Gleaning

I’m very confused. I don’t know if it’s autumn or winter. Yesterday we woke up to snow, but today the temperature rose to 50 degrees. Tomorrow there is snow in the forecast, but by Friday we will be back to rain. I didn’t really need to wear a coat today, but I did anyway. I also wore my orange hat so I wouldn’t be mistaken for a deer.

Although the temperature was relatively warm today, it was just foggy enough to make the day look very gloomy outside. It was as if the sun was at half power. I used to dislike the month of November because it was so gloomy with clouds and leafless trees, but I have come to enjoy its stark beauty.

After lunch, EJ and I went outside to pick the cabbage. The heads are small because the cabbage grew meh. We are still experimenting with what grows best in our garden and making adjustments as needed. I plan/hope to make Kimchee with the cabbage. I learned to make cucumber Kimchee this last summer, but this will be my first time making it with cabbage.

When we had picked the cabbage, I opened the gate and let the chickens into the garden. We always let them enjoy the garden between the end of harvest and the beginning of planting. The chickens love being in the garden and clucked happily as they gleaned (i.e., ate the leftover grain or other produce after the harvest). I enjoy watching them from the window.

Monday EJ stopped at a farm store on his way to work and bought a 50 lb bag of black sunflower seeds for the wild birds. This particular farm store grows the sunflower seeds that they sell. Later, if we can, we will buy some peanuts for the birds. We have tried different types of seeds and the birds seem to prefer the sunflower seeds and the peanuts. They usually throw the other stuff on the ground. Yesterday I scooped the sunflower seeds from the bag into buckets to keep them safe from rodents and bugs. I’m working at growing my own sunflowers for the birds so I don’t have to buy any. I grew enough this year to save some to plant next year and a jar to give to the birds–but not near enough to last the winter.

November’s Moods

November has been very moody thus far, throwing epic tantrums. We’ve gotten sun, clouds, rain, ice, snow, graupel, back to sun, colder, warmer, coat on, coat off…sometimes all in one day. There were times over the weekend that EJ and I looked out of the window and debated whether it was raining or snowing. It was difficult to tell if it was rainy snow or snowy rain. Well, no one can accuse Michigan weather of being boring.

Theo (the cat) always accompanies me when I go out to open the coop in the mornings and to gather the eggs in the afternoon, which I think is endearing. He wanders around while I do my chores and then follows me back out. It’s been so mucky in the chicken yard that the muck holds on to my boots with a sucking noise when I walk: SUUCK, SUUCK, SUUCK. I’m surrprised that I haven’t stepped right out of my boots while they remained trapped in the muck! A couple of times I carried Theo across the muck, but most of the time he prefers to walk himself. He’s light on his feet and carefully chooses a less muddy path.

Today was the first day of Deer Season. Usually, EJ hunts at his friend’s property on the other side of the state, but he didn’t have today off so he hunted on our property instead. For the last week, EJ has been trying to figure out where the best place to hunker down would be. He was out before I got out of bed this morning. I wasn’t sure which spot he’d choose and at first I couldn’t see him, but I finally did spot him just inside the forest.

EJ had told me that deer learn our routines so they wouldn’t be all that spooked when I went outside to do my chores. So I got dressed, fed Hannah Joy, fed the cats, then went out to let the outside cats out of the garage. When I opened the garage door into the garden so Theo and I could go to the coop, I spotted several deer just inside the forest so I quietly closed the door and went back into the house. I texted EJ their location, and he texted back that he had been watching them. After a while, I saw them run off. EJ told me later that there had been six does and one had been snorting at him since before I got out of bed.

After the deer ran off, Theo and I went out and let the chickens out, then I put Hannah Joy out on the tie-out so she could do her morning “business.” She didn’t even see EJ, who wasn’t really all that far away. I took my camera out and snapped a few shots of EJ. He always tells me that, for him, part of the hunting experience is sitting outside enjoying the quiet and beauty of nature. I thought my photos captured that quite well.

Of course, venison is tasty too. Hopefully, EJ will get one or two. It will be especially welcomed this year with food prices rising.

Orange

I mowed the lawn today…for the first time since late July when I injured my foot and for the last time this year. Mowing the lawn makes gong farming easier. “Gong farming” is a discreet way of saying that I pick up Hannah Joy’s poop with a shovel and fling it into the forest so we don’t step in it. Gong farming is just one of several unpleasant jobs done in the Middle Ages.

For the last few days, EJ has been working on the soffit. Today he fastened a long metal thingy to the roof to divert rain water from falling off the roof right where the porch step is. I would have taken a photo of the thingy, but I was busy holding the ladder for EJ. Our orange step ladder didn’t reach as high as he needed it to so he backed up the pickup truck, put the stepladder on the opened tailgate, and climbed. Which is why I held the ladder. I had visions of him crashing down, ladder and all. “You know,” I told EJ. “This is why women live longer than men. We don’t do stupid things like this.” But EJ got the thingy in place so now maybe we won’t get wet going out of the house. And maybe the step won’t get dangerously icy when rain/melted ice freezes overnight in the cold.

Yesterday was so nice that Hannah Joy and I walked down the driveway for the mail. Since it’s nearing hunting season, I wore my bright orange hat and Hannah Joy wore her bright orange coat so we wouldn’t be mistaken for deer by foolish hunters. Most hunters are very careful, but it always pays for us to be careful too.

