Pardon My French

I haven’t written for a couple weeks–not since December 1. I (and EJ too) have had a lot on my mind that I’ve been processing and working through. It is difficult to write when my heart is filled with sadness. Yet, we know that the decisions needed to be made, and we will get through this. I actually have a lot of hope for the coming year–that we will be able to heal. Maybe I will write about what we’ve learned over the years about letting go and reaching forward closer to the New Year, at least in part.

But not right now.

Right now I want to write about happy things, not sad ones.

A couple of weeks ago, I found myself reading the first book of one of my favorite series aloud to EJ. I often describe to him interesting books I am reading or read him a well-written sentence or description that I enjoy, but I don’t often read aloud whole books. But this series, Time Wars by Simon Hawke, is a lot of fun, with some humor as well as some interesting philosophical discussions about time travel, so one thing led to another and I read the whole book. Every few chapters, I asked EJ, “You want me to stop or continue?” He replied, “Continue if you aren’t tired,” so I did. I enjoyed sharing the book with him.

So I started reading the second book with EJ. We both thought it would be fun to read the whole series together. Only this particular book took place in France during the time of the Musketeers. This caused me a lot of problems because it had some French words in it–such as monsieur or D’Artagnan–and I simply cannot pronounce them. EJ tried to help me, and I’d get the words right (more or less) once or twice before they slipped away from me again. I ended up laughing so hard that I cried every time I came to one of the unpronounceable French words that I thoroughly mangled. I finished the chapter–barely–and then I told EJ that he was going to have to read the second book aloud because I simply couldn’t do it.

I apologize if I have any French readers, but it seems to me that their language is filled with unnecessary letters–such as the word “devereaux,” which was the name of a road in the area we used to live. It is pronounced, “dever-roo.” Uh, at least I think it is. Why not just spell it that way? How “eaux” becomes “oo,” I will never understand. Why is the “x” even in the word? Did some long-ago insane Frenchman decide to just throw a bunch of letters together and pronounced them as he pleased with no rhyme nor reason?

The French should not feel insulted because I think the English language–MY language–is wacky too. After my aborted attempt to read the book, EJ and I started redesigning the English language. For example, the letter “c” sometimes has a hard sound like “k” and sometimes a soft sound like “s” in English. So why not simply use “k” and “s” and forget the “c”? So “Cindy” would become “Sindy” and car would be “kar. But then EJ said that the letter “c” could be used for the “ch” sound, using one letter instead of two to make the sound. Awesome idea! “Church” would be spelled “curc.” And we would make the letter “g” for the hard “gah” sound and use “j” for the soft sound it sometimes makes, since a soft “g” and the “j” sound the same. Therefore, “garage,” in which the first “g'” is hard and the second “g” is soft would instead be spelled “garaje.”  EJ said he would just use the “Q” and drop off the “u” in words since the two are always paired, making the “u” unnecessary. Given time, we could rewrite the whole English language so it made more sense. I wouldn’t dare try to rewrite French. 🙂

Ah, well, I will bid this topic adieu. That’s pronounced “Ah-doo.” Or “Ad-you.” Or something.

Our neighbor

Our neighbor down the road and around the corner has been snowblowing our driveway for us. He started doing it last year when he saw me struggling to snow blow our driveway.  It takes us at least 2 hours with our small snowblower to clear our driveway and he can do it in about 20 minutes–if that–with his tractor. He does other neighbors’ driveways too and doesn’t accept payment. I’d like to fix him a plate of tasty treats for Christmas as a thank you because it’s such a blessing for him to do it for us.

My friend told me that one of her friends bought an instant pot earlier in the year and loved it so much that she’s been urging her to get one too. I guess you can cook all sorts of foods in it at a fraction of the time it would normally take with other methods. My friend bought one for a relative for Christmas, but then she and her husband decided to buy themselves one too. And then they thought, “EJ and TJ cook a lot. I bet they’d get a lot of use out of one” so they bought us one too! They are such awesome friends. In fact, we have “adopted” them as family.

The post office sent me an email notifying me that the gift would arrive today. Delivery people do not like to drive up our long, steep driveway in the winter so they put packages in a wooden box at the end of the driveway. I call it “The Magic Box” because every now and then packages “magically” appear in it. 🙂  I suspected the package would be large, heavy, and unwieldy to carry so I got one of our sleds out of the garage. I sort of cracked it a little when it hit something as I pulled it down from the rafters, but it’s still usable for my purposes. As soon as I received a text from the post office that the package was delivered, I walked down the driveway with the sled to get it. EJ would have driven down, but he was still sleeping and I didn’t want to wait. We can’t see The Magic Box from the house and I read of people stealing packages–they are called “porch pirates”–so I like to retrieve packages as soon as I can.

I opened The Magic Box and there was my package! It was indeed large, heavy, and unwieldy, so I was glad I had thought to bring the sled. I put the package on my sled and pulled it up the long, steep, snowy driveway. I felt like a hardy homesteader of by-gone days overcoming harsh conditions. Ok, it wasn’t that bad, but it was a bit cold and it’s fun to imagine.

Not yours, Hannah Joy.

When I got the package in the house, Hannah Joy looked it all over. I think she thought it was hers. I told her it wasn’t but she didn’t appear to believe me. An hour or so later, she saw Timmy touching the box and warned him away with a sharp bark. I reminded Hannah that the package was not hers, and Timmy wasn’t hurting it. Hannah isn’t too fond of Timmy the cat.

EJ has already been looking up recipes of things to make with the instant pot.

I am sending my friend some mincemeat for a gift.  She said her family has never had mincemeat pie. Mincemeat is my absolute favorite kind of pie and I wanted her to experience it. I’m also intending to send her a few other things, but I can’t tell you because I want it to be a surprise and she reads my blog. She knows about the mincemeat but not the other things.

