Why There is No “Success” in Farming, Ranching, or Homesteading

If you are thinking of moving to the country, reading a bunch of books, and doing everything right you are going to be mighty frustrated. The measure of a good farmer, rancher, or homesteader is not in whether his/her ventures pan out, but whether he or she is willing and able to get back up on the horse after being thrown, and not hold it against the horse. You have to be resilient in the country and it helps if you expect the opposite of success at least some of the time. That way the surprise is a good kind of surprise, and not the other way around. You also have to know how to laugh.

If you were to get all my homesteading and farming friends in a room together and ask them about the failures of this past year i would start by telling you the story of how my chicken went broody and tried to hatch unfertilized eggs. She was so enthusiastic i felt sorry for her and tried to get her a newborn chick which i placed beneath her with the eggs, hoping she’d assume an egg had hatched. This is not what happened. When the flock located the source of the tiny peeping they went into murder mode with the broody hen taking the lead in the festivities and tried desperately to kill the chick dead in a terrified “intruder! Intruder!” type of frenzy. I ended up raising the chick in the house. Well then i felt sorry for the chick all alone with nobody to keep it company while i was at work. In the interest of not raising a psychopath chicken i bought another chick to keep it company and then i had both chicks in the house pooping on all of my shirts and keeping me up at all hours of the night. My chicken coop only supported 6 chickens and with the addition of the second chick i would have 7, so i found them a new home with a lady who had a larger coop and about 25 chickens. She took them off my hands and then one of my chickens promptly died of a mosquito born illness. She offered them back and so i took her up on it only to find her flock had pecked a massive hole in one of the two juvenile chickens’ heads. They had beat her up pretty bad and mentally she was never the same. I doctored her head and it healed but she never again grew feathers on that half of her skull, and she was psycho, which is what i had tried to prevent in getting Oakley to be her companion. Well, Oakley spent a lot of time with psycho Ellis so when i introduced them to my flock Oakley had a choice to make…whether to bond with Daisy (head chicken), who had taken a liking to her or stick with psycho Ellis who she knew as her sister. Oakley never made a decision and eventually Daisy made it for her by rejecting her because she was seen fraternizing with crazy Ellis. Now both young chickens are psycho, unapproachable, and distrustful of everything. Their temperaments on a scale of 1 to 10 are 0, but they lay good eggs.

My friend Cindy would tell you she did not get a single peach, persimmon, plum, or pear because the varmints stole every last one. It looks like the netting system was not sufficient at all. She had nothing to can or make pies with.

My other friend lost his entire population of honey bees over the winter due to cold temperatures and condensation created by a liquid feed in mason jars. The whole colony was sticky and deceased at the bottom of his boxes when he uncovered them for the spring.

Yet another friend woke up one morning to find a horny bull had charged through a couple fences in order to get to the cows, releasing a ram, a heard of sheep, several chickens, and a dog. The cows got bred. The sheep got bred. It was not the time of year he was meaning to breed his animals and now they are going to be trying to keep newborn calves and lambs alive heading into the dead of winter. What else is there to do but buy extra hay and prepare for the possibility of bringing animals into the house. I mean, bulls and rams dont have ideal breeding months outlined on their calendars…they just go for it.

Even my friends who travel the world on a sailboat had a rough time this past year when their scheduled shipment of food didn’t arrive to an island they were anchored near and they had to rely on spear fishing to feed the family. They actually ended up giving away their catch in return for using another boat owner’s laundry machine, keeping only the head and painstakingly picking every last morsel of edible flesh from the bones to make something sustaining: fish head soup.

So, if you are in any way living off the land or the sea, you should expect regular failures and anticipate that success is going to be measured as the act of riding, not winning the race.

