For most of our married life, EJ has worked second shift. It has worked well for us. I get up earlier than him in the mornings and he stays up later than I do at night but we are able to spend mid-morning to mid-afternoon together. But now EJ has been moved to first shift. His first day on the new shift is today.
It’s easy to write “EJ has been moved to first shift,” but the move actually has shifted the rhythm of our life. EJ still works four 10-hour shifts but now instead of getting Friday through Sunday off, he works Sunday through Tuesday, gets Wednesday and Thursday off, works Friday, and has Saturday off. It’s messing up my days a bit. Today is Sunday, but because he’s working, I keep thinking it’s Monday.
Traffic patterns will probably change and affect his drive to and from work. Before, he drove to work at 3 pm and drove home at 3 a.m, missing the worst of the traffic. Now he might be affected by morning and evening rush hours. It’s especially bad during tourist season.
EJ will now wake up and go to bed earlier than I do. Also, we won’t have breakfast together and our biggest meal will move to dinner rather than lunch. I never like to eat breakfast right when I get up, so I’m going to try to have a very late breakfast and then eat our main meal together. We shall see how it goes.
Hannah Joy’s schedule might change a bit too. I’m tempted to start getting up earlier to get more in sync with EJ’s schedule. Going to bed earlier is no problem because Hannah and I usually go to bed at 8:30 or 9 pm because that’s when SHE wants to go to bed. She doesn’t like to go to bed alone so she nags me until I go with her; it’s easier that way. I usually read in bed until EJ’s lunch break at 10 pm, when we message each other to catch up on our days. Hannah is used to eating her breakfast as soon as we get up. If I feed her earlier in the morning, she will get hungry earlier in the evening–so do I keep her on the same schedule? When he’s home in the evening, EJ enjoys feeding Hannah. He’ll be home every evening now and would like to feed her, but he won’t get home until 5:30 pm and she likes (nags) to eat earlier. So we will have to figure that out, one way or another. We can’t have our beloved dog feeling hungry.
EJ actually enjoys getting up early in the morning. He texted me this morning that he had a beautiful drive to work. Before, I would study Hebrew, read my Bible, and catch up on my news in the morning. Then EJ would wake up, we’d spend time together, then I’d have to start fixing lunch, then we’d spend a little time together before he left for work. I couldn’t do any noisy chores in the morning (like vacuuming or mowing the lawn) because I didn’t want to wake him up. I work best in the morning and by afternoon it’s too hot to work outside. This morning, I did my morning activities and then went out and worked in my garden in the cool of the day. That was very nice.
Another huge advantage to this new shift is that EJ can stop at the grocery store on his drive home if we need anything. That saves time and gas. Also, he will get home in the late afternoon so I won’t have to stay awake to make sure he made it safely home in winter storms.
There are disadvantages and advantages to every shift and adjustments to be made when moved from one to another. All it takes is a shift in our daily rhythm.
Last week we had three nights of frost/freeze warnings with temperatures that dipped into the low 30s. Each evening we had to cover up our tender garden plants. We do this every year. The temperatures have risen into the 80s, even touching 90 degrees this week. Despite the pain of having to cover up the plants, I think I prefer the cooler temperatures. May is just right–not too cold and not too hot, neither shivering nor sweltering, except occasionally. It makes it pleasant to work so we get a lot done.
When the seasons become warmer, I always put a large shallow bowl out on the large rocks for the critters. The Robins especially enjoy it. They often take baths in it. The other day, one Robin was taking a bath and another very politely waited its turn.
It looks as if there are two sets of bluebirds nesting in our birdhouses. Today I heard a bunch of tweeting when a father went to one of the houses so I think the babies are getting bid. It probably won’t be long before they fly off. I love that the bluebirds nest where we can enjoy them.
EJ’s been working very hard in his garden. His vegetable garden takes more work than my herb garden.
Last week we got notified that our monthly electrical bill was almost doubling. This means that we will have to become even more frugal–absolutely no extras. We put all the eggs in the regular fridge and turned off the egg fridge to conserve energy. Even that might not be enough. We are trusting God to provide for us. I’m holding on to verses like Matt 6:31-33:
Therefore do not be anxious, saying, ‘What shall we eat?’ or ‘What shall we drink?’ or ‘What shall we wear?’…your heavenly Father knows that you need them all. But seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.
Exactly eight years ago today we moved from southern to northern Michigan. EJ drove the truck with our dog Danny (now deceased). Our son and I drove our car with seven singing cats. I had put them all in cat carriers–the more active cats in heavy-duty carriers and the more passive cats in cardboard carriers. They sang almost the whole way–several hours–which was quite interesting because they each sang differently. It was like 7-part harmony. We were given the keys early so I could drive straight to our new house to could let the cats out. Meanwhile, EJ drove to the realtor’s for the closing. He had to sign both our names on everything and write his initials after writing my name. His hand was throbbing by the time he was done.. We brought up only enough stuff to see us through the week, basically camping out in our house. The next weekend we drove back to our old house and had help moving everything up.
