posts tagged with 'life'

the return of the king

We spotted a monarch butterfly in our yard earlier this week: the first of the year. We're always happy to see them, and we do what we can to invite them in and make them feel welcome. There are butterfly-friendly flowers all over the yard, and they're especially concentrated in the side yard, where a discerning lepidopteran can find butterfly bush, tall phlox, beebalm, and, especially for those monarchs, plenty of milkweed. I took a look and I think I spotted a few eggs on the milkweed, so we'll have a hunt for caterpillars in a little while.

While I was sick the other day I read Barbara Kingsolver's Flight Behavior, which I enjoyed even if a few things about it troubled me. Mainly how strongly its main themes were presented as moral lessons: that monarch butterflies are tremendously valuable both for their beauty and for their role as a proxy for wider environmental issues, which I agree with, and that you should leave your spouse if you're not totally in love with them, on which I have more nuanced opinions. Although maybe you shouldn't trust my review of the book since I was pretty loopy with fever when I pushed through the whole thing in basically one sitting (one "lying-in-bedding?"). But yes, monarchs. Yay monarchs!

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a bird yesterday

Yesterday morning we noticed a striking bird on the top of the apple tree in our front yard. It was smooth and sleek and light brown, with a little crest on its head and black markings around its eyes that looked like super cool 80s wrap-around shades. It was the shades that made me want to look it up, and without a go-to birding resource we looked on the internet and found the All About Birds guide from the Cornell Lab of Ornithology. It took just a very few questions before our bird's identity was revealed: cedar waxwing. I still don't know very much about birds despite them begin all around us, so I was glad to find a resource for telling them apart. Of course then I wanted to go back and ID some other birds I've noticed over the last couple months, but I guess I didn't remember enough details because I wasn't able to pin them down. Also I had to register in order to do more searches, and then once I did the tool would load so I had to do the other searches in a private browsing window. I'll keep trying, but we could also always go back to the methods we've used in the past: texting our friends who own birding books.

don't you have your own food?!

The most frustrating thing about gardening is having animals eat the plants. A woodchuck has found a way inside the fence; those kale plants he ate half of? They'd been growing for close to two months, and he ruined them in one snack (he didn't eat half of the plants; he ate half of each plant). The lettuces have also suffered. Maybe most disappointing is the disappearance of so many of the strawberries. We have netting, but constant assalts by squirrels, chipmunks, and gray catbirds have revealed some weaknesses. Zion and I did what we could to secure it this morning, but I don't know how much difference it'll make. In that case, if they eat the strawberries all we can do is wait til next year! It's hard.

I don't begrudge the animals what they need to stay alive. And I recognize that my house and yard are taking up space that their ancestors may have occupied for tens of thousands of years before me. But I can't help but think they're getting a little spoiled, taking only the ripest strawberries or the most tender greens. Aren't there acorns or something for them to eat?!

natural enemies?

This morning a fox got into the yard and attacked the hens. It wasn't even that early—just around breakfast time. I heard the commotion and ran outside; before I even yelled the fox saw me and took off, dropping the hen he was trying to carry away (Springdot the Speckled Sussex). My first instinct was to call for the dogs, who were upstairs with Leah settling in for a morning of office work. They didn't respond instantly, which is probably just as well: unlike Rascal in his prime, Scout and Blue aren't trained to chase away foxes and ignore chickens. The hens were already panicking, and adding two excitable puppies to the scene would probably have made things worse rather than better. Oh well, we're working on it. And they did get come out a little later, once all the hens were safely locked up, to check out the scene of the crime and get their first scent of fox. Next time, they'll be ready!

how are we so busy when we don't leave home?

Just like last Friday, we had an overwhelming online day today. This time I hosted three meetings! Besides that I spent a while working on recording a video. Suffice it to say that I spent more time looking at my own face today than I have any other day of my entire life. And videos isn't all we're doing! When the quarantine started Leah and I thought we had all the time in the world, so we ordered a dumpster; it's going to be picked up Monday so we have to finish filling it before then. The dumpster situation is emblematic of how life is going: how can it possibly have been in our driveway for two weeks already?! (Strangely, while weeks are speeding by each day seems to last a very long time. I don't know how that works.) All that is to say, I thought that being stuck at home would mean I would have time for all sorts of things that I don't usually manage. And that's not happening. Or maybe it is, actually—it's just that the extra time is for Zoom meetings and making videos. Oh well.

our accelerating weeks

Most Mondays mornings I'm completely exhausted, and today was no exceptions. That's because of the way our weekly schedule is structured. We start slow: our Mondays are generally pretty restful. I go in to work, and the boys get to hang out with their grandparents. Tuesday and Wednesday are our home days, where we can work on projects and do art, or go shopping or to the library. But then things start to ramp up. Thursdays and Fridays we do activities with our co-op, then the weekends are filled with activities, including running my Kids Church program and playing a lot of Pokemon. This week we added attending a concert on Friday morning, and I took all the boys out to Worcester on Saturday so that Harvey could play in a tournament. Yesterday Harvey and I went right from to church to another Pokemon event, where I was a judge, and then after that we had dinner at Leah's parents' house to celebrate her dad's birthday. All of those were good things. But the cumulative effect is a little rough.

