Red Flag Warning

It seems to me that Spring always drags her feet, teasing us with glimpses of warmer weather and yanking it away. Then Summer races in out of nowhere and settles down with hot temperatures before we’ve really gotten used to going without wearing jackets.

Over the weekend, the US National Weather Service for our area issued “Red Flag Warnings.” I’ve never heard of such warnings before, but apparently it means that our hot temperatures (low to mid-90s), winds (10-15 mph with gusts of 25 mph), and little rainfall resulted in a high risk of wildfires. We didn’t have much snow during the winter, and we haven’t had much rain this Spring/Summer so everything is extremely dry. Our grass is turning yellow like straw in some places. We’ve had to water our gardens everyday. We set up an additional garden hose today so we can also water my rose garden near the house, and the fruit trees and berry bushes.

To help out the wild critters during this hot, dry weather, I’ve put bowls of water around–one in my herb garden, one on the large rock, and the bird bath hanging from the bird feeder post. I put a rock in each bowl so the bees don’t drown if they try to drink from it.

I haven’t seen the Mama deer and her baby since I wrote about them in my last post. However, I did see a very fat raccoon climb the feeder post to eat the leftover birdseed. I suspect she is pregnant. I stood at the window, just a few feet from her, shining a flashlight at her and she was completely unperturbed. I don’t see her often, but I know she visits the feeder every night because I find the tray tilted every morning.

I’ve already been able to harvest some of my herbs. In the Summer I cook with fresh herbs, but I also dry some to use in the Winter. The dehydrator generates a lot of heat, which is unpleasant on hot summer days, so I’m glad we moved it into the hallway a couple of weeks ago. Our hallway and pantry were added on some time after the house was built, connecting the house to the garage. The addition is unheated, but there is a door from the kitchen into the hallway.

EJ has been working hard in his garden. He has put in a lot of fencing for beans and peas to climb. He planted a lot of beans and peas this year; we hope to grow enough to last us the year. Once they are ready for harvest, I will be very busy. He’s also trying to grow a patch of corn. He also planted some bell and hot peppers, which I will freeze or dry, and a few tomato plants. He’s also planted some cucumbers, zucchini, and I don’t know what else.

A few years ago I fell on snow-covered ice in the driveway. I broke my left wrist and had to have a metal plate put in. My wrist has been aching for the last week or so and I hope that I haven’t reinjured it. I can think of several possible activities that could have caused my wrist to hurt–moving heavy garden boxes and and planters, crocheting too much…I’ve been taking Ibuprofen, icing my arm, and wearing a removable cast that I was given when I broke my wrist. I actually had several different casts, this was one I could take off to do physical therapy. I saved it, and it’s coming in handy now by supporting my wrist. I’m also trying to not do tasks that put a strain on my wrist, which is hard because there is so much to do at this time of year. Still…I think my efforts are working and my wrist is getting a little better every day.

Besides working in our gardens this weekend, we drove to Petoskey to pick up a kitchen island/cart that we bought on FB Marketplace. We buy almost everything secondhand from FB Marketplace, thrift stores, or garage sales. It saves us a tremendous amount of money. We have been looking for a small island/cart for several months because we really don’t have enough counter space, especially if we are both working in the kitchen at the same time. This island/cart is small enough to fit in the kitchen, and it is on wheels so we can move it wherever we need it.

The drive to Petoskey is very pretty. We took Hannah Joy with us because she doesn’t like being left home alone and usually gets in to things when we don’t take her. We have a seatbelt for her that buckles into her harness, but she always stretches as far as she can so she is sitting between us. Sometimes the seatbelt comes loose…which it did on the drive home. Then she crawled happily up to the front to sit in my lap. She’s very protective of us around strangers, but she is the cuddliest dog we’ve ever had.

Mama Mia!

This morning EJ and I were sitting in the living room, enjoying our coffee, when I suddenly exclaimed, “OH! MY! GOODNESS! I see a deer on the hill with her little fawn!” We quickly called Hannah Joy into the bedroom and shut the door so she wouldn’t bark and scare them away and then we stood and watched. The way the Mama was licking her very tiny fawn made us believe that it had been born just a few minutes before.

I took several videos. The videos are quite shaky because I zoomed in. Sorry.

The baby nursed a bit and then carefully crept down the slope and hid in the grass. The Mama trotted large protective circles around the hidden fawn, stomping warnings. Stomp! Stomp! Stomp! Then she suddenly dashed after a small animal that streaked away. I’m quite sure it was one of our cats. Probably Theo. Whatever the critter was, it escaped safely and Mama Deer returned to her fawn.

A few moments later, another deer appeared on the scene. I thought, “Uh, oh. There going to be trouble!” However, Mama didn’t appear very upset at the new arrival so we think it might have been her yearling.

Mama started down the driveway and the fawn got up and joined her. We watched until they disappeared from view.

A few minutes later, a lone female turkey wandered into the yard. No doubt she has a nest nearby. Probably in July or August we will see a flock of little turkeys following their Mama across the yard.

What an awesome start to the day! I love living in our Enchanted Forest!

Undercover

Michigan tricked me again. I know our weather is extremely fickle so I try not to quickly believe warm weather has arrived to stay. We had snow flurries in early May, but that’s not surprising to me. Two weeks ago, we had freeze warnings. Ok. Fine. I know we typically can have freezes until mid-May. We have a 10% chance of frost until June 13 or so but when temperatures reached the low 80s (F) last week, we thought we were safe so we planted our gardens AND I took most of the blankets off our bed because it was too hot at night with them on.

Ha! Michigan is as bad as Lucy pulling the football away from Charlie Brown in the Peanuts comic. We’ve had freeze warnings the last two nights and we are expecting another freeze tonight as temperatures dip into the low 30s. EJ and I have been putting our tender garden plants undercover each evening, and we’ve put the extra blankets back on the bed to cover up ourselves at night. I’ve gone back to wearing my chore coat when I go outside because “Brrr!” We’ve turned the space heater on to take the chill off in the house–but we’ve NOT turned the furnace back on as a statement of resistance. Michigan is tricky but will not totally break us.

When we moved into our house–almost SIX YEARS now!–we turned our extra bedroom into our library. All the walls are lined with shelves filled with books, except for where our desk is. We even have books on shelves that hang over the entrance and closet doors. Despite all our shelves, we still have books double shelved. We like books. Yesterday EJ and I sorted through the books and discarded a few that we have extra copies of or which we no longer want. By “discarded” I mean that we put them in boxes to donate. EJ has gone to buy a few more bean seeds and he will drop the books off at Goodwill as well.

Turkeys are usually very inexpensive at Thanksgiving in November so we always buy two or three. One we cook for Thanksgiving and the others we freeze for later in the year. EJ is cooking the last of our turkeys today. We will eat some of it today and I will turn the rest of it into turkey potpies on Sunday. I always make up several and freeze them, and then we bake one on days when we are busy and/or don’t feel like cooking. Potpies are one of my favorite meals.

Baking in the oven helps warm up the house when Michigan is cold. We can be tricky too.

The Cashier’s Note

We jumped from overnight freezes right into hot summery weather, from warm jackets into shorts and t-shirts. It looks as if by the end of the week, we will be back into cool temps and warm jackets. Gotta love Michigan–which, actually, I do. Love Michigan, I mean. EJ says that I am “Michi-centric.”

We’ve spent the last week busily working in our gardens. I got my raised herb garden in the front yard and planted. EJ has planted many of his veggies in his backyard garden. He is currently setting up fences and poles for his peas and beans to climb.

