Category Archives: Restless

The Hungry Squirrel

This squirrel is inadequately afraid of humans! Squirrel, I am a threat to you! We are enemies! Please get off my bench! Oh, god! Oh, god! Don’t touch me—oh, god!

― John Green

Tanya Barrientos Birdhouse 

Tanya Barrientos’ DIY squirrel-proofed bird feeder

 

Who among us has not witnessed the hunger of squirrels, their unrelenting quest to sate their voracious appetites? 

John Green [The Fault in Our Stars] was accosted by a hungry squirrel while eating popcorn on a park bench in Washington D.C., an unnerving interaction caught on video. The squirrel was not only not frightened, it placed a paw on Green’s knee to demand an edible morsel. 

I have seen a squirrel hang upside-down by a toenail in order to suck nyjer seed from a backyard finch feeder. I swear he had a tiny straw for sucking the rice-like seed from the minuscule portals in the feeder. Some say squirrels don’t like nyjer, but go on to suggest lacing it with capsicum [hot pepper] to discourage foraging. Why not just leave a bottle of Sriracha on the feeder?  

A squirrel’s Id is succinctly captured by author Kate DiCamillo in “Flora and Ulysses: The Illuminated Adventures,” the 2014 Newbery Award-winning tale of a girl [Flora] and a squirrel [Ulysses]: 

Not much goes on in the mind of a squirrel. 

Huge portions of what is loosely termed “the squirrel brain” are given over to one thought: food. 

The average squirrel cogitation goes something like this: “I wonder what there is to eat.”

Thousands of words have been devoted to magazine articles and blog posts on how to prevent squirrels from reaching the bird seed. 

A large segment of the bird-feeder industry specializes in products meant to discourage squirrels from raiding the nuts and seeds meant for birds, not–as actress Sarah Jessica Parker has described squirrels–“rats with cuter outfits.” They include baffles, devices that will spin the interlopers into the air, greased poles and cages that will exclude squirrels but admit birds. I can assure you, these tactics and devices do not work.

Squirrels are undeterred. 

So am I. I consume, but my hunger is not sated. What is it I hunger for?

The Resale Evangelista is simplifying, clarifying and trying to live a more artful life. Sometimes, it’s a puzzle.

 

 

Damn! I’m jealous…

…of these designer house swaps

Susan Caba
Resale Evangelista

The grass is always greener in the other person’s yard, isn’t it?

I just read this article in the New York Times about design professionals swapping homes with one another. Needless to say, the houses are exotic and gorgeous. Unfortunately, you have to be in a design-related business (which I think I could swing, with a little judicious wording) and have a beautiful home of your own to exchange.

My house in STLMy house wouldn’t make the cut

Damn! And here I’ve been bragging about the joy of not having a house to care for. Of course, I think these people probably have people to take care of their multiple abodes. One house-swapper said she learned to make Moroccan food from a cook her host sent over. So far, none of my hosts has sent over a cook. (Although one sends a pool boy from Guatemala–strictly eye candy.)

Besides, cute as my house may have been, it would not have made the cut for the website, which is behomm.com (pronounced be home).

The site was created 18 months ago by Eva Calduch and Agust Juste, both graphic designers in Barcelona, Spain. They were tired of “slogging through” the more declasse homes on other home exchange sites.

“Around 10 to 20 percent of applications are rejected, often because the homes are shown to be messy or dirty. As for the rest, choices are based on “subjective aesthetics,” in Ms. Calduch’s words. Those decisions have nothing to do with size or luxury, she added: “A tiny place with very little can be nicer or more tasteful than a castle.”

The site has some 1,200 members, with Spain and the United States supplying the most — about 200 each. The locations are as far-flung as Bali and Florianópolis, Brazil. Even Japan has four subscribers. (A remarkable number, Ms. Calduch said, considering that a Japanese colleague told her, “We don’t even invite friends over.”)

Ah well, even if I don’t qualify, it’s fun to look at the slide show.

The Resale Evangelista is decluttering–her mind and her belongings–to create a more focused, simplified and artful life.

