Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Just a Trim, Please

It was so nice outside this morning, that despite all the things I SHOULD do, I went outside and puttered a bit in my flower beds.  There were a few plants that I neglected to dead head, as they were hiding past my weeping cherry tree.  And speaking of the weeping cherries, JP has been after me to trim them rather aggressively.  I have been dragging my feet because I like the way they look with their long, graceful branches trailing on the ground.  Nevertheless, I wielded the loppers and gave them quite a trim this morning.  In the process, I discovered 4 Praying Mantis cocoons on one of the trees.

I find these things quite marvelous, and I usually find a couple when I am clearing for the winter.  I actually found one on the asparagus that I cut down, and tucked it into the oregano for the winter...hope it's ok!

I'll try to remember to watch for hatching mantis-lets in the Spring and keep you posted!

Tuesday, January 10, 2017

Good News & Bad News

I am sitting in front of the computer with a ginormous mug of tea.  This is, in fact, part of the good news - it has been a very busy day so far, including a meeting with the Administration of the Hospital before work.  I have a few minutes now that I have collected J from the bus stop & fixed her a mango lassi before I need to fetch L from Basketball practice.

On arrival home from work, I noted 3 men standing around our cistern manhole.  It seems that since the Well Driller has been unable to drill, he has temporarily replaced the pump in our current well (that has always recovered and produced adequately during the winter), so we are once again on line with Poplar Ridge water!  (And just in time was my turn to haul water this week!)

The first thing that I did when I came inside was flush the toilets.  Although we will lighten the water rationing, I don't think we will abandon our conservation altogether.  In fact, when I told JP and J the news, JP said that he wants to continue collecting the shower water (we run it into a bucket until it is warm enough to stand under, and then use that water to flush toilets), and J said that she will probably never take a "regular" shower again.  (And then she burst into song, singing "You've made a Mennonite out of me!"  to a "Mulan" tune.)

Unfortunately, when I took Stella outside after all of the well water excitement, I noted a dead hen in the chicken yard.  Over the past 3 months, I have been systematically checking the hens as we have some very poor layers right now.  I have put one hen at a time into solitary confinement (it's actually quite cozy, with nest boxes, roosts and her own food & water - just no outside access for a couple of days) in the other side of the chicken house for up to 4 days.  If she lays 3 or more eggs in that time, I band her right leg with a white band, 2 or less gets a black band, and 2 and/or soft/ugly eggs gets a blue band.  This one had a black band, which means that she would be one of the half dozen that we planned to butcher and eat yet this winter.  I've actually noticed a hen acting strangely - sitting in unusual places - for the past couple of days, so I'm assuming this was the same one, and I'd rather not eat her if she was sick anyway!  We will be getting new peeps in the Spring, and the rest of our old hens will "retire" to our freezer by next Fall regardless.  It may seem cruel, but it's our way of being self sufficient, and these ladies (although I find them delightful to watch) are by no means pets.

My neck wound is healing up very nicely.  I have gotten tired of wearing scarves when I am out in public, and both my patients and the general public have been kind enough not to comment on my uncovered neck.  I am still unable to sing, which is a bit frustrating.  I sound like an old hound dog if I try to sing along to Pandora or the radio, so what used to be fun is now kinda embarrassing.  I think it will improve with time, but I'm not known for my abundant patience.

I don't know if I mentioned that our cooktop died right before Christmas?  This one was just a month older than 2 years.  JP ordered a new one right away, and that arrived just a couple of days later.  Dad helped us figure out that the last 2 cooktops were wired wrong.  That may partially explain why we've already gone through 2 in 9 years!  Our past induction cooktops have been fabulous and one thing we really liked about them was the rapid heating.  This one however, is taking close to 8 minutes to boil a quart of water, when we were used to 2 1/2 minutes in the past.  I'm not sure what the issue is, but it's a little disappointing - maybe not bad news, just "meh."

We still have no gas in the house.  Luckily we are able to do without for the time being.  We are not using the furnace, as the outdoor wood burner is supplying all the heat we need.  There are 2 gas burners in the kitchen for "emergencies", but we haven't had any lack of electricity emergencies lately (knock on wood!)  The water heater is also fueled by gas, but we have a back up system that is electric.  It seems that the gas people will be out in the near future to replace the regulator, so this should also soon be a problem of the past.

