“Who’s a Good Girl?”

Fridays have evolved into our errand running day–the day when we go shopping, or pick berries at a u-pick farm, or whatever task takes us from home.

We stopped first at TSC (or Tractor Supply Co., for those who aren’t familiar with the abbreviation) to get another bag of starter feed for the chicks. By the time they finish this second bag, I think they will be old enough to mix with the other chickens and eat the community feed. I had been thinking that I would keep the chicks separate from the other flock for only another week or two, but I read that they shouldn’t be mixed until they have all their feathers and are roughly the same size as the older chickens.

Our second stop was at Meijers or, as our GPS mispronounces it, “meejers.” We had a short shopping list of items we needed. We bought Hannah Joy a bone because she is so well-behaved when we take her for drives. Actually, we bought it for her just because. I gave it to her as soon as we returned to the Xterra. She was so excited that I had trouble getting it  unwrapped for her. When I finished unwrapping the bone, she took it happily and began gnawing at it.

I thought the bone would keep her busy while we made one last brief stop at Goodwill to buy EJ a pair of pants for work. It didn’t keep her busy enough. When we returned to the car, we discovered that Hannah had pooped on the back seat. We didn’t scold her because this is the first time she has “gone” where she shouldn’t have. I had taken her outside earlier in the morning, but I don’t think she went poop. Usually, I walk her around a little before we take her for a drive, but it was raining hard enough that all three of us were only interested in running to the Xterra before we got soaked. By the time we reached Goodwill, it was then early afternoon and obviously, she couldn’t hold it anymore.

When we got home, I got Hannah out of the vehicle, walked her around a little, and took her in the house while EJ took care of Hannah’s indiscretion and unloaded the groceries. He usually unloads the groceries while I put them away. That’s when we discovered that while we were in Goodwill, Hannah had gotten into the back and eaten almost a whole loaf of dark rye bread that EJ had bought as a special treat for himself. She had left only four pieces, and one of those had teeth marks in it and had to be tossed.

Hannah was not a particularly “good girl” yesterday and didn’t really deserve her bone but, oh, she loves it! She frequently gnaws at it and even took it to bed with her last night to sleep with instead of one of her balls.

Hannah loves all the toys we give to her. It’s gratifying to see such thankful delight. I had to chuckle last night because she was a bit restless after we went to bed. “What’s the matter?” I asked. “Does your tummy hurt because you ate a loaf of bread?” She didn’t act as if she was in pain. Although she was whimpering, she was also wagging her tail. It went “thump, thump” on the bed, making it difficult for me to fall asleep. Finally, she jumped off the bed. I turned on the light to see if I needed to take her outside but I found her gazing intently under the nightstand. I went to the kitchen to grab a flashlight, wondering how I would handle the situation if there was a mouse under there. In the bedroom, I got on my hands and knees and shone the light under the stand while Hannah stood anxiously beside me. I saw nothing, nothing, nothing….until suddenly the light shone on one of Hannah’s orange balls. Apparently, she couldn’t sleep knowing her ball was out of reach. I used a cane to get the ball out. Hannah was beside herself with happiness. She took both bone and ball to bed with her and slept peacefully for the rest of the night.

After Hannah and I went to bed, EJ went out to the garage. He has been working hard at getting it organized. He has been making a lot of good progress.

EJ cut my hair a couple days ago. He usually cuts his own hair and does a really good job at it. He started cutting my hair a year or two ago to save money. We are trying to pay off our credit cards and are cutting costs where we can. EJ actually does quite well with my hair, but he was a bit concerned this time because I told him that I wanted to go back to having “bangs” (which I think is called “fringe” in the UK). He was afraid of messing it up. but I told him that I was confident he would do a good job, but even if he totally messed up my haircut, I’d simply wear a hat in public until it grew back. So EJ cut my hair, giving me bangs, and I am pleased with it.

Hannah Joy was very interested in the hair-cutting session. She watched us intently and sometimes stood up on the stool that I was standing on so EJ didn’t have to bend down. At times, she got between EJ and me. I’m not sure whether she was trying to protect me from a bad hair-cut or was simply interested. At one point, she stood up at the bathroom counter, looked in the mirror, saw herself, and started growling. It all made me laugh.

Hannah wants to participate in everything we do. She is impossible to overlook or ignore–not that we want to. She brings us a lot of joy. She really is a “good girl.”

 

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Baby Turkeys

The change of seasons is very noticeable now. The nights are getting cooler, the leaves on the trees are beginning to change color, the ferns and other plants on our property are turning brown, and the garden is dying back, although we still have veggies that we can harvest. Now that it’s September, I will quit exclaiming that autumn is arriving much too early! (I suspect that I say that every year.) I can just settle back and enjoy the season.

In late summer/early autumn, Mama turkeys wander across our property with their babies following after them. Sometimes they come very near to our house. It’s always a delight to see them. We’ve seen the flock less frequently this year–no doubt because Hannah Joy barks at them and scares them away.

Hannah Joy barks at other wildlife too. A raccoon frequently comes after dark to eat from the birdfeeder. When Hannah notices it, she rushes the window, barking ferociously. Sometimes she is successful at scaring away the raccoon, but sometimes the raccoon looks at her contemptuously and goes back to eating. Hannah always whines in distress when that happens.

I’d like to teach Hannah not to bark at the wildlife, but I’m not sure exactly how to go about it. I’m not sure if she thinks it’s fun to scare them or if she’s trying to protect us from turkeys, deer, chipmunks, and raccoons. When Hannah barks at the window, we always looking out to see what she is seeing/smelling, but we often see nothing. But a week or so ago, I looked out the window when Hannah barked and saw a grouse jumping up from the ground to eat berries on our bushes. It’s the first time I’ve seen a grouse. That was special.

This morning as I came out of the bedroom after getting dressed for the day, I glanced out the window and spied a strange bird landing on the top of our birdhouse at the edge of the forest. I looked more closely, wondering what it was. Then I realized it was a baby turkey. I wondered, “Why and how did a baby turkey get to the top of the birdhouse?” As I looked around for my camera, it fluttered to the ground, joining its Mama and sibling. I looked around, concerned about what had happened to the other babies in the flock. Then I saw a baby fly down from the trees, and then another, and another. We rarely see turkeys do anything except walk, but they can actually fly. I didn’t know this until after we moved north and I saw them fly once when they were threatened and a couple times when they flew down from the trees in the morning. I’ve never seen babies fly before and I didn’t know they could at that young age.

