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Friday, December 31, 2010

Ten is a big responsibility

Lila turned 10 on December 23rd!

She had a hoard of gifts that she opened prior to her friends coming over for her dinner party.  She wanted to open them before they got there because she felt bad that she received so many gifts and her friends may not have had so many.  I thought that was rather sweet and it took me a while catch my breath.  I'm glad that she recognizes that not everyone is as well off as others and that she is concerned about it.

After the girls arrived, we had dinner- Pizza, crab rangoons and fresh veggies and dip.  This was Lila's meal request!  Then Lila opened her presents from her friends.

Afterwards, as is traditional, we made gingerbread creations. Each child gets a blog of mollasses cookie dough and they make what they want with it.  Out come the imaginations and the sprinkles!  Of course, as parents showed up I was still pulling cookies out of the oven so some came in and had cake.  This was the beginning of the holiday chaos.  Now I am late getting home for lunch so alas, have to leave the high speed internet connection at the library....more another day.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010


And so the wheel turns yet again to winter...tonight the longest night of the year.  We celebrate by burning the Yule log from sunset to sunrise to beat back the night and symbolically call forth the sun.
I'm beat though.  I thought I'd try to stay up last night to catch the full lunar eclipse...the next one that coincides with the winter solstice won't be for another 400 years so it was now or never....but at 12:30 still no movement.  Fortunately I awoke around 3:45 and the moon very conveniently was outside our bedroom window.  I nudged Will awake (I think, or he woke up because I was making the bed wiggle moving around to get a good look) and we admired the amber moon glow of the full eclipse. Verra cool.  So tonight, we shared a bottle of spiced wine warmed on the stove that was a birthday gift from a friend and wrapped some gifts for the kids, and Lila's birthday presents.  I hear the siren call of sleep now.  I'd like to read a few more pages of the Princess Bride, but would only be to bounce the spine of the book on the floor for naught.

Friday, December 17, 2010


School musical program yesterday culminated with this....a total surprise to everyone but Sam and the principal!  He was directing the rest of the kids in the choir.  Will have more pictures later....

Monday, December 13, 2010

We're Famous!

Well probably only if you listen to Northern Michigan University (NMU) Public Radio, and if you happened to be listening last Thursday morning.

When we first moved to the Upper Peninsula, after having Lila, Will used to go for long walks.  L-o-n-g walks that lasted for miles and took hours.  Will pushed Lila in her jogging stroller over all sorts of terrain....once they even stared eye to eye with a bobcat!  Any-who, one day when Will was pushing Lila, Ruthette stopped and asked us all to their annual fourth of July picnic.  Long story short, we have been friends with Doug & Ruthette (otherwise known as Dougette) since that fateful day ten years ago.  Dougette have two children, Rachel and Laurel.  Laurel is a junior at NMU majoring in art, and Rachel (who graduated with a BA and MA from NMU) is an adjunct professor in english at NMU.  We have watched them grow from young girls into young adults, and have spent every Christmas Eve at their house these ten not-so-long years.

As I mentioned, Rachel is an english major and is renowned for her mastering of the short story.  NMU annually around the holidays invites people to submit their "Holiday Remembrances" (click here).  This year Rachel submitted a lovely short story of her cherished memories from her growings up at Dougettes, way out in the boonies in the UP (she works in the big city of Marquette).  Since we have been a fixture at their family Christmas Eve's the past decade we were included in the story.  It isn't a story about us, but a story about the holiday traditions of a family we love.  Maybe in that way it shows how we have become a part of their family and they of ours. 

