The Kitchen Garden

Hannah Joy

I’m cuddling with Hannah Joy this evening, tired after two days of hard, but satisfying, work.

Yesterday I mowed the lawn. It’s dry enough that our grass has grown slowly so I’ve only had to mow maybe four times this summer. Although the weather was not terribly hot, it was rather humid and I kept melting so I took multiple breaks. I’d go inside and sit in front of my fan for a few minutes until I cooled off. By that time, the washer had finished so I’d take the wet clothes out and hang them on the line. Then I would get back to mowing.

This morning I cleaned out the fridge, throwing out food that had gotten pushed to the back and forgotten. There wasn’t much throw-away food. I also washed the shelves.

Later I began to work on the raised kitchen garden next to the deck in the front yard. It will contain the herbs I use most often: oregano, basil, sage, rosemary, thyme, chives, and maybe parsley. Putting the garden at the front of the house serves two purposes: 1. Currently, I have to go through the entrance hallway, through the garage, and out to the garden to get herbs when I’m cooking. It’s a bit of a trek, relatively speaking, through three doors and a gate. Having a kitchen garden off the deck will make my herbs more accessible. 2. Moving the herbs will free up space in the big garden for more vegetables, such as beans, tomatoes, peas, peppers, and hopefully corn.

To make the kitchen garden, I dragged some pallets to the side of the deck at the front of the house. I stacked one on top of the other, and then I dragged an empty wooden box from the garden and set it up on the pallets. Next, I shoveled dirt from another garden box into the wheelbarrow, pushed it to the kitchen garden, and filled the empty box. Then I went back to the garden and pulled the newly emptied box into the wheelbarrow, pushed it to the kitchen garden, and set it up on the pallets. I filled that box with dirt from another box in the garden. I did this once more until I had three raised garden boxes. The last box I didn’t fill with dirt because I was tired. I did plant the sage and oregano in the two filled boxes. The herbs had not been doing well in the small planters. I thought, hey, they might thrive more in the boxes even though we are running out of summer.

I have to set up three or four more boxes to hold all my herbs, but it’s hard work so I’ll do it little by little. I want to get them set up before winter so they will be ready next Spring. Winter is weeks away, so I’ve got time.

I’m thinking about eventually planting lavender around the perimeter of the kitchen garden because I heard that deer don’t like it.

Hannah Joy watched me through the window as I worked. Can you see her?

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The ladder I made to the top platform

When I tired of hauling heavy boxes and dirt, I built a ladder for the chickens so they can reach the topmost platform. I don’t know if I like it. It might be better to just put a board ramp to the top. I’ll see if the chickens use the ladder before I change anything. I was thrilled to see them using the lower platform. I’ve found eggs in it yesterday and today. Millie, our black cat, also likes to lay in it. 🙂

Chicks getting more feathers!

The chicks are growing fast. I see remarkable transformation from day to day. They now have many more feathers. They are in kind of an ugly stage between cute little bits of fluffs and pretty adults. Shhhh. Don’t tell them I said they were ugly. They have cute personalities.  They start chirping when they hear me coming, and when I open their door, they rush up to see me. 🙂

EJ doesn’t have to work tomorrow (his regular workweek is 10 hours Monday through Thursday). We plan to go to a Farmers Market for more tomatoes and spend the rest of the day canning them.

Yawn. It’s almost time to shut the chickens and cats safely in their coop for the night. Then I get can my pj’s on and relax until bedtime!

 

 

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The Dead Tree

This morning I took EJ out to the chicken coop to look at the roosting/nesting platforms I built yesterday. I described how I had built them while he looked them over. he told me that I had done a very good job–that they looked nice and were very solidly built. I felt very proud of myself.

The hen on the platform

I haven’t seen any of the chickens on the platforms yet. Impatient, I picked up a hen and put her on the lower platform, hoping she would like it and tell the others. I don’t know yet if she has or will, but chickens are curious birds and I’m sure that eventually they will look at it, especially when the chicks grow up and join the general population.

 

Growing babies

I opened the door to the second floor of the fancy coop and I was able to get a photo of three of the chicks who had climbed up there. They are getting larger in size and also sprouting more feathers.

Some of our pine trees at the bottom of the driveway have died. EJ suspects pine bark beetles killed them. He’d like to eventually get (I think) Norway Spruce to replace them because the beetles don’t go after them. During a storm a few months ago, the wind caused one of the dead trees to tilt across the driveway. If it fell all the way over, which would happen sooner or later, it would fall across the driveway. We have been discussing how to move it out of the way. EJ couldn’t just pull the tree straight out of the way with the Suburban because he’d have to drive down a rather steep embankment–and I suppose there would be a risk of the tree dropping on the vehicle? We don’t have a chainsaw to cut it up. A chainsaw is on the long list of items that we really could use but can’t afford yet. We finally decided on a plan, and EJ decided to implement it early this afternoon.

The strap around the living tree.

EJ hooked a strap around the dead tree and fastened a thick towing wire to it. (I’m not sure what to call it.) He hooked another strap around a living tree further down the valley–the strap was so the living tree wouldn’t get damaged. He ran the wire through the loops up to the Suburban, and then he drove up the driveway. The dead tree was pulled toward the living tree and off the driveway. The eventually straps broke, but EJ got the tree off the driveway far enough that it won’t block us in or out when it eventually falls. I, of course, took a video of the endeavor:

One of my regular egg customers stopped but this afternoon to pick up a few dozen. He has told us that he has a peach orchard and that we can come to pick as many as we want at no cost. He’s going to be gone next week, he said, but we can go pick the following week. I think my regular customers are really nice.

Hannah Joy is still refusing to go through the door onto the porch. It’s just as well because today I saw a couple living yellow jackets going in and out of their nest by the porch steps. EJ has sprayed the crack where they live at least twice, and I have sprayed twice, and they are still alive. They are nasty unkillable thugs.

It’s getting noticeably darker earlier and earlier in the evening. Tonight when I went out to shut the wee beasties in their coop, I heard coyotes howling again. It’s rather a spooky sound.

Pallets and Platforms

Look! Look at the photo above! Yesterday I saw the first autumn leaf on the ground. Autumn is getting closer…

Friday’s canning tomatoes and freezing green bean exhausted us so on Saturday EJ and I rested.