As soon as I realized the babies were flying down from the trees, I began videoing. It was cool, and not a sight I expect to see often. I think they roost in the trees at the location where they happen to be at twilight. When all her babies were safely on the ground, the Mama came closer to the house. It wasn’t until I happened to see Millie that I realized that Mama was keeping between the cat and her babies. I’m surprised she didn’t attack Millie or warn her babies to get to safety, but it was a very peaceful encounter.

Here’s the video:

I love living in our enchanted forest.

 

I’m So Blue-hoo-hoo

I’m so blue-hoo-hoo,
blue-hoo-hoo,
blue-hoo-hoo-hoo
I’m so blue I don’t know what to do.

Blueberries!

Since yesterday, I’ve been humming that children’s Veggie Tales song which, appropriately enough, was sung by Madame Blueberry. Only, if I remember correctly, she was sad because she wanted more stuff. I was happy because I was surrounded by the blue of blueberries.

Yesterday EJ, Hannah Joy, and I took an enjoyable drive along beautiful lakes and through lovely forests and orchards to the blueberry farm I had found online called Bulldog Berries. In answer to my question, the woman who owns the farm along with her husband told me that the farm was named after their dog, who had died last year at 13 years of age. The farm has more than 20 acres of different types of blueberries that ripen at different times, which prolongs their picking season.

Hazy blue bushes of berries.

We parked the Xterra, leaving windows open for Hannah, and walked with the buckets provided to us to the section of the farm where we were told the latest berries were ripe. The bushes of ripe berries looked a hazy blue color from a distance. We passed a couple of cute Alpacas in a field. The farm reminded me of Farmville, the game I had played on Facebook nine or so years ago.

EJ picking blueberries

It was a beautiful day, perfect for picking–with cool temperatures in the high 60s and a nice breeze. We both filled our buckets and then walked back to the stand to have them weighed. I think we each picked about 7 lbs of berries. The cost of picking the berries ourselves is $2.50 a pound, much cheaper than the $3-$4 a pint at the stores.

When we returned home, we froze them. I put a handful of blueberries in our oatmeal this morning. Yummy!

Hannah Joy did her own berry picking this afternoon, eating the raspberries off our bushes that were within reach of her tie-out. She’s funny.

Do you see Hannah Joy in her chair and the cat to the left? The cat is Timmy. Hannah doesn’t like Timmy and will often bark sharply at him and chase him, especially if he gets too close to us. She never actually hurts the cat. I think Hannah is jealous of him. In the photo, Hannah looks like she’s not paying any attention to Timmy, but she is just pretending. In reality, she’s hyper-aware of him. I had told Hannah to “be nice” to Timmy, and she’s sort of sulking. She tries (somewhat) to resist the temptation of barking at him, but she always gives in and turns to bark briefly at him and then turning quickly away as if she didn’t bark at all and is totally innocent–as if we won’t notice or hear her if she does it quickly enough. Hannah is a hoot. LOL.

I took this photo this afternoon. The chicks are growing up fast. They have most of their feathers now.

The baby chicks are growing fast. I’ve been trying to figure out when to allow them to join the general population. I think maybe in another week or two. I’d like them to be big enough that they won’t be at risk from the cats or other predators. The cats get along with the older chickens just fine, but I’m not sure if they’d be tempted with smaller birds. I’d rather be safe than sorry.

We often let Theo and Millie, our outdoor cats, out of the chicken pen now. They enjoy roaming through the garden–and sometimes beyond. We always shut them up in the coop at night. I’m not sure are good hunters, but they are very affectionate cats and we always give them lovings.

Annie is not impressed with Theo and Millie and hisses at them when they get near her. She doesn’t like being in the coop with them but stays in the garden at night. We have shelter for her there. However, but once it gets cold, I’ll make her go in the coop with the others.

EJ says I should stop taking photos of him, but I tell him that he is my muse. I love taking photos of him.

I have been seeing a type of caterpillar that I had never before seen. I think it looks like bits of white, black, and orange yarn twisted together. They become milkweed tussock moths. I wasn’t sure if they were good or bad, but EJ read that they are native and if we have enough milkweed for both them and the Monarchs, we should just let them be.

There are reports that the Northern Lights might put on a show for us this weekend. We are going to go out for a look, but the forecast is for mostly cloudy skies. Because of the Great Lakes, Michigan tends to have a lot of cloudy weather. I think clouds are interesting, but they do sometimes hinder our view of celestial events.

 

Vanished the Castle

We’ve had some very autumnish days. Tuesday was blustery and there was a lot of rain in Northern Michigan, although most of it missed us until night. Yesterday was so chilly that I didn’t open the windows, as I usually do in the mornings after I’ve fed all the animals. When EJ got out of bed, he exclaimed, “What? The windows aren’t opened?” and he opened them all. But it was so chilly–in the 60s (F)–that over the next hour or two, I quietly closed them one by one. I wore a sweater in the house and a jacket outside. Brrr.

The Kitchen Garden

I finished my Kitchen Garden a couple days ago. I’m not concerned about filling the empty boxes with dirt until next Spring (unless I find dirt on sale) since it’s so late in the season. EJ is considering putting up a wooden fence to keep out the deer, although I’ve read that deer don’t like aromatic herbs such as sage, rosemary, basil, mint, or lavender. I think a decorative fence would make the raised beds–made with pallet pieces and wooden boxes–look nicer, although I wouldn’t want anything that blocked the sun or the beautiful view out the window.

Yesterday afternoon I got out the fence post digger, intending to move one of the birdhouses a little closer where it isn’t blocked by a tree. The previous owners left behind an awesome castle birdhouse, fastened to a stump at the edge of the forest, surrounded by thorny berry bushes like Sleeping Beauty’s castle in the fairy tales. I looked for the castle as I considered where to relocate the other birdhouse because I wanted to make sure they weren’t too close. Only….I couldn’t find the castle! I stared in confusion at where it was supposed to be, and it wasn’t there! I didn’t see it on the ground either. It was just gone–poof–as if it had never been. ! I cried out in horror and grief,

“What evil sorcery has vanished the castle?!!” 
Evil sorcery has destroyed the castle.

Ok, I didn’t really say that. I only thought of that cry just now. But I felt as if sorcery had made the castle vanish, and I would have said it–or at least thought it–if I had thought of it at the time. I pushed my way through the thorny berry bushes like a prince rescuing a princess. Sadly, I found that the stump on which the castle had rested had toppled over and slid a short distance into the ravine, taking the castle with it.

The Castle has fallen

I went into the house and put on my knee-high work boots. Then I went into the garage and found a long length of twine, which had been used to hold a strawbale together. I also got out a straight-edged shovel to help me keep my balance at the edge of the ravine, as well as to use to pry the castle off the stump. Oh, and I grabbed my phone just in case I fell into the ravine and needed to call for help.

