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Miss Mayor

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A Bernadette Smart Adventure



In March, the sunshine kisses the frozen ground and begins to soften the ice into mud.  The days lengthen, the time shifts, and the sun sets later.  Bernadette Smart, Mayor of Animal Town, pulls on her jacket and ties back her hair.  It’s time for canvassing her constituents.

She swings her leg over her bicycle and pedals hard to the south.  Her first visit is to the wild ducks and geese who live on the river.  Some of her council members feel that the wild animals aren’t worth her time.  They never vote anyway, so why bother with them?  But Bernadette has a heart for those citizens of her town.  And how better to make them responsible, voting citizens than to show them that their Mayor cares for them?  At the park, she dismounts her bike and stands it responsibly against a tree.  Her shoes become muddy as she treads carefully down to the bank.  She reaches into her pockets and pulls out bread scraps.  Her friends hear her and come running – er, waddling – to see her. They tell her the news (the nests being built, the migraters coming back) and their complaints (erosion on the bank just past the subdivision, the old tires in the river.)  She nods and commiserates, promising to look into the issues.

Her next stop is at the Field of the Seven Horses.  They come trotting toward her, and she carefully distributes one sugar cube to each animal.  Callie – a tan mare with bleach blonde hair, as if she’s a native Californian – nuzzles her and requests a nose rub.  These are carefree horses with few complaints.  They’re well fed and not worked hard.  In fact, Callie would like to have more to do, and Mayor Smart promises to look into a riding program she can get the mare involved in.  Old Blackburn, a wizened black gelding with gray around his muzzle, grumbles that he’s heard the horses are going to have to share their pasture with goats soon.  Goats! he snorts.  Bernadette tries to convince him that the company would be good for him, but Blackburn will not listen.  She pats his flank, assuring him that he’s complained about that rumor for the last two years and nothing has come of it.  He snorts again and saunters in the other direction.  With one more nose rub for Callie, Bernadette takes her leave.

Just a little bit north and around a bend is a small goat farm, and Bernadette loves visiting, even though she’d never tell Blackburn.  The goats, though impossible to talk to, run around, climbing onto concrete blocks, bounding in and out of old tires, and balancing on seesaws.  They are fun-loving and mischievous.  She’s had to speak sternly to them more than once about property lines and staying inside their boundaries.  They’ve been doing better lately, and no one has called to complain in the last month or two, so she leaves off scolding them today.  After watching them for a while and acknowledging their friendly baas, she moves on.

Her last visit for the day is with the barn cats just across the street from her home.  There’s a new litter of kittens, and the Mayor checks in to be sure Minnie, the young mother, has everything she needs.  She reminds Minnie to keep her children out of trouble – there have been fights among neighborhood cats, and that’s no good for Animal Town.  Keeping the peace is an important part of Mayor Smart’s job.

Finally, Bernadette returns home, parks her bike in the shed, and goes inside to make notes about her visits.  She is confident it will be a productive spring in Animal Town.


A Season of Waiting


A February sunrise at our place.

It isn’t quite spring, but perhaps the coldest weather is over.  Still, it’s too early to plant herbs or tomatoes or peppers or squashes.  It’s too early to plant berry bushes or fruit trees.  The seed catalogs have come in the mail, and they tempt me with their colors and their promises of fresh, juicy flavors.  The trees are still bare and the grass is still brown, but the birds have started chirping more, knowing that the days are getting longer, and there is just a little time before spring breaks out.

The busiest season of ice carving is coming to an end.  After two months of extensive travel, late nights of barely sleeping, and carving so much his hands swell, Husband sees the light at the end of the tunnel.  It’s nice to have the income.  But it will be nice for him to be able to relax, as well.  And after some rest, the work on the house will resume – the milling, the shaping, the fitting together of beams.  But this week, there will be the catching up on sleep, the organization of paperwork that was neglected during the crazy months, and the preparation for a different kind of work.

One of the busiest seasons of teaching is ahead.  We’ll do state testing this week, and then we’ll have just one more week until spring break.  Then March, April, and May will be filled with students’ research projects, field trips, another round of testing, choosing materials for next year, and all the other craziness that accompanies the end of school. I try to work ahead and get things ready, knowing that no matter what I do, I’m never truly prepared when the cyclone hits.  For now, for just a little longer, I enjoy the calm before the storm.

For now, we wait.

The best day for it

If I had to get locked out of the house in February, this was the right day for it to happen. The sunshine makes the unseasonably warm 58 degrees feel just perfect. The birds are chirping happily, and just beyond the pasture where seven horses graze, the corn stubble simmers in the afternoon light. A perfectly blue sky is a canopy above me.

I admit, I am awfully hungry, and my back aches a bit from sitting in this wooden lawn swing for the last two hours. But all things considered, being locked out of the house hasn’t been nearly as bad as it could have been.

Still, we should have another key made so we can hide it outside.


May Update

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When I go for runs, last year’s corn fields are a patchwork of color. This one is brown with remnants of old corn stalks. That one is freshly plowed with green spears of new corn popping up. And the next is covered with yellow flowers – mustard flower or goldenrod or something.

My back yard is green, green, green. The grass melts into the woods behind, and the interstate is finally obscured by foliage. Birds nesting in a hole in the side of the house chatter and chirp and screech at each other as they fly in and out. In the distance, goats bleat, and next door, the horses whinny and snort and gallop. Giant carpenter bees deafen me with their buzzing, and frogs in the dilapidated pool warble and croak, drowning out other night noises.

