A Quick Repair

When the environment is wet wood swells and warps. Wood that can no longer fit where it is nailed, screwed, or glued bends, sometimes with so much force that it rips the nail holding it down right out of the piece of wood it is attached to. It happens most notably with the wood surrounding the door of the chicken coop. When it has been raining for a week i find it difficult to open the door and if i succeed in getting it pried open i have to wait for drier weather to get it shut again. Now that is after i used tools and sand paper to shave wood off the door to get it to fit in the first place. It has also happened once with the boards of wood that made up the shed porch. One lifted from where it was pinned and took the nails with it.

I was doing the evening chores. I was walking the property covering plants and readying the well house for another freeze when i noticed the framing for the well house door was pulling away from where it was pinned. Upon further investigation there was a pencil thin nail that had been pulled out of the wood it was meant to be tethering the warped wood to. my immediate thought was that fixing this was going to be a dangerous endeavor because of the close proximity of the water softener tanks, tubing, and pipes to the wall where the door was hinged. Literally a half inch in front of the wall was a small black tube which i was sure was important to this operation. The piece of wood that occupied the vertical space directly in front of the displaced pencil thin nail was very thick. So i decided to attempt to screw the warped piece of wood back down and just drill incrementally, checking to make sure i wasnt getting close to the black tube.

I grabbed an extension cord from the shed, fetched the drill, and checked my toolbox for screws. Every screw i had wasn’t long enough to really anchor it into that piece of wood. There would just be a centimeter of length (if even) once it had gone through the warped piece of wood itself. I decided the only thing to do would be to get one of the three inch construction screws leftover from when i first moved onto the property. There was a bucket of them in the field mouse infested tool shed. I opened the toolshed and picked my way through all the rat feces and rat urine soaked cardboard. I had been breaking it down and throwing it out in the trash every week but when the mice really started saturating it with urine i just kind of gave up and let them claim it. I wasn’t interested in tearing it into rectangles anymore once it was pungent and sticky. I found the bucket, caked with a thick layer of dried turds and urine. I pried it open, grabbed three screws, and snapped it shut. I put two screws in my toolbox and used the third to pick out the drill bit. Then i plugged in the extension cord, plugged in the drill, picked a spot in the wood that wasn’t already cracking or split. with the door open so i could keep checking to watch for the end of the screw, i drilled the screw into the wood incrementally. At a certain point i had to just go for it and pray because had i stopped at this point the drill would not have forced the two pieces of wood together but rather apart.

I peeked into the well house to survey the possible damage. I neither saw nor felt the end of a screw. It was still inside the piece of wood i had tethered the flimsy gray outside piece of wood to. The tubing was fine, untouched, though i looked everywhere for water and even turned on the spigot and the indoor sink just to watch and make sure there was no water inside the well house in places where it shouldn’t be. It appeared that i hadn’t drilled through anything but wood and so i turned the well house heat lamp on and locked it up for the impending freeze that was to arrive overnight.

The little piece of wood now laid down fairly flat against the tin sheet.

For now the wood on the interior of the well house was a little more sheltered from the weather on the outside of the well house. Maybe it would last longer.

One day i really should fill in the holes in the well house walls where it looks like somebody put a screw in and then changed their mind and took it out.

An Overdue Realization

As you go through different phases in your life sometimes the circles you can run in change. It doesn’t mean you stop respecting the people you once kept company with. It doesn’t demand hatred or an impressive amount of hurt and bitterness. You must acknowledge that you are now walking different lines on the map and what is important to the people you are departing from is different from what is important to you. Not better or worse…just different. Sometimes you have to realize when it is neither the time nor the place to ask a group of people to walk a mile in your shoes and that is at an elective event that is neither about you nor hinged upon you.

I have a leather journal in which i write down any sayings i hear over the years which i believe to be wise and true. I do not write down the authors as i am less concerned with who first coined the revelation than the revelation itself. I am writing the quotes down to be absorbed and implemented in my daily life and so the author need not be penned beneath each one in a journal for my own use. However, when mentioning someone else’s thought in their own words to hundreds of others, i do believe credit is in order, ethically and legally. So i have attempted to find the person who penned a quote i try to live by daily. I will say that the idea seems to have been introduced by a man called Ezra Taft Benson and then rephrased a bit by a man named Stephen R Covey. If i have neglected to list anyone before or after these men who also contributed to the penning of this idea i do apologize. Feel free to correct me in the comments and i will add anyone i have missed.