 

The First of December

EJ left on Friday morning to hunt in the 100-acre woods on the other side of the state. Sadly, he didn’t get a deer (I actually saw more at our Enchanted Forest than he did) but he got a chance to enjoy quiet beauty in a beautiful forest and “that’s not nothin’.”

EJ left the 100-acre woods to drive home last night at about 7 pm. He had debated staying another day, but I’m glad he decided to drive home last night because a wintry mix of freezing rain, sleet, and snow was forecast for our area. Most of his drive home was clear. He just ran into some freezing rain near home. Hannah Joy was SO excited when he arrived home. She zoomed around and wouldn’t let him out of her sight.

Yesterday we had no snow on the ground, but we woke up this morning to a beautiful snow-covered world.

The church decorations on our wedding day.

It is also our 29th wedding anniversary. On our wedding day, the church was beautifully decorated for Christmas so we didn’t have to do any decorating ourselves. EJ had just started a new job and couldn’t get time off so we had a short weekend honeymoon. We drove north to Ludington, Michigan, through town after town festive with beautiful Christmas lights and decorations. It was very special–as if the whole world was celebrating our weddng day with us. We drove home on Monday morning through a blizzard because EJ had to be to work that evening. We stopped at a little restaurant halfway home and had the most delicious coffee we had ever had in our lives. I’m glad we had a snowy December wedding.

This morning EJ suggested that we could go to a restaurant to celebrate our anniversary. I said, “On a day like this? With slippery roads? I’d rather stay cozy at home!” He felt the same. Our Thanksgiving pies are eaten so I suggested that we make more because “everyone knows that the traditional gift for a 29th Anniversary is pie!” So once again, I made the pie dough for both pies, poured a jar of mincemeat filling on one while and EJ made the pumpkin pie filling for the other. It’s fun cooking together.

Mincemeat Pie

I sorted through my more than 30 cookie cutters to find one to decorate the mincemeat pie. I decided to decorate the pie with snowflakes and mittens in honor of the snowy day. At first, I couldn’t find the mitten cookie cutter and I cried, “I’ve lost my mitten! Now I shall have no pie!” But then I found it so I got pie after all. I thought the mincemeat pie looked awesome. It tasted awesome too.

EJ is now making another batch of bread. When he has that rising, we are going to bake two of the little turkey potpies I made on Friday–one of each of us. Later we hope to watch the last of The Hobbit movies.

We’ve had ups and downs, joys and sorrows, and our love has grown through it all. I can’t think of a better way to spend our 29th anniversary: cozy at home, together.

 

Tradition

I know the holidays can be difficult for many people, for a variety of reasons, but I hope everyone had a good Thanksgiving. Or survived.

Breadzel

EJ’s first attempt at making homemade bread a week or so ago turned out wonderfully so he tried again earlier this week. It didn’t turn out as expected because the bread didn’t rise. However, he baked it anyway and then cut it into rectangles. It actually was pretty good. It had almost a pretzel taste to it. EJ was trying to come up with a name for it. I suggested “bread-zel” which seemed appropriate. Now I wonder if he can recreate it.

Wednesday I made dough for our Thanksgiving pies. EJ prepared pumpkin filling and I put together the mincemeat–which just involved opening a jar and pouring it in the pie but, hey, I had made the dough for the pies. I also used a cookie cutter to put a forest of decorative trees on my pie. I have a large tin filled with a lot of different shaped cookie cutters. I seldom use them for cookies. Instead, I use them to make decorative pie crusts, interestingly shaped biscuits, and other such things.

My homemade buns.

On Thanksgiving morning, EJ got the turkey in the roaster. He wasn’t sure it was thawed enough even though he had taken it out of the freezer last Friday. Meanwhile, I made homemade buns. They didn’t rise well the first time, and only a little the second time. I think our yeast is too old. I thought, “Oh, well, que sera, sera” which I think basically means “what will be, will be.” We didn’t stress because Thanksgiving isn’t about food, it’s about gratitude for blessings. EJ’s turkey got done even earlier than expected and was very tasty, and my buns raised while baking and were delicious.

I boiled potatoes and made the stuffing–just stuffing from a box. EJ was going to make green bean casserole but he decided just to fix pea pods and mushrooms. We ate the fried onions that are supposed to go on top of the casserole as a snack later.  Haha!

As usual, Hannah Joy kept very close by my side as I worked in the kitchen, which means I kept bumping into her. She keeps hoping that tidbits will fall to the floor, which she can gobble up. Although I don’t let it happen intentionally, food does escape often enough to keep Hannah optimistic.

Later in the afternoon, EJ and I watched The Hobbit together. We got through two of the movies and will finish the third at the first opportunity.

This morning EJ left to go hunting at his friend’s 100-acre woods. He will return tomorrow, probably. We could get some bad weather Saturday night and Sunday, including freezing rain. I hope he gets home before it hits.

Traditionally, many people go shopping today, the day after Thanksgiving, when most businesses offer huge bargains. I traditionally spend the day after Thanksgiving making potpies with leftover turkey. I usually make several large pies, which I freeze for later meals. This year, however, I used small 5 1/2 inch disposable pie plates to make 13 little individual pies. With just EJ and me at home, it makes more sense to make little pies. I can cook two at a time–one for him and one for me–and it’s just enough. I used my turkey cookie cutter to make a little turkey on each pie. I put all the potpies in the freezer except for one, which I baked and ate for my supper. It was yummy, if I do say so myself. Homemade potpies are one of my most favorite meals.

I’d like to get a few more small disposable pie plates to make and freeze dessert pies for when we are really hungry for something sweet.

 

Thanksgiving

To all my USA readers

HAPPY THANKSGIVING!