Sunday I cleaned the house a bit while EJ was out doing something else. Then we worked together at organizing his garage. Everything from the basement and garage at the old house downstate was put into the garage up here, so organizing it is a long-term project, a marathon job, not a sprint. Plus, we don’t work on it when we have higher priority tasks to do or when it’s freezing in the winter.

This is where the yellow jacket nest is.

Hannah Joy doesn’t like going out through our main entrance because a yellow jacket had stung her last week. They built a nest under a post next to the porch steps. Usually, when I give Hannah a command to go onto the porch, she runs onto it and then waits for her treat, but now she is in such a hurry to get inside the house before the yellow jackets sting her that she ignores the treat. We were trying to figure out the best way to get rid of the nasty buggers, and then yesterday another yellow jacket landed on Hannah’s head. I said, “That’s enough!” and I drove to the store and bought some Raid Hornet and Wasp spray. We waited until dark and then EJ sprayed their lair. He sprayed it again this morning. But Hannah is still scared so this morning she stopped at the kitchen door, refusing to step foot into the entrance hall leading to the porch door. When I put her harness on, she ran to the door leading to the deck instead. Poor baby.

The baby chicks are growing up fast! Every day they are noticeably bigger, and they are getting more feathers. I would try to take photos or videos of them for you, but they try to rush out whenever I open their coop door, and I have my hands full trying to keep them from escaping.

The articles I read on the internet said that the chicks should be kept separated from the older flock until they are 4-6 old–or even 8 weeks. Once we let them join the others they will be able to go outside, so I’d like to keep them contained until they are big enough to not be a predator’s McNuggets.

After EJ left for work this afternoon, I went out to the chicken coop to build platforms. I figure that when the chicks get old enough to mix with the older flock, they will all need more roosting/nesting areas.

The previous owners of our house had left behind a few wooden pallet pieces and EJ brought home discarded pieces from his previous job. We’ve put them all to good use, using many of them as bases for our raised garden beds. I used five pieces today to build platforms for the chickens: two vertical ones to hold up two horizontal ones forming a double layer of platforms. I would have liked the top platform to be a little lower, but I had to work with what I had. Maybe in the future EJ can help me lower it. If nothing else, the cats might enjoy sleeping up there. I nailed thin wooden boards to the fifth pallet piece to be used as a ladder.

I saw Millie rubbing up against a hen this afternoon–you know, as cats do–and the hen ignored her, so it appears they are all co-existing quite well.

I’ve been turning on the outside deck lights at night. With the light on, I can watch the raccoon sneaking up to eat from the bird feeder tray. I’ve been watching a raccoon as I write this post. Hannah Joy is fast asleep on my lap and totally unaware of the raccoon just outside the window. I’m hoping she doesn’t wake up because if she sees the raccoon, she is going to explode with excited barking. Raccoons are very cute and I enjoy watching them–as long as they don’t threaten any of my animals.

I heard coyotes howling in the distance when I went out to shut the animals in the coop for the night.

Oops, Hannah just woke up and noticed the raccoon. Now she’s alert and on guard. I’m quite sure the raccoon won’t be back for a while. Hannah keeps us safe from all threats, real and imagined. The other day she knocked a candle holder off the window sill and then spent the next 10 minutes growling at it. LOL. We sure love our Hannah Joy.

 

Green Beans and Tomatoes

Thursday morning EJ and I drove to the newest farm store. There are multiple farm stores in our area; we shop at three of them because they each have different benefits, including distance to our house, products, and sales. Tractor Supply is closest to us and has the poultry feed we need, as well as fencing, etc. Another store has their own mixes of native flower seeds and wild bird seeds that are better and cheaper than the name brands at the other stores. We’ve also bought large bags of cat food there. The newer farm store occasionally offers good sales. We always try to watch items we need when they are on sale to help us with our costs.

The newest farm store had sales this week on cat, dog, and chicken food, as well as canning jars. It’s far enough away that we usually order the items on their website. When they notify us that our order is ready, we drive to the store to pick it up. It’s easy–we know before we get there that everything we need is available. We just pull up to their drive-through area, they bring us our items, and we load up and leave.

When we arrived home, EJ unloaded everything while I went in and fixed us lunch.

As soon as EJ was awake and ready on Friday morning (he works second shift so sleeps later than I do), we drove to the local farmers market where we bought a box of tomatoes and a bushel of green beans.

EJ was in charge of canning because he remembers his Mom doing it, and so he has a bit more knowledge about the process than I do. Even so, he’s never done it himself so he has been studying the “how to’s” all week in preparation for this day. It takes concentration to learn a new skill so I left him to it. I figured that once he has perfected the technique, he can teach me and we can work together. It was a lot of work, and there are things he will do differently next time, but all his cans sealed so I considered it a success!

Meanwhile, I set up a small folding table in an out of the way spot in the kitchen, and worked on the green beans, snapping off the ends and breaking them in two. It took me hours and hours to process the beans, then I had to blanch them, and then put them in bags to freeze. I didn’t finish all my work until late. EJ wanted enough beans to last until next year, but I might have bought a wee bit too many. We were concerned that our freezer wouldn’t hold them all, but I said, “where there’s a will, there’s a way!” and I got them all to fit.

I had to chuckle because we each happened to wear shirts that matched our tasks. EJ wore red for tomatoes and I wore green for beans. LOL.

Hannah Joy mostly lay at our feet, but now and then she stood near me and intently watched me as I worked as if she was trying to figure out what I was doing.

We had success and got a lot of accomplished. Yay! But we were exhausted when we finished, and EJ’s back is out this morning. 😦 At least he has two days to deal with his back until he returns to another week of work.

I’ve started turning on the outside light that overlooks the deck at night, and I’ve been observing a raccoon climbing the bird feeder post and eating the sunflower seeds that I put out for the birds. One evening I saw at least three raccoons. The raccoon returned last night as well, as we were relaxing from our day’s work. He was quite bold and didn’t scare easily as we moved away. Raccoons could be a threat to our chickens or garden, but as long as they aren’t troublesome, I enjoy watching them. I think they are quite cute.

Canned Hopes

EJ and I went outside Saturday night, hoping to watch the Perseids meteorite shower. However, the waxing moon washed out most of the stars. And the next two nights were cloudy. Bummer. But we heard an owl or two hooting and we also watched the two bats that often swoop over our property eating insects.

