Hot, hot, hot

Summer didn’t officially start until a couple of weeks ago, but it’s already been brutally hot. Last Thursday we had a heat index of 110 F and a city-wide heat advisory. These heat advisories started being issued after the 1995 heat wave that was deadly to over 700 Chicago residents. At that time I was living in an apartment with no air conditioning and spent most of my evenings in a cool tub of water or laying prostrate in front of a window fan. I was young, healthy, and unafraid to open my windows, unlike most of the people who died. But ever since that time the city has issued these heat advisories and prompted people to check on their elderly and infirm neighbors, leave their stifling apartments for air-conditioned city facilities, or call our non-emergency number of 311 to arrange for city employees to visit or transport people who need well-being checks.

In addition to the heat, its been very dry. We are in drought and while the extreme heat has brought it’s share of storm activity, most of the rain has been missing my area of the city. Two nights ago we got a very good shower that provided close to an inch of rain according to my rain gauge. That’s the first shower we’ve had in at least two weeks. I’ve been watering the raised beds full of veggies at least every other day and setting the sprinkler up to water the front and back yard ornamentals about once a week. It’s times like this that I mentally kick myself for not putting the soaker hoses back in place after I took them up nearly two years ago. My ornamentals are all well-established and tough perennials, though, so they are doing OK with the limited rain.

I did make one bone-headed mistake early last week. I set up the sprinkler to water the ornamentals behind the house one evening after work. I started it about 7 PM and then went back into the house to prepare and eat dinner and do my normal week-night things. I meant to turn the sprinkler off after about an hour, but I completely forgot about it. At roughly 1 AM the next morning, I woke up and realized I had left the sprinkler on, so I dashed outside to turn it off. The plants really enjoyed that watering, at least, and this was one of those times I was extremely grateful that older houses like mine in Chicago do not have water meters.

The chickens have been doing very well, too, and for that I’m grateful. According to the posts on the Chicago Chicken Enthusiasts Google Group, two of our local chicken keepers lost hens due to the extreme heat last Thursday. My chickens get a lot of shade and I’ve put out an extra two-gallon water fount for them ever since it started getting really hot. Several weeks ago I also reconfigured the roosts inside their coop to allow for them to spread out more at night and have enough room to cock their wings to dissipate body heat. They also have a roosting bar in the attached, secure run so they could hang out there at night if they want. I’m very impressed that their egg production has stayed so high despite the heat. Most days I get four eggs a day from the five hens. Truly amazing.

“Little roo,” as I call the rescued bantam rooster, is firmly integrated into the flock. It only took him a couple of weeks of getting to know the hens before he started jumping them, but the ladies seem to have him in hand. It was actually a bit funny to watch since he is so much smaller than the hens; this seems to be one of those situations where size *does* matter, so I don’t think there will be any fertile eggs coming from the hens, despite his best attempts. With the extreme heat, I’ve seen almost none of this activity on his part, so maybe he’s giving up for now. His crow has changed lately, too. For the past week he’s sounded almost as if he has a sore throat!

He’s wary of me, and also a bit touchy if it seems like I have “intentions” towards his ladies. When the flock is let out to wander the yard, he’s pecked me on the foot a couple of times and thrown himself at the back of my legs a few times, too. I’ve taken to giving him plenty of room and being firm, but kind when he shows any aggression to me. I’ve managed to catch him a few times, hold him firmly, and stroke his neck. He calms down right away when held and the neck stroking makes him almost purr.

A pair of young squirrels are now living in the big maple behind the house. Hannah dog has been getting quite a workout chasing them along the fence and in the yard. The squirrels are still learning their own limits and one day last week Hannah actually caught one on the ground. I immediately called out to her and she dropped it. The little squirrel hid in among some plants, while Hannah moved away. I routed it with a broom and it scampered to the tree and up to safety, so it was unharmed.

Despite all the fun we have with Hannah’s squirrel obsession, I don’t want her to actually kill a squirrel, and I was happy she was so attentive to my call. There’s more to write about Hannah dog and how we’ve been relating over the past several months, but I think I’ll save that for another post.

