I am working two towns over from where i am living at the moment. It means it takes an hour to drive there and an hour to drive back. As my work hours picked up to full time i began to sweat about how long i was leaving the dogs cooped up in crates indoors. What kind of life would that be for them long term? When i began working at multiple buildings the directors didnt always talk to one another and 8 hour days could morph into 16 hour days quickly with lunch, drive time, and the two locations not entirely sure how many hours the other had given me. This could not continue. I would have to quit my job or the dogs would have to go outside. The decision was made to revamp the dog run to be escape resistant and provide more temperature control and anti-death measures before the dogs became ill. I continued to work on it throughout the month they were struggling and by the time they’d made a recovery i had it ready for them. The first problem was that Cashew flipped the water dish every time she became excited. I put their regular water dish in the dog run at the base of a cedar tree. I obtained a “flip proof” bowl. It was shaped a bit funny and had rubber on the bottom. It was a huge bowl. I didnt think it would work without a flat indoor floor but it was a large bowl regardless so it would be useful either way. Finally, i purchased a 44 galloon stock tank at a feed store in fredericksburg and hauled it back to the homestead in the suv with the back seats down.
I emptied some gallons of water into it and they disappeared. Upon lifting the tank i found where the water had gone to. It had watered the dirt beneath the tank. The tank had a thumbnail sized hole at the base of it where sealant was supposed to cover the area where two flaps of metal came together. I wedged a rock under one side of the tank to keep what water was left inside from seeping out. Everyone told me to take it back to the feed store but i wasnt sure what for. If i took it back to the feed store in fredericksburg they would just plug the hole with sealant and put it back on the shelf. It seemed an easier task for me to transport sealant than the tank. So i drove to the home depot one town over and asked the employee who greeted me for some sealant that was water proof, would adhere to metal, and was non-toxic to animals because it was going on a stock tank. The employee that greeted me didnt even let me finish my sentence before he told me to follow him because he knew what i needed. He pointed to something in a tube and said, “there you go, the strongest stuff we got, that’ll adhere anything to anything.” I asked, “but is it non-toxic to animals?” He shook his head, “No, i wouldnt let animals or children around it, theres some pretty strong chemicals in there. Just keep them away.” I let mr “i know exactly what you need” wander off super proud of himself that he’d read my mind even before i finished speaking. I found another man in an orange apron and asked him the same question. He directed me to the paint and adhesives area and showed me am adhesive he recommended that was eater proof. It said on the front it adhered to wood so he recommended another one that adhered to plastic. I reminded him i’d be clogging a hole between metal surfaces. He recommended another tube that stated it adhered to metal. It said on the label that it contained carcinogens that could cause cancer. The man said, “oh its just made in California. Everything that comes out of California has to have that on the label. That’s all.” I bit my lip. None of these products were what i was looking for. Suddenly my favorite home depot employee who knows everything there is to know about everything came into view. She wore a long sleeved plaid flannel shirt, a t shirt, jeans, and boots. The man standing next to me flagged her over, “this lady here is looking for some kind of plaster. Tell her what you’re looking for, she’ll help you.” I told her the same story i told the others but she didnt cut me off or start looking through aisles in the middle of my sentence. She listened. Then she said, “You just need you some fish tank sealant. If its non toxic for fish, its non toxic for larger dogs, it sticks to both metal and glass, and obviously its water proof.” She put the tube in my hand and then asked, “anything else?” I smiled, “nope, that’ll do. Thank you.” This woman had been working at the home depot when i bought my property, she was responsible for the materials in several projects, including the laundry line, and she knew more than any of her coworkers combined. As soon as i saw her i knew the correct material for the job was about to be provided. I took the fish tank adhesive home and plugged the hole. 24 hours later i took the rock out from under the tank, added another gallon of water, and watched for leakage. There was none. The tank was fixed. I filled it with water.
I figured i would need some kind of lid to keep the water from evaporating quickly. 44 gallons of water would be difficult for cashew to flip but if it evaporated quickly i would struggle to keep it full for them to drink. I purchased a piece of plywood and water proof stain. It ended up being too big so i snapped it in half where it was already cracked anyway because the man had been careless when he cut it on the jigsaw. Lets just say im surprised he didnt get hurt. I painted the stain on the plywood and let it dry. Then i placed the plywood over half the stock tank. Water still evaporated but hit the wood and dripped back down into the tank.