The worst part is being so wiped out Sunday night into Monday means it's really hard to put together a good plan for the week ahead of time. I'd love to be able to have a moment to think about how we want to structure our time at home, what food I want to cook (and then what we need to shop for), and what kinds of fun projects we might want to get organized for. So while our weeks go fine, I don't feel like we're moving forward towards making things any easier for the next week.

At least there's one thing I know that I can do now to help... I'm going to bed!

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eggs and chickens

I've written about our hens' winter cessation of egg production before, more than once, and I almost did again about a month ago. But this year the drought didn't last long, and it's even better to write about the return of home-grown eggs. We've had six already, all from the young hens—which I know because they never managed to secure a place in the henhouse for themselves and so laid them on the ground in what was meant to be the chick house annex, where they're still sleeping. Or were, until I closed it off: I can't be crawling in there every day looking for eggs. We have nesting boxes for that! We'll see if being denied any other option will get them sorted out.

Sadly, we now have only three young hens: one of them disappeared just before the new year. There's been a very bold coyote around, one that we're calling a wolf, because it's so big. I noticed the hen was gone when I went to let them out in the morning—they had been putting themselves to bed—and though I looked all around I couldn't find any trace of her. I can't imagine anything could take a hen on snowy ground without leaving remains, but a 50-plus pound wolf (if I were to take a guess!) would probably have as good a shot as anything. We're sad—the missing hen even had a name, thanks to Harvey's friend Jack. Penguin, you'll be missed—and so will your eggs.

Surprise update, January 10: Penguin has been found! A neighbor from the next street over came to tell us that she had a hen that had been living in her side yard—she'd been feeding it for the past week or so. So we went and got her... not without a struggle, since she clearly thought she'd found a new home. Now she's back where she belongs, and we're going to keep her—and all the hens—locked up for a couple days until she gets settled in again.

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exhausted

Today we kicked off our new homeschool book group, sent Harvey and Mama off to Atlantic City for the weekend, and hosted our weekly community group. We had extra kids for all three meals: two for breakfast, seven for lunch (plus two extra adults) and seven for supper (and seven adults). I barely left our property, but I feel like I had a pretty full day nevertheless!

wasp season

Today was the beginning of fall, and more importantly it was my dad's birthday! We celebrated together at my parents' house with a cookout—but we didn't get to eat outside. The weather was perfect, but as soon as we put the first bit of food out it was discovered by wasps. Not a ton of wasps, but enough to make some of us nervous. So we went inside. And now that I think about it, the nervousness might have been a little bit justified, because we've had some intense wasp experiences over the past few weeks!

Most notable was our last outing of summer camp back at the end of August. With a good group of kids we rode to Fawn Lake and set out to walk around it. Less then halfway into the walk the leading kids moved off the main trail to explore a peninsula. I was near the back of the group, and as I neared the spot where the path reached the water I heard Sam say, "I think something is stinging me..." Next came the screams.

Sam had stepped on a wasps nest, and the wasps were streaming out and stinging everyone in sight. So we ran! (actually, the kids didn't run until I yelled at them to). Unfortunately, the peninsula we were on is kind of swampy and the path is vague, so in our hurry to get away we went the wrong way, which I realized when we came to a stream that the littler kids couldn't get over. I picking them up to basically throw them across I dropped my backpack and Zion's shoes. Then we ran some more. After a few hundred yards we stopped to catch our breath, and immediately noticed that the wasps were still with us: a few in the air around us and lots more on—or in a few cases under—our clothes. So we ran some more, with a few breaks to kill the wasps clinging to the kids. Half way around the pond from the nest we finally felt safe to stop.

With all that, we weren't absolutely destroyed. Nathan, who hates bugs the most, got the most stings—maybe six. Nobody else got more than two or three, and a few of us—me included—escaped without a single one. But everyone was a little shaken up. Needless to say, we didn't linger long at the pond; and one of the five-year-olds was heard to announce that he's never going hiking again (don't worry, he already has). To recover we all went out for ice cream.

It seems like there are more wasps around this year than usual. Lots of them are interested in our compost, which means they're also interested in our food when we eat on the back porch. Even with the stings they got at the pond the kids aren't particularly worried about wasps attacking them, but it's still disconcerting to have five or six of them buzzing around your head when you're trying to eat and, often, landing on your food. They might not want to sting us, but I bet they would if we bit one by accident. So we haven't been eating outside as much here, either.

But now that it's fall we'll be free of them soon. I'm ready!

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that stings!

So we have a playhouse, only it's not quite finished. That's why I haven't written about it yet. I will when it's done, which on current pace may be when the grandchildren come visiting (we're currently on year two of construction). That's not to say it isn't any use now; it's mostly done, and definitely inhabitable. In general, that is—right now it's not, because of wasps. I first noticed them yesterday, and knocked down their nest with a two-by-three and a great deal of care. This morning I saw that they were still hanging around the fallen nest, and knocked it down more, again emerging unscathed. Then in the afternoon I checked one more time and, seeing no signs of the wasps, went to move the two-by-three out. Which is when they came attacked! I only actually got one sting, but it hurt more than it would have otherwise because of how surprising it was! And the worst part is, now I don't know where they're hanging out, so any further construction work will need to be postponed until we can get them sorted. That's not what this project needs!