Winterizing La Casa de Tontería

Yesterday it snowed. Not the fluffy, stick-to-the-ground snow. Not even the fluffy, melt-immediately snow. It came down in tiny crystals that rattled in the fallen leaves.

The cold weather meant no one was burning leaves. It was a perfect time to bag up leaves and pick up sticks. I hauled four bags and, with a bungee cord and a steady hand on the trunk, the fallen maple limb to the yard-waste drop-off.

When I said I’d be back with more, the man who runs the site warned me, “Don’t stay out too long. You’ll get soaked.” He’s a local who’s seen more than a few winters.

Sure enough, the snow changed to a thick mix of rain and sleet. By the time I put away the tools, I was drenched. It felt good to change into dry, thick layers and lunch on hot soup.

I made a mental list of accomplishments. The outdoor furniture has been stored. The compost can and the garbage bin have both been moved to their easy-to-reach winter spots. The snow shovel is in the front closet.

But the outdoor faucets need capping. Would suet or seed be better? Both? And this morning, when I stepped onto the cool floor, I remembered: close the crawlspace vents!

Real snow is coming Wednesday or Thursday.

SIDENOTE: The natural gas company sent its monthly report. La Casa de Tontería (aka The House of Nonsense) used 28% less energy (19 therm) than the 100 most efficient homes (26 therm) and much less than comparable houses (43 therm).


Caterpillar of the Apocalypse!

Woolly Bear Caterpillar with fallen cedar bits as a comparison. The little guy doesn’t look impressive in the photo (and its russet middle doesn’t show well). That’s a ruse….

Must be dead, I thought when I found it on the driveway. Even at noon, the 21F/-6C temperature was much too cold for caterpillars.

After lunch, I prepared to go back to work. The woolly-bully was closer to the car. If I squinted, its tiny feet seemed to be moving! Slllooowwwwly, though. It’s also curling a little in on itself, as woolly bears do when threatened.

When I came home at sunset, it was motionless as I took the photo. I had no doubt it was still alive. I didn’t want to accidentally squish it under the tires or scrape it up with a shovel of snow, so I tried to flip it onto an oak leaf. It “stuck” because its amazing grippy feet were clinging to the tiny grooves in the cement. Gently, I rolled it onto a leaf and put it in the flowerbed.  

Today it was gone.

A charming custom in Eastern and Midwestern USA is to look for woolly bears (“woolly-bullies” where I grew up) in the autumn. The length of its black bands was said to predict the length and severity of winter. If that were the case, what apocalypse is foretold by it hightailing in the dead of winter?!?

Inclement Weather Days (aka Wildlife-watching)

Snow, ice and bitter cold meant I spent almost two days with only the briefest of excursions outside. One was to refill the feeders and throw a few handfulls of sunflower seeds on the ground.


Snow on nose, squirrel looks for food in the storm.

Starlings discovered them the second day.  Ugh, starlings! They arrived in a raucous crowd, bumping each other and the glass sliding door. They left red-orange droppings all over the deck and yard.


The last of the invaders to leave.

Finally the sun came out and, despite freezing temperatures, melted the snow from the dark pavers.


Sunny days bring more squirrels.

Winter came early…

Honestly, I thought the worst came last night. By eight o’clock, I had the walk and driveway shoveled. The street, which tends to be plowed two days later than the main roads, had been packed down by neighbors.

Therefore, I was surprised to get the word just before five this morning that the Young Human Factory is closed. But after the sun rose, I realized that yesterday’s snow was quite a lot in and of itself.


Cold snap!

It’s just the first week of November, but an arctic blast has brought a taste of winter. The Detroit Metro forecasters anticipate January-like weather next week.

It was already a bit colder at the end of October.* Neighbors with hunting cabins “Up North” found themselves asking nearby friends to turn on the heaters or turn off the water.  The autumnal gardens are suddenly cut short and sad-looking with withered vines and dead mums (short for “chrysanthemums,” not “mothers” – not to paint too macabre a picture, my readers!).

Here at La Casa de Tontería (aka The House of Nonsense), this prognostication brought on a winterizing rush. Of course, the scramble coincided with the deadlines for finalizing quality-control reports at The Young Human Factory.** Because all stressors must coordinate!

  • Could I make another pass at the lawn? No. The mower was emptied and put into storage, along with rakes and the leaf-shute (a plastic folding device that facilitates dumping leaves into paper garden waste bags).
  • The annual capping of the outdoor faucets and closing of the crawlspace vents were done post haste. (During the old shed tear down, the construction worker found the “lost” caps that fit tighter. Hurrah!)
  • Birds and beasts were confused to find the birdbath closed for the season, although the first snowfall means the squirrel  bird feeder is now serving breakfast, lunch, dinner, and supper.

* The shed’s stain and seal must wait until spring!

** Somehow I – and my colleagues – survived. Some Young Humans may be in slightly-altered condition by Monday, after their producers see the reports.


Freebies and Fails

I’m putting the Freebies right here for the TL/DR crowd:

  1. The SFFwaudio Podcast. I like SF and I love G.K. Chesterton’s The Man Who Was Thursday, so I’m enjoying listening to the audio version and looking forward to hearing the podcast discussing it.
  2. Instant Pot Recipes at is giving me an overview of my intimidating birthday gift, which I haven’t used yet.

The recent three days of snow have made me grateful (yet again) for kind neighbors and profoundly covetous of their garages. I have to remind myself that I can survive another winter without one, unlike a furnace or a water heater. Continue reading

The Factory is not closed for me…

As faithful readers may remember, my job as a Quality Control Inspector at the Young Human Factory underwent a transformation this fall. I was put in charge of teaching English to members – or potential members – of the Middle School Mafia. A daunting task, but I am buoyed by the vision of them communicating without grunts, egg-flinging, and ritualistic doorbell-ringing.

For the same low price, I now deliver eight more hours a week of service AND the daily 53 minutes of preparation time was eliminated. But it has really helped my time management, since I have so little.

Weekends are not my own, nor vacations. Continue reading

Losing my drive…

…in winter, that is!

It takes a practice to drive in snow, sleet, and ice. This winter being so mild, I’ve been out of practice. I didn’t realize how much until Friday, when I drove to my parents’ house. Snow was coming down lightly, but the roads were clear.

As usual, I was using the Driving Like an Old Lady Technique, a skill that has made me a favorite among designated drivers and owners of sports cars.* Not to disclose all the secrets of this mysterious art, but suffice to say that it involves sticking to the left lanes. I get to my destination in a timely manner, but with 1/3 the road rage. Continue reading