When we go for a walk, we put Hannah Joy on a long retractable leash so she can wander a bit, but not get lost. She is NOT the most enjoyable dog to walk because she constantly gets into mischief. She likes to eat any animal poop she might find, and she likes to roll in stuff, so I have to keep careful watch of her and pull her away. Yesterday she wandered a bit into the field and found a bloody bone of some sort. It was maybe a foot long and quite thin. I pulled her to me and tried to take it away, but Hannah Joy is stubborn and doesn’t let go of anything she wants. In our tug-of-war, I managed to break away a small piece, which I flung into the field, but Hannah Joy ate the rest of it as we walked along. Sigh.

We went on another walk today and I kept her on a tighter leash so she couldn’t retrieve the small piece of bone I had thrown away or find more bones.

Today I laughed at Hannah Joy’s cleverness. I was working on my computer when I noticed her carefully place her orange ball down on the center of my footstool. Then she backed away. I looked at her and she backed away a few more steps. “Hmmm. It appears to me you are setting a trap for me and your ball is the bait. Are you trying to trick me?” I asked her. She looked at me intently. I made a slight move toward the ball and she rushed forward and grabbed it. Hannah Joy sometimes invents new games for us to play. She keeps us entertained and laughing.

I thought you’d enjoy seeing a little bit of what Hannah Joy does when she knows it’s time for her supper. When it’s time to eat, it’s TIME TO EAT! She doesn’t take “no” for an answer. LOL.

Back and Forth

Yesterday morning EJ drove off to do a little grocery shopping–mostly to get a turkey for our Thanksgiving dinner at the end of this month. They are always cheaper in November so in recent years we’ve begun buying at least one extra so we can cook a turkey a few months later. I enjoy making multiple homemade turkey potpies to freeze so that we can pop one in the oven on days when we are busy and/or don’t feel like cooking. We had a bit leftover in the freezer from the last turkey we cooked so I made two potpies yesterday morning. One we ate for lunch and the other I froze. We plan to have the second next week. We have to eat the old so we can make room for the new after Thanksgiving.

After lunch, I made banana bread from bananas that were getting a little too ripe. Banana bread and coffee are nice to eat in the mornings.

Before EJ drove to the grocery store, and before I began baking, I went outside to take photos of the sun rising and lighting up the trees. Our outside cats, Theo (pictured above) and Millie followed me around. They always follow me when I am outside–especially Theo, who enjoys accompanying me into the coop while Millie usually waits outside the fence. Black Millie is very sweet and gentle, while Theo is a bit of a character. Often I’ll be doing my chores when–OOFFF!–Theo unexpectedly jumps on my back and rides around on my shoulder, until he gets too heavy and I push him off. He often lurks out of sight and then zooms into the house when we open the door. He also likes to leap up to catch a bird at the feeder. He always bonks his head on the underside of the tray feeder, spilling seeds everywhere–while the birds fly away. I affectionately call him “Theo the Dunderhead.”

After a brief clash of autumn leaves and winter snow, we are back again to autumn. The snow melted the next day when the temperatures rose to the low 60s. This up and down, back and forth weather gets a bit confusing, especially when the mornings start out chilly. I wore my coat and hat when I went to the coop yesterday morning, but by afternoon the temperatures had risen. So even though I knew that it was going to get warm, I thoughtlessly put on my hat and coat when I went to the coop to gather the chickens’ eggs and refill their water bowl in the mid-afternoon. As soon as I stepped outside, I realized my mistake. “Ugh! It’s too warm for a coat!” I continued to the coop anyway, but I didn’t wear a coat when I went outside after that.

Saturday night we turned our clocks back an hour. I really hate the twice-yearly time changes. It’s hard enough on us humans, who at least understand what’s happening even if I can’t comprehend the reasoning, logic, purpose, or necessity of messing with the clocks. I think it’s more difficult on the animals. Well, at least it is difficult for Hannah Joy. I feed her first thing when I get up in the morning and then I feed her again at around 6 pm each evening. I try to keep to the same time on the clock, even if the time changes backwards or forwards an hour. Otherwise, our schedule could get really messed up. Hannah Joy gets very insistent when she knows it’s time to eat. By “insistent” I mean that when she decides it’s time to eat, she starts forcefully nudging my hand, getting in my lap and wiggling around, or blocking my face with her head so I can’t see anything. If we ignore her, she gets vocal and starts moaning and complaining. EJ actually feeds her in the evenings on the weekends, and she keeps accurate track of which days I feed her and which days EJ feeds her. Yesterday, she tried to tell EJ that it was time to eat, which it would have been the day before but not after the time change, so EJ ignored her. So she came over to me and started pestering me, but I told her that she had to wait a little while. She went over to EJ again and started bothering him. When he didn’t get up, she lay on the floor in pathetic misery until finally EJ got up to feed her.

I hate the time changes.

A Clash of Seasons

I woke this morning (as I do most mornings) to the darkness of predawn. As the sun rose, the night slowly retreated, giving way to the day, and little by little revealed the scene outside the window. I felt a sense of anticipation, as if I was watching the unveiling of a masterpiece.

And so I was.

