Wintumn

I currently have many different coats in our laundry room, ranging from light to heavy. I have a hoodie jacket, a warm lined hoodie jacket, a warmer lined windbreaker, and two winter coats–one for every day and one that is nicer. Oh, I also have my winter chore coat. I need all those coats because I never know what the weather is going to be: warm or cool or cold. Yesterday I wore my warm hoodie until it warmed up enough that I took it off and wore just my sweatshirt. Today it was downright cold so I wore my everyday winter coat when I took Hannah outside and my chore coat when I went out to care for the chickens. Once the weather is consistently winter cold, I will put away all the lighter jackets.

I am calling today “Wintumn” because we experienced a combination of autumn and winter weather. I suppose I could have called it Autumnter. Take your pick: Autumnter or Wintumn. Both are appropriately descriptive.

We started out with rain. We could hear it tapping on the roof when we woke. The rain stopped about mid-morning or so, but then we had snow. Yes, snow. Sometimes it came straight down and sometimes the strong wind blew it sideways. None stayed on the ground–it was just a warning shot that winter is moving in. In between the episodes of snow, we had periods where sunlight that broke through the clouds and vividly lit up the colorful trees. Then dramatic dark clouds moved back in, lumbering through the blue sky like huge ships in a sea. The sky would grow gray and dark and snow would fall again. Accompanying all this variety of weather, we had strong winds that tore the leaves off the trees. At times the whole sky was filled with leaves. Sadly, I didn’t get a photo/video of it. Sometimes there was both snow and leaves falling from the sky, as if Winter and Autumn were dancing together. Rain, snow, leaves, sunshine, clouds, wind: It was wildly beautiful.

Early this morning when I took Hannah Joy outside, I smelled the strong smell of skunk. Ugh.

Churned up ground

When I took Hannah Joy outside this afternoon, I noticed a small hole in the ground near the deck. I thought at first that maybe Madeline, our sweet serial killer cat, had tried to dig out a mouse, vole, or shrew. But then I noticed another hole, and another, and another–some deeper and some more shallow. A very large area was churned up. I thought, “Hmmm, I wonder if bucks had maybe been fighting during the night?” They would have been just outside our windows. When EJ arrived home from work, I showed him the churned up area. He didn’t believe it was deer because some of the holes were rather deep. He thinks that maybe it was the skunk we smelled digging for grubs. Every now and then throughout the day, I got a whiff of skunk, and we both smelled it this evening. We are hoping the skunk isn’t making its home under the deck.

The new chickens are settling in ok. They are still separated from the rest of the flock; I’ll keep them separated for about a week so they can adjust to each other before they mingle. The new hens are roosting on the straw bales in their half of the coop, as I suspected they would. In fact, I had deliberately made sure the straw bales were clear of feed buckets and egg baskets because I know chickens like to roost high up. It’s very comforting to go into the coop when the chickens are settling down at night. They have soft coos and clucks that are as comforting as a cat’s purring. I think I could fall asleep listening to their them.

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EJ’s Autumn Birthday

Yesterday was EJ’s birthday. Well, not exactly. His birthday is actually in early Spring when the trees are still bare and there is often snow on the ground, but he declared that yesterday was his birthday because autumn is such a beautiful season with lots to enjoy.

Tunnel of Trees Route

Originally we were going to drive through the Tunnel of Trees, which is very beautiful in any season but especially in autumn. But EJ fell at work and hurt his knee last week, so we decided not to take any long drives. We heard today (from JJ’s girlfriend) that the traffic was bumper to bumper through the Tunnel of Trees yesterday because it’s such a beautiful scenic drive and the weather was awesome. We are quite glad we took roads less traveled.

We were going to just stay at home yesterday but then EJ saw at Facebook that a nearby ski resort was offering chair lift rides to see the autumn colors from higher up. We thought, hey, it’s close by and won’t take long so let’s just go and do it. So after looking up the location on Google Maps, we hopped in the Xterra and made our way there. We knew we were in the right place when we saw a long, long line of people stretched back, back, and out of sight toward the parking lot. I exclaimed “Oh my goodness! Look at all the people!” Then we saw that the line of people went under the bridge we drove across and stretched forward, forward, out of sight toward wherever the chair left was. We couldn’t see where the line began or where it ended. EJ said, “By the time we got on the chair lift, the leaves will all be gone from the trees!” So we both agreed to keep driving. We are both very flexible and don’t mind if we discard Plan A and go to Plan B, or C…or even K.

We meandered on winding roads through vividly colored forests to the town of Gaylord. The trees seemed especially vivid and beautiful this year. Since it was EJ’s sort of birthday, we stopped at Jay’s Sporting Goods. After EJ looked at the items he was interested in, we stopped to look at game/trail cameras. We’d love to have some for security and to see what wildlife goes through our property. We know very little about such cameras, but the salesman was very knowledgeable, and after we explained what we wanted, he helped us choose the best camera for us.  We didn’t buy it yesterday. We will buy it when we have some extra money.

Cops & Donuts

A Cops & Donuts bakery was next door to Jays–in fact, you can enter the bakery through Jays–so we went in and ordered pasties, coffee, and a donut each. This “precinct” isn’t as wonderful as the original bakery in Clare. The one in Clare has a lot of character, and a feeling of excitement, and the employees look like they really have fun and enjoy their jobs. The one in Gaylord is smaller, nondescript, and the employees didn’t look like they particularly enjoyed their jobs. I think when we go to Cops & Donuts, we will head for the one in Clare, even though that’s further. But we enjoyed our treat.

Protected Apple Trees

This morning–well, actually more like noon because we had a leisurely morning drinking coffee– EJ and I went outside and fenced in our six apple trees to protect them from the deer. We have three t-posts around each of tree. We measured how much fencing we needed, rolled out the fencing and cut it with wire-cutters, and then fastened the fencing to the posts. We didn’t fix the fencing to the posts permanently so we can take it down in the summer months.  I think that when the fences are covered in ice and snow this winter, it will make an interesting landscape.

Sassy Rooster checking out the new hens

JJ’s girlfriend stopped in this afternoon with her daughter and a friend to give us her two chickens. JJ had originally planned to come with her, but he had to work and isn’t feeling well. K was sad to give up her pets, but we told her she can come visit any time she wants.

Our coop is divided into two sections. The chickens are in the back section and the poultry supplies are in the front section. We are keeping the new chickens in the front section for a few days. The old and new chickens can see each other through the dividing fence, but can’t intermingle. This can help them all adjust to each other. Even so, I read that there will be some pecking and bullying when they are all put together as the chickens work out the pecking order, but it might be less severe to ease them into the flock.

After JJ’s girlfriend left, we went to the store. EJ put gas in the Suburban while I went into the store to buy a couple of items. We then went on to the hardware store because I can’t find my little paint roller so I needed to get another.

EJ putting the other hinge on the gate while the curious chickens watch.

Once at home, we banded the new hens with different colored bans, but we will need K. to tell us which one is Agnes and which is Inez (or is it Ines?). I gave the chickens fresh water and gathered eggs while EJ put the other hinge on the large garden gate, made out of a dog pen. I came into the house to do a few tasks while EJ did a little maintenance on the Suburban.

Finally, our tasks done, I made popcorn and hot cider. Hannah saw an opportunity and shoved her nose into EJ’s bowl. She got banished to the bedroom while we finish our popcorn in peace.

The Irritated Spider and Other Stuff

It’s been rainy all week. I think we’ve had more rain thus far in October than we had all summer! The first three days of this week were warm with temperatures in the 70s, but I think . Each day the leaves on the trees are noticeably more colorful. I think we are now nearing the peak autumn color.

Despite the rain, I was able to get several tasks done this week.

Monday morning I scooped the wild bird seed from their bags into kitty litter buckets to keep them safe from rodents. Timmy helped me.

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We had ordered a few things from Amazon, trying to get ready for winter. It’s always a bit of a chore to order anything in the winter because the delivery guys won’t drive up our long steep driveway to the house. Instead, they place packages in the Magic Box–a large wooden box we have at the bottom of our driveway for packages. I call it the “Magic  Box” because packages suddenly appear in it! 🙂

One of the items that arrived on Monday was a string of Christmas lights. Our coop is not wired for electricity so I hang Christmas lights in the coop, which makes it quite festive. We have them plugged into an extension cord running out through a garage window and in through the coop window. The garage and coop are only a few feet from each other.  Half of my old Christmas lights were no longer working and the chickens kept knocking parts of them down, which didn’t help matters. So I bought rope lights which I thought would be less fragile and more easy to secure on the nails I hang them on. The lights are a brighter, harsher light than the previous ones and not as cozy, but I wanted a brighter light to encourage the chickens to lay eggs for as long as possible, even though right now we have an over-abundance of eggs. Another few weeks and they’ll stop laying until Spring.

In our Amazon order, I also got an outdoor thermometer. I fastened it to our North Post weather station. Later, I had EJ stand at our bedroom window to direct me in adjusting it so we could see the red line indicating the temperature from inside the house.

There wasn’t a good place on the North Post for the rain gauge so after consulting with EJ, I fastened the rain gauge to one of the fence posts so that we could see it from the house.

