Cashew continued to grow. Sili learned to share my attention. As Cashew grew into her role of alpha, Sili began to look to her, not me, for what to do and where to go in the face of a threat, whether it be a howling coyote or a falling acorn in the yard.
Over time i grew very fond of the bougainvillea for its vibrant color and abundance of blossoms. The day of the wind storm we were scheduled to receive a cold front. Of course, it was summer in Texas so all that meant was it was going to drop from 100 degrees to 80. When i had left the house before dawn the air was still and calm. However, i had watched the wind bend and shake the trees through the windows as my work day wore on. My heart had drifted down main street and back to my little town to check on my property but my body was still securely at work performing the duties of my job. I considered making a trip during lunch break but it would have taken over an hour. I would check on the property when my work was done. The drive home was, for the majority, down a long one-lane highway with flat land on either side. The wind kept pushing the car sideways and i struggled to keep it continuously in the middle of the lane. Ahead of me, i could see big trucks blown sideways with each gust attempting to correct and stay within their lane as well. Once i left the highway it was winding roads through the hills the whole way home. The trees were swaying violently and the deer had hunkered down in the grass beside the road. When i made it to the gate i could see the hanging plants swinging and the outer-most one was being twisted in a circle by the wind. I knew the hook it hung from was not made for the motion of twisting. I knew i had to intervene quickly. I parked the car without even bothering to shut the gate. I jumped out and examined the predicament more closely. The plastic hook at the top of the hanging plant on the corner was stretched and warped. It was almost a stick instead of a rounded hook. With each gust it threatened to slip. I had to releive the warped plastic hook of the weight of the plant and tether it to the metal hook in the porch ceiling somehow. I ran to the tool shed to grab twine. As soon as i found it i ran back to the porch, ready to create a make-shift hook with twine. I stopped directly in front of the plant in question and in the next second a great gust of wind blew, spun the plant around, and the entire thing came crashing down, splattering muddy water, dirt, and shredded blossoms all over the wooden boards of the porch, the front wall of the house, and the front of my scrubs. I even had dirt in my hair. It was an epic explosion of plant matter. It was as if God had waited until i arrived home to let it happen so i wouldn’t wonder how the epic mess came to be. It was what it was. The pot was cracked in three, held together only by the plant’s roots. The plant’s branches had snapped in some places. There were blossoms and shredded leaves everywhere. It was a mess. But, the tray that held water underneath the pot was just bent, not broken. I bent it back into shape and devised a plan. The roots would hold the broken pot together and the extra water tray underneath it would have to provide the plant its water, since the pot would no longer hold any. I would still take the twine and tie the plant into place with a new knotted and woven twine hook. I would keep the plant alive as long as it would stay and then both plants would go on the brush pile with the arrival of winter. So, i tethered the plant to the porch posts and relieved the tired and mutilated plastic hook of its duties. I played porch plant surgeon that evening and the thing survived the wind storm and limped along for about a month after. Perhaps next season i would tether the corner plant to the porch posts on day 1 so the wind couldn’t spin it.
What a mess.
In the summer Sili and Cashew would go outside to rough house, sprint, and wrestle in the 101 degree heat. Then they would come barreling through the house, slop water all over the general area surrounding their bowl, and collapse around me to enjoy the cold floor and be petted. It was a rare moment of calm that i enjoyed whenever it presented itself.
i was born on my mother’s birthday so we usually tried to spend it together when possible. The Summer after i bought the property she decided to come to me and this time she was bringing my grandmother. I was so excited to show them what i was building. I was excited to show them the land. I was excited for them to meet Cashew for the first time. I was excited for them to see all the trees and the vast amount of undeveloped wooded spaces. I was excited for them to see the hills! I just knew that if i could get them out there and set their eyes upon it, they would see all the beauty and the magic that i could see; that they would suddenly see all the raw freedom and boundless opportunities that piece of land provided. I anxiously awaited their arrival. I hadn’t had butterflies in my stomach in such abundance since the day i took my certification exam. Finally, they arrived!
I told them both to stay in the cars at first. I let the dogs out. They immediately went into “large unidentified object in the yard” mode and set to snarling, barking, and jumping around the car. I was not going to scold them for this behavior as it was a behavior i wanted from them most of the time. Instead i ignored them all-together and did my own thing hoping they’d follow suit. I stepped off the porch and walked up to the car, waving and touching the car saying in a high-pitched baby voice of excitement, “Hi, we found our guests, oh i’m so happy to see you, yes, so happy to see you, hi guys!” Both dogs looked at me with question marks on their faces. Then immediately they got it. This car was a scheduled and expected visitor. They changed their whole demeanor and immediately set to happy jumping and tail wagging. I picked Cashew up so she wouldn’t trip my grandma with her bull in a china shop meets energizer bunny gait pattern. Then i told them they could now get out of the car safely. Cashew squirmed and wriggled in my arms. She did not want to be missing all the action!
