Weathered

As I was finishing writing my last post (Chick-apades), dark clouds moved in, we heard a few rumbles of thunder, and a strong wind caused the trees to sway wildly. We often get strong winds durings. We thought, “Finally! We are going to get some rain!” But after a few minutes, the clouds grew less dark, the thunder moved off, the wind died down, and the only rain we got was a few sprinkles. EJ said, “If I had paid for this, I would have wanted my money back!”

Then we both got tornado warning alerts on our phones.

We always stay alert to the weather. We both are interested in weather, and EJ has family history of his grandmother and parents being in The Beecher Tornado back before they (his parents) were married. As I was growing up, there was a phone number we could call to get a weather report. I would call it every morning to see what clothes I should wear because Michigan’s weather is very changeable: Is it going to be cold or hot? (Do I wear sweatshirt/coat or t-shirt?) Is it going to start off chilly and then get hot? (If so, I dressed in layers so I could take off warm clothing as the temps rose.) Is it going to start off hot and then get chilly? (Bring a jacket.) Is it going to be sunny or rain? (Bring an umbrella?) Is it going to snow? My Mom often told me to take a sweater with me on warm Spring days, describing a time when a Spring day was so warm that kids went to school wearing shorts and sandals and while they were in class, a huge snowstorm hit and some were walking home through snowdrifts in sandals. “If you don’t need a sweater, you can take it off,” she’d say. “But you can’t put it on if you need it and don’t have it.” I’ve followed–and quoted–that advice throughout my life. I remember when EJ and I hadn’t been married long, he, his friend, and I attended an outdoor event. The weather that day was very humid with sweltering 90-degree temperatures–but in minutes it suddenly plunged 40 degrees. I was the only one who was warm because I had left a sweater in the car.

To this day, I plan my clothing and activities around the weather report. If one day is going to be very hot and the next day a bit cooler, I will plan to mow the lawn on the cooler day. I’m surprised when I hear of people not paying attention to the weather, especially if they live in areas that have frequent severe storms, such as tornadoes or hurricanes. I don’t think we get as many severe thunderstorms here in Northern Michigan as we did when we lived downstate, but they seem to do a lot of damage when we do get them.

Back to last Friday: When the tornado warning went off, we were confused because the weather was quite calm. I stayed in to finish eating my piece of homemade pizza while EJ went outside to look at the sky. Nothing.

What we didn’t learn until a few hours later was that there WAS a tornado that touched down in a town relatively close to us. It killed a couple of people and did a lot of damage. We occasionally go shopping at some of the businesses that were destroyed. I feel sorry for the people of that town. Michigan businesses suffered from the harsh lockdowns in 2020. Many businesses closed. For the town to survive the lockdowns and then have their businesses destroyed…seems intolerable. And just when the tourist season is beginning, which is when they do a lot of business!

We did get some rain later that day. It was a gentle rain.

Last night the temperatures dipped to 32 degrees–which is cold enough to snow. It didn’t snow, thankfully. We thought it was a little too cold to try to endure without heat so we reluctantly turned our furnace back on. We were concerned about our fruit trees and bushes, but they seemed to have survived ok. We live on a hill and there are gullies around us. EJ thinks that the cold air might sink into the gullies (cold air sinks) so that we are spared some of the frost/freezes. Today was pleasantly cool–just right for mowing the lawn for the first time this year. Tonight we have a frost warning with an expected low of 38 degrees.

Mama Raccoon visits us frequently–or rather our birdfeeders–but it’s usually at night when we are sleeping. We only know she’s been here because the tray feeder is tilted. Last night she arrived at twilight when it was light enough to see her, but probably too dark for photos–so I didn’t try to take photos. She kept us laughing because she hung upsidedown by one foot to one of the brackets that hold the feeders while she reach down to eat the seed. Then she moved so she gripped the post with her back legs while she grabbed the tray feeder with her front paws. We watched in astonishment as her back legs kept slipping inch by inch down the post while she kept grabbing the feeder–and finally she tumbled off the post. She spent a lot of time after that eating that seed that she had spilled on the ground. Oh, she was so funny.

Chick-apades

The temperature is forecasted to reach 77 degrees today, but it will cool off tomorrow and there are frost warnings for Sunday night. I swear the weather is bipolar–warm one day and chilly the next, up and down, up and down.

We are supposed to get rain today–and possibly storms–but so far radar shows the rain missing us, as it has for the last week or two. It often looks on radar as if a drenching rain is headed straight for us but then it either goes just north of us or dissipates altogether. We really need some rain because it is extremely dry here. I have watered the fruit trees and bushes a few times and this morning EJ set up the hoses and sprinklers in his garden for the early crops that he had planted–peas and such. I’ve been taking the soiled bedding from cleaning the chicks’ cages and spreading it around the fruit trees. Chicken poop is a good fertilizer and I’m hoping the pine chips (which the bedding consists of) will retain moisture for the trees. The bad thing about sandy soil is that water and nutrients quickly drain away.

The two sets of chicks are growing fast. The older chicks are sort of in an “ugly” between stage where they have lost their downy cuteness but have not yet gotten their adult beauty. Yet, I don’t really see them as “ugly.” They have endearing ways of looking up at me when I go into the bathroom and talk to them.

Yikes! I just went into the bathroom to take a photo of the older chicks to include in this post. I removed the grate-lid off their cage to get a better photo. I took my photos and was reaching to put the lid back on when one of the chicks fluttered out of the cage onto the floor! I quickly shut the bathroom door so Hannah Joy and the cats couldn’t get them. I chased after the chick, finally caught it, and put her back in her cage. But before I could put the lid back on, another chick fluttered out. This one got between the wall and the little chicks’ cage where it was hard to reach. I finally caught that bird and got her back in. Whew! I will have to be very careful now when I take the lid off. LOL.

We will likely keep the chicks in the bathroom through June at least–although we will play it by ear. Chicks need extra warmth and food, and special “chick starter” feed to give them the nutrients they need to help them grow big and strong. When I do transfer them to the coop, I will shut them in the small coops in THE Coop so that they and the adult chickens can interact and get used to each other without being able to mingle. That way, when I finally let the chicks out, the adults will view them as part of their flock and are less likely to bully them. I’ve never had a problem with adding new chickens to our flock with this method.

