Autumn at last…

Sunset from the driveway, September 2021.

Tonight the wind was out of the west-nor’west and gusted down our driveway, past the front of our house, into and over the barn and through the woods beyond. If it were stronger, it ought to wail a bit and at least one little girl would need reminding that it’s just the Fall winds coming in. High time, too! We’ve had cooler days, and honestly, my Southern-born children sometimes still think they need winter parkas when the weather is in the mid-to-upper 60s. However, tonight the wind brings a cold front that means some modicum of business, and justifies the start of the colors in the leaves and the (7) pumpkins on my porch steps.

Pippka at 5, 6, and 7 months. (No sticker for 7 months because I temporarily misplaced it)

Around the Haus…

Little Pippka continues to grow like crazy and tick off all her milestones right and left. Since turning 7 months old, she has decided to begin the “army crawl” stage and gain a second tooth. She delights her siblings by reaching for them when she wants to be held, especially if I’m the one holding her. She is sitting well in her little chair and is starting solid food. It’s funny how the regimen of baby foods have changed since Trooper was the red-headed baby of the Haus. With him it was strictly rice cereal first (thickened in his case, but still!), and now it’s “whatever you’re having, just mashed.” I first realized this at a friend’s house where I was visiting while expecting Pippka, and I was surprised to see her little girl playing with spaghetti and soft carrots at 7 months! Suddenly, even though it’s been about four years since last putting a baby through solids, I felt like I was a generation behind in my parenting methods! Is this how our grandmothers felt when they were told it wasn’t allowed to feed infants orange juice until a certain age? (All in good fun, folks!) Now Pippka is exploring pancakes (without syrup) and other things while we keep an eye on her. I can’t say that she’s eating much of it, but she’s entertained.

Summer Fun

Back when we were beginning to pack for our move here, I ordered several camping friendly wildlife and nature cards for our new home state, as the kids had been enjoying the nature cards I had given them long before for our then home state. The day the cards arrived in the mail happened to be one where they were feeling blue about leaving everything familiar for the unknown, and I hoped that they would be cheered up by what they saw. The results surprised me. The kids took the cards and dutifully took a gander, and then sat up in amazement. “Mama, Mama, there’s dolphins in this wildlife card!” “Seashells! Seashells! How come this state has seashells?!” I hadn’t thought at the time that they were moving from a landlocked state to one with a coastline, and informed them. Immediately, the kids were excited about this move and new plans were set. “How far to the beach?” We have yet to see a dolphin, but we do have a favorite seaside location that we visited in 2019 and again this summer (skipping 2018 due to moving and settling in, and last summer due to lockdown). It is just far enough to make an epic day trip event of it, where the entire family can get away for a few hours and listen to the ocean, gather the seashells, play in the surf, and get toasted, and still make it home in time to shut the barn doors for the evening.

Top left: Haus Meister and Trooper establish Base Camp. Lower Left: assorted children enjoying the seaside. Right: Bright Eyes after having her hair styled by Madame de la Mer (in other words, Bright Eyes came ashore with a wave that swirled her hair a bit).

The Cats of Misselthwaite…

“What?” You ask, “She has 24 chickens, 8 rabbits, 6 ducks, 4 sheep, and that ridiculous dog, and she’s talking about the cats again?!” If I were to ever go back onto social media, I am tempted to begin an Instagram thread with the above title and find my posts going viral because everyone likes cats on the internet, right? Well, I will be discussing the farm animals as we go, but since our last post the cat population increased by one. This one was a true rescue! Meet Ruby, pictured the day she turned up on our back porch, and then a month later! She has now been with us three months and is quite a fixture. Her name was the result of a misunderstanding. As “Tabitha Twitchett” had been taken by our (by now likely departed) feral stray friend from our first year here, I combed through my Beatrix Potter and decided on “Cousin Ribby” for our newcomer since she was really very emaciated when we met her. However, at adoption the vet tech heard “Ruby” instead of “Ribby” and it stuck. She is a spitfire of a feline gem, after all.

