The View

The View

Sunday, November 1, 2020

Not Your Halloween From Years Gone By

What strange times we live in.  How can a society of people get similar information handed out constantly and draw completely different conclusions?  Take this wearing of a mask situation.  I admit when the Covid 19 virus came to our attention no one knew if masks would protect us, but quickly scientists determined how important they are.  Yet huge numbers of people won't be told what to do even if it's in their own best interest.  Social distancing and mask wearing are proven to slow this virus down.  We had a downtown trick or treat event in our town.  We happened to be driving downtown at the time, and I saw most adults and some children were not wearing masks.  It wasn't as if they were distancing themselves from others either.  Just because you are friends or family doesn't mean you are safe from this virus.  All it takes is one person in a group who is infected and may not even know it.  People say not to live in fear.  You don't live in fear if you are careful and by careful I mean don't put yourself in any situation where you can get infected.  We have family members who have been exposed by working shoulder to shoulder with someone who tested positive.  Fortunately they tested negative because of masks and hand washing.  The infected person felt good enough to be out and about and had no idea they were carrying the virus.  We have cancelled Thanksgiving and probably Christmas this year because none of us know if we are asymptomatic. I would rather not spend a holiday with a loved one, than be responsible for their illness and then not be able to be in the hospital with them if they die.  Okay, I'll get off my soap box.  Some will agree and some will not.  Nothing I can say will change that.


Halloween was yesterday.  All the towns in our area had trick or treat.  Most people who participated distributed treats safely.  The kids seem to spread out safely as well.  Much better than the downtown fiasco I witnessed.  My daughter decided they would create their own little holiday fun.  The party was outside and included two sets of grandparents, my daughter, her husband and our grandson Ewan, who by now most of you are familiar with.  He makes an occasion out of anything.  

We arrived last and sat separated from everyone.  My daughter had spray painted 34 plastic Easter eggs with glow in the dark paint.  She hid them around the yard along with a Halloween basket.  It had to be dark before the eggs glowed and Ewan was allowed to find them, so we had desert first.  She had apple cake, apple crisp and hot apple cider.

 With his flashlight in hand,  Ewan started the hunt.  It took a while, but he managed to find every one. 

He needed a little hint for the basket.  The hint was "Mums the Word".  I thought the basket was near his "Muma" but it was hidden in the mum plant.  

 

Ewan opened the eggs which contained many varieties of candy.  Most were his favorite.  He did offer me the Almond Joy because I sensed that was on the bottom of his favorite's list.  In his basket were all the makings for hot chocolate bombs.  I had never heard of such a thing which isn't too surprising.  I'm old and live in a bubble right now.  I actually looked them up on Pinterest and surprisingly there were many postings for them.  Basically they are a hollow chocolate ball with hot chocolate powder inside.  I learned you can also put mini marshmallows or peppermint bits inside.  Whatever you like in your hot chocolate can be contained in this chocolate ball.  

This is how they were prepared.  First they took melting chocolate and melted it.  Then they spread the melted chocolate into a silicone mold which can be purchased at any craft store.  Next they let the chocolate harden.

After the chocolate is hardened and the shells removed from the mold, the shell edges were warmed on a warm pan and the hot chocolate mix is put inside one half.  When the warmed edges are put together, they stick together to make a chocolate ball.


 Now all that is left is to put the bomb into a mug, fill it with heated milk and stir a little.  Oh so good.


Cheers to better days ahead.

Tuesday, October 27, 2020

Don't Let Life Pass You By...Create a New Path

I broke my leg last summer.  I didn't think much of it at the time.  I figured I would be back on my feet in no time.  That wasn't exactly the case.  The leg has healed, but I still limp a little and it still feels stiff.  The break was near my ankle, and I think some damage was done there too.  Oh well, that is beyond my control.  One of the hardest parts of my recovery was not being outside as much as I wanted.  

I watched CBS Sunday morning recently and now I realize why I missed being outside.   I heard in one of the segments that this pandemic is causing people to become more impatient.  It said that impatience can cause health problems like higher blood pressure, higher heart rate, and higher cortisol levels.  It is probably true.  Being anxious and stressed all the time can't be healthy.  It went on to say the there is patience in nature and that fifteen minutes a day in nature can lower blood pressure and heart rate.   It can also boost your mood and improve the feeling of well being.  Even back in 1854 Henry David Thoreau wrote an essay called Walden or Life in the Woods.  He lived a simple life at Walden Pond in Massachusetts for two years, two months and two days in natural surroundings.  Apparently the Japanese have something called "forest bathing".  It doesn't mean taking a shower in the woods, but it just means going into the forest.  It means looking around for birds, noticing the fresh smells and slowing down. Forest bathing is nothing more than hiking in slow motion. 

