Thursday, January 5, 2023

January 5, 2023

 Well, here I go again, unable to sleep.  I read some article a long time ago which stated lying in bed wide awake trying to force slumber is fruitless and raises anxiety levels. The article was right.   My mind goes just about everywhere as I stare at the ceiling.  Since the mastectomies, I have four pillows carefully arranged to attempt comfort, but by the time I get them just right, I'm wide awake.   My back is cantankerous, too.  The new adjustable bed helps a bit, but there's no setting for instant sleep.   Too bad, for what the dumb bed cost, that feature should have been standard. 

 Listening to Carl snoring slightly, I alternately envy him and try to match my breathing to his, but it doesn't lull me into dozing off.  May as well get up. 


I wandered into the dark living room at 2:30 am, remembering to sidestep the fake garland I took off the railings on Tuesday.  I left my glasses in the bedroom, but not wanting to wake Carl, I'll leave them where they are.  From what I can tell, it snowed since 11:30pm when I first went to bed.   However, I'm very myopic, so I have no idea if the snow continues.

The weather had been wet and windy, sometimes sleet, sometimes pouring rain, but no snow until now. Good intentions were to take the outdoor decorations down on Monday, but well, we all know how good intentions go.  I did take what lights I could wrestle out from the snowbanks down last night (Wednesday) but they are all lying in piles on the front porch because I forgot the big trash can I use to store everything in which resides in the garage. 

Ugh, the garage.  To get there, I have to cross the driveway, which is an ice skating rink, albeit a bumpy one, and treacherous.  There is nothing graceful about me on ice, weird how that tendency changed over the years.  I decided to wait until Thursday, I'm nothing if not a great procrastinator. 

When I was young, there was nothing more fun than sliding around on ice.  Now I'm 64 and my pace and lack of gracefulness is showing.  When did I become so slow and stiff, terrified of falling?  Audrey and Joel caper across ice as if walking on dry ground, thinking nothing of it.  I mince along, holding my breath as if each step might trigger a trapdoor.

I wonder why I can't sleep, these are all things that go through my head.  Of course, I'm waiting for the other shoe to drop healthwise, I doubt I'll ever feel confident in that regard again, but no one ever knows what will eventually happen anyway, so my thoughts go from the what ifs to praying for those I know and back again. Weird how every ache and pain, heart racing or slowing can be unnerving. Things always do look darkest before the dawn.

There are also rules about not looking at screens before bedtime.  I agree,  reading a book or journaling would be preferable to writing a blog post on a cellphone because I'm too lazy to climb upstairs to my laptop.  But as I grow older, rules don't interest me as much. 

I have a young friend who is in her early 20's and it is always a delight to talk with her.   She has just delivered a baby boy two weeks before Christmas.  I know she's having some sleepless nights right about now, too.   How I remember those nights, pure torture at times.  Of course you love your baby, but never getting more than an hour or so of uninterrupted sleep is like walking in deep mud with snowshoes on.  Absolutely exhausting.  I never understood new motherhood, why when a woman needs rest from giving birth, does she have to be sleep deprived for months?  I should volunteer to take her night shift if she didn't live so far away.

I follow some forums on breast cancer, and I know I'm not alone with the persistent thoughts of gloom.  

However, I've led a quirky life, so it stands to reason my demise may be unexpected as well.  Icy driveways, sneaky staircase missed steps, rogue tree branches, jaywalking, heck, driving is terrifying.  Yes, I'm officially a senior citizen.  I have a Medicare card. 

But now that I've got all of this silliness off my chest, it's time to get those pillows arranged again. 

 Thanks for listening. 





Thursday, December 29, 2022

December 28, 2022

 I have to admit, I spend far too much time on the social media sites lately, but the one thing I read truly made me laugh out loud today was this:

"Look at this weather being all Springy and cute like it didn't just try to kill us last week."

I couldn't have said it better myself.  What a change from single digit temperatures with -35F below 40 mph windchills to a balmy near 40 degrees tonight.  

 I write my posts upstairs in the newly remodeled part of the house, right under the steeply slanted roof.  The weather must be warming up quite a bit as I was startled by the noise of the snow sliding down the steel roof overhead.  It is the strangest racket, and does raise my pulse quite a bit until I remember it's not Santa's sleigh and eight tiny reindeer prancing around up there.

The geraniums occupy the southern windows, basking in whatever sun they can during the dark days of winter.  I occupy the north side of the upstairs.
There's the back of my chair (in case you're interested) in the upper right-hand corner.

