Michalskis in the Word

You can also visit us at michalskisintheword.wordpress.com, where we relate God’s Word to our daily surroundings, through scripture and photos.

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Thanksgiving…and other Stuff! (November 27)

It was fun to see Thanksgiving come around a second time to our little house…Last year, we were still working on the inside of the house, and not moved in yet, but we were able to cook a little Thanksgiving turkey stew on top of the wood stove, and I was thankful!

This year, Thanksgiving Day was still a work-day, and Joe continued to work on household projects (installing wall-boards, this particular day)…But the rest of us took the day off from school, and the kids helped with all the preparations for Thanksgiving Dinner, instead!

We began the day with a new fall tradition (thanks to a stick blender, which makes all this whipping possible!)…

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…homemade, frothy egg nog!

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Yum!

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It was a great way to start off a Thanksgiving morning…And after cold eggnog by a warm fire, it was time to get into the kitchen and get to work on a turkey dinner!

We began with the most important part of the meal – the bread! Mixing…

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…and kneading…

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…and rolling…

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…until we had stacks of fresh little flatbreads, ready to take their place on the table, or be chopped up and turned into dressing! This was, of course, followed by lots of vegetable-chopping, sorting everything into respective baking dishes and pots and pans, simmering and sautéing and stirring and mixing…

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It was a very special little Thanksgiving feast, with a centerpiece of turkey legs and roasted vegetables prepared in a bed of coals in the wood stove, along with all the fixings – dressing, mashed potatoes, fresh cranberry sauce, and warm bread and butter, all spread out on the table, and every little hand having helped prepare it! It really is a treat to share a meal in this way!

And a sunny and warm winter day soon sent us out to stretch our legs. This little trail near the town of Steuben looped through the forest and out to the shore, as so many trails do in this area, for a wonderful blend of enjoyment from the trees to the seas, and back again!

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As usual, we scoured the sand for anything delightful or treasure-ish or unusual…What’s this?

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A strange little sponge, covered in coralline algae, fantastic!

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When it was time for lunch, we found a little bench on the trail, sheltered from the wind, and overlooking the rocky shore, so that as we snacked, the kids could still explore…

…a perfect hiding spot…

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…a seat with a view…

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…or maybe a seat with a view from another angle…

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It’s not a bad way to go out for lunch!

And on the way back, a little girl who fell down and banged her knee became an occasion for a few tears and a wonderful lot of trailside snuggles!

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Back at home, it wouldn’t be long until a certain someone was turning 9! And this called for breakfast at Helens, followed by a “birthday party” at the pool! Such splashing, jumping, swimming, diving, good fun…And since there are 5 of us, we are always a party!

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What heart-warming smiles from a birthday boy…

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…awww, just look at him!

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…growing up so fast and so sweet, and so delighted with his special day!

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It’s a beautiful season, and thank You, Lord, for so many blessings each and every day!

Slow Days…That Go By Fast! (November 19)

These days are not like summer days, where every moment is abounding with life, where the sun is shining and things are growing and life is buzzing and humming and moving and shaking!

These are the days of cold nights that bring frost-heave, the moisture crackling up out of the ground in the most amazing ice-castles!

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These are the days to get bundled up in winter jackets for morning cookie walks…

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These are the days when the bird feeder brings hairy woodpeckers, and blue jays, and gray jays to visit for a little extra fuel…

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These are the magical days when the wood stove fires up, and a forgotten cup of coffee gets hotter, instead of colder!

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And these are the days when a lot of activities move inside…Sure, we still clear land and stack firewood once the temperature rises above 20 degrees…And sure, we are happy to be able to mulch up brush piles with our new chipper shredder, and cover our farm beds and pathways…And sure, I still hang the laundry out to freeze-dry on sunny days…And sure, we were still able to install a new mailbox before the ground freezes solid…

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(A mailbox project is a little different when you start in the forest! Joe picked out two trees for the 4 x 4 posts, cut them, de-limbed them, de-barked them, and squared them up. He joined all the segments together with mortise-and-tenon joints, practicing timber framing techniques. Then he blackened it with a torch, wire-brushed the surface, and rubbed it down with boiled linseed oil. It’s no weekend project when you do it like this, but now we have a shiny new weather-proof mailbox and a lot of practice on useful skills!)

