I’m a bit late in wishing every American a wonderful Independence Day. I love July 4th with its cookouts, parades, and fireworks to celebrate freedom. We were (and still are) patriotic. When I was younger, my Dad bought a small cannon. It was, I don’t know, maybe 2-3 feet long. He’d shoot it off on July 4th. It didn’t have cannon balls or anything because it wouldn’t be cool to knock a hole in a neighbor’s house! It was just packed with gun powder and made a loud boom. I loved it. I would have loved to have inherited it after my Dad died but, alas, I am a black sheep in the family.

When EJ and I were first married, we’d go to various towns to enjoy their fireworks displays. One time we were traveling home from someplace “up north” (I can’t remember where); we enjoyed the fireworks of multiple towns and cities as we drove by. It was awesome. When our son was older, we stayed home because he enjoyed setting off the smaller fireworks that we bought. We stayed home this year and enjoyed the quiet beauty of our Enchanted Forest. Because of high–and rising–inflation, we haven’t bought a lot of picnic or snack foods lately. They can really blow our budget. But because it was Independence Day, we splurged on traditional foods: hamburgers, hotdogs, chips, homemade coleslaw, and Moomer’s Ice Cream, which is made locally and is the best ice cream EVER. Normally I would have also made potato salad, but with our chickens not laying many and at least one eating them, I decided not to.

There are fantastic festivals with fireworks near us, but tens of thousands of tourists come up to the area, which is just too peopley for us. We could hear the loud booms of fireworks all around us and you’d think that with us living on the top of the hill, we’d be able to see some of them, but the surrounding trees and hills block all but the tops of the highest fireworks. I actually spent the evening trying to win first place in a Hebrew challenge on my phone’s language app. I succeeded, although the competition was very fierce. I was able to win this level because I was already mostly familiar with the material from previous studies and I could keep ahead of the competitors…barely. I wanted to win once because with more complicated lessons, I doubt I will make it into first place again.

Last Thursday evening I finally gave the chicks their freedom, letting them out of their cages to join the flock. I felt they were old enough to leave, they were getting too big for the cages, and in the cages they can’t seek cooler places on hot days. EJ and I moved the topmost cage with the younger four onto the strawbales on the floor so the chicks could easily leave it. The next morning, I took that cage out of the coop because it was taking up too much space. I left the other cage because it’s out of the way and the chicks can easily get in and out of it if they wanted. I put their chick feed in there for them to try to keep the older chickens from gobbling it down. The chicks are not too thrilled at joining the adults. Of course, they are now subjected to being taught their place in the pecking order. They stay in a bunch and often I find all eight of them in the one cage. I’m sure that in a few days, they will get bolder. They can’t stay safely caged forever and, besides, freedom is worth having.

Early this afternoon I went out to gather eggs. When I opened the gate separating the chicken pen from the garden, one of the hens escaped. I almost blocked her with my leg, but she squeezed past me. While I was trying to get her back in, our beta rooster escaped. I was able to get the hen back in her area without too much trouble–they like to be with the flock. But roosters are wily and this rooster kept getting past me. The problem is that I have to latch the gate so the other chickens can’t get out, but when I get the rooster near and try to unlatch the gate, he gets past me. I finally knocked on our bedroom window, knowing that Hannah Joy would hear it and start barking, and EJ would hear her and come to see what she was barking at–which is exactly what happened. When EJ came to the window, I told him I needed help. When he joined me, he steered the rooster toward the gate and I opened it to let him in. Unfortunately, the Alpha rooster was nearby and he chased the rooster back out, but I got him away from the gate and we had success the second time. I think that if EJ was gone, I’d never have been able to get the rooster back in the pen, leaving him free to eat our garden plants.

One evening last week when I was walking around the house after shutting the chickens in their coop for the night, my attention was drawn to strange activity on the ground. I went closer and saw that beetles were swarming the carcass of a chipmunk that the cats had killed. They were unfamiliar insects so I took a video of them with my phone. Then I went inside and found an insect identification website. I learned that the beetles were American Carrion Beetles, which eat dead things. As I viewed my video, I noticed that my camera had caught just a brief glimpse of a portion of another sort of beetle. I think that was some sort of burying beetle–probably the Tormentose Burying Beetle? The information said that those beetles bury the carcass of birds and small critters. They lay their eggs on them and when the eggs hatch, the young have a food source. The next day I took EJ to the place where the carcass was to see if the beetles were still there. There wasn’t a sign of the dead chipmunk! Either some animal had taken it away or the beetles had buried it. Amazing! I would share my video with you, but I don’t know if anyone wants to see insects eating a dead chipmunk. I don’t normally like looking at dead things either, but this was actually very interesting. All I could think was that God created excellent clean-up crews to take care of dead things. They are probably why we don’t often see dead critters on the ground.

I wasn’t sure that my herb garden was going to be very successful this year because many of the seeds didn’t seem to be taking off. However, they are FINALLY growing well. In fact, yesterday I began drying the mint in my dehydrator. I have three different kinds of mint: peppermint, spearmint, and chocolate mint, which really does have a chocolatey taste. I’ve been enjoying making tea with the mint, letting it cool down, and drinking it as a cool summer drink. It’s yummy. Sometimes I put in a bag of Lipton Cold Brew Tea. I also make teas with Lavender, Chamomile, Basil, and other herbs. Herbs have a lot of medicinal uses, including for respiratory illnesses, detoxing, anxiety, insomnia, stomach problems, and many others.