Last week EJ scavenged a kitty litter box (i.e., found it discarded along a road) for me to repurpose as a chicken nesting box. Litter boxes are our hens’ favorite places to lay their eggs. This morning I took it into the coop. I had to rearrange strawbales to fit it in. My activity upset the hens, who just wanted peace to lay their eggs. I suspect they might have been swearing at me so I think it’s a good thing that I don’t know how to speak their language. I’m sure I would have been appalled by the nastiness of their words. They look like such sweet things, but they have no trouble making their displeasure known. I’m hoping that my gift of a THIRD nesting box will smooth their ruffled feathers.

The raccoon showed up early again last night. We are quite sure we saw nipples on her belly so we are certain she is a female. We speculate that she is either due to give birth very soon or she has already. Maybe her babies are sleeping so she ducked out for a quick meal.

I’ve worked on this post off and on for several hours. As I’ve been writing it, dark clouds have moved in and I am hearing rumbles of thunder so maybe we WILL get rain. I sure hope so! I’d prefer a drenching rain rather than a severe thunderstorm.

This morning EJ drove very carefully to the auto parts store. I hope this will solve the problem with the truck. This year has been a bit difficult because as soon as we have solved one problem, we immediately get another. We are glad that if we have to go through difficult times, we have each other because although we get tired sometimes, we try to maintain a positive attitude, support each other, and work towards solving problems. We’ve known people who blame others when things go wrong and problems occur. It’s very unpleasant. EJ and I are a TEAM.

The Trash Panda

It’s been a crazy week. On Wednesday, the truck acted wonky as EJ was driving into work. It was serious enough that he took Thursday off so that he could work on it. He fixed that problem but another problem started to develop on his way to work today so he turned around and came home and is working on the truck again. This is our only vehicle so we can’t afford to have a major breakdown.

EJ was planning to help his friend who lives on the other side of the state tomorrow, but he’s going to have to work on the truck instead. I wouldn’t want him breaking down along the road. Plus, while I’m glad that EJ helps his friend, I’m a bit concerned that with having to buy auto parts, the (possible) loss of two days’ pay, and the HIGH price of gas, we can’t afford a trip across the state.

We are eager to get our gardens planted, but we’ve had several nights with frost so we are trying to patiently wait for another week or two. At least the frost hasn’t killed the blossoms on the fruit trees or lilac bushes. We have lilac bushes planted at three corners of our house and can smell their fragrance when we step outside. I picked a bouquet of them today so we could enjoy their fragrance inside the house as well.

Early yesterday evening a masked bandit visited the bird feeders. EJ calls raccoons “trash pandas” because they are opportunistic about food and are clever about getting into places they can find food–such as bird feeders and trash cans. Still, they are cute and I enjoy watching them through the window. I especially enjoy it when a Mama raccoon brings her half-grown babies to the feeders in late summer. Yesterday’s raccoon was so large that I suspect it’s a mother-to-be.

Usually, the raccoons come during the night and I only know they’ve visited because I find the tray feeder askew in the mornings. If I do see them at night, it’s too dark to photograph or video them. However, yesterday the raccoon came early enough that it was still light outside–and it was early enough that the birds were still wanting to eat from the feeder. A Rose-breasted Grosbeak and a Hummingbird were pretty upset that the raccoon was eating their food, as you can see in the video below. The raccoon ignored the birds and only ran away when Hannah Joy finally noticed it outside and began barking at it.

I’ve been working hard on my Hebrew. In addition to other words, I can now say “Good dog!” and “Bad dog!” Usually, Hannah Joy is a כלב טוב but, honestly, there are times when she is a bit of a כלב רע She might have been a mixture of good and bad when she scared away the raccoon.

I think I saw a scarlet tanager at the birdbath this evening. How awesome!

Spring Dazzled

Spring arrived so quickly that my eyes are dazzled by the sudden contrast from Winter’s stark whiteness to Spring’s burst of color. The leafy greens of trees, white blossoms of apple trees, and the various shades of purple of the lilac bushes are stimulating. And added to that are the vivid bluebirds nesting in the birdhouses, the ruby-throated hummingbirds zooming to the nectar I put out for them, the beautiful rose-breasted grosbeaks, and a glimpse of a brilliant orange Baltimore oriole, among many other birds.

I set up a large bowl–which usually I put under a plant pot to catch surplus water–on the large rocks for a birdbath. It’s fun watching the different birds use it.

This weekend was quite busy. Mother’s Day weekend we bought four Rhode Island Red chicks at the nearby farm store. After we brought them home, we decided to buy four more because of, uh, “chicken math,” which is when you end up buying more poultry chicks (of various types) than you intended. However, when we returned to the store, we discovered that someone had bought ALL the remaining chicks. They must have been doing a bit of chicken math as well. I was told by store staff that more chicks were expected but there’s no way to determine a delivery date for live chicks; they arrive when they arrive. They suggested I call ahead each day to see if any had arrived at the store. I called a couple times, and they still didn’t have Rhode Island Red chicks.

So we went to Plan B, which was to call the farm store that is further away to see if they had chicks. They did. Since we were making the trip anyway, we ordered more poultry feed online from the store. It saves time and effort to order online. When the store notifies us that the order is ready, we drive to the drive-thru and they load it in for us. We are trying to get ahead on poultry feed so we don’t run out if there is a sudden “shortage.” While EJ waited for our order to be loaded into the pickup, I went into the store to buy the chicks. The chicks were only $1.33 each at this store instead of the $4 which we paid for the chicks at the other store. It might be that they are reaching the end of their live poultry season so they are on sale to move them out. They had other types of chickens as well, and even some turkey chicks. I admired them all but I want you to know that I limited myself to only the four we had intended. I did tease EJ a bit, though, asking him how many chicks he thought I could buy for the $25 dollars I had in my wallet. I laughed when he sputtered that I was to buy FOUR AND NO MORE. Lol.

