When Being a Responsible Adult Sounds Good on Paper…

It started with a trip to the hardware store in town. I bought a succulent and named him Tobyn. Well, after a while i thought Tobyn looked a little lonely, so i made a decision to go back to the hardware store and get Tobyn a couple friends…more tiny succulents in decorative stoneware cups. I had no trouble finding Tobyn some friends.

This one i named Sarah. Its long twisty arms intrigued me and i decided upon it right away.

This one my sister dubbed Luella. It’s housed in a glass tear drop on a string. What’s not to love? It made a nice addition to the shower. I knotted the string and then zip tied it in place.

This one was dying so they put it in the discount bin for 1 $ and when i went through the line the cashier said, “Oh, i think i have something back here that you’re gonna like and its only one dollar. She brought ike out and i could see it just hadn’t been misted in forever and was dehydrated so i paid the one dollar, took it home, sprayed it, and ike is now doing just fine.

If i had stopped there and driven home with the 3 succulents it probably would have been a shorter story and i might not have to turn in my adulting card. Truthfully, plants are pretty much like cocaine to me and i should probably have a designated person along to hold the credit card during these trips to the hardware store garden section. Not that i would listen.

I did not stop with the succulents alone. In fact, i was drawn immediately to a bunch of what i knew to be loquat trees from their distinctive lengthy leaves. The trees were taller than me and they were all listed at 24.98. What a deal for a tree that large! I picked the tallest healthy-looking, well-balanced tree i could find among the bunch and carried it to the cashier while the cold front blowing in threatened to bend the branches and trunk. I pressed the tree to my torso and held the trunk against the support stick, trying to shield it from the merciless wind that was toppling and thrashing its brothers back at the display. I had gotten there just as the wind picked up and the front arrived. It was a shame but all those beautiful trees would likely be ruined within the hour if the employees didn’t either lash them together or bring them in. I had to fold the seats down to fit the tree in the car and carefully place the leaves against the seats to keep them from tearing. Once i got a full loquat tree into the car i returned to the store where i was greeted with tomato plants. The cherry tomato plants already had tomatoes growing on them. I wanted one so badly. I actually talked myself out of it 3 separate times before i talked myself into it with the little tiny voice that said, “Go on…do it…you should! Just think of how good those sun-kissed tomatoes will taste when they’re ripe.” I bought a cherry tomato plant. Then…oh yeah, there’s more. I found chocolate mint, dill, basil…i was trying to figure out how i was going to get all these new things in the well house on cold nights when i already had two types of rosemary, chives, and an aloe vera plant in there around the well pump. It was time to go home and try it.

I did get the plants in the well house but the loquat tree wouldn’t fit. So it went in my living room. At this point i was formulating a plan for how i was going to keep everything alive through the rest of winter. The plants would be put in the well house and the tree in the house during cold days and in the yard surrounded by fencing on warmer days.

So, during the first bit of free time i got i cut some fencing and wrapped it around the loquat tree to keep the deer away. Then i went to check on the other fruit trees.

The white powder would be diatomaceous earth. I had been sprinkling copious amounts of it on each leaf of the trees to keep the thousands of grasshoppers from eating the branches bare.

The meyer lemon tree was putting out new leaves and some buds that would later become flowers. I hoped the flowers would get pollinated and the africanized bees would create some lemons.

The pomegranate tree had literally 4 leaves on 1 branch all winter. I thought i’d killed it and then one day i looked into the tree box and saw all these tiny little leaves poking out of the once bare twigs.

I rigged some things up mcgyver style. I used the fencing to make a protective ring around the loquat tree and the cherry tomato plant. Then i used the replacement door that had come with one of the dog crates to section off the part of the porch that held the herbs, keeping them away from the deer. I then cut a piece of fencing into a lid for the tomato plant cage and secured it with a key ring and two clips to hold keys on. The lid could be removed easily on one side by unclipping it in order to pick tomatoes.

One of my former patients was a jewelry maker. She had made me a bracelet from tiny plastic beads in thanks for the exercises i had put her through each day. I was flattered but not sure when i would ever wear it. I didn’t tend to dress up much. However, i did need wire, and the bracelet was made of wire. The hardware store was a 30 minute drive. One had to make use of what they had. I used the bracelet to secure the little gate against the porch railing. It was the prettiest gate latch i had ever seen.

So now everyone should be all caught up on why i can’t be left alone in a hardware store. I will come home with plants and there will more than likely be a 7 1/2 foot tree in the living room.

