Wind

Last time I looked at the National Weather Service website, we had a 23 MPH wind hooking around from the northeast with gusts up to 40. And a wind advisory until 7 P.M. Whee.

Well, we are on the brink of spring. There’s roughly 48 hours left of astronomical winter, and it’s making the most of it remaining time here in the northern hemisphere. After a week or so of warm weather, we had snow last weekend that melted quickly followed by a rainstorm that whipped against the windows.

The wind woke Oakley up about 5:30, a not too obscene hour. Pace, pace, flop. Pace, pace, flop. Pace, pace–OK, OK, I’m up. Took him out. Productive. Then we had a micro power failure, one that lasted long enough to knock the microwave and stove clocks off line before the lights came back on. Adjusted clocks. Settled for a few minutes, then had to go back out to stare at the things that only dogs can see in the dark wind. Dragged him back inside. Tend to the clocks again after another micro-failure, then another run to tend to more business.

Five minutes is not long enough to steep tea some mornings, like this blustery cold one. My mug may be fused to the palm of my left hand by the end of the day.

In the mean time, we stay inside and make the day the best possible one. Hubby hangs out in his office, learning a software program that enables him to design cabinets and other nifty things. Oakley perfects his starving orphan puppy act, trying to convince Hubby that I didn’t feed him and that no one gave him his half mini-bagel this morning while I start a fresh batch of dog food.

Me? I found a new recipe that we’ll try for dinner. It’s called harira, a Moroccan lentil and chickpea soup with plenty of warming spices, something we dearly need today. I found the recipe on https://www.themediterraneandish.com. If you haven’t checked out Suzy’s recipes, do so. Especially the cod with lemon and garlic.

Between looks out the window to see if the neighbor’s cows have started flying, we’re just quietly doing our own things, riding out the unstable weather, and looking forward to the calmer, warmer days ahead.

Reality Check

We didn’t get that much snow last night. We did, however, get enough wind to make it look as if a blizzard had landed and knock out the power for an hour. The roads are still slick and I’m sure the curve on the road that we take to the big park and day care has been blown in by the unrelenting west wind and snow traversing the open fields.

I decided not to take Oakley to day care. First and foremost, because of the weather and that the secondary roads we take are not that well tended. When I took Oakley out for his first potty run this morning, the majority of the drivers I saw on the main road were picking their way to their destinations with caution even though the roads looked plowed. It’s important that he sees his friends and teachers, yes, but I am not willing to have us risk hitting that one patch of black ice or snow and ending up in the middle of a field or a ditch.

The second reason was his hips. I’d taken him on Tuesday. I’d been home long enough to eat a bowl of soup for lunch when his teacher asked me to come pick him up. He was acting unhappy and having problems sitting and lying down. As if that wasn’t bad enough, he had diarrhea.

On my way.

What really amped up the suck factor was that this was the first session after Ms. L. had closed down day care for two weeks because two of the teachers had shown COVID symptoms. They’re both OK, thank the Mystery. I had hoped that the afternoon would give Oakley some fun and frolic and me some space to vacuum and tidy a bit, but that was not to be.

So I arrived. Oakley did not look as happy as he was when I had dropped him off. Ms. L. had videoed him struggling to sit.

I watched the video. I looked at Oakley as he leaned into my shins, his way of hugging me. And in the bright light of the reception area, I saw a lot of white hairs blending into the chestnut ones above his eyebrows.

Oh, my, God/dess.

Oakley is aging.

Just like me. It’s fine for me to get older, but Oakley, my companion, my guardian, my fur child? The bundle of legs and fur who’d put his head in the hollow of my neck and fallen into a snoring sleep on the way home from the adoption event where we’d found each other?

Yes. Him.

Oakley had been fine at home that morning, so it’s likely it was just one bad day caused by the weather. He’d torn it up with pups less than half his age at the last day care session. Well, some dogs age out of day care, and if it’s time to let the twice a week sessions go, it’s OK. No, it isn’t, but it is what it is as part of the aging process. Ms. L. reassured me that he will always be welcome on Ren Faire weekends or other occasions warranting a stay at sleepover camp.

