It’s Gonna Be Okay

Yesterday I wrote that today’s current events become tomorrow’s history and that history isn’t just a bunch of facts to be memorized for a school test but is actually about the stories of people who lived through it. So how are you all doing? Feel free to share your stories here.

I’m not all that anxious about the Covid-19 virus. I think of it much as I do a bad thunderstorm or snowstorm: We do all we can to prepare for bad storms, but beyond that, all we can do is hunker down and ride it out. I’m more concerned with how all the closures, cancellations, and shortages at grocery stores are affecting people, local businesses, and communities. I get very upset by people who take advantage of others, such as the two brothers (in Kentucky, I think) who went to several towns in their area and bought up 17,000 bottles of hand sanitizer, which they sold on Amazon for $8 to $70 each. As soon as Amazon realized this, they banned them, and the guys received so much negative reaction that they ended up donating the remainder of their items, but the fact they were so greedy is reprehensible to me. There are reports of others doing the same sort of thing. Thankfully, there are also reports of people doing kind things, taking care of others.

I’m feeling quite a bit of anxiety, but I struggle with anxiety anyway, mostly because of PTSD caused by emotional abuse. In fact, I had determined late last year that 2020 would be the year I would battle to overcome anxiety and pursue peace and joy. I think that whenever a person tries to overcome something, the battles can get fierce so I sort of expected some difficult days. I had hoped for a quiet, uneventful year to recover and regain my well-being, not this global chaos but…it is what it is.

Are you struggling with anxiety?

Here are a couple article about coping with anxiety:

How to Stop Feeling Anxious Right Now

Tips: Anxiety and Depression Association of America

Whenever I feel my anxiety rise, I’ve been stepping away from the constant flood of news. I talk to God a lot and hold on to truths that He is in control. I try to keep things in perspective. I also breathe, soak in the quiet beauty of my Enchanted Forest, and cuddle with Hannah Joy,  I do activities I enjoy, such as crocheting, writing, reading, watching light-hearted programs on Netflix and Amazon Prime, taking care of my flock of chickens. I seek out opportunities to laugh–because laughter is powerful. I remember years ago I read an article in Reader’s Digest magazine written by a former Vietnam POW about his experiences. He said that whenever a new prisoner arrived at the prison, as soon as they could, they would tell him that it was very important to keep a sense of humor even in the midst of all the suffering. Prisoners didn’t last long once they lost their ability to laugh. So I laugh at funny memes, cute animal videos, and my friends. Wait! I mean I don’t laugh AT my friends. I laugh WITH them.

I love the Piano Guys. Their love of music and creativity is a joy to watch. I’m going to leave you with their song, “It’s Going to Be OK.”

 

Living History

One of the things that I greatly value that my parents taught me is a love for history. My Dad never took us vacationing to amusement parks. Instead, we always went to historical places such as Greenfield Village in Dearborn, Michigan, or Fort Necessity in Pennsylvania. As we toured historical places, my Mom would tell us to imagine living as those people did:  “Imagine having to cook your meals over a fire like this,” she’d say. “Imagine having to shear sheep, spin the wool into yarn, weave it into cloth, and then sew your clothes. Imagine reading by candlelight. Imagine traveling across the plains in a covered wagon. Imagine living during the days of the Revolutionary or Civil Wars.” Imagine, imagine, imagine. My parents taught me that history isn’t just a bunch of facts to be memorized for a school test. History is actually about the stories of people who lived through it.

My parents didn’t just teach me about the past. They also taught me that today’s current events are tomorrow’s history. Every day we are living history. I remember watching the TV broadcast of President Nixon’s resignation in 1974. I thought it was boring, but my Mom insisted we sit and watch it because “This is history.” I am glad she did that because I can now look back and say, “I watched Nixon resign.”

Through the years, I have been aware that I am living through events that will become history. I have lived through big events such as Nixon’s resignation, the first moon landing, the Challenger explosion, President Reagan getting shot (I saved a newspaper from that day), 9/11, and fears over Y2K.

I have also lived through small personal events: I remember that our neighbor had the first color TV in our neighborhood. She invited us over and we all watched Lassie Come Home in color for the first time! I woke up at my neighbor’s house the next morning because I fell asleep watching the TV.

I remember that my Dad had the first home computer of anyone I knew. He couldn’t just download a new program, he had to type in pages and pages of code from a magazine. One typo would cause the program to not run correctly. We spent hours trying to find that one little mistake. My Dad also ran a “bulletin board,” which was a precursor to websites. In order to access a computer bulletin board, a person put the handset of their phone into a “modem” and called our phone number. We had only one phone line so we could either have the bulletin board running OR make/receive personal calls–not both.

File:Magnavox-Color-Screen-Overlays.jpg
Magnavox TV Screen Overlays

I remember the first game system we had, which was called a Magnavox Odyssey. It was so simple that each game came with a plastic overlay to put on the TV screen. To play Pong we’d put a tennis court overlay on the TV, and we had a haunted house overlay which I think was used for Pac Man.

I remember how crazy people got about Cabbage Patch Dolls. JJ laughed at me a few years ago when I got up early to watch the wedding of Prince William and Kate Middleton. I told him that I was watching it because “This is history.”

The Covid-19 virus is history in the making. It’s not just that “in 2020 the world experienced a pandemic.” It’s about the stories of people who are currently living through it. It is part of history that the quarantined Italians are singing from their balconies to lift their spirits and a wedding was celebrated from balconies in Israel. I’m very interested in hearing my friends’ stories of what they are experiencing in their part of the country or world because it’s part of history. My stories of how EJ and I are experiencing it and YOUR stories are also part of history. If you can, write your stories down because all of our stories will become part of the historical record of this event. Someday people may be as interested in reading our stories as they are in reading the stories of Laura Ingalls Wilder.

Keep Calm and….

