Unscheduled Repairs

I was trying my hardest to make some headway in my studies when the dimming light outside told me it was time to do the evening chores before sundown arrived. I went to the extension shed to get some feed for the chickens and to water the plants in there and found one of the boards on the shed porch had come unscrewed and popped up. It was sticking into the air above the others. It was a trip hazard. I knew it wouldn’t do to leave it. So i hurried to the tool shed and then the house and gathered the 3 inch screws, an extension cord, various bits, and my drill. I realized the job was going to be more complicated than i would have liked when i noted that at the time the porch was constructed there was no railing. The railing was now blocking my drill’s access to the screws in question. First i removed the spent screws. Then i set about trying to make new holes for new screws to go through the board. It was still attached to the metal frame on the other end of the porch. I felt that to unscrew the other end would be a mistake as then i would need to make 4 holes in metal with inadequate tools for the job rather than 2. So i left the other end of the board screwed down. This meant i hadn’t enough space to make a hole directly in the metal frame before driving the screw through the board. I hoped if i applied enough speed and force i could carve a hole in the metal after driving the screw through the board. I tried and tried but was only stripping the bit. So, i took the bit out of the drill and put on an attachment that was meant to grab any size or shape object and turn it. The screw was too little and smooth for the pieces to grab hold. I had to alter it. So, i used duct tape to meld a rock to the screw and after enough turns of the drill it became a sticky paste that adhered to the rock like a mess of glue. Now it was gripping and turning again even though the screw had gone through the wood and hit the metal of the frame. Try as i might, pushing with all my strength, though the screw was turning, i could not make it go through the metal frame. I was confused about the reason until i examined the tip of the screw and found it to be flat rather than pointed. I had completely worn off the tip of the screw and not even made a dent in the metal frame i was trying to drill through.

At this point the sun was getting lower, the light was fading, it was getting colder, and my studies were going nowhere. None of the evening chores were done. I dumped all my tools, went to the shed, grabbed my hand saw and the scrap wood, cut a piece, screwed it into the wooden boards of the porch, trapping the broken one and mashing it down with its brothers. There. Project over. Do i care what it looks like? Not in the slightest. I needed the board down. The board is down.

Crawling to the Finish Line: My First Storyboard Assignment

Work has blessed me with a 2-day week this week through a series of accumulative circumstances. My hope is to get back on track so that i can work 4 day weeks from here on after the first round of exams. However, working 5 days a week i got very behind on my school work and am playing catch up in my race to the upcoming tandem due date for all assignments and exams. I am really trying my hardest to learn this material but in my thirties as a homesteader in the middle of nowhere i feel like a dinosaur in comparison to my tech-savy classmates who are already working in the field in their sharp swivel chairs and stark home offices and know how to do all this stuff. It is incredibly fun to create things with software. It is fun to watch it come together. However, each project takes a minimum of ten hours, and that’s if you don’t mess something up and have to unravel your work to figure out where you made the error, fix it, and continue on. I am struggling with the time line of things, feel very out of my element in this world of technology, and am in constant terror of failing by default because i didnt have the time… going to school as an adult is very different from the first time around. Someone told me “you just have different priorities now” meaning i couldn’t completely drop everything to center life around school because i had the demands of my job to meet as well. The tests must be proctored and cant be scheduled until 8 days beforehand but work requires 2 weeks notice for a day off. I dont think the school planned on people having jobs when they set the online testing policies. It is a constant source of anxiety for me. Will i actually get the opportunity to take the test? Will i have the time im supposed to in order to study and prepare or will i be forced to choose between taking it early to accommodate everyone’s schedules and not taking it at all (an automatic zero). I cry often these days. I couldn’t find time to spend ten hours working on projects so i took it from the only slot i could, my sleeping hours. Often i sleep anywhere between 30 minutes and 2 hours a night. It makes me crazy and i dont respond to the world with the same careful contemplation that i would normally apply. Everything is frazzled and raw. All my feelings are right at the top and alarm bells of overwhelm are never far away. There are tears of anguish when i realize that i’ve misread an instruction or that some of them are out of order and i havent read ahead to realize that and the past 4 hours spent on a project were wasteful use of precious time because i have to go redo everything i worked on and none of the work i did in the past few hours can be used for anything. There are tears of frustration when i’m trying my hardest and still cant find the time needed to finish things. There are tears of fear when i sit in the house with my computer at 4 in the morning working on this stuff and i wonder if i made the right decisions, if i’m on the path God intended for me, if i will be able to see this through to the end. I want so desperately to have a lucrative career again. I dream of a day when i can put jelly in my grocery basket without feeling guilty and taking it out to place it back on the shelf because jelly is an expensive luxury that must be purchased sparingly. I want to feel the pride of being able to handle my own bills again and not have to rely upon family (who i am blessed to have the support of). This is a hard season in my life. I am trying to just keep walking and maybe at some point in the future i will find that i’ve reached other side of this valley. Last night i had reached a new point of misery and was drowning in sleep deprivation, fear of failure, and self pity when my sister sent me the most beautiful and encouraging message a person could hope to receive. It was so uplifting and wrapped in love. I sat up in my chair and put in the time in silence for the rest of the night. I was so tired i began seeing double and had to get very close to the screen to read the words but her message lodged in my heart and gave me the strength to keep going. At 4:18 this morning i finished my first storyboard assignment. Midnight happened to be the cutoff for my last opportunity to drop the classes if i wasn’t going to pass. I guess we’re doing this.