Carl sometimes joins me upstairs at night, but he prefers to watch Youtube videos downstairs on machining, welding, and to be perfectly honest, stuff I haven't got a great deal of interest in.  I think he gets a bit bored at times, too, because he drops the TV remote at regular intervals when he dozes off.  It looks downright painful to come downstairs and see him sleeping with his head dropped forward down to his chest, but luckily for him, he doesn't suffer any detrimental effects.

 I went out skiing on Monday night at sunset.  The wind had died down and it was around 2 degrees, though it felt much warmer without the incessant 'breeze'.  Years ago I invested in some rechargeable hand warmers that I can slip into my mittens.  They work very well, but don't last more than an hour in extremely cold temperatures.  I have one for each hand and a third goes into my pocket to keep my cellphone warm enough to work in case I need to call home.   Even new technology dislikes getting cold.

As I was out in the field taking pictures of the sunset, my dear high school friend, Dorothy, called me from Florida.  We were just recently reunited through a social media site, so good things do come from the internet at times.  Dorothy said Florida was facing record low temperatures, too.  We had a nice chat while I slowly skied around the farm.  I had to quit and come in when my feet started to ache, I don't have any foot warmers for them.  After being cooped up in the house for almost five days, I inhaled the pure, cold air like a parched man thirsts for water.  There is nothing like the silence of the snowy fields and the scent of the pine trees to make me feel alive again.

The snow is so hard in places, the deer can walk on top of the drifts, leaving their hoof prints in perfect condition.

We left tonight to pick up a prescription for me at the pharmacy in town, but the lights were out when we got there, so we decided to go for a little jaunt and see Christmas lights instead.  I guess we should have gone last week, because there were a lot of trees out in the snowbanks already, but we did find a neighborhood of very aristocratic homes that were still lit up in their Christmas finery. 

I'm always awed by how many extension cords the terrifically elaborate displays must entail.  Even for what we have set up on our humble home, the rat's nest of cords is almost overwhelming.  One home had dozens of their tall trees wrapped in lights all throughout their woods, so beautiful.  

I'm glad there are a few people like me who leave Christmas linger awhile.  It seems we're all in such a rush to start Christmas right after Halloween and then on the 26th, out it all goes.  I really don't get in the spirit of the holiday until a week or two afterward. 

When I was a little girl, my mother would wait until I went to bed to haul in a live Christmas tree and decorate it.  This, after she had been up since 5AM herself to milk cows in the morning and had worked all day long baking when she wasn't in the barn.  And knowing full well she'd have to go back to the barn at 5AM the next morning, too. Poor Mom, her Christmas Eve night was very short.   

When I woke up in the morning and crawled out of my warm bed onto the ice cold floor and made my way down the second story stairs to the heated first floor, the first sight I saw upon opening the door was a glistening Christmas tree with all the presents wrapped and waiting for me.  Mom and Dad would still be in the barn, but I would sit in awe and just stare at the beautiful spruce with each carefully draped tinsel strand shimmering.  I had to plug the tree in, of course, because they wouldn't have left a lit tree unattended while they were doing chores, but the joy of seeing those big light bulbs spring to life and be reflected in all the glass balls was magical.  This must be where I developed the love of flowers in bud and not in full bloom, for the promise of the beautiful presents and wondering what they all contained was enough for me.

I had to wait to open presents until my parents came in for breakfast after milking.  I didn't mind the wait, it gave me more time to soak in the beauty of the tree and the mystery of wonderful old Santa who made all this magic happen.  

It took me a few more years to realize the mysterious magic was due to a mother who loved me enough to make my very early Christmases a memory I will always cherish.  Mom had lost her own mother at age forty-one to tuberculosis when she was eight years old, and often told me she knew nothing about parenting, since her mother had been too sick to care for her as a child.  

Oh, Mom, there was never a time I didn't feel loved.  You were the Magic of my Christmas.



Sunday, December 25, 2022

Frosty Christmas Eve

 Merry Christmas 2022!    We're in the midst of the first winter blizzard of the year and though I'm usually patient with whatever Mother Nature dishes out, the last three days have been long.  The official snow total was around 7" for our area, but the wind is the big problem, along with the bitterly cold temperatures.  So far, we've been lucky and the power has stayed on.  After the past summer's tornado, power outages have been very common, six so far since June.


Lucky for me, I decorated the house and yard right after Thanksgiving, before we had any snow.  As of now the horse decorations are half buried and the banks are right up on the porch. 