A bit more snow had fallen in the wee hours of the morning, and the sun revealed a beautiful clash of seasons–with both snow and autumn colors mixed together. The starkness of winter white and the vividness of autumn color seemed to enhance the beauty of the other. I think it’s one of my favorite sights.

This morning I went outside several times with my camera to try to capture the masterpiece. One of the times I stepped out the door, I heard a loud snort and a deer ran off into the forest. I swear that no artist can paint as beautifully as God. It reminds me of a time years ago when EJ and I went to a 4th of July balloon festival in a nearby city. The fireworks were spectacular, with burst after burst of color. However, as we watched, a thunderstorm slowly moved in. Thousands of people turned their backs on the fireworks and “oohed” and “ahhed” over the flashes of lightning in the distance. Nothing can compare with what God can do.

Here is a video montage of the photos I took. I hope you enjoy!:

Graupel Downpour

I didn’t know if I would wake up this morning to a snow-covered landscape. When I took Hannah Joy outside in the pre-dawn, I saw only a layer of slushy ice on the deck. Later we had a bit of rain, which turned into a downpour of graupel. Graupel is often mistaken for hail, but it’s actually tiny ice-covered snowflakes rather than ice-covered rain droplets. Here is a video I took of the graupel downpour, which lasted for a couple hours before turning into snow. In addition to ice, rain, graupel, and snow flurries, we had moments in which there were wide strips of blue in the sky and a tiny bit of sunshine breaking through the dark dramatic clouds.

I think the winter white against the autumn colors are very beautiful.

With the arrival of November, Hannah Joy now has to wear her bright orange coat so she’s not mistaken for a deer by hunters. Although she IS a dear, she is not THAT kind of a deer.

Shortly before I went out to gather eggs from the chickens this afternoon, I search for my winter work boots. They were exactly where I thought they’d be–tucked under the bench in our entrance hallway. I brought them into the kitchen and tipped them upsidedown and shook them, just in case spiders had built their home in them over the summer. Then I sprayed the inside of the boots with peppermint water. Spiders hate peppermint, or so I’ve been told.

The chickens haven’t been laying many eggs lately. They stop laying during the dark, cold, winter months. Through most of October I found only two, three, or four in their nesting boxes. Yesterday I found none so I was very happy to find three today. Last year I stopped selling eggs at the beginning of October but had more than enough to last through winter. So this year I sold eggs further into October. That was probably a mistake becase now I’m holding my breath, rationing our egg usage, hoping the chickens keep laying a little longer. It would be awful if we ran out of eggs and had to buy them from the store.

Sunday afternoon EJ was working on the porch when he fell off his ladder. He was coming down off the ladder and thought he was on the bottom step when he was actually one step further up. You know how that is, right? The step down is unexpectedly further than you thought and you fall. I gulped in apprehension when he told me because he suffers from chronic back problems/pain from an old injury and I am worried he will injure himself even worse. He is more sore than usual, but seems to be mostly ok. I told him that obviously neither he nor I can go outside unattended. In late July, some of you may remember, I injured my foot when I stepped out of the coop and fell into a depression the chickens had dug in the dirt.

Last week I used the last of my poultry seasoning. I thought, “Hmmm. I betcha I could make my own!” I searched on the Internet and found an easy recipe. I used mostly my own home-grown herbs, although I had to use store-bought marjoram. Next year, if I remember, I will add that to my list of herbs to grow. The recipe can be found here on my recipe page.

Now that cooler weather has arrived, Hannah Joy has been cuddling under blankets and afghans. She loves to be covered up. Sometimes I think with dismay of her life with her previous owners, who kept her outside 24/7. She was never meant to be an outside dog. She is a total pampered lapdog.

And there there is our cat, Timmy. When the weather turns cold, he warms his paws under the little electric space heater we use to save on propane. Laugh.

During the difficult events of the last couple of years, I have mostly remained calm. We trust God, prepare as much as we can, follow social media accounts of people who research and understand what’s happening, and give and receive support and encouragement from a small group of friends. Occasionally, when stress builds, I (and my friends) disengage for a day or two to regain our calm. It’s important to take stress breaks for our mental health. I’ve found myself feeling a bit more anxiety lately so I’ve been staying away from turmoil, doing things I enjoy, cuddling my dog and cats, and enjoying the beauty outside my window.

The First of November

Most of the month of October was quite warm, requiring only that I wear a sweatshirt or light jacket when I went outside. Chilly, blustery, damp weather moved in on Halloween, and today–the first of November–it felt downright wintry. In fact, tonight and tomorrow we have a Winter Weather Advisory with a mix of rain and snow forecast. Brrrr. I am definitely now wearing a winter coat and hat–and I will be getting out my mittens and boots.

The trees finally dressed in their autumn finery, and then the blustery wind blew off the colorful leaves in a shower of color. When the sun hit the aspens (pictured above), the leaves twinkled like golden Christmas lights.

We spent October preparing for Winter. EJ did maintenance on the truck, he removed the window screens and stored them until next Spring when the weather warms again. We got the patio table moved to the porch, the garden hoses put away, and my herb garden covered with straw. For the first time, EJ is working at temporarily enclosing the front porch until spring.

We usually buy extra supplies for the winter so we won’t run out of anything if a snowstorm hits. However, we’ve been buying extra, extra supplies this year because we’ve been hearing of a looming supply chain crisis. We’ve been asking ourselves, “What will we need if the stores’ shelves become empty?” and little by little, paycheck by paycheck, we’ve been buying ahead.

