My Feline- and Nature-themed Stuff at “The Barn”

old barn with garden items

The Outlet Barn in October 2011.

So who would think a drafty old unheated honest-to-God barn from a long-time farm would be a hot spot for unique art and decorative items?

The Outlet Barn Garden and Art Center has been in business in this very same old barn for the past 15 years, with a list of loyal customers and new people stopping every day. They close on Christmas Eve and reopen on April 1, weather permitting, so I’ve moved cards and merchandise into the place and we decided on a few more things as well.

My display of feline greeting cards and notecards is in place, and with them are my garden-inspired greeting cards and notecards inspired by nature and My Home Town, all of which did quite well in the short time they were there last holiday season. In addition I have a selection of small feline and nature photos and prints in small displays and scattered throughout, and we decided today that I’d bring in a few larger prints and see how they went before bringing in more. This is also a home for crocheted washcloths, and likely a home for other handmade items that I have been planning—that painted furniture and decorative household items such as coasters and trivet tiles made from art and sketches.

two painted cat sculptures

The small and large Shelf Cats, in red and blue.

And even as I was unpacking and setting up it was hard not to start browsing! I began visiting there because the place looked like the sort of place I’d like to check out, not carefully coiffed or neatly arranged, but artfully arranged and colorful outside, and inside just crowded enough in the semi-darkness of the old barn that I could take my time to peruse without feeling overwhelmed.

I ended up moving things into there because the former manager of the Agway I had been selling at was friends with Kathy, The Barn’s owner, and simply went to her and said I’d be over with my things, she’d like them and me. Life should be filled with such friends.

painted cat sculpture

The orange Shelf Cat.

Kathy herself is the one who artfully arranges things in a way that makes people passing on the road find it hard to resist, and is also a master with ribbon and grapevines and such and creates all the wreaths and swags sold throughout the year, often custom-making them for long-time customers. She also makes beaded jewelry for sale in the shop.

She also plans the events with local musicians playing jazz and folk and alternative in among the gargoyles and gazing globes, or out back in one of the sample gazebos.

chocolate lab

Irish Malarkey greeting me at my car.

And I can’t forget the enthusiastic rescued chocolate lab named Irish Malarkey, named so because his eyes were green when he was a puppy, who rides in with his human every day. He carefully checked each of my boxes for treats, in between trotting around the place with that huge destructive lab tail without overturning as much as a small terra cotta flowerpot.

gargoyles

Gargoyle selection from last fall.

Supporting a local small business is important from both standpoints, from buying and selling, so in addition to placing my things there on consignment, I also promote the places where my things are consigned. I’ll share notices of events, which will be of greatest interest to local friends, and also of things I find there that you might enjoy—feline-themed of course, like the shelf cats pictured here, and the bunny planter. But there plenty of animal-themed things about the place, plus really cool gargoyles.

terra cotta bunny pot

Bunny-shaped terra cotta pot from Mexican artisans.

I have a love-hate relationship with retail. I love to create my artwork and even to create the derivative items from it like cards and notepads and prints, and the best way to get my artwork known is to create and sell these things, but it takes time to drive around and visit shops, introduce myself, deliver the goods and maintain a display; if I seem to have disappeared somewhat in the past week or so, this is why. I’ve been calling and driving around, following up suggestions from friends to visit and introduce myself and show a few representative pieces of what I have for sale. I have been in Distinctively Different Decor & More, having moved yet more artwork in last weekend for the open house. This week I was sorting and packing and labeling and preparing merchandise for this move.

The actual sales from this might break even for expenses and time, but the real benefit is in finding new customers and making new friends, and just sharing my inspirations. Finding a shop where I also have other reasons to visit just makes it better.

And there’s another constant—animals and animal rescue. One door closes and another one opens as our friends share us with their friends. It is not a loss and a gain, but simply a change.

If you see merchandise pictured here, whether it’s mine or not, that you are interested in, please follow the link to The Outlet Barn website or let me know. The website is not an online store for things in the shop because there’s just too much, but Kathy will be glad to give you a few details and ship something to you if purchase it with the possible exception of a concrete gargoyle.

Click this link for an archive of articles I’ve written and photos I’ve posted about my favorite Agway store (some are repeated).