Murphy’s Law

Where do i begin? Probably with Sunday. I went to bed on Sunday night thinking i’d sleep from 9:30 pm to 3:00, wake up to take morning meds, quick potty break for Cashew, and then back to bed until 8:00 am. Cashew had other plans. She figured she ought to have a potty break every two to three hours, and she told me so, all night. When i finally did roll out of bed i was exhausted, both from lack of sleep and from yelling for everyone to be quiet and go back to bed. I let the dogs out and began my morning routine. It wasn’t until i went to take my curlers out that i realized it was going to be a day of catastrophe. As i began to unroll them i noticed the foam was squished and indented. I had been notably stressed when winding my hair around the curlers and apparently a bit overzealous about the whole process. Instead of making curls that wound downwards towards the floor…like hung down…key word “down”…i had managed to make teeny tiny curls that stuck straight out sideways. My hair was defying gravity, a lot. I stared in the mirror in disbelief. I tried frantically to fix it with a brush. Perhaps if i brushed it out a bit the curls would lengthen. Nope. I somehow managed to make a fro. I stared once again into the mirror, dumbfounded. How had this gone so horribly awry?! I had achieved quite a stylish look just the day before…how on earth had i used the very same materials to create this disaster?!

Photo from yesterday (not today)

I couldn’t leave it like that. So, i did the only thing i could…added water. It deflated the fro. It did that. It also left a half wet mop half wavy mess going on over my head. In went more curlers, trouble shooting the flat spots. It was a ridiculous attempt at salvaging something i should have just scrapped and pulled a hat over. At that point i realized i had given the dogs a full bowl of water. I sighed. Never a good thing to do before a road trip. I opened my email to the news that the life group i was driving to a different city to attend was cancelled. I had an order of 24 custom themed cookies to bring to said life group. What on earth was i going to do with them? I was supposed to visit a friend on the way. I figured i would give them to her and she could share them with anyone she felt needed a cookie during the week. So i set off to pick up the cookies. I did pick up the cookies. Unbeknownst to me, i managed to do that and the next couple legs of my journey with the blue emergency touch-up curlers still hanging off the back of my head. Then i had to turn right around and drive back to my town to let the dogs out since i had stupidly given them a whole bowl of water. I went to turn on the dog nanny cam so i could make sure the dogs were alive while i was away, and the thing didn’t work. I spent half an hour on the phone with tech support who concluded they had no idea what was wrong with the camera and would have to analyze data recorded by the device over time to see where the error was occurring. This required going through a third party and downloading other apps to my phone to track the device and its functions. I was now half an hour late, had no way of monitoring if the a/c was still working for the dogs while i was out, and as it turned out, i was out of gas. Also, as soon as i locked the property gate i realized i was wearing a pair of pants with 3 gaping holes in them. I used my box cutter to cut up some band aids in the first aid kit in my purse and placed the sticky part over each one of the holes in my pants leg until super glue could be obtained. I then stripped my pants off and super glued the holes in the pants shut. I also super glued my finger and a portion of my leg. It was at this point that i realized the cookies were melting. The beautifully decorated cookies were melting into the plastic and the icing was beginning to run off the sides of a couple of the cookies. The ones that were salvageable began sticking to the plastic. I sighed. It seemed there was a definite theme to this day. I turned the a/c knob to 4 and directed all vents at the cookies. As i was adjusting one of the a/c vents i noticed a flying object slide across the street. I was on a 1 lane winding road and a pickup pulling a trailer was passing me headed in the opposite direction. As he took the curve the trailer unloaded its cargo and sheets of scrap metal slid across the street, into the grill of my suv, and under my tires. I stopped. The pickup didn’t. I got out and surveyed the damage. The