EJ sometimes stops at a merchandise outlet store on his way to work. It sells products that retail stores pull off their shelves–because the items aren’t selling or to get rid of seasonal items like Halloween candy or Christmas decorations. EJ came home one day with 5 lbs of coriander powder, which he bought for only $5. A real find….except neither of us have ever cooked with coriander powder and don’t know exactly what to do with it. I guess we will have to learn. LOL.

In mid-October, my laptop started groaning and wheezing. We weren’t expecting to buy a new computer right now, but “What if we can’t buy one later?” we asked ourselves, took a deep breath, and bought a new one. It’s probably just as well that we did. A couple years ago, Hannah Joy knocked my laptop to the floor a few times. After that, the bottom didn’t fit tightly, the screen wouldn’t stay up (I had to lean it against the wall), and the disk drive no longer worked. It’s actually surprising the laptop lasted as long as it did.

We replaced the laptop with a desktop. We bought only a tower (with keyboard) to save money. EJ stopped in at Goodwill on his way to work and found me a monitor and speakers, both for under $20. The speakers are very good ones. The bass is so powerful that it often startles me with its deep rumble. I splurged a little and bought myself a wireless mouse that looks like a car. Its headlights light up. Cute!

I’ve spent the last week setting up the new computer. I haven’t had a desktop for quite a few years so I have to get used to some differences. One advantage is that I can put the keyboard away when I’m not using it so the cats don’t lay or walk on it. It also is more stable on the end table so Hannah Joy won’t be able to knock it off.

The difficulty has been trying to transfer everything from the old laptop to the new desktop. I was able to successfully sync my bookmarks. I couldn’t figure out how to file share so I’ve had to copy all my photos and documents onto a thumb drive and then copy them from there onto the desktop. I am still working on that. It’s going pretty well.

Surprised by October

I titled my last post “Surprised by September” but it appears that this year I have also been surprised by October. The month is nearing its end and I am just now writing an October post. I am really beginning to wonder at the characteristics of time. It really does seem to go faster and faster as a person ages. How weird is that?

I celebrated my birthday in early October. Next year my personal odometer will roll over to a new decade. I swear that yesterday I was in my teens. I blinked and now look at me! I have more years behind me than left ahead of me. How did that happen? Time is weird.

Every year in the autumn, EJ and I play a game in which we try to endure as long as possible before we turn on the furnace. I am always the one who gives in and turns it on–usually in late September. This year the temperature has remained relatively warm so that we have not yet turned the furnace on. Although I do confess that a couple of days ago I got out our little space heater to take the chill from the house when I woke up in the morning to temps in the 30s. I wonder if we can last until November before we turn the furnace on?

Supposedly, we are in–or past–the time when the autumn colors are at their most beautiful. This year the leaves were not as colorful as in previous years. They have remained mostly green instead of vivid yellows, oranges, and reds. The leaves are already beginning to fall; I can see deeper into the forest.

Our garden harvest is slowing down. Our corn harvest sucked because of our poor soil–and because of the raccoons who stole the few ears that did grow. We didn’t have as many peas as I wanted because after I injured my foot, I couldn’t get out to harvest them in time. However, our green beans did wonderfully. I have a freezer full of them. I joked to EJ that we will have to have green beans every day in order to eat them all before next year’s harvest. We also had a good crop of cucumbers, which I used to make multiple batches of Kimchee. As always, we had a good crop of bell and hot peppers, which I freeze or dry according to their kind. EJ still has cabbage and potatoes growing.

And, of course, my herbs did well. I’ve spent many days harvesting, and preparing, and drying herbs. Some I use for cooking and others I used for hot teas. Many of the herbs are medicinal. I would like to learn more about this aspect of them. EJ bought me some index cards on which I can write the herbs and their uses so I won’t have to keep looking them up in books or on the Internet.

This year we were able to grow more sunflowers than in previous years. Last year I planted most of my sunflower seeds along the outside of the garden fence, but the deer came along and at them all. This year we planted all of them INSIDE the fence, but we did not have the space to plant as many as I would have liked. If we don’t plant corn next year, I will have more space for sunflowers. Besides the fact that they are beautiful cheerful flowers, I want to be able to grow enough sunflowers so I don’t have to buy seeds for the wild birds. Whenever I harvest the sunflowers, I feel like the Queen of Hearts from Alice in Wonderland. “Off with their heads!” I think to myself as I sever the seed heads from the stalks. I bring the heads inside, tie strings around them, and hang them to dry from hooks in the pantry or entrance hall. Once they are dry, I cut them down and remove the seeds from the heads. I have a large jar of seeds for the birds, but I saved a smaller jar of seeds to plant next year.

Each year when warm weather arrives, I take all my house plants to the deck outside–except those too big and heavy to move. When the weather cools in the autumn, I bring them all back inside. Although the temperatures are still somewhat warm, we lugged the plants inside last Sunday. I also potted and brought in the hyssop I planted last summer, and EJ brought in pepper plants from his garden. Last year, as an experiment, EJ brought in two pepper plants. He used a small paintbrush to pollinate them and we had peppers growing all winter. It works so well that this year he brought in four pepper plants.