Even after eight years, I still can’t believe that we live in such a beautiful place and area.
May has been a very busy month.
In early May, we began starting seeds in the house. EJ started the plants he wanted in his garden and I planted mine. A few days later, the weather turned warm and the forecast showed that it would remain warm so we took the plats of seeds outside and put them on the deck. We also began working in our gardens. Of course, then there were frost warnings so we brought the seeds all back inside. We do this every year. I swear that Nature is like Lucy with the football in the Peanuts comic. She tempts us with warm weather and then yanks it back. Still, we are getting more warm weather than cold.
We’ve lived here almost 8 years (June 1st is the anniversary of our move) and we still haven’t gotten the garage organized. Every year I say that we will organize it and we don’t–but I’m determined that THIS year we will do it. It is an overwhelming task for EJ who is a bit of a hoarder. He is awesome at repurposing items and sees a possible use for everything so hates to throw anything away. I don’t think he needs to get rid of useful things, but there is a lot of stuff he can get rid of. Things like cardboard boxes, jars, broken fans, multiple radios, exercise equipment we will never use, and so on. These things take space, pile up, and get lost or broken. If EJ’s garage is organized, he will be able to find tools and other items he needs and he will have space to putter, work on things, and so forth.
I told EJ that we are getting older and each year that passes, organizing the garage becomes more physically difficult–especially with EJ bad back. If we ever decide to move again, trying to take all that stuff with us will be backbreaking. And whichever one of us dies first, the other will be left with a horrendous task–or we will leave it behind for our son. We need to sort through this stuff now.
I’m relatively good at organizing so I’m helping EJ. He hates being away from me and Hannah so we set up our long folding table in the kitchen so he can sort nails, screws, and other doodads by type and size into jars and cans. when they are sorted, we will take them out to the garage. With a sorting table set up in the kitchen, EJ–and sometimes me–is able to work on sorting now and then when he has a moment or two. In the garage, we are sorting bigger items to keep, recycle, donate, sell, give away, or throw out. The last couple of weekends we’ve taken many items to the local recycling place. As he sees the useable space in his garage expanding, he says he is feeling happier.
We also both decided to go through our closets and cupboards for unwanted or unused items. No matter how much we like something, if we haven’t worn or used it in several years then it’s just taking up space.
I grew up going to garage sales. EJ grew up going to auctions. After we married, I took him to garage sales and he took me to auctions. I considered the difference between the two: People tend to have garage sales to get rid of items they no longer want. Auctions tend to be to get rid of a deceased person’s items. I observed that at an auction, the lifelong accumulation of a person’s treasured possessions are hauled out onto their lawn, strangers paw through them, and they are sold for very little money. Auctions kind of make me sad because the possessions look shabby and worn out on the lawn. But auctions taught me that stuff is just stuff that is left behind when we die. Sort of a melancholy thought but still true.
While we’ve been sorting, I’ve been pondering that holding on to useless things is a burden. It clutters up space so there’s no room for good stuff. We’ve got to be able to stop hanging on to junk. We’ve got to let it go. These thoughts led me to thinking about all the emotional junk we hang onto. We’ve got to sort through all that too, getting rid of false guilt, regret, loss, painful memories, forgotten dreams, broken relationships. Holding on to those is also a burden. I have fought hard to overcome abuse, but I am determined to expand my efforts and let more things go.
Today is May 1st.
Today it is Spring.
Today it is Winter
I guess you could say that it’s Spr-inter.
A few years ago, I was amazed to learn that people in southern states are planting their gardens in February. February is winter here in Northern Michigan–although we do start dreaming of planting gardens in February. In reality, I am not surprised if we get snow in May–and I’ve read that typically there is a slight chance (10%) of frost until the middle of June. So when winter re-emerges or lingers, I simply shrug my shoulders and go about my day.
I do like the overlap of seasons: flowers, green grass/trees, and snow in the Spring or colorful leaves and snow in the Autumn. The clash of seasons is beautiful.
As soon as we have another warm-ish day, I’m going to go out and clean out my herb garden.
Several days ago, I wondered aloud, “I wonder when the bluebirds will return?” Two days later I noticed a pair of bluebirds building their nest in one of the birdhouses we provided for them. I wonder when the hummingbirds will return?
Saturday was our township’s “Clean-Up Days,” which is a day when residents can get rid of unwanted items for free. In preparation, on Friday EJ and I loaded up the pickup with the old dishwasher we had replaced with our little egg fridge and a few other unwanted items. In previous years, we dumped off our unwanted items in large bins at a recycling place. The area wasn’t very big so there was a long line of cars on the road waiting to turn in. Last year we were told to haul our items out to the road and big garbage trucks (which EJ calls “packer trucks”) hauled it away. EJ heard that that was a nightmarish 13-hour workday for the workers. I could have told them that. When we lived downstate, our village used to haul away curbside items on Clean-Up Day, but they stopped it because residents’ friends and relatives from other areas would haul their junk in so there were mountains of junk to clear away. The Village finally had residents drop their items off at a drop-off point and checked their ID to make sure they actually were residents.
