Friday, March 21, 2014

March Madness

Dearest Friend ~

Greetings in His holy name ~ our Lord and Savior ~ Jesus Christ!  May we both feel His presence at this time.

What a crazy, up and down (mostly down) winter this has been!  A couple warm (over 32 degrees) days and then back to bitter cold.  It feels long, and I’m anxious to get on with spring.  Especially now that the Calendar says it to be so.

I said to hubby Russ a couple days ago that I can’t believe I made it 59+ years without drinking coffee.  This past autumn during deer season, upon arriving back at the cabin chilled to the bone covered in a winter snowy/sleet mix, I “bucked” up and poured myself a cup of coffee from the coffee pot atop the woodstove.  It was the first time for me, after all these years.  Even then, I laced it with French Vanilla creamer, and a couple shakes of organic sugar, given to me by my Amish friend.  Now if I can just go to drinking it black, I’ll have it licked.

The animals on our “40” are starting to move about.  A white ermine made an appearance in our working Mill the other day, rooting around a new nest of bunnies.  His rooting days are now over, keeping the bunnies safe, for now.  A fat red squirrel, the fattest I’ve ever seen, is hanging out at our feeders by our cabin window.  He dances about, over the wild turkey feeding below, as he raids the treats.  We have to be careful when we take our two big sled dogs outside, as there is always someone visiting the feeder, where our wolfy-dog, Mordecai, is temporarily tethered.  Rabbits, squirrels, wild turkeys, and our chickens are there at any time.  (Chickadees still come, and flit about Mordecai’s head.)  I didn’t think anything when I saw a chicken exit the dog house right outside our door, until one of the sled dogs emerged with an egg, on two occasions! 

Spring feels good.  The turnaround on our taxes (computed on paper/sent by snail mail) was fast.  It always feels good to be able to “catch up” on things, if needed, with any extra funds.  Five new collars were ordered for the dogs.  Spiffy ones from  Extra padded with neoprene, making them nice and comfy for the big lugs.  Russ shook his head when I said I ordered a “hot pink” for our dog, Skunk.  And a lime green for Knik.  And a purple for Malakai…and so it goes.  Why not just plain green?” he muttered.  What can I say?  I was feeling “spring fever”.

I also splurged on a couple books from Amazon, one is about a couple from Ohio heading to Alaska to homestead.  Another about a twelve-year old who was captured by Indians (true story) and lived out her life in the Seneca tribe.  I love all things “woodsy”. 

Another splurge was a new head light.  It’s been years since we had a good one.  It will leave me more hands free when I head to the dog yard in the middle of the night~!

And the last splurge was…wait for it…a Crow Call.  I’m more excited about this, than anything.  Our crow population plays a vital role on our farm.  One main role is in warning our chickens of danger from above.  We have lost more chickens to hawks/juvenile Bald Eagles than any other predator in the last year or so.  Also, I can tell what is going on at any given time, based on their reports.  They are smart birds – and I love watching their antics.  Just the way they “stroll” brings a smile.  Their little ones stay with them up to 2 years, learning the ways.  I hope I can “talk” with them more, once I learn the proper skill of the call.  I still need to get a coyote call.  I gave my call to Ryan Redington (famous Iditarod dog musher) when he visited from Alaska five years ago and haven’t replaced it yet.  Ryan was so taken with it, I told him to take it back to AK with him.

Yesterday was back to being winter around here, after having a couple warm days earlier in the week.  I was getting antsy, (bushy, as they say in the arctic regions) feeling the tiny cabin close in around me.  Thus, I headed out for a walk as the sun was slipping down the western sky.  We had a big “dinner” at noon, so our eats at night were to be freshly made garlic/pepper jerky (made with our pork, by a friend of ours, oh so good) sharp cheddar cheese and crackers.  Simple, but tasty and good, and surprisingly filling.  As I walked down our snowy drive, towards the woods on the back of our 40, I smiled watching Zip and Skunk fly by, racing to the next smell or tracks that lured them up over the snow banks onto the snow that held their weight for several steps.  Earlier in the week, Skunk had been hooked into a dog team for a first-time ride for my golfer-son’s girlfriend.  She, being an accomplished Olympic bicycle rider/racer, enjoyed the thrill with a four-dog team on the fast track icy drive.  Only two days later, snow had come again, making the walk feel like more labor intensive, sinking in the snow.  In addition, the snow banks that lined the drive were chest and/or neck high.  Winter is still very much here for us in northern lower Michigan.