I’ve been pondering what to write about today. Of course, right now the whole world is focused on the Covid-19 (Corona) virus. It’s impacting everything from work, school, shopping, travel, special events. It fills the news, social media, conversations. I considered not writing about it since everyone else is writing or talking about it. But then I thought, no, since this blog is about my daily life in Northern Michigan, and this virus is affect my life, I’d write about it. Somewhat.

Over the years, I have occasionally read stories about people lost in the wilderness or facing some other survival situation. We also used to play a game called “Survival.” It’s sort of like Trivial Pursuit only the questions are about what to do in various situations: such as, what do you do if you are bitten by a poisonous snake, or drink poison, or are lost in the wilderness, or have frostbite. The real goal of the game was to educate a person on how to handle these various situations. Do you know the most important thing to do no matter what the crises is? It’s to stay calm. Don’t panic. If you panic, you can’t think clearly.

I know that people are scared in these uncertain times, and I have empathy for them. I know there are all sorts of statistics, and percentages, out there. But I’d like to offer a little bit of calmness and perspective.

The last update I saw, there were over 3,000 Covid-19 virus cases in the U.S. with a death toll of around 61. CBS News wrote, “While more than half of the roughly 137,000 people who’ve caught the virus worldwide have already recovered, the toll in human lives is staggering. More than 4,700 people have died, including at least 51 people in the U.S. — and it’s expected to get much worse before it gets better.” Scary, huh? But let’s break this down.

Each death is tragic for the families. In the USA, as far as numbers go for Covid-19, the numbers are NOT staggering. Out of a population of 327 million in the USA, 3,000 sick and less than 100 dead is not that many. In fact, the infections and deaths from Covid-19 are far fewer than that of an average flu season. The CDC estimates that influenza has resulted in between 9 million to 45 million illnesses, between 140,000 to 810,000 hospitalizations and between 12,000 – 61,000 deaths annually since 2010.

In addition, the infections/deaths from Covid-19 are much lower than other serious viruses in the past, as shown in the chart. Pause and think about all these numbers for a moment.

If you add in worldwide infections/deaths from Covid-19 then you need to take into account that not every country has good sanitation, nutrition, or healthcare, which could affect a people’s ability to fight disease. So, of course, the infections/deaths would be higher in those countries, which will affect the overall statistics. Countries with better nutrition and healthcare will certainly have fewer deaths.

Dr. Shiva Ayyadurai, an MIT scientist and researcher on the human immune system, explained viruses in this video:

“Ok,” some people say, “but you just wait, it’s going to get much worse…” Maybe it is, maybe it isn’t. EJ and I have always told ourselves when facing a hard thing–a life situation or potentially serious health problem–“let’s not worry until we have something definite to worry about. And when we have something definite to worry about, then we will take steps to deal with it.” We have lived through several scary situations, and most of them weren’t as bad as forecast. I remember that there were times when I was a child that so many students and teachers were sick from the flu that school districts closed for a week or so. No one panicked.

There have been deadly viruses in the past so, potentially, we could one day experience another deadly virus. Will the current virus infect/kill as many as those in the past? Maybe, but the numbers don’t seem to indicate it. I will take normal precautions, but I will worry about the Covid-19 virus when I feel I have something to worry about.

However, let’s imagine that the Covid-19 virus becomes the most deadly virus in the history of the planet. We will still pretty much need to deal with a serious virus in the same way that we need to deal with a mild one:

  1. Take care of your physical health: Get plenty of sleep, exercise, and eat healthy foods.
  2. Wash your hands.
  3. Keep away from people who are sick
  4. Stay home if you are sick
  5. If you become very sick, go to the hospital.

And most importantly, DON’T PANIC. Keep calm. I actually think the panic is causing more harm and suffering than the actual virus. People are hoarding, making items less available to others, which is causing more panic. Yet, the factories are still making toilet paper, hand sanitizer, and other items just as they did a month ago. With all the cancellations and closures, businesses will suffer. People could lose their jobs. Listen to what one doctor says:

Here are a few other really good articles that I think are rational and calm:

Coronavirus Panic – What the Media is Not Telling

Letter from Toronto: An Infectious Diseases Specialist Reflects on COVID-19

Covid-19 is Nothing Like the Spanish Flu

 

This Little Light of Mine

At the end of 2019, I decided, determined, resolved, that the year 2020 would be a year of healing, rebirth, and rediscovery. I am determined to have no toleration of toxic behaviors. I am resolved to pursue a life of peace and joy, making my life a work of art.

“How’s it going?” you ask? Ok, maybe you didn’t ask. But I will tell you. It is going mostly well, although I have to fight for the life I want. I have good days with a few bad days mixed in.

I’ve often read that a person can’t recover from abuse while still experiencing ongoing abuse. I know it is true. However, the journey is difficult even after a person has left an abusive situation because the abuser has wreaked all sorts of damage in her (or his) psyche and their “voice” is still in her head, belittling, insulting, undermining, devaluing. I think abuse is like a disaster–tornado, hurricane, earthquake, fire. While the disaster is happening, a person is just trying to survive the brutal chaos. Afterward, there’s a sense of relief that, hey, we made it! But the disaster has caused terrible destruction, and now comes the difficult task of rebuilding–of sorting through what can be saved, grieving losses that can’t be salvaged, replacing the ruined with the new, building stronger than before. There’s a myriad of emotions: relief, despair, grief, weariness, anger, determination, courage, hope, acceptance, growth.

Photo from Pixabay

Last week I had a few emotionally rough days. I have bad dreams pretty much every night, usually involving our relatives, and I often wake up rather sad. After a few minutes and a cup or two of coffee, I can usually readjust my outlook and I am ok for the rest of the day. Occasionally, however, depression/anxiety takes over, and it can take several days of fierce battles to regain my well-being. Often it’s a little thing that triggers the rough day: a bad dream, a memory, a guilting meme, an unexpected expense, a heartbreaking story in the news, an encounter with cruelty… I have days when I think, “I’ve got this!” and days when I think that I will never make it through. I have days when I think, “I really like who I am becoming!” and days when I looked at myself with loathing.

