One day Sili emerged from behind the shed with this in her mouth. Now, my dogs are diggers, so it would do no good to give the poor bambi a proper burial. It would essentially be like putting the skull in the refrigerator for the dog to snack on later. I didn’t feel right throwing the skull of an animal in the trash. It was once a deer with a promising young life. Its story didn’t deserve to end in a white forceflex trash bag. So, i put it on the fence railing of the porch. We had a couple windy days and it blew off the porch railing, so now it sits amongst the pots in the herb garden on a chair. Every so often from winter all the way into autumn a dog would show up on the porch with a femur, a vertebrae, or a rib. So proud. Just beaming, walking around with their prize in their teeth. I put the other bones in the trash. They were not especially clean bones and it appeared other animals may have had a turn before the dog chewed them. I didn’t want any dog of mine eating after a coyote or fox whose vaccination records i couldn’t check. So, every time i found a bone it went in the forceflex trash bag for weekly collection. But, poor bambi’s skull sits on the porch surveying the land of its scattered remains.
I’m sure the a/c – heating unit was broken a long time before i realized it because it hadn’t been heating since i moved in. However, i didn’t know how strong this little unit should be. I thought maybe the weather was just too much for it. I didn’t realize i needed a repair man until the day we skirted the house when the handyman pointed to my block of powdery ice in the yard and said, “you know that’s broken right?” I turned and looked where he had pointed. He dusted some of the powdered ice off of the unit and said, “it’s not supposed to be like that.” I had thought the ice had come from the sky, as we were standing in the freezing rain, but he assured me it had nothing to do with the weather. So i called a repair man. He gave me a very fair price but i would have to wait for the part to be ordered and shipped from out of town. For a week my daily routine involved de-icing the a/c unit with a butter knife. There were some metal tubes coming out the back of the a/c unit in a loopy motion that reminded me of a hotwheels track. The repair man said this was a problem. It would have to be cut and sautered back together in a straight line. The a/c repair guy was an honest guy that came highly recommended and did good work. The job was done earlier than expected and the unit has worked great ever since. The minute hot air came out of that thing i had an ah-ha moment. I had been cold all winter because the heater was broken.
There is no beauty like a horizon void of buildings and framed by trees. I like to think of the sky as God’s canvas where he paints with all the colors at his disposal and no 2 works of art are the same.
There were multiple reasons for purchasing the boots. I was having a problem with ants and spiders getting in my shoes when i walked through the tall grass and i worried ticks and scorpions would soon join the list as the months passed. I also dropped a very heavy box, shipped ups freight, on my tennis shoe, crushing a couple toes, which made the whole “steel toe” idea sound pretty nifty. So i bought myself some tall, lace-up, steel-toe work boots and had them shipped to me in the mail (my feet are small so i usually have to buy online). I did not take to them right away. Boots with steel in them are heavy. I felt like my feet were strapped to blocks of lead. It did not suit my preferred speed in life. In the beginning i rejected them and set them in the cabinet. They were too stiff. They didn’t bend when i walked. They were insanely heavy. I was not immediately fond of them. It would be months before i figured out what i had done wrong. There was nothing the matter with the boots. I just didn’t know what to do with them.