This morning EJ finished making homemade cat food for Theo and Millie, our outside cats. They love his food. I would let them stay out later, but around 7 pm they stand at the front door waiting for their special treat. I open the front door and they come in and I open the garage door and they go through it into the garage. I shut them in for the night to keep them safe from predators, and then I bring them their special food. They chitter with excitement when they see it.

It looks as if we might be getting another cat to join Little Bear and Timmy in the house. EJ’s co-worker is moving and needs a home for his cat, who is 12-13 years old. We are suckers…but we don’t think the cat should have to spend her final years in a shelter–or be euthanized. Hannah Joy has no great fondness for cats, but we will introduce them slowly and hope for the best.

It rained a bit this morning and we are expecting more rain later, which we really need. This afternoon has been mostly cloudy and humid. It’s not terribly hot, and there’s is a nice breeze, but the humidity makes it feel hot. Except for the dryness, the weather this summer has been very pleasant–most of the time neither too hot nor too cold.

Everyday Shoes

Last week my crocs disintegrated, and the shoes I wore out to the coop are falling apart, which means that I only had a pair of “go to town” sneakers that I wear only when I leave home so they look nice. It was time for me to get more shoes.

I had asked EJ to stop at Goodwill on his way to work to see if he could buy some shoes for me. (He buys things on his way to work to eliminate unnecessary trips.) For those who may not know: People donate unwanted items to Goodwill, which then sells them at a low price. We enjoy buying from Goodwill because we’ve always liked being frugal–and it’s especially important with super-high inflation and warnings of supply chain issues. We are trying to buy ahead in case items become too expensive or scarce to buy. Also, we never know what we will find at Goodwill so it’s like treasure hunting. I asked EJ to specifically look for “coop” shoes and backless slip-on shoes. The “coop shoes” are only for walking out to the coop. When I come back into the house, I take them off in the laundry room so Hannah Joy can’t access them–otherwise she licks the chicken poop off them. Yuck. I keep backless slip-on shoes near the door in case I have to take quick trips outside or to the garage–to take Hannah Joy on/off her tether, for example, or when I am moving sprinklers from one place to another. EJ found THREE pairs of shoes: One for “coop shoes” (the pink shoes in the bottom row of the photo), and two backless slip-ons (the white and dark blue shoes in the top row). He got them for $7 each, which is far cheaper than paying $30, $40, or more for shoes. I told EJ he did a wonderful job finding me shoes.

I ordered a pair of new shoes on-line to wear for longer walks on the property–down the driveway to get the mail, for example. They arrived today. I think they are almost too pretty to wear, but shoes are for wearing so I will wear them! They are the top left ones in the above photo. They are comfy.

Before I got any new/used shoes, EJ glued my old coop shoes (battered shoes on the bottom right in photo) together with strong glue so they’d last until I got new ones. I decided I will wear them until they fall completely apart before switching to the new “coop shoes.” No use discarding them before I have to.

I forgot to include my “go-to-town” sneakers in the photo. Oh, well.

Earlier this week I consulted with EJ about whether he thought we should let out the chicks into the general population of the flock this coming weekend. We decided to hold off for another couple of weeks. They have almost all their adult feathers (especially the older ones), but EJ felt they were still a bit too young. They are only half the size of the adults. So we will wait. It doesn’t hurt to continue giving them their “chick starter” feed.

The younger chicks are getting a bit sassy, trying to peck me when I give them fresh food and water. When I got my first flock of chickens in 2016, I read that the reason some chickens get mean is because they think they outrank you in their pecking order so they are trying to keep the inferior human in their place. So I make sure they understand THEIR place in the pecking order by not letting them get away with sassing me. Because of this, I have never had any mean chickens. EJ laughs that our alpha rooster acts like a foreman reporting to his boss (me). He keeps his flock in line and respects me. So with the young chicks now beginning to sass me, I found a ruler-sized stick and I (not harshly) nudge/poke them away, treating them much like a higher ranking chicken would treat a lower ranking one.

The hens have several places in the coop where they like to lay their eggs. Mostly they lay them in the kitty litter boxes I set up for them, but they lay in other places as well. One place is now blocked by the chicks’ cages. I see several eggs back there, but I can’t reach them. So it’s possible we might eventually have some naturally hatched chicks. I don’t see any hen sitting on the eggs…but we shall see.

The bluebirds are starting their second family of the summer. It’s so much fun to watch them.

EJ asked me the other day if we are at war with the chipmunks. Chipmunks are very cute and entertaining to watch as they scurry about, but they are also quite destructive. We seem to have an abundance of chipmunks this year. The chipmunks really irritate Hannah Joy with their squeaky chatter, but I’m not quite ready to declare war. This is a brief video I took of them chasing each other.

The Chipmunk Horde

We’ve had some hot days but mostly we’ve had some pleasantly cooler days with a nice breeze. To me, “hot” is 80-90 degrees and “pleasantly cool” is in the 60s or low 70s. We could use a little more rain, but I really have no complaints about the weather.

We do seem to have more chipmunks than normal. They’ve been zipping around the deck, through my herb garden, and up onto the tray bird feeder where they stuff their cheeks full. One even climbed up the window screen. He ran away when EJ exclaimed, “Hey! What do you think you are doing?” I tried to get a photo of more than one of the chipmunks, but they are so fast that I couldn’t manage it. Also, they don’t like to share the feeder with each other.

One evening when I was returning from shutting the chickens up in the coop for the night, I saw a hummingbird at their feeder. I paused at the corner of the deck to wait until she finished sipping the nectar. While I was waiting, I watched a chipmunk scamper across the deck toward me, and then another followed that one. When the first one got to within a couple feet of me, I suddenly shouted “RAWR!” The chipmunk yelled “EEEEK,” ran into a planter pot on the deck, and then dashed off. LOL.

