Yikes . . . it's cold outside. These weeks of below-zero weather find us going out to do only what is necessary and then hurrying back in to the fireplace.
Our main outside tasks are to feed and water the farm animals and to bring wood in for both the fireplace and the boiler system that heats our house. The wood stove that fuels this system is in our garage which keeps it nice and warm. As such, it becomes a catch-all for things that shouldn't freeze but that we don't want in the house. Sometimes the garage almost becomes an obstacle course to walk through, and the car even gets pushed outside.
Here's what's in there today besides the car, normal tool storage, and our freezer: the chain saw and oil for it, the log-splitter (touchy to start in extreme cold), the water hose on a cart and reel, the pressure washer, a 30-gallon trash can of compost and dirt for seed-starting, all our winter coveralls, coats, hats, gloves, and boots.
And you will also find 14 (you read that right - 14) barn cats that Marlee . . . and the rest of us, although a little more grudgingly . . . can't stand to leave out in the barn. There's Duchess, Mary Lou, Try, Trigger, Coal, Oreo, Bing, Morgan, Chrome, Sugar, Firefox, Star, Black Jack, and of course, Cat the Cat. They love, love, loooovvvve the garage.
They curl up on drying hats, discarded jackets, the water heater, piles of newspaper, and boxes of kindling and look up at us when we pass through as if we are rudely interrupting them.
The cats spend lots of time rubbing against us as we get dressed to go outside, snuggling each other, meowing at the door to be let out and then meowing at the door to be let back in, and cleaning themselves. Well, that's what we see them do. Judging by all the tools, gloves, brooms, screws, and flashlights we find on the floor, they seem to spend hours entertaining themselves when we aren't around by knocking down all the odds and ends that also find their way into the garage. I recently heard Scott Kelly, United States astronaut who set the record for amount of time at the International Space Station, jokingly say that one of the reasons he knows the Earth isn't flat is because if it were, cats would be lined up along the edge and pushing things off. I can confirm that ours would certainly be there! Bill thinks they do it just to watch us pick it all up again.
Since she's the driving force behind having them in the garage, Marlee's daily chores include filling their water bowls, keeping track of their food, and cleaning their litter boxes. She does a pretty good job of keeping up with it, but sometimes Bill and I have to pick up the slack.
When that happens, I question our decision to let them in. The two of us need something else to do like we need a hole in the head. But all it takes to feel the trade-off is worth it is to see Marlee choose to spend much of her free time out there dangling a string and feather for Sugar, Morgan, Firefox, or all of the 14 to pounce and jump after instead of on the couch watching tv. That's when I am reminded of how fast she is growing up and how I will look back and treasure these memories. Then I don't resent filling their water dish when she forgets, and I happily pick up the glove that I picked up just a couple of hours ago, knowing I will happily pick it up again in just a few more!