With the rising price of gas, which is at historic highs and expected to go higher, we combine trips whenever possible so on the way to the farm store, we stopped in at the plant nursery that is on our route. They finally had their herbs available. EJ bought a few vegetable plants and I bought most of the herbs plants I wanted. The ones they didn’t have we ordered as seeds online. We can plant some this year and save others for next year. On the way home from the farm store, EJ dashed into a grocery store to buy a few items we needed while I stayed in the pickup with Hannah Joy and the chicks.

If we had been able to buy the four additional chicks sooner, we would have put them in with the other four, but the first four have grown so quickly, and are so much bigger, that we were afraid they would bully the little ones so we set up a second cage in the bathroom. The older chicks have probably quadrupled in size in a week, growing from a ball of downy fluff that we could hold in one hand to at least about the size of Robins with most of their feathers. EJ had used the bottom half of a dog crate for the original chicks. I used the top half of the dog crate–flipped over–for the second group of chicks. I placed the crate on top of the other crate, but kitty-wampus so I can access both cages to give them food and water. EJ has placed gratings on both crates to keep the chicks safe.

It’s rather pleasant having the chicks in the bathroom. I often hear their soft chirping. Hannah Joy runs in to check on them if they squawk louder. The chicks run at each other in, I think, an attempt to establish their pecking order. Sometimes they stretch their growing wings as if they are doing yoga. A few times, I saw an older chick take a “dust bath.” She got food on her body and the others gathered around her to peck it off. I notice one look up at the grating as if she’s trying to calculate how to escape. They are adorable when they all huddle together in sleep.

Sunday night EJ and I stood outside and watched a lunar eclipse. We watched until the earth’s shadow completely covered the moon and then headed back in to go to bed. It was gorgeous. We also saw a smoke trail of a large meteorite that streaked across the sky. And we spotted the eyes of deer in the forest.

It’s been so dry out that I have begun watering the fruit trees and bushes. Our oscillating sprinklers are getting old and aren’t working right so I used a smaller round sprinkler. It doesn’t cover as large an area as the others so I have to go out every half-hour or so and move them.

I have decided that this year I won’t mow the grass beyond the large rocks in order to conserve gas. I also eyed the mound of crushed gravel that we bought last year to fill in places in our driveway that get eroded by heavy rain. The grass underneath my clothesline grows enough that I have to mow it to keep it short, but it’s sparse enough that the blower up a cloud of sand. I thought that if I shoveled some crushed gravel under the clothesline, it would prevent the grass from growing so I wouldn’t have to bother mowing it, which would also conserve gas. EJ thought that was a good idea. I was just going to shovel the gravel under there, but EJ said it would be better to hoe up the grass and level the area a little to reduce the risk of the gravel being washed away. So yesterday I hoed, raked, and shoveled. The gravel mound is near the clothesline so it wasn’t that far to carry shovelfuls. I got all the area covered in a layer of gravel. I will ask EJ if he thinks I should make the layer thicker. As I walk on the gravel, it will be pressed into a hardened surface.

The outside temperature was Summer hot last week but it has now cooled down to pleasant coolness–in the 50’s or 60s during the day which makes it pleasant to work. At night it’s dipping into the 30s and 40s. We refuse to turn the furnace back on at night; our blankets keep us toasty warm. However, to make sure it doesn’t get too cool for the chicks, I moved our little space heater into the bathroom for them.

Because of the cold night, I had to lug my house plants back inside. They are too heavy to keeping moving in and out so I’ll just leave them in until the nights are consistently warmer. EJ brings many of veggie and herb starts out on the deck during the day. They are in small containers so it’s not difficult to take them in each evening.

Spring Into Summer

In an instant, we have leaped from Spring into Summer. On Sunday the trees were all still bare, on Monday morning there was a green haze of new leaves–and it’s become greener by the hour. We went from the furnace on in the house and jackets on outside to turning off the furnace and turning on the fans.

Tomorrow and Friday the temperatures are supposed to reach into the 90s. I am totally going to melt. I believe each season has its own unique beauty, but I think it’s easier to get warm in the winter than cool in a hot summer. I don’t know how people survive living in tropical areas.

Yesterday I dragged all my house plants out to the deck for the summer. I also got two of the garden hoses out–one in the front yard to water the fruit trees and herb garden and one in the back yard stretching to the chicken coop so that I can use the hose to give them water rather than lug water in the watering can.

The leaves of the trees aren’t the only things growing fast. I swear that every time I look in on the chicks, they have grown noticeably bigger. They now have more little feathers than down.

I wasn’t really sure how Hannah Joy, Timmy, and Little Bear would react to the chicks. The animals are curious, but mostly ignore them. Once I saw that they were all ok with them, I started leaving both the master bedroom and bathroom doors open. The only possible problem is that Hannah Joy seems to be protective of the chicks. She chases the cats away if they get too close so I always shut the doors if I am not going to be nearby. I don’t want any kerfuffle that dislodges the mesh over the chicks’ cage.

I did get a cool photo of Timmy on the edge of the top watching the chicks. The mirrors reflect his image so it looks as if there is three of him.

Timmy reflecting

Nurseries

Yesterday EJ, Hannah Joy, and I went to the local plant nursery, hoping they had herb plants available. The staff said that because the weather had been cold, they had delayed ordering. This seems like a huge tactical mistake to me. Number one, because we live in NORTHERN MICHIGAN, where it normally remains cold and snowy into April. In fact, I thought this last winter the weather was actually relatively mild. Also, this weekend is Mother’s Day, which I’d think would be a very busy weekend for them. Yes, they have flowers and fruit trees for sale, but there must be plenty of people like me who would prefer to buy other types of plants. But, whatever. I’m not the one in charge of the nursery. The staff said they are expecting to get their veggies and herbs in this next Thursday. We will check then. The nursery usually sells plants that the other stores don’t have–IF we can get there before they are all snatched up. I have been growing basil, sage, oregano, thyme, rosemary, parsley, chamomile, borage, peppermint, spearmint, and sometimes chocolate mint. I hope to add tarragon, stevia, and savory to my herb garden this year.