I was too tired and delirious to really enjoy it but i knew i had finished something and it was not half-assed. Years from now i’ll probably look at it and think “primitive and sloppy” but right now it feels profound, and more importantly: finished. What a lucky person i am to have a sister that can write such beautiful and loving words of encouragement.

My site depicts a road trip across texas with stops at 6 national and state parks. There is a paragraph written for each detailing all the exciting things there are to do and enjoy at each park. As you scroll through the locations’ different paragraphs the map changes to depict the newly mentioned park. If you zoom out you can see the whole road trip visible on the map with labeled stops. All of the images are for free public use and credited to the authors. I did it, i was done, i was going to bed. I laid down for 2 hours but hit the alarm and slept 5. It was not ideal but because of my arthritis i cant have any caffeine so this phenomenon happens often. I am awake now and off to tackle further school work, but, below are some videos of the finished storyboard project. This would be so fun if there wasn’t such a race to keep up!

Stress Level: Nuclear

The phone company’s signature characteristic was that they were allergic to appointments of any kind. They didn’t schedule. They didn’t even call ahead. What they did do was call me at work on a near daily basis to let me know they were standing outside my cow gate and needing let in, “we’re here, where are you?”. The answer to that would be: on the toilet at work because my 10 minute potty break was the only free time i had on shift to return their call to let them know that i would not be able to unlock the gate for them from a different town. 🙄 i got my weekly schedule on fridays at 12:30 pm. It was never the same so i couldn’t predict what days or hours i’d be working. They were typically pretty booked for the week by the time i called at 12:30 on friday with my availability. Finally our schedules lined up and i was able to secure an appointment slot with the phone company to set up high speed internet in the house 2 days after school started. Of course, it had to rain buckets for 2 days before they were set to come out and the day before their appointment i got a voicemail while i was at work from the independent contractor the phone company used to run telephone line from the poles to the house. They weren’t coming. He said he didn’t want to “trench up” my yard. He said the rain would just make the ground mud slush and the diesel trucks would likely get stuck and ruin the yard. I called back and left a message begging him to come. I told him the yard was wild land with unruly native grass and foliage, it wasn’t sod, and i didn’t care about “trenching it up”. I told him i had scrap wood in the shed and if the diesel trucks got stuck we could put the wood under their tires and i’d get em out. I told him i also had mulch and i could mulch the few muddy areas but most of the grassy areas looked pretty sturdy and the majority of the yard appeared to be hard packed and on the way to drying out. I called two more times but no one answered. I never got a call back. At 4:55 pm i called the phone company and cancelled my appointment, knowing there was nothing they could do with a modem/router if the contractors hadn’t come out first and run the line from the nearest customer across the street to the poles on my property and finally to the house. I was devastated. Who knew how many weeks it would take to get our schedules to line up again, between the three of us, and school had started 2 days ago. I was working 5 days a week and had no way to fit in catch-up time if i fell behind. At 8 am the next morning i stood on the porch in my pj’s and had a look around. I suddenly had a feeling that i would soon be greeting strangers in my pajamas. Following this gut feeling i called the contractor one more time and this time i didn’t get the voicemail box. The man answered and said he was on his way. My eyes widened…on his way…? Then began the mad scramble to rebook the telephone company. Apparently i had been convincing enough to sway the contractor but they had not given me a call back to let me know they’d changed their minds. After some begging and pleading i convinced the telephone company to rebook me. They said they could come over “right now”. I said that the contractor hadn’t been out yet and they would need the contractor to do their bit before they could wire anything in the house. They assured me that i was wrong and they could totally do their bit before the contractor had shown, no problem. The telephone company technician showed up, had a looked at the property, and informed me they couldn’t do anything until the contractor arrived and did their bit. I reluctantly bid the telephone company technician farewell as he went on to other jobs, begging him to return again later in the day if he could fit me in. An hour later the contractor showed up. He had a 3 man crew. They were good old country boys with boots, clothes that had seen better days, and always a cig in their hands. I liked the older one immediately. He was the one driving the operation while the younger two took orders and fumbled around. The older man made one of the guys tuck in his shirt “in the presence of the customer”. He was constantly critiquing their driving and shouting orders while they rolled their eyes, but, despite their banter, they worked well together. They threw tools to each other back and forth while one of them was in the box up near the pole or tethered to the pole in the air and the other two were on the ground. They never had to let each other know when tools were going up or down, they just pitched em and the other one caught em. It was like a silent graceful ballet of climbing and flying tools. My dogs tried to eat them the entire time they were on the property and finally i just crated them in the house because i couldn’t stand the barking and snarling anymore.