The Conclusion

It was recently explained to me that when two people get married the woman should obey the man and the man should always do what is best for the woman and that the woman should not have any trouble or doubts about obeying the man because the man would not do anything that wasn’t in the woman’s best interest. I should stop here and out myself. I was an atheist for 24 years before i became a devoted Christian. Men have been feeding me the word “obey” for a long time but never in the name of God and my response was never willing. I think that the people i’ve been talking to recently are very far from where my actual beliefs lie, so it does not surprise me that i find their views a bit extreme or that we dont agree on some matters. However, someone very close to me, someone i consider family, recently said to me, “But you understand though that when two people do get married God does intend for the woman to obey the man.” I thought about that for a second. It was in all the religious rhetoric…it was in marriage vows…i knew that this notion existed. It just left a very bitter taste in my mouth and i couldn’t yet put my finger on why. The man who had wished me to “obey” recently had a number of ideas about how i was to live my life and what i should look like. The notion was that i should do everything he asked because God himself was telling the man that this was what was best for me through the pages of the bible. As i sat and tried to bridge the gap between something i saw as radical and not for me and my friend/family member’s statement, i realized that the reason i could not swallow the word “obey” was simple. The whole system was designed to be absolute with the addition of that word “obey”. It cemented everything into place and in doing so constructed a rather effective prison around the woman. The only man i know of that is infallible is Jesus. The only entity that knows all there is to know and is never wrong is God himself. So with that said, humans are interpreting the bible. They dont inherently understand everything it has to offer. People spend their lifetimes studying the bible and on their dying day they are still learning. So, i have a problem with the word “obey” because there is no system in which the wife is allowed to challenge the husband’s interpretation of God’s messages. Someone recently told me i can’t wear makeup or cut my hair and i’m supposed to believe that was a direct message to him from God about God’s will for my life. Plenty of men have either accidentally or knowingly misinterpreted the words printed in the bible. In consenting to marriage and taking vows i would also be changing my own relationship with God. I too pray. Men are not the only ones seeking communication with and guidance from God. God may say to me that i have more important things to do in life than worry about makeup one way or another and that makeup is not even almost on the docket of things Jesus is worried about governing in my life. Jesus may say to me as an answer to my prayer for guidance that he is more interested in my actions and how i am living his word by extending grace to others. However, if i am married, then my husband’s interpretation of his spiritual message from God trumps mine, as he is the head and i am the hair. The hierarchy goes: God, husband, wife. So, if i would like to speak with God, i can do so through my husband and he will tell me what God says for the both of us. A younger me would be tempted to reject this system entirely for i see no way in which it benefits me. I can cut down my own trees, fix my own plumbing, tar my own roof. I don’t need a man to do the chores around my property or change my car tire so perhaps i look at the addition of a middle man between me and my savior without rose colored glasses. I don’t see the reason i should welcome an absence of a direct line of communication between myself and that which i pray to. I am also quite infertile, so the notion that i need a husband for procreation purposes is lost on me as well. There is one and only one reason that i would seek companionship, and that is to have someone else to share the joys and sorrows of life with. To have someone next to me that i could point to a tree frog, a sunset, or a deer and say “look at that”. To have someone else who i could also watch enjoy the agarita berries or the mulberries in spring. This small plus, however, is not worth losing my direct line of communication with God, and so now for the first time understanding that’s what a christian marriage entails… i am willing to submit to God. I am not willing to submit to man. I am not meant to be a help mate and marriage is not for me. I enjoy my minister’s sermons. I enjoy my devotionals. I enjoy my bible study podcasts and supplemental religious books and youtube sermons. I consume content whenever the opportunity arises and there is nothing in my life that i value more than the act of sifting through that content and writing in my journal the bits and pieces of clarity that are born from that. I pray to God daily and i see God in everything around me. I have not rejected God. I simply don’t want to give up my current method of communication with God, my current method of deciphering what he intends me to spend my time on, and swap that for a system in which i am merely a passenger. Right now i am at the steering wheel and God is my gps system. I wish not to change this arrangement. Historically, i have always left the door open for the idea that i might meet someone kind who also believed in God’s grace and helped others when it didnt hurt him to do so, who had an appreciation for the wilderness and would like to live in the country. Someone with a sense of humor but the ability to be serious when the situation called for it. Someone gentle. I dont think i ever had an accurate understanding of what marriage entailed. Now that i’ve dissected the words contained in traditional marriage vows and i understand what is being pledged, it does not matter if such a man comes along; now or in my nineties. I want to speak directly with God. I will not accept a middle man for that line of communication. I will leave marriage for others. As for me, i will serve God happily as a spinster for the rest of my days and my wish for others is only that they find what path feels right for them and follow it with joy and conviction.

Tove

I came home late from a good friend’s house and ended up doing the evening chores around midnight by moonlight. I fell asleep working on my family tree. At dawn i was startled awake by sunlight coming through the window and two dogs sitting in front of the bed asking if i forgot to do some things (put them to bed and turn off the lights). The grass had grown and so i knew it was time to mow at least half the property again. i let the dogs and chickens out in their respective pens and got them all water to drink. Then i put on some boots and long pants and went yo mow the property. I listened to christian rock on my phone with headphones and cut the grass in a spiral motion, working my way in to the center as i outlined each area with the mower. At some point i looked up and saw a HUGE web extending between two different trees on opposite sides of the dog run with an anchor thread tethering it to the ground. As i took my headphones off and looked up the first orb weaver of 2022 came into view. She was a spotted orb weaver like my old favorite, Wilma the weather spider. It was literally my all time favorite kind of orb weaver and she was HUGE and absolutely beautiful! Her legs were bright red and speckled with brown. What an impressive specimen for the first orb weaver of the year! I was in awe of her construction. Despite my efforts to stop her Cashew did run through the spider’s anchor thread, untethering the impressive web from the ground. I decided to give the spider a good name. It was a female. The female orb weavers are the big impressive ones. The males actually look quite different and have less bulbous abdomens. I decided to call her Tove. Below i have uploaded a video of beautiful Tove hard at work fixing The damage Cashew did to her web. I hope she will remain in the dog run so i can have a grand view of her throughout the summer. I will be on high alert for praying mantises now that i know she is there.

