can I help?

At least, that’s what I tell myself he’s saying.

Meet Leo Chapo, resident punky boy, who has become an integral part of the garden experience.  He usually shows up purring, sometimes seeming to materialize from the edge of the surrounding forest like a woodland sprite.  What is weird about this is… Leo hardly ever purrs, and he does not like to be approached at all when outside.  I joke that it’s his middle-school rebel rearing its head:

“Mah-ammmm, don’t embarass me in front of my friends!”

But he doesn’t seem to mind if he finds me in the garden.  He circles around me, purring throatily, swishing his strawberry blonde tail.  He practically frolics.  Which is why this photo is so blurry.  Leo Chapo is constantly in motion when he meets me there.  He’s not calmly awaiting his kingly tribute, watching me through narrowed green eyes.

It’s a mystery, all right.

I’ve narrowed it down to five possible explanations:

1) The aforementioned minty and basil-y aromatherapy halo I wear in the garden.  (Catnip is a member of the mint family.  Also, I recently discovered, is basil.  I love that I am always learning something new in the garden!)

2) The garden has a beautifying effect on moi.  (I have often suspected it.  You know how much prettier someone looks when she’s thoroughly enjoying herself?)  And so he’s not so embarassed for his friends to see him sauntering up to me and rubbing my ankles.  He is, in fact, showing off:  “Look ‘ow awesome my maman is.  Don’t you wish you had one like zees?”

(Leo sometimes speaks with a French accent.  It is his heritage via Chapo — pronounced like chapeau.  Long story.)

3) The fact that if my hands are full of tomatoes or I’m carrying a bowlful of harvested stuff, he’s figured out I’ll have to visit the kitchen shortly — and the kitchen is where the treats and tuna are kept.

4) The garden has that calming effect on everyone.  Purring is Leo’s version of smiling.

5) Leo is proud of his handywork and is showing off to me.

Yeah.  It might be that last.  Remember I told you he’s become an essential part of the garden?  A participant, if you will.  He’s basically removed the threat of small animals eating my plants or digging and disturbing the roots of larger ones.  Which was a problem in early spring before he started garden patrol.  He killed several chipmunks, a squirrel, and a baby bunny rabbit.  Which was still cute, even dead — and presented to us as a thank-you gift on the front porch.  *Shudder.*

On the plus side, we stopped losing radishes and parsley and having dug-up patches among the seedlings.  I don’t know what sight is more disheartening for a gardener than coming outside in the crisp morning air of spring, when the garden is at its most lovely, and finding a patch of baby plants all torn up, crumpled, munched.  Leo stopped that right quick.  And I am grateful.

Even if I suspect the true reason for the friendly garden visits is actually number three on that list.

Maman is no fool.

5 Responses to “can I help?”

  1. He’s a cutie. Of course, I am a sucker for a cat.

  2. He looks a bit like my Sophie! Love a tabbycat personality. 🙂

  3. Leo Chapo is brimming with personality! Lynn suggested I visit your garden and I’m really glad I did. Your photography is gorgeous (as is Leo Chapo – I wouldn’t want him getting jealous!). Lovely blog.

    Our last neighborhood still mourns the loss of Stripey, our vigilant protector of gardens. His sister is more of an observer-type.

  4. Debbie, I’ve been a sucker for cats all my life! I think they can see me coming now. 😉

    Lynn, I’m also attracted to the tabbycat personality. I’ll have to look for Miss Sophie on your blog.

    Talon, your compliments make me blush 🙂 I could imagine a neighborhood getting attached to a cat-protector. My other kitty, Booty (a.k.a. Bootay or Butemius) is more of a watch-cat. (He’s also a bit too fat to probably catch much. Although he did run very fast the other day when we saw a coyote!)

  5. As for Chapo, the short version of the story is here:

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