While on my walk in the setting sun, I stopped several times and looked about the fields and woods, which held complete silence.  There is something about being in the cold, in the quiet, that brings on the flow of tears.  Tears of gratitude.  Of praise for His glory.  God speaks to me in that still small voice.  As I stood and marveled at the beauty of the night coming on, the warmth of the day was reduced by each increment of the setting sun.  Oh how I treasure this simple land that holds so much beauty.  My heart aches for those folks who are so “plugged” in to the fast-paced life, that they never take the time to see simple beauty.  It can be something as simple as planting a single tomato plant on a patio deck.  Washing your dishes by hand, instead of using a machine.  (We are 3 weeks without water, and counting.)  Baking your own bread.  The list is endless.  The goal is to be connected to what you are doing.  And knowing whatever you do, you do with the goal of giving the glory to God.  For it is all for Him, and by Him.  I can’t imagine being without Him as the center of my life.  Our Lord and Savior, Jesus.  For He is coming soon.  And we are told to be ready.  And trust in His word. 

While pondering about Jesus coming, as I do daily, I thought about hubby Russ, and the trust he placed in one of our horses.  Our very first horse was a mess.  Albeit small, he took hours of a gentle hand just to get him ready to ride.  Once saddled and slowly worked, it took years to trust him.  Although I liked “Buck”, he never liked me.  Even as I was offering him a treat, he pinned his ears back, telling me he might strike and injure me without guilt.  One day, after realizing this wasn’t getting better, I worked him in the round pen, and won his respect.  After that, we were complete – the trust was there.  His trust began to work in other ways too.  Russ could ride him, without a bridle or saddle – trusting him to keep him safe. 

Trusting in the Lord is so much more.  We are told to “…trust in the Lord with all your heart, and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and He shall direct your paths.  (Proverbs 3:5-6)

Sometimes it is hard, to be patient for the Lord’s leading.  Just this week, in our small “Wee House Worship” held at our cabin, our leader John told me that if all I do is “rest and abide” in Him, that is good enough.  I waved away tears at that statement.  Why does it feel that I should do more?  Where is this sense of urgency coming from?  I literally weep, once I am tucked deep down in my sleeping bag at night, for those who have heard the Word and have “put it off”, or haven’t taken His word seriously.  This is serious.  It’s the difference between heaven and hell for eternity.  Truthfully, the enemy has done a fine job of distracting folks.  Computers, March Madness sports brackets, Facebook, Twitter, the list goes on and on.  If you feel moved to come closer to Him, just cry out to Jesus.  He will find you, as the Shepherd finds his sheep.  Start a relationship with Him and pick up a Bible.  If you only read John 3:15 “…that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life…” that’s fine.  Start with baby steps.  Trust in Him.  The rest will follow.  The Holy Spirit will be there to assist.  But start with reaching out.  It’s time.  Don’t wait, your life depends on it.

Until next time, dear friend. 

The trees are tapped, the feeders are full and life abounds here on our little patch of paradise, albeit snow covered for many weeks to come.

Love and prayers,


Friday, March 14, 2014

Shovel Ready

Hello Dear Friend –

Greetings in the name of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ~!  As my friend Miriam says ~ “He will lead us in this world and eventually out of this world if we let Him.

It has been nearly a month (-/+) since I have checked in with you.  I’m still here.  This winter has been long, and the cold weather here in northern lower Michigan is hanging on with a firm grip. 

Yes, we are shovel ready – we carry a shovel everywhere – outhouse/dog yard/our foot trail into the cabin/everywhere there is snow.

Speaking of the cabin.  We still have 4 dogs in our 15 x 20 cabin, having morphed into a routine of “in and out” for the two who need to still be tethered just outside the cabin door.  The other two are collar-less and stay put on our main core of our 40 acres.  I had to laugh today after lunch when hubby Russ headed out into our woods hauling a bright green plastic sled to haul back a load of nice Maple hardwood from a dead tree he downed earlier in the week.   While Russ headed out on the firm 4’ of snow base, our large smoke-colored wolfy dog, Mordecai, stretched out his large body by the woodstove, sighing a deep sigh of contentment as Russ clicked the cabin door shut upon his departure.  Mordecai’s harness hangs in the feed room, unused.  Meanwhile, Russ will haul sled after sled full of wood throughout the afternoon into evening.  Oh well, perhaps next year the dogs will be put to work full time. 

There has been a few respites of warmth (above 20 degrees) among the frigid temps.  On those days, my spirits soar.  It’s not only me.  On the first bright sunshine warmed day, baby bunnies spilled out from under our cabin, hopping about under our window and tree feeders.  At least once a day I take yellow dried corn cobs and toss them down the snowy “rabbit hole” that burrows under our cabin.  I just hope it doesn’t entice a skunk to take up residence, as has happened in the past.  Skunks are brutal to rabbit kits.  Pure savages.