The Funk

it began with a combination of two things…a very dirty dog stinking up the bed and me going to sleep with a deep conditioning treatment in my hair and subsequently wetting a pillow. These two things culminated to create a smell so rank that drastic intervention was required. I suspect it was a mix of moldy pillow stuffing and that dead animal smell that dogs waft when they roll in something exciting. So naturally i threw everything in the washing machine with a large cup of detergent and figured it was solved. Boy was i wrong. Not only did the laundry not get defunkified, the pillows and bedding funkified the washing machine, the dryer, and all of my other laundry. It was like everything that this smell touched automatically joined it. I could see i was losing a battle here. I needed reinforcements, supplies, and a different strategy. I consulted coworkers with children…what is the strongest product we sell to remedy this problem? I was told that i needed to take my machine apart, empty the old water, clean the lint trap, put the machine back together, pour a packet of washing machine cleaner into the drum and set the machine to “normal” and “hot”. Then after this was finished, run a load of the funkified laundry with a huge cup of oxiclean odor busters detergent. So i did this. It was quite the process. I had to use a screw driver to pry open the door to the lint trap and the cap that held the water in the bottom of the machine, as the button to push in to open the little door was non-existent (maybe broken off at some point when i moved). Once the door was open it said to place a bowl under the tube before you uncapped it as nasty smelly water was going to come out. I was watching youtube videos and interrogating my mother trying to figure out how much water was going to come out and at what rate of speed. Smelly gunky water shooting out of a tube at a high rate of flow would be much worse than a smelly goopy trickle. I couldn’t gage what size bowl i needed but i didn’t have a bowl big enough to hold the amount of water i guessed was coming and shallow enough to fit under the very short tube that had to be pointed down in order to drain properly. I ended up reinforcing a ziploc freezer bag by sticking it inside another one and holding that under the tube. I popped the cap off the tube and it immediately began draining the rankest rotten egg/dead animal/wet dog/musty sweet mold smelling cloudy liquid into these ziploc bags. I knew i had to stay there and hold the tube in the bag or the water would go all over the floor and the whole house would be funkified by this demon liquid. So i stayed where i was and tried to hold on, but the smell was so intense and so close to my face, i literally instinctually started dry heaving. I was busy trying to keep myself from upchucking dinner when the smell hit the dogs. They ran to the front door and plastered themselves there as if to say, “open, open open open, i’m out!” My eyes were watering. It was bad. I could hear myself saying “oh Jesus, oh Jesus!” When i got the full thing drained i let the dogs out into the dog run and then dumped that frothy slimy liquid in the yard. It seemed to sit on top of the ground. It didnt function as normal water. I stood and looked at it warily. I then returned to the house and removed the lint trap. I confirmed that i was not indeed crazy a year ago when i drove myself mad swearing that i had 8 hair clips and could only find 7. I took the house apart and then was screaming like a mad woman, “it’s 384 square feet! How do i lose things in a 384 square foot space!” The eighth hair clip was torn in half and lodged in the middle of the washing machine lint trap covered in mold, dog hair, rust, and slime. I followed the directions and took an old toothbrush that the dentist had put in my goody bag at one of my visits and brushed feverishly under the spigot next to the well house. I got the slimy gunk off but the whole thing was still covered in black mold. My mother suggested dipping it in bleach. I submerged the lint trap in a cup of straight bleach. The mold came off. How amazing bleach is. Then i rinsed it under the spigot once more, threw away the toothbrush, and diluted and disposed of the bleach water in the dirt of the driveway. I should mention that all this was happening at around 2 am. I was delirious with sleep deprivation, somewhat on autopilot, and just blindly following instructions on packages and youtube how-to videos. When stumped i consulted my mother who then face-timed me so i could compare the structure of her machine to mine. Once i got the lint trap cleaned and void of stray hair clips i inserted it into the machine and twisted the lid back on. I capped the tube and clipped it upright. I put the door back in place and then washed the washer machine. After that i ran a plain rinse cycle with no clothes in there to get any excess cleaning formula that promised to bleach fabric out of there. I then washed the laundry with the odor eaters oxiclean detergent. I dried the load. I pulled it out and smelled it…RANK! The laundry machine was defunkified but the laundry itself was still BAD! I read the back of the oxiclean detergent bottle. It said for extreme cases, soak the laundry in the detergent for 6 hours before washing. So i put the laundry into my metal bathtub in the middle of the living room floor and filled the tub to the top with water and 5 whole heaping capfuls of this oxiclean odor eaters detergent. I went to work. After my shift i returned to the house to find the laundry sitting in water that was a dark soupy oily gray with bubbles in it. It smelled worse than ever! When i removed and rung out the laundry what was left behind seriously looked like something that might drain out of the bottom of a car at jiffy lube. It smelled SO BAD! My skin smelled like it. I had to wash my hands and arms with dawn dish soap to get the funk off. Then i had to clean the bathtub which also now smelled irreparably like the funk. I was drowning in this problem. I washed the laundry again with the oxiclean detergent and it was worse than ever once dried! I threw it all back into the washing machine and emptied a whole gallon of vinegar into the drum. I then added the oxiclean detergent and set it. Nothing! Not even a dent! I was beside myself! All my laundry was custom hemmed for short people…i couldn’t just burn it and start over (but it was looking like that was my only option at this point). Finally my mother said to put baking soda on the clothes. I emptied the entire box of baking soda from the back of my pantry into the laundry machine drum and turned it on. No smell. My God. I went to the lowes market one town over and made my way to the checkout carrying every box of baking soda the store had in stock (8) and a box of raisins (gotta have snacks). The cashier looked at me funny and said, “will that be all for you today?” I said, “yes.” He said, “receipt?” I said, “sure.” Everyone in the store was staring. I was aware this was a weird thing to do in a small town but it was too long a story to explain. I had work to do. So i gathered up all my baking soda and returned to the house. I threw out the pillows and a wool garment that couldn’t be saved. I decided the clothes and the bedding were salvageable. Baking soda. Glorious baking soda. From now on a box of it would go in the laundry until i was sure the problem was done with. My God the smell still haunts my nightmares. The funk; if a dead rotting animal married 8 week old eggs that had been in a bag on the dashboard in the sun and had a baby that was clad in eternally wet dog hair. That is the best description i can give you of what its like to sniff the funk.