JJ’s girlfriend needs to rehome her chickens, so we agreed to take two of them that are hens of the same breed we have. JJ and his girlfriend just have to find time in their busy schedules to bring them to us. I’ve been reading about how to introduce new chickens to a flock. I’ve read that there can be a bit of a fuss as they fight to establish a new pecking order. An article suggested keeping the old and new chickens separated for about a week to help them adjust to each other so I’m going to put them in the front part of our coop where we had kept the ducks, and which we now use for storage for the chickens’ food, straw, etc.

Only one side of the coop’s double doors has an inside latch and I want to be able to keep the new chickens contained so on Monday I hammered a large staple on each side of the door, and then twisted a sturdy wire on one staple and bent the other end so I can latch it onto the other door and hold them closed. I didn’t even know these large staples existed until we moved to our new home. Now they are my “best friend”–I use them to attach fencing to posts and to make latches for doors and gates.

Staple and irritated spider.

While I was hammering the staple in, I apparently irritated a large wolf spider. People always say that spiders are “more scared of you than you are of them” but this spider wasn’t scared of me. He (or she?) rushed toward my hand. I leaped away with a “Ahhhhhh!” of fear, barely escaping its attack. I found a long stick and brushed the wolf spider off the door. It jumped into the mud and I finished my tasks while trying to watch for the spider.

Tuesday morning EJ tripped on a wooden box at work and fell hard on his knee. His company sent him to the hospital to have it looked at. Fortunately, he didn’t break anything. The doctor x-rayed EJ’s knee and said he “just” bruised a bone and that it would be really painful for a few days. EJ came home after his exam to ice his knee. Ouch. EJ has been struggling with some health issues. I’m a bit concerned for him. I don’t know if his symptoms are due to stress, his medication, or some other problem. I hope to accompany him to his doctor on his next checkup later this month.

EJ had wanted to put fencing around the apple trees this week to protect them from the deer. The plan was to get one tree fenced each night after work. Instead, it looks as if that will be our weekend project.

I worked a bit in the garage yesterday. A month or two ago, EJ brought home some old four-drawer file cabinets that his work was discarding. He is planning to put tools and such in them. I moved the cabinets against the wall with the others. I also began painting another long thin board to make another snow measuring stick for the front yard.

The temperature has been in the 70s for the last few days. While the weather was warm I opened the windows to let the fresh air in before I had to close them for the winter. I finally took the screens off today and washed all the windows because a cold front came through last night and it’s been much colder, with high temperatures not reaching 50 degrees. There was a blustery wind that made it feel much colder. I wore a heavier jacket today, which was barely adequate–any colder and I’ll switch to my winter coat. I also wore a winter hat; unless I wear a hat, my ears ache painfully in cold weather. I can well believe that winter is quickly approaching. It has snowed in the UP and in western states. We are running out of time to get things done.

Hannah Joy is a real character. She doesn’t have much patience. When she wants me to do something, she wants it NOW. I thought you’d enjoy this video I took of Hannah yesterday when she was trying to get my attention. She growls and whines, gets up in my face, and nudges aside my laptop. My laptop has a touch screen so in nudging it aside, she often touches the screen and messes up what I’m doing. Sometimes she deliberately wraps my laptop cord around her nose and pulls it out. Hannah is impossible to ignore. She’s funny.

Ambush at Barker Creek

Today we needed to get fencing so we can protect our apple trees from hungry deer this winter. We decided to go to a different TSC in a different town than we usually go to so we could stop at the Cops & Donuts bakery so we could get yummy donuts for my birthday “cake.” EJ also wanted to stop in at Jay’s Sporting Goods which is right next to the bakery.

But our plans changed.

EJ woke up in a lot of pain so we decided to go to Meijers to buy the heating blanket for back pain that we had seen in the pharmacy yesterday when we stopped in to pick up EJ’s prescriptions. We though it might be worth a try. On the way to Meijers, we stopped in at our regular TSC store to buy the roll of fencing. EJ said that after we can maybe fence in one of the trees each evening after work until they are all done.

Our favorite nursery and landscaping place was having a Customer Appreciation Day today, and since we have bought most of our fruit trees and plants there, we decided to stop in. They had tables set up in an autumn-decorated greenhouse with lots of seasonal food–chili, soups, sandwiches, and such–so we filled up our bowls and plates and enjoyed a delicious lunch for free. For dessert I had a cookie and, yes, I was finally able to enjoy a pumpkin donut and glass of cider. While we ate, a lady played American folk music on a concertina, which added to the fun harvest atmosphere. I told her that I really enjoyed her music, and her face lit up with pleasure.

After we ate, EJ and I wandered through the nursery grounds, drinking in the autumn colors. Barker Creek is huge–about 90 acres. It stretches back and back and back almost to the lake. It has little ponds and a stream running through it. It is a beautiful, magic place that always makes me think of an enchanted land like Narnia.

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There is danger in every enchanted land, and we faced terrible danger today at Barker Creek. We were able to resist (barely) buying any trees or plants that were on sale. We have too many other things we need to get before winter. However, we almost were overcome by the dogs. We were unaware that a local animal shelter would be there with multiple adoptable dogs needing homes so we weren’t able to strengthen and prepare ourselves. As soon as we arrived, we were ambushed by a volunteer with a beautiful five-year-old lab/retriever mix. The dog’s owner was seriously ill and didn’t think he could care for his beloved dog, so he had just sadly given him up that morning. The dog was very sweet and loving, and EJ fell totally in love with him. I really think EJ would have adopted him even though just yesterday he was saying that he only ever wanted one dog at a time. Fortunately, just before we left, a man and his daughter were preparing to adopt the dog. Whew. We barely escaped unscathed.

Image may contain: textWe escaped adopting another dog, but we didn’t escape the chickens. A couple of days ago I shared the video of Sassy crowing in our garden, and JJ’s girlfriend commented that she was sad that she had to rehome her two chickens. I don’t really want more chickens–we already have too many eggs–but these were the same breed we have, they were hens, and I thought it would be nice to help out JJ’s girlfriend. The chickens are practically her pets, and she’s been having trouble finding them good homes. Soft-hearted and soft-headed me, I asked EJ what he thought about taking them, and he said to go ahead. So now I have gone from 8 chickens to 10–or I will as soon as she brings them over. By the way, adding more chickens than expected is humorously called Chicken Math. Often people start out intending to buy only 2-4 chickens, but they end up with a huge flock of chickens–and also ducks, turkeys, geese, etc.

I’m glad our plans for today changed. We had a lot of fun wandering through Barker Creek. We weren’t the only ones who enjoyed the day. Look who we saw. LOL.

Birthday Adventure

Today is my birthday. I think that my birthday occurs in the most beautiful month of the year, and my annual gift of taking a long drive to enjoy the autumn color is the most awesome gift imaginable.

We left home at 9 a.m. We had discussed whether or not to take Hannah Joy with us, but we decided to leave her home because Hannah can be headstrong and we wanted a relaxing day. Before we left home, we shut the cats in the entrance hall/pantry so Hannah would leave them alone. She likes to chase some of the cats. We closed the pet door so she couldn’t get into the pantry because there is a lot of things in there that she could get into. We put away anything in the rest of the house that Hannah might get into and gave her a rawhide bone to keep her occupied for a while. Although we were gone all day, she really did quite well. Nothing chewed up, no messes to clean up. However, she misbehaved quite a bit after we returned home–chasing cats, trying to eat our food, and so forth.

Since it was on the way, our first stop was at a feed store in Traverse City to buy a winter’s supply (we hope) of cat food, wild bird seed, and a big box of treats for Hannah.

Our morning started out rainy. The rain stopped later on but there were dark clouds in the sky all day. We didn’t mind. We actually enjoy all the “moods” of autumn. We had worn “layers” of clothes–t-shirts, sweatshirts, and windbreakers–so we could put on/take off layers as needed according to the weather. We had also brought along warm winter hats because we knew it would be especially chilly and windy near the coast of Lake Michigan. It’s a good thing we did: we would have frozen without our hats and warm clothing.

Since we moved to Northern Michigan, my birthday drives tend to take us either north on M-119 through the Tunnel of Trees up to the Mackinac Bridge or south along Lake Michigan on M-22. Sometimes we do both, traveling north one weekend and south another. Today we traveled on M-22, pretty much following the route marked out on the map at the top of this post–only we turned west at Sutton’s Bay and went only as far south as Frankfort before turning around and working our way toward home. Although EJ’s birthday is in late March, he declared that next weekend is his birthday and he wants to go north.

Boats on Grand Traverse Bay

From Traverse City, we traveled north along the coast of Grand Traverse Bay. The rain and thick clouds shrouded everything in a mysterious fog. The sky and water seemed to blend into each other. It was difficult to take good photos as we drove along because our windshield was dirty and the raindrops blurred everything, but I liked this photo of the boats on the bay.