Friday, December 10, 2010

Da Tree

Traditionally, our Christmas/Yule/Winter Solstice Tree is bought on the weekend of my Birthday.  So, last weekend we traipsed to Anderson's Tree Farm in Newberry to select one lucky fir tree to sacrifice itself to decorate our home.  Not a bad way to celebrate a Birthday!
Every year Lila is on the searh for the biggest and best tree.
Sam is just into having fun and getting as wet as possible...
...and he always looks like he is up to something!
 Duncan mostly stayed on the sled.  He realized that I could pull him faster when the other two were off the sled looking at trees so I spent most of my time slinging him around.
Photo op at the end of the trip, Friday Evening.
Saturday morning Will brought in the tree to defrost before decorating.  Will is approximately five feet ten inches tall so you can see that Lila got her way on the size of the tree.  Actually, the one she REALLY wanted was too big to fit into our tree holder.  It was also probably 12-14 feet tall!  This lovely Caanan fir is nine-ish feet tall.
Next went on the ornaments.  Well, technically the lights went on first.  We sent the kids out of the room while we were doing the lights because it is a time of utmost concentration and frustration and the questions about "when will we be able to put the ornaments on?  Are you done yet?  What is taking so long?" are not very welcome or constructive!

Ginger the cat was very interested in the proceedings and sat over the tree while it was being decorated.  He has removed low  hanging ornaments but so far hasn't climbed the tree.  That did happen to us once a few years ago (different cat) and the tree came crashing down, ornaments smashed, etc...  We have learned to tie the tree to a few strategic spots on the logs.
The weekend culminated in a lovely dinner party on Sunday- Will cooked Thai for me, we had a tiny keg of "Bell's Best Brown Ale" and only one of our guests ended up in the ditch (on the way to the party)!  AND goat hooves were trimmed and sheep coats changed!  A very productive weekend. 

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Three Fires

Around Thanksgiving time, the students and staff at Three Lakes Academy had a harvest gathering called "The Three Fires". The Three Fires are meant to represent the three Manistique Lakes that surround the community of Curtis, and perhaps invoke an indigenous peoples flavor to the gathering.

There were three bonfires set up on the lawn of the Academy, at each point of the triangle.  There were tables set up on the lawn with homemade placemats taped to the tables.  It was COLD so the fires were a welcome treat.

 Will was "Keeper of the Flame" and he ran from fire to fire to light them, signifying the start of the feast.

Interestingly, that day was marked also by a Detroit Lions vs. Patriots game.  There were many comments on Will's hat that day that floated over our heads until we found this out.  The Patriots "whooped butt", but that may not be saying much given the status of the Lions.

The kids each wrote a "legend of the Three Fires".  Three of the stories were to be chosen to be read at the ceremony.  Lila's was one of the three stories read, and hers was a legend of a Native American girl who was captured by pilgrims (read settlers here) in Copper Harbor.  The story was about how she was chosen to be a sacrifice to the Fire God and how she willingly endured this sacrifice for the greater good of nature and her people.  I feared that it was too Grimm grim to be chosen, but the school administrator shows pluck and good taste!  (That is him holding the megaphone).
The event culminated in a meal of beef stew (made with donations from everyones garden and farm), home made muffins and cornbread, and a dessert of cranberry Jello- Cranberries harvested from the shore of Lake Superior.  It was a lovely gathering, though the wind was howling (and the placemats didn't stay on the tables because the tape was too cold) and it was COLD (did I already mention that?)!

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

It is Winter.

A few wintery photos taken this week.  I have been remiss on posting- will catch up soon!   We did not find the wee spotted mouse....
 The best time to see a black dog is in the snow!

 Waters can't bear to look...
 The woolies like their new snug barn!
 Fancy says it is safer outside....the goats are in the barn.
Isn't it cute???

Monday, November 29, 2010

Over the Weekend....

We spent Thanksgiving weekend downstate at My Mom and Dad's house...the driving both ways was fine fortunately!  Turkey and all the fixings (including the stuffing- my favorite) were great.  The beer selection is always so much broader down there too so we took advantage of some new microbrews as a treat.  Will and my Mother typically do the "black friday" shopping the next  I sleep!  Someone has to stay with the kids!  So THIS year- the stores opened at midnight.  This means they had to leave at 11:00 to "scope the place out" first.  What?!  The next group of stores they were to visit didn't open until 3:00 and 4:00am so I totally expected Will to come stumbling in.  I woke up at 3:30am to shut off the light that was left on while I was, ahem, reading and still no Will.  The kids were up by Will.  They came home around 8:00!  Will immediately sat down on the couch and fell asleep.  I was having a hard time getting the kids to be quiet (hard when they have been unconscious for 10 hours) so the kids and I went to the Davisburg Candle Factory.  The candle factory has been there for years and years...I remember going there in elementary school and they have a really cool automated system for dipping candles involving rollerskate parts.  We did some Christmas shopping there while waiting for Daddy and Grandma to wake up.  That is all the shopping I did!- oh I did go to the beer store again....that doesn't count though for holiday shopping.

