Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Holding Down the Fort

DH's latest job-related travel has gone, for me, something like this:

Day 1:  get up at 4:30 a.m. so we can have breakfast together before he leaves for the airport @ 5:15.  Cook breakfast.  Eat breakfast.  Kiss and hug him goodbye--I won't be getting hugs or kisses for 9 days.  Put venison hunter sticks we stuffed yesterday afternoon into oven to cook.  (Our deer hunting 2012 ended with a nice size doe taken at the end of late does season on New Year's eve.)  Do two loads of laundry.  Get dressed (for church), take finished hunter sticks out of oven, drive DS2 into Lansing where he is meeting his ride back to the U.P. (he drove himself down for the semester break, but is leaving his car here with us so we can sell it.  He's looking to get something with four wheel drive. . .).  Go to church after DS2 meets his ride.  Come home from church.  Change clothes.  Remember I forgot to take care of chickens this morning.  Go feed, water and let chickens out of coop.  See that the wood burner damper is stuck again: steam is pouring out the stack on the water jacket.  Uh-oh.  Call DH, who has by now arrived in California.  Get instructions from him on how to close the damper (and hopefully un-stick it so it will work all right on it's own), check water level in boiler (very very low), add water to boiler, stoke boiler which has been stuck on 'high' for who knows how many hours and has nearly burned up all the wood DH stoked it with last night (which should have lasted 24 hours with current weather conditions).  Meanwhile, the summer sausage sticks we also stuffed yesterday have been warming to room temp so I can now give them their time in the oven.  Put 5 three-pound summer sausage logs into the oven.  Have a pb & j for a late lunch (bread and jam homemade, pb not).  Notice that I can hear water rushing in the floors.  Crap.  That is the sound of air in the heating system.  Air that should not be there.  Proceed to call DH (again) out in CA and get instructions on how to bleed the air that is stuck in the system.  Attempt to bleed.  Sounds okay now.  Go mix up a batch of granola.  To hear air again half-hour later.  Bleed again.  Check with DH (again) to make sure I'm doing it right.  Check and rotate summer sausage.  Stir granola that is baking in the lower oven. . . is this the third or fourth time I've stirred it?  Is it done or does it have one more 15-minute session left in the oven?????  losing my mind. . . .

Day 2:  arise with the alarm at 6:30 (hey, sleeping in!  I only have to cook one breakfast--mine--and don't have to pack a lunch--his), check the heating system, which appears A-OK.  Phew.  Continue with normal daily routine.  Remember to stoke the fire.  Goad daughters into following the new division of chores that the three of us agreed on the evening before.  Since DD1 has moved back home, she is of course expected to do chores, unlike when she lived away at college and only came home for short visits.  Surprisingly there was no weeping or gnashing of teeth over chores, and they (mostly--see Day 3) got done.  Overall, a good day.

Day 3: again arise with the alarm, check the heating system.  Things hunky-dory at this little place here, with the exception of having to remind DD2 that she did not take out the trash last night (her chore on Mondays) and tell her she will take it out with her this morning on her way to the school bus.  She does.  All is well.  At the horse farm, however, I find that the person who does the evening feed (who just became employed with us a month ago), not only left the lights on in one of the barns (electric bill, but other than that not a huge deal), but also left the feed room door open (big no-no!) and also apparently never grained the horses in that barn last night because their grain buckets are still all lined up in the feed room with grain measured out into them (not good; her job is to FEED the horses at night).   Oh boy.  As manager I now have to deal with speaking with this employee and disciplining her.  Fun, fun.  Special trip back to the farm in the evening when she is there to speak with her privately and in person about this matter.

Day 4:  alarm clock, check heat system. It's at target temp and sounding ok.  Warm outside--a whopping 32 degrees pre-dawn.  Supposed to be sunny and 40 today.  Everything humming right along until I come home from the horse farm, go in the house and notice a funky smell in the vicinity of the basement stairs.  It's a somethings rotten kind of smell, and try as I might, I can't locate what is making it.  Go through all the squash stored in the basement.  Find a few wrinkly ones that are getting soft, but not smelly.  Take them out and feed them to the chickens, who love this change in their diet.  Source of smell is still unknown.  DH has a long day at work--I don't hear from him until ten p.m.  And so begins my decline to toward the 'day five crash'--typically I'm all right until about the fifth day he is gone, when I get to missing him and start to feel hug & kiss withdrawals really bad.  The less chances he has to give me a call, the harder the crash and ensuing days get.

Day 5:  alarm clock, check heat system, everything still ok.  Beautiful sunrise, try to take pic of it w/my cell phone so I can text it to DH.  No dice.  Cell phone camera can't get the colors. Feel wave of longing to be with DH, to share this sunrise with him in person. And so starts day 5.  Later in the day, I put the pelvic and leg bones from the deer we processed last Saturday out by the chicken coop so that the chickens could clean off the bits of meat we couldn't get when de-boning the hindquarter.  The chickens (and the barn cats) went nuts, the carnivores! Back inside the house, I notice that the funky smell near the stairs has gone away.  Weird.  Still don't know what it was, but glad to not smell it anymore. Finally get a "long" (more than 5 minutes, woo ho!) phone call from DH around 10 p.m.