Check out these earlier posts of mine about the joys and perils of house-sitting:

The Artfully Packed Suburu

How I drove across country–twice–hauling my coffee-maker, three suitcases, office supplies, yoga mat, tennis rackets and swim gear, a leather couch and my great-grandmother’s claw-foot oak table with 6 leaves

My Suburu holds everythingSusan Caba
The Resale Evangelista

So there we were in St. Louis, MO, getting ready to cast off for Louisiana and, beyond that, North Carolina. All that remained to be done was to pack the Suburu. Enough possessions for a year, plus a family heirloom to be delivered to my brother Joe.

My plan was to drive to Joe’s house in Louisiana, drop off the table and spend a few days there, then head for my new (temporary) home in North Carolina. It’s funny how a simple road trip can take on so many facets–sparking childhood memories, renewing emotional connections, provoking anticipation of the future.

Melody, my 13-year-old niece, was along for the ride. She lives in Taiwan. Her only exposure to the United States has been the summers and holidays she spends in Santa Barbara, visiting my mother.  Missouri was a revelation for her. First of all, it was green–the Midwest has had rain, while California is drought-stricken. And there was more for her to do in St.  Louis than in Santa Barbara. We went to the zoo, to the Arch, bowling and, of course, shopping (Melody and her mother are the original shopaholics).

I never really thought about it, but Santa Barbara is really an adult resort town. Unless you’re a beach person–which Melody isn’t–there aren’t that many kid-centric attractions there. It’s the bane of an only child: Adapting to an adult’s idea of fun, and getting used to talking (mostly) to grown-ups. My mother compensates by arranging for lessons. Horseback riding, tennis, swimming and more. She  did the same for my only kid–Max learned to kayak and scuba dive during his Santa Barbara summers.

Possibly the biggest excitement for Melody was staying with my friend Patricia, mother of four sons and a daughter. They’re all in their 20s, except Patrick, who is 16. Let’s just say they have a boisterous way of communicating with one another.  As the oldest of seven, it’s nothing new to me. To her credit, by the end of the five days, Melody could discern the difference between mock outrage and true trouble. And she grew to enjoy the mock outrage.

One of my tasks while in St. Louis was consolidating my two storage lockers. By the time I finished moving last spring, I couldn’t manage the careful packing required to fit all my belongings into one 10-by-15 storage unit. Melody patiently sat watching while I shifted boxes and furniture to empty the smaller locker into the larger one.

The key to this successful effort was taking my great-grandmother’s oak claw-foot table out of storage.

I have a photo of myself as a toddler in a highchair, exchanging sideways glances with my mother–with spit-curls bobbie-pinned into her hair–at that table. I collected it from my great-grandmother’s house when I moved to Philadelphia to work for The Inquirer. I’ve had the table for 30 years.

My ex-husband and I hosted many a Thanksgiving dinner on it, once for 18 people. As a single person, I am most frequently a guest during the holidays, not the hostess. It was time to pass it along to my brother Joe, who has three daughters. The table, lightly scarred considering its age, will provide ample space for home-schooling and homework, as well as holiday dinners.

I have to say, the Suburu is a great car for hauling. I can’t tell you how many people have marveled at its capacity when they see it fully loaded. The key is artful packing. If I do say so myself, I’m a master at maximizing space.

Suburu road tripA 19th-century oak pedestal table, with six leaves, is not a standard size object. The round table top is 54 inches across. The pedestal, with four impressive lion’s feet, complete with toenails, is massive and bulky. The leaves, at least, are manageable.

Luckily, the top pulls apart into two pieces. Each just fit into the back of the car. No two ways about it, the pedestal parts had to stand up behind the front seats and took up more room than their actual volume. In other words, canny packing was required. Then I had to add the rest of my possessions. Enough for six months or more in North Carolina.  This required some jiggering around. Ultimately, two suitcases had to be bungee-corded to the top of the Suburu.

