Needy

But I am poor and needy: make haste unto me, O God: thou art my help and my deliverer; O Lord, make no tarrying.

– Psalm 70:5 KJV

The last few weeks have been rough.

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Since early spring we have been waiting and watching to see what direction Mr. Awesome’s current job situation would take, but we are now in the final hour as it were, and we are still waiting and watching, wondering where God will lead us next.

Arthur’s recovery continues to be slow. At one point during his round of antibiotics he lost a lot of his mobility. He is unable to perch, so we keep him in the hospital tub, which we eventually moved back out into the bird room so he could be near Robin and not feel ostracized from the flock. It seems to have helped a bit, but Arthur’s progress continues to be a one step forward, two steps back affair, and we are wondering if he will have special needs for the remainder of his life.

Being stuck in a tub, Arthur needs cleaning twice daily. He was having trouble getting his head up to eat and drink from his normal food and water dishes so we picked up containers that would be easier for him to access, but being smaller and lower to the ground they need to be changed more often. With the current setup we can’t leave him alone for more than a few hours, making even overnight trips to visit family problematic.

Throughout Arthur’s illness, poor Robin has had to take a back seat to Arthur’s needing special care and Willow’s insistence on being the center of attention. Still, he appears to be quite content not having to share his toys, and I believe having Arthur back beside him has helped him a bit too. If nothing, it gives him something new to investigate.

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Willow continues to be Willow, and that’s a good thing.

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And so, with all of the stresses and unknowns of our immediate future (I have to add the looming presidential election to the list), what do Mr. Awesome and I do? We pray. And we wait. Because even though it feels like the world is crumbling beneath our feet, we know there is a Rock underneath that will remain solid for us.

Therefore whosoever heareth these sayings of mine, and doeth them, I will liken him unto a wise man, which built his house upon a rock:

And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and beat upon that house; and it fell not: for it was founded upon a rock.

– Matthew 7:24-25 KJV

I have been through enough rough times with Jesus to know that no matter how dark everything gets, His light will pierce through it. I don’t know what His plan is for Mr. Awesome and I, but I know it’s going to be great when it gets here.

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Introducing the Roses

I went rose crazy this spring.

When I first became interested in gardening I thought I would be focusing mostly on edibles, as the whole homesteading/self-sufficiency thing is very appealing to myself and Mr. Awesome, who comes from an agrarian family. But then catalogs and library books happened, and suddenly I was entranced by the idea of having a rose garden, albeit a potted one. I prayed that I would be able to get three rose bushes by the end of the 2016 growing season. I ended the year with fourteen, praise God! Most of the roses were an early 30th birthday present from Mr. Awesome and my grandmother.

The majority of the roses came mail order via High Country Roses out in Colorado. I really can’t recommend them enough if you are looking for young, own root roses. Their selection is great, shipping costs are reasonable, and the customer service is very good. One wet April morning, I received one of each of the following:

  • Cardinal de Richelieu
  • The Fairy
  • Gruss An Aachen
  • Buff Beauty
  • Marchesa Boccella
  • Ballerina
  • Zephirine Drouhin
  • Mountain Mignonette
  • Distant Drums
  • Madame Pierre Oger
  • Bill Reid
  • Awakening
  • Honorine de Brabant
  • Reine des Violettes
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Rose order before being taken out of the box. The bloom you see above is the Gruss An Aachen. Though the petals were not at their peak, it smelled wonderful.

Before their arrival, I made sure I had all I needed for my new charges. I had found enough good sized pots to house them in in the recycling bin of a local nursery, which cost me nothing (if you have a nearby nursery or home improvement store that lets you raid their recycle bin, this is a great way to get plastic containers for free). I had also picked up a bag or two of Dairy Doo and some cedar mulch.

The instructions High Country Roses sent along with their order recommended hardening the little plants off before planting them out. Since they were going into pots and I could stick them under our balcony until they were more comfortable with their surroundings, I called HCR and asked if that would be an adequate hardening off period. The gentleman said it would be fine, so I geared up to plant.

