Crazy cat lady lives here

Our front porch is jealous. With our new side porch garnering so much attention, the poor front porch is feeling neglected, and no wonder. It’s a mess.

Eric partially rebuilt this porch in 2011, and for a brief moment it was our shining star … until it got upstaged by the next project. With all of our projects, you’d think our entire house would be shiny by now. You’d be wrong. We tend to focus so intently on one pet project that we let other things slide. Or we miss a maintenance window of opportunity, and down the slippery slope we go. It’s so easy to lose our balance.

Front view of porch with plantings and rockery

Overgrown plants and a bare bulb

Sadly, the front porch has become the latest sorry sight. It certainly does not say, “Welcome to our home.” It says—go ahead, I’ve heard it before— “A crazy cat lady lives here.” I can’t deny it, but I’ll point out that Eric’s also a crazy cat guy. Crazy or not, our porch needs improvement.

Two cats sit on a dirty front porch

Checkers and Curveball deplore the porch conditions, including the hanging gutter.

Normally, every spring I clean the winter detritus off of the porch, but I skipped that task this year, and conditions just went to hell in a handbasket. The porch is covered, so it only gets wet in bad storms, but the southwest wind blows dirt and debris in. The white porch swing and wicker chair collect sooty black dust, an urban byproduct of nearby freeways, railroads, and airports. Yuck.

Fine sooty dust on the porch swing.

This stuff gets on everything.

Plus, the porch holds three cat shelters, food, and water for our homeless feline friends. We have about half a dozen regular visitors. The kitties are not tidy and they expect full housekeeping service. These cat supplies are nonnegotiable. They will stay, but the chalets hadn’t been cleaned out since last winter, and they were filthy.

Instead of an attractive Craftsman light fixture (I have the original fixture somewhere in the basement), we have an old receptacle with a built-in outlet, into which we plug an extension cord to heat the kitty chalets in the winter and to power landscape tools in the summer, since there’s no outdoor outlet in the front of the house. Somehow, we need to find a better solution.

Bare light bulb on porch ceiling

Classy, right?

The obvious place to start is to give the porch a thorough cleaning. Then I thought … after pressure washing it, why not paint the floor red to match the side porch? While I’m at it, why not paint the ceiling haint blue, as I’ve wanted to do for years? You don’t see a lot of haint blue in the Pacific Northwest. I think it’s time to change that.

You don’t know about haint blue? Southern Living Magazine says:

Blue porch ceilings are prevalent all throughout the South. Pale blue is not only visually expansive, but it’s also a ghost buster of sorts. The Gullah culture of the Lowcountry believes that spirits, known as “haints,” can’t cross water. Using light blue paint to symbolize water, the Gullah people applied the shade to porch ceilings and doors preventing evil spirits from entering.

Along with warding off bad spirits, the blue ceiling supposedly repels bugs and spiders, but that’s probably attributed to old paint being made with indigo and lime, not the color. Not wanting haints, bugs, or spiders, it sounds like a good idea to me, plus I love a nice robin’s egg blue and I think it would look great over my porch swing. Although, how could we improve on what we have!

On what I figured was one of our last summery weekends, we hauled everything off the porch and onto the front lawn. I opened up the kitty chalets and removed the heating pads, threw all the cat bedding in the wash, and swept out the chalets.

Two A-frame cat shelters

Eric built these cute cat shelters

Eric hooked up the pressure washer and gave the porch a good bath, top to bottom. We realized that pressure washing would not be enough to prep the porch for stain and paint. We (Eric) will have to rent a sander for the floor, and the ceiling will have to be scraped. Ugh. My neck hurts already.

Man pressure washing a front porch

Eric playing with water

Paint-chipped porch floor boards

It’s called patina

Then it was my turn. I proceeded to blast away at the chair and swing cushions. I spent considerable time blasting the rug, as well, but by the time I was ready to flip it over, I decided that the water I was consuming might cost as much as a new rug, and gave up. I put the cushions on the back deck to drain and dry in the sun.

