It is time to admit that Quince is not returning. I will be honest and tell you I don't know exactly when he disappeared from his normal barn routines. I was overwhelmed with lambing duties this year- more than ever because I bred more ewes - and then the rain and other things consumed me. I just noticed one day he was not at breakfast.
I have learned not to panic immediately when a barn cat goes off - they were born wild here and lived on their own terms - with food from me, of course. Most semi ferels don't live a year, so knowing Quince lived eight years - and happily - is a good thing to keep with me.
He was from the first litter of Apifera - days into arriving here, I knew there were several adult semi ferels roaming around - Mama Kitty was one, and Big Tony, the latter who turned out to be a big lush of a cat and now lives in the house with the Dirt Farmer as a pillow.
Mama is still with us after three litters, two of which have been raised here at Apifera, the other litter she deposited at a farm down the road and many still live there. She lives on the porch with remaining sons Orange and Plum, both brothers to Quince. Take note, trapping/spaying/neutering of the 25 'free range' cats took place over a two year period when I first arrived at Apifera. Many good people helped me pay for it all. And of course cats still show up periodically and are invited to stay.
I feel like Apifera - now eight years old - is on some kind of shift. Some of my old timers are leaving me. Old Man Guinnias' departure was a huge turning point for me and the barnyard feels askew. Now the first litter is waning...Big Tony is showing signs of age too. Even the Head Troll is about 10 and The One Eyed Pug is ancient.
All is well, do not be fooled by my rather overly quiet post. But everyone has shifts in their life. It's good to recognize them as such, and be wide eyed for what is in front of me when it resettles.
I hope you did not suffer, Quince. You were a fine gentleman, never pushy or aggressive, always willing to schooch over in the food pile.