 

Thanksgiving Prep

We continue to have warmer weather–in the 40s. It’s almost more “jacket” weather than “winter coat” weather. Our snow has all melted and the chickens are enjoying wander through the garden. When it’s too cold or snowy, they prefer to stay inside the coop. A winter storm is forecast to arrive in Michigan on Thanksgiving Day, but I think the snow will slip through Michigan’s Upper Peninsula and we will mostly get a rain/snow mix. If it gets slippery, that could cause problems for our area, but we will be snug at home so it won’t affect our household.

Friday afternoon I made a double batch of honey granola while EJ decided to make bread. The bread was very tasty. EJ said that perhaps he will make bread regularly from now on. That works for me! Hannah Joy was very interested in EJ’s bread-making endeavor–mostly because she was hoping something would fall to the floor so she could eat it.

We adopted Hannah Joy from the Animal Shelter two days before Christmas in 2017. Her previous owner had starved her and she was just skin and bones when we brought her home. She was so thin that I bought her a pretty Nordic coat to keep her warm on the cold winter days. The coat fit her but the hood didn’t so yesterday I cut the hood off. I was afraid I’d ruin the coat, but I didn’t. I crocheted a border on the hood and sewed velcro on it. I might crochet a collar on the coat, but I don’t think it really needs it. Now Hannah has a pretty coat and a hat that fits her. EJ called her “adorkable” because she looks adorable and dorky at the same time. I made her model it this morning:

Hannah Joy

Of course, it’s too warm outside for Hannah to wear her nordic coat and, besides, she needs to wear her hunter’s orange vest during hunting season so she isn’t mistaken for a deer. But when hunting season is over and winter hits us, Hannah Joy will be pretty and warm in her coat and hat.

Edison and his Mama came by yesterday to eat from the bird feeders. I finally was able to get a good photo of them. You can see how tiny Edison is:

Millie

Millie was at the bird feeders this morning. She was very interested in the birds that came to eat. However, Millie isn’t the fierce huntress that Miss Madeline Meadows, our serial killer cat, was. Madeline was an awesome cat and I miss her, but I’m rather glad I’m not finding dead bodies every day. It always horrified me and made me sad. With Madeline gone, we are getting more cardinals up near the house.

This weekend EJ and I planned our Thanksgiving meal. We have developed the tradition of both us preparing the meal to divide the labor. I’ll make the pies on Wednesday–most definitely pumpkin and mincemeat, and maybe apple. EJ is going to stop at Meijers on his way home from work this week to buy little disposable 5″ pie pans. I want to make a lot of small pies to freeze so we can occasionally enjoy dessert without overindulging. The day after Thanksgiving, I always make potpies from leftover turkey. This year I’ll make small turkey pot pies freeze them as well.

On Thanksgiving morning, I will make dinner rolls while EJ prepares the turkey and also makes the green bean casserole. The other tasks we can divide up, depending on who is free at the moment.

I’ve been thinking today of how much I value friends my friends. I want to say thank you so much for your encouragement, comfort, laughter, and awesome uniqueness. I value you all.

Mommy Radar

We’ve had several days of warm weather–warm for November, that is, with temperatures often reaching into the mid-40s (F). Today is gray with rain and fog. Our snow has mostly melted, although we are supposed to get high winds and rain/snow tonight. The wind is already getting stronger. The snow probably won’t stay since the temperatures will still be in the low 40s.

EJ went back to work yesterday after being off work most of last week because he was sick. He still is not feeling tip-top, but I think there is some improvement. The radiologist called the day after EJ had x-rays at the clinic to tell him that he didn’t have pneumonia. Just bronchitis, which is bad enough. EJ had taken two vacation days this week for deer season. Instead of going hunting, he stayed home and took meds. His friend offered to shoot a deer or two for us at his 100-acre woods so even if EJ couldn’t go hunting, we may still get venison.  EJ doesn’t usually hunt the deer on our property because they are too “known” to us.

Edison and his Mama

The does and their little ones come frequently up to eat from the birdfeeders. One little deer who comes up with his (or her) Mama is so small that he can just eat from the birdbath. Last year we called a little deer “Einstein.” This year we call the littlest one “Edison.”

I think it was Edison’s Mama who broke the birdbath feeder. She was on her hind legs eating from the lantern birdfeeder. When she came down, she caught the edge of the “bowl” and broke it. This morning I got a wooden box from our raised garden and set it on the deck with corn in it. We put a little corn out in hopes the deer will ignore our hanging birdfeeders, which they kind of sometimes do. A deer came up to the box but the unfamiliarity spooked her. A chipmunk has been enjoying the corn most of the day, stuffing his cheeks full.

The wooden box

EJ insists that I wear an orange hat during deer season. Generally, most hunters are very responsible people who follow gun safety rules, but there are always a few irresponsible people who go hunting and every year there are reports of someone getting killed. Just last year, EJ says, a guy on his own property–not far from us–got killed by an idiot who shot without making sure it was a deer he was aiming at. So I wear my orange hat outside.

Hannah in Orange

I also stuck an orange hat in Hannah Joy’s harness whenever I took her outside because she could easily be mistaken for a deer. When I told my friend that, she was worried about Hannah’s safety and insisted on buying her a hunter’s orange coat. It arrived on Tuesday. Hannah now wears a bright orange coat when she goes outside. Someone would have to be blind to mistake her for a deer now. She almost glows in the dark!

As a thank you–and a just because–gift, I made my friend’s dog a scarf, which I mailed today. I would show it to you, but although my friend knows I was making her dog a scarf, she doesn’t know what it looks like. I want to surprise her. Plus, I totally forgot to take photos. Bummer. Fortunately, she has already told me she would take photos. Her dog is so dapper that he could be a top dog model on a magazine cover.

Hannah has sort of been bad. The other day she stole an apple and ate it, which isn’t all that bad, but yesterday she started to eat one of my nice mittens. I always know when Hannah is eating something she shouldn’t because she sneaks off to our bedroom and eats the contraband on our bed, with her back toward the door to hide it. She reminds me a bit of JJ. When he was little–maybe preschool-aged–he would hide under the table whenever he did something he knew he shouldn’t. I’d see him under the table and say, “Ok, so what did you do?” He was always amazed that I somehow knew he had gotten into something. I told him that I knew because all mothers have a special Mommy Radar which alerts us when our children are doing something wrong. He didn’t figure out my secret until years later. LOL.