My injured foot has mostly healed. I am able to wear my own shoes and walk without a limp, although I am aware of a tinge of soreness now and then. However, if I am not careful…Yesterday I carried our patio table from the deck to the covered front porch where we store it during the winter. It wasn’t heavy, but I couldn’t see where I was going. I forgot that we had large rocks bordering our flower garden and I tripped over one, the table fell on its side, and I fell partially on the table and partially in the dirt. Now I am painfully bruised. I’m surprised that I didn’t break any bones. I swear that I shouldn’t be left outside unattended.

Surprised By September

I am always surprised by September. I always feel as if I’ve barely gotten used to the idea of summer when suddenly the temperatures are cooling, the leaves are beginning to change, the harvest is winding down, and thoughts of winter preparation start to surface.

To be honest, I’m probably surprised by the arrival of every season.

This morning the skies looked pretty clear, but dark, ragged clouds with a tinge of green moved in quickly. We had a bit of rain and lightning. It wasn’t as bad as it was closer to the Lake Michigan coast, but it did knock out our Internet for about 6 hours.

We had a storm in early August that dumped such heavy rain on us that it eroded gullies at the edge of our driveway. EJ ordered a load of crushed cement to be brought in and he spent a weekend or two filling in the gullies. When we first moved here six years ago, our driveway was extremely eroded with gullies that were several feet wide and deep. It took us a couple years of shoveling gravel and dirt, building rock dams, and planting vegetation to fix it. This was the first more serious erosion we’ve had to deal with since then. The rain eroded the edge of the driveway where there are no dams or vegetation to slow the rush of rain water.

Right after the August storm, I was very surprised to see a bald-headed Blue Jay at our bird feeder. I can only think that he had somehow lost his feathers in the storm. He looked very pathetic. He visited the feeder often and I tried to get a photo of him but he was skittish and I couldn’t focus my camera on him before he had grabbed a seed and was gone. The last time I saw him, his head was looking more normal.

I was surprised to see another bald-headed bird in between storms this morning. This one was a bald eagle. He landed at the top of a tree overlooking our property. He stayed for quite a while before taking off. He flew so fast that with just a couple flaps of his wings, he had flown across our property and disappeared into the trees.

We’ve had new visitors to our bird feeder at night: Opossums. They climb right up into the tray and calmly munch away even though I am only a couple feet away on the other side of the window shining a flashlight on them. I think of them as ROUS: Rodents of Usual Size from The Princess Bride. I have grown fond of them over the years, especially because they eat lots of ticks. I hate ticks.

I haven’t seen the raccoon family lately, but I suspect that they are not visiting the bird feeder because they are probably the critters who have been eating the corn in our garden. We haven’t gotten to enjoy any of our corn because they eat them before they are fully ripe. EJ is thinking that he probably shouldn’t even try to plant corn anymore, although I wondered if we could plant corn as a decoy to keep them from other crops. Critters have gotten a few of EJs pumpkins as well, but we have had a good crop of green beans, peas, and cucumbers. I’ve been freezing the beans and peas.

Kimchee

Years ago when I was a teenager, my Korean sister-in-law used to make Kimchee (also spelled Kimchi) for us when she and my brother visited. Kimchee is a fermented Korean food. It is definitely not for people who do not like spicy-hot food. When I told EJ about it after we married, he occasionally bought some for me, now and then, over the years. Once when he bought some from an Asian market, the owner tried to talk him out of buying it because it would be much too hot for us, but EJ insisted that we knew what it was and he wanted to buy it. We have always wanted to learn to make Kimchee ourselves and we finally learned how a week or two ago. We started with cucumbers because we have so many from our garden, but we’d also like to make it with cabbage. I’ve made it several times now. Yum.

My herbs have been growing well and I’ve been busy drying them. I also ordered some ginger roots and dried them in our dehydrator and then I ground them with my small electric coffee grinder–until the grinder’s blade broke. Bummer.

My foot, which I injured in late July when I fell exiting the chicken coop, is healing. One of my readers suggested that I buy a medical orthopedic walker boot for ankle and foot injuries. I bought one and it has helped a lot. (Thank you, Sandyslens!) My foot is not completely healed, but it is MUCH better than it was. Sometimes I can almost walk like normal, with only a little limp, although my ankle feels weak and it starts to ache if I am on it too long. I tried to wear my normal shoes a week or so ago, but I’m not quite THAT healed. I wear my medical boot in the house or out to the garden. I wear EJ’s winter boots when I go to the mucky chicken coop because I don’t want my medical boot to get yucky.

I put some heavy paving bricks in front of the coop door last week so the chickens can no longer dig holes that I fall into.

Stepping Out

Well, it’s been interesting watching my foot change colors as the days go by. I am still wondering how I managed to injure it so severely when I fell into such a shallow depression. I think I must just be talented. Or not talented, depending on how you look at it. LOL.

My foot doesn’t feel good by any stretch of the imagination, but every day it’s feeling a little less bad. Less bad is pretty good.

When I first fell, I could not able to put any weight on my foot whatsoever. I could get around only by getting onto our wheeled office chair and rolling myself to the place I had to go–such as the bathroom. After a few days, I graduated to a cane. I’m still using the cane, but I have to depend on it less heavily. So that’s progress.