Today is a lazy Sunday, or as lazy as I usually let them get. I have to drop off the overflowing recycling (this household produces only one 13-gallon bag of trash every 2-3 weeks, but the recycling is 2-3 times that much! how I wish for a blue cart!) and neaten the house. The dining room table is piled with stuff that needs putting away, but I also want to sit in the cool air conditioning and do some knitting. And since the day will be too hot to take Hannah dog out for a walk (she overheats easily, maybe due to her dark coloring), we’ll have to fit in some indoor play time, as well.

So I am off to enjoy my day! I’d love to read comments from my few readers about what you’ve been up to and how you spend your weekends.

The rain in Spain

I originally wrote this while in Sevilla, Spain. It got stuck in my Drafts, so it’s a bit dated. Rather than just dump it, though, I decided to push it through, even if it is a few days late. I’m home in Chicago now. More writing and photos about Spain will be posted over the next week or so. I took *a lot* of photos.


I couldn’t resist the reference. It’s been raining off and on for days now, so many that I’ve lost count. I think today has been the worst, though, since the showers get fairly heavy at times.

While walking to the Real Alcázar late this morning I became soaked to the knees and had to take shelter under an awning not far from my destination. To continue walking in the deluge would have been crazy. As I stood under the awning with others — one of the “gypsy” women, still clutching a sprig, and fellow tourists from points unknown — a man with a tripod in his hand and camera around his neck began commenting to me in rapid Castilian. I think the general meaning was that it rarely rains so heavily here. Finally the rain slackened to a more normal pace and I continued on.

Alcázar was filled with tourists quite glad to linger in its many beautiful and dry rooms. By the time I reached the gardens the rain had stopped for a bit, but I still chose not to linger in them. I made a joke to myself that the gardens were full of gatos y patos (cats and ducks), and that the ducks had the advantage today.

I have the rest of this day to sightsee in Sevilla, but the miserable weather makes the final item on my wish list — a stroll along the Guadalquivir River — a very bad prospect. So I will instead spend time reading, writing, and knitting in the apartment. With a bottle of wine at hand, of course, since it is vacation.

Heating up

We’ve been enjoying a mini “heat wave” here in Chicagoland for the past few days. It has not only gotten above freezing, it’s become warm enough to put away (temporarily, I’m sure) the big, down-filled “sleeping bag” coat I wear during the coldest part of winter. Yesterday the temps were above 60F, and the rest of this week looks to be in the high 40s and 50s.

I’m not really complaining here, but this has caused me a few problems as I only had the one warm coat with me here at my sister’s house. I had to make time to run over to my house and bring yet more clothing back, including some lighter outer wear and thinner shirts to wear with my suits. It almost seems as if my full closet WILL be transported over here by the end of the month.

Mark emailed me a couple days ago with some good news: he has signed a lease at an apartment beginning March 1, but since it is currently vacant he can pick up the keys early and start moving stuff over at any time. He said he’s calling movers tomorrow to schedule the move for the big stuff (bed, bookcases, etc.) Dare I hope that he will move early, and I can get back into my home before the end of the month?

There are still some adjusments needed to the MSA (marital settlement agreement) apparently, but my lawyer said they will try to schedule the “prove up” (this means, the final court date when the judge grants the dissolution of marriage) for the third week in February. Hooray!

I’m happy and sad about this news. At the very beginning, I was sad and cried a lot, but then had to get busy doing paperwork, meeting with the lawyer and the mortgage broker, making lists of this and that, etc. Keeping busy and in motion gave me something to do to keep my my off of the emotional aspects of the divorce.

Now we’ve reached a big milestone, though: Mark really is moving out. I really will be living in the house on my own soon. And that is sad and scary. I know the mortgage broker said that I will have no problems meeting my mortgage payments, but it is still scary to know that I will be sole support of my small household.

Moving from 2 incomes to one also means I have to change my lifestyle to be more vigilant about what and when I spend. I’m not a profligant spender who makes shopping a hobby, but I have enjoyed the DINK (dual income no kids) lifestyle that has allowed for travel, eating out at pricier restaurants, and purchasing high quality stuff off-sale. I know this may sound sort of whiny considering the hard reality many others are facing with layoffs, the rising cost of living, etc. I’m just saying it’s a change I have to get used to.