Though I haven’t checked on them lately, Husband tells me the chickens are getting big and feathering out, and the bunnies are turning into eating machines. Need to get the chicken coop and the rabbit run built.

I’ve seen flowers blooming that I didn’t know we had; daffodils earlier this spring, plus a few tulips. I discovered a peony bush, and I planted some resurrection lilies and some irises around the bird feeders I set up, as well as some echinacea and butterfly weed. Sunflowers will soon make a border along the road in front of our house.

The gardens have been tilled and planting has begun. Potatoes and corn are in. Hills have been hoed for the pumpkins and squashes. One of these days I’ll help Husband to do more planting. It’s hard sometimes after nine hours at school; I want to collapse on the couch and have someone else make me dinner, but the grass is ankle-high so I need to mow, and Husband has been working hard all day, too. Frozen pizza dinners are anything but rare around here.

My summer job list is long, and mostly involves cleaning up things that never got properly done when we moved in last summer. Certain things just got piled as we worked on getting other spaces ready. Husband’s shop is nearing completion, so now it’s time to tidy all the stuff that looks like junk. (And the stuff that actually is junk needs to be hauled away.) Need to pull out landscape timbers and river rock that was meant to border flower gardens but instead just prevents a proper mowing job and gives weeds a place to flourish.

Monday Night Dinners, our weekly tradition for the last eight or ten years, may be a thing of the past, and we look to new ways to show hospitality in a more remote area that seems to discourage regular visitors but may welcome occasional masses of guests for big get-togethers. A friend suggested a quarterly party, and we ponder what that might look like. For summer, it will be basketball and volleyball once we get the equipment ready. Camp-outs are a possibility, especially now that the outhouse is ready for use. We shall see.

I sit on the back porch regularly, enjoying the view and the sounds. Loving this property. Thanking God for what he has given us.


The inspiration of spring

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The grass has turned green and the leaves are coming out on the trees.  Husband thinks the trees will be all leafed out in a week, but I think it will be two.  Anyway, it definitely looks like spring,  and it feels like it too, with warm temperatures, sunshine on some days and rainshowers or thunderstorms on others.  Forsythia bushes are turning yellow and pink magnolia trees are blooming.  Daffodils have been out for a while, and yesterday I saw some little white flowers in the back yard near the woods.  The grass is getting so long that mowing would be a good idea if I didn’t believe that The Beast would certainly get stuck in the very wet earth.

I decided I have two major home goals for this spring and summer.  First is to clean up the yard of all the junk lying around so that the place looks nicer.  When we moved, there was so much to do that a lot of things just got piled (or sometimes tossed) behind the barn or next to the fence, and that it where it has stayed for almost a year.  I want to take care of that this spring.  The second goal is to purge our belongings from the house and get rid of all the stuff we don’t really need or use.  Clothes, books, movies, kitchen supplies — nothing is safe!  If we plan to move into a tiny house, even if it’s just for a few months, then we need to get rid of some stuff.  Already I have combed through the bookshelves and piled onto the bed a lot of books that I don’t want or need.  I’ve been sorting through clothes for a while, making a pile of items I haven’t worn in at least a year or that I know I’m unlikely to wear again.  The cookbooks are next on the list.  (We own dozens and use a small fraction of them, especially now that recipes can so easily be found online.)

Spring always brings the feeling of newness and the desire to clean and make everything seem as fresh inside as it is outside.  I am inspired!


On Second Thought…

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We had made some decisions, and then we began to rethink them.

First, we had just about decided to get rid of the rabbits.  When the husband is gone and I’m still working full time, it’s hard for me to take care of them, especially when their water freezes several times a day.

But then, the husband found something unexpected when he went to check on them one day in March.


Husband had bred a couple of the rabbits, but we didn’t think either of them got pregnant.  We saw no signs of either rabbit preparing a nest box.  And we looked during the time when we expected babies, and saw no babies.

But then, suddenly, there were cute baby bunnies!  And how can you resist those little fuzzballs?


So we’ll keep them for a while, at least until next winter.

Another thing we’d thought we’d decided was to build a log home when we’re ready to build.  We went to a Log and Timber Home Show in March.


We were inundated with information, but we did decide that we like the look of a timber frame home better than a log home, plus Husband thinks he could mill some of the timber himself.  We have a number of trees in our woods that need to come down, and Husband has a WoodMizer now.  And it would be pretty cool to have a house made partially from wood from our own property.

As if our heads weren’t full enough of house plans and ideas, we also went to a Tiny House workshop sponsored by Tumbleweed Tiny Homes.

SONY DSCWe had thought first that we would build a true Tiny House (around 200 – 250 square feet, on a trailer like a custom RV), but then we thought maybe we’d just build a small cabin of 350 – 400 square feet.  Then we realized that in order to do that, due to local building codes, we’d have to apply for a variance because we are permitted to have only one residence on the property.  (And we plan to keep the small house even after we build the bigger house.)  After we went to the Tiny House workshop, Husband determined that it made more sense to build the custom RV on a trailer than attempt to jump through all the hoops to apply for a variance.  And I realized that building a Tiny House actually doesn’t seem that hard, and we can totally do it ourselves.  That was exciting.

We have much ahead of us.  But it will be an exciting journey!


Signs of Spring

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Happy Spring!