Today’s To Do List

  • Pick berries – the season is too short! The berries came into bloom last weekend, and already they’re starting to wane. I’ve eaten my weight in fresh raspberries that glisten in the sunshine, and Taco has discovered his favourite treat. We let him run free in the woods at the back of the tree nursery and he comes back full of sugar and stained in berry juice. It’s awesome.
  • Rip out dead redwood trees with a loader. Driving the loader still petrifies me, and I absolutely hate when I accidentally end up with both front tyres up in the air because I’ve cooked the controls and can’t dig the bloody tree out. But I no longer sob my way through the hour I spend in the machine, so that’s progress.
  • Dry basil. There’s a basil jungle happening in my veggie garden, and since the tomatoes aren’t quite ripe yet, I’m stripping back the basil bushes and experimenting with drying it out to give to my sister in law, and to stock up for winter.
  • Run 10km on the wheelway. I’ve decided to run a marathon. It’s been a few years since I did a few long distance runs (at a safe plod, but still covered the distance!), so I’m working my way back up to being used to being a little bored and choofing on anyway.

What a life hey?

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Phone calls

Observation of northern Michiganders in their natural habitat: most appropriate cellphone greeting is ‘Hey you wild turkey!’

Fridays at work in Northern Michigan

I drive into the farm – the clouds are starting to set in over what has been a brilliantly blue summer. I’m singing along to my Broadway musical spotify playlist because I have fantastic taste. I pull around past the first crop of trees to see my husband holding a shotgun. He’d spotted the woodchuck that lurks in the outcropping of stone bravely venturing into the open space in front of the woodbark. In a normal world, this would be an opportunity to stay away and continue to coexist peacefully by ignoring each other. In northern Michigan, your father-in-law keeps a shotgun in the truck. Husband goes on the prowl. The woodchuck wisens up and disappears. We never found the woodchuck. There is now permanently a shotgun in our office. This is my new normal.

28 & Feeling Great!

As always it’s been too long between courses. I write a thousand blog posts in my head but very few make their way onto the internet! I’ve come to realize I have put a lot of pressure on myself to record life in many forms – but in this particular season, there’s just too much life to be living to be writing it down regularly.

Spring was short lived around here as summer hurried along to grace us with the lavish long days of sunlight. We’ve had the occasional day of grey, but on the whole it has been day after gorgeous day. As life is now revolving around the outdoors, I’ve paid a fascinates attention to the blooms that occur around us, and it’s been eye opening to watch the wave of colour occur. Coming from somewhere that is permanent sunlight, I don’t feel the change in bloom and colour is quite as drastic as northern Michigan. And almost daily I feel like I watch some flowers poke up while others die off. The pear trees were magical in early spring, which gave way to the lilacs, and now the peonies, which are luscious. The daisies have sprung up now the crocuses bid farewell. And honestly sometimes I feel as though I’m living in a storybook.

I’ve experimented with my first real garden and seen crazy results. Kale has flourished (shame it tastes heinous) and the tomatoes are already bearing fruit. I had one small capsicum which was eviscerated by an overenthusiastic puppy, but more are popping out. I never understood it before, but there is something deeply calming about watering your garden, observing the daily changes.

In all this I’ve become extraordinarily obsessed with our home. Someone more insightful than me commented that it stems from an international move. Despite the many similarities between the USA and Australia, for which I’m very thankful, there is always the great divide between belonging effortlessly and working hard everyday for even the smallest things- navigating the shops, working out where to get your car fixed, making a phone call. And everywhere you go you use a voice that doesn’t fit in (although I’ve adopted a fake twang for when I can’t be bothered), and you work hard to walk on the correct side of the lane and find that rice doesn’t have a big aisle marker but is confusingly hidden with the condiments. So all you crave when you get home is a space that feels like yours. We’ve been very fortunate to rent from the in laws, but it did come with the minor drawback of having their ‘stuff’. It is a great gift, as house stuff is devastatingly expensive. But it came with the sense that no space was truly my own. I’ve attacked this with rigor, scouring Pinterest and the cheapest stores around to bring a sense of me to my home. I’ve realized how slow that process is (SO SLOW), but I’m already feeling more ownership of our house.

Alongside this is a new obsession with homemaking. We are working hours like I’ve never pulled before (and husbo is taking it to the next level), leaving minimal time for eating well, tidying up and sanity, although the state of the house causes further insanity. I’ve never been a naturally tidy person, and my mind is always on the millions of projects I’d like to tackle and then brought back painfully to earth by the insurmountable burden of keeping house. It’s a bloody pain in the arse and generates a lot of internal friction between my modern beliefs that the home burden should be shared and feeling like a slave, while also recognizing I have more disposable time and the balance of life means the home is currently my problem. Also, I’m the one insisting on a certain state, so it isn’t exactly fair to force husbo to do what I alone want. Anyway, my constant battle.