OK, thank you. Go home. Give the homeopathic anti-inflammatory. Give the anti-diarrheal. No, baby. 1:30 is too early for dinner.

He went to his spot on the sofa and fell into a nap. I went on line and ordered more anti-inflammatory pills and another product by the same manufacturer specifically for arthritis. One of my friends had given it to her dogs with success, and I’m hoping for the same with Oakley.

If not, one of the vets at our clinic has experience in a couple of modalities that will help. We’ll figure out the best work arounds, like shorter but more frequent walks, herbs, cold laser treatments.

The arthritis pills will be here Monday, please Mystery.

Until then, short walks in the yard. Not a hard thing because of the wind chill. And anti-inflammatory pills every four hours.

And dream of warmer days ahead.O

There’s Always That One Storm….

Image courtesy of https://thegraphicsfairy.com/wp-content/uploads/2016/10/Fall-Landscape-GraphicsFairy.jpg

Thunder followed by rain pattering against the window woke me up at 5:30. I closed the windows and dozed for an hour or so, listening to Oakley snore from the comfort of his new bed.

In any other time, I would have been picking him up after sleepover camp at Ms. Lanette’s. Hubby and I should have been at Ren Faire yesterday, but fates and COVID-19 said otherwise.

It is what it is. And what it is in this case is The Storm. The storm that marks the transition to cooler fall weather. It’s usually the week after Labor Day, sometimes the holiday weekend itself. It sounds different, slower, as if taking its time to give the earth a good soaking.

We’ve had two of these storms announcing fall’s arrival (even if it’s astronomically the 21st or 22nd of September) when Hubby and I have been at Ren Faire. Usually, it starts raining late afternoon as we debate if we want to see another act, go to the book store, or start heading home. When that happens, we usually bid a fond seasonal farewell to Bristol and head home.

One arrived mid-afternoon. We squeezed into a pottery shop next to the stage where the band we’d planned to see was scheduled to perform. No matter. The band squeezed in with us and did their set and some more to boot.

When the storm tapered off, we walked the rain slicked lanes through the last sprinkles to do a bit more shopping, see maybe one last act before we parted for the season. Too wet to sit anyplace, so we stopped at another pottery shop before heading home. I found soup bowls and salad plates, substantial weight, dark green with a design inspired by pine boughs and cones.

Those became my go-to for cool weather meals and pasta dishes year round. When I pull them out of the cupboard, I revisit that day, how the wind played the music for the leaves’ dance, how the band put a little something extra into their performance, and laughing at myself trying to navigate the muddy streets in my Birkenstocks.

And I smile, remembering.

A Slightly Wild Ride

 

brown and beige wooden barn surrounded with brown grasses under thunderclouds
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Monday (8/10/20) just felt weird energetically.

I took Oakley out to tend to morning business. As we sauntered around the back yard, the sun that spilled through the cracks in the clouds was intense, the breeze blew cold, and the air felt as if a wet towel had been draped over everything.

Well, storms, probably severe ones, had been in the forecast since Friday. Once Oakley freshened up his boundary markers, we went inside and turned on the TV to check the weather.

And I was greeted with special reports about overnight looting in downtown Chicago. All I could do was watch the footage of windows getting smashed and the shards of glass glittering in the early morning sun.

Finally, they went to  weather. This was not an ordinary storm; this was a derecho coming at us. A couple of years ago one trashed the Boundary Waters area in Minnesota. It’s a huge (in this case from well into Wisconsin to Peoria) storm complex with  thunderstorms, straight-line winds of 58 miles or more, and 240 mile wide swaths of damage. It wasn’t expected until after lunch time.

Even though Chicago proper is some 50 miles east and this wasn’t going to impact us directly, it combined with the storm to relieve me of the desire to leave my house. “Oakley, just tell me when you need to go out, but I don’t think we’re going to go anywhere today,” I told him.

Oakley didn’t mind since I gave him a liver cracker while I told him about the change in plans.

Now what? Plug in phone. Have candles and flashlights at the ready. Bring in the trash can and lawnmower. And wait. And keep the TV on but muted.