At the picturesque town of Sutton’s Bay, we turned west to the coast and meandered our way down to the Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore. We went on a very beautiful scenic drive through the area called the “Pierce Stocking Scenic Drive.” The rangers at the entrance to the drive gave us a map with places of special interest marked. We stopped at the overlooks and walked along the dunes, taking in the gorgeous views. At one overlook, we saw birds soaring overhead. It was difficult to see what they were, but we are sure that at least one of them was a bald eagle. I took many, many photos at the dunes. Here are some of them:

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Here are a couple short videos that I took of two different areas at the dunes:

Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore 1
Sleeping Bear Dunes National Lakeshore 2

We were very hungry when we finally left the dunes, so we drove south to Frankfort hoping to find a restaurant. We parked the Xterra and walked through the cute town. Surprisingly, most of the restaurants didn’t open until 3 p.m., but we finally found L’Chayim Delicatessen, which was open until 3 p.m. EJ ordered us two sandwiches–a Reuben and a Berg–and we each had half of both sandwiches.  They were very good.

EJ looking for rocks at Point Betsy Lighthouse.

We drove to the shore at Frankfort to take a photo of its lighthouse, and then we headed back north. We stopped at Point Betsy Lighthouse to go rockhounding. At Sleeping Bear Dunes we were high above Lake Michigan, on top of very steep dunes, but at Point Betsy we were able to walk along the shore at the water’s edge. We’ve been to Point Betsy several times before, but only on calm, sunny days. It was fun being there on a day when the waves were higher and came crashing to shore. I thought they were beautiful, and very mesmerizing. As we were crossing around some large boulders to continue down the beach, we got caught by some higher waves. My shoes and pant legs were drenched. We found a few pretty rocks, but didn’t want to get too close to the water to find more. We both agreed we would like to visit Lake Michigan on a stormy day to watch even higher waves.

As we left Point Betsie, we suddenly realized how very tired we were. We had had a very full day of fun. We headed home. I took my soaking wet shoes and socks off in the car. We stopped at Meijers on the way home to pick up a prescription for EJ, and I grabbed a gallon jug of cider.  We hadn’t found any donuts or cider on our trip. We had planned to stop at a farmer’s market in Frankfort after we ate, and we might have found some there, but we forgot to stop. We have a few errands to run tomorrow and may go to Cops & Donuts.

When we got home, I took Hannah outside and then went out to gather chicken eggs and give them fresh water. Meanwhile EJ unloaded our cat and bird food. He also heated up enough cider for a cup for each of us. He sprinkled in some spices–I think cinnamon and cloves. I made popcorn. Hot cider and popcorn was just perfect after a day spent along windy Lake Michigan.

The Gift

Today is a rainy day, and once again I’m not sure what tasks to work on. Most of my tasks are outdoor ones that require a sunny day–or, at least, a rainless one. I probably could find something to do inside the house, but rainy days make me feel cozy so I’m sitting in my chair with my laptop and Hannah Joy, wrapped in a blanket, with a cup of coffee next to me.

Saturday–tomorrow–is my birthday. I’m only telling you this because I’m excited about my birthday adventure. Long ago I decided that the gift I’d like most is to spend the day on a long drive enjoying the beautiful autumn scenery.  So every year we take a long drive and make memories together. We usually choose a general route, but part of the fun of my birthday adventure is being spontaneous so we are willing to change direction or stop to visit whatever seems interesting along the way. For example, two years ago we headed north on the Tunnel of Trees and came upon a sign for free autumn chair lift rides at a ski resort. We followed the sign and went on our first chair lift ride ever. It was fun to see autumn foliage from high in the air. We were going to go to the ski resort again last year, but the resort had been damaged by a fire a few months before so we continued north to the Mackinac Bridge.

Over the last month or so, I have been pondering and pondering where to go for my birthday drive. There is really no wrong answer because here in Northern Michigan every road is beautiful. I seriously considered going to Michigan’s Upper Peninsula. The UP is very beautiful (Paradise is located there), and I’d love to visit Crisp Point and Whitefish Point Lighthouses and go rockhounding along Lake Superior. We could also maybe visit beautiful Tahquamenon Falls or drive through Seney Wildlife Refuge. But I finally decided that it would be better to go to the UP during the summer when the days are longer and there is less risk of the Mackinac Bridge closing because of high winds. I wouldn’t mind getting “stuck” on the other side of the bridge because the UP is awesome, but it could be a problem if we couldn’t get home to care for the pets. Even taking Hannah with us could be a problem because many motels don’t allow pitbulls–she’s a mix–so we’d have no place to stay overnight.

I finally chose to drive along a scenic road through the Sleeping Bear Sand Dunes. Several years ago the Sleeping Bear Sand Dunes was voted the Most Beautiful Place in America by viewers of the morning talk show, Good Morning America. Sleeping Bear Sand Dunes is located on the coast of Lake Michigan, not too far away from home. It is forecasted to rain on Saturday, but I have only ever seen Lake Michigan on sunny days and I think it would be fun to witness its stormy wildness so I don’t mind if it rains. In fact, I sort of hope it does. If it’s not too stormy, we can walk the trails and go rockhounding along the shore. The best time to search for Petoskey Stones is after a storm because the waves wash more rocks to shore. But if the Lake is too wild, we will stay far from shore so we don’t get washed away.

There is a touching legend connected to the dunes, told in this video which also shows the beautiful area:

For the last couple of years we have bought pasties for our birthday lunches. Pasties are a traditional Northern Michigan treat–especially in the UP. It’s a delicious meat pie that had been brought here by Cornish miners who immigrated to the UP to work in the mines. I would love to have pasties on as a traditional birthday meal, but we really should head north for those. I told EJ that for my “cake and ice cream,” I would like to have donuts and cider which is a Michigan autumn tradition. I would really like to buy the donuts at a Cops & Donuts bakery because they are so very yummy. And, yes, the bakery is run by cops. There is a story behind its history: There was a doughnut shop and bakery in Clare, Michigan, that had been in constant operation since 1896. The business was within weeks of closing when the members of the Clare Police Department came to the rescue. All nine members of the local police department banded together to save this historic business. They have since opened several other “precinct” bakeries throughout Michigan, and one of them isn’t all that far away. However, the bakeries are all in the wrong direction from where we are headed so we will just eat at wherever we happen to find along the way.

I recharged my camera batteries yesterday so I can take lots of photos. 🙂

In today’s mail I received a gift from a very dear friend of mine. I totally loved it and I plan to wear it for my birthday tomorrow. I took a photo of it to share with you and Hannah Joy insisted on being in the photo as well. The t-shirt says, “Beware of Pitbulls ~ They will steal your heart.”

Hannah Joy really has stolen our hearts.

 

Winners

Yesterday (Wednesday) the temperature was in the mid-70s. It was so warm that I opened the windows when it stopped raining. More rain moved in towards evening, but we didn’t get the severe storms that were predicted. I think they were all north of us. Today the high temperature is back down to about 50 degrees. I’m wearing a jacket whenever I go outside although I took it off when I raked the gravel in the driveway because I got too warm. We really need to have a grader of some sort to smooth out the driveway, but since we don’t, I got out with a shovel to level out the bumps that form.

Thor’s Hammer

After I found Thor’s hammer when I was out mowing the lawn last week, EJ called the gravel company to let them know that we had found it. They had said that someone would be out to pick it up last Saturday, but no one came. The guy who had delivered the gravel had told me that he was starting his own company, so this morning I went to his website, found his email, and let him know that we had found his hammer. He dropped by this afternoon to pick it up. He seemed touched that we were returning it. He told me that he had said to his nephew, “See? There ARE a few honest people in the world.” 🙂 It’s a good feeling to help others and make their lives easier.

Today was payday so this morning I paid our bills. I was also able to order a few things from Amazon. We are trying to place our Amazon orders before the snow falls because the trucks won’t drive up our steep driveway in the winter, and it’s always doubtful whether they will leave items safely in the “magic box” which we have at the bottom of the driveway for package deliveries.

Our local grocery store has a canned goods sale every year. I placed an order for several cases of tomatoes, chili beans, kidney beans, and mushrooms last weekend. The store called me this morning to tell me the order was in, so I drove there to picked it up. When I got home, I arranged the cases on our pantry shelves. Someday I hope to learn to can so I don’t have to buy canned goods from the store, but until then it feels good to have a winter’s supply on our shelves.

I read that the temperature is supposed to dip down to the low 30s tonight. I decided I ought to put straw on the raised beds, but I wanted to wait until it was just dark enough for the chickens to go into their coop, but still light enough to see. The chickens have been getting into some of the raised beds and I didn’t want them to scratch the straw off the plants. I didn’t remember about the straw until I went out to shut the chickens in their coop. I was later than usual going out so I barely had enough light to cover the plants. But I got it done.

When I came back into the house, I told EJ that I wanted to ask him a question. He asked, “Is it the same question I am thinking about asking you? Whether we should turn on the heat?” I said, “Yes!” because 31 degrees is a bit cold to have no heat on in the house. With EJ’s agreement, I turned the thermostat up to 65 degrees. Usually I’m the one who gives in first, but since we both were going to ask each other if we should turn on the heat this year, I said that we should consider our autumn “game” to be a draw. He disagreed, saying that we both won because our house will be warm. LOL.

Autumn Rains & The North Post

It’s been a bit rainy this week. Most of the rain has occurred at night, but the days have been cloudy and damp. It stormed quite a bit this morning with some thunder and lightning. At the moment it’s quite pleasant outside–warm, humid, breezy, patches of blue among the clouds, not raining–but we have an “Enhanced” chance of storms later with a possibility of heavy rain, damaging wind, large hail, and an isolated tornado.