Two evenings ago I took Hannah Joy out just after dark. I shone my flashlight around and the light reflected on two eyes peering at me from inside the forest. The eyes and I stared at each other for a minute or so, and then I heard the whatever-it-was move off. I think it was a deer but, of course, I have no way of knowing since all I saw were its eyes. It made me aware that unseen animals are probably often watching us from the forest.

I turned on the outside lights that are near the deck. and later I saw a raccoon wander up to the deck, tilt its head to sniff the bird feeder, and then wander away. He/she was unaware that I was watching.

Sometime during last night, I was awakened by the strong odor of a skunk. It kept me awake for a while. Ugh.

We love watching the wildlife that lives in, or visits, or flies over our Enchanted Forest. Someday I’d love to get a trail or surveillance camera so I can see the animals that make an appearance during the night.

This is where the yellow jacket nest is.

A week or two ago, Hannah Joy got stung by one of the yellow jackets that have built a nest under one of the posts right next to the porch steps. Now she looks woebegone whenever I start to take her out that door. She prefers instead to go out the door that goes out onto the deck. Poor thing. We aren’t sure, at the moment, how to get rid of them. We might have to get a hornet/wasp spray from the store.

Yesterday morning EJ and I organized the pantry. Our pantry is the size of a smallish- to medium-sized bedroom and is been both a food pantry and a storage room. We threw away some stuff, took other stuff into the garage, EJ donated more stuff at Goodwill on his way to work, and we rearranged the stuff that remained. Now we have several empty shelves to hold our jars of food that we can.

Tomorrow morning we hope to drive to the newest farm store to pick up the items we had ordered. The store is far enough away that when we see sales in their flyers of items we need–such as poultry feed, dog and cat food, and canning jars–we order them on their website and go pick them up when we are notified that they are ready.

Friday morning we plan to go to the local Farmer’s Market to buy green beans, peas, and tomatoes. When we get home, I’ll work on preparing the beans and peas for freezing while EJ cans the tomatoes. He’s been doing research about how to do it. We, of course, will help each other as needed and I’ll learn to can along with him. We are very excited about this new endeavor. I prefer to dry herbs, freeze veggies like beans and corn, but I would really like to be able to can tomatoes. EJ has dreams of also canning venison, stews, and other foods.

Our little Rhode Island Red chicks are growing up fast! They make me laugh because each time I open the door of their coop, they come rushing up. Often at least one gets out and I have to quickly grab her and return her to her cage. It makes watering and feeding them a challenge–but an adorably fun challenge. I wonder if they think I am their Mama?

EJ and I love our peaceful lives together in our beautiful forest.

Aug-tember

Hannah Joy went with us while we were running errands. She loves sitting between us.

The weather this summer has felt a bit out of the ordinary. We had frost well into June. We had regular periods of light rain, but fewer storms than normal. Usually August is our hottest month, but this year it feels more like September, with cooler days and nights. We even spied a tree turning colors while we were at our bank today (which is where I took the photo at the top of this post). I don’t mind not having sweltering hot days, but because it feels so autumn-ish, I’m having difficulty remembering what month it is. I’ve renamed this month Aug-tember.

Although the chicks were less than two weeks old, they were already outgrowing their box in the bathtub. Several were perching on the top edge and then jumping back into their box, and I found a couple who escaped the box and were cheeping loudly in the bathtub. I decided that it was time for them to be moved to the coop.

I moved the chicks on Friday morning. It felt bitter/sweet; my babies were growing up.

The chicks are still too small to mix with the older chickens. I am keeping them contained in the fancy coop, which is located inside The Coop. Most of the older chickens like sleeping on top of the fancy coop at night. When I put the chicks inside, they ran around and climbed the ladder to the second story, as energetic as young’uns of any species are.  I was a little concerned that the cooler nights would be too cool for the babies, but the coop is warm, and I put a bale of straw along the side at night to block any drafts. The chicks are doing just fine and they seem to be really happy with their new lodgings.

The chicks will remain contained in their new lodgings for a couple months while they grow up and slowly get acquainted with the other residents–the older chickens and cats.

Here are a few photos of our Coop. It is a peaceful place filled with happy critters.

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Tomatoes

The late summer and early autumn have messed up our garden a bit. Our tomatoes,  peppers, and squashes aren’t ripening as quickly as in previous years, and I am a bit concerned that they are running out of the growing season. We tried planting corn this year, but they tasseled out without forming ears. Part of the problem is the weather, but part of it is probably also our sandy soil. We really wanted to have a dump truck of good soil brought in last Spring, but we didn’t have the money for it this year.

We were able to freeze some of our beans and peas, but we didn’t get enough to last through the winter months. We drove to a local Farmer’s Market on Sunday and bought a half bushel of green beans. I spent the afternoon blanching and freezing them. I’d like to go back to the Market next weekend and get more beans as well as some peas. If we can pull things together, we’d like to also get some tomatoes and try our hand at canning.

Next weekend looks as if it’s going to be busy. We have a lot to do before Sep-tober arrives.

 

Chicks & Things

People who have the INFJ personality type tend to be writers. The article, “Why Do So Many INFJs Want to Write,” explains it this way:

INFJs are complex, deep thinkers with a keen insight into how people think and feel, so we’re not afraid of dealing with people’s complex personal problems.

This combination of understanding, sensitivity, and empathy creates a desire in INFJs to express our thoughts and feelings about the world around us and the people in it, with the ultimate goal of helping other people. We want to shed light on difficult situations and convoluted feelings and help people make sense of their lives and themselves.

INFJs are often natural writers. We not only have the empathy to understand others but as Introverts, we enjoy working alone. For many people, the solitude necessary for writing is the hardest part, but for INFJs, it often feels like a sanctuary. It gives us the time and space we need to stop and think, reflect on our ideas and express ourselves.

As sensitive individuals, we are always absorbing information around us, including sights, sounds, smells, temperature, light, and other people’s feelings. We are constantly processing this information and trying to make sense of it. Because we absorb so much, we need an outlet for all this energy. This is what gives us a creative drive. Without attending to our need for creative expression, however, we can quickly become ill or experience physical systems of being “blocked,” including skin problems, headaches, digestive ailments, and sleep disorders.

That is true of me. If I have strong thoughts, my stomach hurts and I can’t sleep until I pour them out. Writing is how I process things and remind myself of truth.