Nandi

I had a potted tomato plant on the porch in a little metal cage to keep the deer and rabbits off of it. I tend to buy 1 red cherry tomato plant per year and insert it into this cage i’ve constructed with a lid held on by keyring clips. There was a toad that appeared to come with the plant from the feed store i bought it at because it was inside the metal cage buried in the dirt in the pot. Every night it would hop out and eat insects that were attracted to the porch light and then return to bury itself in the wet dirt of the pot by sunrise. However, because it was in this metal cage, it never could hop very far from the pot. I decided to call him Oscar. I think i was pulling from sesame street a little bit…oscar the grouch had his trashcan and his lid and this toad was always half buried and peeking out of the pot. So Oscar lived on the porch and that seemed pretty normal to me. Toads were common at this time of year. I often found them sitting in the chicken water dispenser as if it was a hot tub and they frequently dug into potted plants to get out of the scorching sun during the day. At night they were everywhere in the yard, hopping about. They made unusually large turds for such a small animal. Down by the river you could hear them all making noise in chorus at sundown. Oscar was welcome to stay. However, one night i walked outside and saw a green leaf with eyes moving on my tomato plant. It wasn’t a leaf. It was Nandi. I had seen toads. I had never seen a tree frog as long as i’d lived in texas. Nandi appeared to be a cope’s gray tree frog. My tomatoes were getting eaten and Nandi was hanging out right on top of them. I wondered if Nandi was eating them and relocated Nandi to the grass. However, the frog came right back to where it had been and resumed its prior activity of hunting bugs. There were little green grasshoppers all over the plant and i was having mixed luck at killing them all. After a while i decided that Nandi was probably eating the grasshoppers and the grasshoppers had been eating the tomatoes. At sunrise Nandi was on the wall near the door frame of the house. The sun was rising and the yard was getting hot. Though we had been at odds during the night, i suspected we had a mutual purpose when it came to grasshoppers, and i knew Nandi would not survive if the sun hit the porch and the frog hadn’t moved. I grabbed Nandi, the cold slimy orange and cream legs and under belly squishing slightly in my hand, and let her jump from my hand, through the cage rungs, into the wet dirt of the tomato pot. Nandi was the first tree frog i’d ever met. Whether or not Nandi had anything to do with the chewed tomatoes, i wanted the frog to survive. So Oscar and Nandi went to bed for the day, burying themselves in the dirt. A toad and a tree frog sleeping in a tomato plant.

Yard Snacks

i came home from work one day to find there were a couple ripe cherry tomatoes ready to eat. I picked them and ate them. They were sweet and juicy. Then i picked the last little palmful of mulberries and finished up by harvesting 20 or so agarita berries one by one. By the end of my evening chores i had a belly full of yard snacks.

Tasting Agarita Berries

I watched the red buds open into bright orange flowers. I watched those flowers give way to round green berries. I paid close attention to those green berries, waiting for them to turn red. However, as i waited many of them shriveled and went straight to black. I was confused as to what was happening. I thought maybe the pink ones had ripened and then rotted. So i tasted a barely pink berry. It didnt have much of a taste. I figured this was not the state one was supposed to eat them in. A week later i revisited the bush and the pink berries had turned red. There were black and orange beetles of all sizes (hundreds of them) clinging to the branches. They were eating the berries. That was why they had turned black. The beetles had chewed holes in them but left them on the plant. Compromised, they shriveled and rotted. So, i had come late to the scene. The beetles got most of the harvest this year. I had to move the beetles off the remaining berries to steal their leftovers.

