Lord of Michigan

Last night was supposed to be the peak of the Perseid meteorite shower so I decided to stay up and watch it, at least for a while. EJ couldn’t watch it with me because he had to get up early this morning to go to work.

It’s not as much fun watching a meteorite shower in a spooky forest all by myself. Once I heard the snapping of a branch in the forest, and I wondered if it was a deer, or a bear, or maybe even the mythological dogman which is supposed to roam the area. Another time I stepped off the deck and heard a tree creak loudly. It made me jump. I stayed where I was but when I heard it loudly creak a second time, I called out “I’m sorry!” and quickly scurried over to the deck. The trees didn’t creak after that. I heard the creepy howling and barking of coyotes and imagined them stalking me. I also imagined wolf spiders crawling around at my feet. Despite the spookiness, I kept watching until the wee hours–maybe 1:30a.m.? I saw a few meteorites but I didn’t see the predicted 60-100 per hour. It’s much more fun staying up late watching meteorites with EJ.

I was very tired from my late night so after EJ went to work, I went back to bed to get a little more sleep.

After I got out of bed, got dressed, and drank several cups of coffee, I headed outside to make a new garden gate. I liked the look of the old wooden gate, but it became too rickety and hard to close. After I removed it by taking out a few screws with the screwdriver and banging it off the hinges with a hammer, I got out a section of sturdy cattle panel that had once been used for Danny’s (may he rest in peace) pen at our old house downstate. Predators could easily get through the large squares so I got out our roll of chicken fencing, cut off a section, and covered the cattle panel with it. Then I fastened the gate to the wooden posts with large staples. I didn’t hammer them all the way in so that the staples operated as hinges. I made a latch for the gate with a heavy wire that hooks into a staple that I hammered into the other post. And “ta da!” my gate was finished. EJ said it really turned out well.

The chicken ladder.

In the afternoon, I worked on making a ladder so the chickens can go up to the roof of the doghouse that is inside their coop. They like roosting in high places. I think they could actually go on top if they really wanted to–but they don’t seem to be doing it so I made the ladder to encourage them. I used part of an old pallet. It didn’t have enough “rungs” on it, so with a great deal of stubborn effort, I pried two thick boards–more like posts–off another pallet part. I tried to fasten the boards to my ladder but the nails kept bending when I had them in about halfway (grrrr!) so I finally gave up and asked EJ to do it for me when he got home. When he saw my project he said, “The reason you can’t get the nails in is because the pallets are solid oak!” Oh. So it wasn’t merely my ineptitude at hammering? EJ got some very big nails from the garage and with a couple “bam! bam!” of the hammer, he had them in. I knew he could do it! I dragged my finished ladder into the coop and set it up. I’m not sure exactly which angle I should put it at, but I’ll adjust it if needed.

The Middle Earth/Michigan map. I love it!

A couple of months ago I came across a Lord of Michigan map, which was a Middle Earth-ish map of Michigan. I love it because I enjoy both the Lord of the Rings and Michigan. So in early July I ordered the map on a poster for me and on a t-shirt for EJ from the website of Tee See Tee, a store based in Traverse City. The items finally arrived today. The poster is 12 x 12 and I only had a 12 x 16 frame. So I found some fairy tale scrapbook paper in my stash and used that to fill in the spaces above and below the poster. I think it turned out splendidly. I hung it on a prominent wall in the living room. I took a photo of it so I could share it here. (Sorry for the reflection of the flash.) Isn’t it awesome? I think it’s the perfect map for our Enchanted Forest. ❤

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Finding Josette

I didn’t sleep well Friday night–I only got about four hours of sleep–so I was tired all day Saturday. However, EJ and I still stayed up late last night to watch the Perseid meteorite shower, which occurs every August at this time. We dragged our lawn chairs out to the top of the driveway, leaned our heads back, and enjoyed the show. The sky was filled with billions of stars. I saw a large meteorite streak across the sky with a fiery tail behind it. EJ missed that one, but he saw other meteorites that I didn’t see–all it takes is glancing away from the sky for a second to miss them. We saw quite a few meteorites before we went to bed. While we were outside, we heard the coyotes howling. They sounded as if they were all around us. It’s rather spooky.

This morning we took the unused flooring back to Lowes for a refund. We got back over $200, which is not nothing. It was refunded on our Lowes credit card so it went towards paying off the cost of the flooring. Cool! Every little bit helps.

We moved the furniture back the way it was…mostly.

After we got back home, EJ and I decided to move our furniture back to the way it was before the new floor was installed. We really liked the new arrangement a lot–we enjoy changing things around every now and then. However, we couldn’t see as much of the view outside the window as we could before, and enjoying the beauty of our surroundings and the wildlife is a priority for us. We only made one small change: We switched our chairs so EJ is close to the window where I used to sit, and I am further away where he used to sit. He said, “I can see a little less here, but I can see it more clearly.” And I think I will be able to better see when the wildlife comes into the yard so I can take photos.

Usually our sweet cat Josette joins us whenever we go outside. She walks with us up and down the driveway, joins me when I hang clothes on the clothesline, and she follows us as we do our outside chores. I realized on Friday afternoon that even though I had been working on my enchanted sign outside for two days, I hadn’t seen Josette. That is just not her. I feared the worse. I thought sadly that maybe the coyotes or foxes had gotten her. I didn’t tell EJ that she was missing until Friday night because I knew it would make him very sad. Telling him on Friday evening would give him the weekend to grieve.

Most of our cats our inside cats. We realize that it’s a risk having outside cats, but each of the three outside cats are outside for a reason: Annie became an outside cat years ago when she peed on our couch. In fact, she peed on it several times before we discovered it. We forgive a lot of pet indiscretions, but peeing on the couch was not one of them. We were told by the county animal shelter that Miss Madeline Meadows, our serial killer cat, was very unhappy as an inside cat and needed to be a barn cat. Josette’s previous owner had told us that she had lived her life as a barn cat. We tried to bring Josette inside because she was such a sweet loving cat, but she didn’t understand the concept of a litter box.

Josette’s grave

This evening EJ and I walked down the driveway with Hannah. We could see her nose going sniffity, sniff, sniff. On the way back up the driveway, EJ told me to let Hannah follow the scent she was smelling–because she might lead us to Josette. So I did, and Hannah took us up toward the house and into the berry bushes…where we found poor Josette. I took Hannah into the house while EJ buried her. He put a large rock on her grave to keep the coyotes from digging up her body. He told me that he found no obvious signs of death–no bite marks or puncture wounds. We have no idea how she died. Sometimes life–or rather, death–sucks.

Floored!

Yesterday evening EJ made sure that there were no staples or anything sticking up from the living room floor, and then he painted the stains with Kilz orderless stain blocker. I helped him paint the first coat on the floor, but I was so tired from my hard work this week panting my sign and then mowing the lawn that I didn’t help him with the second coat.

After the stains were covered, EJ and I relaxed in our recliners, which were moved into the kitchen in preparation for the installation of the floors. EJ had a large mug of wine which he diluted with grape juice, which he often drinks at night. I sometimes have a small mug of wine/juice too, but sometimes it feels to acidic in my stomach so I don’t always drink it. EJ set his mug on one of the TV trays that hold our laptops. Our cat Kee-Kee jumped onto the tray and knocked the full mug into my lap. We jumped up, cleaned up the spill, and I changed clothes, putting the wine-covered ones in the wash. EJ filled up his mug again and set it on my TV tray behind my laptop, and when I moved my computer his mug spilled again. It didn’t spill on me this time. I think it probably went on the floor. Once again we jumped up and cleaned everything off. He filled up his mug again, but this time he held on to it and he was able to drink it.

The floor installers arrived this morning at 9 a.m. There was an older man and a young guy. Later the older man’s wife showed up to help.