I read an article today titled, “Why You’re So Confused by Covert Abuse: The Doubt-filled Mind and Dysregulated Brain” It describes very clearly how abuse affects a victim, what victims struggle with, and why. It also explains why I loathe bullies who try to take away others’ freedoms, who pressure people to believe, think, say, or act as they want them to. It really is an excellent article.

Oh, and I dislike the memes that go around now and then at FB that says that it’s a simple matter to recover from abuse–all you have to do is choose to think positively or some other nonsense. I think emotional trauma is much like a physical injury. Yes, a person with a broken bone must choose to do what is necessary to heal, but healing doesn’t happen in a day, it involves enduring painful casts, surgeries, and exercises, and sometimes there’s setbacks and discouragement. Emotional trauma is sort of like that.

Anyway….moving on.

At his mom’s funeral, EJ picked up a couple of those little card things that usually have a poem, birth/death dates, and time of service. I’m sure they have an official name, but I don’t really know what it is. EJ was going to keep one of the cards for himself and take one to work to prove that his mom had actually died. Apparently, some people lie about relatives dying to get days off work. I put the cards in my purse for safekeeping, but the next day I couldn’t find it. I asked EJ if I had given it to him, and I even looked in his lunchbox. It wasn’t there. Then I found a couple tiny pieces of it on the bed. Hannah Joy, our “pit-pocket” dog, stole them from my purse and ate them. I don’t think many people would believe the old cliche’ excuse: “My dog ate it.” JJ also had a copy so we drove to his place on Monday morning to pick it up.

Earlier this week, I took Hannah outside to do her “business.” As we walked onto the porch to head into the house, a yellow jacket stung her. It was actually riding on her back so I think it stung her several times. EJ knocked it off her. Yellow Jackets have just built a nest at the base of one of the pillars of our porch. Poor, poor Hannah. She recovered relatively quickly though.

Notice the wing feathers.

Our ten little chicks are growing very fast. The day they arrived, we put them in a box in the bathtub because they were so tiny. They noticeably grew larger from day to day, and even from morning to evening. They are already getting wing feathers. At first, when I put my hand in the box to pet them, they crowded away from me, but now they all try to climb on or in my hand. Today one of them was able to get out of the box and into the tub. I think tomorrow I will have to transfer them to the coop.

Our coop is actually a 12 x 10 shed. Inside the coop it an old wooden doghouse that the previous owners left behind, as well as a fancier coop from TSC. Most of the chickens like to roost on the fancy coop. Two or three like to roost inside it or in the doghouse. We can shut the chicks inside the fancy coop as we slowly introduce them to the older chickens. I read an article that said we can let the chicks join the flock when they are 6-8 weeks old.

Today one of my egg customers dropped by to pick up a couple dozen. I really enjoy my egg customers. I asked her if she’d like to see the ten little chicks. She did, and we had an enjoyable time giving them lovings. They are so cute and fluffy.

 

Meddlesome

I don’t know if any of you have ever taken the Myers-Briggs Personality Tests? They are free online. I’m sure some people may think it’s all baloney, but both EJ and I find that our personality types describe us extremely and eerily accurately. I read the various articles describing my type and think, “Yup, that’s me. That’s me. Nailed it.”

I am an INFJ. I could write a lot about the complex characteristics of INFJs, but I want to limit myself to saying that we are very intuitive about people and care deeply about them. We are extremely gentle and compassionate. We have high principles that we live our lives by. We can sense phoniness and we despise lies, manipulation, injustice, and cruelty in any form. We are called Counselors, Advocates, Defenders because those are the roles we often find ourselves in.

These characteristics are why I get upset about bullies and abusers. Even as a child, I was generally quiet and gentle, and I wasn’t always good at defending myself, but I’d stand up to bullies in defense of someone I loved. I remember that when I was in 6th grade, I went up to a girl who was bullying my friend and told her, “You don’t have to like my friend. No one likes everyone they meet, and that’s ok. However, you don’t have to torment my friend either. Simply leave her alone…” I think the bully actually did. I have, though the years, learned to also stand up for myself. I don’t have much patience anymore for people who are cruel to others. I don’t want to control other people and I also don’t want them to control me or those I love.

My INFJ traits are also why I’d prefer only people who truly valued me at my funeral. I don’t want fake eulogies. I hate phoniness, hypocrisy, and double standards. I hate injustice.

I have learned a lot about the dynamics of abuse over the years through my own experience, the experiences of my friends, and the personal stories I read online. I understand the tactics of abusers, the effects on victims, and the tendency of bystanders to protect and defend the abuser rather than the victim.

I want to discuss “meddlers” in this post. “Meddle” means “to interfere in or busy oneself unduly with something that is not one’s concern.” The Bible warns against “meddling”:

…Aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you. (1 Thess 4:11)

But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler. (1 Peter 4:15)

I used to think it was odd that the Bible grouped meddlers with murderers, thieves, and evildoers, but I no longer think it’s odd. I think meddlers are arrogant bullies who try to force their will on others. THEY are right, THEIR ways are right, YOUR opinions are wrong, THEIR wishes should be obeyed, and if you don’t submit, THEY will get angry and punish you in some way.

Meddlers often exist in families. I think family relationships are sort of like a cell, consisting of parents and children. As children grow into adulthood, the cell divides into new cells. The adult children separate from their family of origin to form their own families, their own independent cells, consisting of their spouses and their children. It’s not that there is no connection, no relationship, no concern for parents and siblings, but roles change. They must change. An adult’s own spouses and children become their first priority, their core family, and the parents and siblings take a step back into “extended family.”

In unhealthy families, I think the separation is not made and boundaries are ignored. It’s as if family members believe the core family remains the parents/siblings instead of the spouse/children. It’s like they have never grown out of their childhood roles, they never established their separate selves. They think they have a right to make decisions for their adult siblings, they get mad if things aren’t done their way, and so on. Sometimes I want to shout, “GROW UP!”