The chipmunks frequently squeak, which irritates Hannah Joy. Sometimes she’s had enough and she lunges at the window shouting “RAWR!” which is probably where I got the idea. Then she comes up to me with a pleading look on her face as if she wants me to do SOMETHING about those annoying critters. I tell her that there’s really nothing I can do. “It’s Theo and Millie’s job to get rid of rodents so talk to them.” We frequently find a dead chipmunk in the garage so the cats are trying…but apparently there was a chipmunk baby boom or something this year because their numbers don’t seem to diminish. Chipmunks are very cute, but they are nuisances.

I’ve seen no sign of the Mama Raccoon visiting the feeder lately. Probably she’s given up because the Chipmunk Horde is eating all the seeds before she gets there.

I’ve thought about not putting seeds out for a few days to discourage the chipmunks, but we have a little tufted titmouse with an obviously broken leg who visits and I want to make sure he has an easily accessible source of food until he heals. I didn’t think he’d survive long with an injury, but he is still showing up at the feeder. In fact, he showed up while I was writing this post. He is a plucky little thing.

The chicks are doing well in their cage in the coop. I plan to add them to the general population next weekend. I figure they are old enough and big enough now to join the adults–and it seems symbolically appropriate to release them from their cage during Independence Day weekend. I’ve kept them in their cage so they and the older chicks can get used to each other–and so I could keep feeding the chicks their “chick starter” feed.

My crocs self-destructed the other day and the shoes I wear out to the coop are barely holding together. The only good pair of shoes I have (other than dress shoes that I rarely wear) is my “going to town sneakers,” which I prefer not to get covered in dirt and chicken poop. So this morning I ordered shoes online. I ordered slip-on shoes because I am in and out of the house all day: taking Hannah Joy out, bringing her back in, moving the sprinklers, walking to the mailbox. It’s easier to have shoes that I can slip quickly on and off rather than have to keep pausing to pull them on and tie them. I dislike wearing shoes in the house. I asked EJ to stop at Goodwill on his way to work next week to try to find me used shoes that I can wear to the coop. No use buying new shoes that will get all crappy.

I’ve transplanted some of the herbs that EJ started into my herb garden. EJ is currently out working in his vegetable garden. Hannah Joy is snoozing in the sunlight.

I forgot to mention before that June 1st marked the 7th anniversary of our move to our Enchanted Forest. It’s gone really fast. My only regret is that we didn’t move here sooner. I love it here!

30 Pounds of Carrots

I didn’t sleep well for several days last week. Tuesday night my thoughts were too active. Wednesday night we had thundering storms that kept me awake. Thursday was sunny, but we had very strong winds (30-40 mph) that knocked out our power along with 11,700 others. We don’t lose our power often, but if it goes out it’s usually due to winds. I think we lost our power around 4:30 pm and we didn’t get it back until mid-morning on Friday. I didn’t sleep well because usually I have a fan running for “white noise” and it was too quiet without it. Also, Hannah Joy frequently leaped up to investigate little noises (such as the cats running around, the chicks twittering, EJ coming home from work, etc), which the noise of the fan usually blocks out. It was also hot and stuffy with no fan which made it difficult to sleep.

But I survived. Drowsily, but I survived.

Early last week EJ bought 30 pounds of carrots. That’s a lot of carrots. I’ve spent several days peeling them, cutting them up, blanching them, and putting them in bags to freeze. We will use them later in recipes. The first day I worked on the carrots–Wednesday–I took a few out to the patio table on the deck to work. The weather was perfect–not too cool and not too hot, with a nice breeze blowing. Wednesday was much too hot so I worked inside.

Friday morning EJ and I moved the chicks out to the coop. It was easier than I thought it would be because we simply made sure the mesh tops of the cages were wired off then we carried the coop out of the house and onto the wheelbarrow. EJ then wheeled them into the coop. I’m going to keep the chicks in the cages so they can continue eating their “chick starter” feed and to let the chicks and the adults get used to each other.

After we got the chicks settled in their new home, EJ went to work in his vegetable garden while I thoroughly cleaned the bathroom. Hannah looked into the tub several times and seemed surprised to see the chicks gone. I don’t think she actually misses them. Every time they squawked she’d run into the bathroom to check on them, and then come to me with a worried look on her face. I’d tell her that the chicks were just playing, they weren’t in danger, but she didn’t seem convinced. Now that they are gone, she can relax.

Friday afternoon I peeled, but, blanched, and froze more carrots. We were exhausted so we were glad to rest on Saturday, which is our custom.

The National Weather Service forecast called for nicely cool weather for Sunday so I mowed the lawn. It was cool enough that we wore sweatshirts except when we were not working. I usually am the one who mows the lawn because it frees up EJ to do other things–like work in his garden. Also, he tends to mow around any little flower he sees. We keep most of our 5 acres wild because we enjoy wildflowers and wildlife. We just mow a little bit up around the house where we walk/work because we don’t want to risk getting ticks, which carry Lyme’s Disease. Because we have an abundance of wildflowers elsewhere, I do mow the flowers in the lawn area, although I left EJ a little clump of flowers when I mowed on Sunday. Hopefully, we can get the seeds and spread them elsewhere.

I also did laundry and hung them on the line on Sunday. And I peeled, cut, blanched, and froze more carrots. I accused EJ of buying a magic bag of carrots because I felt that no matter how many I processed, the bag was still just as full of carrots.

