So Much Momentous News!

All things considered, this has been an epic 10 days since I last posted. It finally stopped snowing (although apparently Gene’s weather app is taunting me with flurries in the forecast for Sunday), and the grass turned green basically overnight. After such a long winter, it almost doesn’t look natural – I still do a double take when I look out the window and see all that vibrant color.

But as awesome as an imminent need to break out the lawn mower is, that doesn’t even place in the top 5 cool things that have happened. Here they are, in no particular order:

#1: I saw a porcupine!

porcupine

Well, technically I’ve seen three of them in the last few days, but I only had my camera with me for one sighting. It was bumbling along the side of the ditch, so Gene stopped the truck and let me hop out to chase it. I discovered that even though I logically know they can’t launch their spines as a defense mechanism, no matter what I was told when I first moved here, it’s still an image I can’t get out of my head. So when it turned to glare at me, I instinctively jumped back about 5 feet and possibly screeched.

Despite the spiky demeanor, they actually have really cute faces. Plus, a mama and her babies are called a “Prickle,” and the babies themselves are called “Porcupettes”. How adorable is that?

#2: The hummingbirds have arrived!

Or at least two of them have. The first one showed up two days ago, and the second one yesterday. They’ve had a couple feeders out since May 1st, but actually seeing them was so exciting that I asked Gene to bring me some real flowers for them, since mine aren’t quite blooming yet. He brought back a fine selection of hummingbird favorites, like bright red Salvia and multi-colored petunias, which I promptly planted in pots that we now shuttle back onto the heated porch at night. Because despite the green grass, it’s still frosting at night, which is getting beyond old.

There’s another new arrival, too – a Baltimore Oriole. I saw a brilliant flash of orange up in the poplar trees, and ran to grab my bird book. Sure enough, that’s what he was – which necessitated another emergency trip into town so Gene could bring me some oranges. The Oriole has been happily camped out on the special citrus feeder we now have, going through orange halves at a somewhat astonishing rate.

oriole

#3: We need a bigger laundry basket!

Kitty

That’s not a small one, either. That’s the big, industrial, “we live on a farm and wreck pants with a quickness” sized hamper. Also pictured: Exhibit A for why literally everything we put on is covered in cat fur.

#4: We got up close to a wolf!

Granted it was while driving to Alan & Jennifer’s in the F150, and if Gene hadn’t been paying attention we would have splattered it all over the new brush guard. Good thing he’s got quick reflexes and dynamited the brakes. It must have been chasing something, because it didn’t even look at us when it dashed across the road. It was huge, and silver colored. It’s also likely the culprit for the ginormous pile of dookey I saw sitting in the exact middle of the end of the driveway a few days ago. Unfortunately I only noticed it literally as an older couple was turning into our driveway to buy some eggs, which I’m sure made a great first impression of our farm. When I say “ginormous”, I’m not exaggerating. It must have just eaten an entire deer or something. Quite frankly, I’m surprised their bumper cleared it, and they were driving an SUV. Gene said that’s the wolf’s way of claiming its territory, and basically taunting Ceri.

#5: The pigs are getting cuter!

Mario pig

And bigger, exponentially. We feed them four to five times a day, and pretty soon we’ll need to build them an actual trough. In a week or so we’ll be wrangling them down to the east pasture, as now that the weather is finally warming up we don’t want four pigs worth of flies that close to the house. Apparently I’m subconsciously fussing about it, because I had a nightmare that I was chasing flies around the house with the vacuum, and then when I went to throw the vacuum bag away it split open and all the flies came buzzing out again. But it was weird, because in real life I would have been racing out of the house while simultaneously screaming for Gene to get the shop vac, but in the dream I just stood there wondering why I bought a vacuum that still requires an actual bag.

It’s A Great Day For A Rampage

Yesterday we opened up the little side door so the pigs could venture outside for the first time in their lives, but all they would do is creep up to the opening, peek out, then scurry back to other side of the stall.

Not that I blame them, because it went from sleet to hail to snow all in the space of 5 minutes, despite the fact that it’s supposed to be SPRING. On the plus side, it got warm enough yesterday that none of it stuck around. And the passing storm made for a phenomenal sunset.

sunset

Today, it got just above 50, the sun was shining, and it was gorgeous. Gene and I decided the pigs needed to soak some of it up, so I held up a big sheet of plywood and he start to corral them toward the opening. It took some convincing, and a fair bit of squealing, but once one of them figured it out they all ventured outside. And it was glorious. Never have you seen happier pigs.

rampaging

They immediately started digging in the dirt, chomping on the grass that’s starting to come up, and chasing each other around. They introduced themselves to the goats, and seemed to genuinely enjoy following Ceri as she ran along the outside of the fence line. This was literally the first time they’d ever felt sunshine or wind, since they were raised inside, and it was really sweet to watch them experience it all.

goats

 

Mother Nature Missed A Memo

It should not snow, much less stick around all morning, in May. That’s so many kinds of wrong.