So, how did we end up accidentally rescuing a kitten? On a Sunday in July, I let Sam (aforementioned ridiculous dog) out for his morning constitutional. Moments later, I heard him barking up a storm on the porch, and looking, saw him under the patio table aiming his snout–and barks–at the chair facing the door. Assuming he was giving Bilbo or Oscar a hard time, I went out to chide him (silly dog, those cats don’t care one way or the next what he thinks). There on the porch chair was a small kitten I had seen two days prior, running across our woods. I knew she had a collar but here she was again, on our back porch, all skin and bones and giving Sam a piece of HER mind (and it appeared calculated to be able to make a sailor blush, as the saying goes). I got Sam back inside and then went to meet the newcomer (pleasantly impressed already by the sheer audacity coming from such a small critter). Alas, her collar that I had spied from a distance was actually wrapped around her foreleg, cutting into her skin! There was no telling where she had come from or how long she’d been from home, and no identification on the collar, but I couldn’t just let her sit on our porch and stew like that! So we brought her in, and fortunately there was time before Mass to go out and get kitten food and a basic litter box. Over the next week we haunted the lost pet ads and played phone tag with the vet. The vet clinic five minutes from our house wouldn’t see her at first since she wasn’t ours, and suggested the Humane Society. The Humane Society wouldn’t see her because we were one mile outside city limits (and their jurisdiction), so we’d have to go to the county shelter forty minutes away. I somehow didn’t picture anyone going to look for her there, and so I called our vet again and asked if we could at least get her scanned for a chip. Meanwhile, I searched every lost pet forum and no one seemed to be searching for her. Obviously since we still have her, she wasn’t chipped, no one knew where she had come from, and no one really expected much from taking her nearly an hour away. So we adopted her then and there in the vet clinic and proceeded to take over her full care. She resides in the boys’ room, of all places, and likes holding sway over her domain. She tolerates Oscar alone of all the animals (I am not letting her run around outside yet, so I don’t know how she’d deal with the barnyard). Sam continues to get an explosion out of her, and she seems to have a perpetual enmity with Bilbo. Perhaps it is because they share a similar profile and build, the kind that suggests that their species were once regarded as gods by the Pharaohs, and they have not forgotten.

Restoring Misselthwaite

Now that it is Autumn, the pool is closed and so is “Celtic Music, Cookouts, and Chlorine,” which is our usual theme for summer evenings poolside. We generally don’t mind shutting down the pool on Labor Day evening because the days are shorter anyway, the evenings almost too cool to enjoy the pool, and the trees nearest the pool decide, rather obnoxiously, to begin shedding in advance. Really, by September it becomes more of a chore than a pleasure to keep the pool running any longer. Once the pool craze is over, it’s safe to turn our attention to other tasks that the summer heat, and the clamor of children for swim time, helped put off until now.

The Before (and who put that dinosaur over the light fixture?!)

In July, Rascal helped me do a project that had been percolating in my mind almost since we arrived. Our upper floor bathroom looked fabulous in the realty pictures, as is the norm for everything in realty pictures, and it might have stayed semi-fabulous except it was the bathroom designed for the three bedrooms allotted to children in the house. The previous owners seemed to have given it better attention than they did the master bathroom (for which I could be thankful, actually). However, the large cabinetry made it hard to sweep beneath, the scrollwork caught any accidental toothpaste drips from those of preschool age, and the doors suffered a quick loss thanks to little girls using them as props to stand up on that interior ledge as a quasi step-stool (step-stools having no real room for maneuverability in here at the time). Plus, any splash from the bathtub whatsoever invariably made its way beneath the sink, and it was, in a nutshell, unpleasant. I finally decided that this summer we would tackle this bathroom before school began (other projects having precedent before now).

In the end, my involvement was the inspiration and materials gathering, while Rascal did the hard work (I did get a fiendish satisfaction of personally hauling away the old sink parts to the local dump. As it turns out, it was rotting beneath the marble facade anyway). Rascal repainted the walls with some white paint we had left over from other rooms (we call it Northern Michigan White, in homage to a favorite extended family vacation cottage). The new sink and cabinetry are a basic model from Home Depot (and yes, one can put a step stool in front of this sink). The mirror is from Wal-Mart, but Rascal spray painted the frame and the light fixtures a nice bronze to update them. The signs next to the tub (first picture) came from Amazon, and the shelf in the middle picture is from IKEA (towels from Target). Originally, I hadn’t planned on removing the old mirror, but once the new sink/vanity was in place, we saw it just didn’t work. Amusingly, as we removed the mirror, a thin piece of folded paper fluttered out. It was an unsatisfactory report card belonging to the son of the second owner of the house (we’re the fourth or fifth owners), dated 1991. I have kept some things that were left behind around here (a cabinet here a side table there), but this wasn’t one of them.

Rascal did earn some goodly reward for his hard work, including a trip to the homemade cookie-ice-cream-sandwich place in town. I think he deserved it.

We are working on other projects that must wait for other posts, but here’s a sneak preview.

I do realize, as I close this post, that contrary to the title, it was more of a summer re-cap than about anything autumnal. No mention until now of sweaters or pumpkin spice lattes, and nary a picture of the maple leaves turning from green to red! However, the breeze outside my window as I type reminds me that autumn is, at last, once again with us. The Cosy Season is back, and while the summer was more hectic than not (the week that Ruby came also saw Bright Eyes having surgery on her finger after accidentally slamming it in a door, Haus Meister’s first overnight business trip since the lockdowns, and Vacation Bible School for more than half the family), it’s good to be here and resting with a hot cuppa tea at the end of the day.