“We are free to make our own choices. However, we are not free from the consequences of those choices.”

i made a choice to prioritize meaningful work far away from where i live over profitable work close to home. I made a choice to work half days instead of full days due to the chronic fatigue and rheumatoid arthritis covid left me with. I am not in a condition where i can easily handle a full caseload and to sustain something long term, the maximum i can really handle is about six hours of work and two hours of driving a day, but most days it is four or five. I made a choice to disagree with someone whose financial support hinged upon unwavering allegiance. As an adult woman in my thirties it was past time to return to financial independence anyway, but no inner peace will be achieved as long as you are obligated to agreement with another’s thoughts and beliefs, your own individual opinions and boundaries unexpected. I made a choice to hang onto my homestead rather than trying to sell and look for an apartment with much cheaper rent than my adjustable rate mortgage. I made a choice to keep my dogs and keep my chickens, though the feed and preventative medicine is costly. I made a choice to keep them on the feed that has them so healthy rather than switch us to the cheapest crap feed that will carry them on living in some format. I want them to have quality lives and i want them to be here with me for as long as i can render them. When my weekly food budget is $30 and i have the chickens walking around with the most beautiful thick shiny feathers and the dogs running around with limber joints and shiny coats, living on vegetables from the discount produce warehouse and bulk rice provided as a holiday present from the Japanese store is totally worth it. I dont need that miyoko’s cashew cheese wheel, the pina colada coconut milk yogurt, or the soy based crispy mock chicken bites. They’re all good. They’re all tasty. And i know i’ll get to try them again around the holidays when my family gifts me an insane amount of food and grocery gift cards that i feel very blessed to receive. But coconut milk yogurt is not a daily necessity. Its a holiday treat. I made all these choices for me and my animals but lately my choices have spilled over into a previous social circle and begun affecting others they were not intended to touch.

I no longer have extra funds to spend on fancy plating and so my potluck offerings arrive in a plastic bowl rather than a ceramic or glass one because the plastic bowl was cheaper. It holds just as much food or liquid as its more expensive brethren, but it doesn’t look as nice on the table. I can’t afford the 12 to 18 dollar fruit trays i used to buy and so i go for fruit such as mandarins in a bowl or snacks such as carrots and guacamole. I cant afford all the different vegetables and grains that would go into making a dish from scratch. Even making appetizers from scratch is beyond my financial capabilities. If i buy store bought guacamole i have spent a few dollars. If i buy tomatoes, onions, limes, and avocados to make a guacamole from scratch i’ve just spent half the food budget for the week on one dish. Then there is a need for quantity…one should make enough for everyone to have their fill of the dish, not just a taste. If 25 people attend a gathering then you need to bring enough for twenty five people to have their fill of your dish. That means more avocados, more onions, more tomato, more limes, and multiple bags of carrots. Now i’ve spent nearly the whole week’s food budget on my potluck offering for one meal to go and see people whose company i enjoy.

On some level there is a pleading in my heart that they see that this is all i can offer at this time, that i am trying to bring something to their table, to do my part in a collective effort to feed everybody during a communal meal. There is a flicker of hope that they see im not asking for an exception or to be fed without doing my part to feed others. However, the reality of the situation is that my offering falls short. The quantity and quality of food i am bringing is not meeting expectation. It’s been called to my attention several times. Many people have helped me avoid social embarrassment by transferring my food to one of their serving dishes and discarding my plastic bowl, or even discarding my food offering altogether and making one for me from scratch to pass off as my own. I am free to make my own decisions in life, but i am not free from the consequences of those decisions. Last night’s consequence of my recent decisions was the realization that i no longer qualify as the kind of person who can successfully participate in this particular gathering. I can no longer afford a proper offering, and so i can stay and ask to be fed while i feed no one, or bow out of this particular social gathering during this chapter of my life. In an effort to be helpful my surrounding peers volunteered to pray that i get a higher paying job closer to home so that i could afford to buy more expensive offerings. Nobody asked me if that was a thing that i wanted.