This got me thinking.  Just because life as we know it has come to a screeching halt, we can still keep moving.  We just have to distance ourselves from other humans but not forest critters.  I saw on the news that all the state parks and trails are very crowded.  That somewhat defeats the purpose of social distancing but everyone is looking for healthy activities to make life more interesting.  I started riding the stationary bike, but I still needed to get outside.  We have a wooded area on our property which I realize most people don't have access to.  The problem is that it is very overgrown and getting worse and worse with the spread of the Buckthorn plant.  My husband suggested we have a trail cut through our woods.  He asked our son in law who has a skid loader to blaze a trail for us.  So one day last week, he came with his machine.

One thing about our son in law, he doesn't let any grass grow under his feet.  What takes us a month to get done, he can do in an hour or two.  His dad is much the same.  They are shakers and doers.  Shortly after Bret arrived, his dad Wayne showed up to work too.  Before my husband had breakfast eaten and his warm clothes put on,  they were well on their way.

It was awesome.  They worked their way through the woods closest to our house.  Wayne cleared a path through the over hanging branches and Bret cleared the ground.  We left it up to them to choose the route.  They ended up with a 1/4 mile trail.  Some areas were pretty thick with brush and undergrowth, but they managed.

Now it's our project to clean up the trail and smooth it out.  The day after the trail was cleared we had a huge rain event.  We got at least six inches of rain.  It packed down the trail which was good, but it also exposed some roots and toe kickers.  I have been walking the trail each day.  I go one direction and then turn around and come back.  It's a half mile walk round trip, and I get at least fifteen minutes of forest bathing.


I moved one of the trail cameras to this trail and found out that the deer are using it.  I even got a picture of us enjoying the hike.


This turned out to be a great idea.  I realize how fortunate we are to have this available to us.  Soon the trail will be covered with snow, but we can still use it.  If the snow gets too deep, we will just use snow shoes. We did discover a neighbor on the back side has a deer stand set up.  It looks like he is planning for hunting season.  I am not too happy about that, but there is nothing I can do about it.  I just hope the deer stick to our trail and stay out of the rifle range. 

I know it probably isn't feasible to stay here forever, but as long as we can keep up with basic chores and continue to enjoy the gifts we are given, we will stay.

Thursday, October 15, 2020

A Battle of Wits

There isn't much to blog about in these days of the Covid19 pandemic.  Our life is pretty simple.  We have a routine that is about the same everyday.  I'm not complaining, but it would be nice to see our family more often.  We have already cancelled Thanksgiving and Christmas.  I am sad about that, but it's for the good of everyone.  

Today I decided to put out my pumpkin bird feeder.  I cut the top off a pumpkin and a circle out of the bottom.  I placed it on my Baltimore Oriole jelly feeder and filled the pumpkin with sunflower seeds.  http://www.thecabincountess.com/2019/10/a-little-pumpkin-birdfeeder.html I haven't had any bird feeders out since discovering we had a bear in the neighborhood at the end of July.  We heard it was still around, but we haven't seen any signs.  http://www.thecabincountess.com/2020/07/an-unexpected-visitora-bear.html

The rest of our feeders will stay down until later.  We hired someone to cut trees and clear out some brush in areas that are overgrown.  They will need to get some equipment in and the feeders would be in the way.  When he finishes maybe the bear will be in hibernation and we can reinstall the feeders.

I no sooner hung the little pumpkin feeder outside and the chickadees were there before I stepped away.  They are tame and brave little birds.  

 Soon a white breasted Nuthatch appeared followed by cardinals, bluejays and woodpeckers .  


 
I watched for a while feeling good that the birds forgave me for not feeding them for quite some time.  I left for a while and when I returned, there was a squirrel sitting squarely on top of the pumpkin feeder filling its mouth as fast as he could.  I couldn't imagine how he got up there because this feeder is at least eight feet away from anything.  I opened the window and told him to get away from there.  The squirrel looked at me as if to say, oh darn and ran away.  I watched and within minutes, I saw him come back.  He jumped onto the bird bath and in one leap landed on the pumpkin feeder.  This time I went outside, chased him away again and took down the bird bath.  It had to be done anyway because it looks like tonight will be our first freeze of the season.  
 

 When I got back inside, I looked out.  The squirrel couldn't figure out what had happened.  Just moments before he could easily jump from the bird bath but now it was so far away.  He tried several times but always fell short.  Then he went to the bottom of the pole and looked up.  I see he isn't the first animal to try climbing that pole.  All the paint is scraped off.  In fact, the entire bird feeder is in a sad state of repair.  It needs paint and rebuilding for sure.