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All images and text used on this site are copyrighted to Bernadette E. Kazmarski unless otherwise noted and may not be used in any way without my written permission. Please ask if you are interested in purchasing one as a print, or to use in a print or internet publication.


Don’t Wait to Spread the News

feral cat

A friend's feral cat.

You just never know when a half-grown stray or feral kitten will show up.

And I never used to know when I should say something about whether or not a kitten is spayed or neutered, or whether anyone was caring for the feral cats.

I sometimes feel I’m risking being known as the “crazy cat lady”, but over the years I’ve learned to always speak up. Sometimes I’ve been embarrassed, but usually I’ve been pretty glad I did because often I can spread information about low-cost spay and neuter and managing stray and feral colonies to people who really didn’t know this existed, or that the appearance of a kitten could indicate the need for such activities.

Last summer, on their Facebook page, the Friends of the Pittsburgh Urban Forest posted that there were kittens behind their office, then posted a photo “for those who need a Friday kitten photo.”

I know their office is in a pretty urban area in the City of Pittsburgh, and it’s likely this kitten was stray or feral. Also, by her coloring as a dilute calico, she was likely a “she”. In any case, I figured it didn’t hurt to say something, so I asked if the kitty had a home, and mentioned that they should trap and spay ASAP if someone else didn’t or they’d have some extra kittens soon. The author replied that he thought the kittens lived in the yard behind the office, and asked if I was a neighbor.

I answered that I was not, but that I was always concerned when I saw kittens or adult cats who might be stray or feral or headed that way, and I always offered a bit of information about TNR and spay/neuter deals at shelters, including the Homeless Cat Management Team (HCMT).

The author replied that there may already be a feral colony there because he saw kittens and cats last year, very skittish, and that he had a friend who was involved in TNR and would enlist her help.

In the meantime another reader commented to say thanks for the information, she hadn’t known about HCMT but was glad to find out the information and encouraged me to keep spreading the word.

I had been hesitant, but I was never more glad to have spoken up. I gave information to two people who are aware and will likely use it, and pass it on as well.

In years past, I would have headed over there to assess the situation, and if no one in the vicinity was interested in taking care of the situation, either caring for the colony themselves or trapping and moving them, I would have returned with traps and tried to catch as many as I could myself, taking them home and getting veterinary care, altering, feeding and re-homing on my own. Ah, the bleak 1980s and 90s, too many cats and not enough programs, but I was glad to have found a few sympathetic vets who knew what I was doing.

Along came TNR, the Homeless Cat Management Team, early spay and neuter for shelter animals and aggressive spay/neuter programs for adult animals at shelter clinics, and a low-cost spay/neuter clinic. With more options and more awareness, I could get away with handing out handfuls of information, posting flyers in the area and making a few follow-up calls. As my household grew geriatric and I was less willing to bring in rescued cats in miscellaneous condition, I had built up a network of concerned friends and converts who were glad for the information and I could focus on my rescues here at home, knowing I’d at least spread the word.

So now instead of doing the footwork, I do the social network—though I always carry good old-fashioned flyers with me, and often have conversations with people who are totally off the network. I work with or am a member of a number of local conservation groups and visit their land, and also use local trails. I also tend to go off on painting and photo forays to uninhabited areas on the edge of town such as the now-empty steel mills and industrial areas, and along the waterways that run behind everything.

Often, I see cats, settled into these quieter areas that afford protection, but an easy run to a dumpster or someone’s back yard where they might be fed. I’ve posted HCMT and clinic information in these areas, talked to people on trails who say they always see the cats, and also handed it to people in their back yard who were sympathetic to the cats and fed them though they found it difficult to keep up with caring for them, but felt they couldn’t stop now that they’d started.

I sometimes follow up with people I’ve sent information to, and it often takes a nudge to get people to take advantage of the programs. But each time it’s accepted, and often with gratitude, it confirms that animals, and especially cats, are increasing in respect in our society, and not considered the throw-aways they once were, and that we should always speak up and offer whatever we feel is appropriate. Helping even one cat with spay and neuter helps to solve the problem of feline overpopulation.