This year, our Clean-Up Day was held at a local park. There were maybe 5-6 large garbage trucks parked next to each other. Residents drove up to them and workers helped them throw their items in. The process went smoothly with no long lines or wait times.
We’ve had alternating warm/cold weather. Saturday morning it snowed quite hard but by the afternoon it warmed up enough that it melted all the snow and I didn’t button my coat when I went outside. This week the temperatures are in the 70s. It looks as if the temperature will fall into the 50s and 40s starting Sunday, but we get to enjoy the warm temperatures for a few days. The warm days are a solid promise that Spring is here.
Today for the first time this year, I wore only a T-shirt outside. EJ washed his wool socks and hung them out on the clothesline for the first time. Usually, I do the laundry but he washed and hung his socks while I fixed lunch. We each help each other out and do whatever we find that needs doing. He likes to cook and he knows how to do laundry. Sometimes I put up posts and fencing.
This morning, I moved the bird feeder post to the edge of the forest. I took down the bird feeders and replaced them with a little birdhouse. I saw a couple of chickadees checking out some of the other birdhouses this morning. We put up a few new birdhouses last autumn and I can’t wait to see who moves in.
While I was working on the post, I heard a familiar putt-putt-putt sound. I quickly and quietly went inside the house so I wouldn’t disturb the female turkey emerging from the forest not far from the post. She wandered right past the house and back into the forest again. This isn’t the first time I’ve seen her over the last week so I know she either has a nest nearby or is looking for a good site to build one.
A couple of days ago, I saw a crow fly overhead carrying a stick so I know it is building its nest. Spring is such an exciting time of year.
Over the weekend, EJ and I set up the patio table and chairs on the deck. We still could get cold weather and snow; typically there’s a small chance of frost into mid-June. However, nice Spring weather makes us feel like being outside. Yesterday I washed the windows and this morning EJ put the screens in. We are beginning to actively plan garden tasks.
The previous owners of our house left behind two wooden dog houses. Hannah Joy never used them because she is a pampered inside dog. About 6 years ago when we got the 10 x 12 shed we use as the coop, I put one of the dog houses in there along with a fancy coop we had bought at the farm store when we first got chickens. So there were two houses inside THE coop. The chickens like to roost on top of them and sometimes lay their eggs in them, although their favorite nesting areas are kitty litter boxes. A week or so ago, on a nice Spring day, I moved the second wooden dog house into the coop with the others. It was in the garden to provide shelter for the chickens, but they didn’t use it all that much–and there are still a couple other shelters available for them. The dog house is very sturdily built and very heavy. I removed the roof, which easily comes off, and pushed/pulled one side of the main part of the doghouse and then the other, moving it a couple inches at a time. After moving bales of straw out of the way, I positioned the doghouse in the coop. Then I went back to the garden and “walked” the heavy roof in and lifted it into place. I repositioned the straw bales and I was finished. Now the chickens have THREE little houses to roost on. I tried to take a photo showing the houses in the coop, but I couldn’t get a good angle. Oh, well.
Sometimes Hannah Joy gets “the zoomies.” That’s when she goes slightly wild and runs from the couch in the living room to the bed in the master bedroom and back again several times. We sometimes call it “going Taz”–wild like the Tasmanian devil in the old cartoons. She went Taz a week ago and slightly injured her back leg so that she walks with a limp. She’s done this before and eventually is ok. She’s limping less and less.
We have spent the last week trying to set up EJ’s new phone. He really hates to be bothered with it. He’d prefer to just turn on his phone and start to use it. So I try to help him as much as I can. We’ve got most of the essentials set up, I think. There are just a couple more things to do.
EJ woke me up when he arrived home from work at about 4 a.m. because he saw the Northern Lights. We both love celestial events and he has standing orders to wake me if he sees something cool in the night sky. We went outside for a while to watch the northern lights flicker and pulsate. Ej said that the Northern Lights were much more vibrant as he drove home, but they were strong enough here at home that we could enjoy them. The sky was clear and it wasn’t terribly cold, so it was pleasant to be out there. I’ve only seen the Northern a few times in my life. I would have thought that moving to a house on a hill several hours north of where we used to live would enable us to see the Northern Lights more often, but we are surrounded by hills and forests that prevent us from seeing anything that is not high overhead.
Earlier in the week–Monday, I think–I walked down to the mailbox and saw a couple American Robins. Michiganders are always excited when they spy Robins at this time of year. The birds migrate south for the winter and their return is one of the first signs that Spring is approaching.
Today is very pleasant. It’s relatively warm and a lot of the snow has melted. However, the forecast for tomorrow is for several inches of snow. Some reports say 4-6 inches and one said 6-10. We probably won’t get much, but even if we do, it doesn’t matter. I saw the Robins so Spring can’t be too far away!