I went back through the berry bushes to the fallen castle. I thought about tying the twine around the castle to prevent it from sliding down further and to help me pull it up. However, I couldn’t find a good place on the castle to tie it to, so I didn’t use it. I was able to retrieve pieces of the castle, and then pry the base off with the shovel. I took the pieces to the patio table on the deck. The wood is decayed and I don’t think it can be saved. I am sad. I loved that castle. It added such an enchanting bit of whimsy to our forest. EJ says he can build another, but we have so many tasks that NEED to be done that I don’t think he will have time to build a castle.

I am grieving the loss of my beloved castle. 😥

Berries

It’s feeling more and more like autumn, which isn’t really surprising since autumn is getting closer and closer every day. This summer has felt cooler and drier than usual and autumn seemed to arrive early, but I think autumn always feels like it comes earlier than expected,

Friday morning EJ and I went to the Farmer’s Market and bought tomatoes. We had considered trying a different market, just for fun and discovery, but most of those we found on the Internet were opened only one day a week, and the day was not Friday. So we went to our usual “permanent” Market.

When we got home, EJ began the canning process. I offered to help in any way I could, but he wanted to focus on tweaking his process so I left him to it. Over the years, we have developed a relationship in which if one of us has a vision for a project, he/she gets to be the “boss” of the project and the other plays a supporting role, which we call “hero support.” We did this initially with home improvement projects when one of us had a creative vision for a room–sometimes it was EJ and sometimes me–and the other would help bring the vision to life. It has since expanded to other areas. So EJ gets to “head” the canning project and I am his hero support. 🙂

Hannah Joy eating berries from the bushes

Saturday was our resting day. When we took Hannah Joy out in the early evening, EJ noticed that some of our raspberries were ripe. We have lots of bushes on our property, although the berries are small and usually the birds get to them before we do. EJ picked a few, eating a couple and giving a couple to me to enjoy. I gave one to Hannah. She really liked it. The next morning when I tied her outside, I spied her eating the berries from the bushes she could reach.

I had searched the Internet this summer trying to find u-pick farms to visit. I found a cherry orchard last month, and we had a lot of fun picking 22+ pounds of sweet cherries. I found a blueberry farm only in the last week or two. We intended to visit it this Sunday but we ran into a snafu.

Traverse City has a lot of festivals throughout the year: a chocolate festival, a film festival, the National Cherry Festival, and several others. This Sunday, it held its first-ever Ironman race, in which participants swam in Grand Traverse Bay, and then biked and ran through the city. In total, it was a 70+ mile course. It sounds like it was a fun day and a resounding success.

We usually stay away from the festivals because there are so many thousands of people and so much traffic! The Ironman race was especially “peoply.” Streets were closed off along the race route and, as expected, traffic was a snarl. At least one church even canceled Sunday services because of the expected traffic. I was hoping that we could just avoid the area, but when I checked the race route Sunday morning, I discovered that the route was very close to the u-pick farm we wanted to visit. I messaged the farm to ask if they knew of an alternate route, but I think they weren’t even aware that the race was going to be so close. After I messaged them, they decided to close their business for the day at noon.

I searched on-line for other u-pick farms. The ones I found were either also in the race area, or they didn’t have blueberries, or they were closed on Sunday. I found one not far in the opposite direction. We hopped in the car with Hannah Joy and drove there. The very friendly young man said that they had gotten out of the u-pick business a few years ago. I think they now are mostly a roadside bakery with farm-fresh fruit for sale. We had a really nice chat with him before driving home.

Even though we were unsuccessful in finding a u-pick farm, we enjoyed the drive through miles of beautiful orchards so we didn’t consider the day a waste. It’s getting late in the season so I didn’t know if we’d be able to pick berries this year. However, the first u-pick farm messaged me back: “We have a variety just coming on…so should have some next weekend.” So visiting the farm will be our project next weekend.

The raccoon returned to the feeder last night. It was quite bold, continuing to eat even when we moved around inside the house. When Hannah finally noticed it, she rushed the window and knocked out the screen. I grabbed her and shut the window. When she had calmed down, I opened the window and retrieved the screen. I don’t think it’s damaged. Silly dog. The raccoon ran off when Hannah barked, but a short time later it was back.

Blurry photo of the raccoon

I tried to get a photo of the raccoon, but despite fiddling with the settings, the best I could do is a blurry photo. My current camera sucks. It’s the worst camera I’ve ever owned. EJ says we will get me a new camera when we get extra money–but until then I have to struggle with this one. I’d also like to someday get a trail camera with night-time capabilities so I can see what animals are coming onto our property. But again, that’s in the future.

 

The Kitchen Garden

Hannah Joy

I’m cuddling with Hannah Joy this evening, tired after two days of hard, but satisfying, work.

Yesterday I mowed the lawn. It’s dry enough that our grass has grown slowly so I’ve only had to mow maybe four times this summer. Although the weather was not terribly hot, it was rather humid and I kept melting so I took multiple breaks. I’d go inside and sit in front of my fan for a few minutes until I cooled off. By that time, the washer had finished so I’d take the wet clothes out and hang them on the line. Then I would get back to mowing.

This morning I cleaned out the fridge, throwing out food that had gotten pushed to the back and forgotten. There wasn’t much throw-away food. I also washed the shelves.

Later I began to work on the raised kitchen garden next to the deck in the front yard. It will contain the herbs I use most often: oregano, basil, sage, rosemary, thyme, chives, and maybe parsley. Putting the garden at the front of the house serves two purposes: 1. Currently, I have to go through the entrance hallway, through the garage, and out to the garden to get herbs when I’m cooking. It’s a bit of a trek, relatively speaking, through three doors and a gate. Having a kitchen garden off the deck will make my herbs more accessible. 2. Moving the herbs will free up space in the big garden for more vegetables, such as beans, tomatoes, peas, peppers, and hopefully corn.

To make the kitchen garden, I dragged some pallets to the side of the deck at the front of the house. I stacked one on top of the other, and then I dragged an empty wooden box from the garden and set it up on the pallets. Next, I shoveled dirt from another garden box into the wheelbarrow, pushed it to the kitchen garden, and filled the empty box. Then I went back to the garden and pulled the newly emptied box into the wheelbarrow, pushed it to the kitchen garden, and set it up on the pallets. I filled that box with dirt from another box in the garden. I did this once more until I had three raised garden boxes. The last box I didn’t fill with dirt because I was tired. I did plant the sage and oregano in the two filled boxes. The herbs had not been doing well in the small planters. I thought, hey, they might thrive more in the boxes even though we are running out of summer.