Now there was the problem of a water agitator to keep algae from growing. The water couldnt be allowed to stagnate. I needed something that would jostle it from time to time. Myself and the feed and hardware stores went through several misunderstandings and returns. I couldnt use anything that involved a hose because my raw well water was sulfur water so couldnt be added to the tank. I was relying on a combination of bottled, filtered, and softened water. It probably didnt taste great but if they were facing death by dehydration, it was drinkable. Many suggested i just run an extensiom cord from the house to the dog run to use ones that required electricity. I took that one off the table immediately. Cashew ate live extension cords regardless of whether they were plugged in or not. She chewed them in half. She would electrocute herself and die. I finally got everyone to understand that i needed a hose-less battery or solar powered water agitator to move the water around. They informed me that all models of this were on back order on account of the pandemic and it could be months or years before such a thing could be obtained. The feed store suggested the hose one again. -_- i told them no thank you. I would find a thing that would move the water. They said, “how?” I said, “geez there are childrens toys of little pink dogs in bathing suits that paddle through the water in a bathroom sink. I know there are battery powered things in regular life that sit in water and move about. Thats all i need.” They said, “good luck.” I rolled my eyes and left. Just because something is not expressly made for a certain purpose people believe it cant be used or re-purposed. It has to come in a box that says “water agitator” to agitate water. It doesnt. Anything that moves when supplied with batteries can “agitate” but bath and pool toys would be the best place to start if i wanted a moving toy that was not going to smoke and die when wet. I walked into the walmart, went to the baby aisle with the pacifiers and sippy cups, walked one aisle over, and there it was. A children’s bath fountain. It took 3 AAA batteries, was shaped like a whale, lit up and spewed water. On the box was a tag that said “$9.00 – made in china”. I put it in the basket. We had our water agitator. You had to use a screw driver to open and close the battery compartment and it only ran for a few hours before the batteries needed replenished. There was a problem though. If the whale drifted to the edge of the stock tank it began spewing all the water out of the stock tank over the side, into the dirt. I wanted it to agitate the water in the tank, not empty the tank in the process. It had to be kept in the middle of the tank by something that would not absorb water, would float, and not be too heavy. One rule i have is always keep the homestead supplied with zip ties. Theyre good for all emergency fix and patches. They might not be the tool for the job in the end but they will do until you can get to a town with a hardware store. So i had a lot of zip ties lying around. I zip tied several hangers together in angled positions in a makeshift bumpy circle thing. I cut off the long part of the zip tie and then placed the contraption in the water in the stock tank. It floated. I placed the whale fountain toy in the middle. The hanger contraption acted like a guard and didnt allow the whale to travel from the middle of the tank so all the water stayed inside. I ran the whale at night when Cashew was in the house, for obvious reasons. Cashew is not to be trusted unsupervised with battery acid. The whale fountain ate 3 AAA batteries a night. It kept the water from growing algae.
The next problem to solve was digging. I bought 9 cement pavers to place at the gate, 8 to be directly in front of the gate inside their dog run, covering the dirt they’d normally be digging through to get out, and one to cover the corner just in case they tried it but really more in case one of the other 8 broke and needed replaced. To my surprise, they worked. The dogs did not move them and could not dig with them there. There was also the matter of Cashew knowing how to unlatch the dog run gate and let herself out. I purchased a padlock for the dog run. I left one key in the house and took one key with me, just in case of emergencies.
Yet one more problem arose. The oak trees were succumbing fast to oak wilt. I had called the service that charged me $4,000 last year to save them with probiotics and compost tea a couple times, telling them the trees looked as if the oak wilt was spreading and they were getting worse, because they had said if need be they could come out and treat one more time. They sent someone out to look at the trees and each time they told me there was nothing to worry about and it was just seasonal leaf drop, thats all. Well now the oak trees are in full blown wilt, it has spread across the property and the 250 year old oaks have it as well. I have decided im not calling them anymore for two reasons. If they are legit, i still have a problem. They wanted me to empty my well to soak the trees and they just dont understand anything about how wells work and how my well affects my neighbors’ wells and what duty i have to not overuse water out here, especially when it hasnt rained in so long. Theyre from austin so they think i can just drain the well and it will refill overnight. Thats not how that works. In a hundred years maybe. No, we’re during a time of rain scarcity where a common greeting now is “hi, how are you, you got water, your well’s still okay?” If they’re legit they’re going to say oops, their bad, the trees were getting worse lets treat again but you must soak them. If they are a scam there’s no point in calling them because it would mean they knew full well the last two times they came out that it was spreading. My coworker said i have to hire someone to dig trenches and sever the roots of the trees so they cant touch others and spread. More thousands of dollars. This is out of hand. I sunk $4000 into it last year. I did my level best to protect the 250 year old and 200 year old trees. The bottom line is, theyre now infected and theres no treatment for already infected trees. If i dig trenches now at best im saving a couple 50 year old oaks at the back of my property. As far as how they got the oak wilt…i carry a lot of guilt for burying elm seeds on my property that came from a parking lot where there was an oak tree that must have been 3 or 4 hundred years old and it was suffering and eventually died. We never knew for sure what it died from but i suspected it was probably oak wilt. I could have carried spores or bugs that had been in that infected tree back to my property on the seeds. However, there was already a dead oak on my property when i got there and a pile of sliced up oak limbs. Most of the remaining oak trees had been given a haircut that made them look like upright hot dogs in a package. They had no limbs, only a trunk and some thin suckers. The neighbors’ properties surrounding me were visibly plagued with oak wilt. Whether i brought it here or it was already here, the oaks were doomed. I was never going to be able to keep them, and i know that now. I can cry about it or i can move on. If you know me, we’re moving on. I had to find a replacement tree for the oak that was part of a triad of trees providing shade for the dogs extra large igloo house. I bought it for them because they wouldnt go in the $2000 stained hardwood dog house with a front porch. I bought them a plastic igloo. That they’ll go in. Ill never understand.