A typical snow day

The snow finally stopped yesterday in the late afternoon. The official tally was 12 inches up here on the north side. All I can say is, it’s a lot.

I didn’t spend the day inside like most sensible people, though. Mark was around the house so I took Rachael up on her offer to meet in Andersonville for lunch and then a visit to the Philippino grocery store.

I rode the Foster Ave bus to meet her and took my camera with me. I got a few interesting shots along the way.

Gimme shelter

Gimme shelter

A bus shelter along the route. Getting and off the bus often entailed stepping into more than foot high piles of snow pushed to the side of the road by the snow plows.

I need a walk!

I need a walk!

Dogs still need to be walked on a snow day.

Slow going

Slow going

Cars have to struggle along unplowed side streets. The plows don’t venture down the side streets until the snow stops and all the major roads are completely cleared.


But before you can drive anywhere you have to dig out your car. The situation actually gets worse after the plow goes by since it piles up more snow around it.

We had lunch (or brunch depending on your ordering preference) at Kopi Cafe where I was also able to pick up a copy of Lonely Planet’s guide to Iceland. (I don’t know if I’ll be able to afford a trip to Iceland this summer, but it’s OK to dream.)

The Philippino grocery store was delightfully pungent and intriguing. Rachael was able to get the obscure ingredients she needed to make some of the childhood dishes she fondly recalls. And then I had her drop me at the Foster bus stop so I could head home.

Although it was Saturday night, I needed a night of real rest and I knew Mark would be gone by the time I got home. The headcold that had bugged me earlier in the week was threatening to return and I needed to replenish the sleep reserves depleted by 2 nights of interrupted sleep.

So, I settled down with a hot cup of herbal tea and my knitting for a bit, then indulged in a hot bath. By the time Mark returned to the house, I had already taken a Nyquil caplet and was ready to snuggle into bed for the night. Ah, the simple joys of home.

Wintery Mix

Oh, how I hate that phrase! Lately, the weather reports have included the following: extreme cold, snow, or “wintery mix.” We’re having that last one now, and it is likely the worst.

A “wintery mix” means that there will be precipitation of all kinds during a weather event. So far this morning, it’s been freezing rain, sleet, and snow, and it changes back and forth at whim.

This makes for treacherous conditions for any pedestrian or car. You’re ambling along just fine, and then you hit the results of this wintery mix: slushy, crusty, slippery, icy snow. Likely you will end up on your rear or in the ditch, depending on the way you’ve been moving (in a car or on foot).

The other thing making me cranky is that I had to dig out the end of the driveway this morning. Again.

It’s incredibly irritating that the plowing service for the condominiums across the alley continues to dump snow at the end of my driveway. If I could catch the guy I’d tell him to stop it, but he seems to come in the dead of night or something.

I called the management company to request that they pass on the message, but I don’t have much confidence that the irritated woman who answered my call will do so. She must be upset to be working Christmas Eve.

Well, at least I got a good workout of my arms while shoveling.

I’m supposed to go to my father’s tonight for Christmas Eve, but I’m thinking that won’t happen now. It’s daunting enough to drive 75 miles one way on my own along various expressways [I’m not sure if the heavily traveled portions or the sparsely traveled portions are the most intimidating]. The current weather situation makes it more complicated. I’d rather not risk black ice on Interstate 80.

So, I think it will be another night to enjoy the comforts of home. Last night I made beef stew in the slow cooker and there is plenty left over. I have one DVD from the library left to view, and I fixed the satellite yesterday [it just needed to have some stuff cleaned off around the connections]. I’ve been a good girl and have done an hour of cardio at the gym already today. I even cleaned the chicken coop this morning, so the birds have fresh leaves to snuggle down into tonight.

Here’s hoping for a peaceful night. For those of you who celebrate Christmas, have a merry one!

It just won’t stop

…snowing. I think we’ll get the maximum predicated amount of 6 inches before this is over. Yikes!

I’m supposed to get to the gym early tomorrow for an hour of cardio, but we’ll see if that can happen. First I’ll have to shovel out the driveway which may be workout enough!