I realized quickly why people had told me agaritas could not be picked without getting stuck by the thorns. The berries were shielded by spiky leaves, positioned strategically underneath them. You could not pick a berry without moving a spiny leaf. I realized quickly that the way to eat agaritas was one at a time. The flavor was wonderful and the burst of tart sweetness in one’s mouth would motivate a person to endure more of the torture, picking through the stabbing leaves. However, if one collected in bulk the delayed gratification would convince a person they were done picking berries before all of them had been removed from the bush.

The best berries came from the bush in the dog run. There were less beetles camped out on this one and so the berries were allowed to get a bit riper. I was sure that a deep red would have been even tastier but if the beetles and the birds had no qualms about eating them early waiting for deep red would render me with no berries. They were very yummy. I ate them one at a time to convince my brain all the poking and stabbing of my fingers on the spiny needle-like leaves was worth it. It was.

New Tenants in the Bird Condo

I was delighted to look underneath the cardboard pieces in the stacked toybox planters and see two little eggs sitting in the nest. The birds make such frequent use of this excellently concealed and protected nesting spot that i get the nature channel all spring even though i have no tv service.

She laid an additional egg every so often until there were 6 sitting in the nest. Some birds sit on unfertilized eggs until it becomes apparent that they will not hatch. Then they break the eggs or roll them from the nest and vacate. So the question is, “Are these eggs fertilized?” One can hope. 🙂

Entangled Thoughts

I’ve been doing a lot of hard thinking recently. Many things have coincided at inconvenient times and i’ve been forced to sort through them all at once. It started with me opening the door to the idea of bringing someone to visit my land. He was kind and gentle natured and seemed interested in my way of life and so a thought emerged that maybe i would let another human step foot into my private utopia away from humans just for a visit maybe once in the future. Of course this would be far into the future but it was a thought that emerged. I let it lie there. I didnt even let my close friends step foot on the land as it was my private space away from humans and i preferred the company of animals and trees, so it was a strange thought and i assumed there was a chance it would pass. At this same time i was working on a family tree. I was beyond frustrated because there was just no information to be had on one branch of the tree. After two generations there was nothing. I wondered how a whole branch of family could cease to exist and it scared me. Was i going to be forgotten entirely once i was dead? I felt a need to know about these people that had once existed, even though most of them were strangers to me, so that they would still exist in someone’s mind or in photographs or immigration records. The notion that these characters i couldn’t find had just poofed into the ether seemed very final and punishing. Who would remember them? Who would remember my sister and i when we were gone? Who would know anything about us? I wanted to know about them. I stayed up all hours of the night researching and following leads, trying to sort through what applied to me and what didnt, who was my relative and who was someone else’s with the same name. It was an endless rabbit hole. One piece of information led to another and i’d be up until sunrise easily if i never left the computer and went to bed at a certain point. I stared at the faces of these people and wondered if i had inherited any of their features. I wondered who they were and what they were like. Who was a tomboy? Who was ladylike? Who was hard working? Who was a funny guy? I wondered what the birth certificates and death records couldn’t tell me. Who were they? I was envious of families with passed down stories or better records of the past. I tried to fit the puzzle pieces together and drink up what was there.

Those that had photographs seemed very virtuous and very serious. I knew that during their age it took a long time to take a photograph and so you had to sit very still and hold a pose for an extended time period. Due to this fact people rarely smiled because their mouth would end up blurred as the smile faded over time. I wondered if they were serious people or just looked serious due to the photograph. I wondered what they looked like when they were smiling. I went through all the records and made profiles for all of their children. Some people had two children. Some people had none. Some people had twelve. I wondered how those with large families fed all those children. I studied their clothes, their jewelry, the old buttons, the hair… they were mysterious and beautiful strangers i wished to know about. With each marriage record i added a new family name to the tree and included their branch. Each branch was drastically different. There were a lot of people listed as grocers on census documents for generations and generations back. I smiled as i realized my first as well as my most recent jobs had involved groceries. Groceries seemed to be a running theme in this family. Each time i added a new family to the tree i felt that their existence was retrieved. I wanted to retrieve all the people that had ever been connected to the family in any way and remember them. I knew on some level this was an impossible task and i would drive myself insane but once i’ve set my mind to something its best to just let it run its course.