But, we spend a lot more time indoors…We get through more of our school lessons, and Joe spends more time in the workshop, and there’s more reading, and there are more family games, and toys like Perplexus and Hess Trucks come out of bins that have been long-forgotten all summer…

And blanket forts and cardboard-box-forts make a great come-back, in all shapes and sizes, as cars and buses and libraries and castles and movie theaters…

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…and the days go by so quickly, even though all the things that fill them seem so little, that I am quite surprised at how the weeks fly away!

I was reflecting on the fact that starting on a new type of life like we are doing right now seems an easier thing to do when you are a young couple than when you are a family with children…But, is anything too hard for God?

It would seem to have been easier to have raised our children in Overland Park, KS, in our suburban home with its suburban neighborhood and its suburban schools and all the “normal” niceties of the suburbs. I’m glad that I’m reading the book of Genesis right now, as well as the Genesis Record by Dr. Henry Moore. It’s quite a timely reminder. Abraham was a godly man, arguably one of very few (if not the only) godly man in the post-flood world at his time. His father Terah had also been a godly man, and the two of them were directly called by God to leave their homes and properties in Ur, where they had apparently been quite well-established and wealthy, and to travel to a new (unspecified) land which the Lord would show them. Lot also accompanied them, setting out on a godly path as well. Before they entered the land the Lord had called them to, they stopped in another city along the way, and Terah never left. The Lord ultimately called Abraham on alone. It would seem that the comforts of city life were just too enticing for Terah to give them up completely, and he ceased following the Lord. Lot accompanied Abraham, and they entered the land that the Lord promised to Abraham and his descendants. In this land, as they waited and prospered, Lot ultimately grew restless as well, and left the land to settle in the plains in the city of Sodom. Again, the attractions of city life were too great for Lot to continue in pursuit of a godly life. And so I am grateful to have left behind the city of Overland Park, to have left behind the city of Bellingham, to have been drawn out by the Lord to a place distant from the comforts and entertainments and conveniences and distractions of a city life, from a place that seemed easier, into a place according to His way…

It would seem to have been easier to have raised our children here in Maine if we had started as a young married couple, and established our house, and established our farm, and established an income, and then raised and taught our kids in that environment. But it is God’s timing that is perfect, not mine. After the departure of Lot, Abraham alone continued walking with his Lord for many years, waiting year after year for the fulfillment of the promise of a land and descendants. He was not always patient, but it was God’s timing that remained perfect. He would ultimately live to experience the miracle of the birth of his promised son, Isaac, at 100 years of age from a wife at 90 years of age. It would have seemed easier to have raised Isaac up in the ways of the Lord as a younger married couple, but Isaac’s faith was strong and he never wavered from the Lord, even to being a willing sacrifice as a young man at the hands of his father. What greater faith could be demonstrated, both in father and son, and what a testament that nothing was lacking in the timing of Isaac’s birth or the time and circumstances of his raising and teaching? And Abraham continued to be called a friend of God and to walk in His ways in the land to which he had been sent, though he never, himself, possessed the land that God promised to him or saw his numerous descendants spread out to cover the earth like dust…And so I am grateful to have been brought to this place at this time, not for the things that I think would give my children the proper upbringing, but for the things that God knows will give my children His perfect upbringing and activate His promises not only for my life but for the generations that I will not see with my own eyes…

We say that history repeats itself…What a comfort to think that, because God is great, His history can repeat itself in each of us, the very best of His history of faithfulness and love and blessing upon each of us throughout history who will listen to His call, cling to His promises, and rest on His name.