windshield was fine. The tires were fine. The front of the car might have had a new scratch or two but i was too rattled to care. I kept waiting for lightening to strike the radio antenna or the homestead to burst into flames in my absence. I thought, “If i continue this journey is something worse going to happen? Should i go home? Should i lie down, go back to sleep, and try this day again?” I was fairly sure that was not how things worked. I didn’t get a do-over for monday cuz it wasn’t going according to my plan. I got back on the road. Traffic wasnt as bad as i figured it would be in the city. I was beginning to think my luck was changing when a semi hit the concrete barrier blocking off the construction zone because the road curved and the semi didn’t. Sparks and bits of cement flew across the lanes and the semi swerved and rocked on the tires, quickly veering into the adjacent lane, moving me and two other cars out of its way reactively. It was at this point that i began praying, “Dear Lord please help me. I think the Devil is trying to kill me.” Later on down the road a sedan managed to kick a rock up into my windshield. A sedan. At this point i realized i hadn’t eaten anything but a handful of carrots and some avocado dip all day. I was hungry. I began looking for mcDonalds signs along the highway. There were none! It seemed i drove 15 miles without a hint of a mcDonalds on my side of the highway. They were all available on the other side of the highway…for cars traveling in the opposite direction. Then i missed my exit only to find myself staring at the biggest mcDonalds sign i had ever seen in my life. I thought, “Divine Intervention”. The freeway exit ramp took me towards and past…and then long past the giant mcDonalds sign. I was afraid at this point. What else was going to implode during this day? I kept on going, not because i thought God wanted me to, but for selfish reasons. I felt i couldn’t trudge home with my tail tucked between my legs like a kicked dog. I had to do something right today, and i was going to keep trying until i found that thing that was going to go according to plan, or at least end well. I really wanted to study the bible. I felt, with the day i was having, i could use some study of the bible. I asked my friend if i could come to her life group since mine was cancelled. She agreed. After visiting with her i went with her and her family to their life group, where we ended up visiting so long we didn’t get to studying the bible. It was great to see familiar faces i had missed very much! We had brought the custom cookies to the life group, since my life group was cancelled, thinking everyone could enjoy them there. I did not realize the host of the life group was also a cookier, so i had essentially brought her competition’s product into her house. Oops. :/ on the way home i did not encounter any deer. I did however have to swerve off the road twice to avoid hitting two dead dogs, one great pyrenees and one boxer. They were both beautiful animals, stone cold dead. I returned home to take the trash to the intersection only to find a medium pile of still-warm glistening scat on the concrete before the tool shed. I didn’t recognize the size or consistency. I would have to research what animal was likely watching me from the dark as i took the trash out. I put the dogs in the dog run. Then the coyotes started. I knew better than to take them out of the dog run for Cashew would ignore my orders and go straight to coyote hunting in the dark. I left them in the run. Cashew began barking, snarling, and jumping on the chain link fence about 5 minutes later. She had likely located whatever left the scat. I rubbed my temples. It began to rain. I moved the car up on the mulch pile to keep it out of any pending flood waters that were to arrive. Here’s the thing; i’m alive, the dogs are alive, the car still runs, nothing caught fire or was struck by lightening. As far as i know, i’m still employed. I got to see my friend, who i had missed dearly, her baby, her husband, and a bunch of familiar faces in their life group. I got to catch up with old friends, they said a beautiful prayer for the group, i finally got my hands on some “yummi sushi and grill” sushi, and i got to play with 4 sweet dogs that weren’t mine. In the end, it was a good day, but i feel that angels must have been working overtime to offset Murphy’s law. Sitting here with my drowned-rat hair and my super-glued pants…that’s all i’m gonna say.