The first problem was the truck with the giant arm with the bucket on the end of it. Hitched to the back was a giant roll of telephone wire. The space the truck had to work with, in between the full-grown cedar trees and the orchard i had planted, did not allow the truck to angle enough to back the roll of telephone wire in to where it needed to be. Forward, back, forward, back…the guys tried their hardest to maneuver their truck into place. We had to pull up some of my rebar holding the wire cages over my aloe vera plants and move everything back to make way for the truck. The older man kept the younger ones from plain running my stuff over by shouting at them loudly to stop every time they were about to crush something (usually rebar but sometimes the actual plant). The chickens were terrified of the diesel engine of the bigger truck and every time it switched back and forth the chickens flew like mad crazy birds in every direction, hitting the walls and the canvas ceiling of the pen, feathers flying and chickens squawking…they laid no eggs that day. They were too stressed.

I offered to cut the branches of the cedars so they could maneuver the truck in better. They said no they’d just push through. It wasn’t going well so i went to the shed and got the shears. I was going to do it but they insisted they could. So they set about trying to trim the cedars with shears. They didn’t really know how to use them. I could tell they were used to chain saws. The younger man stood there and pulled the blades together kind of haphazardly, expecting the branches to just lop off. He got a few of them and then gave up. When they weren’t looking i grabbed the sheers and did the job right. You have to put some umph into it in order to get a clean cut and sever the branches. I did and they now had a clear path to their destination. They decided they were done maneuvering the truck. They unhitched the telephone wire and all 3 of them pulled it together like horses until they got it where they wanted it. They backed the truck up and then rehitched. Finally. Step 1 accomplished.

I dragged the branches we cut into the dog run for Sili and Cashew to chew on later. I knew they would view them as brand new toys. I told the crew they could cut any cedar branches they needed but asked them not to cut the oak trees. I had two 200 year old oaks and one 100 year old oak right in the spot where they were working and it was the only place on the property that i had old trees like that. I did not want my oldest oaks cut. They were the gem of the property. I tried to cook and get school work done but every time i heard a chain saw i hurried outside to make sure i knew which tree they were cutting. I was not the type of customer to wait inside the house and just get notified when it was over. I helped clear the path, provided tools, hauled branches out of the way, and offered first aid when it seemed necessary. I wanted to see what they were doing, so i would have an understanding of the setup in case problems happened down the line, so i would learn new skills in terms of maintaining the property, and so i could decide if i agreed with their assessment of what limbs were necessary to lop off.

The second lowest line is new. They screwed some metal hooks into the electric pole while standing in the bucket and then hung the telephone line on it.