Pray for gas to cost less. Pray for food to cost less. Pray for my health to improve, but don’t pray for me to find another job. For the first time in my adult career i am working somewhere that my coworkers in all departments view each other as being on the same team. The kitchen staff bless the food and say a prayer before serving meals to the patients. They wear hand made clothes protectors (bibs) from all different patterns of fabric tied in the back with pieces of ribbon. They are ministered to by all different pastors who come to conduct catholic, lutheran, baptist, episcopal, and so many other services and communions. The community children make them art projects at the schools and come and sing to them so the choir can practice. There are musicians in the community that volunteer their music weekly as entertainment and a chance to practice their skill for an audience. They are not forgotten. They are well incorporated in their community. And the staff care about the patients. They are not paychecks. They are people. And the more humane treatment of the staff as people rather than numbers allows for this dynamic to be fostered and maintained. What we are doing here as a team is more of a family taking care of itself than a company running. There are bibles in the gym. There are bibles in the patient rooms. Religion is not a secret topic that cant be spoken on according to company policy. The staff give bibles or devotionals to anyone who asks for one and sometimes the patients trade exercise for one of the therapists to read a passage in the bible to them because they can no longer read it due to failing eye sight. At one of the buildings the activities director conducts a bible study multiple times a week in the front room near the piano and anyone who wants to attend is welcome. During Christmas all the patients help put the ornaments on the tree and hand the activities director the lights and the little christmas village pieces and wreaths for the doors. They are involved in the decorating of the facility for the holidays, not because its a “life enrichment activity” but because this is their home and the staff and other patients are their family and a family decorates together during the holidays. The staff supplies the patients with snacks and coffee in return for doing their exercises and to my amazement, when their friends or family bring them snacks sometimes these patients come down and gift their staff members with a few of their cookies or snack packets…because they want to feed the people who feed them. It is a very endearing thing to witness. Imagine you live in a facility and you cant go to the grocery whenever you want and the first thing you do when you get your hands on cookies is make sure others have some. I see God here. Every day i help someone shower or get dressed or eat or go to the bathroom i feel i’ve been trusted to care for one of God’s children. I try to brighten their lives with funny stories about the dogs or the homestead. I listen to their own stories. I bring them news of the weather and stories about deer, coyotes, and foxes. I ask them about their memories and help them hang onto and celebrate the funny or enjoyable ones. I see that they look forward to my visits and i look forward to seeing them. I know that if i am gentle with them i occupy that space of a staff member who is caring for them. I block someone who might be abusive with them from filling that space, and thats how we all feel. By standing in that space to be filled, as a staff member who will be gentle and patient and treat them with dignity, you protect them from professionals who would comment on odors or skin folds, be rough with them during transfers, yank on their arms without care for their rotator cuffs, and yell at them for farting or leaking a bit on the way down to the toilet seat. By standing in this job position and treating them with care, you block others who would not, from having access to your patients. It feels like a calling. It feels like a gift from God to have the opportunity. It also feels like mercy. I can’t physically handle a full caseload anymore and God has made a place for me to do what i love part time in a quantity that wont destroy me. This is a place that is happy to have me even though i cant offer them full time work because i dont have it in me, and neither does this crazy australian shepherd who needs her outdoor time. Pray for me yes, but dont pray for me to find another job, i beg you. I am happy here. I am useful here. I am accepted here, as i am…broken and tarnished and ever willing to serve.

I am embarrassed and i am saddened but i am not angry nor am i bitter. My time in this social circle has ended and i’ve been in denial for a bit now. It is time to face that. We are just different people in different chapters of life. I belong to a class of people now where dollar store chips and a bag of oranges are perfectly acceptable offerings and all the plates are paper. It doesnt mean i cant respect and enjoy a friendship with the people in my former social circle. It simply means i must understand what i can and cannot qualify to participate in if i choose the priorities i have. Im not going to be sitting in a swing next to a fire pit in a backyard cooking station on the river. I am more likely to be found in the front room of an apartment or the front yard of a single wide enjoying a styrofoam plate of chips and some grapes while others scarf down hotdogs. I will still see the people who i previously enjoyed when i come to drop off chicken eggs or borrow their internet but it is time to bow out of a social gathering that is not for whoever it is i am coming to be in this particular chapter of life.

Blue’s Resting Place

Blue has been in the freezer all winter. Now that the weather is back in the seventies and eighties it seemed like a good time to dig a hole and bury Blue. I put him in the insect and arachnid graveyard next to all the orb weavers i’ve buried after they succumbed to horrible beheadings at the hands of various praying mantises. I’m certain that my legit cattle ranching neighbors would find a funeral for a butterfly laughable but that’s the beauty of living some place where you’re surrounded by trees and the nearest neighbor’s house is acres into their property. Nobody knows what we do here. Myself and the dogs are free to be as weird as we please. Blue was a good butterfly and he gets a funeral.

The rocks are to deter the armadillo from digging Blue up. It likes recently upturned earth and searches for grubs in it.

New Year, New Bed.