And the final bad news is that I have effectively squandered by "free time", and I must close and head out after L.  Here's wishing you a January that is not bleak, and filled mostly with good news!

Saturday, January 7, 2017

Playing With Fire

Yesterday I finally had time to clean the house.  When I tried to fill a bucket with hot water to mop the floors, there was none to be had.  I narrowed down the issue to lack of gas getting into the house through the regulator outside.   We have discovered in the past that it is located too close to the downspout at the corner of the house, so if we have lots of rain, where the gutters run over or the downspout splashes up  (which happened Wednesday) and then cold (down to the teens Thursday night) it freezes and blocks the incoming gas.  Sigh.

I heated water on the stove and poured it over the regulator, and checked that it was unfrozen by testing the gas burners in the kitchen (we use them just for emergencies, or the pressure canner - which doesn't work on the induction range).  Things looked hunky-dory, so I turned off the gas to the water heater, waited the requisite 10 minutes, then lit the pilot light.  After a couple of minutes, I smelled hot/melted plastic, and all of the smoke alarms in the house went off at once.

This completely freaked me out, so I turned off the gas again and had a small-ish meltdown.

I had another slightly larger one once I determined that my house was not on fire and the smoke alarms finally went off.  This issue, which will likely require us to hire someone to replace the regulator, and possibly the water heater, is just another one of the things like the drilling rig sitting in my yard for weeks on end that is slowly killing my soul.

I'm no longer sure that I love living here, or that I never want to leave.  I often feel isolated and overwhelmed, neither of which are warm fuzzies.  Not to mention that January has arrived, with its dark, cold, gray days.  Maybe when the sun shines, and the green returns I'll feel differently?

There are good things going on too, or I would be in a permanent fetal position in the back of a closet somewhere.  Things like my youngest falling in love with Basketball.  She had her first game bright and early this AM, and although her team lost, JP said she was hustling up and down the court.  And just look at her jump!

Lawn Ornaments

Some people put plastic flamingos in their yards...

Friday, December 30, 2016

Merry Post-Op

Here we are on the cusp of the new year, and I am finally getting around to posting about all the happenings on and off the ridge over the past couple of weeks.

My thyroid surgery went well on the 22nd.  I had a drain in immediately after surgery, and they needed to check my calcium serially to determine that I didn't have parathyroid issues, so I stayed overnight.  The surgeon was in bright and early the following morning to pull the drain and report that the calcium levels were ok, so I was able to head home by 10:30 or so.

I didn't have very much pain, but it was uncomfortable to eat and swallow for a couple of days.  We decided to go ahead with Christmas dinner with my parents on Christmas day:  beef tenderloin, mashed potatoes, sweet potatoes, tossed salad with mandarin oranges and cranberries, and a flaming plum pudding for dessert!  The girls enjoyed opening their presents in the morning.

It took a while to get pictures...

Girls & Stella in their Christmas jammies
 We ventured out on Monday for me to have blood drawn again at the Hospital - still ok.  I see the surgeon back next week.

L turned 11 on Tuesday.  She helped me make the ice cream on Monday (Chocolate Hazelnut), and the cake on Tuesday morning (Tres Leches.)  We went out for Indian food with my parents that evening, and then returned for cake and ice cream (delicious) and presents.  I think she had a good time!

On Wednesday we watched Star Wars episode IV in tribute to the late Carrie Fisher.  Consequently we have watched the next 2 episodes over the next 2 days!  We had our friend, C, out for the day, and the girls spent several hours playing with their new chess set.  Snow was forecasted, so JP put the snow plow and chains on his lawn tractor, and hauled water again.

Speaking of water, the well drilling men were out for a couple of hours on Tuesday afternoon.  Apparently the water pump on the rig had frozen, and they were waiting for parts.  Once they arrived, they fixed the rig, and fired it up momentarily...haven't seen them since...

We got about 3+ inches of snow overnight last night.  The girls, Stella & I spent a couple of hours playing in it this morning. 