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All images and text used on this site are copyrighted to Bernadette E. Kazmarski unless otherwise noted and may not be used in any way without my written permission. Please ask if you are interested in purchasing one as a print, or to use in a print or internet publication.


Old Friends and New Friends

tortoiseshell cat by rack

"Where did all my stuff go?"

I visited the Agway farm store today where I usually buy my cat food, bird seed and outdoor tools and plants and seeds for my garden, as well as restock my displays of greeting cards and gift items.

two cats

Gambit and Tabatha nap in the shade.

But today was not the day to seek out Gambit and Tabatha’ latest hiding spot, or visit a cage of stray or feral kittens on their way to being socialized and bound for loving adoptive homes.

The store is closing, has in fact closed, and I went to pack up my stuff and buy what I could from the merchandise that was left.

Agway stores and similar farm supply stores provided farms with specific products that couldn’t be found any other place. As the number of both working and hobby farms has decreased in Allegheny County, the clientele has decreased, and even with picking up home, garden and pet supplies, a small shop can’t compete with the big box stores.

kittens front

Four kittens, two from each litter.

But the big box stores don’t rescue stray kittens and cats, nor do they sell your home-canned pickles and apple butter, nor the eggs produced by the chicks you bought from them last year and raised with help from others who shop there and know about hens and roosters.

Read the rest of this entry »


The Working Cats at Agway

Who Really Runs the Store Here?

Guess who really runs the store?

Guess who really runs the store?

Just as at home, if there’s a cat at a business, she’s the boss.

Miko (mee-ko), a very outgoing tan and white three-year-old, apparently makes the rules about cash register use at the H.J. Paul and Sons Agway on Glass Road in Robinson Township. It may be that humans can’t be trusted with money, but most likely she wanted to be the center of attention, and indeed she was. And she loves to be photographed.

Read more about Miko, and scroll down for a few more links to stories about the working cats at one of my favorite places.

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I Dare You

tabby cat in doorway

Don't even think of trying to get past me.

Ever see a guard cat? Meet Gambit. He’s got an opening large enough to drive a truck through—literally—to keep free from intruders. Visitors from small animals to large people think twice before trying to walk past him at the Agway.

Of course, once you get to know him, you know his affection for everyone is as big is he is, him and his polydactyl paws. Well, maybe not so much with the small animals.

I love how some of these dark tabbies have that wonderful bloom of orange and red on their muzzle and on their nose.

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Gambit and Tabatha

two cats

Gambit and Tabatha nap in the shade.

I stopped at the Agway yesterday and had the pleasure of visiting with two of the cats in their permanent collection as well as the last two kittens to be adopted.

Gambit and Tabatha probably know me as the lady who always chases them with a camera. Here they are in a cool spot on the concrete under the racks that hold plants for sale.

They have a total of three cats in residence, and I often see Gambit and Tabatha together while the other cat was one of the feral mothers they had taken in and had spayed, but who has never fully integrated into the group. I’ll get a photo of her some time while she’s out in the warehouse.

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He Got the Good Nap Spot

cat on shelf and cat in box

Tabatha tries to move Gambit with her tortitude.

An expression like Tabatha’s should be able to knock Gambit out of the box of peat pellets, but he seems immune to Tabatha’s tortitude.

The striped object laid across the top of the box is Gambit, who is one very big tabby cat. These two working cats are doing their best to imitate seasonal gardening supplies on the empty shelves, due to be filled in just a month or two.

The two live at the Agway where I buy plant seeds, bird seed and cat food, and also dehydrated peat pellets for starting seeds. I’m sure the box full makes a nice bed. They also sell my feline, flower and nature greeting cards so I’m there pretty frequently with all that. I’m always sure to check in on these two who now have a sort of grumpy old cat relationship instead of the torrid affair they’d been carrying on before they were both trapped and fixed.


He Got the Good Nap Spot

cat on shelf and cat in box

Tabatha tries to move Gambit with her tortitude.

An expression like Tabatha’s should be able to knock Gambit out of the box of peat pellets, but he seems immune to Tabatha’s tortitude.

The striped object laid across the top of the box is Gambit, who is one very big tabby cat. These two working cats are doing their best to imitate seasonal gardening supplies on the empty shelves, due to be filled in just a month or two.

