You Know It’s Spring When…

person standing using red umbrella
Photo by Aline Nadai on Pexels.com We are in for storms

I’m going to whisper this: it looks as if winter’s finally let go of us. Don’t let winter hear you repeat this; it might get ideas about returning.

Yesterday some redwing blackbirds sang in the day as I took Oakley out for his first round of social networking. It was breezy, but not to the point where walking and standing were neat tricks. The mild air smelled fresh and slightly milky with notes of green. Beneath my feet, the tender soil yielded to each step, making a slight sucking noise as I pulled my feet from the mud.

Yes. Hello, spring and all the things that come with you: the mud, the bird songs, the unstable weather. Welcome.

We are under a tornado warning until 5PM Central today. It’s to be expected when the day’s high spikes near 60 only to be chased out by a cold front during the afternoon hours. Starting tomorrow daytime highs will be more in line with averages for mid-March. After a winter with a polar vortex, they will feel subtropical.

So far today, we’ve had three short rounds of rain followed by crystal blue skies. The southwest wind is howling away. A little while ago hail smashed against the windows. No damage, just noise.

Oakley has spent the last few hours either sitting next to me with his tush glued to my hip or taking refuge in his storm shelter between the arm chair and the love seat. The flying debris smacking into the house and other solid objects is a bit nerve wracking for both of us. I don’t blame him. A seat next to Mom soothes his anxiety.

We tried to walk at the big forest preserve this morning, but bailed. The thunder under a half-blue half-clouded-over sky was disconcerting enough, but throw a couple of bus loads of elementary school students in and you can kiss any semblance of peace goodbye. We missed our 30 minute goal by about five minutes, but the speed of return to the car likely compensated for it.

I made sure to charge my phone last night in case of power outages, both so I can contact the power company and communicate with the outside world. We’re prepared. We don’t really have much else to worry about as this system makes its way to its next destination. For that I am truly grateful.

 

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The Longest Month

 

accomplishment action adventure atmosphere
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

 

I have never been so happy to see a February go the way of the wind as I have been with this one. One ice storm after another; a day of winds at 35 MPH sustained with gusts nearing 60; no real thaw; all but a handful of days were as grey and dreary as a Dickens novel. Usually, the weather modulates in February, but this year all the meteorological events that prohibit outdoors activity trooped through the soybean field one after another.

The usual efforts involving DVDs, music, and decluttering projects to counteract the trapped feeling provided little help. I spent one post-ice storm day rage baking because I didn’t know what else to do with myself. Slick roads prevented any attempts at escape to anywhere a person could go for an outing. For that matter, we couldn’t even get down the blessed driveway due to the layers of snow and ice. The mixed apple-berry crisp turned out well, though. The olive oil and lemon cake landed on the dry side. If I’m going to invest calories and carbs in a cake, it had better be quite moist. This wasn’t and didn’t have much flavor. It was so bad that I wanted to throw it out for the birds. Hubby ate it with strawberry jam. He said it was good that way and that he didn’t want to waste it. Very well. However,  I’ll try a different recipe next time.

I’m going through my cookbooks and trying to think springtime thoughts, but when you have howling winds and daytime highs at least ten degrees below average, it gets tough.

This last Friday was rather warmish, and some signs of spring teased us before the temperatures began yesterday’s slide. Oakley’s been inspecting every inch of the field with me in tow, getting whiffs of scents left by the wildlife trotting through the back yard while posting his own messages. An odd brave blade of grass has turned green, and a few more of its fellows undergo the same transformation on a daily basis.

Eventually, the season will change. We have a cold week ahead of us, and next weekend will be warmer but with precipitation. Will we have a semi-normal spring, or will we go from heating to cooling in a single bound?

I don’t know. We’ll just have to see.

 

 

 

A Visit to the Ag Store

 

agriculture tractor
Photo by Skitterphoto on Pexels.com

We didn’t get out for a walk yesterday due to freezing rain. Outdoor activities are a no-go today, too. While it’s too warm to freeze, at least until tonight when the temps will plummet, the north wind tosses drops of drizzle around like the star-shaped weapons used by Ninjas.

On days like this, I struggle not to bake all the recipes. Oakley proclaims his boredom by pestering for snacks or licking the coffee table and the knickknacks on it to see how much of a rise he can get out of me, there’s only one thing to do: go to the ag store.