I was a very busy bee. I was writing a couple books. I was blogging. I was working on this family tree. i was doing several projects around the homestead. I was going to Friday Group, trying my hand at this thing called socialization. In the middle of this someone who had been paying me attention began to ask questions about my life like who i was, why i worked so hard, and how old i was. I answered each question truthfully without thought but i knew i had no intention of changing my operation in life for another human. I am where i want to be doing what i want to do. Still, the kindness was not unappreciated. I began to entertain the idea that companionship might not be all bad. That bubble was promptly busted when our mutual friend began auditioning me for a role i had not applied for. He began auditioning me for the role of a wife. How old was i? Could i cook? What kinds of things did i cook? Would people consider me a good cook? Did i keep a good house? Did i want to be married? Am i in the market for a husband? I said no. I said that i was too stubborn for a husband. This seemed to be an incorrect answer because he just asked the question repeatedly as if i’d answer differently a second or third time. I resented this interrogation, like i had to prove my worth in the middle of my work run. I did not ask to be anyone’s wife and did not understand why he felt the need to conduct such an audition. It turned out he was going to make sure that i wouldn’t be a bad decision for his friend. Once he realized i was 33 he spent the next 4 hours of our shift stating loudly and repeatedly, “i can’t believe you’re 33! That’s crazy old! I seriously thought you were 17!” He said, “i’m gonna tell everyone you’re 33!” He then felt the urge to tell me that if i still needed a husband in 50 years he’d marry me. I was not the type of person that would view this as a favor. I was not desperate for a husband and was not the type to change my whole operation in life for anything less than a puzzle piece perfect fit. I wondered why he expected me to view this as a favor. I felt this kind of “settling” was infuriating and wanted no part of it. I was insulted and mad and getting rather annoyed that he kept announcing my age to all the customers who didnt understand why it was important for them to know i was 33. I thought of the family tree and all the spouses and children listed there and suddenly it didnt seem so important for me to contribute to it in any way. I had looked at all the black and white images of mothers holding their children still for the camera and posing in front of a house or around a chair and lamented that my infertility would keep me from ever contributing to the tree in such a way as they had. I would never be responsible for adding a new name under mine. Now i had a completely different feeling; one of relief. All that marriage business was likely fine for them. We probably dont share much in common; those beautiful black and white faces and i. I think such a thing would pose a very real threat of suffocating me. I pursed my lips and stared at the man flailing hands and announcing my age for the fourth hour, a man i had considered a friend and up until 4 hours ago respected greatly. Perhaps i would just be the rememberer. I would write down everybody and that would be my contribution. i decided i had been single for 9 years for a reason. He was right. Amongst my population of coworkers, i was old. I only cooked vegan or pescatarian food. I did not keep an especially clean house. I dont wait on partners hand and foot and if you’re grown and i’ve worked all day, i expect you can feed yourself. Im not the best candidate for a wife and what i wont do is apologize for that. I am good at doing what im doing and it feeds my soul and so im not deviating from this purpose. Someone is welcome to coexist alongside me if they also like the wilderness and want to experience the same things im after but im not leaving the outdoors to cook their meals and starch their shirts. If they want to eat, they’ll eat what im having when i cook it or feed themselves. If they want starched shirts, they best learn to iron. For i wait on no one for the sake of being thought of as worthy. No one ever asked me if i was applying for the role i was auditioned for and nobody ever asked me what i was looking for in a husband. Nobody asked me what qualities in a companion were important to me, because that detail was not important to either the kind man or our ridiculous mutual friend. It is not thought of. The woman should be thankful that the man wants her and that is the end of the story. What rubbish. What pure and utter rubbish. I will leave marriage to others. The pursuit of such things is not for me.