Reflecting on a Year Gone By (October 29)

Here I sit, on a Sunday afternoon, a day of rest, a day when I can usually sit down and do a little writing, do a little reflecting on the past week, or month, or in this case, even on the past year…

This month marks one year since we first closed on our little house, and settled down to working on the place that the Lord had sent us…

Since it’s now been one full year, this season is actually a little bit familiar to us! 

The chilly mornings prompted getting out the warm winter coats, and the fall rains have finally arrived! It’s been a very dry summer, just a few days of light, sprinkling rain here and there, and we’ve watched all of our little streams and ponds dry up and disappear. The deepest spot, on the corner of our property, where the seasonal stream passes under the road, harbored a little population of frogs that were squeezed into closer-and-closer quarters until finally drying up completely a couple of weeks ago. But now, three days of wind and rain have finally filled all the little waterways that were so delightful to discover as we were first getting to know this place last year.

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The nights are now early enough to have some fun outside before bedtime, looking at the moon and stars, admiring that amazing Milky Way band, or even playing with sparklers!

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And sunsets at the beach are just as beautiful as when we first began to admire them about this time last year 🙂

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It’s interesting, looking back…In October of last year, we were removing, sorting, and disposing of literally tons of garbage. I was working at Wreaths Across America while the family worked at home, and then we all worked together in the evenings until heading back to our hotel room for dinner and bed-time. We worked seven days a week, having felt led by the Lord that we had enjoyed plenty of rest in the previous months of travel, and now was a time to work diligently every day until we got moved into our house. After removing all the garbage from the house, we removed all of the wall-boards, all of the insulation, all of the wiring, all of the plumbing, every bit of everything that had been decayed and weather-damaged and pest-contaminated. I remember standing inside the house, staring through the framing at the exterior siding, and seeing cracks of daylight streaming in at every joint! Joe went around the entire house, nailing each piece in snug. And we scrubbed, disinfected and scrubbed-again every square inch, floors, walls, and ceilings. I remember what it felt like to be bundled up in coveralls, gloves, and full-face respirator, spraying and scrubbing until I was sweaty and worn-out! 🙂

I remember when we found the damaged old wood-stove, and Joe repaired it and installed it with a new flue, and how it felt to gather around a fire for the first time in the house. We insulated the entire house, and then covered it with plastic sheeting, and painted the floor, and it was clean! What a great feeling to stand in the house for the first time in stocking feet!

And oh my goodness, the day that we drug the pump out of the 80-foot-well by hand…and we examined it, and it seemed fine, and we put it back in. And, after all the days that it took to clear two feet on each side of power line from the house to the road, the day that they finally came out to hook up our electricity, …and then we turned on the well-pump, and it didn’t work…So then there was the other day that we drug the pump out of the 80-foot-well by hand, and installed a new one!

Days spent in Home Depot figuring out everything we needed to plumb and wire the house for a couple of basic necessities, like a toilet, a sink, and a shower with hot water…And the day we moved in, triumphantly, with a flushing toilet, and snuggled down to sleep in sleeping bags and cots with a nice, glowing wood stove to keep us warm…And the days that we spent cooking on the wood stove, and heating water on the wood stove for dishes and baths, for several weeks while we finished plumbing the bathroom. But we were warm and dry and well-fed, and it was home.

Life today has become so normal that it never really seems like anything is missing…Although we don’t have a washer or dryer, I no longer have any trouble keeping up with the laundry. Although we don’t have an oven, it seems like we can make anything we want on our propane stovetop, even cookies and crackers and flatbread and biscuits and pizza. Although we don’t have a fridge, I always have more than enough room in the Yeti, and all I have to do is swap out the ice pack in the morning. And so, with everything in working-order inside (however quirky and unfinished!), we turned our attention in the spring to the outside projects that the Lord put on our hearts…