The one we frequent is housed in what once was a Wal-Mart on the far side of the next town over from us. The march of progress called for a move to a super center across the street, leaving this building unoccupied for some time. Then a furniture store that underwent reinvention at least twice moved in there. After its demise, the building sat empty again until the ag store chain bought it and set up camp there.

It’s not quite as good as a walk in the woods, but a bit of browsing and window shopping in a dog-friendly environment dulls the edge of cabin fever. We aren’t the only ones looking for a comfortable place to spend a bit of time. It’s not uncommon to see other people chatting or checking the bulletin board by the front entrance or debating the best tool for a given job.

After Oakley leaves messages on a lamppost or two in the parking lot, in we go. He’s happy and eager to do so because of the scents and the associates who tell him what a good boy he is and how handsome, mitigating the neglect he receives at home.

At the customer service desk, there’s popcorn and coffee for the people and a dish of biscuits for dogs.  The biskies don’t fit my criteria for Oakley’s daily consumption, but once in a while as a treat, they’re OK. I take two, then drag him away before he scarfs up the rest of them. From there, we proceed to the automotive department to give the tires and accessories a good sniffing.

When that department has passed inspection, we practice “sit,” munch on a bite of biskie, and walk through the aisles where hoses, hardware, and paint wait on the shelves to be purchased. Again, “sit,” and biskie bite.

Power tools don’t have much of a draw for either of us, and neither does the clothing intended for average sized and much younger women. We bypass those displays. We weave through the other aisles until we reach the livestock department. They have rabbits for sale year round, and next month spring chicks will join them. Oakley quickly peeks into the holding pens, keeping his nose high enough so he can sniff but not frighten the bunnies or chicks.

I rarely buy anything if Oakley is with me. It’s infinitely easier to make a solo return trip than to juggle 75 pounds of dog, a cartload of stuff, and my purse so I can pay.  When I see items I need such as pet safe ice melt or gardening supplies or the like, I make mental notes and swing by to pick them up after the day care run–it’s on the main route between our house and Ms. Lanette’s.

The true test of patience is in the garden department. We practice long sits as I look longingly at the seed packets and hand tools, anticipating the upcoming season of sun and earth. When I’m done, Oakley gets the final bite of biskie and we say “thank you” to the associates at the customer service desk as we make our exit.

We go home with stories to tell about who we saw and what smelled good that day. On days like today, those are just as important as the items I’ll return to purchase after the next day care run.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Getting Hygge With It

 

white polar bear on white snowy field near canal during daytime
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

(No polar bears in the field just yet, but I would not be surprised if one sauntered past us.)

Today Oakley and I experiment with the Danish art of hygge. There’s no direct translation of the word, but the gist of it means making things as nice as possible inside with candles, knickknacks, good music, books, DVDs, dog treats, and of course, chocolate and red wine along with having friends over. We have all of the above, and while I’d love to have friends over, not in this weather will I ask them to leave their homes, so I’ll make a couple of calls. It’s how Danes survive their winters without going totally mad.

Our winter chugged along in mild beauty and splendor until last week when weather turned into more typical January patterns of snow and co. This week, Mother Nature decided to send a cross-pole vortex our way. We’re going to make history for the next 48-72 hours out here in the soybean field. Tonight’s low will be -23F. Tomorrow’s high will be -15F. Thursday we’ll be hovering around zero, but all will be right again on Friday with a subtropical high of 20F. Right now it’s 4F above with the wind kicking up the top layer of the snow.

As much as it irritated both of us, I kept Oakley home from day care today. Usually he goes twice a week, but attendance this last month has been erratic due to weather. Today local weather people call for blowing and drifting later this afternoon, right about the time I usually pick him up. That’s the rub. The route I vastly prefer cuts through open farm fields. It gets blown in after snowstorms no matter how diligently they keep after it. I’ve been blinded by ground blizzards before and don’t wish to risk that, thank you. The other route involves a US highway that follows the railroad line stringing together the largest towns in the county. It’s better sheltered and the first road plowed after storms. However, accessing it involves doubling back to the east which jacks up drive time as well as negotiating a two mile stretch of  construction. As in 30 minutes to go two miles. Nope.

So we nibble a couple of extra treats, play some games, do some puzzles as we listen to the wind underscoring the current selection playing on WFMT. We only have to get through 48-72 hours of this, and we will.

