Independence Days Update: Why Cats Purr

Sharon November 2nd, 2009

I once read an article that concluded that cats purr because they are happy, of course, but they also derive comfort from purring – that purring is a kind of benign self-stimulus that says “all right with the world – and if not, it should be.”  This would explain why often cats purr even in stressful or even painful situations.  The article proposed that purring may have enhanced the survival of cats in some odd circumstances. 

I was thinking of this early this morning, when I suddenly noticed that Rubeus, the extremely friendly but rather dim little kitten we got when we lost Zucchini,  ordinarily “cat o’ velcro,” had not appeared to settle on my lap or check out what I was eating.  And I heard a very faint mewing. 

It took me a long, long time to find the source of said mewing.  He wasn’t in the attic, or the basement, and I’d seen him last night when I finally arrived home from my trip.  He hadn’t climbed up into the chimney or up the woodstove chimneys.  He wasn’t trapped in a cupboard of a closet.  I could only hear the mewing occasionally, and I was starting to worry, less I never find him. 

I went out to milk the goats, and on my way back in, I finally heard it.  It was coming from the wall of the garage.  Not the inside wall, the outside wall.  At first I thought he had slipped out last night and fallen in one of the gutters, but opening the gutters got only a shower of icy water and dead leaves on my head and a loud scream from me (I knew this would happen, since the only way for me to reach and open this part of the gutter was for me to stand directly under it, but let’s just say it was worse than I’d expected) at the shock of cold.  So I figured he had to have somehow gotten *inside* the roof flashing,.  In fact, I could here him scrabbling around in there.  So I got out the ladder, pried the flashing off with a screwdriver in a way that I hope doesn’t prevent it from going back on, was grateful for the hard frosts, since there were about 100 wasps nests in there, and removed one loudly purring, filthy black and white kitten.

I’m not sure if he was just purring because he was happy to see me, or if he was purring to comfort himself, but being the empty-headed creature that he is, his reaction was not “omigosh, I could have died in there and you’d never have found me” but “what took you so long…is there any food…yes, I know you long to pet me, and what are a few layers of filth between friends…oh, and why on earth are you so wet…that wasn’t very helpful of you.”  It is, in fact, hard (although clearly not impossible) to to be annoyed at an animal that has nestled into your neck  and is vibrating loudly with contentment, even when you are freezing, soaking, filthy and have spent two hours looking for a cat.  Clearly, purring is a survival mechanism.

It has been a week of travel, rather than homesteading, so there’s not much to report here, beyond Rubeus’s touching reunion with his food bowl.  Other than milk and eggs, nothing was harvested, other than an absurdist amount of candy when the kids were trick or treating at my MIL’s.  Eric was abandoned to maintain, and neither of us really do anything much to get ahead when the other is absent. 

The kids dressed as Harry Potter (Asher, who looks disturbingly like a miniature Harry in his glasses and robe), Fred and George Weasley (Simon and Isaiah, who look nothing alike, but who are so much a pair that this seems appropriate) and Ron Weasley (Eli).  Simon’s close friend Kayla was Hermione Granger. 

I had a good trip, and will write more about that very soon.  I am tired and sleep deprived, but the work was the good and the people both fascinating and wonderful.  I read a lot of books on the train, listened to a lot of music (thank you all for the suggestions!), have a lot of new thoughts and learned a lot.

Now I’m back and a host of piled up other projects await me.  Time for the barn cleanout, the root cellar organization, etc…  But first, my weak little report:

Plant something: No

Harvest something: Some greens

Preserve something: No

Waste Not: Actually, we wasted extra – I ate off paper goods when necessary, a bunch of our milk spoiled while we were gone, etc..  Sigh.

Want Not: Eric did have a chance to pick up two bushels of winesap apples.

Eat the Food: I took some good apples and cheese with me on the trip to reduce my exposure to Amtrak’s cuisine, so I guess that counts.

Build community food systems – I’m hoping maybe my trip helped a little bit there.  I think I got at least one person to consider food gardening!

Ok, y’all have to be way ahead of me this week!