There are also Meddlers in many churches. The “authority” that must be obeyed is the leadership, and questioning is not allowed. Some Christians think they can decide whether or not someone can divorce abusive spouses. Sometimes leaders “meddle” with the truth in order to get people to do what they want. In past years, we had friends who were leaders in the church. They thought they were wiser than others and they told me multiple times that they believed that most people can’t handle the truth so they must “handle” it for them, meaning they manipulated truth. Another “Christian leader” who speaks at many conferences told me that she would have no problem massively deceiving people if it would accomplish a “good” thing, meaning “good” as she defined it. Lies, deception, and manipulation horrify me. Nowhere in the Bible does it say that it’s ok to manipulate/twist the truth. In fact, it says, “You shall know the truth and the truth will set you free.”

Meddlers can also exist in friendships, among neighbors, within hobby groups, at workplaces–any group.

I believe an adult is not a child and shouldn’t be treated like one. Each adult has the right to make decisions for himself and his own household, whether or not anyone approves. (Or herself. I’m just using “him” because it’s easier and less clunky, but I mean both.) People should be given honest information (not manipulated, twisted, or deceitful) so they can make their own informed decisions. Yes, sometimes a person might make a foolish decision, but he can learn as much through failures as through successes. An adult has the right to decide where he lives, what he names his child, how he raises his children, who he likes/dislikes, who he has contact with–or not–how he spends his time, how he spends his money, what car he buys, what his political views are, what events he attends, or even whether or not he gets a divorce. He gets to choose whether to accept advice or not. These decisions are HIS business, and his spouse’s. Not anyone else’s.

Meddlers upset me because they try to take away others’ freedom, their free will. The only group of people who do not have the freedom to voice differences of opinion or choice, who are punished if they don’t submit, are slaves. So essentially, meddlers try to create a master/slave relationship with themselves as the masters.

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. (Galatians 5:1)

I think Meddlers are abusive because they don’t respect others’ freedom or boundaries. Abusive people have a way of making their victims feel they are being selfish, unloving, unforgiving, etc. if they don’t do what they want. A victim begins to feel battered, weary, destroyed. But at some point or another, I think a victim has to choose to either fight for his freedom or lose it. It’s his choice. No one can choose freedom for him and no one can fight the battles to win it. Yes, it’s difficult. Yes, it’s painful. Yes, it requires courage to stand up to people. But I think freedom is worth fighting for.

Speaker for the Dead

Hannah Joy with her Favorite Uncle

EJ’s Mom’s funeral was held on Saturday. Except the for reason for the trip, the 10-hour drive (5 hours to and from) through beautiful scenery was very pleasant with good conversation. Hannah Joy was babysat by her Favorite Uncle, who cuddled her and took her for drives.

We made it through the funeral. The pastor of the church basically just read the obituary and then family members had an opportunity to share their memories of her. I cried through the funeral, feeling stress because of underlying family issues, grief over the loss of their Mom who was always kind to me, and grief over the loss of my own Mom and family. Except for my Dad, everyone in my family is still alive, but we have been lost to each other for many years.

On the way home, JJ mentioned that he was a little disgusted that the minister merely read the obituary, mispronouncing some names and skipping others. “He didn’t even know Grandma,” he said. So we talked a bit about how that often happens. Many times a minister has never even met the person he eulogized. We’ve attended some funerals in which such a glowing picture was painted of the deceased, whom we knew was not a particularly good person, that we were afraid that we had mistakenly attended the wrong funeral service.

JJ and I both mentioned the second of a series of science fiction books by Orson Scott Card, which had had a profound effect on us both. The first book, Ender’s Game was made into a movie, although the book is much better. The second book is called Speaker for the Dead. Each of these books won both the Hugo and Nebula Awards, and were among the most influential science fiction novels of the 1980s.

A sort of subplot of the book describes the rise of people who were Speakers for the Dead. A family could hire a Speaker, who would thoroughly investigate the life of the deceased and “speak” the unvarnished truth of his/her life at the funeral service. They would honestly describe both the strengths and weaknesses of the person, both the successes and failures, both the kindnesses and the cruelties. You’d think it would be awful, but the deceased was not described as a one-dimensional caricature that was barely recognizable, but as he or she truly was. It actually beautifully highlighted the humanity of the deceased in all his/her complexity.

EJ said that everyone at the funeral told the truth about his Mom. She was an amazing person who helped the needy, played games with her children, and taught them valuable lessons. However, as is usually the case, family members only described the positive aspects of her. I think Speaker for the Dead described a beautifully honest celebration of a life in the book, but I am doubtful it would work in the real world. On the drive home, however, EJ lovingly described stories of his Mom that no one would ever tell at a funeral–some that described the good or funny qualities of her, and some that described her flawed and negative aspects, which has caused long-lasting damage. It presented a more balanced look at who she really was. She was human.

And we also spoke a little about my Mom. JJ has a very negative view of my Mom. For a while, he called her by her first name because “she never was a grandmother to me.” I asked him not to do that because it hurts my heart. Until we moved north, we lived relatively close to my Mom and three of my sisters. Jared experienced up close some of the problems in my family. But I deeply love my Mom/family and I remember some good things in my childhood. JJ’s love of history can be traced back to my Mom’s love of history. The times JJ and I paused to look at interesting insects are echoes of my Mom pausing to watch ants in the sidewalk with me. The only reason why I don’t have contact with them is that we couldn’t overcome the damage. One of the last times I wrote to my Mom, I asked her to please let’s forgive each other and start over. She refused. There’s not much a person can do then.

EJ’s family lived farther away–many of them out of state–and we rarely saw them so JJ has less unpleasant memories of them. He thinks they are better, but EJ says he thinks his family is far worse than mine. My siblings all recognize that our family isn’t healthy. I don’t think EJ’s family has the same awareness of dysfunction. So Speaker for the Dead:  EJ’s family isn’t without serious flaws, and mine isn’t without redeeming qualities.

I’ve told EJ several times, including on the way home from the funeral, that if I die before he does, I want a very private “funeral.” I don’t want anyone there who never loved or valued me. I don’t want phony tears or eulogies because I abhor pretense and hypocrisy. In fact, I don’t want any official service at all. I just want people who truly loved and valued me to gather together. They can be my Speakers for the Dead who share memories of the things I loved, the good things I did, the silly or stupid things I did, even the mistakes I made. I hope that if anyone is sick or struggling financially, they don’t try to attend my “funeral.” I cherish my loved ones, I think their lives have immense value, and I would never want them to put their lives at risk or hardship trying to attend my funeral. Besides, I won’t know if they attend or not, since I won’t be there.