The two live at the Agway where I buy plant seeds, bird seed and cat food, and also dehydrated peat pellets for starting seeds. I’m sure the box full makes a nice bed. They also sell my feline, flower and nature greeting cards so I’m there pretty frequently with all that. I’m always sure to check in on these two who now have a sort of grumpy old cat relationship instead of the torrid affair they’d been carrying on before they were both trapped and fixed.


I Dare You

tabby cat in doorway

Don't even think of trying to get past me.

Ever see a guard cat? Meet Gambit. He’s got an opening large enough to drive a truck through—literally—to keep free from intruders. Visitors from small animals to large people think twice before trying to walk past him at the Agway.

Of course, once you get to know him, you know his affection for everyone is as big is he is, him and his polydactyl paws. Well, maybe not so much with the small animals.

I love how some of these dark tabbies have that wonderful bloom of orange and red on their muzzle and on their nose.


Don’t Wait to Spread the News

Urban forest kitten

Urban Forest Office Kitten

You just never know when a half-grown stray or feral kitten will show up.

And I never used to know when I should say something about whether or not a kitten is spayed or neutered, or whether anyone was caring for the feral cats.

I sometimes feel I’m risking being known as the “crazy cat lady”, but over the years I’ve learned to always speak up. Sometimes I’ve been embarrassed, but usually I’ve been pretty glad I did because often I can spread information about low-cost spay and neuter and managing stray and feral colonies to people who really didn’t know this existed, or that the appearance of a kitten could indicate the need for such activities.

On their Facebook page, the Friends of the Pittsburgh Urban Forest posted that there were kittens behind their office, then posted this photo “for those who need a Friday kitten photo.”

I know their office is in a pretty urban area in the City of Pittsburgh, and it’s likely this kitten was stray or feral. Also, by her coloring, she was likely a “she”. In any case, I figured it didn’t hurt to say something, so I asked if the kitty had a home, and mentioned that they should trap and spay ASAP if someone else didn’t or they’d have some extra kittens soon. The author replied that he thought the kittens lived in the yard behind the office, and asked if I was a neighbor.

I answered that I was not, but that I was always concerned when I saw kittens or adult cats who might be stray or feral or headed that way, and I always offered a bit of information about TNR and spay/neuter deals at shelters, including the Homeless Cat Management Team (HCMT).

The author replied that there may already be a feral colony there because he saw kittens and cats last year, very skittish, and that he had a friend who was involved in TNR and would enlist her help.

In the meantime another reader commented to say thanks for the information, she hadn’t known about HCMT but was glad to find out the information and encouraged me to keep spreading the word.

I had been hesitant, but I was never more glad to have spoken up. I gave information to two people who are aware and will likely use it, and pass it on as well.

In years past, I would have headed over there to assess the situation, and if no one in the vicinity was interested in taking care of the situation, either caring for the colony themselves or trapping and moving them, I would have returned with traps and tried to catch as many as I could myself, taking them home and getting veterinary care, altering, feeding and re-homing on my own. Ah, the bleak 1980s and 90s, too many cats and not enough programs, but I was glad to have found a few sympathetic vets who knew what I was doing.

Along came TNR, the Homeless Cat Management Team, early spay and neuter for shelter animals and aggressive spay/neuter programs for adult animals at shelter clinics, and a low-cost spay/neuter clinic. With more options and more awareness, I could get away with handing out handfuls of information, posting flyers in the area and making a few follow-up calls. As my household grew geriatric and I was less willing to bring in rescued cats in miscellaneous condition, I had built up a network of concerned friends and converts who were glad for the information and I could focus on my rescues here at home, knowing I’d at least spread the word.

So now instead of doing the footwork, I do the social network—though I always carry good old-fashioned flyers with me, and often have conversations with people who are totally off the network. I work with or am a member of a number of local conservation groups and visit their land, and also use local trails. I also tend to go off on painting and photo forays to uninhabited areas on the edge of town such as the now-empty steel mills and industrial areas, and along the waterways that run behind everything.

Often, I see cats, settled into these quieter areas that afford protection, but an easy run to a dumpster or someone’s back yard where they might be fed. I’ve posted HCMT and clinic information in these areas, talked to people on trails who say they always see the cats, and also handed it to people in their back yard who were sympathetic to the cats and fed them though they found it difficult to keep up with caring for them, but felt they couldn’t stop now that they’d started.