It finally arrived around 2:45. My phone went off with news of the tornado watch as the crawlers on the TV rattled off the counties under watches and warnings. Off in the distance the siren wailed a song of incoming danger. On the TV the weather guys posted a red rectangle stretching from Sugar Grove (about eight miles north of me) to one of the tiny towns on the Route 47 corridor about five miles south).

And then we lost power.

Not much to do. I grabbed a biskie for Oakley and joined him in his storm shelter between the coffee table and the love seat. A bit of thunder. A bit of lightning, but mostly wind driving the hail and the rain into the windows.

I don’t know how long it lasted, but it had tapered off by about five. Called the power company. Made my report and waited.

And waited.

Checked to make sure the sump pump pit hadn’t overflowed, hauled a ladder upstairs so I could pull a smoke alarm that sang its own death knell out of the ceiling in one of the bedrooms, and then sat and read.

And took Oakley out so he could touch up his boundary markers.

Thankfully, all the shingles were in place and the car parked outside was intact. Windows solid. Everything looked good.

Still no power and no signs of when it would be back. I lit several candles and read while Oakley sat next to me and napped.

I called the power company one more time, but the system had crashed. Turned out that about half a million people were in the same electric-less boat.

We went to bed a bit early. Not really anything else we could do. I took the battery operated lantern upstairs and read some more while the cricket songs floated in through the open windows accompanied by the rustle of the wind in the cornstalks.

The next morning sunlight filtered through the gaps in the curtains, gently waking me up. I went downstairs about 5:45. Just as I was putting water to boil on the stove, the electricity came back.

Again, I turned on the TV for weather. Seven confirmed tornados, including one in Chicago proper and one that damaged a church on the Wheaton College campus. A possible eighth one is being investigated about twelve miles to my west, suspicion raised by the downed utility lines and other damages.

Other than not being able to get to one of the forest preserves for a walk due to cleanup operations, it blossomed into a predictable Tuesday. Oakley went to daycare; I did some bits and pieces around the house. I picked Oakley up. He came home, inhaled dinner, and fell into a deep nap.

Cleanup at the little forest preserve continues today. The big forest preserve was open for business this morning, and we walked there to celebrate safe passage through the storm.

Somehow, we didn’t need to do anything else.

 

 

 

 

When Licking the Coffee Table Becomes a Viable Option….

animal bear bored close up
Photo by Magda Ehlers on Pexels.com

I can tell when Oakley is getting ready to do it. He stares at me to get my attention. Then, while keeping his eyes on me, he unfurls his tongue and leans over towards the coffee table.

“NO!” Part of the fun is watching me react.

He gets in a swipe while I create a diversion with a stuffed Kong or a puzzle. Once diverted, he settles down and attends to freeing the tidbits stashed in the puzzle’s compartments or slurping away at the Kong.

Usually, I sigh both to release my frustration and to express gratitude that he stopped chewing stuff up a long time ago. After all, what’s a couple of harnesses and a few chunks of drywall when he turned out this well?

I can’t say as I blame him. The stay-at-home routine is getting to me, too, but I’m not quite at the point where I wish to put my tongue in contact with the furniture instead of using a dust rag.  Especially with the weather as it is this morning. Something like four inches of  wet snow fell overnight, then turned to rain and fog. I never thought I’d be salting the steps in mid-April, but there you go.

So I channel my energy into laundry, into routine tidying, and reading. Oakley will do nose work (also known as “find-it,” based on training exercises for contraband sniffing dogs) and get a couple of extra treats for amusement purposes.

And with some luck, no one will lick the coffee table today.

The French Farmhouse Report for 1/22/20

Image courtesy of The Graphics Fairy

 Two consecutive weekends of storms with freezing rain as the headliner and a couple of days of pretty cold weather kind of took the stuffings out of me. At least last year’s polar vortex event featured clear skies and snow that a person and a dog could walk on without crampons.

Liberal use of a paw- and grass-friendly ice melter kept the back step cleared and a path open to a patch where Oakley could tend to those most personal forms of business. Otherwise, we stayed inside. Oakley played with his holiday puzzles and napped. I read, napped, and succumbed to the lure of the TV.