With the days so rainy-ish, I haven’t quite known what to do with myself. I have tasks that I want to get done, but not many that I can get done now. For example, I want to wash the windows, but first I want to take the screens out for the winter, and I don’t want to take the screens out until we don’t have any more warm days in which I want to open the windows to let in fresh air. And I need to fence in the apple trees, but first we have to buy more fencing. I want to cover the raised garden beds with straw, but I want to harvest as many herbs as I can. Plus, I need more straw. Plus, if I do it too early, the chickens will get into it and scratch it away. They are still getting into the strawberries and the beets so I have to fence them in better. So, you see, everything that I want to do needs to wait.

I did do a few tasks over the last couple of days. In addition to my regular chores–cleaning the house, laundry, cooking–I finished up the herbs I’ve been drying. Yesterday I straightened up the pantry, just a little bit. Today I carried the park benches up to the porch for the winter.

When I took Hannah Joy out at around noon, I noticed that the storm had knocked a small tree down onto my clothesline. Actually, it was a very large branch that had split off from a larger tree. The branch was too large and heavy to heave out of the way, so I got out a saw and pruning loppers and cut it into smaller sections that I threw into the woods. I was thankful the branch fell on the ropes, not the posts, so it didn’t do any damage. And I’m very thankful that it didn’t fall on the house or anything. Falling trees are always a concern when living in a forest full of woodpeckers.

We can see the North Post through our window.

Oh, and I hung up the North Post sign. The post marks the place where the septic tank lid is located so we don’t have to dig a bunch of holes trying to find it the next time we have the tank pumped out. We thought we’d have some fun with it, so I painted a “North” sign and we call it our “North Post”–because it’s on the north side of the house in Northern Michigan. We can’t call it the “North Pole” because it’s a post, not a pole.

I also painted a long stick with numbers to measure the amount of snow (up to 7 feet) that we get and EJ attached it to the post. All we need to do now is order a thermometer and rain gauge which I will attach to the post as soon as I buy them and we will have a weather station. I’d like to get a wind speed/direction gauge, but they all seem to be digital and I just want a simple inexpensive one. I do not think our North Post is in an optimal place for a weather station, but its primary function is to mark our septic tank lid.  I might make another snow “ruler” for the front yard, but first I have to get more brushes.

I think the North Post looks pretty good.

The Heater Challenge

Every now and then, I read about a “Challenge” that is going around. Some Challenges are downright dangerous, such as the “Dancing Outside a Moving Car Challenge” or the “Tide Pod Challenge.” Others are fun, silly, creative, or raise money or awareness–such as the “Ice-Bucket Challenge” or the “Police Lip-Sync Challenge.” While I can appreciate that some people might find them fun, I never participate in any Challenges myself. I’ve never been one to care about fads of any sort. If a cause is good, I will support it without the hoopla of a group Challenge. If I want to engage in a Challenge, it will be to challenge myself, not others.

I kind of wonder if Extroverts enjoy group challenges more while Introverts enjoy individual Challenges more? As an Introvert, I don’t get the appeal of things like the Ice Bucket Challenge, but I do understand individual challenges such as one of my readers is doing–setting herself a goal of walking more than 1,000 miles in a year.

There is a Challenge EJ and I participate in every year. I think many people in the North participate in it. I call it the “Heater Challenge.” It involves seeing how long we can endure as the days and nights get chillier and colder until we finally turn on the furnace. Turning on the furnace means higher heating bills so we try not to turn it on until absolutely necessary. Turning the heater on in September is out of the question, no matter how chilly it is. We have to last until at least October 1–but we try to endure until mid-October. I always lose the Challenge because I give in before EJ does.

Today’s weather is a repeat of yesterday’s weather–with overnight lows in the low 40s and highs in the mid-50s. That makes for a chilly house. It’s in the low- to mid-60s in the house. I don’t know why 60 degrees feel so warm in the Spring but so chilly in the autumn. I’ve put our Korean blanket on the bed to keep warm at night. My brother met his South Korean wife when he was stationed in her country years ago. When she came with him to the USA, she brought along a very beautiful thick, heavy blanket which she gave to my parents as a gift. It’s wonderfully warm, but my Mom felt it was too warm so she let me borrow it when I moved into my first apartment, and then later she gave it to me. I consider it an heirloom. We love it.

During the day I’ve been wearing sweaters, I wrapped myself in a comforter, I soaked in Hannah’s body heat as she lies on my lap, and I’ve been drinking hot coffee or tea to keep warm. I’ve been a trifle tempted to turn on the heat, but nope, not yet. The forecast says the temperature will reach 74 degrees on Wednesday, which is too warm for the heat to be on. My goal is to wait until the lows at night are in the 30s and the highs during the day is consistently in the 50s. I can endure.

Yesterday EJ did some maintenance on the Xterra. Hannah really wanted outside so I took her out and she rushed over to see what EJ was doing. She looked so cute:

While EJ was working on the Xterra, I took dried herbs out of the dehydrator and stored them in glass canning jars. Then I went out to the garden and harvested more herbs. I brought them into the house, washed them, arranged them on the trays, and stuck them in the dehydrator. I confessed to EJ later that one of my reasons for drying the herbs–besides the fact that I won’t have many more opportunities to harvest herbs this year–is that the dehydrator pumps out a little heat and might take the chill out of the house. He laughed at me. But, hey, every little bit helps.

After EJ finished the Xterra, he nailed the cross-piece on our North Post. We had a bit of a snafu when he went to hang up the sign I had painted. I had pounded two large staples into the side of the sign as hooks to hang the sign. I was careful when I pounded them in because I didn’t want to risk them coming through the front of the sign. However, I had not pounded in the staples far enough so they came out and the sign fell to the ground. When EJ pounded in the staples further, the paint was marred and the staple came through the side. Sigh. I can’t do anything about the staple, but I repainted the marred bits. I have to wait for it to completely dry before I hang it. Once it’s hung, I will take photos to share.

Our little grocery store is having it’s annual canned goods sale so people can stock up for the winter. We can get cases of canned goods for a reduced price. I picked up an order form on Friday afternoon and filled it out, then returned it to the store. This is the first year we’ve been able to participate in the annual sale because we didn’t have extra money the first couple of years after we moved here. Mostly we are just getting canned tomatoes, chili beans, and mushrooms. One day I would like to learn how to can so I can do my own tomatoes, but until then, we buy canned.

Many of the Michigan pages and groups at Facebook have been sharing a recent Saturday Night Live segment in which Adam Driver, who played Kylo Ren in some Star Wars movies, said that “Ewoks are real” and that they can be found in Traverse City, Michigan. Traverse City is the biggest town in Northwest Lower Michigan.

This Saturday Night Live segment stirred up memories from years ago when EJ, JJ, and I used to play Star Wars PlayStation games together.  We could play as Clone Troopers or Rebels on various planets in the Star Wars universe, one of which was Endor, the planet of the Ewoks. We usually played as the Rebels when we went to Endor. The Ewoks kept following my character around, constantly yipping. It was annoying. I often exclaimed, “Hush! Be quiet!” because they were giving me a headache and I accused them of “giving away my position.” One day I got so annoyed that I shot an Ewok. Once I shot one, it was easier to shoot others. Bam! Bam! JJ got so upset with me. He said that I was shooting teddy bears and that each time I shot one, our side lost points. I tried to be good, but then a yapping Ewok would annoy me and I would shoot him. Bam! Bam! After awhile, JJ wouldn’t let me go to Endor any more. Those are good memories. LOL. So the Saturday Night Live segment reminded me of hunting Ewoks. I shared the video on my FB page and tagged JJ, asking if he thought I’d need a hunting license to shoot Ewoks in Traverse City?  He told me I was a monster. LOL.

Another memory: We had gotten JJ a NASCAR racing game for his Playstation. He never played it the “correct” way. Instead, from the very first time he played it, he always drove the wrong way around the track, smashing into cars like it was a demolition derby. We sometimes played it with him and, like him, we always drove the wrong way and crashed into the other cars. Although we had nothing against Jeff Gordon, we always especially sought out his car to hit. LOL.

 

Weathered Work

I am aware that I often begin my posts with a description of our weather. That’s because the weather greatly affects what we do that day. Sunny and cool means more outside tasks, warm and humid is torturous, rain equals coziness, heavy snow means I’ll be outside snowblowing the driveway. Weather also affects what we wear: t-shirts, sweatshirts, jackets, or winter coats. You get the idea, I’m sure. Rain was forecasted for every day this week–and into this weekend–with percentages that kept changing downward. However, although we had some cloudy days, mostly the rain did not appear–either going around us or dissipating altogether. It did rain lightly during a night or two, and it is raining now, which means a cozy day of indoor tasks.

I heard that southern Michigan had severe storms on Tuesday with a possible tornado or two. When that storm moved through, the temperature turned much cooler, even for us in the north, with highs in the 50s or 60s (F) and overnight lows in the 40s. Definitely jacket weather.

Our hot tub strawberry patch.

Autumn seemed to have taken forever to arrive, but suddenly it is here, and now I feel as if winter will arrive before we get all out projects completed. Every year we never seem to finish everything we hope to get done, but we just shrug and say “We get done what we get done.” Every year we complete a few more projects than we did the year before.

