Monday, June 13, 2011

Cat flaps, rainstorms, stick insects and school fees

I mentioned that we'd brought a cat flap back from South Africa and were going to have it fitted. On Friday, the company human resources sent me two carpenters to execute the job. Jonathan and Joseph were quite perplexed at this Mzungu's (foreigner) strange request but took note and acted accordingly.

Under normal circumstances this would be a simple task: you cut a hole into a wooden outer door, insert the cat flap, secure the corresponding screws and the job's done. Here in camp though, we have monkeys. Not just ordinary monkeys; very clever monkeys. A few times watching the cats entering the door through a flap and they would be indoors in a flash.

Then one night about two months ago, Ginger gave me the perfect idea of where we could put the cat flap. On the west side of our house, we have a hollow-brick sun/heat screen on the outside. (see photo below)

The hollow brick wall in front of our west-facing windows. I couldn't work out the purpose of this brick wall until my brother, Phillip told me it was a screen against the hot afternoon sun. Thanks Phil!

Ginger, who is very clever, always calls at our bedroom window at night when he wants to come inside. (He always seems to do this the minute I switch off my light and turn over to go to sleep!) That particular night I looked out of the window and saw Ginger inside the passage between the hollow bricks and the window. Voila! There was the solution to the location of the cat flap. Monkeys will never climb through the narrow brick openings into a six-inch alley between brick and window.

The company carpenters arrived on Friday and once I'd explained what I would like done (much head-scratching and perplexed looks at this crazy Mzungu lady! I mean, a door for a CAT!) they removed the mosquito netting and louvre windows in one section of our bedroom window

They covered the gap with a board. Here Joseph shows how the board fits snugly into the opening

The cat- flap, with it's multi-function lock

Meanwhile Jonathan, the other carpenter, sawed a hole into the board and inserted the cat flap

A professional job done by these two dear gentleman

And the cats? Well, Ginger went out through the flap (with a little help from me) but even though he sits outside the see-through door and calls me, he won't come back through it. Oh well, time will tell. Shadow is not at all interested at this stage, but as we see with his tree climbing skills, he's a slow learner!

A note on Shadow: he still isn't going outdoors "on his own". I take him out and he wanders around with me wandering around with behind him. I stand around on the lawn, sit on the step or chair on the veranda, or a rock in the garden while he chews on a blade of grass, sniffs the flowers, hunts butterflies and grasshoppers and rolls in the sand. So when he climbs a tree, I am under that tree and watching him. He is still easily spooked (Grant wonders when he'll ever be a normal cat!) and at least I'm able to grip him by the harness without being scratched or bitten. The harness is also a little big for him and he's slipped out of it on a few occasions. Thanks to all for their concern regarding the harness; I promise I'm watching Shadow like I did with my children when they were toddlers!
And then, like most afternoons since the start of the summer, the rain poured down

And down!

I was thrilled to see a stick insect (Phasmatodea) above the window on my veranda. This insect is the master of camouflage when on a twig which it resembles. This one was about 8 inches long. You can read more about this fascinating insect here

Grant offered to sponsor Naomi's* little girl, Stacey at school; he'll pay her school fees every term. (*Naomi is my 28 year-old Kenyan houselady. She's a single mum and this job with me is her first income ever. Stacey was accepted as a learner in the company school a few weeks after Naomi started to work for us) Stacey is 8 years old and in Grade 3. She is very good at Math and reading and writing her own language, Swahili. Her English is reported as "fair" so I gave Naomi an English reading book with which I suggested she sits with Stacey while the little girl reads to her. On Saturday, when Naomi brought me a dozen avos and about as many paw-paws, Stacey and her cousin Lynn came with her. I had baked cupcakes for the little girls which they enjoyed with a glass of milk while visiting here. Then I asked them if they'd pose for a photo, which they did.