It’s spring! I’ve got flowers blooming in the basement that need warm air and sunshine with a quickness. While I admit perhaps I should have listened when Gene said, “Are you sure you should start those now – and start that many?” back in January, who would have thought it would still be snowing and 28 degrees in May???? Obviously not me.

So now I’ve got a guest bed turned planting station full of Moonflowers that are encircling the grow lights with vines, and we’re rapidly running out of space. Thank goodness we rarely have guests, because yes, right at this moment the plants that will be the stars of my night-time pollinator garden and attract the ultra-rare pink-banded Sphinx moths are more important and we’ve got a comfy barn if you’d like more space to stretch out.

Oh wait – there’s no room in the barn either! The sudden arrival of 4 pigs thanks to a screaming deal in Grand Rapids meant poor Gene had to undertake a massive renovation to the barn yesterday, despite fighting a bad cold. We moved all the goat’s belongings to one half, much to their annoyance, and installed the pigs in the slightly smaller side where they’ll get used to us and their new surroundings. In homage to the magnificent meals they’ll ultimately become, I’ve named them after celebrity chefs – Gordon, Mario, Paula and Giada.

Once it stops snowing, or raining, or both simultaneously, we’ll uncover the little door Gene cut in the side of the barn and they can roam around the enclosed pasture too. Then when summer finally comes, apparently around October, we’ll move them to the east pasture where they’ll have a few acres to till up.

Don’t worry – assuming the sun actually comes out tomorrow and we free the wee beasties to check out their temporary yard, lots more pictures will be forthcoming.

So Many Frogs!

One of my many favorite signs of spring is the very first time I hear the frogs start to sing. Their chorus started up two days ago – much to Gene’s annoyance. It’s not that he doesn’t like frogs, he just doesn’t like when I “scare the hell out of him” by banging on the bathroom door and telling him all about my latest discovery.

I’m supposed to wait until he’s had his first cup of coffee, but in my defense, this news couldn’t hold  – my Polly Rescue Project was a resounding success!!! If you’ll recall, Jennifer and I re-homed hundreds of tadpoles from their stock tank to a Tadpole Sanctuary that I created out of a huge bucket. It was well stocked with algae, aquatic plants, and tadpole pellets I got from the pet store. They literally wanted for nothing, except perhaps more positive affirmations from Gene (but he was adamant that only loonballs talk to tadpoles – proved him wrong!) When the weather started to turn in the fall, I released them into the pond where the plan was they’d hibernate over the winter by burrowing into the thick mud.

It worked impressively well – there are HUNDREDS of frogs now, and there were hardly any there last year. It’s a very Zen experience to watch them – they just hang out, waiting for a lady frog to fall under their melodic spell.

And that’s not the only place where romance is in the air. The last time Gene dragged me into WalMart, I noticed they had some Mystery Snails in what passes for their aquatic pet department. I figured they’d make a great addition to Yandu’s tank, and help out with the algae problem.

I had no idea snails were so magnificent. First off, they’re huge – especially the golden one, whom I’ve named Bentley. (Gucci and Ralph are both a pleasing shade of mahogany, which Gene insists on calling “brown”.) They’re surprisingly fast, and they LOVE to “snuggle”. Not that I stare at them, that’d be creepy. I’m just happy that they’re happy.

So signs of life, love, and spring are all over the place around here. For starters, I took the Christmas wreath down yesterday. I don’t care what Hallmark says – that’s the first Official Day Of Spring as far as I’m concerned.

Gene also brought out both the hose and the kiddie pool, which the geese were ecstatic about. Higgins took one look at what Gene was carrying and started to do a happy dance. They didn’t even wait until it was full to hop in and start splashing around.

And here’s incontrovertible proof winter is behind us – I saw 2019’s first butterfly. This year it was a Mourning Cloak, which is an absolutely terrible name for a butterfly. Whoever came up with that one should be fired. That’s like looking at a beautiful Monarch and being all, “hmmm… how about ‘Orange Death Shroud?’ That kinda fits…” Mourning Cloak indeed.

In other exciting news – I’m a legit logger now. What’s changed, you ask? I have now single handedly skidded a huge cedar tree out of the woods. Well, technically Alan cut it down, and Gene wrapped the line around it, but I’m the one that drove the tractor *and* pulled the string that made the winch reel it in. Ergo – legit logger.

I’ve skidded out over 10 trees now, and Gene only had to remind me once that real loggers don’t scream. Even when the tree gets hung up on other trees and the tractor gets yanked up onto one wheel, apparently. Personally I thought that if ever an occasion called for screaming, that was it. But thanks to my cat-like reflexes, I immediately disengaged the winch upon seeing what was transpiring. I know from a distance it probably looked like I quit pulling on the rope that runs the winch because I dropped it in sheer panic, but that totally wasn’t the case.

