Friday, April 28, 2006

Junk Funk

One project that urgently needs help around our house is getting rid of JUNK and general clutter. I really need to find more energy to do this. I get going sometimes, then get stymied by things like THIS:

Possibly the very worst, non-recyclable junk mail I've ever received. Carboard tube, plastic caps, metal key (you may have already won this truck!). In this age of dangerous packages, looking a bit like something explosive. I got TWO a while back, and haven't quite been able to throw them out yet. Darn marketing people... I'm a bit of a packrat/waste reduction nut, so have a hard time throwing things out until I've thought hard about possible other uses. Anyone?

Excitement in the Chambers

This is a long one, but it came out in a terribly tense-shifting rush the other night:

How to raise your heart rate, lose your vanity and get on TV, all in 16 easy steps!

Step 1. Don’t wash hair for over a week. Get up late and put it into a makeshift bun. Wear scruffy jeans and a flannel shirt. No makeup.

Step 2. Work an entire day (unloading boxes, etc), a bit dazed in a Monday way, but do note that there is an important meeting that night related to a city development issue that irks you.

Step 3. Skip dinner and exercise to fiddle around on the internet and write letter to city council. Plan to attend meeting to show support and just be a “warm body.”

Step 4. Become so wrapped up in writing letter that you forget all sense of time. Note time and dash away from the desk without so much as looking in the mirror to “freshen up.” Jog to city council chambers.

Step 5. Tell at least 3 people that you won’t be speaking about issue, but that you have this powerful quote from a local author...Get strongly encouraged to speak. Protest feebly, cave at the very last second and sign up.

Step 6. Fiddle frantically with notes during droning financial part of meeting. Elevate heart rate considerably.

Step 7. Listen to developer who has instigated local issue say that everything was going “very well.” Seethe. Listen to fancy-pants lawyer hired to supposedly represent citizens concerned about development babble and waste his 3 minutes. Quickly change notes and ideas about what to do with your own 3 minutes. Elevate heart rate some more.

Step 8. Get passed over on the agenda. Not real sure what just happened, but become suddenly very relaxed! Thank city council gods, consider leaving. Listen idly to parking meter debate.

Step 9. City Council president, whom you vaguely know, realizes that you’ve been skipped over. He announces that he’ll be changing the agenda to include you.

Step 10. Say “Damn!” fairly loudly. Resume frantic note-fiddling, heart rate elevation while one other person talks first for his 3 minutes.

Step 11. Get called to podium and begin, um, speaking. Deviate from notes significantly, somehow manage to sound somewhat coherent. Studiously ignore TV cameras and transcriptionist recording your not-entirely-polished speech. Blush copiously.

Step 12. Control shaking voice to read quote that got you into this mess to begin with. End on time, attempt to look cool as a cucumber, ignore fact that you are wearing scruffy jeans and that your makeshift bun has sprouted wings.

Step 13. Get congratulated by random strangers. Talk with older woman who says development in question seems like someone giving her the finger every time she drives by. Tell her you regularly give said development the finger yourself. Later are told that you were “sent by the goddess” to help represent others who are unable to speak but feel the same way.

Step 14. Take elevated heartrate (and odd worries about getting “a talking-to” at work for being so publicly political) into car, drive somewhat distractedly home at prime deer time.

Step 15. Share the mutual experience of getting the living daylights scared out of you while slamming on brakes and swerving (in your case) and frantic running away, in the correct direction, thank the universe (in the deer’s case). Do not make contact with any part of the deer.

Step 16. Continue home. Arrive in one piece to regale your ever-patient husband with your adrenaline-fueled tale. Whew! Eat lentils prepared by husband, and finally go to wash your hair. Feel good that you did something other than flip off an inanimate object, monstrosity that it is.

Ultimately, it didn't turn out quite as we'd hoped (ie holding developer to some higher standards on the lakeshore) but it was a good experience that MAY do some good down the line. Not sure why this issue yanked my chain enough to get me in front of the council again, but I'm glad I did it. Work's been fine. Been hearing from people here and there that they heard it on the radio, etc... even my politically different brother said I sounded like "I knew what I was talking about"... Ha! As much of a compliment as I will likely get from him. Now, where to find the energy to fight for about 1000 other issues....

