I’ve begun drying my herbs. I actually think I almost began drying too late and I should have begun earlier in the summer but it’s difficult to even think about drying when the weather is summer hot, especially because I use dehydrators, which tend to heat up the house. I know that herbs can be dried without dehydrators by hanging them up, but I don’t really know how to do it and I don’t feel I have the setup for it. Dehydrators let me get the herbs dried much quicker without fuss. I set up the dehydrators on the kitchen table but after a couple of days, I realized that I could move them and their heat to the bench in the entrance hallway. The hallway is an unheated addition that connects the kitchen to the garage.
Saturday night was cloudless so EJ and I went outside to watch the Perseids meteorite shower. We sat in the dark, each sipping a glass of wine as we chatted. Our night-time conversation was punctuated with exclamations of “Ohhh! There’s one! Did you see it? Yes, I saw it too! Wow!” We saw quite a few bright meteorites pulling tails of light behind them. I didn’t bother trying to photo or video them because I am not skilled at night photography and I wanted my focus to be enjoying the drama in the sky, not on my camera. EJ and I have always both enjoy celestial events. We marveled that years ago, before we ever knew each other, we were both out watching the same lunar eclipse. There’s something romantic about our awareness that at this point in time we were both looking at the same moon at the same time not knowing that someday we would meet and marry. It almost feels timey wimey, wibbly wobbly in a Doctor Who-ish sort of way.
We had planned to watch the meteorites for hours, but as the moon rose, its light erased the stars so we finally went back inside about 12:30 a.m. The night was rather cool, with temperatures expected to dip in to the 50s or 40s. We wore sweaters and wrapped ourselves in blankets. Although it is only mid-August, the temperatures are cooler in the morning and evenings, the goldenrod are beginning to flower, and the tree behind the magic box at the end of the driveway is already changing colors. The season is changing from summer to autumn. I love autumn and winter, but I’m not quite ready for them. I feel as if I just barely got used to summer.
With the feeling of autumn increasing, we are beginning to think about preparing for winter–planning what tasks we need to get accomplished.
Friday I looked out our bedroom window and saw the ducks all following one of the ducks who had something in its mouth. I guessed that it might be a mouse, which didn’t bother me because although they are cute, mice get into food and spread disease. Later I went outside to see if I could find the remains. I didn’t find a mouse. I found a flattened remains of a toad. That made me sad because I like toads. I hoped it wasn’t the toad that I had encountered in the rock pile last week. RIP little toad.
Friday evening EJ and I decided to take a walk down the driveway. As we left the house, I heard the upset cries of blue jays. It sounded as if there were many of them, although it’s hard to tell because they were hidden by the forest. Blue Jays tend to be the “town criers” of the forest, warning the woodland community of strangers and danger. EJ and I speculated at what the danger could be–it’s too late in the year for the Blue Jays to be upset over another bird robbing the nest. Could it be a bear? Or…? We have many, many berry bushes on our property, and I’m surprised that we haven’t seen any bears gorging on the berries to prepare for winter.
Saturday afternoon we watched the turkey family meander out of the forest on the other side of the driveway. The turkey flock consists of seven babies guarded by two adult females. As I watched, I saw a third adult come out of the forest a short distance away. I didn’t notice whether the third turkey was a male or female because I was too busy watching the drama unfold: When one of the females saw the third turkey, she challenged it and chased it away. By the time I thought to video it, the turkeys were moving out of sight down the driveway.
All this drama–of ducks, and blue jays, and turkeys made me ponder that there is life and death drama happening all the time all the time–birds, reptiles, insects, wildlife, humans, all struggling to survive. I don’t have any conclusions to draw from this other than that it happens, and I’m (mostly) unaware of it.
Yesterday evening EJ burned the last of the scrap wood in the burning barrel. We sat outside to keep an eye on the fire until it burned down. We sat near the duck pen and watched the ducks in their pen as well as the fire. It was quite peaceful. I never mow right up close to the fence so the ducks (or chickens) can reach through and eat some of the grass. EJ happened to be watching one of the ducks when an egg suddenly tumbled out of her body. The ducks usually lay eggs without much fuss and not always in a nest. In contrast, the chickens always lay eggs in the nesting box, and they loudly cluck when they do so.
EJ buys old golf clubs and balls at thrift shops or yard sales. He likes to “golf” on our property. He hits them down the property, leaves them where they lie, and then on another day hit them back up toward the house. I prefer putt-putt golf rather than hitting the balls long-distances. Yesterday EJ got an empty can, poked holes in it for drainage, and set it in the ground so we could enjoy hitting the balls into it. We plan to put a few of them around the yard, and maybe eventually build obstacles, so we go miniature golfing on our property, just for fun.
I finally met our nearest neighbor who shares our driveway late last week. This is his vacation home, so he and his wife are only at the house now and then in the summer and not at all during the winter. He was trimming the branches off a tree when I walked down to get the mail. We chatted a couple of minutes before parting ways. EJ met this neighbor last summer and discovered that the guy used to work with EJ’s Dad and play cards with him on their lunch breaks. Small world.
I started to write this post on Saturday evening, but EJ and I decided to have a campfire out in our yard instead. I’m only now finding the time to continue my interrupted post. In fact, I have repeatedly tried to work on this post over the last few days and hours.
We had rain, rain, and more rain for three days–Wednesday through Friday. I think the first day it rained the hardest and caused the most erosion in our driveway. On Thursday we officially had 1.23 inches of rain in our area. That same day there was also an EF0 tornado just a few miles away from us.
The chickens stayed in their coop while the heavy rain fell, but the ducks stayed out in the rain and played in the mud. I think that one of the rouen ducks was wanting to be a Mama–she sat on four eggs in the doghouse in the garden all afternoon. She was still there in the evening when I went out to put them all to bed in their coop. I nudged her on her way and took the eggs and she has been ok since then.
Sunday EJ and I spent the afternoon working at organizing the garage. We made a tremendous amount of progress. It’s a daunting task, but we make progress each time we tackle it.
