i had scheduled a moving crew to come to the homestead on my day off in january of 2020. I had lived almost a full year with a dryer unit in the middle of my living room in a 384 square foot house. The freestanding closet that was supposed to sit in front of the laundry units sat in between the television/vcr combo and my rocking chair. I had been unable to use both the television and the dryer unit. Furthermore, it made it difficult to walk. I of course ignored it, as that was the only thing one could do at the time. In january of 2020 i gave up on the idea that myself and all my friends/coworkers were going to be not ill and not working on the same day at the same time to get this project done and just shelled out to hire two movers to come do it. I called the landfill and got the fee for dumping an appliance of 250 lbs and then arranged to pay the movers to take the unit in my yard to the landfill when they were done installing my indoor one.
The first hurdle was the instructions. There were instructions for the stacking kit printed on the thinnest gray paper in the history of mankind. There was no “tools you will need for assembly” list and the pictures seemed to show more of what needed to be done than the 4 word instruction blips next to each image. As we searched for more in depth instructions they ended up trying to make sense of the same sheet in german, spanish, and french. I got a lantern for light and gave them my toolbox to comb through for screw drivers and appropriately sized screws. Some from the kit fit and others didn’t but between the kit and my toolbox they made it work. When they had deciphered all of the instructions and the stronger of the two men had muscled the screws into where they seemingly wouldn’t fit, both men grabbed hold of the 250 lb dryer unit and lifted it onto the washer, sliding and locking it into place where they then attached more screws connecting the backs of the units so the dryer could not fall off the washer. I was delighted beyond belief. The dryer was on top of the washer. I had waited a whole year to see this sight and now i was looking at it. From behind the units i heard “uh oh…”. I asked, “what?” One of the men said, “now you got a different problem.” The outlet in the wall was 4 pronged. My plug was 3 pronged. Running damage control in my head i said, “will i need home depot or an electrician?” They both chimed in, “home depot. Yeah you just need a part to plug in between the plug and the wall that will take you from a three prong to a 4 prong. A pigtail adapter.” I made a mental note that i would go to home depot when they were done. The men then went into the yard to load the old stacked unit into their pickup truck to transport to the landfill. One of the men turned to me and said, “hey you want us to take the plug out of this one and put it on that one in there? It’s a 3 prong. I mean i dunno but its worth a shot.” I said, “yeah!” The man’s partner said, “yeah no, good idea man. Good looking out.” They decided i should take a picture of the wire configuration with my phone before they disconnected it and then they’d hold that picture up to the wires inside the house and see if they could recreate the setup.
Once they had collected the plug and all the plates and screws they handed them to me and set to attempting to lift the stacked unit that had been in the yard nearly a year into the bed of their pickup. I wondered if i should say anything before…a torrent of water rained down on the bed of their truck, their pants, and their shoes. It just kept coming. You would have thought there was some kind of ocean in existence inside that washing machine that was feeding into this waterfall that wouldn’t stop. I kind of shrugged, “it has been in the yard nearly a year.” I was praying they’d still take it. I wanted it gone so badly! After all the water had emptied, creating a small pond on my property, directly beneath their truck, they finished sliding and strapping the unit in. When they moved the truck this was what i saw.
