I’ve been doing a lot of hard thinking recently. Many things have coincided at inconvenient times and i’ve been forced to sort through them all at once. It started with me opening the door to the idea of bringing someone to visit my land. He was kind and gentle natured and seemed interested in my way of life and so a thought emerged that maybe i would let another human step foot into my private utopia away from humans just for a visit maybe once in the future. Of course this would be far into the future but it was a thought that emerged. I let it lie there. I didnt even let my close friends step foot on the land as it was my private space away from humans and i preferred the company of animals and trees, so it was a strange thought and i assumed there was a chance it would pass. At this same time i was working on a family tree. I was beyond frustrated because there was just no information to be had on one branch of the tree. After two generations there was nothing. I wondered how a whole branch of family could cease to exist and it scared me. Was i going to be forgotten entirely once i was dead? I felt a need to know about these people that had once existed, even though most of them were strangers to me, so that they would still exist in someone’s mind or in photographs or immigration records. The notion that these characters i couldn’t find had just poofed into the ether seemed very final and punishing. Who would remember them? Who would remember my sister and i when we were gone? Who would know anything about us? I wanted to know about them. I stayed up all hours of the night researching and following leads, trying to sort through what applied to me and what didnt, who was my relative and who was someone else’s with the same name. It was an endless rabbit hole. One piece of information led to another and i’d be up until sunrise easily if i never left the computer and went to bed at a certain point. I stared at the faces of these people and wondered if i had inherited any of their features. I wondered who they were and what they were like. Who was a tomboy? Who was ladylike? Who was hard working? Who was a funny guy? I wondered what the birth certificates and death records couldn’t tell me. Who were they? I was envious of families with passed down stories or better records of the past. I tried to fit the puzzle pieces together and drink up what was there.
Those that had photographs seemed very virtuous and very serious. I knew that during their age it took a long time to take a photograph and so you had to sit very still and hold a pose for an extended time period. Due to this fact people rarely smiled because their mouth would end up blurred as the smile faded over time. I wondered if they were serious people or just looked serious due to the photograph. I wondered what they looked like when they were smiling. I went through all the records and made profiles for all of their children. Some people had two children. Some people had none. Some people had twelve. I wondered how those with large families fed all those children. I studied their clothes, their jewelry, the old buttons, the hair… they were mysterious and beautiful strangers i wished to know about. With each marriage record i added a new family name to the tree and included their branch. Each branch was drastically different. There were a lot of people listed as grocers on census documents for generations and generations back. I smiled as i realized my first as well as my most recent jobs had involved groceries. Groceries seemed to be a running theme in this family. Each time i added a new family to the tree i felt that their existence was retrieved. I wanted to retrieve all the people that had ever been connected to the family in any way and remember them. I knew on some level this was an impossible task and i would drive myself insane but once i’ve set my mind to something its best to just let it run its course.
I was a very busy bee. I was writing a couple books. I was blogging. I was working on this family tree. i was doing several projects around the homestead. I was going to Friday Group, trying my hand at this thing called socialization. In the middle of this someone who had been paying me attention began to ask questions about my life like who i was, why i worked so hard, and how old i was. I answered each question truthfully without thought but i knew i had no intention of changing my operation in life for another human. I am where i want to be doing what i want to do. Still, the kindness was not unappreciated. I began to entertain the idea that companionship might not be all bad. That bubble was promptly busted when our mutual friend began auditioning me for a role i had not applied for. He began auditioning me for the role of a wife. How old was i? Could i cook? What kinds of things did i cook? Would people consider me a good cook? Did i keep a good house? Did i want to be married? Am i in the market for a husband? I said no. I said that i was too stubborn for a husband. This seemed to be an incorrect answer because he just asked the question repeatedly as if i’d answer differently a second or third time. I resented this interrogation, like i had to prove my worth in the middle of my work run. I did not ask to be anyone’s wife and did not understand why he felt the need to conduct such an audition. It turned out he was going to make sure that i wouldn’t be a bad decision for his friend. Once he realized i was 33 he spent the next 4 hours of our shift stating loudly and repeatedly, “i can’t believe you’re 33! That’s crazy old! I seriously thought you were 17!” He said, “i’m gonna tell everyone you’re 33!” He then felt the urge to tell me that if i still needed a husband in 50 years he’d marry me. I was not the type of person that would view this as a favor. I was not desperate for a husband and was not the type to change my whole operation in life for anything less than a puzzle piece perfect fit. I wondered why he expected me to view this as a favor. I felt this kind of “settling” was infuriating and wanted no part of it. I was insulted and mad and getting rather annoyed that he kept announcing my age to all the customers who didnt understand why it was important for them to know i was 33. I thought of the family tree and all the spouses and children listed there and suddenly it didnt seem so important for me to contribute to it in any way. I had looked at all the black and white images of mothers holding their children still for the camera and posing in front of a house or around a chair and lamented that my infertility would keep me from ever contributing to the tree in such a way as they had. I would never be responsible for adding a new name under mine. Now i had a completely different feeling; one of relief. All that marriage business was likely fine for them. We probably dont share much in common; those beautiful black and white faces and i. I think such a thing would pose a very real threat of suffocating me. I pursed my lips and stared at the man flailing hands and announcing my age for the fourth hour, a man i had considered a friend and up until 4 hours ago respected greatly. Perhaps i would just be the rememberer. I would write down everybody and that would be my contribution. i decided i had been single for 9 years for a reason. He was right. Amongst my population of coworkers, i was old. I only cooked vegan or pescatarian food. I did not keep an especially clean house. I dont wait on partners hand and foot and if you’re grown and i’ve worked all day, i expect you can feed yourself. Im not the best candidate for a wife and what i wont do is apologize for that. I am good at doing what im doing and it feeds my soul and so im not deviating from this purpose. Someone is welcome to coexist alongside me if they also like the wilderness and want to experience the same things im after but im not leaving the outdoors to cook their meals and starch their shirts. If they want to eat, they’ll eat what im having when i cook it or feed themselves. If they want starched shirts, they best learn to iron. For i wait on no one for the sake of being thought of as worthy. No one ever asked me if i was applying for the role i was auditioned for and nobody ever asked me what i was looking for in a husband. Nobody asked me what qualities in a companion were important to me, because that detail was not important to either the kind man or our ridiculous mutual friend. It is not thought of. The woman should be thankful that the man wants her and that is the end of the story. What rubbish. What pure and utter rubbish. I will leave marriage to others. The pursuit of such things is not for me.