The contractors finished around 2 pm. I thanked them for their work and for saving my oak trees. The older man informed me that the line was sitting on some branches from one of the 200 year old oak trees but he correctly assessed that i cared more about the branches than i did the line and was willing to take the chance that it may need repaired in the future if it meant leaving the tree untouched. See, they couldn’t get the truck with the bucket in any closer to that tree so there would be no trimming the top branches. They couldn’t do that from the ground. To take the top branches off, they would have had to chainsaw the base of two huge limbs while standing on the ground. I wasn’t going to agree to that and they correctly assumed as much. After they left i immediately got on the phone and begged the telephone company to come out one more time. An hour later there they were. I sure was glad to see them.

There was a neat little box on the back of the house and the telephone company technician began running wire from the box to a hole in the wall where they intended to have the wires enter the house to connect to the modem/router that was going to provide me with high-speed internet.

The little box was located just to the side of the bathroom window on the back of the house. i thought the hard part was over but i was wrong. Getting internet inside the house would prove more difficult than maneuvering a diesel truck through woods, scaling a pole, or running wire through tree branches and across the street.

Two hours later they were still on the phone with “the office” trouble shooting from the computer where the lady could tell them what was green and what was red. They kept running up the street in the truck to “check the box” again. They never did tell me how they finally got it working. They got the internet up and running 4 minutes before my first video call class for school. I thanked them and they left. I didn’t have time to check their work outside. I had to get logged in for that video call. I managed to attend the video call but a thought crept into my head and i wondered about it through the whole class. we had taken some heavy duty screws out of the wall in back of the house and there were a number of holes that went all the way through and some just in the top layer of wood. I had asked them if they had something to seal it so water didn’t get in to the house. One of the guys said he had silicone in the back of his truck and he’d take care of it for me before he left. I hadn’t thought to remind him. When the first video call ended i went out to the back of the house in the dark with a flash light and sure enough, there were all these gaping holes in the back wall of my house, with no sealant in them. I sighed. It was a 35 minute drive to town. My second video class for school started in exactly an hour. I didn’t have time to run to town for sealant. I no longer had the budget to stock the shed with extra and so i had none on the property as i would have last year. The only store in our town was the dollar general. I had glue for the chicken coop but that was not what i needed for this job and a shoddy job would just equal leaks during rains down the road. I was losing my grip. I was falling behind in school. I couldnt do my assignments because i was constantly working. I had to wake up at 12:30 am to open at the store the following morning. My last video call didn’t end until 9:00 pm, and now i was going to have to drive to town at 9 to go to the walmart or the hardware store and get sealant to plug up and water proof the house. I was so so frustrated. I still hadn’t cooked anything to eat for dinner or lunch the following day. When was i going to do that? Finally, i knew it was a long shot but 8 minutes before my second virtual class started i texted a neighbor up the road and asked if she and her husband had a tube of caulk. I told her if i could borrow it tonight i’d bring them a dozen of my chicken eggs and a replacement tube from the hardware store in town after work the following day. It was set to storm at 2 am and i needed this caulk now if it was going to dry by then. She said she’d ask her husband and in the next minute she replied that they had the caulk but no gun. I told her i had a caulk gun and would be right over. I drove 60 mph on winding 40 mph back roads full of deer in the dark. It was the worst idea ever and i hated doing it. I just couldn’t see how i was going to get enough sleep to show up at work to open, attend the class on time, and also keep the house insulation from becoming damp and the particle board from molding. I had to seal it up before it rained or i’d just be trapping the moisture in there. The answer was that i couldn’t. I couldn’t do all 3 things. Something had to give. Something would have to suffer or go unfinished or be half-assed. I made it to her house, thanked her profusely, she threw the caulk in the window onto the passenger seat, and i set out at 60 mph once more. What i was thinking while i was driving in the dark at top speed around those curves and praying no deer became spooked was that i never wanted to be in this position again, that i couldn’t do this long term, that safety went out the window and i started making poor decisions when backed into a corner and so i needed to make sure that in the future i wasn’t spread quite so thin. I had always been a straight a student. School had always been something i did “all the way”, and yet, i logged on to that video call 10 minutes late. I drove straight in the gate which i had left wide open, parked the car, jumped out, ran up the steps, dumped everything on the floor, opened the laptop, and logged on. I’m still unsure whether i got the ten points for attendance. I missed all the class introductions. I was devastated for a second time that day, and very thankful to God for keeping the deer out of the road during my ill advised behavior on the road.

