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Sprung

Despite years of being nerdy birders, we haven’t been out to the Martin Luther King Regional Shoreline very much this year. The area is a great place to spot several elusive, dabbling ducks that we can’t see around Lake Merritt.

So we popped over to MLK for a long walk at low tide, looking for various waterfowl. I think we squeaked in just before the end of migration season, as we spotted most of what we sought, but in very low quantities. The Green-winged Teal, American Wigeon, Cinnamon Teal, and numerous shorebirds are among the types that we can’t find in our neighborhood. The one I hoped for and didn’t see was a Blue-winged Teal, but we did better than expected given that it’s halfway through March.

Although most of the ducks were too far away to bother taking photos, the spring flowers are beginning to bloom all over, so here’s a sampling of flora and other things.

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Frankensofa

We decided to get a new couch. After 11 years, our bright orange one had faded to a gross peach color, and Phineas had managed to rip its poor arms to shreds. We tried to prevent this by draping the corners, but he burrowed under the fabric to scratch. We considered re-covering the sofa, but the issues were more than superficial and new fabric would’ve only solved half of its problems.

So we had two dilemmas about buying something new: what to do with the old sofa and how to keep Phineas from destroying the new one. We started looking at giant cat-towers—those ugly, carpeted monstrosities that felines adore and humans begrudgingly purchase—but we couldn’t bring ourselves to buy one. The large ones run $125-250, at which point, the DIY genes kick in. We kept saying, “I could build this.” But the question was, would we ever?

After considering the various costs and aggravations, not to mention the humilation of staring at a kitty condo every day, I came up with a master plan: deconstruct the old sofa and build a cat-perch from the pieces. Hopefully the remnant would attract Phineas, being his favorite scratching-post already.

This is a nice photo, about five years old. I should have taken another one before we embarked on our project, but you’ll see proof of how bad it was. This is just for context.

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Breaking down the sofa took less than two hours with cleanup. We had to be careful around the springs, and there was a lot of glue. But we were only cutting out the middle section as I wanted to save the arms, and once the tension was broken we were able to pry it apart.

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Hard to believe this near-empty cart contains all that was left of the insides. I salvaged most of the foam and batting, as well as the bright orange fabric from the back of the sofa that faced the wall.

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We saved the cushions for a couple of days while we waited for their replacement.

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This is what one of the arms looked like, standing by itself. Nice job, Phineas.

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We cut a piece of plywood to serve as a base for the arms. Then I set that aside to repair the cat-damage and assemble all of the parts.

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I used cardboard and the salvage materials to fill out the naked arms.

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Then I carefully fitted new fabric patches over the damaged areas and pinned them into place for stitching on a machine. Sorry this photo is so blurry. It’s the only one I have.

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This is what that cat-ravaged section looked like after the repair—ready for Phineas to start in again. We’ll see how long it lasts.

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After both arms were finished, I covered the base with fabric using one of the drapes from the original sofa, stapled into the bottom. I also wanted to stabilize the perch, so I made a shelf with another piece of plywood, leftover stuffing materials as a cushion, and the last of the orange slipcover—all stapled into place. Then we screwed all the parts together. We also put rubber feet on the bottom to prevent sliding when the cat shenanigans start.

You can see in this photo just how faded and stained the exposed fabric was. All of the material except for the floor-piece is from the original couch.

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I’m not going to say it’s pretty. It’s an ugly beast of a thing. But I’d rather have home-spun horrid, salvaged and made with care, than a teetering, pricey tower that the cats might not even use. The best part about the project was that Phineas knew it was his. While I worked on one arm, he would scratch at the other, so I knew we were on the right track.

There isn’t any doubt now. They use it every day. Phineas has made it his personal throne, and he likes to hide in “the Chunnel.” We’ve been thinking about what to call the perch; it seems to need a name. Victor came to mind a first, but I think we’ll just call it “Frank.”

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