I could almost hear angels sing. The giant white eye sore was gone. It was just nature again. I was beyond thrilled! i could have shook their hands and danced a jig but i was trying to keep my composure lest they start to worry about my sanity. We went back inside and they recreated the wiring configuration pattern of the unit from the yard on the back of the unit in the house. One man stood at the back of the stacked units with the wires and a screw driver. I stood holding the lantern over it for light while holding the cord in place. The other man held my phone with the example photo, giving instructions to his partner. They did it and when they pushed the units into place and pushed “on”, everyone holding their breath and crossing their fingers, the dryer began to play the familiar little jingle it was programmed to broadcast upon being summoned to life. They set it and pushed “start” and the drum began turning around. I was so thrilled i wanted to squeeze both of them in a bear hug, but again, i contained my enthusiasm lest they think i was some mental lady living in the middle of nowhere that did not see people all that often. I paid them the fee, tipped them well for all their extra efforts and a truck bed full of slimy water and various species of spiders, and gave them the amount of cash they would need to pay the landfill to take the stacked laundry unit off their hands. After they had gone i returned to the house and put everything where it was originally supposed to be a year ago, before there was a laundry unit in the middle of the living room. I could not believe how much space there was in my little tiny house. I wandered around in shock, not knowing what to do with myself, or even where i was. When i finally let the dogs in they did the same thing. Then i put on a record, listened to that, then slid it back in the case and watched a national geographic vhs tape on insects. I had been unable to access this part of the living room for so long. I just kept sitting in the rocking chair and staring at all the space in my house. Even now, i’m still in shock. How wonderful. How very very wonderful. I could see everything in the house from one end to the other. Just sublime.
It was my first day off during the new year. It began like my days off did nowadays. I woke at 3 because that was what time my medications were taken on weekdays and my organs would be expecting those same medications at the same time on my days off as well. I wandered around in the dimly lit tiny house finding a cup and water. Then i let Cashew out in the yard. Sili had to wait until we were officially awake as she would not potty on cue. Cashew, ever seeking a job, had learned all these new and exciting verbal cues. If i said “potty” she squatted and peed wherever she was. If i said “dog run” she ran to the dog run and waited for me to open the door. If i said “to the house” she ran to the porch, went up the stairs, and waited for me to open the door. I took her out and said “potty”. She looked very interested in something on the side of the house. She hesitated for a moment, looked at me like “really?!” And then popped a squat. All the while she had her ears back, her head low, and she kept facing the darkness to the side of the house. All of a sudden i was jolted out of my drowsy stupor by a yelp in the darkness, on the side of the house Cashew had been watching. There i was, machete free, in my long johns, barefoot, and half asleep. I was really getting sloppy with security. I didn’t even notice the coyote right next to us in the dark but Cashew had. I rubbed my forehead, “well, if it was gonna do anything it would have by now.” “Idiot” i thought to myself. “You’re getting too complacent.” I saw that Cashew was finished peeing and quickly said “house”. She obediently ran up the porch steps, still eyeing the side of the house. I followed her in and closed the door. I locked it, turned out the lights, and crawled back in bed. Cashew cocked her head and whined. She had done what i asked when i asked it. Now she wanted license to go chase the coyote. I said, “No, leave the coyote alone. We’re going to bed.”
The alarm went off again at 8. I groaned. Once upon a time it was my job to teach a woman with one hand to clean, change, and clip her colostomy bag in order to return home. It was my job to teach a woman who survived a stroke to eat with, write with, and brush her teeth with a hand that was once flaccid. I even taught a man to line the toothpaste tube and the toothbrush up on the bathroom counter, use his residual limb to hold the toothbrush in place, and use his chin to squeeze the toothpaste tube against the counter to place toothpaste on the toothbrush. During more recent times my job was simply to be in 5 places at once doing 5 different things and i achieved this with coffee. Some of the aids i worked with achieved this with red bull or monster but i had watched them have heart attacks in their twenties and thirties and i felt that a steady diet of energy drinks was a certain recipe for early death. So i had my organic instant coffee. I had 4 to 8 tablespoons of instant coffee daily to achieve what was expected of me and when my day off rolled around going back to sleep at 3 had its consequences. At 8 am i had a splitting headache; caffeine withdraw. I hurried to put a pot of water on the stove. The two pots in the house were in use. One held garlic mushrooms and the other pumpkin spice tea. I put the tea on the stove. It was technically water…just pumpkin flavored water. I thought, “i’ll make pumpkin spice flavored coffee.” Starbucks charged big money for that kind of thing around the holidays. It took a whole hour after drinking the pumpkin spice coffee for my headache to fade away. I sat in the rocking chair in my long johns with the curtains drawn and the lights off, clutching my coffee mug and waiting for the caffeine to kick in and give me some relief. When i finally got up it was nearly 10. I decided to get the all purpose multi-surface caulk out of the shed and finally make the tiny house scorpion-resistant before august rolled around and they returned in full force. I had been saying all winter that i was going to do it but now with some of our days reaching 72 degree temperatures, i figured i had better make good on my promise. If i waited too long i would be sealing the scorpions in, not out.