I tried to sit still like the rest of them, but, 12:30 was getting closer by the minute and i knew every task i wasn’t doing was one i would have to do after the video call. I already had to get the insanely heavy ladder out of the mice infested shed and drag it to the house to plug up the holes (covered in mouse urine in case you’re wondering why i mentioned that detail). I began cooking. I pulled the laptop with me and put a pot of quinoa on low with extra water on the stove. I put some zucchini on parchment paper on a cookie sheet and set it in the oven at 350 degrees. When i checked the oven it wasn’t quite done. I meant to leave it in for just a while longer but the video call was interactive and we were supposed to be following along and occasionally unmuting ourselves and adding our input. I forgot about the zucchini. I was in tears when i pulled the cookie sheet out after the call and realized i’d just done all that slicing, seasoning, and arranging on the parchment paper to make tiny pieces of charcoal that were absolutely inedible. I wasted the food and i wasted my effort. I cried and cried. I could not find a balance for full-time work, 2/3 full-time school, and running a homestead while cooking from scratch (cheaper on a budget). It was the first time in a long time that i had burned food, and probably the only time in my life that i had burned it so thoroughly no part of it was salvageable.

After the second video class i took the lantern to the shed and dragged my heavy-duty ladder to the back of the house where i set it up. Carrying it, i got mouse urine all over my hand and my clothes where it had rested against my hip and torso. I didn’t care at this point. I was a woman on a mission. Some of the tube had dried up so i used my box cutter to take off a good portion of the tip of the tube. I stuck an old nail down in it and dug out the solid part until i had goop. Then i loaded the caulk gun and climbed up the precariously placed ladder on the uneven trenched up ground where the contractors had been working hours earlier.

I tried to hold the lantern with one hand and operate the caulk gun with the other. It would have been more accurate with two hands but i smoothed it over with my finger afterwards.

Covered in mouse urine and caulk i climbed down, satisfied that i had plugged all the holes before the forecasted storm would arrive at 2 am. I then folded the ladder, hauled it back to the shed, put the caulk gun back on my tool shelf, took the remainder of the tube of caulk inside where i twist tied a paper towel over the tip in a weak attempt to preserve it for further use if necessary.

In the daylight of the following afternoon i would be able to get a closer look at some of my handiwork on the back and side of the house.

This was a rather large hole to be left unsealed where the wires were fed into the house to the modem/router. A moth or a june bug could have fit right through, and definitely rain.

