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Thursday, July 21, 2016

Our day started off with an overdose of anxiety after Fred discovered a lot of soft gray fur scattered on the ground down by the road.  We had both seen our cat, Woody, meandering near there a little earlier, and when we looked closely at the fur, we both knew something dreadful must have happened on that spot - but there was no blood, and that was a good sign.  Except maybe not.  Fred began calling Woody - whistling and shouting his name.  We stood quietly and listened for any response, but there was nothing.  After calling and searching along the hedgerow, we started climbing the hill back to the house.  Neither of us said what we were both thinking.  About half way up the driveway, Fred said, "Look up there," and pointed towards the garage.  There was Woody, sitting calmly by the door, probably wondering what all the fuss was about.  He stretched and came to greet us and we tried to examine him to see if his underbelly was missing any of its soft, gray fur, but he wasn't having any of that.  He dashed up the steps, obviously expecting the usual treat he always gets for coming when we call, and definitely didn't show any signs of having experienced any sort of trauma.  (This picture was taken another time, but this is how he looked when we first spotted him this morning.

We were soooo glad to give him his treat.  We don't know what happened down there on the lawn - some animal lost a good deal of fur, but we'd like to think it was perhaps shed naturally by grooming.  Or it could have been a tussle of some sort.  I suspect it was rabbit fur we found - so soft, just like Woody's belly fur.  We will probably never know.  But we are relieved it wasn't our Woody.  Being an outdoor cat, we are always fearful he will meet with some disaster, but it's a case of his being way too unhappy if he's not able to go outside in nice weather. We long ago decided it was best for everyone to let him have his way.  After all, he survived a whole summer out in the woods by himself before he came to live with us.


The remainder of our day was relatively calm.  Fred is redoing some of the website pages to make them more user-friendly for people who have cell or smart phones, I was researching for the West Danville history,  pulling together some of the information we've found in old issues of the North Star.  I was interested that merchants in the early 1800's took wood ashes in trade for goods.  I knew ashes were used for tanning hides and soap making, but then there was reference to potash, and I didn't know much about that.  

The internet is wonderful - there is information on just about everything imaginable, including details on how to leach wood ashes to make lye or take the process a step further and make potash.  Potash was kind of an industry back in that time - a way to use the unwanted hard wood that was a result of clearing the land.  One thing about the folks back then - they didn't waste anything.  The bristles of the pigs they slaughtered for food were saved, cleaned and used as barter (the bristles were made into brushes); the fat rendered from the pork was used to make soap; the skins were  tanned and sold to be made into gloves, shoes and wallets.  Oh, yes, and potash had many uses, including fertilizer for crops.  Too much information for our book, I suspect - most people would be bored to tears reading about all of that, but I can't help being fascinated. People managed to do almost everything themselves.  It was a hard life.  

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