We both watered our gardens yesterday evening because we had only a 20% chance of rain for Monday morning. Usually, that means we don’t get rain. So I was surprised when I was awakened at 11:30 by thunderous booms and lightning flashes. I checked the radar and we were getting hit by a pretty intense line of storms. I stayed up for an hour watching the storm. After that I wasn’t able to sleep all that well.

I woke late this morning so rather than take a shower first, as I usually do because it wakes me up, I did my chores. I was so drowsy that I spilled water on myself as I tried to refill the chicks’ water bowls with fresh water. Then I accidentally left the gate open so two roosters and a hen escaped into the garden. Not good! I was able to quickly get the hen and one rooster back inside their pen, but the second rooster was wiley. I couldn’t leave the gate open to steer him into it because the other chickens would escape, but whenever I got the rooster close to the gate and was trying to unlatch it, he’d move past it. Finally, I shouted for EJ for help. He guided the rooster my way while I opened the gate. In he went.

The weather forecast was for temperatures in the 90s today and tomorrow. I was worried that the chicks wouldn’t be able to handle the heat, but there is a nice cool breeze from Lake Michigan. I opened both coop doors so there is air circulation inside. I’ve checked several times and the chicks are doing fine. Just in case, last night EJ and I filled empty milk jugs with water and put them in the freezer. If it gets dangerously hot, we can put the iced jugs in the cages for the chicks. The adult chickens always find the shady places in their pen to keep cool. Sometimes I make them frozen treats to cool them off on hot days.

Today I gathered eight eggs and saw no broken ones so maybe my artificial eggs are actually discouraging the one hen from breaking them.

I finished the carrots today. Every time I peel/cut the carrots Hannah Joy sits under the table so she can eat any strays that drop to the floor. She takes her clean-up duties seriously. Usually, I don’t purposely drop the carrots for her because she gets enough that accidentally falls, but I did this one time so I could take this video.

Ups & Downs

Summer is our busy season as we care for our gardens. EJ works in his vegetable garden in the backyard on the weekends and before work on weekdays. I care for the herb garden and water the fruit trees in the front yard. The weather has been awesome with nicely cool temperatures. Although it’s going to start warming up tomorrow and Wednesday the temperature is forecasted to be 94 degrees. Yuck.

Saturday I glanced out the window and saw the bluebirds attacking a robin. They usually have no conflict with the robins so I looked more closely to see what was happening. I realized that the baby bluebirds were leaving the birdhouse and taking their first flights. The parents were aggressively clearing the area, making sure there were no threats to their fledglings. They even drove off a chipmunk that was in the tray feeder just outside the window. Usually, the bluebirds don’t come that close to the house. EJ and I shut Theo and Millie in the garage so they wouldn’t be a problem for the bluebirds. Then we sat in front of the window and watched the fledglings. Some were a bit hesitant and wobbly at first and we cheered when they were able to gain confidence and strength.

I’m having a problem with one (or more?) of the hens breaking eggs in the coop and eating the yolks. The hen breaks 1-3 eggs a day, so I’m having to go out to the coop multiple times to try to get to the eggs before she does. I’m having enough problems getting enough eggs for ourselves and to share with others without a hen turning cannibal. I normally get up to 7-8 eggs a day and she’s breaking 1-3 of them. Today I pondered the problem and then decided to buy artificial wooden eggs. People sometimes buy them to put in nests to encourage chickens to lay, but I’m hoping the artificial eggs will break her bad habit. I’m thinking that the hen will be in for a surprise if she tries to peck them! EJ also bought some crushed oyster shells at the farm store on his way to work last week in case the chickens are lacking calcium.

The wild birds throw away all the seeds except sunflower seeds so I just buy the sunflower seeds–and I’m hoping to grow enough so I don’t have to buy them. The post holding the bird feeders is next to the herb garden. When the birds eat the sunflower seeds, they tend to drop some of them. I found a lot of sunflower seeds in the closest raised garden bed where I plant my chamomile. I tried to get the seeds out when I planted the chamomile, but obviously I didn’t get them all. The other evening I saw the raccoon sifting through the dirt looking for the sunflower seeds. She didn’t care that I had planted chamomile seeds there. The next day, I used pieces of wire fencing to make a cage for that bed. She doesn’t seem to bother the rest of the herb beds. She just wants the sunflower seeds.

The chipmunks have been scurrying around, on, and under the raised beds as they go to the bird feeder to stuff their cheeks full of sunflower seeds. I told Theo and Millie that they are not doing very well at their job. They are supposed to keep the rodents away.

I was scheduled for Jury Duty on June 13, 16, and 23. I received a Jury Summons a half dozen times when we lived downstate–although only once was I required to appear at the courthouse, and I was not selected as a juror. Since we moved to Northern Michigan seven years ago, I have received a Jury Summons just about every year. I understand this because our current county doesn’t have many people so the pool of prospective jurors is small. However, in all his life, EJ has only received ONE summons from downstate AFTER we had just moved north so he was excused because he was no longer a resident of that county. Well, I should say that he has only received one Jury Summons UNTIL NOW. He received his second one last week. Because I have received so many Jury Summons and he has received so few, I admit that I laughed with glee. Our county does things sort of strangely because we (usually “I”) receive a summons in the summer but are not called until months later in the next year.

I was dreading the possibility of having to serve on the jury because we currently have only one vehicle, which means EJ would have to take me to/from the courthouse if I was selected, which means he would have to make arrangements with work and somehow he’d have to make up the time (and pay) he lost. With inflation so high, we can’t afford any loss of wages. The Jury information instructed me to call the special phone number the night before “my day” to see if I needed to be at the courthouse the next day. Sometimes a case is settled out of court just before the trial date. So I called the phone number….and the message said that Jury Duty was canceled for the month of June. Whew! I was so relieved!

