Flower Design and TNR Class with Forget Me Knodt

Forget Me Knodt hosts sold out flower design classes all year at her shop. In celebration of National Feral Cat Day and our summer-long Feral Flowers Project, Janessa from Forget Me Knodt will teach a class on how to design with blooms specifically from our garden, including zinnias, cosmos, allium and solidago arranged in mason jars. Each student will learn all about design and go home with their own bouquets.


Afterwards, we’ll talk about TNR: Trap-Neuter-Return, and I’ll answer any questions you may have about cat rescue and caring for a feral cat colony in Chicago.



Forget Me Knodt, 1313 W. Wilson
Tuesday, October 14th, 2014
6:30 pm – 8:00 pm, BYOB Edition

Includes cheeses, meats and artisan breads from Baker & Nosh
$40 per student – limit 20 students

The majority of the proceeds will be used for food, shelter and medical care for managed feral cat colonies.

Call 773-944-1041 to sign up for your spot. $10 deposit required, and seats are first-come, first-served


I’m very excited about this event and I hope you can join us! It’s my way of being able to share the garden with you in person. I believe gardens and cats go hand in hand, and that feral cat colonies can be cared for in a beautiful way in our yards. The Feral Flowers Project would not exist without the help of the cats in my yard, including:


Bouncy Bear



Dice IMG_8026

Funny Face IMG_8087

And of course my very own pet cat Mooha, who was Chief Gardener, as she was chasing the butterflies and bees all summer long to make sure they pollinated every flower. IMG_8037

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Chicago TNR

All week I’ve been distributing the huge bales of straw that I picked up as a donation earlier this summer.


This straw will be used as insulation in outdoor cat houses to help keep the cats warm.


One of my straw pit stops was with Georgie of Chicago TNR. You can learn more about her TNR work here. And here.


Of course I made a Feral Flowers bouquet for her. And of course Mooha helped me. Mooha and Feral Flowers

I should deliver flowers more often. It made my catty wagon so pretty! Catty Wagon Feral Flowers delivery

While I was there Billy from Chicago TNR’s feral cat colony came out to see what was going on.  Billy from the Chicago TNR Colony

I also met one of her current foster kittens named Trey, rescued from the streets in Englewood. Chicago TNR foster kitten, Trey

Trey will be available for adoption soon when he’s old enough and fully vetted. He is friendly and really liked George.

Georgie and Trey

I couldn’t resist holding him as well. Trey and Me

I love visiting with my animal rescue friends because their support rejuvenates me and keeps me keeping on.


At this point the straw is almost all gone, but it’s almost that time of year where you can find it everywhere, even in the city. Once October hits, bales of straw are sold as Halloween decorations in pumpkin lots, Home Depots, and various grocery stores.

Bernie says:

You can also buy straw or hay from The Feed Store at 5408 South Harlem Ave, Summit, IL 60501. Their phone number is (708) 458-1327.

Very reasonable and less expensive than Walmart.

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Cat Colonies that Cuddle Together

I woke up today and it felt like fall. The animals felt it also.


My senior lady indoor cats Mini and Mooha put aside their lifelong feud of matriarchal jealousy and territorial domination, and snuggled up together on the bed.


Seriously. This is how they snuggle. If they got any closer they’d be hissing and clawing at each other. Here they’re actually warming themselves with the heat of their intense hatred for each other. Mini and Mooha stake out their territories on the bed

The outside animals were a little bit more obvious.


The finches flocked together on the sunflowers. sunflower finches

The James’ Gang Colony cats in my yard were too cute. They snuggled on top of the Feral Villa. Bouncy Bear watched carefully over the boys, Funny Face and Dice, while they napped. Ferals on top of the Feral Villa

Today’s weather was a great reminder that winter is coming, and this is the perfect time of year to start cleaning out the outdoor cat shelters.


Earlier this summer my TNR friends Anna, Ellen and Alex donated a truck-load of straw that’s been in my garage ever since. straw bales Straw is the ultimate insulator to keep colony cats warm during winter. The cats can snuggle together in it. It repels moisture and retains body heat. There’s way more straw than I need, so I asked if anyone wanted some on my Cats In My Yard Facebook page. People have already showed up for it, including my friend and neighbor Annamarie, who is currently fostering Indy, a very sick and friendly cat that was dumped outside on her block. Please visit her gofundme page to learn more how she is helping this local cat. And if you’re in the Chicago area, please let me know if you’d like some straw.

Annamarie Fadorsen says:

Aw, thank you so much for sharing Indy’s story, and of course thank you again for the straw!

Vanessa says:

My pleasure, thanks for helping Indy!

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Feral Flowers: From the Garden to the Flower Shop

This summer I became a Flower Farmer.