My supervisor at work mentioned that she had some rolls of fencing they had once used to corral chickens. She asked if i might want it to use on the land. She said there were two rolls and she’d give them to me for free if i could get the suv to Floresville to pick them up. It was a 2 hour drive on a work night but the offer was too good to pass up. That amount of fencing would have cost me a pretty penny in the tractor supply store and it was tall too. If I couldn’t use it to patch the fence, i could use it to keep the deer off of young trees. So i scurried home from work and loaded the dog in the car. I turned to Sili and said, “we’re going on a road trip. You and i are going to go pick up some fencing. Okay?” Sili looked up at me with her soulful brown eyes and wagged her tail. She was ready to ride. So, as the sun set, we set off in the direction of Floresville. I still had my scrubs on and Sili hadn’t even eaten dinner. We would do all those things when we got back. Right then we were on a mission. When we pulled into Floresville it was already dark. My supervisor’s daughters loaded the fencing into the suv while Sili checked out their property. They still had the youth and strength of teenagers. They got it done in half the time it would have taken her and i. I thanked them profusely, loaded Sili up, and waved goodbye. Then we headed for home. We were making good time until i hit what i thought was back-up from a traffic accident on the main highway. We sat patiently for a good half hour, not moving an inch. Then i began to get curious. I pulled out my smart phone. I googled the highway we were sitting on and attached the words “traffic accident”. The search produced nothing. The semi driver in front of me turned off his truck. Then the van to the left of me did the same thing. The words came out of my mouth in slow motion as i realized what was going on, “oh no”. The highway was closed. It was not a traffic accident. It was planned and scheduled construction. My smart phone confirmed. The phone indicated that there would be a detour, but people don’t always do what google says they did. There was no detour. It was beginning to look like we were sleeping in the car. I had plenty of gas and a little water. I used chewing gum in place of brushing my teeth and made a pillow out of a wadded up jacket. However, i did have to pee. The highway was shut down. Nobody was going anywhere. So, i got out of the car, opened the back door, and grabbed one of the ozarka gallon water jugs. I drank some, gave Sili some, and poured the rest in the grass. Once the jug was empty i used a box cutter to take the sloped top portion off. I always kept a roll of emergency toilet paper tucked in the cubby in the wall of the trunk. I retrieved that and climbed into the car where i peed in my home-made travel potty, tied my spent tp into an HEB bag, and emptied my ozarka jug into the grass alongside the car. Vwalah! Problem solved. I made a little pillow for Sili out of my purse on the passenger seat and reclined the driver’s seat. I cracked the windows a tad and we went to sleep. I was awoken by the sound of a truck horn. Hours later they reopened the highway and the semi behind me wanted me to move. I turned the car on and hurriedly shifted into drive. The highway was open and we were going home! When we finally arrived at the property i was so exhausted i left the fencing in the trunk. In fact, i left it there for a couple days. Then one morning i decided it was the time to get the fence rolls out of the car.
They were a lot heavier than i thought they’d be. It had taken two strapping young people to put them in the trunk. Now one tired 30 year old would need to get them out. I picked a spot for them behind a mulch pile in a flat area near the fence. I backed the car up to the spot, put it in park, and opened the trunk door. Then i climbed into the trunk and pulled one of the rolls, inch by inch, until it was sticking out of the trunk enough to tilt towards the ground. Eventually the thing just ended up on the grass where i dragged it the rest of the way towards the designated spot i had picked out. Then i climbed back into the trunk and repeated those steps for the second roll of fencing. Once they were out of the trunk and on the land i dusted my hands, closed the trunk, and drove the car back to the house. We now had fencing.
I am a gluten free pescatarian. I eat fish and quail eggs but no meat or poultry. So, all the meat products you see here are plant-based. Most of them are manufactured by the “beyond meat” company (and pretty darn tasty if i may add). The alternative noodles are made from peas, lentils, or rice. The yellow cubes in the second to last picture are mangoes. Right now i’m budgeting, so i’m not cooking anything complicated or fancy. I just make what i can with what i’ve got on hand.
One day my supervisor approached me at work. She had something in her hand; a folded piece of cloth. She said, “i’m making a housewarming present for you and i just wanted to get your opinion on whether you think this is something you would use before i continue.” When she unfolded it i saw a beautiful embroidered buck, complete with antlers, in front of a patch of trees. I instantly loved it! I couldn’t beleive she had embroidered this animal! I mean, to draw an animal takes skill, but to create it with thread is a whole new thing! She wanted me to measure my window and that would let her know how long to make the top of the curtain where the little rings would be holding it on the rod. She had made me a bathroom curtain so the wildlife wouldn’t be able to see me while i was on the pot or in the shower. A week later she returned with the finished product, the top of the curtain crocheted from soft cream colored yarn and tiny plastic rings stitched in place to hang it from the curtain rod. As the house began to come together, i noticed a piece of my family and friends in each part. My supervisor provided the bathroom curtain. My mother provided the heater. My grandmother provided the rocking chair, and my sister would be making the curtains for the living room. There was a piece of all these people in my life in the various parts of my property. I didn’t know it at the time, but this trend would continue as more people came forth to contribute what they had to give, whether it be their time and labor, something they’d created with their hands, or something they’d bought because they knew the property needed it. My land became like a jigsaw puzzle on the dining room table at a family reunion. Each person that walked by put a new piece where it went.