During the weekend, when he wasn’t working in his garden, EJ went grocery shopping. I usually pay the bills because I have more time and I know how much money we have in our accounts. Before he leaves to go shopping, he usually asks me how much money is available to spend. This last shopping trip, he went over quite a bit. The first thing he did when he arrived home was hand me a note, which he said was from the cashier. It is pictured at the top of this post. It said:

Please forgive your husband
for going over on his shopping bill!!
He is worried!!! Give him Big Hugs!!

I thought the note was hilarious. I don’t think EJ was all THAT worried and, of course, I didn’t yell at him. Most of the time he does extremely well at keeping within the budget when he shops. Oh, and we did give each other big hugs.

While EJ was shopping. I cut up a bunch of apples and froze them. EJ has sort of an informal arrangement with a guy at work. He gives the guy some of our eggs and the guy gives us a variety of items such as potatoes, onions, and apples. It works out well. It helps cut down on our grocery expenses.

After we got the groceries put away, EJ made homemade peanut butter in the food processor and also homemade bread. It’s simple making bread now that we have a bread machine. EJ puts all the ingredients in the machine, turns it on, and then goes off and does something else.

I also did laundry and mowed the lawn. This time I mowed under the clothesline in anticipation of being able to hang the clothes out to dry–which may not be as soon as I thought if the temps get cooler again.

Yesterday–or maybe the day before–Hannah Joy suddenly ran into the extra bedroom barking loudly. I went into the bedroom, trying to see what she saw. A lot of times she sees–or smells–things that we don’t so we don’t have any idea what she is barking at. However, this time I saw a deer standing just inside the forest. Then I saw Theo, our cat, creeping up towards the deer. I called to EJ, “Theo is stalking a deer!” Not a good idea. Theo is sweet, but such a dunderhead. We watched as Theo crept closer and closer, finally disappearing into the forest. The deer stomped its foot a time or two and then ran off.

I just heard geese honking. I ran outside and watched several groups of them fly overhead. The setting sun shone on them and turned them golden. This is the second large flock of geese I have watched fly over us in the last few days. We love watching the geese.

The trees are all beautifully green now. They hide us from our neighbors, making me feel as if I live in a secret enchanted forest.

Urgent Gardening

I am exhausted and groaning a bit from overwork.

We went from overnight freezes and daytime temperatures reaching only to 40-50 degrees (F) to the mid-70s. The forecast calls for steadily rising temperatures reaching the low 80s by the end of the week. So we went from too chilly to work outside to an urgent “Oh, crap! We’ve got to get the garden planted!”

Friday morning EJ woke up early and we drove to the Farmer’s Market at a nearby town to pick up the plants I had ordered from the co-op. He had signed up for some overtime at work so when we got back home he took a nap while I finished rearranging the garden boxes in the front yard and got most of my herbs planted. We need to buy more dirt so I can fill and plant the remaining three boxes.

We rested on Saturday (Shabbat) and on Sunday I mowed the lawn. The local plant nursery was having a tremendous sale on fruit trees, so EJ drove there and bought two cherry trees. He also bought a spearmint and peppermint plants I had asked him to get. I will plant them as soon as we get the dirt. Somehow, two berry bushes and two bags of seed potatoes snuck into his cart when he wasn’t looking. We will have to be careful until next pay day, but prices have increased drastically in the last few months so we are trying to buy items when they are on sale.

EJ planted his trees and put fencing around them so the deer don’t eat them. He also planted his berry bushes inside the garden fence–I think to make them less attractive to bears? Meanwhile, I started rearranging the garden boxes in his garden, while checking with him about how he wanted them placed. This year EJ decided to place the boxes along the back fence of the garden where they take up less room. He said this is the last year we will move the boxes because it’s actually a lot of work: I have to move the pallets to where the boxes will go. I usually put one pallet on top of another to make them higher. I shovel the dirt out of a garden box into the wheelbarrow. I move the empty box on top of the pallets. Then I shovel the dirt back into the box. Then I start on another box.

This morning I was out in the garden at about 7 am to finish rearranging the boxes. I try to do as much of it as possible because I don’t want EJ to aggravate his chronic back problems–also, he still has a 10 hour day of work ahead of him. Besides, the boxes are all shapes and sizes, and I am really good at “tetris-ing” the boxes so they fit well together without much wasted space. Of course, once he got up, he helped me move some of the larger boxes. When he’s not around, I lift the large boxes and “walk” them to where they go.

I reached my goal of getting all the boxes arranged today. I figured that the sooner I got the boxes moved, the sooner EJ could start planting. He was able to get some of his veggies planted. It was pleasant working in the pleasant coolness of the morning. The rest of the week is supposed to be warmer, and it’s uncomfortable working when it’s hot.

I was going to call it quits after working in the garden, but I figured, “Hey, I’m already really dirty” so I cleaned out the coop a little. The chickens sleep on straw bales that I put on top of the small coops that are inside the large coop. Over time, the bales get a hard crust of dried poop on them. I dragged those bales out into the garden. EJ can use them to help fertilize his garden if he wants. I replaced the bales with cleaner bales that had been tucked away and not pooped on. They had been blocking the second little chicken door. I wanted to be able to open it so there is cross ventilation on hot days. I raked out some old loose straw from the floor. I should rake out the straw from inside the smaller coops, but I had used up all my energy. It will have to wait for another day.

Now that we are planting, the chickens aren’t allowed in the garden. They still have a generous outdoor pen to frolic in; it’s just not as huge as the garden. It’s just as well that they are restricted to their pen. The cats found a hole in the garden fence a year or two ago which allows them to come and go. The chickens finally noticed it this year and a few of them have been escape into the wide, wide world. We have coyotes and other predators so it’s really not good for them to get out. Fortunately, chickens like to be with their flock so it’s quite easy to guide them back into the garden. I blocked the hole so they couldn’t escape, but now that they are shut out of the garden, I unblocked it so the cats can get in and out.

After I finished cleaning the coop, I went inside and took a shower. I decided to wash my filthy clothes. I sorted through the laundry basket to get clothes to wash with them. That kind of morphed into doing several loads and washing ALL the clothes. At least I can sit down while they are in the washing and drier. Soon I will be drying the clothes on the clothesline, but by the time I finished working it was too late and I was too tired to do it.

After I rested a bit, I took Hannah Joy for a walk to the mailbox for our mail. I was tired and my feet hurt but the day was beautiful and I felt she deserved a walk. She loved it. So did I.

Listen, Daughter

My Mom died in November 2020. Ten days later one of my sisters contacted me on FB to inform me of our Mom’s death. The way in which she told me was harsh, accusatory, and dripping with guilt. After I read her message, I blocked my sister. She was the only one in my family that I hadn’t blocked because I didn’t think she was on FB.

At the time, I only told a very few very close friends about my Mom’s death because I didn’t want to deal with all the condolences from people who didn’t know about my family. I didn’t know if I should pretend my Mom and I had a good relationship or say nothing about its badness? How could I explain that I had grieved for years and years over the loss of our relationship and that I was pretty much all grieved out at this point? So I said nothing.

I don’t want to wade into the details of my dysfunctional family–that would take thousands of pages, probably, and still not convey the story. People who have loving families will not comprehend the damaging toxicity of an emotionally abusive family no matter how much a survivor tries to explain. They will assume that all problems are “petty” and that all a person has to do is love and forgive enough and everything will be resolved. (Not true.) People who do understand abuse will understand without being told details. But I will try to write a brief sketch:

I grew up thinking that I had a loving family. I loved them all deeply. I was always very close to my Mom and was always there to help her and Dad. My Mom praised me for being a wonderful daughter. That is, until I got engaged to EJ in my mid-twenties. Suddenly, without warning, my Mom became extremely demanding and critical. When I tried to set healthy boundaries, to explain, to defend myself, she became enraged and began lying about me. She turned the family against me. Overnight I went from a “loving daughter” to “a daughter from Hell–the worst daughter a mother could have” and other such things. It was horrid and I was totally confused. I didn’t understand what was happening–or why.