Day 6: alarm clock, check heat system (chugging along ).  Rain.  It's been raining since the evening before.  Stoke fire with wet firewood.  Let chickens out, and notice that the deer bones (think complete hindquarter skeleton down to lower leg bones) are gone.  Gone!  Hmmm.  Apparently we had a coyote at the chicken house last night.  Really missing Old Dog now, he was good at marking the perimeter of the yard and the barn area, keeping the coyotes away.  Lacking a dog to leave a 'no trespassing sign' for the coyote, should it return to check out the coop area again, I wait until I go out to shut the chickens in at dusk, and I 'mark' near the coop myself.  (yes, yes I did do what you're thinking I did.)  On a side note, if you've never watched the movie Never Cry Wolf you might want to check it out; you might find it entertaining.  See mouse in basement when I go down to put the last load of laundry in the dryer that night.  Gather mousetraps, bait with peanut butter.  Wait in sadistic anticipation of finding a mouse in the trap the next morning.

Day 7: a real chance to sleep in!!! I didn't get up until 8:00 a.m., woo hoo!!  check heat system, which isn't even calling for heat since it's over 55 degrees outside all ready.  Wow!  Is it really January??   Check mousetraps.  Caught one, other two traps are licked clean but not tripped.  Rebait all three. Beautiful day, so I putter around in the garden, mulching things I forgot to mulch in November.  DH really busy out on the road, I don't hear from him but for 10 minutes (which got interrupted 3x by work stuff on his end) late in the day.  Missing him much.  Very, very tired of him being gone.  Hear weather forecast for freezing rain overnight.  Go out to put pick-up into garage so I won't have to scrape the windshield before church in the morning.  Only, I forgot to run the truck today, so it won't start (been having trouble with it for about a month; as long as it gets run daily it starts up fine.  Let it sit more than 24 hours and it doesn't want to fire up.  GRRR!!! )   The battery isn't the problem, so jumping it is useless, although too many attempts at starting it will wear the battery down.  Really, really missing DH now.  Not only won't the truck start, it is sitting dead in front of the garage door that leads to the only available parking spot under a roof.  So I can't even put the Suburban in there as my second choice transportation to church.  Resign myself to having to scrape ice in the morning. . .

Day 8: wake up to rain.  Oh joy!  It's still warm enough to be rain!  In fact, it's all of 39 degrees!  Wood boiler puffing away because now the house wants heat.  Heat system still sounds fine, no sign of any more air bubbles. Praise God I get to church with no problems. After church, DD1 and I work on making her a bedroom in the basement, as DH said she could have instead of moving back in with her younger sister.  We move furniture and exercise equipment (treadmill, stationary bike, free weights) around, hang sheets from the rafters/first floor floor joists to make a visual divider from the rest of the open basement area, and begin to create a bedroom where there was none.  Between the two of us, we haul a single bed frame, box spring, and mattress, plus a 5-drawer dresser from the second floor to the basement.  And then haul a bookshelf up to the first floor study, where, since it is a low bookshelf, I put in on the ledge that is the only part of my one wall of floor to ceiling bookshelves DH started to build me six years ago.  I eye the other bookshelf that remains in the basement, realizing I do have room for that one in the study too.  But that will have to wait another day, because it's past time to cook dinner (which I found out hadn't thawed all the way, so ended up calling an audible with a venison burger soup recipe).  Check mousetraps; dispose of another victim.  Rebait.  Another day of not hearing from DH until nearly bedtime, then having him trying to give me a little time while juggling work-related things on the other side of the country.

Day 9:  now I wake up to ice, having had freezing rain in the night.  Heat still working fine, just have to bust loose the firewood from the pile in order to stoke the wood boiler.  It's not a lot of ice, just enough to glue things together and make for slick spots on flat surfaces.  Off to the horse farm I go, where everything needs to be salted so there will be some traction when it's time to turn horses out for their daily exercise and fresh air.  After a morning of work, I have a dentist appointment (which I insanely scheduled 5 small filling for all at once, making 3/4 of my mouth numb.)  Hmm, perhaps another soup is in order for dinner this night. Remember to check mousetraps.  Caught mouse #3!!  Crazy to rejoice about 3 dead mice, but it is what it is out here in the country.  Rebait.  DH has yet another full day working.  I do manage to get 14 minutes on the phone with him, after nine p.m.,  only 8 of which were intermittently interrupted by co-workers or other work related things on his end of the line.  Yes, I'm glad he has a job, but I wish we could have a life together. . . .  Realize I didn't shut the chickens in yet.  Hope nothing predatory is lurking out at the unsecured coop in the dark.  Throw on boots and coat to go shut chickens in.  "Mark" another spot near the coop, just for good measure, in case the rain washed away the mark I left earlier in the week.  Don't want no coyotes getting my chickens.

Day 10:  13 degrees at wake up time.  check the heat--still working!  Sooo glad I have made it through the last 9 days without anything else going wrong with the wood boiler or having air bubbles in the floor system.  DH returning tonight, so now he can 'save' me if things get funky.  Make sure I stoke the fire, as with the return of the cold, it is going through wood again (have to stoke it full once a day, or 1/2 full twice a day.  I go for doing it massive just once, middle of the day, so I don't have to remember at night and have to stoke it in the dark.)  Rejoice again that DH is coming home:  he can take over the stoking duties.  Check mousetraps, none are tripped, two are stripped.  Hmmm.  Still mice occupying our house, apparently.  Rebait.  It's a good thing everything is operating pretty smoothly at home (despite the mice), because a work is a whole 'nother story. . . having to do my tough love mom act on the new employee.  I'm sorry, but nobody has things come up 3 days out of 5 every single week that makes them a) late for work or b) need to leave work early.  Keeping her on for now, and turning the screws, while I start looking for a reliable replacement.  All the while, remembering that when I was her age I had a kid, DH, a house to keep clean, and two part time jobs that totalled 50+ hours of work each week.  No sympathy for a single, childless college student who doesn't seem to take work seriously.

Sorry for the long, mostly grumbly post.  But, it's 10 days in the life, in case you were thinking you'd love to switch places with me!  Homesteading isn't so very glamorous after all.

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