I’ve said it before. Getting rid of possessions and moving has been a revelation. Who knew that the essential contents of my house could be squeezed into a 15-by-10-foot space? Who knew enough possessions for almost a year would fit in the back of a relatively small vehicle? Even so, I won’t be surprised to find there are still things I won’t need.

Eventually, I got it all in. As usual, it was two steps forward, one step back. I put stuff in, packed around it, then found it necessary to pull things out and start again.  Of course, when I got to Joe’s house, I had to unpack the whole car in order to get the table out, then repack for the onward journey. But that’s another post. This is enough for now.

The Resale Evangelista is simplifying and clarifying her life. It’s a journey. Come along for the ride.

 

Reinventing Self

Joy of Life

Joy of Life

“There is no answer. Pursue it lovingly.”

SusanCaba
Resale Evangelista

I just placed an order with Amazon. Within two business days, I will receive these items:

  • The 10-Day Green Smoothie Diet, which promises me clearer eyes, more energy, dewier skin, reduced cravings and improved intestinal health within 10 days–not to mention a substantial weight loss.
  • Hardwiring Happiness: The New Brain Science of Contentment, Calm and Confidence. The benefits are spelled out right in the title.
  • Meditations to Change Your Brain, a 3-CD set of instructions for implementing the lessons of Hardwiring Happiness. When I’m finished listening, I will have mastered specific practices for making positive changes in my body and mind, strengthened my meditative abilities, and healed and nourished my relationships. I will have increased my capacity for joy, love and spiritual bliss.

In 10 days (all right, maybe as long as two weeks), I will be able to report that I am dewier, more blissful, slimmer and living with a newly energized sense of serenity. The cost? A mere $55, with free shipping.

I am a sucker for self-help books. When it comes to self-improvement, I want a road map–a guide, a course or a workbook–to get me to my goal of the moment.

My current project is to redefine myself, to myself. That’s a pretty fuzzy aspiration. The parameters are still evolving. As I wrote in a post last week, I didn’t start with a clearly articulated goal other than discovering a permanent place to live. But my thoughts are starting to gel along the lines of creating a sense of belonging for myself.

So I sold my house in St. Louis and embarked on a year of serial house sitting. In the course of this odyssey of restlessness, I would “change my story, change my brain and change my life.” But how? I needed a workbook, which is why I turned to Amazon.

(I would have gone to an independent bookstore, because Amazon is currently holding its own customers hostage as pawns in a business battle with the Hachette Book group. But I had an Amazon gift card. So much for values.)

As it happens, one of my favorite websites–BrainPickings.org–led with an article this week titled: The Psychology of Your Future Self and How Your Present Illusions Hinder Your Future Happiness, about a Ted Talk by Harvard psychologist Daniel Gilbert. He’s the author of the 2006 book “Stumbling on Happiness.”

In his Ted Talk, Gilbert says: “Human beings are works in progress that mistakenly think they’re finished. The person you are right now is as transient, as fleeting and as temporary as all the people you’re ever been. The one constant in our lives is change.”

By following links on the page, I came to Maria Popova’s list of 7 Essential Books on the Art and Science of Happiness. The me of grandiose ambitions would announce a study group that would read these books to glean their wisdom. Ain’t gonna happen–that much I know. But even just reading the synopsis of each book raised interesting, difficult questions about our sense of self and happiness.

There are TED Talks embedded in the list. They, too, are provocative–and, at times,, funny. I recommend two of them. I’m not going to attempt to summarize them, because that would trivialize their rather profound messages.

The first is by French scientist-turned-Buddhist monk Mattieu Ricard, talking about the habits of happiness. Ricard is the author of Happiness: A Guide to Developing Life’s Most Important Skill. (Hey! I just knew there was a guide out there someplace!)

My favorite was Brené Brown, talking about the power of vulnerability. Brown’s books include The Gifts of Imperfection: Let Go of Who You Think You’re Supposed to Be and Embrace Who You Are and Daring Greatly: How the Courage to Be Vulnerable Transforms the Way We Live, Love, Parent, and Lead. Both were New York Times’ bestsellers. Her TED Talk is one of the most popular ever, with more than 15 million views.