That was when I began to educate myself about emotional abuse. At first, I had no help except for a few books here and there. I sought counseling from a few mentors/pastors but they always advised me to love my Mom more because she was just wounded. I didn’t “not love” my Mom. I sensed that this wasn’t about love or woundedness but was an intense power battle–that my Mom was trying to make me submit to her control and to place herself as the head of my marriage. Eventually, I found information about abuse on the internet from survivors. I learned about the behavior and tactics of abusers, I learned how they tend to gather around them people who support, enable, and defend them, and I learned about the damage their abuse causes their victims. I learned that emotional abusers are so manipulative that the ONLY way to be free of their abuse is to have no contact. I learned a LOT. My family has all the characteristics and my eyes were finally opened to the covert emotional abuse that had always existed in my family.

I grieved for many years for my family. Not for what we were as much as for what we could have been. I think we had the potential to have been a close loving family. In fact, some of us siblings were once very close friends. However, as abusers commonly do, our Mom covertly manipulated us, stirring up resentment, jealousy, or fear, and turning us against each other. My Mom reminded me of Proverbs 16:28: “A whisperer separates close friends.”

I tried for years and years to reconcile with my Mom without sacrificing my ability to make my own choices as an adult. Finally, when she said that she considered all my efforts to reconcile to be “less than a drop in a teacup” and she would never forgive me (for my lack of submission?), I recognized that there was nothing more that I could do. I accepted her final rejection and I walked away. My Mom, my family, caused so much turmoil that it was hurting me and my own little family. I struggled with PTSD symptoms.

None of my other siblings have freed themselves from the abuse. At one time or another, my Mom cut off relationships with four of her six children, at least for a while. When it first happened to me, I reached out to siblings who had been outcast before me. I thought we could be friends, and I thought we were for a while, but I was the only one who made any effort to maintain a friendship and they never let go of their childhood resentments. They have spent their whole lives trying to gain our Mom’s love and approval, and even though they had suffered rejection, when I walked away, they turned on me and defended our Mom. This, also, is typical behavior of abusive families. The one who tells the truth, the one who doesn’t submit, is vilified and becomes a scapegoat.

When EJ and I (with our son) moved to Northern Michigan, I didn’t notify my family. I saw how toxic, how damaging, my family was and I needed to be free of it. Since we moved north, EJ and I have been working on recovery and healing for ourselves–and we are gradually finding it.

A month or so ago, I found out in a roundabout way that my family was trying to contact me in regards to our Mom’s Will. I didn’t respond because I saw (from my sister’s message about Mom’s death) that they hadn’t changed and I really didn’t want the turmoil of reconnection. Besides, I was absolutely certain that I had been disinherited. If I had been left anything at all, I knew it wouldn’t be loving. Or nice. Either it would be a tiny amount to make me feel unvalued or it would be a nasty letter. I’m uninterested in an inheritance and would rather have peace and joy.

I felt a bit of stress at the thought of being contacted by my family because contact means being dragged back into the abuse so I asked God that if it was legally required that I be contacted regarding the Will to please let me be contacted by a lawyer and let it be over and done with quickly. In today’s mail was a copy of the Will sent to me by a lawyer. I glanced at it briefly, saw in a letter placed on top of the Will that I was indeed “disinherited.” I didn’t read the rest. I won’t read the rest. To me, reading the Will would like letting them all stab me in the heart again.

I felt a trifle punched in the gut by the rejection/lack of love from them all, but not tremendously so and it is quickly fading. Years ago, my parents planned to disinherit one of my sisters. Or, rather, they actually discussed leaving her only one dollar to symbolize how little they valued her. When I considered a few years later that they would probably do the same to me, I asked God, “Do I have so little value to them, so little worth?” The worthlessness that their “disinheritance” symbolized is what bothered me. And then I realized that God loves me so much and places such high value on me that He gave His Son for me. Also, 1 Peter 1:4 says that God has given me “an inheritance that cannot decay, spoil or fade, kept safe for you in heaven.” I am loved, valued, and have an incredible inheritance. Nothing can beat that. I was comforted.

Though my father and mother forsake me,
    the Lord will receive me. (Ps 27:10)

For the record, I do not hate my family. I often pray that God will heal them/us so that the dysfunction does not damage future generations. But our relationships have been so destroyed and there would be so much “baggage” to sort through that I don’t think it’s possible to restore any relationships. I want a good life for them and a good life for me–separately. I actually feel a sense of relief because I’ve received the will, I don’t have to dread contact from my siblings, and I can get on with life.

In closing, I would like to share an incredibly unique poem by Shiva Sai Teja. I have read it several times in the past, and it just recently reappeared in my FB timeline. When you read each line of the poem, as you normally would, from the top to the bottom, it says one thing. When you then read the poem in reverse, reading each line from the bottom to the top, it has a completely different message. I feel the first way–top to bottom–describes how abusers make their victims feel about themselves. Reading in reverse is what a victim must re-learn as she strives for recovery and healing. This poem always, always brings tears to my eyes.

Listen, daughter, and pay careful attention:
    Forget your people and your father’s house.
Let the king be enthralled by your beauty;
    honor him, for he is your lord. (Ps 45:10-11)

Garden Tetris

The weather has been a bit chilly, with temps only reaching the 40s to mid-50s (F) during the day and dipping into the 30s at night. For the last week, the National Weather Service has issued frost warnings for our area–and we are still getting snow flurries now and then. One frosty morning I saw all the grass edged in beautiful white frost. I’ve read that typically we can get frost in our area until mid-May and there’s a slight chance of frost into June. Not long after I’m finally convinced that “Wow! Summer is here!” then it’s the summer solstice and the days begin to shorten again.

Mostly it feels too chilly to enjoy working outside, although we do occasionally get a warm-ish day. Last week I discovered a local Farmer’s Market co-op on the Internet so we ordered a few herb and vegetable plants from them. Other states have been opening up but Michigan’s governor has kept us in draconian lockdowns, which have really hurt small businesses in our state. We’d like to try to help them out by buying from from them rather than bigger chains. We picked up our order on Saturday. Different plants are available at different times so I put in another plant order that we will pick up this Friday. Because it’s still too cold to put fragile plants outside, we have been putting them out on the patio table during the day and bringing them in at night. A few of the garden boxes have plants that have returned from last year so I’ve been covering them up at night.

An ice cream shop was next to the place where we picked up our plants so after putting the plants in the truck, EJ went over and bought us ice cream. He got Hannah Joy a small dog-cone. I think it’s likely that it’s the first cone she’s ever had. She went wild and chomped-chomped-chomped it down like pacman gobbling dots in the old video game. It was gone in seconds. She liked the ice cream so much that it was an effort to keep her from gobbling our ice cream as well. I predict that there will be more cones in her future.

Sunday we ordered some dog and cat food from the farm store online, and then drove to pick it up when they texted that it was ready. The farm store is about an hour away so we usually order several items at a time to make it worth the trip. I suspect the price of pet food will rise so we would like to get ahead while it’s still relatively inexpensive. The drive is beautiful so we don’t mind the distance.