I bought a number of fruit trees, an avocado tree, and a pecan tree in the spring of 2020. It was a way for me to address my frustration with the fact that i couldnt get any food from the grocery store. I was at work when they opened the doors every morning and so the store was cleaned out by the time i was shopping. To bring supplemental protein to my diet i began catching and eating grasshoppers and cicadas and digging up wild onions all over the property. They were tiny but id you found enough of them you could peel them, chop them in half, throw them in the skillet, and it was just like having real sautéed onions. I kept the green stems as well and chopped them up. It added to the onion flavor and was a bright bit of green in the dish. I would collect dandelion leaves to make salad and just generally ate any bug or edible greenery that i could find that i didn’t think spent its whole day crawling through animal feces. I kept the crickets and pill bugs for the chickens, determined that i was not yet desperate enough to eat greasy or poo covered bugs, but i became quite addicted to cicadas and even devised a pretty effective system for catching them. But, i’ve gotten very far off topic here. The trees. What became of them. Well, the avocado tree flowered beautifully in the shed like i’d never seen a tree flower before during the dead of winter and then died a very severe and thorough death in icepocalypse when i didnt have any heat to keep the tropical plant above freezing. The satsuma mandarin tree gave me a number of juicy sweet mandarins ranging somewhere in the teens that were so exquisite, and died thoroughly in icepocalypse. My lemon tree that had been with me for years also died a severe and thorough death during icepocalypse. It was during this time that i realized i needed local plants that would do well to survive winter, not tropical or citrus plants. The mulberry and pear trees rooted well and survived. My pomegranate and fig trees died and came back from the roots after icepocalypse as baby trees. My loquat tree died and my grandmother sprouted me a baby one which i have left alone and let the rain alone water it and it is surviving much better without my interference. My little apple tree from a sprouted seed continues to come back each year even though only an inch and a half tall. Everything was planted in the ground except this pecan tree which came in a 2 foot pot. I knew i would have to dig a hole that was at the very least two feet to accommodate its root system. I had never dug a hole 2 feet into the limestone rock. The deepest i had gone down was maybe a foot and a half. I knew the closer to the surface the more splintered the rock would be. As i went deeper i would hit harder packed less splintered limestone that was solid and harder to chip with a well placed blow from my metal stick. I wasn’t looking forward to digging a 2 foot hole and couldn’t imagine myself doing it after i contracted covid and was left with chronic fatigue, tachycardia, and arthritis in every joint. So i put the task of planting the pecan tree off. It lived in the house for 2 winters and on the porch for two summers. Each year it came back in the spring despite the fact that i had made a very root bound tree live in a pot that was never meant to be a longterm arrangement. So when my spring semester ended i knew the first thing i would need to take care of on my day off was planting this very patient pecan tree who had waited a long time for its day to be released from its plastic prison. I meant to wake up at dawn but it didnt happen. It was 80 degrees and partly cloudy when i started the project and 90 degrees and sunny when i finished. I kept taking breaks to get another cup of ice water and then i would set the cup of ice water on top of a big jar in the grass to keep the ants out of it and take a sip every so often. I put a shirt over my head and then a ball cap over that to keep the sun off my neck and face. I set out to dig this hole knowing full well i could not do it the way i would have two years ago, before covid had hardened my heart muscle so that it no longer contracted as thoroughly with each pump, leaving me prone to tachycardia when my muscles demanded more oxygen and my heart had to work faster to pump the amount of blood required to supply the demand during activity. I knew the chronic fatigue would leave me ready to quit long before the job was done. I decided the way to do this job was one foot in front of the other and i would just have to make up my mind that there was no quit and when i thought i couldn’t do it or i was done for i would just have to rest and get back to it and with this strategy, even if it took me 100 hours, surely at some point the job would be done. It would have to be, if i never quit. So i set about the task. First i put a battery in the lawn mower and mowed a trail from the current path in the orchard to where i wanted to place the pecan tree. Then i mowed a circle around the area i planned to dig. Once i had put the mower back in the shed i began the task of digging. I wore myself out pretty fast with the chronic fatigue. After 6 blows my legs were shaking, i felt like i was going to pee myself with every lift of the metal stick, and i hadn’t the energy to hold on to the stick properly when it made contact with rock. This meant my hands slipped upon impact and very quickly i began to make blisters on my right hand. About twelve blows in i heard an audible pop and looked down and saw that the upper part of my right palm had a big oval of skin that had separated from the deeper layers and filled with water. It was a painful pillow of wrinkly lighter colored skin just sitting atop the rest and i could smoosh the liquid around inside the blister. I knew this would not do. I was barely even started with the project. I would need some protection for this blistered palm were i to continue using it. So i went into the house and fetched some medical tape. I wrapped my hand, got another drink of ice water, placed my cup on the jar in the grass, and returned to the task.
