Morning Rest

This morning when I opened the bedroom curtains, which I always close at night, I spotted two deer laying down to rest on the other side of the garden fence. Then I saw another, a few feet away. There were actually four, but I didn’t see the last one until it stood up.

Over the years, I’ve often seen packed down snow or crushed grass where the deer have rested at night but I’ve never actually see them lying down. It was a peaceful, enjoyable sight. I quietly got my camera and took a photo of the first two deer, which looked like a doe with her last year’s fawn. I love living in the country where I can observe wildlife.

I began my morning chores, trying to move quietly so I didn’t spook the deer in the backyard. I fed Hannah Joy and the inside cats, took bird seed out to the bird feeders, and then took Hannah outside through the front door. After each chore, I looked out the window to see if the deer were still there. They were–except when I took Hannah outside, she barked at a noisy car driving by and the deer moved off into the forest. So I less quietly fed the outside cats and let the chickens out of their coop.

Yesterday I was chatting on the phone with a friend when I suddenly heard a crash. I looked out into the kitchen and saw that Hannah Joy had pulled down her tin of treats from the counter. The treats had scattered over the floor and she was busy gobbling them up as fast as she could. I dashed out, pulled her into the bedroom, closed the door, then went out and picked up those she hadn’t eaten. I swear my dog is just like a little toddler getting into trouble when she knows I’m on the phone. But we love her, faults and all.

A Strange Sky

Last weekend our sky was a very strange color, a color that I’ve rarely seen. I think it’s called “blue.” And there was a fireball in the sky that made my eyes burn, tear, and squint with its intense brightness. Legend says it’s called “the sun.” It caused strange phenomena, such as powering up our solar lights which had gone dark with the weeks of twilight gloom.

EJ, Hannah Joy, and I took several walks down the driveway to the mailbox to soak in the sunlight.

Now we are back to our normal gray skies, but this morning it snowed and covered the ground in a beautiful white blanket. It melted in the early afternoon, but we are expecting 2-4 more inches tonight. The snow is nothing to be concerned about, but the thin glaze of ice will be. Ice is always more treacherous than snow.

Even on the gloomiest days, my animals make me laugh. Each afternoon the chickens gather at the garage door to wait for me. Then they follow me out to the coop where I scatter cracked corn for them. Sassy, our primary rooster, always chases away the younger rooster, Corey, so after I’ve given the chickens their corn, refilled their water bowl, and gathered eggs, I scoop up a handful of the cord and covertly take it away from the other chickens so Corey can have a treat. He watches me expectantly and follows me because he knows I will give him a special treat.

Theo, our cat always does chores with me. As soon as I walk out into the garden he leaps onto my back and rides into the coop with me. He leaps onto a shelf and waits while I care for the chickens, and then comes back into the garage with me. He faithfully accompanies me except when the weather is exceptionally bad–such as when we are having a blizzard. I sometimes wonder what he is thinking and why he feels he needs to do chores with me.

In the afternoons I have been busy crocheting little sharks for my sister-in-law, who plans to include them next Christmas in the shoeboxes of gifts she packs to send to poor children. I am making them in vivid colors, which she wanted. While I crochet, I listen to audiobooks. They occupy my mind while my hands are busy.

Where the Sun Doesn’t Shine

I live in Northern Michigan where the sun doesn’t shine.

I wasn’t exactly counting at first, but I’d guess that we are entering the third week in which the sun hasn’t shined. Not a peep, not a beam, nothing. There aren’t even any ominous dark clouds with silver linings. Instead, the sky is the color gray. A featureless gray. The grayness dims the daylight so that it feels as if we are living in a twilight world.

Many people who have moved to Michigan from other places do not like the state because it is so cloudy. I love Michigan. I love its seasons, its natural beauty, even its clouds. However, usually we do not have so many days of gray clouds. Although I do remember one year in which we didn’t have a summer because every day was cold and rainy. Vegetables didn’t even ripen in gardens that year, and no one had vegetables to enter into the various fairs. The next Spring the weather turned nice again and I kidnapped EJ for his birthday and took him north, just to have some fun. Although, actually, since I get easily lost, I told him that I was kidnapping him and made him do all the driving. “Drive north,” I said, because we have always enjoyed northern Michigan. And now we live here where our hearts always wanted to go! yay!

So a year without sun has happened before, just not very frequently. And fortunately, this twilight is happening in the winter and not in the summer. Still, no matter what the season, I do not particularly like this unending twilight gray. There isn’t even enough snow on the ground to make the world bright and beautiful. We only have a few tiny, tiny mounds of snow here and there which are rapidly disappearing. Everything else is gray and lifeless.

We have a few motion-activated solar lights mounted in various places outside, which are handy when EJ comes home from work in the wee hours of the night or when I have to take Hannah Joy outside after dark. Early last week, I realized that the solar light near the front door was not coming on when I took Hannah Joy outside. I thought, hmmm, maybe there is a battery or something inside that is dead. Then I realized that none of the solar lights were coming on anywhere in the yard, which I found odd because I wouldn’t think all of them would go dead at the exact same time. Then it occurred to me that, duh, these are solar lights and it’s quite likely that they are not working because there isn’t enough sunlight to power them. That is dim indeed.

