They’re Back

The rains have stopped, which is better for the health of the chickens. It would be better that their shavings and droppings are dry rather than damp, for their respiratory health. However, hotter dryer weather means more scorpions in the house looking for water and a/c. I started hearing noises coming from the sink drain and an hour later this thing was climbing up the bathroom wall. I’m pretty sure it crawled up the pvc pipe from the sink drain and into the house. No matter, it’s dead now. Reasons why i always wear shoes in the house except between the months of november and february.

A Good Homestead Partner

Sili will follow my every command. She minds me without fail. I love her to death. She is and always will be my favorite animal in the world. She sleeps in my bed when its not tick and chigger season and she follows me everywhere. She will look long and soulfully into my eyes until i drift to sleep and she watches over me with great diligence when i am sick. She is a good dog. I find myself very bonded to her. Cashew and i’s relationship is a little different. She’s a bit more feral, wild and unruly. She’s harder to control. She does what she wants at times and frequently gives herself jobs i wouldn’t have picked for her, like relocating all of my extra metal fence poles from one side of the property to the other. However, Cashew is not a bad dog. Cashew is an aussie. She is a dog on a mission, a dog on the lookout for a job. If i am digging up tree stumps, so is she. If i am trimming cedar branches and throwing them in the wheelbarrow, she is going around collecting the branches i trimmed and tossing them in the wheelbarrow. If i am facing an intruder with a machete, she’s about to bite the seat of their pants as they flee through the hole in the fence. If i am chasing a fox, so is she. If i am gathering water from the well she stands guard, scanning the woods while i do so. Today i was trying to kill a fly in the house. I couldn’t get it for the longest time and it was driving me crazy because they’ve come into the house to light on your food after just leaving poop or roadkill. I turned to Cashew and said “get it.” She immediately stood up and started paying attention to where the fly was traveling in the room. Cashew stayed by the sink and i stayed at the back of the house. The fly flew back and forth in circles. When it would land at the back of the house i would swat quickly with my dish towel but i missed. When it landed at the front of the house i would be forced to cross the room and try to see if i could locate it before it took off again. Cashew noticed me looking for it. The next time it landed at the front of the house Cashew stood stalk still and pointed her nose directly at a plum sitting on top of the dog crates. I crossed the room quietly and there was the fly sitting directly atop the plum Cashew had pointed at. I swatted the plum with the towel but apparently missed him because he took off again. Once airborne i went back to my post at the back of the house. The fly landed again in the front of the house. Cashew pointed to the window with her nose. I quietly crossed the room and found the fly on the window. I swatted but missed. Then the fly did another lap and landed on the window unit. Cashew pointed with her nose. I could see it sitting on the window unit. This ends now. I whipped my kitchen towel at it and stunned it but didn’t kill it. While it struggled to take flight again i whipped and whipped and whipped at the fly with the kitchen towel. I got it. It was on its back, stunned on the window sill. I smashed it with my finger under the kitchen towel just to make certain it was deceased and then dropped it into the wolf spider web next to the window unit. It was my peace offering for destroying the webbing he made on the curtains daily. The wolf spider emerged to see what was in his web. I turned to Cashew and patted her head announcing, “we got it. He’s dead.” She and i made a very good working team. There wasn’t any job she didn’t want to be a part of. If i was a full time homesteader i would make such use of her and her willingness to participate. I felt guilty Cashew didn’t get more of a chance to use her talents. It was 100 degrees and sunny outside so the fact of the matter was the dogs would spend the rest of the day inside lying on the cool floor in the a/c in the tiny house. Cashew was remarkably well behaved for the fact that she was a working dog and i gave her very few jobs. In these moments it registered to me exactly how smart she was and what a gem i had in her. Nobody who hasn’t had an aussie can possibly fathom the depths of their intelligence. She is so smart and so willing to take a job; any job. Cashew; the fly hunting dog. I feel lucky as can be to have the both of them.