I was so ready to be done with this task for hours, but i had promised this tree that today was the day it would get planted. I tried to focus on the music playing on my phone. I spent the time communicating my frustration in spanish, german, and russian…not a bad idea. It was an opportunity to work on the languages i had tried to learn. I told the rocks they were bad and to get out of the hole and i repeatedly said “please” in various languages as if that would make all the difference in the progress had. The tachycardia slowed me down substantially because i was no longer a person who could just “push through”. I had to pace myself and take rest breaks regularly. Things were going fairly well considering until i hit that depth where the rock won’t chip or splinter easily and is solid. I jammed the metal stick in the hole and was greeted with a “clang” each time but no rock chips. I realized i had to put more elbow grease into it and lift the stick from a higher height to crash down in the hole if i was to make any sort of chip in this solid rock. However, each time i did so i created new blisters on the fingers of my right hand and increased my heart rate. The physical task of chipping this solid rock would be too much for me in the condition i was in. I felt lucky to be in the condition i was in. Colleagues and patients died. I lived. I was not complaining. But i knew this project was now beyond my capabilities and i wasn’t sure how to remedy that. I had made up my mind at the start that no matter what i wouldn’t quit and this was going to be how the project got finished. So i could not quit. So i stood above the hole, going round in a circle, the depth around 1.5 feet at this point, exhausting myself fruitlessly, lifting this stick and bringing it down each time only to hear “clang” and see no rocks chip. I did this for a bit until i became frustrated and started yelling at the heavens in german. I had promised this tree. If it killed me i would put this very patient pecan tree in the ground and i would do that today and i would do that myself. I uttered one “**** you covid.” And decided to push the limits of the tachycardia. It was the only way. This project needed more umph. The rock would never chip at this depth without it. So i began ignoring my heart rate and yelling “come on!” At the rock in the bottom of my hole, giving everything i had with each raise of the metal stick. The rock began to chip. The pieces were shallow and the going was slow but with a bit of angling the stick diagonally i was able to chip off large widths of flat rock pieces at a time. I yelled in german, russian, or spanish in turn with each victory, “yes, very good!” I was multitasking. Dig a hole, plant a tree, do physical therapy conditioning, secure a future food source, learn languages, get the daily dose of vitamin d… i guess i should stop and mention that due to two fires beftween san angelo and fort worth the air quality was poor. The wind had carried the smoke in our direction and it was a bit hazy out. But, the fires were far enough away not to pose a threat so life had to go on at the homestead. At some point i was so exhausted i knew i could not remain standing for very much longer. I was now making one inch chips in the rock and flaking off tiny pieces. The time of my large flat victories was long over and i was settling for crumbs. When i looked in the hole i thought, “for sure that is not deep enough. Then i tried to step one foot in it and could not readily touch the bottom without falling in. I thought, “maybe it is deeper than i think it is.” I decided to fetch the tree to see how much further i would need to dig. I would put the tree in the hole and them gage from there how much deeper i needed to make it. I went to get the tree from the porch and then realized to my dismay that i had used all my energy and couldnt lift it. I dragged the pecan tree across the property for hundreds of feet until i got it where i needed it to be and then lowered it into the hole. It fit! It fit!!!! It fit it fit it fit!!! I began screaming “good!” And then “thank you” in russian while i put my hands on my head and then rang them out in excitement. It fit! I wouldn’t have to dig anymore!
I tried to get the tree out of the pot but it was so root bound i had to cut it out with scissors. I tried carefully not to cut the roots but i accidentally got one. Just one.
I lowered the tree into the hole. The tree had always been crooked…leaning heavily to one side. Now was my chance to fix that if i so chose. I thought that maybe it would appreciate this when it was older and had to hold up heavy limbs. So i angled the part that had been in the pot and poured dirt in this one side of the hole first, causing the tree to stand upright towards the sky. Then i filled in the rest of the hole with the dirt.
As i was filling the hole i was just thinking of all the things i needed to do to finish the project. One step, then another. It was hot and sunny. I hadn’t applied sunscreen. I had been outside for hours. I needed to wrap this up. I filled in the hole completely and stood back in a moment of joy. This was happening. The patient tree was being planted. The hole had been dug. I did it. Thank you lord. спасибо. danke schön. muchas gracias.
One the hole was filled in i stopped and filled a pitcher with well water and carried it to the tree so it could drink, hoping to prevent shock and minimize trauma. Planting is stressful for trees. Any change of conditions or environment is stressful to trees. Being dragged and jostled for hundreds of feet and them turned on its side while cut out of its pot is also traumatic. I went into the house, opened my toolbox, and got the tool i used to cut metal fencing. i went to the roll of metal fencing i had lying in the yard. It had been there so long the grass had grown up through it and was holding it in place. I broke it free with several good tugs to each side and then unrolled it. I measured and cut a piece to surround the tree. Then i dragged it over to the corner of the land where i had planted the pecan tree. I put it around the tree and used the tool to twist the fencing shut where the seams came together. I had devised a system long ago involving rebar to keep the wind from lifting the tree fencing. I threaded the rebar sticks through the fencing and then hammered them into the ground to keep the circular fencing cage in place during high winds. This worked and was a fairly inexpensive solution. I knew i had rebar somewhere, left over from the days when i had incoming cashflow that surpassed my outgoing and could buy things like wood and rebar. I figured it would be where i keep everything im not using at the moment, on the floorboards of the car. I was right. Wrapped in an old tank top were several pieces of rebar on the floorboard of the back seat. I carried them along with my hammer to the site where i’d planted the pecan tree. I threaded each bar through the fencing and hammered it into the ground. I used the last two pieces of rebar in the fencing around the rosemary, something that had also needed done. Then i stood back and took in the scene. It was done. The task was completed. In its entirety. The pecan tree was planted and part of the orchard now. I had placed it at the corner of the property so as not to disturb the soil of the fruit trees. It was a bit orchard adjacent, but, i would visit it daily so it would not be lonely. I was proud of the fact that several trucks that had left in the morning while i was just beginning to dig the hole had returned home in the opposite direction right as i was finishing up the fencing. So, they got to see what the hole was for all in one day. When my neighbors plant crops i get to see what it is that they planted when it comes up. When the equipment is out in the field i get to see the baled harvest later. When fences are redone i get to see what livestock it was for shortly. You get to see what your neighbors are doing without ever having to chat. I like it. Its like good tv.
After all this the temperature was 90 and the air quality wasnt great. I decided the dogs would be better off having a day in the house with me. So i took them inside. I got them water and poured myself a cup of ice water. We all laid on the cool floor and i shared my frozen watermelon with them. I had a bowl of it and i dropped a piece in each of their bowls while they laid on either side of me. We chilled in front of the a/c unit with our ice water and frozen watermelon for a while. They did not mind joining me in the rest. They had been outside all morning and were exhausted from panting in the shade under the trees and drinking nearly all the water i had put out. They were happy to be indoors. We all took a nap on the floor in front of the refrigerator. By the grace of God the scorpions stayed hidden. I was too tired to care.