J and her Snow Totoro
L and her Snow Fort
It is cozy here in the house, sipping cocoa and watching Star Wars VI.  We have plenty of water, and plenty of wood, so we are set for awhile...not that we are snowed in, the temps are due to rise into the 40's tomorrow!

Merry Christmas & Happy New Year to you all!

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Bring. It. On.

We got freezing rain overnight.  J stayed over at a friends' house, and L had a friend staying here.  Mid-morning we needed to make the switch - drop off  C, and pick up J.  We only had to travel a total of about 2 miles, but getting down the ice slick otherwise known as our driveway was the tricky part!

JP put the chains on the van, but after sliding a few feet down the drive, we decided to go off road, and drove down through our neighbors' field.  No problem.  Dropped off C, picked up J, tried to go up the driveway - no go.  Tried to go up the neighbors' field - no go.  We ended up parking at the bottom of the driveway and hiking up.  Good exercise!

We still didn't get water (due to the ice issue), so no cleaning or laundry happened.  JP caught rain/melting ice water off the barn roof that we are using to flush toilets.  We're managing!

Since we couldn't (and didn't need to) go anywhere today, I thought it was the perfect time to get the Christmas baking done.  For the past couple of years, we've only been making 4 varieties - we each pick one type.  That way we don't get inundated by cookies, plus we have a few to share!

Here is our assortment:

Counter-clockwise from upper left:  L picked Haystacks (peanut butter/butterscotch no bakes), J's choice was Chocolate Chip Mint Cookies, JP likes Chocolate Chip Surprise Cookies (there's a Hershey kiss in the middle), and I tried a new recipe from Cook's Illustrated called "Millionaire's Shortbread".  It might not look like a million bucks, but it tastes pretty doggone good!

So everything is done.  The decorations are up.  The presents (Christmas & Birthday) are wrapped.  The cards have been mailed.  The baking is finished.  The girls get out of school at 1:00 on Wednesday.

My surgery is first thing Thursday morning, and I won't come home until some time Friday.  Then I will have a little over a week to recover and everyone will be around to help out.  It's all good!

Friday, December 16, 2016


I have to confess...I'm bonkers.

To many of you, this will not be a new detail about my life.  What I'm hoping is that talking about it will make it easier to live my day to day life without a breakdown.

I am completely focused on, freaked out about, and obsessed with the water situation here.  Understandably, it's been a huge thing to tackle on many levels.  The financial cost is pretty ginormous, but that doesn't bother me as much as the conserving water or budgeting time to haul said water on a weekly basis.

The well drilling rig came out Monday afternoon, and after the guys spent about 30 minutes setting things up, they disappeared...haven't seen or heard from them since.  In the meantime, it snowed an inch or two, and the temperatures dropped into the single digits.  This means that the snow is staying, and where we've driven up and down the driveway on it repeatedly, it's gotten pretty slick.  Consequently, it is a bit dangerous to drive the non-4WD truck up and down it multiple times to haul water. 

I'm getting really tired of conserving as well.  I'm grossed out by unflushed toilets, and I freeze in the shower where I spend only 3 minutes under hot water, and the rest of the time soaping, shampooing or conditioning & shivering.  It worries me to use extra hot water to thaw the frozen water-ers from the below freezing chicken house.  I finally broke down today and did a load of laundry because I put on my last pair of clean underwear this morning.

It is taking it's toll physically.  I am not sleeping well - I wake multiple times a night and think about what I need to do that uses water, whether I'll be able to do it, and if I might be able to haul a load or two in the upcoming days.  I have a chronic headache, and I'm starting to get a chronic stomachache.

It sucks.

This is how I used to feel every time I saw a forecast for a winter storm for a few winters after the one that left us in the dark and the cold for over a week.  (Oh yeah, there's one coming tonight, so the driveway will not be getting less icy any time soon.)  That anxiety is better now, especially since I have this new obsession to focus on.

I'm not sure how to deal with this.  I'm trying to make use of the nervous energy by tackling all of the end of the year projects I have.  I've tried to distract myself by listening to podcasts or reading, but I can't concentrate.  If I could just SEE someone out here, starting work on the well, it would do a world of good...for a while.  In the meantime, send all of your warm weather this way.  That and some Valium might just do the trick!