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 holdĀ  – 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.


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.

LOUD???? That’s our word of the day!

I’m absolutely loving all the sunshine that streams into the house now! I’m also enjoying how much warmer it is in the house.

I didn’t expect the sun to make that much difference, but it’s basking weather in the living room – like 78 degrees! Gene usually opens the window so he can cool off in the single digit breeze, which Thing 2 calls “checking the fridge”. He sticks his head out and chitters at all the birds. That’s about as far as he gets, too, thanks to all that junk in the trunk.

I don’t mind the open windows either, since the bulk of the logging is done now. Logging is loud. So. Very. Loud.

And of course they invariably pick the times when I’m doing phone interviews to log directly behind the house. I’m not sure why someone felt the need to add a warning “beep” to a machine that’s literally almost as tall as our house and sounds like a jet plane taking off, but whenever it’s moving, it’s beeping. Then when the trees fall, the windows rattle.

With all the racket outside, Chupi feels like he needs to compete. He assumes his “super bark” pose, complete with one front paw up in the air, then lets loose at the windows.

All day long. On the plus side, he wears himself out fussing, so once it gets dark and the loggers leave he settles down on the couch and curls up in his blanket.

Bess Bess gave us a fleece blanket for Christmas, and Chupi has claimed it as his Wubbie. If it’s not already on his spot on the couch, he’ll grumble until you bring it to him.

He still has his nightly meltdowns, though. When ten o’clock rolls around, he’ll start quietly growling to himself. Then it’s not so quietly, and I’ll have to turn up the volume on Law & Order. Eventually he’ll either start barking himself into a froth, or start howling:

To be honest, that’s basically what I’ve felt like doing all week. Ever since our accountant called to give me yet another reason why we need to secede and declare our property its own sovereign nation.

After hearing how many zeros is going to be on the check for the IRS this April, I’ve been trying to come up with legitimate business expenses. Even though I’m full-time, I’m an independent contractor, so technically self-employed. And the problem with being a writer is sitting in a chair staring at a screen just doesn’t wrack up many expenses, once you’ve written off the chair, screen and keyboard.

Basically I need to find a less ethical accountant.

He said that even though he totally believes we’d happily live without electricity and only have it so I can give the world the dating advice it so desperately needs, he won’t claim a year’s worth of power bills as an expense.

Hon, could you bring me some popcorn? I’d get it myself, but I’m working!

Nor can I write off DirecTV, even though staying on top of pop culture is a job requirement and that’s the only reason I watch all those reality shows.

I should expense our grocery bills, since according to Gene I’ve been working so much I’ve turned into a Deskitarian. He defined the term on a helpful sticky note he put on my monitor: “when you sit at a desk all day and the food is brought to you.”

It would also help if we could get our farm up and running, but I haven’t found a commercial outlet for egg sales yet so we don’t have as many chickens here as we did in Washington. So I can’t write off the feed, for either the chickens or the deer. Apparently deer don’t count as emotional support animals so their feed isn’t a medical expense. (Seriously, what is with this guy????)

On the plus side, we may become the Northland’s first and foremost goose hatchery soon. Claire has become broody, and is sitting on god only knows how many eggs. We’ll know in 28 to 35 days whether or not they’re fertile. I’d started to notice that she spent a good amount of time over in a particular corner, but didn’t really think anything of it. Then both Gene and I were in the coop moving the heater to a different outlet, and after listening to a weird noise go on and on for a like a minute, I asked Gene if he heard that hissing noise.

Turns out, it was Claire. Here’s the ensuing convo:

Gene: I wonder how many eggs she has under there?

Andie: I’ll check!

Claire: hiiiiiisssssssssssss

Andie: Maybe you should check.

Gene: Wuss. (Takes one step closer)


Andie: Well then. I bet that many goslings will be adorable.

Gene: Indeed. I’ll get started on an addition to the barn tomorrow morning.

Okay, technically the very last thing Gene said was actually a bunch of swears, but he did agree that we should build a more mess proof enclosure for the geese next winter, and since he adamantly refused to reach under the hissing, honking, spitting demon that Claire turned into and gather the eggs, I took that as an agreement to build them a goose barn.