I guess most people who are trying to homestead don’t have a day job that has nothing to do with homesteading. A lot of my projects happen in a very gradual manner because i only have time to work on them in the evenings or on the weekends when i’m not scheduled to work. I love my little slice of wilderness, but, as i am not infinitely wealthy, i need my day job in healthcare to pay for it. For my bigger projects, i would ask for a day off a month in advance and use my accrued pto to cover it. So, when someone decided to cancel on me or the weather didn’t cooperate, i had to wait another month before i could have a day off to reschedule. On the day we were supposed to work on the skirting I think the high was something like 34 degrees farenheit and the low was 29. The forecast predicted rain. The handyman called me and asked me if i wanted to reschedule. I told him that if the roads were dry and he could make it, i was still down to work on it that day. I say this because the handyman i hired wasn’t the type to work for you…it was more of a partnership. You had to clear your schedule because you were going to be doing half the work. You would also be providing half the tools. To be clear, it had not started raining where i was when the handyman called that morning. Apprently it had been raining in his town all night and there was ice on the roads where he was. This detail, he did not share with me. If he had, i would have called it off and told him to stay home. About 5 minutes after he arrived, with a surprising amount of ice on his vehicle, it began to rain. The rain came in the form of little balls of ice. The ones that landed in the plants and on the tree stumps stuck but the ones that landed on the ground melted. It was right around freezing. Sometimes over, sometimes under. The main discomfort was the wind. It numbed ones fingers and made one’s toes burn through the boots. I couldn’t tell if my nose was running or just frozen. I had ice bits in my hair. Before long my coat and pants became soggy from the dampness of the melting ice rain. I didn’t care. I was there to do a job. I’d taken a whole day off work to do it, and i was going to get it done. When i’m determined i have a one track mind and i’m like a creature obsessed until the job is done. My handyman did not share my enthusiasm. He took his time, and a fair amount of rest breaks. He kept saying, “okay, let’s rest now. Okay, no more for today.” I was so frustrated with peoples’ speed and pace at which they wanted to do things. I had a limited amount of free time. Every moment had to be spent doing something productive if my projects were to survive and get off the ground. I didn’t have time for resting or coming back another day. I wanted to finish the skirting on the house. Part of the problem was that my handyman had only brought a manual tool to cut through the tin, which took a long time and a lot of effort. A power tool would have used less of his energy and been quicker, but he didn’t have one. I kept us moving at as brisk a pace as i could manage. He kept asking, “you cold? You want to go inside?” I knew he would be coming with me and the work would be finished for the day if i answered yes so my answer was always, “no, i’m fine.” We spent the entire day in the freezing rain. All i could think about was how much warmer this was going to make the house now that the wind couldn’t whip underneath the house, chilling the floor boards to an icy temperature. When we secured the last piece in place the handyman stood up and shook my hand. He said, “we did it.” Without going over my checklist, i assumed we were done. He began packing his things up. I paid him. He warmed himself in the house for a little bit by the space heater and then set out down the road. I returned to the tiny house only to see the bag of airflow vents lying on the stovetop. I was not calling him back. I didn’t think he’d even come. He was so glad to be done with the winter weather for the day. I was so tired of half finished jobs. This was not going to be one of them. I called my coworker who lived down the road. I asked her if her husband had a tool that could cut through tin. He had the manual tool that could cut through tin. It was rusted by the salt water from being left in the bed of his truck when they went fishing at the coast, but if i wanted to borrow it i was welcome to. I met her at the corner and she handed me the tool through the car window. I headed back to the property and set to work finishing the skirting on my house. I used a drill bit to make a hole in the tin where i wanted to put the vent. Then i wedged the tin-cutting scissors in that hole and cut out a rectangular piece. I laid the vent over the hole i had created and switched the drill bit to a tiny one. I made the itty bittiest of holes for each screw to sit in. Then i switched to a screw driver bit and drove them into the tin, securing the vent in place. I sat back