If it were a mysteriously creepy night, I could appear almost scary in a horror movie sort of way with my zombie-looking foot and my thump, step, thump, step sound as I lurch out of the fog. I think “night” sounds scarier than “day,” “scary” sounds more powerful than “pathetic,” and “lurch” sounds better than “hobble” or “limp.”

I’m assuming–and resigned to the fact–that it’s going to take a while for me to get back to normal. I’m trying very hard to stay off my feet as much as possible to give my injured foot time to heal, but I also want to do as much as I am able to do. I sort things into different categories: there are some things I have to let EJ do for me, there are some things I want to do, there are some things I have to do, and other things I am impatiient to do.

For example, if EJ isn’t available (i.e., he’s in bed or at work) I have to be able to feed Hannah Joy and take her outside when she needs to go. I have to be able to feed the outside cats and let them out of the garage in the mornings and get them back inside the garage in the evenings. I was concerned that I wouldn’t be able to get them in the garage because the cats–especially Theo–like to roam our property and sometimes they are slow to return to the house. I haven’t had a problem, though, because when I see them near the house near evening, I call them to me and put them in the garage, even if it’s a bit early. I have to be able to get the chickens shut up safely in their coop in the evenings, although EJ cares for them when he gets up in the morning and he steals their eggs in the afternoons before he heads to work.

Although he’s willing to help me, I hate to ask EJ too often to fetch and carry for me when he is busy doing his chores, and mine, AND going to work every day. I’m obviously not going to be mowing the lawn any time soon but I can easily do dishes now because I only need to stand in front of the sink with the weight off my foot. EJ is doing the cooking and putting dishes away because they take too many steps for me.

I decide whether I can do a task by determining how many steps it will take or how long I will have to be on my feet. The more steps, the more pain so I try to eliminate steps by bundling tasks–i.e., doing everything I can in the part of the house that I am currently at or going through. For example, the pantry, the door to the garage, and front door are all at the end of the hallway. So when I go to the pantry to get Hannah Joy’s food in the morning, I also scoop out food for the outside cats and put it near the front door as I take the few steps to the kitchen to put Hannah Joy’s dish on the floor. This keeps her out of my way as I take the few steps back down the hallway. I reach through the door to the garage and push the button to open the large door a little so the cats can get outside. Then I pick up the cats’ food dish, go out the front door, and put their dish on the porch. The seed for the wild birds is in a container on the porch so as I head back into the house, I scoop some into a container. By this time, Hannah Joy is finished eating and needs to go out so we go to the door in the living room that leads out to the deck. I get her out on her tie-out and then I pour the seed into the bird feeders which are next to the deck. By this time Hannah Joy is ready to go inside so we go in together. I hobble back through the house to put the scoops back in the birdseed container on the front porch, and when I come back through the kitchen, I pour myself a cup of coffee and take it with me to the couch where I settle down and rest my foot. By calculating and eliminating as many steps as I can, I maximize the number of tasks I can do while minimizing effort and time on my feet.

Monday evening was the first time I had to go out to the coop to shut the chickens in. When it was almost time to go out, I realized that there was no way that my foot would fit in my shoe. I couldn’t go barefoot because I needed the support of my brace to go so many steps, and I didn’t want to dirty it in the mucky chicken area. I pondered the problem and then I thought, “Oh! I can wear my winter boots!” which usually fit a bit loose. I tried to insert my foot in the boot, but it didn’t fit. So then I thought, “Oh! I could wear EJ’s winter boots!” which are bigger than mine. But I couldn’t get my foot in his boot either. I thought further and decided to just try putting on a pair of slippers. I chose a pair of Christmas ones that I’m not particularly fond of so I wouldn’t care if they got mucky. They have little bells around the cuff, which dig into my legs if I cross them. (Tuesday I let EJ remove the bells to use in a project.) The slippers were successful! Whew! I felt a bit like the people in the story of Cinderella trying on the glass slippers. Or maybe Goldilocks trying various items until she found the ones that were just right.

The most frustrating thing has been looking out the window and seeing my herb garden. I don’t want my herbs to go to seed before I get out there to harvest them. I want to dry enough of them to last the winter. Every day I have thought, “Today I am going to harvest some herbs,” but every day I say, “Nope. Not today!” But yesterday I decided that I was absolutely going to get out to the herb garden, which is just next to the deck so it’s not as if I have to take a lot of steps to get to them. The real effort is that harvesting them requires more time on my feet. The best time to harvest herbs is in the morning, but we have had heavy dew that would have totally soaked my slippers so I had to wait until the afternoon after EJ went to work. I harvested four different types of herbs. I brought them into the house and rested my foot while I sat on the couch and removed the leaves from their stems. Then I put the herbs on the trays and into the dehydrator in the hallway.

I feel better now that I could get out to my herb garden.

And Then THIS Happened

So…I’ve been very lazy about writing during the last month, although I wasn’t lazy in other areas of my life.

Interruption: Oh! Just as I began this post, I saw the Mama Deer emerge from the forest with her spotted fawn. I haven’t gotten many glimpses of them this summer so I am distracted as I watch them. They grazed close to the house, drawn by the berry bushes, tiger lilies, and the scent of apples. Hannah Joy is dozing next to me on the couch and I don’t dare move to try to get a good shot with my camera because if she sees them, she’ll bark and scare them away.