EJ and I have also been feeling low-powered lately: Tired, low energy, not motivated. We wondered if we, also, aren’t getting enough sunlight to energize us. We’ve been renewing our efforts to make sure we are taking Vitamin D. EJ said that the next time the sun shines–if it ever does–he is going to go outside wearing only shorts to make sure the sunlight soaks in.

I took this photo at about 11 am this morning. The day didn’t get any brighter. This is what it looks like where the sun doesn’t shine.

Gloom & Boom

I enjoy clouds. I like big fluffy clouds that slowly meander across a blue sky like sheep grazing in a meadow. I like big black dramatic clouds that race across the sky on a stormy day. But clouds that are a blank gray, as if someone has taken a crayon and colored the sky gray, get a little tiresome. Every day for the last week or so, the skies have been very gray and gloomy. It feels like someone dimmed the sun and we are living in a twilight world.

We had an unexpected delight on New Year’s Eve. We were spending our evening as we usually do on New Year’s Eve when we suddenly heard booms. Our neighbor across the road put on an awesome fireworks display. We thought it was just as good as any that a city puts on during the 4th of July. We watched it from the comfort of our living room. It lasted for about an hour, with a few pauses now and then.

This is the second time in the last month that our neighbor has set off fireworks. It was especially enjoyable because we haven’t seen any fireworks for probably ten years, although we’ve heard them booming all around us on July 4th and other days. We live in a high tourist area that has a lot of festivals so towns, resorts, and campgrounds shoot off fireworks quite frequently during the summer. I would have thought that living on a hill, we’d have a spectacular view of fireworks. However, there are tree-covered hills all around us and they block out the horizon. We don’t really feel like joining huge crowds of tourists and lots of traffic to drive to see fireworks displays during holidays or festivals. At home, we only can see the very tips of fireworks that go high enough into the sky. So our neighbor’s awesome fireworks were a joy to watch. Here is a 2-minute video I took of it. I thought it was really cool the way the fireworks lit up the bare winter trees. I shushed EJ once in the video because he doesn’t like to talk when I am videoing.

The day before New Year’s Eve, I made six potpies from leftover turkey that I had frozen after Thanksgivig. EJ cooked a turkey on New Year’s Day and I made more potpies–six potpies on Monday and eight on Tuesday. I freeze them uncooked. It’s nice to be able to grab a potpie from the freezer and bake it on days when we are too tired, busy, or uninspired to cook.

After all that work making potpies, I’m taking a break today.

Goodbye 2022

Goodbye 2022. Hopefully 2023 will be less crazy and difficult, but I’m not exactly holding my breath. What I will do is resolve to face its challenges with faith and courage, come what may.

As I write this post, I’m drinking coffee and looking out the window. A week ago we had a blizzard with at least 15 inches of snow which the wind blew into snow-nadoes. Over the last week the temperatures warmed into the mid-40s and melted most of our snow. We usually get a thaw every January which melts some of the snow into puddles and then re-freezes it into ice that makes our steep driveway treacherous. The annual thaw is usually not THIS warm, and doesn’t melt THIS much snow, but Michigan’s weather tends to be unpredictable from hour to hour, day to day, and year to year so I shrug. I’m thankful that the warmer temps will ease our propane usage and lessen heating costs. Hopefully, enough of the snowmelt will run off that our driveway will not get icy when the temps turn cold again.

How will you spend New Year’s Eve?

Traditionally, we have homemade pizza on New Year’s Eve so once we’ve emptied the pot of coffee–we have a “house rule” that we can’t get busy until we’ve drunk all the coffee–I plan to go to the kitchen and begin making it. EJ went to the store yesterday and bought fixin’s for the pizza as well as a variety of potato chips, which is also a traditional New Year’s Eve food.

Every New Year’s Eve, we settle down with our pizza and chips to watch a long epic movie–usually Lord of the Rings–which we finish watching on New Year’s Day. However, lately I’ve been listening to audiobooks while I crochet so I have something to listen to while my hands are busy. We just finished listening to LOTR. I had planned to listen to The Hobbit but I couldn’t find a narrator I liked so instead we have begun listening to Orson Scott Card’s Ender Wiggins books instead, which are another favorite. We decided we’d continue with the audiobooks tonight.

That’s it. That’s our New Year’s Eve celebration.

The world is full of craziness, drama, challenges, heartache, and sorrow. We value a home filled with love, peace, quiet, and simple beauty.

We are Hobbits who enjoy our quiet life on top of our hill.

Snow Wings

The weekend’s storm dumped a bit of snow on us, but the temperatures are beginning to warm up. The forecast for Thursday is for a high temperature of 45 degrees with a 40% chance of rain! We usually get a thaw in January–although not usually rain–but this year it’s a week or two early. I dislike a winter thaw because it melts the snow into puddles that refreeze overnight, making our driveway treacherous with ice. Yuck.