I’ve been using a phone app to learn Hebrew. Hebrew might seem like a strange language to want to learn, but I want to be able to read the Bible in Hebrew. Also, I often say that when the Son of God returns, I want to be able to greet Him in His native language.
The app I use to learn Hebrew offers a lot of different languages to learn, one of which, surprisingly, is Klingon. I decided this week to begin learning Klingon, as well as Hebrew, just for a laugh. I think it would be funny to say that I speak Klingon. LOL. Also, Klingons are an aggressive (fictional) people and so is their language. I’d like to be able to exclaim “That’s CRAZY, STUPID, HORRIBLE” when I read something crazy, stupid, or horrible that is happening in the world and have it sound fiercely expressive without swearing. So far I only know a handful of Klingon words. I’ve been going around saying “Qapla’!” (Success!) and “NugneH?” (WHAT DO YOU WANT??).
Hannah Joy was barking commands at me earlier today. I exclaimed, “Nugneh!” She wanted outside. EJ said, “She already understands some Hebrew and now you are going to confuse her with Klingon?” I’ve taught her a few commands in Hebrew. I think the only thing funnier than me speaking English, Hebrew, and Klingon is having a dog who understands it. LOL. But I won’t really teach her Klingon. Probably. But she sounds so fiercely bossy when she is giving me orders that I suspect she might already know a dog version of Klingon.
Last week was a bit tough. Well, perhaps not really as tough as much as inconvenient and annoying. EJ got up early on Thursday morning after only a few hours of sleep to run an important errand. While he was out, he dropped his phone and he believes someone stole it. We had to order him a new phone. EJ felt bad about losing his phone (and all his photos) as well as the expense of getting a new one. He also hates trying to set up a new phone. However, I reminded him that losing his phone is a relatively small problem. I can think of far worse problems: our house being destroyed by a tornado, flood, earthquake, or the effects of a toxic train derailment, and so on.
EJ received his new phone in the mail on Friday–the day after he lost his old one. We were told by our cell phone company that after he received his new phone he could easily switch back to his old phone number, but when his new phone arrived, the person he talked to tried to tell him that he needed to take the sim card out of his old phone, which he had already told her he LOST, and then said that “We will have to send you a new sim card with your old number on it.” So why couldn’t they have put the sim card with his old phone number on the new phone BEFORE they sent it in the first place? That’s problem too much common sense. Sometimes I think people in companies don’t talk to each other so they give conflicting information. I hate dealing with companies.
Although EJ lost his phone, he also found a few things: A week or two ago he found an excellent little used garden cart that a person was selling cheaply. I’ve wanted a cart for quite some time so I don’t have to lug baskets of wet clothes across the drive to the clothesline in warmer months. Also, I’ve often wished for a cart to carry bulky packages from the Magic Box up the driveway. (The Magic Box is what I call the wooden box at the end of the driveway where delivery people put our packages.) A cart also would be handy for hauling bales of straw or bags of poultry feed to the coop in the backyard. So the garden cart was an awesome find.
I found butter paddles and molds on the internet. The paddles are made to squeeze the liquid from homemade butter. The molds will let us make butter the same size as the sticks you buy at the store, which means they will fit in our covered butter dish. We are going to make more butter today.
Our snow had mostly melted again, but Friday night through Saturday we got several more inches of snow so our landscape is white again. Late yesterday afternoon eight deer trotted into our yard. They briefly paused at the big rocks and then moved on into the forest. They must have returned during the night because this morning the snow in our yard was crisscrossed with many deer tracks. Some tracks come up to our deck and flower garden. I love living in the country.
Yesterday morning I woke up to heavy fog. As the sun rose, it tinted the fog with a sort of pastel pinkish-orange color. I went out to take a few photos and saw that raindrops had frozen on the bare branches of trees. It was gorgeous. I love fog. I think that it makes the world mysterious.
When I opened the curtains this morning, I was surprised to see a very snow-covered world. It, too, was very beautiful. Throughout the morning, I watched the snow fall from the trees, power lines, and fences in small avalanches.
With our mild winter and Spring approaching, I’ve been trying to remember to bring in the suet feeder every evening so the raccoons–and possibly bears–don’t get into it. Often I forgot. I forgot last night and about 10:30 pm EJ heard raccoons fighting over it. We chased the ‘coons away and I went out and retrieved the suet feeder.
Yesterday EJ and I made homemade butter for the first–but not last–time. EJ had done the research so he was the job boss, but I want to learn how to make it too so I watched him closely.
When I told my friend that we were going to make homemade butter, she said she imagined me on my front porch using an old-fashioned butter churn. It’s a quaint image, but these are modern times. All we had to do is pour a quart of heavy cream into a food processor and puree it for about 5 minutes. We watched in awe as the heavy cream thickened through various stages until it turned into butter! It was like alchemy. Like magic.