It’s rather odd because I struggle with depression and anxiety, but at the same time, I get lost in the beauty and wonder of the world around me. I deeply love simple things: wildlife eating from the birdfeeder, the stars at night, sunrises and sunsets, wildflowers, the contented clucking of the chickens, the purring of cats, Hannah Joy’s quirks and foibles that make me giggle, spending time with EJ. I love learning new things: I am having a wonderful time experimenting with different recipes with my Instant Pot, which a friend gave us for Christmas. I love learning about the world around me–plants and animals, history, the cultures of different countries. I am awed by the amazing talents and creativity of people. I am overwhelmed by their love and humbled when they trust me enough to share their heartaches with me. Sometimes when a friend shares something silly or “stupid” that she has done, I laugh–not in ridicule, but in absolute delight–because I love people’s quirks, which I think makes them wonderfully unique from anyone else.

For example, once a friend told me that she woke in the night feeling not-so-great, so she went into the bathroom to take an Airborne tablet. Airborne is supposed to help enhance the immune system and reduce colds and such. Only she didn’t realize that you had to wait for the tablet to dissolve in water. She thought it was chewable so she ate it…and her mouth started foaming. She grabbed a glass of water, but the more she drank, the more her mouth foamed. So she’s standing there with foam bubbling from her mouth. She laughed so hard that she could barely tell the story, and I laughed so hard listening to it that tears ran down my face. Quirks like this make me think, “This is why I love you. You are so uniquely and wonderfully yourself!”

If each person’s life could be compared to a small candle, then one of the things I hate most about abusers is that they try to extinguish others’ lights–they destroy the very qualities that makes their victims so unique and wonderful. They extinguish laughter, hope, talent, love.  It’s as if they believe that in extinguishing others’ lights their own will shine brighter. How appalling! I have less and less tolerance for people who try to destroy the beautiful light of others. They are truly destroyers of light.

Photo from Pixabay
Photo from Pixabay

Survivors of abuse have been taught that their little light has no value, that it’s inadequate and pathetic. It’s not true! I want to increasingly help others to rekindle their flickering flame, to see the beautiful light in themselves: I try to tell them that “I see your love and sacrifice. Don’t apologize for your sense of humor. You are delightfully funny and witty. Don’t think your gifts are pathetic, you are wonderfully creative. Don’t hate your quirks and foibles, they are what makes you so unique! You don’t have to be the same as everyone else: Let your little light shine.”

Photo from Pixabay

EJ and I have always cared about other people. We have always tried to be careful to respect others’ rights and boundaries and to never cause them pain. But it has taken us a long time to recognize that our own little lights have value and also deserve to be protected, nurtured, and to shine. We also deserve to have our rights and boundaries respected,  to voice our opinions,  to make our own choices, and we don’t have to tolerate those who cause pain and try to extinguish our beauty.

To me, recovery is threefold. It involves nurturing my own little light, it involves helping others shine their lights, and it involves defending our lights against those who would try to blow them out. I think that the more lights that shine, the more the darkness is diminished.

 

Animal Antics

The weather continues to be rather weird. Today the temperature was in the 40s. It felt very warm outside. This afternoon it began to….I’m not sure if it’s rainy snow or snowy rain. The forecast calls for the possibility of rain/snow for the next few days. I think the rain is a sign that Spring is not too far away. There is a sort of excited hopefulness that occurs in February and March even though there could still be weeks of Winter left. February/March is when we begin to dream of planting gardens even if there are several feet of snow on the ground.

Our animals have been a bit goofy too.

When Hannah Joy sees me going through my before-bed routine, she goes into the bedroom and settles down in the bed. If EJ is home, Hannah first goes over to say good night to him, and then he says, “Go to bed, Hannah” and off she goes. It’s really quite sweet. Hannah and I always go to bed well before EJ because he tries to stay up until the wee hours of the morning to keep to his work-week routine. Sometimes Hannah goes to bed before I do, which is what I thought she was doing last night. But when I finally went into the bedroom, I saw a roll of toilet paper on the floor. I can’t remember exactly how much there had been, but it was considerably smaller so I suspect she ate about half a mega-roll of toilet paper. Today she frequently wanted me to take her outside so she could poop it out. Sigh. At least it all came out. Sometimes she has Kleenex sticking from her behind and I have to wait until it all comes out before I take her back into the house. She always looks so pathetically ashamed when that happens.

EJ told me today that while I was out doing business with my new egg customer yesterday, Hannah Joy was in the house trying to steal Kleenex out of my sweater pocket. We try to keep Kleenex, toilet paper, washcloths, and towels out of her reach, but she is a clever “pit-pocket.” Most people have to child-proof their homes, we have to Hannah-proof ours.

I am expecting one of my egg customers to stop by tonight to pick up seven dozen, some of which she said she is giving to her mother. I’m glad she is buying so many because my chickens are laying eggs like crazy. This afternoon when I went out to the coop, I found ten eggs. There was a hen in their favorite nesting box so I left her alone. I went out a couple of hours later to check the box and I saw eyes looking out at me. I thought, “Oops, another hen is in there laying an egg.” The hens don’t lay more than one a day, but they use the same nesting places. Anyway, something looked “off” so I looked closer and saw that there wasn’t a hen in there. There was a CAT! It was Millie. I got her out of the box and discovered that she had been sitting on five eggs. LOL.

Millie in the nesting box

I try to keep my camera in my pocket for moments like these, but I had forgotten so I had no photos. However, when I went out in the evening to shut everyone up in the coop, I found Millie in the nesting box again. This time I had my camera with me so I took a picture. The nesting box is actually a litter box, which the cats do NOT use as a litter box.

Our chickens and barn cats co-exist peacefully. Every now and then a cat will swat a chicken or a chicken will peck a cat in order to set a boundary but, otherwise, they get along. I’ve even seen a cat and chicken sleeping next to each other. Animals seem to figure out who “belongs” in their family.

