Monday, March 26, 2012


On Saturday, I planted the 40 trees that arrived Thursday.  It rained Friday night, and drizzled off and on throughout Saturday, which was good for the trees, but slightly less than comfortable for people.  The Princess and the Pirate came out to help after I had finished the 10 Thuja, and was about 5 trees into the 30 Spartan Juniper.  I dug all the holes, and the kids mixed the dirt with potting soil, and tossed it back into the holes.  Then they removed all the wires and plastic bags, and then I let them help actually plant the trees.  We ran out of dirt mix on the last two trees, so those got no potting soil, just native earth. 

Yesterday after church, El Jefe put in the fencing to keep the deer off the new trees.  We'll have to leave it up for a few years, because I put in #1 size plants - even though the Thuja could grow 2' per year or more, the juniper won't, and deer munching on them will kill them until they are rather larger.  But eventually, we'll have two walls of trees that block the view of the house from the road, and vice versa.  We hope. 

I also got the rhubarb planted yesterday.  Unfortunately, I could not get the manure I needed from the  neighbors, because they weren't home, so I'll have to topdress it later.  In the process, I discovered (because manure doesn't glitter) that the large pile next to the hoop house is not old manure left by the previous owners, but is, in fact, a pile of sand covered in grass and weeds that I dug through to make this discovery.  This is frustrating, because the last thing I need in that hoop house is more sand.

Over the last several lovely days, El Jefe cleared much of the briar patch growing over the slab behind the house.  (We believe it used to be a garage).  Next step will be to remove the lower growing weeds coming up through the cracks (RoundUp is my friend), along with the leaves and the rest of the briars and trash trees (hawthorn) coming up around the slab.  The Princess has been picking up broken glass, which is everywhere.  She wears gloves.  The Pirate hasn't been helping at that job, because she keeps losing her gloves at inopportune moments.  One might almost think she plans this, except that it also happens just before jobs she actually DOES want to do.

The weather is back to normal today, sadly.  We had patchy frost last night, according to the radio weather man, and the temp won't get out of the forties today.  I'll have to see if any of the buds are left on the magnolia, or the blossoms on the cherry and apple trees.  I'm afraid I'll be getting my apples for canning from the Ag School Fruit Sale again this year...

The sunrise was beautiful again, since the clouds cleared off last night.  I drank my tea in the little green room off the balcony instead of going outside, because I didn't feel like braving the cold.  I'm REALLY tempted to fire up the cookstove.  Once it warms up a bit, I'll be trekking around the property with the lawn cart to all the areas I need to mow, to pick up all the stones and branches in hopes of getting the tractor out tomorrow to actually DO the mowing.  Mowing in March - how bizarre!

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

My New Tool/Toy/Tractor

Yesterday around 6PM, my new tractor was delivered!  I got a lesson on all the cool stuff it does/has, and after the tractor guy left, I went and found the camera (finally!  Just don't ask where it was!) and took pics...

I told El Jefe I had to get pics before I managed to hit a deer with it, since that is  what I've done with our last two vehicles, within a short time of acquiring them.  The deer have it in for me.  The feeling is mutual.

Due to the acreage I have to mow (and the paths down to the river), and the driveway that will need plowing, and the wood that needs hauling, we now own a Cub Cadet.  It has all kinds of cool features like the cast iron driveshaft, blah, blah, blah that make it really sturdy.  It has cruise control.  It has... a cup holder (?).  I had so much fun driving it around the property last night (oh, yeah, it has headlights, too), that I decided it must be illegal, immoral, or fattening.  Then I realized, that was probably the cupholder. 

Actually, since everything greened up here Saturday, and we realized that we may actually need to mow before the middle of May, that we should get the tractor now (also that whole "same as cash" financing thing helped - I'm not happy about monthly payments, but we're about to finish up a $300+ monthly payment in May, and this one is half that, so it actually fits in the budget, even if it annoys me).  And we do need the tractor.

In other pleasant news, we've been sitting on the balcony every morning to watch the sun rise and listen to the birds sing it up.  I noticed this morning that two of the fruit trees have blossomed.  This is pretty but it is NOT good.  We're not going to get any fruit if we get any real frost.  And it usually snows here in mid-April, so I may be hanging at the Ag School Fruit Sale again in the fall.  I couldn't tell you which fruit trees they were without climbing down and trekking there to look at the bark. (I don't know what is planted where from the view from the house yet).  There seems to be apple, cherry, and "unidentifiable to me" which might be pear.  I would guess the cherry would blossom first, but I could be wrong.  I would love to have some cherries to dry for cherry pork roast, and some cherries to make jam (my second favorite in the world next to rhubarb).  We'll have to wait and see.  In the meantime, I've had to open the doors on the hoop house because it was at least 90 degrees in there.  I'm going to plant some (old) seeds there today, and just hope for the best, because I can't stand not playing in the dirt in this weather.  I figure since they are two and three year old seeds from cold-weather crops, I'm not out anything except time if they don't sprout, and I might get some return for my labor... and really, I just need a couple hours to play/recharge after homeschool is done.  Which is where I'm off to now - to do botany experiments we couldn't do when we lived in the apt and the weather was bad...