Before we left for the farm store, EJ got bread going in his new bread machine. I told him that I bought him the bread machine for his Mother’s Day gift. Ha Ha. Actually, I bought it for him because he likes to make bread but he is finding that kneading the dough is becoming difficult on his hands–and mine as well. We try to live frugally and we buy a lot of items second-hand, but I invested in a new bread machine to make sure it worked and had its instruction booklet with it. For several months in 2020 it was difficult to find certain foods, such as bread, in the grocery stores so we would prefer to have the ability to make our own bread. Plus, when we make our own, we know what ingredients are in it.

After we got back home from the farm store, EJ went out in the garage to work on our “new” riding lawn mower. It had belonged to EJ’s friend’s Dad, who died last year. Since EJ’s friend didn’t need it, he gave it to us. Free! He dropped it off a week or so ago. There is a problem with the front end, which EJ is working on. Hopefully, he can fix it because it sure would make mowing the lawn much easier than using the push mower. I usually get overheated and red-faced mowing the lawn with the push mower, and I always have to take several breaks to cool off. The riding mower also has a snowblower attachment, which is awesome.

EJ plans to reconfigure the raised garden beds and he said that I can have a few of the garden boxes that he doesn’t plan to use. EJ is responsible for growing vegetables in the main garden in the back yard, while I grow herbs in the front yard. While EJ worked on the riding lawnmower, I shoveled dirt out of “my” new boxes into the wheelbarrow, moved it and the emptied boxes to my herb garden in the front yard, then shoveled the dirt from the wheelbarrow back into the boxes. The chickens “helped” by getting in each box while I was trying to remove its dirt and getting in the wheelbarrow that I was trying to put the dirt in, and then getting in the way while I tried to move the heavy boxes out of the back yard garden. Chickens are very curious and like to hang out with me. I think they are sweet.

The garden boxes are all different sizes so I felt as if I was playing a sort of “garden tetris” as I positioned them in places where they fit in my herb garden. I’m not sure which herbs I will plant in which box, but I will figure it out when it’s time for planting.

Some migratory birds are returning to the area. Over the weekend, we saw bluebirds checking out the birdhouses we have set out for them. A female rose-breasted grosbeak visited the feeder and we briefly saw a Baltimore oriole. This morning I saw a hummingbird hovering near the feeders so I quickly got out and washed the hummingbird feeders and mixed up some nectar. As soon as the nectar cooled, I filled a feeder and hung it up for them. Hmmmm. I wonder what hummingbirds eat when they arrive before the flowers bloom?

Last Thursday EJ stopped in at the hospital to get the stitches removed from his thumb, which he had sliced open when he brushed metal chips from the machine at work. It turns out that his thumb is infected. They suspected that a metal chip might still be in his thumb so they gave him an X-ray, prescribed an antibiotic, and told him to call the hand doctor. He called today and made an appointment for Wednesday. I certainly hope that he just has an easily healed infection and not a chip that will require surgery to remove.

The Fridge

Fridays are usually our day to run errands–or to get tasks done at home. Today EJ ran a lot of errands while I worked at home.

First thing this morning EJ went into town to buy a refrigerator. I had been looking for a small refrigerator for my eggs for several years. The eggs tend to accumulate faster than we can sell them–and they start taking over space in our regular fridge. We didn’t want to pay very much money so we looked for a secondhand one. We didn’t want a fridge that was too big because we don’t have much space for a second fridge–and also transporting it home would be a problem. But we didn’t want one that was so small that it couldn’t hold many eggs. We looked and looked and finally this week we found the perfect fridge on Facebook Marketplace. It was large enough to hold dozens of eggs, but small enough to fit in the hallway. It also was very inexpensive. Yay! Our search is over!

EJ took several bags of our household garbage to the waste facility. We don’t accumulate much garbage so we have discovered that it’s much cheaper to drop off the bags every few weeks rather than have curbside service. The facility isn’t that far away so it doesn’t take much time.

EJ also went to the store to pick up groceries. Actually, he is there now, as I write this post. Since the Lockdowns started a year ago, he designated himself our family grocery shopper. When he gets home, I will go out and bring in one load, but then I have to stay inside to keep Hannah Joy from getting into the bags so EJ will bring in the rest while I put everything away.

While EJ was running errands, I stayed home and cleaned the house. First, I made room in the hallway for the new fridge. Then I cleaned the house, filed papers, made more homemade shower cleaner.

Tomorrow is our Township’s annual “Clean-up Day”–a day when residents can take household rubbish, building materials, furniture, appliances, etc., to the waste facility for free. EJ is going to take in a load in the morning. We have an old printer we need to get rid of, a nonworking vacuum, and a few other items we need to get rid of.

Whatchagot Chili

Monday I made Chili for lunch. Whenever I make Chili, we always have more than we can eat so I always have a lot of leftover chili for the next day’s meal. Sometimes I have too little leftover for both of us, so I add more ingredients to stretch it. By adding a few more ingredients the next day and a few more ingredients the day after that, I can make a pot of chili last for several days–until finally there’s none left to save. The Chili ends up transmorphing from day-to-day into other dishes. For example, Monday I made my basic Chili. Tuesday EJ and I made Whatchagot (“what-you-got”) Chili, which means that we took out all the leftovers accumulated from several meals from the fridge and added them in. We added refried beans leftover from tacos, a fried hamburger-carrot mixure leftover from “Ohm Rice” (a dish my Korean sister-in-law taught us to make years ago), and leftover rice. Today we used the leftover Whatchagot Chili as a topping over spaghetti. When we turn chili into spaghetti sauce, I call the meal “Chil-ghetti.”

This is a good time to tell you that EJ is a wizard at turning leftovers into amazing meals. His most epic Whatchagot Stew was years ago when he combined leftover chicken stir-fry and leftover Italian sausage spaghetti in a pot. He threw in a half eaten Burger King Whopper, one piece of strawberry shortcake, and half a piece of mincemeat pie. It sounds absolutely awful but it tasted incredible. We gobbled it down and wanted more. The thing about Whatchagot Stew is that it’s made entirely of “what you got” in the fridge at the moment so it can’t be duplicated. Since that meal, I’ve suspected EJ of using culinary magic, and when he begins to combine leftovers, I stand out of his way.

Poor EJ

Last night EJ was cleaning out his CNC machine at work when a piece of metal chip sliced open his left thumb. He went to the local hospital and they put in ten stitches. He returned to work after they were done patching him together but his thumb was throbbing so much that he ended up coming home early. He was told at the hospital not to use his thumb, to keep his bandage clean and dry, and to return in about ten days to have the stitches removed. Despite these restrictions, he is returning to work today. He talked to his boss and it sounds as if they are going to give him easy jobs that he can do one-handed.

Yesterday evening when EJ had settled in his chair, he asked what new things I had learned about the UK. The interesting thing about learning about a culture from a TV series is that you can pick up pieces of information that you wouldn’t learn from a documentary about the country. Yesterday I learned about various honors awarded in the UK to recognize achievements and service. I learned what a “bedsit” and an “HMO” are, and how they are different. I learned what an “identikit” is, as in “we were indentikit sisters.” I also learned what a “karzy” is. I thought a “karzy” would be a parking garage, but I learned that it is actually “a lavatory, toilet.” In looking up “karzy,” I found an interesting UK slang dictionary, which I added to my “Everything Links” page at the top of my blog. I look forward to exploring it.

My favorite phrase that a character used in an episode is “softly, softly, catchee monkey.” An online dictionary said it means “A slow and careful way of resolving an issue, typically when dealing with a deceptive or otherwise challenging person or thing.” Example: “Don’t you worry, we’ll lull that crook into a false sense of security and then trap him–softly, softly, catchee monkey.”

I think it’s interesting the USA, the UK, and Australia share a common language, but they have developed in different ways. Our languages are so similar that we can understand each other, yet some of our words are so different that in many ways it’s as if we are speaking different languages.