He actually tried that approach a few times but there were obstacles in the way.  


He tried from every angle.  He even went out on a limb and tried from a nearby pine tree but no such luck.


Everything is quiet now.  The birds are feasting, and the squirrel is thinking about his next move.  It's a battle of wits, but at this time I have the upper hand.  I have a hedge clipper that can take out any branches he might think are a possibility.  Unless he drops from the sky, I think my little pumpkin feeder is safe.

Wednesday, September 30, 2020

A Successful Garden In Spite of the Circumstances

My summer started out great in spite of the pandemic and the stay at home orders.  We are pretty much home bodies anyway, so staying home is more of a pleasure than a hardship.  Having a vegetable garden was something that never really interested me.  I have memories of my dad hoeing the weeds out of his garden every night after work.  I have memories of my Uncle Bill growing things like horseradish, ground cherries and parsnips.  My daughter has a huge garden so if I ever want something, they probably have it.  She starts her own plants in a mini greenhouse so they are already acclimated to our Wisconsin weather.  This spring she had so many plants, she offered me some cucumber and tomato plants.  I thought it might be fun to plant some so I prepared a small area in our perennial garden.  I planted three tomato plants and six cucumber plants.  I babied them and they took off growing like crazy.  Actually I had two extra tomato plants which I planted in another area.  I was excited with the healthy look of these plants so I added to the garden. I had two potatoes in the bin which had started to sprout.  I thought I would also plant potatoes.  I cut each potato in half and planted four hills.  I watered them and inspected the plants every day.  The potatoes grew well and had started to blossom but then I fell off the wall and broke my leg. 

 My husband, bless his heart, took care of all the household chores including cooking and laundry, but he isn't a gardener.  Once in a while, I would remind him to check the tomatoes and cucumbers, but he didn't remember to check daily.  In spite of that, we did get some nice looking produce.  I even managed to make a quart of fermented dill pickles with the smaller ones.  Most of the cucumbers, however, grew way too big to be of much good.

I would ask him about the potatoes but he kind of ignored them.  I suppose it's hard to tell about potatoes because they grow under ground. Since I couldn't put any weight on my right leg, I couldn't go out in the yard for many weeks.  That is what I missed most.  Part of my day is always going outside and walking around the yard.  I just love to open the door and breathe the outside air and walk around a little.  It takes away all the stress of the day.  Last week I was finally able to put on real shoes and put full weight on my leg.  The first time I walked the yard, this is what I found.  Weeds, weeds, and more weeds.

Fortunately when the potatoes started to come up,  I marked them with wooden stakes.  I found one of the stakes and pushed the weeds aside.  The potato plants had died back but I dug into the earth with my hands just to see.  There in the dirt I felt potatoes.  I went inside to get a container and went back to see if there were more.  I found two pounds just digging in the one hill.  There may be more but they seem to be well preserved underground so I left the rest for now.

It's too bad we are so close to a freeze here in our area of Wisconsin.  The growing season will be over very soon.  The plants look so good.  The tomato plants are full of blossoms and green tomatoes.  I know some people like to use green tomatoes, but I really don't know what to do with them.


I  even found a cucumber plant that climbed up a shepherds hook I have in the garden.  Hanging from the top is a cucumber.  It's a little malformed, but I am going to pick it to see how it is.

I think I will try this gardening thing again next year.  I hadn't realized how rewarding it was to have some success.  I especially loved digging the potatoes.  Today I am making a beef roast and putting some of these lovely potatoes in with some carrots.  I can't wait for dinner.  Tonight I won't have to say "what should we have for supper??".

Sunday, September 27, 2020

Ewan's Canoe Trip Adventure

For those who follow my blog or those who actually know me, know we have five grandchildren.  There are two 19 year olds, a 16 year old, a 12 year old and the youngest who is ten.  He is the one most of you know because he is still young enough to include us in his adventures whether it is through his YouTube videos (Old Time Skills) https://youtu.be/6-Yawjb5Irs or Facebook.  I have written about Ewan many times.  Since he was very young he has loved the outdoors.  Even on cold winter days he is outside doing something even if it's sitting in a tree reading a book.  He is in the process of building a log structure on his other grandpa's land.  I have not seen it, but I will post photos when I do.  This past summer he talked his dad into going on a backpacking trip.  They hiked for hours in some remote location and set up camp for the night.  They cooked over an open fire and slept in a small tent.  It sounds miserable to me, but he loved it.  In-person school has now started, at least for the time being.  Wisconsin, at this time, is having very high COVID numbers, so it will be interesting to see if in-person school continues. The kids desks are separated by at least six feet and they have to wear a mask all day.  The special class teachers like music, art and physical education come to them.  Then the last Friday of the month there is no school.  Rather than have a late start day once a week, the teachers use that Friday for planning.  Ewan has been planning for this day since school started.  He wanted to go on another backpacking trip but decided he would rather go on a canoe trip. 

