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Hiccups

Remember our plan to build a cute little cottage?  Well, the building commissioner informed us that we are allowed only one residence and two outbuildings on our property.  So in order to build a little cottage, we must apply for a variance.  That involves seven copies of this and seven copies of that, and documents and notices sent by certified mail to each adjacent property owner, plus an application to the zoning board and a notice in the newspaper.  And if we’re approved, we must begin construction within just a couple of months, which means that we’d have to have the money saved before we even start the process.

In the meantime, we’ve got to get a septic line at our old house replaced so that the offer we’ve accepted can go through.  And at the new place, a water line must be run from the house to the shop so that the Ice Man has the water to make the ice.  Plus we probably need to get a reverse osmosis machine because the well water is so hard and rusty that it isn’t making clear carving blocks.

The pipe with which to extend the chimney just arrived, and we hope to get that in place soon so we can begin heating with wood more than with propane.

It also would be really good if we could figure out how to keep the rabbits’ water warm this winter so we don’t have to go out two or three times a day to switch out frozen water bottles.

Hiccups?  Nay, call them adventures!

Autumn Into Winter

To the east, the land is open, and we spent a summer and fall watching beautiful sunrises. Now the sun rises later, and I am either away at work or deep into weekend tasks when it peeks its face over the distant trees.

Now that the leaves are down, however, we can see some lovely sunsets , which before were hidden by the western woods.

sunsetThe weather has chilled, and frost glistens on the grass in the mornings. The frost also mocks me as it covers my car windshield, laughing that I can’t park under a roof these days. I bundle up and work quickly, trying to keep circulation going until I can get into the warm car and be on my way.

Flurries fill the sky these days, and I watch from inside the house, under a blanket. Indoors, the thermostat is kept low but the furnace is the only heat source because the fireplace still smokes until an extension can be added to the too-short chimney. Tea often accompanies me, and incense or candles burn to give the room the illusion of warmth.

Secrets fill the house these days. I spent a Saturday driving all over town to get Christmas gifts. In a new house, new hiding places must be found, and I hope Stephan does not stumble upon what I have hidden from him. I wonder where to put stockings and whether to get a tree now that the kitten is big enough to get into absolutely everything. And with her penchant for tearing paper, I wonder where even to put the gifts.

Busyness fills our lives these days. Stephan is in the most hectic part of the year for his work, and I juggle the household chores – mine plus the ones he’s too swamped to do – along with teaching and attempting to keep students at least a little motivated until winter break. The young rabbits are growing, and we plan for the butchering, all while hoping another doe will kindle in another week or so. Hunting season has begun, and although the deer population is small this year, I know my husband will go out in the spirit of Pa Ingalls to provide meat for his family. Meanwhile, I make lists of pies to make for Thanksgiving, lists of supplies to purchase for the creation of family Christmas gifts, and lists of tasks to be completed around the house.

It will be our first winter in the country, and we are looking forward to it.

We Think We Have Decided

The First Fall At Our New Place has been mostly consumed with Stephan moving his business from the warehouse he rented for the last six years to the pole barn next to our house. There was much to be done. Decking to be built, freezers to assemble, compressors to hook up, lighting to install, drywall to hang, and a lot of equipment and furniture to move. In the midst of all that, Stephan had the biggest job he’d ever been contracted to do.

Not much else has been getting done.

But the shop looks great!

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The carving area, with all the tools.

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The CNC machine.

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The freezer Stephan built.

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Right now, it’s messy, but under some of that stuff are the two Clinebell block makers.

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The office.

As I had mentioned, one of our rabbits gave birth (the little ones are happily hopping around the colony these days), and we welcomed some friends who visited from California in order to attend her college homecoming. Oh, and I’ve been mowing as often as I can in order to mulch the leaves that have been falling from our multitude of trees.

There have been other things going on that are invisible from the outside – things just happening our our heads. We’ve made a couple of decisions.