Despite titles that imply pop-culture psychology, these books–and these people–are exploring the common aspiration of humans: The pursuit of well-being and the end of suffering. Most of us don’t have the time, or don’t take the time, to pursue these questions are our own. I’m grateful for the guidance and that I do have the time, at least for the moment.

In the meantime, I’ll let you know in a couple of weeks whether I’m slimmer, dewier, more serene, more energetic, healed, nourished, content and calm. Let’s hope so!

The Resale Evangelista is on a quest for clarity and simplicity, in order to create a more focused, creative life.

Tiny houses, travel & defining home

 What does it mean to be un-moored from any specific place?

SusanCaba
Resale Evangelista

Today, I’m writing from a hillside house in Santa Barbara. The scarlet bougainvillea —attended by hummingbirds—competes for sunlight with lavender blooms of jacaranda trees and spikey purple agapanthas in the garden. I walked outside in my robe this morning to have coffee by the pool overlooking dun-colored hills.

The Pacific is an indigo wedge on the horizon. I’ll swim a few lengths of the pool—no suit needed—before showering in a spa-like master bath with heated floors. For these two months, I’m driving a vintage white Mercedes dubbed “The Sugar Cube.”

In a way, house-sitting is an idyllic life. But I know the ultimate goal of my year of living restlessly is to find a place that feels permanent. Actually, I’ve come to realize that’s been a goal of mine my entire life. I’m also getting inklings that what I’m looking for is less a place than a sense–a sense of belonging. So far, I have only vague ideas–maybe daydreams, maybe delusions–of what that sense of belonging would look or feel like.

I started musing along these lines after coming across a couple of essays by San Francisco blogger Cheri Lucas Rowlands. She and her husband, another writer, have sold most of their stuff, rented their loft and are in the process of completing a tiny house–20 feet long, 8 feet wide, 131 square feet–on wheels. (They bought a partially completed model from the Tumbleweed Tiny House Co.)

Like me, Rowlands and her husband decided that finding their place in life required stripping down to the core.

“We want a physical home we can call our own — one we really do own, with no mortgage, excessive bills, or superfluous possessions to weigh us down. Escaping a mortgage and living more simply will free up money, which will free up time,” Rowlands wrote, describing the birth of her Tiny House Travelers journey.

But Rowlands and her husband, Nick, are looking at their decision to downsize and detach from any one location from a perspective beyond mere housing:

“As travelers…trying out different locations for size; as a couple exploring our relationship to our shared space and to each other; and as writers deeply interested in the evolution of space, place and home, and in people’s ties to physical objects and locations in a world where the boundaries between the ideas of the digital and the physical are becoming increasingly blurred.”

I’ve embarked on a similar adventure, through serial house-sitting. I hadn’t really articulated what I hoped to discover, other than a permanent place to live. My thoughts started to gel along the lines of “a sense of belonging” after reading Rowlands’ essay.

A few weeks back, I wrote about my friend Doreen Carvajal  unraveling mysteries about her family’s history that had been quietly churning in the back of her mind for decades. I started the post by asking, “What is the burning question in your life?”

“I’m asking” I wrote, “because I think the search for an answer–whatever the question–creates a sense of passion and purpose in life. I’m envious of those who not only have such a question (and recognize it) but summon the will, the energy and the resources to pursue the answer. In the process, those people experience a deep sense of satisfaction and, I think, come to know some fundamental truths about themselves.”

I haven’t been able to fully shape my burning question yet. But I think it’s related to finding that sense of belonging. And, as I wrote that last sentence, it occurred to me that instead of using the word “finding,” I should have written “creating.” As in creating that sense of belonging.

In a New York Times article about her quest to uncover family secrets, Doreen wrote: “We can change the story we tell about ourselves and, by doing that, change our future.”

Coincidentally, I had been thinking that the subtext of my year of living restlessly is, “Change my story, change my brain, change my life.” I’m a believer in the science that says we can “rewire” our brains by over-riding the stories about ourselves that we grew up believing.