We graded the property around our house for drainage, reinforced and insulated the foundation, removed an entire mobile home, and removed and re-installed and entire septic leach field. We finished disposing of all of the trash and recycling and appliances from inside the house, and then steadily worked our way around the outside of the house to unearth and remove all of the broken-down, buried-in, grown-over, long-forgotten debris and garbage from the entire homesite. We probably pulled out of the ground enough carpeting to cover upstairs and downstairs twice, and enough car parts to build a new truck. We planted and harvested crops, and even had some surprising foraging successes, including the most delicious apple cider I’ve ever tasted! We cleared about an acre of land and harvested and milled  into planks at least a dozen trees. And there’s so much more, it’s almost overwhelming to sit here and let my memory drift back over the days…

Today, we enjoy our Sabbath rest, as we now do every Sunday, after six days of working on whatever the Lord calls us to do each day. Today, I look back and am hard-pressed to believe all that He has led us to do in one year, all of this in addition to normal everyday cooking and cleaning and homeschooling and chores and laughing and playing and correcting and learning and researching and reading and errands and adventures and projects and fun…I am hard-pressed to believe that we are all still here, all together, all working as a family on this land that He has given us…I have enjoyed our season of outside work, I am enjoying our season of firewood gathering, and I am looking forward to a winter for inside projects…What will another year bring? Certainly, only the Lord knows, praise Him, for He is good!

Beautiful (October 20)

So many changes arrive with the fall season…The leaves, of course, are a brilliantly obvious signal, but there’s more than that! The nights become cool, and the first sporadic overnight frosts begin, though still interrupted by short bouts of warm weather for a few days at a time drifting up on some southern breeze.

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The birds change. The many warblers and vireos of summertime have departed. The owls are beginning to return, with their hauntingly lovely night calls. The robins are flocking up and moving on, and the woodpeckers are fueling up…

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The rains, and “mud season”, have not yet set in, and our days remain a mix of clearing land, stacking firewood, and a little bit of farm preparation, like ordering seeds, final harvesting, and preparing beds for next year with loose soil and mulch. It’s kind of slow and quiet work, where you do much the same thing day after day, cutting, stacking, raking, wheel-barrowing, repeating, making gradual progress, and knowing that it’s absolutely foundational to the winter ahead and the spring beyond!

On a surprise side-project that developed out of a visit to a friend, we ended up harvesting some cattails, to try our hand later at weaving some rush-seats and baskets and such…

We had a beautiful sunny afternoon at a shallow pond, and the kids enjoyed themselves so much, that they did absolutely all of the harvesting!

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Splashing out into the shallows, amidst the dragonflies and mallard feathers and hopping frogs…

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…slicing the cattails off at the base near the water…

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…and bundling them off to stuff into the back of our truck!

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It was great fun! We spread them out to dry, strung them up in bundles, and hung them under our eaves for a later day 🙂

One Sunday, we enjoyed a little exploration northwards, wandering up the Canadian border to Cobscook State Park…

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…for a misty morning at the shore! What I enjoy about a foggy day is the way that certain colors, like these sea grasses, stand out more brilliant than ever while other colors, like the water, are dim and subdued, shifting gently below the pale sky…

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It’s a great view, no matter the weather!

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And not far away, at the Moosehorn National Wildlife Refuge, we enjoyed a forest hike through the fall foliage!

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Though the day did brighten…

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It never exactly cleared up, but was no less enjoyable!

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It was very quiet out, no rustlings and scoldings of squirrels, no birdsong, no hints of little creatures moving about, and certainly no moose, though I was hopeful! But, there were some astonishingly beautiful insects to behold, like this shiny wasp, with its unique tail, curling and uncurling in a crisp pentagon…

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This little caterpillar, with his striking coloring, seems a standout…

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…until you see him on his preferred autumn maple leaves, where he’s practically inconspicuous!

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And as we reached our half-way point, and enjoyed some lunchtime snacks, a little rain began, and hastened our steps back to the truck!