I put all the cats in the pantry/hallway and shut the pet door so they couldn’t get out of the house if the door was left open as the workers went in and out. I shut Hannah in our bedroom to keep her out of the way–and I wasn’t sure if the installers liked dogs or how Hannah would react to strangers in the house. After a bit, she got out when an installer opened the door to cut away some of the carpet in the doorway. Hannah wiggled up to all of them for attention, which they lavished on her. We still had to shut her up in the bedroom or hallway occasionally because the noise of the saw and staple gun really bothered her. Also, she was a distraction. But now an then I let her out, and a few times I took her for a walk down the hallway.

The installers quickly laid the luan on the floor. Once that was stapled down, they began laying the laminate planks. They finished by putting all the trim back on. They got the flooring done in about six hours. I’m really glad we didn’t try to do it ourselves. The floor is beautiful. Without the carpet, the room looks much bigger.

After the installers left, EJ and I moved the furniture back into the living room. We tried a different arrangement–because it’s nice to have a change every now and then. The installers had moved the couch over in front of the window when they had to put the flooring where it had been. We actually liked the way it looked there so we left it there and moved our recliners where the couch used to be. However, the couch blocked part of the window so we couldn’t enjoy the view as much. So we moved the couch over to where our recliners used to be. We can enjoy more of the view now, although with our recliners across the room, we still can’t see as much as we used to. However, I will be able to see if the deer or turkeys walk along the edge of the forest or come up to the windows, and I have a good view of the bird feeder post so I am content.

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After we got the furniture back in the living room, I vacuumed the kitchen rug and we got the table back where it belongs. It’s nice to have everything in its place where it belongs.

 

One, Two, Three, Four…

Yesterday I carried paint supplies down the driveway, dug up my enchanted sign, laid it on the ground, and began repainting it. Many of the wooden letters that I used for my sign last year fell off in the winter’s cold and summer’s heat. So earlier this summer I knocked off the letters that were loose. I had outlined the letters last summer and the outlines were still visible, so I filled them in using paint pens. However, the paint from the pens quickly faded. So the last time EJ and I went to the hardware store, I bought small cans of sturdy exterior paint that should hold up in Michigan’s weather. Live and learn.

It was pleasant at first painting at the bottom of the hill because I was surrounded by beauty and I enjoyed listening to the bird songs. However, it didn’t take long before my position became uncomfortable. I knelt or sat on the ground and I imagined the snakes we have sometimes seen in the area sneaking up on me or the many ants crawling on me–not to mention spiders. I became hot and thirsty and I imagined trudging up the hill each time I wanted to take a break…Ugh. I decided it would be better to take the sign up the hill to the deck where I could take breaks in the cool house whenever I needed to–and also sit more comfortably on the deck or an overturned kitty litter bucket. We use kitty litter buckets for just about everything.

I walked up to the house with my kitty litter bucket filled with paint supplies, and then back down the driveway to retrieve the sign. The sign is heavy and very awkward to carry, which makes it feel even heavier, and the driveway is long and all uphill. Whenever I have to do anything that takes a measure of strength and endurance, such as carry a heavy awkward sign up a hill, I begin to count to count my steps. It helps me focus on steps instead of how far I have to go: “One (step), two (step), three (step), four (step). One (step), two (step), three (step), four (step).” I count only to four before repeating because it seems to help me focus on just taking one step at a time. I don’t want to count actual steps. I don’t want to know that it takes 500 steps or 1,000 steps to make it up the hill. That makes me feel more tired, not less.

I made it up the hill with the sign, leaned it against the deck, took a break in the air-conditioned house to cool off, and then went back out to paint. I sat on the deck or the upturned kitty litter bucket. I painted all the red letters, took a break, then repainted the red letters, and took a break. Each time I quit painting, I had trouble straightening myself up and walking–I felt so crippled. Ugh. Sometimes it sucks to get older.

I wanted to continue painting, but I decided to go to the hardware store to buy some more little paint brushes. They are just cheap ones and I throw them away when I’m done painting for the day because they aren’t worth trying to clean. I don’t need expensive brushes; I’m not painting a masterpiece. This was the first time I went to this hardware store without EJ. I finally learned the way to get there–usually I’m so busy looking at the beautiful lake as we drive along that I forget to learn the route. Plus, I have a terrible sense of direction. It was very simple to get there, especially with Ziva, my GPS, telling me the way.

When I got home, I went out to gather chicken eggs, do a few household chores, and fix supper. If EJ isn’t home from work by 5:30 p.m. I eat without him because I never know when he is going to get home–sometimes it’s quite late and I don’t want to starve waiting for him.

After I ate, I went back outside and began to paint the yellow letters. EJ came home and after I greeted him, I continued painting because I wanted to make some progress. It was very nice sitting outside enjoying the quiet beauty around me and listening to the birds sing. After a bit, I heard Hannah in the house bark, bark, barking. “What’s up, Hannah?” I called. Then I glanced up and saw the turkey family walking along the forest edge coming up toward me. They passed by only about 20 feet from me. They didn’t seem at all scared even though I had called out to Hannah. They just meandered calmly past me and into the back yard. I’m delighted that they aren’t nervous around me.

I got half the yellow letters painted before I decided to stop. I noticed the outside of my ears felt itchy and sort of burn-ish. I had put my hair in a pony tail to keep it from blowing in my face while I worked, and I’m pretty sure I burned my ears while I was working all those hours in the sunshine.

After a short break, I chatted with EJ while he worked on the floor. He got all the strips of wood up where the carpet had been stapled. Tonight he’s going to check that no staples or anything are sticking up. He might put sealer on the stains tonight, he said, or maybe tomorrow night, or maybe both tonight and tomorrow night.

Before EJ went to bed last night, he carried my enchanted sign into the garage. The forecast called the possibility of heavy rain, hail, and wind, and I didn’t want to risk getting my sign damaged. I would have carried the sign into the garage myself, but I was very tired.

When I went to let the chickens out of their coop this morning, I saw the ground was damp, but I didn’t hear any bad storms in the night so I don’t know how much rain we got.

It was very cloudy this morning. It looked as if it was going to rain, although the forecast said that it would be partly sunny today. After EJ went to work, I went back to bed for a little more sleep. When I woke up again, it still looked cloudy, but radar didn’t show any storms, so I took my sign out of the garage and lugged it over to the deck and began to paint again. Sometimes I heard the sound of rain and I looked up into the sky to see if my sign and I were going to get wet, but it was just the trees shaking off last night’s raindrops.

It felt hot and very humid today–almost tropical. It was very uncomfortable working outside and I took frequent breaks in the air-conditioned house. I also sometimes got up and walked around to get rid of the crippledness in my body. The sun beat down on me and I felt my ears itchy and burning again, so I went inside and got EJ’s big black floppy hat to wear. I have hats, but they are all baseball cap style and don’t protect my ears from the sun. I think I’m going to have to get myself a floppy straw hat to wear when I work outside.

I painted the other half of the yellow letters that I hadn’t painted yesterday. Then I painted all the yellow letters a second time. Then I outlined all the letters–both red and yellow–with paint pens. I outlined the red letters with white and the yellow letters with red. Outlining the letters gave them a more finished look. I think my sign looks even better than it did before. I also walked down the driveway to paint my enchanted address sign, which points the way up to our house.

After I had cooled off in the house, I took Hannah down the hill to get the mail. It was after 3:30 p.m. by that time, and she hadn’t been out since morning. While we were at the bottom of the driveway, I checked the hole where the sign post had been to see if it had filled in any over the night and whether or not I needed to dig it out again. I decided that I probably should take the post-hole digger down just in case. So I walked Hannah back up the driveway, put her in the house, went to the garage and got the post-hole digger, and walked back down the driveway. Then I dug out the hole for the post. I stood the post-hole digger in the sand nearby in case I needed it again.

My re-painted enchanted sign.