It’s a good thing that Jury Duty is canceled because EJ had vehicle problems when he drove into work today. We are having multiple problems with the truck lately. EJ fixes one problem, we breathe a sigh of relief, and then something else goes wrong. I don’t know anything about vehicles…but last time EJ replaced a caliper. Today the breaks started smoking on his way to work. He discussed it with his coworkers and they agreed that new calipers shouldn’t stick so the problem is probably further up the line. He is going to add brake fluid and purge the system, he says, and it shouldn’t cost much. I’m really praying that the truck will get fixed and STAY fixed.

Zombie Chili

The weather has been absolutely perfect this week with not-too-cold and not-too-hot temperatures in the 60s. We’ve had some sunny days and some rainy days, which our thirsty gardens need. I wouldn’t mind if the weather was like this all the time. I prefer wearing jeans and sweatshirts.

Today was our third day of eating Zombie Chili. No, this chili is not made from or for zombies. Whenever I make chili for just the two of us, we always end up with leftovers. Many times there’s too much leftover to toss out but too little for another meal so the next day we add to it to stretch it. Again, there’s often too much leftover to toss out but too little for another meal so the next day we add to it to stretch it. We can live for 2-4 days from a pot of chili. To prevent having the same thing repeatedly, we change it a bit. For example, the first day we just have regular chili, the next day we might make cornbread to go with it or bake it with cornbread on top. Another day we might put rice in it or pour it over spaghetti. And so forth. This week I made the regular chili with ground beef as usual. On the second day, I asked EJ for suggestions for stretching it. I ended up adding cut-up hotdogs, bell peppers, and corn. Today I added another can of diced tomatoes and chili beans. We still have chili leftover for tomorrow. EJ came with the name “Zombie Chili” because he says it’s a meal that doesn’t die…it just keeps going and going and going. We laugh about it, but we both really enjoy the frugality of stretching the meal and being creative while doing it.

I like making hot tea with herbs I’ve grown myself. Many herbs have not only culinary but also many medicinal benefits. There are many herbal apps that describe the medicinal benefits. I use My Remedy to choose which ailment I want to address and then make hot teas with them. I bought empty tea bags to fill with my herbs. I’ve been enjoying experimenting with different combinations. I really like combining chamomile with other herbs. My favorites so far are chamomile/basil or chamomile/mint. I have three different kinds of mint: peppermint, spearmint, and chocolate mint (which, yes, tastes like minty chocolate).

It’s nice to drink hot tea during cold months, but I prefer cold tea during summer months. Yet, I also want the medicinal benefits of the hot tea. So this week I experimented with making chamomile/mint tea, letting it cool down, and then adding it to cold water or tea. (I like Lipton Cold Brew Tea; EJ likes green or black tea). Oh, my goodness! It is delicious! The herbs bring just enough flavor to make the beverages delicious without overpowering them. I’ve started making a tea bag for EJ of chamomile and basil for him to use at work. Cold herbal water or tea is now my favorite summer drink.

Our Mama Raccoon hasn’t returned in daylight since we kept Theo from messing with her. She continues visiting at night, however, because I see the tray feeder tipped.

Mama Coon

We’ve had some very hot, sweltering days in the last couple of weeks. Sweltering hot, for me, is 90 degrees Fahrenheit. In fact, I’m actually too hot when the temperature hits 80.

We’ve had some very dry days. I started watering the vegetable and herb gardens. Two of our oscillating sprinklers weren’t working. We have a small non-oscillating round sprinkler that shoots up a spray and since it doesn’t cover much ground, I had to keep moving it, which was exhausting. I spent hours moving the sprinkler every half hour or so. EJ finally bought a new sprinkler because there is no sense planting seeds if we can’t water them. We thought we’d try a sprinkler that fit on a t-post and rotated, but EJ can’t get it to work correctly. We will have to fiddle with the settings.

We’ve had cold days. We had frost warnings for Friday night–that was June 3!–so we went out in the early evening to cover all our plants in our gardens. EJ covered the vegetables in the back yard while I covered the herbs in the front yard. I used boxes, overturned planters (empty), and plastic bags. EJ used cardboard, milk jugs with the bottoms cut out, and I’m not sure what else. It was a lot of work to get everything covered. Saturday morning we uncovered all the plants.

We FINALLY had a rainy day yesterday. It was a steady all-day rain with no lightning or thunder, which we very much needed. A lot of the seeds EJ had planted weren’t sprouting so he thought that maybe they were too old or something. He went out and planted other seeds, and then we got the rain and everything is sprouting! I think it was too dry for the seeds to germinate before.

Last week when the raccoon visited the bird feeder in the early evening. I noticed that she was a little thinner and her teats show that she has obviously been nursing young! She has been showing up most evenings now. The bird feeder probably provides her with a quick supply of food. It will be fun to see her babies when she brings them to the feeder later in the summer.

I don’t mind Mama Raccoon eating the birds’ leftovers, but she also drains the nectar from the hummingbird feeders. It could get expensive making homemade nectar every day so I had to figure out a solution. I finally put the shepherd’s hook pole that holds the feeder in an old kitty litter bucket (we use the buckets for EVERYTHING) which I filled with dirt and rocks to make it heavy enough not to tip over. Then I positioned it on the deck, too far from the feeder for Mama to reach. Or so I thought. She didn’t access it the first night, but the second night I saw her stretch out to grab the hummingbird feeder while she was on the post and drink from it. So the next day I moved the hummingbird feeder further away so there is no possibility of her reaching it from the post. I saw her look up at it, but so far she hasn’t figured out a way to get it.