That was also how we managed the “kitten problem” at the Agway, as I wrote about just recently.

I will probably follow up on this, and on a few other situations I’ve sent information to. But each time it’s accepted, and often with gratitude, it confirms that animals, and especially cats, are increasing in respect in our society, and not considered the throw-aways they once were, and that we should always speak up and offer whatever we feel is appropriate. Helping even one cat with spay and neuter helps to solve the problem of feline overpopulation.


The Last Two Kittens at Agway

photo of striped kitten

Marty manages the counter at the Agway.

Marty and Prince are the last two kittens left for adoption at Agway this year, and with them several feral mothers were trapped and spayed and a total of 15 kittens were trapped, spayed, neutered and adopted. That’s a lot of cats who have homes and plenty of kittens who won’t be born next year!

striped kitten behind chair

Marty practices her cuteness.

Marty is about ten weeks old and has about a half-pound to gain before she can be spayed. She’s a lovely tabby girl, friendly and playful and affectionate with customers.

black and white cat in display box

Prince has worked hard all morning.

Prince (who was Princess until he was neutered the other day) is about fourteen weeks old and ready to go home with anyone who comes along!

kitten being petted

Prince has melted on the counter.

They are not related and came from different places, but get along well with each other, so will probably get along well with other cats, at least.

Several years ago, Don and Sloane this Agway learned several lessons in keeping cats, turning an overpopulated situation into one of assistance to others and stray and feral cats.

They took in a box of barn kittens from a customer after they lost their shop cat. They didn’t get them spayed and neutered in time, one of four disappeared and the two females had litters that summer. Then the customer brought in another box of kittens, soon others wanted to bring their kittens, and, yes, instant overpopulation.

Guess who really runs the store?

The farm supply store doesn’t make much money now that most farm customers have either sold their farms to developers or simply moved into surrounding counties, and spaying and neutering over a dozen cats is an expensive proposition. I told them about the low-cost spay-neuter programs and the Spay and Neuter Clinic, and also about the Homeless Cat Management Team as did others, and all of us helped them to get that group fixed and find homes. You can read about that in this article.

Kittens in Cage

Kittens for Adoption

In the next few years, others did try to simply dump their unwanted kittens there, but the word was that the Agway would only take kittens if the mother had been or had an appointment to be spayed, and they handed out the same spay/neuter information they had used themselves. Where the mother cats were strays or ferals who couldn’t be caught, the Agway loaned out traps and gave people advice on how to use them. Over the past few years one feral colony has been reduced from four or five reproducing mothers to one feral mother still outside who couldn’t yet be caught, and a half dozen reproducing female cats who are now spayed after people were given information on low-cost options and constant urging to get their cats spayed.

Don and Sloane have taken in the kittens, cleaned them up and socialized them, spaying and neutering at the right age if they aren’t adopted yet, and helped to find homes so that the stray and feral mothers could be spayed and often taken in by the families who trapped them.

Perhaps it would be better if people did adopt from shelters to reduce their populations, but on the other hand it’s not a bad thing to take the burden off of shelters and at the same time provide spay/neuter and health information, often sending people to the Humane Society and Animal Rescue League for spay/neuter and veterinary care, thereby supporting the shelter financially.

It’s another place I can go to get my kitten fix too! Here is another article with photos about this year’s kittens at Agway. And here is a photo of two cats in their permanent collection.


Gambit and Tabatha

two cats

Gambit and Tabatha nap in the shade.

I stopped at the Agway yesterday and had the pleasure of visiting with two of the cats in their permanent collection as well as the last two kittens to be adopted.

Gambit and Tabatha probably know me as the lady who always chases them with a camera. Here they are in a cool spot on the concrete under the racks that hold plants for sale.

They have a total of three cats in residence, and I often see Gambit and Tabatha together while the other cat was one of the feral mothers they had taken in and had spayed, but who has never fully integrated into the group. I’ll get a photo of her some time while she’s out in the warehouse.