Since we couldn’t get herb plants from the nursery, EJ and I drove to a local large grocery store that has a garden center. We bought a couple tomato plants, two rosemary plants, and two lavender plants. They didn’t have much else so we went on to a farm store that is just a few miles down the road to check out their packages of seeds.

As we drove, I wondered aloud if the store was still selling live poultry. Our first flock is getting older and we are starting to lose one every now and then. Getting a few young chicks every couple of years keeps our flock to the maximum number we’d like to have. EJ said that we would LOOK but NOT BUY any chicks today. We are actually considering getting a small incubator to start hatching our own eggs, which would be a lot of fun AND we could be more self-sufficient. However, the advantage to buying chicks is that we can be more certain to get mostly females (pullets). Even then, we usually end up with a rooster because determining the gender of chicks is not easy.

We discussed buying vs incubating chicks as we drove to the farm store. By the time we parked, EJ had decided it might be a good idea to buy two chicks now and get an incubator later. By the time we reached the area of the store where the chicks were, we had agreed to buy four. We took the little ones home. The chicks are too little and vulnerable to put in the coop–they need extra warmth–so EJ brought in only the bottom half of a dog kennel that is usually in the chicken pen to give the chickens a refuge to run to if they need it. He put the half-kennel in the bathtub of our master bathroom and found some mesh to put on top. We keep the bathroom door closed so the chicks will be safe from Hannah Joy and our cats, Timmy and Little Bear. When the chickens are bigger, I will put them in the fancy coop, which is inside the shed we use for the coop. This will allow the old and new chickens to get acquainted with each other. After a few days, we will then let the little ones join the older chickens.

Have you ever heard of “chicken math”? It is when we don’t intend to buy any chicks, but then decide to buy two and end up with four. Then we decide that maybe it would be better to get another two chicks in case one of the four is actually a rooster. So we go to the store to buy the three additional chicks we decided to get. But we found out that someone got there before us and bought ALL OF THE REMAINING chicks, so there are none left. But the store employee said they are expecting another shipment of chicks soon, so as soon as I find out that more chicks are available, we will zoom to the farm store and buy the four additional chicks we want. When you intended to buy no chicks and end up with eight, that is chicken math in action. Sometimes a person decides to get a couple chickens and ends up with multiple chickens, ducks, turkeys, and guinea fowl. The first time we bought chickens, we ended up with two ducks as well. But ducks are a lot of work so we got rid of them and now we just limit ourselves to chicks. Going to a farm store can be risky.

We stopped at the farm store the first time intending to buy seeds, but ended up with four chicks and no seeds–because we forgot about the seeds. On our second visit, we intended to buy four chicks and ended up with no chicks and a few packages of seeds. Hopefully, between now and when more chicks arrive, the number of chicks we plan to buy won’t have multiplied.

I chuckle that both of our bathrooms have become nurseries–one a plant nursery to start seeds and the other a chick nursery. I care for the chicks and EJ cares for the plants.

This is what rural life is like.

Seeds & Saplings

Spring is slowly, sloowly arriving. The temperatures still dip into the 30s at night but range from 40s to 60s during the day. The trees are still bare, but the lilac bushes are getting tiny leaves. The bluebirds have returned and have begun nesting in at least one of the birdhouses. It looks as if chickadees are nesting in one of the birdhouses as well.

EJ has begun working in the garden. Last weekend he planted peas in the garden, which likes to get started early. He also has started some seeds in containers. We don’t really have a place to start seeds that is safe from frost and the animals. However, EJ builds a temporary shelf in the extra bathroom, which has a skylight. He will take it down when he transplants the plants outside.

EJ bought dirt for our raised garden beds. Our soil is mostly sand. Some of the plants don’t mind it–like green beans and peas–but other plants prefer better soil so we plant them in raised garden beds. The advantage of this is that we don’t have to bend over so much to weed, which means fewer backaches.

I’m looking forward to growing my herbs but I have to wait because there is still a high risk of frost. I’m never sure which herbs will return in the Spring but I have some seeds that EJ can get started for me, we will buy other seeds, and we will get a few herb plants from the local plant nursery. EJ stopped into the nursery last weekend but they said they are not going to have herbs available until Mother’s Day, which is this weekend. Bummer. We were hoping to get our plants BEFORE Mother’s Day because the nursery is always terribly crowded on Mother’s Day weekend and most of the plants are gone afterward. Oh, well.

The counties here in Northern Michigan have Conservation Districts, which manage things like water quality, soil erosion, forestry, invasive species, natural resource education, and recycling. The Districts each have a tree sale every Spring. People order trees from them and they notify them when the trees are available to be picked up. The trees–saplings about 1 to 2 feet tall–are very inexpensive and we always want to buy some, but the sale comes about the time we have other expenses (taxes, vehicle licenses, etc.) so we can’t always do it. However, sometimes they have trees leftover which they sell at a HUGE discount. So although we were unable to buy trees during the regular sale, we were able to buy some last weekend at the surplus sale. We bought one cherry tree for $20 and a bundle of trees for $20. The bundle included 2 birch, 2 black walnut, 2 basswood, 2 red oak, 2 dogwood, 2 elderberry bushes, and 5 white pine trees. We mostly wanted the cherry trees, elderberry bushes, and white pines. The others are just extra delights and we planted them where we can enjoy their beauty. We figure the squirrels can enjoy the acorns from the oaks. We spent several hours planting them all around our property. We already live in a forest…but we like trees.