I staggered up the hill, pick up my heavy, awkward sign, and walked with it down the driveway. I was exhausted from working in the hot sun all day, and the driveway is very, very long. Stopping often to rest and reposition my grip, I counted my way down the driveway: “One (step), two (step), three (step), four (step). One (step), two (step), three (step), four (step).” When I finally reached the hole, I heaved the sign into it, and then kicked sand around the post until it stood firmly. Whew.

I grabbed the post-hole digger and staggered back up the driveway with sweat pouring down me.  “One (step), two (step), three (step), four (step). One (step), two (step), three (step), four (step).”

I put away the post-hole digger, and made it into the house. I rested a bit in the cool house with a glass of iced tea. Then it was time to gather chicken eggs. Then I had to fix supper. And clean the litter box. And set up tomorrow’s coffee; it turns on automatically at 5 a.m. so we have coffee by the time we get up. I washed dishes. Paid bills. Finally collapsed in my chair for a longer rest.

Tomorrow, if I am not crippled, I plan to mow the lawn.

Chickens and Other Critters

I feel as if I am moving very slooooowly this week. I’m getting a few tasks done, but slooooowly.

If we had been real homesteaders, we would have butchered our ducks to eat. By “we,” I actually mean EJ. I was born and raised in a small town, and I have lived all my life in small towns until we moved here to our Enchanted Forest. I know nothing about butchering. EJ grew up on a farm and he knows how to butcher poultry. If he had wanted to eat our ducks, and he said he did consider it, I would have agreed because I have no problem with people growing animals to eat. I like chicken and beef and venison. But EJ doesn’t enjoy killing poultry, and I most certainly couldn’t do it, so we decided to give our ducks away instead.  I’m glad the ducks are gone.

I’m really enjoying having to care only for the chickens. Ducks are rather endearing, but they use a LOT of water, and quickly get it dirty, and splash it all over everything, which makes mud in the summer and ice in the winter–ice that a person could potentially slip on. That is now a concern after I fell on the snow-covered ice in the driveway last winter and broke my wrist. Ducks also dig holes in the ground with their bills. Chickens aren’t so messy. They only need a bowl of drinking water. They scratch the ground with their feet, which actually prepares it for gardening. Chickens also are very curious and they all come running up to the fence when they see me, which is nice, and they follow me around to see what I’m doing. I actually read that chickens adopt the humans who care for them as part of their flock. It’s important for a person to establish themselves as the dominate “chicken” or the rooster will try to boss him. That’s when roosters get mean. Sassy, our alpha rooster, understands that I’m the boss so he’s not mean at all. In fact, Sassy, is amazing. If I hand him a treat, he will take it politely and then drop it on the ground for the hens to eat. I love the chickens’ soft cluckings, which I find comforting. I even like the roosters crowing. Yeah, I like chickens best. Here’s a video I took today of the chickens following me when I went out to give them fresh drinking water and gather eggs:

Repurposing the pool.

Yesterday I dragged a couple old pallets in the garden and set the ducks pool on top. I punched a few holes in the bottom and will put some stones in it for drainage. Then I will fill it with dirt for another raised bed, which we will plant next Spring. It only makes sense to repurpose the ducks’ pool.

Turkeys meandering along the hill.

I went to the garden yesterday afternoon to get some herbs to use in our supper. I usually go through the garage into the back yard. It’s the quickest route. I opened the garage door and was surprised to see the turkey family on the hill. Usually if I see wildlife outside, I quietly go back outside until they leave so I don’t disturb them. However, I had to start fixing supper so I just quietly went into the garden and picked the herbs I needed. I was surprised that the turkeys weren’t alarmed by my presence. They just kept meandering calmly along the hill eating grasshoppers and other insects.

Fawn eating berries

This morning we had visitors of another sort. Three deer wandered across the driveway and up to the house. One of them was an adorable little fawn. The fawn and one of the older deer paused to eat the berries from the bushes near the big rocks while the doe came right up to the house to lick the mineral block that we had put out for them last winter. After a while, the other two deer joined her. They were only a couple of feet from the house. Usually they come that close only in the winter. I stood at the window with my camera, and was surprised that they didn’t run away. Usually they are more skittish. I could have enjoyed them all day but EJ had to leave for work. I took several photos and videos, including this one in which the deer ran away when EJ went out to his vehicle.

I love living in my Enchanted Forest!

Yesterday we heard news reports of a car/bear accident not very many miles away from us. It reminds me that we really do have bears in the area. I think it was last year that I was standing behind a guy at TSC who was buying a birdfeeder. He told the cashier that he was replacing his previous one which had been destroyed–he thinks probably by a bear. The guy lived near a town only about four miles from us. Bears are why I don’t keep my birdfeeders up in the summer. They are attracted to them as a food source, and I really don’t want to attract bears.

Last night after work EJ worked a bit on the floor. I hate that he has to do it when he’s tired after a long day of work, but it has to get done before Saturday when the installers come to lay the new flooring. EJ removed the trim and pulled up the strips of wood that the carpet had been nailed to. After a bit he had to stop because his back hurt. He will work on it again tonight. This afternoon, to help him out, I pulled up the wood strips that he hadn’t gotten to yet.

Michigan had some elections today. I voted this morning. EJ will vote after work. An elderly man  ahead of me in line had a lot of trouble getting the electronic voting machine to accept his ballot. It kept spitting it back out. He hadn’t quite filled out the circles correctly, so he had to redo it, and he still had trouble getting his ballot accepted. Finally it went through. I felt kind rather sorry for him. Everyone in line was very patient with him though. Sometimes it sucks getting old.

This afternoon I picked a few herbs, took them to the kitchen and washed them, and then put them in the dehydrator to dry. As I picked the herbs, I considered my tasks in the days ahead. The wooden gate into the garden is rather rickety and isn’t easy to close, so I’m considering taking it off and making a new gate out of a section of cattle panels covered with chicken wire like I did with the gate to the chicken pen. I bought some small cans of exterior paint to repaint my enchanted sign. The craft paint is not holding up.  Friday the weather will be sunny so I think I will try to mow the lawn. Saturday the floor gets installed…

Today is National Lighthouse Day. I bought EJ a lighthouse gift on-line to celebrate. Actually, I bought the gift because I knew he’d like it and then I discovered it was National Lighthouse Day. I can’t tell you want it is because then EJ will know what it is because he reads my blog. It will be here in a few days.

In my spare time I’ve begun reading a detective novel set in Michigan. I’ve only just started it but so far it’s interesting. I love reading books set in my state because I’m familiar with the places it mentions. It’s fun. I love Michigan.

Coop Redesigned

Because today was forecasted to be very hot, our plan was to work outside in the cool of the morning and then go into the air-conditioned house and work on the floor in the afternoon.

Days don’t always go according to plan.

I slept late this morning–the latest I’ve slept for quite a while. I awoke occasionally during the night feeling a little sad and a bit of guilt for getting rid of the ducks, although I’m glad we did. After I finally got out of bed, I fed Hannah and the cats, who were very hungry, and then I went outside and let the chickens out of the coop. It was nice not to have to fill the pool for the ducks. When I got back in the house, I sat for a while drinking coffee with EJ, and then I fixed us breakfast, and then we sat drinking more coffee until the pot was empty. I finally took my shower and got dressed. By the time we got outside to work, I think it was 11 am and the day was already heating up.

Our back yard had been divided into three sections. There was an outside pen for the chickens and an outside pen for the ducks. We had to separate them because our drake was a pervert who kept going after the hens. Last  year we built our raised garden pens and fenced them in so the deer couldn’t get our produce. In the summer we opened the gate between the duck pen and the garden and let the ducks go among the beds and eat bugs. So there were three fenced in areas: the chicken pen, the duck pen, and the garden. Last night after the ducks were taken away, I removed the fence dividing the chicken and duck pens. The chickens still aren’t allowed in the garden area because the perimeter fence isn’t tall enough and the chickens could easily fly out. Also, they probably would be able to get into our garden plants and eat them. But even without being allowed in the garden, the chickens really seemed to enjoy their new expanded area.