I have to set up three or four more boxes to hold all my herbs, but it’s hard work so I’ll do it little by little. I want to get them set up before winter so they will be ready next Spring. Winter is weeks away, so I’ve got time.

I’m thinking about eventually planting lavender around the perimeter of the kitchen garden because I heard that deer don’t like it.

Hannah Joy watched me through the window as I worked. Can you see her?

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The ladder I made to the top platform

When I tired of hauling heavy boxes and dirt, I built a ladder for the chickens so they can reach the topmost platform. I don’t know if I like it. It might be better to just put a board ramp to the top. I’ll see if the chickens use the ladder before I change anything. I was thrilled to see them using the lower platform. I’ve found eggs in it yesterday and today. Millie, our black cat, also likes to lay in it. 🙂

Chicks getting more feathers!

The chicks are growing fast. I see remarkable transformation from day to day. They now have many more feathers. They are in kind of an ugly stage between cute little bits of fluffs and pretty adults. Shhhh. Don’t tell them I said they were ugly. They have cute personalities.  They start chirping when they hear me coming, and when I open their door, they rush up to see me. 🙂

EJ doesn’t have to work tomorrow (his regular workweek is 10 hours Monday through Thursday). We plan to go to a Farmers Market for more tomatoes and spend the rest of the day canning them.

Yawn. It’s almost time to shut the chickens and cats safely in their coop for the night. Then I get can my pj’s on and relax until bedtime!

 

 

The Dead Tree

This morning I took EJ out to the chicken coop to look at the roosting/nesting platforms I built yesterday. I described how I had built them while he looked them over. he told me that I had done a very good job–that they looked nice and were very solidly built. I felt very proud of myself.

The hen on the platform

I haven’t seen any of the chickens on the platforms yet. Impatient, I picked up a hen and put her on the lower platform, hoping she would like it and tell the others. I don’t know yet if she has or will, but chickens are curious birds and I’m sure that eventually they will look at it, especially when the chicks grow up and join the general population.

 

Growing babies

I opened the door to the second floor of the fancy coop and I was able to get a photo of three of the chicks who had climbed up there. They are getting larger in size and also sprouting more feathers.

Some of our pine trees at the bottom of the driveway have died. EJ suspects pine bark beetles killed them. He’d like to eventually get (I think) Norway Spruce to replace them because the beetles don’t go after them. During a storm a few months ago, the wind caused one of the dead trees to tilt across the driveway. If it fell all the way over, which would happen sooner or later, it would fall across the driveway. We have been discussing how to move it out of the way. EJ couldn’t just pull the tree straight out of the way with the Suburban because he’d have to drive down a rather steep embankment–and I suppose there would be a risk of the tree dropping on the vehicle? We don’t have a chainsaw to cut it up. A chainsaw is on the long list of items that we really could use but can’t afford yet. We finally decided on a plan, and EJ decided to implement it early this afternoon.

The strap around the living tree.

EJ hooked a strap around the dead tree and fastened a thick towing wire to it. (I’m not sure what to call it.) He hooked another strap around a living tree further down the valley–the strap was so the living tree wouldn’t get damaged. He ran the wire through the loops up to the Suburban, and then he drove up the driveway. The dead tree was pulled toward the living tree and off the driveway. The eventually straps broke, but EJ got the tree off the driveway far enough that it won’t block us in or out when it eventually falls. I, of course, took a video of the endeavor:

One of my regular egg customers stopped but this afternoon to pick up a few dozen. He has told us that he has a peach orchard and that we can come to pick as many as we want at no cost. He’s going to be gone next week, he said, but we can go pick the following week. I think my regular customers are really nice.

Hannah Joy is still refusing to go through the door onto the porch. It’s just as well because today I saw a couple living yellow jackets going in and out of their nest by the porch steps. EJ has sprayed the crack where they live at least twice, and I have sprayed twice, and they are still alive. They are nasty unkillable thugs.

It’s getting noticeably darker earlier and earlier in the evening. Tonight when I went out to shut the wee beasties in their coop, I heard coyotes howling again. It’s rather a spooky sound.

Pallets and Platforms

Look! Look at the photo above! Yesterday I saw the first autumn leaf on the ground. Autumn is getting closer…

Friday’s canning tomatoes and freezing green bean exhausted us so on Saturday EJ and I rested.

Sunday I cleaned the house a bit while EJ was out doing something else. Then we worked together at organizing his garage. Everything from the basement and garage at the old house downstate was put into the garage up here, so organizing it is a long-term project, a marathon job, not a sprint. Plus, we don’t work on it when we have higher priority tasks to do or when it’s freezing in the winter.

This is where the yellow jacket nest is.

Hannah Joy doesn’t like going out through our main entrance because a yellow jacket had stung her last week. They built a nest under a post next to the porch steps. Usually, when I give Hannah a command to go onto the porch, she runs onto it and then waits for her treat, but now she is in such a hurry to get inside the house before the yellow jackets sting her that she ignores the treat. We were trying to figure out the best way to get rid of the nasty buggers, and then yesterday another yellow jacket landed on Hannah’s head. I said, “That’s enough!” and I drove to the store and bought some Raid Hornet and Wasp spray. We waited until dark and then EJ sprayed their lair. He sprayed it again this morning. But Hannah is still scared so this morning she stopped at the kitchen door, refusing to step foot into the entrance hall leading to the porch door. When I put her harness on, she ran to the door leading to the deck instead. Poor baby.

The baby chicks are growing up fast! Every day they are noticeably bigger, and they are getting more feathers. I would try to take photos or videos of them for you, but they try to rush out whenever I open their coop door, and I have my hands full trying to keep them from escaping.

The articles I read on the internet said that the chicks should be kept separated from the older flock until they are 4-6 old–or even 8 weeks. Once we let them join the others they will be able to go outside, so I’d like to keep them contained until they are big enough to not be a predator’s McNuggets.

After EJ left for work this afternoon, I went out to the chicken coop to build platforms. I figure that when the chicks get old enough to mix with the older flock, they will all need more roosting/nesting areas.

The previous owners of our house had left behind a few wooden pallet pieces and EJ brought home discarded pieces from his previous job. We’ve put them all to good use, using many of them as bases for our raised garden beds. I used five pieces today to build platforms for the chickens: two vertical ones to hold up two horizontal ones forming a double layer of platforms. I would have liked the top platform to be a little lower, but I had to work with what I had. Maybe in the future EJ can help me lower it. If nothing else, the cats might enjoy sleeping up there. I nailed thin wooden boards to the fifth pallet piece to be used as a ladder.

I saw Millie rubbing up against a hen this afternoon–you know, as cats do–and the hen ignored her, so it appears they are all co-existing quite well.

