Have a Few Flowers!
For the second post about our time with the two new feline friends, I had to start it with flowers. The yard was exploding in color, and I went out almost every day to chronicle the changes. The photo above is one of my all-time favorites! Early morning dew on new iris blooms!
It seemed to us that Spring is the best time of year to be in Sonoma: cool days, lots of rain, plants, and flowers doing their best to brighten things up. We enjoyed every day and would love to return next spring. Maybe the one after that too.
We didn’t get to see many of the iris blooms as it was a little too early. But this owner had hundreds of iris plants just waiting to brighten up the neighborhood!
Now For the Cats
I know, every photo you see of this cat he’s on the burlap covering the garden paths, and it makes for one ugly backdrop for the picture. However, he seemed to love it there, and that’s where I saw him every time I had my camera. As you can see, he did warm up to us and allowed quite a bit of cuddling outside.
This poor guy was afraid of almost everything and was always on high alert. Although he spent most of his time outside, he didn’t seem to wander far from his yard and the houses right across the street.
His friend was almost always inside. She took small trips out into the wilds of Sonoma but wanted human affection and attention quite a bit. That seemed to keep her close to home.
Yes, she jumped into our car one day while we were outside – she looked around a bit and then scampered out. We’ve never had a cat voluntarily hop into our car!
Biting the Bullet on the Camry
While we were up in Sisters, we began conversations on the issue of our vehicle. Our Camry looked and sounded like a sedan someone mistook for a jeep: it wasn’t pretty, and that wasn’t the half of it. We knew it was quite likely that it could bite the dust at any moment, and we had no way to repair it or purchase another vehicle. Okay, there was one way – using a portion of my retirement funds.
This idea was a difficult nut for Jim even to consider. In the end, we agreed it was our only choice, and Jim ran the numbers. We didn’t know how much of a tax penalty we’d have to pay for taking an early withdrawal. Also, how would that much more income affect our taxes for the year? Of course, the more significant issue was using up a good chunk of my retirement funds for a car, but we agreed to do it.
Whoa! That’s Quite a Bite!
His research showed that if we took out $30,000 (almost half of my retirement), we’d pay about $6,000 in taxes and still have that extra 10% bite aimed at youngsters (under 59). Ouch. That meant we could purchase a used vehicle priced below $20,000 and have at least some money left for modifications. Sometimes having a retired CPA along for the ride is helpful, even if, as was true then, the number-crunching gives a shock to the nervous system.
We were starting to create a plan, and I began researching again! At the beginning of our new life, we shared our plan to get an RV. Since then we’d spoken about various types of vehicles would be the absolute best for us.
Thousands of Options
At one point, we thought a truck with a small camper on top was just the thing, and we started saving for that. Well, just trying to visualize it anyway. Our priorities were: a well-made vehicle, four-wheel drive capability, decent clearance, and room for us to sleep inside.
I started reading about teardrop trailers – exceptional teardrop trailers – $20,000 ones built for backcountry travel. Of course, we would need a truck to pull one of those. We got excited about the prospect, and then I realized that would most likely be something that could easily be stolen. Besides, it would mean we’d need twice the money!
The Next Idea…
A Subaru – they are four-wheel drive and seem long enough for us to sleep inside. We happened to see a few while out and about here in Sonoma and realized it would be way too small. Okay, what about a Toyota Highlander or Honda Pilot? I did a bit of research, and those two models seemed a bit larger, but we came up against the same issue as we soon started noticing every Highlander and Pilot on the road – they were too short and narrow. Find a larger option or one of us has to sleep outside. How would that work?
Our final idea – a used Chevy Suburban. Except for the gas mileage, it seemed it would be the perfect vehicle for us. We could haul all our stuff; we could sleep in it and wouldn’t have to get rain-soaked when camping. It would also alleviate our concerns about getting into the remote sites we like to stay in as they have decent ground clearance and four-wheel drive! The only thing left to do was find one, well, and some money! More on that later.
Where’s the Wine?
We noticed that most of the local vineyards were still dormant from the winter; some varieties had a few leaves. In this bare stage, you can see how much effort goes into each grapevine, getting it to grow just so on the trellises, ready to hold up the weight of all those juicy morsels in a few weeks.
These vineyards, covering nearly every flat parcel and many of the nearby hills, are a far cry from the typical backyard grapevine: carefully placed, well groomed, orderly as a military cemetery.
It’s Time to Go
Well, our time with these two felines had come to an end. We said goodbye to this furry feline. A month with a cat is plenty of time for them to show their full personality. This gal showed it in the first few days: Almost always close by and ready for love. I couldn’t resist this photo; it was the cutest thing. She was sleeping like that – no loud music or flies buzzing around her head.
We almost got to see the Wisteria bloom, but not quite!
Last but by no means least, there’s our farewell to this fellow. Again, out in the yard but relaxed and enjoying the sunshine.
We loved spending time with these cats at this home. We had no troubles and even got a few nights with visitors on our bed for a bit. There is just something about house cats that help us feel right at home, and we certainly felt that way here in Sonoma. Kind of like a hot cup of tea or a pot of homemade soup. Life is just better that way.
What’s Next – more Sonoma adventures
You’ll get every post!