Nature’s Night Light

There were no street lamps where i lived. When there was no moon, there was no light. However, when there was a full moon, it almost became like daylight in the yard. It was so bright; just like in the movies. The moonlight illuminated tree branches, lit up the metal of the dog run fence, and revealed the outline of roofs and walls in the darkness. It was beautiful. It even lit the curtains in the windows while i slept. It only did that in the winter and early spring because of which direction the house faced and where the moon rose depending on the season. In the city, they were experiencing the same moon. However, they were oblivious to its power and beauty because the city lights had already lit the darkness and adding moonlight to the dark in the city was like adding splenda to a cake batter that already held powdered sugar, brown sugar, and cane syrup. In the city, they did not need the moon to see by night. In the hill country, i did. I wanted that never to change. I wanted street lamps to stay away from my little town for the next 100 years. I wanted to be a part of nature and enjoy witnessing her gifts and secrets. I didn’t want to conquer or occupy nature. I just wanted to be immeshed in wilderness.

Tobin

With all the upheaval and change going on in my career field it wasn’t the time to spend money, on anything, and it probably wouldn’t be for the next decade. I finally had land. 2 acres. It seemed, gardening would be more accessible to me than it was in the apartments i had lived in. But, it wasn’t. One couldn’t just garden in the middle of the wilderness the way one could on an apartment balcony or patio. There were issues and roadblocks that had to be addressed first. The main reason one couldn’t just begin gardening in the yard were the thousands of grasshoppers that inhabited the land. In the summer, one could walk through the yard and find wolf spiders scurrying and grasshoppers jumping out of the way with each foot step. They were everywhere and they were hungry little devils. They ate anything they could reach. They left young trees bare of all their leaves. They were annoyingly good climbers. The only thing that seemed to slow them down was diatomaceous earth. I bought it by the bucket-full and sprinkled it on all the fruit tree leaves, but it was an endless battle as the wind would blow it off and the grasshoppers would set upon the trees and do their worst until i sprinkled more. I hated them. I was secretly glad Cashew liked to eat them for extra protein. However, she took one for an occasional snack. It was not like she was effectively making a dent in the overall population…which the plants wouldn’t have minded. There was one farmer that grew hay for livestock but everyone else around me seemed to have a greenhouse. I knew why. It was the only way to keep the grasshoppers out! So a green house was a must. It couldn’t be just any old zip-up plastic green house though. The deer tended to eat what was readily accessible in the yard but i didn’t imagine they would roll a greenhouse on its side or tear the see-through plastic to get the contents. It was the wild hogs that i was worried about. They were so destructive as it was, i figured a flimsy plastic cover over some plastic shelves in the yard would certainly be noticed and raided were i to erect such a thing in the area the hogs were frequenting. Also, there was the question of pollination. There would have to be an opening for the bees to find the flowers or there would be no point in gardening. I had tried years before and the veggies that managed to result from my paint brush pollination were weak and little and they often fell off the plant shortly after forming if they formed at all. So many flowers bloomed and died without producing a vegetable. I was no substitute for a bee with my little paint brush. They had pollen on them from thousands of different plants and knew just how to deposit it right where it should be. Some of the hard plastic greenhouse structures had skylights that could be opened and angled for air flow (and create an entry point for bees). They were super expensive and required one to construct them with power tools and instruction sheets, and probably multiple people. I did not have a mailbox and a greenhouse would not fit in a P.O. box. So i would have to have it delivered to the tractor supply store in town, then rent a pickup for the day, haul the box out to the property, return the pickup, and fetch my car from the lot before they locked it for the night. The financial cost of the greenhouse and the logistics of getting it to the property were enough to make one’s head swim but after it would have made it to the property and friends would have helped me assemble it, the rocky soil meant i would have to build raised beds inside the green house to grow anything. Because of my hundreds of termites and carpenter ant colonies, instead of using wood, i had decided to build brick raised beds. Unfortunately, bricks were not dirt cheap either. Then, on top of all the aforementioned complications and expenses, i recently learned that the bees in my area were africanized. I knew they were not fuzzy like the docile little honey bees that had lived in my apartment wall in san antonio. They were also a bit longer than the short stubby fuzzy honey bees i was used to. Other than that, they looked similar but they behaved completely differently. The honey bees i was used to sometimes mistook me for a flower depending on my perfume, laundry detergent, or shampoo scents. However, they would land on me, look for pollen, find none, and take off. They weren’t angry and it wasn’t personal. They were just looking for pollen. The bees i encountered on my property in the hill country were aggressive. They would fly in a zig zag pattern. They were quick and they would follow me no matter how far i ran. I could run clear to the other side of the property, turn round, and they were still in pursuit. The only way i knew to get rid of them was run past something they would be more interested in than me. I kept a rather smelly compost pile with bits of veg and fruit sticking out of the dirt. I knew if i ran there and kept going the bee would likely stop on it and i would be free of him. Otherwise, i had to run to the house and stay in it for 10 minutes before trying to come out again, because the bee would wait me out, buzzing round the porch to see if i emerged. I never stepped on one or threw anything at it or wandered too close to a hive. They were just naturally angry and these bees would chase people without any provocation. On warm days i liked to wash dishes in the yard. That was a process. The moment i opened the dish soap bottle the bees descended upon me in groups of 1 to 5. They would zig zag through the grass flying low and coming towards me, hit my shirt, buzz around my head…i ran like **** screaming, “Shit, bees!” every time. Off i went to the compost pile. Eventually i would get wise and make a little spot of soap in the grass so i could run past that and shake off the angry bees when they came for me. I thought it was weird that the bees were so aggressive and chasey chasey while i was hanging laundry, washing dishes, playing with the dogs, mowing grass, or trimming trees. If i cut wood or ran a power drill in the yard they came in groups of 10 to 15 and were super pissed about it. However, i didn’t connect the dots until my mother called them “africanized bees”. Then i began reading articles online. Apparently some bees from africa had gotten loose in south america and infiltrated colonies of honey bees and these super aggressive angry bees were the hybrid result that was taking over the world. I frowned. How was i going to use super angry bees to pollinate my vegetables? Two sayings came to mind. “There’s no use in crying over spilled milk.” And “when life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” So i began to look into the cost of a full-body bee-keeping suit. So, to recap, gardening would only require a hard plastic green house with sky lights, a rented pick-up truck, lottery money, bricks, potting soil, a bee-keeping suit, and people to assist in assembly. I bought a succulent. His name is Tobin.

It’s Raining Dippin Dots

We were due for sleet. That’s what the weatherman was screaming excitedly about on the radio. 30 percent possibility of sleet. So the salt trucks lined up a day in advance and covered all the roads early, so that the cars could drive over it for a full day and brush it all to the side of the road. Let’s face it. Texas is never quite sure what to do with the possibility of winter weather. All the fuss and panic and buying up water and bread in the local groceries…. It rained dippin dots for 10 minutes. The ones that hit the ground melted but those that fell on the porch and the car stayed. It made an interesting noise on the tin roof. It wasn’t quite as loud as hail but it made more of a “ping” than rain would’ve. I had the following morning off from work. I took a picture and went back to bed.