Left Behind in an Apartment?! and Ferals…

tabby kitten

Tabby Kitten

Who could do that to a kitty as pretty as this? She looks to be about four months old, a sweet long-haired tabby who’s very skittish, a little confused, but very affectionate underneath it all.

tabby kitten with don

She's wary but affectionate.

She’d just been there about an hour when I arrived, and I’m sure it will take her a few days to calm down after that experience. It had only been a day or two, but that’s long enough to make a kitty wonder a little bit about humans. She’s ready to be spayed, and no one knows her health history but if someone would abandon her it may also be that they wouldn’t have bothered with veterinary care, so likely she’ll need all her shots.

If you are interested, please let me know!

kittens front

Four kittens, two from each litter.

And then there’s the stray mama with five babies! Apparently someone had been trying to trap this mama from the time she showed up, but not until someone gave the advice to just put the trap out with food in it but tie it open so she’d get used to it did the wary momcat finally lose her distrust of the trap. It was apparently easy after that to capture her kittens since some were in the cage with mom and the rest were right around.

As a bonus, there are also two orange kittens from another litter, also born to a stray mother, not yet caught.

black kittens

The third black kitten is behind the litterbox.

I stopped at my local Agway farm store yesterday afternoon to pick up my cat food. I shop there frequently for cat food and litter, bird seed, suet and other outdoor things, gardening implements, plants and so on. They also carry my greeting cards and note cards and even some gift items around the holidays, and are my best seller—many of their customers are cat owners, and almost everyone who visits there owns a pet of some sort.

A few years ago after they lost their older kitty Pussy Willow one of their customers brought a handful of kittens from their barn. This was fine until she brought more later, then others who saw kittens for adoption began bringing kittens too. Like many good-hearted establishments they had a “kitten” problem for a year or two until they convinced everyone they weren’t taking kittens to be adopted, but they’ll still take in a cat or litter of kittens in an emergency, especially feral kittens, taming them and getting them veterinary care at their own expense and finding a good home among customers.

orange kitten

I'm a little shy.

They haven’t had any kittens at all this spring until now, and I was glad to see that. They pay for the kitties’ care out of their own pockets. Farm supply stores don’t make a very good living in this area any more since most farms are gone, and it’s impossible to compete with the megastores that can offer more goods. Several years ago when they were in the midst of the overflow of kittens I had told them about the spay/neuter clinic as well as all the other options for low-cost spay/neuter in the city which has made things a little more affordable for them.

mama kitty

Mama kitty.

But here we are with that nice tuxedo mama and her five babies: three black kittens, a black and white and a gray and white. The two orange kittens, as mentioned, are from a second litter. The kittens are seven or eight weeks old, taming down from living outdoors. Mom needs to be spayed, all need veterinary care, all are up for adoption, or if you can’t adopt, a donation for their care would be very welcome.

kittens back

Four kittens from the back of the cage.

The person who brought these cats in was another customer who’d been trying to catch the mother, then the mother and kittens, since April. Another mother kitty with more kittens is still out there, but they are even more wary than this group. They’d been living in a wooded area on the edge of a neighborhood, either escaped from someone or tossed out. The orange kittens are quite friendly, so they may have been born in a home and dumped somewhere when they started running around, as is common. The other litter was likely born outside since the kittens and their mom are closely bonded and the kittens have needed some taming.

black kitten don

Don handles the kitten.

Don, who you see in some of these photos, is the owner of the place and store manager, and is very successful in taming wild little kittens, spending as much time as possible handling them in between work around the store. Sloane, the other woman who works there, dotes on them, and is the one who tosses all the toys in the cages. All the beds and food and toys and litter for the kittens come from store stock, which Don and Sloane pay for out of their pockets along with spay/neuter and veterinary care. This can get expensive after a while! They are a small operation and pay a higher wholesale cost for materials than larger stores.

tabby cage

Tabby rests in her cage.

If you’re local, please shop there—it’s a neat store anyway, especially if you like to just hang out once in a while and spend an hour talking about the weather and the birds in your yard and how your tomatoes are doing this year. If you still like to help, just “buy” a bed or a bag of food.

If you might be interested in these kitties, please contact me!

Unless another opportunity opens up at a shelter, they’ll stay at the Agway until they are adopted.