Last weekend our township had its annual Spring Clean-up Day. This is a day when people can get rid of unwanted items for free. Usually, we take our items to a designated recycling place, but this year the township told everyone to place their junk alongside the road and they’d pick it up. EJ and I thought, “Well, this is going to be an utter nightmare.” We thought this because when we lived in our small village downstate (population about 650), they originally had residents put their unwanted items along the street on Clean-up Day. It was supposed to just be for village residents, but their families and friends started bringing their unwanted items in as well so there were HUGE piles of junk. The Village guys worked extremely hard hauling everything away with their backhoe so the Village finally set up dumpsters in a designated area for residents to bring their own junk to. A township is larger than a small village and if the situation was similar to that in our village downstate…Yikes! EJ said that he saw piles of junk along the roads as he drove into work each day so we imagined the work it would take to haul everything away. We thought it would take days. However, we saw a garbage truck going down our road picking up items on the designated day…and lickity-split, everything was hauled away in a day. We are impressed.

ReWord

After a week of daily snow (none of which accumulated on the ground), we are now back to Spring again. This weekend the temperatures will reach into the low 70s! Wow!

I’ve been diligently studying my Hebrew every morning. I am studying in a variety of different ways: I have several Hebrew language apps, each with a different approach. A couple are vocabulary flashcards. One flashcard app lets me input my own words and uses games, matching, and writing to help me learn the words. Another app is a language app that tests me on Hebrew words and sentences, translation between English and Hebrew, and writing what I hear. The advantage of the phone apps is that I can listen to how to pronounce the words and they correct me if I get a word wrong.

I also got out the Hebrew books that I used when I studied with my friend a few years ago. These books teach the grammar of the language, which is very helpful. I thought I had forgotten most of what I had learned in the past; I am surprised at how much I am remembering. I just have to review it.

My purpose in learning Hebrew is so I can read the Bible for myself in Hebrew. I have a long way to go, but I am enjoying studying.

I told EJ that the good thing about Hebrew is that the letters consistently make only one sound so it’s easy to sound them out. This is unlike English in which there are letters that sometimes make one sound and sometimes make another. Like the letter “c,” which sometimes makes an “s” sound as in the word “city,” and sometimes makes a “k” sound as in “card.” Over the years, EJ and I have discussed how we would change the English language to make it easier. For example, we would change the “c” in “city” to an “s” because that is the sound it makes. We would spell “city” s-i-t-y. We would spell card with a “k” so it would be spelled “k-a-r-d.” Since there would no longer be a sound associated with “c”–because we changed them to “s” or “k”—-we would use the letter “c” for the “ch” sound. So “church” would be spelled “curc.”

“G” is another letter we would change. Currently, it sometimes has a hard sound as in “give” and sometimes a “j” sound as the “g” in the word “judge.” The word “garage” has both “g” sounds in one word”: The first “g” is a hard g and the second “g” sounds like a “j.” Weird. EI and I decided we’d make the letter “g” always hard and spell any “j” sound with the letter “j.” Duh. So we’d spell “garage” like this: g-a-r-a-j-e and “judge” would be spelled “j-u-d-j-e.

EJ grumbles that every “q” always has a “u” next to it–like “quiet,” “queen,” “quibble,” Really, why use two letters to make the one sound? He would spell these words with only a “q”: qiet, qeen, qibble.

Is it too much to ask to change the letters so they make only one sound? But no one asks us how we’d change English to make it easier to pronounce–and it’s probably too late to attempt change anyway. LOL.

Herbal Teas

The weather is getting warmer. “Warmer” at this time of year is temperatures in the 50s…and sometimes in the 60s. The weather was nice enough on Sunday that EJ and I moved the patio table and chains from the front porch, where we store it during the winter, to the deck. Getting out the patio furniture almost guarantees that we will get a snowstorm…but so far, so good. Although we could still get snow, for the first time this Spring, there is no snow in the forecast.

I also got out Hannah Joy’s tie-out. She does not like wintry weather so I take her out on her leash during the cold months and she runs back in the house as soon as she’s finished her “business.” In the warmer months, I let her stay out as long as she wants on the tie-out, which isn’t long because she prefers to be inside–maybe because her previous owners kept her outside 24/7. She’s the cuddliest dog. When I tied her out today, she complained and looked betrayed so after EJ left for work, I put her on her leash and walked her down the driveway for the second time today. Later, she refused to go out the door to the deck where I tie her out. Instead, she went pointedly waited by the kitchen door, which is the door we go out when she’s on her leash. She wanted to walk down the driveway again, but we had already walked down twice today and I’m not going down every time we go outside. (We don’t let her run free because we don’t want her eating disgusting animal poop, getting lost chasing wildlife, or threatening the neighbors. She tends to be quite protective.)

Even though it’s too early to plant anything, the nicer weather gets us thinking about our gardens. EJ is responsible for the vegetable garden in the back yard while I grow herbs in raised beds in the front yard. I’ve been making a list of the herbs I want to grow. I’ve found an awesome app for my new phone that lists herbs, their medicinal uses, and how to use them. Even common culinary herbs such as basil, sage, and thyme, can be made into medicinal teas. We are already experimenting with making tea with the herbs I dried last year. My current list includes herbs I’ve been growing as well as new ones I want to try.

EJ has been buying butter on sale so this morning, after watching a how-to video, he made some ghee with it. Ghee is clarified butter. It is made by heating butter to separate the liquid and milk solid portions from the fat. It keeps longer than butter.

I began reorganizing our library/study/craft room. Today I put all my yarn, finished crocheted projects, and other craft items in the closet where I store them. They had been kind of spilling out into the room, which is full enough of books. On another day I will straighten books on the shelves and file papers in the file cabinet.

My attempt to make friends with the crows is going so-so. It was going well. I put a treat out for the crows every morning and they were enjoying eating it, showing up soon after I put it out. But then Theo, our dunderheaded the cat, noticed the crows ran after them. He didn’t catch them, of course, but it did spoil their peace. Then Theo decided he liked some of the crow treats so he’s been going up to eat it soon after I put it out. EJ is thinking about building a platform on a post for the crows. I think I’ll pause my efforts until he can. I’m unlikely to have much success with the crows because of Theo.

One evening this weekend–I think it was Saturday–we watched about 20-30 deer cross our property. They came in small groups to graze and moved on as another small group came in. It was fun watching them.

Crow Alliance

We are still getting alternating Winter/Spring weather, although the snow is less and disappears quickly. We now have only the tiniest patch of snow in the backyard–and that’s it.