I’ve been cutting the flowers in my garden and transporting them to Forget Me Knodt for purchase since July. This project has been a great success so far, and there are still more flowers available.


This was the first experimental bouquet I made. It also features an ear tipped cat sculpture that my friend Julia made. These sculptures are also available for purchase. First feral flowers

I sent this photo to Janessa, my friend who owns the shop, and she loved it. It was time to start cutting!


The flower buckets filled up quickly. Feral Flowers harvest

Mooha, as always, supervised. Mooha helps

Jim let me borrow his truck for transport. feral flowers transport

Once at Forget Me Knodt the flowers are processed – the low leaves and stems are cut. flower cutting table

Janessa arranged the blooms in a gorgeous shop display that’s been there ever since. There’s signage explaining what the flowers are for, including the eartipped cat sculpture, and even a portrait my dad drew of me and the cats. Forget Me Knodt display

I especially love this part of the table because it incorporates EVERYTHING about this project, especially the Forget Me Nots. They have done remarkably well as cutting flowers! Forget Me Knodt display

Janessa’s dog Madz is great at sales. She loves cats, even though they don’t necessarily love her back. Maddie in the flowers shop

As always, zillions of zinnias. They seem to be my specialty. zillions of zinnias

Even this little cat got her own zinnia. Eartipped cat sculpture

Janessa’s shop is just as inviting outside as it is inside. Check out her enticing summer window display.

Forget Me Knodt summer display window

So far the flowers have been a great success. I especially love it when people send me photos of their Feral Flowers Bouquets in their homes.
Purchased feral flowers bouquet

purchased feral flowers bouquet

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Growing the First Crop of Feral Flowers

Once the garden started growing, there was no stopping it.


I was very excited. This was my first attempt at being a Flower Farmer and I did not know what to expect. These Feral Flowers were grown specifically to be cut and available for purchase at my friend Janessa’s Forget Me Knodt flower shop. All proceeds are going to the care for colony cats. This project is also a great way to raise awareness of colony cats and Trap-Neuter-Return, TNR, the humane way to control their population.


I also wanted to show that you can have a beautiful yard and garden with cats in it. In fact, I think the cats make it even more beautiful.


First the perennial plants came back with a flourish. It’s as if they were also celebrating the end of winter as much as I was.


The hostas in the front yard were HUGE. Hosta explosion

And there was lots of yellows and purples.

Yellow and purple make green Owl sculpture under deck onions

We planted annual cutting flower seeds for the Feral Flowers project. The first seeds to grow were the sunflowers, especially this lemon yellow variety. Sunflowers - lemon yellow

Not to be outdone, the other flowers started growing.

garden aerial view

And growing. A view from the deck

There was cosmos, forget me nots, larkspur, snapdragons, dill, basil, catmint, magnolias, and zinnias.


Lots and lot of zinnias. IMG_7416

Zillions of zinnias.

This was my favorite view all summer. my favorite view

This was Dash’s favorite view. Garden catio

It was fun to see the cats in my yard enjoying the garden. After all, this is THEIR yard. Bouncy Bear really likes to sit on this round table. Bouncy Bear on her favorite table

Funny Face prefers the shade. Funny Face's favorite spot

Dice likes to hang out on the stepping stones. Dice on the stepping stones And Mooha is chief gardener.


Mooha is my indoor cat, but she comes out with me while I’m in the garden.


She loves chasing bugs, and you can usually find her on the “hunt” right by the catmint. Mooha huntingbugs

Or hanging out on the cat path in-between the flowers.

Mooha on the garden path

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Feral Cats and Flowers are the Purrfect Match

Blogging in my garden today is pure bliss. I’d like to share the Feral Flowers Project from the beginning.


Summer is my favorite season, especially since we converted the backyard into a full garden. Every year I like to change it up and experiment. You can see the different garden configurations we’ve tried on my Flickr page.


This past winter was brutal. B-R-U-T-A-L. The polar vortex gave me the worst case of seasonal depression. I worried about the outdoor cats all of the time, despite the heating pads we installed in their outdoor shelters.


Spring was also slow to start, and some of the colony cats were showing up sick. The vet bills were racking up.


During this dark time, I started planning my garden to cheer myself up. And decided to focus on flowers this year. My friend Janessa owns her own flower shop in Uptown called Forget Me Knodt, and we talked about cutting flower gardens. Somewhere in that conversation, we agreed to plant a garden here, and sell the flowers at her shop to help raise money and awareness for the colony cats.


The Feral Flowers Project was born. And has been growing ever since.


We had to wait until almost June, but as soon as we could, we bought cutting flower seeds.


It was clear from the very beginning that my cat Mooha was in charge. Which makes sense. She was born in my co-worker’s flower pot in 1999, and has been with me ever since. Mooha and the seed packets

Time to start planting! Mooha and the seed packets

So we did.