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So this is what an autumn hike in the rain looks like…

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Not too bad! A little damp, but quite satisfied, we returned to our humble home, where the squirrels rustled and scolded, the birds chattered, and the fall colors also glowed…

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…where the violets sparkled after a fall shower…

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…and the fall ladybugs buzzed about…

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 …where some trees are already bare…

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…and the sunsets blaze…

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…where days outside lead to evenings nodding off while Daddy reads…

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…and where another week of clearing land and stacking firewood, of farm preparation and fall sowing, earned a scoop of ice cream, and life had never been sweeter!

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Autumn Days (September 30)

Autumn days are here, no mistake…The proof, of course, is in the trees!

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It’s also in the sun which, though still often sparkling and bright, has taken on that unmistakable shift away from summer…

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And, it’s in the breeze, which has the delightful crispness that mixes perfectly with warm sunshine, and carries on its currents the blue-fluff-flies that remind me that it was just this time last year that we first began to get to know this property!

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A delicious breeze always makes me think of my Father in Heaven…I can’t see the wind, but He knows exactly where it’s coming from, exactly where it’s going to, and there is both comfort and amazement in that!

For behold, He who forms the mountains and creates the wind and declares to man what are his thoughts, He who makes dawn into darkness and treads on the high places of the earth, the Lord God of Hosts is His name. (Amos 4:13, NASB)

The asters are buzzing with fuzzy little bees, making their last preparations of the season, taking advantage of every warm day to build up their stores.

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They are mild-mannered types that the children love to pet…

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And sometimes even hold! (But watch out, because an accidental bump against the rear end will send you on a bee-line for an ice pack!)

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Our work has settled into a pretty steady rhythm of land-clearing, pulling and piling brush…

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…carting if off to the brush pile in the wheelbarrow, which may or may not serve as an impromptu nest for a little woodland mouse along the way…

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…trimming branches and deadwood and piling them up in the woodpile (unless they are being used for the tee-pee!). It’s great fun getting an area cleared out, open for next year’s planting and this year’s playing…

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There are still little bits of late crops developing, and so it actually looks like we might be eating at least one wee pickle from our own garden this year, lol!

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And there are always odds-and-ends of side projects to tinker with, like using last winter’s ashes to make lye for soap!

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Golden days in the garden, as the season’s winding down…

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…sunny Sunday mornings, barefoot in the trees…

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…and little woodland strolls, before the creatures sleep for winter… 

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…that’s what autumn days are made of!

Oh, Just the Usual! (September 22)

The days are turning to autumn, and life around the Michalski house looks something like…

Early mornings, hitting the books…

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…or the workshop!

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Sunshiny days, with late flowers in bloom…

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,,,while laundry goes out on the line!

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And days outside, at the front of our property, clearing the land of bushy undergrowth, limbing trees, stacking firewood, preparing for this winter and next spring in the same methodical effort that will march us slowly around the front section of our land until the firewood pile is full and the weather is too cold for clearing. It’s a long-term project, not quite like the full-tilt-foundation effort, and the get-it-done-and-covered-septic effort, more of a transition into a way of life that will simply become normal, tending and maintaining the land that will be providing more and more food for us over time. 

And, since we raked up all of the many-years’-accumulation of maple leaves, we had an opportunity to start early on the classic autumn tradition…

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…jumping into a pile of leaves!

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Doesn’t get much better than that!

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We took advantage of a rising storm system to go out and explore a “high-surf” day at the beach, and although the surf wasn’t actually all that high…

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…it’s never a bad place to go for a stroll!

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And we did find an unusual little something-or-other washed up by the surf…A green sponge, I think?

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“What do you guys think it is?”

Vivi: “I don’t know.”

Asher: “Can we keep it?”

Spencer: “Look! It squirts when you squish it!” 

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And so, the stranded sea sponge made its way home with us, for further investigation at a later date (after a long airing-out period outside!)