Conquering an old Fear

I checked the forecast that morning. The storm was not set to arrive until 7 pm. My shift ended at 6. I left the rain boots on the seat and locked the car.

The clouds began to gather in the distance around 3:30 pm. They were dark and menacing. The summer storm was upon us as the skies opened up at 4:06. I had asked if i could go to the car and grab my rain boots at 3:40. My supervisor said no. She took me off parking lot duty and sent me on a shopping run so i would stop fussing about going to the car even though i’d already had my 15 minute break an hour ago. I showed my colleagues who were still on parking lot duty the radar on my phone and exclaimed “there’s a big old ball of red headed right for us.” Now everyone wanted to go to the car and get their boots and jackets. My supervisor was not thrilled. She ordered everybody back to their posts. No one was going to the cars. It was just a little storm. It would come and go. Stop making such a big deal about it. I shrugged and embarked on my shopping run. As i pulled the cart around the store and raced down the aisles, thunder shook the floor. Lightening split the skies, visible through the windows and the sliding doors. I looked over and saw that it was raining cats and dogs. It looked like a hurricane blowing through the city. Sheets of rain were creeping sideways in the flooded parking lot, trees were thrashing about, the thunder continued to shake the floor, and the light just disappeared. It quickly resembled evening outside. The street lamps came on and people began to collect in a large crowd behind the sliding doors. Nobody wanted to leave with the storm outside ripping through the parking lot. Baskets dragged by the wind drifted through the water and crashed into parked cars. The lightening was not deemed close enough on the radar so the curbies had to continue running back and forth in the rain, delivering orders to the waiting cars. I thought i was lucky. I was given a shopping run instead of continued parking lot duty. I thought i just might make it to the end of the shift without getting soaked. I didn’t think it would be fair for them to make me go out in the rain and flood waters since they had forbid me to go to my car and get my boots when the storm was first approaching. I almost made it. 3 minutes before the end of my shift my supervisor asked me to get an order ready, saying she’d have someone else take it out once it was in the basket. When i had retrieved the order and the basket was full she told me to take it out. I should have seen that coming. I asked for a poncho. She made another curbie who was about to go on lunch break give me hers. The curbie removed her poncho and then her boots. The boots were meant to go on over one’s shoes but she had taken her shoes off. Now she stood in black ankle socks and took off running for her lunch break. They begin the timer the moment they tell you to leave. She was just trying to make the most of her break. I first donned the giant yellow poncho. They made them all XL or L and called that “one size fits all”. It really just fit the tall people but thats another argument for another day. I stepped into the boot with my shoe and realized immediately why she had taken her shoes off. They seemed to be going the opposite route of the ponchos with the shoes. The boot was too small. I wondered about the brains involved in hashing out this setup but there was no time. The clock was running on this order that had now been in the basket for some time. I yanked my tennis shoe off and plunged my foot into the boot. It was an immediately regrettable action. The boot was full of water. The XL ponchos reached to the ground on most of us and dragged in the water. Then as we walked and the poncho lifted momentarily out of the water it deposited all the water dripping off of it directly into any boots or shoes beneath it. I pulled the boot off my now soaked foot and plunged my foot back into my tennis shoe. I was unhappy about this development as it meant i would have wet shoes for the following day’s shift. As i headed out to deliver the order in the last minute of my shift the head boss arrived with fresh baked cookies from bakery. Apparently we all remembered the supervisor telling us we couldn’t go to the car for our rain boots ahead of time and moral was at an all time low while the possibility of mutiny was high. The head boss sought to fix things with warm cookies. It seemed to work for most.