My animals make me laugh and bring me joy. I don’t know what I’d do without them. 🙂

 

 

Millie and the Deer

Today is mostly sunny and warm–in the 40s! (That’s Fahrenheit, not Celsius.) We still have plenty of snow on the ground, but there are actually a few bare spots in the driveway.

I’m dreaming of an early Spring. I like Winter, but I can’t wait to plant our garden. 🙂 Also, about this time each year, the county conservation districts have their annual tree sales. Up until this year, we haven’t been able to buy trees because this is also the time of year when we have to do taxes, pay for our vehicle registration, and take Hannah Joy to her yearly vet visit. But this year we splurged just a little and ordered one bundle each of Norway Spruces and elderberry bushes. Each bundle includes five trees. The Norway Spruce trees are supposed to be insect resistant and will replace our dying evergreens, which we believe were killed by insects. We wanted elderberries because they have a lot of health benefits. The Norway Spruces were $8.25 each bundle and the elderberries were $16.50 for a bundle–an awesome price for so many trees! We would have loved to order a couple bundles of each as well as hazelnut trees, serviceberry bushes, maybe some mulberry trees…but, baby steps. The trees will be ready to be picked up at the end of April.

Today a new customer came to buy three dozen eggs. Hopefully, he will become a regular customer because my chickens are laying about 6-10 eggs each day! I’m trying to balance the eggs we need for ourselves with the eggs my customers need so that it comes out even–with neither too many or too few for us. I mean, I don’t want to have so many customers that we don’t have any for us and we have to buy our eggs at the grocery store. That would be silly. But I don’t want to have dozens of dozens filling my fridge either. Balance. Everything is about balance.

Today I saw a drama outside my window that made me laugh. Our cat Millie is sweet so I’m assuming she wasn’t trying to be a jerk–but she was being kind of a jerk. A group of three deer came up to eat the birdseed, but Millie stayed near the feeders, not at all concerned that they were far bigger than she. She made the deer nervous so they didn’t want to come closer. Finally, they walked away, one deer stomping her foot in irritation as she left. I took a series of photos of the encounter.

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What’s worse is that Millie did the same thing with another group of deer who came by a couple of hours later. None of the deer coming to eat the birdseed today have been successful because of Millie. LOL.

Savoir Faire

We sure have had some crazy weather this winter. Wednesday and Thursday we were under a Winter Storm Warming. It snowed steadily for those two days with strong winds that blew the slow around and caused whiteout conditions. But yesterday the temperatures began to rise and today it reached almost 50 degrees! Of course, the snow began to melt. This has been the pattern all winter long: days of cold/snow/wind followed by days of warmth/melting snow. This is a video I took of the snow on Thursday.

Photo from Victoria_Borodinova at Pixabay.

The shortest route to the coop is through our attached garage and through the back door into the garden. This morning as I headed out to the coop to care for the chickens and cats, I heard a noise in the southeast corner of the garage. It sounded as if there was something there, probably an animal of some sort: raccoon? mouse? rat? stray cat? I started to go over to check it out, but then I remembered that in every scary movie, a victim(s) always hears a noise and goes over to check it out and gets killed by the monster, alien, or serial killer. I don’t normally watch scary movies, but I have seen a few, and I always want to cry out a warning: “Duh. Do NOT go check out the strange noise!” So this time I took my own advice and continued out to the coop. I’m my way back into the house, I paused in the garage to listen, but I didn’t hear anything, so I think the “whatever-it-was” left. I did go outside the garage and look for footprints in the snow, but I didn’t see any. I was going to tell EJ about the “thing” in the garage as soon as he woke, but I forgot until tonight.

My chickens are laying so many eggs now that I posted them for sale at FB Marketplace and area buy/sell groups. I’ve gotten a few interested nibbles. But I also got a couple people wanting to buy my chickens. I replied politely but I was thinking that, uh, my posting clearly stated that I was selling the EGGS, not the CHICKENS. One guy, besides wanting to buy my chickens asked if I’d sell him the eggs for $5 total (instead of $9) if he bought three dozen. I was thinking that takes a bit of audacity to expect me to sell them for almost half price. I don’t really make money on my eggs–I am just selling the excess eggs and the money merely helps with the cost of the feed. I answered him politely but I let him know that (1) I’m not selling my chickens and (2) No, I’m not giving their eggs away. Sheesh. If he wants cheaper eggs he should go buy them at Wal-mart.

We are still trying to get rid of the mice that get into our kitchen cupboard. EJ’s trap under the sink caught a mouse the first night he set it, but after that the other mouse kept springing the trap and eating the bait without getting caught. The mouse (or mice) is so clever that we named it Savoir Faire, after the cartoon mouse from our childhood. The cartoon involved a battle of wits between Savoir Faire and Klondike Kat. Of course, the mouse usually outwitted the cat and so far our mouse is outwitting us. But like Klondike Kat, we aren’t giving up.

This afternoon EJ, Hannah Joy, and I drove to Goodwill so EJ could buy some new pants for work. He didn’t find any pants, but he did get a sweatshirt for work. I bought a couple washcloths, dishcloths, dish towels, and hand towels to replace the ones Hannah has chewed up. On the way home, we made a quick stop at Meijers to get a few grocery items. I had found a coupon for “buy one, get one free” cups of coffee at Biggby’s on the Internet, but we decided not to save our money. We are moving in to “No Spend March,” in which we are frugally buying as little as we possibly can. “No Spend March” is following No Spend November, December, January, and February. It’s become something of a challenge.

 

Crikey!

EJ and I had a good weekend together…well, once we got through our appointment at H&R Block to get our taxes done. I always really dread it, expecting the worst, anxious that we are going to have to end up paying a gazillion dollars. I used to not really expect the worst, but then we went through a few situations–such as JJ’s cancer–when I expected the best and the worst happened instead. So now I know that the worst can sometimes happen, and I find myself bracing for it. And then there was that time a couple years ago when our tax preparer initially told us we had to pay $2,000, and I almost had heart failure, but by the time she got through her calculations, I think we got a refund. Whew. So I hate getting our taxes done. But this time, we learned that we are getting a pretty good refund, which means we can pay off some of our bills. Yay!