The days are getting noticeable shorter on both ends. My routine had been to let the ducks and chickens out of their coop as soon as I got up in the mornings at 6 a.m. Now it’s dark at that time, so I have to wait to let the birds out until almost 6:30 a.m. This morning when I went out, Sassy was crowing but all the chickens were all still roosting on their perch in the coop. The ducks rushed out as soon as I opened the coop doors, even though it was not quite fully light. It’s hard to believe that it will soon be autumn…and then winter.
I’m not sure what the original problem with the Suburban was, but when we picked it from the repair shop last week, the brakes made a noise that they hadn’t made before. So late Sunday afternoon we dropped it off at the repair shop again, which meant that I had to drop EJ off at work Monday morning and pick him up at the end of his shift. Part of me thinks, “Ugh, it’s such a hassle to drive into the city twice a day,” even though I gladly and unhesitantly do it for EJ. The other part of me thoroughly enjoys the drive through the beautiful countryside. Every time I see the beauty around me–which is all the time–I am thankful that we live here.
The problem with the sub was minor, and we were able to pick it up later on Monday. I drove to EJ’s company to pick him up and we drove right to the repair shop. EJ took the scenic route to the shop. Actually, every route is scenic…I guess I should say he took a different-than-usual scenic route. The shop didn’t charge us for the work, which I think was fair, and which I was hoping they would do.
This morning I mowed the lawn. After the three days of rain, the grass had really grown long. When I mowed near the chickens, they all followed me back and forth on their side of the fence. Chickens always rush up to me whenever they see me, which makes me feel very loved by them. 🙂
The turkeys continue to bring their babies up to the house every now and then. It’s really fun watching the little ones grow.
I’ve been working on crocheting new items for my Etsy store. One of the items is Fingerless Dragon Gloves. I made them with Dragonfly Red Heart Unforgettable Yarn. I think they are very beautiful. I’ve already sold my first pair to one of my Facebook friends, and another friend wants to buy a couple pairs as well. You can order them at my Etsy store, Teric’s Treasures.
I’m also working on a couple of other projects, which I will share when I complete them.
We usually keep informed about the weather because….well, we really enjoy watching the weather. Knowing the forecasts helps me decide what to wear for the day, or whether or not I should water the garden, or whether to expect severe storms. When I was younger, the forecasts weren’t all that reliable, but as meteorologists have gained more knowledge, I think they have gotten more skilled at forecasting.
I didn’t see anything in the forecast for rain last night, but I woke in the night and heard rain on the roof and saw a flash of lightning before I fell back to sleep. This morning when I went out to let the chickens and ducks out of their coop, I found about 2.5 inches in the bucket I use to refill the chicken’s water bowl. I always dump out the water at night and hang it on one of the posts, so know that’s how much rain we actually got. Wow.
The rain was so heavy that it washed out some of our driveway up near the top of the hill. This afternoon I worked to fill in the gullies that the rain had made. We could use more stones for the driveway, but we will have to make do until we get more money. I have mostly won my battle with erosion but the steep driveway couldn’t handle the 2.5 inches of rain.
After I filled in the gullies, I built more rock dams. I built them on the slope of the hill near the clothesline, thinking that the rain must be coming from there. However, EJ later said that the heavy rain pours off the roof of the house, hits the pavement in front of the garage, and rushes down the driveway. He wants to put in gutters and rain spouts there to prevent that. We are adding that to our List of Things to Do and Buy.
We have a pile of potato stones that we bought from the gravel guy our first summer at our house. They are called “potato stones” because the stones that are the size of potatoes. I use them to build the little dams. Since I was building dams not far from the rock pile today, I didn’t get out the wheelbarrow. Instead, I filled an empty kitty litter bucket with rocks and carried the short distance to where I was building the dams. As I was scooping up the rocks, I felt something unrock-like in my hands. I looked down and I was holding a very large toad that had hidden among the rocks. Oops. I carefully put him back down, and went into the house for my camera. When I returned, the poor thing was so scared that he peed. I told him (or her?) that I wouldn’t hurt him, and I went around to the other side of the pile to get rocks so I wouldn’t disturb him.
Today is the second anniversary of a very bad storm in Northern Michigan. I read at the National Weather Service Facebook page that the 2015 storm was the “costliest severe thunderstorm event in northern Michigan recorded history! Widespread wind damage and large hail during the nearly 10 hour event was estimated to have caused roughly 82 million dollars in total losses.” The storm occurred just a couple of months after we moved here. Here is a video of the storm that I took:
I’m really glad that we didn’t get a storm like that today!
We still didn’t have the Suburban back from the repair shop so I had to take him to work again this morning. Well, actually he drives to work and I drive back home. I get home just in time to hand JJ the keys and he goes off to work. When he got home from work, he handed me the keys and I went to pick up EJ.
The repair shop called EJ to let him know that the Sub was ready. EJ was hoping to get out of work at his normal time, but the end of the month is always very busy for him because his company tries to get all the month’s shipping out. I didn’t really mind waiting because I had brought things to do–a book and crocheting and some ice tea.
The only problem with EJ getting out later is that we had to zoom to the repair shop to pick up the sub before it closed. We made it with 20 minutes to spare. Although I really enjoy the scenery, I’m kind of glad I don’t have to take EJ to and from work every day.
I spent the morning burning the scrap wood EJ had set aside. He worked at organizing the garage again yesterday. All the contents of the basement and garage in the old house were jammed into the garage as we moved up here. EJ has been sorting through everything, organizing his tools, burning what can be burned, and throwing out useless junk. Fortunately, his company has a large dumpster for the employees to drop off their junk (for free!), so EJ keeps taking loads in. He is really making progress in the garage. I help when I can….like burning scraps of wood.
Saturday when EJ and I drove JJ to work, we saw the Ospreys and Eastern Kingbirds. Later that evening, we saw another unfamiliar bird on the chair on our deck. We learned it was an Eastern Phoebe. That made SIX new birds that I have seen in July!
Tonight I was doing dishes and saw a little brown bird in our flower garden. I grabbed my camera, but it flew to another part of the garden. While I was trying to locate it, I saw a beautiful blue bird. It was gorgeous! I almost got a photo of it, but it flew off a second before I pushed the button on the camera. I looked it up, and it was an Indigo Bunting. I suspect the brown bird was the female Indigo Bunting. That is SEVEN new birds I’ve seen in July!
I’m having fun.