Sunday, March 18, 2012

Weekend worth of work and the lack of common sense in children

The hoop house door is done.  As soon as I can find the stupid camera, I'll take pics.  Like everything else around here, the camera is AWOL.  Anyway, it was so hot on Saturday, the hoop house was practically a sauna.  Once I get stuff planted, I'll have to open the doors during the day to keep it from FRYING.  I mean, really, what is up with this weather?  I'm not even supposed to plant the cold weather veggies outdoors til April!  Okay, so the hoop house lets me do that earlier, but this is just ridiculous.  The temptation to plant is just overwhelming, even though it always snows here in the middle of April.  I'm going to do it anyway, because it will all be in the hoop house, and I can slap row covers on things, too, if the weather gets bitter and nasty.  But really, I think peas and such will do just fine.  Heck, I 'm more worried the ground will be too warm than too cold.  We also got lots of random stuff pruned and cleared and more branches cut and in buckets for kindling for the wood stove, which we are all very unhappy that it is too warm to use right now.  The entire family actually agrees on this - pancakes are far better on the wood stove. 

Today, I gto the apt cleaned out - one last trailer load by El Jefe, (thank you, sir!) and then I cleaned floors and walls and the half bath, did three more loads of laundry and called it a day.  Tuesday the carpet cleaners will be out, and then I can turn in my keys and never see that place no mo'.   Oo-rah!  But now I have to clear a path from the front door to the half bath/laundry, for the delivery of the new washer/dryer tomorrow.  That's not all we're getting tomorrow, either, but if I tell you now then I'll have nothing to blog about tomorrow (ha!).

Also this weekend, Friday really, the Princess managed to step on a rusty nail in a board that she and the Pirate had been specifically forbidden to play with (because Mom knows about the dangers of rusty nails).  Apparently, my children think my rules are just me talking to hear myself talk, because I love the sound of my own voice (What?) or something.  Needless to say, their wrongheaded misapprehension of reality caused the Princess to spend 4 hours in the Urgent Care waiting for a tetanus booster until 10PM,  and now she is on a week of some dumb antibiotic, Cephalaxin?  (Really?  I'd like to know why!  I didn't get any antibiotic the last time I whacked off the end of my finger with the rotary cutter.)  But El Jefe took the Princess to the doc, because I was just not up to the expected meltdown over the shot - I was having a hard time dealing with all the whingeing about it at the supper table when she finally admitted that was what she had impaled her foot on.  Usually, I feel bad about having so little patience with youthful foolishness, but this time, I was just really ticked off, because I HAD SAID MORE THAN ONCE DON'T PLAY WITH THOSE BOARDS and had in fact, put them away in the barn to prevent such stupid disobedience (not to pull any punches here).  Mother, if you are reading this, please don't bother bringing up any of my similar follies.  We all know there were none, and I was never that lacking in common sense, and was always an obedient and respectful child. 

Friday, March 16, 2012

Homeschool: the End is Near!

I meant the end of the School Year.  Really, I did!

Actually, homeschool is picking back up (due to the move, we'd temporarily dropped Science - it's hard to do botany in the snow, anyway.  And a few other things had taken a slide).  But we're back on track.  I think.  Maybe.  it was a good day, so I'm feeling optimistic, as opposed to impatient and unappreciated.  The Princess will finish Math-U-See Delta in the next two weeks - I have to decide if we are going to switch to Teaching Textbooks (so she can do her math on the computer, and the computer will check it, instead of me) and what level she should do, if we change - I  printed out the fifth grade placement test, and looked it over.  It was everything she had covered already this year.  So I printed out the sixth grade test, too.  I think she actually knows much of that, too.  But the seventh grade test was mostly stuff she hasn't learned yet.  Considering she's a fourth grader, I'm fine with that.  Or, we could stick with Math-U-See, which has worked for us so far (the Pirate wants to stay with Math-U-See, because even though she hates to write her answers down, she hates using the computer to do it even more.  Neo-Luddite in the making.  Anyway, the Pirate will do MUS Delta starting in August, because she won't finish Gamma until the end of June at her current rate.  Sigh.)