I did find the caulk in the tool shed but there was a problem. I cut and cut and cut again. Each time the tube was solid, not hollow. Suddenly i realized, it was not the tube…it was the caulk. Somehow there wasn’t a seal where the can ended and the spout began. I was used to cutting the tip off, then poking a 3 inch screw down into the spout to puncture the foil seal and allow the caulk an escape route down the spout. This caulk had already made a run for it long ago. I didn’t know if the tube had malfunctioned or there was a hole in it somewhere but the whole tube was a solid cylinder of dried caulk. I put it in the car. I would have to go to town and run the errands first, stopping to exchange the tube for a new one at home depot, and return to the project later when i had a viable tube of something i could work with.
I ended up stopping at the post office, home depot, goodwill, an atm, a bank, and 2 grocery stores. I pulled money out of my account at the atm. Then i entered a random bank and they changed the large bills to smaller bills for me. At home depot i was able to exchange the tube of caulk for a different one of similar value. I chose a different brand, hoping this one was not defective. Goodwill was next to one of the grocery stores i visited. I decided to pop my head in and take a look at the pants. I kept my eye on the pants rack sometimes looking for pairs that short people had already hemmed. It turned out to be a fruitful stop. There was a pair of black “blue asphalt” jeans hanging on the rack near the front of the building. I loved blue asphalt jeans as they were usually short enough for me and fit perfectly. I tried them on. They fit just like my blue ones. I bought them for 5 bucks. At the grocery i bought a kombucha telling myself that if i achieved a very productive day i could have a kombucha in the rocking chair after everything was finished. I almost had a bag of salted rice cakes with peas and yellow lentils in them for a snack but i didn’t quite budget well enough and had to ask the cashier to have someone put them back for me. The deal was that i could buy them if i kept the total grocery bill under 50 dollars. I did not. It was tough to do with a pescatarian gluten-free diet. Coconut water cost much more than gatorade or soda. Organic apples more than conventional…gluten free english muffins over twice as much as the regular kind. Another time.
Upon returning home i put the groceries away, deposited the dogs in the dog run, and turned to my new tube of caulk. This can had not been exposed to oxygen and the caulk was still pliable. I cut the tip of the tube off, poked my 3 inch screw down the tube to puncture the foil seal, loaded the caulk gun, and i was back in business. I put a plastic glove on one hand and grabbed an old toothbrush and a wad of paper towels. Then i set to work plugging up all the holes the scorpions had come in through last summer. I used the caulk gun to put the caulk roughly where i needed it to be and then went over it with a gloved finger to smooth it down afterwards. Sometimes if the hole was too big i would end up using the caulk to create more wall material, at which point i wouldnt smooth it down but would build upon it until i closed the gap. The guy at home depot had asked me whether i wanted caulk in white, clear, or gray. He had said, “which do you think would match best with your decor?” He had also mentioned the words “color scheme” at some point but i had stopped listening. I was laughing internally to myself. I didn’t care about decor or color schemes. I wanted something that was water proof, would dry fast, stick to multiple surfaces, and last long. Beyond that, as long as it wasn’t neon orange, i didn’t really care about color. I didn’t need the caulk to hide its existence so i could live comfortably within the fantasy that walls just naturally stretched to meet objects placed in them and the whole thing was one perfectly fit piece. I didn’t fancy the clear because i’d used it before. It was hard to tell when and where it was separating from the surface because you could see through it. I rather wanted something i could see so i could tell what needed to be done with it.