I’m still ploughing through my reading goal, and sit at 23 books. My most recent read is Turia Pitt’s memoir Unmasked. I’m completely besotted with her and subscribe to her weekly email, so it was enjoyable to read in more detail her story. Her strengths definitely lie in providing practical and logical tips for getting out of your own way and getting stuff done. And I just love her incredible full and fabulous but normal life. I’m now harassing the husbo for ideas of how to be more awesome and fabulous.

Until next time!

Spring is here!

I thought I’d never say this, but spring has darn well arrived in northern Michigan and I’m thrilled about it. Although today is only a meagre 3 degrees, it is finally bearable to exist outside. The skies look blue. The frost laws are coming off! Trees can be dug! Birds are singing! It is, simply put, bloody delightful.

However, with the dawn of spring comes the dawn of work season. We are continuing our large build, and seeing some exciting progress towards livability (hooray). Tree baskets are coming out, and the phone has begun to ring from people who want to dig trees, and people who are ready for their homes to be beautified. The ice is coming off the lakes, so docks are going in, and people are ready to spend their summertime in Northern Michigan. Thanks to an extremely irregular spring (or so everyone likes to tell me), the lakes are only now defrosting, and many are being told their docks won’t be put in this year, as there is just no time. It’s all relatively unheard of, and the basis of a lot of small talk.

As a result of work commencing, I’ve now been fully immersing myself in the business of working. For most, this probably goes without saying, but I’ve come to realise that a lot of business ownership is HR and running errands. A lot of people need looking after, and a lot of things need to be done, to allow your employees to work. On top of that, and for me especially, there’s a significant amount of learning to be done in the business of trees. I found some pretty helpful resources at the local library, including a great little read called ‘Running a Successful Landscaping Company’ (there really is a book for everything). My next goal is to conquer the various reading and study materials issued by the nursery association for certified landscapers. At this stage, I have accumulated 0 of the required 2000 hours of landscaping work experience required to certify, but I tell you what, I will learn every detail in those darn books if it kills me. The 2000 hours can come later.

In the non-work world, we’re booked in for a weekender to Nashville, TN in July! I’ve been slowly working towards my 52 books in a year goal, and trying to desperately to kick the horrid little post-wedding weight gain with some serious Crossfit commitment. If America wasn’t so bloody good at pizzas, I would be fine. I also went through the mortifying (now kind of funny) experience of being followed to my car by staff at the grocery store after someone accused me of not paying for my groceries (I had bought a $1 pack of cookies and two king-size Reese’s Peanut Butter cups, there was a reason I was getting out of the store as fast as possible). They knocked on my window while I was scarfing down the cookies and made me return to the store to prove I’d paid. If I’d been in my right mind I would’ve told them to shove it, but instead I handled it like a mature adult and cried. All over my $1 cookies.

Adjustment is slow and steady. I’ve grown a really nice network of people I know and small group of friends, which does wonders for the days when the sky is grey and the dog is eating your shoes and you start to question what the heck you were thinking giving up a warm and perfectly pleasant life that you enjoyed complaining about. I’ve attended a lot of the events run by small businesses and charities. I go to the library practically every second day just to look around.

Taco is now 4 months old and so big I can barely pick him up. He now enjoys barking at and biting me, stealing my undies and going to Crossfit. He can jump out of the car, but isn’t fond of getting in, and prefers to lie down on the floor of the car rather than the seat while driving. He loves to go to the large housewares stores and pee on their floors, and inexplicably has become low-key insta famous thanks to a cute video of him ‘helping’ with shoveling the driveway of the winter-storm snow.

Two months married!

Okay so I spend a lot of my life on Pinterest, and see a lot of amazing Pinterest cover pages about how people make one gazillion dollars a minute just by blogging and if I follow their two easy tips, I can too! But what I feel like this stupid pins fail to disclose is that even if you did make an email subscriber list, and you made pretty pinnable pictures and you became an affiliate to every program under the sun, you still need to sit down and write, and I tell you what, that is hard. So, in short, I will not be becoming a viral blogger sensation anytime soon. I am too lazy. But I do want to record a little more of our new life as landscape business owners in Northern Michigan.

Firstly, we’ve officially been married for two months and it is darn great. And we’ve been living in our new town for almost two months, and that’s darn great too. And I have worn lululemon to my new ‘job’ every single day that I have worked and that, my friends, is the pinnacle of living.