Its big enough that they can both go in to get out of weather and keep each other warm during the winter. Two cedars and an oak provide shade. The oak is in front and the cedars are on either side. The oak is dying quickly. Eventually i will need a chain saw to cut it down in pieces. The carpenter ants make fast work of rotting wood here so it cant be allowed to stand after death. They’ll chew it soft and crumbly and then i wont have a say in where and how it falls. I will not cut down a living tree. It stays until its last breath. Then i cut. However, i needed to get a new shade tree started to take its place. I bought a cedar elm at the nursery in fredericksburg. It took two grown men and a dolly to get it in the car. I didnt think about it at the time but it was probably around 200 lbs. i needed a tree big enough to provide shade now and in the near future, not eventually. This meant it couldnt be a baby. However, it still had to fit in the car. When i got it home i realized i couldnt get it out of the trunk by myself. Try as i might, i couldnt lift it. I called my neighbors but they were out in luckenbach. They wouldnt be home until after nightfall. I called another neighbor. They didnt answer. Well, i could either figure it out myself or be in a situation where the tree was in the car when i drove back to fredericksburg to work the following day, at which point it would roast and die in the hot car. I decided to figure it out. I used canned dog food to wedge underneath the side of the pot in the trunk one can at a time until i got it elevated enough to be level with the lip of the trunk. I had to get in the trunk and lift up on the pot with both hands while sliding cans under with my foot. Once it was level with the trunk lip i pulled it onto the edge of the trunk and pressed down on the top of the side of the pot as i slid it, to keep it from shifting and sending the tip of the tree trunk into the ceiling of the car as it tipped. I pulled with all my might and it moved an inch. I pulled again and again and the thing inched more and more out of the car until…its kind of a blur after that. All i know is that the tree ended upright on the ground, the trunk had a few benign scratches on the hard plastic, and i had ripped off four fingernails at some point in the process…probably trying to prevent its rapid descent. Anyways, the tree was out of the trunk . I dragged it 10 feet or so from where it stood and fenced it. There it stood until it sprouted leaves. Currently it was bare and in case the dogs decided to dig it up i needed some system to indicate the tree’s level of health. Of course, patience is not what im known for. As soon as there were buds of leaves i dug a huge hole and planted it. I knew this would not be a tree i could reposition after in the hole or redo the depth of the hole if i got it wrong. I figured too deep was better than too shallow. I did dig it too deep and once the tree was in the hole there was no remedying that. I just buried it and went on with life. Its roots will just have to push through the limestone rock. I dug a big hole and then laid the tree on its side near the hole. I cut the plastic pot away from the tree. Then i drug it out from underneath it. I pushed the tree on its side until it was at the edge of the hole, tipped it, held on as long as i could, and let go. The tree crashed into place in the hole, a little too deep but perfectly upright. I buried and fenced the tree. It then sprouted so many leaves and is already providing shade for some of the igloo.
I’ve made a decision. For every oak tree i cut down, i will plant a redbud tree in its place. I must lose my 250 year old oaks, yes, but life is about resilience. It’s up to you to make something of a less than ideal situation. Ill never have 250 year old trees again in my lifetime, but the whole property will be peppered with purple in the spring time and covered in heart shaped leaves during the rest of the year if i plant redbuds in their places. To the people who told me to get a service to remove the cedars and just keep the oaks, im glad i didnt listen to you. Cedars and redbuds, a change to the property probably coming next year. In the dog run, i needed a shade tree, not a redbud. Thats where the cedar elm came in. There’s one more cluster of oaks that is dying in there but i will wait until next year to plant a cedar elm in their place since those trees didnt have any branches. They were merely trunks so they werent really providing shade.
I did some training in which i climbed into the igloo and enticed the girls in with cuddles and food. I threw treats and bones in there. Cashew became familiar with the structure. Sili will follow Cashew in during weather but does not prefer the igloo.
I began parking the car down the road, locking the dog run, and walking off the property on foot so the dogs wouldnt terrorize the dog run and knock over all the water and try to dig. After a few days i tried just starting the car and driving away but i would sit down the road and listen until cashew stopped barking and settled. Now, i just drive away. I know they will be fine. Well, sort of. I was closing up the chicken coop the other night and realized there was a juvenile rattler curled around the chicken water dispenser. I went to get the shovel and lantern but it was gone when i got back. I was only gone for a few seconds so i was sure he was somewhere nearby but in the dark i couldnt find him. After ten minutes of searching i worried i would find him some other way than with my eyeballs. I retreated to the house and added, “Lord, please dont let Sili and Cashew get snake bit while im at work.” to my morning prayers. The dogs are finally outdoor dogs. I only crate them when violent storms or temperatures above 97 or below 40 are expected.