Once upon a time i had norovirus and vomited continuously from sundown until the dollar general opened the following morning, until all i had to give was bile which was burning my throat and nasal passages each time. This resulted in some pretty severe dehydration and desperate to absorb water via osmosis or simply trick my brain into thinking i was getting water in some way, i soaked my clothes, a sheet, and laid wet towels all over my forehead and skin. Occasionally i would have to sit up rather suddenly to upchuck in a violent way and the towels flying off of me would soak the bed rather than me. This resulted in a certain mildewy odor. Had i not been such a loner i probably could have called a human who was not upchucking and asked them to drive to the next town where the walmart was still open and purchase anti nausea tablets. However, i am a loner and the result of that at the time was no one close enough to me to desire to run such an errand in the middle of the night. Add 4 years of unwashed and occasionally wet dog and you get a mattress that smells as if it has outlived its expiration date. It was time to get a new one. However, my financial situation didn’t think so. Unable to ignore that i had to scrub my skin thoroughly every morning in the bath to make sure i didn’t track wet dog and mildew to work every day, i was motivated by a strong desire to make the bed clean. Slightly before new years day i noticed things were on clearance online. I could get a mattress for 100 dollars, a comforter from gap for 22.50, 2 pillows for 3.50 each, and a flannel sheet set for 16 dollars, all with free shipping. This seemed like a plan that was going to help me render the bed clean. There was a sadness in me as i realized that if i did this i would not be purchasing the 8 inch extra soft memory foam mattress i usually got from walmart. The mattress was 6 inches. I knew it would be thinner and it ended up being quite firm with very little give. I bought it anyway, even though i knew it would be significantly less comfortable. I had to render the bed clean and this was the only way i could do that without putting myself in a situation where i had to seek extra work to pay for my splurge. I needed to keep extra money aside for 3,000 dollars of car repair, two $300 dental visits and any fillings that i might need pending discovery at such routine cleanings, home owner’s insurance, an annual blog fee, taxes, and i knew the government would revoke some of my health insurance credit when they realized i worked more than 3.5 hours a day during about half of my work days. Unable to give them a consistent number because it fluctuated and was not set, i guestimated an average based on what i was doing at the time. Then my hours moved to an average of 4.5 hours a day following the coverage of some full time people’s vacation and sick leave which put me at 8 hrs a day for a couple weeks and then an additional 4 or 5 days. I will need to set aside some money to atone for my sins of making more money than i said i would later. So, a super comfy thick memory foam mattress was not in the cards this year. I moved the old mattress into the shed, trying to convince myself that if i absolutely hated the new mattress i could put the old one back on, but i knew mentally i would not be able to convince myself to switch it back if i had one that smelled clean. I bought the thinner firmer mattress. One pillow case came with the sheet set. A sham came with the comforter. In this way i secured two covers for the pillows. Sili could have the pillow with the sham on it. The comforter was reversible with lavender tie dye on one side and solid lavender on the other. It was a thick cotton comforter and on sale. I usually stuck to blues and greens, unwilling to give those who thought i needed a husband to own my land, fell my trees, and lift my feed bags for me any indication that i might in fact be a girl. It wasnt that i didn’t enjoy a nice dusty rose color or a plum purple…i just didn’t want to have to overcome the additional bias it would result in. But, at the price the comforter was, from the gap, i felt it would be foolish to pass it up. The flannel sheets were gray with white reindeer and snowflakes. I would have a gray, white, and purple bed. It seemed the practical decision to make. I would repurpose the old blankets as fruit tree covers for the following winter.

There was a horrible little man who worked for walmart’s customer service department. He got angry i spoke when he was speaking and put me on hold indefinitely. Then i got an email notification saying that i requested the mattress be cancelled from my purchase. The sheets and the comforter were still on the order but the customer service rep had written that i requested the purchase of the mattress cancelled. I had called to change the generic delivery instruction “leave at door” because the address was a P.O. box and i was worried this would confuse the delivery driver. I spoke when the customer service rep was speaking and he informed me that he was very angry i was speaking over him and then put me on hold indefinitely. (He was telling me i should send it to my physical address next time and this wouldnt happen and i was trying to tell him i have a PO box out of necessity rather than privacy because i live some place where the city does not provide mailboxes because im too far out to be considered part of it.) I say indefinitely because i gave him the benefit of the doubt. I waited for him to return but he never did. I ended up having to call back twice. The third customer service rep was kinder than the first two, could see what had happened, confirmed that he had indeed cancelled the mattress from my order, and gave me a 20 dollar off coupon to buy the mattress again but this time for 80 dollars instead of 100. So, in the end the first agent’s petty behavior saved me $20 but if i could have kept my blood pressure in a safe range for the hour that i dealt with him, i would have gladly let them keep the 20 dollars. Tired of problems and setbacks, to make sure that this mattress made it to its destination, despite the auto generated delivery instructions, i paid my friend in a nearby town with a legit porch and a mailbox 2 dollars as a courtesy fee to address the mattress to her, send it to her address, and pick it up in my car upon her notification of its arrival. It arrived vacuum sealed. I wrestled it into the mosquito net tent and let it inflate. When it was near done inflating i put the linens on the bed.