This spring was very hot and dry. We had a lot of fires and very little rain. Because of this the old saying “April showers bring May flowers” didnt really apply. It was more like “May showers bring the flowers”. So the wildflowers bloomed a little later than usual. However, when they did bloom, i noticed they were not the familiar flowers i remembered. The regulars came up about a week later but the first on scene were flowers i had never seen on the property before. At first i studied the specimens with great interest, wondering how unobservant i would have to be to miss these beauties growing in the grass. I really felt like i had dropped the ball in the observing nature arena. However, when i thought about it, i knew for certain those little things that look like maroon snap dragons had not existed on my land in prior years. I would have noticed those! Something like that was right up my alley and definitely my new favorite. I got to thinking and then a thought crept onto scene. What if, the new flowers were a result of icepocalypse in Texas? It was 4 degrees here. It was in the negative temperatures (below zero) up north. The robins, overwhelmed by the icy and bitter cold conditions, flew further south than usual and i had to call my great uncle (made a career producing footage and audio recordings of birds all over the world) to figure out what kind of fat little birds were convening in my yard at a number of forty or fifty and crapping red berry and seed laden poop everywhere. I wondered if the robins had somehow ingested wildflower seeds from somewhere else and deposited them on my land in their memorable pinkish red poop. It looked like a war zone after they left. There was just red everywhere, all over the yard near the house and laundry line. These new flowers were mostly located near the house and the laundry line. I was going to mow the grass but decided to let it grow in the interest of allowing these transplant flowers to seed. They’re so beautiful! I’d like to see them every year.
I arrived home one day to find this cloud formation sitting directly on top of my property. There were no other clouds, just this rather impressive blob sitting atop my house dropping sheets of rain on the yard. Because it was near sundown the thing soon caught all sorts of pink and orange light which it reflected all over the yard. I found this to be quite beautiful but i was mostly fascinated with the loose consistency of the fluff. The clouds seemed to bleed into the ground; just pull apart like cotton candy and tumble. They let go of these curtains of rain that would drape over the yard and obscure the view as if they were drawn over a window. I tried desperately to capture the beauty of the thing but i couldn’t fit any of it in the frame. It was directly on top of us and so all i could capture were textured snippets of fluff illuminated by the setting sun.
At 3:46 am i was feeling pretty proud of myself for being 14 minutes ahead of schedule to open the store after only 45 minutes of sleep. I figured i would definitely turn off all the alarms and botch my morning waking up moments before i was supposed to be there but here we were at 3:46 am with all the chickens fed and watered, the dogs pottied and in their crates, and i was headed to the car with all of my things in hand, and an umbrella. I bid the dogs farewell, grabbed up all my stuff, and closed the door behind me. I stood on the porch and searched for the familiar shape of the key fob….the key fob…….i tried again, unsure why my fingers hadn’t already closed around it…..the key fob….. at this point a thought popped into my head. “Had i actually grabbed the keys?” Was there any moment where i could remember reaching up and pulling them off the hook? I didn’t think so…. i stood there on the porch for a moment as the reality of this possible narrative set in. A thought echoed in my brain, “What did you do?” I guess its important to explain a few things for context here. The sellers put the door knob on backwards, so you turn it the opposite of all other doors in the world to lock and the opposite of all other doors in the world to unlock. Well this was hard to remember at first but once i got it my brain just switched what i knew to be true for opposite information, so now it was affecting my ability to lock and unlock all other doors outside of my property…at work, at friends’ houses. What i thought would lock the door would actually leave it unlocked and vice versa. So my solution was to revert back to my original understanding of lock orientation and as for my house situation, i locked the door with the little button in the middle of the knob and i unlocked the door by giving no thought whatsoever to direction of key turn and just jiggling it this way and that until one side had give and turning in that direction. Problem solved. I would like all those already raising flags about how quickly this operation is going to go south to note that i lived here 3 years before this became a problem. I am usually very careful to check that i have the keys in hand before i head out, but this particular morning i had the umbrella with me, because it was raining. My brain mistook the feeling of the umbrella loop in my hand as confirmation that i had the clip the keys were on, and out the door i went. I took the lantern and put it directly on the operation at hand: operation find out where keys actually are. As i suspected, they were likely hanging on the hook in the house. They were not with me, in my lunch box, in my purse, or hanging on the chicken pen or dog run fence as i sometimes accidentally left them there during evening chores. They were definitely not out here so they had to be in there. I was thankful the curtains were drawn. It would have added insult to injury if i locked myself out of the house and could then see the keys through the window.