Small town life is taking a strange type of adjustment. There seems to be a preference for older people to live around you, which is sad for my social life. In fact, we were so hard pressed for youthful activities that we went with our friend to a Bunko tournament in the neighbouring Boyne City. This is a six-monthly event where all twenty people over the age of 60 who live in the town get together and get extremely competitive about dice-rolling. As described by Wikipedia, it is a game of zero skill and complete luck, but that didn’t stop many of the people at my tables getting a little chatty when the scoring wasn’t perfect, or when someone called a Bunko (lol) (I got a Bunko) when it was questionable if they had indeed Bunkod, or if someone rang the bell for getting to the final score of 21 when they maybe hadn’t! Oh my. The drama. I lost almost all of the games I played, which did mean I got to move around a lot, as you change tables if you are the loser, but was kind of a hit to my self esteem and belief in my dice-rolling capabilities. However, I did roll a Bunko (hooray) and my prize for ending up with the Bunko bag (who the eff called it Bunko, honestly) was a free ticket to the next Bunko tournament in November, so I’ll keep you updated on whether there is any significant improvement in my luck that time. But it also means six months until my next outing, so we’ve started to look for other ways to occupy our social time.

Taco the pup is now three months old and three thousand times bigger than when we first brought him home. We were very smug about how quickly he learnt to stop peeing inside, but he’s now kindly reverted back to peeing on the carpet outside our bedroom. I’m convinced it’s more a show of defiance that he too is darn important rather than failed potty training, but we’ll see how things develop. Taco spends pretty much the entire day with me – I intentionally wake up 20 minutes earlier than required so I can let him out of his crate and get maximum cuddle time, since that’s his most snuggly hour. Taco is gradually mastering dog skills like the full downward dog morning stretch – although he just faceplants into the carpet, he is giving it his best. He also yawns (surprisingly not a common occurrence as a minipup), poops in odd locations like halfway up rocks, and likes to curl up on my feet while I’m cooking. After our little wakeup snug, he goes for a big run around the perimeter of our farm, comes with me to the office, home to cook breakfast, back to the office, to the Crossfit gym, to the office, in the car to the shops, then for another walk. And even with all that together time, he somehow grows when I’m not looking. It does pay off because I am officially Favourite Parent, and the only one from whom he tolerates extended cuddles, but on the downside, it is my jacket that is ruined from his co-opting it as his bed, and my socks that seem to vanish into his crate.

The day to day running of a seasonal business has taken lots of life adjustment. I haven’t been involved in an industry that is as heavily dictated by the weather as landscaping (funnily enough, you can practice law no matter what the weather, which clients seem to like even if they don’t want to pay for it), but the long frosty spring has meant that many activities can’t occur because well, the ground is frozen. In fact, it is early April and we are experiencing a winter storm, which blanketed our farm with snow so deep that Taco literally disappeared into it. That makes it very difficult to plant or dig trees, lay pipe, pour cement, or do many other things, including, in my case, becoming a zero-waste person and burying my compost. When I tried to bury my first bag of compostable kitchen waste this morning, I could barely lift my shovel (my hands were very cold on account of the frost), and when I did manage to get it moving, I quickly found out the ground, and all the green waste on top of the ground, was frozen solid and my Very Impressive CrossFit Muscles would do little to shift it all. The solution was to hide the bag of compost under one or two leaves and hope that nature would have its way and I would single-handedly save the planet. I think it went well, but I’ll keep you updated.

However, other than being a zero-waste household (Clark is PUMPED about it), the frozenness doesn’t stop other things happening. Really, what I’m learning, is an extended winter means more time to prepare for the upcoming season. Prepare, in seasonal business terms, really means more time to spend money on things. And on things that aren’t very romantic or fun either, like large amounts of pipe, and tree baskets. What I am really looking forward to over the course of the year is watching what these preparation orders become – in terms of actual work product performed by our employees, and final landscaped homes in the area, and all the steps along the way to get them there. That was the kind of oversight and involvement I craved previously, and while I’m finding out it is really hard to keep yourself up to speed on all fronts at all times to put together that picture, I hold onto the belief that the final knowledge of the lifecycle of the season will be extremely rewarding.

I need to brave the winter storm to undertake preparations for the husbo’s birthday tomorrow. I’ve scraped more car windows in the last week than I have in my life (cars don’t frost shut in Australia, weird), and I can’t say I love it. However the one time laziness won out and I figured that the warmth of the car would melt the snow and ice was extremely traumatic – unsurprisingly, I was wrong about the warmth of the car beating out the snow and ice. Driving with such limited visibility is extraordinarily dangerous and absolutely petrifying, so I bailed out into the driveway of the dentist’s, and used my cold fingernails to desperately try to remove some of ice. It kind of sufficed.