So, anyway, Hannah usually hangs out with us so whenever she suddenly disappears, I know I will find her on the bed eating something she shouldn’t. Yup. It’s that old Mommy Radar at work. I rescued my mitten before Hannah totally ate it, but it’s pretty much ruined. But I forgave Hannah because she is so dog-gone lovable.

Opening Day

EJ hasn’t felt well all week. He finally went to an urgent care clinic yesterday afternoon. I went with him. When I saw only a couple of cars in the parking lot, I thought that we’d be in and out quickly. Usually, I go into the exam room with EJ, but because we thought it would be quick, I stayed out in the waiting room. I waited and waited and waited and waited for him to return. I would have texted EJ to ask him how it was going, but he had left his phone in his coat pocket, which was with me. I got stiff from sitting so I periodically stood and stretched. I was beginning to think he had been forgotten or disappeared, but he finally came out. He had had a chest x-ray because the doctor believes he likely has pneumonia. We stopped at Meijers on the way home to fill the prescriptions EJ was given. He has three different medications to take.

Today is the opening day of deer season. EJ would have been on his way across the state to hunt at his friend’s 100-acre farm. Instead, he’s snoozing in his chair. He looks forward to deer season all year, and I know he hates to miss opening day, but I’m glad he is being reasonable and taking care of himself.

 

Early to Bed

 

EJ has been sick this week with some sort of crud. He went to work on Monday but after a few hours, his boss sent him home. Tuesday morning EJ kept an appointment to get new tires on the Suburban.  He said that he slid through a couple intersections on the way there, but with the new tires he was able to make it up our driveway in 2-wheel drive! The tires were expensive (ouch) but we need to be able to make it through bad winter weather.

EJ felt so bad waiting for the tires to get put on that he decided to stay home again. He still wasn’t feeling tip-top today but he didn’t think he could miss another day of work so he went in. Poor guy.

Areas just a few miles to the west of us got snow dumped on them earlier this week. Some places received 30+ inches of snow. We didn’t get much of anything. I’m thankful for the reprieve. Winter is just beginning and soon enough we will get dumped on.

Today was cold. It was only 20(f) degrees, which really isn’t horribly cold, but it felt very cold–probably because it was also windy. The chickens and cats stayed in their coop today. They aren’t stupid. As soon as EJ left for work, I went out to feed and water them 0(as I usually do) and, since they were all staying inside, I shut their little door rather than wait for evening. Although I put them early to bed, I still went out later to make sure they were ok and to refill the cats’ food dish. The chickens eat the cats’ food so I refill their bowl every now and then throughout the day.

Brrr! It was cold! When I came back inside the house after caring for the animals, I washed the dishes–it felt good to put my hands in warm water–and then made myself a cup of hot tea as I settled in my chair with a small blanket and Hannah Joy on my lap.

One deer has snowflakes on her long eyelashes.

While I sat and drank my tea, I watched the deer come up to eat from the feeders. The feeders are right next to the deck–only about 8 feet or so away–so I get to enjoy the deer, birds, and other wildlife close up. They make winter a special delight.

Sometimes the deer see us moving in the house and they look straight at us. If we don’t spook them too much they go back to eating. Sometimes one deer will chase off another, and sometimes they will even fight a bit. Today, after eating corn from the birdbath, a deer ate from one of the birdfeeders hanging from the post. Fortunately, this is the only one they can reach–otherwise, they would drain them all and leave nothing for the birds. I took a video of the deer. Hannah Joy was sleeping on my lap and didn’t even see them.

Poor EJ is coming home from work early because he’s not feeling well. I sure will be glad when he’s feeling better.

Stag-ered

Areas downstate are getting quite a bit of snow today–up to 7 inches, the last I heard. Along the Lake Michigan coast to the west of us, there is a Winter Storm Warning. They are getting heavy lake-effect snow–up to 10 inches of additional snow is forecasted. We are under a Winter Storm Advisory starting this evening with 4-8 inches of snow expected but today we’ve had blue-ish skies smiling at us. I confess I sometimes chuckle because when we told people we were moving north, most of them said, “Oh! It’s so beautiful up there…but I sure would hate to live there in the winter!” Honestly, I think areas downstate get bad weather through the year more frequently than we do. So far, that is. We did hear that the year before we moved here, winter temperatures dipped to -40 degrees (F).

Image by PublicDomainImages from Pixabay
Image by PublicDomainImages from Pixabay

This morning a doe came up to the house to eat from the feeders. When Hannah Joy saw her, she barked and muttered threats under her breath. The doe ran a few feet away and then stood indecisively for a couple moments before trotting off over the hill to the east. A few minutes later, a magnificent buck (the word “stag” comes to mind) galloped right across the yard, obviously in pursuit of the doe. His head was down as if it was scenting her and he was following in her trail, only a few yards from the house. It was a thrilling sight.

When I told EJ about it later, he asked me how many points the buck had. I told him that I was so startled and so thrilled to see the buck that I didn’t count. Maybe he was six-pointed. Maybe eight. I don’t know. But his antlers looked like tree branches stuck on his head.

We are “friends” with many local and regional groups and pages at Facebook. They keep us updated on local news and events as well as weather and traffic conditions. In our little town’s FB group today someone shared that her “grandson had a large cat-like animal cross in front of his truck” just on the other side of town last night–about 2-3 miles from us–and other local residents shared their cougar sightings. That is totally cool. I would love to see a cougar, or bobcat, or bear as long as don’t threaten us or our pets. When I walked down to the road to the mailbox today, I tried to observe the various tracks in the snow. I saw several kinds, but no large paw prints.