The suburban is still in the repair shop.
We took JJ to work this morning so that if the repair shop told us that the suburban was done, we could go pick it up. They didn’t call, which means that Monday I will have to drive EJ to work in the morning and pick him up later in the afternoon.
JJ has two parks that he is responsible for. One is a small park with a baseball field and the other is the large campground on the lake several miles further on.
We drove JJ first to the small park where he emptied trashcans and did whatever else he had to do. I didn’t pay much attention to what our son was doing because my focus was on the pair of ospreys. They had made a nest on the top of one of the baseball field’s light poles. One osprey was in the nest and the other was sitting on one of the other poles. JJ said that if anyone enters the ball field, the ospreys swoop overhead. We didn’t have time to see that–JJ had to get to the campground. JJ also told us that the county had built a post specifically for the ospreys to build their nest on, but it is shorter than the lightposts so the ospreys ignore it. Because of the nest, the light is never turned on.
After JJ finished his tasks at the small park, we drove on to the large campground and dropped him off at his ranger station. Before we parted ways, I asked him where to look for the Petoskey stones and ant lions that he says are in the park. He gave us a few general directions.
EJ parked in the parking lot and we wandered the beautiful campground. We didn’t find any Petoskey stones or ant lions, but we did see a flock of unfamiliar birds. We took photos and when we got home, we searched for their identity and learned that they are Eastern Kingbirds. Cool! Including the Ospreys and Kingbirds, I have seen five birds that I’ve never seen before this month. I told EJ that we should visit some of the prime birdwatching places in the area. I said that before we know it, we will be getting up at dawn, dressed in khaki shorts and pith helmets with binoculars around our necks. But, seriously, it’s immense fun discovering new birds.
As we wandered the campground, we also found some lichen. It looked like foam under the trees. Close up, the lichen was beautiful, like lacy coral.
We also saw other beautiful scenery.
The route to the campground is filled with orchards–mostly cherry, but some apple as well. There are miles and miles and miles of orchards. The cherry trees were heavy with ripe cherries. I tried to take photos, but it’s difficult to take good photos while we are driving along.
This afternoon we had to go pick JJ up from work. He said they were super busy today–about as busy as they were during the July 4th weekend. EJ theorized that people were getting their last days of vacation in. There are not very many weekends left before the school year starts.
On the drive home, EJ and JJ were quite sure that a bird soaring overhead was probably a bald eagle. I tried to take a photo, but I wasn’t quick enough. By the time I got my camera ready, we were down the road and the eagle had flown behind some trees. I have seen bald eagles in the wild before, but not in Northern Michigan.
EJ and I agreed that our next adventure will be to a birdwatching place.
Today was a loonnng day.
I didn’t sleep very well last night because I was anxious and praying so much for JJ.
I had to take EJ to work again early this morning. Again, it’s always a pleasure to drive anywhere around here because it’s so beautiful. We saw the turkey flock at the bottom of the driveway as we started off. After I dropped EJ off, I stopped at TSC because I was low on chicken feed. When I got home, I took a nap because I was so tired.
At 1:30 p.m., JJ and I set off for his oncology appointment. We contemplated running away, but we decided we probably should keep the appointment. We had to drive through an area where a festival was taking place and the traffic was absolutely horrible. I think we waited at one stoplight for about 15-20 minutes because the line of cars was so long. But finally we made it to the cancer center with time to spare.
JJ is 22-years-old and while he wants me to go to medical appointments with him, he prefers to go in to the exam rooms himself, which is fine with me. So I waited in the reception area for him to return. I told him that if the news was bad, however, I really wanted him to send someone to get me so we could discuss with the doctor what would happen next. I prayed and prayed as I waited, hoping that no nurse would come to take me to JJ.
There are “markers” in the blood that indicate the presence of cancer. Apparently 1.0 is normal and means “no cancer.” If the numbers rise to 6.0, however, cancer is probably present and the oncologist looks for the source. JJ learned during his last few oncology appointments that his numbers were rising again. The oncologist told him at his previous appointment that the number was 4.9, which is only about one point away from 6. That is why we dreaded this particular visit so much.
It’s kind of difficult to describe what it feels like when an oncology appointment approaches. Before cancer, it’s like we never expected anything like cancer to happen. I mean, we know that bad things can happen, but things like cancer were not really a reality for us. In October 2013 when JJ first told us about the lump he had noticed, we were like, “Well, it’s probably nothing.” We took him to the doctor, and she told us to get him immediately to the hospital. We still thought that, well, it’s a lump, but it’s probably benign. And then we found out that it was a malignant mass–in fact, JJ had three different types of cancer cells in him, one of which was a type that didn’t respond well to treatment. So after the battle with cancer, we now know that bad things can happen, and we always dread oncology appointments.
JJ returned from the exam room all smiles. “All good!” he said. Actually, he first told me that he would have to have his gall bladder removed. I lightly slapped his shoulder and said, “No. Don’t mess with me!” Then he told me that his cancer marker number had fallen to 1.2!!! I attribute this to all the prayers being prayed for him. We were so relieved that we were weak! Whew!
We left the cancer center at 3:30 p.m. and we had to pick EJ up from work at 5:30 p.m. It wasn’t worth battling all the traffic to go home and then come back, so we stayed in town. JJ ordered Chinese takeout and we went to pick it up. He discovered that there was no silverware in the bag so he put it aside to eat at home. We still had a lot of time to kill. We discussed a few things we could do, but we finally decided to drive to EJ’s company and wait. We parked in a lot next to the airport so we could watch the airplanes take off and land. I read a book and JJ did stuff on his smart phone. After an hour, we drove across the street to the building where EJ works and waited for about 45 minutes. It was rather interesting watching the activity–shipping trucks arriving to take finished products away. We saw EJ busy on the forklift.
It was about 6 p.m. before EJ got in the car for the drive home. EJ said that he had told all his co-workers about JJ’s good results. It had been a long day so we told him that we were going to Culver’s to celebrate JJ’s good oncology report. Culver’s was quite busy and we were all tired so we just ordered “to go.” JJ and I gobbled our food in the car while EJ drove us home. He ate his at home.
We got home about 7 p.m. We did our chores–EJ fed the pets and set up the coffee machine for tomorrow while I went out and gathered eggs. We are exhausted, but very, very relieved and thankful.