As i ran through the parking lot pushing the basket with one hand i held the poncho bunched about my waist with the other, hoping it would not drag against the ground and deposit the drippings in my shoes. I confirmed the customer’s order, loaded the groceries, closed the trunk, and headed back to the building. I waited to be dismissed. My supervisor did finally dismiss me. I put up my smart phone, took off the poncho and split. The storm had gained its second wind. I figured i’d shop for a bit and let it tucker itself out before making my way through the parking lot. I was supposed to go to my friend’s house in a neighboring town on the way home to pick up a bag of chick feed and return a borrowed pet taxi i had in the car. My friend invited me to stay for supper. So, i realized at this point that i had to go. It was already 6:30 and it would be at least a 30 minute drive. They would be waiting on me to start dinner. I gathered my groceries quickly and headed to the check out. When i made it to the exit doors the rain was sideways again and all three parking lots were completely flooded; the customer one and both employee ones to the side of the store. I knew i couldn’t go swimming, so to speak, because i wasn’t headed straight home. I was headed to Cindy’s. I sighed. There was only one thing to do; conquer my lifelong fear of umbrellas. We sold them in the store.

For anyone who hasnt heard the story, my fifth grade teacher was struck by lightening while walking from the school to the separate gym building holding an umbrella during a storm. The principle found her when she never came to get her class and insisted she go in the ambulance to the hospital to get checked out. They said she had been struck by lightening that was attracted to the metal umbrella and the only thing that saved her was that her arm was held at a perfect ninety degree angle at the moment she was struck. The electricity traveled from her elbow into the concrete sidewalk instead of continuing on to her heart. I literally never touched an umbrella again.

I returned to the store and grabbed a small black umbrella with polka dots. I tried to pick the smallest simplest one there was. I hoped against all odds that it would be entirely made of plastic. I went to the checkout and paid for it. I asked the cashier if he had scissors to cut the tag off and then remembered, silly me, i had a box cutter on my key chain. But at this point the teenage boy had decided his manhood was at stake and was going to hulk-style snap the plastic loop by pulling at it with his fingers. I kept telling him i had a box cutter but he just moved the umbrella further and further out of my reach as his face turned pink with effort. Finally the little plastic ring snapped. Social crisis averted i guess. I thanked him and made my way to the door as he flexed his muscles for the bagger that was decidedly unimpressed with his performance. A little tip; most girls value practicality and intelligence over brute shows of force. She did seem to pick up on the stupidity of holding up a whole line of customers so he could make a point that his biceps worked.

I zipped my phone and keys into my lunch box. I tied my wallet into a plastic grocery bag. I got ready to go out into the weather and then realized…i had never owned an umbrella. I wished they came with instructions. I wasn’t sure how to open one. I pushed, then pried and then tried pushing again, then searched for a button. None was found. Ultimately i had to approach a customer and ask her if she knew how to open an umbrella. She opened it right up for me. Apparently pulling was the motion required. She showed me how to anchor it open. I thanked her and departed. I drove the basket up on the sidewalk and made it as far as around the corner of the building. There i was met with a dismal scene. The rest of the sidewalk disappeared into murky rushing water. The street was flooded and the parking lots on either side of the street were flooded too. There was ankle deep water everywhere. There was nothing to do but wade through it. I took off my shoes and placed them in the baby seat of the grocery basket. I carefully plunged the front wheels of the basket off the sidewalk and into the water. Then the back wheels. I walked through the water pushing the basket in front of me in just my socks. About half way across the flooded street an suv sped past me at nearly 40 mph, kicking the water up so that it drenched myself and all of the groceries in the basket. The car very narrowly missed hitting the basket. I stood there dripping and blinking, holding my umbrella, “great. Just great. Thank you. Thank you very much *** ****.” I made it to the other side of the street and then pushed the basket through the parking lot to my car. I managed to get all the wet bags loaded inside and then i returned the basket to the basket dock. I trudged back to the car and folded up the umbrella. I made it and was only partially wet. The important thing was that the shoes were dry. I drove barefoot in the blinding rain all the way to Cindy’s. I couldn’t see anything and was beginning to worry i missed the exit, and then there it was. I made it to Cindy’s in time to eat supper with them. Cindy’s son Caleb said Grace and then we ate fish, squash, green beans, spinach and mushrooms, and cucumber salad. Cindy told me Caleb had walked in, took a look around, and asked if i was coming.” He said, “Yeah i’m a regular sherlock in that way. I see fish, squash, and vegetables. It’s not that hard to piece together.” Cindy and Caleb were the closest thing i had to family in the hill country. Cindy always fed me and gave me extra to take home and eat the following day. I was invited to all the family holidays, and Caleb never tired of beating us at puzzle or card games with his insane ability to keep track of how many of each piece had already been played. After supper Caleb would pick his teeth with a toothpick and Cindy would make tea and start mixing up the little wooden tiles of the qwirkle game. Caleb always drank whole milk with his supper and Cindy always made the vegetables in the same way. They were my little bit of normalcy. They were family and i loved them both immensely. After supper we watched a few episodes of pinky and the brain, a show i hadn’t seen since childhood. Then i had to go, as i had to study for an exam. I reluctantly said goodbye and headed on my way. Cindy of course made me a to-go pouch out of foil, which i much appreciated. She was an excellent cook. I saw a newborn fawn and a rainbow on the drive home. I hung my socks up to dry and salvaged what i could of the groceries.