in the frozen mud and admired my handiwork. I had done it. There was a vent. The rain would not cause mold to build up underneath the house and render the structure worthless. I would create airflow to dry it out. I went around to the other side of the house and repeated the steps. I broke two drill bits but luckily, i had multiple sets from previous years’ projects. Which was good, because there was no hardware store where i lived. When vents were installed on both sides of the house i called my coworker to return the tool. She told me just to give it to her at work the next day. I set it on the floorboard of my car and went inside. I put a pasta pot on the stove and began boiling water for a bath. I was cold and all my muscles hurt but i had finished the job. The house was skirted.
When i moved in i noticed a hole under the house. There were mosquitos flying around the entrance in droves so i didn’t venture too far into the hole. Instead, i gummed it up by wedging rocks in it and pouring dirt on top of those rocks with a shovel. The next day, the rocks were strewn around the yard and the hole was dug out again. Obviously, whatever dug the hole was still living in it. I was hoping it was vacant. You see, i was planning to put skirting around the bottom of the tiny house and the opening of this animal den happened to be directly under said house. I wasn’t looking to have a critter permanently trapped under the floor. I tried to research what kind of animal could have dug such a hole but there was no way to narrow it down. According to the internet, some animals inhabit abandoned dens dug by others. So, even if i figured out what made the hole, there was no guaranteeing it’d be what was in it now. I heard noises at night underneath the window on that side of the house. I was sure that whatever it be, it was nocturnal. So, i figured i’d wait for the noise and then rush out in the yard with a flashlight and witness what it was. A good plan but an idiotic one too. Whatever critter it was; me pulling on shoes and running around the side of the house gave it plenty of time to duck back in its den. So i tried a stake out. I parked the car where i could see the den and then sat very still and quiet inside the parked car for hours at a time waiting for the critter to emerge. Nothing. I was beginning to think the critter had gotten spooked and gone to find a new den. I forgot about the critter for a few days. Then, one morning i got in the car, flicked on the headlights, and the biggest possum i’d ever seen crawled under the house and into the hole. I sat in awe of what just happened. I had identified the critter! It was a possum! I went to work full of optimism about my ability to handle the situation. Possums were actually beneficial creatures to have on the homestead. I didn’t want to get rid of the possum, just keep it out from under the house while putting on the skirting. I had a plan. I’d go to the tractor supply store, get a trapping cage, stick a can of cat food in there, catch the possum, hold it in the cage for a day, put the skirting on the side of the house, and release the possum. It was a good plan, in theory. I didn’t account for the possum being smart. I set the trap out in front of the hole, under the house. All it did was attract flies and make a bunch of maggots. The possum did not get in. Then i had a thought. What if the trap smells like me and the cashier who handled it? Of course he’s not going to get in. So i rubbed the whole thing down with tuna juice and dirt. I set it to the side of the hole, then in front of the top of the hole on the outside, facing the house. Each time, only the flies were interested. I tried a different brand of cat food. Nothing. Then one morning as i was getting into the car to drive to work, something walked past me in the dark. It was the possum. It casually sauntered by me and walked off into the darkness. I couldn’t believe it. This possum was smart. Smart enough to deserve a proper name. So i called it Max. Max the possum disappeared into the night. For another whole week i set the trap every day before dusk and found it empty every morning. On the final day before the handyman was scheduled to help me with the skirting, i set the trap one more time. This time i put a packet of real tuna in a bowl in the back of the cage. Maybe Max would like that better than the cat food. I got up the next morning before dawn to check the trap and see if there was anything in it. The trap was sprung but the food was inside and it was otherwise empty. I was bent down examining the trigger mechanism and trying to figure out how the animal had done it. When i stood up i turned to see two little eyes watching me in the darkness. It was Max, sitting on top of the mulch pile. He seemed rather pleased with himself. I had to laugh. I’d been outsmarted by a possum, several times now if we were counting. I said in the darkness, “Okay Max, you win. You win.”