When the butter was finished, we poured out the buttermilk, which I later used to make homemade biscuits–with homemade butter on it. EJ took the butter out of the processor and used paddles to squeeze more buttermilk out of the butter. We actually don’t have real butter paddles so we used what we had: two holey spoons. Later he tried a small breadboard and a flat wooden spoon to see which worked better. After EJ squeezed all the liquid out that he could, he rinsed the butter in cold water until the water running out was not cloudy. Then he had to squeeze the butter again to remove excess water. Next, he put the butter into a butter mold. We don’t actually have any butter molds so we used very small loaf pans.
We are going to buy, make, or improvise better butter paddles and molds. We also want to find a local farm to buy the heavy cream from (as well as other dairy items) that doesn’t have a bunch of unpronounceable additives in it. Until then, we just bought heavy cream from the grocery store. We’d also like to buy meat from local farms as well as vegetables that we can’t grow ourselves. We’d like to get away from the grocery stores as much as possible, although realistically we also have to take price into consideration.
EJ also made homemade baloney yesterday. He started with ground top sirloin, added suet he had made a few months ago, and mixed in a few spices and quick cure. He is baking it now as I write this post.
Meanwhile, I baked egg shells, which can be broken up and given to chickens as a source of calcium. I divided up the egg shells and tried various methods to bake them: I put some in the oven on low heat, some in our little toaster oven, and some in the dehydrator. We don’t just use our dehydrator to dry herbs. We also thaw ground beef in it when we forget to take the meat out of the freezer, we raise bread dough in it with a bowl of water so the dough doesn’t dry out, and we use it as a bread box when it’s not otherwise in use. We often like to try different methods and products to learn which is the best. As a result of my test of eggshell drying methods, I decided to start eggshells in the dehydrator to dry the shells because otherwise they stick on surfaces. I then put them in the toaster oven to finish up. The stove oven would work well except it takes a long time and uses propane. We try to be frugal about our propane usage since it’s expensive and we have to have it delivered.
EJ and I really enjoy trying new things and working together in the kitchen.
On Friday I got an email about Chick Days from one of the local farm stores. Chick Days are when people can buy chicks through the farm stores. We plan to incubate our own eggs so we aren’t interested in Chick Days…but then I saw that the email said there are 190 different breeds of chickens. Seriously? Curious, I opened it to look through the list. Big mistake. I saw something called a Black Jersey Giant which is an intriguing name. I look it up on the Internet and ended up reading about huge chicken breeds. We have New Hampshire and Rhode Island Reds, but it would be so cool to get a few giant chickens like Black Jerseys. The minimum we could buy at this particular store is five. At other stores the minimum is 10. EJ and I keep telling ourselves how cool it would be…but then reminding ourselves that we already have good chickens, and plan to incubate more, and we really don’t need giants. We are a little tempted. We don’t need giant chickens.
Have you heard of chicken math? Chicken math is like 410. It’s when you plan to get a few chickens–say, four–but then end up buying 10, 20, 30, and sometimes even adding a few ducks, turkeys, guinea hens, etc. It’s extremely difficult to resist the temptation of adding more than you intended or planned. I should never have opened the email from the farm store.
At least we aren’t buying an elephant.
A few years ago, I kept kidding EJ that we needed to get a cow, or goat, or horse, or donkey, or sheep…After I listed each animal, he would say, “No! We don’t need it!” So then I said, “We need an elephant.” He surprised me when he exclaimed, “That would be so COOL!” So now sometimes we sometimes joke about how cool it would be to own an elephant. We aren’t serious. Where would we put it?
Giant chickens are smaller than elephants.
Hannah Joy asked to go out at 10 pm on Monday evening, several hours after I wrote my last blog post called, “The Pantry Cat in Space and Time.” I found Millie in our entrance hallway, indicating that she urgently wanted to back out to the garage. Apparently, she had had enough of being an inside cat. EJ theorized that maybe she had fixed something in Space and Time and with her mission accomplished, she was ready to go back outside. After I got Hannah back inside the house, I opened the garage door for Millie and out she ran.
Our incubator arrived on Tuesday morning. I considered many different places to set it up. We need to keep it in an area where we can check on it, but it needs to be somewhere where Hannah can’t get into it, and the instructions said it should be kept away from windows (direct sunlight). I finally decided that the only good place is on the desk in the library.
EJ read aloud the instructions more thoroughly this morning. There’s a lot more to hatching eggs than I thought. We have to keep the temperature and humidity just right and the eggs have to be turned. Before I bought it, I had read an article about the best incubators in different sizes and price ranges. We bought a pretty good one at a budget price that automatically turns the eggs and adjusts the temperature and humidity. However, we still have to add water each day to keep the humidity at the right setting and check on the incubator often to make sure all goes well. I thought that, wow, it’s quite miraculous that hens are able to naturally provide the exact environment that their eggs need to have to hatch. Creation is amazing.
