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)

Claire: HIIIIISSSSSSSSSSS HOOOOOOONK

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.

 

The Only Way To Travel…

We had freakishly warm weather today, which was a nice change from yesterday’s low 20s. Today hit 68, so we unpacked the hose and kiddie pool for the geese, and they had a blast. Gene said they were having so much fun it seemed unfair to deny them a pond all winter, which got me thinking about whether or not letting them into the bathroom for some tub time when it’s 50 below would work. Gene said absolutely not, but I’m sure he thought I meant all 3 of them at once. That would be silly, I’d bring them in one at a time.

tractor rideThe beautiful day was also a great excuse to do some tractor work, and I have to say I can’t believe we’ve had it for almost year and I’ve been clinging to the side while Gene drives it down the highway to the east fields. I could have been reclining in the bucket this whole time!

I figured that out when against Gene’s advice I opted to wear my favorite tennis shoes instead of muck boots while we spread straw over the honey and goji berries. He suggested I ride in the bucket on the way back so I could try and minimize the mud damage, and now I refuse to ride anywhere else. Not only is the view awesome, it’s a surprisingly comfy ride. I rather imagine the Troopers wouldn’t be too thrilled with my new favorite mode of conveyance, but I’ve only ever seen one on our highway so I’m not too worried. Besides, what do they expect me to do? Walk?

Despite the balmy near-70 temps, I thought I’d plan ahead for once and sketched out some plans for a warming station for the goats. My thought was if they had an igloo like area inside the barn, their body heat would warm it up and they’d be super comfy at night. Gene brought back some straw bales for me, and he set it up next to the milking area. As you can see, it’s got direct access to a sunbeam, climbing opportunities, and plenty of sleeping space:

And here it is an hour later:

Sigh. Apparently you can’t give goats nice things. But at least we can use the straw to mulch things, which means more tractor rides for me!

 

Snow Day!

We woke up this morning to almost a full foot of snow, and it was beautiful! It was still lightly falling, and undisturbed in all directions with blanketed pine and poplar trees as a backdrop. And then Ceri rampaged across it with her Jolly Ball for hours. So much for pristine, “cozy cabin in the woods” postcard views. I have to say she did create some decent walking trails though.

But not everyone appreciated the first real snow of winter. I opened the coop doors and the geese started running for the door like they always do, then came to a skidding stop just before the ramp and refused to go any further. It’s not the first winter rodeo for most of our chickens, but they wouldn’t come out until Gene plowed the driveway with the tractor and I shoveled a path from the coop door to the cleared area.

A sole guinea ventured out, found it distasteful, and promptly flew up to the very top of a poplar tree. And then proceeded to sit up there and screech non-stop for the next hour. The rest of the guineas were smart enough to stay in the coop, but they kept screeching back since they don’t like to be separated. Since another storm is supposed to come through tonight (and they were being that loud – some of us have to work, you know) I enlisted Gene to help me persuade him to leave the perch and go back to the coop, by way of launching snowballs at him until he decided to come down and do something about it. Gene had much better aim, but we still only managed to chase him higher up in the tree. He finally came down when I threw some scratch grains in the cleared area, and I was able to tuck everyone up safely for the night.

We weren’t really expecting this much snow so early on, so we spent part of the afternoon taking all the vegetable pots off the back deck so I could shovel, and unearthing the remaining hummingbird feeders. Next we’ve got to build the little warming area out of stray bales inside the barn for the goats, although I’m hoping we’ve got a little time before the temps plummet below zero. Cocoa and Mocha were thoroughly unimpressed by the snow, and only ventured out during the sun breaks. They also demanded extra hay to make up for the sudden lack of green grass.

The early onset of cold weather has also heralded my least favorite season of the year – Mouse Invasion. We’ve only caught a few in the basement so far, but I think that’s because they’re all hanging out in my car, now nicknamed the Vermin Wagon. (Heh, I can truthfully say I drive a VW!) I drove down to my parents the other day and Bess Bess was visiting at the same time. We were going to go grab a coffee (can’t do that around here!) and she visibly recoiled when she opened the passenger door, then wondered aloud why a stench that bad isn’t visible to the naked eye.

Ya, apparently that stupid Febreeze commercial is based in fact – “nose blind” is a thing. Sigh. I got independent confirmation from my friend Jennifer that yes, my car does indeed reek of mouse, and no, deploying an entire bottle of Febreeze inside it didn’t work. So now it’s stuffed with a full box of Bounce dryer sheets, both inside and under the hood, because the internet says mice hate that smell. And if the mice hate it, it’s my new favorite thing. As a result, the car now smells like a laundromat exploded – totally worth it. I figure I’ll know it worked if the mice don’t rebuild the nest I swept off the engine block. Shudder.