I stood on the porch at 3:50 am in the dark in the rain and i made an assessment. I was no longer 14 minutes ahead of schedule. My brain began working out the options. Maybe the door wasn’t really locked? Scratch that, it was. Maybe the car wasn’t really locked? Scratch that too, it was. My trunk icon on the keyfob was broken so that if you pushed the button to unlock the doors the trunk was still locked. I thought somehow that maybe today was opposite day and it wouldn’t have locked when i pushed the lock button. Nope, the trunk was locked. The trunk, the car, the sheds, and the house were all locked up tight. I thought…maybe the well house? That was locked too. So, the structures accessible to me at this moment were the house porch, the shed porch, and the chicken coop. Assessing the situation, i made a mental list about the pros and cons of each location and filed that away to revisit when it was time to do that. At the moment i had two things to do: 1. Notify work of the predicament…they would need to know that i wouldn’t be arriving as scheduled 2. Figure out some way to get the dogs out of the house before 5 pm. They would need water and bathroom breaks eventually, but for now the a/c was on, the window unit was working, they were fine, and we had some hours to work with. I noticed pretty quickly that the lantern was much better at attracting insects than the porch light. I was going about this all wrong trying to collect junebugs with the porch light. I made a mental note that from now on i should try it with the lantern. There were thousands and thousands of insects attracted to my only light source in the dark, the lantern. They were in my hair, on my face, crawling on my clothes, writhing across the porch in this weird carpet of beetles, moths, and caterpillars. The real surprise was how attracted to the light the caterpillars were. I had to continuously kill them because they were just finding the tomato plant and helping themselves. I put the lantern on one edge of the porch and moved myself and my things to the other side to get some relief from the insects. I stood on the porch and googled locksmiths for an hour. Nobody serviced my zip code, as it was not considered a city. It was a small town in the middle of nowhere and no locksmith serviced the area. So i turned to the tactic of trying to pay someone in a neighboring city a lot of money to come out…well the nearest city was still not a huge city and nobody there worked on weekends. San Antonio and Boerne had 24/7 locksmith services but they stated i was too far from their jurisdiction for them to come. So i turned to two companies, one in Kerrville and one in Boerne where the reviews stated that they had called on a weekend and the dude called back and came out even though it says he works monday through friday. I left messages pleading my case and promising to pay gas money and tip well and really make it worth their while financially if they would come out and open my house door. I promised chicken eggs as well if they wanted fresh eggs. You never know out here who has their own chickens. Some people love the eggs, some people have their own. Anyways, again, it was 4 in the morning. These two professionals were probably asleep and did not call back yet. So i stood on the porch surrounded by pitch darkness covered in bugs with nothing to do but wait for time to pass. Sun up was a good 2.5 hours away at least. It would be a long night. It was about this time that i noticed some toads and an armadillo poking around the porch, looking for bugs. The rain picked up and the coyotes began howling. I decided for multiple reasons, and i will detail them shortly, that my best option for riding out the rest of the weather and darkness may be in the chicken pen. But i have to pause here because my thoughts were interrupted by a series of epiphanies. First, i realized that i had made a key ring of spare keys when i left the state for a family occasion and had to get someone to watch the property for me. Where was it? Well, i would have put it somewhere not in the house, and the only place i could think of that was not in the house where i would store something was the car. I seemed to have a memory of dropping them in the center console of the car. Of course, i was looking for a residential locksmith when i should be looking for a mobile auto locksmith to let me in the car so i could use the spare keys to let myself into the house. I did this for about twenty minutes with similar luck to my first google search when i had another epiphany. I had dropped the keys in the center console…in order to drive them to my friend Cindy’s house. At this point i vaguely had a memory of handing the keys to Cindy and asking her to hold onto them in case of emergencies. It seemed like this was just such an emergency one might need her to have those for. New plan! Better plan! Oh hallelujah! Cindy would be much easier to convince to come to the property than a locksmith on a Saturday in the country. I just had to wait for her to wake up. We had been at Friday group together the night before and i knew she stayed way later than i did because i had to work the following morning and then a bunch of them had planned to go to someone else’s afterwards and i knew she was amongst the people that said they’d be down to go, so, it was likely that she would sleep in this morning after a late night with friends and no job to go to on a Saturday. It would be a while. I texted her a short message about my predicament and asked if she knew where the keys on the black wrist band scrunchy thing were and if she did could she bring them here. Then i returned to what to do in this moment about my current predicament, not the one that i’d be facing once the sun came up. I had my phone charger in my purse and so i had gone with the umbrella to the side of the house to plug the phone into the outlet on the side of the house under the umbrella to charge the battery so i could google and text. However, now i was hearing the coyotes louder in the dark and the rain and wind were picking up. I felt exposed and vulnerable in my night blindness and i wanted to be somewhere a bit more defensible. I had no real weapon with me…just a home depot bucket, a lantern, a purse, a lunchbox, and an umbrella. I could hear the dogs inside whimpering and whining because they could hear me and they wanted to be where i was and didnt know why, if i wasnt going to work, i wouldnt come back in and let them out of the crates. I felt a bit lonely being cut off from them and i decided that a familiar face right now wouldn’t be the worst thing. I probably needed to go hang out with the chickens. They would be a comfort in the darkness, something i recognized in this wholly new situation i’d created for myself. Their chicken pen had a roof. I could get out of the rain. More importantly, the wall panels of the pen were solid metal with welded metal bars. Whatever i put in there would be safe from raccoons and coyotes. So i gathered all my stuff and placed it on top of the chicken coop roof under an angled umbrella to keep the rain from coming in sideways onto it. I took the bucket from the porch that i had been using to collect rain water and turned it upside down to use as a stool in the chicken pen. I used the umbrella and the lantern to make a trek to where i had the rosemary growing in the yard. Without my keys i didn’t have my box cutter. So i just tore some rosemary leaves off with my fingers. I put the wad of rosemary leaves in my bra cup and returned to the chicken pen. I closed myself in the pen and opened the door to the chicken coop. I woke the chickens up and placed a lantern on the ground in their pen. Moths and beetles flocked to it which the chickens stalked and ate. I enjoyed watching them run around the lantern after bugs and i enjoyed not being covered in insects because the chickens took care of them. I sat on the bucket and fished the rosemary leaves from my bra where i took a pinch at a time and rubbed my face, neck, arms, chest, legs, and lower back with broken pulverized rosemary leaves i had been rubbing and squishing and tearing until they smelled fragrant and released their oils. The chicken coop was full of mosquitos and i could hear them buzzing around me the whole time but i didn’t get one single mosquito bite for hours. Mosquitos HATE the smell of rosemary oil. However, for anyone who doesn’t know, the itchy bump that results when you get bit by a mosquito is basically a histamine reaction to mosquito saliva. Directly after getting bit, scratch it open a tad with yoyr fingernail and apply straight white vinegar. Drip it in there with a cotton ball or a paper towel and there will be no itch. The vinegar stops the reaction, but it has to be done immediately after the bite. Two minutes later is too late. Anyways, i left all my stuff under the umbrella on the chicken coop roof in the covered pen. I had my cell phone, my lantern, a bra full of rosemary, and i was sitting on the bucket when the wind got cold and started blowing the rain sideways. I was getting wet and my jacket was in the car. I was really cold. It was then that i had the idea to get in the chicken coop. It was the only place with four walls and a roof that i had access to. It would be dry in there, and i knew from the winters on the homestead that chickens were very good at generating body heat. If i got us all in the coop then they would keep me warm. So i put the bucket in the chicken coop, put the lantern in the middle of the floor in the coop, sat on the bucket, and pulled the larger door closed. The little door was still open. It had to be. The cover was locked in the house. But, the chickens generated enough heat that it was much warmer in the coop, little door open or not.