That’s why I said I should have written “creating” a sense of belonging rather than “finding” a sense of belonging. Apparently, I have control over whether I belong or not. Now that’s a scary realization!

I’ll finish with one more thought from another of Rowlands’ essays, What it means to write about travel.”

“Traveling can simply mean exploring–whatever your world, whatever your reality–and is often less about place and more about time, change and one’s relationship to a moment.”

In that sense, I’m traveling…aren’t we all?

 

 

 

 

Santa Barbara sunset

Evening in Santa Barbara

I’ve settled in to my mid-summer house-sitting assignment. It is the epitome of living luxuriously for less–well, for nothing, actually. I’ll be here for six weeks, in one of the most beautiful places in the U.S.

This is what I mean by an artful life–watching the sun set over the Santa Barbara foothills, casting reflections on the swimming pool. The Pacific is a streak of indigo on the horizon. Only the distant roar of Highway 101 and the calls of a California bluejay break the silence. The woodpeckers who live in the tall palm tree standing sentinel over the house are quiet, and the coyotes have not yet begun their night-time howling. All three cats are safely inside and I’m enjoying the gloaming with a glass of bourbon.

The sharing economy

Resale Evangelista gets restless & embarks on adventure

By Susan Caba

Exciting news, Evangelisti–my year of living restlessly is developing nicely.

At the end of the month, my 10-week sojourn near Washington, D.C. will draw to a close. I’ll be on my way to six weeks in Santa Barbara.

And after that? Chapel Hill, N.C., an unfamiliar part of the country for me. I recently agreed to house-sit for a family off on an adventure of its own, six months to a year in Rajasthan, India. The homeowners, Mark and Shari, have a business in Jaipur and will home school their  children there, to familiarize them with the culture their parents love.

That’s right, I’ll be in North Carolina for six months and possibly more. The brick house, with a wide, wraparound porch–part of it screened, is surrounded by trees on three acres just outside town. Sunlight flows in through big windows; a wood-burning stove will stave off the chill of winter (in what may be the greatest gift, Mark is stocking the wood shed to the eves with fuel enough for a full season). Company will be provided–at least until I meet some humans–by Dot, a Jack Russell terrier, and three cats. There is nothing like a dog and a drift of cats to keep things cozy.

I’m looking forward to settling in, exploring the happenings at the University of North Carolina, getting some writing done and embarking on my year of changing my “story,” my brain and my life while indulging my restless nature.

The Restless — er, Resale–Evangelista sold her house earlier this year and is exploring the country (and other locations) by house-sitting. It dawned on her (while listening to NPR, of course) that’s she’s become part of the new “sharing economy.” Not sure yet exactly what that means, but the Evangelista will keep you posted as the situation clarifies!

 

More talk to the animals….

 

Scary picture, no?

Image from Free-HDwallpaper.com

Image from Free-HDWallpaper.com

 

Screen Shot 2014-05-21 at 12.09.09 PM

Image from Free-HDwallpaper.com

I can’t help it, I have to add this example to my post from a few days ago. It is verbatim. I’m not even adding comments–I think you know me well enough by now to guess what I’m thinking! (Oh, just to give you a hint, I’ve put some phrases in bold lettering.)

“We live in a lovely row house in Baltimore city with our 8 cats. We will be going abroad for the year and are looking for someone to live with our babies for about 1 month starting mid July.

“The house is a two bedroom two bath home with a self contained basement apartment. The basement apartment would be your space if you need time away from the kitties. The basement is accessible through the living room, so ideally we would like you to keep the door open for them to roam.