We left Saturday afternoon to go home and were met with a calamity....the cat, Ginger, had knocked over the cage containing Duncan's mice...I had shut the door to their room but evidently it didn't latch..  What mice??  Well, for Duncan's birthday we took him to the pet store to pick out a HAMSTER.  We didn't come home with a hamster, but two very cute mice.  One was such a runt I was sure it was going to die but he really wanted the tee-tiny one.  Long story short- the cage was knocked over, food, shavings and mice turds everywhere!  The small straw ball they sleep in was found in the hallway where Ginger evidently rolled it.  No mice anywhere that we could see, but no scraps of mice lying around either.  I checked the litter box to see if there was any evidence there, nope (I'm a biologist, remember- I do these things for a living).  Saturday night I put out a tiny bit of peanut butter on small saucers in a couple of spots to see if there might be some evidence they were still around.

Sunday morning I opened the closet in the hall where the ball was parked in front of and I heard squeaking!  Someone had been into the peanut butter too.  I "excitedly" gathered up some mouse catching paraphenalia and went into the bedroom to get the mouse cage in case I got lucky.  Whaaaat???  There is a mouse IN the cage!  One of them evidently made her way back home.  I don't even want to know how she got in there because she can probably get back out again.  However, the tiny spotted one is still on the loose in the closet.  I put the small sleeping ball in there in hopes that she would climb in (because she really liked sleeping in that ball) but no luck....I suppose the cat trauma associated with the ball was too much.  I put the mouse in the cage into the closet hoping that would lure her out...still not there this morning though more peanut butter is gone.  I'm not looking forward to ripping that closet apart to look for this tiny mouse...

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Harbour Grace

I mentioned in an earlier post that our two year old Newfoundland had a torn ACL in her right hind leg, and Annette asked if I had a picture of her.....
Turns out I don't have a more recent photo of her, but this is one of her puppy pictures.  She was about 8 weeks old in this photo.  She followed CeCe, our older Newfoundland, around like she was her Mother and poor CeCe just let her do anything to her, including hanging by her teeth from CeCe's lip!  It is hard to believe that such a small wee bundle of fuzz can turn into a hundred pound dog.

Monday, November 15, 2010

November Cider

I don't think we've EVER made cider in November before.  Late September, yes- when the hornets are getting into the buckets, mid-October when the weather is perfect, and late October when the wind is biting and howling and snow is flying...but November?  Unheard of.
In fact, this year most of the apples dropped off the trees early.  They hit the ground and the deer ate them (which deer do-they feel it is their fundamental job in life).

So, if we were going to do cider this year it would have been in mid-October.  But, since there were no apples our friends with whom we normally press cider didn't do it this year.

Confused?  Well.  We have two Wolf River apple trees that did manage to retain their apples.  They are HUGE apples which I love for making pies (because I really dislike peeling apples).  Will went out and picked ALL of the apples off the trees and stored them in the garage. Nine boxes.  We made apples pies one weekend...ten of them.  That didn't make a dent in one of the boxes.  The sheep were happy in the knowledge that they were indeed going to be having a feast.
One day last week Dorothy came by and we traded milk for eggs.  We pawned off half a box of apples on her.  She asked why we had so many in our garage and we told her that our cider making party fell through for lack of apples on our friends part.  Dorothy said "you can borrow our press!" and she and Wendell dropped it off a couple of days later.  I love having such good friends...
The cool thing about Dorothy's press is it has TWO press buckets!  You can be grinding apples at the same time as pressing them.  It goes FAST!
We ground and pressed and strained ten and a half gallons of cider last weekend.  It tasted pretty good even only with one type of apple.  We generally like to use as many as we can, but beggars cannot be choosers, and in this case it certainly didn't matter.
Dorothy got a couple of gallons of cider and an apple pie as repayment...but it is hard to put a price on and repay such a noble and good thing to do on a lovely, warm, November day.  We drank a gallon and put the rest in the freezer to pull out as treats around the holidays and all winter long.

