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Jan-11-2022 Happy New Year

Happy New Year to everyone! We had a week of consecutive cloudy days with dark heavy rains that kept us grounded in the house during the entire holidays. It was not fun. The only progress was that we finally started building the drywalls in our unfinished basement. Our plan is to turn the outside room into our cutting flower nursery, and we will make some raised beds outside of the basement to create a small cutting flower garden. There, our 2022 year resolution. Becoming a couple of garden addicts reveals its unexpected merits during holidays. First of all, it makes it conveniently easy for our family members to give us Christmas gifts. We have received 3 birdfeeders, one suet wreath, a garden hose, and a couple of garden decors. In addition, there was something safe and lovely to chat about at social events when you have to hang out with people that your parents befriended (or whose parents were your parents' friends). Being the adult children back to your parents' territory places your own identity and independence into a vague and self-doubting swamp. This time, thanks to this generally considered as healthy and positive passion, we politely and pleasantly exchanged remarks at plants, animals, and what weathers do. No more uncomfortable gazes deriving from different social statuses, genders, races, political views, moral judges, furniture tastes, food preferences, travels, movies, books, music, boozes, personal choices…Hooray! Gardeners united the world! This year we planted winter crops again. The little green patch of our backyard stands out from our barren neighborhood. We had put up five bird feeders with a variety of food sources for the birds. Whenever the sun comes out, a huge party would start in the garden. We also start getting familiar with different calls in this little ecosystem. Sometimes, if the unrattled alarm lasts for a while, one of us would go out to check around the ambush spots of stray cats and scare them away. Our residential birds and squirrels seem to have very good judgment on the cats that frequent our backyard. The highest alarm level has been set for a feral cat, an experienced and cold-blooded killer. We witnessed him pouncing from 8 feet away under a hill onto a big-sized squirrel who was too busy digging the nuts and dropped its guard and running away with the poor prey struggling in vain in his mouth. All of the actions happened within 2 minutes. When this cat appears, everyone is back to the top of the trees. You see nothing in the garden no matter how beautiful the weather is. The squirrels would be drumming the tree with their shaking tails while screaming non-stop. Wrens often join them especially if the cat is hidden somewhere.

This squirrel may seem silly but she is pretty cautious and smart to survive.

The middle alarm level is set for a couple of this year's newborn kittens. They are less skillful but dangerous enough for both birds and squirrels to stay far away. These young cats do not hide that well and the small animals usually just wait patiently until they leave. Our neighbor's outdoor cat, a fluffy and yellow female, however, gets special treatment. She is playful and curious, also clumsy, and have zero hunting skill. Finches and nuthatches would eat bird seeds directly above her and I once saw a squirrel taunted and teased her by running purposefully in front of her, waited for her to catch up, and ran again. We had developed different feelings and attitudes towards these cats. When we just moved in, we used to feed them and welcome their arrival. When we noticed that they were drawn by all the birds and squirrels, especially when we actually saw that they hunted robins and squirrels, we felt so upset and started to chase them away. Recently I started to embrace the "laissez-faire" philosophy and considered them one of the ecosystems of our backyard -- just like the red fox, I saw the other day. We selected the safest locations for the birdfeeders and cleared some hide-out places to make sure our own actions do not bring adversity to them. We don't feed or pet these cats, but also do not try to scare them away every single time they appear. To me, it is impossible to completely separate wildlife from urban life. Just as human activities are inevitably impacting all the animals and some of them have adapted to cohabiting with us, stray or feral cats are part of urban life and they hunt with their instinct. Our backyard garden is not the Garden of Eden but a suburban habitat that provides food, water, shelter which attracts all sorted creatures including prey and predators.

The Killer cat.

Weather Report: H:48F, L28F. So cold that all of our ponds and birdbaths have ice floating!

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