22 Responses to “Independence Days Update: Why Cats Purr”

  1. KCon 02 Nov 2009 at 12:00 pm

    This is for 2 weeks (I missed last weeks posting).

    Plant something: I planted a beautiful bed of garlic on the outside of the garden fence (thinking it would be safe outside the fence). I came back the next day to cover it with a little more dirt – (it was getting dark when I planted) and to mulch it. I found little holes dug up in the dirt where the garlics used to be. I am thinking a squirrel … but it couldve been someone else. That was last week. This week I planted onions in that bed – covered with dirt and mulched – (stay tuned) and planted garlics inside the fence. Also more plantings of cover crops – (I gave up waiting to get the beds prepared and just started strewing seed everywhere). I planted oats, wheat, vetch, clover and a few fava beans (probably too late for them, but I’ll try anyway.

    Harvest something: lots of greens , broccoli raab, and my nasturtians are taking off as well as marigolds. I found some more cherry tomatoes tucked into the tall weeds. We haven’t had a frost here in the upper part of the hollow, yet – (but I’ve seen frost down below).

    Preserve something: kombucha.

    Waste Not: layered spent brewery grains on top of the beds that I will plant early in the spring.

    Want Not: flour and yeast

    Eat the Food: I made a salad with arugula and topped it some of the fermented cherry tomatoes, gherkins, and daikon slices. The fermented vegetables almost tasted fresh (imagination takes over this time of year.) Squash plops (my friend , Alberto’s recipe for pancakes using winter squash pulp as the wet ingredient). I added cranberries, raisons, and toasted sunflower seeds. I made a stovetop pizza in a frying pan by rolling out a hunk of sourdough (from refrigerator) frying on both sides and adding fresh mozzerella, and topping with stir fried fresh peppers (from garden), dried tomatoes, onions and tofu. It was delicious.

    Build community food systems : sharing this website with some friends.

    `Kim in VA

  2. Marilynon 02 Nov 2009 at 12:18 pm

    Welcome home Sharon! I’ve experienced “withdrawal” this past week. Have really missed your posts! Thanks for the laugh this morning.

    Plant something: Nothing this past week

    Harvest something: Arugula and other mesclun greens. Picked up hickory nuts on one of our walks this week. I don’t think I’ve ever seen them as large as they are this year. Several family members use the hickory nut hulls when smoking meat.

    Preserve something: Nada.

    Waste Not: The usual recycling and composting. Have been shelling and drying green bean seed and okra seed. Separated and organized most of the lids and rings that were all over the pantry. We can re-use the lids on our honey. Used alcohol to remove the “Sharpie” date on suitable lids. Picked up five food-grade buckets and lids from the deli for $1 each.

    Want Not: Added salt and canned fruit items to stock.

    Eat the Food: Enjoyed several salads, meatloaf, Kennebec potatoes and green beans. Had our first baked sweet potatoes from this year’s crop and they were delicious.

    Build Community Food Systems: Ran into an old school mate and discovered that she is into to gardening and preserving. Offered her some our heirloom red cornfield pea seeds. She is excited about growing them next year. Pulled together a box of food for the local church food bank. My aunties and uncle worked handing out food last week and said they were completely out of fruit and had very little meat or peanut butter. We’re trying to focus our efforts on those needed items.

  3. Gabrielleon 02 Nov 2009 at 1:30 pm

    Plant—50 tulips, 50 daffodils (thanks to hubby digging for me), sprouted some seeds to go on sandwiches (again, thanks Hubby!)

    Harvest—I couldn’t believe it but I found another handful of fresh green beans on the vines last Friday. Every time I think that we have surely eaten all that we will receive, we have a wave of warmer weather and they jump back into production. It was the same case with the handful of cherry tomatoes. I also harvested the first of the turnip greens this week—LOVE them! I pulled some zinnias and marigolds for flower arrangements. We also pulled some onions, bell pepper, and parsley.

    Preserve—froze chopped parsley and chopped green onions

    Reduce Waste—We continue our energy reduction, recycling, and composting efforts. I can’t think of anything other than the usual in this area.