And for our next Big Orange Toy…

We’re officially in the crane business! Gene found a screaming deal for a knuckle boom crane truck (ya, don’t worry, I didn’t know what that was either – it lifts stuff like 40 feet up in the air!), and since there’s not one for rent within a few hundred mile radius, we figured that would take his construction business to the next level.

(Get it??? Cuz it’s a crane? See what I did there?)

Ahem. He and Alan went to pick it up this weekend, and he’s already got a job lined up! (Which involved driving it across a frozen lake, which at 22,000 pounds is a little disconcerting. Even more disconcerting is the fact that AllState doesn’t cover that particular life choice.)

But now that it’s officially been pressed into service, Gene said I had to quit calling it “Craney” and come up with a decent name so we can put a magnetic sign with our phone number on the door. Yup, we’re in the advertising game now too. He also said I need to quit advising anyone within ear shot that the equipment storage boxes are for “snacks”.

It’s from 1996, so it could use a fresh coat of paint and some new safety signs applied, although I was thinking of just taking a marker and filling in what I’m sure they used to say…

I’m a little vexed, though, because so far Gene’s been keeping Craney all to himself. I’d like to learn how to operate it as well, and what better way to learn than to try and get Ceri’s Jolly Ball down off the roof? Personally I thought that was a great idea… but Gene couldn’t say “no” fast enough, even when I pointed out it was his horrible aim that’s responsible for Ceri having to wait til spring to get her favorite toy back.

In other exciting news, the loggers finally showed up! At first I was conflicted about having them take all birches around the house, but now the view is incredible and so much sunshine comes in the house! Besides, they left a huge swatch of them along the creek and behind the barn, so there are still plenty of trees left for the birds.

But with all the noise and change, I figured the birds would want to eat their feelings so I convinced Gene we needed to add a few more feeders. He gave me carte blanche at L&M (deep down, I think he’s worried about the wood peckers too!), so I spent quite awhile studying all the labels. And then just bought one of everything.

I’m a sucker for nature-related marketing. Now the birds have a Stack ‘Ems feeder, which you can load with a selection of puck shaped treats so they have literal layers of flavor!

They also have a rectangle cage feeder, loaded with a 3 Bug Blend snack block, because my birds need that to live.

Not to mention a selection of at least three suet balls, replaced as needed, and their 3 original feeding stations. Between keeping those filled and the deer fed, it’s a wonder I’ve got time to write!


Is it really almost February???

Apologies for 3 months in between posts. But in the interest of total transparency, it’s all Gene’s fault. Now that I’m full-time (and more, depending on the week), it gets to be around 7 pm and he starts to bellow that I’ve been hogging the computer all day. And he’s not wrong, so in the interest of compromise and fairness I go sit on my butt in a different room, and stare at a different screen. But since we only have one computer… ya, blame him.

So, to catch everyone up on the last few months around here…

The Vermin Wagon is mouse free (knock on wood). The dryer sheets totally worked! I don’t know why they don’t advertise the pest control aspect in commercials, that would probably triple sales, at least around here. I even have a tagline – “Yo, vermin, it’s time to Bounce.” (You’re welcome, Proctor & Gamble.)

It’s cold. So very, very cold. But I had to laugh, I was down at my parent’s yesterday (more on that in a minute), and the nightly news anchors were going on and on about the polar vortex that’s hitting Minneapolis and bringing “Historic Cold” (their voices implied the capitalization.)

Then they said the low would be -20. Seriously? That’s called “January” around here, and I don’t recall us getting mentioned at the top of the hour. There’s been at least a week where -20 was our high. We need to buy a new thermometer, because the one we have routinely runs out of mercury because it’s that cold. So ya, I was parading around the Twin Cities all day saying, “Wow, it’s so warm here!”

But we have had a few days this month where it was over zero, and on those days I bust out a heated pool for the geese. It started with bringing them a bucket of warm water so they could dunk their heads in, but when Higgins tried to climb into the bucket I insisted Gene take me into town to buy them a proper tub.

It was a huge hit! He wouldn’t let me go back and buy two more, though, he said they could take turns. But he did keep filling it up with more warm water as they emptied it, so he’s not totally heartless.