This is what the garden looked like when I prepped it in June.




No wonder I was depressed. bare garden

Anyways, Janessa started digging. Janessa digging

And dug some more. Janessa digging some more

I helped.

Vanessa digging

And Mooha helped. IMG_5850

What’s with all of the sticks?
Mooha and the sticks

To start plotting out the garden of course.


This is what it looked like on paper. Mooha and the garden plan

Ok, so Mooha doesn’t want you to see it. Let’s take a closer look. Mooha and the garden plan a little bit closer Ok, forget it.


Anyways, put down the sticks. Mooha helping put down the sticks

And some more. Mooha and sticks

Mooha inspects the whole thing.

Mooha inspection

And here’s what it looked from my deck like all planned out.

Feral Flowers garden mapped out

We planted all of the seeds, including these awesome Chinese Forget Me Not seeds.


I have no idea what makes them “Chinese.”
Forget Me Not seeds

Mooha didn’t help us plant seeds at all. She found the tiny bit of catmint growing out of the ground, and decided she was in love with the garden hose. Mooha and the garden hose Like, REALLY in love.
Mooha and the anemones

After we finished messing with their yard, the colony cats came to take a look.


Dash was first.

Dice and the feral garden Bouncy Bear followed.
IMG_5889 Funny Face and Dice checked it out next.
Funny Face and Dice in the spring garden

Janessa and I celebrated with cocktails, and have been watching the garden grow all summer. cocktails in the garden

To be continued…

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Thank you for Your Continued Support and Partying With Us!

“There are two means of refuge from the miseries of life: music and cats.”

–Albert Schweitzer

This past weekend we hosted our annual party for our friends including food, drinks and performances in our Caffeinated Recordings studio downstairs. Everyone that comes to these parties contributes in some way and I’d like to thank all of them for making it even more fun every year.

This year I also wanted to highlight TNR and outdoor cat colony management and our friends’ generosity, interest and compassion really inspired me.

Lots of people saw the cats in my yard that night and were really interested in their cat houses and how they were cared for. For some reason the cats decided to stay late this year and show off. I’m thrilled that more and more people are learning about TNR and accepting that it is the most humane, effective way to care for the colony cats and ultimately reduce the outdoor cat population overall.

One Wing Low performed that night and it turned out that their drummer knew Erica, the TNR staff person at Tree House Humane Society, because she was currently fostering four kittens from a local TNR project. They had no idea they were going to end up at the same party!

People gave money online and in person, and brought supplies for the cats, including food, medicine and materials for the cat houses.

I’d like to thank our motley crew of musicians and artists for their donations, including, Mark from Cmn ineed ur hlp, Christy and John from Nonagon, Lisa, Bruno and Jovanka, Shepy/Jay, Liz, and Erica. Also, thank you Dorota, for your online donation! I’d like to meet you someday.

I’m embarrassed because I know I’m missing some people, but please give me a break or a private message to remind me – the party went on until 5am!

Mooha, the studio cat.

Mooha, the studio cat.


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How To Make a Low-Cost Outdoor Cat Litter Box

My cat Mooha loves to check out everything I make for the outdoor cats, as I’ve blogged earlier this week when I was making some cat houses.

I also made a quick and easy, low-cost outdoor cat litter box for the V Colony. The caretakers of that colony have about 15 TNR’d cats that that hang out in a cement backyard, with nowhere for them to go to the bathroom.

This outdoor litter box is made from a Rubbermaid bin that I also found discarded in an alley. We cut out two large holes for the easy entry and exit, and filled it with regular play sand that you would use for a sandbox.

Mooha approves.

Mooha approves.

The lid obviously keeps the rain out, and you just open it up daily to clean it out with a regular litter box scooper.

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Quick and Easy Ideas for Low-Cost Outdoor Cat Shelters

I made a few outdoor cat shelters with the help of my cat, Mooha. Mooha is an indoor cat, but she comes outside in my enclosed garden with me. She wanted to check out each shelter for herself.

These two outdoor feral cat shelters are very easy to make. The materials were free – I found everything discarded in alleys.

This first cat shelter is made from a styrofoam cooler lined inside with straw. I cut a six-inch hole that a cat can easily fit through.

I fits!

I fits!

This shelter is the perfect size for a single cat to snuggle in.

Now what?

Now what?

This second shelter is made of two plastic storage bins stacked within each other. You line them up and cut the six-inch entrance holes, and then add straw for warmth and comfort.

This is big enough to hide in.

This is big enough to hide in.

Since there’s room for more than one cat, you can also add pink insulation sheets for even more protection from the cold.

Mooha prefers playing with a stick by herself rather than sharing with other cats.

Mooha prefers playing with a stick by herself rather than sharing with other cats.

I have also been cleaning out the cat houses in my yard and will update with those ideas soon.



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