Poultry feed was on sale at our local feed store so I ordered ten bags online on Thursday evening and went to pick it up on Friday. After we place our order, the store gets our items together and all EJ has to do is drive up and they load it into the truck. It saves time that way. EJ also did a bit of grocery shopping for us. While he was gone, I made more potpies with the rest of the turkey. I also made a homemade pizza. And I did laundry.

Sunday EJ unloaded the bags of poultry feed from the truck and carried them into the coop where I scooped the feed into empty kitty litter buckets, which keeps the feed safe from rodents and weather. I then stack the buckets in the coop. But before that, I had to rake out the coop so there would be a level floor for the buckets. The chickens’ poop and straw pack down over the months and form a thick mat, which actually helps insulate the coop. In the Spring, I rake/shovel it out and spread it in the garden for fertilizer. It is hard work because the packed-down “mat” is very heavy. I was exhausted BEFORE I started scooping feed into the buckets. When I finished, I was hot and dirty. I staggered into the house to take a shower. We had to sweep up the dirt that fell from my clothes onto the bathroom floor.

EJ’s truck can only really handle about ten 50 pound bags of poultry feed. But pet food is also on sell at the farm store so EJ asked me to order some cat and dog food online, along with three bags of cracked corn for the chickens. Digesting corn actually raises a chicken’s body temperature so we feed them some in the winter in addition to their feed. EJ picked up the order on his way to work yesterday. With inflation expected to skyrocket, we are trying to get ahead on some items.

We have a small flock of crows that call our Enchanted Forest their home. I know that many people despise crows, but I’ve come to admire them since we moved to Northern Michigan seven years ago. Before that, we lived in a small village and crows weren’t really a part of my life. I like ALL birds, but crows might be my favorite.

I’ve learned interesting facts about crows in the last few years. Crows are extremely intelligent. We don’t have problems with hawks or other predatory birds attacking our chickens because the crows chase them away. They also can use tools, problem-solve, and recognize/remember individual humans. If you make an enemy of them, they will tell other crows and even pass down their hostility to their descendants. But it is possible to make friends with them. In the last few days, I’ve begun taking food out to them and leaving it on the hill underneath the trees where they like to perch. They already are appearing shortly after I leave the food. Among other things, I’ve left some less-than-perfect chicken eggs. It’s fun to watch them fly away with an egg in their mouth. I’ve learned that If they recognize that a human is a friend, they will start leaving shiny gifts. EJ is hoping they will bring us money. LOL.

Here are some interesting short videos about crows.

I’ll let you know how my friendship with the crows goes.

Michigan Spring

I’m looking out my window at a beautiful blue sky and a landscape with only a few small pockets of snow. The temperature is a warmish 43 degrees. However, the forecast warns that a storm will hit tonight bringing some snow and ice. We are alternating between Winter, Spring, and back to Winter. Cold, warm, and back to cold. Snow, sunshine, rain, ice, and back to snow. I feel as if we are being toyed with. Of course, that’s Michigan. We can experience several seasons in one week–or even a day!

The chickens hate winter weather, but they enjoy being outside when the days are nice. We let them wander in the garden before planting and after harvesting. They still have a good-sized pen to enjoy even when they are excluded from the garden during the growing season. The hens are beginning to lay eggs after their winter break so soon we might be able to start selling them again.

I’ve been taking Hannah Joy for walks down our long, steep driveway to the mailbox now that there is more mud and less snow. I don’t walk her down when it’s snowy, icy, and slippery out because a few years ago, I slipped on ice while taking her for a walk and broke my wrist. The break was bad enough that it required surgery to put in a metal plate. I’m careful now in the winter months. Hannah Joy doesn’t mind–she doesn’t like wintry weather either. She goes outside to quickly do her “business” and then runs back to the house. However, now that it’s becoming more Spring-like, she keeps wanting to walk down the driveway. I am trying to walk her down every day but NOT every time we go outside! I hate to say this but she is not very fun to walk with. I have her on a long retractable leash so she can explore a bit, but I can’t let her pause too long because she will either find something nasty to eat (like deer poop) or she will roll in something nasty.

EJ and I are really enjoying our new phones. We always text each other each night while he is at work–during his break and then during his lunch. With these new phones, we are able to converse much more than we ever could before.

I’ve always wanted to learn Hebrew so that I can read the Bible in its original language. For several years, a friend and I studied together, which was really fun with lots of laughter. However, life for both of us has interfered and we haven’t studied together in several years. I believe that if I don’t start studying, I will never learn the language. I have already forgotten a lot of what I once knew. It’s very difficult to study without a partner because there is no one to correct me if I make a mistake and it’s hard to remain motivated. But then I got my new phone and discovered there are language apps! Very cool! I wasn’t sure which was the best so I ended up downloading multiple Hebrew apps. After exploring them, I uninstall those that I don’t like. I’m still left with many apps. I’m finding it difficult to choose between them because they each have different strengths so I have begun studying from several of them every day. One of them nags me every day to study, which provides needed motivation. I’m enjoying it.

Now that we have our new phones, we decided it would be wise to get better security on both them and our computers. I spent Friday afternoon (after we got our taxes done in the morning…bleagh) researching and then Sunday, with EJ’s agreement, I signed up for a 30-day free trial with a company that has good ratings and isn’t terribly expensive. As soon as I installed the software on all our devices, it warned me that my WIFI was unsecured and unsafe. It gave me instructions on how to change settings in the router but although I am comfortable exploring features of a phone or computer, I am not technically knowledgeable about important settings that could totally screw up my devices. I called my local ISP. I didn’t know if this was something that they could help me with, but I thought it was worth a try. It turns out that they COULD help me; I learned that I never could have done it myself. I spent two hours with the expert on the phone. It’s is not easy for an expert to tell a clueless person what to do over the phone. He was concerned that our router was too old to handle the updated security. I almost gave up and told him that we would just rent a router from them, but the expert said, “Let me try a few more things so you won’t have the extra expense of renting a router from us.” He ended up updating the firmware on my router and changing the security settings for me so now our WIFI is totally secure. Yay! I’m so impressed with the service of our ISP.