We're on track to finish Tapestry of Grace Year One (Ancient History) in the middle of June.  Then we'll take a summer break, until the beginning of August, when we'll start Tapestry of Grace Year Two (Middle Ages to colonization of the Americas).  I'm not thrilled with cramming that much into one year.  I would prefer to do it in two.  But on this four year cycle, we'll cover it two more times, so I can still mess with it.  I really liked TOG's first year - at some point I should critique it here, but if anyone out there is interested right now, you can just go to and check it out.

I have to decide whether or not we are going to do Institute for Excellence in Writing with the co-op in the fall, too.  That would be a drive, but only every other week.  The Princess needs a writing program.  Self-expression does not come easily for her, (unlike the Pirate, for whom a constant monologue of self-expression is seemingly as necessary as breathing).  The Pirate seems to have finally gotten over the hump as far as reading goes.  I'll let her attend continue to attend Sylvan until they go on their summer schedule.  Then we are DONE WITH THAT.  She has realized that reading adds to her great store of stories with which to entertain herself (and entertain or annoy everyone around her).  It's good to catch her reading on her own, and to have her come and say "Look what I wrote in my book!  I'll read it to you!"  Spelling words that do not follow the rules still offends her greatly, but she is willing to correct her words now, rather than simply throwing a temper tantrum, and her pen and paper.

We have two chapters left in the Botany text, which is four weeks of work.  That will take longer, though, since I had to skip some experiments in earlier chapters due to weather/season constraints.  We're going back to do those, now that we have a chance of finding some ferns in the yard.  It's okay - they'll get some real experiences when I give them each a block of the garden to plant and weed and harvest.  Then we'll do Dangerous Science experiments (just because we can), until we start next year's Science text which is from the same Exploring Creation Young Explorer Series - This time Zoology 1 - Flying Creatures of the Fifth Day.  I thought that was timely, since we'll be getting chickens in June.  I admit to having a few issues with the Young Explorer Series.  The section on bees in the botany book was poor, and contained errors.  Needless to say, I corrected the mistakes in the text.  And the sloppy thinking evidenced in some of the young earth "proofs" is irritating.  I skipped those.  And while the kids really enjoy the conversational tone of the text, I'd like the grammar to be cleaner.  Since I've been reading it aloud, I usually just fix it myself as I go along, so it's tolerable for now.  The experiments are well though out, and the girls particularly enjoyed them.  I liked the handwriting exercises, since I didn't start another handwriting curriculum with them when they finished the last one.  The notebooks were sometimes a hit (anytime they got to glue plant parts into them) and sometimes a hassle (anytime the plant parts fell out).  I would definitely buy the notebooks again, though, simply for the ease of having everything right there, ready to go, when we need it.

I found some other cool things - word problem a day, creative thinking, logic, etc., that I'll have to investigate further for next year.  But at least I know what I'll be doing for History, Bible, Art, Science.  Probably.  Ha.

Monday, March 12, 2012

Cujo Coyote

I was driving home in the most nasty little thunderstorm we've had in awhile... the kind where the rain comes down so fast the wipers can't clear it quick enough to see the road... and finally, it slows down, so I speed up, and then I came up on CUJO the COYOTE standing in the middle of my lane.  That darn thing looked as big as a deer.  I missed it, fortunately, and so did the car that was tailgating me, and we all slowed down after that.  Then I get home to discover the dog is afraid to go outside to take a whiz, because the coyotes have been howling up a storm within 100 yards of the house.  (El Jefe says they set off the dogs across the road, too, probably running past their dogrun).  Coyote pelts are maybe $20 a piece right now.  Maybe the Pirate should start earning some college money by whacking a few...

In other less exciting news, I painted El Jefe's closet yesterday, and now it's ready for me to install the closet organizer.  El Jefe got the mouse runways/pipe holes under the sinks plugged with steel wool (chew through that, you little buggers!) and expanding foam (to stop the musty mildew smell from the crawlspace under the bathandahalf (that would be the bathroom with the shower stall, and next week it will also be the laundry room with a real washer and dryer).  And he got the door to the hoop house about half done with much yelling and grumpiness.

We also went tractor window-shopping and I'm voting for the CubCadet.  This has nothing to do with any emotional attachment from my childhood.  It's just cool.  And it has a real drive shaft instead of belts.  Now we need to sell some timber to pay for the thing.  Whoever bought a tractor and wished they'd gotten a smaller one, anyway?

And today I accomplished nowhere near what I wanted to.  I got another load from the apt., and cleaned a little more of it, and its garage.  And I finished Ellen's quilt block and gave it to her.  But not Rosemary's, which I'll do with Carole's for next month's CL meeting.  El Jefe, on the other hand, got up to Lowe's to get the order the washer/dryer/24'ladder AND the lumber we need to build the chicken coop.  That will all be delivered next week, which is just fine and dandy for me.