We moved the dividing fence and gate here.

This morning I planned to move the section of fencing to replace the perimeter fencing that wasn’t as good as the others. When I first put the perimeter fence up, I ran out of fencing and had to corn-cobble the last little bit together. It wasn’t very predator-safe. EJ was going to put straw on his potato plants this morning, but he ended up putting up the fence for  me. The section of fencing is actually part of a dog pen that one of EJ’s co-workers gave it to him a couple of years ago. It wasn’t quite long enough to reach the garden gate so EJ moved the gate. Eventually–maybe even this summer if we have enough time, money, and energy–we want to expand the garden and get taller fencing for the rest of the perimeter.

While EJ worked on the fence and gate, I redesigned the coop.

The inside of the coop had also been divided into two, with the ducks on one side and the chickens on the other. I pushed aside the inside dividing fence, which involved unscrewing the panel of dog pen that had a door in it from the wall, and untwisting or cutting wires that held up other sections of fence.

Then I moved an old dog house that the previous owners of our property had built, and which we had put inside the coop to use as a duck house. The ducks liked going into it at night and they often laid their eggs in it. It was very well-made and very heavy, and I grunted and huffed as I shoved it to where I wanted it–on the opposite wall of the little gray chicken coop that was inside the big coop. The chickens like roosting on top of their little coop. The dog/duck house took up a lot of space, so I moved the dividing fence forward to give the chickens more space. Then I reattached the dog pen panel and the other fencing. I used screws, nails, and wire to attach the fencing. EJ helped me with some of the nailing–the ones near the ceiling–because he is taller and can pound the nails in faster–and I was getting tired. We are using the remaining space where the ducks used to be as storage for the chicken feed and straw bales.

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In addition to working on redesigning our coop and fencing, we washed clothes and hung them on the clothesline. EJ hung the first load of clothes on the line for me.

It was very hot today. EJ says it was 92 or 93 degrees (fahrenheit). There was a very strong wind, which helped, but we still got hot and sweaty. Whenever we felt overheated, we took breaks in the air-conditioned house.

It took us all afternoon to work on the coop and fencing. We were exhausted and grimy when we finally finished the project and put our tools away. I was glad to take a shower (my second today) and get clean again. We never did get around to working on the living room floor. We will have to do that in the evenings this week. Our new flooring gets installed this coming Saturday.

Once the flooring is in, we hope to order a truck load of limestone for our driveway. There are places in the driveway that could use more stones.

Bye, Bye, Birdies

As I wrote yesterday, after much thought I decided to get rid of my ducks. They are adorable, endearing, and funny, but they are also messy and a lot more work than chickens. Plus, we have too many eggs with both the ducks and the chickens. So yesterday I put an ad on the Craigslist for Northern Michigan.

This evening a guy came and got them. In some ways, it’s a relief to have them gone, but it’s also very sad to see them go. Both EJ and I will need to grieve their loss for a little while.

Sigh.

Floors & Ducks

Some days I leap out of bed and I’m busy all day from morning till night. Other days I drag my sorry self out of bed and it takes me many cups of coffee to get myself going and accomplish anything. Today was one of the latter days.

Once I had finished off the pot of coffee, browsed Facebook, and cuddled Hannah Joy, I got the post-hole digger out of the garage and carried it down to the driveway. I pulled my wildlife habitat sign out of the sand and dug the hole deeper. I had already dug my enchanted sign hole deeper a few days ago, but I didn’t think the habitat sign needed a deeper hole until Hannah ran around it and almost knocked it over. When we put the signs in place several weeks ago, our sandy ground was so dry that the sand poured out of the jaws of the post-hole digger like water and we couldn’t get the holes deep enough. Now that we’ve had more rain, I was easily able to dig deeper holes.

The flooring installers left a message on EJ’s phone this morning, but he couldn’t listen to it until his lunch hour. No matter how many times I tell Lowes people that they should call my phone, they still call his phone–I think because he originally gave his phone number as our main number. I’ve tried to change it, but it never seems to get changed. Because EJ can’t take the time to respond to personal calls at work, there’s usually a delay before he listens to the messages and then texts me so I can call them.

Anyway, I called the installers today and scheduled the date for them to put in our new floors. I had suggested to EJ last night that he really might want to take the day off when the installers come because repairmen and installation people always ask me questions that I don’t know the answer to, which makes me feel stupid. Plus, EJ would be able to tell if they were doing an adequate job or not. EJ said he didn’t think that the floor installers  would ask any questions that I couldn’t answer, but I thought that the people who hooked up our propane take or the guy who installed our new geo-thermal thingmajig wouldn’t ask me questions and they DID. So I was very happy when I could schedule the floor installation for Saturday, August 11. EJ will be home! I can just relax and let him handle everything. Yippee!

I enjoyed talking to the woman on the phone. We could have had the installers move our living room furniture and remove the carpet at an additional cost, but we chose to do it ourselves. The woman asked if everything had been delivered, and if the carpet was removed, and if the furniture had been moved. I said yes to each question and then added, “Well, except for the couch. It wouldn’t fit through the doorways so I had to leave it in the living room.” She laughed. “I’ve never had anyone tell me they couldn’t fit a couch through the doorway. How did you get it in the house in the first place?” she wondered. I told her that we had brought it through the outside door. “But I really don’t want to have to take the couch outside.” She said that she’d tell the installers to move the couch across the room as they worked. She said, “I’m sorry. This makes me chuckle.” I thought it was funny too and I’m glad that I could make her laugh.

After much thought, I’ve decided to sell try to sell my ducks. I know, I know, ducks are incredibly comical, endearing, and rather fun. However, they are also messy and a lot of work. Because they are water birds, they need a supply of water–a pool in the summer and a large bucket in the winter. I can fill the pool using the garden hose in the summer, but in the winter I have to lug buckets of water to fill the large heated bucket in the coop. They splash and get the coop all wet. So…I put an ad on Craigslist today. Hopefully someone will give them a good home.

Chickens are much less work and less messy, and require less lugging. I’m going to stick with chickens.

 

Flooring Preparation

Tuesday night EJ and I had planned to rip out the old carpet in the living room. However, EJ didn’t get home until 10:30 p.m. It was a very long day for him since he left the house at 7 a.m. At his previous job downstate, he regularly worked 12-16 hour shifts for weeks or months at a time without a day off. Once he even worked three shifts in a row!  The grueling hours really wore him down. I’m glad that at his current job here in Northern Michigan, he gets every weekend off. I think he’s worked only two Saturdays in the three years we’ve been here, and he has never had to work a Sunday.

Because they worked so many hours on Tuesday and got a lot done, EJ’s boss told him to leave work at noon on Wednesday for a half day off. When he got home, he rested for a bit while I fixed lunch and after we ate he began to tear out the carpet. I finished my chores–washed dishes, cleaned the litter box, gathered chicken and duck eggs–and then I helped EJ in the living room. I helped him roll up the pad underneath, and then I swept the living room floor while he took the padding out to the suburban to throw in the dumpster at work. His company allows employees to use the dumpsters for free.

The carpetless floor.

We are glad to get rid of the old carpet which was very threadbare and stained. Some of the stains had leaked down to the bare flooring underneath. The floor was also covered with sand. I don’t know if the sand was carried in on feet or was the padding breaking down. Yuck! Seeing what was under the carpet made me want to rip out the carpeting in all the bedrooms as well, but those rooms will have to wait until we can afford it.

My childhood home was very old. During one home improvement project, my Dad found very old newspapers in the walls–from the 1870s, if I remember correctly. The house had wooden floors. I thought it was very luxurious when we first got carpeting in the living room. Now, as an adult, I just think carpeting is very unsanitary with all the dirt tracked in, and children getting sick, and pet accidents, and stuff spilling. A person can vacuum and clean carpets, but still not get all the nastiness out of them. I much prefer uncarpeted floors that are easier to clean up. Wood floors are too expensive so we are getting vinyl planks, which are the next best choice.

