Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Christmas 2015

Septic woes notwithstanding, Christmas came anyway.  Carl managed to patch the system together until the permits and excavation can begin, so we are limping along for now.

Below is this year's Christmas Twig which is really two boughs from one of our Norway spruce tied to a cedar post and stuck in a tree stand to appear tree-like (or a reasonable facsimile thereof.)

I was way behind with dinner preparations on Christmas Day, and was still scrubbing the floor on my hands and knees at 11:30AM.  Dinner wouldn't be ready by noon as I'd planned, so I sent out a text to our sons and Ann telling them to give me another half hour, please.  Ann arrived early, bless her heart, and took over washing dishes for me as I continued to get all the dirt off the floor from the day before.  Digging up the backyard and abundant rainfall had made a mess of the house.

Our Christmas celebrations are traditionally small here, just immediate family and Ann, of course, who is like a sister to me.  I'm always amazed at the huge gatherings other people routinely host; I would be a nervous wreck.  With Ann's help, we pulled this little party together.

Ann, displaying her Christmas cookies from Joel and Abby  (Abby wasn't feeling well that day.)  Next to Ann is Joel opening a really lame gift from Mom and Dad.

L-R: David, stuffed from far too much Christmas dinner, The Elusive Lucille (Mom) and Karen (me!) getting ready to sample my Christmas cookies.

Mom looks happy here; she hates having her picture taken, so I'll always cherish this one.  She's seen 95 Christmas Days. 

Joel, wondering why in the world we bought him a 'Walking Dead' video game and moments later.......

Wondering why we gave him a card with glitter on it.  Joel is a Glitterphobe, I should have known better!

After all the eating and gift opening, we settled in for a few hours of Sheepshead and after everyone but Ann had gone home, Carl, Ann and I played Pegs and Jokers until well after midnight.

On Saturday night, we went to the Green Bay Botanical Garden for the Christmas light show with Ann and her sister and husband.  We should have taken a tripod along, but here are some blurry-ish pictures of some of the sights:

It is hard for me to believe Christmas is over already; I think mostly because the weather was so strangely warm and having no snow didn't help much either.  Well, that all changed last night; we had a blizzard of epic proportion, 13" of snow fell driven by 40 mph winds, I guess I can safely call it a blizzard.  In the space of a few hours, the yard went from this:

 To this:

The Christmas Twig came off of one of the Norway spruces in the background which needed pruning anyway. 

Snow, snow, everywhere!  This will make getting the septic system done an even bigger challenge.

We spent the morning digging out of here and at Mom's; Carl has vacation this week which is a good thing.  We didn't have the snow blower on the tractor yet because we're silly and didn't think winter would come this year.  Hooking the snow blower to the tractor is a chore for me alone, and I was glad I had Carl's help.   Carl shoveled while I blew the snow to smithereens.

Even with the tractor, it took well over two hours to get everything cleared.  (I appreciate the tractor, believe me I do!  I'd hate to shovel both yards.)

We will have to do some more snow removal for the excavation crew expected on New Year's Eve.  I'm keeping my fingers crossed that our soil test will pass, but with our luck, a mound may well be in our future.  Sigh.  I don't know how I will deal with a mound right smack dab in the middle of my Riverbed....I know there are bigger tragedies in the world, but this was our very first flower garden.  I guess, as Carl says, we'll figure something out.  But Darn!  I will miss my Riverbed.

Wish us luck!  

Happy New Year!

Thursday, December 24, 2015

Fa La La La La

One thing you never want to hear when you drain your bathroom sink is a 'bloop, bloop, bloop' response from your toilet.  Trust me, you don't want to hear any comments from your toilet.  Ever.  And especially not two days before Christmas.

Erma Bombeck was right when she said the grass is always greener over the septic tank; I'd noticed that myself for the last few weeks.  Of course Optimistic Carl always tries to put my silly worries to rest, "It's probably nothing, maybe the air vent on the roof is blocked or something."

