Cat Sitting in Shangri-La

small orange flowers on a plant

Aren’t they pretty?

Ojai is Not a Large Town –

But we didn’t realize just how small it is until one day we realized we kept waking up there, day after day. Given its size is there any reason we would keep landing in Ojai when all we’ve done is bounce around everywhere else?

We remembered that all but one of the house sits in Ojai came by personal referrals, rather than the websites. That’s very unusual and speaks to Ojai’s small town flavor.

a succulent growing in a pot

So luscious and beautiful

The Ojai Boogie

We drove into Ojai early one Saturday to meet with a couple about a possible sit several months away. While speaking with them, a neighbor stopped by with her dog to visit, and somehow, we ended up agreeing to do two house sits for her before the sit for the couple.

While on the first leg of that sit, there was an email from some other couple who knew the first couple, asking about a possible house sit for them. Confusing, right? 

A few days later we met that couple, by chance, at the Farmer’s Market, and, while speaking with them, were introduced to yet another couple (the homeowner at this house) who knew everybody involved.

mountains and orange trees

Orange trees all over the eastern section of the valley.

They asked whether we could house sit for them. “Do you have a business card?” Business card? We just came for some zucchini, what is all this? We later confirmed open dates and interest; sometimes it just falls in your lap.

Our read on Ojai: it’s a small town, lots of people know each other, and people talk, a lot. There’s no logical reason to expect we would spend so much time there. The Los Angeles area, where we were based, is so vast, but you could hold your breath and get half-way from one of our Ojai house sits to the other. So it was both convenient and enjoyable.   

View of a valley, trees and hills in the background

Our View from the balcony

The View from the House

This house sits on a hill about 30 feet above and 125 feet back from the street, so it has a great view and feels quite secluded. 

From the front porch, the view to the East is unobstructed, high above even the tallest trees across the street. One can see all the way to the mountains circling the Ojai Valley on the North, East, and South. 

If you like sunrises (doesn’t everyone) this is the place to be. Spectacular golds, pinks, and reds fill the sky every morning. The only sound is the sky screaming with color.

a tower above some trees

The clock tower from the park

Ojai Pixies Anyone?

It’s very, very quiet as the neighbor across the street is far away, and there’s open space directly behind the house. The front yard is full of citrus trees: it looks like 50 or so: lemons, oranges, limes, and grapefruit, in all varieties. Lots of homes nearby have citrus trees but nothing like this.

Just outside of town to the east, you’ll find acres of orchards in farms of all stripes. One local favorite is the Ojai Pixie Tangerine. We found just a few of these since we arrived after the main harvest time.

Mostly we saw pictures of pixies on bumper stickers. They are grown locally on small farms, so there’s an important element of civic pride in every bite, at least for some. 

Ojai Pixies bumper sticker

It’s a bumper sticker

They are worth looking for; delicious, juicy, and seedless. Certain unique aspects of the variety serve to keep them out of larger commercial farms. We’ve seen similar “local variety” produce in other places and figure that’s always a good thing to support.

Speaking of local produce – the farmer’s market in Ojai is top of the line. Smaller than those in Los Angeles (everything everywhere is smaller than in Los Angeles) but it has whatever you might want. It’s a Sunday morning tradition there and quickly became a favorite routine for us. 

cat licking man's forehead

What a sight!

The Key is Under the Mat; the Cat is Outside

This was a very relaxing house sit starting, no surprise, with a key under the mat. I arrived after the homeowner’s departure and was on my own for several days before Jim finished a solo house sit in Northern California.

One of the hosts is an artist working mostly with textiles. Extensive art throughout the house reflected her artist’s eye for color, shape, drama. We always look forward to seeing the art collections in every house we visit.

Chores included watering plants indoors and outdoors: lots of pots with a variety of plants, mostly arid types, so not too much water. We used buckets in the shower to catch water for the plants – since it seems all of Southern California was, is, and will always be, in the midst of a drought.

close up of a tiger striped cat on a chair

She is extraordinarily beautiful

Our “charge” here was a female cat, beautiful as you can see, full-grown, but tiny with an amusing, high-pitched meow. She loved being outdoors and spent almost all day out chasing flying critters.

She would spend the nights out too, but local coyotes make that a risky choice. Afternoons would find her coming home for a snack and some company. That was our chance to bring her indoors for the night if we could catch her, which took a while most days.

cat with her face to a window looking out longingly

She always wanted out

When back inside she would pace around the back door, whining to go back out. She did seem to like it better outside, more for her to do. But we had the bosses’ orders, so she had to stay in after dark.

Later on, she would come and visit us during the night and even spend some time on the bed, but soon she would jump off and head for a favorite sleeping spot in the house.

flowers in decorated cans

Mother’s Day gifts with my class

A Long Commute 

The only unpleasant thing about waking up in Ojai is that I have a long commute to work. The time away aligned nicely with the cat’s schedule; she doesn’t mind being outside for a good chunk of the day. The end of the school year was getting closer which made it easier to endure the drive of nearly three hours a day.

Before Jim’s return, I took a couple of days off work to start up yet another return house sit in Ojai with the two Shih Tzus. It was good that only a few blocks separated the two locations.

Jim came back to Ojai and we were split between the two houses for a few days before this stay ended. More on that house sit later. This is a terrific house with a sweet cat, and we look forward to returning in a few months.

What’s Next – Planning a big trip

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