Lucky to be Alive

It started right after sundown. As soon as the sky faded from dark blue to completely black i began to hear voices. There were at least two people because one voice was talking over the other. I didn’t care what they were arguing about. I cared that they were on my property. The spigots had locks on them. The electric box, the well house, the sheds…everything was locked. However, there remained legit reasons why they could not be allowed to stay on my property. The main one being, they left their trash and paraphernalia where my dogs could eat it. I was really tired of doctoring Cashew’s mouth after she tried to shred aluminum beer cans. It involved pasting raw organic coconut oil over the cuts. It had antibacterial properties but was also edible so she could swallow it without adverse effects. The trespassers viewed my property as a giant trash heap and when they were done with something they just put it down. Imagine collecting your trash for the week to take it to the curb, not from your bin but from combing two acres. Missing something would mean another injury for the dog. Also, they thought nothing of unplugging my heat lamps to charge their cell phones. There was only one outdoor outlet and if i was using it and they wanted to be, they would unplug my things and insert theirs. If i didn’t stay on top of that the fruit trees died. The third reason it was imperative i find them had to do with cigarettes. They often came with cigarettes and lighters and weren’t particularly careful about where they dropped their butts. Nevermind that the dog was constantly trying to eat the nasty chemical laden sticks…i was worried about them setting fire to the grass. Finally, on top of all that, i had a reputation to uphold. Every trespasser i encountered would eventually be hauled back to the facility where they would tell others of their experiences. If it was easy to stay on my property undetected everyone would do it.

By 11 i was mighty frustrated. We had been traipsing around in the darkness on and off for hours looking for the owners of the voices. The problem was that it was dark. I did not have night vision goggles or some fancy heat detecting radar gun that could tell me where bodies lay quietly in the grass, so every time i opened the door and stepped out with a lantern, all the trespassers had to do was avoid the dancing light in the darkness. 2 acres was a large amount of space to rotate through in the dark and i never seemed to get close enough to locate them. I tried going out without the lantern but in the dark the only way i could locate them was by sound and the moment they heard my front door the talking ceased. Finally, i gave up on my own ability to handle the situation. It was Cashew’s turn. I opened the dog run gate and said, “Get em”. Cashew looked at me as if to ask, “Really? I’m free? Even though the extension cords are plugged in and you’re always talking about how i need to listen to you and go from the house to the dog run and nowhere else when the extension cords are plugged in?” I said again, “Go get em.” That was all Cashew needed to hear. She took off in the direction that i had last heard the voices. I followed, trudging through the grass and under branches with the lantern. I had let Sili out as well. She wouldn’t be much use in tracking someone but she would back her sister up if she were to hear Cashew sound the alarm. I listened for Cashew’s bark but heard nothing. When i caught up to her she had her nose to the ground and was zigzagging in the rocky soil, right up to the fence. They had climbed back through. We had lost them once again. I was sure they were somewhere just on the outside of our fence, waiting for me to take the dogs in so they could come back and use the outdoor outlet again. I patted Cashew on the head, “Good girl. Let’s go.” Sili followed us back to the house. They had gone through the fence. There was nothing to do but give em a chance to climb back through and then release the dogs once again. They’d kept me up all night and i had to be awake at 2:30 in the morning to go to work. There was a dark part of me that really hoped they would climb back through. Gloves were off now. The dogs didn’t need night vision goggles and Cashew wouldn’t hesitate second go round.

I actually didn’t hear any more voices for a whole hour. I figured they’d gotten spooked and decided to go elsewhere. I took Cashew out for one last potty break before bed as her bladder was smaller than Sili’s. Through the trees i could see the dim lights of a car. It was parked right on the edge of my property, outside of the fence. I could hear voices. If these were our intruders, Cashew would be glad to help convince them it was a good idea to get in the vehicle and leave. She was peeing. She was also looking at me for an order. When she finished her squat she stood ready. I flicked my hand in the direction of the car, “Get em.” Cashew took off in a silent sprint. She was running low to the ground. I was amazed at how stealth-like she was. Perhaps she wanted to use the element of surprise since they seemed to get away every time they could hear us coming. Suddenly the darkness erupted into noise. I could hear Cashew snarling, growling, and barking near the fence line. Flashlights emerged…two of them. Since when did rehab escapees carry flashlights? Something was wrong. The beams were of identical width and length. SHIT! Cops! There was a hole in the fence right where they would have been standing. They wouldn’t know the dog couldn’t get out. I had to get her back before they felt threatened and found both her and their guns. “Cashew! Come!” She came gliding back to me through the sheet of darkness that was our land. She looked at me with eager eyes, “Did i do good mom? Huh huh? Did i do good?” I held her collar. In the darkness the cops threw on their red and blue flashing lights. Now i could see that there were two cop cars parked in different directions. One was along our fence line. The other was sitting to the side of the main road. “Shit.” Cashew looked at me again, waiting for guidance, waiting for an order. I remembered those flashlight beams searching wildly in the night in frantic motions, trying to locate the source of the noise; trying to locate Cashew. I was really lucky. I was lucky cops in the country were not quite as trigger happy as those in the city, possibly cuz all ranchers were packing and the cops were always outnumbered in the wilderness and if you shot first and asked questions later it was a good way to get dead by retaliation, especially if the movement you shot at was somebody’s dog, horse, or kid. Possibly cuz there was no hospital in our town so getting shot was more likely to result in death and they tried to do it more sparingly than in cities where suspects could be rushed to the er before jail. I was aware that the trees and thick brush probably saved my dog as well. In the area they were in, they probably couldn’t get a good look at her, as demonstrated by the wildly swinging flashlight beams. I was also thankful she chose to follow my directions and return when i called her. If i gave her an instruction in the house she gave me a defiant facial expression but in the heat of the moment, she was learning to listen pretty good. I put her in the house. I put both dogs in the crates. I closed the crate doors and stared at em. They were safely in the house. I still had both my dogs. I looked down. My hand was shaking. I had enough adrenaline in my veins to run a marathon. Strangely enough, i didn’t cuddle her. My instinct was not to grab the dog to my chest and hold her and be happy she was alive. I just wanted to sit on the kitchen step stool and look at both crates repeatedly and see that there were two dogs in them. Not one dog and one empty; two. Shit.