Tuesdays aren’t a day I usually work from home, but I did today due to some early morning meetings. I took the rare opportunity to go over to the gym and try out a Vinyasa Flow yoga class there. I’ve been to many different yoga classes over the years and just haven’t found one that I feel comfortable in. I’m not sure about this one either.

I found myself  stopping the flow and going down to rest in Child Pose a couple times because I just couldn’t hold the pose we were doing. I like to think this was partly due to the fact that I did a major leg workout yesterday and my muscles were sort of shocky. There are parts of me that ache now that didn’t ache earlier today, that’s for sure.

The really disturbing thing was the second time I did this and found myself starting to cry. I’ve cried during yoga before, too, but I like to think of that as an exception. I was able to pull myself together and resumed the class, but since then I’ve been feeling sad and wanting to cry off and on.

I’m just trying to allow myself space, as I apparently need it. Tonight I was supposed to go to the Windy City Knitting Guild meeting, but decided it wouldn’t be a good idea because of this crazy weather. So instead I will feed myself well, spend a bit of time relaxing, and then…start shoveling. Sigh.

No news is good news

Whoa, the summer is going by fast! I’ve been a little pre-occupied with other things like putting my life back together. So there has been little blogging lately. This is actually a good thing, though.

I have my energy back! Woohoo!!!! I was on the Armour for about 2.5 weeks, then checked in with the doctor. While I was very happy to have my mind back (no more mental fogginess or moodiness), I was still not physically coming around all the way yet. So, we upped by Armour dosage a bit. Wow! Three days later I was hitting my stride again. It feels so incredibly good to be back to normal!

Since my dosage was raised, I’m back to working out with the trainer for a full hour twice a week, and I’m back to biking as much as possible. Last Saturday I rode a total of 15 miles with no problems. Yes, I was a litte sore and getting a bit of “bike butt” by the last couple miles, but I could do it without falling to the curb.

Now that my energy is coming back, I feel like I have a lot of catching up to do. I have both work and home stuff that I’ve been putting off for far too long. For now, work gets most of my attention. This will be a busy month for me as we have two big meetings requiring presentations. I’m a bit nervous to be presenting in front of a bunch of partners in about two weeks, but at least I will be able to think straight and be alert!

The “chicklets” (as I’m calling the new chicks) are growing at an amazing rate. They are now 4 weeks old and truly look like miniature chickens now. Those little balls of fluff and nonsense are now nearly middle-school age (in human years) and have become quite the hooligans. I moved them out of the giant tub they were in last week; at 3 weeks old, they had already out-grown it. Luckily, Adrienne came through with a dog exercise pen she had around. So, now I have miniature chickens living in my basement inside a dog pen. I can’t wait to get them outside, but they are still considered too young. They don’t have all of their feathers yet, and so would be susceptible to catching a chill rather easily.

Even though it’s been hot and sticky-humid here most days, it still can get a tad cool at night. And when we don’t have a touch of chill in the air, we can have other issues that make it hard to be a chick outside, such as incredibly violent storms. Last night was a doozy. During the morning yesterday there was a storm that whipped through in an alarming fashion. That was just the beginning. By late afternoon, all *appeared* to be well, but that was deceiving. No, that was just a short interlude of calm.

Just before 7 PM it started to cloud up a bit more. By 7:30, it was raining lightly, and by 8 PM it was raging. I was at a cafe at that time meeting another knitter for a first-attempt at a Jefferson Park Stitch n’ Bitch group. We marveled at the strength of the storm: the fantastic lightening, the throbbing thunder, and the waves of rain being blown at what looked like hurricane force blasts of wind. Then the power went out. We sat for another 30 minutes in camraderie with the handful of other cafe patrons, enjoying the fact that we were safe and dry inside. Then we left and I gladly accepted a ride home. (I had been planning to ride my trusty bike, but with rain threatening I decided to take the bus instead. It was nice to get a ride home considering how crappy the weather was!)

The storming abated for another couple hours and then came back at about 11:30 PM. I was trying to sleep by then, but had to give up on it. The wind gusts and rain were much too heavy and loud, and I couldn’t help but wonder how my poor hens were doing in their little Eglu. I’m not sure what time I finally got to sleep, but it was much later than I preferred.