The chickens leaped into our strawberry patch, which is in an old unusable hot tub that the previous owners of our house left behind. They scratched some of the straw out, exposing the plants, so I put wire fencing around the hot tub. I did it quickly in the evening and actually need to go out and do it more thoroughly but it was enough that the chickens aren’t going into the hot tub anymore. When I cover the other plants, I will put more straw on the strawberries. I also need to put fencing around the raised garden bed with the beets in it. They ate the tops. The chickens seemed to leave every planter alone that is surrounded by the fencing.

We still have to buy another roll of 7ft wire fencing to put around the apple trees to protect them from the deer. We hope to buy it after  next payday.

New gravel on the driveway

On Tuesday the gravel guy arrived with a dump truck-load of gravel for our driveway. Two years ago the gravel was dumped out in piles–I think because our driveway was in such rough shape that we had to shovel the gravel along the edges where we needed it. This time the guy simply opened the tailgate and elevate the truck bed so it slowly dumped out the gravel as he drove down the driveway. It was done so skillfully that I didn’t have to shovel the gravel. I just had to rake it out a little. I’m really glad I didn’t have to shovel it since that would be tons of work. It would be even better if we had a grader to smooth it out, but we don’t, and it’s not bad the way it is. I think we could use another truckload for the bottom half of the driveway. Maybe we can still do it, but it’s not terrible if we can’t.

Kyle, the guy who brought the gravel is the son of the guy who owns the company. He had delivered most of our gravel two years ago. I was surprised that he remembered us. He said that when he heard we were ordering gravel again, he eagerly volunteered to bring it to us. “Most of our customers are not very pleasant,” he said, “but not you. You are good people. You are very good people.” That was a spirit-lifter. Kyle had brought us our potato stones two years ago at a reduced price. Those are the stones I’m using for my dams. He told me to let him know if we needed any more. He said he was starting his own business–delivering landscape stones.  He orders some of his stones through his father’s company so he isn’t in competition to him. He said he bought his own truck, but dump trucks are expensive so he bought a used one and has been fixing it up. It was interesting chatting with Kyle.

Yesterday was a pleasant enough day that I decided to mow the lawn–possibly for the last time this year. It was chilly enough that I started out wearing my jacket, but I quickly warmed up enough that I took it off. It is much more enjoyable mowing the lawn when it’s not sweltering hot. Because we have fenced in most of the back yard for our garden, I have less to mow and I’m able do the whole lawn–the little that we mow–with just one tank of gas.

Thor’s Hammer

While I was mowing, I came across Thor’s Hammer lying at the edge of the driveway. It was very heavy, but I was able to pick it up. I believe that means that I have been deemed worthy to wield it. Ok, ok, it actually probably fell from Kyle’s truck rather than Valhalla  because it was located near where he had parked. EJ called the company last night to let them know we had found it and they said someone would be out–probably on Saturday–to pick it up. I prefer the imaginative version of the story and I am hoping Thor will stop by to claim it.  LOL.

Earlier this week I cut a bunch of herbs and I’ve been dehydrating them in our Magic Mills food dehydrator. I’m trying to get as many herbs cut and dried before I have to cover the plants with straw.

North Post signs

Before the people came to clean out our septic tank earlier in the summer, we had to dig down and uncover the lid to the septic tank. This is the first time we’ve done this since we’ve moved here, and while EJ knew the general area, we weren’t sure exactly where it was located. We dug quite a few holes in searching for it. To prevent digging a bunch of holes in the future, we planted a wooden post where the lid is. Rather than have a random post sticking up out of the ground, we decided to have fun with it. Since the post is on the north side of the house in Northern Michigan, we call it “the North Post.” We would call it “the North pole” but it’s a post, not a pole.

We considered many different ways of creating our North Post. We discovered that a decorative porch post is much, much too expensive for a whimsical project. We can’t paint the post because paint won’t work on a treated post. We decided to hang the sign. I searched for decorative brackets on the Internet, but the cheapest was almost $30 for one that was big enough and I didn’t want to spend that much money. So we are going to make a cross post and hang the sign from that. I’ve been painting a sign that says “North” on it. Wooden letters don’t stand up to our weather, so I ordered a few letters from a company and traced the letters, which I then painted. I also painted a thinner board with numbers to measure the snow. I am going to order an inexpensive thermometer and rain gauge from Amazon and turn our North Post into a weather station. I’ll take photos of the post when we get it set up.

Wolf spider lurking on our porch.

At this time of year, when the weather is getting cooler and the days shorter, the wolf spiders tend to linger on the porch. They scared me, so I scan the porch before I take Hannah outside in the early mornings and evenings. EJ sometimes goes out with us in the evenings. I make him go first so he will be eaten first. Just kidding! He goes first so he can “shoo” away any spiders that might be lurking. He saw me checking the porch the other morning before I took Hannah out and he asked, “Looking for spiders?” I replied, “Of course.” He said, “It’s not spiders you have to watch for. It’s bears. Bears are much more dangerous than spiders.” Thanks a lot, EJ. Well, I haven’t seen any bears lurking on the porch like the spiders do…but I took along a flashlight, just in case I heard a noise. I like to see what’s going to kill me. LOL.

I think it’s funny that whenever I go out into the garden, the chickens follow me around. I’ve read that the chickens consider their human to be the leader of their flock. I thought I’d leave you with this video I took this morning:

 

 

Autumn Tasks

EJ and I have a large-ish white board on which we list our debts/bills, home improvement/maintenance projects we want to get done,, money-making ideas, and other such things. We keep the board in our laundry room and get it out when we want to check off our progress or add to the list. Sunday we got out our whiteboard and wrote a list of the tasks we would like to get done before winter. Then we prioritized them according to which things we needed to buy now and which can wait. All the tasks need to be done before it snows, but some need to get accomplished while the weather is still warm and some can wait for a few weeks or even a month or two. After we finished our list and had a good idea of our priority and timeline, we went shopping. Hannah wanted to go with us, but we told her, “Not this time, Hannah-Banana!”

Our first stop was Meijers, where we bought auto maintenance items.. EJ  will work on the vehicles in the next week or so before it gets cold. EJ also bought his tags for deer hunting. We bought a few other items as well, some of which were not on our list, but they were on sale. Meijers has a lot of good sales, but I usually do my grocery shopping at our little local store because I end up spending too much money at Meijers.

Our next stop was TSC. We need to get both t-posts and fencing up to protect our fruit trees from the deer before the ground freezes, but we bought the t-posts yesterday and have to wait until our next paycheck to get the fencing. We’ve got a little time. Probably next payday we will buy a winter’s supply of cat, dog, chicken, and wild bird food/seed at TSC and another feed store. We like to have enough so we don’t have to worry about getting low or running out during winter storms.

The chickens are curious and always follow me to see what I’m doing.

We drove home, unloaded our purchases, ate lunch, and then drove to the hardware store and bought four bales of straw. We need more straw for the garden and for the chicken coop, but we could only fit four in the suburban. We will get more bales later.

When we got home, I took the bales of straw into the coop, keeping one out to spread on our strawberry plants in the old hot tub. The weather is cooling with temps sometimes dipping in the low 40s overnight and I especially want the strawberries to be protected from unexpected frost. I’ll cover the other plants in the garden soon. Later I brought in my house plants for the winter. I keep them out on the deck all summer long and bring them in when the temperature cools in the autumn. Some of the plants I have had for years, and I don’t want to risk them getting killed by frost.

Meanwhile, EJ did a few auto maintenance things and then we put away the hoses in the front yard. I don’t think I’ll be watering the trees or flowers anymore. We haven’t yet put away the back yard hose, but we will do that soon. I’d like to mow the lawn at least one more time, and also wash the windows after I take the screens out. I don’t want to take the screens out until I have to. We have a lot to do!

After we had all our tasks done, we relaxed. Well, sort of. I did several more practice tests in preparation for getting my driver’s license renewed.  This morning I did a couple more, and then I drove to the Secretary of State office–what other states call their DMV (Department  of Motor Vehicles). I was a bit nervous, but I figured I was prepared as I could be and I just wanted to get it all over with. The clerk took my money, input my eye color, height, and weight into her computer, and then gave me a simple vision test in which I just had to read the top line of letters and state where I saw a blinking light. I passed that test! Then I had to stand in front of a screen and get my photo taken. The clerk said that I had a “deer in the headlights look” for my first photo so she retook it, and it looked better–but only slightly. Ugh. My license photo never, ever looks good–not ever. I always shudder and say, “whatever.” I was expecting the clerk to tell me to sit down and taken my written test, but instead she said, “That’s it. You’re good. Have a nice day.” I was tempted to exclaim, “B-b-but I thought I had to take a written test! I studied for it!” but I shut my mouth and left with a sigh of relief. It feels like forever since I had to renew my license in person, and I couldn’t remember if I had to take a test or not. I’m sure there were times when we’ve had to take the test. Well, I guess I’d rather be over-prepared than under-prepared and I think it doesn’t hurt to review all the driving rules just to refresh my memory. But, whew, in four years I can simply renew by mail.

After I returned home, I started washing clothes and hung each basket of wet clothes on the clothesline. There is a chance of rain for the rest of the week so today is the best day to do laundry.  It was breezy and a cool outside this morning. Definitely sweatshirt weather.