An Unscheduled Visitor

There was a cold front blowing in with a force to be reckoned with. The windshield cover for the car was threatening to be torn in two. After trying to tuck it beneath the windshield wipers and find other objects to weight it down more i decided it’d be better to scrape the windshield in the morning than lose the windshield protector to the wind. I folded it with difficulty in the relentless wind, tucked it in the trunk and set about my other preparations for the weather that was coming in. The heat lamps had been unplugged, either by wildlife or trespassers…who knows. I needed to reposition and connect them. I also needed to water the trees and tuck the potted plants into the well house for the night where there was a heat lamp and four walls that would protect them and the well pump from frost. The spigots were locked so i needed to unlock them and get the can from the shed to water. As i crossed the yard the wind whipped my coat around and threw my hair in my face. It was a constant nuisance, pushing me around the yard with each gust. The trees thrashed and swayed. The laundry line bounced in the wind. The little clothes pins clipped to it danced and spun about when the wind blew hard enough. I couldn’t hear myself think over the noise of the wind rustling the leaves and whistling through the tree branches around the back of the house. I was trying to unload the groceries, secure everything against the wind, finish the chores before nightfall, and set all the heat lamps up for a freeze. I had enough on my plate as it was, not counting any of the long term stressors going through my mind. So you can imagine my level of enthusiasm when i began to hear voices…a screaming match…riddled with profanities, at max volume. In the middle of nowhere that could only mean one thing. Another escapee from the nearby state of the art drug and rehab center in the middle of the lovely and relaxing hill country.

At first i could hear voices but the trees were dense enough that i couldn’t see anything immediately. I continued my chores in the yard and kept an eye on which direction the noise was coming from. The first thing to know about addicts going through detox was that they were not in their right mind. They were not looking at a big picture or thinking “long term”. They very much existed in the moment and seemed convinced that nothing outside of what they felt in that moment existed. Perhaps, they couldn’t be blamed for their adolescent or careless behavior, but the thing to recognize was that adolescent or careless behavior was all that should be expected while they were in that very raw and self-consumed state. There was no reasoning with them, no helping them, no saving them, and definitely no getting them to put themselves in your shoes. I had to change the way my thinking occurred when i moved out to the property a year ago.

In any other setting or circumstance if a woman jumped out of a moving car screaming profanities and began running a person would think she was being kidnapped and call 911. That is in fact exactly what happened in front of the gate to my dirt road leading up to the house. Except, she wasn’t being kidnapped so much as returned to rehab. But she was determined not to go. So much so that when the speeding car taking her back to the facility drove past my gate she opened the door and jumped out. What she didn’t account for was how hard it was to jump out of a moving car. It wasn’t graceful and suave like in the movies. The door came back and hit her as she was trying to jump out and she was lucky she wasn’t run over by the tire as her leg got caught in the door in her great escape attempt number 2. She rolled across the ground in front of my gate, stumbled to her feet, and then took off running along my fence line screaming, “i’m not going back! I’m not going back!” I knew at this point that she was looking for one of the many holes in my fence to climb through. When escapees were returned to the “prison” as they so affectionately dubbed their rehab experience that their families undoubtedly shoveled buckets of money into to try and get them clean, they told others of their adventures and discoveries. Mine was the only property around with giant holes in the fence and the nearest business or gas station was miles down the road. Everything was ranches. There were no doors to knock on. These people either flagged down cars on the road and tried to hitchhike before the sheriff noticed them or they holed up on my property after climbing through one of the spaces in the fence without wire. If i thought them capable of big-picture thought i would ask them to realize that no matter what was going wrong in their lives at that moment, this was my home, this was my property, and the end result did not justify the means. They were trespassing. My property did not exist solely to serve their needs. My property was private and they had no right to bring all their drama and withdrawal and often smart mouths over to my property and yell and scream and throw a tantrum in my yard because they didn’t want to go back to rehab. But, people going through detox were mostly wildly physically uncomfortable and had not done any of the reflection or therapy programs that would help them understand themselves, communicate better, and be aware of other peoples’ feelings and needs. To reason with them was pointless. There were no words between myself and the trespassers recently and hadn’t been for a while. It was just understood that they wanted to be there and i wanted them not. I kept my machete on my hip at all times and had two fiercely territorial dogs and so we danced. The escapees tried to sneak onto the property without myself or the dogs noticing. Sometimes it worked. Sometimes it didn’t. On this particular day the young woman was in hysterics; shouting, crying, jumping out of moving vehicles, swearing like a sailor. She had failed to fly under my radar and she hadn’t just caught my attention. She had the full attention of both dogs.