    Prep/Storage—I stocked up on canned evaporated milk, tuna fish, canned fruit, cereal, and added a little organic peanut butter and jelly to the pantry. This week I plan to go to the farmers market and stock up on meat and sweet potatoes. Hubby ordered pieces for the play area for our daughter that he couldn’t make himself. He is ordering the lumber that we do not already have from the tree we milled last year from local lumber suppliers. I sorted through some clothes we had received as hand-me-downs and pulled out more winter clothes for our daughter.

    Building Community Food Systems—I made up some more boxes for the food pantry. I passed a few ripened persimmons on to two friends this week. I helped the church with tamale making. We made a little over 70 dozen. I have now taken part in almost every element of the production except mixing the meal and boiling them. We talked about how important it is to pass on this skill and knowledge to the younger generation in the church so that we can continue the tradition.

    Our family did a reverse trick-or-treat this year. The idea of sending your children over to the neighbors’ houses to beg for food is always a little uncomfortable to me. This year I decided that when our daughter was trick-or-treating we would bring the neighbors some of the butternut squash that she helped to grow. Since we only visit 5 homes, I didn’t have to bring the wheel barrow and just carried them in a canvas sack for our daughter. She was pleased to share her butternut squash with them, and smiled really big when asking, “Would you like a squash? I grew them.”

    I’m working on placing some bulk orders with friends at our local food co-op. Included in that will be a case of locally made buttermilk cheese—so good! We had some family illness this weekend, and friends were nice enough to pick up some vegetables at the farmers market and our lamb order for us. We shared some venison with them as a little thank you.

    Hubby and I had a conversation about how many foods we are now grow entirely ourselves for use during the entire year. While there are not many that we are fully furnishing yet a year, we were pleased with the list. We hope that as our perennial crops age, the list will grow longer. We also discussed how many more that we buy entirely local and how nice it is to support those farmers.

    Eat the Food—My favorite meal this week was completely local—cranberry beans and sautéed zucchini and squash from the freezer; a handful of green beans, mashed potatoes and turnip greens from the garden; and some pumpkin seeds as a snack. It was my favorite because I so enjoy turnip greens. I’m secretly pleased when my husband says that he wouldn’t care for any so that there are more for me. My husband’s favorite meal was 95% local—stewed lamb roast, onions and potatoes from the garden, store bought organic carrots, and braised cabbage on the side from the CSA basket. Our daughter’s favorite was probably the Halloween candy, though, she did enjoy the ripened persimmon I gave her as a snack.

  4. Liseon 02 Nov 2009 at 1:35 pm

    Poor kitty! I’m so glad you found him!

    My update is here:

  5. Debbieon 02 Nov 2009 at 2:56 pm

    Many years ago our cat (who was strictly an indoor one) got out late one evening. We combed the neighborhood trying to locate the creature but no luck. After a sleepless night I was out searching again at first light. My hubby went to work, he is an appliance repair man and drives to the houses and does the repair work there. After driving 25 miles he got out of the truck and heard a very scared meowing, looked under the truck and there was the cat. She had ridden those 25 miles on the engine of the truck! I guess she used up 8 of her nine lives on that trip. We were so glad to get her back home. Glad you found your kitten.

    Planted: Shallots, and garlic

    Harvested: green onions, cabbage and leeks

    Preserved: canned 10lbs carrots, dehydrated cabbage, made saurkraut

    Waste not: continued composting, jack o lanterns turned into pie filling

    Want not: added some sugar to storage

    Eat the food: had the last of the green beans and swiss chard

    Build community food systems: shared the zucchini with neighbors (whether or not they wanted some LOL)

  6. Fernon 02 Nov 2009 at 3:07 pm

    Planted: nothing. No, wait – started one onion for inside growing. Re-built the cold frame after we had several inches of rain and mostly collapsed.

    Harvested: a little parsley and a sweet green pepper.

    Preserved: Dried bananas. Dried Apples. Then dried more apples. Then made and canned applesauce. Made and canned another batch of applesauce.

    Waste not: made soup from leftover lentils and wheat berries plus some veggies.