The rest of the weekend was enjoyable. After our taxes, we ran a couple other errands. Saturday we relaxed. Sunday we went to the hardware store to buy a kitchen faucet because ours was leaking. While there, the clerk mentioned that we were forecasted to get about 12-18 inches of snow! Yikes! I don’t know what weather website he had gotten the information from but, obviously, those particular meteorologists were exaggerating. According to the National Weather Service, the storm system is staying well south of us with not anything near that much snow. We are only going to get a couple inches of lake effect snow in our area toward the end of the week. I’m really enjoying our milder winter this year.

In addition to fixing the faucet, EJ worked on our mouse problem, including setting a trap under the sink and blocking access to the cupboard next to it. Sunday night we heard the trap spring as it caught a mouse. Last night Hannah and I heard the trap spring again. Hannah ran out to the cupboard and sniffed around it, then barked at me to let her in the cupboard. I wouldn’t do it and she was quite vocal about her displeasure. When EJ checked it this morning, the trap was empty–so the mouse had gotten away.

Late this afternoon I was sitting in my chair crocheting as I watched the deer eating the birdseed outside the window. Suddenly, they all looked off to their right, very focused. Usually, they do that when more deer are approaching so I figured that was probably the case this time as well. But then their tails all went up in alarm and they leaped off into the forest to the left. I’ve never seen them signal an alarm like that when other deer come in, so I got up and looked out the window to try to see what had alarmed them.

I saw an animal walking through the forest. It was difficult to get a good look at it because it was a bit far away and the trees often blocked my view. But it didn’t move like a deer. I suspected it was a coyote, and when I saw it go to the deer carcass and start eating from it, I knew I was correct. It’s the first time I’ve ever seen a coyote in the wild. I thought it was interesting. I watched it for at least an hour until it grew too dark to see it. 

I took a video of it so I could show EJ tomorrow. I had to zoom way in so the video is a little grainy. Also, the more I zoom in, the more little movements are exaggerated, but I think that I did relatively well at holding the camera still. Crikey! I felt like Steve Irwin, may he rest in peace.

Hannah Joy and I just heard the mousetrap spring again. Hannah ran to the kitchen to sniff at the cupboard. Once again, she is annoyed that I’m not checking it out too. She is so funny!

Instant Cooking

The view out my window

We’ve had a few cold, windy, snowy days that made my face and fingers ache. Today is mostly sunny. When the sun comes out from behind a cloud, it makes my eyes squint from its brilliance. My northern eyes aren’t used to sunshine. LOL. I read an article that said Michigan may have an early Spring this year, which would be quite nice–especially since last year Spring took forever to get here.

Last weekend I saw a bird sitting in the top branches of a tree on the hill. I’m used to crows sitting there, but this bird looked larger than a crow. I urged EJ to come look. I was going to get the binoculars to try to get a closer look, but before I could, the bird took off. It flew into the air and then went into a very fast sharp dive. Both EJ or I were thrilled–we’ve never actually seen such a dive before. Of course, the bird was some sort of predator but we couldn’t tell what kind–only that it wasn’t an eagle. The eagle we saw a week or two ago stayed around for three days to eat from the deer carcass.

Adorable Bunny is available at Terics Treasures

I’ve been busy working on a crochet project for a customer/friend. I’m made an Adorable Bunny for her and I’m working on two pairs of slippers. I ran out of yarn for the slippers so I’m on a break until we can get to the store on Friday. We are also getting our taxes done on Friday. Yuck Yuck, and Double Yuck. It’s much more fun buying yarn than getting the taxes done.

My friend paid me via money order, and when I opened the envelope last Saturday, I saw that she had very generously sent more than the price I had quoted. I felt very blessed. It was like a hug from heaven. ❤

My dear friend, whom I’ve “adopted” as my sister, and her husband bought us an Instant Pot for Christmas. It’s an awesome gift that has been a real life-changer for us. It’s so easy to make even complicated recipes. The meat turns out so incredibly tender and yummy. I’m having a wonderful time experimenting with different types of food that I never dreamed of making–like cheesecake and yogurt. In the last week or so, I’ve been making Asian recipes–such as Korean Bulgogi and General Tso’s Chicken–that are as good as any we had at Chinese restaurants if I do say so myself. EJ and I are constantly exclaiming, “Oh, yum! Yum!” Furthermore, cleanup is incredibly easy. There are few dirty dishes and no baked-on sauces to scrub off. We use our Instant Pot pretty much every day.

Hannah and the towel she ate.

Hannah Joy has been her loveable, irrepressible self. I think she gets separation anxiety because she gets into mischief when I’m outside for too long. “Too long” seems to be about ten minutes. She has chewed up several washcloths, a hand towel, and a dishtowel in the last month or two. I put them in a drawer in the nightstand to keep them from her, but then she began to eat the towels. The other day I discovered that while I was out caring for the chickens, she had gotten a towel off the shelf, carried it onto our bed, and eaten a hole in the center. When I say “hole,” I don’t mean a tiny little hole. It was large enough that I could easily put it over her head and she could wear the towel as a poncho. EJ says he will cut the towel up and use the pieces for shop rags. If Hannah keeps this up, I won’t have a washcloth or towel in the house. I only hope she doesn’t go after the blankets.

No Spend February

Sometimes I feel as if I blink and then find that the calendar has jumped ahead several days. I mean, it was February 5th and then *** Blink *** it’s suddenly February 14th. Valentines Day. I hope each of you has the type of Valentine’s Day that is most special to you. 