I managed 27 minutes of sleep. I knew i couldn’t have any caffeine because of my arthritis. I was riddled with it and caffeine made it 10 times worse. So, i sucked it up and drove to work on 27 minutes of sleep with no alertness aids. That day they needed to cut 20 hours from the schedule. They were overbooked. After 2 hours they started asking people to go home early. I happened to be the first one they asked. Normally the one that fought tooth and nail to keep my hours, i agreed to go home. Truthfully, i was relieved. I was having trouble thinking on 27 minutes of sleep and my job requires thinking. It also requires great customer service and all i was mustering were “yes” “no” and “i dont know, let me find out” answers. I was not peppy or social. I was a zombie and i felt like another second without my eyes closed would cause me to puke. I felt physically ill, i was so tired. I agreed to go, secretly happily, but i wanted to ask the head of the department a question about scheduling before i did. I met with her in the office and i explained that i had gone back to school and i underestimated the amount of time it would take to learn mapping software. I told her i was looking for a good balance between school and work right now and i felt 4 days of work and 3 days of school would be the perfect balance. I asked her if i could move to a 4 day a week availability schedule. She said that would be fine and of course i could do that, i would just have to put in a formal request in the computer program to make it official. I tried to do so but it wasn’t allowing me to just write “any 4 days weekly”. It was making me specify which four days i was available. I told my supervisor i was available any four days weekly but she said that the software would make me specify which days and if i wanted to work 4 days a week, i’d have to pick 4 days and make 3 days of the week consistently off limits in terms of availability. I asked which days were the busiest and then made myself available for those days. I chose 3 consecutive days that i would be unavailable to work and submitted the availability change request form. I was extremely disappointed in myself that i couldn’t work full time and juggle school and run the homestead. I felt that i was letting people down and copping out but any way i looked at it, i was not going to pass those school courses on 2 days a week, mostly because one of those days would always be taken up by cooking, home maintenance, bible study, laundry, dishes, and a trip to town for supplies like toilet paper, ginger, or tea tree oil. I couldn’t do it and i was ashamed, so so ashamed. But, having only worked two hours that morning, i stopped at the hardware store in town and picked up a tube of caulk for my neighbor. I got a carton of eggs ready for them and ran it over when they returned from work in the evening. Their little son was eagerly awaiting the arrival of the eggs at the screen door. When i got home i laid down for an hour long nap. I turned off the alarm and slept 7 hours. I was surprised to wake up at 4 pm. I got up and did a boat load of school work. I downloaded all the software necessary, learned the computer programs, created my first map, took a quiz, did a lot of reading, posted a video, made videos commenting on other students’ videos and participated in collaborative virtual discussion for a grade. Working 4 days a week would give me the time to make a go of this school thing. As ashamed as i was that i couldn’t hack it with a full time job on the side, i knew this was the only way i could stay employed, pass my school courses, and keep the homestead. There had to be a balance. I’d be lying if i said i’d made peace with this failure but i’m trying to just focus on the fact that i’m caught up on the course work now. If i can make a go of this in two or three years this failure won’t hurt so much. I’ll just be happy that i made a decision that allowed me to absorb my course work and pass the classes needed to obtain the degree. In 2 or 3 years things will be better. 2 or 3 years.

A Glass of Cold Water

The well on the property is a sulfur well. The water itself smells like rotten eggs and if consumed will cause a case of the runs that will dehydrate the poor soul faster than the intake of fluid could replenish. I’ve actually used a color filter on this photograph to hide the fact that the top compartment of my water filtration device has been dyed yellow from repeated exposure to the raw sulfur water. This is not a sponsored advertisement so i won’t mention the brand of the water filter but the pristine condition of the bottom compartment is a fantastic endorsement of the device’s effectiveness. It filters out everything. You are left with some of the cleanest, best tasting, unaltered additive and by-product free water i have had in my life. Until you stop drinking it, you don’t know that tap water has a taste, but it does. Furthermore, the tap water in different cities tastes different from each other. The one thing there is to look forward to on an icy day is the well water. It was 37 degrees when i finally went to the well this morning. I had a crisp refrigerated glass of water straight out of the ground (after it was filtered of course). There is just nothing like the taste of well water on a cold morning.

The Winter Storm Arrives

Well, the announcer on the weather radio was correct. There was winter weather on the way and it arrived as promised on time. I had been off work most of the week and the one day i was scheduled to work was the day the storm hit. It rained all night. I knew it was going to so i had parked the car under the oaks on the mulch pile. In the morning the ground was a chilly mud slush and i had to walk along the edge of the property in a big arc to use the grass as a path to get to the mulch pile. Very quickly i realized it was no longer raining. The sky was dropping ice balls by the thousands. They looked like dippin dots without colors. The temperature was 35 degrees Fahrenheit so they were not sticking to the ground but they stayed on the windshield long enough to start building little clumps. I turned on the defroster and drove with the windshield wipers on. It rained ice balls steadily for hours. As i drove through different elevations; hills and valleys, the car told me what temperature it was outside. I hit a spot where it read 32 and the ice balls seemed to get harder and less melty. They began sticking to the windshield and the wipers began making an audible sound as they scraped across the windshield. There was no moisture to lubricate them. The dippin dot rain became harder and i quickened the speed of the wipers. I was at a stop light. If i could just get going again i knew more of them would slide off before sticking to the windshield. Finally the light turned and i drove out of that cold spot back to where it was 35 again. By the time i arrived in town the car read 37 degrees. Though it was still raining ice balls they were melting on the windshield shortly after impact. It was somewhat relaxing to watch. I was very lucky to arrive as someone in a white truck was leaving and i got a spot near the building and didn’t have to park across town in the garage and walk. However, in attempting to get from the lot to the building i realized there was no path to the door that didn’t involve going through freezing water. I was picking my way across on tip toe when a car drove past at a high rate of speed, causing a tidal wave to form in the giant puddle i was standing in and that wave came up and over the front of my tennis shoes. The water was icy cold and brown. I stood still in my disappointment. I had been working so carefully to avoid what had just happened. I gathered myself and continued to the building. There was no down jacket to be worn. I wouldn’t have wanted it wet anyways. Our hoodies would have to do as they were the correct color and had the company logo on them. Also, the thin fabric didn’t restrict our movement the way a big coat would have and above all we had to be fast, so, off to work in our hoodies we went. I worked outside half of my 8 hour shift. It ended up snowing through most of it. Big fluffy flakes filled the air. It looked like time was suspended and restarted in slow motion. It looked like something out of a hallmark movie. I tried to keep my ball cap from blowing off my head and let the flakes alight on my hoodie as i ran the orders back and forth from the building to the cars. By the time my shift was over all the precipitation had stopped. I drove home an hour before the wet roads froze. The mailbox had some rain water/sleet in it for the chickens to drink. The plants had stayed covered. All in all it went pretty well, my first day working/driving during a winter storm. The following day would be above freezing and a whole bunch of people would have a closet full of bread, toilet paper, and jerky they weren’t sure what to do with. 🤦🏻‍♀️