Mama Raccoon stopped by early Sunday evening. I was videoing her when suddenly Theo appeared. He is sweet, but not the sharpest pencil in the box. It’s not smart to mess with a raccoon–especially a Mama Raccoon. I shouted to EJ and we ran out to put Theo in the garage. Mama ran away as soon as we ran out. I noticed that Millie had been running toward the raccoon as well. I expect Theo to be a bit of a dunderhead, but I expected more from Millie. I shut the cats safely in the garage every evening but now I’m getting them in the garage before the Raccoon visits.

Here is the short video I took of Mama Raccoon. You can get a brief glimpse of Theo at the end. That is when I shut off my camera to rescue him.


As I was finishing writing my last post (Chick-apades), dark clouds moved in, we heard a few rumbles of thunder, and a strong wind caused the trees to sway wildly. We often get strong winds durings. We thought, “Finally! We are going to get some rain!” But after a few minutes, the clouds grew less dark, the thunder moved off, the wind died down, and the only rain we got was a few sprinkles. EJ said, “If I had paid for this, I would have wanted my money back!”

Then we both got tornado warning alerts on our phones.

We always stay alert to the weather. We both are interested in weather, and EJ has family history of his grandmother and parents being in The Beecher Tornado back before they (his parents) were married. As I was growing up, there was a phone number we could call to get a weather report. I would call it every morning to see what clothes I should wear because Michigan’s weather is very changeable: Is it going to be cold or hot? (Do I wear sweatshirt/coat or t-shirt?) Is it going to start off chilly and then get hot? (If so, I dressed in layers so I could take off warm clothing as the temps rose.) Is it going to start off hot and then get chilly? (Bring a jacket.) Is it going to be sunny or rain? (Bring an umbrella?) Is it going to snow? My Mom often told me to take a sweater with me on warm Spring days, describing a time when a Spring day was so warm that kids went to school wearing shorts and sandals and while they were in class, a huge snowstorm hit and some were walking home through snowdrifts in sandals. “If you don’t need a sweater, you can take it off,” she’d say. “But you can’t put it on if you need it and don’t have it.” I’ve followed–and quoted–that advice throughout my life. I remember when EJ and I hadn’t been married long, he, his friend, and I attended an outdoor event. The weather that day was very humid with sweltering 90-degree temperatures–but in minutes it suddenly plunged 40 degrees. I was the only one who was warm because I had left a sweater in the car.

To this day, I plan my clothing and activities around the weather report. If one day is going to be very hot and the next day a bit cooler, I will plan to mow the lawn on the cooler day. I’m surprised when I hear of people not paying attention to the weather, especially if they live in areas that have frequent severe storms, such as tornadoes or hurricanes. I don’t think we get as many severe thunderstorms here in Northern Michigan as we did when we lived downstate, but they seem to do a lot of damage when we do get them.

Back to last Friday: When the tornado warning went off, we were confused because the weather was quite calm. I stayed in to finish eating my piece of homemade pizza while EJ went outside to look at the sky. Nothing.

What we didn’t learn until a few hours later was that there WAS a tornado that touched down in a town relatively close to us. It killed a couple of people and did a lot of damage. We occasionally go shopping at some of the businesses that were destroyed. I feel sorry for the people of that town. Michigan businesses suffered from the harsh lockdowns in 2020. Many businesses closed. For the town to survive the lockdowns and then have their businesses destroyed…seems intolerable. And just when the tourist season is beginning, which is when they do a lot of business!

We did get some rain later that day. It was a gentle rain.

Last night the temperatures dipped to 32 degrees–which is cold enough to snow. It didn’t snow, thankfully. We thought it was a little too cold to try to endure without heat so we reluctantly turned our furnace back on. We were concerned about our fruit trees and bushes, but they seemed to have survived ok. We live on a hill and there are gullies around us. EJ thinks that the cold air might sink into the gullies (cold air sinks) so that we are spared some of the frost/freezes. Today was pleasantly cool–just right for mowing the lawn for the first time this year. Tonight we have a frost warning with an expected low of 38 degrees.

Mama Raccoon visits us frequently–or rather our birdfeeders–but it’s usually at night when we are sleeping. We only know she’s been here because the tray feeder is tilted. Last night she arrived at twilight when it was light enough to see her, but probably too dark for photos–so I didn’t try to take photos. She kept us laughing because she hung upsidedown by one foot to one of the brackets that hold the feeders while she reach down to eat the seed. Then she moved so she gripped the post with her back legs while she grabbed the tray feeder with her front paws. We watched in astonishment as her back legs kept slipping inch by inch down the post while she kept grabbing the feeder–and finally she tumbled off the post. She spent a lot of time after that eating that seed that she had spilled on the ground. Oh, she was so funny.


The temperature is forecasted to reach 77 degrees today, but it will cool off tomorrow and there are frost warnings for Sunday night. I swear the weather is bipolar–warm one day and chilly the next, up and down, up and down.

We are supposed to get rain today–and possibly storms–but so far radar shows the rain missing us, as it has for the last week or two. It often looks on radar as if a drenching rain is headed straight for us but then it either goes just north of us or dissipates altogether. We really need some rain because it is extremely dry here. I have watered the fruit trees and bushes a few times and this morning EJ set up the hoses and sprinklers in his garden for the early crops that he had planted–peas and such. I’ve been taking the soiled bedding from cleaning the chicks’ cages and spreading it around the fruit trees. Chicken poop is a good fertilizer and I’m hoping the pine chips (which the bedding consists of) will retain moisture for the trees. The bad thing about sandy soil is that water and nutrients quickly drain away.

