I sat down last weekend and made my Christmas lists. Christmas shopping. Christmas goals. Taking some inspiration from a blogger I follow–Karen at The Art of Doing Stuff–I decided that this year, I want to have my holiday obligations (the shopping, the wrapping, the decorating, etc) out of the way by the end of November, leaving December wide open for less-stress celebrations and evenings enjoying the season in front of a nice fire.
This year, I will be organized and intentional, and I WILL NOT be wrapping the last of my gifts on Christmas day before we load the car…again. I refuse.
Maybe it was the early first snow that kicked my butt into gear. Maybe it was Karen’s email about her Christmas pledge. Maybe it was the fact that my furnace chose the evening of our first snow to take a shit, reminding me very clearly and viscerally of what cold and winter feel like.
I just found hay in my hair, a memento from the time I spent in the horse field this afternoon lying on my back in what remained of a round bale. It’s sixty degrees. Just a few days ago, there was snow on the ground. Spring is like that here.
December 27th, and it’s gray. The Midwest has a way of graying out during the month of November and staying gray until February. Days like today, it looks mostly the same outside at 8:00 am that it does at 4:00 in the afternoon.
I’ve been feeling as gray as today’s sky. I think we all have times like this, times when each day is just a push from morning to night, an effort to get from the start of your day to the finish in one piece. If I’m being completely honest, 2015 has been one of the most difficult years on record for me. I’ve felt in chaos more than I’ve felt safe, and more days have proved a struggle than I care to admit. It’s easy to get lost in that, forget that everything with a beginning eventually has an end.
Our first night back at the ranch, neither Jeremiah nor I got very much sleep. The house noises were all wrong; the room was chilly; our house critters were (and still are) staying with my dad at our old place. I woke up nearly hourly, and I felt no desire to climb out of bed in the morning, but I did. That first full day, Jeremiah and I moved through the house and barn and pastures like turtles stuck in molasses in December.
The second night at the ranch I felt terribly exhausted but still couldn’t sleep. I laid in bed next to my husband trying to will myself to feel at ease. I tossed and turned, hoping that some bodily position would magically fix my nerves. Jeremiah, kept awake by my constant motion, eventually spoke.
“Something wrong honey?”
Words exploded rapid fire. “The house noises are all wrong, and I’m so tired, and I can’t sleep. My brain won’t shut off.”
“Me either. This just isn’t home yet.”
And that was it. The floodgates opened, and I started to sob. Through those deep breathes in between, I responded.
“It’s not home! I miss home.”
Desperately homesick in my own bed, I cried myself to sleep, Jeremiah cuddled next to me, rubbing my back and telling me that he wished he could make it ok.
I felt somewhat better the next morning. (It’s amazing how well tears work to dissolve nervous and negative energy.) The house didn’t magically feel like home, but somehow that’s easier to deal with when the sun is up. And it wasn’t that I regretted our decision to move here, not for a second, but I felt like we built home in that little, drafty, near 100 year old house in the Heights. And this big old farm house was starting over from scratch with just as many new projects to start as we had completed.
My mother-in-law came over that morning, and she helped me clean my new kitchen. (We were still cleaning up after a one-time significant mouse population…) And I’m pretty sure that Jeremiah told her everything about how his silly wife cried herself to sleep, which is fine. She stayed for hours, helping me clean and looking at me like she wanted to hug me. And when we were done the kitchen was clean, meaning one small corner of my world was settled, and my outlook was better.
It took a week or so to settle in. When we first moved in, the stove was unconnected. Most of our dishes were still packed. Also, the outlet in our bathroom was wallpapered; it literally took me a week to see it, and before then I dried my hair on the bedroom floor. (All the while I wondered why on earth one would fail to put an outlet in a bathroom. It made no sense whatsoever.) As time went by and little things came together, this place started to make some sense to me.
Of course, it helps that I have always viewed this ranch as a sort of second home. Even when the house felt so very foreign, the barns and the fields felt familiar and right.