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The Fairy, planted and ready to grow.

All of the HCR roses got the same treatment. I made a mix of some soil I had left over from the year before, peat moss, homemade compost, Dairy Doo, and a bit of Espoma’s Rose-tone. After planting them in their containers, I surrounded them with a thin layer of Dairy Doo, mulched them with the cedar, and gave them a drink.

The two climbers, Awakening and Zephirine Drouhin, got the largest containers (at least 20 in. and probably close to 20 gallons of space) as well as a couple of homemade trellises I DIYed.

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Awakening with the bamboo trellis I made by tying poles together with fishing line. May not hold up for long, but at least it’s light weight.

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Zephirine Drouhin with the much heavier trellis I made by screwing together 1 1/2 x 3/4 in. untreated pine lumber. Much heavier but more professional looking.

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Buff Beauty

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Honorine de Brabant up on our balcony.

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I believe the rose in front is Bill Reid. I think that’s The Fairy behind it.

Overall, everything went in just fine. In hindsight I think I should have been a bit more conservative with the amount of compost I put in with them, and perhaps left off the Espoma as Buff Beauty and Reine des Violettes ended up quite leggy. I also regret a couple of my container choices. A few simply did not drain well and with the unusually wet summer we had, it was a bit of a shuffle to keep the roses from drowning.

A few weeks later I was looking through the discount section at a local nursery and saw that they had a few David Austin roses there with mildew ravaging their leaves. Despite the mildew and the fact that they were grafted, I couldn’t resist the price tag of $10 each and brought home a Harlow Carr and a Wollerton Old Hall. I tried to keep them away from the other roses to keep the mildew from spreading and treat them as best I could. Eventually I just defoliated them both. Harlow Carr Survived by Wollerton Old Hall did not. That week  Zephirine Drouhin showed up with mildew. I don’t know if it was a coincidence or if I had infected her by bringing in the new comers, but if I had to do it over again I think I would have left the discounted roses where they were. Still, Harlow Carr gave me some very lovely blooms this season, even if it is a bit of a thorny monster.

Poor Distant Drums had a bit of a struggle. It ended up on our balcony where I think it simply got too hot and eventually expired. A big bummer considering the lovely coffee fading to lavender color of its blooms.

It is amazing how quickly roses grow though, and I was very happy that Awakening, The Fairy, Gruss an Aachen, Marchesa Boccella, Ballerina, Mountain Mignonette, Distant Drums, Bill Reid and Harlow Carr all bloomed at least once.

I’m very thankful to have the roses around, and am excited to see how they do next season (assuming I don’t kill any more of them before then). I look forward to them becoming big, mature plants. Most if not all of them will be overwintering in our garage (a perk of growing them in pots). Most should safely grow in our zone, but I see no reason to take the chance. We had a mild winter last year, but the two years before that were quite brutal.

Eventually I plan to re-pot them into larger, more stately containers, but for now they should have plenty of room to stretch their legs, at least until spring arrives.

Hanging On

When the phone rang Wednesday afternoon and the woman on the other end asked if she could speak with me, I responded,

“This is she.”

“This is So-and-So with Such-and-Such Animal Clinic. Arthur’s chlamydia test results came back and they’re negative”

“Oh praise God! Thank you.”

“Have a nice day.”

“You too.”

“Bye.”

Not an exact quote, but you get the idea. After I hung up I felt wobbly and a little ill. I don’t think I quite realized how much waiting to see if we were all infected with psittacosis was burdening my emotions or how much relief that one bit of news would bring. Nearly to the point of breaking, I’d prayed for something good to happen that day. Jesus answered.

Few things in life make you feel like a clumsy buffoon as does having a sick budgie in the house who needs a daily dose of antibiotics. You towel him as best you can, worried you’ll break him, smother him, or stress him to death. You hold him with one hand while in the other you finagle a syringe which you have to use to gently pry open the microscopic beak he insists on clamping shut. When you finally do get an open window, you hope your reflexes are quick enough, aim, and fire. Some of it makes it in and some of it just oozes down his little face, and as you set him back into his makeshift hospital room, exhausted and weak, you feel rather like a brontosaurus doing brain surgery.