Image result for Create a life you don't need a vacation fromWe are spending Valentine’s Day the way we always spend Fridays. There’s a quote that I often come across that says, “Create a life you don’t need a vacation from,” which is what we began to seriously do when we moved north to our beloved little home in our beautiful Enchanted Forest. We show our love to each other through everyday activities and I really don’t feel the need for romantic dinners or getaways. Of course, it’s fun to do those things sometimes, but it’s because we enjoy each other’s company. I love spending time with EJ whether we eat at a restaurant, go on a rock-hounding (or other type of) adventure, run errands, or simply spend time at home together.

My homemade suet

Besides, after committing to a “No Spend November, December, and January,” we are now into a “No Spend February.” We are trying to pay off some bills so we are pinching pennies so hard that they are passing out from the pain. When possible, we are making items instead of buying them. For example, we ran out of suet for the wild birds so last weekend I learned how to make homemade suet from ingredients I already had at home. I make homemade granola and EJ makes homemade bread every week so we don’t have to buy it. We post a grocery list of items we need to the kitchen door but then we ask ourselves, “What items on this list are absolutely essential and which can we put off buying?” We buy items when they are on sale and shop at Goodwill for clothes. When possible, EJ stops at a store on his way to or from work so we don’t have to make extra trips. Yesterday he went to Blains Farm & Fleet on his way to work to buy cat food, which we were almost out of. The cat food was on sale and we bought it with money we made selling my chickens’ eggs. On his way home from work in the wee hours of the morning, EJ stopped at Meijers to buy oatmeal and carrots, spending only $8. We give kitchen scraps to the chickens or put them in our compost pile so we don’t have much trash. Every week or two we take our trash right to the waste company rather than pay extra for curbside service. It saves us a ton of money.

We’ve had a lot of financial setbacks in recent years–JJ’s medical bills, moving, EJ losing his job last year. Just when we think we can breathe a bit, our medical insurance costs went up a bit and EJ’s company said “No more overtime.” Not having extra money forces us to be creative, and that’s not such a bad thing. Although we have to forego some things, it’s kind of a challenge to try to be as frugal as we possibly can, and we both have a good attitude about it. So…no romantic dinners at a restaurant, but it’s really fun cooking together in the kitchen. And we’ve seen God’s provision, such as our neighbor, whom we had never met before, deciding to regularly snowblow our driveway for us and refusing to be paid for his gas and time. This is the second year he’s cleared our driveway for us. Or having my chickens begin laying eggs earlier than expected this year, which brings in a little extra money. Or selling one of my crocheted items. I’m thankful that even though we don’t often have extra, but we’ve always had enough. We’ve never been hungry or unable to pay a bill.

My chickens are regularly laying eggs now, so I contacted my regular egg customers to let them know. I had wondered if they would have found other sources for eggs over the winter. Chickens can be sort of forced to keep laying eggs during the winter by keeping lights on in the coop, but we’ve read that they actually live longer if allowed a hiatus so there’s no eggs until the chickens are laying. My customers were eager to get back to buying our eggs, and both told me how much tastier our chickens’ eggs are than the ones from the store. One of my very compassionate customers told me that she had bought eggs once at another place this winter, but she wasn’t impressed by their setup so she didn’t buy from them again. She loves how we care for our chickens, which is important to her.

This is not our cat.

I’m still trying to figure out how to keep the outdoor cats’ food from being eaten by the chickens. I’ve been putting on top of one of the raised beds for them, hoping the chickens won’t find it, but also putting a bowl of food on the front porch in case they do. So far the chickens haven’t found the bowl in the garden, but a few days ago I saw a cat eating from it. The cat isn’t ours. I also occasionally see a Blue Jay eating from the front porch bowl. So apparently we feed cats, chickens, wild birds, and strange cats our cat food. I think that trying to keep the cat food for the cats might be a hopeless endeavor. I’m not giving up yet, though. I’m still thinking.

Millie in the Snow

Usually the deer run off if I go outside, even if I’m in the back yard and they are in the front yard. However, yesterday afternoon when I came inside from stealing our chickens’ eggs, I saw SEVEN deer in the front yard. They were a bit nervous, but they settle right down when they saw me sit in my chair by the window. Our cat Millie often hangs out on the front porch–to eat and to get lovings. Most of the deer ignore her, but one deer keeps trying to warn her off by stomping its foot. Even if I can’t see Millie, I can always tell where she is because the deer is looking at her as he warns her. Stomp. Stomp. Stomp. I actually got it on video yesterday:

Morning Delight

Hannah Joy woke me up earlier than usual this morning. She jumped off the bed then came over to the side of the bed and started grunting at me. I figured she needed to go out so I got my coat, hat, gloves, and boots on and then told her to go out in the hallway to put her harness on. She remained sitting, indicating that she didn’t really want to go outside, but since I was all ready, I made her go anyway. When we came back inside, I feed her, which is apparently what she wanted in the first place.

 

Hannah Joy sleeping on my lap.

Then I settled my chair with a cup of coffee and watched the sun rise while Hannah dozed on my lap. When it was light enough, I went out to tend to the animals in the coop, feeding them, giving them fresh water, and opening their little door in case they want to go outside later.

Next, I put seed out for the wild birds. I came back inside and poured myself a cup of hot coffee to warm my soul and hands. I have very warm work gloves but it’s easier to do many tasks without them and on mornings like this one my hands begin to ache from the cold.

A lone little deer.

I settled in my chair again and Hannah cuddled on my lap again. When it grew lighter, I saw a doe and her young’un emerge from the forest and come up to eat the birdseed. The morning was cold enough that I could see their breath as a fog when they breathed. They moved off and then a little deer came by. He was alone so I wondered if it was his Mama who was killed in our little valley. Poor thing…although he is old enough now to make it on his own.

Emptied

After the deer all left, a squirrel ran up to check the feeder. A blue jay also checked it out. They were unimpressed. There was nothing there because the deer ate it all. I might put a little more seed out for them so the birds can have something rather than nothing. I am still trying to re-think how to construct my feeders so the deer can’t access it all.

