Spring…Sort Of

We are still getting warm and cold and warm and cold temperatures. The temps will rise up into the 50s and then plunge overnight down into the single digits. Most of our snow is gone, but I’ve heard that we could get snow/sleet and freezing rain. I think it would be easier if we would just have wintry weather up until Spring arrived, but that’s not the way it usually goes and we could have a return to wintry weather even into April. I even remember a few times in my life when we had snow in May. So I don’t expect warm weather to stay this early in the year and I am not disappointed when Spring-like weather goes back to Winter. I used to tell JJ when he was a child that Spring and Autumn was when Winter and Summer fought for control. Winter eventually wins out in the Autumn but Summer wins in the Spring.

Still…warmer weather causes stirrings of wanting to get started on outside projects. Last Sunday we had a warmer day. EJ worked outside doing this and that, and together we also brainstormed about what to do with the back yard. The soil in our area is mostly sand so we pretty much have to have raised beds if we want to grow anything. The previous owner of our property had built a few raised beds which he left behind. I think EJ is planning on building more. The previous owner also left behind an old broken hot tub, which we have discussed how to get rid of. We have considered various options such as breaking it up and discarding it in the trash, but EJ has decided to turn it into another raised bed.

We also would like to let our poultry free-range because we have millions of tasty grasshoppers and spiders (I hope they eat spiders) and other insects. However, we also have a lot of predators in the area and we don’t want them to kill our beloved birds. We have discussed fencing in our back yard. A fence would give our poultry a large protected area to enjoy, would benefit our garden because the birds would (I hope) eat garden pests, and would protect our garden from deer. We don’t have the money yet to buy fencing for the whole yard, so we plan to fence in as much of the back yard as we can with the fencing we already have and then enlarge the fenced area little by little each year.

Cuddles reaching through the fence to pluck chicken feathers.

Ideally, I’d like to let the poultry all enjoy the back  yard together. However, Cuddles the duck is such a rascal and whenever the chickens are close to the dividing fence, he likes to reach through and pluck their feathers. And once when I let the chickens in the duck pen to see how they treated each other, I saw Sassy our alpha rooster bully Esther our lame duck so I had to separate them again. I do not like bullies. So I don’t trust the chickens and ducks to co-exist peacefully together, which means that even if we fence in the back yard, we will have to keep them separated. I’m considering putting a fence around the garden area and let the chickens in there, and let the ducks take their chances and free-range outside the fence. The ducks don’t seem to wander very far so I think they will stay pretty much in the back yard and will be relatively safe until we can fence in the whole back hard.

The weather was so warm on Sunday that I really wanted to get started right away reconfiguring the fencing, but last year we had inserted the fence a foot into the ground so that predators couldn’t easily dig under it. I would have had to undig the current fence, and dig post holes for posts. I thought the ground might still be too frozen and I knew that we were expecting more very cold weather, so I resisted the temptation, which was wise because the next day the temps plunged and the ground was frozen hard again. It really is too early to start on major outdoor projects.

Now that I have put away the bird feeders, I do not get to observe closeup views of the birds or deer. However, as I walk around our property, I can see many trees that have holes made by our Pileated Woodpeckers. It’s amazing to see the effects of their “drilling.” They really do cause a lot of damage and it’s no wonder that the trees fall. Although one of the benefits is that their holes provide homes for other wildlife.

The igniter on our oven died so I was without an oven for about two weeks while we searched for a new igniter. EJ was going to put it in last weekend, but Saturday morning I couldn’t get the stove burners to light. EJ went out to check our propane tank and it was completely empty. Last autumn he had switched to a new propane company that had cheaper rates. They insisted that we needed only a 300-something gallon tank instead of a 500 gallon tank, which means we run out of propane sooner. The company wants us to call them to get on a refueling list when the tank reaches 5% of fuel. EJ had been checking the fuel levels and knew it was getting lower, but when the temps reached into the single digits, it quickly emptied the tank. We actually don’t have a regular type furnace. Instead, we have a heating system that draws up heat (and coolness for A/C) from the ground. When the temperature is below a certain point, a secondary heating system that uses propane kicks in.

EJ cooking breakfast on the camping stove.

So rather than get my oven back last weekend, I lost my capability of using both the oven and stove. However, EJ got out his camp stove so we were able to have hot meals. The only real inconvenience is that we didn’t have hot water for dishes or showers or laundry. And that inconvenience only lasted until Monday, when the propane truck came and re-filled our tank. We could have gotten an emergency re-fill but that would have meant an extra fee, which we didn’t want to pay. We had our little propane heater for warmth–and one of JJ’s co-workers was worried about us and lent us her electric space heater. We used the propane during the day and the electric heater at night and we kept toasty warm.

JJ’s birthday cake

With a full tank of propane, we have regained our stove-top capability but EJ has not yet had time to put in the new igniter. He is usually quite tired when he comes home from work, so most of our projects are done during the weekend. Not having a working oven is more of an inconvenience than a hardship and I’m willing to wait. However, I wasn’t able to bake a cake for JJ’s 22nd birthday, which was Tuesday. I was planning to make him a carrot cake, which he really enjoys, but instead I bought him a Reeses Peanut Butter Cup/Chocolate cake at the local grocery store where he works. He enjoyed it. Usually I also let my guys choose what they want to eat on their birthday, but I couldn’t really do that this year. EJ’s birthday is next week and I hope to take him and JJ to Culvers for a combined birthday meal.

JJ is currently taking a law enforcement class at college and his teacher requires that his students attend court. JJ thought he would attend court next week when he has spring break. I offered to go with him because it would give me a good opportunity to learn where I’m supposed to go for Jury Duty next month.



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