Of course, I told EJ that it’s perfectly fine if he ignored everything I just wrote. I won’t be there, and what I want most is for him to be comforted. He has my “permission” to do anything or invite anyone that he felt would comfort him, even if I said that I didn’t really want it. One of my sisters once told me that she has warned her husband that if she died first, she didn’t want him to remarry. “I’ll haunt him forever if he does.” But I told EJ to remarry with my blessing. Why would I want him alone and miserable for the rest of his life? “Just make sure you find a nice woman who will make you happy,” I told him.

I hope I die before EJ because I am a wimp and don’t want to live in a world without him.

 

…And Death

I wrote in my last post that this week has brought new life into our lives, with ten incredibly cute chicks. They are noticeably growing larger every day.

In addition to life, this week has also brought us death.

EJ’s Mom suffered from dementia for several years. Her health has been declining, faster and faster as time passed until it worsened to the point that the family finally called in Hospice a few weeks ago. She died on Tuesday morning.

The funeral service will be in a town about five hours away. Even though EJ plans to attend only the service and then head back, that’s at least 12+ hours away from home. Hannah Joy tends to get into trouble if she is left alone too long; we think she gets separation anxiety. Plus, 12+ hours is a long time for her to go without a  “potty” break. So we decided that I would stay home and EJ would go alone. We both hated the idea of EJ going without me. But then Hannah’s Favorite Uncle offered to dog-sit her, so we decided that I would go too. JJ is also riding with us.

Our vehicles are old and we didn’t want to risk them breaking down on the long trip there and back again so we rented a vehicle. Yikes! Rentals are expensive. By the time the rental agency gets done adding on fees and insurance, the cost is three times higher than we anticipated. It’s totally not in our budget. But breaking down hundreds of miles from home is even more expensive. We will just have to tighten our belts another notch and cut expenses elsewhere. We are packing food to take with us rather than stop at restaurants to save money.

I think the purpose of a funeral is to gather with others who also grieve and comfort and be comforted. As the saying goes: Shared joy is doubled joy and shared sorrow is halved sorrow.

However, our grief is kind of being overshadowed by stress. The thought of attending the funeral tomorrow fills us with anxiety. Both EJ and my families are dysfunctional. We are “black sheep” in our families. As Vocabulary.com defines the term, “black sheep is the odd one out, whether he’s a disgrace to the family or just doesn’t seem to belong. The origin of the phrase comes from the rare presence in a flock of white sheep of a sheep with black fleece. Rather than being a delightful surprise, these black sheep were a disappointment, since their wool couldn’t be dyed.”

EJ and I strongly believe that each adult has the right to make decisions for himself (or herself) and his own household. He does not have the right to make decisions for others outside his immediate household. Boundaries, even among adult siblings, must be respected–and in healthy families they ARE respected. However, dysfunctional families do not respect boundaries. Instead, a form of “groupthink” exists. Groupthink means “the practice of thinking or making decisions as a group in a way that discourages creativity or individual responsibility.” Instead of allowing each other the freedom to make their own choices and decisions, dysfunctional family members believe they have the right to tell others in the family what to think, believe, do. Whoever doesn’t go along with the group is not accepted, and is often bullied. When I didn’t let my Mom take control of my marriage, she turned the whole family against me. EJ’s siblings as a group tried to bully us into having contact with a brother who is a scoundrel and acted in a way toward our son when he was younger that abuse experts have told us is very typical of molesters. We stood our ground. We will not let anyone take control of the decisions that are ours to make, including who we let/don’t let into our lives. And that was that.

We have not had contact with most of the family, except for the very few who have supported us, since we stood our ground about their brother. So going to the funeral tomorrow is going to be extremely stressful for us, with a lot of undercurrents. We will get through the day by supporting and comforting each other.

But we wouldn’t mind a bit of prayer support.

Life….

This week is going to be very tough and stressful. In the midst of a difficult week, we are having a happy thing so I thought I’d write about that today. I’ll write about the other stuff tomorrow…or the next day.

Since we have a few regular customers buying our extra chicken eggs, we thought we’d increase our flock. Getting chicks at this time of year means they will be mature enough to begin laying in the Spring.

TSC just happened to be having their Fall Chick Days. We didn’t even know they had Chick Days in the Fall as well as Spring. Chick Days are when TSC has live chicks and ducklings in the store and that is where we bought chickens and ducks before. We couldn’t buy them at the store this time because the breed and sex we wanted weren’t available. However, we learned that we could order the chicks online, which is what we did. We had to order a minimum of 10 instead of the 5-6 that we wanted but, oh, well, that’s Chicken Math. Chicken Math is when a person intends to buy a few chickens and ends up buying more, and more, and some ducks, turkeys, and guinea hens added in.

The chicks were mailed to us through the post office. I was very apprehensive about this because I did not understand how the babies could survive the 2-3 day trip without food or water. I imagined picking them up from the post office, opening the box, and finding ten dead babies. I was prepared to be traumatized.

I used the post office’s tracking number to follow the chicks’ progress from Minnesota to Michigan. I knew when they arrived at our post office and, sure enough, shortly after lunch, I received the expected phone call asking me to go pick them up. I quickly drove to the post office and hurried into the building. I had to wait while the clerk tended another customer, but I could hear a loud chirp, chirp, chirp and knew it was my babies. “Well, at least some of them made it,” I thought.

A box full of babies

When I arrived home, EJ opened the box and counted the chicks. One, two, three…There were ten adorable LIVING chicks. They all survived! No trauma, only happiness! Yay! The chicks are very tiny. I read that they are shipped when they are a day old.

I had intended putting the chicks in an enclosed place in the coop, but tonight the temperature is supposed to be a rather cool 51(F) degrees. Too cold for babies, we guessed. So I got out a cat carrier from the garage, put the straw from the box in it, put water and poultry feeders in it, and one by one scooped up the tiny bits of fluff and put them inside. They all fit with room to spare. They are adorable.

Hannah Joy was frantic with excitement when she heard the chirping and saw the babies. When I got the chicks in the carrier, I put it on the floor and let Hannah see it. She kept pawing roughly at the carrier so we shut it safely in the master bedroom. Hannah has been complaining all afternoon about our meanness in not letting her see the chicks. We just don’t want them to become Chicken McNuggets. Hannah shut up whenever I pointed my camera at her and told her I was videoing her so the whole world could see how much she complains. LOL.