Today I walked down the driveway to get the mail. I don’t go every day. I get emails each morning from the Post Office informing me of what will be in that day’s mail. This saves me a trip to the mailbox if there is nothing important in the mailbox. I don’t mind the walk down the driveway when the weather is nice, but don’t always enjoy braving the cold if I don’t have to.

I didn’t take Hannah Joy with me today because I didn’t want to risk her yanking on the leash and making me fall. I’m careful in the winter because in 2018 I slipped on snow-covered ice when walking with Hannah and broke my wrist badly enough that I had to have surgery to put a plate in my wrist. It wasn’t Hannah’s fault, but I don’t want to risk a fall. Plus, Hannah doesn’t like the cold. In winter, she dashes outside, does her business, and dashes back inside.

There are several things I really like about winter. I like the stark beauty. I like that it’s quieter than in the summer because neighbors are either inside or in Florida. I like watching the wildlife in our yard. I actually like watching the wildlife in every season. I also like to observe animal tracks. I see tracks in warmer months in the mud after rain showers but in winter I see many more tracks in the snow. I can see lots of deer tracks crisscrossing through our yard and into the forest. Sometimes I see turkey tracks. Or little rodent tracks with a line where their tails have dragged. And every now and then, I see even more interesting tracks.

Today at the bottom of our driveway, I saw an area where the snow had been disturbed off to the side. I walked toward it to observe it more closely. As I suspected, there was the imprint of a large bird’s wings as it swooped down to snatch its lunch. It probably was a rabbit since there are a lot of them in that area. It’s always very interesting to see this scenario in the snow, although it’s too bad for the prey. I took a photo of the scuffle. You can see it at the top of this post.

The Weather Outside

I hope everyone had a Christmas filled with love and peace. I also pray that you all safely made it to your Christmas destinations and home again.

The weather outside was frightful for much of the USA. I heard some Media calling it “THE WORST STORM IN A GENERATION!” It was hardly that–at least for us. We do occasionally get snowstorms in winter, you know. Maybe it was worse in other areas. EJ and I do not panic over storms, but we believe that any severe weather ought to be viewed with respect and precautions taken. We have emergency supplies near at hand at home and EJ keeps a kit in the truck during the winter. It distresses me that so many people do not pay attention to the weather and get stranded on the road or in accidents. A little awareness and preparation can prevent a lot of hardship.

Our area had Blizzard Warnings from Thursday night through Saturday night.. Two feet of snow, high winds, and cold temperatures were forecasted. We’ve had mild winters over the last couple of years, but a foot or two of snow is quite normal for a Michigan winter storm. Michigan has big plows to clear the roads so snow isn’t that much of a problem. The bigger problem is high winds, which can cause drifts and white-out conditions that make driving difficult. Also, snow and wind can cause power outages and downed trees.

EJ’s regular schedule is to work ten hours Monday through Thursday. Since he works second shifts and drives home in the wee hours of the morning, he took Thursday off to avoid the worst of the storm. We stayed safely at home and our power did not go out. It was cozy to look out at the falling snow. At times it snowed so hard that it hid the view. The strong wind often blew clouds of snow across the landscamp or swirled it into snow-nadoes, making me think of Hoth, the snowy planet in Star Wars. EJ estimates we got about 15 inches of snow Friday and Saturday with another inch or so yesterday and today.

I shoveled paths to the coop several times because they drifted shut. One time, I got caught in a snow-nado. I shielded my face and laughed. The chickens hate wintry weather and were not interested in leaving their coop so I didn’t open their little door. I gave them plenty of cracked corn. It raises their body temperature as they digest it and helps keep them warm. Their combined body heat also helps the coop stay warm.

The outside cats were uninterested in leaving the garage. We’ve made them several warm places in the garage that they shelter in when it’s cold–and they have also found a few of their own. I made them an additional shelter using the old dishwasher we removed from the kitchen a couple of months ago. We have never used it; I prefer to wash dishes by hand. So we finally pulled it out and moved our little egg fridge into its spot. Since we put the dishwasher in the garage until we can get rid of it, I propped the door open and put blankets inside for the cats.

Poor Hannah Joy really hates winter weather as much as the other critters. Saturday evening she asked to go out and when EJ and I took her out, she tinkled a little and then dashed madly for the door. A few minutes later, she pleaded to go out again. When we took her out, she walked into the snow and then turned around and dashed for the door again. A few minutes later, she pleaded to go out again. I told her, “You know it’s not going to be any better this time, right? It’s going to be just as cold and snowy.” But she pleaded. This time EJ went out first and shoveled a spot for her. Then she “did her business” before dashing for the door. LOL.