And, yep, that’s just the usual around the Michalski house 🙂

The Little Things (September 12)

Well, we did it! We finished re-installing and covering the entire septic system! As an added bonus, we now have a lovely flat space to expand our wildflower garden and enjoy a little mini-bocce court 🙂

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Also, for the first time since we’ve owned the property, all piles of debris have been removed from the front of the premises! *sigh of contentment*

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It really strikes me what a blessing it is to have the ability to do this work. It is now coming up on two years since I left my job in Bellingham, in preparation for the next steps that the Lord had planned for us. It has been almost one year since we moved into this little house. In that time, we have spent nearly all of our time, with the exception of my one seasonal job for a few months last year, together as a family, working only on what the Lord had planned for us each day. And here we still are, still living each day in His providence, still doing the work He has planned for us each day, and still finding all that we need and more than we expect!

The little things are always a real treat, the little things that catch your eye when you’re hanging laundry on the line, or pulling weeds in the garden, or moving rocks from one place to another…

Little, funny, slow-moving creatures on the wildflowers…”I’ve got my eye on you!” 

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“Up! and down. Up! and down.” This poor little guy was so tiny that he had to climb up and down over the hairs on the stem of a flower. But, I noticed he had a nice happy face painted on his shell!

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Little, sweet, night-time creatures snoozing underneath a planter full of mint (which was promptly replaced to restore him to snooze-time!)…

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Little, cute, hopping creatures, springing out from beneath approaching footsteps…

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Little, fast, buzzing creatures, shining in the sunlight…

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…but sometimes, not buzzing away quite fast enough…

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…but still shining in the sunlight in chubby-but-careful little mitts! (No dragonflies were harmed in the taking of this picture.)

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Little things like discovering that the little yellow clover growing in your pathway is an oxalis variety…

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…also called woodsorrel…

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…and it’s edible…

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…and it tastes yummy, like a little lemondrop! Mmmmmmm…. 🙂

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Little things like climbing trees in bare feet…

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…and taking morning walks, armed with a cookie, a cup of joe, binoculars, a walking stick, and a slingshot…What else?

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Mmmmmm….Nothing goes better with morning bird-watching than hot coffee!

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And little things like sand-between-your-toes from a late summer afternoon at the beach…About this time last year we were exploring these same beaches as well, for the first time!

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A surprise 80-degree day made for a great opportunity to finish up work early and head to the shore.

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The tide was all the way in, so the beach was narrow and the water was shallow…

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…the sunflowers were blooming…

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…and the adorable little Semipalmated Plovers and Semipalmated Sandpipers were visiting our coastline during their annual migration!

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These are the adorable little Plovers and Pipers, scouring the beach and running away from the waves…

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These are my adorable little children, slowly sneaking up on the adorable little Plovers and Pipers…

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And this is the inevitable result, despite their very best efforts!

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I feel a little bit bad disturbing them, but it’s so beautiful to watch them flash and whirl across the water and re-settle farther down the beach! They don’t seem to mind too much 🙂

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All in all, it was, as always, a splashing good time…

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“Time to turn around, Vivi! You’re heading out to sea!”

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Time to head back home to all those little things we’ve got to look forward to!

…And Filling It In (August 31)

That’s one thing about holes…When you dig them, you usually have to fill them back in with something! And so, our project continues…

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We have installed and leveled all the pipes, and we’re filling in all the gravel now. It takes a long time, but the Lord has a lovely way of inter-weaving projects…See, when we dug out the leach field, we had to remove so much dirt and clay that we needed more gravel to fill it back in. Happily, the mobile home sat on a foundation of gravel, and since we demolished it, we had access to that area. Also, it just so happens that we have planned to build a garage in part of that footprint one day, and so we would need to dig it out to pour a foundation…So, right now, to get the gravel to fill in the hole we just dug, we are digging a new hole that will someday be a garage!  It definitely eases the labor of shoveling rock when you know that you are accomplishing two things at once!