 

 What a change from June, but that's why there's never a dull moment living in Wisconsin.  If you don't like the weather, stick around, it will change.


Backing up a month, we had a beautiful November.  My sunset walks were always sure to please with mild temperatures.  I always get stir-crazy during the gun deer season as I have to stay in the house for the most part.  I do wear blaze orange when I'm out in the garden, but it's no guarantee I won't end up having a few holes in me in case of overzealous hunters in the woods surrounding us.


I imagine most people would be bored walking the same mile of road for sixty-four years, but I never tire of the views.  My family has lived on this farm since the late 1890's and the road itself hasn't changed much over a hundred years.  If my grandparents were to see the farm  and surrounding area again, at least in this mile of ours, they would probably notice very little had changed.

Standing in the shadow of the old Aermotor windmill.
How green was my valley?  Back in early November, it was emerald green and lush.  Now it is snow-covered in drifts that resemble waves on the ocean. I cherish those last days of fall when most of the outdoor work is done and I have the freedom to wander around the land on foot.  Of course, I do the same in the winter on skis, but fall is the best of all.


 








The bright, blue skies of late October.



Our Audrey is six now, and growing up so fast.  She is such a delight to us.

Carrots are her favorite vegetable, and she planted the seeds and tended them right up to harvest.


 If it weren't for Audrey, my Christmas preparations would be far behind.  She decorated the two little trees we have and encouraged me to get going on the holiday baking.  She can roll out dough like a professional already and in a few short hours, we had Christmas cookies.  Grandpa got in on the action, too.

 I wish I had gotten going on my shopping earlier than I did; sadly, the orders weren't delivered today, though if the delivery person would have let me know they were coming, I could have gotten dressed and slogged through the snow to get to the road.  I guess we'll have to wait until we all get plowed out.

The last time we did any snow removal was Thursday, but with the nonstop wind, there's no point in getting a tractor out in subzero temperatures when the drifts will be right back with the 40 mph winds and -30 degree windchills.

Friday afternoon, the bird feeders were a little higher off the ground.
Also Friday night, the deer in the backyard were starting to disappear.
Christmas Eve, and the wild birds have a slippery slide to ride while they are eating.  Carl's been keeping the feeders full and they seem to appreciate it.
 


I can see why the delivery person decided to take a pass on trying to get into our yard.  We've had whiteout conditions at times today; actually the conditions were much worse today than when the storm began on Thursday.  The forecast is for the winds to die down a little by morning, but the temperature will only be around 9 degrees.  If the winds drop from the 35-50 mph back down to 15 mph, it would help.

I have peanut butter ball dough chilling on the front porch, so I guess I'd better bring it in before it's a frozen wad. 

The slippery slide is getting taller.

Wishful, wistful thinking, looking out the window today at sunset, and longing to go for my evening walk, but it will have to wait for a warmer day.   Funny, it doesn't look like -35 below windchill.  


Reflections of the railing rondels in the last of the sunset.

Joel let me know that little Audrey has a fever of 103.6.  We hope she feels better by morning, there's never a good time to be sick, but especially not on Christmas.  There's been so much illness lately. 

We ended Christmas Eve by making a batch of chocolate covered peanut butter balls.  No, we don't need the calories, but it's a tradition.  It's nearly 1AM now, and the wind doesn't seem to be shaking the house as much as it was earlier.  Maybe tomorrow we can dig ourselves out of the driveway. 


 Merry Christmas from our house to yours.


 



 


 


Monday, July 18, 2022

First Big Project of 2022

In late May, we made the decision to remove ten ailing blue spruce trees from the southwest side of the Formal Garden.  The trees were planted in 1992 and they had served their purpose.  Colorado blue spruce really don't last long in our high Wisconsin humidity and fall subject to needle cast in their twenties, leaving them with bare branches and looking very sad.  Time for a change.

We had a rock wall to move that was in the midst of the trees.  Joel came when he had time at night to lend us a hand.

 



The spruce trees were really on their last legs.  In 2019, the year we remodeled (and the roof was off) we had water standing on the lawn (and in five gallon pails in the house) for months which took a toll on the trees.
Carl and Joel cut the trees down and we limbed them up and made piles of the logs.  Luckily our neighbor was willing to take them for firewood.
Our granddaughter, Audrey, just turned six and is a great help around the garden.  Here she is doing her best to use the cant hook to turn the log over.

The log is winning!
After the trees were cut down over the course of two weeks, the next step was removing the stumps.  Joel has been encouraging me to learn to drive the excavator, and with his tutelage, I was able to pick up some branches and rocks.  Digging stumps, however, I left up to him.