And the woolies?  Well, they got the pomace.  Which they said wasn't nearly as nice as apples but it will do.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Bigwig Taffy

 Bigwig Taffy is such a handsome buck. He has a very broad nose which is very kissable. He loves to be held and snuggled, though he doesn't appreciate plucking much. I put a cardboard box in his cage and he now prefers to eat in comfort instead of sitting on the chilly wire.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Pumpkin Feeding Frenzy

It's that time of year again...the annual pumpkin feast!  Large sized pumpkins were marked down to $1.25 so Will played "putting the pumpkin" into the pen (kinda like the Putting the stone competition at Scottish Highland Games) where they smashed into pieces and were gobbled up by the waiting woolies.  Pumpkin seeds are reputed to have anthelmentic properties be bad for worms.
 Cameo buries her face right into the seeds.
 Twizzler wouldn't look at me at all...
 Deja nibbles oh so daintily on her half.
 Wee Zanzibar is overdue for a sheep suit change!  She is finally catching up with the other two yearlings in size.  Her fleece is scrumptious under there.
 Fancy says she's getting chubby because she is hogging the pumpkins.
 Beltane in the foreground hasn't burst out of his suit, even though it needs to be changed.  He ripped it rubbing on a fence post.  He will have to be put into a size E this weekend. Gaia in the background will probably stay in her D for now and I'll take out the gussets I put into her suit.
 "Hey Beltane, are you sharing?  My seeds are all gone!"
"Sorry Gaia, a growing boy needs all the goodies he can get!"

Barn Interior

 Looking from one set of double doors to the next.  The doors and walls on the left are the lean-to which is primarily for hay storage.

Closer look at the Lean-to doors.  The tarp is there to keep nosy llamas out of the hay!

This shot shows the working space for the humans...taken from the animal side.  You can see some hay peeking through the hay loft entrance.
On either side of the working space are these lovely hay ricks that my Mom built for us.  You can drop a bale of hay down into the work space and shake the flakes out right over the wall.  Very handy!  We all appreciate the help Mom!!
Looking into the human space you can see where all the "stuff" is kept.  I built those little wall shelves on either side of the door for storage space.  There will be a couple of cast iron hooks mounted up on the beam for us to hang the lead ropes and whatnot...haven't gotten to this level of organization yet!

See the support beam next to the shelf?  It is taken from a section of a hop-hornbeam trunk.  It had all these wierd little nubbies growing on it that looked a bit like shelf fungus.  There are four of them in the barn and they add a nice bit of character.  The collar ties (?) on the exterior walls are gracefully curved pieces of pine that were donated to the barn project by Christopher and Kathleen; leftover from when they built their post and beam house. The wood forming the stall walls is American beech- our friends the Olsons donated some of their stash to our barn project.  I think of all our dear friends and family who helped us whenever I go into the barn.
A three stack of English Angoras went into the barn...Peanut is the white bun on top, Buffy the bun in the middle, and Miss Mocha on the bottom.  Neither of them would deign to look at me with the camera in hand.  So far it hasn't been too drafty in their for them but I'm going to monitor it and move them into the house if need be.  Those double doors swing into the animal space so we humans can get in and the animals (besides the bunnies) stay out!
Tea and Chunk like eating in the barn.  I thought the hay ricks would keep more hay in but they still manage to spread it out on the ground.
 A view into the southwest corner of the barn.  Pikachu says if I take a step closer she's bolting!
 Of course, though her Mother Llilith looks warily on, Igraine the Brave is always eager to be of assistance.