Saturday, January 16, 2010

So why is Susan pimping out her house?

...albeit, slowly?

In this day and age of "carbon footprint" management, it's hard for me to justify squatting on a huge piece of land, curled up in a huge house. Granted, the felines might be counted as other souls in this picture, but nonetheless, it's a big house and something ought to be done with it.

My ex and I had romantic amorphous plans about a bed-and-breakfast. We also looked at the Great Room and toyed with the idea of small conferences. However, this house simply isn't fantastic enough for people to choose as a B&B destination. We are surrounded by other far-more-beautiful B&B options. The Great Room is really too small for anything more than 5-10 people.

When you close in on 50 years of age, you begin to wonder "What am I going to do with my life?" I'm sitting here on a big farm. A) I'm not going to farm, B) I have no plans to add another person to my life, C) I have discarded the idea of renting the upstairs, D) while I love rescuing cats, I am at a point where I do not want to be a shelter. There will always be rescued cats and kittens in my life, but spay/neuter funding and education really makes a far great impact.


TNR weekend workshops (2-6 people).

You come to Spencer NY. You settle into your comfortable room upstairs (two suites), with the business center (on the upstairs landing) with free wireless, fax, and desktop if you don't have a laptop of your own, as well as a library. In the morning, you wake up to breakfast on the deck (not yet built!) or in the Great Room, complete with "who I am and why am I here" introductions with other visitors, and then you head out to care for the cats and start to start learning all that is involved in caring for a small private cat facility.

And yes, you do actually scoop the poop.

You then visit the local SPCA to see a rural shelter in action, including their spay/neuter clinic. On the way, you visit a feral cat colony. You stop in Owego and visit the RiverRow shops (lunch on your own).

Back at Wildrun, we sit down in the Great Room for a workshop on TNR, with video (provided by Neighborhood Cats/HSUS, and Alleycat Allies), hands-on trap setting, and question and answers. Take-home materials are provided. Experienced folks are invited to provide their input, especially in trapping and community-building.

After an hour of time for yourself, we have dinner at The Bishops Inn (included).

After dinner, we finish up the TNR session and settle in for discussion about issues each person is facing. Tea, coffee, and refreshments are provided. If it's a beautiful night, we have a fire in the firepit outside and talk out there surrounded by the tiki flames.

"Crackberry" addicts will not disturb us, as there is no cell service here.

The next morning, it's breakfast and cat care again, and then we launch into social networking and marketing. We look at how other organizations are utilizing the web to promote their animal control, rescue, or spay/neuter efforts. Each person creates (or updates) a blog, Facebook page, Twitter account, etc. (or whatever new social media has been introduced since then). We will go over on-line options for colony or shelter record-keeping, and on-line fundraising.

Lunch is a sandwich setup (catered--we should have Panera Bread in Ithaca by then!).

We will do a very short session on medical issues in home sheltering, and large-scale sheltering, along with resources and suggestions where they can get further education from shelter medicine veterinarians. As a non-vet, I can give basic information, but can't give advice on actual problems participants may be facing. Encourage participant to order particular books right then online if they have the budget for it.

We then launch into the controversies of TNR, mandatory spay/neuter, cat licensing, cat quotas, etc. I'm thinking many of these people will in fact be municipal folks who have been plunged into some sort of "cat issue."

At this point, people can head home, or remain. Dinner would be at The Bishop's Inn again (hey, it's good, and it's cheap, and by then they should have their liquor license) in a roundtable setup, with continued conversation centered on brainstorming options for each person's individual issues they are facing. There is cell service there, so people would send out tweets or update their Facebook status while at dinner.

People can then head home that night, or the next day. If it's a holiday weekend, that Monday I would tack on a wine trail tour and additional cat colony visits, especially for those cat folks for whom this might be the only trip they take all year.

I do NOT plan this venture to make money. It does need to pay for itself, however. First of all, I could only do a few a year so as not to interfere with work. I'm hoping to have only one in late summer of 2010--possibly Labor Day Weekend. In fact, the Labor Day effort might just be a test-drive with friends before I invest in licenses and insurance. What I do want it to do is A) justify having this big place and give it a mission, B) have some educational impact in the animal welfare world and C) provide a more intimate, hands-on training option for people who need it.