There are times I wish I could get a security or trail camera. I’d love to see what critters are crossing our property, hidden from our view.

 

The Gales of November

Photo by David Mark at Pixabay

Our weekend has been a very quiet one because EJ isn’t feeling well. He’s coming down with something. Poor guy. Hopefully, he will feel well enough to go deer hunting next weekend. He looks forward to it every year.

I’m feeling ok, but I took it pretty easy this weekend too. I did make a double batch of honey granola and a double batch of maple syrup granola. I’m getting low on dried fruit and I’m out of nuts and seeds. I’m looking forward to visiting the co-op we just joined and buying a variety of bulk foods.

 

Female Cardinal

We’ve been enjoying the birds that are visiting our feeders. I enjoy them all, but I was especially glad to see a cardinal at the feeders. Cardinals were very common downstate but we’ve only seen a few at our Enchanted Forest. I really missed them.

In addition to birds, we’ve had other critters feasting at the feeders. Chipmunks are frequent visitors. They stuff their cheeks with seeds until they are bulging. It’s rather comical to see.

Chubby-cheeked chipmunk

The deer have also visited several times. Of course, Hannah Joy gets excited when she sees them and barks at them with her tail wagging. The deer run off when she barks, but they don’t run far, and they cautiously sneak back when they think she’s not watching. Sometimes Hannah is snoozing on my lap and doesn’t see them and I’m able to get photos of them.

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The weather this weekend was quite warm–for winter, that is–and a lot of the snow we got during the last snowstorm melted. However, more storms are headed our way beginning tomorrow. EJ keeps updating me with different snow amounts, but it looks as if we could get about a foot of snow, more or less.

On this day in 1975, the Edmund Fitzgerald, an ore-carrier, was lost to Lake Superior. Like many in Michigan, I spend this day remembering the 29 crew members who lost their lives in that tragedy. Shelbydiamondstar Photography shared the following on Facebook:

“The legend lives on from the Chippewa on down
Of the big lake they called Gitche Gumee
The lake, it is said, never gives up her dead
When the skies of November turn gloomy…”

..Does any one know where the love of God goes
When the waves turn the minutes to hours?
The searchers all say they’d have made Whitefish Bay
If they’d put fifteen more miles behind ‘er
They might have split up or they might have capsized
They may have broke deep and took water
And all that remains is the faces and the names
Of the wives and the sons and the daughters…

– Gordon Lightfoot.

When she was launched on June 7, 1958 – The Fitz was the largest ship on North America’s Great Lakes. It remains to be the largest ship to have sank on the Great Lakes.

The disaster was forever immortalized by the song in which I quoted above and sparked pretty intense debate over what actually happened to the doomed freighter.

The most popular theories include that the storm, which is still regarded as one of the worst on record to hit the region, as solely responsible. However, transmissions from the Fitzgerald’s captain, Ernest Michael McSorley, to another freighter – the Arthur M. Anderson hinted that the ship was wounded, as the caption mentioned having a list. Theories surrounding overloading, not properly latching down the cargo hold, structural damage, bottoming out on an area in Lake Superior known as the Shoal, or a combination of these, are all viable theories. However, none have been proven and may never be.

Another fascinating aspect, which I hinted on earlier is the severity of the storm. Weather records show that between the dates of Nov. 7-10, there were three major record-setting storms on Lake Superior. The more deadliest and strongest to this day remains the “White Hurricane” – Also called the “Big Blow” or the “Freshwater Fury,” this Nov. 7th 1913 storm remains the deadliest natural disaster in Great Lakes history. More than 250 people died because of the storm, 19 ships were wrecked and 19 others were stranded. The third one during this same time period was known as the Armistice Day Storm – Nov. 11, 1940. These low-pressure systems are also known as extra-tropical cyclones, as they really are like hurricanes and can pack a serious punch.

When us northerners mention the “Gales of November”, this serves as a reminder of how the changing of the season can really create some furious weather – even way up north. There are other notable November storms, but I just concentrated on the ones that happened in that specific time frame.

May all those who have lost their lives on the Great Lakes Rest in Peace.

There are many videos telling the tale of the Edmund Fitzgerald. I particularly like this one, which shares actual newscasts, radio messages, videos of the Edmund Fitzgerald, and photos of the crew as Gordon Lightfoot’s ballad plays:

 

Snow Storm

Winter is heeere!

It’s been snowing since yesterday. It’s not technically our first snow of the season. Other areas had received more snow last week. In fact, EJ said that a small town about 15 minutes from us had received about 6 inches of snow. We only had a light dusting of snow like powdered sugar on a yummy dessert.

Until yesterday.

The snow sometimes fell as it usually falls–silently and lightly.  But yesterday it periodically fell straight down, like rain, tap-tapping on the roof and bouncing when it hit the ground. It was “graupel.” Graupel is snowflakes that picks up an extra layer of moisture on their way down as supercooled droplets adhere to the crystals. This makes snowflakes resemble little balls of Styrofoam, which are often mistaken for hail. You’ll sometimes hear it referred to as “small hail” or “soft hail.” But unlike hail, which is typically hard, graupel will disintegrate easily if you handle it because there is snow, not ice, inside. Supposedly, it’s quite a rare weather phenomenon, but we seem to get it a few times a year. EJ and I walked through a downpour of graupel when we went to the mailbox yesterday.

This is our first real Winter Storm. We were among the counties that were right in the bull’s eye,  forecasted to get heavier amounts of snow. Judging by the snow measuring stick I made, I think we got about 8-10 inches. EJ just informed me that more lake effect snow–possibly mixed with rain–are headed our way this weekend and into next week. Lake effect snow is not caused by a storm system. Instead, it’s caused by snow falling on the lee side of a lake, generated by cold dry air passing over warmer water, especially in the Great Lakes region. We get a lot of lake effect snow in our area.