It is different. Im trying to remind myself different is not necessarily bad. It is very firm. It is clean at least. It smells very nice, like clean linens. I tried to keep it that way by banning the dog from sleeping with me. Cashew appreciated Sili’s company for about a week. They would curl up together and sleep with their heads on each others’ backs. However, i really missed Sili. There’s nothing that helps you get to sleep more than a dog holding onto your arm with their paw and smooshing their head against your chest or shoulder. After a week i said “oh **** it” and Sili climbed into the bed. Sili’s assessment was similar to mine. It wasn’t as comfortable as the expensive memory foam. It was thinner and firmer. She looked at me like, “what did you do?” she slept curled in a ball at my feet instead of stretched out with her head on the pillow under the blankets. We missed the smelly mattress but neither one of us would admit it…her for fear of losing bed privileges and me out of sheer denial. I quickly ended up with my neck in nots and my back really tight. I would wake myself up at night because i was getting sore and needed to change positions. There was something initially more comfortable about the support of a firmer mattress…you didnt sink into it like the expensive memory foam. However, gone were the days of waking up in comfy memory foam bliss…too happy to move. I told myself, “you were the one that wanted to work less so the dogs could have more outdoor time. You were the one who wanted to work only for privately owned companies and no longer for corporations. This is the consequence. You make your choices, and then you must live with them.” This was the mattress we could afford. I stared at Sili. Sili stared at me. “It’s a good bed.” I said. She looked at me.

I had better get used to it because walmart reviewed my complaint about the customer service rep cancelling the mattress from my order and decided that he was indeed in the wrong for his actions. They sent me the mattress from the original order…to the PO box. They left it despite the auto generated delivery instructions. Now i have 2 of them. I stood at the post office bewildered, not wanting to be ungrateful. It is a perfectly good mattress. Now we just have the next one for four years from now when this one wears out. I pressed my lips together in a thin line. This is a perfectly good clean mattress. We are happy to have it. We will get used to sleeping on a firm mattress. It can be done. It will be done. 2023 is the year of a clean house and smart budgeting. It will be fine.

Update: On Wednesday i made my usual trip to Kerrville to buy produce at Red Barn. I stopped at the Walmart afterwards and bought a 47 dollar vacuum sealed 2 inch mattress topper. When it was done unfolding and inflating i put the bed back together and tried it out. Sili and i looked at each other in complete relief. This will do. It’s not the old mattress but close enough to it with the topper. I got my first solid sleep since replacing the mattress and Sili curled up on the pillow under the covers rather than sleeping on top of the comforter at my feet.

Mr. Silver Teeth, the old Friend I dont have.

I pulled into a space outside the grocery store and put the car in park. As i did so the doors automatically unlocked. Out of habit, i pushed the button and relocked them. I began untying my lunch bag and spreading the utensils and baggies out on the seat beside me. I did need to go into the grocery store but i also hadn’t eaten lunch. I figured i would do that first as i was hungry and generally less and less functional as the hunger went unattended. Then i would run errands. Before i knew it there was an older hispanic man with silver teeth pressing on the hood of my car. He waved at me through the window. He said something but he was speaking so quietly i couldn’t even tell if it was in spanish or english. He seemed to know me but i didnt know him. He waved to me and looked at me with this big grin of recognition as if i should know who he was. I wracked my brain trying to think of anywhere i knew this man from but i was certain i’d never seen him before. He motioned for me to roll the window down. I played dumb as if i thought he was just being polite and saying hello. I smiled and waved and went back to my food, pretending as if i thought he’d left and gone into the grocery. I had rules against taking possible bait, no matter how populated the parking lot. I didn’t know what he wanted but in my mid thirties i’d lived long enough in this world as a single female to know better than to roll the window down for someone i didnt know and therefore wouldnt have any legit business with. This is a topic i hate speaking on. I dont view myself as a target or easy picking, so its hard for me to swallow that others do. However, to be in denial about the thing is to be unaware, and i’m in the habit of that less. If you are a single female of small stature you are a better target for those with nefarious motives than someone with company or who would be difficult to lift into a van or a truck.

He did leave for a moment. He disappeared between the cars. Then all of a sudden he was back again, this time near the driver’s side window. He motioned for me to open it. I considered that i may be paranoid. Perhaps he needed help jumping his car or something. If he needed help jumping his car, there were plenty of young men walking around the well populated parking lot like ants. Why ask a small woman in an suv, i quizzed myself? There were plenty of men, some exiting work trucks. If he needed a jump, he was mighty fixated on me when there were plenty of others already out of the car who could have helped him. Now a young man in a colorful button up shirt and a cowboy hat returned to the truck parked beside me. He opened the door as if he was going to get in but he didnt. Instead he stood around as if he were waiting for someone. Eventually he did get in the truck but he got in the passenger side of the truck. He seemed to be waiting for the driver. The older man waved goodbye and disappeared walking towards the store. The younger man remained in the passenger side of the truck, glancing at me every so often. I decided to take a long lunch. My gut told me that it was not time to get out of the car. On my phone I fetched an episode of 60 minutes about a drilling company that cut corners and ended up erasing 7 towns off the face of the map in an environmental disaster. As i watched tv and ate i realized the older man with the silver teeth was back. This time the colorful shirt guy had a buddy, presumably the driver. They were both young and fairly good looking, unlike the man with silver teeth. They had both doors to the truck open on the side next to my car and the young men were looking at me now as the older man beckoned for me to get out of the car. I played dumb some more…waved emphatically and then went happily back to my program. I was not getting out of the car. I also wasnt running. I wasn’t going to be scared out of a well populated parking lot into some isolated area where they could hit my car and then get me out in an obligatory way to exchange insurance cards and survey the damage. I stayed in the parking lot watching my program for an hour. Eventually they gave up. They loaded into the truck and drove out of the parking lot together. I ran in, got my five items, checked out, walked briskly back to my car, and left. For them to spend so much overall time trying to get me to roll down the window…i knew it was not just an old friend i didnt remember trying to get my attention and say hi. Such a person would have shrugged and went on with their day. Especially when someone parks beside you and leaves the door open as if they need to retrieve something, yet lingers without doing so…don’t ever get out of the car.