I’ve been turning on the outside deck lights at night. With the light on, I can watch the raccoon sneaking up to eat from the bird feeder tray. I’ve been watching a raccoon as I write this post. Hannah Joy is fast asleep on my lap and totally unaware of the raccoon just outside the window. I’m hoping she doesn’t wake up because if she sees the raccoon, she is going to explode with excited barking. Raccoons are very cute and I enjoy watching them–as long as they don’t threaten any of my animals.

I heard coyotes howling in the distance when I went out to shut the animals in the coop for the night.

Oops, Hannah just woke up and noticed the raccoon. Now she’s alert and on guard. I’m quite sure the raccoon won’t be back for a while. Hannah keeps us safe from all threats, real and imagined. The other day she knocked a candle holder off the window sill and then spent the next 10 minutes growling at it. LOL. We sure love our Hannah Joy.

 

Green Beans and Tomatoes

Thursday morning EJ and I drove to the newest farm store. There are multiple farm stores in our area; we shop at three of them because they each have different benefits, including distance to our house, products, and sales. Tractor Supply is closest to us and has the poultry feed we need, as well as fencing, etc. Another store has their own mixes of native flower seeds and wild bird seeds that are better and cheaper than the name brands at the other stores. We’ve also bought large bags of cat food there. The newer farm store occasionally offers good sales. We always try to watch items we need when they are on sale to help us with our costs.

The newest farm store had sales this week on cat, dog, and chicken food, as well as canning jars. It’s far enough away that we usually order the items on their website. When they notify us that our order is ready, we drive to the store to pick it up. It’s easy–we know before we get there that everything we need is available. We just pull up to their drive-through area, they bring us our items, and we load up and leave.

When we arrived home, EJ unloaded everything while I went in and fixed us lunch.

As soon as EJ was awake and ready on Friday morning (he works second shift so sleeps later than I do), we drove to the local farmers market where we bought a box of tomatoes and a bushel of green beans.

EJ was in charge of canning because he remembers his Mom doing it, and so he has a bit more knowledge about the process than I do. Even so, he’s never done it himself so he has been studying the “how to’s” all week in preparation for this day. It takes concentration to learn a new skill so I left him to it. I figured that once he has perfected the technique, he can teach me and we can work together. It was a lot of work, and there are things he will do differently next time, but all his cans sealed so I considered it a success!

Meanwhile, I set up a small folding table in an out of the way spot in the kitchen, and worked on the green beans, snapping off the ends and breaking them in two. It took me hours and hours to process the beans, then I had to blanch them, and then put them in bags to freeze. I didn’t finish all my work until late. EJ wanted enough beans to last until next year, but I might have bought a wee bit too many. We were concerned that our freezer wouldn’t hold them all, but I said, “where there’s a will, there’s a way!” and I got them all to fit.

I had to chuckle because we each happened to wear shirts that matched our tasks. EJ wore red for tomatoes and I wore green for beans. LOL.

Hannah Joy mostly lay at our feet, but now and then she stood near me and intently watched me as I worked as if she was trying to figure out what I was doing.

We had success and got a lot of accomplished. Yay! But we were exhausted when we finished, and EJ’s back is out this morning. 😦 At least he has two days to deal with his back until he returns to another week of work.

I’ve started turning on the outside light that overlooks the deck at night, and I’ve been observing a raccoon climbing the bird feeder post and eating the sunflower seeds that I put out for the birds. One evening I saw at least three raccoons. The raccoon returned last night as well, as we were relaxing from our day’s work. He was quite bold and didn’t scare easily as we moved away. Raccoons could be a threat to our chickens or garden, but as long as they aren’t troublesome, I enjoy watching them. I think they are quite cute.

Canned Hopes

EJ and I went outside Saturday night, hoping to watch the Perseids meteorite shower. However, the waxing moon washed out most of the stars. And the next two nights were cloudy. Bummer. But we heard an owl or two hooting and we also watched the two bats that often swoop over our property eating insects.

Two evenings ago I took Hannah Joy out just after dark. I shone my flashlight around and the light reflected on two eyes peering at me from inside the forest. The eyes and I stared at each other for a minute or so, and then I heard the whatever-it-was move off. I think it was a deer but, of course, I have no way of knowing since all I saw were its eyes. It made me aware that unseen animals are probably often watching us from the forest.

I turned on the outside lights that are near the deck. and later I saw a raccoon wander up to the deck, tilt its head to sniff the bird feeder, and then wander away. He/she was unaware that I was watching.

Sometime during last night, I was awakened by the strong odor of a skunk. It kept me awake for a while. Ugh.

We love watching the wildlife that lives in, or visits, or flies over our Enchanted Forest. Someday I’d love to get a trail or surveillance camera so I can see the animals that make an appearance during the night.

This is where the yellow jacket nest is.

A week or two ago, Hannah Joy got stung by one of the yellow jackets that have built a nest under one of the posts right next to the porch steps. Now she looks woebegone whenever I start to take her out that door. She prefers instead to go out the door that goes out onto the deck. Poor thing. We aren’t sure, at the moment, how to get rid of them. We might have to get a hornet/wasp spray from the store.

Yesterday morning EJ and I organized the pantry. Our pantry is the size of a smallish- to medium-sized bedroom and is been both a food pantry and a storage room. We threw away some stuff, took other stuff into the garage, EJ donated more stuff at Goodwill on his way to work, and we rearranged the stuff that remained. Now we have several empty shelves to hold our jars of food that we can.

Tomorrow morning we hope to drive to the newest farm store to pick up the items we had ordered. The store is far enough away that when we see sales in their flyers of items we need–such as poultry feed, dog and cat food, and canning jars–we order them on their website and go pick them up when we are notified that they are ready.

Friday morning we plan to go to the local Farmer’s Market to buy green beans, peas, and tomatoes. When we get home, I’ll work on preparing the beans and peas for freezing while EJ cans the tomatoes. He’s been doing research about how to do it. We, of course, will help each other as needed and I’ll learn to can along with him. We are very excited about this new endeavor. I prefer to dry herbs, freeze veggies like beans and corn, but I would really like to be able to can tomatoes. EJ has dreams of also canning venison, stews, and other foods.

Our little Rhode Island Red chicks are growing up fast! They make me laugh because each time I open the door of their coop, they come rushing up. Often at least one gets out and I have to quickly grab her and return her to her cage. It makes watering and feeding them a challenge–but an adorably fun challenge. I wonder if they think I am their Mama?

EJ and I love our peaceful lives together in our beautiful forest.

Aug-tember

Hannah Joy went with us while we were running errands. She loves sitting between us.