Thank you, everyone, for your prayers.
The suburban needed some work done on it so we dropped it off at the repair shop last night after EJ had eaten a quick supper. The repairs are going to cost a lot (ouch), but thankfully we have just enough money to pay for them.
With one less vehicle and two guys who had to get to work this morning, I had to do some chauffeuring. I went to work with EJ in the Buggy (Xterra) and then drove home, arriving about 20 minutes before JJ had to leave for work. At first I thought I’d have to drive JJ to work as well because EJ usually gets out of work at 4:30, and I wouldn’t have had time to take JJ home and pick EJ up. Then I realized that this is EJ’s busy time of month and he would be working late so JJ would be home well before I had to go get EJ.
JJ was a bit disappointed that I wouldn’t be dropping him off at work because he wanted to show me the osprey next. I really want to see the osprey and I also wanted him to show me the ant lions that he had spotted the other day. However, it absolutely didn’t make sense to drop him off at work when I didn’t have to. I told him we would go look at the ospreys and ant lions another day.
I wasn’t exactly looking forward to all this running around, but the scenery is so beautiful around here that it really is a delight to go anywhere. This morning started off foggy. Before we left, I took a photo of the foggy landscape of our Enchanted Forest, which is pictured above.
When I went to pick up EJ, the roads in the city were clogged with traffic–not only from people driving home after work, but also with all the tourists in the area. However, I find busy traffic easier to drive through up here in Northern Michigan than downstate, so it was no problem. Even when I’m stuck waiting through three green lights, it’s not a chore because there’s so much beautiful scenery to enjoy. I couldn’t take photos when I was driving, but I made EJ drive home so I could take photos of the Bay. The water changes with the weather; today it was green with whitecaps.
Before I went to pick up EJ, I went out to the coop to gather eggs. I found a tiny egg among the regular ones. Tiny eggs like these have several different names, but my favorite is “fairy eggs.” Usually they are yokeless.
The repairs on the suburban are not finished so tomorrow will be sort of a repeat of today. I will have to take EJ to work tomorrow morning, but instead of JJ going to work, I will be taking him to his oncology appointment in the afternoon. We never look forward to JJ’s oncology appointments, but we are especially dreading this one. I don’t know how we would endure–emotionally or financially–if his cancer returns. I’m praying so much that we will have good news, but I’m fearing that it won’t be. I’m bracing for possible bad news. It’s no use saying, “Don’t worry.” Of course we are going to worry about our son, our only child.
For most of my life I prayed that God would increase my faith, no matter where it took me or what it cost me. But after all the difficulties we’ve experienced, I’ve mostly just been praying that God would let us lie down in grassy pastures, that He would lead us by quiet waters, and that He would restore us. I’ve also prayed Ps. 90:15:
Let our joy last as long as the time you made us suffer,
for as many years as we experienced trouble.
Always walk through life as if you have something new to learn, and you will.
~ Vernon Howard
The highlight of my day is walking down our long winding driveway to get the mail. I feel as if I am walking through an art gallery, and I walk slowly and pause often to admire the artistry of each flower, or bird, or insect. I now keep my camera ready because I don’t want to miss capturing something interesting. I regret that my camera was in my pocket when I saw the deer and her two fawns several weeks ago. But even with my camera clicking, sometimes it’s difficult to capture the beauty. As hard as I try, the camera cannot do justice to the meadows purple with thousands of bee balm flowers.
Nor can I capture the beauty of the many other wildflowers lining the driveway or the milkweed growing on the hill. I’m excited about the milkweed because they attract Monarch Butterflies, who lay their eggs on them.
Today at the bottom of the driveway, I heard a strange “mew, mew” sound on one side of the driveway and also on the other. I paused and looked into the tangle of branches of a dead pine tree. EJ wants to cut down the dead trees, but we don’t yet have a chain saw. It’s on our long “To Buy” list. After several moments of searching, I finally spotted a grayish bird. It was hard to see because it blended in with the dead branches. I took many photos: click, click, click, click, and got a few good ones. I also took a video in case the photos didn’t turn out and so I would have a recording of its call.
When I got back up to the house, I searched through my Birds of Michigan book and also went to The Cornell Lab of Ornithology All About Birds website. I identified the bird as a Gray Catbird. It’s the first I’ve ever seen. The All About Birds website said, “Once you’ve heard its catty mew you won’t forget it. Follow the sound into thickets and vine tangles and you’ll be rewarded by a somber gray bird with a black cap and bright rusty feathers under the tail. Gray Catbirds are relatives of mockingbirds and thrashers, and they share that group’s vocal abilities, copying the sounds of other species and stringing them together to make their own song.” The Birds of Michigan book added: “A secretive bird that the Chippewa Indians named Bird That Cries With Grief due to its raspy call. The call sounds like the mewing of a house cat, hence the common name. Nests in thick shrubs and quickly flies back into shrubs if approached. If a cowbird introduces an egg into a catbird nest, the catbird will quickly break it, then eject it.” Here is the video I took of the Catbird:
I also enjoy sitting in my chair by the window and looking out to see what I can see. I have a decent view of our flower garden as well as a beautiful view of our Enchanted Forest. I’ve always felt that windows are like living paintings hanging on our wall.
I often look out the window and see our little Ruby-Throated Hummingbird sitting on the top of the birdfeeder pole. It seems to be her favorite perch. I would like to photo her in flight, but she sits for long moments on the pole and then suddenly ZIP, she’s gone sipping from the flowers. Even when I try to take a video, she vanishes before I can start recording. Usually I’m inside when I photo her, but I saw her sitting on the pole as I was walking back up the driveway and I was able to also get a couple photos of her.