Screen Shot 2014-05-21 at 12.16.32 PM

Image from Free-HDwallpapers.com

“… Our cats are very lovable and self-sufficient. We just need someone to keep them company, feed them and play fetch with them. They are currently on a raw diet, so they do not shed much and litter duty is a simple daily task. We have three litters and use wood chips instead of the smelly clumpy stuff. I dedicate about 2 hours a night cleaning the floors and litter, and hoping to find someone to do the same. I make all their raw food myself, and ideally would like someone to continue that, but will also be ok with putting them on a wet diet. The raw diet process is a lot of work, so I am happy to be flexible. They are all fixed, but not declawed, so the sitter(s) would need to assist in nail clipping. They are used to it, so it’s not a hard task. They pretty much stay to themselves, so you won’t see more then 2-3 at a time. They all have their corners that they hide/sleep in.”

A simple life? I think not….

 

 

Talk to the animals …

 

House-sitting promises animal adventures

These house-sitting assignments would not simplify my life!

“We are looking for an experienced pet sitter to look after our many animals for 3 weeks in August at our beautiful home in Southern Brittany. We have 4 horses that live out (thank goodness for that!), 2 dogs, 8 cats and a pet pig who live in the house. In addition we have chickens and ducks who are free range and 2 very friendly goats.

“What responsibilities are required of house sitter?

“As the horses live out (again, thank goodness!), they will only need feeding and giving hay. The dogs love to be walked but as they have so much space, they do not need daily walking, and the goats do love to be walked with them. The chickens and ducks just need letting out in the morning and shutting in at night. The pig does her own thing and doesn’t even need feeding (remember, the pig lives in the house.) The goats will need bringing in at night and letting out in the morning, and will love you forever if you take them for walkies! In spite of so many animals it is all fairly low maintenance!”

A few excerpts

London: “We have 2 dogs, 3 cats, and an elderly pet rat ( who may or may not live that long)…”

Waimauku: “Keep an eye on our 7 Suffolk sheep (one ram and six ewes and the ewes will be pregnant but hopefully not delivering).”

Thailand: “The area is quite remote, it’s really laid back with buffalo, chickens and the odd snake around…”

Bucks County, Pa: “…care for one dog that’s diabetic, needs insulin every 12 hours and wears diapers…must be carried outside frequently.”

Alaska: “Responsible adult wanted to take care of home, 2 dogs and 2 cats. Must have experience with large dogs and must know how to be the “alpha” dog. … One dog is a male American Bulldog. He’s very friendly and calm. The other is a Husky Mix that is very energetic. He is a retired Iditarod dog so he loves walks (or runs). They are large male dogs. They require an alpha to be in charge or they will take advantage of you and start doing whatever they want. I don’t mean hitting them, but you can’t be afraid to raise your voice.”

Finally, a note straight from the kitty-cats

“Our mum and dad are off to France AGAIN for just over 7 weeks and they are looking to find suitable carers for we 2 cats. If you are mature (like our mum & dad), experienced sitters who LOVE cats and duties associated we’d like to hear from you … The main responsibility will be caring for us.  We want someone who will love and spoil us and of course one of us needs lots of brushing & grooming. We are Preeti (Hamilayan girl who is timid in the beginning so sitters have to be prepared to allow me to adjust and make sure I don’t “sneak outside” when I shouldn’t) and William who is 16 and just likes to eat and sleep. …

Goodbye (purr purr) … William & Preeti”

 

 

 

At home in a French castle?

Family Wanted
3 months or more
house-sitting in French farmhouse

Hello there! We live in a beautiful post-Renaissance-style Castle in a remarkably good condition, situated (in) … a region famed for its history and beauty. The grounds consist of a small woodland area, with paths for nature walks and abundant wildlife, a swimming pool (not heated) barns, a greenhouse and ample lawn areas. …

We are offering the 2-3 bedroom farmhouse, set on the edge of the woodland area, and very private. (It is obviously more human-sized to live in than the Chateau.) The property is located in an idyllic location in France, and is only 700 meters away from the nearest village with bakery, bar, post-office, library and twice-weekly itinerant services of a butcher, fish merchant, pizza maker and grocer.  We are only 1 hour and 15 minutes from Paris by train…

The simple life, in someone else’s house: Not necessarily simple

SusanCaba
The Resale Evangelista

As some of you may know, I’m planning to indulge my restless nature for the next year by house-sitting around the country.