January

I have decided to update at least once a month, as things get crazy and it’s no good waiting until they aren’t. 😉

Our Sunshine, in a nutshell.

Around the Haus…

Turned almost 40, cut my hair three inches shorter, have to confess I love the 30s more than the 20s. Life is just good overall, my friends.

Some of us are another year older. Trooper turned 16 in December, Sunshine and Squire had their joint birthday this month, and I had my own two days later. One gift-to-self was Blessed is She’s “Gift of You” course. I rarely get the chance to attend a retreat these days, and even though I watched the sessions while doing laundry triage, it was well worth it and so refreshing.

This, in a nutshell, is the third teenager in the family: The Squire.

Laundry triage…. My sister’s husband got to see our house for the first time this past Christmas, and as I gave him the tour, I also apologized for the laundry room. Matter-of-factly, he asked me why I should apologize for not being caught up. “You have ten kids!” Point well taken. It is what it is. Luckily he didn’t see it after we all came down with ‘Flu B at the beginning of the New Year! Fortunately, Haus Meister had repainted our bedroom (Behr Natural Grey) and we splurged on LL Bean flannel sheets as a Christmas gift, so at least if we were down and out, we were down and out in comfort! But ugh… ‘Flu B….

Recovery Mode. “The Dean’s Watch” by Elizabeth Goudge is now one of my all-time absolute favorites. I read it yearly. Next up is “In This House of Brede” by Rumer Godden.

That begs another question. After we recovered, Haus Meister and I pledged that next year we would endure taking all of us in for a flu shot. That has definite merits! On the other hand, just as we recovered, headlines screamed, “Flu Shots May Not Be Strong Enough for this Year’s Flu!” Can you win for losing? I don’t know anymore.

But I digress…

(That should be the tagline for this blog)

Around the Farm….

The hens survived the molt season and are giving 6-8 eggs a day even in winter (despite the one oviraptor in the flock). The rooster likes to think he rules the roost. The ducks are also doing well. Two of them are laying pretty regularly. Duck eggshells are thicker than chicken eggshells, but I can just imagine they’ll make beautiful pysanky next Easter…

The bees… I hope I mentioned the bees. Haus Meister invested in two prime nucs last Spring, but one was lost due to pesticides toward the end of summer. The other has been doing all right. At least, they’re still buzzing!

Last year for my birthday, Haus Meister gave me some VegTrugs. One is just full of dirt at present and serves as a pseudo-sandbox/mudpie arena for the girls. The other I’ve planted garlic in, and so far it seems to be doing well. Of course, I’ve never planted garlic before, so how do I know? It’s NOT DEAD YET. 😉

As I mentioned in a long ago post, I often leave food out on our back deck for our resident feral cat, Tabitha Twitchett. However, last October, a larger tabby showed up at her spot. He was so large, I thought at first it was the raccoon, but then he turned and looked at me with a look (I thought at the time) of pure deviltry. We had been watching the 1940s Disney “Legend of Sleepy Hollow,” so we named the newcomer “Brom Bones.” Brom returned once or twice between October and November, but began to show up regularly toward Christmas.

This time, the kids noticed he was a good deal more friendly and used to people than Tabitha. In fact, one night, when the temperature dipped below freezing, they snuck him in behind our backs! Brom’s name changed to Oscar, after James Herriot’s “Oscar, Cat-About-Town.” We tried “Thorin,” keeping in our Tolkien pet name tradition, but ultimately Oscar won out. As it happens, that was appropriate. In that story, Herriot and his wife find out that Oscar has a family, and so did we today. We brought Oscar in to the vet at long last (now that we were no longer sick and the schedules eased up), and it turns out he had a microchip! His owner was contacted and was so happy to hear he was found, as he had been missing since Thanksgiving! So we got to be the happy ending for this cat, who, it happens, was originally named “Puff-Puff.”

C’mon, do I look like a Puff-Puff to you?!

On the needles

Keeping a little knitting accountability here, I’m currently making the Hinterland Sweater as an extended birthday present for my Mom. I’m using a wool yarn from The Philosopher’s Wool that Haus Meister brought home for me from a business trip an age ago, that was just waiting for a project like this. I’m super excited about it, and have every hope, being the eternal optimist I am, that Mom will enjoy her sweater as summer fades into autumn.

Last thoughts….

This winter, compared to last winter, is definitely comparable to our Tennessee winters, with one valuable exception: it’s been cold enough to kill the mosquitos. And on that note, see you in February!