But this morning, the hens were just a perky as ever, croaking away to get out into the larger run. Riding home on the train today I spotted lots of rather large tree limbs down here and there, but surprisingly little damage otherwise. So, as annoying as it may be to have young birds in my basement, at least I know they’re safe and sound inside.

Snow Day

Snowy morningYay!!! It’s snowing!

Just when I think I can’t stand anymore winter, something like this happens to make it magical again. I love the snow. It quiets the city beast and forces everyone to slow down and respect nature for a bit.

This snow started yesterday and has just steadily continued for the past 12 hours. I think it’s supposed to stop this afternoon. So far, we seem to have about 5 inches of snow here, but it’s hard to tell due to the blowing and drifting.

Take another look at this scence (minus the pretty snowflake reflections from the flash).

Where's the Eglu?

 I think you can see my dilemma. The Eglu is nearly buried! I had to carry a shovel out with me to dig out around the entrance in order to open it up. I learned from the last snowfall that I need to cover the entrance to keep snow from blowing inside the run, so I added some sheets of cardboard across the front.

Buried Eglu entrance

It may look as if the snow nearly comes to the top of the Eglu, but it’s not quite that bad. I had placed some bags partially filled with leaves in front of the cardboard to keep it in place, so the snow has built up on top of that. 

Once I got the Eglu entrance dug out, I was able to add fresh provisions of food and water for the ladies. Here’s a peek at the results.

Excavated EgluI highly doubt that the chickens will be roaming the yard today! The door to the run is open in case they choose to venture out, though.

Inside the run it’s sort of dark with all the snow covering it, but at least it is dry and snug.  

I’m not really on a snow day. I still have to work, but thankfully I am employed by a fabulous, progressive organization and am able to telecommute today. So, I’ll have a chance to go out and check on the ladies during the day. Maybe I’ll slip them a bit of black oil sunflower seeds to brighten their day.

While out digging out the chicken coop today, I heard one of my neighbors across the alley digging out around his garage. At one point, he seemed to be in a jam (based on the expletive he let fly), so I asked if he needed a hand. He couldn’t really see me through the fence that well; there was a bit of head bobbing and waving I had to do so he could see me and not think he was going a bit nuts. After he acknowledged seeing me and nicely declined my help, he paused for a moment. “Hey, are you the lady that was in the paper about a month ago?,” he asked. Yep.

Go away

Winter: I’m putting you on notice. I’ve had it with this annoying and dangerous cold. I hate waking up and hearing how low the temperature is going to be today. I’m tired of dressing in so many layers and *still* feeling chilled and miserable. The dismal, low-light days are really getting me down.

Go away. We’ve all had enough now and are ready for spring. I can’t believe that the I’m getting excited about a weekend with temperatures in the 30s!

Wacky weather

Let's review. Last week, temps were appallingly low. I recall one morning being 8F when I got up to let the chickens out at dawn, and that's not with any wind chill factored in. The next day, the morning temp was 5F without the windchill. BRRRR!

Yesterday, we reached a high of 63F. Today, it was again near 60F. The snow has all melted and we are now having thunderstorms, rain, and are under a tornado warning. There's already been a report of a tornado touching down about 70 miles from here.

Crazy stuff!

It's supposed to start getting colder tomorrow, thank goodness. Oh, I love warm weather like this, but not in January. The gardener in me just cringes at this stuff. Last year, many people lost perennials and fruit harvests because of crazy weather like this. We had an extended warm front move in, all the snow cover melted, trees started to bud, and then WHAM! a frigid cold front quickly whipped in and killed things. Not good.

The chickens are doing just fine, though. What hardy girls they are! They were out and about during the day when we had that cold snap. I guess they have plenty of warm feathers and can stand a high of 15F. My winterizing of the Eglu has been successful so far. The lowest the temp has gotten inside the Eglu is 30F, and they seem to be comfortable enough at night.

I know we will see more frigid temps this winter, but I'm really hoping that the days in the teens are limited. Just in case, I've purchased some woolen tights to wear under my pants. Standing on the train platform it can feel pretty brisk!

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