Christmas afternoon our neighbor drove up in his tractor and snowblowed our driveway for us. He has kept our driveway cleared for several years–ever since he saw me clearing our driveway with our little walk-behind snowblower. He didn’t even know us when he first started snowblowing our driveway. He is such a blessing. It took us at least two hours and multiple trips to snowblow our driveway but he can do it with a couple quick passes, up and down, up and down, and off he goes. He refuses all payment.

Here is a video I took on Christmas Eve. It wasn’t snowing much at the time, but the wind was whipping up the snow.

Merry Christmas

May the Light of the World bring you peace and hope.

 Luke 2:1 In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. (This was the first census that took place while[a] Quirinius was governor of Syria.) And everyone went to their own town to register.

So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no guest room available for them.

And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news that will cause great joy for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is the Messiah, the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.”

13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying,

14 “Glory to God in the highest heaven,
    and on earth peace to those on whom his favor rests.”

15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.”

16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

21 On the eighth day, when it was time to circumcise the child, he was named Jesus, the name the angel had given him before he was conceived.

22 When the time came for the purification rites required by the Law of Moses, Joseph and Mary took him to Jerusalem to present him to the Lord 23 (as it is written in the Law of the Lord, “Every firstborn male is to be consecrated to the Lord”[b]), 24 and to offer a sacrifice in keeping with what is said in the Law of the Lord: “a pair of doves or two young pigeons.”[c]

25 Now there was a man in Jerusalem called Simeon, who was righteous and devout. He was waiting for the consolation of Israel, and the Holy Spirit was on him. 26 It had been revealed to him by the Holy Spirit that he would not die before he had seen the Lord’s Messiah. 27 Moved by the Spirit, he went into the temple courts. When the parents brought in the child Jesus to do for him what the custom of the Law required, 28 Simeon took him in his arms and praised God, saying:

29 “Sovereign Lord, as you have promised,
    you may now dismiss[d] your servant in peace.
30 For my eyes have seen your salvation,
31     which you have prepared in the sight of all nations:
32 a light for revelation to the Gentiles,
    and the glory of your people Israel.”

33 The child’s father and mother marveled at what was said about him. 34 Then Simeon blessed them and said to Mary, his mother: “This child is destined to cause the falling and rising of many in Israel, and to be a sign that will be spoken against, 35 so that the thoughts of many hearts will be revealed. And a sword will pierce your own soul too.”

36 There was also a prophet, Anna, the daughter of Penuel, of the tribe of Asher. She was very old; she had lived with her husband seven years after her marriage, 37 and then was a widow until she was eighty-four.[e] She never left the temple but worshiped night and day, fasting and praying. 38 Coming up to them at that very moment, she gave thanks to God and spoke about the child to all who were looking forward to the redemption of Jerusalem.

39 When Joseph and Mary had done everything required by the Law of the Lord, they returned to Galilee to their own town of Nazareth. 40 And the child grew and became strong; he was filled with wisdom, and the grace of God was on him.

Quiet Before the Storm

Outside my window is a peaceful winter landscape. It reminds me of the line in the Christmas hymn that goes “how still we see thee lie.”

However, this is only the quiet before the storm. According to EJ, who has been keeping close watch, it appears that much of the USA is going to be hit with massive winter storms. There is a Blizzard Warning posted for our area starting tomorrow night with 1-2 feet of snow expected and winds gusting as high as 45 to 55 mph. Travel could be “very difficult to impossible” with blowing and drifting snow causing white-out conditions and causing downed tree branches and power outages. We haven’t had a winter storm like this in several years.

EJ is going to try to take the day off so he can avoid driving home in “difficult to impossible” travel conditions. He plans to drive to the store early tomorrow morning to pick up a few extra supplies. Meanwhile, I’ll finish up the laundry and make a big pot of chili, which we can easily heat up even if we lose power. We will also make sure our animals are all snug. Then we will hunker down together and watch storm. The snow isn’t a problem if we are both safely at home. The bigger problem is high winds that can possibly rip shingles off the roof and bring down trees.

I’m thinking of all the people whose holiday travel plans are going to be disrupted by these storms. Hopefully, prayerfully, people will be wise and either leave for their holiday destinations early or stay home.

EJ also says the meteorologists he watches said we could get severe cold. I’m very thankful our furnace was fixed.

The Furnace

Today was very gloomy with thick clouds and mist so that the light never brightened above twilight. With no snow and bare trees it felt more like November than December. But I’m glad that November is gone because it was a tough month. It was the worst of months and the best of months. At least, I think it was the worst and best month for us this year. I’ve had worse worst months, such as when our son was diagnosed with cancer.

Our primary heating source is a geothermal furnace which draws up heat and air-conditioning from the earth. Our secondary heating source is propane. The propane furnace automatically kicks in when the outside temperature falls below 20 degrees. EJ noticed that the propane was turning on well above 20 degrees. It’s much cheaper to run the geothermal furnace than propane so in early November he called the repairman. He came out, diagnosed the problem, and then ordered the part, which arrived several day later.