I can’t speak for Oakley, but I intend to enjoy it as much as possible.

 

 

In Praise of Pantries

Image courtesy of The Graphics Fairy

Winter finally came to town this weekend. We didn’t get that much snow, but it was one of those storms that just strolled in early Saturday, pulled up a chair, and made itself at home until finally leaving in the wee smalls Sunday morning.

Luckily, we didn’t have to be anywhere this weekend. We made the big haul grocery trip a few days before, so we didn’t have to worry about perishables and had a fresh supply of nonperishables. Such is the joy of having a pantry and a freezer.

Oh, what’s in them? Something like this:

  • Fish, canned and frozen
  • Chicken from the place that meets both our specifications
  • Pasta
  • Jarred pasta sauce and canned tomatoes: crushed or diced
  • Rice, basmati and jasmine
  • Different canned beans and lentils. I’ve never been able to cook beans from scratch.  Yes, it’s cheaper and more ecologically sound to do so, but beans just won’t cooperate under my direction. Except lentils.
  • A few cartons and cans of soups: chicken broth for homemade, tomato soup from Trader Joe’s, clam chowder, and a vegetable soup Aldi gets from Germany a few times a year
  • Onions and potatoes and garlic
  • Olive oil
  • Frozen blueberries and green beans
  • Baking supplies including oatmeal
  • Nuts and nut butter
  • Shelf stable Indian foods for the days when neither of us just can’t

I always have seasonings on hand so I can create tasty meals such as soups and curries out of a few items from the pantry. While I have the luxury of a dedicated room (about the dimensions of a good sized closet) for storing canned goods and supplies such as toilet paper and paper towels, I know a lot of people don’t. I wish they did. I know some other bloggers who have their stashes in plastic storage bins that fit under their beds or tucked into closets. That’s not a bad alternative.

Being well stocked mostly prevents the temptation of making runs for fast food, so our investment saves money as well. Plus if the weather goes bad, we don’t have to pick our way over crappy roads to go shopping.

And while we’re on the subject of pantries….please don’t forget your local food banks. With the chaos and insanity in DC, the most vulnerable (children, elders, and disabled) are at risk for being forgotten. Thank you.

 

 

 

First Storm

 

 

snowy pathway surrounded by bare tree
Photo by freestocks.org on Pexels.com

Bread, milk, eggs? Check. Coffee and tea? Check. Oakley’s food? Check. Better part of a bail of toilet paper from Costco? Check. Phones charged? Check. New snowblower? Check. Ready.

We had the first significant snow Sunday night into Monday morning. Only about six to eight inches which would have been enough of a pain in the butt had that been all it was, but combined with a leading edge of freezing rain and sustained northeast winds of 20 m.p.h. and gusting up to 50, it was a problem worthy of school closings.

Easily solved for us, though. We just holed up, hunkered down, and remarked “holy crap!” every time a gust swirled around the house. The lights flickered for a millisecond, but otherwise we came through unscathed.

Well, except that there was the driveway to contend with after the snow tapered off midmorning. When the wind hooks as it did Sunday and yesterday, it scrapes the front yard almost clean of snow, but pushes all of it into the driveway and into drifts against the neighbors’ hedge.  Hubby’s maiden run of the new snowblower took about 45 minutes. Now that he’s familiar with the its quirks, it shouldn’t take more than a half-hour next time. I peeked out of the upstairs window to see how things were coming along. He looked as if he was having fun; not quite at the level where he might be humming the theme from “Monty Python’s Flying Circus” as he and the machine wen through their paces, but happier than he’d been in a while.

It was a welcome sight.

 

 

 

 

 

Gross

photo of crocodile in water
Photo by Aldo Picaso on Pexels.com

If we’d stumbled across a gator on our walk this morning, I would not have been the least surprised. Startled as hell, yes, but not surprised. I don’t know what the numbers were, but they must have been decidedly tropical. You know, the ones that make a person wonder why “gross” isn’t a widely used meteorological term.

Walking this morning was akin to wrestling with a blanked washed in hot water. Once we were five steps from the car, the beads of sweat formed rivulets that converged into rivers flowing south from my torso.

This was sweat. Not the sexy little trickle nestled in a fitness model’s cleavage. Not the sheen of an athlete. This was stinky, dirty, wait-thirty minutes-until-it-stops-or-you’ll- start-again sweat. My shirt stuck to my back and my hair stuck to my head by the time we completed the half-hour trail. I wondered if moss grew anywhere on my body.