 

Fluffy bit of cuteness

I sneak into the bathroom now and then to sit on the floor and hold the fluffy chicks. Babies of every sort are so irresistible.

 

 

 

 

Summer Bounty

Green beans from our garden

Now that we are well into summer, my days are getting a bit busier. I now pick green beans and sweet peas. It’s enjoyable and peaceful to pick them in the cool, freshness of the morning before the sun’s heat is hot on my back, reminding me of childhood times when we used a magnifying glass to focus the sun heat on a pile of tinder in an attempt to set it on fire. After I’ve picked the ripe beans and peas, I take them into the house and wash, snap, blanch, and freeze them.

It won’t be very long before our tomatoes are ripe. I prefer to dry my herbs and freeze my veggies, but I’d like to can the tomatoes. Neither EJ nor I really know how to can. EJ grew up on a farm and his Mom did a lot of canning so he has more memories of the process than I do. I grew up in a house on a large double lot in a small town. When I was really young, we had a large garden, but I don’t remember my Mom canning. We either ate the fresh veggies or my Mom must have frozen them. THIS year, EJ and I want to teach ourselves to can. We say that every year, but THIS year we really want to do it. It would be nice to have canned tomatoes all winter long.

A couple of days after we adopted Theo and Millie, I let them out of the coop. I always keep a new cat contained for a few days so they can learn that THIS is their new home. I always feel it’s a risk to let a new cat out because I don’t know if they will stay. Theo and Millie both stayed. I haven’t seen Millie leave the coop at all. She usually just stays in her hiding place on top of the litter buckets that hold the chickens’ feed. Theo leaves the coop occasionally, but he hasn’t ventured out of the pen. I keep telling them, “You know, it’s ok to wander a bit….” I think/hope they are more likely to leave the pen once we open the gate to let the chickens in the garden after the harvest is over. I mean, we got the cats to keep the rodent population down. They need to get to it. So far, Annie is unimpressed with the new cats.

Our Chickens

I started selling eggs because our chickens produced more than we could use. However, we now have a few regular customers and we struggle to keep up with demand so we decided to add to our flock. TSC (Tractor Supply Company) is now having its “Fall Chick Days,” which is when they have live chicks and ducklings for sale in their store. I just learned that they have Chick Days in the Fall; I thought they just had it in the Spring. The biggest advantage of buying chicks in the Fall is that the chicks will be mature enough by Spring to begin laying eggs.

EJ and I drove to TSC this morning with the anticipation of bringing home 5-6 cute little chicks. However, they didn’t have Rhode Island Reds, which is the type we want, and they only had “straight run,” which means males and females are mixed together and you get what you get. Chicks are hard to “sex” so even if you order all females, there is a possibility that you could get a rooster or two, but there is less chance than when ordering straight run. A store employee told us that we’d have to order our chicks on-line, and the minimum number we can order is ten. That’s about twice as many as we wanted. But one of the cashiers spoke up that she’d take any that we didn’t want, including roosters. She gave us her phone number. I thought that was very sweet.

When we got home, I got on my computer and ordered the ten chicks, using my 10% off coupon. Apparently, the chicks will be mailed to our post office. When they arrive, the post office will call us to pick them up. I’ve never ordered live animals through the mail before. I hope they all arrive safely.

Part of the crime scene in the coop – November 2017

We have a mouse family living in the house. A couple days ago I saw a dark blur as a mouse streaked across the living room floor and disappeared in the kitchen. When Hannah Joy ran after it, Little Bear and Timmy, our indoor cats, backed away. A few minutes later Hannah sat on the floor intently looking at something near the couch and growling. I walked toward her and she quickly gobbled up something and took it onto our bed. Suspecting it to be a mouse and not wanting her to eat it on the bed, I shut Hannah (still carrying the thing in her mouth) into the hallway. She spit it out on the floor and I saw it was a youngling mouse–dead, but not chewed up. I scooped it up with the dustpan and threw it out into the chicken pen. The chickens attacked it like vicious Velociraptors. I was surprised when we first got chickens to learn that they not only eat grain and grass, but also insects and rodents. In fact, in late 2017, I went out to their coop and it looked like a crime scene: There was blood splatter everywhere–on the feed bucket, on the inner coop, on the walls–from where they had attacked something, probably a mouse.

We have been enjoying the summer wildlife. We constantly see Monarch butterflies flittering about. I also saw a weird insect in our garden one day. I looked it up on Google and discovered it was a Common Whitetail Skimmer. A brilliant blue Indigo Bunting has visited our feeder a few times. A few evenings ago I saw the Mama Deer walking along our hill with her adorable little fawn. The turkeys also occasionally wander through. I love our property.

I made this doll. The pattern is from Havva Designs.

When I’m not busy with other tasks, I work on my crocheting. I finished an adorable doll a few days ago. I’m now working on a tiny mouse. The pattern is not very detailed so I’m looking at the photos and trying to adjust it. This doll is available for sale on my website.

 

A Fruitful Day

We were supposed to get some big storms Friday and Saturday with high winds, torrential rain, and possible tornadoes. We watched massive storms come towards us on radar on our computers but just before they reached us, they split and went around us. Other areas did get hit by the storm, but all we got was a little rain. The storms used to do the same thing when we lived downstate–split and go around us. I’m beginning to wonder if EJ and I repel storms. 😉

The weather today was sunny and cooler than it has been. EJ and I drove to a local orchard and picked sweet cherries. Northern Michigan has many, many cherry, apple, grape, apricot, and peach orchards. It’s beautiful to pass the miles of orchards, both in the Spring when the trees are blossoming, and later when they are heavy with fruit.

EJ and I each had our own bucket and picked from the same tree. It was very peaceful picking and chatting. The trees were weighed with cherries, which I thought looked like beautiful ruby jewels. It was incredibly fun. We filled our buckets and ended up picking more than 22 pounds of cherries.  Obviously, we will freeze many of them and enjoy them all winter.

The orchard didn’t have Saskatoon berries, but we had passed a fruit stand on our way there with a Saskatoon berry sign out front, so we stopped in on our way home a bought a pint. We were surprised that the couple who owned that second orchard had stopped at our house to buy eggs a couple weeks ago!