Yesterday I glanced out of the window and saw a large bird gliding in the sky. I assumed it was a turkey vulture, which I often see overhead. The bird flew toward the house, closer and lower, and I suddenly realized it was a bald eagle! I explained in delight and EJ hurried to the window, but by the time he got the cat off his lap and out of his chair, the bird was gone. However, a few seconds later it flew back into sight–so EJ saw it too–and it landed in a tree in our forest. It stayed there for quite a while. I kept an eye on it because I wanted to watch it soar again, but my attention was diverted by a task and when I looked again it had disappeared. It is always such a thrill to see bald eagles. I’ve occasionally seen them high overheard but never this close. EJ said it was probably attracted by the dead deer in our valley. I really hate seeing dead animals, but it was awesome seeing the eagle.

 

Murder in Deer Valley

I re-organized the chest freezer and the kitchen cupboards on Friday but didn’t stop there. I sorted through my closet yesterday, getting rid of clothes that I no longer wear. I’ve also been working on organizing the library, even sorting through our file cabinet. I still have more straightening up to do in the library. I suspect I might have a touch of Spring fever?

With such a mild winter it’s not surprising that we are thinking of Spring–but it’s only just February and really much too early for Spring. EJ and I both agreed that there are still weeks left for Winter to hammer us. But sometimes it’s difficult not to let hope for Spring’s arrive rise. Although I actually like winter too.

Today the sky was blue and the temps into the mid-40s so EJ and I walked down to the mailbox for our mail. About halfway down the driveway, EJ suddenly exclaimed, “Holy CRAP!” He had spotted a body at the bottom of the small valley we have nicknamed “Deer Valley” because we’ve often seen the grass flattened where they bed down overnight.

The body was what remained of a deer. EJ went down for a closer look but I continued on to the mailbox because I didn’t want to see more than what I had already seen. Although I did take some photos from further back.

It was rather gruesome: The body was torn apart with pieces here and there and the ribs were bare. Things like this remind me that behind the bucolic scenery and beautiful wildlife that we so enjoy, there is a brutal life and death fight for survival. I am aware of this, and I know it is the way of things, but I really do not like to be a witness to it. It makes me sad to think that one of the deer we enjoy was killed. 

It made me feel a bit vulnerable to think of the vicious predator(s) attacking and devouring the deer just over the hill from the house. It makes me wonder whose eyes are watching us from the forest. If the whatever-it-was could bring down a deer, will it consider us or Hannah Joy prey as well? Creepy. Predators are why I lock up the chickens and cats safely in their coop at night. We hadn’t heard anything, although Hannah Joy had been trying to pull me down the driveway for the last day or two so I’m assuming she smelled it. EJ says it was probably coyotes, but there are other predators in the area as well. Yikes.

Here are some of the photos I took of the “crime scene.”  Don’t look at them if you are squeamish.

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Annie

Here we are, we’ve already made it to February. I used to dislike February. Even though it has the least number of days, it always felt like the longest month. By February, winter felt like it had last forever and that Spring would never arrive. But I don’t hate February anymore. It’s just another beautiful month in winter, one of my favorite seasons. Winter is when the landscape is dressed beautifully and peacefully in white. It’s when the wildlife come to the feeders where I can enjoy them. It’s when I enjoy the coziness of drinking hot beverages, wrapped in an afghan, cuddling with Hannah Joy. There’s a lot to enjoy about winter.

My other favorite seasons are Spring, Summer, and Autumn.

EJ did a bit of grocery shopping at the 24-hour grocery store on his way home from work Friday morning. EJ and I enjoy shopping together but if we have a short list of things we need, it saves time and gas if he just does it after work. Although he’s tired after work, he says he doesn’t mind shopping in the wee hours of the night because the store isn’t crowded–it’s usually just him and the store employees.

Friday I re-organized the chest freezer in the pantry. the freezer has dividers. I put all the poultry in one section, all the beef in another, the vegetables and fruit in separate sections. Now I can more easily see what I have and what I need to replenish.

Next, EJ and I tackled the kitchen cupboards. Over time, the cupboards get in disarray and it’s helpful to go through and re-organize them. We made sure that everything was in a mouse-proof plastic or glass jar. I’ve not seen any mice in the food cupboards, but there have been mice in the pot/pans cupboard near the sink. We have to figure out how to stop them from getting in. Hannah Joy tried to do her part–a couple weeks ago she heard a mouse in those cupboards and wanted me to help her get it. I opened the cupboard doors for her, but the mouse had already gotten behind the dishwasher. Hannah ordered me to pull out the dishwasher, but it’s built-in and I couldn’t do it. She was very upset with me.

I’m still trying to figure out how to keep the chickens from eating the outside cats’ food. I put a little dish for the cats in one of the outdoor dog houses, but if the weather is mild and the chickens go outside, they find it and eat it. So I’ve been putting an additional dish of food on the patio table on the front porch. The other day, I saw a blue jay eating the cat food. Sigh. I haven’t given up trying to figure out how to keep the food inaccessible to everyone except the cats.

Our cat, Annie, died yesterday. She’s quite old and her health was deteriorating over the winter so we knew it was only a matter of time. Still, it’s sad. Annie was a Manx (tailless) cat who didn’t simply meow–she sang her meows with melodious trills. I’ve never heard a more musical meow. Annie is one of the cats that came with us when we moved from downstate. We transported all the animals on the day we drove north to close on our new house. We brought only enough items to “camp out” in the house until our friends could help us move the next weekend. EJ had a quiet drive with our dog, Danny, but I (with JJ) drove our car the four hours with seven cats all loudly harmonizing their displeasure at being contained in cat carriers. They all sang differently so it was rather interesting–and created memories that we won’t soon forget.

I worked for a week or so designing a crocheted square that was inspired by our Hannah Joy. The squares can be used to make pillows, afghans, blankets. I’m selling the pattern, but I’m also willing to make the finished items. Here is what I ended up with:

Mucky Job

EJ’s company is banning overtime for now so he had Friday off. I did laundry and made granola while EJ made bread and our first ever attempt to make yogurt in the Instant Pot. The yogurt turned out well–it was very tasty, especially with my granola mixed in.