I had left them in the dog run. Cashew was doing her best to gain enough height in her leaping and jumping to make it over the fence to go chase this girl down. Sili was sounding the alarm. Both dogs were in a barking, snarling frenzy and following the woman’s movement along our property from within the dog run fence. I could have let the dogs out. Cashew would not have been friendly to an unscheduled visitor and Sili would have followed Cashew in whatever course of action she took. If Cashew had seen her sneak through the fence, she would have known the visitor was not approved as she didn’t use the front gate. The girl would have been bitten. It was this i was trying to prevent. I didn’t think it was necessary to involve the dogs when i could handle it myself. At least i would give her a chance to turn round and climb back through the fence before i unholstered the machete. Cashew would not be so kind.

I saw her and she saw me but we said nothing to each other. She continued along my fence line, occasionally stopping to try and climb through but she hadn’t found a big hole yet and her shirt kept getting caught on the barbed wire. I wove through the trees on my property, following her trajectory along the inside of my fence, close enough for her to see me and my machete. She picked up the pace a little bit, trying to get ahead of me. The car had come back for her and was driving alongside my property yelling at her to get in. She continued to scream, “i’m not going back” on repeat as if she were a broken record. She began to cry. One almost felt sorry for her for a split second and then the string of profanities and adult-sized insults started up again as she spat venom towards whoever was driving the sedan and the empathy was gone. I knew what i was looking at was an addict that needed to get cleaned up. I had to almost look at them as that before men or women. You couldn’t solve their problems. A professionally trained team was needed for that. You couldn’t expect adult behavior or reason. It just wasn’t going to exist at this stage of their recovery. What was going to exist was dangerous and childish behavior. She finally found one of the big holes in the fence and climbed through. As she lifted her head up she saw me standing before her in scrubs and boots with my hand on the machete. She climbed right back through that fence without a word. She ran into the street and flagged down a mini van. The window rolled down and she began her sob story and asked for a ride but the driver was a rancher. He knew where she had come from. He refused to pick her up. Many of the ranchers called the sheriff whenever they saw someone wandering alongside the road, as we just didn’t have people doing that for any other reason. None of the ranchers had time for leisurely strolls. They were all in cars. A pedestrian on foot really stuck out. Somebody had called because at this point the sheriff’s white truck pulled up behind the sedan and the mini van. The girl, recognizing that it was over, hung her head and began to cry. “I’m not going baaaaack….” she whined in a loud and childish voice as she sobbed and walked slowly down the middle of the road away from my property. The sedan, the mini van, and the sheriff followed her in a slow moving procession as she continued on down the road. I shook my head. My job was done. The sheriff would take it from there. I patted the dogs on the head, “Good job. Good job. House. To the house.” I finished my chores and went in for the night with the dogs. I wondered if the people that trespassed on my property ever felt silly or ashamed for their behavior once they had a clear mind. I hoped for their sakes that they did, so they could make a different more productive existence for themselves. I had to think of them as clay. It would be depressing to think otherwise.

A Dying Doe

I had just turned onto the highway in the dark and was picking up speed as i transitioned from the 40 mph to the 65 mph zone. I had barely pressed on the gas pedal when my headlights revealed something sitting in the dividing lane between the two directions of traffic. It was a doe. A spotted axis doe, laying crumpled in the middle lane with its head up and ears back. It was clearly waiting for death. It had been hit, probably fairly recently, but not fatally. I thought about stopping to help it. That was the city girl in me. If it had been hit in Austin and was still conscious i would have called 311 and they would have sent some wildlife rescue crew to come out and scoop up the deer and rush it to some talented vet somewhere that could stop the internal bleeding and give it a second chance at life. In the country a passerby with a license to carry probably would have shot it to put it out of its misery but there was no 311 in the country and the deer would likely sit on the asphalt in the dividing lane listening to the whoosh of the cars in the night as it waited for the internal bleeding to end its life. I wanted to help the doe but i didn’t have a gun in the car and death by machete was no less painful or traumatic than death by speeding car. It was out of my hands. I carried on towards work but the wide eyes and backwards pointed ears of the badly broken deer with only its head upright as my car passed it remained etched into my brain. I wondered how long it would take for the deer to die. On my way back from work the deer had been dragged to the side of the road. It was dead and its eyes had been pecked out by the buzzards that were now fighting over its body. They dragged it further into the grass, its twisted legs moving slightly with each pull. The big black birds hopped and flapped at each other, running round the corpse to get a good piece. I wasn’t mad at them. Buzzards got a bad rap for their choice of food source. In reality, they were nature’s ultimate clean up crew. They cut down on the number of flies and maggots. They broke down corpses rather effectively, leaving only the hide and bones. Without them there’d be more stench, more flies, more maggots, and more predatory animals hanging around. They weren’t responsible for the deaths of animals. Their job didn’t begin until the animal was already dead. They were just going to work, as i had that morning. I was sad for the doe, but that was life in the country.