Adding to the hilarity was my daily round of hot flashes, the bane of women in their middle years. (For younger readers and those not of a persuasion to flashes, it can be anything from feeling like you’re going to spontaneously combust for about thirty seconds to long, sweaty affairs that feel like you’re running a fever lasting up to fifteen minutes. Mine are in the former category and for some weird reason I get them in the morning, mostly. A lot of ladies get them at night. Now you know what they’re like. You’re welcome.) And we were inundated with bugs that mistook the herbal repellant for a condiment.

Oakley and I still put in our thirty minutes. He panted, but was otherwise unscathed. I jacked up the air conditioning in the car for our comfort and safety on the way home.  When we came through the door, he drank a half bowl of water and flopped in front of the fan.

I felt the same after a shower and a glass of iced tea. Once again, life became a bearable proposition.

At this writing, we have the first in a series of thunderstorms slated for this afternoon moving through the area. They herald a break in this heat that’s hung around since last Friday.

We welcome it, indeed.

The Memorial Day Entry

Or as we call it around these parts of the soybean field, “Monday.”

A very hot one at that with temps reaching well over 80 before 8 AM. Despite all good intentions to get in a 45 minute walk this morning, it grew too hot for both Oakley and me. We bailed at the 20 minute mark. We made one run outside for the most personal of personal reasons since then. He’s taken up camp in front of the fan used to augment the air conditioning and seems uninterested in moving again until dinner.

Hubby is building something in the garage. I have no idea what he’s working on, but as long as he’s happy, it’s all good.

I haven’t done very much today. I’ve played on line; read new-to-me books; watched a repeat of a Swedish spy thriller. The extreme heat precluded work on the garden. Again. It is what it is. The weather should break on Wednesday. Maybe then.

Both weekend days’ highs climbed well into the 90s, too.  Last night, we decided to go to our favorite used book store (20% off everything+selling a bunch of books=a lot of fun for both of us), then out to dinner at one of our favorite restaurants across the street in lieu of trying to cook out.

When we turned onto the north-south state route where said attractions lie, we noticed several police cars and IDOT trucks parked at intervals. A bad accident? A sinkhole? Road blocks to check for registration and seat belt usage (and a discreet check for alcohol use)? Nope. The pavement had buckled and shattered in several locations from the heat, necessitating navigation by the officers so all could drive around them in an orderly, safe manner. Tricky on a Sunday night, but had this happened on that stretch of road on a workday, traffic would have been backed up to Kentucky and Wisconsin.

To my best of my recollections,  this kind of weather never happened when I was younger, much younger. There were warmer than average Memorial Day weekends, certainly, but with highs reaching into the low 80s, not pushing 100. Usually, we could go on a picnic with our grandparents and a couple of other stray relatives. Or have everyone over for a cook-out.

Memorial Day is a much quieter affair now. Distance, logistics, and so on have bumped it to the wayside, save for a picnic when the weather is half-decent.  Personally, I don’t care driving on this day, or July 4, or Labor Day. Parades and observations of the two former with no good escape routes in our little town  snarl traffic into dreadlocks. Labor Day just involves keeping a sharp eye out for cops who want to pad municipal coffers at the expense of careless drivers.

I just would rather stay home, thank you. We have left overs from last night for dinner; we have air conditioning; our basic needs are met. WFMT played selections from Gershwin, Porter, and Sousa. We don’t need to be anywhere, so we will simply celebrate the comfort of the day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Recovery, Rebirth, Rinse, Repeat

A 14 above wind chill started Easter on Sunday, April 1st, also known as April Fool’s Day. Not funny, Mother Nature. Not funny at all.

We are about two weeks into spring, still early, but daytime highs for the most part have fallen about twenty degrees short of the average mark. Today we have a stiff wind blowing down from the northwest. It would be a great day in February, but not in April.

We should be drinking tea on the back step while debating what to plant in the garden. Instead, inside we are and inside we will stay for the duration. Hubby and I both made some progress in getting past the crud but we both still are vulnerable to relapse. He’s not waking up with the severe headaches and congestion; I’m still getting tired really easily. As in needing naps after lunch and dinner.  I look forward to the day when I wake up without a runny nose and can function without waking up on the sofa with my neck stiffened into an odd angle.