After we got home, EJ did a few odds jobs–washing the cherries, bringing the laundry in off the clothesline, cooking our meal (not sure if it was a very late lunch or early supper), and working on the Xterra. I mowed the lawn, did dishes, cared for the chickens and brought in their day’s supply of eggs.

Yesterday a woman contacted me wanting to buy two dozen eggs each week. Apparently, she uses them to make organic dog food for her pets. She is going to stop by early this evening.

We are getting just enough regular customers now that we are thinking about expanding our flock. We decided not to let our broody hen hatch eggs because some of them, no doubt, would be roosters. We already have two roosters, and though they are nice, two is enough! I went looking online for a place to buy chicks and learned that TSC is having their Fall Chick Days in about a week. We didn’t even know they had a Chick Days at this time of year. This means we can go to the store to pick the chicks up, and we can specify that we want females. We are thinking of getting five or six chicks. There are benefits to getting chicks at this time of year because they will be old enough to lay eggs in the Spring.

 

Most Pampered Dog

Ugh. It’s been incredibly hot and muggy here. Today is especially bad. We have heat advisories out. I think it’s even worse in southern Michigan and other states. We have our air conditioner running, which keeps the house cool. We aren’t doing a lot of outside work–just the necessary things, like taking caring of the animals.

Wednesday I opened what used to be the “duck door” but is now the “cat door” in the coop. I felt the new cats had been contained in the coop long enough to learn that this is “home” and it is too hot to keep them shut up. Millie seems uninterested in leaving her hiding place on top of the kitty litter buckets that hold the chicken feed, but Theo left the coop. I think he went under it where it was probably cooler, but he returned by evening so I shut them in the coop as well as the chickens. The cats haven’t left the chicken pen, but I figure eventually they will. Today was so hot that I opened the big human door into the coop so the slightest breeze could get in.

Wednesday we learned that the library was having a book sale so, of course, we went. We brought home a few more books to add to our home library. We never can resist. We also went on a search for Saskatoon berries, but our search was fruitless. (Pun intended.) Our little weekly newspaper had an article about a u-pick Saskatoon orchard. I’ve never had a Saskatoon berry, but according to the internet, “Saskatoon berries look much like blueberries, though they are more closely related to the apple family. Many would describe the taste of saskatoon as having a sweet, nutty almond flavor. They are also high in fiber, protein, and antioxidants.” I was hoping the place we were looking for also had already-picked berries, but they didn’t, and it looked as if it was going to storm, so we didn’t stop. There are TONS of orchards of all kinds around here and many u-pick ones. We drove past many, but couldn’t remember where they were when we went searching for them this week.

Hannah Joy often gets into our recliners whenever we vacant them, and she doesn’t always want to leave when we want to sit back down. So we decided that she needed her very own recliner to sleep in–when she isn’t sleeping in our laps. We found a decent-looking one at Facebook Marketplace and went to the elderly woman’s home in Traverse City this afternoon to pick it up. Normally “free” chairs are awful, but this one was in pretty good condition. As soon as we got the chair into the house, you could tell that Hannah Joy knew it was hers. She looked so happy when she jumped into it. She’s been sleeping in it ever since. She totally loves it.

Ok, so Hannah Joy is the Most Pampered Dog ever. Well….she is actually probably the Second Most Pampered Dog because I think my friends’ dog is even more pampered than our dog. But Hannah Joy is a close second. She is such an awesome dog that she deserves to be pampered, especially since she started out with a rough life. She and two other dogs were rescued by the local animal shelter from owners who kept them outside and starved them. Hannah’s story really is a rags to riches story.

Hannah Joy didn’t really have her photo in a magazine or newspaper. I had fun making these fake articles of her using the PhotoFunia website. She is so pampered that I imagined her being interviewed. 🙂

 

 

Lily Stems

It’s been incredibly hot and humid here in Northern Michigan–so hot that I feel like I’m melting. The temperatures have been in the mid-80s (F) and will rise to 90 this weekend. My southern friends would laugh at me because the 80s are nothing to them. They get much hotter than that. Yikes! I don’t know how they survive!

As I melt my way down the driveway to the mailbox and stagger back up to the house, I enjoy looking at the beautiful flowers lining the driveway. We have planted a lot of wildflower seeds, and I spent a summer or two transplanting the lilies spreading near the big rocks. Encouraging plants to grow along the driveway was one of my erosion-control methods. They slow the rainwater flowing down the hill and their roots hold the soil.

Empty stems. They missed one.

The lilies are blooming, but we’d actually enjoy two or three times more flowers except deer love to eat them. I chuckle when I find empty stems.  I’m assuming that, eventually, the lilies will spread enough that there will be more than the deer can eat. Meanwhile…oh, well. We purposely make our land wildlife-friendly.

Our chicken coop is actually a 12 x 10 shed. Until last summer we also had ducks. Our male duck used to enjoy harassing the hens so we separated them both outside and inside the coop. We used a dog fence panel inside the coop–the part with a door. The chickens and ducks each had their own little doors. Now the “duck side” is a storage area for the chickens’ food, etc. It is also where we have contained our new cats for a few days so they can get familiar with us, the chickens, and their new surroundings. And it will be their warm shelter in the winter.

Wire over the duck door.

We were concerned that it would be too hot for them in this warm weather but I keep checking on them and they are doing fine. I did fasten wire fencing across the “duck door” so the cats can’t get out but there is still increased air circulation. I shut the door at night so predators can’t get in. In a day or two, I will remove the fencing and let them go in and out. I want to make sure they aren’t scared of the chickens though. EJ said that the first time the cats heard Sassy crow, their eyes got huge. Being together (but separated) in the coop helps them all get comfortable with each other. Annie sometimes follows me into the chicken pen, and she ignores the chickens and the chickens ignore her.

Yesterday I took a video of Theo. Theo is a lover. Millie is shyer, although she usually comes out her hiding place on top of the kitty litter buckets filled with chicken feed when she sees Theo getting attention so she can get some too. She did not come out while I was videoing though. She must be camera shy.

Isn’t Theo cute?

Last week I designed a 10-inch dreamcatcher. It is a little different than the 8-inch one. This morning I finally finished getting the patterns written down. I posted them on my Terics Treasures website so people (I hope) can buy them. This is what the dreamcatchers look like:

Now I’m trying to finish up a doll that I started a couple of weeks ago. As I work on it, I’m considering how to design my next dreamcatcher. I’m having fun designing them.

 

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