Upon learning that i wake up four hours before i need to leave the homestead in order to get myself and all the plants and animals ready for my departure to my day job at 4 am most people laugh at me and call me ridiculous. They think it’s overkill and i must be there sauntering around the oatmeal pot or applying my makeup for 45 minutes in total. In reality it takes me 3 minutes to apply foundation, 1 minute to apply blush, and 2 minutes to don jewelry and hand lotion. Its putting up my hair that takes the longest. If i spend more than 10 minutes on the task i’m late. I’ve budgeted for 6 minutes but am shooting for 3. People don’t understand what it is that i’m doing and i know that so i just laugh with them and go on with my day. It’s easier to pretend i also think i’m ridiculous than explain what it is i’m doing and why it takes so long.

It takes so long because im fitting a full time job into 3 hours in the morning and 1.5 hours in the evening. Homesteading is not a weekend hobby. It demands as much time and attention as my day job. So, i just do one when the sun is up and the other when the sun is down. I have a day job because in this day and age homesteading is not really a financially self sustaining venture. it can be at times but you must have a large nest egg tucked away in the bank for the years when the weather tricks the trees and bushes into blooming right before a hard and prolonged freeze. Then there will be nothing to harvest, nothing to sell. The flowers bloomed. The bees visited. The ice came. It won’t happen again until next year. Sometimes a piece of equipment or the well pump or some kind of machine busts or needs maintenance and then you have to have thousands of dollars tucked away in the bank. I dont have an infinite nest egg in the bank and so i have a day job that funds all the expenses, including the mortgage, on the homestead. Many people think this makes me “not a real homesteader” but i would argue that if i could make myself presentable to show up for a job in healthcare daily while boiling water for baths and pooping in a bucket in the winter, i have every right to straddle both worlds and call myself a homesteader as well as a healthcare practitioner. I get my fill of people at my day job and i get my fill of the wilderness on the homestead. The only thing i dont do is sleep. We can rest when we are dead. Life is now.

