Tuesday, April 30, 2024

Finished! NaNoWriMo is done!

Woot! I just crossed the 50,000-word finish line for the NaNoWriMo project I started a month ago!

As always, the website provides festive congratulations.

Finishing NaNoWriMo is a relief in two ways. One, it frees up a block of time each day for other writing projects, of which I have several stacked up.

And two, the completed NaNoWriMo manuscript will, hopefully, become the basis for a future book with Harlequin. I'm still waiting on a new multi-book contract – I've already submitted the proposal (synopsis + three chapters) for this story – and I'm confident a contract will be pending shortly. When it comes through, I'll have a rough manuscript ready to smooth out and send in.


Monday, April 29, 2024

A tapping in the night

Back at Christmas time, if you recall, Older Daughter surprised us with a culinary treat correlating with George C. Scott's "A Christmas Carol." (See this post to see what I'm talking about.)

As part of that fun gift to us, she included some chocolate coins ("half a crown") to represent the pay Scrooge gave the boy at the end of the story for fetching the poulterer on the next street over.

There were about six coins left over, and for the longest time these chocolate coins were simply stacked on top a little shelving unit in the kitchen.

Every so often a coin would disappear, but I didn't think anything of us. Doubtless someone simply enjoyed one as a treat.

Well, a couple weeks ago, I woke up in the very early morning to hear a persistent tap tap tappity tap. It was loud enough to wake me out of a sound sleep. It certainly didn't sound like anything Mr. Darcy was doing. What could be making the noise?

I got up, got dressed, and went to investigate. And what did I see?

I saw a mouse dragging one of the chocolate coins under the burners of our stove top. The cheeky little bugger kept getting the coin stuck and was banging it around, trying to get it loose. So that's where our chocolate coins were going!

This was just the latest proof of an indisputable fact: we had mice.

It's not that we didn't try getting rid of them. I tried a nontoxic folk remedy that was supposed to kill mice (baking soda mixed with cornstarch). It didn't work.

Then I put out poison. This didn't work either.

So finally we fetched all the mousetraps from the barn, and Don baited them and put them all over the place, especially in the pantry.

We caught the first mouse within five minutes.

And then we caught another within half an hour.

And another.

And another.

And another.

And another.

And another.

Seven mice in the span of twelve hours. After that, we caught no more mice ... for a week. Then yesterday, we caught one more. Eight mice.

Interestingly, Don dropped the dead mice off the edge of our porch to the ground below, and by the next day they were all gone.

Apparently the mice were manna from heaven for some animal.

I can't guarantee it, but I certainly hope that's the last of the mice.Today and tomorrow I'm giving the kitchen a deep clean. Meanwhile, those traps will stay set.

Friday, April 26, 2024

It's official! I'm married again!

Today it's official! I'm married again! Ha ha, let me explain.

This is my wedding ring. It's a simple gold band with an imperial topaz bezel-set into the band.

This ring was custom-made by a jeweler friend back in 1989 when Don and I got engaged. I've always loved it, in large part because (a) it's simple; and (b) the bezel setting meant it never catches or snags on anything.

Over ten years ago (specifically, July 22, 2013), I got stung on my ring finger. It swelled up rapidly, and I had to take a fast trip to a jeweler's in a nearby town to have the ring sawn off my finger. Talk about feeling undressed without it!

Trouble is, this incident happened when our finances were prioritized elsewhere. Having the ring repaired was low on the list of things we could spend money on.

But things have stabilized for us since, and last fall I went to a local jewelry store and got a quote for how much it would cost to have the ring repaired. The resident expert looked it over carefully and said it had a number of issues besides the band sawn in half. The bezel setting was torn, the stone was loose, and the act of removing the sawn ring from my swollen finger had weakened the band. All in all, quite a complex repair job.

We got the estimate and saved our pennies, and late in December we dropped the ring off for repair.

For four months – four months! – the jeweler worked on the ring. Apparently it was a lot more complicated than he anticipated, once he dove into the nitty gritty. He was facing "porocity" problems. The ring had gas pockets from things being too hot or dirty during the original casting. The area around the bezel top kept collapsing like a sponge, and he had to back-fill the area before putting the bezel back on. Or something like that. (I'm not a jeweler, so I might have the details wrong.)

It was such a complicated repair, in fact, that the jeweler would get discouraged, drop the project for a week or two, then pick it up again, only to get discouraged all over. Rinse and repeat.

But finally, finally, we got the call that my ring was done. Don picked it up and was delighted to learn that the jeweler stuck to the original estimate, even though the price of gold has skyrocketed since then AND he spent weeks and weeks on the detailed work necessary to rebuild the ring.

The bezel is a touch higher than its former incarnation, but the ring feels solid and secure. The glint on my finger keeps catching my eye and I've been grinning like an idiot.

Finally, after ten years, it's official. I'm married again!

Monday, April 22, 2024

Meet Maggie

I guess today is Earth Day, right? Yawn.