During his lunch hour, EJ called the gravel guy to order a load of gravel. They will deliver it on Wednesday or Thursday and then we will be very busy shoveling and raking it into ruts in our driveway. It’s a lot of work, but I just tell myself it’s my exercise program! It will be more pleasant to work during the autumn coolness than summer heat.

The Wind and Sunset Red

It rained yesterday–sometimes lightly and sometimes a heavy downpour. It rained through the night. I woke once to heavy drumming on the skylight. It rained a little this morning, but it ended by mid-day, although there is still a slight chance of rain through the evening.

I was surprised at  how warm it was this morning when I went out to let the chickens out of their coop. I checked the thermometer: It was 70. Later the temperature fell and it grew cool enough that I needed a jacket when I went out to gather eggs. The highs tonight are only supposed to be in the low 40s. It feels very autumn-ish.

Through the day the clouds came and went. Sometimes the sky looked gray instead of blue. Sometimes big fluffy sheep-like clouds wandered across the blue sky. Then low blue-black clouds lumbered in. It was quite breezy this morning but the winds strengthened through the day. The National Weather Service had issued a “wind advisory” with gale force winds of 40-50 mph today. The winds tossed the trees and ripped green leaves off them, as if it were late autumn. It tipped over our garbage can and an old file cabinet EJ had set out to take to the dumpster at work. I was surprised that the chickens came out of their coop. I half expected the wind to pick them up and propel them through the air.

I enjoyed a slow morning as I drank cups of coffee until the pot was empty. EJ and I drink coffee together in the mornings, then he fills his thermos to take to work, and I get the remainder. Enough is left for me to be satisfying.

Sunset Red

Once the coffee was gone, I dressed in my oldest clothes: a pair of loose-fitting sweat pants that are ripped and my once-favorite Lord of the Rings t-shirt that is ragged and holy. I set up the boards I’m painting for my project, and opened a small can of paint called “Sunset Red.” I’m sure there’s a group of people somewhere who sit down and decide on the names for different colored paint to make them appealing to customers. Sometimes I think the names are silly–like “Jamaica Bay” or “Baroness.” But I confess that when given the choice between two similar shades of red paint, I chose “Sunset Red” because of the name.

I painted my boards and left them to dry. I was anticipating them drying quickly and being able to get them finished today, but they dried very slowly–maybe because of the humidity. Now I suspect it will take me several days to get it finished.

While waiting for my paint to dry, I changed back into nicer clothes and started some laundry, and then I went to our local grocery store to do some shopping for the next couple of weeks. Home again, I got everything put away rather quickly despite Hannah poking her head in the bags to see what I had bought. I called a friend to chat while I folded the newly washed clothes and then took a few practice tests for my license renewal. That’s pretty much how my day went.

Oh, yesterday I got a call from the dentist office. The receptionist said that they resubmitted my dental work to the (correct) insurance company, and it looks as if the insurance is going to pay for more than they thought. They refunded half of what I had paid. That’s super news! Usually it happens the other way around and we have to pay more than expected. This will be enough to mostly pay for gravel for our driveway. Whoo hoo!

I asked the dental receptionist if she could give me an estimate of the cost for the crown on my tooth so I know what to expect and can plan ahead. She said that if I waited until after a new insurance year begins, I will only have to pay about $400. That’s not bad! Whew! So my “coronation day”–you know, the day I get my crown–will probably be in January. 🙂

Words and Things

Today is a rainy day. Yesterday the National Weather Service predicted a 100% chance of rain for today. Earlier this morning they said there was a 90% chance of rain, and later they downgraded it to an 80% chance of rain. I think the important point to take away is that there is a pretty strong possibility of rain. Since it is (probably) going to rain all day, I thought this would be a good day to sit at my computer with a cup of coffee and Hannah and write. Maybe later I will work on my whimsical project. Oh, and I have to pay bills today.

I’ve been thinking…

A friend and I have been trying to teach ourselves Hebrew for a number of years. We have many resources–books, websites, audio disks, and Jewish/Hebrew scholar friends we can call on for help. My friend and I often laugh that we are the slowest Hebrew students EVER because life keeps interfering with our studies. We had to put it aside when JJ was diagnosed with cancer and when we were in the process of moving, and we have put it aside for things happening in my friend’s life–but we don’t give up our desire to learn Hebrew. We really, really, really want to learn it.  I often say I want to learn Hebrew so I can greet the Messiah in His native language when I meet Him in person. I also want to learn it so I can read the Bible in Hebrew.

Hebrew is such an amazing language. If you study it like you study other languages–focusing on grammar, pronunciation, and vocabulary words–you are totally missing layers of beauty and meaning. In Hebrew, every letter has a deep meaning, every word has a deep meaning, and every similarly spelled or sounding word is connected and has deep meaning.  Learning Hebrew involves learning about life and God. I think that Hebrew is like looking at common everyday objects through a microscope. You assume you know what an item looks like, but when you look deeper, you see strange, beautiful things that you couldn’t have imagined when just looking at the surface, such as in this video:

Davar

Take, for example, the Hebrew word דָבָר It is pronounced as “davar.” It means “word” but it also means “thing.” It is very odd that one word can mean two very different things. It seems like such an unrelated, random pairing, doesn’t it? Until you consider Genesis 1:

And God said, “Let there be light,” and there was light….

And God said, “Let there be a vault between the waters to separate water from water.” So God made the vault and separated the water under the vault from the water above it. And it was so….

And God said, “Let the water under the sky be gathered to one place,and let dry ground appear.” And it was so….

Then God said, “Let the land produce vegetation: seed-bearing plants and trees on the land that bear fruit with seed in it, according to their various kinds.” And it was so….

And God said, “Let there be lights in the vault of the sky to separate the day from the night, and let them serve as signs to mark sacred times, and days and years, and let them be lights in the vault of the sky to give light on the earth.” And it was so….

And God said, “Let the water teem with living creatures, and let birds fly above the earth across the vault of the sky.” So God created the great creatures of the sea and every living thing with which the water teems and that moves about in it, according to their kinds, and every winged bird according to its kind…

And God said, “Let the land produce living creatures according to their kinds: the livestock, the creatures that move along the ground, and the wild animals, each according to its kind.” And it was so….

Then God said, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground”….So God created mankind in his own image…

“Words” and “things” really ARE connected because God spoke and through words brought the universe into being. Words are the creative energy of the world. Amazing, huh? But wait, there’s more.

Genesis 1 says that God created mankind in His own image. I believe that one of the ways that we are an image of God is that our human words can also create things. We can’t create the sun and moon or plants and animals like God can, but here are a few things our words can create. I’m sure you can think of more:

Through words, advertisers can influence what people buy. Their words bring “things” into people’s lives.

During election years, politicians go around giving speeches hoping to convince voters to elect them. When they are elected, they gain positions of power through which they can greatly affect policies, laws, society, and even the world. Their words can affect the world.

Hitler created Nazi Germany through his speeches–his words. His words stirred up anger and hatred. His words started a world war and caused countries to fall. His words created concentration camps. His words created a reality that killed millions.

I think England might have fallen without Winston Churchill, who gave courage and strength to his people during World War 2 with words like this:

…But for everyone, surely, what we have gone through in this period…this is the lesson: never give in, never give in, never, never, never, never-in nothing, great or small, large or petty – never give in except to convictions of honour and good sense. Never yield to force; never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy. We stood all alone a year ago, and to many countries it seemed that our account was closed, we were finished. All this tradition of ours, our songs, our School history, this part of the history of this country, were gone and finished and liquidated. Very different is the mood today. Britain, other nations thought, had drawn a sponge across her slate. But instead our country stood in the gap. There was no flinching and no thought of giving in; and by what seemed almost a miracle to those outside these Islands, though we ourselves never doubted it, we now find ourselves in a position where I say that we can be sure that we have only to persevere to conquer…

We have before us an ordeal of the most grievous kind. We have before us many, many long months of struggle and of suffering. You ask, what is our policy? I will say: It is to wage war, by sea, land, and air, with all our might and with all the strength that God can give us; to wage war against a monstrous tyranny never surpassed in the dark, lamentable catalogue of human crime. That is our policy. You ask, what is our aim? I can answer in one word: It is victory, victory at all costs, victory in spite of all terror, victory, however long and hard the road may be….

Even though large tracts of Europe and many old and famous States have fallen or may fall into the grip of the Gestapo and all the odious apparatus of Nazi rule, we shall not flag or fail. We shall go on to the end. We shall fight in France, we shall fight on the seas and oceans, we shall fight with growing confidence and growing strength in the air, we shall defend our island, whatever the cost may be. We shall fight on the beaches, we shall fight on the landing grounds, we shall fight in the fields and in the streets, we shall fight in the hills; we shall never surrender, and if, which I do not for a moment believe, this island or a large part of it were subjugated and starving, then our Empire beyond the seas, armed and guarded by the British Fleet, would carry on the struggle, until, in God’s good time, the New World, with all its power and might, steps forth to the rescue and the liberation of the old…

I feel like bravely standing against evil when I read Churchill’s words.