Besides, I didn’t scream today in a situation that would have made lesser loggers tremble in fear – a tree fell a mere 20 feet from my head. As I was preparing to pull the string, Gene was all – “Hey, look up to make sure a tree isn’t falling.” What he neglected to mention was what I should do if said tree falls toward me – since I’m perched on a tractor that’s attached to another tree. Like hitting the gas and zooming out of harm’s way is off the table, and let’s just say I’m not renown for my land speed. Sure enough, a tree fell and I calmly watched it come crashing down. That’s when I realized there’s a reason loggers wear helmets, and it’s not cuz they’re safety wusses. I’m kicking myself now – I can’t believe I missed a chance to accessorize. Gene needs to take me into town with a quickness, because I’m pretty sure helmets come in fluorescent pink.

At Least It’s Not Raining… Oh, Wait

Do you ever wake up in the morning and just *know* it’s going to be a bad day before you get out of bed? I actually never do, I’m optimistic AF. But that all changed within 5 minutes of stumbling toward the coffee machine in the kitchen, because on my way past the bathroom the toilet said good morning to me.

The last time the toilet started to sing the song of its people, things went to a very bad place, very quickly. I had nightmares for weeks. So you’d think when that wish-it-wasn’t-familiar glub glub noise started up this morning, I would have called the emergency pumper service right away. But no – optimist, remember?

I rolled the dice and got away with my morning business, then started the day’s writing. I got so immersed that it only registered in the back of my mind that Gene had zombie shuffled past the office into the bathroom, shut the door, and had been in there for a good ten minutes. In retrospect, I believe he would have appreciated a little forewarning of what was 99% likely to happen next. Sure enough, a panicked, screeched “Noooooooooooo” emerged from the bathroom, accompanied by frantic plunging noises. Then Gene told me I wasn’t allowed to yell that loudly in an enclosed space, particularly when he was standing right next to me, and that busting in on him after the fact was too little, too late. Then he started eyeing the rising water level and advised me to back up because I wasn’t wearing shoes.

It was *so close*. Less than inch before flood waters commenced.

So then we spent way too long in the pouring rain digging test holes to figure out where the septic tank was, with me trying to explain that despite literally watching the pumper guy dig it up last time, my brain is too full of dating advice to remember minutiae like where the access hatch is buried.

Now we’re just waiting for the “local” service to return my call. In the meantime, Gene proudly showed off his Plan B, which he had put together in the pole barn (that should have been my first warning – it wasn’t in the house):

 

I let him know that while I appreciated his artistry from an aesthetic standpoint, he should still file it under “Not Gonna Happen AKA Oh Hell No”. My butt is allergic to buckets, and I’ll happily abstain from solid food until I hear the HoneyBucket truck in the driveway.

It’s Spring!!! On paper, anyway.

It’s finally Spring! It may be brown, but we can finally see some grass. And that’s saying something, because not even two weeks ago our yard looked like this:Snow dog

Ceri would like it to be winter 24/7, but all the other critters are ecstatic. The guineas and chickens all have their favorite sun spots claimed, and there are plenty of puddles for the geese to splash around in. Except for Claire, anyway. She’s still determinedly broody, although I was able to sneak in while she took a rare break from hissing and candle all her eggs. None of them are fertile, which is good news. I really don’t know what we would have done with 11 goslings (besides give them an amazing life, obviously). On the downside, I’m pretty sure we’ll have to wait until they start to explode before she’ll give them up. Gene ranked out the entire kitchen the other day with a bad chicken egg… I can’t even imagine how bad a spoiled goose egg would be in the coop. That’ll be Gene’s job for sure.

syrup

I’m looking forward to the busy season – boiling sap for syrup, constructing the Monarch Sanctuary 2.0, building all the new raised beds my night-time pollinator garden and hummingbird sanctuary will require… but I’m also a little nervous about how to juggle everything. I’ve been full-time+ for almost a year now, but as my deadlines get tighter and the weather gets warmer all those pesky little housekeeping details are starting to slip.