I realized pretty early on that i was going to need a second shed, located not far from the first one (a shed remodeled into a tiny house) to keep the rest of my stuff in. Clothes, dishes, cookware, quilting supplies, knitting, extra chairs…these were all things that i wanted to hang onto that didn’t necessarily need to be in the main cabin on a daily basis. I stopped at one of those road side lots displaying sheds with windows and porches. They showed me the model i was interested in, made me a good price, offered a payment plan, and i put down a $100 deposit. There was something that didn’t sit right with me about it though. The guy didn’t have an office. He used his buddy’s 3 in 1 printer to make a copy of my driver’s license in a uhaul office. Between him, his buddy, and his buddy’s wife, they couldn’t find a highlighter. Nothing about this transaction screamed professional. Everything about it screamed “danger will robinson, danger!” I started asking lots of questions. For instance, there were models on the lot that had holes cut out of the sides or bags of trash in them. Some of the models were missing doors or looked very used. Why were they like that? The guy assured me i had nothing to worry about. Once i got back in the car i googled the company he supposedly worked for. It turned out the models looked lived in because they were. The company was in a different state and contracted all these random people to sell their sheds for them all over the USA. There was no office, no help desk, and nowhere to file your complaints. The sheds did not arrive as advertised. They were not water proof and some of them didn’t have the windows or shelving they were supposed to come with. Many of the shed porches didn’t have the railings or the sheds didn’t have porches when they were supposed to. One shed came unpainted. Another shed’s paint flaked off within a week and the plywood rotted in the rain. These people were all on payment plans for their sheds. So, when the company made no offer or attempt to repair the sheds, the people stopped making the payments on them, and they were repossessed. The same man that would have sold the shed to them would have a crew load it back onto a truck and dump it in the very lot where he had ensnared the people in his scam to begin with. So, the sheds i had seen with the cut outs in the side like they had once been glued to another structure or the bags of trash locked inside…this was a graveyard of sorts for repossessed sheds purchased by poor duped suckers like i was about to be. I called the man from the car and said i’d read some reviews and changed my mind. I told him i knew he’d be keeping my 100 dollar deposit but i wanted to cancel my order immediately. The man said that the reviews were true, but that he was different from the company and he’d been doing all the repairs himself for his customers and he took care of his own. I said that was fine but i still wanted to cancel my order. He said, well, don’t worry about the 100 dollars. I will give you your 100 dollars back. I figured this was just a ploy to get me to think he was a nice guy so i’d reconsider and want the shed. I was right. He did cancel my order and i never saw my 100 dollars. I was very shaken by the 300+ reviews i continued to read in the car at the HEB parking lot. One horror story after another. All these people were trapped paying on this giant rotting, defective eye sore in their yard that they couldn’t store anything in and they couldn’t stop paying on it if they wanted to maintain their credit. I wanted something legit. I went to home depot, dropped $2000 more than planned, and bought a custom tuff shed. They forgot the window in the door and the vent for airflow, so the crew had to come back 2 times (free of charge) to put those in. However, they built me a really sturdy, water proof, well made shed. It was another one of those “you get what you pay for” moments for me. I tried to save a buck and it almost back-fired big time. Sometimes there’s something to be said for going with the mainstream option. I ended up paying it off in 6 months, before the interest kicked in. So, that un-air-conditioned shed is the only thing on the property that i own outright. Hopefully as time passes more things will join it.