We won’t try to hatch any eggs until the weather turns a bit warmer. We think we will only hatch about 4 eggs this time. We’ve considered eventually hatching enough to sell, but we aren’t really sure how we want to go about it.
The last time I wrote, we were expecting a winter storm with high wind, snow, and a glaze of ice. It ended up being not worth a warning–at least, not in our area. We got several inches of snow, and a slight glaze of ice, but no high wind. EJ said he had no difficulty driving to or from work.
Today we also have a winter storm warning with high wind, snow, and a glaze of ice. So far we’ve gotten a couple inches of snow, the wind has blown the snow a bit, and EJ messaged me that it was “special” driving to work. He had to slow down to 45 mph.
We have always bought new chicks from the farm store when we wanted to expand our flock. However, with fires destroying numerous chicken farms, we decided to order an incubator to hatch our own. Ideally, our hens would hatch their own eggs, but we’ve only had a broody hen one time in the seven years that we’ve had chickens, so we decided not to wait for them to do the job. UPS was supposed to deliver it today. I tracked the delivery van’s progress via the internet so I could go get it as soon as it arrived. In the winter, deliverymen put our packages in a wooden box at the bottom of our driveway rather than try to drive up our long, steep driveway, and I like to retrieve them as soon as I can because I don’t want them to get stolen. We’ve never had a package stolen, but porch pirates exist and it’s better safe than sorry. If today’s package had been delivered on time, EJ could have retrieved it from the box on his way to work. However, UPS was about a mile from our house when I got a message that it was delayed because of an emergency situation or bad weather. EJ thinks the van probably got stuck. Now I’m hoping the package won’t be delivered until tomorrow because I don’t want to trudge down the hill for it and lug it back up especially after dark.
I can always tell what the weather is by looking out the window and counting how many chickens are outside. They stay in the coop if it’s nasty outside because they don’t like cold, snowy winter weather. The nicer the weather, the more chickens are outside. Today all the chickens stayed snuggly inside their coop so I shut their little door at about 2 pm rather than waiting until twilight.
I also shut Theo the cat safely in the garage. Millie should have been with him, but…
We have two indoor cats–Timmy and Little Bear–that we adopted when we lived downstate. We also have two outdoor cats, which we adopted through the Michigan Barn Cat Program. This program finds homes for cats that prefer to stay outside. Not every cat likes being a house cat. The program actually connects people who have unwanted barn cats with people who want them. Theo and Millie actually help keep our rodent population down. We always make sure they are shut safely in the garage at night to keep them safe from predators.
Usually, Theo and Millie are waiting in the garage for EJ’s homemade cat food when I go out to lock them in. However, a couple weeks ago, I couldn’t find Millie. I called and called for her and she didn’t come running. I didn’t see any cat prints going outside the fenced-in garden so I figured she was somewhere in the garage–or maybe she had camped out in the chicken coop. I reassured myself that we have many places where she could shelter if necessary, but I still don’t like her to be out overnight. I didn’t see Millie anywhere the next morning or afternoon. Towards evening, suddenly I saw her in the hallway in the house. I don’t know how she got into the house. Theo sometimes dashes in, but he’s easy to see and catch and put back in the garage. Millie is shyer and has never tried to get in the house–but here she was. I picked her up and put her in the garage.
One morning late last week, I was heading out to let the chickens out of their coop. Millie was waiting on the step into the garage–and then proof! She disappeared. EJ and I often joke that cats have the ability to teleport because they seem to get from one place to another very quickly. For example, I’ve looked out the living room window at the front of the house and seen a cat, then walked to look out the bedroom window at the back of the house and seen the same cat dozing in the garden. EJ says that sometimes he’s given lovings to a cat in the garage, put it down and walked into the house and out the front door–the garage door and front door are very close to each other–and has seen the cat he just cuddled sitting calmly on the front porch. To get from the garage to the front yard, the cat would have had to run very fast through the pet door into the garden in the back yard, through the fence, around the house to the front, and then sat down–in a matter of seconds. And sometimes we’ve found Timmy or Little Bear sleeping on our laps in the house and exclaimed, “When did he come onto my lap?” Or one cat will be sleeping on our laps and we will look down and it’s the other cat sleeping there and we don’t know when they changed places. So we say, “Hmmm. They must have teleported.”
When Millie suddenly vanished, I quickly looked but I didn’t see her in the garage. I also didn’t see her in the hallway or the panty that is located through a door in the hallway. She was definitely either in the garage or the house so I shut the pet door so she couldn’t go outside. The next morning, I briefly saw her in the pantry when I went to get food for Hannah, but we haven’t been able to find her since even though both EJ and I have looked for her. We are joking that we now have a mysterious pantry cat. Or maybe Millie is teleporting through space and time so she could be anywhere or anywhen. Perhaps she is like Schrödinger’s cat–you know, the quantum physics thought experiment in which essentially, we can’t know what state or place an atomic particle–or a cat–is in until it’s observed. So a particle–or cat–could hypothetically be in all possible states or places until then. Maybe Millie is both in and out of the pantry until we observe her there.