According to the Farmer’s Almanac, we were supposed to get a ton of snow this year. We probably would have, too, if Bess Bess hadn’t come to stay for 2 weeks during the government shut down.

While it barely snowed a single flake, she did have fun playing pioneer. She hauled wood into the house, kept the fire going, baked fresh bread for Gene, and had a great time snow shoeing with Ceri. She had ample opportunities to practice standing up after a fall, thanks to Ceri’s penchant for stepping on the back of your snow shoe just as you’re picking your foot up.

But it hasn’t been all fun and games around here – I spent the last week being rather stressed out. It all culminated this morning – with my court date.

Let me back up… on Christmas Eve, I was headed down to my parents as I do a couple times a month. And as per usual, I was exceeding the speed limit by just a bit. Only this time, the trooper who stopped me wasn’t impressed with my credentials, which I keep helpfully, and obviously, displayed right next to my driver’s license.

So ya, I got myself a big fat ticket. He walks back up to the car, piece of paper fluttering cheerfully in the breeze, and I’m all… so this is how it feels. He then proceeds to act like he’s doing me a huge favor by *not* writing me for going 90 in a 70. He only wrote it for 80. As it turns out, he was actually doing me a favor. That ticket would have been twice as much, although not accurate. I’m positive I was only going 85 when I dynamited the brakes upon seeing I was about to blow the doors off a trooper’s car. Sigh. Did you know they have radar out the back end too? Where was that when I was a cop?

At any rate, since my driving record was spotless up until this point, I called the district court to find out if I could go to traffic school or something so it wouldn’t go on my record. And that’s when I found out speeding tickets are criminal citations in Minnesota, not infractions like they are in Washington. A measly 10 miles over the limit is a petty misdemeanor in this state – that’s the big leagues! So Gene’s been walking around the house ever since I told him that, humming (or outright bellowing) the theme to COPS, and talking about “my record.” Sigh.

So I requested a court date to see if I could go in and talk to the prosecutor about options. So of course the letter they sent with the court date is emblazoned with “official court use” and all that – they should have just addressed it to “The Felon Residing At…” It would have been more subtle. I used to deliver the mail – I know how it goes. Now everyone in town knows about it. That’s at least 5 people.

And today was the big day. I was stressing about it all week. What to wear. What color nail polish says “I take court seriously, but not *too* seriously.” Which tier of haircut to get – I sprung for $10 higher than I usually pay, since it’s an investment in my future and all. Then the car battery picked this week to die, because of course it did. Gene had to go and buy a new one, since I was freaking out that if it wouldn’t start I’d miss my court date, it would go to a warrant, I’d get arrested and terms like “prison wallet” would become part of my daily vocabulary.

But everything turned out fine. The court house was 3 1/2 hours south of us, but only an hour north of my parents’ place. So I spent the night there, got up at 5 am, and was lurking in the parking lot by 6:30, even though I didn’t need to be there until 8:30. I have to say, the court process itself was pretty interesting, having never sat on that side of the table before. You check in, tell them if you want to speak with the prosecutor first (who wouldn’t?) then sit and wait until they call your name. It took less than 60 seconds for her to check out my driving record, then offer a “continuance for dismissal”, meaning if I don’t get another ticket in 12 months, it’s like it never happened. I didn’t even have to bust out my “There’s $100 in my wallet… or maybe there isn’t” line.

Then you go before the judge, she accepts the offer, you pay the court fee (which is essentially the same as the ticket price) and it’s a done deal. Now I’m relegated to grandma driving, and have the cruise control set at the exact speed limit. On the way home, I got passed by a semi towing another semi. Oh, how the mighty have fallen. A snow plow flashed his lights at me!!! But whatevs, I’m not getting another ticket. Besides, I have to say the New Andie never arrives anywhere about to Hulk out. Not worrying about the constant battle of getting ahead of the tool in front of you is very freeing – because now I’m the tool in front of you. Plus there’s time to notice all types of details – fat hawks sitting in the trees watching for mice, a pheasant in the tall grass, a porcupine ambling along the treeline, an ungodly amount of roadkill, and an entire outlet mall just north of Forest Lake! Who knew? Driving is a much more Zen experience now, so I will thank the Trooper for that.