In the morning breakfast and lunch has to be cooked from scratch. The budget does not include preprepared foods. Bread must be mixed and kneaded by hand, then baked in the oven. Oats can be made into oatmeal or oat cookies. If oat cookies and jam are desired one must place the oats into the blender and turn it on until the oats are a fine powder. The result is oat flour. Take the warm flour and combine with liquids to make cookies. If i was wealthy i’d buy vanilla hemp or oat milk and apple sauce to mix in but on a budget gluten free bread and cookies are made strictly with water, water and honey for the cookies. When you are poor you realize that all those extra ingredients in the grocery store are doing something for texture, color, or preservation, but they are not needed. When you cook and bake from scratch you will find that you consume what you make with little to no left over. That means when you are done cooking you will need to cook again, and then again. Cooking and baking will be a continuous process throughout every day because the foods are cheapest in their raw unprepared forms and so you will need to wash, chop, grind, mix, bake, boil, and saute two times a day on weekdays and three times a day on weekends. There is no dish washer. There is one plate, one bowl, one cup, one jar to use as a container for water to take to work, one of each utensil, a pair of chopsticks, cooking utensils, and pots and a pan. These have to be washed by hand with soap in the sink after every meal. The water that comes out of the faucet is not drinkable. Drinkable water must be filtered for myself, the dogs, and the chickens every morning in half gallon increments drawn from the well house spigot and placed into a special filtering pitcher that removes the sulphur from the water. It is the best tasting water on the earth after running through the filter but it is totally undrinkable before this and will result in a case of dehydration level runs if you drink it before it has gone through the filter. The filtered water is added to the chicken water dispenser which i dont fill all the way daily because when they do peck the earth out from beneath it and tip it over, it stings to lose a full dispenser of filtered water rather than just a gallon. The dogs are given their water. I fill the jar with water and place it in the cup holder of my car. Then i drink water with breakfast, use it to take morning meds, and possibly to cook or bake with. Because i live in between two quarries the dust must be batted off of my clothes before i put them on and off of my towels before i use them to bathe. I read my devotionals, go through one passage of the bible and highlight anything new i gain an understanding of, pray, spend a small amount of time meditating…. The door is removed from the chicken coop and the dogs go out to play and potty in the dog run. I then check the temperature and the weather report for the day and cover or uncover the plants and well house pipes as necessary, turn on or off the heat lamp as necessary. Now it is time for a bath. I pull down the metal Gibsons’ basin and place it in the middle of the floor. I put a folded towel down as a bath mat and place a shoe box with a cup, a wash cloth, and bar of soap on it beside the basin. I use a pasta pot to boil water and then mix in some cold water to prevent scalding. I dump three pasta pots of water total into the basin and then place it beside the basin to act as a table for the bath towel to sit on. I first wash my hair with my knees on the folded towel on the ground. I shampoo and deep condition twice a week. Otherwise i am just wetting and combing it. I pin my hair up. Then i add a tiny bit more boiled water and get in to bathe. The cup is to place water over limbs and the cloth is to dry them so the living room doesnt become a pond. When i am finished i get out and dry off. Then i come back and wash my feet which must hang out of the tub for the majority of the bath because you can only have a tub as big as you can lift and carry when full of water. I apply deodorant, makeup, do my hair, and then return to drag the tub outside and dump the water off the side of the porch. Everything i will need for the work day must be packed and loaded into the car. A walk is done to check the land for predators before i leave the chickens in the pen with the coop door open. I also check to make sure i remembered to remove the cap off the water dispenser when i was done adding water to it in the chicken pen. More water is put into the filter for later in the day. I tea tree oil my feet, don socks, and lace up my work shoes. I wash my glasses with dish washing soap. I package up my lunch and put the now cooled pots in the refrigerator or wash them and put them up on the board of wood im using as a counter on top of Sili’s dog crate. I include an empty ziploc bag so i can turn it inside out, stick my hand through it, and remove my retainers later without ever touching them. I put the dogs in their crates, turn off the lights, turn on the lantern, lock the door, and make my way to the car. Once everything is situated in the car i turn it on and start down the dirt driveway. This begins the part of my day that includes my day job in a city 40 minutes away or two towns over. All of this takes me 4 hours and there is no moment where i am doing anything less than hurrying when getting ready in the morning. I would love to have a couple kune kune pigs but there are several things that keep me from investing in them. Namely, i have a rule against owning anything i can’t bring indoors during an icepocalypse when they purposely cut off our electricity and heating devices are rendered useless. Pigs couldnt come inside the house. I dont have a tub that big and if i did i couldn’t drag it and it wouldnt fit through the door. Also financially it would be something else to feed, and finally it would equal something else to get ready in the morning. I’d have to wake up even earlier than midnight.

I made a recent trip to the city to get my car fixed and what i saw was people living on top of people. There was every modern convenience one could desire and all of them had services that would deliver them to your door for you, already paid for through an app with your card. Anything you desired you could have with the click of a button and the charge of your card. However, i couldnt get over how little space everyone had. There were high rise apartments and huge houses with tiny baby yards, barely wide enough to string a hammock in lengthwise…and there were yards with zero trees in them. It was a bathroom for the dogs to use and nothing more. There wasnt enough room for a swing set or a barbecue station. It was like an afterthought…a strip of grass in case the home owner had a dog. Stuck in gridlock traffic at 4 pm i noticed a little boy in the car in front of me. His mother was on the phone. He was in the back strapped into his car seat. The window rolled down and the boy began hanging a piece of paper out the window. He had drawn something and he wanted someone to see it. So he rolled down the window and was waving it at complete strangers looking for some kind of approval or response. I hurried back to the hill country where i felt at ease.

While i was in the city, people i knew there expressed to me that they werent sure why i would want to live without door dash, central market, or a dish washer. Why would i want to be somewhere that i couldn’t take a hot shower and the bath water had to be boiled? I was thinking about this question because it is one that falls on my ears in a ridiculous way but i can see the people saying it are being earnest. Why would i want to be here doing things this way? Gratitude. That is the answer i finally settled on. When i have to filter the water to drink it, it means so much more than water from the city that just comes out the faucet when you lift a handle 24 hours a day. When i have to boil the water and get the temperature just right for this bath, the hot bath is so much more profound than when you turn on a faucet and hot water comes out all day long. When i have to grind the flour and knead the dough to make the bread that i eat smeared with jam in the morning, the warm bread means so much more than frozen bread i popped into the microwave. Because i did it with my hands it means something. Because the supply is not unlimited and plentiful, the times i get to enjoy something are more profound. I am not cut out for a life of surplus. My soul craves struggle and a life in its raw format. It is the only way the act of anything is meaningful to me. For me, the day’s activity IS washing dishes, making the bath, cooking, baking, filtering water…. In the city, these things are five second endeavors and now you have to figure out what else is the point of your time. I need to do these tasks in order to live well, and that is what makes them necessary for me. In the city, you now have to work harder to find meaning in tasks. You end up saying, “im doing this because it brings me relaxation, or im doing this because it helps me learn new things about the world…. Making bread brings me relaxation. Reading the bible and meditating helps me learn. Making a trip to the feed store helps me learn. My daily activities check those boxes and so i dont have to build in hobbies to put back what is lost when daily tasks become simplified by technology and only take us seconds to complete. I do enjoy visiting the city three times a year simply because my family member fills my belly with convenient foods i cant get where i live and these are a treat. However, the city life is not for me. I am most comfortable in a raw environment surrounded by wilderness where things take time and muscle to complete.