The weather this summer has felt a bit out of the ordinary. We had frost well into June. We had regular periods of light rain, but fewer storms than normal. Usually August is our hottest month, but this year it feels more like September, with cooler days and nights. We even spied a tree turning colors while we were at our bank today (which is where I took the photo at the top of this post). I don’t mind not having sweltering hot days, but because it feels so autumn-ish, I’m having difficulty remembering what month it is. I’ve renamed this month Aug-tember.

Although the chicks were less than two weeks old, they were already outgrowing their box in the bathtub. Several were perching on the top edge and then jumping back into their box, and I found a couple who escaped the box and were cheeping loudly in the bathtub. I decided that it was time for them to be moved to the coop.

I moved the chicks on Friday morning. It felt bitter/sweet; my babies were growing up.

The chicks are still too small to mix with the older chickens. I am keeping them contained in the fancy coop, which is located inside The Coop. Most of the older chickens like sleeping on top of the fancy coop at night. When I put the chicks inside, they ran around and climbed the ladder to the second story, as energetic as young’uns of any species are.  I was a little concerned that the cooler nights would be too cool for the babies, but the coop is warm, and I put a bale of straw along the side at night to block any drafts. The chicks are doing just fine and they seem to be really happy with their new lodgings.

The chicks will remain contained in their new lodgings for a couple months while they grow up and slowly get acquainted with the other residents–the older chickens and cats.

Here are a few photos of our Coop. It is a peaceful place filled with happy critters.

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Tomatoes

The late summer and early autumn have messed up our garden a bit. Our tomatoes,  peppers, and squashes aren’t ripening as quickly as in previous years, and I am a bit concerned that they are running out of the growing season. We tried planting corn this year, but they tasseled out without forming ears. Part of the problem is the weather, but part of it is probably also our sandy soil. We really wanted to have a dump truck of good soil brought in last Spring, but we didn’t have the money for it this year.

We were able to freeze some of our beans and peas, but we didn’t get enough to last through the winter months. We drove to a local Farmer’s Market on Sunday and bought a half bushel of green beans. I spent the afternoon blanching and freezing them. I’d like to go back to the Market next weekend and get more beans as well as some peas. If we can pull things together, we’d like to also get some tomatoes and try our hand at canning.

Next weekend looks as if it’s going to be busy. We have a lot to do before Sep-tober arrives.

 

Chicks & Things

People who have the INFJ personality type tend to be writers. The article, “Why Do So Many INFJs Want to Write,” explains it this way:

INFJs are complex, deep thinkers with a keen insight into how people think and feel, so we’re not afraid of dealing with people’s complex personal problems.

This combination of understanding, sensitivity, and empathy creates a desire in INFJs to express our thoughts and feelings about the world around us and the people in it, with the ultimate goal of helping other people. We want to shed light on difficult situations and convoluted feelings and help people make sense of their lives and themselves.

INFJs are often natural writers. We not only have the empathy to understand others but as Introverts, we enjoy working alone. For many people, the solitude necessary for writing is the hardest part, but for INFJs, it often feels like a sanctuary. It gives us the time and space we need to stop and think, reflect on our ideas and express ourselves.

As sensitive individuals, we are always absorbing information around us, including sights, sounds, smells, temperature, light, and other people’s feelings. We are constantly processing this information and trying to make sense of it. Because we absorb so much, we need an outlet for all this energy. This is what gives us a creative drive. Without attending to our need for creative expression, however, we can quickly become ill or experience physical systems of being “blocked,” including skin problems, headaches, digestive ailments, and sleep disorders.

That is true of me. If I have strong thoughts, my stomach hurts and I can’t sleep until I pour them out. Writing is how I process things and remind myself of truth.

I read an article today titled, “Why You’re So Confused by Covert Abuse: The Doubt-filled Mind and Dysregulated Brain” It describes very clearly how abuse affects a victim, what victims struggle with, and why. It also explains why I loathe bullies who try to take away others’ freedoms, who pressure people to believe, think, say, or act as they want them to. It really is an excellent article.

Oh, and I dislike the memes that go around now and then at FB that says that it’s a simple matter to recover from abuse–all you have to do is choose to think positively or some other nonsense. I think emotional trauma is much like a physical injury. Yes, a person with a broken bone must choose to do what is necessary to heal, but healing doesn’t happen in a day, it involves enduring painful casts, surgeries, and exercises, and sometimes there’s setbacks and discouragement. Emotional trauma is sort of like that.

Anyway….moving on.

At his mom’s funeral, EJ picked up a couple of those little card things that usually have a poem, birth/death dates, and time of service. I’m sure they have an official name, but I don’t really know what it is. EJ was going to keep one of the cards for himself and take one to work to prove that his mom had actually died. Apparently, some people lie about relatives dying to get days off work. I put the cards in my purse for safekeeping, but the next day I couldn’t find it. I asked EJ if I had given it to him, and I even looked in his lunchbox. It wasn’t there. Then I found a couple tiny pieces of it on the bed. Hannah Joy, our “pit-pocket” dog, stole them from my purse and ate them. I don’t think many people would believe the old cliche’ excuse: “My dog ate it.” JJ also had a copy so we drove to his place on Monday morning to pick it up.

Earlier this week, I took Hannah outside to do her “business.” As we walked onto the porch to head into the house, a yellow jacket stung her. It was actually riding on her back so I think it stung her several times. EJ knocked it off her. Yellow Jackets have just built a nest at the base of one of the pillars of our porch. Poor, poor Hannah. She recovered relatively quickly though.

Notice the wing feathers.

Our ten little chicks are growing very fast. The day they arrived, we put them in a box in the bathtub because they were so tiny. They noticeably grew larger from day to day, and even from morning to evening. They are already getting wing feathers. At first, when I put my hand in the box to pet them, they crowded away from me, but now they all try to climb on or in my hand. Today one of them was able to get out of the box and into the tub. I think tomorrow I will have to transfer them to the coop.

Our coop is actually a 12 x 10 shed. Inside the coop it an old wooden doghouse that the previous owners left behind, as well as a fancier coop from TSC. Most of the chickens like to roost on the fancy coop. Two or three like to roost inside it or in the doghouse. We can shut the chicks inside the fancy coop as we slowly introduce them to the older chickens. I read an article that said we can let the chicks join the flock when they are 6-8 weeks old.

Today one of my egg customers dropped by to pick up a couple dozen. I really enjoy my egg customers. I asked her if she’d like to see the ten little chicks. She did, and we had an enjoyable time giving them lovings. They are so cute and fluffy.

 

Meddlesome

I don’t know if any of you have ever taken the Myers-Briggs Personality Tests? They are free online. I’m sure some people may think it’s all baloney, but both EJ and I find that our personality types describe us extremely and eerily accurately. I read the various articles describing my type and think, “Yup, that’s me. That’s me. Nailed it.”