The pantry contains food and water for the cats and their litter box so all Millie’s needs are taken care of…if she’s there and not teleporting herself through space and time.
The weather was warm over the weekend and melted most of our snow, but once again we have a couple of inches of snow covering the ground–with more expected. We have a Winter Storm watch for our area until tomorrow evening bringing wind gusts of 40 mph, 6-12 inches of snow, and a light glaze of ice. The snow is not as bad as the strong wind and ice. They will make EJ’s drive home from work a bit tricky and might cause us to lose power.
Southern Michigan, where we used to live, is expecting far worse weather: An ice storm with up to a half-inch of ice is expected with 40 mph winds. That is going to cause a lot of downed trees and power outages for them. When we told people that we were moving to northern Michigan more than seven years ago, most of them exclaimed how beautiful the area is and then they added, “But I’d hate to live there in the winter with all that snow!” Honestly, though, I think they get worse weather than we do with more severe thunderstorms and a higher risk of damaging ice storms.
Last Thursday and Friday EJ and I rearranged some of our furniture. We moved our TV stand from one wall in the living room to under the windows. We actually use the stand as a coffee table. It’s shelves/drawers just hold our printer, music CDs, and a few other supplies. The only TV we own is small and is in the library–not even unhooked up. We read books or read/watch stuff on our computers.
We also moved our china cabinet from the library to the wall in the living room where the TV stand had been. We actually use the china cabinet for books rather than china. Both the TV stand and the china cabinet are very heavy, but we put them on rugs and slid them across our laminate flooring so it’s not as much of an effort to move them as it could be. The worse part was moving the cabinet from the carpet in the library onto the rug in the living room. Once it was on the rug, it was easy to move across the floor. Still, we have no intention of ever moving either the cabinet or the stand ever again.
With the china cabinet out of the library, there was more space. I moved our office desk from under the window to the wall where the cabinet had been. I moved a rocking chair and a few houseplants next to the library window for a cozy look.
As EJ said, “This arrangement is the best EVER!” He always says that whenever we rearrange the furniture, but I think it’s true. Both the living room and the library look very nice. We were exhausted, though, and rested the rest of the weekend.
This morning I looked out our bedroom window and saw Theo in the garden stalking something. He took a stealthy step, paused, then stood another stealthy step as cats do. I watched him for a minute or two and then wondered what he was stalking since I didn’t see anything. I looked to the left and saw five deer on the hill on the other side of the garden fence. Silly Theo was stalking DEER. I’d say he was pretty optimistic. LOL.
A week or two ago, I looked out the bedroom window near sunset to see if the chickens had all gone to roost in the coop for the night. I saw a few still outside heading toward the coop. I also saw a few deer on the other side of the garden fence. One was very curious about the chickens. She went right up to the fence and was watching them.
Since I have last posted, we have experienced temperatures down into the single digits, a little bit of snow, then beautiful blue skies and warm temperatures. The snow is melting again.
The sunshine and warmer temperatures have energized me. I suspect I have Spring Fever even though it’s not actually Spring yet. It’s only February and usually we are still in the grip of winter. But, come to think of it, February is usually when seed catalogs arrive in the mail and we begin to dream of gardens. So maybe it’s not that odd after all. The Spring Fever seems worse this year because of the sunshine and warmth.
I’ve been immersed in planning. I’ve been planning to move furniture in the house and reorganize things. I’ve been planning to rearrange the coop to make it better for the chickens. And I’ve been planning additional shelves in my craft closet. Some tasks I can do soon, some I have to (impatiently) wait until the weather is MUCH nicer.
EJ also has Spring Fever. He has been offering “hero support” to help me accomplish my plans–such as making the shelves for me and helping me move heavy items. However, he is also making his own list of things he wants to accomplish. This has included him pruning the fruit trees.
Yup. We’ve got it bad.
FYI: I don’t write much about what goes on in the “outside world.” I want my blog to be filled with gentle things. However, I do keep myself informed. My heart and prayers go out to the people suffering from the trail derailment in Ohio, the people of Turkey who have experienced huge earthquakes, and people struggling elsewhere in my country and the world.
This morning when I opened the bedroom curtains, which I always close at night, I spotted two deer laying down to rest on the other side of the garden fence. Then I saw another, a few feet away. There were actually four, but I didn’t see the last one until it stood up.
Over the years, I’ve often seen packed down snow or crushed grass where the deer have rested at night but I’ve never actually see them lying down. It was a peaceful, enjoyable sight. I quietly got my camera and took a photo of the first two deer, which looked like a doe with her last year’s fawn. I love living in the country where I can observe wildlife.