There are already plenty of educational options on the web, and lots of materials people can buy.

I don't think there is anything like this.

What I would need, at a minimum,

An improved bathroom. The washer/dryer needs to move to the kitchen closet, and the clawfoot tub needs to come in from the barn. I would need an additional vanity. New floor covering would be needed.

(Ultimately I would gut the upstairs and add a bathroom, but that will absolutely not happen unless a natural gas windfall occurs)

A deck, with a balcony for the second floor (fire escape) and an outdoor kitchen with an BIG grill dedicated just to the cooking for visitors.

An agriculture and markets license to use animals in education.

Improvements in the upstairs. The largest investment would be carpet throughout and the deck/balcony/fire escape.

Completed 501(c)(3) status (underway), and a new web page (underway--new name chosen!)

Insurance, local licenses, fire code, etc. etc.

Luckily I already have a huge water heater that can handle six people.

Quality incidentals and lots of them (towels, dedicated plates/utensils, coffee makers/microwave/water cooler/refrigerator for upstairs, blah blah blah).

This winter would be dedicated to finishing up the interior of the house. Spring would be dedicated to fixing up the cat facility.

In the cat facility, the downstairs would need a new ceiling, sheetrock walls, and vinyl on the floor. For larger groups, this would be the presentation area. For smaller, we would use the Great Room. In the lower barn, the dirt floor would need stone, and the woodshop needs to be finished so we can discuss cat-shelter building. The cat facility itself needs the attention of a carpenter for finish work throughout, and new storm windows that are removable from the inside (again, fire escape).

What think ye? LURKERS, SPEAK!


Chrissykat said...

As with most of your thoughts, ideas, musings and meanderings...I think the idea is a wonderful one. I wish I lived close enough to not only help you with the laundry list of preparations for these events to happen but also to attend as well.

You continue to amaze me with your energy & selflessness.

2Vamp said...

I'm very impressed. You've obviously sat down and thought about it. A lot.

Oh, and like what Chrissykat said.... about your boundless energy and selflessness. She's right!

las794 said...

I think it's a *great* idea! I would love to have had such a resource when I first became involved in a "cat situation"! It sounds like you've got a pretty realistic handle on what it'll take to execute, too.

Rags to Riches Cat Rescue said...

I love it all, even down to the shower curtain. ( I have the same one :) I also agree education, and spay/neuter is the real impact. It seems like the few cats we save by way of adoption, is just so few. However, if we really had spay/neuter money $2,000.00 a month we could get out into the community and really make a impact on the unwanted/cared for felines.

Alley Cats and Angels of North Carolina said...

Excellent idea. We do a lot of TNR traning but not actual workshops - it's more one-on-one training and loaning of traps and recovery cages.

We all do TNR, but we have one volunteer that only wants to do that which is terrific. She personally helps trap for TNR over 150 cats each year and she will help do the transport to the low-cost spay/neuter for the caregivers if they can't because of work schedule. It makes such a great difference for the cats.

We're lucky enough to have raised the funds to sponsor 5-10 spay/neuter surgeries vaccinations for feral cats each month. For that I am very thankful as helping stem the overpopulation problem is one of the key tenants of our rescue.

I hope you have great success with this. I think it is a wonderful venture that many people can participate in and learn.

Anonymous said...

I think this is a great idea. And it comes at a time when there are more and more groups adopting "pre adoptive" spay/neuter, so the feral populations will certainly become more of the focus as we tackle more of the "owned" cats. It is also good for people who want to combine a vacation with a more involved TNR course.

rheather said...

You have planned this out well! I really like the hands-on parts of it too.

meowmeowmans said...

What terrific ideas you have! I'm greatly impressed by the amount of thought you've put into this, and I hope your plan comes to fruition.

Thank you for your tireless efforts, and for thinking about how you can help others. :)

Zuleme said...

It is a good idea and I hope it works for you. Our local spay/neuter clinic is going well, one to two days a week. They rented a small facility and have done over a thousand animals so far.
Have you ever thought about selling some land to a co-housing group? I think there is one in Ithaca that has built. That way you would have company near by and, I bet, compatible people. Most of these groups want to do some farming.
It sounds like a nice way to live to me, especially as we grow older.