The two sets of chicks are growing fast. The older chicks are sort of in an “ugly” between stage where they have lost their downy cuteness but have not yet gotten their adult beauty. Yet, I don’t really see them as “ugly.” They have endearing ways of looking up at me when I go into the bathroom and talk to them.

Yikes! I just went into the bathroom to take a photo of the older chicks to include in this post. I removed the grate-lid off their cage to get a better photo. I took my photos and was reaching to put the lid back on when one of the chicks fluttered out of the cage onto the floor! I quickly shut the bathroom door so Hannah Joy and the cats couldn’t get them. I chased after the chick, finally caught it, and put her back in her cage. But before I could put the lid back on, another chick fluttered out. This one got between the wall and the little chicks’ cage where it was hard to reach. I finally caught that bird and got her back in. Whew! I will have to be very careful now when I take the lid off. LOL.

We will likely keep the chicks in the bathroom through June at least–although we will play it by ear. Chicks need extra warmth and food, and special “chick starter” feed to give them the nutrients they need to help them grow big and strong. When I do transfer them to the coop, I will shut them in the small coops in THE Coop so that they and the adult chickens can interact and get used to each other without being able to mingle. That way, when I finally let the chicks out, the adults will view them as part of their flock and are less likely to bully them. I’ve never had a problem with adding new chickens to our flock with this method.

Last week EJ scavenged a kitty litter box (i.e., found it discarded along a road) for me to repurpose as a chicken nesting box. Litter boxes are our hens’ favorite places to lay their eggs. This morning I took it into the coop. I had to rearrange strawbales to fit it in. My activity upset the hens, who just wanted peace to lay their eggs. I suspect they might have been swearing at me so I think it’s a good thing that I don’t know how to speak their language. I’m sure I would have been appalled by the nastiness of their words. They look like such sweet things, but they have no trouble making their displeasure known. I’m hoping that my gift of a THIRD nesting box will smooth their ruffled feathers.

The raccoon showed up early again last night. We are quite sure we saw nipples on her belly so we are certain she is a female. We speculate that she is either due to give birth very soon or she has already. Maybe her babies are sleeping so she ducked out for a quick meal.

I’ve worked on this post off and on for several hours. As I’ve been writing it, dark clouds have moved in and I am hearing rumbles of thunder so maybe we WILL get rain. I sure hope so! I’d prefer a drenching rain rather than a severe thunderstorm.

This morning EJ drove very carefully to the auto parts store. I hope this will solve the problem with the truck. This year has been a bit difficult because as soon as we have solved one problem, we immediately get another. We are glad that if we have to go through difficult times, we have each other because although we get tired sometimes, we try to maintain a positive attitude, support each other, and work towards solving problems. We’ve known people who blame others when things go wrong and problems occur. It’s very unpleasant. EJ and I are a TEAM.

The Trash Panda

It’s been a crazy week. On Wednesday, the truck acted wonky as EJ was driving into work. It was serious enough that he took Thursday off so that he could work on it. He fixed that problem but another problem started to develop on his way to work today so he turned around and came home and is working on the truck again. This is our only vehicle so we can’t afford to have a major breakdown.

EJ was planning to help his friend who lives on the other side of the state tomorrow, but he’s going to have to work on the truck instead. I wouldn’t want him breaking down along the road. Plus, while I’m glad that EJ helps his friend, I’m a bit concerned that with having to buy auto parts, the (possible) loss of two days’ pay, and the HIGH price of gas, we can’t afford a trip across the state.

We are eager to get our gardens planted, but we’ve had several nights with frost so we are trying to patiently wait for another week or two. At least the frost hasn’t killed the blossoms on the fruit trees or lilac bushes. We have lilac bushes planted at three corners of our house and can smell their fragrance when we step outside. I picked a bouquet of them today so we could enjoy their fragrance inside the house as well.

Early yesterday evening a masked bandit visited the bird feeders. EJ calls raccoons “trash pandas” because they are opportunistic about food and are clever about getting into places they can find food–such as bird feeders and trash cans. Still, they are cute and I enjoy watching them through the window. I especially enjoy it when a Mama raccoon brings her half-grown babies to the feeders in late summer. Yesterday’s raccoon was so large that I suspect it’s a mother-to-be.

Usually, the raccoons come during the night and I only know they’ve visited because I find the tray feeder askew in the mornings. If I do see them at night, it’s too dark to photograph or video them. However, yesterday the raccoon came early enough that it was still light outside–and it was early enough that the birds were still wanting to eat from the feeder. A Rose-breasted Grosbeak and a Hummingbird were pretty upset that the raccoon was eating their food, as you can see in the video below. The raccoon ignored the birds and only ran away when Hannah Joy finally noticed it outside and began barking at it.

I’ve been working hard on my Hebrew. In addition to other words, I can now say “Good dog!” and “Bad dog!” Usually, Hannah Joy is a כלב טוב but, honestly, there are times when she is a bit of a כלב רע She might have been a mixture of good and bad when she scared away the raccoon.

I think I saw a scarlet tanager at the birdbath this evening. How awesome!

Spring Dazzled

Spring arrived so quickly that my eyes are dazzled by the sudden contrast from Winter’s stark whiteness to Spring’s burst of color. The leafy greens of trees, white blossoms of apple trees, and the various shades of purple of the lilac bushes are stimulating. And added to that are the vivid bluebirds nesting in the birdhouses, the ruby-throated hummingbirds zooming to the nectar I put out for them, the beautiful rose-breasted grosbeaks, and a glimpse of a brilliant orange Baltimore oriole, among many other birds.