This afternoon I went out and cleaned the chicken coop, taking out all the dirty straw and replacing it with new. I also reconfigured the coop a bit. I’m always tweaking. Usually, I don’t do any of the cleaning or tweaking until warmer weather–because the poop freezes in cold weather and also the mat of straw on the floor helps insulate the coop. However, our winter has been milder than normal, the poop wasn’t frozen, the chickens were laying their eggs in not-so-great places, and the coop was beginning to get a stronger ammonia smell–probably from the cats. So it was time.

Dirty straw

It snowed a little this afternoon, but the temperatures weren’t terribly cold and the work kept me warm. The dirty straw is very heavy and at times I can roll it up like a carpet. I raked out a mound of straw. Once the dirty straw breaks down a bit it can be used in the garden.  Once the old straw was out, I put clean straw in. I do give the chickens clean straw throughout the winter, but they have a habit of scratching it all onto the floor. I’m trying to figure out what I can do to keep more of it in their perching/nesting areas.

It took me several hours to clean out the coop. I had to work around 20 chickens, most of whom didn’t want to leave the coop, and the cats. A couple times when I bent down to pick up the dirty straw from the floor, Annie jumped on my back. Theo also likes to jump on my back when I’m working, although he didn’t do it today. When a cat jumps on my back, I have to go over to their food shelf and straighten up so they leap off me.

I was caked in muck by the time I was finished. I took my clothes off in the laundry room, put them in the washer, and then went and took a shower. I’m exhausted and my body–especially my arms– is aching from the hard work. It was a good workout and I’m counting it as exercise. I think there should be some sort of chart indicating how many calories are burned by doing chores. I’d say cleaning out the coop should burn about 10,000 calories, resulting in a loss of 20 lbs. Or something.

 

WalkAbout

A snowstorm was forecasted for both last weekend and this weekend. Last weekend’s storm never appeared–although I read that the middle and southern parts of the state were hit with a pretty bad ice storm. Although I think that ice storms are remarkably beautiful, they cause driving treacherous and cause a lot of damage so I’m very glad we were spared. Snow is easier to deal with than ice.

Blue Jay and Cardinal

This weekend’s snowstorm did hit us. As near as I can figure it, we now have about of foot of snow on the ground, which I don’t consider all that much for a northern winter. I think we’ve had quite a mild winter this year. So far. I really enjoyed sitting in my chair yesterday watching the snow fall and the various wildlife visit the feeders. We often have titmouses (titmice?), chickadees, and woodpeckers visit our feeder, and occasionally goldfinches and cardinals. We also have a family of Blue Jays that frequently visits. I assume that they are a family because six of them always arrive in a group.

Blue Bird?

This morning I think that, maybe, I saw a bluebird checking out one of the birdhouses. That really surprised me because I didn’t think they came until Spring. Maybe the bluebird’s visit–if that’s what it was–is a harbinger that we will have an early Spring? I tried to take a photo of it, but it was rather blurry because my current camera sort of sucks. What do you think? Is it a bluebird?

Of course, we also get other wildlife visiting our feeders, such as deer. They can drain the feeders in minutes. I tried to put the tray feeder on a higher hook so the deer can’t reach it and the birds have a chance to eat since the birds are actually why we put out the feeders. Every few nights a possum comes by to eat the seeds the birds and deer spill out of the feeders. I have grown rather fond of the possums, especially since I learned that they eat ticks. I despise ticks. I don’t mind who comes to the feeders; I enjoy watching them all.

I’ve been trying to keep walking around the house every day for exercise. I call it my “WalkAbout.” I was walking 18 times around the house each day last week and even made it to 20 one day. I usually walk half the trips in the morning and half in the afternoon after EJ goes to work. However, Friday morning I didn’t walk at all because EJ and I went grocery shopping and I didn’t walk on Saturday. But I did walk three around the house this morning in the early dawn when it was still mostly dark. Not all at once, I rested between each trip with a cup of coffee because It wasn’t easy wading through the deep snow. Each time, when I had huffed and puffed halfway around the house, with the snow reaching above my boots to my knees and the cold stinging my face, I began to doubt the wisdom of my endeavor. I reminded myself that it would be just as much effort to turn back as it was to go forward, so onward I went. But I think that each around the house in deep snow should count the same as six trips around when I had trodden an easier path through the snow. I took these next photos on my third circle around the house this morning.

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It probably would be easier to use some exercise equipment in the house during the winter, but we don’t really have any space for any and I don’t want to risk waking EJ by doing aerobic exercises. Besides, I find using exercise equipment or routines to be very boring. All that effort used to go nowhere at all. When I walk outside around the house, I am actually going somewhere, and I get to enjoy the changing beauty of the forest. One time as I walked last week, I watched a Blue Jay’s panicked flight as he tried to escape some sort of hawk that had him in its sights. I was glad that the Blue Jay escaped. I know hawks have to eat too, but I don’t want to watch them kill their prey. I tend to root for the underdog–or under-bird, as the case may be.

Surprisingly, the younger chickens laid a couple of eggs on New Year’s Eve, and I’m finding more and more eggs–sometimes in odd places in the coop. In fact, I didn’t realize they were laying as much as they were until I found piles of eggs, some of them frozen, cracked, and unusable so I throw them in the compost pile. If the chickens keep it up, it won’t be long before I will have enough eggs to begin selling again, although I don’t know how customers will make it up the driveway unless they have four-wheel drive.  In the warmer months, I want to reconfigure the coop and have EJ build more nesting boxes.

Our snowstorm has passed. Earlier this morning the sky was cloudless. Clouds are beginning to drift in, but the sun is still peeking through and the snow glitter. I’ve always been mesmerized by the glitter in the snow that sparkles like crushed diamonds. I think I live in a magical land.

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