Bin there, done that


This is a problem. A first world problem, granted, but a problem.

All morning long, I have been working on keeping my focus on writing a story that was due. Early on, there were distractions, like food, which I’m ordinarily bad at eating on a regular schedule, and the cat’s litter box. I just as soon would have ignored that one, but I already was emptying the trash, which only happens once or twice a week, and I was concerned about what the state would be if I waited another round.

As long as I had a full trash bag that had cat litter packed into the side and was tearing, I might as well take it out to the bin rather than risk litter leaking onto my floor, I reasoned. As long as I was outside, I might as well roll the bin to the curb in air that was brisk, not bitter — what passes for nice in a Michigan January. As I walked back I thought about taking another two minutes to take the recycling bins to the curb and my brain started screaming at me about sitting down and writing the story, so I did.

(If you have to ask why, when the event I covered was Wednesday afternoon, I did not write the story on Wednesday night, you never have been a writer.)

I’m stumped, so I start about three paragraphs in. There is not only what happened Wednesday to talk about, but some important future plans as well, in a way that’s not clunky and forced. I keep chipping until I’m getting reasonably satisfied.

Phone goes off. Editor. My greeting is, “I’m working on it.” Ten minutes, I say. I think it ends up being 12.

Just as I finish, I see a city truck. No, I think, be the one for the trash. I watch to see if the mechanical arms come down for the next-door neighbor’s bin.

No! Someone hops off to grab their recycling. They will be past my house before I can grab even one bin and make it out the door, let alone both.

We’ve been recycling for a few years now, and I am completely sold. It only took a few months to realize how much of our trash was devoted to packaging. Unless we have deer remains or something, I sometimes don’t even roll the trash out weekly, because it takes three or four weeks to fill the bin.

But the recycling is another story. We are lucky not to have to sort, and can throw cardboard and plastic and paper and glass all together in one glorious party. That helps with the family cooperation.

The down side is that the bins fill quickly enough that skipping a week doesn’t work well. I now have one bin smashed and tamped full, and one empty — plus a third in reserve.

Next week: recycling before breakfast. Writing hours before deadline? Unlikely.

Red and gold and portents of gloom

More than a week into fall, and I’m still not ready for summer to end. I want one more hot day at the beach before fall settles in, bringing winter’s crush all too soon.

It’s not autumn I object to. Autumn means sweaters! That’s one of the few girlie vanity points I make, but there it is. Cooler weather = time to stop being wistful and break the sweaters out of storage.

Other than that, I don’t have much use for fall. I’ve lived too many of them to care about the color change except in idle passing, and certainly won’t be driving around to gawk at leaves with gas running $4 a gallon. Apple cider, football games, the crisp air and crunchy leaves … meh.

It’s a countdown to winter, that’s what it is. And in Michigan, even here under the bridge, winter lasts a damn long time.

So forgive me for not appreciating autumn’s unique beauty for what it is just yet. I see the changing leaves and zoom ahead to black February and the seemingly endless parade of single-digit days.

Just one more day of hot sand and too-cold lake. Then fall can whip its chill wind and I won’t complain as loudly, knowing I seized all I could.

Overheard, ice version

    I think we’re finally done with winter here. We had a glorious weekend. Both kids visited the state park with friends, and said most of the snow is gone out there.

    For those who have never seen what it looks like when the ice blows into Saginaw Bay, look at these photos.

    Which leads to the overheard comment, from someone who apparently also had never seen the ice blow in: “Wow, I didn’t know they plowed the bay.”

Fresh and new

Christmas tree outside

There are depressing parts of winter. Sure, those include negative temps and soul-crushing darkness. But there’s also the gray ick of exhaust and people sludge that taints the snow after a while.
So even though I had to be out in it at 6:15ish this morning, I was delighted to see that for once the meteorologists were right, and we had a fresh 3 inches or so of snow. I was the first one to defile some of the roads, and it was a hoot.
When it got lighter, I took what photos I could from my windows and porch, with the help of the ever-faithful Lab assistant.

Pine tree and butterfly bush
One of the pines we planted about 17 years ago. To the right is a butterfly bush. I have several and never prune them before winter because I love the outlines.
Christmas tree outside
We always send our Christmas tree outside for bird and bunny cover, and it stays there until April or so. The suet ball draws grackles (rrr), but also pileated and plush woodpeckers.
The Labrador, retrieving
The Labrador, retrieving.

Bringing the heat

I put this day off as long as possible every year.

Finally yesterday I couldn’t take the chill anymore and nudged the thermostat to 64. Moments later, heat drifted up from behind my chair.

I turned it off as soon as the house warmed reasonably, but again this morning, my furnace is chugging, taking the 60-degree chill up to a slightly more bearable temperature.

Understand, I know this is what furnaces are for, and I’m grateful for a heating system and money to feed it. BUT IT’S STILL SUMMER. If only this could have waited until Monday, when fall starts, I wouldn’t grouse.

Welcome, summer!

High time, too.

We spent much of the weekend puttering around the yard, digging and raking and transplanting and pondering. I had to work Friday through Sunday evenings, but Monday glittered at the end.

We could not have asked for nicer weather. We didn’t have any formal Memorial Day observances, no parades or cemeteries, although I did turn to the veteran I married and thank him for his service.

No, we were full bore into summer. Early in the day, my husband pulled the smoker out and piled fish into the top. Later, spare ribs would get similar treatment.

I was lucky enough that a flat of vegetables on Freecycle went unclaimed, and when I went to stake my claim I was presented with half a flat of marigolds to boot. We have a full-blown veggie garden, edged with yellow marigolds, and all it cost me was gas across town. I had a nice conversation to boot.