A Task Long Overdue

I bought a number of fruit trees, an avocado tree, and a pecan tree in the spring of 2020. It was a way for me to address my frustration with the fact that i couldnt get any food from the grocery store. I was at work when they opened the doors every morning and so the store was cleaned out by the time i was shopping. To bring supplemental protein to my diet i began catching and eating grasshoppers and cicadas and digging up wild onions all over the property. They were tiny but id you found enough of them you could peel them, chop them in half, throw them in the skillet, and it was just like having real sautéed onions. I kept the green stems as well and chopped them up. It added to the onion flavor and was a bright bit of green in the dish. I would collect dandelion leaves to make salad and just generally ate any bug or edible greenery that i could find that i didn’t think spent its whole day crawling through animal feces. I kept the crickets and pill bugs for the chickens, determined that i was not yet desperate enough to eat greasy or poo covered bugs, but i became quite addicted to cicadas and even devised a pretty effective system for catching them. But, i’ve gotten very far off topic here. The trees. What became of them. Well, the avocado tree flowered beautifully in the shed like i’d never seen a tree flower before during the dead of winter and then died a very severe and thorough death in icepocalypse when i didnt have any heat to keep the tropical plant above freezing. The satsuma mandarin tree gave me a number of juicy sweet mandarins ranging somewhere in the teens that were so exquisite, and died thoroughly in icepocalypse. My lemon tree that had been with me for years also died a severe and thorough death during icepocalypse. It was during this time that i realized i needed local plants that would do well to survive winter, not tropical or citrus plants. The mulberry and pear trees rooted well and survived. My pomegranate and fig trees died and came back from the roots after icepocalypse as baby trees. My loquat tree died and my grandmother sprouted me a baby one which i have left alone and let the rain alone water it and it is surviving much better without my interference. My little apple tree from a sprouted seed continues to come back each year even though only an inch and a half tall. Everything was planted in the ground except this pecan tree which came in a 2 foot pot. I knew i would have to dig a hole that was at the very least two feet to accommodate its root system. I had never dug a hole 2 feet into the limestone rock. The deepest i had gone down was maybe a foot and a half. I knew the closer to the surface the more splintered the rock would be. As i went deeper i would hit harder packed less splintered limestone that was solid and harder to chip with a well placed blow from my metal stick. I wasn’t looking forward to digging a 2 foot hole and couldn’t imagine myself doing it after i contracted covid and was left with chronic fatigue, tachycardia, and arthritis in every joint. So i put the task of planting the pecan tree off. It lived in the house for 2 winters and on the porch for two summers. Each year it came back in the spring despite the fact that i had made a very root bound tree live in a pot that was never meant to be a longterm arrangement. So when my spring semester ended i knew the first thing i would need to take care of on my day off was planting this very patient pecan tree who had waited a long time for its day to be released from its plastic prison. I meant to wake up at dawn but it didnt happen. It was 80 degrees and partly cloudy when i started the project and 90 degrees and sunny when i finished. I kept taking breaks to get another cup of ice water and then i would set the cup of ice water on top of a big jar in the grass to keep the ants out of it and take a sip every so often. I put a shirt over my head and then a ball cap over that to keep the sun off my neck and face. I set out to dig this hole knowing full well i could not do it the way i would have two years ago, before covid had hardened my heart muscle so that it no longer contracted as thoroughly with each pump, leaving me prone to tachycardia when my muscles demanded more oxygen and my heart had to work faster to pump the amount of blood required to supply the demand during activity. I knew the chronic fatigue would leave me ready to quit long before the job was done. I decided the way to do this job was one foot in front of the other and i would just have to make up my mind that there was no quit and when i thought i couldn’t do it or i was done for i would just have to rest and get back to it and with this strategy, even if it took me 100 hours, surely at some point the job would be done. It would have to be, if i never quit. So i set about the task. First i put a battery in the lawn mower and mowed a trail from the current path in the orchard to where i wanted to place the pecan tree. Then i mowed a circle around the area i planned to dig. Once i had put the mower back in the shed i began the task of digging. I wore myself out pretty fast with the chronic fatigue. After 6 blows my legs were shaking, i felt like i was going to pee myself with every lift of the metal stick, and i hadn’t the energy to hold on to the stick properly when it made contact with rock. This meant my hands slipped upon impact and very quickly i began to make blisters on my right hand. About twelve blows in i heard an audible pop and looked down and saw that the upper part of my right palm had a big oval of skin that had separated from the deeper layers and filled with water. It was a painful pillow of wrinkly lighter colored skin just sitting atop the rest and i could smoosh the liquid around inside the blister. I knew this would not do. I was barely even started with the project. I would need some protection for this blistered palm were i to continue using it. So i went into the house and fetched some medical tape. I wrapped my hand, got another drink of ice water, placed my cup on the jar in the grass, and returned to the task.

I was so ready to be done with this task for hours, but i had promised this tree that today was the day it would get planted. I tried to focus on the music playing on my phone. I spent the time communicating my frustration in spanish, german, and russian…not a bad idea. It was an opportunity to work on the languages i had tried to learn. I told the rocks they were bad and to get out of the hole and i repeatedly said “please” in various languages as if that would make all the difference in the progress had. The tachycardia slowed me down substantially because i was no longer a person who could just “push through”. I had to pace myself and take rest breaks regularly. Things were going fairly well considering until i hit that depth where the rock won’t chip or splinter easily and is solid. I jammed the metal stick in the hole and was greeted with a “clang” each time but no rock chips. I realized i had to put more elbow grease into it and lift the stick from a higher height to crash down in the hole if i was to make any sort of chip in this solid rock. However, each time i did so i created new blisters on the fingers of my right hand and increased my heart rate. The physical task of chipping this solid rock would be too much for me in the condition i was in. I felt lucky to be in the condition i was in. Colleagues and patients died. I lived. I was not complaining. But i knew this project was now beyond my capabilities and i wasn’t sure how to remedy that. I had made up my mind at the start that no matter what i wouldn’t quit and this was going to be how the project got finished. So i could not quit. So i stood above the hole, going round in a circle, the depth around 1.5 feet at this point, exhausting myself fruitlessly, lifting this stick and bringing it down each time only to hear “clang” and see no rocks chip. I did this for a bit until i became frustrated and started yelling at the heavens in german. I had promised this tree. If it killed me i would put this very patient pecan tree in the ground and i would do that today and i would do that myself. I uttered one “**** you covid.” And decided to push the limits of the tachycardia. It was the only way. This project needed more umph. The rock would never chip at this depth without it. So i began ignoring my heart rate and yelling “come on!” At the rock in the bottom of my hole, giving everything i had with each raise of the metal stick. The rock began to chip. The pieces were shallow and the going was slow but with a bit of angling the stick diagonally i was able to chip off large widths of flat rock pieces at a time. I yelled in german, russian, or spanish in turn with each victory, “yes, very good!” I was multitasking. Dig a hole, plant a tree, do physical therapy conditioning, secure a future food source, learn languages, get the daily dose of vitamin d… i guess i should stop and mention that due to two fires beftween san angelo and fort worth the air quality was poor. The wind had carried the smoke in our direction and it was a bit hazy out. But, the fires were far enough away not to pose a threat so life had to go on at the homestead. At some point i was so exhausted i knew i could not remain standing for very much longer. I was now making one inch chips in the rock and flaking off tiny pieces. The time of my large flat victories was long over and i was settling for crumbs. When i looked in the hole i thought, “for sure that is not deep enough. Then i tried to step one foot in it and could not readily touch the bottom without falling in. I thought, “maybe it is deeper than i think it is.” I decided to fetch the tree to see how much further i would need to dig. I would put the tree in the hole and them gage from there how much deeper i needed to make it. I went to get the tree from the porch and then realized to my dismay that i had used all my energy and couldnt lift it. I dragged the pecan tree across the property for hundreds of feet until i got it where i needed it to be and then lowered it into the hole. It fit! It fit!!!! It fit it fit it fit!!! I began screaming “good!” And then “thank you” in russian while i put my hands on my head and then rang them out in excitement. It fit! I wouldn’t have to dig anymore!