I set up a large bowl–which usually I put under a plant pot to catch surplus water–on the large rocks for a birdbath. It’s fun watching the different birds use it.

This weekend was quite busy. Mother’s Day weekend we bought four Rhode Island Red chicks at the nearby farm store. After we brought them home, we decided to buy four more because of, uh, “chicken math,” which is when you end up buying more poultry chicks (of various types) than you intended. However, when we returned to the store, we discovered that someone had bought ALL the remaining chicks. They must have been doing a bit of chicken math as well. I was told by store staff that more chicks were expected but there’s no way to determine a delivery date for live chicks; they arrive when they arrive. They suggested I call ahead each day to see if any had arrived at the store. I called a couple times, and they still didn’t have Rhode Island Red chicks.

So we went to Plan B, which was to call the farm store that is further away to see if they had chicks. They did. Since we were making the trip anyway, we ordered more poultry feed online from the store. It saves time and effort to order online. When the store notifies us that the order is ready, we drive to the drive-thru and they load it in for us. We are trying to get ahead on poultry feed so we don’t run out if there is a sudden “shortage.” While EJ waited for our order to be loaded into the pickup, I went into the store to buy the chicks. The chicks were only $1.33 each at this store instead of the $4 which we paid for the chicks at the other store. It might be that they are reaching the end of their live poultry season so they are on sale to move them out. They had other types of chickens as well, and even some turkey chicks. I admired them all but I want you to know that I limited myself to only the four we had intended. I did tease EJ a bit, though, asking him how many chicks he thought I could buy for the $25 dollars I had in my wallet. I laughed when he sputtered that I was to buy FOUR AND NO MORE. Lol.

With the rising price of gas, which is at historic highs and expected to go higher, we combine trips whenever possible so on the way to the farm store, we stopped in at the plant nursery that is on our route. They finally had their herbs available. EJ bought a few vegetable plants and I bought most of the herbs plants I wanted. The ones they didn’t have we ordered as seeds online. We can plant some this year and save others for next year. On the way home from the farm store, EJ dashed into a grocery store to buy a few items we needed while I stayed in the pickup with Hannah Joy and the chicks.

If we had been able to buy the four additional chicks sooner, we would have put them in with the other four, but the first four have grown so quickly, and are so much bigger, that we were afraid they would bully the little ones so we set up a second cage in the bathroom. The older chicks have probably quadrupled in size in a week, growing from a ball of downy fluff that we could hold in one hand to at least about the size of Robins with most of their feathers. EJ had used the bottom half of a dog crate for the original chicks. I used the top half of the dog crate–flipped over–for the second group of chicks. I placed the crate on top of the other crate, but kitty-wampus so I can access both cages to give them food and water. EJ has placed gratings on both crates to keep the chicks safe.

It’s rather pleasant having the chicks in the bathroom. I often hear their soft chirping. Hannah Joy runs in to check on them if they squawk louder. The chicks run at each other in, I think, an attempt to establish their pecking order. Sometimes they stretch their growing wings as if they are doing yoga. A few times, I saw an older chick take a “dust bath.” She got food on her body and the others gathered around her to peck it off. I notice one look up at the grating as if she’s trying to calculate how to escape. They are adorable when they all huddle together in sleep.

Sunday night EJ and I stood outside and watched a lunar eclipse. We watched until the earth’s shadow completely covered the moon and then headed back in to go to bed. It was gorgeous. We also saw a smoke trail of a large meteorite that streaked across the sky. And we spotted the eyes of deer in the forest.

It’s been so dry out that I have begun watering the fruit trees and bushes. Our oscillating sprinklers are getting old and aren’t working right so I used a smaller round sprinkler. It doesn’t cover as large an area as the others so I have to go out every half-hour or so and move them.

I have decided that this year I won’t mow the grass beyond the large rocks in order to conserve gas. I also eyed the mound of crushed gravel that we bought last year to fill in places in our driveway that get eroded by heavy rain. The grass underneath my clothesline grows enough that I have to mow it to keep it short, but it’s sparse enough that the blower up a cloud of sand. I thought that if I shoveled some crushed gravel under the clothesline, it would prevent the grass from growing so I wouldn’t have to bother mowing it, which would also conserve gas. EJ thought that was a good idea. I was just going to shovel the gravel under there, but EJ said it would be better to hoe up the grass and level the area a little to reduce the risk of the gravel being washed away. So yesterday I hoed, raked, and shoveled. The gravel mound is near the clothesline so it wasn’t that far to carry shovelfuls. I got all the area covered in a layer of gravel. I will ask EJ if he thinks I should make the layer thicker. As I walk on the gravel, it will be pressed into a hardened surface.

The outside temperature was Summer hot last week but it has now cooled down to pleasant coolness–in the 50’s or 60s during the day which makes it pleasant to work. At night it’s dipping into the 30s and 40s. We refuse to turn the furnace back on at night; our blankets keep us toasty warm. However, to make sure it doesn’t get too cool for the chicks, I moved our little space heater into the bathroom for them.

Because of the cold night, I had to lug my house plants back inside. They are too heavy to keeping moving in and out so I’ll just leave them in until the nights are consistently warmer. EJ brings many of veggie and herb starts out on the deck during the day. They are in small containers so it’s not difficult to take them in each evening.

Spring Into Summer

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

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

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

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

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

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

Timmy reflecting


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

This is what rural life is like.

Seeds & Saplings

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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