I gave them a quick tour around the land and then we carried in all the birthday gifts and food they had brought to eat. There was barely enough room for it in my little 384 square foot tiny house but we made it work. We used the dog crates as a table and i brought in a couple extra chairs from the extension shed. I really enjoyed the company and the good food. It was probably my most enjoyable birthday yet. But what really made it for me was the fact that i had a house to invite my mother and grandmother into. It was the first time in my life i had owned a space to share with family. My mother and grandmother were good sports about the dogs. They were wild and Cashew was still securely in her head-butting phase. I tried to render them calm in the house but in the end i think they just decided not to get up from the chairs unless the dogs were outside.
My mother made gluten free german chocolate cupcakes, my absolute favorite! We were each one year older and if her grandpa were still alive, he would be too.
Realizing i didn’t have any non-bulky, non apocalypse prepper-type back-pack styled purses for formal occasions, my grandmother took me shopping for a tiny purse at the shops in Fredericksburg. We ended up finding a peach bar of goat milk soap and presents for the cousins too. It was nice to spend time with my mother and grandmother in the hill country for a day. I wouldn’t have minded having them out more often but, for now the occasional visit would have to do.
For most people in my family packing for the plane ride was probably quite simple. They popped some dresses off hangers in the closet and folded them into the suit case, dumped in some travel-sized toiletries, and a few lara bars for the plane. My trip preparation was a bit more extensive. I had no use for dresses on the homestead. Dresses and skirts left one’s legs very exposed to ticks, crickets, snakes, scorpions, spiders, and anything else living in the grass. It just didn’t make sense. When walking through tall grass, boots and long pants were the most practical choice. So my dresses were folded and tucked in various plastic bins in the shed. First i had to find them. They were in amongst linens and extra pillows, stuffed animals from childhood and old school projects. When i finally found them i realized they smelled; they smelled like the excess dog food i stored in the shed; like rancid stale chicken. I could not wear those anywhere. They had to be washed. I had to wait for a day when rain was not forecasted. When they finally did get hung on the line they looked funny. It seemed very odd and out of place to see dresses and skirts hanging from the laundry line on the homestead. Once i had worn them of course, but that was a time before my daily routine was surrounded by ticks and mosquitos. That was a different time in my life. If i had wanted sugar free dried fruit i would have had to drive into fredericksburg or san antonio to get it so i bought some in the san antonio airport last minute. It cost a small fortune for 1 serving. For me, packing was as much about what i didn’t bring as it was what i did bring. Every morning i left the house with a machete and a lantern. Now the d batteries in the lantern would have ended me up surrounded by a ring of airport security officials with tasers pointed at my chest and the machete, well that’s just a common-sense no-no in an airport. That’s a way to render one’s self in need of a good lawyer if not a medic. So both the lantern and the machete had to stay in the house. So too did the box cutter on the key chain, the box cutter in the glove compartment, and the mini one in my purse. When one broke i typically just replaced it with a new one, rubber banded the old one back together, and found a new compartment for it because though it had lost its ability to fold properly or needed one to hold the screws in place while using it, it still worked. I also did not bring any instant coffee. It was a sea of little granulated brown pellets in an unlabeled glass container. I thought the airport security might mistake it for explosives. So, without coffee, without the lantern, without the machete, without the box cutters, and with a suit case full of dresses, i made my way back to the city to catch a plane.
A while back i made a post about buying steel toed boots to wear during my projects. I alluded to the fact that the reason i didn’t end up liking them had nothing to do with the quality of the boots and more to do with the intelligence and know-how of the human wearing them. They were wildly uncomfortable until they got wet, muddy, and smooshed. All of a sudden they fit like a glove. Amazing! So, yeah, they had to get broken in.