Hope you like squash!

Not going to lie… gardening in zone 3a has been a blow to my ego. Good thing my ego is massive, and can take the hit. But seriously… I know growing things here is possible, because my friend Jennifer’s garden is robust. Peppers, tomatoes, corn… hers grows. Ours, on the other hand, looks like the “before” picture for one of those Miracle Grow commercials where the take home message is anyone can grow stuff, even when your garden looks like this! [insert photo of ours]. Sigh. We’re basically pretending we never planted corn, and the only tomatoes I managed to get were cherry size, and had such thick skins they were displeasing to chew. Even the birds are leaving them alone, so you know they’re bad.

But there is a silver lining – I can grow squash! Gene helped me harvest it, all the while grumbling about where we’re supposed to store so many. Then he started saying things like, “Merry Christmas! Here’s a squash!” after I suggested we could clear out a space in his man cave. I also learned the hard way that cold weather apparently makes slugs gather on the bottom of squashes. Shudder.

The other veggie I managed to actually grow was a yellow type of zucchini. I’m sure it would have been absolutely delicious, if I’d picked it when you’re supposed to instead of waiting for it to magically turn into butternut squash. It got way too woody to eat, but the chickens love them so I’ve been stomping on one every afternoon.

I’ve also been dispensing peanuts every morning to the jay birds, a flock of which have moved back now that it’s getting cold again. There are also two gray jays hanging around, which are a slightly smaller, much more dignified variety. They have a very distinctive call, but I don’t get to hear it very often since they don’t sit in the trees and screech at me. They’re more into the “hang out and look starving” method of getting treats, which works out rather well for them as they now have two fully stocked suet cages to choose from.

 

 

Snow’s Flying!

stormToday was a momentous occasion – we got sunshine, snow, sleet, and hail!

Each weather pattern seemed to last approximately five minutes, and changed from one to the next with no discernible rhyme or reason all day.

Tonight it’s dropping into the 20s – not the first frost, but the first hard freeze where I can likely say goodbye to the last of my flowers.

I also bid adieu to the Pollies today. After doing quite a bit of research, I found out they can hibernate in the bottom of our garden pond all winter!

I spent an hour or so carefully draining their tank water through our second-best kitchen strainer (much to Gene’s abject horror), and once I was sure I got them all they were re-homed to the pond.

Getting them there was a bit of a hike, and I quickly regretted not taking Gene’s advice to wear my waders. Turns out dead cattails aren’t actually load bearing.

But squelchy shoes aside, the Polly experiment was a resounding success. All of the ones that had started to grow legs earlier in the month have turned into frogs! Only about 30 of the 150+ were still in full on tadpole stage – perfect for hibernating.

Gene has also been busy outside. He built a new, fully insulated door for the chicken coop, and added insulation around all the windows. Once it’s cured, we’ll cover it with trim. I had originally been tasked with shooting the foam into the gaps, so when I asked Gene how to do it, he’s all “read the can.”

Those instructions were hard core. Not only did it admonish me to “prepare and practice,” it also warned me to wear gloves, a mask, and insinuated that deploying the spray improperly would likely cause the entire planet to implode. Well, maybe not that last part, but it was seriously gloom and doom stuff. At any rate, by the time I gathered all my personal protective equipment, Gene was already done spraying it around all the windows. Minus any safety gear whatsoever, I should add.

He also installed a higher roosting bar for the guineas, in an effort to dissuade them from roosting in the pine tree. It works great, as long as I go outside just after dusk and shoo them inside. Occasionally one jumps into the tree as I’m herding them, and I’m not going to lie – few things in life are funnier than grabbing the branch the guinea is perched on, pulling it down, and launching him back up into the air. Great sport, that. No wonder they try to get as high as possible, as quickly as possible.

In other noteworthy September news, Bess Bess came for her annual visit and fell in love with the geese. She also turned them into bread-loving monsters, and thanks to her now I get honked at incessantly until I go back inside and come back out with a treat of some sort. They’re not shy about taking it, either. I’m surprised I haven’t lost a finger yet.

Whenever I have a project to do outside, I can count on three helpers tagging along. When I was getting the painted mountain corn tied into bundles to dry, they decided the cobs and shoe laces were what I brought for them to eat and went about trying to sneak them off the trailer. It was actually really funny watching Higgins trying to waddle off with a huge corn cob. Not so much when he untied my shoes for the 15th time. But he eventually figured out how to undo a double knot, so it was hard not to be impressed.