Well, enough procrastinating, this snow is going absolutely nowhere. Happy spring, and more updates about Life as a Landscaper to come.

 

 

The Mundane

We’re closing in on our third week in Michigan, and that gives me a long list of weird emotions, but life continues on: Squirrels have been appearing in our backyard, and my new best mate Taco is having the time of his life staring at them. I dread the day he exercises his instincts and brings one home for us. I accidentally did the CrossFit Open WOD at my new ‘box’ (how long until I can say that without internally rolling my eyes?). I ripped four callouses in a mere 20 brutal minutes, and met four new people. Can officially tick ‘be social’ off my list of ways to be a better person in Petoskey.

Additionally, with moving here came the delightful opportunity to be unemployed. This is fun, in the sense that I wake up in the morning with no obligation to do anything other than breathe, eat and occasionally clean up, which was the holy grail when at the firm. This is also decidedly not fun, because you can quickly lose purpose, and visas mean I am not exercising the option to not work, I just actually can’t work. Ah well. I have aimed to create purpose by cooking as many new meals as possible, and achieve my mum’s wizard-like ability to not waste a single item of food in the fridge. I’ve also re-jigged our living space and got a dog, giving me the joyful opportunity of taking him out into the truly below freezing 3am temperatures (with guest appearances of snow/rain and if we’re lucky, backup vocals from a howling wind) and fighting over peeing not playing.

Having a puppy has completely confused us. He’s stupid cute, and likes to curl up and nap wherever I have hung my coat for hours. Then out of nowhere he loses his shit and tornadoes his way around the house, tail straight up in the air and attitude oozing from his paws. We are on instant alert the second his nose touches the ground, and have had many scoop and runs to the door, only for the adorable, pugnacious nutbag to have peed his way there and be keen for the reward of an outdoor play. Taco suffers through a bazillion cuddles from both of us, mainly as a trade for treating my feet as chew toys, and prefers to fall asleep with his neck wrapped around the leg of a chair or table. He makes life intolerable and wonderful, and the four days he has been with us are the only four since arriving in the USA that I haven’t cried.

We have faced a particularly tough few days through the family business, which was an unfair (in my eyes), but ultimately, appropriate reality check on what exactly we’d signed up for. I’ve leaned heavily on a patient husband and a fluffy puppy to deal with the payout of that reality, and seen in myself some of the grit we were taught as graduate lawyers.

So really, it doesn’t really matter where you live it, life is full of good bits and bad bits. And a dog always helps.

Welcome home, Taco

So I reckon there are momentous days in life, like getting married, graduating school, landing your first job – and then there’s the day you bring home your first puppy.

We met our little mate after a hairy drive down mud (previously dirt) roads in the rural areas down state. The breeder was freshly moved in to a new life in the country, and had a little litter of one month puppies by the front door, who were a mess of wriggly little faces one moment and a pile of snoozing bodies the next. The future Mr Taco Hoffman was waiting in his crate for us next to his Mum. Once let out I got a big teary cuddle before the Husbo and pupdog became immediate best friends and ran laps up and down the house.

We were given an overload of information, all of which we promptly forgot when we looked at our little pupper. The breeder administered the bortadella shot, we paid up and bundled Taco into the back of the car. After reading comprehensively on the topic, I’d covered the backseat with a towel, and brought along two stuffed toys from Goodwill and a little chew bone. All of them held his attention for a few minutes at a time, between little snoozes and chewing the seatbelt.

Our drive back up north was a decent 3.5 hours, and we stopped multiple times for fear of accidents. We had no near misses, which gave us false confidence for the night ahead. Taco played on some curbsides, scratched furiously at his collar, and bit his lead. We were convinced we had the smartest, bestest, most handsomest dog in the world.

Taco took to his new house perfectly, sniffing everything, biting some lamp cords (ugh) and walking in and out of his crate. He loved his Goodwill toys, and inhaled his dinner. Then he peed on the carpet. We really did our best to encourage him when he went outside, but it is a fair journey to the currently selected pee spot, which also happens to be heavily covered in snow. I remain convinced he is cold and confused, which explains our failed 2.30am pee trip, and this morning’s indoor accident.

On the plus side, he cries himself out quickly and I wasn’t forced to live through the sleeping-next-to-the-crate scenarios I’ve heard others do. Or maybe I just slept straight through it.

Even if he is a little rambunctious, he is too cute for words. He’s napping next to me now and I’ve stared at him for five minutes straight. Little bugger.