I spent this morning removing staples that had been pulled up when EJ removed the carpet. They aren’t pleasant to walk on with bare feet, and they have to be removed before the new flooring is laid down. When I first began working this morning, Hannah seemed surprised that I was sitting on the floor. She came right up to me and kept trying to lick my face. It was very difficult to work when she was in my face and blocking my tools, but she is so cute. She likes to be involved in everything. After awhile, she went and sat on the couch to watch me. With her out of the way, I got most of the staples pulled out. Most of the staples were short and easy to pull out, but a few were very long. Some of the long ones broke off so close to the floor that I wasn’t able to grab them with the pliers to pull them up. EJ said he will get those.

 

Early this afternoon the delivery guys drove up to drop off the flooring, which includes sheets of lauan, the vinyl planks, and all the trim. We took tonight night off from working in the living room but this weekend we will paint polyurethane over the stains to cover them. And then we will wait for the installation people to come out….We don’t yet have a date for them to do the work.

 

This week has been quite rainy. There were times when we had such heavy rain that it caused a little erosion down the driveway. Yesterday we had dark clouds and a lot of thunder growling through the day. Some of those storms dropped rain on us while others passed us by. I love the misty look to the far hills on rainy days. I also like the coziness of rainy days.

While I was doing dishes last night, I looked out the window and saw Mama Turkey with her babies. They came up close to the house to eat grasshoppers in the grass and berries from the bushes. Mama is very aware of her surroundings so she can warn her babies of threats so I quietly snuck into our library and took photos of them through the window. I love watching the turkeys! I think the colors and patterns in their feathers are beautiful, I enjoy hearing the soft putt-putt-putt call they make as they walk along–and the babies are adorable! It’s fun watching them grow throughout the summer as well as the way their Mama watches over them. I couldn’t decide which photo to share with you, so I shared them all in a slideshow.

 

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A Bit of Chaos

This week I have added preparing the living room for installing the new flooring to my list of tasks. We are removing the carpet ourselves because we want to fix any problems there might be before the installation people show up. We were told that the flooring would arrive at the store by the end of July–give or take a couple of days. We are having it delivered to our house.

For several weeks, I have been mentally thinking through where I would put the furniture when we emptied the room. I planned to put couch in the kitchen, which is the only room where it would have fit. However, yesterday I tried to move it and couldn’t fit it through the doorway. I think the only doorway it will go through is the outside door, which is how we originally got it into the house, and I certainly don’t want the couch outside where bugs–and possibly spiders–can get in it. So Plan B is that the couch remains in the living room and it will just have to be moved from one place to another as the floor is installed.

I moved a few living room items–such as the gas fireplace, a lamp, a coffee table, and a couple small tables–to other rooms yesterday but I didn’t want to move our recliners or anything until I discovered when the flooring would be delivered. No sense living crammed into the kitchen until we had to.

I found out this morning that the flooring will be delivered on August 2nd. So this morning I moved the rest of the furniture out of the living room–except for the couch. I put down the sides of our kitchen table, making it smaller, and moved it into the center of the kitchen. Then I moved our chairs and computers into the nook where the table usually sits. It’s actually quite cozy. With the furniture out of the living room, I rolled up the big rug and vacuumed the carpet. EJ and I hope to remove the carpet during the evenings this week, and fix any problems underneath this weekend.

Originally, we had planned to removed the carpet this last weekend, which would have given us more time to get it done. However, instead we went to have lunch with EJ’s Mom and the sister who takes care of her. EJ’s Mom has dementia and is getting feeble, and we don’t know how much time she has left. She and the sister live at least a five-hour drive from us, but they were visiting family about 3 hours away from us, so we drove down to see her.

Last week leading up to the lunch visit was extremely, extremely stressful for us. We both could feel it affecting our health through insomnia and other issues. Two years ago, EJ’s siblings and their families discovered that we had very limited contact with their brother, who was manipulative and dishonest and tried to victim-groom our son when he was about 9 years old. As a group, most of them tried to pressure us (i.e., bully) to have contact with him and when we refused they insulted us, attempted to guilt and shame us into contact, and were very patronizing and condescending (which is a way of devaluing a person), self-righteous, and arrogant. I mention this not merely to complain but because I think it’s very important to understand. I hear the stories of too many people who are re-traumatized by the supporters and defenders of abusers (including us). They break my heart and make me upset that people do this.

There are two things that EJ and I firmly believe. First is that each adult has the right/freedom to make his/her own decisions for him/herself and his/her own family. They do NOT have the right to make decisions for other families. They must respect others’ freedom even if they disagree with the decisions being made. Second, while both EJ and I have deeply loved our families of origin, we will not accept, support, or stand with any person who is toxic/abusive even if he is family. Being “family” doesn’t mean an evil person gets a free pass. We absolutely will not tolerate or submit to bullying–especially when it comes to guarding our personal freedom and protecting our family.

In healthy families/groups, boundaries are respected and members are free to disagree and make their own decisions. Dysfunctional families/groups often claim to be loving, but in reality boundaries are often violated and anyone who doesn’t conform to the group is punished in some way. I believe that a person or group who tries to force a person into submission is attempting to take away their freedom. Free people have the right to make decisions and disagree. Slaves don’t.

In healthy families/groups people sincerely repent when an offense occurs (which means they apologize and seek to change), and the offense can be forgiven. In unhealthy families/groups, members are pressured to unconditionally forgive, reconcile, and have contact with a person even if he doesn’t repent of major wrongdoing. In fact, in most cases, members of a family, church, or other group rushes to protect and support an abusive person and fiercely condemns the innocent victim who speaks out against it or tries to escape. Often the family/group describe themselves as being caring and loving, and are proud of “giving grace” to the evil doer, but in reality, in protecting and supporting him, they are enabling and empowering him to hurt more people. This is wrong. VERY wrong. And despite their claims, it is not at all Biblical or Christlike. The Bible says that God is angry with the wicked every day, and that He will deliver the oppressed from their hand. And the Bible tells us to not walk with, stand with, or sit with the wicked, not associate with or even eat with them. It says to stay away from them and avoid them. Usually, a victim suffers from multiple abusers because she (or he) suffers from the original abuser and then she suffers secondary abuse from all the people who pressure her to unconditionally forgive, love, and accept the unrepentant abuser who continues to abuse and isn’t required to change. It’s very damaging.

Furthermore, I believe that those who stand with and enable abusers share in his/her guilt. An abuse advocate at FB shared a story this last weekend about a sweet 69-year-old woman who had confided in a few men from her church (which she had attended for decades) that she was leaving her abusive husband. She asked them to go with her to protect her because she was scared. They didn’t believe her because the husband had a persona of being a good, godly man. They refused to help her and she was found murdered the next day. This is heinous. You can watch the video here in which the advocate describes the story and the need to believe and help victims. Besides stories like this, there are many, many cases in which a victim is silenced, abuse is hidden or covered up, and the abusers are free to hurt others.

Anyway, EJ and I have always respected the freedom and boundaries of others, including our families. After struggling with the abuse of my family, and the secondary abuse of people who enabled them, we will no longer tolerate bullies or abusers. We have decided not to associate with those of EJ’s family who bullied us until they apologize to both of us and promise to respect our boundaries in the future. Many people would urge us to “to let it go” but we have learned that ignoring such things just result in more abuses. It’s better to set firm boundaries. EJ says his family will never apologize to us. So that’s that. There were a couple of relatives who supported us, and we will have contact with them but we will not go to large family events.

We were very stressed about meeting EJ’s Mom and sister on Sunday–primarily his sister because she actually was among those who felt we should have contact with their brother. However, we think she might not be in the same category as the others so we are willing to give her a chance. But since we were meeting at a restaurant in the town where many of the family lives, we were very anxious about the possibility of me being insulted (because I only married into the family so I’m not really “family”) or being ambushed by the others. Sometimes people think they are “helping” a situation by forcing a reconciliation. We were relieved that the time was pleasant, and the sister wasn’t mean to me, and EJ got to see his Mom once more. It was kind of hard because at first his Mom didn’t recognize him. She asked “Who are you?” and he had to remind her that he was her youngest son.

