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I can cook decent meals, dust and vacuum, do laundry and all those other domestic chores that presumably make a house a home. I’d much rather not. In fact, I occasionally invite friends over just to force myself to make the house (briefly) presentable.

Don’t misunderstand: I’d like to eat good meals, wear neatly pressed clothes and play the piano without having to brush dust off my fingertips every few bars. It’s just that I’m not going to be the person to achieve all that.

Winter poses a real problem.

In other seasons I can abandon housework for days because I need to be outside; gardening, mowing, watering, harvesting, napping in the shade, etc.

Fortunately, we’ve had occasional snow the last week or so and that gives me an excuse to escape outside to shovel it. Even better, I can forgive myself for disregarding the bit of snow and dirt I track in, since I’ll just be going right out again. Unfortunately, I can only stretch that chore out so far. It is possible I don’t really need to shovel a path to the woodpile, along the woodpile, to the shop, to the garage, out the back gate to the alley and down the sidewalk to the other end of the street.

“My” mountain chickadee, “Irving” has only shown up a couple of times this year, so I need to tame some new birds to come to my whistle.

I’ve been afraid to do so, however, because there’s a young cat in the neighborhood who just lives to hunt birds. The tree where I’ve always hung the feeders presents no problem for this animal.

Luckily, some of my laziness extended to the outdoors last summer. It was so hot that my peas were dying, regardless of the amount of water I gave them. So, I raised my popup shelter over the vegetable patch. It helped. I took the shelter top off once summer ended but hadn’t taken down the frame when I realized it might help solve the cat problem.

I moved it to the most open area of the yard and hung the feeders from the highest point. The cat may be able to climb trees, but her claws don’t get a grip on steel.

It only took a couple of cold days for the birds to figure out where the feeders were, but there was still a problem.

The tree had provided a sheltered staging area for birds to wait their turn at the feeders. I tied a couple of broken branches from the crab-apple on the crossbars. It helped, but made the contraption look like a wild bird slum.

Fifty feet of inexpensive “pine” Christmas garland wrapped around the top rails helped, but now it looks like an inadequately decorated holiday display. It also isn’t thick enough to provide much concealment or shelter from the wind and snow. I can wrap more, but if it gets too thick, a winter gale may tip the whole thing over or carry it off.

And what about the ground feeders? The cat is largely white and very sneaky. I suppose I could enclose the entire thing with sheep fencing. Then it would need a door, so I could get in to fill feeders and scrape off enough snow to put food on the ground. Otherwise I’d probably need a roof to keep an area clear. However, the snow would blow right through the sheep fencing, so it would need walls.

Great! Another house to … not clean.

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Lyndel Meikle lives in the Deer Lodge area.


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