Outdoor rug haning from sawhorses

Rug gets a bath

Overnight, it poured rain. I dragged the dripping cushions back to the front porch to dry. The sun came out.

When everything was finally dry (enough), we put the porch back in order. Over the summer we had unplugged the heated cat beds, but now that nights are getting cooler, we plugged them back in. These inflatable Lectro-Soft heated pads are minimally heated until pressure is applied by a cat, then they heat to a safe, comfy level. They are rated for outdoor use, and cats LOVE them. The hole in the back wall, covered in felt, is an escape hatch.

Wooden A-frame cat shelter with heated pad

The fronts drop down to allow cleaning

We decided the rug would do for another winter, and found that the rainstorm had done a good job of rinsing it.

Staining and painting will have to wait for another day. I hope to get it done this fall, as surely there will be some sunny days ahead. Good weather usually holds through mid-October, but all bets are off this crazy year. So, the porch is cleaner, but not yet pretty. How far will I get before bad weather stops me?

Black cat lies on a clean porch floor

Lacy approves

I also trimmed back some of the plants and added a glowing amber mum. The color helps a little, don’t you agree? And Eric put the gutter back up just in time to beat the rainstorm.

How many cats can you find in this photo? (Click to enlarge.)

Front of house with orange mum in planter

A little tidier

The next morning when Eric went out to fill the cats’ bowls, our friends Dash, Dot, and Curveball each emerged from a chalet, toasty warm. I think they were waiting for us to open their B&B for the season!

Tabby cat snoozes in A-frame cat shelter

Sweet Dot Morse likes her clean chalet


Tabby cat sleeping in a kitty bed on a wicker chair

Brother Dash Morse takes a catnap

Side porch epilogue

Recently, when Eric made one of his regular weekend stops at the Ace Hardware near our house, one of the staff complimented him on the finished side porch, which she often drives past on her way to work. A man standing nearby overheard and asked Eric if he was the guy who had built the porch on the house in the next block. Eric said he was. Then the man introduced himself as the city building inspector. Dum-de-dum-dum. We had built the porch without a construction permit, although we knew we required one. We like to live on the edge like that. It’s hard to hide a construction project when you live on a corner. We had initially thought about building it in components that we could assemble by dark of night to avoid detection by authorities. (“What, that porch? Oh, it’s always been here! We just changed the siding.”) But, as the project dragged on for two summers, I fully expected to see a Stop Work Order slapped on our wall one day. That didn’t happen, so we assumed we’d just flown under the city’s radar.

Mr. Inspector proceeded to tell Eric that he’d been watching his progress all along, actually walking up to the porch, and did Eric know that he’d built the porch about three times beyond code? Yes, Eric did, and he explained that we will never have a porch collapse disaster that will appear on the evening news. Eric and Mr. Inspector had a nice chat about how the low railing could be raised to code height (although that would totally spoil the design), and how the porch really isn’t exactly attached to the house, and how it was really just a matter of rebuilding what was originally there … and they came to the conclusion that the porch is fine and dandy as is, unpermitted.

The moral of this story is, I suppose, that the city is watching, and if you try to hide a two-year construction job that faces the street, you’d better be building it right. Awesome job, dear.

Four cats in front yard with labels

Did you find all four cats?

Green ginkgo leaf with 1913 - 2013 below it


15 thoughts on “Crazy cat lady lives here

  1. Karen B.

    I think the cleaning job on the front porch gave it new life. I love the cat chalets and clearly the cats do too. Close call, our “association” always seems to call out the homeowners that are improving their homes while failing to remind the negligent homeowners that never water, paint or trim to step up their game. Hahaha. 🙂
    Have a great weekend.
    Waiting for fall,

    1. D'Arcy H Post author

      Hi Karen! Fall is here–come north! I wish the city would get busy and repave our crumbling streets. The sewer and water lines are sinking and the potholes are awful. We have neighbors whose houses look tidy and some who let their weedy lawns grow a foot high. I guess that’s typical of an older neighborhood.