On the day the repairman arrived to fix the unit, the weather was very nice–unseasonably warm and sunny. This is important because the geothermal unit sits outside. I’m not sure I’m understanding or explaining this correctly, but apparently, in order to replace the part, gas had to be released/emptied, the new part installed, and then the unit refilled with gas. This can only be done on a warm and sunny day because it would be VERY BAD if moisture got into the unit. Moisture would quickly corrode all the pipes, tubes, or whatever all the way into the house. But this was no problem on that day because the weather was perfect. Except the repairman said he “made a rookie mistake” and fried the part. He sealed up the unit to keep it safe until he could order and return with a new part.

The repairman checked the forecast, saw that there would be a nice day in a week or two, and scheduled to return that day. He said he would keep his schedule clear for us on that day. Waiting for that day was stressful because we live in Michigan, and eventually winter will arrive. In fact, we’ve had warmer temperatures and not much snow so far, but every day that passed increased the likelihood of winter cold and snow arriving. Once winter arrived, we’d have to wait until Spring to get the furnace repaired. With inflation pushing prices higher and higher, I didn’t know how we could afford to heat our house with propane alone all winter. With rumors of a train strike causing supply issues, we weren’t even sure that there would be propane available. So I anxiously waited for THE DAY that the furnace would get repaired.

But on that morning, the repairman canceled saying that day was not adequate enough. In fact, when we didn’t hear from him by mid-morning, EJ called him and found out from his secretary that he was out on another call. This on the day the repairman said he’d reserve for us. Finally, he called back and said that the weather wasn’t adequate enough. He checked the forecast and said that it looked as if the weather would be adequate a week later so we scheduled him to come there. This was the week after Thanksgiving. Almost December.

I struggled with anxiety and prayed many prayers for God’s help.

On the morning that the repairman was scheduled to fix our furnace, he called to cancel, saying that the weather wasn’t adequate. It was supposed to rain in the early afternoon. In fact, he said he couldn’t fix the furnace until Spring. I had half expected it.

However, I had restrengthened my faith so when EJ told me what the repairman said, I was able to say, “Well, God knows we need heat, He knows what is happening in the world, and He knows our finances so we will just trust that He will take care of us.”

A few minutes later I glanced out of the window and saw the repairman’s red van driving up the driveway. I rubbed my eyes, wondering if I was hallucinating, but when I looked again, I still saw him. When EJ went out to talk to him, he said that he had checked the forecast again and the forecast had changed so it wasn’t supposed to rain until later in the day. He believed he had time to fix the furnace so he drove out.

And fix it he did.

And we have lovely heat.

And I was reminded that…

“…Your Father knows what you need before you ask him. (Matt 6:8)

Lothlorien

I thought that we were past the warmer weather, but nope. The last few days we’ve had temperatures in the low 70s. It was so nice that we mostly worked on outside projects. Wednesday the temperatures will get cool again–with a high of only 49 degrees–so THIS will probably be our last warm spell until next Spring. Unless I’m wrong.

We have reached the peak of autumn when the leaves are at their most beautiful. EJ believes we are slightly past the peak. He is probably correct because although the trees are still breathtakingly beautiful, they are beginning to get barer. I can see further into the forest.

Most of the trees are wearing various shades of gold. Since we are surrounded by forest, we are surrounded by gold. When the wind blows the leaves off the trees, it looks as if it’s raining gold. There is so much gold that the very air appears golden. I imagine this is what Lothlorien, the forest of the elves in The Lord of the Rings, would look like.

About a week ago a flock of turkeys meandered across our yard three times. The last time was close to sunset, so I thought, “Ah ha! Maybe I can get a video of them flying up to roost in the trees!” Turkeys are alert and smart, so I tried to sneak out so I wouldn’t spook them. I waited for maybe 20 minutes, getting a bit chilled because it was cold that day. I moved for a better position in the garden and suddenly saw them walking along the edge of the forest. I think they saw me too. They slowly disappeared into the forest and although I waited until dark and listened for the loud flapping of their wings, I heard and saw nothing. They must have moved deeper into the forest. Bummer.

EJ told me last week that as he was driving up our driveway on his way home from work in the wee hours of the morning, he saw a massive deer with a huge rack of antlers majestically lying on the hill at the edge of our forest. He said that with a regal nod, the deer gave him permission to pass him and continue up the driveway to the house. We now refer to this deer as “The Monarch of the Glen.”

This morning when I took Hannah Joy out, we saw a large possum emerge from the forest and start across the grass near the apple trees. Then Hannah Joy barked and it scurried back into the safety of the forest. One day, I would really like to get a game camera so that we can see what critters cross our property. Perhaps we’d see the Monarch of the Glen, possums, bobcats, bears, coyotes?

A couple chickens escaped from the garden twice during the weekend through the small hidden opening in the fence that I left for the cats. I don’t mind if Theo and Millie don’t leave the safety of the fenced-in garden, but since they do, I’d like them to have easy access to get back in. However, the chickens sometimes find the not-so-hidden gap so then I have to reconfigure it to confound them. The problem is that any place the cats can get to, the chickens can also. Anyway, fortunately EJ saw the escaped chickens both times and we got them back into the garden. Or, to be more precise, the first time the hen ran back in through the gap and the second time EJ was able to get the two chickens back in before I joined him.