Thursday, March 8, 2012

Mouse #5, and the back fields

I rebaited the traps under the sink about 30 minutes ago, and just got Mouse #5.  I heard the snap and some banging around under the sink, so I got up to take a look.  Field mice with their big buggy eyes are not anywhere near as cute as the little white fluffball that was the Princess' pet last year.  Just my opinion.
In other news, we had a local man from a nearby farm stop by to see if we'd be interested in renting our back fields to him.  He already plants the adjacent neighbors', and the land across the river.  Nice thing about him working the neighbor's field is that he can access ours from there, rather than needing a 16'  wide road all the way through our property to access our tillable land.  We're hoping we can work out a trade, since he has a backhoe and we need some drainage work done.  It would be the usual corn, beans, wheat rotation most of the farmers around here are doing.  He'd have to clear all those scrub trees the previous owner let come up in the field, since she wasn't planting anything, and didn't lease out the land.  Better him than me, I guess.  I have enough on my plate with the hoop house, the kitchen garden, and the orchard, etc.  Not to mention the chickens.  Anyway, I was glad he stopped by. 

Pleasantries and Annoyances

Mouse #4 is dead and gone (back to peanut butter as bait, since they just stole the sunflower seeds without getting caught).  I have learned to start the fire in the wood cookstove on the first attempt, rather than the third.  Yesterday was beautiful (if rather windy!), so we did half of homeschool outside in the yard.  I want to put a table and chairs in the hoop house because it is so comfortable and smells so good there.  Burning the date branches I pruned makes the house smell good, too.  We haven't fixed the stinky bathroom, but have established the mildew smell is coming from the opening for the pipe under the sink.  I'll get to it this week.  El Jefe or I will block all the openings for the pipes in both bathrooms and the kitchen with a matrix of steel wool and expanding foam, so the mice won't eat through it and it will be airtight.  I hope.  I  have to snake the drains in the other bathroom today, and if that doesn't work, then I need to call the plumber.  Water is not supposed to splash up into the sink when one plunges the toilet.  The basement guy is coming Friday to give us a quote on sealing the Michigan basement and crawl spaces.  I suspect we'll have to treat the crawl spaces for mildew first.  And we need to get the dirt away from the house and install the plastic barriers, or we'll have bug problems, too.  And that means moving the termite bait stations - another phone call to the pest company to find out how to deal with that. 

We have a pair of cardinals, blue jays, redheaded woodpeckers, a mourning dove, and chickadees hanging about.  I would like to make some bluebird boxes and plant some of the flowers the hummingbirds like around the house.  We need to get the tree people here - We have a black walnut near the house that has to come down before it falls down, and there are a bunch of others on the property, maybe enough for the tractor we need...  Don't worry, I have no intention of cutting down the other black walnuts around the deck.  We're running low on wood - I'm hoping that this freakishly warm weather holds out and we won't need more.  We need to take down the old shed, have the bulldozer in to fix the drainage, throw up a lean-to for the firewood for next year...

Somewhere in there, I am taking the kids to visit my parents, finishing cleaning the old apartment (perhaps I should have figured the cost of gas driving back and forth to do that, compared to just hiring Merry Maids to do it!) and making the quilt block for the Charming Ladies meeting Monday night, and then picking the kiddies back up.  And sewing the black trim on El Jefe's TKD uniform.  And getting all the uniforms washed for Picture Day Friday.  Maybe we can get a washing machine next week.  That would be helpful.

I need to find the camera so I can post some pics of the pretty purple crocuses growing outside the kitchen door...

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Mice and such

El Jefe mentioned the mice issue in the previous post.  So far this week we have caught three under the kitchen sink with snap traps baited with peanut butter.  I may have gone a bit too far with the number of traps under that sink (but I know that is where they are coming in), since the last mouse was caught in two traps at once.

I wish I weren't allergic to cats.  And that cats didn't carry toxoplasmosis, which messes with your brain, according to the latest science.  On the one hand, it supposedly makes women more social, and men less so, when it is not causing schizophrenia. Below is the link to one of several articles on the topic...
Cats making us nuts?

I spent the afternoon cleaning the apt.  I'm nowhere near done.  The fridge is clean, but the oven cleaner once again caused me to hack up a lung, and I had to leave the apt.  I hope it will work overnight and I'll be able to wipe it out without having an asthma attack tomorrow.  Otherwise I'll be finishing the cleaning wearing a gas mask.  Won't that be fun...