As I flipped around, I saw a teaser for a show featuring unusual Chicago area restaurants, such as one near the Northwestern University campus that specializes in grilled cheese sandwiches. They certainly had my undivided attention.

After some five minutes of ads, the show started. Interview with the chef/owner, shots of the funky/cozy/brick walled interior with hand-lettered chalk board menus. Tour complete, it was down to business in the kitchen. Texas toast slices (the ones at least double the thickness of a regular slice of bread, usually involved in making diner-style French toast) were brushed with what may or may not have been melted butter, topped with some sort of cheese, then passed through a broiler like the ones in chain burger joints for a preliminary browning and melting.

Then came a filling of delicacies such as French fries or macaroni and cheese before the two slices were assembled into a sandwich and given a final browning in a buttered frying pan.

Now, the Mystery She knows that I have consumed my fair share and someone else’s of carbs and fats, especially back in the day when I may or may not have ingested adult beverages and more so when my hormones dragged me to the store and demanded potato chips. But this was so totally over the top that it didn’t even look good. To me, anyway.

Maybe it’s because I’ve developed discernment as I’ve matured; maybe it’s because of the lessons learned during my trip to France and subsequent readings about their cultural attitudes towards food. In any event, I would take a pass on it, thank you. OK, maybe I would split it with someone, but it’s not something I’d order on my own.

This over the top type of grilled cheese wouldn’t fly in France, except as a novelty, maybe.  A diner would get a much smaller sandwich consisting of two conventionally-sized slices of bread with cheese or a cheese sauce and some ham, turkey, or chicken in the middle. That would be baked for about 15 minutes, then perhaps served with a fried egg on top. There would be a small side salad. (Fries are usually served with steak.)  And that would be it. Except for some fruit for dessert. And don’t forget a small cup of coffee or tea to conclude the meal.

My own hankerings for grilled cheese get satisfied here at home with two slices of whole wheat bread, an unprocessed cheese in the middle, and the twist courtesy of one of my friends: instead of buttering the outside, spread with mayonnaise and sprinkle Parmesan  cheese for a crunchy brown crust. I won’t say it’s life changing, but I will say it makes the next fifteen or so minutes pretty tolerable, indeed.

If I have an urge while I’m out, I stop at Belladonna, the local point of refuge for artists, Bohemians, and people who appreciate the art of really good food, coffee, and tea. One of the grilled cheese paninis with a cup of the homemade soup always elevates the day.

It’s just enough, and a little more (I usually take half home for dinner), and that’s just right for me.

 

 

The What Is This Garden That You Speak Of? Report for 5/30/19

 

variety of vegetables
Photo by Ella Olsson on Pexels.com

If all unfolds as it looks like it’s going to this evening and possibly tomorrow, May 2019 will be the rainiest one on record in these parts. The raised bed is a mud pit. As well as having to wait for it to dry out, I have to take out the top two inches of soil due to the rogue mesclun mix that took over and threatens to do so again this year. After that, I need to replace it with more soil and some fertilizer (organic, of course). And then I can plant.

I grow more than a bit impatient to do so. I know that I’m not the only one. Last night one of the local newscasts interviewed a farmer located about fifteen miles west of me. I think Oakley and I have driven past his fields on our adventures. The farmer said that he has as much as two feet of standing water in some places. If the crops can be planted by June 10, things will work out OK. Yield will be somewhat impacted, but  they will be all right. If not, well, that’s a problem.

I’m just grateful that we are not that dependent on my paltry gardening skills to put food on the table and that I don’t depend on the weather for my livelihood. Nevertheless, it’s starting to grate on the nerves. The daily soundtrack this month has included thunder and the patter of rain against the window as well as the rattle of hail. A couple of weeks ago the call of the tornado sirens livened things up. I wasn’t expecting that, at least not at 11:30 AM. No damage, but I don’t remember sirens going off that early in the day. Ever.

We didn’t have sirens on Memorial Day, but we did have a microburst on the north side of town. That’s a good five miles from me. Some trees parted company with the ground and one of the big box hardware stores lost a significant chunk of the roof, but everything was still standing.

So we wait. The seven-day forecast during the noon news indicated a drier stretch of about three days next week. Maybe then…maybe then….

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.

 

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.