After the stumps were removed we decided to transplant some young cedars into the place the old spruce trees stood.  We'd bought just over a dozen two foot tall 'North Pole' arborvitae several years ago when they were on clearance at a big box store and planted them out back in a holding area in case we needed them someday.

Below, the start of the twelve trees being planted.

The 'North Pole' trees had grown to around five feet over the last few years and though they are definitely a lot smaller than the spruce they replaced, we're getting used to the view.  At first, there's always the panic of wondering if we've done the right thing after tree removal.  As fate would have it, the very next week the severe storm went through, so we probably would have lost the mature trees anyway.  As it was, all the young cedars were tipped out of the ground by the high winds, but after standing them back up, they are fine.


The tiny cedars in the foreground look pretty silly in comparison to the still-standing spruce in the background, but in time we hope it looks less goofy.  In the rest of the now sunny spot we've now got, we planted a small vegetable garden.  I bought some onion seeds this spring and was pleased when all 120 of them germinated, along with 50 green peppers, a dozen tomatoes and over 100 ground cherry plants.  I'm not sure what we'll do with all of the ground cherries, but the plants are already producing.  

Further down in the lower part of the lawn, near to the creek bottom, we planted four River Birch as they can tolerate wetter soil conditions.  The trees are very small, but we got them for under $30 a piece and with a little luck, may see them grow a bit yet.


 

The old spruce trees had cast a lot of shade on the Formal Garden, but now that they're gone, the hostas don't seem to be suffering very much.  In fact, they seem to be enjoying the additional light.  The garden is less gloomy.



 
After the cedars were planted, we also removed two smaller raised beds that I'd given up on, 'Thing One and Thing Two'.  We are trying to downsize every year for the sake of maintenance.  My cancer diagnosis last year was the push we needed to make more sweeping changes faster, as the garden is too big for one person alone to handle.  We have to accept the fact we're not getting any younger and put more back into lawn and less into planting spaces.


We took the big rocks from the two abandoned beds and made another small wall in the shady area by the old footbridge.  Rocks don't need weeding and it looks pretty good for now.  Thank goodness for the old wrecker.

Carl had another rock he wanted to bring over from his dad's place so he took our tractor and the wrecker to fetch it a few weeks ago.  I followed with the car as he had to go down the busy highway and two sideroads with the rock swinging to and fro.  


I kept my distance, but no worries, the rock stayed in the chains until we got home.


We placed it in the hosta bed in the backyard.  More rocks, less weeding.  (More headaches for whoever takes this place over after we're gone.)  

I think this will be the only big garden project this year.  Weeding was the next thing to accomplish and we barely finished going through all the beds last week Saturday, just in time for the garden walk on Sunday, July 10.  

In February a garden club called and asked if we would join five other gardens for a garden walk scheduled for July 23.  We agreed, but a few weeks ago, I received another call and the organizers decided the walk was canceled.  I did plant a lot more flowers this year in anticipation, but, well, stuff happens.  The July 10 group seemed to think the yard was ok.  

The worst part of getting ready for garden walks, is getting ready for garden walks, if you know what I mean.  Weeding, primping, pruning, tidying up, putting hoses, wheelbarrows, stuff away, sweep the porch, wash the windows, rake the driveway, deadhead everything, it all takes a vast amount of time and energy.  It's almost like taking a final exam in school and being timed on the test.  When the bus pulls in, it's time to put down your shovels.  Time's up.  

Anyway, the July 10 tour group was very kind and made all the work worth it.  It would have been nice to have two in a row since, as Carl says, 'The garden's all dressed up and has nowhere to go.'  If all goes well, we'll still have our annual booyah party in August, so at least a few more people will hopefully enjoy the views.   




 Our next step is to start at the beginning of the gardens and go through them one more time, weeding and deadheading, which shouldn't be as bad as the first time through, since we were able to mulch fairly heavily.  My back has been giving me a lot of trouble lately, even before gardening season (gardening actually makes it feel better, it's getting out of a chair and sleeping that's been a problem) so I was sent off to a pain management doctor for an MRI and found I have degenerative disc disease.  I went through two experimental injection sessions to the medial branch nerves which worked for a few hours, so the next step is to try a medial branch ablation procedure which may (or may not) provide relief for six months to a year or more.  The first procedure is the end of the month.  I'm not looking forward to it, but we'll see how it goes.

 


Maybe we'll have to switch to gardening in raised beds.