And so, the late summer days continue to roll out around us…The air is scented with apples, the sun is warm, the shade is cool, and the breezes are refreshing! And of course, it’s not all shoveling all the time, and though we work diligently, we still have plenty of opportunities for other things as well! During the hottest part of the day, we sometimes take a break for apple harvesting and cider-making…and one day, we had the privilege of working around a visitor!

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We were quite happy to see this little porcupine. He doesn’t quite look like our regular winter guest, who was much larger, but he is very cute and plump and glossy, and a delight to watch! Though he is very relaxed, he doesn’t miss a thing with those sparkling black eyes, tracking every movement, and his adorable little nose twitching continuously in our direction.  

School Picture Day also arrived at the Michalski Schoolhouse! We haven’t had one since we were in Bellingham, and I was delighted to be able to do the whole photo shoot right on our own property!  So Joe packed up the camera and tripod, and we went from location to location, from wildflowers to ferns to mosses to cedars, for student-shots and teacher-shots and whole-classroom-shots! And this time Spencer took his camera along as well, so we got to see ourselves through his eyes…

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…and see what happens when three kiddos goof off between shots with the “mirror image” setting!

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As usual, I had many favorites, and was happy not to have to settle for just one!  

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And, though they are 10, 8, and 5, all three kids still find the simplest of enjoyment in a cardboard shipping box! Spencer and Vivi particularly enjoy taking in blankets, books, and lights for a “cozy reading time…”

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But, can all three kids fit? Yes, yes they can! Spencer is in the middle holding an iPad so that they can all watch a movie together 🙂

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One Sunday, we took a nature walk right on our own property! We started off following a White Admiral butterfly through the wildflowers and under the apple trees…They must really enjoy the boost of energy from all the downed apples this time of year!

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They move so fast that I had rarely been close enough to see the beautiful blue and orange markings, and never before close enough to appreciate all of the shimmering scales!

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We wandered out to the Meeting Tree and made our way around The Pond (now almost completely dried up, waiting for the fall rains), spotting a few frogs and a garter snake, and then crossed the driveway into the forest. We watched one of our busy little chipmunks, always delightful…

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And then, we spotted a robin fledgling! This was the same family of birds that we watched in the nest while we worked on the septic system, a mama and two little ones, now out in the forest, beginning to learn how to fly and hunt…In the cover of the trees, the two little fledglings waited, each on their own branch in different trees, very still, as their mother gathered food and brought it back to each in turn. She even swooped very near me, calling along the way, a dedicated mama, luring me away from her sweet babies!

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And then, this turned out to be one of those days…On any given day, there are a few birds that we regularly see. Right now, we usually see Robins, Red-Breasted Nuthatches, and Chipping Sparrows…But on some days, the sun is shining and the air is warm and the conditions are just right, and all of the bird world seems to flutter into activity! We wandered slowly around the edge of the forest, watching small groups of birds calling and flittering and chasing and hunting and eating and swooping, many of them with juveniles, and many of them that we hadn’t seen since the last magical Bird Day!

A group of Nashville Warblers were a completely new sight to us…

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… and the Blackburnian Warblers were out with this sweet little juvenile, the pale gray streaks on his head marking the beginnings of where his striking black feathers will soon fill in.

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The Red-Eyed Vireos, which we rarely see, were out in a crowd, hunting and pecking from branch to branch…

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and so were the Black and White Warblers, working their way up and down the trunks right in front of us!

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Yep, it was just one of those days!

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And, with the summer days already trailing off into cooler fall temperatures, Joe picked the warmest day forecasted for the rest of the year, and we went for a visit to Sand Beach at Acadia National Park. It was a beautiful morning, sunny and warm with turquoise waters, and we enjoyed what may very well be a last dip in the ocean for the year!

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The ocean was, of course…still cold! 