The chickens ate all the bugs that were attracted to the lantern. Daisy did as well but she was also happy to forfeit the activity when i asked her to sit on my lap and keep me warm. She hunkered down on my knees and i tucked my hands under her wings pretty much in her armpits and it was so hot there i thought they might burn. Daisy kept me warm, the chickens had a grand time chasing bugs. It was warm and dry and i finally had no complaints. For a couple hours we hung out and listened to mice chattering outside in the fields and owls as well as armadillos. We heard the coyotes two more times but at a greater distance. I felt grateful the chickens were so comfortable with my presence and would share their coop with me. I felt grateful to be warm and dry. The only alarming part was the high pitched whine of constant mosquitos which i would only later realize never bit me.
There were two other considerations behind my decision to climb into the chicken coop. 1. I wasn’t sure if the batteries in the lantern would last until sunrise arrived. I wanted to be somewhere enclosed when the light went. 2. I was trying not to use all the battery on my phone so i wouldnt have to charge it again, which i wouldnt need to do if busy petting a chicken.
Dawn eventually came. Cindy did not answer. I decided i would wait until 8 am before trying to figure out the next step of communication, whether that was hitching a ride to her house or texting her again, or walking to Ren’s house in town and seeing if she would drive me over to Cindy’s town. I decided that i would try to take a nap while waiting for Cindy to wake up. I took my things to the shed porch which was larger than the house porch. I placed them on the porch in front of the door and angled the umbrella so it was shielding against the mist that was falling. Then i laid down underneath the umbrella and tried to sleep. I quickly realized this was not a plan as the umbrella had blue and purple polka dots on it which the bees very enthusiastically tried to pollinate, became frustrated, and then went after me.
I checked the weather report and realized we were supposed to get an epic lightening storm that was supposed to last from 11:00 am to 12:30 pm. I needed to start coming up with a plan for where i was going to be by 10 am, to ensure i wasn’t outside at a high elevation (my property) in the middle of a lightening storm. I texted Julie, a neighbor whose family had been one of the oldest founding families of the town, a woman who knew everybody and everything in the area. I told her about my predicament and asked her if any of the nearby neighbors would be willing to let me in around 10 am to get out of the weather for a couple hours. You see the houses are set twenty acres from the road and fence gate a lot so you cant just go knock on the door, you have to call. Julie offered her house but by that time it was past 8 am and i had called Cindy who sleepily answered and agreed to come bring me the spare key. I was beyond thrilled that she had it in her possession, i didnt dream that memory, and i did not in fact after all need a locksmith (who wasnt coming anyway…any of them)! As a last ditch option i had breaking a window or ripping the window unit out (which would probably take the window sill, the window framing, and the glass part of the window after all the screws, plaster, and glue had done their jobs) on the table in order to get the dogs water and access to grass before Monday. Then i would of course need to make a trip to home depot and do some repair work before being able to leave the property to go to work the following day. I left this as the least desirable last-ditch option. I found it ironic that a remodeled shed had a metal door which was actually pretty impenetrable.
Well Cindy drove over to my town to rescue me and when she rolled the window down she looked so dejected that i thought she’d discovered she didnt have the keys after all and had just driven in person to tell me. This wasn’t the case. Cindy had left the keys on her kitchen table and only now realized it and that’s what the long face was about. She kept apologizing profusely but i was absolutely unbothered by this detail. The keys were in fact in a place where we knew where they were and Cindy had access to her kitchen table, so the day was still saved. We were going to have access to the dogs and get them out of there and not have to break the house to do it. I was happy as a clam. I went with her to retrieve the keys this time because i had been peeing in a bucket and then emptying it in the grass with the kind of drip dry policy. There was no toilet paper outside the house or car. I had to pee again and its not as private an act once the sun comes up. Neighbors driving down the access road would have a view so i opted to go with for access to a real bathroom with soap. I should mention i skipped a part here. When i realized Cindy was coming and i might still get to go to work i called the boss and asked if she would like me to come in once the house was unlocked. She said yes that would be helpful. So i washed all the brown/green rosemary oil off my arms and neck, washed the chicken poop off my pants, and washed my hands in the spigot on the side of the well house. My hair was a mess but that would have to be overlooked given the circumstances.
Cindy retrieved the keys and we left for the property a second time. When i got out of that car and unlocked the door to my house it was like angels sang. The key went in like a knife through hot butter and what was squarely off limits to me was suddenly accessible again. I grabbed my keys, gave Cindy the spare keys again, and thanked her profusely! I then tucked my shirt in, put my stuff in my car, and drove to work. They were pretty chaotic there because i had called in but we all kept our nose to the grindstone and righted the ship. I apologized to my coworkers but once they realized the reason i hadn’t made it they were laughing a lot and kept telling me “no worries. After all that i would have called in and not come. Im amazed you’re here and not in the fetal position at home.”
There was a quiet young man at work who was always kind to me and for once our breaks coincided and he asked me how my day was, so i told him the story about my morning and even though he was wearing a mask i could see that he was finding the story humorous because the lines were creasing hard around his eyes so i knew he was grinning. He asked me if the chickens were at least good company. I told him they were. Our interactions are usually very short as we have mere seconds in passing and he does a drive by encouraging word “you can do it” or “i believe in you” or “just do your best” and i say thank you as he’s already 8 feet past me. I wish i could return the favor but my brain doesn’t work at that speed. I have to have time with someone to formulate words and think and conversate. So it was nice to be able to make him smile and give him a laugh after all the times he’s given me a word of encouragement.
My boss was very amused at the idea of me sitting inside the chicken coop with the chickens. Because i had arrived 5 and a half hours late i had to stay 5 and a half hours late. So, though my morning started at around 4 am, trying to leave the house, my shift didnt end until 6 pm when the team leader told me i was a trooper and asked if i wanted to leave 30 minutes early and i took her up on it, glad to be done with the day and ready to go home and sit down and process. It had been an interesting day. My hair was down when i went to work…an unfortunate thing that i didnt feel i had time to fix, 5.5 hours late for work as i was. So all day as i went in and out of the door to deliver groceries to the cars that giant metal device over the door blasted me with air each time. Below is an image of what my hair normally looks like at work.