    Storage: sale plus coupon meant 4 pounds of brown sugar.

    Eat the food….: Ate some apples, too. Sense a theme?

    Build community: One of the elders of my religious community suggested folks start stockpiling food & water, enough to last a month or more. I offered to be point person on that, and suggested everyone check out this blog as a place to start.

  7. Lorrion 02 Nov 2009 at 3:21 pm

    Update is here.

    DFH is spoiled with local food. We saw roast for sale at a local store, and he said “Yuck!” He’d rather have the pasture-raised we get at the market. Now, how to store that when it can’t all fit in the freezer….

  8. risa stephanie bearon 02 Nov 2009 at 3:44 pm

    All hail the kitty-finder!!


    The week in review: planted garlic, bulbs. Moved rosemary, marjoram, parsley to the herb bed.

    Harvested: still no major frost. A few tomatoes and strawberries! Greens (some are bolting from the polytunnel, including new-to-us mizuna and arugula, with some onions, parsley, chives.

    Blanched and froze something but I forgot what. Made up a lot of mashed turnips but it is pretty bitter with all the warm weather; mixing with some potatoes helped. So did butter …

    Cold room done! Mostly in the big cans is wheat berries, pearl barley, cracked wheat, spelt flour, WW flour, rye flour, amaranth, quinoa, rolled oats, rolled wheat, buckwheat flour, dried red beans, dried white beans, dried black beans, chickpeas, WW angel hair. Sacks and some boxes; potatoes. Boxes; apples. Jars; dried tomatoes, dried apple slices, dried zukes, dried/or for seed runnerbeans and fava beans, some boughten stuff such as pickles (we buy these to get the gallon jars). Bowls or bins of eggplant, turnips, beets, onions. Shelves of cured winter squash, pumpkins; 16 liters of homebrew, 24 bottles of (we hope) grape wine/cider.

    Sold chicken eggs and trading eggs ‘n seed for walnuts.

    100 foot diet: a lot of tomato/veg/chicken soups, baked squash, baked beans, baked potatoes, fried eggs with vegs, salad (most greens we’ve ever had). Frozen blueberries and rhubarb. Dried tomatoes, apples, stored apples, applesauce. Very little outside foods at present except rice and other grains.

    Dinner last night was fresh trout, rice, delicata, applesauce, salad of fresh red romaine lettuce, mizuna, broccoli leaf, kale, spinach, chard, bok choi, tomatoes. The rice was the non-homegrown or home-caught ingredient. Oh, and homebrew! Ok, so we didn’t grow the barley…

  9. Shiraon 02 Nov 2009 at 3:49 pm

    Yippee! A spot of sunny weather on Sunday, and I planted most of the garlic and half the cover crops.

    The tomatillos and jalapenos went into salsa, the salsa and my bean harvest (both handfuls) went into some truly fine enchiladas. A nano-harvest from my nano-farm. At least I have proof of concept.

    Shira in Bellingham, WA

  10. TLEon 02 Nov 2009 at 4:03 pm

    Plant something: lemon balm, more tomatoes (tommy toe & roma), purslane, collards, started sprouts

    Harvest something: rosemary, thyme, mint, lettuce thinnings, basil, tuscan kale, endive (the last of both for this year).

    Preserve Something: Chilli pickled beetroot.

    Prep & Storage: Small restock of sources of omega 3- organic canola oil, whole flaxseeds.

    Reduce Waste: Sourced extra compost from freecycle, transported in a drum from Reverse Garbage. Gratefully accepted a donation of chives & thyme. Usual composting & recycling.

    Build Community Food systems: was excited to learn that there is a new local food coop, with easy public transport access.

    Eat the Food: Pancakes from storage mix with homemade jam; chickpea curry with homemade chutney; falafel wraps with homegrown salad, homemade baba ganouj & roast veggies; stuffed mushrooms with freezer breadcrumbs & kale.

  11. AnneTon 02 Nov 2009 at 4:15 pm

    Experienced the worth of drying a lot of yarrow this summer — I came down with a seasonal flu on Thursday afternoon, but after 3 quarts of yarrow tea between then and Saturday afternoon I felt much better (though I did have to send my husband off to a Friday Halloween party by himself). I still have mild spells of achiness and headache, but it’s dissipating.