A Series of New Things

Spring has mostly arrived here in Northern Michigan. There is a haze of green on the opposite hill that becomes more pronounced every day as the leaves begin to grow on the trees. Dandelions are blooming, as well as daffodils and violets.

We were getting a bit low on poultry feed so a week ago I ordered eleven 50 lb bags–from our farm store’s website. I also ordered a kitty litter box for the chickens so they now have two. Their favorite nesting box is a litter box and they tend to get a little irritated when they go to lay their eggs and find the box already occupied. EJ also order boots; his current ones were falling apart. The store texted me when the order was ready. When we arrived at the store, employees loaded the items into the truck for us. It’s very convenient.

When we got back home, EJ unloaded the bags for me while I set up the new litter box next to tthe old one. Then I scooped the 550 lbs of feed into empty kitty litter buckets. Each bag fills about two buckets. The buckets keep the feed safe from mice and also stack on top of each other to save space. Fortunately, the day was a pleasantly cool 55 degrees so it was not too hot to work. Even so, I was tired by the time I got six of the bags emptied. I told myself that I would empty “just one more bag” and leave the rest for the next day. Five times I told myself “just one more bag” until I had all the bags emptied and all the buckets stacked in the coop. Then I went into the house and collapsed on the couch.

Our grass was growing a bit long so yesterday EJ got the mower started and I mowed the lawn, even though the temperatures were in the 40s. I only did the bit up near the house, where the grass was longer. While I mowed, EJ did other tasks.

When I opened the bedroom curtains this morning, I saw two deer in the back yard eating the grass on the other side of the garden fence. When I looked out the living room windows at the front of the house, I saw a male turkey strutting across the yard. I don’t like to scare away the wildlife–I love watching them–so I delayed doing my other chores for awhile. But I can’t wait forever so finally I went out to let the cats and chickens out of the coop. I always go through the garage into the garden/coop area. When I opened the garage door, one of the deer quickly looked up at me. I froze, and we started at each other for a minute or two. Finally, the deer and two others, moved off into the forest and I went out to open the coop and feed the animals. When I got back into the house, Hannah Joy needed out. As soon as we went outside, the turkey moved off into the forest.

I love living in our Enchanted Forest.

Later this morning it snowed hard enough to cover the ground like powered sugar, but it quickly melted. In the afternoon, the temperature warmed up just enough to rain. It is still raining. I can hear it tapping on the roof now as Hannah Joy dozes on my lap as I write this post. I’m balancing my keyboard on her back. LOL.

I have been watching a BBC series on my computer called “New Tricks.” It’s an enjoyable detective show with quirky characters. As I watched it, I found myself encountering uniquely United Kingdom terms and events that I didn’t recognize. I started muttering to myself, “What on earth does THAT mean?” so I began to pause the show and look stuff up. I’ve learned that “grassers” are police informants, that the charge of ABH and GBH means Actual Bodily Harm and Grievous Bodily Harm. I learned that a person who is a “QC” is a “Queen’s Counsel,” which refers to a set of barristers and solicitors who the monarch appoints to be a part of Her Majesty’s Counsel learned in the law. I learned what a “Procurator Fiscal” is in Scotland. I learned about the history of United Kingdom money when I wondered how much a “quid” is. I learned the history of Epping Forest and looked up its location on Google Maps. I learned some very interesting facts about Gibraltar when the detectives went there to solve a case and spent some time “exploring” it on Google Maps. Sometimes the detectives mentioned a famous person or criminal that I suspected is real, so I looked them up and, yep, many of them are real. I found the “Murderpedia” website, which I’ve included on my Everything Links page, because I looked up some murderers that were mentioned. (In case you wonder: Monsters are real.) I am learning many new things. It’s almost more fun stopping to learn about the UK than watching the series’ actual storyline. I’ve always loved learning about differences in regions of my country or other countries of the world. EJ enjoys learning too so I always share what I am learning with him. He started getting interested in the series and now I’m re-watching it with him on the weekends. He often says to me, “Dang it! You got me interested in ANOTHER series.” LOL.

A Little Bit of Everything

A week ago–Tuesday and Wednesday–our temperatures rose to a summery 80 (F) degrees. EJ and I could no longer resist putting the screens in so we could open the windows and let the fresh breeze blow out the winter’s stale air. I wore a t-shirt without coat, jacket, or sweater. It was nice. A little rain moved in later in the week–not as much as was forecast, but it made the grass greener and I can see the slightest smudge of green on the trees. But temperatures have gradually cooled and tomorrow and Thursday snow is forecasted. This up and down weather is why I don’t fully trust that Spring is here until sometime in May.

This weekend I made some homemade household cleaners. Right now I’m just trying them out, trying to find ones I like best. EJ made bread and peanut butter. We discussed a list of things that we’d like to try making in the future–cleaning products, food items, herb concoctions. One thing that I like about EJ and me is that we each make the things that interest us. If it’s a joint project–such as painting/decorating a room–then whoever has the strongest idea gets to have creative control. We support and encourage each other’s ideas, plans, or notions. If one doesn’t turn out, we have no problem tweaking it or redoing it.

Last night I did not sleep well. Not at all. I keep up on what is happening in the world, and although I am remaining mostly hopeful and strong, sometimes it overwhelms and stresses me, and then I can’t sleep, and then I am tired all day. I call this sort of day a “soul-sighing” day to describe when I wake up very tired and spend the day barely functioning–like a low battery–and waiting for night so I can go to bed.

Even though I barely slept, I woke up at about the same time as I always do. I knew I wouldn’t be able to fall back to sleep so I got up and did my morning chores. As I was outside opening up the coop, I decided to rake and shovel out the old straw. It’s quite a job. Over the winter, the chicken poop dries out and packs down, making a hard cover on the floor. It actually helps insulate the coop. When I clean out the coop in the spring, the poop is packed down enough so that there are times I can roll it up like a rug or carpet, although it’s heavy and today I just shoveled up chucks and sheets. Chicken poop makes good fertilizer so I carried it out into the garden. I figured the chickens can help work it into the soil. Their scratchings work up the soil very well. I didn’t finish cleaning out the coop today, although I did a lot and got a good start. When I finished, I came in and showered. Because. Chicken poop.

I stayed off the news sites today because my calm has been damaged and I need to restore it by doing enjoyable things. So I continued working on this blog. Last week I started making a tab with links to recipes. I am including some of my old favorites, some of our new successes, as well as ones we are experimenting with, such as shampoos. I will add others as we go along. You can find the “Recipes” tab under the Blog title.

In my last post, The Tracker of Everything, I described some of the things that I enjoyed tracking. Later, after a reader’s comments, I thought that maybe I should add the links I mentioned in the post in case others wanted to enjoy them as well. However, there were so many links and I realized that they wouldn’t be easy to find later so I decided to list them in a tab also. I really enjoy learning new things and exploring the world via the Internet. I’m a Hobbit sort of explorer. I love going all over the world while at home in my Enchanted Forest, sitting in my comfy chair, drinking hot coffee (or iced tea), with Hannah Joy sitting on my lap.

I have a lot of links to really cool sites, including air and marine traffic as well as locations of shipwrecks. I have links to weather, earthquakes/volcanoes, wind, floods, etc. I have links to the International Space Station, including sightings, info about crew/missions, and livestreaming from the ISS). I have links to interesting astronomy sites. I have links to bird/animal identification and migration, including shark migrations. I have links to sites that let you listen to radio stations from all over the world, as well as from different historical broadcasts. I even have a link to an interactive map of Middle Earth. I have so many links to cool sites. If everything interests you like it does me, check out the “Everything Links” tab at the top of the page next to “Recipes.” I will add to the page whenever I find another interesting site.