Now, instead of this….imagine if albert einstein had brown hair and more feminine facial features. I tried so hard to wet it in the bathroom and smooth it down but these pieces of hair in the constant abuse from that device, the rain, and the extreme humidity, just wanted to stick straight out horizontally in a wholly unforgiving manner. Without a hair tie, there was nothing i could do but walk around like that for the rest of the day. Maybe it added to the flavor of the story, to have someone telling it with a lion’s mane of tangled frizziness about the head.
Everyone at work had asked me why i hadn’t cried. To me, crying was what you did when you had no more courses of action to take. There were still courses of action to be taken, so i was fully in “do” mode, not “process” mode. I was still busy fixing the situation i had created and trying to handle my responsibilities as the provider for animals and an employee. Besides, threat of nuclear war, probability of a recession, the conflict in Ukraine, the predicament of non-white students trapped in Ukraine with no country willing to take them as refugees…those were things to cry about. Locking oneself out of the house just didnt seem like something to cry about…given the current events at hand. My coworkers said, “i would have thought God was punishing me for something bad i did.” I shook my head, “No, i dont feel like im being punished. If i did that, if it happened, then it was supposed to happen. I was either supposed to learn a profound lesson from it or i was never supposed to be where i would have been at the time that i would have been there had i not locked myself out of the house.”
I drove home, went about the evening chores, and forbade myself to ever lock the door any way other than with the key from now on. As i was sitting in my rocking chair i got a text. The police in the nearest city had just released an official report on the incident that happened earlier in my town. Apparently one of the one engine planes didnt quite make it to the airport on the side of the highway i take to and from work every day. Right about the time that i would have been passing the gravel pit if i was leaving work on time that day a small plane had made an emergency landing down highway 27 next to the gravel pit. The whole incident had to be investigated by professionals to determine the cause of the malfunction that made an emergency landing necessary and the highway was shut down in both directions for hours. Had i not been hit by the plane itself i would have been stuck on the highway in a disgruntled crowd of people that wanted to be let through, in a state where everyone had a license to carry…i mean i’ve loaded groceries into peoples trucks on top of their rifle before and the only question i have each time is “is the safety on?” So, in my mind, i was never supposed to be on that highway at that time of day and with the way my plans for the day were, i was gonna be. God made a way for me never to be on that highway when that plane landed and it may have been created through a moment of my own stupidity, but it is stupidity i am grateful for, as i would much rather hang out with chickens in the rain than paramedics, investigators, policemen, and pilots in an emergency situation.
Well i was watching the nest as best i could. I would check every other day or so to see if the eggs had hatched but it was a very attentive bird that never strayed far enough from the nest that she couldnt see it while she was hunting for food and i didn’t want to disturb her or put her off the nest because i was sniffing around too much. I knew the eggs needed to be incubated and the best way to ensure that was to let her alone to do her thing. So, i missed the actual hatching, but it was worth it that she feel comfortable and have a degree of privacy. One day i lifted the cardboard pieces and there they were: four little writhing gray and pink things. She had obviously fed them well as in just a few days these things went from eggs to huge baby birds. I did note, as is normal, one of the little baby birds was smaller, pinker, and more lethargic than the rest. Typically this baby bird, the runt, would stay in the nest long after the others had flown and the parents would feed it all the food it didnt get while it was in competition with its bolder stronger siblings.
I named the four birds doe, ray, mi, and fah. Fah is the pinkish one with less feathers than its siblings. When i tweet all the little birds except fah open their mouths in expectation of food. Either this little one has given up or it just lacks the instinct its siblings were born with. At this stage in the game i was unsure if Fah would survive but the mama bird raised them all up, including Fah, so she must have gotten it to open its mouth at least some of the time.
Doe, Ray, and Mi were feisty little birds; always hungry.
It is amazing how quickly they go from tiny pink translucent things with unopened eyes to fully feathered creatures staring at you from the nest.
Notice all my chicken feathers she confiscated to line her nest; it makes me chuckle. They are resourceful little creatures. They use what they find.
Someone asked me what kind of bird they are. I think they may be house wrens. Someone correct me if i’m wrong.
The day after this photograph i noticed the mother sitting in a tree in the edge of the dog run about ten feet from her nest if not 8. She called ceaselessly to her babies and i knew what was happening. She was bringing them no food. She was creating a necessity. They would have to stand up, learn to fly, and venture outside of the nest if they wanted something to eat. The voice of their mom served as extra motivation. She was calling to them, “come on now. Lets go. Lets go.” She called them for two whole days and i resisted every desire to go out and peek in on what was happening, because this was an important moment in their learning, and i couldn’t let my desire to document get in the way of their natural method of things. Once all the chirping had quieted down i expected to go in and find the nest empty. I was surprised to see a little face looking back at me, eagerly. At first i thought it was the mom, but quickly i realized that was not who i was looking at. The mama bird was very skittish and wary of me. This bird looked happy to see me. It was Fah. The little runt had made it all the way to adulthood, fully feathered even if a bit small. I thought at first that he was just hanging out in the nest while his mama brought him extra food but as i watched throughout the day…i was the only visitor to the nest, unless she came by in the moments i went in to use the bathroom.
Poor Fah was having a rough go of it. It seemed Fah’s mom was done with her mothering and he would now either teach himself to fly or perish. I couldn’t teach a bird to fly. I didn’t know how. So there was little i could do for Fah in that regard. It was best if wild things remained wild. I made a decision that i would wait to see if Fah’s mom came back for him, if Fah took the leap and learned to fly himself, or if Fah’s siblings came back to get him, which sometimes happens. Only if all three of these options failed to happen i would step in and offer Fah a domestic life in the house. But, as i said before, wild is better. A remodeled shed is no place for a bird to stay. I have hope for Fah that he can learn to fly if he only gives it a shot.