Most Earth Day celebrations are empty bits of nonsense. However Don and I did something fairly extraordinary today, something I suppose could be attributed to our desire for clean food and self sufficiency. We bought a heifer.

Dear readers, meet Maggie.

With all the crazy stuff going on in the world, it's been on our minds to get cows sooner rather than later. Then yesterday morning just before church, Don got an email from an acquaintance who told us this family had a little Jersey heifer for sale, and were we interested? You bet!

We called the seller and made arrangements to see the animal. She's about 13 months old and comes from the west coat of Oregon, near Tillamook. She's been blood-tested as A2. As you can see, she's horned (we're talking to the local vets about correcting that), has a sweet disposition, good udder attachment, and – except for the mud-caked fur – is bright-eyed and healthy.

We've hesitated getting livestock up to this point, since we're still getting cattle infrastructure set up. This is only the first of what we hope will be at least two or three animals, since it's not good for cows to be alone.

The enclosure where this heifer (and some other heifers) were being kept was quite muddy, but the seller was waiting until the ground dried out a bit to turn the animals out on pasture.

Comically, the ear tags of Maggie give her the name of Nosey (due to her white nose). That was the name of my childhood dog, LOL. So yes, Maggie it is.

The sellers are holding onto Maggie for another four to five weeks while we hastily fence a pasture and set some horse panels up around a feed lot. During this time, Maggie will be bred to a bull who's about half Jersey, half Holstein.

So I won't be milking Maggie anytime soon, but it's a start.

Meanwhile, we'll be looking for (probably) another Jersey heifer or young cow, and also a feeder calf we can raise for beef.

It's a start, dear readers! The start of our new homestead.

Sunday, April 21, 2024

Alternative strawberries

Our strawberries are starting to bloom.

We don't expect ripe fruit for a while yet, but it's yet another sure sign of spring.

At her European duty station, Younger Daughter has a balcony off her apartment where she keeps a few potted strawberry plants. Interestingly, though, many of the flowers aren't white.

Some are light pink.

Some are dark pink.

Some are dark red.

And yes, some are white.

They're all strawberries – she regularly gets fruit – but I have no idea why the blossoms vary in color to such a degree. Does anyone know?

Friday, April 19, 2024

Inside a tiny home

Tiny homes are all the rage lately. We know a business in which building tiny homes is a brand-new side project. This is the company's first completed project, custom-tailored to one customer's specific requirements:

The business was having an open house before the customer took possession (hence the paper taped to the floor), so I took advantage of a tour. I'd never been in a tiny home before, and was surprised to see how spacious it was. Per the customer's instructions, it didn't have a kitchen range, but it did have a full refrigerator (with the blue protective film still on it). (That's my purse and visor sitting on the counter.)

Lots of light, and even a nice little porch.

Full, if compact, bathroom.

Good-sized bedroom, with windows on two sides.

The builder said the price was $100,000, which seems high for such a small (and mobile) space, but then everything is more costly these days.

On the other hand, I couldn't deny it was quite a lovely little home. Does anyone have experience living in one of these types of units? What are the pros and cons, besides the obvious issue of space?

Thursday, April 18, 2024

The sad end to a beautiful love story

I heard this morning that Samantha Davis, wife of actor Warwick Davis, has passed away at the age of 53.

Most celebrity tragedies kinda go in one ear and out the other, but this one hit me hard. They had a beautiful love story. They met on the set of the movie "Willow" and were devoted to each other for over 30 years.

My deepest condolences to the Davis family.

Wednesday, April 17, 2024

Signs of spring

Despite being in the middle of a chilly spell (windy, scattered rain, high of 50F), spring is indisputably here. One of the surest signs is the blossoming of the arrow-leaf balsamroot.

These large, showy blooms prefer shallow soil and sunny south-facing slopes. During this time of year, they positively carpet meadows and light up distant hillsides with color.

Another sign is deer. They're everywhere. I mean, deer are always "everywhere" here, but this time of year they're more "everywhere" than usual, if you know what I mean.

No fawns yet, though. It's too early for that.

the oak trees are starting to bud.

But the surest sign of spring? Turkeys.

Yes, the toms are strutting, and you never saw a more puffed-up crowd of self-absorbed grandees than these boys. I mean, they know they're hot stuff.

They always look so affronted when interrupted, glaring at you before closing down their feathers and slinking away.

I caught this fellow displaying below our deck. I was trying to sneak up without him noticing.

He may have noticed me, but he had better things to do. There were ladies present.

The ladies, however, didn't seem overly impressed. (They never do.) They soon wandered off, with our boy trotting in their wake.

Undeterred, he followed them down to the road and commenced displaying again. I admired his persistence.

Despite my poking fun at the toms, and however indifferent the hens may seem, evidently it works. You can bet we'll have lots and lots of baby turkeys trotting around in a few weeks.

Ah, spring.