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Mr. Awesome chose to name him Arthur because he was so brave when we brought him home. Over the last week he has lived up to his name. There were times I was certain he wasn’t going to make it through the night and watched as my husband cradled his little, limp body in his hand. But each morning Arthur would still be there, hanging on. We realized Wednesday evening that I had been measuring incorrectly and giving him too much of the antibiotic, something I should have known, should have erred on the side of caution. Little can make you feel so low as to realize you’ve been hurting the very thing you are trying to help.

It’s been a long week, and I thank Jesus for pulling us through it. In reflection it makes me thankful for so much. Thankful Arthur is still here. Thankful the other birds don’t seem to have caught what he has. Thankful for a husband with a big heart and gentle hands who has compassion for tiny birds. Thankful for getting to see a few rays of sun peaking out from behind proverbial clouds.

Thankful Jesus keeps us hanging on.

Insert Cliche Blog Title About Feeling Overwhelmed By Life Here -> <-

Sorry, but the only other title I could come up with for this post was, “When It Rains, It Pours”, and that just felt much too overused.

But still appropriate.

Late Wednesday evening I noticed Arthur was clearly not feeling well. I relayed as much to Mr. Awesome and after a quick phone call to my mother we removed him to the guest room and put him in the “hospital cage”, a clear plastic tote lined with towels and topped by a screen, then plugged in a space heater to warm him up a bit. Thinking there was probably little the 24 hour emergency vet could do for him other than tell us to keep him warm and call the avian vet in the morning, we watched over him for a couple of hours and prayed.

When we looked in on Arthur the next morning it was clear he was still not well and I made an appointment with the avian vet, who said he was underweight but his heart and lungs sounded good. She ordered a gram stain and chlamydia(psittacosis) test. The gram stain came back with lots of bacteria in it. We wont know the result of the chlamydia test for several days. The vet prescribed an antibiotic and tube fed Arthur so he could regain some of his strength.

Arthur seems to be improving slightly. He’s been eating millet and Mr. Awesome has been able to get him to drink a couple of times. I’m doing my best to towel him each day and dribble antibiotic into his mouth with a syringe, but he isn’t exactly cooperative, and clearly doesn’t appreciate it.

After all that has happened in the last six months with our birds, I feel toasted… and worried. Worried that the psittacosis test will come back positive and all of the birds have it.  Worried Arthur isn’t going to make it through this. Worried I made a bad decision, did something wrong, and this is my fault. My mind keeps replaying all of the “I should’ves”.

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The Scream by Edvard Munch

I need to remember that right now, in all of the craziness, to just focus on today and not worry about what is going to happen tomorrow. There’s too much to do right now without adding hypothetical scenarios of what may or may not happen. And deep down inside, underneath all of the fear, worry, and questions, I know Jesus is going to get us through this, and that someday, things are going to feel better. So I suppose another cliche title for this post could easily be, “This Too Shall Pass”.

But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you.  Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.

-Matthew 6:33-34

 

 

Update On The Flock: Part Two

Read part one here.

I grew up with birds in the house.

Actually, that sentence is probably an understatement.

I grew up with budgies, finches, cockatiels, conures, African Greys, macaws, and a lovebird all making their marks on my childhood/pre-teen/teen years, thanks to my mother who dearly loves, and has seemingly always had a passion for, birds. I grew up attending bird club meetings and going to bird shows. My parents and I all had similar bird club jackets (it was the 90s. Don’t judge me). One of my cooler birthday memories is of attending the Midwest Avian Research Expo. I knew who Dr. Irene Pepperberg and Alex were by the age of 8, and I’m pretty sure none of my friends left our house without hearing just how intelligent and amazing parrots actually are.

Parrots were to my family what horses are to others, a lifestyle.

So it probably isn’t much of a surprise that after we had had our first budgie, Giacomo, for a couple of months, I started to  hanker for a bird that could poop gallons a day and rearrange my face if it really wanted to. Mr. Awesome was not terribly enthused by my not-so-subtle growing desire, as he is rather opposed to tidal waves of excrement and being mauled. Weird.