Being around Cindy and Caleb had recharged my soul a bit. I felt human again. I wished i could have spent more time with them. I missed our nights of playing games on the kitchen table long into the night while nursing cups of peppermint or berry tea and chatting. I missed watching Caleb’s brilliant mind work effortlessly to build the word worth the most points or place each tile in the right spot to both prevent Cindy and i from making any headway and further his progress, reading his chapter book between turns while he waited for Cindy and i to finish strategizing. I missed Cindy telling me about work and what was going on in the world of healthcare i had left behind. I missed the feeling of peace within those walls. Going back to school in my thirties meant less time for everything. That was how it would have to be for a while. I decided the umbrella would be for low altitude use only…never on the property…too much risk of lightening.

A Basket full of Velvety Bundles

Busy busy busy! Everyone is timed! Everyone’s units per hour are compared. Go go go. Only so many employees on the floor. Orders coming due. Down to the minute now. 22 available spots for customers to park at any given time. During the rush 22 customers could show up at once with 3 to 6 of us to tend to them. Go. Run. Bag like the wind! Hurry. Busy. Go go go. Stopwatch. Smart phones. Calling you here and there on the intercom. No time to argue. Bananas without spots. Strawberry yogurts…zero on shelf 126 on hand. Run. Back. Back miraculously, 151 units per hour, 10 orders shopped and bagged. Take this cart. Bulk order, 12. 15 minutes. Yes ma’am…

Time stops. A grocery basket full of tiny puppies enters the room. Soft tiny puppies with velvety fur and little pink tongues. The tan ones are sleepy. I lift a brown and black one into my arms and cradle it against my chest. Its little tail wags and it licks my mask and chin repeatedly, showing its precious milk teeth. This tiny soft velvety puppy is wriggling beneath my fingers and i feel the profound majesty of new life. This little being is potential. This little being is the precursor to a dog, but in this moment, it is a soft helpless baby. It is new and precious and untainted…and unpotty trained of course. The girl pushing the basket asks who wants one. I do not raise my hand. Within minutes they have all been claimed. There is no shortage of people smitten with these beautiful yawning bundles of fur. I am still holding mr brown and black with the wiggly tail, trying feverishly to lick my chin through the mask. His ears brush against my skin and i could bust into tears at any moment in response to the sheer innocence of something that wants nothing more in life than to hold your attention. It doesnt want gold, it doesnt want diamonds, it doesn’t want a car. It just wants you to hold it and look at it and rub its ears….and clean up its wee. I placed the puppy back in the basket with its sisters. I stroked its tiny head one more time and then, though it killed me to trade such a creature for a cold metal cart, off i went for a bulk run. Busy busy busy. Everyone is timed. Orders coming due. Hustle hustle hustle.