I wouldn’t have been surprised if the graupel might have been partially to blame for the terrible travel conditions in this Winter Storm. Roads were slick and visibility was poor. There were multiple accidents and even semis were having trouble driving up hills. Some of the roads were closed. Although EJ is skilled at driving in snow, I still worried about him so I got up at 3 am to pray for his safety as he drove home from work. I was so thankful when I saw his headlights coming up the driveway. When he came into the house he said that on the way to work he fish-tailed on a dangerous stretch of road–up a hill with a steep ravine on the side. In the same stretch of road on his way home, he encountered a tree that had fallen across it. He didn’t have any time to react, but fortunately he had the clearance to be able to just get under it and continue on his way. He said the snow was so heavy at times that he could barely see and the roads were very slick. In a few places, he saw tire tracks where other cars had slid off the road.

I’m glad we don’t have to go anywhere for three days and can just hunker down. I don’t mind stormy weather if EJ and I are safe at home together.

Bird Feeders set up.

Earlier in the week, I set up all the bird feeders on the post. We also moved the birdbath closer to the feeders. In the summer it’s a birdbath; in the winter it becomes a birdfeeder–or, rather, a deer feeder. I don’t deliberately try to feed the deer, but I can’t keep them from the feeders so I give in to the inevitable. We’ve been enjoying the feasting birds. I miss Miss Madeline Meadows, our serial killer cat, but I’m relieved I won’t find a bunch of bodies this year. Annie, Theo, and Millie aren’t even close to being the hunters she was. Madeline was epic.

Yesterday evening I spied a deer at our feeder. Hannah saw it also and lunged at the window barking and wagging her tail. The deer ran off but returned a little later for another try. For most of the evening, this scenario was repeated until the deer finally gave up. Hannah looked at me with pleading eyes and whined, but I told her that I was NOT going to take her outside to play with (i.e., scare) the deer. This morning there were paths of deer tracks in the snow and the birdbath and small lantern feeder were empty so I know the deer returned during the night. However, the other feeders were still full so I know the deer weren’t able to access them. I’m of two minds: I love to see the deer, but they can quickly empty all the feeders so the birds have nothing. I don’t mind if the deer get some of the seed, but I don’t want them to get it all. It’s good to know that they can’t reach all the feeders, and it doesn’t hurt that Hannah scares some of them away during the day.

I have another problem. The three outside cats live in the coop with the chickens. The chickens and cats each have their own food in the coop. However, some of the chickens like to eat the cats’ food–but the cats can’t eat the chickens’ food. So I have the problem of how to keep the chickens from the cats’ food. I finally put a small dish of cat food in the dog-gloo that is just outside the coop. The chickens hate going out in the snow so they will–I hope–leave that dish alone. We will see.

I’ve discovered that one of the younger chickens is a rooster. He is developing a bigger comb and his voice is different. It’s funny when young roosters begin to crow (which ours isn’t yet) because they don’t do it correctly. They remind me of teen boys with squeaky voices. So we now have three roosters and 17 hens. It might be ok. I’ve heard that the “proper ratio” is six hens to each rooster, and we almost have that.

Earlier yesterday evening, I heard the coyotes howling. We can only hear them from inside the house when they are very close. It’s a very spooky sound. I never like to go outside until long after they’ve moved off because I imagine them circling me in the darkness with red-crazed eyes. By the time I had to take Hannah Joy out, the coyotes were long gone, but I shone my flashlight around anyway, looking for menacing eyes. There were none.

Friday Date

Yesterday EJ and I went on a date.

Actually, we go on a date every Friday.

Ok, so when we were younger, dates meant going to movies, or festivals, or out to dinner. As we grew older, our weekly dates morphed into running errands. But we totally enjoy spending time with each other, chatting as we drive through beautiful countryside, and shopping together. We have an awesome time!

We often take Hannah Joy with us because she hates being left home and we enjoy having her with us. We had several errands to run, and we arranged our stops to best prevent Hannah from getting into things. It’s kind of like that old brain-teaser in which a man has to take a wolf, a goat, and some cabbage across a river. His rowboat has enough room for the man plus either the wolf or the goat or the cabbage. If he takes the cabbage with him, the wolf will eat the goat. If he takes the wolf, the goat will eat the cabbage. Only when the man is present are the goat and the cabbage safe from their enemies. The trick is to figure out how the man can get the wolf, goat, and cabbage across the river. Similarly, we can’t leave Hannah alone with groceries or pet food because she will eat it if she can figure out a way to reach it so we have to organize our errands so she’s never left alone for things she can eat. She has a seat belt fastened to her harness, but with enough time and persistence she has gotten herself free a couple times. Once she ate a loaf of bread.

Our first stop was at Meijers so EJ could buy his hunting licenses. Deer season begins in a couple of weeks. We also bought a couple grocery items, but nothing that Hannah could get into.

We have several farm stores that we usually shop at because each one offers something that the others don’t have. Yesterday we stopped at McG’s for wild birdseed. Their birdseed prices are more reasonable than at other stores and they package their own mixes that don’t have a lot of filler seed that the birds toss aside with contempt.

Next, EJ and I stopped at Oryana, a co-op that we’ve wanted to explore for quite some time. It had a lot of expensive specialty foods that are not in our budget but their bulk food section was totally awesome. Some of the organic, non-GMO foods were less expensive than less healthy items at the grocery store. We walked over to the customer service counter and bought a membership. Normally it is $20 per year, but they were offering a special at $15 a year. Right away we saved $5! With a membership we become part-owners of the business and are eligible for many discounts and sales, which makes the foods even more affordable. We didn’t buy anything this trip but we are so excited to begin shopping here.

Our next stop was the Habitat for Humanity resale shop. They had just relocated into a bigger, better store and EJ wanted to check it out. We enjoy browsing through resale and thrift shops. It’s sort of like treasure hunting–sometimes we don’t find anything but other times we SCORE!