But then we lost Giacomo, and I regretted the time I spent wishing for another bird, time I could have spent just enjoying him. You truly don’t know what you have until you lose it.

In the weeks that followed, Mr. Awesome and I dithered on just what species would replace Giacomo, as we desperately wanted to fill the hole he had left behind. After researching other species and looking around, we came to the conclusion that we were, in fact, budgie people after all, and would get two budgies instead of one, since with Giacomo it became clear he would have greatly benefited from the company of another budgie. Had he lived, I am fairly certain we would have eventually procured a friend for him.

Enter Tuck and Robin. Mr. Awesome rejoiced that the floods of poo, though increased by having two birds, still remained relatively mild.

Then, like a couple who have settled into a functional, comfortable routine with their two children start lightly tossing around the idea of baby #3, we flirted with the idea of another bird. This prospect waxed and waned. One of us would have a dream about having tons of budgies and we’d want another bird. Then we’d have one of those lovely evenings where the budgies were so very adorable as my husband slayed virtual villains, and the thought of changing things up with a third bird seemed ridiculous. I mean, really, why mess with a good thing?

And then Willow happened.

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Through familial connections I’d been aware that a certain African Grey might be in need of a new home in the near future. When Mr. Awesome and I saw her, she was underweight, lonely, in need of a much better diet, and had plucked a good portion of her chest and neck area. Somewhere between ten and fifteen years old, Willow had been hand fed as a baby and sexed female.

The first serious conversation Mr. Awesome and I had about taking Willow pretty much ended in the decision not to. Where would we put her? What about the costs involved? Would we have the time? What about the budgies? Was this a responsibility we should take on right now? What if Willow decided she wanted Mr. Awesome and not me and he was at work all day? What if she did prefer me and became combative with Mr. Awesome? Just how much fecal matter would it bring into our lives? They were serious matters that needed addressing.

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But the next day when I saw Willow again, my heart broke at the thought of not giving her a good home, and I prayed for God to give us guidance, to let us know if this was something we should do or not. I didn’t want to take her unless we could reasonably say that we would be her last home. The subject was tabled for a few weeks as we waited to see what Willow’s family decided to do, and we mulled over whether or not we could accommodate her in our home.

The answer turned out to be yes, and though there have been problems to solve and challenges to overcome, a lot of learning to be done and patience used, she is fitting into our home beautifully. We’ve had her just over two months now, and I can’t imagine life without her. I praise God for bringing her into our home, and pray that we will have her for many decades to come.

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And as for Mr. Awesome’s fears of swimming in feces, I will point out that Willow is well on her way to being potty  cage trained, and in two months we’ve only had a handful of “accidents”. That and my cleaning regime has increased significantly, but that is a subject for another post.

…to be continued…

 

 

 

Update On The Flock: Part One

As I indicated in yesterday’s post, 2016 has been a bumpy year full of changes in our household, and even more so for our little flock. From the time we brought Robin and Tuck home all the way through 2015, the days passed without major incident bird wise. We moved the budgie cages around until we found the location they seemed happiest and worked best for us- our loft/office space. It has an east facing window, is on the second floor, and stays warm during our long, Midwestern winters. Add to all of this the fact that we spend a good portion of our time there as it’s where the computers are (Mr. Awesome is a video game designer after all) and it would seem we have found the optimum location for bird placement within our condo. And so, Mr. Awesome and I established a gentle rhythm with our two feathered housemates. They had their routine, we had ours.

Then one morning this spring Robin started gagging and vomiting up foam. We took him to the vet who, after listening to his heart, detected a murmur. An X-ray revealed fluid in his chest cavity. Robin was diagnosed with congestive heart failure and given a diuretic injection. The vet indicated that the shot and an oral diuretic would give him a few days, maybe a couple of weeks, so we brought Robin home thinking the best we could do is try to keep him calm and comfortable until the end came. We prayed for the little guy. We didn’t want to lose him.

