After hiatus, I hope to be back!

It has been a long time since I posted!  The past couple of years have been a whirlwind, and I am still recovering.  Shortly after my last post we decided it was time to start the process of building a house.  Ground-breaking happened in the summer of 2013 but it wasn’t any old “hey honey, let’s build a house”… it was “Let’s build a house!  You will need some steel-toed boots, and please let the school know that you’ll be unable to volunteer at all this year.  I hope you like to stain and paint, because you’ll be doing a lot of that… oh, and I’m going to train you to be an electrician’s apprentice.”  I also learned to manage a construction project because that was our job… I got over my discomfort in calling people for bids, bugging them when we needed our supplies yesterday, and getting on someone’s tail when they were late in getting their job done.  I made sure the bills were paid on time and we worked hard to stay on budget.

So the process began of course with a plan, and then site planning… I learned how to use a brush hog!  Also banks are a pain, even with nice ladies who understand how to work with our particular builder.  Deadlines and dates are also very liquid and variable… they are always subject to change due to weather or workers getting delayed for whatever reason (including us).  After the ground-breaking, the foundation and floors were poured, then the framing was crazy quick…. within a week the house was basically up, and another week after that, when the trusses were delivered, it was another week and the house really looked like a house!

Winter, however, was not our friend.  It came very early after an incredibly wet fall.  I am honestly glad we got the last of the cement in before November because that month was too wet for concrete work and after that it froze solid until May.  The wiring has to be put in before the house can be insulated, and there were several days when I was pulling wire, and it was 11 degrees (Farenheit) inside the house!  We did finally finish that, which was followed by insulation and dryall, then after the drywall had been primed, the geothermal people came and turned on our geothermal furnace.  Having heat in here was great… but due to the bad weather, we still did not have a driveway nor did we have a drain field.

We worked on the house every single weekend for many seasons to come.  I stained all the windows, most of the doors, and the trim.  I painted everything that needed painting.  I had a little help with those things from family but I did most of it myself.  We had a really great carpenter build the staircase nearly from scratch, and when he was done with it, I stained that too.

It wasn’t until last year that I realized there was such a thing as springtime load restrictions on roads.  Most roads need to thaw in the spring, and then be allowed to dry before any heavy equipment can drive on them.  This prevents the heavy loads from wrecking the road (or at least in theory it does).  This is knows as “frost laws” and last spring was the longest period of frost law restrictions in our excavator’s memory… and he’s been doing this all his life.  It kept raining and that prevented the road beds from drying out enough.  Once the frost laws were lifted, the work site was completely flooded for the next few weeks.  It wasn’t until the end of May/start of June that our drain field and driveway were completely finished.  It was such a relief to be able to drive right up to the garage and park there!

We got occupancy in June after passing all of our inspections.  We did a lot of work over the summer to get the house ready for moving in… which finally happened around the end of October… it was the last really nice weekend we had before winter came early again in November.  We have odds and ends of trim left, which consists mostly of windows, but we’ll get to it when we get to it.  Moving was followed by one month of everyone in the house being sick and then after that it was the holidays.  I’m actually quite surprised, looking back, the huge amount of progress we made at the time… considering it was mostly just me and my husband working, with the occasional and much-appreciated help from a few family members.

So where does that leave this blog?  I have a lot of ideas and I want to devote more time to rejuvenating this space and spending more time with it.  Since we are now living out in the sticks on a 12 acre parcel that was an old farm field, it may focus a bit on country living… but I hope to also have posts about nurturing one’s self.  My sister knitting blog will also receive a face-lift along with more fiber arts or whatever strikes my fancy.  It is time for me to get back to the things that I love after nearly a year and a half of back-breaking work.  Writing, music, art, fiber arts… that’s where my passions lie, even though I must say, I’m pretty tickled that we built this:

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Until later!

Bird activity, and the endless winter…

It’s cold here.  That’s normal for this part of Michigan in early spring, but this spring has been unusually cold.  We had January temperatures and snow earlier this week.  There were a few days when the lawn was bare and we even had robins (a bird that shows up in the spring in this part of the country).  But now the grass is covered with snow again and the robins are nowhere to be seen.  We are all tired of it and complaining.

Last year, we had freakishly hot weather in March.  It was so warm that all the fruit trees bloomed early.  We then had a killing freeze in April that wiped out most of the fruit tree blossoms.  This resulted in most orchards only having about 10% of their normal crop.  I love Michigan apples, cherries and peaches, and they were hard to find and expensive last summer because of this.  I can see that the chances of a good fruit crop are probably much higher this year.

Now, some bird pictures.  Here are some of starlings in flight:

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We had a hawk here too, who was brave enough to sit on my deck with me in the window!  I’m not 100% sure about the identification, I think it’s a broad-winged hawk but if anyone who reads this needs to correct me, please do.  He was snacking on some of the other birds that have been visiting my house!

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Edited to add: This is a juvenile Cooper’s hawk. I had him identified by a naturalist at our local nature center. They can be tricky to ID especially when they are still young. This one will have his first birthday this year!

Butterflies

I had my volunteer day at Butterflies in Bloom again at Dow Gardens in Midland, Michigan earlier this week.  I love how the exhibit changes each time I go.  Midland kids didn’t have school that day so there were a lot of people there, but even while crowded, it is so peaceful.  Here are a few photos I took this week!  Enjoy!

 

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…and the frog!  There is a pond in the conservatory which is home to several frogs.  This one was hiding under a lily pad.

Signs of spring

Today we finally had a warm, sunny day.  After the kids came home from school we decided to enjoy some of the warmer weather and sunshine.  I cleaned up a bit of one of the flower beds that had thawed, I hadn’t gotten to taking care of it last fall.  I was so surprised to find these!  (I only had my phone camera out today, not the Nikon, so the quality of these photos is not the best!)  They are going to be early blooming tulips.

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The kids found some water shooters from the summer and were very good at not shooting one another when I asked.  Although there could have been a little fallout…

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I shoveled the last bit of snow off the deck, then got out one of the patio chairs so I could sit in the sun for a few minutes.  It’s so good to have these days in the late winter!   I brought out the knitting because I thought I might get a chance to sit, but my daughter got me doing other things.  I hope there are signs of spring where you live!

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Butterflies in Bloom 2013

Yesterday I started a new volunteer job – at Dow Gardens in Midland, Michigan.  This is a wonderful place to visit if you live in Midland or are there for a visit.  From now until April 21, they are hatching butterflies in their conservatory and I am one of the people who is working the exhibit!  A friend of mine has worked there for the past four years and I am working there with her.

I got some lovely photographs yesterday, once my camera lens recovered from the 27 degrees F (-3 degrees C) outside to 90 degrees F (32 degrees C) with nearly 100% humidity inside!  They are tropical butterflies so the conservatory is kept very warm and humid for them.  It feels good when it’s so cold out but it takes a while for the camera to warm up.

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Zebra Longwing

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Orchard Swallowtail

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Yellow Mormon

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Blue Morpho

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Grecian Shoemaker – male

Frosty morning

Spring is just a few weeks away and I am getting very tired of winter.  We have had a dark winter with a lot of rain, and a lot of snow that turned to ice too quickly to enjoy for long.  The snow all came late and while I might have wanted it a couple of months ago, I certainly do not want it anymore!  I’m done!

That said, there is something very lovely about thick frost in the morning.  I caught these just before the sun started to melt them.  

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All photos taken with a Nikon D5100, 18-55 mm lens, most using macro setting.