Beauty of the Hill Country

When the light painted the clouds in the sky various colors it often painted the yard as well. All the land was awash with pink or yellow light and i couldn’t understand why anyone would ever want to live anywhere else. However, i was grateful they did because i didn’t desire a thousand neighbors in high-rise condos. It would’ve ruined the view.

Willow

I was so disappointed i hadn’t seen any orb weavers since last year. I began to fear that it would be another sparse year for my slender legged friends. During the first year on the property i had a whole squad of them. During the second year i spotted one female orb weaver and two male.

Summer was now in full swing. This was the time for them to emerge. I began to fear the worst. Then one morning around 3:30 am i was headed to work. I parked the car and got out to unlatch the gate. In the darkness, illuminated by the headlights i could see a web; a signature orb weaver web. It was located right where Wilma the weather spider used to make her web on the gate. I loved the golden orb weavers but the spotted orb weavers were my absolute favorite for their short stocky bodies and sometimes translucent red legs. They were less common around the homestead than the golden orb weavers but ever since Wilma, i’d never stopped looking. I held my breath as i hurried forward with the lantern to check. Yes!!!!!! It was indeed a spotted orb weaver! It was a female spotted orb weaver, brown and gray! It did not have red legs like my beautiful Wilma but it was a treasure nonetheless and i was beyond happy to see it. I dubbed her Willow, as a nod to the spider who used to make her web on the gate in just that spot. Every morning when i go to work Willow is in her web on the front gate and every morning i turn the headlights on her for a few minutes before unlatching the gate and driving through so disoriented insects can find their way into her sticky strands. I have a new buddy to protect from the mantises.

The Best Footage is the kind Witnessed First-hand.

When i was a child i would sit in front of the television and watch animal planet; a series of different informative shows about animals. you could watch dung beetles roll turd balls across the plains. You could watch puppies and kittens while a narrator spoke about different characteristics of the breed, weening timelines, and training techniques. You could watch wolves stalking deer. There were even reptile shows. As an adult i can see all of those things without the middleman; the television. Being in a wide open wild space feeds my soul, and i’m not alone. All around me there are cardinals, jack rabbits, buzzards, armadillos, hawks, road runners, owls, foxes, deer, toads, lizards, possums, crickets, whippoorwills, agricultural termites, raccoons, coyotes, dung beetles, cicadas, and spiders. It’s the best footage available to watch captured with the best camera at one’s disposal; the eyeball.

Afternoon Storm

I had just finished an online tutoring session. i had been so focused on studying for the upcoming exam and getting these multi-day projects done by the looming deadline that i had neglected to shower and i didn’t smell pretty anymore. With the studying and the projects in a better spot, i decided i could take the time to have a shower. Nature had other plans. The dogs were outside in the fenced dog run. I was a few minutes into the shower when i heard the water pressure become unusually forceful…and then realized it wasn’t the water falling in the shower. It was the water falling on the roof. It had begun pouring outside without a bit of warning. One minute it was partly sunny. The next minute it was pouring outside and the sky was dark gray. To one side of the house you could actually still see bright blue sky all throughout the storm. I thought about leaving the dogs out there and finishing my shower. It had been months since they had a bath and sili was so dirty she had turned the cream colored comforter on the bed to a brown one. They might really benefit from a nature given bath. Then it began to pour harder and i knew i couldnt take the chance that the storm would come packing lightening. I wrapped a towel around myself and ran through the yard in flip flops motioning for the dogs to come to the gate. They were huddled under a cedar tree at the far end of the dog run. I let them out of the run and told them to make for the house. As i did so the rain increased again. They ended up getting mud baths more than anything that would have cleansed them. I also got a mud bath. the dogs kicked up mud that splattered across my legs as they ran past me to the porch. So much for getting clean. The system did end up equipped with lightening and i unplugged the dog fence and internet for the duration of the little storm. I used one of the left over chicken run panels to erect a baby gate between the bathroom and the computer so that Cashew could not stand directly against my legs and on my feet with her muddy self during the lightening and thunder. Both dogs were happy to be indoors and made no protest that they should be returned outside to play.

