Yes, I am a blogging slacker. But I have reasons. I have three jobs. Academic-related jobs. And the end of the school year is coming up. So my jobs are insane right now. I feel like I am working all the time. I spent three nights and five days in Madison over the past two days. And that is just for one of the three jobs.
On a happier note, my basement and garage are now cleaned out and lovely. We're working on the yard this weekend. And going camping in a week or so. Hoorah!

The "Ruffin' It Wisconsin" crew (8 humans and 6 dogs) met for our first camping trip of the season this weekend. We chose Devil's Lake State Park in Baraboo in the hopes that Wisconsin's largest state park would be less crowded this early in the season than it is later in the summer. Well, it was less crowded than in, say July, but we still managed to hit the first 70 degree weekend of the year, so there were still quite a few people out enjoying the park.
We had a wonderful time and it was really nice to see everyone and spend some time around the campfire catching up. We took a long hike on Saturday around the lake, up Balanced Rock trail (which is almost verticle), and along the ridge above the opposite shore. I misplaced my camera and didn't get too many photos, but here are a few of the crew out in the sunshine.

My review of the park:
Devil's Lake is actually one of my least favorite of Wisconsin's state parks. It is always incredibly crowded and is so touristy. We chose it hoping to have it more or less to ourselves this early in the year, but it didn't turn out that way. Only one of the three campgrounds is open this early in the season, Quartzite. While the other two campgrounds are wooded and campers have at least some privacy, Quartzite is a former golf course and looks like it. We were completely out in the open and could see every other camper in the park. It felt like camping on a golf course, or at least in an RV park. The trails are plentiful although I am not the biggest fan of asphalt over natural surfaces. I do enjoy the Balanced Rock trail (which reminds me a bit of the stairs of Cirith Ungol in Lord of the Rings) and the views from the top are spectacular. Devil's Lake State Park is a camping destination for people who don't camp. This aside, I had a great time and look forward to our next camping trip.

I am a messy person. However, I hate living in a messy house. It stresses me out. I cannot relax when I know that the kitchen floor is sprinkled with dog hair or the bathtub needs to be scrubbed. I also do not feel that it is my sole responsibility to clean just because I am the only occupant of the house with a uterus (except may the turtle, althought she may be a boy, and I'm not sure if turtles even have uteruses...or is it uteri????). And this causes a strain on my marriage because my husband is also messy and does not enjoy being told he has to help me clean.

Anywho, it has been my life long dream (or at least my moving out of my parent's house dream) to have a cleaning lady. I always decided it would be my one indulgence in life if I could ever afford it. We don't have cable, our internet is free, and we are very good about living within our budget and saving everything we can. Well, as I am currently working three jobs and would rather enjoy my time at home than stress about it, I decided to hire somebody to come once a month, I'll take care of it the rest of the time.

She came for the first time today. We got home from work and school and opened the door to a house that smells like lemons. The blanket on the couch is folded. The shelves are dusted. There is not a dog hair to be found on the kitchen floor. The bathtub is scrubbed. The dishwasher is filled. I am in heaven.

Actually two hikes. Cabin again this weekend (this is becoming a habit and I'm okay with that). Friday night we wandered back to the Lower Wisconsin Riverway just before sunset and found two trails that didn't look like they'd seen humans in a while...deer: yes, foxes: yes, various other wildlife: yes, humans: not so much. The wildlife is incredibly active at that time of the day and the dogs stayed busy attempting to hunt things down in the tall grass (and not coming even remotely close to succeeding, hunting down biscuits in the living room occassionally poses a challenge for these two). There were birds everywhere. Two Canada geese were less than thrilled with our choice of hiking locale and spent a good fifteen minutes yelling at us for going near the water. Other than their incessant honking it was gloriously peaceful. The sunset was beautiful and as I could share the time with my husband and the pups I was loathe to think of anywhere else I would rather be at that moment.

Saturday brought a hike at Governor Dodge with the Shorts, Julie, and a total of six dogs. The weather was in the mid 50s and as the trail we chose was very open we all rolled up our long sleeves quickly and hurried into the shady areas. I'm excited to add some photos of Dodger and Brewer to the blog as they were finally able to join us for a hike.

Brew Crew
Dodgy Marie

In other news, my husband has purchased a gun from his uncle. He tells me it is a shotgun and that he plans to hunt turkeys with it. I'll take his word for it. It hasn't come out of its case in my presence and has been transported to his parent's house and his dad's gun cabinet (complete with lock). I am not a big proponent of 2nd Amendment rights* but as long as I don't have to see it, worry about it getting up in the middle of the night (on its own volition, obviously...I am concerned about things like that) and shooting someone, or look at any dead wildlife it produces, I'll just pretend it doesn't exist**.

*However, as I am a bit of a 1st Amendment fan, I recognize the slippery slope-ish dangers of eliminating any of the Bill of Rights...except maybe that one amendment about quartering soldiers (#3?)...couldn't we just accidentally replace that with something more meaningful?
**My hope is that he'll just forget about it himself.

The house is almost officially ours. We started the whole mortgage process back in November, but as the first bank we visited ("our" bank) was thoroughly unhelpful, it was February or March before things really got going. It's a good thing the sellers (aka Mike's parents) are patient!

Anyway, I received a message at work today letting me know rates had dropped below 5% again and I should call back immediately if we wanted to lock in. The lender was out when I called, so I left the following voicemail: "I don't know if we're allowed to lock in a rate over voicemail, but if we can, would you please lock us in." Apparently we ARE allowed to lock in over voicemail and our interest rate is 4.925%. Hoorah! We'll never have to refinance unless rates disappear altogether! Our monthly principal payment is almost the same as our car payment...not too shabby at all!

We close on the 30th. Maybe by then it will be warm enough to start thinking about what we're going to do with the outside of the house...and the yard...and the garage...

So I'm not sure if there is something in the water in Avoca (that would be the Wisconsin River) or what, but there is something seriously wrong with the birds that live near the cabin. Cases in point:

1) Last summer, Mike and I were spending a weekend relaxing at the cabin when we suddenly heard what sounded like fireworks going off in a metal bucket. We ignored it. Until it happened again. And again. And again. Mike finally became a bit concerned about the neighbor's hobbies and went outside to check. The sound was not fireworks going off in a bucket. It was a woodpecker. A woodpecker attempting to "peck" into the metal chimney. Over and over again. My guess it its brain is loose and for some reason this is its chosen obsession. And guess what?! It's back. We heard it again yesterday morning and both pretty much broke into hysterics. So either the same brain addled woodpecker has returned (or whatever it is woodpeckers do in the spring) or there is more than one. Which is seriously disconcerting. We started a fire in the fireplace and it gave us some peace. But I'm sure it'll be back.

2) There is a whipoorwill in the area that, judging from the amount of noise it produces (always when one is attempting to sleep), must be approximately the size of a human toddler. We have yet to hear it again this year, but I imagine it will return soon as well.

Sarah and Rusty and Rooke met us at the cabin this weekend and we had a lovely time Saturday further exploring the area Mike and I discovered last time. After 4 hours or so the pups were pooped. Here are some pics of the Short canines enjoying the area.

Oh, it snowed today. Not the 7-12 inches forecast, just a little dusting. I, however, am sick and tired of it and beginning to question whether spring is going to show up at all this year.