Animal Tracks

With all the recent rain we were having there was plenty of mud which gave me an opportunity to scout about the property and see what wildlife had been spending some time with us. Most of the tracks belonged to deer. The white tailed deer usually hid from me and ran before i even knew they were there but the axis were bolder and often i got to glimpse them as they decided i was not to be trusted and turned and fled together through the tattered fence. There were some tiny tracks up near the gate which i believed probably belonged to Max the possum. If Max the possum ever showed up with a bunch of tiny glowing eyes in the dark we would have to rename him Maxine, but so far he was a Max. Most of the tracks appeared to be deer tracks. Something i didn’t understand though was the presence of what looked like tiny deer tracks. Was there a fawn in january? There were some places where holes were dug in the grass and the yard appeared pretty torn up. I assumed it was the handiwork of an armadillo.

One night Cashew was giving me a world of heck wanting to go out every two hours. It was my day off and i was attempting to finally get some sleep. There were 4 illnesses going around in my work world and i had been downing gallons of coconut water and concentrated elderberry syrup and just making it to my day off and now i was finally going to get some sweet beautiful rest…or so i thought. Cashew was not on board with this idea. I stomped out of bed and opened the crate door with my eyes still half closed. She ran excitedly in circles. I was on some kind of rant about off-days and sleep deprivation when i opened the door, stepped onto the porch in my long johns, and spat, “potty”. Cashew sprinted off the porch and popped a squat. As i stood there on the porch i recognized a sound. I was listening to the noises of a pig. But where was a pig? I didn’t have any pigs. My neighbors didn’t own any pigs. Had my neighbor gotten a pig i didn’t know about? But no, if it was on my neighbor’s property it would be at least a couple acres away. The noises wouldn’t be as audible as they were in the darkness. This was a pig somewhere on my property, not the neighbors’. But how did i have a pig….SHIT! I was awake now. Not a pig, a hog. I reached for my…the machete was in the house. ****! I was standing there barefoot in long johns with no machete. **** my laziness. I stood on the porch whisper-yelling at Cashew who also heard the hog but was in mid pee. “No funny business! Come here. Come here right now! House! House…”. Without a fuss she finished peeing and made a beeline for the porch. She was in the door before i was. Apparently, my fierce guard dog drew the line at wild hogs. Thank God. Perhaps there was hope for her intelligence yet.

The next morning i sat in the rocking chair and thought. I had intended to let Sili out as well but after hearing the hog noises i had kept her in and she held her potties until 8 am, unlike her sister who made 6 total trips outside for pee pees in the night. I would put money on the notion that she didn’t actually have to go potty each time and was just bored and unsympathetic to my need for sleep. At 8 am Sili was let out into the dog run to potty and i set out looking for tracks. All i saw were deer tracks. Suddenly i wondered, was i mistaking hog tracks for deer tracks? There were slight differences in some of the tracks i had assumed all belonged to deer. also, some of the deer tracks were large, some medium, and some tiny. Did some of the tracks belong to hogs and was that the reason behind the differing sizes? The holes in the grass….were they really the handiwork of an armadillo or was it the hog from last night that had been digging around? I wasn’t sure. I had never met a wild hog….hadn’t had any chance to study them and their behavior. I didn’t know much about them except that they weren’t afraid of humans and they could be quite destructive in a garden. I would have to start putting on pants to take the dogs out and carrying the machete. Since the dogs learned the command “potty” i had gotten lazy. The noises in the night would put an end to that. A wild hog was not something i wanted to meet in my long johns barefoot.

The Agave has a Pup

By the gate that was chained shut because of the septic tank drainage field was a giant agave. Beside it was a smaller replica that was probably a pup from years back. As i loaded the trash can into the car one day i noticed there was a third, even smaller, agave. The pup had a pup. How interesting. I wondered if it had sprouted from the roots of the smaller one or if the giant agave was responsible for its presence there beside the fence. Anyhow, there were now 3 agaves on the property. I wondered how far away the old one was from putting up a stalk. It would mean the death of the plant but it was always an impressive sight to see. I had read that some agave produced pups around the time they were going to make a stalk. If this was true the mid-sized plant would have been spawned by a now deceased plant and the new pup was probably an indicator that the giant agave was going to flower. If so, it would be exciting to watch. I was seeing tiny deer tracks in the mud…evidence of the existence of a fawn, and now the agave even had a pup. It felt as if i was being reminded that winter wouldn’t last forever. It would be spring again soon enough and i would begin year 2 on the homestead.