The Tracker of Everything

I am a tracker. Yep. Me.

I am a tracker in both a conventional sense (sort of) and an unconventional sense. I’m not a professional in any sense of the word. Maybe I should call myself an “observer” or a “spotter” but I like the word “tracker.” I am a tracker of everything.

I like to observe animal tracks, especially in the snow where they can be easily seen. I think to learn what critters are wandering across our property. I can easily identify deer and turkey. I have seen coyote tracks. A couple of years ago, a neighbor told us he has seen bobcat in our driveway in the early mornings. Interested, I looked up information about bobcats and although I’ve never actually seen any, I can now identify its scat (a tracker’s term for “poop”) that they occasionally leave in our driveway. I have seen where a rodent became an owl’s lunch–I saw the rodent’s tracks end at the imprint of large wings. I think it’s interesting to follow the tracks of our cats to see where they wander. I’ve occasionally seen other tracks which I can’t identify. I’d like to get a book about Michigan animal tracks so I can learn more.

I also like to track vehicles of different types.

USPS (photo from Pixabay)

I’m assuming my enjoyment of tracking vehicles started when I was a child. My Mom always got excited when mail was delivered. Not hugely excited. But she’d note when she spotted the mail jeep down the street and headed our way, and she’d be out to collect the mail as soon as it was delivered. It got so we’d shout, “Howard the mailman is coming!” or “The Mail is here!” I don’t know why I got so excited since I rarely got mail when I was a child, but the excitement of the mail being delivered has never left me.

After EJ and I were married and we started ordering items from the Internet–and companies sent tracking numbers!–I had fun tracking my item as it moved across the country. It added to the excitement of anticipation as I watched it move from city to city. USPS allows me to sign up for “Informed Delivery” to see exactly what is coming in the mail each day. UPS lets me “live track” their delivery truck on my computer when it’s “out for delivery.” How cool is that? When we moved to our Enchanted Forest, it became important (to me) to track my order. Packages, especially in winter, are often placed in what I call our “magic box” (because packages “magically” appear in it) at the bottom of our long driveway. I’ve heard there are people–porch pirates, they are called–who brazenly steal packages even from people’s porches. Since I can’t see our magic box from the house, I watch for emails or texts notifying me when a package has been delivered and then I hurry down to get it. A couple times, when I couldn’t find a delivered package, I found it misdelivered at our neighbors.

I like to watch trains. I grew up about a half block from the train tracks. When I was very young, I remember running out to watch the trains go by whenever I heard their toot. Later, I’d count how many cars the engine pulled and I’d wave to the engineer if I spotted him. When we were in high school, my siblings and I always walked home for lunch. We had only 10 minutes to walk home, 15 minutes to eat, and 10 minutes to get back to school. We had to cross the railroad tracks so if we heard a train whistle, we’d take off running so we wouldn’t be delayed. It’s been many years since I’ve lived near railroad tracks, but the lonesome toot of a train always brings back memories–and makes me feel like waving, counting, or running. EJ grew up near a town that was a major train hub and he also has a fondness for trains.

Weather radar from Accuweather

EJ and I both have always enjoyed observing weather as well. It’s really fun tracking storms on radar on our computer to see where they are headed, if they will hit/miss us, how severe they are. I have several sites and programs that lets us watch radar. When our son was younger, he and I used to leap into the car and follow storms, pretending we were storm chasers. (We wouldn’t stay out if the storms were bad.) A couple of years ago, EJ and I toured our local National Weather Service office. That was really fun and interesting.

I just learned a few months ago that I can also track wildfires, earthquakes, and volcanos around the world. Awesome! I occasionally watch Youtube videos created by someone called “Dutchsince” who is an expert on earthquakes. His descriptions and explanations of earthquakes occurring around the world are fascinating.

A screenshot of earthquakes from Dutchsince’s video.

A couple of years ago, I learned that I can track snowplows in our area on an interactive map on a MDOT (Michigan Department of Transportation) website. It’s interesting watching where the snowplows are clearing roads, although most of the time I forget I have this capability.

I think it’s really fun to track boats on the Great Lakes. Maybe about 10 years ago(?), we went camping for a week near Port Huron, Michigan, where we discovered the Great Lakes Maritime Center. It was located right on the coast. Inside the building, there were monitors set up to enable people to track boats passing by. Outside there were canopies set up to provide comfortable shade for watchers. Every day we’d take lawn chairs and a picnic lunch and spend the day sitting peacefully under the canopies to watch the boats go by. Occasionally we’d go into the Center to learn when to expect a boat, what its name was, its origin/destination, what its cargo was, and other sorts of information. Sadly, I think the Center is no longer in operation.

Great Lakes Maritime Center in Port Huron, Michigan

We live closer to the Great Lakes now than we used to, and we watch boats go by if we are rock hounding along the coast, but we don’t live close enough the Lakes to be able to actually see ships every day. I have, however, discovered an online map that lets me track maritime activity on the Great Lakes–and even around the world. It’s amazing how much marine traffic is on the waters. Each color on the map below represents a different type of ship. Sometimes I wonder about the stories of people on boats and ships traveling around the world. What are they seeing? What are they experiencing? What dangers are they encountering? What are their stories? Every November I pause to remember the Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald, who was lost with her entire crew of 29 men in a terrible storm on Lake Superior on November 10, 1975. It was immortalized in this song by Gordon Lightfoot. Currently, I am tracing the recent drama of the Ever Given ship that blocked the Suez Canal.

Marine Traffic

A month or so ago, I discovered that I can track airplanes online. It’s fun tracking ships, but even more fun tracking airplanes because I can see airplanes overheard more often than I can see boats on the Great Lakes. Before, we’d see an airplane flying across the sky and think, “Hmm. I wonder where the plane is from and where it is headed?” Now I can click on a plane on the map (below) and actually find out its origin, destination, speed, altitude, what kind of plane it is, and who owns or operates it. We live in the North away from heavy flight paths so I am astounded to find out that the planes overhead are flying to/from not only places within our country, but also to faraway places such as Belgium, Austria, Korea, Qatar, India…Last weekend, I dragged EJ outside several times. “Look in that direction. In a moment we are going to see a plane from Chicago headed toward Frankfort, Germany [or New York. or Dublin. Or Dubai. Or London.] Wait for it….waaaiiiittt for it. Look! There it is!”

This is just a segment of air traffic that can be seen at Flightaware.

I often wonder about the stories of the passengers on the planes. Why are they traveling to those faraway destinations? Business? Vacation? Visiting family? Sometimes I know. I mean, sometimes the plane or helicopter is identified as a medical flight. If a person is being transported by air rather than ground then I think they are probably having a very serious health issue. Last weekend I watched a medical plane fly from Mackinac Island to the mainland. Mackinac Island is located in Lake Huron to the east of the Mackinac Bridge which connects Michigan’s two peninsulas. It’s a huge tourist destination in warmer seasons, although a few people do live there year around. The island is a unique place in that no motorized vehicles are allowed on it–only horses and bicycles. However, in the winter, residents travel by snowmobile. When Lake Huron freezes, they travel across it to/from the mainland by snowmobile. The route is marked by discarded Christmas trees after the holidays. Anyway, as I watched the medical plane, I imagined the serious drama occurring. I prayed for the person who was being transported until the plane landed.

I don’t just pray for people in emergency flights. If I am aware that people live in an area is being threatened by a natural disaster–especially if they are friends–I pray for them. This made me think about all the times people are unaware that they are being prayed for by strangers.

The location of Mackinac Island.