I looked up information about Ruby-Throated Hummingbirds. They are amazing birds. Wikipedia said:
The ruby-throated hummingbird is migratory, spending most of the winter in southern Mexico and Central America,[as far south as extreme western Panama,[the West Indies, and southern Florida. During migration, some birds embark on a nonstop 900-mile journey across the Gulf of Mexico and Caribbean from Panama to Gulf Coast…Ruby-throated hummingbirds are solitary. Adults of this species are not social, other than during courtship (which lasts a few minutes); the female also cares for her offspring. Both males and females of any age are aggressive toward other hummingbirds. They may defend territories, such as a feeding territory, attacking and chasing other hummingbirds that enter…Hummingbirds have one of the highest metabolic rates of any animal, with heart rates up to 1260 beats per minute, breathing rate of about 250 breaths per minute even at rest, and oxygen consumption of about 4 ml oxygen/g/hour at rest. During flight, hummingbird oxygen consumption per gram of muscle tissue is approximately 10 times higher than that seen for elite human athletes.
While I sat in my chair, I also saw a little reddish-brown bird pursuing a flying insect, which it caught and ate. The bird flew up into the flower garden and I tried to take a photo of him so I could identify him, but he flew away before I could. Photoing wildlife requires a measure of luck, I’ve found.
Cynefin is a welsh word for a place where a being feels it ought to live. It is where nature around you feels right and welcoming. Our Enchanted Forest is, for me, such a place.
Last Friday I went with JJ to the hospital for his blood draw, which he needed in preparation for his visit to the oncologist this Friday. The hospital always gets him in really quickly. He was called back to the lab within a couple of minutes after we arrived and I think he was back out and ready to go home within 10 minutes.
JJ’s last couple of visits to the oncologist have shown that the cancer markers in his blood have been increasing. If the numbers hit 6, he will have to have treatment. We have been dreading this appointment for months. We have prayed for JJ every day, but we have tried not to worry too much about it. A person can’t live in constant anxiety. But now that the appointment is just days away, the anxiety is rising. I have been praying constantly. “Please don’t let JJ have cancer again. Please don’t let JJ have cancer again…” I tell myself that at least JJ isn’t rapidly losing weight like he did before, and the doctors will catch the cancer sooner if it does return…But EJ worked with a young guy about JJ’s age who had the same type of cancer. The young man’s cancer returned and he died from it. And, yes, I know “Trust God, He can do miracles.” But sometimes bad things happen to even people with great faith (read Hebrews 11 about the people who were NOT delivered), and JJ is our only child, and we love him, and I don’t want to have to walk through the greatest sorrow a parent can experience.
Sunday we had a thunderstorm with heavy rain which watered the thirsty plants. After a bit the storm moved off to the east and the sun came out. EJ worked in the garage most of the afternoon. It is a big job, but he is making progress.
Sunday morning I looked out the window and saw the ducks had all gathered at the back of the pen as if they were having a secret meeting. I pointed it out to EJ and told him that I hope they weren’t trying to form a union or plotting some other mischief. You can’t always tell with ducks. They are so silly.
The ducks’ pen has two sections–one near the coop and the large portion enclosing the garden. This morning I shut the younger ducks in the garden section and kept Esther in the coop section. Esther is an older duck who is lame. Her previous owner (my sister-in-law) told me that she was crippled because the males liked her so very much. She is our Cuddles’ favorite and he is always on her. I often suspect Esther hides so Cuddles will leave her alone. This might be “too much information” but I’ve learned that when ducks have sex, the male gets on top of the female, grabs hold of her head, and does his business. Sometimes they do it in the water–but they will do it anywhere. It’s sort of rough, and Esther’s head is bloody from Cuddle’s grabbing her neck. I thought she needs to have a rest so I plan to keep her separated, at least until she recovers a bit. Poor thing. Cuddles has four other females to satisfy him so he can leave Esther alone for a while.
Today I mowed the lawn. I didn’t sleep well last night so I wasn’t sure I had the energy to tackle the lawn today and I probably could have waited a couple more days. However, the weather was just right today–nicely cool–and tomorrow is supposed to be warmer, and Wednesday it is supposed to rain, so today seemed like the best day to do it. While I was mowing the front yard, JJ stepped out onto the deck and pantomimed that he would take a turn. So I finished the front part and let him do the back.
Later I walked down our long winding driveway to the mailbox for the mail. I love the walk there and back again. Right now, in addition to all the other wildflowers lining the driveway, there are so many bee balm flowers in bloom that there is a purple haze over the meadow. I drink in the beauty of the flowers and keep my eyes open for unexpected sights. I never know what I will see. I often think that people who have nicely manicured lawns miss out on so much beauty! Not only do they miss out on the wildflowers, but the flowers and grasses provide habitat for the wildlife. (We only mow up near the house. Most of our property is delightfully wild.)
Today I saw a line of red and black ants crossing the driveway. They kept coming and coming. I stopped to watch them, wondering what kind of ant they were, and where they came from, and where they were going. I took a photo and video of them, and–as I so often do when I find unfamiliar plants, insects, or wildlife–I googled them when I got home. I think the ants I saw are field ants.
I also saw a beautiful blackish butterfly that had a bit of orange underneath its wings. It was difficult to take a photo of it because it wasn’t close to the driveway so I had to really zoom in–and more times than not, just as I found the butterfly in my lens and focused on it, it rose up and fluttered to another flower so I had to start over. I didn’t get a good photo of it. I looked it up later and the best I can tell is that it’s a female Eastern Tiger Swallowtail. I was surprised because I thought Eastern Tiger Swallowtails were yellow and black, but I read that “The males are a bright yellow, while the females can exhibit two different color forms; yellow and black and black and blue.”
Later, when I was in the house, I looked out the window and saw a Monarch Butterfly. They are so beautiful! I ran outside to take photos. Again, it was difficult to photo it because it kept flittering around or closing its wings just as I snapped the shutter. but I did end up with a couple good photos. Monarchs are incredible butterflies. They take several generations to migrate up to 3,000 miles. They are the only butterflies that make such a massive journey. When the Monarch larvae hatch, they eat their eggshells and then the milkweed plants on which they were placed. Monarchs are dependent on milkweed plants, which larvae eat nearly exclusively. We have quite a few milkweed plants growing on our property. I’m hoping the milkweed will spread.
I also looked out my window and saw a couple hummingbirds zipping around, drinking from the flowers. They are even more difficult to photo than butterflies. However, one little hummingbird enjoyed sitting on the top of the birdfeeder pole. At one point, the hummingbird sat there for maybe 10 minutes. I kept my camera ready and whenever it sat there on the pole, I “click, click, clicked” my camera. I took quite a few photos, and also a video:
While I was taking the video of the hummingbird, I suddenly jerked because a cat had come up behind me and scratched my legs. He just wanted to be picked up. I held in my yelp of pain because I didn’t want to lose sight of the hummingbird.