    Did get my garden beds laid to rest over the week though. The only Saturday shopping I did was pick up 40 lbs of potatoes and my new tankless hot water heater. We’ve reduced our reliance on grocery stores so much I’m thinking we may be able to reduce our shopping to twice a month (which includes our bountiful farmers market).

    More details here:

  12. NMon 02 Nov 2009 at 5:07 pm

    Plant something: no
    Harvest something: CSA vegetables, local eggs
    Preserve something: dried rosehips, quince marmalade, quince slices in vanilla spice syrup, spiced quince jelly, quince applesauce with honey and cinnamon, quince orange marmalade, candied orange rind.
    Waste not: Not much here. Candied the excess orange rind leftover from the marmalade, used the leftover syrup from the quince preserves to make the jelly. Saving up all the quince cores and apple peels to make still more jelly and/or a soothing digestive syrup, and the seeds to make hand lotion.
    Want not: Not sure if this counts: DH bought a high quality table saw with which to make furniture (and, he hopes, a home business), taking the old one to the home supplies thrift store, to see if they want it. He used to prefer to use hand tools more, but severe arthritis in his shoulders has made that a problem.
    Community food systems: no.
    Eat the food: Home fries with sweet potatoes and cabbage, many peanut butter sandwiches with homemade jam, can’t think what else we’ve been eating.

  13. kestrelon 02 Nov 2009 at 6:35 pm

    All hail our feline masters!

  14. mnfnon 02 Nov 2009 at 6:50 pm

    Away for four days, but left behind a mix of sunshine and rain that means that garden has really taken off. Coming back for an extra day off meant that I had time to go to the big annual craft fair, but less energy for the garden.

    Planted: picked up lemongrass at the craft fair.

    Harvested: first load of broad beans – delicious and tender!, rocket, lettuce and celery leaves for salads, silverbeet, herbs, radishes.

    Preserved: pickled radishes (first attempt at pickling)

    Waste not: travelling not so good in this regard. Interestingly, after 3 nights of ‘normal’ meat-based meals, we pleaded for vegetarian food only when invited to a friend’s barbeque on the day we returned home. After getting used to very little meat, we felt overwhelmed and uncomfortable with 3 meat days in a row!

    Want not: does extra wool for spinning count?

    Build Community Food Systems: organised for friends to come over and make feta with us next weekend, delivered lettuce and radishes to friends living in a rental flat with no yard.

    Eat the Food: rocket, mint and peach salad was a hit, silverbeet/ricotta/feta pie is becoming a weekly regular.

  15. Teresa Noelle Robertson 02 Nov 2009 at 7:41 pm

    Not exactly ahead, since we’ve both been sick. Lots of “eating the food” but not much of anything else.

    Glad your kitty’s okay. Purring is definitely a survival mechanism; I know it’s saved my adorable lumps a few times.

  16. Claireon 02 Nov 2009 at 7:52 pm

    A soggy end to the soggiest October on record, and the fourth soggiest *month* on record, in St. Louis, MO. I measured almost 5″ of rain for the last week of October at my house. This week is dry, at least.

    Plant: nothing in the garden, not with the soil turning into soup. By today the soil was a little drier, so I dug up three scarlet runner bean tubers and planted them in pots, which I will overwinter in the basement and plant out again next spring (assuming they live). I also planted another scarlet runner bean tuber into the cold frame as an experiment, and moved three self-seeded mustard plants into the cold frame.

    Harvest: the last of the green tomatoes, a few hot peppers, green and scarlet runner beans, bronze fennel seeds, chaste berry seeds, a pumpkin that was hidden under dead vines, two measly sweet potatoes (apparently all the rest either rotted or were eaten by voles). Also shiitake mushrooms and storage radishes. Still not enough frost to kill the pepper plants. It may be a good November for harvesting out of the garden.