EJ and I also love to watch the International Space Station when it flies overheard. I just learned that I can get text notifications on my phone when the ISS is flying overhead. When I get a notification, EJ and I go outside to watch it. Yesterday I realized that I could probably learn WHO was on the ISS. I searched the Internet and, yep, Nasa actually provides information about the crew and their mission. The current crew went up in October 2020 and will be leaving this month. Knowing this makes it more “personal” to watch the ISS fly overhead. It’s not just a star-like light flying overheard. There are interesting people and stories onboard.

So now you know. I am a tracker of just about everything. I am also a collector of stories. I love stories. I think the world is filled with interesting things and with people with all sorts of interesting stories.

Update: I decided to share the links to the sites I use to track and explore, just in case you are also interested. You can find them at the top of my blog or just click here: Everything Links

Peanut Delight

A little more than ten years ago, we started to celebrate Passover instead of Easter because we, personally, found the symbolism more meaningful to our Christian faith. (Passover was March 27 this year.) However, we feel it’s up to each family to choose how they celebrate the Messiah’s death and resurrection, and we hope those who celebrated Easter had a beautiful holiday.

The weather was gorgeous this weekend with sunny skies and warm temperatures. I wore just a light sweatshirt outside–and even that was almost too heavy. The daytime temperatures are supposed to remain in the low- to mid-60s (F) all week, although there is a chance of rain each day. Still, rain is not snow…

We got a lot of tasks done this weekend. EJ cleaned up a lot of winter’s debris in the back yard. I moved the patio furniture from the covered front porch where we store it during the winter over to the deck. I couldn’t delay it any more, even though everyone knows that if winter items are put away too soon and summer items are brought out too early, we will get hit with a massive snowstorm. It’s not exactly true except in the sense that sometimes nice weather can trick us into thinking Spring is here to stay when Winter hasn’t yet released it’s grip. However, we’ve had enough nice weather that I think Winter really is over. (Unless it isn’t.) EJ read that this Winter has been so mild that it looks as if we will break the last record for “least amount of snowfall” by 7 inches.

After I moved the patio table, I swept the autumn’s dead leaves off the porch. I also removed Hannah Joy’s poop from the front yard with a shovel and flung it into the forest.

Millie in the box

Yesterday morning as I was in the coop scooping out feed for the chickens, I heard low menacing growls. I thought, “Oh, crap!” as I envisioned a vicious critter of some sort lurking in the shadows. But I saw no murdered chickens, which I’m pretty sure I would have found if a predator had gotten into the coop. Then I became aware that along with the growls, I heard irritated clucking. I looked around and quickly realized what was going on: The hens’ favorite nesting box is a covered litter box that I filled with straw and put in the coop for them. It’s also Millie’s favorite place to sleep at night. A hen was irritated because couldn’t go into the box to lay her egg because Millie was still in it. Millie was annoyed because she couldn’t get out of the box because the irritated hen was in front of it. Now and then the hen pecked at Millie and Millie swatted at her. When I approached them to arbitrate the conflict, Millie fluidly leaped out and went on her way into the garden and the satisfied hen entered the box to lay her egg. Conflict resolved. LOL.

Yesterday afternoon Hannah Joy wanted outside so I fastened her on her tie-out in the front yard and then went to gather eggs. Hannah heard me in the back yard and started barking. I brought the eggs into the house and then went out to get Hannah. Usually, I make her sit while I take her harness off her and then I “release” her with a command and a treat. She knows the routine and automatically sits when she comes into the house. However, yesterday I had to tell her several times to “sit” and as soon as I got her harness off, she ignored her treat and ran over to the kitchen counter where I had put the basket of eggs. I always give her an egg when I bring them into the house. I realized then that she had been barking because she knew I was out gathering eggs while she was tied out and she was afraid of missing her favorite egg-licious treat. LOL. Hannah Joy is such a character.

My sign

Both the new food processor and the 30 lbs of peanuts I had ordered arrived this weekend. The food processor arrived as scheduled but the peanuts delivery was rescheduled for Monday (today). I was a little disappointed because I really wanted to try making homemade peanut butter with EJ. I was surprised when the FedEx truck drove up our driveway yesterday–not only because it was Sunday, but also because it was EASTER. It sucks that the deliveryman had to work on Easter. As the man handed over the heavy box of peanuts, he said he loved my welcome sign at the bottom of the driveway, which I had made a couple years ago. I made it because we are remote enough that I don’t like uninvited strangers driving up, especially when EJ is at work. I was glad the sign brought a smile to the deliveryman’s face. He is actually the first visitor who has ever commented on it.

Making homemade peanut butter.

Once EJ and my outside tasks were completed, we went into the kitchen to try our hand at making homemade peanut butter. I had printed off several different recipes. They were all basically the same, but each had slightly different instructions, some more detailed than others. I combined the instructions and read them off to EJ while he actually made the peanut butter. I told him that I thought he should be the one who made the peanut butter this first time since he eats it more than I do and I consider him to be the peanut butter connoisseur. Once he tweaks the recipe to exactly how he likes it, he can write it down and I can make it the way he likes it.

Hannah Joy, as always, was keenly interested in what we were doing.

Turning peanuts into butter

It is very simple and easy to make homemade peanut butter. The ingredients are peanuts, honey, salt, and peanut oil (optional for smoother butter). We–or, more precisely, EJ– put the peanuts in the processor, pureed it for several minutes, stopping every minute to scrape the mixture from the sides. After about the thrd time, EJ added the honey, salt, and oil, and ran the processor again, as we watched it all magically transform into yummy peanut butter. The recipe we used that has the most detailed instructions is here: thekitchn.com. We used roasted peanuts rather than raw ones but, as recommended in a different recipe, we put the roasted nuts in the oven for 2-3 minutes to warm them and release their oils.

My only regret about homemade peanut butter is that we didn’t make it ourselves years ago. 


DIY Experiments

We’ve had one day of 60 (F) degrees and the next day it snows. Up and down. That’s why I have a wait and see attitude about Spring. I take each day as it comes.

Last week EJ scheduled an appointment to get our taxes done on Saturday (March 27). I asked him if he was sure he wanted to get our taxes done that day since it also was his birthday. He said he just wanted them done…so ok. The one-story building where the tax preparer was located also had several other businesses in it. When we opened the door, the hallway reeked of fragrance, which EJ is allergic too. He hurried down the hallway thinking that it would be better in the tax preparers’ company, but it was even stronger there. In previous years we’ve had no problem. I strongly suspect they were using a scented sanitizer between customers. The scent was so strong that EJ got an instant migraine and had to leave the building. He went to the truck and used his inhaler so he could breathe. He ended up waiting in the truck while I met with the tax preparer. When the forms were ready, I took them out to EJ to sign and then took them back in to give to the preparer. It took EJ several hours to recover. Not the greatest way to spend a birthday. Oh, well. At least we are getting a bit of a refund, which we will use to pay off a bill.

On Friday, EJ had bought Moomer’s ice cream for his birthday, which is the best ice cream EVER. He was going to buy a small cheese cake but the local store was out of them. I offered to make him a dessert, but he said the ice cream was enough. It’s not as if either of us needs to get overloaded with sugar.

Pasties

Sunday EJ made pasties for his “birthday meal.” He had planned to make them on his birthday, but didn’t feel well enough. Usually, I make him whatever dinner he wants on his birthday (well, actually, pretty much any day), but he has been wanting to make pasties and, hey, for our birthdays we get what we want. EJ’s Mom used to make pasties, but this was the first time he had ever made any himself. They are meat pies that miners used to take to work for their lunch. EJ made several–I think about 9 of them. We cooked and ate one each, and froze the others for a later meal. They were yummy.