That’s one reason I got rid of many of my possessions, packed up the rest and sold my house. I’ve minimized my costs and responsibilities, and increased my freedom. I’m in the midst of a 10-week house-sit right now near D.C., and will move to Santa Barbara next month for a six-week assignment.

So naturally, I keep checking the house-sitting websites, looking for future opportunities. There are great possibilities (competition for those is stiff), but also some that are, shall we say, more problematic.

Take that castle in France. I would definitely be up for three months in the French countryside. Especially with a family so thoughtful as to house me in the “more human-sized” farmhouse rather than that big, drafty château. Alas, the châtelaine requires a couple, or a family.

But even if I had a partner, the prospect has some drawbacks. I’m put off by the ad’s subtly bossy subhead: “FAMILY ONLY PLEASE! Please read carefully before applying.” Which makes sense, because a châtelaine (from medieval Latin) is keeper of the keys and mistress of the household–and is therefore, the boss. (The mister, in case you’re wondering, is châtelain or castellan.) I don’t really do well with on-site bosses.

My misgivings were reinforced by the description of “our ideal couple.” I don’t like that possessive “our.”

“Our ideal couple :  Is physically very fit and active · Have a relaxed ‘Can-Do’ attitude and plenty of initiative · Sense of Humour · Enjoy the challenges of gardening and being part of a team . Can use tractors or chainsaws · Have a keen interest in France · Love the outdoors . Love dogs · Get along with each other and enjoy working together · Each should have clean driving licenses, and no criminal history (may be checked) · Also, moderate drinking habits only.” (Boldface emphasis is mine.)

Doesn’t that sound more like indentured servitude rather than house-sitting? Not only do you have to work, you have to get along with your spouse (not to mention other members of the chain-gang). And when the mistress or mister gets to be too much, only moderate drinking allowed. (And you can bet that will be monitored!)

In my mind, house-sitting involves keeping the place clean, the plants watered and the animals fed.

Mary Sprague, chicken paintings, St. Louis artist, Duane Reed GalleryDuane Reed Gallery

Everyone raises backyard chickens these days. This is “Big Red,” by St. Louis artist Mary Sprague. Her work is available at the Duane Reed Gallery.

And by animals, I generally mean cats, dogs and fish. However, the craze for home chicken coops has led to a big increase in the number of people needing care for a half-dozen chickens; I can handle tossing feed and collecting eggs. But I do have my limits.

“We live on a 7-acre farm and are looking for someone we can trust with our home and our 2 goats, mini-donkey, mini-pony,  a calf, an outside boxer (he has a kennel), an inside cat, a cockatiel, hamster, bearded dragon, a few outside cats and a dozen chickens. There’s a possibility that we may need the barn stalls and the dog kennel cleaned while we are gone. …”

“We have kids! If you have kids this is a great place to bring them!” the homeowner says, noting the availability of a pool and a trampoline. Just make sure the kids don’t drown or break their necks while you’re out feeding the livestock and mucking the barn.

Oh, the animals—I could write a whole piece just on the animals requiring care. And so I will.

Coming soon: House-sitting opportunities, part two. “Talk to the Animals” will discuss the need to establish yourself as the “alpha dog,” devote yourself to the individual sensitivities of 10 indoor rescue cats, and Skype weekly with the “Mum and Dad” of two cats who “want someone who will love and spoil us…purr, purr.”

Watch for it….

Here are some well-known websites for finding house-sitting assignments and house-sitters. I have only been in touch, so far, with people on HouseCarers.com. I had a good experience with an assignment, a friend had a horrendous experience, and another friend spent six weeks in Costa Rica from a place on this site.

Some of these are free, others charge anywhere from $20 to $80 a year for access to their listings and the ability for you to post a profile. None of them actively matches homeowners with house-sitters; nor do they guarantee a successful experience. In general, house-sitters are not paid and they do not pay rent (though some might pay utilities). Some websites, such as SabbaticalHomes.com (which focuses on academics) mostly list homes for rent, for a month to a year.

Do your homework!