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But very fun, and so clear, and the sand was so sparkly, and there were all kinds of little treasures on the shore, tiny shells and sand dollars and sea glass…And then, Asher spotted the remains of a small Lions Mane Jelly that happened to be washing up on shore, as well. It was only the top section, without any of the mass of long tentacles, but we still kept our distance as we admired the amazing colors and patterns. I’ve never actually seen one of these, though they are not uncommon on the Northeast coast, and I was really amazed by the red and orange patterns, like blown glass, so vibrant…It must be quite a sight to come across one in the full force of health in a blue ocean!

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And so, that’s life, out on the Michalski homestead…Digging holes, moving dirt, shoveling gravel, watching birds, picking apples, making cider, hanging out at the beach, and smiling for the camera!

 

 

 

Digging a Hole (August 20)

So, this week, we dug a great big hole. It took the entire week, and all hands on deck, but it’s done!

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I had thought that our dirty jobs were behind us, but there was this one more dirty job to complete, one more time to crinkle up my nose and press on, one more pair of work gloves to replace 🙂 It was dirty work and it was very physically demanding, scraping out shovels of dirt, clay, and gravel, with rocks often so large that only Joe could lift them…The kids typically helped dig on the morning shift, and switched over to apple-picking in the afternoon. It was a welcome refreshment to have a fresh cup of cider delivered to a sweaty afternoon-shoveling crew! One afternoon, they even finished up all their cider making and made us a “Congratulations on your work day!” party! They cleaned the house, hung signs, poured cider, put on some dance music, and shouted “Surprise!” when we came in. Oh happy-end-of-workday!

Another welcome diversion was the robin’s nest overhead of our work zone…The babies hatched early in the week, and all day long, we could watch the mama hunt for food, listen as she called to her hatchlings upon her return, and watch her reward their answering peeps with yummy treats!

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It never gets old, seeing those enormous mouths stretching up for food!

We unraveled most of the mystery of this failed leach field as we excavated. We found the remnants of the pipes, one section crushed under large rocks, another section completely filled with roots, and all of it cracked and splintered and filled with dirt and roots, probably because it had been a parking area for many years, and certainly because no barrier had been installed to protect the gravel below from the dirt filtering down from above. We removed all of the old material, sifted and separated dirt and rocks into separate piles, and ordered our new piping and cover material. Next week, the re-installation will begin!

And as the cider has settled, we bottled it off and put it on the shelf to see if it would carbonate…

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…and it got bubbly!

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More bubbly than I expected, actually! After a couple of days, I thought I had better “burp” one of the bottles, and it erupted champagne-like right out the top and onto the floor! It was such a surprise to see it work so well! So, we had a good laugh, lost a little cider, scrubbed up the floor nicely, and now I’m much more careful with my “burping.” And the bubbly cider, chilled in the freezer, is absolutely delicious!

And amazingly, the kids are still at it! They harvest, they chop, they juice, I make applesauce, and the apples keep coming, and the kids keep asking for more harvesting time!

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But it’s not all shoveling and cider-making around here…Inspired by a PBS special called “Rare: Creatures of the Photo Ark”, the kids have set out to create a photo-ark of their own…Armed with their camera, a small plastic storage box, a white cloth, and a black cloth, they collect our little local creatures one-by-one, and set up a photo shoot!

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The results so far have been really adorable, sometimes surprising, like how I had never fully appreciated the camouflage properties of our sweet little toads…

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…and it’s fun to hear their excitement…”I really tried to get a close-up of the eyes, Mom! You can see, like, their whole little personality in their eyes!”

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And how about that shimmering skin, usually hidden beneath a layer of the moist dirt and leaves where they burrow, but on striking display in this salamander-portrait!

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And who could ever get tired of gazing into the eyes of the little froggies? 🙂

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Along with the apples, the blossoming goldenrod is an icon of the late summer days…

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…as is the return of more frequent rain showers after a couple of dry months!

(photos courtesy of Asher)

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And so, what is the moral of the story of this week…? I guess I’d have to say, a week spent digging a hole is better than a week spent digging yourself out of one!