Spring Into Summer

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

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

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

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

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

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

Timmy reflecting

Nurseries

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is what rural life is like.

Seeds & Saplings

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

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

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

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

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

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

ReWord

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Herbal Teas

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Crow Alliance

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

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

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

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

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

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

Here are some interesting short videos about crows.

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

Michigan Spring

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Lost in the Moment

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Newfangled

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

So I got to thinking.

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

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

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

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

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

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

Light of the World

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

Hannah Joy’s Birthday

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The Wind and the Towers

If you are reading this post then our Internet has been restored. It came on a couple minutes ago–about 3:30 pm. Yay! But I’m getting ahead of myself…

Wednesday evening warm air blew in from the south with a great wind that blew and blew and blew. I’m sure it was the remains of a severe storm front that hit the Plains states. The warmth melted all our snow, and the wind knocked down some trees and caused power outages in our area. One of EJ’s co-workers said that he was driving down the road when a tree fell in front of him so suddenly that he couldn’t stop in time and he plowed into it, damaging his car.

Our lights flicked a couple times early Thursday morning, but–thankfully–our power stayed on. However, we lost our Internet. Our Internet setup is a bit weird. There are a few private individuals who have their own radio dishes mounted on towers which our Internet Service Provider uses to provide service to its customers. Our Internet comes to us through about five privately-owned towers that are between us and our ISP. The nearest tower is owned by our neighbor across the street. You can see it in the photo above–a white “dot” in roughly the center of the photo, which I took standing next to our dish. His tower is the last in the line of towers before it reaches our house. The signal goes from his tower to our dish and a cable runs from the dish to our house. If any of the individuals on our “line” has a problem, we lose our Internet. WE didn’t lose our power in the wind storm, but our neighbors with a tower a few miles away did so we lost our Internet sometime Wednesday night and haven’t had it since. Our ISP told EJ yesterday that the power company estimated that those people will have their power restored today at the earliest.

We tend to live in strange areas. Before we moved here six years ago, we lived in a little village downstate with a population of 600+. The village had one of the last privately-owned telephone companies in the USA, which is rather interesting. However, the company had to rent long-distance service from larger companies, which meant that it was very expensive to call anyone outside of the very small local area—and pretty much anyone we knew was outside the area. We actually got our first cellphones because it was much, much cheaper than having a landline.

Yesterday morning when I woke up, I discovered that the wind had put out the pilot light on our water heater, which means no hot water. Strong winds tend to do this for some reason. After we moved here and this happened a few times, I asked EJ to teach me to relight the pilot so I didn’t have to wait for him to do it. It can be inconvenient to have to wait for EJ if he is at work when the pilot light goes out. The access to the water heater is through the master bedroom closet. To access it, I move aside a wall panel that shuts it off from the closet. The closet is generous, but when we first moved here, we couldn’t find a place for an old dresser and shelves so I put them in the closet and they hold all our surplus health and beauty items—vitamins, medicines, bandages, toothpaste, shampoo, soap, toilet paper, etc.–because our bathrooms don’t have much storage. The closet also stores my vacuum cleaner so it’s a bit cramped. I lay on the floor in the closet so I could reach the panel for the pilot which is at the bottom of the water heater. Timmy (the cat) came in to join me, and then Hannah Joy came in. Our animals love to follow us around and get involved in whatever we are doing. Even the outside cats and the chickens will follow us if we are working outside.

Once I relit the pilot light, I had a horrible time getting to my feet because Hannah Joy was standing over me and she didn’t want to “Move!” Once I got to my feet, I had a difficult time getting the animals out of the closet. I couldn’t shut the door with Timmy inside, but Hannah Joy was standing guard at the entrance—and she doesn’t particularly like Timmy. She doesn’t hurt him, but it’s clear that there is no love between them. I finally picked up Timmy while shooing out Hannah, but Timmy squirmed in my arms to get away from Hannah (like Pepe Lepew’s “girlfriend” in the old cartoons). I finally got both animals out and the closet door closed. Then I got busy with the rest of my day, which turned out busier than I had originally planned. Both EJ and I were exhausted when we finally finished our tasks at the end of the day.

The temperature turned colder yesterday. It began snowing earlier this morning and the ground has a blanket of snow once again.

Hannah Update: The arthritis medication seems to be helping her. Most of the time she has no problem leaping onto the bed and she’s back to her normal quirky playfulness.

Update: Hannah Joy

Thank you for praying. I’ll say right away, so you don’t have to read further, that she’s ok.

You know, we’ve remained strong through all the challenges, difficulties, and craziness of the last two years…but the possibility of losing our beloved Hannah Joy, who is such a ray of sunshine, reduced us to weakness. I know there are people suffering far greater difficulties, heartaches, and losses than we are but, for us, losing Hannah Joy would have drained our spirits and felt like the last straw.

But everything is ok! Whew!

Hannah doesn’t like us to exam her EVER. As soon as we try, she moves to block us. So EJ and I thought we felt a lump but the vet was able to feel her more thoroughly and knowledgeably. I love our vet. She oozes warmth and compassion. She thinks what we were feeling was the fatty tissue from Hannah’s surgery a year ago to remove a (benign) lump.

Our greatest concern was that suddenly Hannah Joy struggled to get up on the couch and bed, and couldn’t do it without help. The Animal Shelter where we adopted Hannah Joy is just down the road from the vet and our vet often gives newly rescued animals pre-adoption exams–so she had met Hannah Joy even before we met her and is familiar with her history from that point on. For those who don’t know, our Hannah Joy and two other dogs had been rescued by the Shelter from an owner who kept them outside and starved them. When we first saw Hannah Joy, she was so thin that we could see all her bones. We took her home and loved her and pampered her, and she is now the joy of our home.

The vet told us today that we don’t really know everything animals endured before they were rescued and she sees a lot of them develop arthritis–probably from past trauma. It’s possible Hannah Joy has trauma in her past–beyond being starved–and is becoming more arthritic. She prescribed some arthritis meds for Hannah and we can give it to her when she is moving stiffly. If that doesn’t help, we can do blood work and an x-ray, but right now the vet said that she is not at all concerned about Hannah’s health. Hannah is quite young (estimated to be 6 years old now) and in good health.

Whew. EJ and I had been so worried about Hannah Joy and had prayed and prayed and prayed that God would show mercy on her and us. And He did.

The arthritis medication the vet described is actually the same as what is prescribed for humans. The doctor called it into our regular pharmacy. We actually had to make a “profile” for Hannah Joy, and she received her first-ever text from the pharmacy notifying her that it was ready for her to pick up. LOL.

We are all exhausted from the relief after all the stress, but EJ left to pick up Hannah Joy’s meds so she can get started on it. He’s also going to pick up a few groceries as well. Poor Hannah Joy is reluctant to move and is swathed in blankets as she dozes next to me on the couch.

Anxiety

Well, there were all sorts of pleasant things that I was thinking about writing about, but this morning I feel consumed with anxiety because Hannah Joy is not acting like herself. She loves to cuddle all the time–next to me on the couch during the day and in our bed at night. Lately, however, she has wanted me to pick her up to put her in our bed at night. Last night I noticed a lump on her belly…I’m afraid she might have cancer or something. We will call the veterinarian this morning.

Hannah Joy has been such a source of levity, joy, comfort, and love through the difficulties of the last couple of years. Her having serious health problems just seems like one problem too many. So I’d like to ask you to pray…

Gleaning

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

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

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

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

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

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