 I had to admit he might be right, since the toilet remained silent most of the time.  Until Wednesday morning when it simply refused to flush.

Oh oh.

One thing your eldest son never wants to hear when he stops in for a visit on his day off from work is his mother saying, "The toilet won't flush, your dad is at work and I don't know what to do."

I gave Joel the run down on what the possibilities could be, I'd done some reading on the interwebs about vent pipe blockage and had just watched a YouTube video of one of the 'Ask This Old House' plumbers clearing a blocked vent for a frazzled homeowner.  If all we had to do was haul a hose up to the roof vent and run some water down to check for a blockage, well, that sounds easy.  We were lucky, the temperature was in the completely unseasonable record-breaking 50's, now would be a good time for an inspection before we're socked in with ice and snow. 

(Listen to me, talking all smart, and what's with the 'we' part of that statement?  Do I have a mouse in my pocket?)

Joel was completely on board with the plan, and out the door we went to fetch the tall stepladder.  Just as we exited the house, it started to rain.  Oh, great, just what we need, more rain.  Joel set up the ladder and put one foot on the roof of the house only to find the shingles were very slippery.  I told him to forget it, it's not worth falling off the roof.  His next plan was to get the big extension ladder out of Carl's shop, which proved to be almost more dangerous than going up on the roof due to the extent of the contents of the building.

Finally we had the ladder propped up against the house and with me standing on the bottom rungs to keep it from sliding out, Joel went up on the roof with a flashlight and a garden hose.  He ran water down the vent pipe and nothing happened, so he asked me to run down to the basement and see if I could hear water running through the pipe.  Yes, I could hear it running, so apparently the pipe wasn't blocked.  He handed the hose down to me and I laid it on the lawn.  As I was headed back to the end of the ladder to hold it for his descent, I noticed water bubbling up out of the ground.

Oh oh.

One thing you never want to see is water bubbling out of the ground.  Especially near your septic tank.  Ever.  Trust me.  It was then Joel and I knew we'd found the problem.  Gentlemen, start your wallets, this is not going to be cheap.  We stood there with the pelting rain running down our necks, surveying the situation.  Mother Nature, in an effort to show her dismay, commenced to pouring harder.  Time to go in for lunch. 

For those of you reading this (and I apologize for my subject matter) who don't live in the country, when you have a septic tank problem it's a Really Big Deal.  The only other possibly Bigger Deal is if your well develops a problem (shhhhh.......we don't want to give the well any ideas about acting up.)   I called Carl at work on his lunch break and he was still calm; it can't be the septic tank, we just had it pumped and inspected in June at the state-mandated three year interval;  it must be something else.

Well, I hated to burst his Optimistic Bubble because after Joel dug around some more in the malodorous muck, it was obvious the tank had failed.  Here is where I have to admit to homeowner cluelessness, I did not know that concrete septic tanks had a limited lifespan and neither did Carl, but after calling Ann's brother Fred who is a licensed septic installer, I was told that many tanks never get to the ripe old age of thirty-seven.  Who knew?  (Well, apparently Fred did, but he's a professional and runs into this sort of thing all the time.)  In fact some tanks can fail as early as ten or fifteen years, so we should be thankful ours lasted as long as it did.

And I am thankful, but this is really putting a crimp in my Christmas plans.  We're having dinner here for the family on Christmas Day.  Well, that was the plan, anyway.  Bright and early on Thursday morning, Christmas Eve, when most people are putting the finishing touches on their holiday festivities, we're having the septic tank pumped out.   (I was so lucky our regular hauler was available and agreeable.)

 Carl is on vacation tomorrow and with a little luck (and help from Joel and David) we can get the situation patched together and limping along until all the permits are filed and approved for a new system.  That is, if the weather remains mild, but January is a mere week away and this is Wisconsin after all; this bizarre weather pattern isn't likely to hold forever. And the permit process is never fast, especially with the holidays thrown in, so this could be a very long ordeal.  I washed dishes in a five gallon pail and hauled the water outside and on our way out of the hardware store tonight we visited the restroom...I think Mom will be seeing a lot more of us over the next few days for the use of her bathroom.

