Coffee heat rising

Cats & Dogs & Diets

Manning…Personing the barricades!


Some time back my friend KJG’s husband, The Fireman, was reflecting on our shared War on Cats. They have an obnoxious neighbor who thinks it’s just grand to let their damnable cats invade yards, kill birds, dig up gardens, piss and poop on vegetables, and stink up entryways, a problem that makes Other Daughter’s cats a trifle.

Here at the Funny Farm, I had fortified the castle battlements by zip-tieing carpet tack strips along the decorative tops of the cinderblock walls: the top row of block has a pattern of holes, highly convenient for this purpose.

A minor dilemma arose: to wit, a slender block wall like this has a heavier, supporting block column about every 15 feet. Each of these is topped with a flat, solid block, leaving noplace to get purchase for your zip-tied lashup. After a couple of experiments failed, I ended up having to paste pieces tack strips to the tops of these columns, using outdoor-grade heavy-duty double-sided sticky tape. This worked…sort of.

Two and a half years have passed, and the problem with Other Daughter’s tabby cat and KnitWit’s black & white cat has been defeated. Cats do not enter my backyard. The neighbors think a Crazy Lady lives here, but that’s just fine with me as long as their cats are not using my desert landscaping as their toilet and my dogs are not eating their deposits — and all the parasites and diseases that come along.

As you can imagine, carpet tack strips are not made to weather wind, rain, and 118-degree sunlight. They’re really nothing other than thin strips of laminate, about a step above cardboard. They’ve held up a great deal better than I imagined they would — I figured they’d fall apart in about one season. But no. Even though they’re looking a little tired, they’re still up there and still doing the job. Of course, they want to buckle and they want to de-laminate, but where they’re secured to the decorative cinderblocks, the zip ties have held them together. Atop the columns, though, they have warped, buckled, curled, and pulled up from the sticky tape. Ugleee, though still effective.

The Fireman suggested that the column toppers could be held in place by nailing the strips to pieces of wood cut to fit the block and then sticking the resulting solid piece down to the crowning cinderblock.

This, it develops, is a brilliant idea. It’s easy to accomplish — carpet tack strips come with handy little brads that you just tap down to hold them in place.

Under construction
The deed done

They’re sturdy, they stick on there firmly, and while they’re anything but elegant, at least they do look better than strips of tacks tied on with string and wire. 🙂

{Chortle!} Great WT stuff, isn’t it?

So today I plan to start replacing the weathered strips along the endless lengths of decorative cinderblock, a little at a time. There’s no hurry. While it’s cool in the morning, a few feet of old strips can be discarded and a few new feet installed. By the end of the week, the eccentric lash-up will be fully replaced.


While I’ve been sick with this seemingly endless respiratory infection, I’ve again had recourse to rolls of FreshPet dog food, the commercial product that’s the closest I’ve found to the custom-made chow I feed the hounds.

The dogs like it, and gosh it’s so much easier than stewing and grinding and mixing up 10 pounds of dog food at a time. Since the dogs eat a pound of food a day, ten pounds goes fast. Usually I can make a week or ten days’ worth, and then it’s back to the kitchen.

It’s good for the dogs — you’d never know Cassie is over ten years old now — but it sure as hell is a PITA. Especially when you don’t feel good.

FreshPet is bracingly expensive — depending on the store, $12 to $14 a roll, plus 10% sales tax, for enough to last about a week.

So yesterday while I was at Costco, there to purchase some more dog food makings, I tried to calculate a cost comparison. It’s not easy, because custom-make dog food is not the same kind of apple as factory-made stuff. But after much tergiversation, I figured that buying pork, chicken, big bags of frozen mixed veggies, oatmeal, rice, and sweet potatoes is marginally cheaper, over the course of a month, than serving up premade dog food with the same ingredients.

Plus: the main reason I go to Costco these days is to buy dog pork, dog chicken and dog veggies. Really, I can buy everything else in other places, and absent the impulse buy factor, doing so saves money.  This month I’ve spent a ton of money in Costco, which I would not have done had I been shopping in grocery stores — the purple jeans come to mind as an example.

So, I dunno. It’s a nuisance to make dog food. But it probably is better for the dogs, and apparently it’s cheaper. If I could train myself only to buy the stuff that’s needed in Costco and not to grab a pair of colorful jeans or a package of oversalted pre-cooked lamb shanks or a couple of bottles of wine, it probably would be cheaper.


In spite of past six weeks spent pounding at Death’s Door — or maybe because of it — I’ve put on enough weight to push the BMI borderline between “normal” and “overweight” (i.e., “fat”). The jeans still fit, but they’re getting tight.

So I determined to knock off the bread (every morning two pieces! With cheese or dipped in olive oil or smeared with butter and honey!!) and the pasta (comfort food of the first [salted] water) and the potatoes (mmmmmm hash browns!!!).

And it’s worked! By adding salad or fruit to each meal and subtracting the wheat products and the potatoes, I’ve lost two pounds in a week. This, without going hungry, without exercising significantly, and without knocking off my favorite potables (one beer or one bourbon and water per day). If I would get off my duff and bike or walk without benefit of leaf-sniffing dogs, I’d probably lose weight even faster.

Since only about five pounds need to go, I should be back to my former sylph-like self in another week or two.

One thing I did discover: if I arrive at the church about an hour before morning choir practice, I can sneak in a mile or so of strolling…  ahem, “power-walking”…in a different environment without the animals suspecting that I’ve made my escape.

One of our associate rectors came up with the idea of a virtual “walk to Jerusalem” for the weeks coming up to Easter. She mapped out a mile-long route around the church, and they tote up the number of person-miles walked by the interested group, to come up with a total equivalent to the distance between Lovely Uptown Phoenix and Jerusalem. This, she taped in a window, allowing me to see exactly where to walk around the church to rack up an even mile.

The area around there in fact is rather lovely. North Central Phoenix is full of expansive 1950s ranch houses on huge lots, each now worth in the vicinity of $750,000 to $1 million, and the main drag through the center of the district is flanked by what once were riding trails — and now are shady walking paths. So it’s a great place to walk and it offers some scenery a little different from the ’hood’s. When you’re there, you’re smack in the middle of Richistan, rather than having to hike through a buffer zone to get to a scenic upscale tract.

So I’m thinking that as part of the diet plan, I should do this every Sunday I go over to the religious HQ. It may even be light enough an hour before the midweek evening choir practice to pull this off (I wouldn’t walk on Central Avenue after dark) — so that would provide two monotony-defying, dog-free walks a week, instead of just one. 🙂

Welp, on to today’s exercise stint: pulling old carpet tack strips off the walls and zip-tieing new ones up!