I love our enchanted forest. Sometimes when I look at the beauty around me, I think of Psalms 23:
The Lord is my shepherd, I lack nothing.
He makes me lie down in green pastures,
he leads me beside quiet waters,
he refreshes my soul.
He guides me along the right paths
for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk
through the darkest valley,[a]
I will fear no evil,
for you are with me;
your rod and your staff,
they comfort me.
You prepare a table before me
in the presence of my enemies.
You anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.
Surely your goodness and love will follow me
all the days of my life,
and I will dwell in the house of the Lord
But I’m still praying, “Please don’t let JJ’s cancer return…Please don’t let JJ’s cancer return…”
Early yesterday evening I looked out the window and saw two eggs lying on the grass. The ducks do have regular nest areas where they lay their eggs, but sometimes they just drop an egg wherever. I don’t want the eggs to attract predators so I usually go out to get them as soon as I notice them.
I walked through the garage on my way to the duck pen, opened the back garage door, and then noticed the flock of turkeys at the edge of the property so I quickly ducked back into garage and into the house. As soon as I got into the house, EJ drove up–just getting home from work. With all the interruptions, I thought for sure the turkeys would go back into the forest, but they came into the front yard, ate a few berries and grasshoppers, and then continued down the hill. They don’t stick around if they see us, but they also don’t panic. They just sort of meander on their way. I think the adult turkeys are beautiful with the various patterns on their feathers and different shades of brown, and the babies–as all babies are–are adorable.
This afternoon when I went out to refill water buckets with fresh water and gather eggs, I spied a gang of thieves stealing from the garden. They had even posted a lookout, but he wasn’t much good. The thieves were at the back of the garden, hidden behind raised garden beds, and I don’t think they were aware that I had spotted them. I quickly took a video of them for evidence:
They were such adorable thieves that I let them think they had gotten away with their naughty deed. But later I tried to push the plants up out of their reach.
The turkey flock returned last night at around 7:30 p.m. I was really excited because they were coming right up to the deck. I was eager to see how close they would come and I had my camera out, videoing their approach, as they came closer and closer. But I suddenly remembered that Danny was out sleeping on the porch. I didn’t want him to chase after the turkeys and either hurt one of the little ones or be hurt by avenging adult turkeys. Not that he has a lot of “chase” left in him. Old age has really slowed him down in the last year and he often lies on the front porch and sleeps. But I went to call him inside the house because I wanted to avoid any possible kerfuffle.
The door to the porch is in an entrance hallway just off the kitchen. In the corner next to the kitchen table are two windows–one looks out into our front yard while the other looks onto the front porch. As I walked through the kitchen to the hallway, I could see through the window that Danny was getting stiffly to his feet. He had noticed the turkeys. I hurried through the entrance hall, opened the front door, and urgently whispered to Danny to “Come!” Danny ignored me. He is stubborn–not in an aggressive way. He has a very quiet sweetness, but if he doesn’t want to do something, he will grin at me and stand his ground. He grinned at me last night, ignored me, and started to walk toward the turkeys. So I reached out and grabbed his collar and pulled him into the house. The two adult turkeys with their flock of little ones just quietly meandered into the forest with no urgency whatsoever.
I made sure Danny was inside this evening as I watched for the flock, but they didn’t come up to the house. Bummer.
I always get up at 6 a.m., which is when EJ gets up to prepare for work. The first thing I do is sleepily feed the cats, who are all impatiently waiting. Then I stumble outside to let the ducks and chickens out of their coop. I noticed this morning that it is a little bit darker. The National Weather Service for our area posted at Facebook a few days ago that we have lost 24 minutes of light since the summer solstice on June 21. The days are getting shorter.
Ugh. Years ago, I used to have a co-worker who would always say at the winter solstice, “The days will be getting longer now” and on the summer solstice she would say, “Now the days are going to be getting shorter.” I never minded being reminded in December that the dark days would start getting longer, but I never liked hearing on June 21, when I felt that summer had barely gotten started, that the days would be getting shorter. I haven’t worked outside the home since I was pregnant with JJ, but I still hear my co-worker’s voice in my head every December announcing that “The days are going to be getting longer,” and every June that “The days are now going to be getting shorter. The more I try to not remember this, the more I do.
The chickens always go into the coop themselves when it starts to get dark so all I do is count to make sure they are all in and then close their little door. If I’m really late–which I almost never am–the ducks go into the coop themselves as well, but usually I herd them. When they see my cane and hear me say, “Go to bed! Go to bed!” they start filing into the coop. It’s kind of fun. I videoed it tonight.
We are expecting storms tonight. I’m watching the rain get closer and closer on Accuweather radar. I love watching radar and storms. In another life, I might have been a meteorologist. The radar looks nasty, but the National Weather Service says that they aren’t expecting the storms to be severe. That’s good. I like watching storms, but I don’t like it when they get dangerously severe.
This past weekend was not highly productive, but it was enjoyable.
I really needed to get some new jeans so Sunday EJ and I went to Meijer’s. For those who have never heard of Meijer’s, here are some fun facts: Meijer was founded in 1934 as a supermarket chain. It is credited with pioneering the modern supercenter concept in 1962. About half of the company’s 200 stores are located in Michigan’s Lower Peninsula, with additional locations in Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Ohio, and Wisconsin. Another fun fact: Michiganders tend to put “s” at the end of business names. So technically the store chain is called “Meijer” but people from Michigan call it Meijer’s. This article explains it and a few other things about Michigan:
So, EJ and I went to Meijer’s and I found jeans on sale for only $12 each. I bought three pair. I would have bought more because that’s an awesome price, but there were only three left in my size. Bummer.
