, Wisconsin on the 15th and 16th of this month and we finally had our first truly warm days. I was walking around in just my hoodie, no big coat! Hoodie weather is the best! But like I said, spring is such a tease in the Midwest....

On the Vernal Equinox this is the kind of day we had:

Poor little flowers!

The weather hasn't fully recovered yet because we keep getting these bursts of cold air from Canada. (Please keep your cold air to yourself, Canada! We have enough of our own, thanks.) But I have to believe that soon spring will come full force and it will be time for spring projects!

My biggest project will be my garden. Last year it languished. Between a book release and wedding planning, I had no time to tend to it. And the summer was on the cool side, which didn't bother me any, but my plants didn't like it. My veggies either didn't grow or grew slowly and a lot of my herbs gotten eaten by bugs. Frustrating.

I have three gardening plots surrounding my townhouse. One is an herb garden, another was split between vegetables and prairie style plants and sunflowers. The front garden is all flowers, but mostly I had lilies and they are done mid-summer and then it's just ugly and weed-infested out there. Since it gets a lot of sun, I've decided to move the sunflowers down there this year as well as some prairie plants and make more room for vegetables. My husband has recently gotten into canning and pickling things so we have to come up with a list of stuff that might be good for me to grow so he can use it. I always do the standard tomatoes and bell peppers. This year I'm hoping to succeed at growing cucumbers. I'm also considering carrots, squash and some beans.

I'm definitely looking for more veggie ideas, as well as gardening book recommendations and advice on composting and organic gardening. So if you have any of that to share, please share away. I'm not a natural green thumb, but with the help of my mom who is (and no longer has gardening space after moving to a condo), I'm learning!

My other new project is caring for the feral cats in the neighborhood. I finally met the woman who comes to feed them. She also works to trap them so that she can take them to get spayed and release them back into their colony. And for those she has failed to spay that have kittens, she tries to capture the kittens before they become too wild and find them homes. I want to help her with all of this. So far I've started feeding them two days a week on the days she cannot get to them, but hopefully I can help with the trapping, too. And I believe one of them is pregnant (she sure looks it!), so there may be kittens to deal with too this spring.

When I first noticed these cats about five years ago, my roommate and I tried to feed them and capture the kittens (she only succeeded in getting one). They were very skittish then. Now when I am putting food out, they come right up. They will not let me touch them, but they don't mind being close enough for me to take photos.

So here is the cat colony I am trying to help. I believe there are six of them all together. There is also a mostly white one with black markings that I didn't get a picture. One of the Socks cats as I call them, the black ones with white paws, is the one I suspect of being pregnant (she is the one eating in the first pic). They are not in very good shape and have wounds from fights with other animals, etc that you can see if you click on the pics to enlarge them. One poor little guy is missing most of an ear either from an injury or frost bite. But they are sweet. I hope I can help ease their hard lives a bit this year:

So gardening and kitty caretaking are some of my spring projects in addition to writing. What are yours?

Of course spring also means SPRING BREAK!!!!

I leave on my much needed spring break trip to Seattle on Thursday, so I won't be back to blog until I return... actually possibly not until a week after I return because I want to get in major writing mode when I come back. But you can follow my Seattle updates and writing updates on twitter in the meantime. And I will be posting one last blog before I go over on the MTV Books blog tomorrow, so be sure to check that out. Until then, enjoy the beginning of your spring and any spring break trips you are taking!


Shawna said...

Steph, you should trap the feral cats if for no other reason than to take them in and have them neutered and spayed so that they don't have kittens who live through the same hell.

Stephanie Kuehnert said...

Shawna, the woman who has been maintaining the colony, who I am now helping has captured and neutered as many of them as she could. We will be trying to trap the rest this spring/summer.

Alice Van-Weed said...

i so love spring's like a symbol for new beginnings