  2. Nine Dark Moons

    OMG! Our building inspector would have totally (probably) made us tear the porch down – they’re so strict here. That’s amazing that he’d been secretly watching the progress all along! good thing eric knows what he’s doing 🙂 I did find all 4 cats – yay! 🙂 LOL
    love the kitty chalet’s with the heating inflated pads!

    1. D'Arcy H Post author

      I think we got lucky with the inspector, but really, he didn’t have a bone to pick with Eric’s work. Too bad the weather has gotten too cool to sit our there now. Summer’s over. 😦

  3. Tom & Judy

    Well I didn’t find all four cats but that’s because I can’t see. lol I think the cleaning renewed the porch to the point you can put off the painting for awhile. I have a bunch of “cat chalets” but mine are covered liter boxes that I have covered with vinyl/padded table cloths and stuffed with blankets.The. tablecloths protect from the rain for those in uncovered areas. I have pads that heat up from the cat’s body heat and don’t require electricity, but our temps are much warmer in the winter. I love those chalets and wish I had thought of that before I bought all of the liter boxes. Back then I had 6-8 backyard cats. With the recent pit bull attacks and rumored coyotes in the area, I am down to 4 backyard cats and only 2 indoor cats. I know that is plenty but I sure miss the lost ones. Get some rest and enjoy your hard work.

    1. D'Arcy H Post author

      Hi Judy–I should have mentioned that I bought the third chalet, which you can see under the porch swing, from Amazon. It was about $80, and is durable nylon with Velcro fasteners. It came with the same Lectro-Soft pad. Eric probably couldn’t build one any cheaper than that, and it’s a snap to assemble. I do like your nonelectric pad idea. Good for you for providing shelters! 🙂

  4. Jessica@CapeofDreams

    Oh, I am jealous of your porches… even in the front porch in its current state. Creme is on my lap as I read this, and she wants a cat chalet. Those heating pads sound lovely to us both. We counted four cats. Are we missing any? Creme sends greetings to her kitty friends and Ponche yawned from across the room.

    1. D'Arcy H Post author

      I bet Crème and Ponche would love a chalet, even for indoors! See my response to Judy, above. Any kind of little hut with a warming pad would be lovely in winter. I don’t know about your house, but ours can get kind of chilly in winter. I think I’ll look for some of those nonelectric, body heat-reflecting pads.

  5. Jo

    Your porch and plantings are lovely. Scraping the ceiling sounds totally horrible yet your plan for haint blue and a red deck sounds perfect for your house, picking up the red in the chimney and the blue in the window trim. Colorful yet restrained. Eric seems to be not only a wonderful carpenter but a tactful negotiator. Jo @ Let’s Face the Music

    1. D'Arcy H Post author

      Eric has the gift of gab, all right! The red floor is calculated to go with the to-be color scheme, which will have Indian red trim. And IMO, haint blue looks good on any porch ceiling! 🙂

  6. Africadayz

    Hi D’Arcy. Loved this post. Like the sound of ‘haint (?) blue. How very Southern… Do your cats sleep outside at night in their little chalets? I thought they were more indoors than out? Thank you for the great email. I so enjoyed it and will reply. I’m in Istanbul for a few days withy daughter and then in London. Will write once I get back home.

    1. D'Arcy H Post author

      Hi Jacqui! Our housecats do have a curfew and they sleep inside, but we have several strays to whom we are benefactors, and they occupy the chalets most nights. At least they don’t have to worry about finding food and a warm bed. Have a fun and safe trip!

  7. Cathy Lee

    Great story about the building inspector watching from afar… Those colors have their own life and I am sure haint blue will protect the cat colony… I missed Lacy on the cat search, which is probably why I don’t have cats😀 very entertaining story, D’Arce, as usual!


Don't be shy! Leave a comment--I'd love to hear from you!

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s