Sunday, April 23, 2006

Answer found!

Wanna go on a snipe hunt? No guns or bags involved, just ears. Really!

Thanks to some local birders who listed to my own well practiced rendition of this crazy noise AND Sue who recommended a GREAT site (, we have an answer!! It wasn't the woodcock, although I have been hearing quite a few of those, as well. explains that "courtship flights produce quavering hoots made by air rushing through tail feathers "huhuhuhuhuhuhu" (go listen!).

So,our yard is apparently romance central for a couple of very courtly snipe(s?). WF said this morning, as we were being surrounded by the eerie sound, "Can they just hurry up and do the deed already?" It was fully sunny, but they were still at it late into the morning. It's fairly quiet right now, but the evening will soon be here...

It's good to have a name for our not-so-alien neighbors! We also caught glimpses of them today. I'm a bit surprised that they've chosen our area, as our "wetland" is fairly ephemeral and pretty grown in. We'll wait to see (and listen) to what transpires. My "birding by ear" is slowly improving...

Friday, April 21, 2006


Do you think it’s maybe possible that aliens have taken up residence in my yard? They don’t seem to be unfriendly aliens, exactly, but have left me wondering and slightly weirded out, as I’m home alone this evening. These particular visitors must have some very speedy flying objects (or maybe wings?), since I never caught a glimpse, just heard them. I was on my way to the coop in the rain at dusk, when from above me came:


It was fast, with a continually rising pitch and a usually emphatic ending. It had a slightly whistle-y, tuning-fork quality to it, a bit like a vibration. There seemed to be at least two of these creatures conversing. They sometimes passing quickly overhead from one side of the yard to the other. I listened politely, consulted the chickens (4 eggs, 1 broody hen with her own 4 eggs) and told the nice aliens to enjoy their evening before rushing in to consult the all-knowing Internet. I wanted to appreciate my (un)natural history experience while all properly educated, y’know. It must be easily explainable, right? I’m not really a birder, and figured it would be something simple that I should know. Hmmm.

But even through the powers of Google, I wasn’t able to find much. I’m still leaning towards ALIEN, at least until tomorrow when I can consult a birding friend.

Anyone have a quicker idea for me? When I went out later to record them for sharing, it was darker and they’d quit. So much for spooky night space-aliens!

Some other sonic visitors to our little corner of the world have been a much more identifiable variety of frogs and spring peepers. Deb recently mentioned needing to learn the frog calls again each year. I always need a review, too, and found this great site. Scroll down to get to the frog videos. Visuals always help me remember. Now if only I had one for the “aliens”….


Sunday, April 16, 2006

Just a week!

This may seem like a very small thing to some people further south, but up here in the North, we are suitably amazed (or worried, about the warming?). This is OUTDOORS:

This is APRIL 16th, fer gosh sakes, not May or June. I've had camping trips snowed out in May around here. That's kale in my doorstep garden, just one week after planting...without any hot box help or anything else. It seems so early, but it HAS been really warm. Last Sunday the chickens alerted me to the fine texture and wonderful qualities of the dirt in that garden...

If you look closely here, you can see that the hen's flinging dirt at the rooster...They love to dust bathe anywhere they can find loose dirt, which includes any garden plot we haven't yet fenced. My small perennial garden looks like an iris jail, but the fencing has been effective so far. Today WF fenced off the rhubarb, which was getting pecked to death. The tender kale sprouts are nicely fenced, now. That didn't keep Lutsen from exploring the wrong side of the fence, but she got plucked out quickly and told the error of her ways.

Another sign of spring is an instinct kicking in for one of our hens: broodiness!