First, we determined the plan for the cottage we’ll build. This cottage is where we’ll live while our main house is being built. After that, it can be a place for visiting missionaries to stay, or for friends who want a little getaway. Eventually, it may house a pair of elderly parents.

We’d originally thought about a very tiny home of about 200 square feet. We had thought we’d use a shed plan and convert that into a house. Then, Stephan found some small house plans from Tumbleweed that were really cute, and we decided that 200 square feet might feel awfully cramped. We looked at a few, and finally decided on the Bodega.

Image from Tumbleweedhouses.com

(The name puzzles me. Isn’t a bodega a grocery store in Spanish? Anyway, we think it’s a cute house.)

Next, we had to determine where to build it. We had originally thought to put it back in the woods, but then we thought about the issues that the many trees would create. First, it would make the house darker because of all the shade. Also, when the trees age or when there is a storm, there would be the danger of trees or limbs falling on the cottage. Additionally, the added distance from the well might make running the water lines more difficult. Stephan thought of putting it between the pool and the basketball court. I didn’t think it would fit, but we measured it, and it would fit just about perfectly. I was concerned, though, about the close proximity to those two features. It didn’t seem very nice to me to be smack in between the two, especially since the pool fence would be right outside the eastern windows, blocking any view. (Stephan proposes removing or changing the fence so it is more aesthetically pleasing, but I’m wondering about legal and insurance issues with that.) I suggested putting the cottage to the west of the basketball court, nearer the woods. It would be far enough from most trees that the cottage would still get plenty of light, especially from the south, and far enough from the pool to give it a more spacious feeling. It would still be close to the well, close to the clothesline, and close to the main house.

The site for the cottage.

The site for the cottage.

So it may not look from the outside like much is happening, but much is happening, nonetheless.

Snippets, Volume 4

When I lived in town, I would go running and sometimes find nickles or dimes or pennies on the sidewalk and I would pick them up and take them home.

Now I live out in the country.  I went running this morning and found a big bag of butternut squash on the side of the road.  So I picked it up and brought it home.

Bear’s Happy Day

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A little over a month ago, Bear (our one male rabbit) had a happy day.

We’d been trying to breed our females one by one, but none of them were getting pregnant. We weren’t sure if it was that the females were not fertile, or if Bear was the problem.

Finally, Stephan decided just to let Bear have the run of the colony. One evening, he let Bear out to play amongst the females. He left the buck there until the next day.

And we waited a month.

We have baby bunnies! Nine were born, and two died. Another two aren’t looking so good, especially one little blond one whose ribs are far too obvious. We expect to be down to eight or seven in the next couple of days.

We know that Bear is still able to produce. But we aren’t sure who the mama is. Do we have two litters or one? They are all in the same nest box, even though we had two boxes available, so that might lead one to believe that it’s just one litter. However, rabbits pull their fur when they are ready to kindle, and there is both light fur and dark fur in the nest box, which might lead one to believe that there are two litters – one from a dark rabbit and one from a light rabbit.

I suspect Solo and maybe Snickers are the mothers, because when I have been in the barn, they seem the most interested in the babies. But I haven’t seen either of them actually in the nest box with the kits.

Now that we know our buck is still okay, we are discussing the possibilities for breeding if we keep our females in a colony set-up. One idea is to breed a different rabbit every two weeks. Based on due dates, it would be obvious who kindled and who didn’t. Another idea is to keep them in the colony when they haven’t been bred, but separate each doe shortly after breeding her. Not only are we having the issue of knowing parentage, but also we have found that the does are eating So. Much. Food. For the nursing mother(s), that’s okay. But I’m afraid the others are just taking advantage of the situation and just getting fat, while we foot the bill for grain.

One more problem with keeping the does in a colony is that they are not very easy to tell apart. We have two blond rabbits and two black rabbits. Solo is still a little smaller than Tiny, and Snickers is still a little smaller than Licorice, but they are looking more and more alike the more they eat and the fatter they grow. We have discussed tattooing their ears, but we have not yet invested in that equipment.