Stacey with pink headband and her cousin, Lynn. Naomi tells me that Lynn's grasp of English is better than Stacey's so I said she should encourage them to read Stacey's English book together

On Sunday, after a couple of hours of birding, we returned home and prepared dinner (instead of the normal braai/barbeque) for lunch. Grant helped me peel and prepare the vegetables. We had roast beef and Yorkshire pudding, with roast potatoes, rice, gravy and two veg. Johan joined us. I always say, if I'm cooking dinner, what's the difference between cooking for two or six people? For dessert, I found a melt-in-the-mouth recipe on the Internet. You mix all the ingredients in the final baking dish and place it in an oven for about 35 minutes.  (Recipe below)

Chocolate Pudding Cake. Try it. You won't be disappointed!

Chocolate Pudding Cake

For the Cake
3/4 Cup flour
2/3 Cup white sugar
1/4 Cup Cocoa powder
1 1/2 Teasp Baking powder
1/2 Teasp Salt
1/2 Cup Milk
3 Teasp oil

For the Topping and Sauce
2/3 Cup Brown Sugar
1/4 Cup Cocoa Powder
1/4 Cup Chocolate Chips
1 Teasp Vanilla Essence
1 1/4 Cup Hot water

Preheat oven to 200◦C
In an 8 inch baking dish, combine flour, white sugar, 1/4 cup cocoa, baking powder and salt. Use a fork to mix all ingredients together.
Add milk and oil and mix to form a batter.
Sprinkle brown sugar, 1/4 cup cocoa and choc chips evenly over the batter.
Ad vanilla to hot water and pour over everything. Do not mix.
Bake for 30 - 35 minutes, until the surface is slightly dry. The pudding will bubble around the edges.
Serve with fresh cream or custard.

Another lovely weekend in the valley.


  1. That was very clever of you to figure out a way to thwart the monkeys from coming through the cat door! I bet Ginger will soon enough get up the nerve to come back inside through that little door.

    Stacey and Lynn sound like very bright little girls. It's so kind and generous of you to pay for Stacey's schooling.

    I copied and saved your Chocolate Pudding Cake!

  2. I'm glad you found a way to allow the cats to come and go without the monkeys following them!
    Wow, that's a big stick insect. I've seen them here, but they're no more than a couple of inches long.

  3. Good way to keep the monkeys at bay. I'll bet the cats will figure it out. I too copied the chocolate pudding cake. Nice weekend.

  4. I don't dare copy the recipe for the Chocolate Pudding Cake. And serve with custard? Oh, heavenly! If I made it once, I would make it a dozen times, and my doctors are getting very serious about me losing weight.
    I'm sure both cats will be coming in and out of the cat flap soon, especially if Shadow watches Ginger doing it and copies him.
    Friends of ours have a special cat door openable by signals from a small remote control device on the cats' collars, so no other cats in the area can get into their house. Sort of like monkeys, only different. LOL
    Luv — K

    Kay, Alberta, Canada
    An Unfittie's Guide to Adventurous Travel

  5. Jo, enjoyed reading your blog. I love the fact that your cats can now go in and out as they please.

    I am a little confused on the recipe. It says 1/4 cup Cocoa (divided), but then the directions say to add 1/4 cup to the flour, and then to sprinkle 1/4 cup on top. Could you tell me exactly what you mean? Would love to try this.

    Blessings, Jackie

  6. I'm getting visitors this weekend and I'm going to bake that pud! Looks delicious.

  7. Put Grant on the outside of the flap and you sit inside it and offer treats for each direction!
    Worked for us!
    Love the Girls!!!

  8. looks like a lovely dessert for me to try. I am glad things are good gor you and Grant.

  9. You are such a good kitty mommy, Jo ;) Also, your garden has undergone such a transformation under your care! Another really lovely post!

  10. Thanks Jo, for the good reading material about life in Kenya. I'm sure the cats will learn about the flap and will use it - but I'm not sure the small Vervet monkeys won't try it. But then - maybe you don't have Vervet's in Kimwarer Valley?

  11. Wow ! what a nice cat flap and how clever to find the right place ! The cats will find it. We have our cat flap in the garage window, and then a plank to lead to the floor.They all found it once I had showed it.
    How nice of Grant to pay the school for the little girl. Education is so important.


Thank you for visiting my blog and taking the time to leave a comment. I appreciate your feedback. Jo