We were gone from home for about 8 hours. We’ve never left Hannah Joy alone that long and I was worried how she would handle it. She tends to get into trouble while we are away. I made sure the cats were shut into the pantry/hallway with the pet door shut so Hannah couldn’t mess with them if she got bored. We shut all the bedroom doors so Hannah could only get into the living room and kitchen. We made sure everything that she could possibly get into was put away. Everything was fine when we arrived home. Whew.

We got through the day. But we aren’t going to do this too many times. We have endured too many abusive people and the stress they cause is too much and too damaging to our health.

While I was writing this post, I received notification that a package had arrived. Since the delivery truck had not come up to the house, I knew that the package had been left at the Magic Box, which is what I named a large wooden box at the bottom of the driveway in which delivery people can put our packages. I call it the Magic Box because packages “magically” appear there. The delivery people actually are supposed to leave packages only in the winter when they don’t want to try to make it up our treacherous driveway, but they’ve been putting them in the Magic Box this summer as well. I walked Hannah down the driveway to retrieve the package and found it on top of the Magic Box instead of in it. Anyone pulling into our driveway could have seen and taken it. What part of in the box don’t they understand?? Grr. This sort of thing is why I rush down to the Magic Box as soon as I received a notification that a package has been delivered.

Small Town Outlaws vs Shipwreck Alley

In the last couple of years, EJ’s friend has become interested in roller derby. He thinks it’s a fun sport, he likes the action and camaraderie between players and teams, and he’s amazed at the team members’ skating ability. Because he enjoys the sport so much, he likes to introduce his friends to it. Most people (us included) aren’t really familiar with the sport.

TH’s local team (Shipwreck Alley) was playing our local team (the Small Town Outlaws) near us, so he invited us to go to the game–his treat. EJ and I have never been to a roller derby game so we had no idea what to expect. My only exposure to roller derby is a brief segment in TV shows or movies, and it always looks quite brutal. So I wasn’t sure it would be my “thing.” But, hey, it’s fun sometimes to try new things…

TH explained the game to us, and after a short time we understood enough of the rules to follow the game. Basically, the only player who can score in a game is the one who has a star on her helmet. She is called a “Jammer.” She has to go around the track once before she can start scoring and then she gets one point for each opposing team member that she passes. The other players are called “blockers.” Their job is to try to block the other team’s Jammer so she can’t pass them. Blockers can only initiate a block to an opponent’s chest, front and sides of the torso, arms, hands, hips, and the front of the legs above mid-thigh. It is only legal to initiate a block using one’s torso, arms above the elbow, and legs above mid-thigh.

Small Town Outlaws (in red) was a much more experienced and skilled team than Shipwreck Alley, which is a very new team. However, I’m sure Shipwreck Alley will improve as they gain more experience. They all competed very hard and it was fun to watch. In fact, EJ and I enjoyed it so much that we would like to attend more of our local teams’ home games.

 

Life & Death

EJ had a doctor’s appointment Monday. His doctor is close to the company where he works so he always just goes on his lunch hour and then returns to work. His doctor threatened that he needs to lose 15 pounds by October or she will put him on high blood pressure. So…no more Moomer’s ice cream or chips. We were doing really well at not eating junk food until it was so sweltering hot in early July. Then we ate Moomer’s ice cream–the best ice cream ever to cool off and I fixed picnic-type foods so we didn’t heat up the already hot house cooking meals. It’s easier to avoid junk food if I pretend they don’t exist, but once I begin to eat them, they become a delicious habit, especially when the days are hot. I had already been thinking we had to start behaving ourselves….

Yesterday JJ stopped in to pick up our insurance card on his way to his dentist. Not long after he drove away, he called to tell me he had hit two birds. One had its head stuck in the grill of the HHR. “Is it still alive?” I asked with horror. He said no. He said he wasn’t able to get it out and he was going to drive back here for me to help him. I reminded him that I hate dealing with hurt/dead things (it takes all my courage to take care of Madeline’s victims) and that I was not, under any condition, in any way, going to help him pull a dead bird out of his car. Besides, all he has to do is consider the problem and figure out a solution, which is all I would do. But a few minutes later he was driving up the driveway.

JJ called the bird a finch, but I thought it might be a scarlet tanager. I’m not sure that it was because I’ve never actually seen a scarlet tanager before and I was trying very carefully to look at the bird with only brief unfocused glances. I didn’t want to see it too closely. I kept telling JJ that I had no idea how to get the bird out and he would have to think of a solution himself. JJ picked up two thin wooden boards that were actually the size of sticks from the porch and acted like he didn’t know what to do with them. Exasperated, I took one of the sticks, inserted it in the grill, and used it as a lever to widen it, and then told JJ to pull the bird out, which he did easily. Problem solved. Poor little bird. It made me sad.

Pileated Woodpecker

We had rain this last weekend, and Monday and Tuesday were rainy days as well. I love the way rainy days tend to wrap the distant trees in a foggy cloud. It looks mysterious. Yesterday I was enjoying the view when I saw two pileated woodpeckers on the power pole. By the time I grabbed my camera, there was only one. Pileated woodpeckers are the biggest woodpeckers. They are beautiful and I love to see them, but they can do a lot of damage to trees. I imagined the chaos they would cause if they damaged the power pole and it fell.

The much-needed rain has made the grass grow thick, lush, and long. I looked at the weather forecast and Thursday and Friday we are supposed to get more rain, so today was the only day this week that I could mow. I prefer to mow in the cool of the morning instead of the afternoon heat.  However, this morning there was heavy dew which made the grass very wet so I had to wait…and wait…and wait for it to dry. The day was already heating up when I began to mow. Ugh. Usually I mow the front yard, then take a break to cool down, and then mow the back yard and over by the clothesline. Today I had to take several breaks because I kept overheating. I got so hot while I mowed that my clothes got soaked with sweat. (I had to completely change them when I finally finished.) I thought about those people who do the Iron Man competitions in which they run, swim, and bike in a grueling test of endurance. I thought that if they really wanted to test their toughness, they ought to mow a large lawn with a push mower on a hot summer day.  THAT takes endurance. My body felt beat up and tired when I finished. At least we now have air conditioning so I could cool off in the refreshingly cool house.

The lawn sure looks nice when it’s newly mowed.

Hannah Joy likes to roll in the long unmowed grass when I take her for walks down the driveway. She always looks so filled with joy when she does so, as in this video.

EJ came with me when I went out this evening to shut the chickens and ducks in their coop. The three rouens–Daisy, Rose, and Lilly–always come running when they see me because they know I’m going to dump the water out of their pool and they love to play in the puddles. I leave them to it while I make sure all the chickens are nesting in the coop. I shut their little door and then go out to herd the ducks into the coop. When I call out, “Go to bed! Go to bed!” they file into the coop–although sometimes one, two, or all three of them try to run back into the garden. But they are mostly quite good at going into the coop. When they are in, I shut their little door, then shut the big doors so they are all safe inside.

While I was getting the poultry into the coop, EJ was looking at our veggies in the garden. I joined him, and we were picking some ripe tomatoes when we heard the spooky chorus of coyotes howling. They were quite close. EJ said that’s the closest he’s heard them. He said that this is the time of year when they go hunting for fawns. I told him that I could have lived very happily without knowing that. It made me sad. After we got back in the house, I grabbed my camera and went out and sat on the deck, intending to video the coyotes’ howling. I sat there for several minutes but didn’t hear anything. I hope they ran far, far away.

 

The Repairman

EJ had to work Saturday, which is only the second time he’s had to work on a weekend at this company. This is totally different from EJ’s company downstate where he had to work seven days a week for months without a break. Poor guy. With EJ at work, I had a very quiet day.