Once these babies are grown, I think I’d like to keep one male. We don’t have any idea how old Bear and Licorice are, so we don’t know how much longer they will be successful breeders. I’m satisfied with four females, but I do want to determine which ones are breeding well and which ones aren’t.

I also wonder about keeping better records. All the books you might read on rabbitry stress that proper record-keeping is critical. Since we aren’t breeding for show and we don’t have a large operation, it doesn’t seem quite so important. However, now that records are so much trickier with the colony, I think I may need to do a better job. Part of that may include keeping some of the females separate some of the time.

In the mean time, we’ll keep an eye on the kits and hope they all survive.

First Day of Fall Break

Fall Break began Friday afternoon, and I have a week away from my students’ faces. Today, though, I spend a couple of hours grading papers, planning lessons, entering grades, responding to students’ emails, and editing and uploading articles for the middle school newspaper.

Stephan is incredibly busy trying to get his business moved from the small warehouse he has been renting for six years to the pole barn on our property. It has taken more time and money than he anticipated. I’ve been wanting to help, but there is so much I don’t know how to do. I try to remind myself that I can help by making sure his laundry is done, by cooking dinner and cleaning up, by taking care of the dogs. I can help by making sure that he doesn’t have to worry about those things.

He always wants me to relax, though. “It’s your fall break,” he said. “You should take it easy.”

It’s hard for me to take it easy when he’s working so hard and feeling stressed out.

So I volunteer to make Monday Night Dinner. That doesn’t seem like much, but it is something.

I finish my schoolwork for the day, and I plan to go out on the porch to write. And then I remember that months ago, I planned to mend something that belongs in Stephan’s shop. I put down my notebook and my pen and I go to put an iron-on patch on the item.

And then I find out that the item is not safe for ironing, and I melt a big hole in the fabric.

Plan B quickly forms, and I patch the item by sewing a piece of cloth on the holes. Then I have to clean blue goo from my iron, then iron the rest of the clothes that have been waiting for a month to be ironed. Next, I assemble the item that I had repaired (for a few moments, I am sure the cover has shrunk in the wash, but I finally get it on the frame.)

I return to the house, realize that I might not have enough beans soaking for the bean soup, and so add more. Will mung beans taste okay in navy bean soup? I don’t think more navy beans would have time to soak enough to be soft for dinner, so mung beans it is. I really should have planned this out better. Just like I really should have tested the iron on a small part of that fabric instead of just plopping the whole hot metal appliance on top of the melty fabric.

Back to the barn to see if Stephan needs more help. I have only an hour to spare before I need to start cooking, but he gives me one small job to accomplish. I am on the verge of another, but then the ice delivery arrives, so I am dismissed back to the house. (I likely would be in the way of the four or five guys unloading three-hundred-pound blocks of ice.)

Toss the rest of the bag of mung beans into the bowl of soaking beans, and now I have no idea how much is actually in there and whether I will need to add more of everything else. Chop up the carrots and onions, and since I don’t have celery, dig in the cupboard for celery seed (will it taste the same? Who cares? With the mung beans added, it won’t be the same anyway), add the garlic. Unload the dishwasher.

I sit down for a few minutes and try to write. It’s not the best writing, for sure. I’m feeling nervous about the bean soup, even though I know our guests won’t complain even if it’s a weird soup. I’m noticing the temperature fall as the clouds cover the sky and my wind chime continually sings in the constant breeze. I’m wondering if the noise of it bothers my neighbors. I’m realizing I should probably take a shower before I get dinner started.

I turn and glance out the window to see the bright golden maple tree in the back yard, the leaves fluttering to the ground in the wind.

I think that perhaps I should have mowed today.

People come for dinner, and the soup is fine.  We talk, we clean up, and they leave.  I sit in the living room, listening to the sound of hammering and the whine of the circular saw from the barn.  The breeze blows through the house, ruffling the papers on the bulletin board and fluttering the leaves of the houseplants.

The first day of fall break is nearly over.

Snippets, Volume 3

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