When you make a child with someone, obviously you hope that person is going to be kind and patient and compatible and that you are going to weather whatever good and bad times are ahead together as an equally participative and mutually empathetic couple. Sometimes it doesnt work out that way and for various reasons a split is necessary. If the two parents together are creating a toxic or violent environment in which the child is growing up, then they need to separate. If one person is putting in 90 percent of the effort and their partner only 10, then the problems will not be resolved and they need to separate. What this now creates is two single people. And they will probably be single agents for a time…but eventually, they will inevitably find someone else and try it again. Except now, its different. They are single, yes, but for each person, there is this remnant of their past relationship…a child. As the former partner and the current bio parent of the child you share with your ex, you can only hope that whoever they find will be loving, empathetic, patient, and mature with your child. That’s all you can do, is hope and pray, because you don’t get a vote on who your ex dates after you.
Last year i watched my friend and the father of her two children split due to irreconcilable differences. everyone was hugely surprised because they’d been together since high-school. But, i pretty much saw what was happening. She was growing up, and he wasn’t growing with her. I thought for a time that he would realize what a boss he had just lost and decide he was willing to put the work in at counseling or quit smoking and put some funds towards rent so she could relax a little. I thought he would realize he missed her and make some grand gesture…maybe her absence in his life would be a catalyst for personal evolution. He moped around for months, usually wearing the same pair of sandals and gray sweatpants with “DILF” printed over the booty area in big black letters. I said hi when i saw him but knowing i was her friend and not his, only the children answered.
Then yesterday i was at work when i saw him…same pants, same sandals…my friend’s son and daughter in the basket. On his arm was a new girl, not my friend, in a spaghetti strap shirt and skimpy shorts. She seemed quite a bit younger than him. Looking at him pushing my friend’s son and daughter in the basket with this new girl on his arm i felt she had been replaced. I tried to remind myself that she was free to date as well and that my friend would be pushing a basket with a strange guy on her arm too come time for her days with the children. It was okay. Everything was okay. They were allowed to have new people. It was none of my business. But, my friend’s two year old daughter was throwing a tantrum in the basket, “Daddy, but, um, i wanted it. I wanted the fruit snacks and the goldfish daddy. I wanted both of it! I wanted it, daddy, daddy, i wanted it!” He was, as always, not completely present. His mind was far away somewhere and he was ignoring the child’s tantrum. He said, “i said no. Not today.” He was always pretty mellow with the children. Maybe not the best partner but a good dad. The child continued to ask, as two year olds do. She whined and pleaded and her dad ignored her, as parents have to do in order to stick to their guns about set boundaries so the kids can test those boundaries and learn where they are. This new girl rolled her eyes so hard and glared at my friend’s ex with such a cold angry stare that a chill went down my whole body. She looked at the toddler and curled her lip upwards, then popped her gum loudly. She let go of his arm and walked behind him, arms crossed, face hard and annoyed as the child continued to moan about fruit snacks. Adrenaline flooded my body with a force i hadn’t known possible as every cell in my body prepared for war. I was internally battling something visceral and instinctual that wanted out. Something animal in me saw a clear and present danger to the ongoing well being of my friend’s cub and i was going to handle it with all the fury and violence of a sister lioness staring at a hyena stalking a lion cub. I gripped the cart i was meant to be pulling until my knuckles were white and my fingers numb. When it had passed i pried my fingers off the cart and returned to work. A woman knows in two seconds how another woman feels about a child, and that woman is not attached to those children. I hope she is a temporary fixture in his life. Its none of my business but the way that woman looks at my friend’s children raises all those little alarm bells that say “this is not someone attached enough to put up with all the negatives and inconveniences that come with the package that is ‘raising children’”. Call me judgmental. Call me whatever you want, but underneath it all, i’m an animal, with instinct.
These first two videos are how Cashew is during a storm if i hold her but am not singing. she stops barking but thrashes around, breathes heavily, and shakes uncontrollably. The last video depicts how singing soothes her. If i rock her in the rocking chair, pat her, and sing to her, she is soothed a bit and stops shaking and thrashing for the most part. We got a whopper of a lightening storm in the evening and it was right above us, so it was noisy and violently bright. This was the best i could do for her but by golly if ever there was a dog that needed a thunder vest, i think it is her. This will be the first purchase i make when i graduate and get a job in the field. Priorities: pay mortgage, buy Cashew a thunder vest, everything else.
I do apologize to anyone who may have viewed this post before i had a chance to edit it. Cashew did a fair amount of thrashing around before she calmed down and it may have resulted in a wardrobe malfunction…this video has since been deleted.
We finally got the rain we needed. I’d say between 8:30 am and 3 pm it rained pretty consistently. And that meant Cashew lost her mind. It was lightening and thunder kind of rain. So for two hours straight Cashew barked and howled ceaselessly while she shook uncontrollably in her crate. We really need a thunder vest for her but at this time i don’t have the funds to get her one. I’ve put it on the holiday/birthday wishlist. She is basically traumatized because before i got the surge protector two different trees got struck by lightening next to the house and on two different occasions things plugged into the wall socket either exploded or caught fire. She thinks thunder is a life or death situation.
At 10 am i stuck Sili in Cashew’s crate thinking she would comfort her and calm her down. In Sili’s defense, this is exactly what she tried to do but Cashew was inconsolable. Very shortly i had to take Sili out of the crate because Cashew was consistently trampling her in her panic driven frenzied movement. She was turning in circles and basically running over her sister. I didn’t feel like holding her in a compression hug for six hours straight as the forecast predicted would be necessary, so we did something else instead. I let all the dogs loose in the house, blasted music, and we sung karaoke. I sang, Cashew howled, and both dogs twirled with me and jumped up and down in the kitchen. While it stormed outside we sung: for god is with us by for king and country, my way by frank sinatra, cows around by corb lund, It is well with my soul penned by horatio spafford and composed by philip paul bliss, every day is a winding road by sheryl crow, Jericho by andrew ripp, yellow submarine by the beatles, gypsies tramps and thieves by cher, closing time by dan wilson, God’s country by blake shelton, and 1952 vincent black lightening by richard thompson. My friend asked me if the dogs had a favorite. They did. It was hands down “My Way” by Frank Sinatra. I was pretty sure i had a good idea why. The tempo was slower than the other songs and i ran out of breath before the line was finished. It was also kind of out of my range. The noise i was making was more off-key howling than singing. Sinatra would not have been impressed. And so we commenced Karaoke day for poor Cashew who had lost her mind due to the weather.