I am an INFJ. I could write a lot about the complex characteristics of INFJs, but I want to limit myself to saying that we are very intuitive about people and care deeply about them. We are extremely gentle and compassionate. We have high principles that we live our lives by. We can sense phoniness and we despise lies, manipulation, injustice, and cruelty in any form. We are called Counselors, Advocates, Defenders because those are the roles we often find ourselves in.

These characteristics are why I get upset about bullies and abusers. Even as a child, I was generally quiet and gentle, and I wasn’t always good at defending myself, but I’d stand up to bullies in defense of someone I loved. I remember that when I was in 6th grade, I went up to a girl who was bullying my friend and told her, “You don’t have to like my friend. No one likes everyone they meet, and that’s ok. However, you don’t have to torment my friend either. Simply leave her alone…” I think the bully actually did. I have, though the years, learned to also stand up for myself. I don’t have much patience anymore for people who are cruel to others. I don’t want to control other people and I also don’t want them to control me or those I love.

My INFJ traits are also why I’d prefer only people who truly valued me at my funeral. I don’t want fake eulogies. I hate phoniness, hypocrisy, and double standards. I hate injustice.

I have learned a lot about the dynamics of abuse over the years through my own experience, the experiences of my friends, and the personal stories I read online. I understand the tactics of abusers, the effects on victims, and the tendency of bystanders to protect and defend the abuser rather than the victim.

I want to discuss “meddlers” in this post. “Meddle” means “to interfere in or busy oneself unduly with something that is not one’s concern.” The Bible warns against “meddling”:

…Aspire to live quietly, and to mind your own affairs, and to work with your hands, as we instructed you. (1 Thess 4:11)

But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler. (1 Peter 4:15)

I used to think it was odd that the Bible grouped meddlers with murderers, thieves, and evildoers, but I no longer think it’s odd. I think meddlers are arrogant bullies who try to force their will on others. THEY are right, THEIR ways are right, YOUR opinions are wrong, THEIR wishes should be obeyed, and if you don’t submit, THEY will get angry and punish you in some way.

Meddlers often exist in families. I think family relationships are sort of like a cell, consisting of parents and children. As children grow into adulthood, the cell divides into new cells. The adult children separate from their family of origin to form their own families, their own independent cells, consisting of their spouses and their children. It’s not that there is no connection, no relationship, no concern for parents and siblings, but roles change. They must change. An adult’s own spouses and children become their first priority, their core family, and the parents and siblings take a step back into “extended family.”

In unhealthy families, I think the separation is not made and boundaries are ignored. It’s as if family members believe the core family remains the parents/siblings instead of the spouse/children. It’s like they have never grown out of their childhood roles, they never established their separate selves. They think they have a right to make decisions for their adult siblings, they get mad if things aren’t done their way, and so on. Sometimes I want to shout, “GROW UP!”

There are also Meddlers in many churches. The “authority” that must be obeyed is the leadership, and questioning is not allowed. Some Christians think they can decide whether or not someone can divorce abusive spouses. Sometimes leaders “meddle” with the truth in order to get people to do what they want. In past years, we had friends who were leaders in the church. They thought they were wiser than others and they told me multiple times that they believed that most people can’t handle the truth so they must “handle” it for them, meaning they manipulated truth. Another “Christian leader” who speaks at many conferences told me that she would have no problem massively deceiving people if it would accomplish a “good” thing, meaning “good” as she defined it. Lies, deception, and manipulation horrify me. Nowhere in the Bible does it say that it’s ok to manipulate/twist the truth. In fact, it says, “You shall know the truth and the truth will set you free.”

Meddlers can also exist in friendships, among neighbors, within hobby groups, at workplaces–any group.

I believe an adult is not a child and shouldn’t be treated like one. Each adult has the right to make decisions for himself and his own household, whether or not anyone approves. (Or herself. I’m just using “him” because it’s easier and less clunky, but I mean both.) People should be given honest information (not manipulated, twisted, or deceitful) so they can make their own informed decisions. Yes, sometimes a person might make a foolish decision, but he can learn as much through failures as through successes. An adult has the right to decide where he lives, what he names his child, how he raises his children, who he likes/dislikes, who he has contact with–or not–how he spends his time, how he spends his money, what car he buys, what his political views are, what events he attends, or even whether or not he gets a divorce. He gets to choose whether to accept advice or not. These decisions are HIS business, and his spouse’s. Not anyone else’s.

Meddlers upset me because they try to take away others’ freedom, their free will. The only group of people who do not have the freedom to voice differences of opinion or choice, who are punished if they don’t submit, are slaves. So essentially, meddlers try to create a master/slave relationship with themselves as the masters.

It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery. (Galatians 5:1)

I think Meddlers are abusive because they don’t respect others’ freedom or boundaries. Abusive people have a way of making their victims feel they are being selfish, unloving, unforgiving, etc. if they don’t do what they want. A victim begins to feel battered, weary, destroyed. But at some point or another, I think a victim has to choose to either fight for his freedom or lose it. It’s his choice. No one can choose freedom for him and no one can fight the battles to win it. Yes, it’s difficult. Yes, it’s painful. Yes, it requires courage to stand up to people. But I think freedom is worth fighting for.

Speaker for the Dead

Hannah Joy with her Favorite Uncle

EJ’s Mom’s funeral was held on Saturday. Except the for reason for the trip, the 10-hour drive (5 hours to and from) through beautiful scenery was very pleasant with good conversation. Hannah Joy was babysat by her Favorite Uncle, who cuddled her and took her for drives.

We made it through the funeral. The pastor of the church basically just read the obituary and then family members had an opportunity to share their memories of her. I cried through the funeral, feeling stress because of underlying family issues, grief over the loss of their Mom who was always kind to me, and grief over the loss of my own Mom and family. Except for my Dad, everyone in my family is still alive, but we have been lost to each other for many years.

On the way home, JJ mentioned that he was a little disgusted that the minister merely read the obituary, mispronouncing some names and skipping others. “He didn’t even know Grandma,” he said. So we talked a bit about how that often happens. Many times a minister has never even met the person he eulogized. We’ve attended some funerals in which such a glowing picture was painted of the deceased, whom we knew was not a particularly good person, that we were afraid that we had mistakenly attended the wrong funeral service.

JJ and I both mentioned the second of a series of science fiction books by Orson Scott Card, which had had a profound effect on us both. The first book, Ender’s Game was made into a movie, although the book is much better. The second book is called Speaker for the Dead. Each of these books won both the Hugo and Nebula Awards, and were among the most influential science fiction novels of the 1980s.