It amazes me how our free-ranging rabbits have bunnies year ‘round.  On one below zero morning I went into our feed shed to get a flake of hay for a dog I had moved in the dog yard.  Upon lifting the hay flake from the bale, I discovered a “bunny nest” full of newborn kits.  I gasped and quickly covered the rabbit hair-lined swarm.  I was saddened knowing the temps in the next days would plunge to –30, with little chance of survival for the little creatures.  It wasn’t until a couple weeks later, Russ mentioned the bunnies were hopping around inside the feed room.  How amazing they survived.  Rabbits aren’t like some “mama’s” where they snuggle to keep warm.  They only visit the nest a couple times a day, if that, due to their milk being so rich.  (And if some of you are wondering why we didn’t just scoop them up and take them into the cabin to bottle feed – the mortality rate is high when you “mess with nature”.)  Anyone who knows me knows I abhor it when folks think they can do better than the “mama” and kick “mama” to the curb and take over.  ‘Nuff said.  A positive note is when the babies are big enough to make their appearance out and about, it is entertainment to see them follow Mama around and squirm under her belly, flip on their backs and kick with their little legs to position to get a good grip on the “milk bottle”.  {Smile}

Chickens have also come out of the barn and free-ranged all over our cabin area, enjoying the sunshine during those warm days.  A few eggs have even been found, announced by a proud chicken.  A preview of what’s to come.  It will be good to have a frequent supply of fresh eggs again.

The sled dogs {total count of 13} have certainly had the winter “off”, for the most part.  I gave up trying to snowshoe a trail.  I strapped on the webs several days (3) in a row and then we had a warm up and heavy snow and drifting.  I lost the trail.  However, I did find several nights of inner upper leg “Charley Horses”.  The worst.  Thank the Lord I have a good liniment (J. R. Watkins) that swiftly takes care of such nuisances.  Note to self:  pick up another bottle at my favorite Amish store on my next visit.

However, just because the sled dogs haven’t been running doesn’t mean there hasn’t been excitement in the dog yard.  A couple weeks ago we had a bit of excitement once darkness fell.  It wasn’t even my bedtime when I was alerted to a commotion in the dog yard.  Dogs were whining, uneasy.  One of the dogs was barking an alert bark, telling us there was an “issue”.  Russ was sleeping, I was fully awake.  Earlier in the day, I had commented to hubby, Russ, that our back gate that leads out into the woods was opened about a foot, due to deep snow, allowing a dog to get out.  Or, perhaps a dog to get in.  It looked like a super highway from our dog yard to the woods, showing there had been some activity.  Coyote in the dog yard?  I shined my searchlight into the dog yard and met with a pair of eyes near the gate.  All other dogs were where they should be.  Oh no.  I grabbed a light, my Ruger, and shovel and hit the dog yard.  After much shoveling, I secured the gate and looked at our elderly gal who was in full-blown heat.  She smiled.  I groaned.  Upon coming back into the cabin, I marked the calendar for April 15th – 63 days.  We’ll see.

I mentioned reading Kathrene Pinkerton’s “Wilderness Wife” written back in the 1930’s.  I can’t say how much I’ve enjoyed this book.  It’s as if she mirrors my very thoughts, especially the contentment she feels in her rustic cabin, in the wild.  I feel that way here on our ’40.  As I type this on my non-Internet connected computer, I see the birds at the feeders in the reflections on the screen.  Smartwool socks hang over the woodstove for a final drying.  We don’t live fancy, but it is real.  And it feels right. 

I’ve settled into such a routine this winter, baking cookies and bread, sorting through paperwork to fill our burn barrel.  I am actually allowing myself to actually “relax”.  I have been “retired” from a very busy State job for three years and it has taken me this long to “chill” out.  I get wide-eyed when I look at my old Franklin Planner and the life I used to lead.  I’m so blessed to have been able to follow my plan to live a simple life.  And daily, I struggle to get it even more so, as LESS IS MORE.

I don’t travel in the winter, and hadn’t planned to go south to a hearing for Baker’s Green Acres, (fighting to keep his pigs despite a Invasive Species Order from the DNR saying his pigs meet the characteristics of Feral…) but the near blizzard weather we had that day made me feel better for missing it.  (I attended last July.)  Turns out, it was canceled.  Watch this video – you won’t believe what happened at the next hearing, before the Judge entered the courtroom, as folks discussed the previous cancellation due to snow.  Be prepared to be disgusted.  Dicky Bird – a must see for you.

Until next time, dear friend.  Lord willing.