I tried to get the tree out of the pot but it was so root bound i had to cut it out with scissors. I tried carefully not to cut the roots but i accidentally got one. Just one.

I lowered the tree into the hole. The tree had always been crooked…leaning heavily to one side. Now was my chance to fix that if i so chose. I thought that maybe it would appreciate this when it was older and had to hold up heavy limbs. So i angled the part that had been in the pot and poured dirt in this one side of the hole first, causing the tree to stand upright towards the sky. Then i filled in the rest of the hole with the dirt.

As i was filling the hole i was just thinking of all the things i needed to do to finish the project. One step, then another. It was hot and sunny. I hadn’t applied sunscreen. I had been outside for hours. I needed to wrap this up. I filled in the hole completely and stood back in a moment of joy. This was happening. The patient tree was being planted. The hole had been dug. I did it. Thank you lord. спасибо. danke schön. muchas gracias.

One the hole was filled in i stopped and filled a pitcher with well water and carried it to the tree so it could drink, hoping to prevent shock and minimize trauma. Planting is stressful for trees. Any change of conditions or environment is stressful to trees. Being dragged and jostled for hundreds of feet and them turned on its side while cut out of its pot is also traumatic. I went into the house, opened my toolbox, and got the tool i used to cut metal fencing. i went to the roll of metal fencing i had lying in the yard. It had been there so long the grass had grown up through it and was holding it in place. I broke it free with several good tugs to each side and then unrolled it. I measured and cut a piece to surround the tree. Then i dragged it over to the corner of the land where i had planted the pecan tree. I put it around the tree and used the tool to twist the fencing shut where the seams came together. I had devised a system long ago involving rebar to keep the wind from lifting the tree fencing. I threaded the rebar sticks through the fencing and then hammered them into the ground to keep the circular fencing cage in place during high winds. This worked and was a fairly inexpensive solution. I knew i had rebar somewhere, left over from the days when i had incoming cashflow that surpassed my outgoing and could buy things like wood and rebar. I figured it would be where i keep everything im not using at the moment, on the floorboards of the car. I was right. Wrapped in an old tank top were several pieces of rebar on the floorboard of the back seat. I carried them along with my hammer to the site where i’d planted the pecan tree. I threaded each bar through the fencing and hammered it into the ground. I used the last two pieces of rebar in the fencing around the rosemary, something that had also needed done. Then i stood back and took in the scene. It was done. The task was completed. In its entirety. The pecan tree was planted and part of the orchard now. I had placed it at the corner of the property so as not to disturb the soil of the fruit trees. It was a bit orchard adjacent, but, i would visit it daily so it would not be lonely. I was proud of the fact that several trucks that had left in the morning while i was just beginning to dig the hole had returned home in the opposite direction right as i was finishing up the fencing. So, they got to see what the hole was for all in one day. When my neighbors plant crops i get to see what it is that they planted when it comes up. When the equipment is out in the field i get to see the baled harvest later. When fences are redone i get to see what livestock it was for shortly. You get to see what your neighbors are doing without ever having to chat. I like it. Its like good tv.

After all this the temperature was 90 and the air quality wasnt great. I decided the dogs would be better off having a day in the house with me. So i took them inside. I got them water and poured myself a cup of ice water. We all laid on the cool floor and i shared my frozen watermelon with them. I had a bowl of it and i dropped a piece in each of their bowls while they laid on either side of me. We chilled in front of the a/c unit with our ice water and frozen watermelon for a while. They did not mind joining me in the rest. They had been outside all morning and were exhausted from panting in the shade under the trees and drinking nearly all the water i had put out. They were happy to be indoors. We all took a nap on the floor in front of the refrigerator. By the grace of God the scorpions stayed hidden. I was too tired to care.