The camp chairs were on the lawn, and my daughter insisted on dragging the wood rocker down from the porch, too. There were cups, cooking tools, reading material, dog toys and a plastic basin of soaking wood chips scattered about. I moved back and forth with my trowel, the dogs lounged, the girl read, the boys kicked back and supervised the smoking. The ribs were done about the time I was putting the last marigolds in; perfect.

The one thing I hadn’t done yet was give everything a good watering. Lightning flashed as the boy and I settled in to watch the Red Wings, though, so we hit “pause” and gathered everything up, then hunkered back down to watch the Penguins’ surprising ineffectiveness. The rain handled what I hadn’t, another shutout played out, and all was well.

Summer stretches ahead, lazy and long. I am so ready.

This post originally appeared on, the online home of the Midland (MI) Daily News. Republished with permission.

It’s Michigan, right?

Enough about the weather already. Easter was slightly early this year and we have had snow on that holiday before, so no one should be surprised at what the weather forecasters are breathlessly reporting.

Myself, I have been burned too many times by planting things in April, only to see them die from one last (or next to last) frost. The tradition now is to load up the beds on Memorial Day weekend. I will be working Friday through Sunday nights then, so my Monday will be spent in the dirt. I wouldn’t have it any other way.

In the meantime, keep the scrapers handy.

This post originally appeared on, the online home of the Midland (MI) Daily News. Republished with permission.

The glory of raking

My children think it’s weird that I love yard work.

My husband is understanding in his own way. As he left Sunday for a meeting he said something about how I could go out and rake, and when I replied along the lines of “thank you for planning my day for me,” he was a little taken aback and explained he just knew how badly I’d wanted to get outside and start cleaning up the yard.

It’s true. When we were looking at this week’s weather report, he was pointing to the temperatures and I was counterpointing to the rain clouds that would make the temperatures pointless. “One shower and I’m done for the day.”

So Sunday, I raked. I filled the single yard waste bag I had left over from last year, and left piles to deal with later.

Monday, my son raked. This was unusual, because the children have no use for yard work. But apparently when he and his dad were fishing Saturday, there was talk of setting camp chairs out in the lawn, for lazy evenings of chat and reading and dog play. The boy was headed out to scoop up puppy presents and when I said the rake likely would be more efficient, he didn’t hesitate.

He tried to get his sister to set out the chairs, with no luck. “You’re just reading on the couch,” he said. “You’re the one who wants them,” she replied.

He wasn’t motivated enough to actually unfold them and drag them off the porch, but he is thinking about them. The puppy hid under them last year, he noted; at 80 pounds, she probably can’t manage that now.

Maybe today the chairs will make it onto the grass. Then he and his dad can lounge in the front yard, watching traffic and waving at the neighbors, calling to the dogs and making plans for the next fishing trip. Spring is truly here.

This post originally appeared on, the online home of the Midland (MI) Daily News. Republished with permission.

No spade sharp enough

I can see spring. Sunday, though, I had to admit I was delusional.

I have been able to see spring for pretty much all of winter. First off has been the weird weather, without any terribly long cold stretches. Then there is my stubbornness in not pruning the butterfly bushes. We have three at the edge of the yard and I love the silhouettes, so I let them stand all winter.

Sunday, it was bright and enough snow had melted away that I could see bare dirt in my driveway. (It’s not paved, so this is OK.)

I padded around a little and came inside, complaining to my beloved. It’s so bright out that I really want to work on the yard, I said, but it’s too cold and the ground is frozen. He gave a sort of “what did you expect?” grunt.

I know it’s way too early to plant anything. In fact, I told him I was largely fine with living in Michigan, except I wished the growing season were longer.

Instead I am contenting myself with looking through a colorful guide published by a plant supplier, making note of possible additions to the yard, preparing a list to take to my dad so I can ask, “Am I crazy to think this can thrive here?” What the book calls Zone 5 and what Zone 5 actually will support are not always the same, I have learned, and once I factor in my sandy soil and general inattention once plants are in the ground, I need the hardiest of specimens.

This post originally appeared on, the online home of the Midland (MI) Daily News. Republished with permission.

What storm?

Man, I KNOW I saw white bands wrapped across our part of the state on a weather map yesterday. I was checking it out because there had been mutterings of a winter storm watch, and we very much wanted to go to Saginaw to watch Midland High play in the state hockey quarterfinals.

I think I’ve said we are huge hockey fans. The boy has played for nine years, and will watch pretty much any hockey game. I was flipping through channels the other day while his back was turned, and the second he heard a puck hit a stick he whipped around and asked for the TV to be left there. The Rangers and someone; he didn’t care. He will watch any NHL, any college, any Olympic, and more than once has said there should be a WNHL, which I think was largely prompted by that killer goalie from Sweden that Minnesota recruited.

We are even more vested in the Chemics, though, because my nephew/godson is on the team. I eyed the weather with a little concern, because I have a small low car, and toyed with taking my husband’s truck instead.

As I picked up the boy from school, I saw a few snowflakes and thought, “Here it comes.” Nope that was it. IT!

So I suppose the “watch” in winter storm watch was just, “Watch our forecast.” There sure wasn’t anything to see in the sky.

The game, though, that was something else. I was worried after that muffed drop pass that set up Davison’s score in the first period. Midland seemed to be the better team, but once it became a 2-point deficit we fretted still more, because 2 points is huge in hockey. The way they hung in speaks to the character of the team, and they are so deserving of the semifinal berth they snagged in overtime.

Have I mentioned I hate sudden death?

This post originally appeared on, the online home of the Midland (MI) Daily News. Republished with permission.