Finally, we stopped at a new farm store on the far side of Traverse City. I had ordered cat and dog food on-line so we just had to pull up at the drive-thru and the bags were loaded in.

Then we drove home to unload. Then we headed off to the farm to buy more straw for the coop. Not only does the straw provide bedding for the chickens and cats, they like to roost on top of it, the bales provide insulation,  and the straw can later be used in the garden. We had to leave Hannah home so we had space for the straw. After we ate, EJ carried the bales to me while I arranged them in the coop.

Finally, we were done with our errands. We had a tremendous date day.

 

A (Not) Very Scary Story

Monday evening I went to shut all the animals safely in the coop, as I do every night.

Chickens

The chickens go into the coop themselves as soon as it gets twilight-ish so all I have to do is count that they are all inside and shut the coop doors. The only time it’s difficult to get them into the coop is when I want them to go in early–for example, when I know we won’t get home until after dark.  Fortunately, I don’t often try to shoo them in early because chickens refuse to be forced or herded to go anywhere they don’t want to go. They are very stubborn, independent creatures.

Annie asleep on the straw.

If the cats aren’t already in the coop, I just yell, “Here, Kitty, Kitty!” and they come running. During the summer Annie preferred to sleep out in one of the dog houses we have in the garden for shelter. However, when the weather turned colder, I put her in the coop despite her protests because it’s warmer and safer in the coop. After a few days, she quit complaining and now she spends a lot of her time in the coop, sleeping on a bed of straw.

So….Monday evening at twilight I went outside to make sure all the animals were safe in the coop. Suddenly, I heard a loud rustling in the forest, somewhere back beyond the garden fence. I thought at first that a tree had fallen. Sometimes trees fall in the forest with a rustling crash. But then I heard it again. It didn’t sound like a deer running away. For one thing, the sound was not moving off into the distance. I felt a little spooked, trying to guess what it was.

As I continued my evening chores, I heard the sound again, and yet again–a large rustling noise in the same direction as before. I began to wonder if it was a bear. I’ve never seen a bear, but we’ve had reports of them in our area–one last summer was reported to be only a mile away. I began to make an escape plan, just in case an ornery, hungry one emerged from the forest. After making sure all the animals were safely in the coop, I shut the doors. Then I did what people always do in monster movies when they hear a strange noise–something I’ve always ranted was stupidly idiotic and which I’d never do if I found myself in a similar situation: Rather than sprint for the safety of the house, I paused, took a step closer to where I heard the noise,  and peered into the depths of the forest, trying to see what was there. I saw no bear, no bobcat, no legendary Michigan Dogman, which is rumored to roam in the very region in which I live. I saw nothing. Then, suddenly, I heard the rustling noise again and I saw a large dark shape rising up through the trees like a creepy wraith in a haunted forest. Yikes!

The scary turkeys 🙂

Then I identified it. I laughed in relief. Ha, ha. The rustling noises had been turkeys flying up one-by-one to roost in the trees for the night. I had seen them a short time before wandering past our windows on their way to the back yard.

However, this morning I saw something even scarier than the scary noise in the forest: Snow. It has begun. The wintry season has arrived. It’s time to dig out my boots and mittens.

Actually, I like winter, even with its challenges. But the first snow is always a bit of a shock–kind of like jumping into a cold lake for the first time. Once I get in it, I enjoy the beauty of the season.

The Mouse Hound

EJ and I had a very good and very productive weekend.

Friday, as always, was our errand day. We stopped at TSC (Tractor Supply Co) for some maple syrup and then on to the grocery store to pick up a few items. The autumn colors were gorgeous, making the drive even more beautiful than it usually is.

Sunday’s weather started out very cloudy but about mid-day the clouds disappeared. The sky became a brilliant blue and the sun lit up the beautiful yellow/orange trees. Today the trees are barer than they were yesterday. Snow is in the forecast for this week.

Sunday was especially busy. During the morning, I made four batches of granola–two with honey and two with maple syrup. I’m hoping it will be at least a week before I need to make more! EJ takes granola to work with him, and I enjoy putting yogourt over granola for an evening meal.

EJ cutting up pears

In between making the granola, I did laundry and cleaned the house. EJ spent the afternoon/evening cutting up a basket of pears so he can make apple butter. We had picked a few baskets of pears and apples at his friend’s place a couple weeks ago. EJ’s task is to take care of the pears while I’ve been working every day on freezing and drying the apples.

 

The coop without the partition

While EJ kept busy with the pears, I went out to work in the coop. I decided to remove the partition dividing the coop in half. We had originally put it there because Cuddles our duck wouldn’t leave the hens alone. Now that we don’t have ducks, and there are so many animals living in the coop (20 chickens and 3 cats), it doesn’t make sense to have the partition in there. So I took it out. It was actually a lot of work to take it out. I had to move a few things around, saw a too-long board, do a little hammering, and then I was finally finished. At least for now.

I got to wondering what we could do with the fence piece that I had taken out of the coop. It was originally part of a dog kennel. It has a door in it. Then I suddenly had an idea. I told EJ it was only an idea–not as definite as a plan. He asked, “Is it an idea or a notion?” I asked, “Which is stronger?” We decided that a “what if” is weakest, then there is a notion, an idea, and finally a plan. I told him that I had merely a “what if.” What if we removed the fencing between the house and the garden? We could instead extend the fence at the end to the corner of the house so that our garden would still be fenced in but it would mean that we would step out of the garage directly in the garden. It would make it easier to water the garden in the summer: No snaking the hose through the fence. And I wouldn’t have to try to open the garden gate while carrying the egg basket and bucket of water for the animals. The chickens would have even more room to wander in the early spring and autumn. (They are shut out of the garden during the growing season.)