 Luckily we've been able to save some money for our house remodeling project which now won't happen again.  I guess that's the way it goes, in a way this is remodeling, but not in a place a person usually sees (or talks about).  I obviously haven't gotten an estimate yet but doing some more research online tonight I see it will easily run into many thousands of dollars.

Fa la la la la la.

However, I know it could be worse.  This is just One of Those Things we all have to deal with from time to time.   The old adage rings true, 'You never miss the water until the well runs dry.'

When this is all said and done, I will never take my toilet for granted again.  I promise.

And I never take Joel for granted, never ever!   Drenched and covered in unpleasant mud, he was as cheerful as ever helping me on his well-deserved day off of work.  Some vacation day he had, poor guy!  What a blessing he is to us; we are deeply grateful.

So, if you would, please think of us kindly here as we mud-dle our way through the mess.  We're having high wind warnings tonight, up to 50 mph, so with any luck, the house won't blow away.  (Shhhhh.....don't give Mother Nature any more ideas!)

Merry Christmas!

Monday, December 14, 2015

Very Interesting

Alert!  Deer Down!
Update on Mom: Last Friday I took her in for a follow-up with her doctor.  He really didn't have much to say; as I'd been told on the phone on Wednesday, the CT scan didn't reveal anything alarming and neither did her other lab tests.  He encouraged her to try to eat more small meals because she's losing weight, almost five pounds since this all started.  As it turns out, on Friday she wasn't having any stomach pain at all, which is good, but very puzzling. Today she was on again, off again with the same symptoms, so for now, we are in a holding pattern.  I thank you all for your concern and prayers. 

Now on to what's going on today:  Christmas preparations are certainly slow around here.  I don't remember a year when I've been further behind.   When I crawled out of bed this morning and looked out our bedroom window I was stunned to see a lake where our lawn used to be.  We had a lot of rain this past weekend and the ground is fully saturated; the creeks and ditches were up and flowing rapidly.

Across the road
Turning on the TV,  I wasn't surprised to see our area was under a flash flood watch.  We received almost four inches of rain, which if the calculations are correct, would have amounted to almost 40" of snow.  Don't get me wrong, I love skiing and snow would be great for the gardens and farm crops, but 40" of snow all at once would have been even too much for me.  (We don't have the snowblower on the tractor yet and the oil needs changing, too.)

Rain was pelting the puddles so there was no use in going outside to let the Girls out of the coop for awhile.  I decided to put an hour in on my rebounder, bouncing around with Leslie Sansone for four miles.  After my workout, the rain had eased up, so I grabbed the camera and headed outside.   The water had already begun to recede quite a bit while I was exercising, which was a good thing, every time we have high water it's a bit nerve-wracking.
Our 'lake'.
I let the hens out for the day and they happily scampered off to work.  I don't even remember how old most of them are any more but they are always busy.   I bet if I put a pedometer on one of them I'd be surprised by how much ground they cover in the course of a day. 

The water had already receded from the flower bed before I took these pictures.

I climbed up on the Pachyberm and surveyed the soggy situation.  Temperatures were in the 40's, nothing to complain about there, that's for sure.  

I can't get over how green the lawns are yet for this time of year, either.

Just an hour before, this area was totally under water.  The Girls were having a high old time looking for whatever it is chickens can find to eat this time of year.

The yard looks so forlorn; the Christmas decorations are sagging and so are my spirits somewhat.

I have to admit, this arrangement would look a whole lot more festive with snow for a backdrop.

I ambled my way to the backyard to see how the Quarry was faring with all the rain.  Oh boy, we've got water now.

The orange in the bottom left is our goldfish (flock? herd? school?)  The concrete turtle is in danger of going under if I don't get him out of there.  (I should have put him away sooner.)
Ice skating would be terrific if it freezes, it's not often we have this much water in the pond going into winter.

The Quarry pond wasn't the only area with high water this morning; the Formal Garden was a swamp, too.