EJ had bought several bags of carrots the last time he went shopping; they were on sale. While he made his pasties, I sat at the kitchen table and cut up carrots, which I then blanched and froze. I also did laundry, dishes, etc.

Monday afternoon the Jojoba Oil I had ordered arrived in the mail. Tuesday I mixed up homemade shampoo for EJ, using the Jojoba Oil, Castile soap, and Tea Tree Essential Oil. I felt like a “mad scientist” and told EJ–with an evil laugh–that he was my test subject. He used the shampoo for the first time today. He said he liked it. So far so good.

I’ve been researching and printing out recipes for cleaning products. Besides the fact that they are made with common household products–like, baking soda, vinegar, Dawn dish soap, and so on–we’d like to get away from harsh chemicals with unpronounceable names. I’m going to experiment until I find a recipe that I like.

We also plan to make our own peanut butter. EJ often takes peanut butter sandwiches for work. It’s difficult to find peanut butter without a lot of additives. The homemade recipes call for peanuts (or other type of nut), salt, honey, and maybe a little oil. And a food processor with a strong motor. I ordered a good inexpensive food processor and some bulk peanuts (on sale) today. I’m eager to see how our peanut butter turns out.

I’m having a lot of fun experimenting.

Weather or Not

EJ says he worked with a guy once who lived in for a while in–I think–California. The guy said that no one in there talked much about the weather. Probably because their weather is nice most of the time? Here in Michigan, our weather changes a lot and has a big impact on our lives. When I was growing up, before the Internet, we could call a phone number to get the weather report for our area. I would call it often, especially in transitional seasons, to find out what to wear that day. For example, was it going to be cold so I should wear warm clothing? Or would it be warm so I could wear something lighter? Was it going to start out cool and then warm up so I should wear layers of clothing? And even now I check the weather to learn if it’s going to be cold or warm, nasty or nice so I know how to dress: Sweatshirt or t-shirt? Coat, jacket, or nothing? Boots or shoes? Umbrella? Will I have to be careful on ice? Can I work outside? Can we plant our garden? Is it time to put in the window screens for the summer or to take them out for the winter? Is it time to turn on or off our furnace for the next few months? The weather affects just about everything we do.

Also, EJ and I really are very interested in the weather. We love to watch radar on the Internet. I think in another life we could have been meteorologists.

Robin, the first sign of Spring (Photo from Pixabay)

I saw my first Robin on Friday–the day before the Spring equinox. In Michigan, the return of the Robins are a traditional indication that Spring has (or will soon) arrive! Seeing a Robin is very exciting. The Mourning Doves have also returned.

Over the last few days, the weather has been very nice with temperatures reaching as high as 70! I was tempted to put in the window screens so I could open the windows and let the fresh air into the house. I was also tempted to move the patio table and chairs to the deck. However, I checked the weather forecast for the next few days and, yup, just as I suspected, the weather will be cooler and rainy today and the meteorologists are predicting snow for Thursday night, Friday, Saturday, and Sunday…the window screens and patio furniture will have to wait.

However, yesterday I did go outside without a coat. The ground had thawed enough that I was able to pull my bird feeder post out of the ground and dig new holes in the new place where I wanted to place it.

My main reason for relocating the post was to prevent Hannah Joy from getting her her tie-out wrapped around it so that I had to rescue her. I had to move the post out of her reach but not too near the raised herb beds so that Theo, our sweet dunderheaded cat, could easily leap from them to the feeder. He loves to try catching the birds that come to the feeders. He never actually catches the birds, but he spills the seed everywhere which Hannah Joy loves to eat. Preventing her from getting to the seed is another reason for relocating the post. I think she will be upset when she learns that she can no longer eat the seed. She has epic tantrums when she doesn’t get what she wants. Yesterday while we were outside, she saw a rock just out of her reach on the deck. She cried loudly until I gently kicked it to her. When she saw it wasn’t food she ignored it. Hannah Joy was kept outside and starved by her previous owners and I sometimes wonder what she ate to survive. I’m pretty sure that’s why she’s so obsessed with food, even though she gets plenty of food now.

I also tried to place the post to where both EJ and I could easily see the birds at the feeders as well as the bluebird house in the background. I love watching the bluebirds. I kept running into the house to sit in my and EJ’s chairs to see if we could both see the feeders and birdhouse, then running back out to “tweak” or move the post. After I was happy with the placement of the post, I hung all the feeders on it, trying to position them to prevent Theo from easily access the tray feeder, which is the one he usually aims for. It might not totally block him, but I’m hoping it will make it more difficult for him.

The rooster looking for escape

One of the times that I ran outside, I was surprised to see a rooster loose outside the fence. Yikes! It’s not safe for them outside the fence because we have predators: coyotes, bobcats, and bears–oh, my! I quickly grabbed the closest thing at hand, which was a long stick–really more of a tall plant stalk. It was flimsy, but it was enough to guide the rooster back through the gate I opened for him. No doubt he escaped through the small hole the cats use to get through the fence. Now that the rooster has figured out that he can escape, he has been patrolling that area. I tried to use an old gate to hide the hole from the rooster but make it accessible to the cats. The cats need to get through the fence to get to their food which I keep on the front porch, out of reach of the chickens who like to eat it. Theo likes birds, Hannah Joy likes birdseed, chickens like cat food, everyone likes eating what they are not supposed to. Sometimes I feel as if most of my time is spent trying to prevent the critters from outsmarting me.

My frozen shampoo cakes

Yesterday I made one of the homemade PH-balanced shampoo recipes I’ve been accumulating because I finally got all the ingredients I need. I used 2 Tbsps raw honey, 1 tsp sweet almond oil, 1 can coconut milk, and 10 drops of lavender essential oil. The recipes say that coconut milk has a short shelf life so they suggest freezing the shampoo in ice cube trays and only thawing what can be used in a week. I couldn’t find my ice cube trays–I might have gotten rid of them because we have a fridge with an ice maker? Instead, I used mini cupcake pans, which I rarely use it, preferring regular sized cupcakes and muffins. When they were frozen, I took them out of the cupcake pan, placed them in a container, and put them back into the freezer until needed.

I poured some of the shampoo into a bottle to use this week. I used it for the first time this morning. I warned EJ that my hair might look like crap for a few weeks until my hair adjust. I had learned that the harsh chemicals from commercial shampoos strip the natural oils from hair so the body produces more oil to compensate. When switching to a natural shampoo, the body has to go through a “detox phase” in which it adjust to not needing to make so much oil. Many articles said that this detox phase can be a bit tough and they suggest gradually eliminating the commercial shampoo and increasing the natural shampoo.

EJ wants to start using natural shampoo too, but he is allergic to coconut which is the main ingredient used in the PH balanced shampoo recipes I’ve found. Until/unless I find a coconut-free recipe, I’m going to have to stick with the castile soap for him. I am going to experiment with using different oils. I have a recipe I want to on him that uses castile soap, tea tree oil, and jojoba oil. The jojoba oil has proteins and minerals that mimic collagen and is closest to our natural skin oil. It also reduces inflammation, which EJ struggles with. I have ordered the jojoba oil and is waiting for it to arrive.

When EJ woke up this morning, he told me that when he arrived home from work early this morning, he surprised a rabbit at the bottom of the driveway. The rabbit made a dash to get away, but instead of running off to the side into the grass, he ran UP the driveway–where EJ was headed. With EJ driving slowly behind him, the rabbit ran all the way up the driveway and onto the front porch before dashing off to the side and safety. THAT is not something that happens everyday. We have a bunch of rabbits on our property but they mostly stay at the bottom of the driveway and we rarely see them.

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