One of the young hens is a bit sassy. She likes to come up behind me and peck me on the leg. Sometimes she also pecks Theo and Millie. I don’t put up with her sassing me because I don’t want her to think she outranks me. Chickens who think they have higher rank will try to keep their inferiors in their place–even if the inferior is human. I always shoosh the hen away or nudge her aside so she understands that I am the boss. My chickens are all nice because they understand that I outrank them. EJ says that our alpha rooster always comes to me with his hat in his hand to report on the state of the flock. LOL.

Raindrops and Leaves

After I wrote yesterday’s post, I checked the weather–because EJ and I enjoy watching the weather. It also lets us know what we should wear for the day (t-shirt/shorts, sweatshirt/jeans, coat/hat/boots?), whether it would be better to work outside or inside, if severe weather is headed our way, if roads will be slippery, and so on. I was surprised to find that there was a Winter Storm Advisory out for our area. There hadn’t been earlier. The NWS warned that we could get 1-3 inches of snow and 45 mph winds.

Because of the Advisory, I mentally prepared myself to find snow on the ground this morning but the only thing covering the ground were fallen leaves. The only things falling from the sky were raindrops and leaves. The wind blew leaves against the garden fence where they are hanging like carefully placed autumn decorations. It’s actually rather festive.

EJ told me that on his way home from work in the wee hours of the night, he was almost blown off the road a couple times by the strong wind. He did see snowflakes. He said large wet snowflakes and leaves splatted on the windshield and he saw many branches/trees down.

The wind caused power outages in the surrounding areas although, thankfully, we didn’t lose power. However, with Winter approaching and bringing a higher risk of storms and power outages, EJ got out the portable propane heater. He then drilled me on how to set it up and get it going. I so seldom have to get it going that I prefer him to refresh my memory….just in case.

Transitions

A week ago, we had a sunny day with the temperature reaching the low 70s. It’s been all downhill since then. Well, as far as temperatures go. Daytime highs are only in the 40s and nighttime temperatures are in the 30s. We’ve had quite a few rainy days and this week the forecast shows a few snowflakes mixed in with the rain. I like the various seasons, including winter, but the transition from warm to cold, from rain to snow, from t-shirts to coats is always a bit of a shock. It’s sort of like jumping into a cold lake on a hot day. Once you get into it, it feels refreshing, but the first plunge into the cold is a numbing shock.

The leaves of the trees are becoming more colorful every day. We’ve moved from t-shirts into sweatshirts and jackets. EJ bought cider on Friday. The price has risen steeply–from about $4 to $10 a gallon–but it’s just not autumn without cider. I like drinking cold cider, but I like drinking hot cider even more. I heat it on the stove with cinnamon and cloves added to it. Yum! We’ve planted a couple apple trees every year and now that they are beginning to produce, we are discussing the possibility of learning to make our own apple cider.

We finished harvesting our garden and canning, freezing, or drying our produce and then moved into doing odd tasks to get ready for winter. Much of early- and mid-autumn is not-too-hot and not-too-cold so working on projects is enjoyable. EJ finished building new birdhouses and installing them on the wooden posts which help hold up the fencing around the apple trees. The fence protects the trees from hungry deer in the winter and nesting birds from Theo in the summer. Yesterday we saw some birds checking out some of the houses.

I have never been able to cut homemade bread evenly. It’s always too thin or too thick–sometimes on the same slice of bread. So in addition to making birdhouses, EJ used a wooden cutting board to make me a bread slicer. It works dandily and now I can slice bread evenly all the time.

We’ve spent several weekends working on organizing the garage. This is a long-term project. Our garage is big enough that EJ wants to have things grouped into areas: An area for his lathe, drill, saw, etc. An area for butchering deer. An area for the exercise equipment. An area for his desk. And so on. We’ve been moving the equipment and tables into the areas he wants them. I lightheartedly complained that some of them are heavier than Thor’s Hammer. It took our combined efforts to move them inch-by-inch to where EJ wanted them. This winter we hope to bring buckets of smaller things–such as screws, bolts, and nuts–into the house and sort them by size and type into containers.

With our harvest finished, we let the chickens back into the garden until next Spring. It’s enjoyable watching them happily clucking as they eat what remains of the garden.

Our chickens continue laying eggs throughout autumn, gradually tapering off as it gets colder until they stop altogether sometime in November. They take a few months off and begin laying again around April. I was finding fewer eggs and thought that maybe the hens were beginning to stop for the year but then I found a cache of eggs half-buried in the straw in an out-of-the-way and hard-to-reach place in the coop. I have nesting boxes provided for the hens but some find their own preferred places. Usually, I know the location of their hiding places but they still manage to surprise me now and then. I have an empty feed bag in the coop that I use when I have to get the hard-to-reach eggs. I put it on the straw and kneel or lay on it so I don’t get chicken poop on me when I stretch to get the eggs. I also have a scoop that I use to extend my reach. When I have gathered the eggs, I fold up the feed bag and tuck it away until the next time.