First he wanted to make new canoe paddles with his dad.  They always take on projects that none of us would even consider.  Most of us would get out the computer and order some or go to a sporting goods store.  These pictures tell the story.  They used scrap wood and the final paddles are amazing.






 
With the canoe paddles completed, it was time to choose where to canoe.  Since we have access to the Fox River they decided to put in from our house in Princeton Wisconsin and paddle the 20 mile water route to Berlin, Wisconsin.  The heavy blue line on this map shows the route they wanted to attempt.

 
Our access to the marsh is so overgrown we can barely see the shoreline.  We usually manage to keep it cut, but we haven't for a couple years.  In fact, we hired someone to clean it up but he hasn't started yet.  The adventurers didn't consider my concerns a problem so Friday morning they showed up bright and early.  It was a beautiful day but slightly windy.  They pulled their truck into the driveway and walked the canoe across the yard like it was a feather.  I remember when my husband and I would take the canoe out.  It was a major production.  My son in law makes everything look easy. 



That was just the beginning.  Once he got the canoe to the top of the hill, they just pushed it through the brush and Ewan walked down the hill like he was walking down the sidewalk.  They had to wear their mosquito hats because the mosquitoes are terrible right now.  



The next thing I knew they were on their way.  Fortunately we have enough water in our marsh so it wasn't a problem getting out to the river.  The Fox River flows north so even though they were paddling with the current,  it was still a huge undertaking.  They took their cock-a-poo named Piper with them.  She settled in pretty well. 



As soon as they were well on their way, we got into our truck and drove to the bridge in Princeton to watch for them.  We barely got there and we saw them coming around the bend.  They were traveling faster than we thought.  Luckily I was given the okay to wear real shoes and put full weight on my leg the day before.  My leg is still stiff and pretty weak so I barely made it to the first photo opportunity.



The next boat landing we were aware of was about 3 miles out of town.  We went directly to that spot and waited for a bit.  With the wind at their backs and a strong current they made good time.  Before we knew it, there they were.  We have made that trip, and it took us much longer.  It was so much fun to see that they were still smiling.  Ewan was taking pictures and Piper was enjoying the ride.  


When they were almost out of sight, we headed home.  The next boat landing was about 7 miles out of town, and we thought we would have time to grab some breakfast/lunch.  I ate fast and Mike took his brunch with him. When we got there, I went over to a small walking bridge to watch.  There was a fisherman there, and I told him what we were doing.  He said "you aren't going to see them from here".  I guess the river veers to the left before it gets to the bridge.  He told us where to go so we wouldn't miss them.  He gave me a little history lesson about the river and what kind of fish he was fishing for.  When I first approached him, he looked at me like who is this crazy gray haired lady limping over with a camera around her neck.  Fortunately he was friendly and helpful.

After I while I saw them in the distance.  At this point it was two hours since they left our house.  It was almost lunch time so they pulled into the landing to eat.  They ate their lunch and stretched their legs.  Ewan looked a little tired when he was eating but he assured me he was fine.  Piper wasn't so sure she wanted to continue on with them so we took her with us.  




At this point they were only 1/3 finished with their trip.  The fisherman said that there weren't anymore boat landings until they were almost to Berlin.  I liked being able to check on them, but Bret our son in law told us he would send a ping from his phone once in a while so we could see where they were. We went back home.  Every now and then we got a ping with their location.  I calculated the time they should arrive at Riverside Park in Berlin, Wisconsin.  It takes us about 30 minutes to get there by car so at 3:45pm we headed out with Piper.  When we pulled into the park, this is what we saw.  They had just finished.  Our daughter had arrived a few minutes before us.  It had taken them approximately 6 hours and 15 minutes to paddle 20 miles.  They were tired, but I would have been dead.  Ewan had a blister but otherwise it was a great accomplishment and something he will remember the rest of his life.  He probably learned more than he would have being in school that day.  They talked about the birds and animals, and saw the route Father Marquette and Louis Joliet traveled along the river, although the view was probably much different in the 1600"s.  Bret explained the Indian tribes Marquette would have encountered.  They also talked about the terrain and how the river was dredged to accommodate large river boats and how that changed the landscape.  Ewan is just like his mother and asks really good questions so I imagine there was a lot of chatter along the way. 

 Being cooped up and not being able to get out much over the last few months, we also enjoyed the day.  What a great adventure!