It was late July when all of this mess started. I came home one day and there was a black pulsating mess of legs all over my doorway. For some reason they really liked to congregate directly above the door or window on the front of the house. Nowhere else. Just the only entry point to the structure i lived in. And they were getting busy, all of the time. I’d had a hard day’s work. I was just trying to get in the house. I’d swat these suckers across the porch boards. You know where they went? Right back up the wall and into the pulsating mass of legs above my doorway. Sigh. The photos pictured above were from the beginning of the long-leg mating season. When the door was covered in a thick black cloud i wasn’t taking pictures anymore. I was busy playing a strategy game to get in the house. I had to get some object that wasn’t already in the house (usually from the shed), scoop and fling the mass as far as i could, and run in the house before they all made their way back. They were surprisingly fast for how goofy they appeared. The problem arose when the dogs needed to go out potty. The dogs would line up, i’d fling open the door, the dogs would take off running like horses out of a chute and i’d stand there playing goalie with a broom against the onslaught of daddy long legs pouring into the house from the top of the door frame. I would find them dead everywhere. In the dish water, in the bath tub, on the stove. They weren’t real resilient little survivalists. They would come in the house, die, and then when you stuck your hand in the dish water you could feel legs. Eventually my youngest dog Cashew picked up on the fact that i did not like these critters in the house and she began eating them. My sweet little vacuum. I am hoping they pick a different spot for the swingers party next year.
On the homestead a knife is used often and what begins sharp is quickly dulled. Knives are good for cutting tall weeds away from the laundry line, cutting through zip ties, cardboard boxes, and plastic packaging, cutting twine to secure hanging plants to the porch beams during windy days, and cutting the plastic tips off tubes of tar. All this cutting will eventually dull the blade and the way to remedy that is by sharpening. You do not throw out the knives and go buy all new ones. You get a sharpening stone. I started at home depot. I figured that was the place to be in my predicament. The staff member kindly pointed me to the right aisle and i set to reading the description and price tag on each stone. Every single stone, from the least expensive to the most, had a label on it that stated, “This product does cause cancer.” The label didn’t say “may increase risk of” or “has been known to increase risk in some cases”. The label stated that they knew for a fact that exposure to the material they used to manufacture their product caused cancer. Not one brand in the whole store said anything different. I left. I tried lowes, tractor supply co, and walmart. In all of the stores i encountered the same label that said the same thing. I was really disturbed by this. All of the knife sharpeners were made from combined materials blended together by a man in a laboratory. I started thinking; we didn’t always have laboratories. What did we do before the advancement of science? I had pretty much turned back to the pioneer days for the methods to complete most of my regular tasks. Now i turned there once again. How did we sharpen knives before sears and walmart? To find that information i had to go to google. As it turned out, people in italy were still sharpening stones in the old fashioned way. I had to order a stone all the way from italy and have it shipped to texas to find a knife sharpening stone that was just that; a real stone. I didn’t want a man-made blend with two differently graded sides. I wanted a stone from the earth that was capable of shaping a blade. Well, italy did not disappoint. One day i stopped by the post office to find a package shipped from italy. Inside was some tissue paper surrounding a small box. Inside the small box was a rectangular stone. I could hold it in my hand without worrying about the side effects. It was a good old-fashioned stone.
Now of course, there had been a place on the website where you could order the holder for the stone; a shallow wooden box that held the stone in place while you dragged the blade across it. However, they wanted a hefty sum of money for this holder and i was on a budget. I had seen some guy on youtube make his own sharpening stone holder with a board of wood, a permanent marker, and some nails, and that was exactly what i was going to do. So i did.
It wasn’t the fanciest or most beautiful holder a person ever laid eyes on but it was functional. I watched around 20 youtube videos on how to sharpen different types of knives on a stone and then i set to work. I sharpened my favorite knives last so that by the time i was working on them i had gotten the hang of it. I tested the knives against my finger after sharpening them. If they cut the skin at first touch i had succeeded and that knife was done. If i could touch the blade and come away unscathed the knife was not finished yet. It was a very empowering experience being able to control the sharpness of my knives with my own two hands. If they came out poorly there was nobody but me to blame. Before i got the hang of it i dulled a few blades before i rendered them sharp again. However, once i got the hang of it i knew i’d be able to maintain every knife in my posession and i’d never need to call on somebody to perform that task for me. This was a useful tool to have in the tiny house.
By the time i made it to the nursery to look for hanging plants it was July. There were not many things left that were considered in season. Spring was the time to buy hanging plants. The only thing left was white bougainvillea or red bougainvillea. There was plenty of white. Nobody wanted white; they all wanted the colorful plants to decorate their yard. There was one burgundy red and one maroon bougainvillea in a hanging pot in the entire nursery. I bought them both. I wanted the red against the sage green house. I wanted a little pop of color. I wanted to make it feel homey. I hated bougainvillea. I found it to be thorny and sharp. Its petals weren’t soft and round like so many plants i loved, but, as the season wore on the bougainvillea grew on me. It was a very hardy plant and it blossomed constantly without any fertilizer. The hummingbirds loved it and would visit its flowers. Honestly, i don’t dislike it anymore. Anything that can survive a texas summer without much care from me has got my respect.