Our words are powerful in our individual interactions with people as well. We can encourage or discourage, we can motivate or de-motivate, we can heal or wound, we can build up or destroy, we can give hope or take it away, we can create beauty or ugliness with our words. Words can create; they can also un-create. I think this is what is most damaging about verbal abuse–or really any type of abuse. There is such a thing as “body language,” a way in which a person speaks through their body–and whether through actual words or through action, an abuser attempts to force his “reality” unto his victim, causing her (or him) to believe that she is unlovable, without worth, useless, stupid, ugly, without hope. It’s sort of like in fairy tales where a witch curses a prince and turns him into a frog or an unlovable beast.

The tongue has the power of life and death… (Prov. 18:21)

I struggle a lot with the message of words. I wish I could be a person who could quickly dismiss hurtful untrue words–and I am hopeful that someday I will be–but I am not yet so very long removed from abusive people so I still struggle against the “reality” they try to create for me. When I am insulted, I can almost feel myself being un-created, almost see myself transforming into what they say I am–unlovable, useless, worthless,  weak, stupid, ugly–right before my eyes, even though I know (kind of, almost, mostly) that what they say is not true. I fight back by reminding myself of what is true, of what the Bible says. I find it helpful to do this in writing, which is why after I’ve had an encounter with a person who verbally attacks with hurtful words, I often write posts about abuse. I have to rewrite what is not true with what is true, I have to replace a false reality with a true one. It’s a difficult battle at times. I also try to be careful with my own words so they do not wound or un-create others.

You’d think, then, that with words being so powerful, we should be very, very careful with words and never, ever say anything that is offensive, negative, judgmental, or could possibly wound another person. If we can’t say something good, kind, or true, you’d think it would be best to say nothing at all. If only it was that simple! Hint: It’s not that simple. It’s complicated.

We do have to be careful with our words. However, the truth is that sometimes our silence speaks even louder than our words. Words can kill, but so can silence. The reality is that not everyone is merely wounded. The Bible says that there really are evil people in the world, people

  • who delight in doing evil and rejoice in the perversity of evil (Prov. 2:14),
  • who speak cordially with their neighbors but harbor malice in their hearts (Ps 28:3),
  • whose feet run to evil, and they hasten to shed innocent blood; Their thoughts are thoughts of iniquity, Devastation and destruction are in their highways (Isa 59:7).
  • Who wait in ambush for the godly, looking for an excuse to kill them. (Ps 37:32)
  • Who can’t sleep until they’ve done their evil deed for the day. They can’t rest until they’ve caused someone to stumble. (Prov 4:16)
  • Who speak falsehood to one another; With flattering lips and with a double heart they speak. (Ps. 12:2)
  • “Their throat is an open grave; they use their tongues to deceive.” “The venom of asps is under their lips.” (Romans 3:13)

Evil people try to silence their victims because silence benefits them. If they can prevent their victims from exposing them, they can prevent others from seeing and recognizing evil, they can get people to support them and condemn victims, and they can continue to abuse more victims. Evil people kind of do Jedi mind tricks like Obi-wan did in Star Wars: A New Hope, by manipulating people into not seeing or believing things as they really are. “Nothing to see here. Move along….”

One way abusers do this “sleight of mind” is by accusing anyone who speaks out as “speaking evil,” of gossiping, and of being negative, critical, judgmental, bitter, unloving, unChristlike, and other such things.

If we remain silent about evil, we reinforce the abuser’s message that his victims are unlovable, worthless, useless, ugly, stupid.  If we remain silent about evil, we enable evil to grow more powerful and to continue to oppress and damage the vulnerable. So we MUST speak out at times. Ecclesiastes 3 says:

There is a time for everything,
    and a season for every activity under the heavens:
a time to be born and a time to die,
 a time to plant and a time to uproot,
a time to kill and a time to heal,
a time to tear down and a time to build,
a time to weep and a time to laugh
a time to mourn and a time to dance,
a time to scatter stones and a time to gather them,
a time to embrace and a time to refrain from embracing,
a time to search and a time to give up,
a time to keep and a time to throw away,
a time to tear and a time to mend,
a time to be silent and a time to speak,
a time to love and a time to hate,
a time for war and a time for peace.

As you can see, there is an appropriate time for everything. We can’t just always do one thing or always do another. That’s where I think it gets complicated. It would be easier if we could always do one thing or always another. Like always remaining silent or always speaking up. But we can’t. Sometimes we must keep silent but other times we must speak. I struggle with when to speak and when to be silent, and sometimes I feel that no matter which I did, I should have done the other.

The prophets and apostles didn’t always keep silent. They didn’t always say “nice” things. They exposed evil and called it what it was: evil. Even Jesus said some things that weren’t “nice”–such as when He said, “You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desires. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him. When he lies, he speaks his native language, for he is a liar and the father of lies.” (John 8) Or when He said, “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You are like whitewashed tombs, which look beautiful on the outside but on the inside are full of the bones of the dead and everything unclean.” (Matt 23) At one point the disciples said to Jesus, “Do you know that the Pharisees were offended when they heard this?” He replied, “Every plant that my heavenly Father has not planted will be pulled up by the roots. Leave them; they are blind guides. If the blind lead the blind, both will fall into a pit.” Jesus didn’t say, “Oh, I’m sorry, sorry, sorry, so very sorry for offending you.” He spoke the truth and let it stand, let it do its work. 

So when do we keep silent and when do we speak up? The other day I came across an article called, Be Wise About Repentant Predators. The whole article is very good and worth reading, but I’d like to focus on this portion:

It is not gossip to expose predators. It’s telling the truth for the sake of preventing future victims. When they began harming others, they relegated their “right” to privacy.

And in terms of casting stones, yes, of course we examine ourselves. But what if our introspection means we don’t report very real predation? What if society operated that way? What if I knew that a person was a murderer and would most likely murder again? Would I refrain from reporting simply because I, too, struggle with sin? How ridiculous is that? My own sin struggle is a separate issue from being an agent of justice. My greater allegiance must be to the One who made us, who calls murder (and rape) wrong. My allegiance must be to protect the innocent.

I think this is helpful and Biblical. We must not be silent about wickedness. We must take a stand against the wicked, expose wickedness, and speak out for those who cannot speak for themselves:

Like a muddied spring or a polluted well are the righteous who give way to the wicked. (Prov 25:26)

Have nothing to do with the fruitless deeds of darkness, but rather expose them. (Eph 5:11)

Speak up for those who cannot speak for themselves;
ensure justice for those being crushed.
Yes, speak up for the poor and helpless,
and see that they get justice (Proverbs 31:8-9)

Rescue those being led away to death;
    hold back those staggering toward slaughter.
If you say, “But we knew nothing about this,”
    does not he who weighs the heart perceive it?
Does not he who guards your life know it?
    Will he not repay everyone according to what they have done? (Prov 24:11-12)

It’s still not easy to know when to speak and when to be silent. It gets even more complicated because it’s not easy to discern the difference between 1. a compassionate person who is unaware that her words could be hurtful, such as when she doesn’t know what will trigger another person’s pain, 2. a deeply wounded person who lashes out in pain, or 3. a truly evil person who deliberately seeks to destroy others. Dr. George Simon says that since we can’t really perceive others’ motivation, we need to focus on addressing wrong behaviors. I studied an ancient book called “Ethics of the Fathers” with a Messianic Jewish scholar. “Ethics of the Fathers” teaches that 1. We should “judge everyone favorably”–in other words, give people the benefit of the doubt. For example, if a person who you know is always kind and honest one day says/does something unkind or which appears to be dishonest, don’t quickly assume he is an unkind or dishonest person. Consider that he might be stressed from having a very bad day or that you don’t know all the facts of a situation. However, “Ethics of the Fathers” also says “don’t associate with a bad neighbor.” In other words, if a person is consistently nasty or dishonest, that’s not due to merely having a bad day. That is his character; that is who he is. So don’t associate with him.  Dr. George Simon and “Ethics of the Fathers” helps me to be patient toward others, while not accepting bad behavior. Whether a person is merely unaware, or lashing out, or truly evil, we can still confront hurtful behavior.

I still struggle with when to speak and when to be silent–I know I get it wrong at times. However, I will not tolerate those who deliberately bully, insult, and/or abuse others, who unmake others by creating the false reality that they are unlovable, worthless, stupid, and useless. I will not protect abusive people with my silence. It is my goal to recover enough so others can’t force their false “reality” on me and to also help others recover.

Do you see how beautiful Hebrew is? One little word stirred up all these things.

 

A Funny Type of Breed

Rebuilding rock dams

I’ve been working on my rock dams this week. My goal is to take one wheelbarrow load–a light load–of potato stones down the driveway to rebuild the dams to stop erosion. Yesterday I actually did two loads. Today I didn’t want to do any but I forced myself to do one load. I started at the top of the driveway and I’m working my way down. I figure that it’s best to start at the top in order to slow the speed of the rainwater rushing down the hill. I figure that I’m about halfway down the driveway now. I thought I was halfway down the driveway yesterday too so it doesn’t feel like I’ve made much progress but I sort of suspect it’s like driving toward mountains that never seem to get closer even though they are. I was sort of hoping I could complete the dams before it begins to rain, although I had no desire to push myself hard. I figured I would get done what I get done, and any improvement is better than none.