After Meijer’s, we went to Goodwill. Actually we went to TWO Goodwills. We love shopping at Goodwill because the prices are cheap and it’s almost like treasure hunting. We never know what we will find. I bought a couple t-shirts. I also bought a stack of books by one of my favorite authors. AND I found a large container of cookie cutters. When I got them home, I started redefining them: The candy cane is actually an upside-down “J” for “JJ.” The candle is for Hanukkah, the deer is for watching the wild deer in our yard, the turkey is for the turkeys that wander through our yard…
Two adult turkeys brought their flock of young’uns up to the house late yesterday afternoon. We have seen the flock in the weeds near the bottom of our driveway in recent weeks, but this is the first time we got a really clear view of them. EJ and I watched them as they walked through our front yard eating grasshoppers. We have billions of grasshoppers on our property so I’m glad to see the turkeys gobble them up. The turkeys wandered into the back yard and back into the front yard. We love watching them. The babies are so cute. Here is a video of the flock in our front yard.
I also took a video of them in the back yard. You can watch it here, if you like. I totally love living on our five acres in Northern Michigan.
There were reports of a solar flare that would cause awesome Northern Lights this weekend. EJ got up at about 4 a.m. on Saturday morning but he didn’t see any–it was cloudy–so he didn’t wake me up. I went out last night, but I got too tired and finally went to bed before I saw any. I can’t handle super late nights anymore. Besides, we live on a hill and are surrounded by forest so we don’t really get a good look at the horizon. I think this often prevents us from getting a good view of the Northern Lights. We would have to drive somewhere with a clearer view and wait until the wee hours of the morning…but we get too tired. The only thing we saw in the night was a toad hopping across the driveway. Rather, the toad was the only thing we saw except for the breathtaking view of billions of stars sprinkled across the night sky.
Today I mowed the lawn. I hadn’t mowed it in more than a week so it was past time to mow it. The weather has been cool so it is relatively pleasant mowing. I always enjoy the look of a newly mowed lawn–although I also love the wild places where the wildflowers grow.
Earlier this summer we went to our favorite plant nursery and bought several veggie and herb plants. When we got home and unloaded everything, we found a couple Morning Glory plants had somehow came home with us. Both EJ and I deny putting them in our cart. I planted the Morning Glories near the bird feeder poles, one on each side of the deck, so they would have something to climb. They are looking very picturesque. No matter how they did it, I’m glad the plants followed us home.
It’s a rainy day. The National Weather Service warned that we could have scattered thunderstorms and 1-3 inches of rain–or even more in some areas. For several hours this morning we just had a steady light rain and then the rain stopped. I think the heavier rain/storms might come later in the afternoon.
I don’t mind the rain. Our soil is mostly sand, which is very good for drainage but which doesn’t hold in moisture. This means that the ground quickly dries out and the plants get thirsty. So rain is good.
EJ continues to work on organizing the garage. When we emptied the garage and basement of the old house, everything was shoved into the garage of the new house so there is a lot to sort through and organize. Mostly he works on it during the weekends because he’s been working late each night. Plus, he has to work around his back pain flare-ups, which has been particularly bad this year. It’s going to be a summer-long project to organize the garage, but we see improvement each time EJ works on it. I help him a little bit here and there, but it’s at a stage where there’s not really all that much that I can do. EJ has been loading up the Suburban with stuff to throw in the dumpster at work. His company maintains a dumpster for their employees, where they can dump personal garbage, trash, and junk at no cost.
I haven’t done much beyond my normal chores this week because I’ve been struggling with back pain. I don’t often have back aches, but when I do, I always think that EJ has to endure much worse than this every day, and I have great empathy for him. I think my back pain is caused by stress. We’ve had a few stressful situations lately, including JJ’s visit with his oncology at the end of this month when we will find out if his cancer has returned. Medical appointments always increases JJ’s stress/anxiety. JJ doesn’t really handle stress well, which affects all of us as well. I find that my body reacts more quickly and strongly to even low-level stress than it used to.
One of the ways that I deal with stress is to enjoy the beauty around me–much easier to do in Northern Michigan where we are surrounded by so much natural beauty. I have been on the lookout for birds, butterflies/moths, and wildflowers in our Enchanted Forest, taking photos of them, and then trying to identify and learn about them. It’s fun.
I also am on the lookout for creepy-crawlies and seeking to learn about them. It is probably no surprise, but I despise bugs, especially if they are scary-looking, or are on me, or are in my house. However, if they are not in (or near) my personal space, I think they are quite fascinating.
When JJ was a young child, I didn’t want him to develop a fear of insects so I took him and the visiting neighbor kids on “bug hunts” to find and marvel over interesting bugs we found. If any of the kids found an interesting bug, they’d let me know and we would go look at it. None of the kids knew that I hated bugs until one day one of the children pointed at me and told me that there was a bug on me. I went into a freaking out, “get it off, get it off” dance. When I stopped, I glanced up at the kids and they were all staring at me with their mouths gaping open in shock. The jig was up. I believe we still looked at interesting insects, but my deep secret was exposed.
A couple of days ago I was coming back into the house after hanging a load of laundry on the clothesline when I saw a huge bug on the porch under the front door. I thought it was a spider at first, and I gasped that they were getting bigger and uglier all the time. I went around to the other door, and then came out with my camera and the mega container of bug spray EJ had bought me. I had to first insert the sprayer through the lid first. I went around to the porch and took a photo of the bug–which I saw wasn’t a spider but was still ugly–and then I tried to kill it. Only I pulled the trigger repeatedly and couldn’t get anything to spray out. So I screw off the lid and tried to splash the bug, only I didn’t want to get too close so I kept missing. I didn’t want to try to kill it with a shoe or rock because it was HUGE and the thought of all its guts squishing out nauseated me. Besides, if I missed, it might come after me. I finally gave up, and later when I went outside to look, the bug was gone.
With the threat gone (or hidden), my curiosity was stirred and I began to try to identify the insect. I wanted to know what it was. It could be a very nice scary bug or it could be a brain-sucking alien. It’s good to know what is in the forest. I emailed a photo to the etymologist at the Michigan State University Extension Office. I also joined several insect identifying groups at Facebook. The bug guy at MSU replied that he didn’t know what species it was. (I knew it! It’s a strange brain-sucking alien!) However, someone at a FB group identified it as an American Shieldback (Atlanticus Americanus). So, apparently, it’s not evil at all.
I have made a new album for bugs that I find on our property. I will try not to be so trigger-happy–although I promise nothing regarding spiders.
