Cleaning out the Stove

A wood burning stove is not all fun and games. (though, its probably like 95% fun and games!) From time to time one must scoop out all the ashes and dispose of them without getting them all over your carpet, or yourself, or your curious puppy. I have mostly mastered this skill because it needs to be done fairly frequently, and with repetition comes mastery.

However, only once have I tried emptying out the back of the stove. It s
houldn't get quite as dirty quite as often, so I don't worry about it too much. But recently, I decided it was time to give it a good cleaning.

Here is what it looked liked closed. Very normal and innocent looking.

Then I opened it...

I found some ash...

some soot....

some plain old grime....


A dead bird!

Its kind of hard to see - but its body is that lump just above the brown leaf. Its head is not the furthest from the camera, wings to the right and left.

Needless to say, it was gross. And I realized I had a decision to make. I could leave the bird in the stove, not make a fire (now that I knew it was there, smoking it further was just a gross idea) and wait to let Mon Amour take care of it. OR I could take it out myself, and start the fire like I planned.

I decided on the latter, reasoning that it couldn't be much worse then the dozens of mice I have removed from traps in the past 6 months.

Well, it was. I had great intentions of taking its picture outside of the further document the gross-ness. However, as soon as I poked with with my stove-shovel, my nose informed me that this would need to be a speedy operation. (Marge's nose, on the other hand, thought it smelled like it was imperative that I move even more quickly) Quickly into the double layered plastic bag it went - and just like that it was tied tightly shut and on its way to the dumpster.

Once I managed to clear my mind of gross thoughts, I discovered that I was quite pleased with myself. Smoked bird removal is much more impressive then dead mouse removal, and I can do both. (Though I will confess I would prefer refrain from doing either for a very very long time...if only our chimney had a cover to keep the birds from coming in....or the fields some corn in it to tempt the mice out of the house. Oh well.)

Marshmallow Toasting

My second favorite part of my wood stove (second to the fact that it heats the house) is the fact that you can, in fact, roast marshmallows in it. It is a fairly simple process:

First, build a fire. Let it die down some so that it is mostly really really hot coals...not flames.

Then add a marshmallow.

And toast to perfection.

So much fun.

The Birds II: The Sequel

Actually, its more like a mini series than just a sequel at this point. Cause these bird, all multi-thousands of them, have made an appearance at my house just about every day this week. Which is nice, cause it has allowed me to get some more photos and videos. Sadly I have yet to capture something truly impressive....I think my camera needs more zoom or something....but you can get a small sense of the awesomeness of this spectacle the these new scenes.

First, some photos.

Then some video:

Don't forget to turn on/up the sound for this next one. It is an essential part of the video.

Oh, and you have to watch all the way through. It gets even more exciting at the end. Really, it does.

Yeah...I fear its' still not communicating the full extent of the awesomeness.
But my sister can attest to the awesomeness now. She hung out with me on Wednesday, and got to see it first hand! So, if you don't think this is cool, ask my sister. She will tell you of its coolness.

My Cold-Blooded Puppy

I would be the first to admit that we keep our house cold.
Before we got the stove up and run
ning I would work from home all day long, wrapped up in sweaters, blankets and warm socks; and I would still end up with stiff, cold fingers at the end of the day.

However, now that we have our stove in good working order, it is hardly uncomfortable. In fact it can sometimes be quite cozy. Right now the galileo thermometer (which is the most accurate gauge we have) reads 80+ degrees. (it might lie...but even 10 degrees of lying in this case still indicates the room is quite comfortable)

Yet, somehow, the dog is not warm enough.
So she lays here:

....actually...that was just the beginning ...
Now she prefers to nap here:

It is toooo cute.
However, she loses track of time quite easily, and while a little heat is good, I am pretty sure that she is baking her brain. She's going to fry it to a crisp!
I made her move after she had been under there for a while...and as soon as she got up she started panting like crazy....she was incredibly thirsty!
I thought that dogs had some kind of sense of homeo-stasis. But apperently not ours. If we let her, she would be medium-well at this point.

A great way to start a Saturday...

This morning I got up (slept in till 7:45am - yay!) and stepped outside (taking the doggy out for her morning ritual) and was delighted to find on my door step this:

A cart full of wood that we can burn! Yay!

The best part is that on the way out the door, I thought to myself "Hmm...I think we are completely out of wood. (having burned the last piece just the day before) I guess we won't have a fire today. All our small farm house...without being able to utilize its coolest feature. Lame."

But, happily, I was wrong. The fire has been blazing all day long. Thanks to the wonderful timing of the random gifts of wood from our landlord/lady (the timing, of course, having been orchestrated by God, who cares for even the "birds of the air" (Matthew 6:26) who taught us to pray for our "daily bread" (Matthew 6:11) who said not to "worry about tomorrow" (Matthew 6:34) and who delights to give "good gifts" to his children (Matthew 7:11) )

It was a great way to start the day.

The Birds

First of all. "The Birds" is a ridiculous movie. I saw it for the first time this summer (having previously been banned from seeing it cause it was just that scary. It was creepy at some points, disgusting at others. But when it ended....I was, sorry, that was lame.

However, on a couple occasions since moving to the farm I have had my own "The Birds" moments (without the being attacked bit). Usually it involves a very large flock of small black birds. They have a very high pitched chirp, and when their are thousands of them, it is really obnoxious. It drives Marge crazy!

Yesterday, however, "The Birds" were geese. White geese. Comfortably well over 1,000 of them. It was incredible! They are very skiddish, so its hard to get close and get a good picture. But here is the best I could do: (they are the white clump)

....perhaps this video will do the amazingness more justice.
Disclaimers - Its long, and I was on the phone so you will hear my voice at the begining...which I hate, and would remove except later you can actually hear the birds to, and I did not manage to hold the cmaera forgive me if you experience any nausea. Despite all this I still think its pretty cool!