Sunday we worked in the garden a bit, and I put some more herbs in the dehydrator while EJ put new headlights on the suburban. I was considering mowing the lawn, but the grass was still wet from the much-needed rain we got overnight so EJ said no.

Mama Turkey with babies.

Yesterday afternoon EJ walked down the driveway with Hannah and me. EJ’s back was really hurting–it always does–so he walked slower with our cat Josette while Hannah and I walked on ahead. As we rounded the last curve at the bottom of the driveway, I saw the Mama Turkey with her babies. Hannah was investigating interesting smells in the long grass so she didn’t see them. I took a quick photo and then quietly pulled my dog away and we rejoined EJ and Josette up the driveway.

Early this morning the repairman showed up to install the new compressor for our geo-thermal heating/cooling system. When Hannah noticed the repairman, she went ballistic. She’s quite protective and always sounds very fierce as she barks and growls. I actually think she’d be ok with strangers if they took time to greet her, but not everyone likes dogs and I don’t want to risk there being a problem. I shut Hannah up in the master bedroom at first. After she had gotten used to the idea that there was a stranger here, I let her out. She barked whenever she saw the repairman, and then she’d come up to me with a very anxious look on her face. I told her it was ok for the guy to be here.

The new compressor

EJ doesn’t take the day off to deal with repairmen, propane delivery guys, septic tank people, installers, etc., which means I’m usually the one who has to deal with them. The few times EJ is here he always chats with the people and then later tells me interesting stories that they told him about their lives or the community. I never know if I’m supposed to chat with the people or not, or what I am supposed to say if I do chat with them, so I usually just greet them and let them go do their job. I’m an introvert, I don’t do well with chitchat with strangers.

I live in fear that repairmen, etc.,  will ask me questions, which they usually do, and I feel like a blooming idiot when I don’t know the answers to questions like “Where is your breaker box?” Uh…..I did actually remember where it was today, after initially telling the guy I had no idea. I don’t usually mess with the breaker box–EJ does–so I tend to forget where it is. When he asked me if I knew exactly what was wrong with the compressor, I said no–that my husband probably knew. I was thinking, “Duh, it doesn’t work. That’s why it’s getting replaced” but I didn’t say that.

Because I dislike dealing with repair people, and I dread them asking me questions that I might not know the answers to, I feel very uncertain and my mind freezes so I forget answers to questions that I actually do know. I think I sound really ditzy and stupid, even though I am definitely NOT. It’s as if, just like magic, I become what I’m afraid I’ll be. Just for the record, when I’m dealing with people, situations, or topics that I’m comfortable with, I can sound quite intelligent. Ugh.

The repairman worked several hours, replacing the compressor, doing something in the crawl space, doing something else with the breaker box, and got everything hooked up and working. We now have air conditioning and we propane will only be our backup system to heat our house in colder weather! Yay! The repairman turned on the air conditioning before he left, but when he drove away, I turned it back off. It’s not oppressively hot today and I figure why run it when I don’t need to. I’m grateful for the air conditioning on oppressively hot days when I’m in danger of melting, but otherwise I prefer the fresh breeze flowing through the windows and the sound of birds singing. Air conditioning makes the house feel closed up and stuffy.

I’m so glad when repairmen drive away. I always breathe a sigh of relief!

Both Hannah and I survived today’s repairman. In a few weeks we will have to endure the flooring installers. They will actually be in the house working. That will be a fun day. Ugh. I’m thinking we will have to shut the cats in the pantry so they don’t get out of the house, and we will shut Hannah in the entrance hallway where she can growl threats at the workers.

While the repairman was working on the compressor, I went to the garden in the back yard and picked a bowl of green beans. I brought the beans into the house and washed them and snapped them into pieces, but I didn’t blanch them until the repairman had left because I didn’t want to risk being interrupted at a crucial moment–when I have to take the beans from the boiling water into ice water to stop their cooking.

We have a sunflower blooming among the morning glories along the deck. A few more sunflowers are almost ready to bloom. I hope the deer don’t eat them because they are such a bright spot of cheerfulness. The morning glories had already closed by the time I got out to take a photo. I was tempted to wait until tomorrow morning to photo the sunflowers and morning glories both blooming, but I figured that I better capture the sunflowers while they are still there. The deer have eaten some of them even before they budded. The deer have also eaten most of the lilies lining the driveway. There are only a couple still blooming among the now-empty stems. I think it’s funny that the deer eat all the lilies, and I don’t mind that they do, but I would kind of like them to leave the sunflowers alone.

A beautiful sunflower

The Biker Bees

Hannah Joy was excited to see JJ yesterday.

Our son JJ stopped by yesterday to pick up something I had printed off for him. He doesn’t have a  printer of his own yet. We rarely see him, but that’s ok. He is busy with work and his girlfriend, establishing a life of his own. And, to be honest, although many people talk about how terrible the Empty Nest is, EJ and I are enjoying our quiet, peaceful life together. We enjoy each other and share most of the same interests. It’s nice.

JJ gave his two-weeks’ notice at the Mall, and will be beginning a new job in early August. He had interviewed with this new security company a few weeks ago, but when they told him he’d only get something like 27 hours a week, he politely declined. He can’t pay his bills on such few hours. A couple days ago, the company called him back and said they really want to hire him, and they would give him the hours he needed. They provide security for a number of companies and JJ will be working at two different locations–basically it’s kind of like having two part-time jobs.

While JJ was at our house, I asked him if he was still interested in taking one or more of our bikes. We had bought them a number of years ago–while we still lived downstate–but we almost never rode them. I tended to walk Danny, our beloved dog who died last November, and EJ worked so many hours that he never had time to ride bikes. The bikes were leaning side-by-side against the garage. When I moved the first one out of the way, a cloud of angry bees rose into the air. “JJ! Bees!” I yelled as we both ran. With so many bees, it was impossible to get near the bikes so JJ decided to look at them next time.

The bee hive on the bike

After the bees had calmed down a bit, I went back outside and noticed that there was a large hive on the front sprocket of the bike that I had dropped when I ran. I wouldn’t be able to move the other bikes with the hive so close so I got a garden rake from the garage and hooked it on the bike and pulled it a few feet, then ran as angry bees flew out of the hike. I waited until they calmed down again and then hooked the rake on the bike again and moved it another few feet, then ran. I did this several times until I had moved the bike an adequate distance from the others. I figured I had irritated the bees enough for one day so I left them alone until this morning. I saw only a couple bees calmly flying in and out of the hive so I was able to move the others far enough away that JJ will be able to look at them with no problem. If he decides not to take them, we will donate them to Goodwill.

The biker gang, the Yellow Jackets.

This afternoon I decided to try to ID the bees that on built their hive on the bike. I took a photo of one of the bees sitting on the hive and then kept it for reference while I searched the Internet. No matter how many times I try to learn the difference between bees, hornets, wasps, and yellow jackets, I always get them muddled–especially hornets, wasps, and yellow jackets. I always just call them all “bees” for simplicity sake. They are all from the same classification family, although different branches. I believe that the biker bees are yellow jackets, which are quick to defend their homes, can sting multiple times, and will chase a threat quite a distance before giving up. I think JJ and I–especially me–was very fortunate to have escaped unscathed. I told EJ that we might need to wage war on the yellow jackets because they are so close to the house. I’m worried one of the cats will get hurt. Stay tuned….

Searching for beans

This morning after I had done my chores, said goodbye to EJ, eaten breakfast, gotten dressed, and watered the veggie and flower gardens, I took a colander out to the garden and picked more green beans. I felt very contented and peaceful as I hunted in the cool morning for beans that were big enough to pick. I thought that having a garden is a bit like treasure hunting–searching the plants for ripe vegetables and feeling thrilled when I find one.  Later I washed the beans and then blanched them and put them in the freezer.