It would rain off and on all day. Little blips would build from nothing on the radar and arrive with short lived fury. In this way i filled the rain collection tubs. It was a long day of unplugging and replugging everything in the house around the coming and going of storms.

Misfits Market

Plums

Well, at some point the food delivery service i was using became too expensive for me to afford. They offered no explanation as to why the prices had gone up and when i inquired, they had no comment as to the reason but suggested i check out their low income options, which upon investigation were not what i was looking for. I was also frustrated with the company’s ideas on packing. The food was not snuggly packed or protected and so it was smashing into each other when the box was jostled by fedex and thus arriving pulverized. Items were frequently missing from the order as well. So i quit the service. It was several months before i was notified that a similar service had recently expanded their reach to Texas. Misfits Market was here! Look at this beautiful produce and tell me if you can figure out what’s wrong with it. I can’t. Sometimes its the wrong color, sometimes its the wrong size, but it’s all beautiful and tasty to me. I got 15 dollars off my first order so i did put a ton of items in the basket during the first week. Every week after that i paid attention to what was on sale and just ordered those items but the service gave me an opportunity to have access to a wide variety of different organic foods that were at peak level of ripeness. I was excited for the variety.

Plums, strawberries, purple sweet potatoes, and gluten free bagels with cashew cream cheese (breakfast)
Chickpea/tapioca pasta with hand chopped brussels sprouts
Grapes
Balsamic garlic marinated roasted yellow squash and portobello mushrooms
Fresh black eyed peas from the grocery with chopped tomatoes and tuscan kale from the delivery service.

Jewelry

During 2020 there was a shortage of hand soap worldwide. In the United States companies that normally made paint, car parts, or tequila were approved to begin manufacturing hand soap. However, they had to stick to a strict recipe and were not allowed to put in any additives like aloe vera that would cause it to gel. So the hand soap was liquid and it stank of chemicals. I was not sure what was in it but i used it for over a year. It was all i could get my hands on. There was no normal soap. The soap turned all of my jewelry black. Anything it touched turned black…my rings, a necklace chain it splashed on…when it touched my bracelet i hurried to rinse and wipe it, hoping to save it from the same fate. The soap turned my hands brown. The pigment would collect in the lines and creases of my hands and they would look as if someone had taken a brown pen and drawn in all the creases of my hands. I wasn’t sure why this was happening either but it wouldn’t wash off unless scrubbed vigorously with the hard textured side of a sponge and dish washing soap for a good 3 to 4 minutes. This often left my hands raw and bleeding so i frequently just let them be brown.

Now that i no longer work in healthcare, i dont have brown hands anymore but my jewelry is still tinged black as if its been burnt by fire. I thought about buying all sorts of products to see if i could get my rings silver and shiny again. However, i recognized that it would probably be a waste. My knuckles had become swollen and arthritic since i was infected and i hadn’t worn my rings in nearly a year. I sat in the bathroom next to my jewelry box and tried one on. It went over the knuckle to slide onto my finger just fine. However, my fears were realized when i attempted to pull it off. It was thoroughly stuck. The more i pulled and pried, the more swollen my knuckle became. I stood at the sink and ran my hand under some cold water. I waited for the swelling to subside under the cold water but it didn’t appear to be doing so. I was about to go for the olive oil when the ring budged a bit. I realized there was some give and i twisted and yanked the ring hard. The ring shot across the room and i had to fish it from beneath the cabinet on my hands and knees. I rinsed the dust off of it and put it back in my jewelry box. I didn’t feel like resizing all my rings, figuring out how to recover their regular appearance, and still having to worry about how temperature and weather would affect the amount of swelling in my knuckles. It was just easier not to wear rings.