For several years, we’ve bought TWO turkeys in November–one for Thanksgiving and one for later in the year. Turkeys are the cheapest just before the holiday. The day after Thanksgiving, I always make multiple homemade potpies with the leftover turkey. I put them in the freezer and cook one whenever we are busy and/or don’t feel like cooking. We ate our last frozen potpie a couple weeks ago so EJ cooked our second turkey on Sunday. When we were first married, EJ cooked the turkey because he had cooked one before and I never had. It developed into a tradition that he cooks the turkey and I make the homemade dinner rolls, pies, dishes–and do most of the cleanup afterward. Monday afternoon I mixed up a triple batch of filling and today I completed the pies. I made six potpies. One I baked for lunch today and five I put in the freezer. I have more turkey so tomorrow I will make more pies.

That’s what I’ve done over the last few days. Meanwhile, EJ has been busy doing necessary maintenance on the truck.

Lost in the Moment

Spring arrived over the weekend, bringing warmer temperatures (in the mid-50s!) that melted 99% of our snow. Of course, we returned to colder temperatures yesterday and a wintry mix is in the forecast for tonight but, clearly, Winter is loosening its hold!

We saw our first American Robin over the weekend. The birds are a harbinger of Spring in Michigan. Whenever we start seeing Robins, we exclaim, “Spring is coming!”

There are signs that Spring has awakened the raccoons. I’ve read that raccoons don’t hibernate over the winter, but they do go into a state of rest and shelter in their dens throughout the colder months of the year, coming out every few weeks to forage for food and water. I never see signs of ‘coons in the winter. However, the last several days I’ve found the bird feeder tray tipped. This morning the tray was tipped AND I found the door of the suet feeder opened. One of the two cakes I had just put out a couple of days ago was missing. These are the sort of things the raccoons do when they visit my feeder.

Sunday morning I was looking out the living room window when I saw a small group of large birds in the distance flying toward the house. They looked larger than Canadian Geese, which we often see. I continued to watch and as they flew closer, I saw that they were swans. They flew very low–just above the house. The sunrise touched them with a golden light, making them appear to glow. It was beautiful!

I didn’t grab my camera. I am still too unfamiliar with the camera on my new phone to use it instinctively. Besides, the swans flew too quickly on their powerful wings and I was too lost in the beauty of the moment. I didn’t want to take my eyes away from them. I didn’t want to miss a moment.

When the swans had flown over the house and disappeared into the north, I sat down and looked at the bird identification app on my phone. I have it set for Midwest birds only so I don’t have to look through a lot of birds that aren’t found in my area. The app said that the possibilities for my area were Mute, Trumpeter, or Tundra swans. It said the Mute Swan is in my area year around. Trumpeter Swans breed north of us in a small area of Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. The Tundra Swan flies through as they migrate to the far north. Unfortunately, I did not note the color of their beaks so I can’t pin it down closer than that. I will have to teach myself to observe more details of birds I see flying overhead…but I get so lost in the moment that I forget to scrutinize.

You might have noticed that I have begun making a few changes to this blog. I’ve added a couple new things, and I have to update some information that has become outdated. I hope you enjoy the changes!

Newfangled

I skipped a season here at my blog. The last time I wrote was in December. I thought of you all frequently, telling myself that I was going to sit down and write, but then I didn’t, even though I really enjoy writing in my blog. I’ve spent the winter–really the last couple of years–investigating what is happening in the world. This involves educating myself about current events, history, politics, law, society, foreign countries, and other things. It’s really quite interesting. I love to learn.

I’ve also had chores and projects that I’ve been busy with. And sometimes I chatted with friends–both on the phone and the computer. And sometimes I don’t sleep well and I think, “Ugh. I’m too tired. I will write in my blog tomorrow…tomorrow…tomorrow.”

And now, here it is already mid-March! We’ve had some warm days lately and patches of dry ground are spreading as the snow melts. Best of all, the ice is melting from our driveway. In the late winter, we sometimes have a day or two in which the temperature is warm enough to melt the snow a little. But then cold nights–or a return to cold days–refreeze the melted snow, making our long steep driveway very treacherous. I always worry about EJ making it up the icy driveway when he arrives home from work in the wee hours of the morning. It’s always a relief when Spring melts the ice.

There are things I like about winter: I like the quiet because several of our neighbors go south for the winter. I enjoy watching for animal tracks in the snow. I like being in a cozy house while it’s cold outside. But it’s also always nice when Spring starts to arrive with warmer weather.

A few weeks ago, I was notified by our cellphone provider that my 3G phone would no longer work in December so I needed to get a new phone. Since I’ve never had a modern “smart” phone, I started to do research into them–and EJ asked his co-workers about their phones and service. I wanted to get a modern phone, but not a terribly expensive one. I also looked forward to having a decent camera on the phone. I have a dedicated camera, but it has never taken very good photos. I figured that I might as well kill two birds with one stone and have a phone/camera combo instead of a phone AND a camera.

We figured that since we had to get new phones, we might as well also get a new cellphone company. We’ve been frustrated with the expense and (poor) service of the one we’ve had, but didn’t want to bother researching a new company. Until now when we have to change phones anyway. We decided to go with a company one of EJ’s co-workers recommended: There is no contract, the company is based in the USA, the plans are MUCH cheaper than the company we had, and so far the service has been excellent.

In the week since I received my new phone, I’ve been exploring it in order to learn its functions. I’ve been quickly learning about apps, how to change ringtones, and all sorts of things. Most of the time I can figure things out myself, but If I can’t figure it out myself, I search “how do I….?” online and find the answers.

EJ’s first cellphone was a flip phone and he has stuck with a flip phone all through the years, declaring that he doesn’t need a newfangled phone with all the bells and whistles–all he needs is a basic phone to call and text with. He wanted to stick with his current phone, but our new cellphone company said they were unable to switch it over so he had to buy a new one. He, of course, chose a flip phone. When it arrived, he hated it because it was not easy or intuitive to use. It was difficult to access the contact list and he had to press down hard on the keys to write a text message. The first day he had it, he said that it took him 7 minutes to text a sentence to me from work. And there were other functions that were difficult to use. He felt very frustrated with it.