We knew that this breed was prone to brood, which can be a good thing at the right time. But we're not feeling ready, with no place for another round of young chickens to live. This hen has other ideas, and is not deterred easily. We've tried taking her out of the nest whenever we see her in there, but she walks around with the fluffed neck of annoyance, then goes right back in. There's been a bit of debate about if we should let her sit, and a bit of guilt for taking away her eggs during this time of spring and rebirth and egg-centric fertility. But luckily these hens are quite tame and she's not gotten mean. We probably need to get more determined to make her change her mind, with some sort of "broody coop" wire cage, but we're not that equipped at this time. Ah, life... it gets a little harder to gather eggs when one of the chickens decides that she WANTS some of them. Hmmm....

I suspect, once again, that we're a touch soft-hearted for this. Wonder why...

(Not a regular occurrence, just tonight's performance during WF's attempts to get them all back in the coop. Guess she likes heights!)

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

The world is weird

Ah, the neglectful blogger. Sorry. I've been on a foray into the "mainstream" world lately, mostly caused by work. (Eieeeee!) But it's been partly caused by a morbid fascination with "observing" this weird world we live in so that I can understand where people are coming from when they do incomprehensible things, like vote for certain republicans. I also used to work more often with kids, and don't want to come off as a complete fuddy-duddy if I ever do again.

So, reading the Sunday paper "insert" magazine the other day, I came upon this:

You can order your very own (or select from one of the other numerous, racy designs) here.

Apparently I need to "observe" more intently, because this one has me completely stumped. Trendy fast racecars on your slowcooker? Buying a new slowcooker every few years to reflect the latest hot action at the track? Earnest, stew-making wives with crushes, gazing longingly at the driver on her kitchen ware? Lordy.

This racing thing is so completely bizarre, I can't even begin to understand. I do know, however, that they use leaded gas (for better "performance") for those races. Lead from emissions has a proven, negative effect upon children's intelligence. Hmmm....

Enough. The sun is shining and I'm going to go meet WF for a lovely dinner at a locally owned, local food using neighborhood cafe. I think that THERE I'll be safe from the perplexing "celebrity" slowcooker subculture- whew!

Tuesday, April 04, 2006


Busy Spring. Wet Spring. Melting Spring. Chicken Scratch Spring. Cat exploring spring. Grass growing spring. Mouse tunnel remnant spring. Mud spring. Northern MN Spring!

The seasons are finally turning and spring is here! I’ve been a bit too busy in town to truly experience it yet (grr). But the birds are making it hard NOT to notice. The woodcocks are busily “peent peent”ing and the snow is mostly gone in the yard. There’s still quite a bit in the woods, but the sun is INTENSE. The garden is even showing itself again!

The chickens (and cats) are eagerly searching for green grass. I’ve been helping things along with a little planted wheatgrass. The chickens LOVED it (or so WF tells me- I was at work during the great sampling) and we’ll get better eggs.

WF actually emailed these pictures to me at work... we're such tech/chicken nerds. I toyed with the idea of growing sprouts, etc for them in the winter, but it didn’t happen this year. A friend has been providing some wilted greens from the co-op, and a few of the hens will literally throw themselves at the green goodness and inhale before the roosters barge in. Always exciting in the coop these days!

The melting snow is revealing evidence of some very industrious rodent winter activity in the lawn. Good thing we have both cats AND chickens who might be, ah, interested in said rodents. It’s true… I watched a chicken consume a Lutsen-cat “leftover” last year… an apparently tasty headless mouse. Mmmm! I’ve heard of chickens catching mice themselves, but I’ve yet to witness that. Better watch out, rodents!!

We’ve also been noticing some pouring rain and a meltwater-filled septic tank, with the accompanying huge draw on the house batteries to pump it out. No showers, no laundry, catch sink water in a bucket and put it outside. I experience the “clash of expectations” again: our “regular suburban” house that lulls us into complacency suddenly rebels and makes us act more like the majority of the world, living with less amenities. I do tend to grumble at the rearrangement of my schedule, the need for clean work clothes NOW. And then the sun comes out and we’re back to “normal,” with the solar array. WF was home yesterday and got lots of solar-assisted tasks done while I was in my grid-powered cubicle.

In-town work will be a bit less busy soon, and I’m hoping to take some time off and get house tasks done. AND bask in the sun and search for green things myself… THEN it will really, finally feel like spring.