We have a pretty fair division of labor… I handle most things animal related such as litter boxes and water fountain maintenance, and Gene handles the cooking and the vacuuming. Although he should definitely vacuum under the couch more often, as opposed to “never”. The guy installing the windows had to move it, and it was beyond. The vast accumulation of German Shepherd and 4 cat’s worth of fur wasn’t even the worst part – apparently Charlie uses that particular couch to cache all her “prey”. Pens and pen caps, those stupid knobs that sit at the base of the toilet, paper clips, binder clips, and about 25 of those dental floss/toothpick combo things. Those are her favorite to chase at 2 am, and she’ll fish them out if you leave the bathroom drawer even slightly open. So ya, now the Lowe’s installer thinks we just floss our teeth while watching TV and then chuck them under the couch. #Classy

When it comes to chores pretty much anything else is handled by whomever can’t stand it any longer. But there are a few strict rules – the trash gets taken out on a “he who tops it off, drops it off” basis, and if you remove the emergency roll of toilet paper from its special hiding spot, it’s on you to bring up a new package from the storage room in the basement. Guess who forgets that routinely?

Sigh. I did finally break down and clean up my desk area, though. It had gotten to the point where I couldn’t open the drawers fully, and it was driving me bonkers. Turns out a folder full of CD mixes circa 2004 was to blame. I headed down to my parents the next day, and brought it with me to see what I considered good enough to burn onto a mix tape 15 years ago.

Ahhhh ya, I totally forgot I went through a gangsta rap phase. The car was thumpin’ for that 5 hour trip, let me tell you. And I now officially represent the “218”, and let everyone know it. Or at least I would, if anyone who lived around here knew what ‘represent’ meant in that context. I also rekindled my love for Rammstein. If you haven’t heard a heavy metal rock band screech a love ballad in German, you’re missing out.

In other news that won’t make Gene cringe, we’ve been busily working on getting the crane business up and running. I even called our accountant to see if I could route all the construction expenses like diesel fuel and oil changes through my writing business, in order to offset the fact that a writing business really doesn’t incur any expenses. There was a long silence on the line, followed by a rather heavy sigh. Then he said, “only if you want a guaranteed audit.” Why does being ethical have to be so expensive???

Road Trip!!!

Never a dull moment around here… I had just settled into my Saturday afternoon routine of catching up on work, when I heard Gene yelling from outside. I wasn’t too panicked, since I had just heard him leave like 5 seconds prior and how much trouble can you get into in five seconds? Then he started yelling for me to get Ceri inside, and my first thought was the “Air Bear” is back!

But as it turns out, the minute he stepped outside a Jay bird flew right at his chest and started fluttering in the his face. It then fell into a snow bank, where of course Ceri tried to introduce herself. He called me out to take a look, and we scooped the poor thing out of the snow and saw his beak was frozen shut. (It was around -20 at the time). We picked him up, and he sat there for a second, then took off flying but didn’t get far. Unfortunately he tumbled right underneath the cargo trailer, which is surrounded on all sides by deep snow (waist deep, as Gene soon figured out). The bird managed to slip right through the gap between the snow and the metal, so Gene had to burrow in and dig him back out.

We brought him back inside and slowly warmed him up in a kennel, stocked with warm water to drink and a selection of snacks. Happily, JB (I named him right away, obviously) partook of the buffet within about 15 minutes.

We decided to keep him overnight so he could rest and warm up, but when I let him go again early this morning he was still having obvious troubles flying. He ended up in another snow bank and just kind of spun around.

On the plus side, I was able to find a certified wildlife rehab by checking the DNR’s website. On the down side, the closest one was in Duluth, which is several hours away. Road trip! Gene didn’t even grumble too much since I said we could stop at Duluth Trading Company and buy him some more work pants.

It ended up being a really cool rescue – there was a poster on the wall listing the number of different types of animals they had saved in 2018, and a new one for 2019 (JB will be the second Jay bird rescued so far this year!) They’ll take any animal, including tiny little field mice and disturbingly large Norway rats. (Shudder. I love all of God’s creatures, but my first encounter with a Norway rat was in Washington. I thought it was a beaver, then I took a closer look and was all, hey, honey, why is a beaver dragging a dead duck around a lake? Ya, it was a huge Norway rat, and apparently duck take-out is a thing for them. I still have nightmares.)

We learned that Jay birds have very strong social bonds, and they mate for life. So fingers crossed – we’ll be able to go pick him up and bring him back here so he can rejoin his flock. Somewhere between 30 and 40 of them spend the morning and early afternoon here, hanging out at the selection of feeders and sneaking the corn from the deer feed. In the winter they get peanuts, twice a day if it’s super cold. At first we just had 5 or 6, but word spread quickly and now I’m pretty sure every Jay in the Iron Range swings by for breakfast. We don’t even have their preferred type of feeder – they like a tray or platform-on-a-post best. I can’t wait to see how many show up once Gene builds a few of those! I added it to his to-do list.

At any rate, we’re still waiting for word on how his intake exam went (everyone send good thoughts his way!). If JB needs a specialist, they’ll even bring him down to a vet in the Twin Cities for surgery. We didn’t have to pay anything to drop him off, but they have such a cool mission I whipped out my checkbook and made a donation. I didn’t even stipulate that they couldn’t use it to rescue rats.