I began my morning chores, trying to move quietly so I didn’t spook the deer in the backyard. I fed Hannah Joy and the inside cats, took bird seed out to the bird feeders, and then took Hannah outside through the front door. After each chore, I looked out the window to see if the deer were still there. They were–except when I took Hannah outside, she barked at a noisy car driving by and the deer moved off into the forest. So I less quietly fed the outside cats and let the chickens out of their coop.
Yesterday I was chatting on the phone with a friend when I suddenly heard a crash. I looked out into the kitchen and saw that Hannah Joy had pulled down her tin of treats from the counter. The treats had scattered over the floor and she was busy gobbling them up as fast as she could. I dashed out, pulled her into the bedroom, closed the door, then went out and picked up those she hadn’t eaten. I swear my dog is just like a little toddler getting into trouble when she knows I’m on the phone. But we love her, faults and all.
Last weekend our sky was a very strange color, a color that I’ve rarely seen. I think it’s called “blue.” And there was a fireball in the sky that made my eyes burn, tear, and squint with its intense brightness. Legend says it’s called “the sun.” It caused strange phenomena, such as powering up our solar lights which had gone dark with the weeks of twilight gloom.
EJ, Hannah Joy, and I took several walks down the driveway to the mailbox to soak in the sunlight.
Now we are back to our normal gray skies, but this morning it snowed and covered the ground in a beautiful white blanket. It melted in the early afternoon, but we are expecting 2-4 more inches tonight. The snow is nothing to be concerned about, but the thin glaze of ice will be. Ice is always more treacherous than snow.
Even on the gloomiest days, my animals make me laugh. Each afternoon the chickens gather at the garage door to wait for me. Then they follow me out to the coop where I scatter cracked corn for them. Sassy, our primary rooster, always chases away the younger rooster, Corey, so after I’ve given the chickens their corn, refilled their water bowl, and gathered eggs, I scoop up a handful of the cord and covertly take it away from the other chickens so Corey can have a treat. He watches me expectantly and follows me because he knows I will give him a special treat.
Theo, our cat always does chores with me. As soon as I walk out into the garden he leaps onto my back and rides into the coop with me. He leaps onto a shelf and waits while I care for the chickens, and then comes back into the garage with me. He faithfully accompanies me except when the weather is exceptionally bad–such as when we are having a blizzard. I sometimes wonder what he is thinking and why he feels he needs to do chores with me.
In the afternoons I have been busy crocheting little sharks for my sister-in-law, who plans to include them next Christmas in the shoeboxes of gifts she packs to send to poor children. I am making them in vivid colors, which she wanted. While I crochet, I listen to audiobooks. They occupy my mind while my hands are busy.
I live in Northern Michigan where the sun doesn’t shine.
I wasn’t exactly counting at first, but I’d guess that we are entering the third week in which the sun hasn’t shined. Not a peep, not a beam, nothing. There aren’t even any ominous dark clouds with silver linings. Instead, the sky is the color gray. A featureless gray. The grayness dims the daylight so that it feels as if we are living in a twilight world.
Many people who have moved to Michigan from other places do not like the state because it is so cloudy. I love Michigan. I love its seasons, its natural beauty, even its clouds. However, usually we do not have so many days of gray clouds. Although I do remember one year in which we didn’t have a summer because every day was cold and rainy. Vegetables didn’t even ripen in gardens that year, and no one had vegetables to enter into the various fairs. The next Spring the weather turned nice again and I kidnapped EJ for his birthday and took him north, just to have some fun. Although, actually, since I get easily lost, I told him that I was kidnapping him and made him do all the driving. “Drive north,” I said, because we have always enjoyed northern Michigan. And now we live here where our hearts always wanted to go! yay!
So a year without sun has happened before, just not very frequently. And fortunately, this twilight is happening in the winter and not in the summer. Still, no matter what the season, I do not particularly like this unending twilight gray. There isn’t even enough snow on the ground to make the world bright and beautiful. We only have a few tiny, tiny mounds of snow here and there which are rapidly disappearing. Everything else is gray and lifeless.
We have a few motion-activated solar lights mounted in various places outside, which are handy when EJ comes home from work in the wee hours of the night or when I have to take Hannah Joy outside after dark. Early last week, I realized that the solar light near the front door was not coming on when I took Hannah Joy outside. I thought, hmmm, maybe there is a battery or something inside that is dead. Then I realized that none of the solar lights were coming on anywhere in the yard, which I found odd because I wouldn’t think all of them would go dead at the exact same time. Then it occurred to me that, duh, these are solar lights and it’s quite likely that they are not working because there isn’t enough sunlight to power them. That is dim indeed.
EJ and I have also been feeling low-powered lately: Tired, low energy, not motivated. We wondered if we, also, aren’t getting enough sunlight to energize us. We’ve been renewing our efforts to make sure we are taking Vitamin D. EJ said that the next time the sun shines–if it ever does–he is going to go outside wearing only shorts to make sure the sunlight soaks in.
I took this photo at about 11 am this morning. The day didn’t get any brighter. This is what it looks like where the sun doesn’t shine.