Oakley, too, has recovered from his challenges, namely the autoimmune eye problem. I spoke to the vet tech at the eye doctor’s office to update them on how he’d been doing three weeks after his last dose of Prednisone. His eyes are clear, a tiny bit of discharge in the morning, but of the usual AM type. She put me on hold and relayed the report to Dr. V. Dr. V asked her to wish us happy spring and to call if any drama reoccured.

That was it. Except for burying my eyes in the lovely deep fur in the back of Oakley’s neck and shedding a few tears of relief.

Now to get the weight gained from that off of him. We just have to do a little portion control and walk. Not a good idea today in the face of the livestock-launching wind, but as much as we can when the weather permits it.

When we have been able to walk, signs of the earth waking up after a long nap have started appearing. The branches of the oaks and maples sport tiny red buds. Newborn grass weaves green threads into the brown tapestry of soil. The forest preserve district successfully completed controlled burns of prairie restorations at the preserves where we usually walk. (In this case, “successful” as in burning the dead, dry plants to release the seeds and make way for new growth without the flames spreading to the storage buildings and the gas station just east of the one with the short trail. That could be a problem.)

Walk we will, once the weather chooses a lane and stays there. In the meantime, there are naps to take, books to read, and causes to support via social media and email. Just like the other hibernaters, we will emerge when the time is right.

 

 

 

It Could Have Been Worse: The Weekend Edition

When I was in grad school lo these many years ago, I studied rational emotive therapy, a way of talking yourself through your personal sticking points. One of the questions used to examine the thought process: how can this event be worse?

The case in point involved a gut-wrenching news story that involved a parachutist who had landed in an alligator-infested swamp. The parachute’s straps and bindings had tangled around him in a way that left him tied to a tree, unable to free his hands. Needless to say, the gators found him quite tasty. When the recovery team found him, they estimated that it had taken him three days to die. What could be worse?

Being eaten by alligators over four days.

It was kind of like that here in the soybean field this weekend. At least it was only two days.

Friday was OK. Oakley had a good time at day care, but was pretty sore. Did I mention that he had to start taking a prescription painkiller rather than aspirin because of interaction with the Pred?  I’d given him a full prescribed dose on Tuesday at bed time. When he woke up Wednesday, he ate breakfast, then laid on the floor and stared at the wall for an hour. I cut the dose in half Friday night. He managed to sit on the sofa with me while staring at the fireplace Saturday morning. I need to call the vets’ and see if I can cut the tabs in half.

Once he sobered up, we went for a ride. The roads were in great shape, and no other drivers were on the road. Left, right, straight through the midwinter starkness of grey skies, of still muddy fields reminiscent of Andrew Wyeth paintings.

Nothing like the open road to shake away the dust and cobwebs. My head cleared, I plotted a course that would take us a little further west than usual as a few flakes drifted from the sky. Then the flurry became a shower, and the shower turned into a wall of white.

I turned as quickly and safely drove home as fast as the laws of Illinois and physics allowed with the storm on my tail. I was caught in one storm this year and don’t fancy that happening again.

Hubby returned from school not long after Oakley and I shared a post-ride treat. The traffic on his route is notoriously awful on a good day. He’s wrapping up the course of antibiotics for his health issue. The only problem with them was that they impacted his mood. I’d been patient, I hope; but finally had to say something after another chanting of the traffic litany that he’d recapped every day for the last week or so.

We didn’t talk to each other much Saturday night.

And then, Sunday morning was my turn, she wrote sarcastically. Emotionally, I did myself no favors by looking at social media. One friend moving on with her life; two women in a circle I distanced myself from getting all kinds of help and support without having to ask (unlike when I had some problems and was met with platitudes about prayers and holding space).  I will spare you the details of the physical end. I fell into a cesspool of self-pity and questioning my worth to other people.  Luckily, Hubby and I were back in each others’ better graces. Joked about taking the good stuff I give Oakley when his guts act up.  I drank tea prepared by Hubby, slept, watched the Olympics.

Today is Monday. It’s better so far. Hubby left early for school, circumventing the worst of the traffic problems. Oakley cuddled with me. I didn’t give him the pain killer last night; he slept pretty well. The world is a kinder place for me today. Things are not back to normal in the digestive department but they will get there.

If there’s one lesson in the last couple of days, it’s that this, too, shall pass.

Forgive me for that.