We Can Paint!

In recent weeks Mon Amour and I have decided that we are perfectly ok with (well, more like, mostly ok with) renting a home, rather than buying, for a significant portion of the future. This is a drastic shift for us. Pretty much since we got married we have been talking about buying a house - when could we afford it, where would it be, etc, etc. But, for countless reasons, buying a house right now does not make sense for us. So here we are. In our small farm house. Which will probably be home for a while.

Which means....

It's time to PAINT!

We got permission from our landlady today to paint the house how ever we want! So, off to Home Depot we went. We picked up paint chips, color guides, and mentally priced out some paint. We came home - and armed with paint chips, scissors, tape, and a none-to-skilled designers eye, we began to create a vision. So far, this is what the house looks like:

Kitchen (it really is green...the lighting is bad)

Spare Bedroom

Living Room

Main bedroom
(note the sweet sunset just barely visible out the window. Yeah - farm sunsets are awesome)

Hehe. Don't knock the color choices yet. Nothing is final. Due to the rapidly approaching holidays as well as some unexpected and expensive car repair - both time and money are short this month. But come January - the painting will begin!

The question is, where to start.
  1. Bathroom? (the smallest, but also the one with the most cracks in the walls)
  2. Kitchen? (the first room you see in the house)
  3. Living Room? (the "show room", yet...the one with the most boring color plan)
  4. Bedrooms? (need to get rid of that wood paneling...but no clue what color to paint them)


Today was filled with wildlife. Lots of wildlife.
(Disclaimer: This is a long post. And there are no pictures. For that I apologize. Nonetheless, I hope it is at least mildly enjoyable)

This morning Marge and I went for a walk. Around the cow pasture we went. I believe a diagram would help this story:

The brown box is my house. The green stuff is the cow pastures. The grey is my driveway. Everything else is empty corn fields. The picture is NOT to scale.

So there we were, Marge and I (represented, respectively, by the rabbit and the smiley face). Walking around the pasture, on our customary morning walk. We got some ways away from the house, when, off in a not-too-distant corn field, I see something that looks like a dog, just hanging out. I of course assume that it is a dog belonging to one of the hunters who are currently on the premises. It did seem odd that the dog would be so far from the hunters, which were no where to be seen.

Then is got up - and it was not a dog, at least not in the strictest sense of the word. It was, in fact, a fox. (represented in our diagram by the small tiger picture). This is actually the second time Marge and I have run into a fox on our walk. Had I been by myself, I do not think I would have fretted; I am confident in my ability to make myself sufficiently scary to ward off a fox. However, I do not know how foxes feel about small dogs and whether or not Marge would feel the need to meet the fox, or vice versa. So, just as we did last time - Marge and I turned around to walk quickly back to the house.

That is when the tiger...I mean, the fox...began to run. In our direction! (sort of...see diagram)

We froze. Much to my great good fortune, Marge is a lousy hunter, she was busy sniffing for worms the whole time, completely oblivious to the fox. And so once I concluded that the fox was not actually running towards, but more likely, running oblivious to us, I was able to enjoy the moment. The fox was beautiful. It was one of those moments where I wish I had remembered my camera...but at the same time he was moving too fast to get any kind of picture of him. You never really think of foxes as being elegant and graceful - but they are. I watched him run across the whole pasture and out the other side. Twas gorgeous.

My second wildlife encounter was less fun. I was building a fire in my woodstove to warm the house before settling in to a long day of work. I grabbed a piece of wood from the tub - and instantly dropped it. A spider. At least 3 inches across. And of the variety that nightmares are made out of ( there any other kind??). I freaked out.

Then collected my thoughts, decided to look again. Maybe it was dead. I poked the tub with my foot. EEK.
No. not dead. very alive. I freaked out again.

Those of you who know me that I don't often "freak out". I get frightened, but freaking out is not typically in my nature. This time, however, i must confess. I freaked out - ran to the opposite end of my house (which, to my credit, is not huge - I did not run a very long ways). While contemplating what to do, and envisioning the spider slowly creeping towards me (which it actually wasn't) and seriously freaking out about the fact that the spider was between me and the only door to safety (i.e. the outdoors) there is in my house, and trying to tell my self that a spider in your house is NOT a legit reason to call your landlord for assistance, I became increasingly panicked, and was on the verge of tears (no lie. I have no idea the last time I freaked out this bad...I think it must have been in Milan 2.5 years ago.....).

But suddenly, I determined to gather my courage (whatever small courage I could find), and take care of the problem myself. I grabbed the dogs leash (without the dog - she was asleep. she is soooo helpful) and crept back to the spider infested bucket. Very gently, so as not to disturb the spider, who was not moving, but looked ready to pounce, I threaded the leash through the tub's handle. With the leash looped through the handle - I got as far away as I could, backing towards the door. I flew open the door - quickly dragged the tub, spider and all outside the house, let go of the leash so that it retracted safely away from the spider, freeing the tub, and ran back inside - closing the door with a slam! Success!

Only one problem - all my firewood was now outside. And I was not going to go near it. It was a cold, cold day at my house.

The final wildlife encounter was much more pleasant. The aforementioned hunters are goose hunters typically. Which makes sense, cause on any given day there are a lot of geese on the farm. Today, however, as the sun was setting (at a ridiculously early 4:30) I took the dog outside to stretch a bit - and there in the field were more Canada Geese than I have ever seen in one place in all my life. There must have been 200+ of them. Just sitting in the field.

Marge startled them (what a great time for her to start hunting!) and they all took off. What an amazing sight. Again, no camera. And no time for it anyway. But, the sky was orange, the pasture green, and geese amazing. Trust me. It was cool.