Warm Chicken Eggs

Occasionally i would have accidentally good timing and happen upon a chicken egg in the nesting box that was still warm. None of my hens were broody so i could only assume it had been laid recently.

This one is Lily’s.

There was something about a perfectly smooth warm chicken egg that felt infinitely more special than the refrigerated ones in the grocery store.

The Last of the Satsumas

I was surrounded by 3 different types of carpenter ants. They all thought my walls looked like a safe place to store their babies when it rained heavily and their tunnels flooded. it was necessary to have pesticides sprayed twice a year if i wanted to keep them from eating the place out from under us. However, my stance on this surprised many who knew me to eat mostly organic and refuse exposure to chemicals or additives. Eh, it is what it is. I haven’t yet found an organic way to kill carpenter ants so, for now i am doing what i know works. However, we don’t inhabit the space until the spray dries and we open all the windows and go outside for hours after they visit to give the place a chance to air out. The Satsuma tree was in the shed, which was to be sprayed, so, ready or not all the satsumas had to come off the tree before the spray fumes hit. I grabbed them one by one and piled them up in my apron. I held the end of my apron, carrying them back to the house in a sort of makeshift cloth sling. I put them in a ziplock freezer bag and placed them in the refrigerator. When all the spray was dried i went back in the house and tasted the mandarins. I was amazed. I had been starving the tree, giving it just enough water to survive, hoping the sugars in the fruits would concentrate. It worked. This last batch of mandarins was the sweetest yet, like sticky juicy candy. I sat and enjoyed them thinking, “i’ve got to keep this tree alive.” I imagined i’d plant it in late spring and hope its roots were well established by winter. What a lovely wonderful tree! For a second i wondered why i had other types of trees, why i hadn’t just planted 8 or so satsumas. Then i regained myself and decided no single person needed 8 of one type of fruit tree. It was an intoxicating thought though. Drowning in mandarins 🤤.