It is a cloudy and cool 63 (F) degrees today, but I felt very warm as I worked. I think the humidity, which is at 69% today–I remembered to check–makes the coolness feel warmer. Later we are supposed to get some rain, and it will rain for the next few days. This is our forecast from the National Weather Service. As you can see, the days and nights are getting cooler.

I am really looking forward to the crisp and colorful autumn. I also love the beauty of winter and the fact that the birds, deer, and turkeys come close to the house to eat from the birdfeeders. Although, to be honest, I’m not exactly looking forward to snowblowing the driveway or the possibility of slipping on snow-covered ice and breaking bones.

Anyway, yesterday after I rebuilt rock dams, I started a whimsical project I’ve been planning. I got the first step done–painting primer on some wood. I was going to work on the next step today, but I had low energy today so I decided to put if off for another day or two.

In yesterday’s mail I received an “Explanation of Benefits for Dental Care” from Blue Cross Blue Shield of Michigan. It looked like they were denying the claim, which is reasonable since BCBSM is not our insurance provider. I figured that the dentist office must have submitted their charges to the wrong insurance company by mistake. But, even so, I didn’t sleep well because of the statement. It’s stupid, but ever since JJ had cancer, the slightest hiccup causes me sleepless nights. I think we got so physically, emotionally, and mentally exhausted by his cancer battle that we are having a hard time getting back our strength. It’s also possible that cancer drove home that bad things really can happen to us, and not just other people.

This morning I called the dentist office about the claim. The receptionist said that sometimes companies use a different insurance providers for medical and dental care, but she’d look into it. She called me a few minutes later and said, oops, BCBSM is not our insurance company, and she would resubmit charges to the correct company. With that problem taken care of, I went back to bed for some extra sleep.

My birthday is in early October. Birthdays are the dates when people have to get their driver’s licenses renewed. In Michigan, we have to get our licenses renewed every four years. We can alternate renewing by mail with having to go to the Secretary of State’s (SOS) office–other states call it the Department of Motor Vehicles or DMV–to take a written driver’s test and have our photo updated.  Last time I was able to renew my driver’s license by mail so this time I have to go to the SOS for the written test. Although I’ve always passed the test–no problem–I didn’t know if I would remember the answers to the questions this time. I figured there must be on-line practice tests and, yup, I found one. I’ve been taking the tests every day or two to refresh my knowledge. I’m glad I am taking them because I got some of the questions wrong. It’s sort of like knowing exactly where a friend’s house is so you could drive right there without thinking, but not really knowing their actual mailing address. Like, I know to stop a distance from a school bus with flashing lights stopped along the road to pickup up/drop off children, but I couldn’t remember exactly how many feet from the bus to stop. I mean, I’m not out there measuring distances with a tape measure. And I didn’t know that “When you are driving on a freeway, the condition in which you feel that you are going slower than your actual speed” is known as velocitizing. I had never even heard the term velocitizing before. I can drive and understand the concept without knowing the word velocitizing. I did get that question right through process of elimination but I didn’t know the actual word. (In fact, my spell checker didn’t even recognize this word!) And then sometimes I know the answer to a question but I overthink it and then get it wrong. Ugh. I figure I will take the practice tests until I feel ready and then go take the real test. Then I won’t have to worry about taking another test for eight years.

Yesterday evening EJ and I were in the kitchen–I might have been finishing the dishes?–when I heard EJ shout, “No, Hannah! No!” He said that he had caught her with her paw and her snout in the pocket of the sweater I had draped over the chair. I often wear that sweater in the house, and Hannah has learned that I keep Kleenex in the pocket. She is addicting to eating Kleenex, paper towels, and toilet paper. Often I come into a room and find the sweater on the floor with the pockets wet (from her tongue) and empty. Hannah is a pick-pocket. Our vet told us to teach Hannah to not eat tissues, etc., by leaving them in various places and then commanding her not to touch them. Now Hannah waits until we aren’t looking or aren’t in the house before she steals them. Today when prepared to wash dishes, I couldn’t find the dishcloth anywhere. Finally, I just got another one from the drawer. Later I found the dishcloth on the bed where Hannah likes to take things she eats. Sigh.

Danny

My beloved Danny, who died of cancer last November, was a very introverted dog. He was sweet, polite, rarely barked, and liked to do his own thing. Danny loved food–although not nearly as much as Hannah. He was completely devoted to me and would follow me everywhere. People sometimes asked what kind of dog he was when we took him for walks, but we really didn’t know. We think he might have had some Chow in him. EJ sometimes jokingly said that Danny was part American Moocher and part English Stalker. We believe Hannah is part Lab and part Pitbull but if I were to make up a funny type of breed for her, I think I would call her part Attention Hound because she always demands attention and part Pit-Pocket because she is always stealing stuff. I’m sure she has a few other “breeds” mixed in as well. LOL.

Danny was an awesome dog and so is Hannah. She has a lot of funny little quirks and she is just mischievous enough to make her interesting. I always loved that Danny was so very devoted to me. I was first in his heart and everyone else was a distant second. But I also enjoy that Hannah loves both EJ and me equally. When she plays fetch, she takes turns bringing the ball to first one and then the other of us. Sometimes she snoozes on my lap and sometimes she snoozes on EJ’s lap. She really is an adorable dog. EJ says that he sometimes has trouble remembering that she’s not human. 🙂

Hannah and EJ

A Hint of Autumn

A foggy morning.

Last week several mornings started out with heavy fog. Once the fog dissipated, the skies were very blue–the deep vivid blue that occurs only in the autumn. The trees are just beginning to get some color. The temperature has been both cool and hot at the same time. The mornings start out cool but the temperature heats up a little during the afternoon. Even though it’s warm, there’s an underlying coolness that hints that colder weather is coming. It is difficult to describe.

The Wind Sock

The days have been passing quickly; it’s already almost a week since I last wrote! Last week I did little tasks, including putting up a flag pole with a decorative wind sock thingy in the expanded garden. I think I probably bought the wind sock from a child raising money for school when we lived downstate. I put it up to act as sort of a scarecrow to maybe scare away flying predators who might go after our chickens. EJ and I thought the chickens might be more vulnerable with such a wide open area. I think the crows who live in our Enchanted Forest chase away most predators, but I didn’t want to take any chances.

The chickens really seem to be enjoying their expanded territory. I enjoying watching them through the window as their wander around.

Saturday EJ and I enjoyed a quiet day. Sunday morning EJ, Hannah, and I went to TSC to buy some t-posts. Shortly after we returned home, our friend T. stopped by. EJ and T. have been friends since high school, and he is an “adopted” part of our family. JJ has always called him Uncle T. Hannah adores Uncle T. She got super excited when she saw him, and as soon as he sat down on the couch, she cuddled right up to him. Hannah is such a cute dog.

T. visited for a couple of hours. After he left, EJ and I went out to get some work done. We started to attach fencing to the t-posts we had put up last week to protect the cherry trees from the deer, but we were short a few feet so we postponed that task and worked on pounding the new t-posts in next to the apple trees on the hill. Once we get more fencing, we will encircle each apple tree so the deer can’t eat them during the winter.

One of my rock dams.

I had several tasks I wanted to get done today. I started not long after EJ left for work because I wanted to get as many things as I could done in the cool of the morning. I started washing our clothes and after each load was finished, I took the wet clothes outside and hung them on the clothes line. In between loads, I filled a wheelbarrow full of potato stones from our rock pile. They are called “potato stones” because they are about the size of potatoes. Uh, I didn’t exactly “fill” the wheelbarrow. I put in just enough to not make the wheelbarrow too heavy. Then I pushed the wheelbarrow down the driveway. I had noticed that some of the rock dams I had built in previous years to stop erosion along the driveway were getting covered with sand that was carried down by heavy rain. So I used the potato stones to rebuild the dams. I figured that I will take one wheelbarrow load down the driveway each day to rebuild the dams until I have them all fixed.

After I finished the rock dams, I took some tools down to the cherry trees and moved the posts closer to the trees as EJ and I had discussed. It was about noon-ish by this time and the day was warming up. Some of the posts were a bit difficult to pull up–I had to use a crowbar, shovel, and effort to get them out of the ground. I felt very hot and sweaty and had to take a break. But I finally got all the t-posts pulled up and relocated closer to the trees. I then pulled the fencing tight and attached it to each posts. With the enclosed area smaller, I had enough fencing to go all the way around the trees. The fencing doesn’t look picturesque, but we need to keep the deer away from the trees. Last winter they munched on the apple trees, almost eating one away to nothing.

EJ often goes out with me in the evenings to shut the chickens up in their coop. I have Christmas lights in the coop to provide light when I am out there. I think it looks really cozy, especially with the chickens all settling in. EJ thinks it looks like a chicken sukkah. A sukkah is a temporary shelter covered in natural materials built during the Feast of Tabernacles.  Sassy, our alpha rooster, has been nesting on top of the enclosed litter box, which we use as a nesting box for the hens to lay their eggs in. Sassy looks like a king on his throne. Lol.

After we get the chickens shut up safely in their coop, EJ and I always spend a few minutes watching Monty the bat flying around feasting on insects. Yes, we named the bat. Our property seems to be his territory because he circles right overhead every night. Sometimes we see two bats. We call the second one Mrs. Monty. Of, course, we don’t know their gender but it keeps things simple to call them Mr. and Mrs.

 

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