My Magic Mills Food Dehydrator

My old food dehydrators, which died last year, tended to really heat up the house so I didn’t want to run the new one while it was so hellishly hot outside. But yesterday was a wonderfully cool day so I thought I would try out the new dehydrator. I took the colander and a pair of scissors out to the garden and snipped some Apple Mint. When the colander was full, I brought it inside, washed the mint, picked the leaves off the stems, laid them on the trays, and inserted the tries into the dehydrator. I’ve never had a dehydrator with temperature and timer controls, so I had to read the directions. It was easy. I pushed the right buttons. The dehydrator hummed very softly. I could hardly hear it. It did not heat up the house at all–at least, not so I could notice. Awesome!

Preparing Chocolate Mint for dehydrating.

After the Apple Mint was dried, I put it in a glass canning jar. This afternoon I picked some Chocolate Mint to dry. Now that I know that the dehydrator doesn’t heat up the house too much, I will be busy drying herbs–oregano, thyme, basil, sage, and others. I love using herbs fresh from the garden in the summer and drying them to use in the winter.

In the afternoon when I went out to gather duck and chicken eggs, which is also like treasure hunting, I glanced at the zucchini plants and caught a glimpse of dark green. Could it be? I moved aside the leaves and found not one but TWO zucchini! Awesome!

Besides trying to ID the biker bees and working in my garden, I also washed laundry and hung the clothes out on the line to dry. And, of course, I walked Hannah Joy down the driveway several times. The spotted knapweed are in bloom and the fields are a haze of purple. It is actually more vibrant than shows up in the photo below. I have a lovely walk along the driveway.

 

Seen and Unseen

A bowlful of beans fresh from the garden.

Sunday afternoon EJ went into the garden while I gathered duck and chicken eggs. He picked a bowl of green beans. Yay! I don’t know how to can. I remember my Mom having a large garden when I was a young child, but I don’t remember her ever doing any canning. It’s a skill I would like to learn someday because I would like to be able to can tomatoes. However, I dry my herbs and I prefer to freezing veggies such as bell peppers and green beans. Many articles say that green beans ought to be blanched before they are frozen. Blanching means that you cook them for 3 minutes to kill the enzymes before you freeze them. However, I’ve also read articles that say you can just freeze without blanching them. I wasn’t sure which was best so I asked a homesteading group at Facebook that I am a member of. Some people said that blanching was a necessity others said it was fine to just freeze them. Some said that beans frozen without blanching were inedible, others said they noticed no difference in taste. Not exactly helpful. LOL. So I went ahead and blanched the beans, but I am going to do an experiment and skip blanching a handful to see which method works better.

Yesterday a large truck with a crane on it lumbered up our driveway. Hannah Joy went wild barking warnings to them. I shut her up in the hallway and slipped on some shoes so I could go out and discover who and why the truck was there. But then I saw the company logo on the truck and realized it was our previous propane company coming to–finally! after more than a year!–pick up their tank. I’m glad it’s finally gone. The company charges a $75 rental fee if you don’t buy propane from them within a year. When they sent me a bill a few weeks ago, I called to tell them that, uh, we notified them a year ago that we were switching to a new company and to please pick up their tank. They told me to disregard the bill and someone would pick up the tank. EJ said that if they try to charge us another rental fee, he is tempted to send them a bill for storing their tank for a year. LOL. But I suspect it won’t come to that.

Yesterday the weather was quite wonderfully cool–only in the low 70s. It was perfect. The temperatures dipped down into the high 40s overnight, which makes sleeping very comfortable. Meteorologists say that it will be cool again today–although not as cool as yesterday. Then temps will warm up and we will have rain this weekend. Rain is good. We have moderate drought conditions this summer and really need some rain.

A couple of days ago when I walked Hannah down the driveway she walked up to some pines trees and started wagging her tail. I wondered what she saw that got her tail a-waggin’ so I looked more closely. I spied Madeline hiding under the pines. She was so camouflaged that I didn’t see her until Hannah pointed her out. Although Madeline is very timid, she held very still as Hannah sniffed her. I thought, wow, this is how Madeline catches little birds, rabbits, chipmunks, and other critters. She is really quite an amazing (and scary) huntress. Madeline is in the photo at the top of this post: Did you see her? Can you see her now in the closeup below?

Can you see her now?

Hannah gets along with most of our cats most of the time. She and Luke didn’t get along right from the start because Luke hissed and growled at her and lay in wait to ambush her. Now whenever they get too close to each other, Luke growls and hisses and Hannah lunges at him with a snarl. They don’t hurt each other, but it disrupts the peace. Hannah also chases Timmy–not because Timmy hisses, growls, or ambushes Hannah, but because he runs. Hannah thinks it’s fun to chase a running cat. Yesterday I watched Hannah do a little jump near Josette to try to make her run, but Josette is mellow and friendly and didn’t so Hannah didn’t chase her. We are trying to teach Hannah not to chase cats. We don’t want her to think it’s fun or acceptable.

Timmy hasn’t been able to sit on my lap since Hannah joined our family because Hannah lunges at him, he runs, and she chases him. Poor kitty. He loves cuddling, but he spends most of his time now in our master bathroom or on one of the beds, trying to keep out of Hannah’s way.  They only way we can keep Hannah from chasing Timmy is if we catch her when she first sees Timmy and say “No!” as she’s tensing up to lunge. Yesterday Timmy made his way to the end table next to me. I told Hannah “No!” as she perked up. I made Hannah sit quietly while I petted Timmy, and every time I noticed her tensing up to lunge after Timmy, I told her to sit. I didn’t let Hannah on my lap because she was jealous and I know she would have lunged at Timmy and chased him away. I took a video of it. You can see Hannah yearning to chase Timmy, you can see her eyes glancing over at Timmy, and then she begins to grumble and complain. It’s pretty funny. Hannah actually did quite well with letting me give attention to Timmy:

Hannah Joy is an interesting dog. She is very alert to the slightest sight, smell, or sound. She sometimes leaps to the window to bark. When she does, I look out the window to try to discover what she has become aware of. Sometimes I’m able to see the critter she has noticed while other times I see nothing at all. But I know that she doesn’t bark for nothing so there was something there.

Yesterday evening Hannah alerted me that something was outside so I looked out the window and saw a doe with her two little fawns walking across the driveway. This is the first time this year that I’ve seen fawns. I was delighted and was hoping to watch them for a while and to photo them, but Hannah barked and scared them off. Bummer. I’m going to have to somehow teach her not to bark at deer.

Early this morning I was putting the sprinkler on the hose after I had filled the ducks little pool so I could water the garden. I haven’t watered it in several days and the tomato plant are looking a bit unhappy. I suddenly saw a turkey on the other side of the garden. I hunkered down and kept still while she walked along the fence and up the hill. She made a “put-put-put” noise as she walked along. I looked for little babies, but didn’t see any. After a bit I got a little tired of stooping down, so I quietly stood up and went back to fastening the sprinkler on the hose. I went over to the faucet and turned it on. I looked up the hill and saw a second turkey. They wandered calmly into the forest.

I went back into the house and put Hannah’s harness and leash on her to take her outside, as I always do every morning: I feed Hannah, feed the inside and outside cats, take care of the ducks, and then go back into the house to take Hannah outside to “do her business.” It’s our routine. With Hannah suited up and on her leash, I opened the door–and saw that the two turkeys had wandered into the front yard. Hannah hadn’t seen them or she would be dashing out with loud barks. I blocked her from going out and quietly closed the door. If there is wildlife in the yard, I wait until they leave before I go outside. I sat in my chair and watched the turkeys meander down the driveway. Then I saw the Mama Turkey with her flock of little ones come of the forest. Mama walked gracefully down the driveway while the little ones clumsily hopped, skipped, and followed after her. I waited several minutes to give all the turkeys time to get down the driveway and then I took Hannah outside.

I love watching the critters. It’s so magical.

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