Ok, the deer have moved off. Now back to writing this post:

In the last couple of weeks, the Mama Raccoon began bringing her babies to the bird feeder to eat the seeds the birds left. I’ve counted four babies: Usually one is at the top of the post with Mama, one swings from the tilted tray feeder, and two are on the ground eating the seed the others spill. Most of the time they come during the night, but a few times they’ve arrived in the evening when I am still up. They are not upset that I stand right outside the window shining my flashlight at them. I love watching them!

EJ has worked hard on his garden this summer. He built new raised garden beds as well as fencing for the climbing beans and peas. We started calling his garden Farmville because it reminded me of the game that used to be popular at Facebook. We have a bountiful harvest of beans and peas, and I’ve been blanching and freezing them.

The only crop not doing well is the corn, which is sort of “meh” because our soil is too poor. It appears that the Raccoon family has eaten some of the few ears that did grow, making our harvest poor. EJ knows that I love corn-on-the-cob so he continues to experiment with how to grow it.

I’ve been harvesting my herbs every morning (until recently…I’ll get to that in a moment). After I harvest them, I prepare them for drying and put into my dehydrator. Hours later, when they are dry, I put them into jars for storage.

Overall, we’ve had a nice summer…and then THIS happened:

Last Wednesday evening I went out to secure the coop after counting the chickens to make sure they were all inside. I always shut them in at night to keep them safe from predators. Chickens often dig depressions in the ground to keep themselves cool on hot days. I didn’t see that they had dug one right in front of the coop doors so when I stepped out of the coop, I fell into it. It wasn’t deep, but it was unexpected and I hurt my foot quite badly. I made it into the house. Fortunately (for me anyway), EJ had stayed home from work because he was suffering from a migraine and he was able to help me. I’m really not sure how I injured my foot/ankle so badly by falling into such a shallow depression, but I did! I guess I’m skilled that way.

I didn’t want to go to the hospital because, frankly, over the last year I’ve become disgusted by the medical profession, which has seemed to care more about profits and agenda than patient care. We don’t think I broke my foot but I figured I could do the very same things for my foot that I had done when I broke my hand a few years ago. I elevated my foot, iced it, took Ibuprofen, and wrapped it. I also have an ankle brace that I will use soon for support.

My foot/ankle swelled up like the foil on Jiffy-Pop Popcorn and it turned beautiful shades of color. I couldn’t walk that evening or the next day, which made necessary movements–like going to the bathroom–problematic. But I solved that by moving around on our wheeled office chair. Hannah Joy kept close to me, sometimes looking concerned and other times grinning as if she thought me moving around on a wheeled chair was a game.

Each day the swelling has grown less and by Saturday I could put some weight on my foot. On Sunday I put away the office chair and started using a cane. EJ took over my chores for me, although I’m doing as much as I can. I have volunteer to prepare the beans and peas EJ brings because I can do it sitting down–and then EJ takes over the blanching/freezing process.

I had been concerned about how I would shut the chickens in their coop in the evenings when EJ returned to work, but last night I was able to hobble out to the coop. So we are able to manage. One of the most frustrating things is that I cannot get out to my herb garden. I don’t ask EJ to harvest my herbs because he has enough to do with taking over my extra chores. My goal is to make it out there…

There’s A Hole In My Bucket

The weather has been perfect lately. Not too hot and not too cold–but cool enough that I am comfortable wearing jeans and even a sweatshirt. I love jeans and sweatshirt weather.

We’ve had a very dry year so far but we got a bit of rain a few days ago. Ironically, it rained on the summer solstice, the day with the most hours of sunlight in the year. However, it was so darkly cloudy that it felt as if we were living in a day of twilight. Oh, well. That’s life in Michigan. We have a lot of cloudy days because of the Great Lakes. And at least we had rain. Beginning today, we are supposed to have several days of rain, although the chances of rain keep decreasing everything I look at the weather report. The forecast went from an 80% chance of rain to 40%. I’m mentally encouraging the rain clouds to make it here.

As I wrote in my last post, Theo, our sweet dunderheaded cat, kept climbing the post where the bluebird’s house is. Despite the bluebird parents attacking him from the air and me with the garden house, he refused to surrender so I locked him the garage for a few days. After three–maybe four–days, I saw that there was no activity at the birdhouse. The babies had grown up and flown away. So I let Theo out. He checked out the birdhouse a couple times and then lost interest.

We have a raccoon who visits our feeder every evening. She’s very fat so I think she is either a Mama–or soon will be. It’s rather interesting to see her with her little bandit mask, although most of the time I can only tell that she’s been there in the morning when I find the tray feeder tilted and empty.

I don’t mind too much if the raccoon eats the leftover birdseed since I don’t put out a lot. I did mind when she started drinking the sugar water from the hummingbird feeders. I don’t want to use up all my sugar making more nectar each day. After a couple days of problem-solving thought, I started putting the hummingbird feeders in a large cooler at night, which I keep on the deck. The raccoon has left them alone. But now the raccoon is going after another food source.

We have always kept the wildbird seed in a large plastic trash can with a locking lid. We kept it in the pantry, but every summer we have a problem with little moths. When I saw a couple of them fly out of the seed trash can, I thought, “Ah ha! That’s the food source for the moths!” Either the moths are getting into the cans when I open it to get seed out for the birds or the larvae are coming in the sacks from the store. So I put the seed trash can out on the front porch a couple of weeks ago. With the locking lid, I figured it would be safe from critters. Apparently not.