Bud the Armadillo

There were two armadillos that frequented our property. One was a small armadillo; quick and very people shy. The other one was a large armadillo with a signature puncture in the side of its shell that seemed to have healed long ago. He had something like a keloid hanging out of it but there was no open wound. I wondered whether a big cat had gotten a hold of him and made the hole with a fang, wretched kids had made the hole with a power tool, or a car tire had somehow made the hole, though it seemed much more likely that a car tire would make a crack instead. I hadn’t the slightest idea what this huge lumbering armadillo had encountered in his past to give him such a souvenir but it let me know that it was the same armadillo each time i saw him/her. Armadillos don’t have the best hearing or eyesight and so if i was even semi careful i could often go right up to it before it knew i was there. As i prepared the property for the winter storm the front clouds confirmed was coming the armadillo that i had begun calling buddy (bud for short) appeared and solved the mystery of how my brush pile was being strewn about the property. I would find bits and pieces of branches i knew i had put on the brush pile 150 feet away from where i’d left them. I wondered what animal was dragging my sticks around, until i noted Bud in the middle of the brush pile. Termites and carpenter ants liked to get into the rotted branches and stumps i left there. I guessed they were what Bud was after, if not all the critters that enjoyed the moisture between the branches and the earth beneath them. I watched him upturn a piece of wood i’d left there, nudge it with his snout, and roll it across the yard, eating whatever bugs fell out along the way. This was how my branch had gone from one side of the yard to the other. All over the property were holes where the earth looked like it had been aerated. I guessed Bud was getting a last minute meal in before the storm hit. With all the noise he was making in the dry grass i knew the dogs would detect him as soon as i let them out. I did all the chores i could before it was time to let the dogs out for their evening potty break and i could put it off no longer. I had a plan though. I opened the door to the dog run and went to the house to get them. I gave the command to go to the dog run and then all the way there i continued to bark the order as if i didn’t believe they would follow through. They ran to the dog run. All my noise drowned out Bud’s rustling in the grass and the dogs didn’t know he was there until the door swung shut and they were in. They commenced barking at him but he was safely out of the dogs’ reach where he was and continued digging. Bud the Armadillo would have himself a substantial snack before the weather hit. There he sat dismantling my brush pile. I thought, “he is such a curious creature. He looks so very much like a tiny dinosaur.” When i became cold i left him and went inside.

3 Days Off

I ended up with 3 consecutive days off. I felt like i should really make use of it; since i wasn’t contributing any income during these three days, i ought at least to be productive. I began with a long overdue project; cleaning the chicken coop. I couldn’t imagine how my arthritis riddled body was going to do all that squatting in the cold and the wind, long enough to get all the old shavings bagged up. But, one foot in front of the other. I tried not to think about it and before i knew it the task was done.

The chickens seemed to like their newly cleaned coop.

Petunia hopped in to check it out.

After i finished cleaning the chicken coop i decided to run with the momentum. I emptied all the compost bags onto the pile and hauled mulch over to it where i mulched the compost pile. I cleaned out the car, which hadn’t been cleaned at all during all of 2020. Everything from old food wrappers, mail, ppe, and clothes was inhabiting my car. I sorted everything out. Then i broke down boxes and hauled 2 and a half boxes of cardboard to the post office for recycling. While i was there i mailed an important late christmas package to a friend. I filtered enough well water to fill all our drinking water containers and contribute to the chicken water barrel. I put away everything in the house. I had both the house and shed sprayed for their twice yearly prevention of carpenter ants, turned off the air and opened all the windows to let it dry, harvested the rest of the mandarin oranges, and handled all the new paperwork for school. I put yeast down the toilet for the septic tank, watered the succulent, found the dogs some new tree branches to play with, and mapped all the berry bushes on the property. Then i steamed and hung all 20 of the masks i had been wearing at work on the laundry line. On my last day off i spent the whole day cooking. The imperfect foods box had arrived so i cooked a week’s worth of food and fed the scraps i wasn’t going to use to the chickens in their pen. After that i parked the car under the oak trees that i used to shield against hail and up on the mulch i used to keep the tires from sinking into the mud when it rained. I covered the trees and the spigots and readied the property for the next winter storm. I would believe it when i saw it but the radio announcer promised an 80 percent chance of snow during my shift the following morning. I covered the chicken water barrel in case they were wrong so the water didn’t evaporate and uncovered the mail tub at the fence in case they were right and there ended up being some kind of moisture to collect.

Having three days where i didn’t have to put on a bra or go to town or even deal with people save for the fifteen minute visit from the pest control technicians was bliss. I knew i wouldn’t make much money not going to work so it couldn’t happen too often but, i certainly did enjoy 3 consecutive days of not having to people. I got so much done. As i checked the schedule i realized i was fully booked at work for the following week. It would likely make up for my little vacation from society. I was happy about it, but determined to enjoy my last hours of peace on the land before the rat race resumed. I listened to records on the record player, recorded old radio broadcasts and Beethoven. I hung out with the dogs and the chickens and saw to the trees every time the wind blew off the coverings. I watched the light get dimmer and dimmer in the sky and knew my 3 day weekend was coming to a close.