So I got to thinking.

Usually, if EJ says he prefers something, I don’t try to change his mind. He likes what he likes. However, EJ hasn’t really liked his last three flip phones. He has complained about them all while declaring he just needed a basic phone to text and call. I think that newer isn’t always better, but neither is older. Obviously, EJ’s flip phone wasn’t meeting his needs.

I told EJ that he was sort of like a guy a century or two ago who refused to buy a newfangled car declaring that he just needs to get from Point A to Point B so a horse and buggy was good enough. But society has changed. Because a car can drive longer distances, businesses are further apart. He isn’t getting easily from Point A to Point B if it takes him a day to drive to a store with a horse and buggy when he could easily get there and back again in an hour in a car. In a similar way, he isn’t easily calling/texting on a basic flip phone if it takes him 7 minutes to tap out a simple message. I showed him how quick and easy it was to message on my new phone. I showed him the cool apps. “For goodness sakes, get a phone like mine.” He was convinced.

Since he had his new flip phone only a couple of days, I suggested that he call our new company and ask if they will do a trade–letting him send back the flip phone and upgrade to a phone like mine. Even if they required that he pay for the flip phone and then buy the modern phone, the flip phone wasn’t very expensive and getting rid of the frustration was worth it. However, the company did let him trade the phone in and just pay the difference between it and the new phone. Even with two new modern phones, which we are paying with a payment plan, our bill is $30 cheaper than at the old company–and our bill will be even cheaper once we pay off the phones.

EJ’s new new phone arrived Monday. He really likes it and says that he is very glad I urged him to get it. Since I’ve had a few extra days to learn my phone, I’ve been able to help him with things that I had to learn by trial and error–like how to answer the phone! I had seen in the instructions a section that said, “How to answer your phone.” I didn’t read it because what idiot doesn’t know how to answer a phone?? Apparently, I am the idiot. The first time I got a call, I couldn’t figure out how to answer it and had to go back and read through the instructions.. LOL.

I’ve had other funny experiences: Yesterday I learned how to change ringtones. I installed an animal ringtone app and tried to choose unique ringtones for each friend to reflect who they are. One of my friends really loves her dog so I chose a barking tone for her message notification ringtone. I also played around with the “Do Not Disturb” function on my phone that prevents people from calling/messaging at night. Apparently, I don’t yet understand it fully enough. Thinking I had the “Do Not Disturb” function on, she messaged me at about 2 a.m. I was soundly sleeping with I suddenly heard a dog barking fiercely. I thought it was Hannah Joy alerting me to a problem. With heart pounding, I leaped up–only to realize that it was my friend messaging me. I decided that a barking dog is not a good ringtone to have, especially if it wakes me at night. I changed it to a less alarming sound. I will look into how to properly set the “Do Not Disturb” function.

Well…it’s time to lock up the chickens for the night to keep them safe from predators. I promise that I will be my very, very best to write more often than every three months.

Light of the World

I came across this beautiful video in early December and I wanted to share it with you. My daily prayer is that in this season and throughout the year, we all experience the true Light of the World that shines in the darkness.

Hannah Joy’s Birthday

Today is Hannah Joy’s birthday. Well, we don’t know the day she was actually born, but four years ago today we adopted her from the animal shelter. I’m calling this her birthday because she began her new life with us. She was the best Christmas gift ever….well, except for the baby born in a manger 2,000 years ago. Nothing can compare to THAT birth.

For new readers: Hannah Joy was one of three dogs who had been rescued from an owner who had kept them outside 24/7 and starved them. Hannah Joy (and the others) was so thin that we could count all her ribs. We have loved and pampered her and while she is still food-obsessed, she is no longer skin and bones. She has been such a blessing and a joy to us. She is intelligent, opinionated, and expressively vocal. She is sweet, loving, and loves to cuddle. When EJ is home on the weekends, she goes to him for her “goodnight kiss” before she heads off to bed. She insists on being part of all our activities, and she takes serious responsibility for our protection, entertainment, and exercise, as well as cleaning up if anything falls from the kitchen counter while we are cooking. She also does things like steals kleenex from my pockets and eats them. We call her adorably quirky. You can read the story of the day we adopted her here: Introducing Hannah Joy. Above and below are photos taken the day we adopted her.

Hannah Joy sometimes invents games for us to play with her, which I think is hilarious, but this is a game I invented for her. It’s sort of like the children’s game, Simon Says. I tell her to sit and then I call out random words. She “loses” if she runs to me without the “correct” word being said–a Hebrew word that releases her. Every now and then she “loses,” usually when the word sounds similar to her release word, but she rarely makes a mistake on a word more than once. Here is a video of our game.

Last weekend EJ made homemade cat food for the outside cats. He ground up old liver and beef tongue that someone gave us (which I will NOT eat) along with an egg or two. I think he baked the meat first–I was doing other things and not paying close attention. Then he scooped it into cupcake pans and froze them. I thaw one cake each day for the cats. We figure they should have an extra treat since they are not inside cats. They love the homemade food so much that they “chitter” like a squirrel when they see me coming with it. Making homemade cat food is now added to EJ’s lists of tasks. We will have to find a cheap source of meat for them when we run out of what we have.

We discussed what to have for Christmas dinner. EJ suggested turkey, but we still have a lot of homemade potpies in the freezer that I made from leftover Thanksgiving. We finally decided to just get deli meat and fixes for sub sandwiches and chips for a low-key meal. He will go shopping tomorrow morning.

For gifts, we just plan to go to Goodwill or the Habitat for Humanity re-store. We are at an age where gifts aren’t all that important to us. We most value the gift of togetherness and peace. But we do enjoy “treasure hunting” at thrift stores. Starting tomorrow, EJ has a few days off for the holidays so we will probably go on Monday.

I hope you all have a wonderful Christmas filled with love and laughter.

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