Yesterday, I ran errands like mad, including a stop at the Heights house. I heard myself, in my head, referring to the place as “Dad’s” and the ranch as “home.” That was weird for me, but I guess I will consider it a step in the right direction, because every day, this place feels a little more like home. It feels a little more right.
Today I made scalloped corn for Thanksgiving Dinner at my in-laws’ place. It’s my grandmother’s recipe, as much a part of our holiday traditions as the Macy’s parade or pumpkin pie…maybe even more so. I opened the oven to check the progress of the dish.
Scientists says that smell gives us our closest tie to memory of all the senses. I believe them. In that moment, I felt like I was back at grandma’s as a little girl, trudging through their cold porch on the way into the kitchen; scalloped corn was usually the first dish you could smell. And, in that moment, it didn’t matter that I was in a new home in a new town, because there was scalloped corn in the oven, and it was Thanksgiving, and it felt good and familiar and homey.
This year, I am thankful for change, no matter how drastic or scary or huge, because, as they say, change is the only way you grow.
It’s been an eventful week at the ranch. Despite not living there, we’ve been busy!
For example, I pulled in yesterday morning and found this. He started with power washing and proceeded to paint by the end of the day.
Not sure if you can really tell, but by evening most of the front of the house was done.
Fall has officially made it’s way to Central Illinois. The weather yesterday was perfect: sunny, no hotter than 70 with a beautiful breeze. We’re doubling down on outdoor efforts. Lady Fall is enticing and beautiful, but she’s followed quickly by Old Man Winter, and, according to the Farmer’s Almanac, he’s going to be a doozy. It won’t be terribly long before we get weathered out of the outdoor work, and neither of us want a half painted house all winter.
We also bought the most perfect dining room table last week. Jeremiah and I found it in an antique store a few towns away. (In addition to all of his other wonderful qualities, Jeremiah actually enjoys going to antique stores on occasion. I’m a very lucky girl…) It’s a farmhouse table, new construction, but made out of 100+ year old barn wood. I’m a little bit smitten with it.
One of our friendly neighborhood hummers got caught in our mudroom while it was opened up to dry. Jeremiah eventually got it to go outside. The little bird was not overly grateful. (If you’re not familiar with hummers, they are very cheeky little things. We love them anyway.)
This one may gross some of you out, but I think it’s funny.
The chickens have been thoroughly enjoying their free range time, and a few of them discovered the manure pit. I know the phrase is usually “happier than a pig in poop,” but as I understand it, pigs actually prefer to be clean. The chickens, however? They think it’s pretty great.
Also, see below for the inherent hazard of letting your chickens free range:
They are pretty darn thrilled with their discovery of the hay stall. It has excellent dust for dust baths, AND there’s a nifty, secluded corner to build a nest. Now I have to check for eggs there every time I let them out. But c’mon, how cute is the little nest with the colored eggs?
And finally, we took out Vinny’s stiches yesterday. I expected a total freak out, as Jeremiah wanted to try it without sedation first, but we were pleasantly surprised when Vin stood like a champ. He’s come so far since he came home with us! This horse used to run away like a maniac anytime we came in the pasture, and now, this.
He stood and chomped down grain the whole time. God love him.
All done! He’ll probably always have a scar, but this one ended up way better than it might have. It healed up very well. Thank God for great vets and good horses.
Over the next few days, we’re hoping to move back in. (We’re both losing patience with the constant driving back and forth.) The house is vented with airmovers exchanging air in the basement 10 times per house. The vents were cleaned earlier this week… Hopefully, that will be enough to make the place livable again. Fingers crossed. If not, the movers are hopefully coming at the end of the month to clear out the basement, and then we will be free and clear to get the mothballs and the mold professionally mitigated.
When you have as many critters as I do, there is no need for an alarm clock. They will usually wake you at around the same time everyday, regardless of what time you went to bed.
Meet my alarm clocks.
As much as I, or my husband, or the dogs, would like to believe otherwise, these three rule the roost. Every morning, usually between 6:30 and 7:30, these three begin singing the songs of their people outside the bedroom door, reminding us that an unacceptable number of hours have passed since their food bowls have been refilled. Continue reading “Feline Alarm Clocks – Introducing Dobby.”→