    Preserve: ran the dehumidifier and fan in the basement to dry out the popcorn and the squash seeds. Got half the popcorn shelled out and stored. The DH got the frozen elderberries out of the freezer and started a batch of elderberry wine, thereby making room for me to freeze other foods.

    Waste not: continue receiving and making use of a local market’s gone-by produce. Still keeping the furnace off except when we have guests over. Got to open the windows today, raised the temp in the house to 60F and more importantly, reduced the relative humidity to a reasonable level.

    Want not: I received a good rain poncho from a friend who refused it when he figured out that the zipper was on the side that it is usually on for women’s clothing.

    Build community food systems: nothing except for, as usual, telling friends about the good food we grow and eat (and the occasional failure, like the sweet potatoes).

    Eat the food: a butternut squash casserole with apple slices (I grew the squash, apples were rescued from the produce market), spiced with cinnamon. Slices of Red Meat radish that I grew on cheese sandwiches made from the bread I baked.

  17. Debon 03 Nov 2009 at 6:55 am

    I learned that if you peel, core and sauce apples from 5am til 7pm with only quick food and potty breaks, your arthritic hands will swell up and become incredibly sore the next day.

    I also learned that Advil and contrast baths will have you back to peeling, coring and cooking within 24 hours if you dont lose your mind and take it a little slower.

    The men in the house are target shooting, checking thier deer stands and out in the woods looking for deer sign since hunting season starts in a couple weeks and we would rather eat venison than CAFO meat.

    We got a couple of rescue kittens in June from our vet–they were sick and needed a little nursing and she provided the meds if we would take them. They now follow us around outside like dogs, come running to greet us when we get out of the car and generally want to do nothing but sit on our shoulders and purr. My husband went for a walk the other night and was a mile from home before he realized he had two cats trotting along behind him. He turned around, came by the driveway, stowed the cats in the mailbox and finished his four miles before letting them out. They havent been up the driveway since.

  18. Bureinatoon 03 Nov 2009 at 2:53 pm

    re: cats purr. I have read (and now can’t find the research article) that cats, including the big cats, purr at a frequency that promotes bone healing. That cats will heal from injuries that dogs will not, probably because of the purring.

  19. Mike Cagleon 03 Nov 2009 at 4:12 pm

    The cat tale reminded me of this similar story on my sister’s blog –

  20. Danielon 04 Nov 2009 at 6:41 am

    re: cats purr

    I have read that in the wild, only kittens purr. Its infantile behavior that has been groomed by/through our relationship to cats. Of course, wild wild cats (in North Africa) live solitary and are territorial but cats are apparently flexible enough to be borderline social when domesticated (not quarreling with your other cats etc.).

    Solitary animals don’t make a lot of noice – only social animals do. An elk that has been shot by a hunter stays silent and tries to hide behind a tree.

  21. Gabrielleon 04 Nov 2009 at 7:30 am

    Claire, could you pass your butternut squash recipe my way? I have an abundance of them, and I would so enjoy trying a new recipe.

  22. Robon 08 Nov 2009 at 10:05 pm

    Glad to hear you found your kitty- those little varmints manage to get themselves into some of the strangest places!

    I have been busy this week processing and pureeing pumpkins, making soup and dog and cat food. Participating in the Day of the Dead festivities at the BIAS.
    Sharon’s Independence Days Challenge- Year two, week 27
    1. Plant something: Nothing
    2. Harvest something: Sprouts
    3. Preserve something: Processed the last of the pumpkins, Made and froze dog/cat food
    4. Reduce Waste (recycle, reuse, reduce, repair or compost something) -Repaired my old favorite sweater; Recycled some Halloween decorations- used the cloth from an umbrella to make a cape for one of my skeletons, Participating in the BIAS Day of the Dead celebration, where the city parks has arranged for people to bring their pumpkins, to be lit and at the end composted!
    5. Preparation and Storage: Still working on cleaning out (using up the food) the freezer in prep for a new freezer
    6. Build Community Food Systems: Nothing this week. Participating in the BIAS Day of the Dead celebration, saying goodbye to the community garden
    7. Eat the Food (cook or eat something new): Pumpkin soup, veggies in dog food,

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