A sort of subplot of the book describes the rise of people who were Speakers for the Dead. A family could hire a Speaker, who would thoroughly investigate the life of the deceased and “speak” the unvarnished truth of his/her life at the funeral service. They would honestly describe both the strengths and weaknesses of the person, both the successes and failures, both the kindnesses and the cruelties. You’d think it would be awful, but the deceased was not described as a one-dimensional caricature that was barely recognizable, but as he or she truly was. It actually beautifully highlighted the humanity of the deceased in all his/her complexity.

EJ said that everyone at the funeral told the truth about his Mom. She was an amazing person who helped the needy, played games with her children, and taught them valuable lessons. However, as is usually the case, family members only described the positive aspects of her. I think Speaker for the Dead described a beautifully honest celebration of a life in the book, but I am doubtful it would work in the real world. On the drive home, however, EJ lovingly described stories of his Mom that no one would ever tell at a funeral–some that described the good or funny qualities of her, and some that described her flawed and negative aspects, which has caused long-lasting damage. It presented a more balanced look at who she really was. She was human.

And we also spoke a little about my Mom. JJ has a very negative view of my Mom. For a while, he called her by her first name because “she never was a grandmother to me.” I asked him not to do that because it hurts my heart. Until we moved north, we lived relatively close to my Mom and three of my sisters. Jared experienced up close some of the problems in my family. But I deeply love my Mom/family and I remember some good things in my childhood. JJ’s love of history can be traced back to my Mom’s love of history. The times JJ and I paused to look at interesting insects are echoes of my Mom pausing to watch ants in the sidewalk with me. The only reason why I don’t have contact with them is that we couldn’t overcome the damage. One of the last times I wrote to my Mom, I asked her to please let’s forgive each other and start over. She refused. There’s not much a person can do then.

EJ’s family lived farther away–many of them out of state–and we rarely saw them so JJ has less unpleasant memories of them. He thinks they are better, but EJ says he thinks his family is far worse than mine. My siblings all recognize that our family isn’t healthy. I don’t think EJ’s family has the same awareness of dysfunction. So Speaker for the Dead:  EJ’s family isn’t without serious flaws, and mine isn’t without redeeming qualities.

I’ve told EJ several times, including on the way home from the funeral, that if I die before he does, I want a very private “funeral.” I don’t want anyone there who never loved or valued me. I don’t want phony tears or eulogies because I abhor pretense and hypocrisy. In fact, I don’t want any official service at all. I just want people who truly loved and valued me to gather together. They can be my Speakers for the Dead who share memories of the things I loved, the good things I did, the silly or stupid things I did, even the mistakes I made. I hope that if anyone is sick or struggling financially, they don’t try to attend my “funeral.” I cherish my loved ones, I think their lives have immense value, and I would never want them to put their lives at risk or hardship trying to attend my funeral. Besides, I won’t know if they attend or not, since I won’t be there.

Of course, I told EJ that it’s perfectly fine if he ignored everything I just wrote. I won’t be there, and what I want most is for him to be comforted. He has my “permission” to do anything or invite anyone that he felt would comfort him, even if I said that I didn’t really want it. One of my sisters once told me that she has warned her husband that if she died first, she didn’t want him to remarry. “I’ll haunt him forever if he does.” But I told EJ to remarry with my blessing. Why would I want him alone and miserable for the rest of his life? “Just make sure you find a nice woman who will make you happy,” I told him.

I hope I die before EJ because I am a wimp and don’t want to live in a world without him.

 

…And Death

I wrote in my last post that this week has brought new life into our lives, with ten incredibly cute chicks. They are noticeably growing larger every day.

In addition to life, this week has also brought us death.

EJ’s Mom suffered from dementia for several years. Her health has been declining, faster and faster as time passed until it worsened to the point that the family finally called in Hospice a few weeks ago. She died on Tuesday morning.

The funeral service will be in a town about five hours away. Even though EJ plans to attend only the service and then head back, that’s at least 12+ hours away from home. Hannah Joy tends to get into trouble if she is left alone too long; we think she gets separation anxiety. Plus, 12+ hours is a long time for her to go without a  “potty” break. So we decided that I would stay home and EJ would go alone. We both hated the idea of EJ going without me. But then Hannah’s Favorite Uncle offered to dog-sit her, so we decided that I would go too. JJ is also riding with us.

Our vehicles are old and we didn’t want to risk them breaking down on the long trip there and back again so we rented a vehicle. Yikes! Rentals are expensive. By the time the rental agency gets done adding on fees and insurance, the cost is three times higher than we anticipated. It’s totally not in our budget. But breaking down hundreds of miles from home is even more expensive. We will just have to tighten our belts another notch and cut expenses elsewhere. We are packing food to take with us rather than stop at restaurants to save money.

I think the purpose of a funeral is to gather with others who also grieve and comfort and be comforted. As the saying goes: Shared joy is doubled joy and shared sorrow is halved sorrow.

However, our grief is kind of being overshadowed by stress. The thought of attending the funeral tomorrow fills us with anxiety. Both EJ and my families are dysfunctional. We are “black sheep” in our families. As Vocabulary.com defines the term, “black sheep is the odd one out, whether he’s a disgrace to the family or just doesn’t seem to belong. The origin of the phrase comes from the rare presence in a flock of white sheep of a sheep with black fleece. Rather than being a delightful surprise, these black sheep were a disappointment, since their wool couldn’t be dyed.”

EJ and I strongly believe that each adult has the right to make decisions for himself (or herself) and his own household. He does not have the right to make decisions for others outside his immediate household. Boundaries, even among adult siblings, must be respected–and in healthy families they ARE respected. However, dysfunctional families do not respect boundaries. Instead, a form of “groupthink” exists. Groupthink means “the practice of thinking or making decisions as a group in a way that discourages creativity or individual responsibility.” Instead of allowing each other the freedom to make their own choices and decisions, dysfunctional family members believe they have the right to tell others in the family what to think, believe, do. Whoever doesn’t go along with the group is not accepted, and is often bullied. When I didn’t let my Mom take control of my marriage, she turned the whole family against me. EJ’s siblings as a group tried to bully us into having contact with a brother who is a scoundrel and acted in a way toward our son when he was younger that abuse experts have told us is very typical of molesters. We stood our ground. We will not let anyone take control of the decisions that are ours to make, including who we let/don’t let into our lives. And that was that.

We have not had contact with most of the family, except for the very few who have supported us, since we stood our ground about their brother. So going to the funeral tomorrow is going to be extremely stressful for us, with a lot of undercurrents. We will get through the day by supporting and comforting each other.

But we wouldn’t mind a bit of prayer support.

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