Tuesday EJ and moved stuff away from one section of the wall in the garage and then EJ began building shelves to hold all his pieces of lumber. He is going to build several shelves so that he can sort the lumber according to size. He worked on the shelves again tonight after work.
As soon as EJ left for work this morning, I began mowing the lawn. It’s much more pleasant to mow before the day heats up.
I also washed the clothes and hung them out on the clothesline to dry. On one of my trips from the clothesline back into the house, I saw a HUGE UGLY WOLF SPIDER on the porch. I swear this is the biggest and ugliest spider I have seen! It was sitting next to EJ’s lawn chair as if it was waiting for him to sit down and chat. I repeatedly reminded myself, “Wolf spiders eat bad insects, wolf spiders eat bad insects,” and I left it alone and went into the house through the other door, feeling quite virtuous that I didn’t rush to kill it.
However, a while later I went outside with another basket of clothes and that spider was still there, sitting next to EJ’s lawn chair on the porch. I remembered that spiders have millions of babies, and their babies grow up to have millions more babies, so I went back into the house for my camera, took a photo of the spider, and then sprayed it with the last little bit of spider spray left in the can. I almost felt bad that I had killed the spider because it eats bad insects and was waiting to chat with EJ. But I didn’t feel bad enough to let it live. I would probably have heart failure if it got into the house and crawled up next to me. I can totally relate to Little Miss Muffet who freaked out when a spider came and sat beside her. Miss Muffet probably lived in Northern Michigan.
My can of spider killer spray was now empty, which meant that I had no defense against HUGE UGLY SCARY SPIDERS. I knew EJ was planning to stop at the store on his way home, so I texted him and asked if he would get some more spray. He came home with this:
As soon as I saw the humongous gallon jug of bug spray, I exclaimed, “I need a backpack!” My guys knew exactly what I was thinking–they groaned, “Who you gonna call? Ghost-busters!” I said, “No, no….Spider-busters!”
I’m ready now for the spiders that threaten me.
HAPPY INDEPENDENCE DAY!
The main project that I’ve hoped to accomplish this summer is getting the garage organized so that EJ has space to be creative. It’s been tough to find a weekend to work on it because we’ve had so much rain this summer. This weekend we spent one day going to the National Cherry Festival airshow. The next morning it was raining so EJ and I decided to drive off and have a bit of fun. We would have gone rockhounding along Lake Michigan or walking on some trails but….rain. After a bit of discussion, we decided to go to Goodwill and then on to Joann Fabrics. We encountered quite a bit of traffic from vacationing tourists that were in town for the National Cherry Festival and Independence Day, but it wasn’t as bad as it could have been if we were closer to the festivities.
My biggest finds at Goodwill was a bowl-cup thing in my favorite color. This particular color of yellow always makes me feel a warm surge of happiness, so I can’t help but buy yellow items. I warned my guys that THIS is MY bowl so “no touchee.” We each lay claim to favorite cups and dishes, just “because.”
I also found a new purse. I really like my current purse but it is wearing out and it’s strap is about to break in two so I really needed to find a new purse before that happened. JJ called my new purse “Frankenpurse.” He said it looks as if it was made with many little mouse pelts sewed together. I think my new purse is pretty, but I still laughed at JJ’s statement. Now I think of it as “my mouse-pelt purse.”
I found EJ a bag of golf balls. He enjoys “golfing” on our property. He hits the balls and then later, if he finds them, he hits them back up the driveway again. He insists on hitting them wherever they land. EJ found another golf club at Goodwill to add to his collection, some books (duh), a wool blanket, and a few other items.
Then we drove through the traffic to Joann Fabrics. We love meandering through Joann Fabrics because we find inspiration for things we could make. I bought a few items for crochet projects–beads, purse clasps, and cute little chicken buttons. I also bought a very large, multi-holed cupcake pan. I don’t know if you call the indentations “holes” but I don’t know what else to call them. I’ve been wanting one for a while because I like to make “Beefy Biscuit Cups” and would prefer to be able to make more than six at a time. I also bought four very nice yellow spatulas. EJ bought some exacto knives and a few other things.
Monday the weather was finally sunny and nice so it was a work day. EJ mostly worked at organizing the garage, although he did finish building the swing for the chickens. When he moved the swing into their pen, the chickens became very upset. They get alarmed by unfamiliar things. They all squawked and crowded away from the swing, and got too close to the dividing gate so Cuddles was able to grab a hen. He is so bad.
I did a variety of tasks throughout the day. After I got a load of laundry in the washer, I went out and fastened chicken wire to the bottoms of the fences dividing both the outside pens and inside the coop. We laughed with wicked glee when Cuddles couldn’t get his head through the fence.
Several weeks ago when we first put up the chicken wire fencing around the raised garden beds, we used up the first roll of fencing before we had enclosed all the beds. It was getting late so rather than get out the second roll of fencing, we stopped for the day. I kept forgetting that that small section was not finished–plus we had many rainy days. But yesterday morning we noticed that the ducks were nibbling some of the garden plants that they could reach through the unprotected section. After I Cuddles-proofed the dividing fences, I put up the rest of the fencing around the bed.
I washed all the clothes and hung them outside and later folded them and put them away. I made potato salad. Then I prepared strawberries and made biscuits for Strawberry Biscuit Dessert. I cleaned the house, and did a variety of other tasks.
FedEx brought my Wildflowers of Michigan book in the morning. It is an awesome book and I enjoyed looking through it. On my short breaks throughout the day I searched for some of our wildflowers and was able to learn the identity of a few. I learned that one is called a “Goat’s Beard.” It turns to face the sun, opens only on sunny mornings and closes at noon. That is why it’s also called, “Johnny-go-to-bed-at-noon,” which I think is an awesome name.
When JJ came home from work at about 4 p.m., he got the grill going and cooked hotdogs and hamburgers. We had some of the potato salad I had made and chips JJ had bought. We are going to have another cookout today, and add corn-on-the-cob and Strawberry & Biscuits to the menu.
We ended the day with a campfire and watched while JJ set off his fireworks. It was only July 3rd, but oh, well. Neither EJ nor JJ have to work today so they could stay up later last night.
Today is another beautifully sunny day, so we will get more tasks done again today.