I decided to finish setting up the last of the outdoor decorations since it was only misting out.  Carl spent long hours replacing light bulbs on my horse and deer decorations, something he does every year out of sheer stubborn thriftiness.  I do not have the patience to check every single bulb, my solution is to buy new lights on clearance at the end of the season and replace the sets as needed.  However, Carl doesn't share my flamboyance and tinkers with the lights every year.

I took the deer out to the Quarry and placed them up on the waterfall so we can see them from the house at night.  They will remain lit (hopefully, if Carl fixed them well enough) for the rest of the winter.  Being in the back yard they can't be seen from the road and won't look goofy after the holidays.  I like having light in the garden.

 Right after I plopped the two deer into position, it started to rain again, so I had to abandon the project.  When Carl came home from work this afternoon, I enlisted his help in getting the extension cords and final details in place.

Carl is not a big fan of Christmas decorating, but he puts up with it for my sake.  I'm always amazed at how he willingly goes along with my silly ideas.

Of course it never fails, right after we had the deer in place another set of lights went out again, so Carl had to fix them one more time and finished just before dark.

Hurray, lights at last!
Well, there were lights on one of the deer, anyway.  The doe didn't want to cooperate, so Carl had one more deer to work on.

Success at last.  Now if the wet weather doesn't cause a ground fault breaker to trip, we should be good to go.

The horses were in need of emergency light bulb surgery, too.  (I'm absolutely going to buy more lights on clearance this year, I need to!  Just don't tell Carl, ok?)  In the light of day everything looks rather dismal this time of year; see, that's what snow is good for, it covers up all the stuff you didn't finish in the fall.

Darkness helps a little, too.  Not much, but a little.
Everything is half-baked this year, when I plugged our yard light in, one of the bulbs is burned out.  I haven't purchased a replacement yet and may not get that done before Christmas, either. 

Hitting on two of three cylinders here; put a light bulb on the shopping list, would ya?

And speaking of shopping lists, I did most of my sad gift shopping online this year, starting on Sunday night.  Yes, this past Sunday, duh, how silly of me.  When I saw the anticipated delivery date of December 24th, I almost panicked.  (It will do no good to panic, and I already have enough stress, so I opted for calm acceptance of the fact my family and friends know what they're dealing with.  Me.)

In another bizarre twist of decorating madness, I talked Carl into helping me attach rope lights to the urn he made for me two years ago.  It was a long drawn-out process but surprisingly he didn't grump about it (too much).  To quote an annoying acquaintance of mine who will never say they like or dislike something, but instead when confronted with my attempts at decorating always (without fail) says, "Hmmmmmmm......that's Very Interesting."  

Light pole and 'Very Interesting' Urn

So that's IT for the outdoor decorations.  But wait, there's nothing done in the house.  One more time Carl to the rescue, let's see if we can find a Christmas tree in this wonderland of spruce and pine we call home.

Off we went to the Back Eight where a recent windstorm had blown the top out of one of the white pines.

I DO sew, truly, I do.  Apparently, I just let my husband run around in ratty old coats with the sleeves torn out.  Sigh.

In answer to the question, "Do you have a saw on you?" I handed Carl my trusty folding saw and he set to work cutting us a Christmas tree.

Um, yeah, that's a really big tree.  Too big,  And kind of spindly, especially by the time we cut it down to six feet to fit in our house.   We left this one out in the field, there must be a better candidate in the garden somewhere.

My solution was to take two limbs out of the bottom of a 25' tall Norway spruce.  (It was too dark to take pictures by then) and stick them in the Christmas tree stand lashed to a nice 6' tall cedar pole to keep them upright.  I always stick the Christmas tree in the corner by the railings anyway, so there's no point in buying a gorgeous tree off of a lot and then end up cutting half of it off anyway. 

 I'll post pictures of the Christmas Twig when it's decorated. 

Believe me, it's Very Interesting.

Oh, Christmas Twig, Oh Christmas Twig.........sing along, it's a catchy tune.