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One of the (many) awesome things about God is He cares about the little things in your life, even the tiny details you don’t think have any significance on the world at large. When we brought Robin home we thought we had maybe a few days with him and assumed we were on a death watch… but he perked up. We started giving him the oral diuretic the vet prescribed and the days turned into weeks, the weeks into months. He got feisty again (something to do with the fact the medication is 11.6% alcohol perhaps?), and hassled Tuck with renewed energy. Five months later, he’s still here, ruling the roost and alerting us to every “threat” that passes his window, or calling to the birds outside.  I don’t know how long we’ll get to keep him, how long his little heart will hold out, but I’m thankful for whatever time God gives us with him.

After Robin’s heart scare, things calmed down and went as back to normal as they could with Mr. Awesome and I watching for signs of his condition deteriorating. We were thankful to have found an avian vet we really liked and felt we could trust. We were thankful to have our little flock still intact. No more waves…

And then we heard about Willow.

…to be continued…

 

 

 

 

Anniversary Trip Find: Vintage Noritake China

Purchasing fine china was never high on my to do list when Mr. Awesome and I got married. Acquiring a nice, sturdy set of Corelle dishes I was unlikely to break and wouldn’t take up much room in our kitchen cabinets was much more prominent on the list, and something my mother very kindly checked off last Christmas. That said, I found myself somewhat befuddled as Mr. Awesome and I speed walked back to our car from one of the many lovely antique shops in Marshall, Michigan to pick up a blue plastic tub of vintage china.

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Noritake “Althea” pattern c. 1933

It became apparent over our anniversary trip that I can actually take Mr. Awesome into antique shops. We weren’t in the above mentioned shop long before he found some small figurines that might work well for some of his games. While he looked through the little bags of soldiers and wizards, I browsed the rest of the store, not finding much that caught my eye. We both went to the lower level of the store and looked around, but nothing there either.

As we came back up the stairs I happened to glance into a large plastic tub with some plates in it.

“That’s pretty…”

The shop’s owner came over, and before I knew it I was agreeing to buy a fair amount of “vintage” plates made by a Japanese company. I knew nothing about the company and nothing about china, just what the tag in the tub said:

ViNTAge

NoRiTAKe ChiNA

“1933” ALTheA

$100.00 SET

We didn’t pay $100 for the set, which turned out to include twelve dinner plates, eleven dessert/salad plates, twelve saucers, seven cups, a serving bowl, a “casserole dish” (as the shop keeper called it), and a large serving platter.

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After getting back to our room at the bed & breakfast, I looked up Noritake China on my phone, and was pleasantly surprised at what I discovered. Far from having just bought cheap, low grade china from some unknown company, Noritake is still very much in business and, from what I could tell, well respected for their products with their vintage pieces sought after by collectors. I was also very happy to discover that the 1933 date seemed to be correct.

After Mr. Awesome and I got home, I washed the china as gently as I could and stacked it in a kitchen cabinet, which seemed sad and a bit of a waste. What a pity to hide something so pretty. Still, we hardly have room for the traditional china cupboard. Nothing to do but wait, I suppose.

Next day I started rooting around the internet for plate display ideas and came across some very appealing wall arrangements. Inspired, I went and grabbed the three scrolly iron plate holders Mr. Awesome and I used at our wedding reception. I took down the framed wall art and two candle sconces that were hanging in our dining room and hung the three plate holders in the nail holes that were left behind. I put two dinner plates on either side and the serving platter in the middle. It looked good, but needed more.

After a trip to Hobby Lobby, some praying (Please, Lord, help me make this look good), measuring, and a few screws, I stood back and saw this:

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I ended up purchasing two more of the scrolly iron holders, and some of the cheap wire hangers to hang the smaller plates. The cup holders were actually candle sconces I’ve had for years that were laying around in the garage.

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All in all, I’m super pleased with how it turned out, and I’m so glad that I can gawk at my anniversary souvenirs as much as I like without having to pull them out of a kitchen cabinet.