This morning I found a large hole in the lid of the bird seed can. The critter–which I assume is the greedy raccoon–couldn’t open the locking lid so it started chewing through the lid, making it useless for a seed storage container. EJ can use it for a trash can in the garage. I scooped the seed into empty kitty litter buckets and put them…out of the pantry, off the porch, and in the garage, where I hope they will be safe from critters.

As I scooped the seed into the kitty litter buckets, I found myself humming a cute song that I haven’t thought of in years and years. I used to sing it all the time as a child. It’s called “There’s A Hole In My Bucket.” I actually found it on Youtube. It has a catchy tune and I suspect I will be humming it all day…and if you watch the video, maybe you will too?



The Sentinels

Last week we had some very hot days that drained me of energy and motivation. Days like that make me wonder why people in the warmer climates believe that their weather is heavenly. It feels hellish to me. But…to each their own.

This week it feels as if God had mercy on me and switched on an air conditioner. The weather is perfect: in the 40s at night and climbing only into the low 70s during the day. (That’s Fahrenheit, not Celsius.) This morning when I went out to do my chores, it was so chilly that I could see my breath whenever I exhaled. It looked like tendrils of smoke from a Dragon–which is what I used to pretend on cold days when I was a child. “Look! I’m a dragon! Puff, puff, puff.” During the day, the breeze makes it cool enough that it’s not uncomfortable to wear a sweater, which makes working outside pleasant. I wouldn’t mind if every day were like this.

EJ usually spends most of the morning working in his garden. It’s really looking nice. It will look even more splendiferous when the peas start climbing up the fencing he has put up. Whenever I go through his garden, I think it looks like Farmville, the game that was popular on Facebook several years ago. In between working on the garden, EJ has also been making trim for a little cat door from the hall into the pantry, where the kitty litter boxes are. It’s going to look nice when it is finished.

I’m doing all my regular daily chores, and other tasks here and there. I’ve weeded my herb garden and have been harvesting some of the herbs, which I’m drying in my Magic Mills dehydrator for winter use.

Earlier in the week we got medical bills for when EJ cut his thumb at work and had to go to the clinic for stitches. My heart sank because the bills totalled more than $600. That is WITH the deductions that insurance is paying. We try very hard to be frugal, buying most items secondhand, and it gets tiring to have to be even more frugal. I asked God to please help us pay off this bill. EJ took the bills into work to talk to the office staff. He felt that Workers’ Compensation should pay for it all since he had injured himself at work. I was so very, very thankful that, indeed, Workers’ Comp will pay for it all. Thank you! Thank you! Thank you!

Three mornings in a row I found our two hummingbird feeders completely empty. Once I found one of the feeders halfway across the deck. I strongly suspected the raccoon. I don’t mind too much if she eats the leftover birdseed, but I DO mind if she drinks all the hummingbird “nectar.” I thought about it. I couldn’t just bring the feeders into the house because it would attract ants. Finally, I brought a large cooler out on the deck and I put the feeders in it when it starts to get dark in the evenings. I can’t put them away too soon because the hummingbirds hover in disbelief that it’s gone…and I feel bad for them. My measures have worked and the coon hasn’t drained the feeders since.

A couple of evenings ago, as I was taking down our flag from the pole, I heard a chorus of little chirps from the bluebird house. The babies! I only got a quick glimpse of them because they hunkered out of sight as soon as they saw that I wasn’t their Mama or Daddy. It’s so much fun watching the bluebirds building their nest and then bringing their hatched babies food.

Our dunderheaded cat, Theo, must have heard the bluebird babies as well because yesterday afternoon he became very interested in the birdhouse. Several times he climb up the post to get to the birdhouse, with the parents screeching and diving at him. I pulled him down each time and finally shut him in the garage. When I went out to take down the flag an hour or so later, the parents were nearby, watchful sentinels, keeping a close watch on their nest. I thought it was very poetical when the red, white, and blue bird kept watch on the top of the pole which held our red, white, and blue flag. “I hope you know that I am on YOUR side and helping you defend your family from all predators,” I told the bluebirds. “We are in this together.”

This morning, I changed my routine and let the cats out of the garage LAST, after I had finished all my other chores. Last night I had put the nozzle on the hose instead of the sprinkler. I was ready for battle. As I suspected, Theo immediately headed over to the birdhouse. As soon as he neared the post, the bluebirds started diving at him and I sprayed him with the house. I was able to keep my distance and still reach him with the stream of water. Theo ran off. The bluebirds and I were watchful. Theo returned again, and the bluebirds engaged in an aerial assault and me with water. Theo ran off. He tried slinking on the other side of the big rocks, but I caught a glimpse of him. He climbed over the rocks. He came in from the side. Each time, the bluebirds and I were ready. I thought Theo would learn, but he is an incredibly stubborn dunderhead. We kept this up for about 2 hours, with Theo returning every few minutes. Finally, I thought, “This is impossible.” I decided that the bluebirds were busy enough trying to keep their young fed. They don’t need to also keep up a constant defense. I carried Theo into the garage. He may be locked up until the bluebird babies have left the nest.

As much as possible, I’ve been keeping my distance from the bluebirds so they don’t view me as a threat.

Red Flag Warning

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Mama Mia!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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