EJ thought it was definitely a good idea and he upgraded my “what if” to a plan. After the chickens and cats were shut up in the coop for the night, we put the plan into action. We extended the fence from the far edge to the corner of the house. Since the existing fence was further back than the house, we have a small jog, which is where we put the door-fence that I had taken out of the coop. It was getting dark, so we wired the fence in temporarily. At least the chickens wouldn’t be able to get out of the garden the next morning.

This morning I went out and removed the section of fencing we were eliminating and took out the posts. We can use them elsewhere. After lunch, EJ hammered large staples to hold the fencing to the posts. We still need to get hardware to hold the kennel pieces to the posts, but it’s good for now.

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The first thing I do when I get out of bed in the morning is feed Hannah Joy. This morning I picked up her bowl to fill it. Rather than follow me to the pantry where her food is, Hannah started to “follow a scent,” back and forth near around the kitchen table. I thought at first that she was pursuing an insect or spider, but then I saw the mouse. Hannah actually caught it in her mouth and carried it into the living room. I was hoping that I could take Hannah outside to release it, but she spit it out on the floor. After a moment of confusion, the mouse ran off.

Our Mouse Hound

Later, EJ told me Hannah was pawing at the blankets on the bed. I realized that she was acting as she had when she was pursuing the mouse. I don’t know if the mouse had gotten into the bed (eeew!) or if Hannah had carried it there–like she carries everything she knows she isn’t supposed to eat. Eventually, Hannah uncovered the mouse. EJ was going to scoop it up and take it outside, but instead Hannah quickly ate it. Yuck! We were grossed out! Although I suppose it would have been worse to get into bed and find a mouse!

And where were our two inside cats? They were nowhere to be seen. It appears that in addition to her other talents, our Hannah Joy is a Mouse Hound.

Toilet paper

A mouse isn’t the only thing Hannah Joy carried to our bed today. I found this when I came inside after doing a task outside. Tsk, tsk. She is a handful today! But we sure do love our Hannah Joy. She keeps our life interesting.

 

October Storm

 

A beautiful view from our driveway on Sunday

During the weekend,  we had beautiful weather with blue skies and temperatures in the low 60s. It was so warm that I didn’t need a jacket when I went outside.

EJ and I got quite a lot accomplished over the weekend. He worked on the suburban and also built a new roosting platform for the chickens. With the addition of 10 chickens in the coop this summer, for a total of 20, we need a lot of roosting places.

Chickens on the new roosting platform

During the summer I had used some pieces of pallets to construct a two-level roosting area, but we needed more so a couple weeks ago, EJ fastened an old broom handle between the fancy coop and the doghouse, both of which are inside the shed that is The Coop, for the chickens to use as a perch. I never saw the chickens using it, so we took it down and instead stretched a foot-wide piece of chipboard between the fancy coop and the doghouse instead of the broom handle. The chickens immediately began using it. Success!

Yummy Granola

On Sunday I made more yummy granola. Each time I make it, I add more to it: So far I have added sunflower seeds, dates, raisins, dried cherries, and our own dried apples. It is so yummy that it doesn’t last long and I have to make a batch several times a week. I also spent an hour or two cutting up more apples to put in our dehydrator.

It began to rain today and the forecast is for rain for the remainder of the week with temperatures getting colder and colder each day. We had a very strong wind which filled the sky with leaves that it ripped off the trees. I took a video of it. It was quite remarkable. It looked as if someone had dumped out a huge basket of leaves.

Gale warnings were issued for three of the Great Lakes–Michigan, Superior, and Huron–with waves of 26 feet expected. If it were the weekend and we didn’t have necessary tasks to complete, I would love to drive to the coast and watch the huge waves–from a safe distance, of course.

Our power went out just as EJ was leaving for work. I called the electric company and learned that more than 9,000 homes had lost power. Our county was among those hardest hit.

I went out about a half-hour earlier than usual to shut the chickens and cats in the coop. I figured that the wind and the rain would have driven them all into the coop and I preferred to get them shut in before the storm worsened. They were all in–all except for Sassy, our alpha rooster, who is usually the first out in the morning and the last in towards evening. He’s a good rooster who takes care of his flock. I tried for more than 20 minutes to herd him into the coop, but chickens are impossible to herd, and he kept getting around me. Sometimes I saw him peeking around the corner of the coop, watching me before he turned and ran the other way. Sometimes he’d go in through the little door, but he would run back out before I could shut him in. He finally–on his own, when he wanted to and not before–went into the coop and I shut the door. I counted everyone, hitting my head on the roosting platform as I searched for everyone, but I couldn’t find our cat, Annie. I don’t know if she was hidden in a nook in the coop or had ducked out while I chasing Sassy. I called for her, even walking around the house, but finally gave up. She’s probably in the coop and, if not, there are safe places for her to hunker down outside. We have various doghouses set up outside to provide shelter and she could even crawl under the coop itself.

Back in the house again, I crocheted until it grew too dark to see, and then I turned on a battery-powered lantern and read by its light.

After several hours, the power came back on. It stayed on long enough for me to reset all the clocks–on the alarm clock in the bedroom, on the stove, on the microwave, and on the coffee machine–and then it went out again. I was in the dark again. It went off rather spectacularly: Flickering on and off repeatedly. Down the driveway, near the road, I saw huge green and orange explosive flashes that lit up the sky, looking like a forest fire…or an alien attack. I texted a description of the flashes to EJ at work. He texted back that it sounded like an arc flash, which is an electrical explosion. I really hope none of the electrical workers were injured by it.

The power stayed out for several more hours. Then it flickered on and off several times, and again I saw flashes down near the road–orange/red this time. The power went off and stayed off for another hour or so and finally came back on for good at around 10 pm. I’m thankful for the electrical workers who worked so hard at restoring the power. Whatever the problem was, it wasn’t an easy fix.

I got a video of the second set of flashes. It doesn’t look like much, but it was way down by the road and the flashes lit up a great deal of the landscape. Hannah was very upset by it all.

It was an interesting evening.

 

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