It can be a bit of a balancing act keeping everyone comfortable inside at Rusty Metal Farm. Credit: Julia Bayly

It will come as no huge surprise to my friends and regular readers of this column that the needs, wants and desires of the four-legged and feathered critters here on Rusty Metal Farm come before my own.

Currently, the house occupants now stand at two cats, one tiny dog, one sled dog and yours truly.

Given that all of the above have different ideas on the ideal indoor temperature in addition to various dietary and feeding restrictions, there’s a lot of compromise going on these days.

Take feeding time, for instance, which has taken on all the challenges and frustrations of planning a seating chart at a wedding where both families are feuding.

There’s Reggie the hospice cat , who not only refuses to die, but also looks and acts like a cat half his age. Miss Kitty Carlisle, the feral cat brought here to combat the exploding mouse population in the garage, has decided inside is the place for her and that her mousing days are behind her. Pi, my last sled dog , who was too lonely as a solitary member of a pack outside and is now a house dog. And then there’s Chiclet, the tiny dog who is my constant companion.

Reggie can only be fed small portions at a time because he will gobble down everything that is put in front of him and make himself sick and then look around for more.

Miss Kitty Carlisle has very long hair and needs to have her special hairball fighting food.

Pi will eat her regular dog food, but is terrified of the cats, so she will hide in her kennel and leave her food untouched if they so much as look at her while she is eating. This then gives Reggie the opportunity to swoop in and finish it off himself.

Chiclet gets her tiny portion of food that is easy on her sensitive tiny tummy.

It took some time, but I think I have it down to a science at this point.

Feeding Reggie and Miss Kitty Carlisle first — each with their own dish — distracts them long enough for Pi to have her meal in peace. Chiclet gets fed in a separate room and whatever she does not eat has to be picked up and hidden from, you guessed it, Reggie, a cat who does not like to be thwarted in his quest for food.

Then there’s the issue of temperature control.

I’ll admit it — and my friends will back me up — come winter, I like my house toasty warm. Thanks to a very efficient wood-burning stove, I can keep it that way with little effort.

Luckily, the cats and Chiclet share this love of winter warmth and happily curl up and snooze as close as they can to its source.

Pi, however, doesn’t. The minute it gets to 60 degrees or above inside (aka a sled dog uncomfortable temperature), she is miserable and begins pacing and panting looking for a cooler spot.

At first I tried to make everyone happy.

I resisted building the fire up beyond keeping the house in the high 50s to low 60s. I turned on a heater near the cats’ favorite bed, where they could snuggle and keep warm, and dressed Chiclet in a sweater. Then I plugged in a heating pad and laid it on the couch for her to nap under.

Meanwhile, I did my best to convince myself that it was no big deal when I could no longer feel my toes and fingers while working in my cold upstairs office.

That was around the time I came downstairs and saw the cats huddled together in a small ball for warmth, Chiclet buried under that heating pad and Pi stretched out and happy as can be on the living room rug now that the ambient indoor temperature was cool enough for her comfort.

While I was glad she was comfortable, something had to be done before I actually started seeing my breath inside.

So, I hauled in a large plastic kennel from the garage and outfitted it with blankets and a dog bed. This I placed in my entry hall, which remains cool enough for Pi.

Pi is now more than happy to hang out in the hallway while the rest of us are comfortable in the warmer parts of the house.

For now, everyone seems to be happy. But what has me really concerned is wondering what will happen when the chickens decide they want to move in.

Julia Bayly

Julia Bayly is a reporter at the Bangor Daily News with a regular bi-weekly column. Julia has been a freelance travel writer/photographer since 2000.