Sometimes as I work, I think that stretching out to gather eggs, digging holes for posts, lifting heavy straw bales or feed bags, moving heavy equipment, and other tasks is a rural person’s version of yoga, pilates, aerobics, and weightlifting. Who needs boring exercises when we can work around our little homestead doing things that improve our lives?

A tufted titmouse is currently fluttering at the window. It appears that he is trying to tell me that the bird feeders are empty and I need to fill them. I better stop writing and go fill the feeders because I don’t want angry birds in our Enchanted Forest.

All Our Needs

Our beloved dog, Hannah Joy, loves to cuddle under blankets. As the weather cools, she spends more and more time under blankets and on my lap. Good thing that I also like to cuddle under blankets.

Our annual autumn game called “How Long Can We Endure Before We Turn on the Furnace For the First Time” is over. We were going to try to last until next weekend, but EJ turned the furnace on when he came home from work in the wee hours of Thursday morning. Physically, mentally, and stubbornly, we would have continued on, but the temperature dropped too close to the low 30s and the NWS issued freeze warnings. We can’t risk our pipes freezing and bursting–that would be an expensive disaster–so EJ turned on the heat. Since Thursday, the night-time temperatures are often in the 30s and have not reached above the 40s.

We had several days of clouds and rain when the high temperatures were only in the 50s. Typically, the weather turns cold in late September and then we have a few warm days in early October before the cold settles in until Spring. As expected, Thursday the weather turned warmer and is forecasted to remain in the mid- to upper-60s for several days. I had waited for these warm days so that I could mow the lawn for the last time this year. I mowed the lawn yesterday. Lawn mowing season is now officially over.

Wednesday evening I went out to shut the chickens securely in the coop, as usual. As I stepped out into the garden on my way to the coop, I heard a great flapping of wings and crashing of branches. The flock of turkeys were in the area again and they were flying up one by one to roost in the trees. I stood still to watch them. A few of the turkeys flew right over the garden and landed in a tree just over the fence! Once they were all up in the trees, I quietly walked to the coop and shut the chickens in. As I left the coop, the closest turkeys felt unsettled by my closeness and flew deeper into the forest. I never get tired of watching the turkeys fly up to the trees at night. I was hoping to also see them fly down from the trees the next morning, but I missed them by a few minutes. They were already on the ground when I went to open the coop for the day.

Strong winds often accompany storms here in our Enchanted Forest. The winds range from about 20-50 mph with strong gusts. I do not know if they are more frequent or stronger than we experienced when we lived downstate. It’s possible we might just be more aware of them now because we live in a forest and the wind really makes the trees sway wildly. Or it might be that we really do get stronger wind here in the north. Whatever. A while back, strong wind ripped some shingles off our roof, which was stressful because we don’t have the money to re-shingle the roof. Recently EJ noticed that the garage roof was leaking so obviously we had to do something about the roof before winter.

Our roof problems are nothing compared to the damage caused by Hurricane Ian that the Floridians have to deal with. I can’t imagine having flood waters churn through my house or the immense effort needed to clean up the damage. So I prayed for them. But God can handle more problems than one, so I also prayed that He would provide a way for our roof to get fixed. I didn’t try to tell God exactly how to meet our needs because God could choose to answer our prayer in a variety of different ways. He could provide us with the money, or insurance could pay for it, or someone could show up and volunteer to fix the roof. However, since winter will soon be here, I asked God if He would resolve the problem THIS week. (Keep that in mind.)

EJ discussed the roof with a co-worker who suggested various options, including seeing if our insurance company would pay to fix our roof. Yesterday EJ talked to the insurance agent. I don’t know if we have ever made an insurance claim so it is difficult to know where to start–because the insurance agent needs estimates to know if they will pay it but if the cost of fixing the roof is less than our deductible then we need to pay for repairs ourselves. But there’s not much use getting estimates if the insurance company says “absolutely not.” So EJ started by discussing the roof with the agent. The result was that at EJ’s request, the agent recommended a good roofer to get us estimates.

Next, EJ called the roofer who asked him to send photos of the roof. EJ did, and the guy said he could fix it for not much money. I was expecting a cost of many thousands of dollars, but the guy did it for a few hundred. He and EJ scheduled for him to come on October 3rd or 4th, but then he called EJ back and said he could come THE VERY DAY that EJ contacted him. Which was yesterday. How many times does a contractor arrive on the very day that he is first contacted? The guy put new shingles on the leaky place and also examined all the roof. He said that the garage roof is actually in good shape and he can re-shingle the house next year for a cost that EJ said is really quite cheap, relatively speaking. Less than half of what I was bracing for. So now we will tighten our belts another notch and pinch pennies a bit harder to save up for a roof.