Cackling Coyotes

It was Sunday evening. I was trying to get a bit of work done on each of my projects before i started a new work week at 1 am. Thus is the schedule of a healthcare practitioner/homesteader. One must be awake at all times to fit in all the things that must be done. Strewn across my little tv tray table were fabric scraps and threads of various colors for the eyes and lips of the cloth dolls i was making for my friend’s daughters. Up on the computer was a word document containing the half edited version of my next book. In the kitchen was a stack of new bedding that needed to be put on once the discount mattress fully recovered from its vacuum sealed state of hibernation. In my lap sat a notebook where i tried to write my own representation of the pronunciation of each word the voice coming from the language app on my phone spoke quickly and repeated only once. As i fumed in my chair that the teacher would not repeat the word but once after it first hit the student’s ears both dogs sat ramrod straight and i turned my head as i realized what i was listening to. Coyotes. Very loud. I.E. very close. I thought to myself, “Did i put the door on the chicken coop?” I didn’t. As the realization set in many other voices answered the first one and i realized the whole pack was here. A whole pack of coyotes could probably get into chicken fort Knox if hungry and motivated enough. I wondered if Daisy would do her usual thing and come out of the coop to puff herself up and stare at the would-be marauder. I realized the best thing to do would be to put the door on the chicken coop and just eliminate any possibility of enticement. If they couldn’t see the chickens they would likely move on to a visible target like the neighbor’s sheep or a deer. I stepped into my shoes. As i did this Cashew stood up. Her body posture screamed, “all right! We’re doing this! i’m right behind you mom!” I frowned and whispered, “No, you stay here.” I motioned for both dogs to get to the back of the house with my hand. I really should have taken the time to put on the holster with my machete in it. But i didn’t. I knew from the volume that if they hadn’t crossed the access road onto my property they would within 30 seconds. I had to go quick. As i quietly pulled the door closed but not clicked i scanned the treeline for the big dog-like creatures with yellow eyes. I didn’t see any but the howling and yipping was loud enough for them to be in the woods on our property now. I made it to the chicken pen and realized i had a problem. The latch to the pen was extremely loud and to open the door would mean metal on metal noises followed by screeching as the door to the pen opened. I decided i’d probably fare better in the pen with the chickens than out of the pen with coyotes so i hurried up and opened it. The second i pulled the latch up all the noise that the coyotes were making stopped. My stomach dropped. As i slid the door down the metal track on the front of the coop i was surrounded by an eerie silence. They had definitely heard me. Now they were focused on where the noise was coming from. They’d be here soon and if i intended to stay in the chicken pen i should have clicked the front door to the house. As i left it, if one pushed on it the door would open. I knew i had to hurry up and finish…get back to the house. I didn’t even check if all 6 chickens were in the coop. I just hoped. I let myself out of the pen and fumbled with the lock that threaded through both holes to keep the door secure against coons. When i turned around i had a split second to wonder if it was too late to run…if i should walk steadily but slowly to avoid acting like prey…. As my eyes flicked in the direction of the trees in front of the access road; there it was. For all intensive purposes it looked like a big dog, if dogs had piercing yellow eyes. It was standing in front of the cedars, looking at me. I walked swiftly and steadily to the porch. Its head followed me as i moved. I climbed up the steps, pushed hard against the front door, and closed it quickly behind me. Sili and Cashew were waiting on the other side. They sniffed me. Cashew wagged her tail. Outside, the silence erupted into a hysteria of cackling. They sounded like neurotic hyenas. I’d never heard them make this noise. It wasn’t howling or yipping. It was straight up cackling, like evil laughter. Now that the door was on the chicken coop and the pen was locked i didnt look to see who joined who. I left the curtains closed as a barrier between my two worlds. After they’d had their little dance party they quieted down. I assumed they’d left. Even so, i wasn’t going to filter any more water at the well house spigot before sunrise.