I feel deep relief and gratitude about the roof. We’ve been through some very difficult times, but God often takes care of us in amazing ways. A few examples: Our realtor told us when moving here that we had bought our Enchanted Forest, which is just perfect for us, for much less than it was worth. And when EJ lost his job at the end of October a few years ago because of some health problems, his company weirdly continued to pay him his wages and health insurance until the end of the year. And we have a neighbor who voluntarily plows our driveway every winter and grades it every summer but refuses to accept any payment. These are just a few of the ways God has taken care of us. I do not know how people make it without Him.

The Lord is righteous in all his ways
    and faithful in all he does.
The Lord is near to all who call on him,
    to all who call on him in truth.
He fulfills the desires of those who fear him;
    he hears their cry and saves them.
The Lord watches over all who love him… (Ps 145:17-20)

My God will meet all your needs according to the riches of his glory in Christ Jesus. (Phil 4:19)

How Long Can We Go?

The weather has now turned sharply into autumn. We are in a midst of a series of rainy days, which is forecasted to continue through Tuesday. Today was especially rainy and gloomy with dark clouds.

The temperatures have dropped into the 50s during the day and in the 40s at night with a dip into the low 30s a few days ago. Brrr. This time of year the weather changes drastically from day to day. The National Weather Service predicts that the temperature will drop down to 29 degrees on Wednesday night and then Thursday and Friday the daytime temps will climb to 62 and 67.

It is the season for our annual game: How long can we endure before we turn on the furnace for the first time since Spring? The longer we put it off, the more we can save on heating bills. EJ is hoping we can last until after the first week of October. Mostly the house has remained warm, but we’ve put extra blankets on our bed, we are wearing sweatshirts, and we are drinking hot drinks on chillier mornings. We will see how long we can go before we give in. We are stubborn, we are hardy, we are resilient.

With the colder weather beginning to move in, we brought in all our house plants last Thursday morning. We always put them out on the deck at the beginning of summer and we bring them back inside when the weather cools in the autumn. EJ transplanted a couple of his pepper plants and brought them into the house for the winter. One year he hand pollinated them and we actually had peppers growing through the winter. I also transplanted a few plants of each type of herb I grow, hoping to nurse them through the winter.

Some years we are successful at keeping the pepper and herb plants alive throughout the winter and some years we are not, but we keep trying. I was wondering if having full-spectrum lightbulbs, which resemble sunlight, would help the plants during the winter when there are fewer hours of sunshine. I am especially concerned for my cactus which I had bought years ago as a tiny nub from Walmart. It’s grown to about 3 feet tall and is too big and heavy to put out on the deck in the summer and I fear it’s not getting enough sunlight; it’s looking a bit anemic. EJ had errands to do and he stopped at a store and bought a couple light bulbs. He said that the lights he bought were on sale and were actual plant grow lights. However, when he opened the boxes, we found that the bulbs were huge, and when he put them in the lamps near the plants, they shone with a purply-blue light that felt rather “trippy.” I thought, “Well, I will try to endure” but then EJ said, “No. These are unacceptable” and I agreed with relief. We laughed about it and then he went back to a different store and bought the lights we had intended, also on sale, which appear as normal lamp lights. He will use the other ones in the Spring–in the garage or something–when he starts his seeds.

During the weekend, we did a lot of “preparing for winter” chores in between rain showers. EJ has been trying to get the veggies from his garden. He also harvested most of the apples. Then he put fencing around the newest cherry tree to protect it from the deer. He still needs to put a fence around the newest little apple tree. I cleaned out the birdhouses so they will be ready for the birds next Spring. I moved the wooden posts they sit on inside the fruit tree fences in an attempt to keep Theo from harassing the birds next year. One of the birdhouses is in poor condition so EJ built a new one to replace it. He just has to get a tool to drill the right-sized hole and then we can put it up.

We still need to get some of the screens out of the windows, but we will leave a couple in so we could open them on warm days. We usually have several warm days in October before cold weather settles in permanently. I unhooked the garden hose in the front yard today, but I’m trying to leave the one in the backyard hooked up as long as possible so I don’t have to lug water to the chickens in buckets. EJ is going to build a warm shelter inside the garage to keep the outside cats warm. There’s a lot to do!

Yesterday a few deer trotted through our yard. One was a fawn that still had spots. EJ has told me that every year there is an early breeding season and a later breeding season. Obviously, this was a fawn that had been conceived during the later breeding season.

This afternoon I was taking Hannah Joy out when we were surprised by a flock of four turkeys who were in our yard just a few feet away. Hannah Joy was interested, but she didn’t protest as I quickly dragged her back into the house so we wouldn’t disturb the turkeys. I was surprised that they weren’t alarmed–they moved off at a quick walk, but they didn’t squawk in alarm or fly up into the trees. In fact, they circled around back into our yard a few minutes later. I wondered if they don’t see us as a threat?

I really enjoy observing the wildlife coming through our property.

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