Everything was going well until i got to the air conditioning/heating unit. There was a big rectangular hole in the wall where the tubing had been fed through to the outside. No amount of caulk stacked atop itself was going to close that hole. It would simply fall in. I knew that without attempting. I grabbed my keys and went to the car. In the back seat was a roll of duct tape. I tore off a piece and covered the hole in the wall. I tore off 3 more pieces and plugged one large hole and 2 little ones surrounding the a/c / heating unit. The white caulk on the beige walls was okay in my book but the random lines of silver duct tape on the wall was pushing it. I remembered that i had some beige spray paint left over from coating the hooks in the bathroom. I went to the tool shed and fetched it. I shook it thoroughly and test fired the can in the yard. It made one beige dot and then sputtered and squeaked, pushing out what appeared to be a tiny length of beige silly string. The spray cap was clogged. The hardware store was 30 minutes drive away and this was a nearly full paint can. I was not going to waste it. I took the lid of the spray can apart, removing the mechanism responsible for turning the paint into a fine mist as it exited the can. I soaked it in a cup of hot water for a few minutes and then used a super thin and pointy picture hanging nail from my toolbox lid to dig the dried paint out of the spray mechanism. I said a little prayer to God, put the pieces of the cap back together, and test fired the spray can in the yard. The grass was beige. It worked! Back in business once again, i stood on a step stool in the house and painted the duct tape on the wall beige.
It seemed i was finished with the interior of the house. I didn’t see any more areas to plug up in order to keep the scorpions from gaining entry. I moved to the outside of the house. There was one area around some cords that i plugged up. Everything else looked fine. I still had half a tube of caulk left. Once it hit oxygen it began to harden. It could not be saved for another day. It had to be used or wasted. I was not accustomed to wasting anything on the homestead. I would find something to use it on.
My mind first turned to my leaky tool shed. On the way to it i passed the tree boxes and realized that mending them was a better use of the caulk. The rain, ice, and fluctuating temperatures had warped the wood and caused it to both swell, shrink, and curve. There were gaps in it that couldn’t be fixed with more screws. It didn’t need to be fort knox. I just needed the three wooden boxes to limp along until the end of winter, which we had several more months of. Certain leaves close to the gaps in the boxes were beginning to frost and the caulk would likely help prevent that.
Once i was finished with the boxes the tube still wasn’t empty. I decided to use whatever was left on the warped part of the toolshed roof. It wouldn’t be enough to fix the problem but it would at least cut back on the amount of water getting in when it rained. I wasn’t too worried about it since it had a concrete floor and it only leaked in the front. Knowing this, all the stuff i wanted to keep dry was in the back of the shed. Perhaps i would finish what i started with the toolshed during the next project that required caulk.
I took the compost to the pile, took the trash to the trash can in the shed and then took the trash can to the intersection for pickup the following morning, put soap in the washing machine for the load of laundry i’d be doing at 4 am the following morning, watered the plants, and washed and rinsed the dishes in the bathtub in the yard, setting them on the porch railing to dry and then taking them into the house. After all this i sat down and drank my kombucha. In that one moment i could rest and life was good.
My neighbors were either shooting off guns or extra fireworks left over from new years. The noises were too frenzied to be any precision type of activity. I knew Cashew had a tendency to seek out that which she perceived to be a threat. Not wanting her to find her way off the property i kept her inside, letting her out only briefly to pee and then right back to the porch. I heard tags jingling and turned to look at her. A moth had followed us into the house. She was chasing the moth, nosing it with her snout and trying to slap it back to the floor each time it got up to fly. At some point she lost it and unable to locate the winged intruder, she gave up. She sauntered over to me with…a moth stuck to the wet slime of her nose. As she tried to nudge and punch me with her nose in the persistent touchy-feely manner that she always did, i tried desperately to keep her nose away from my arm, torso, and clothing. She poked her snout through the side of the rocking chair, about to wipe the moth on the cushion. I looked at her and said, “no.” She laid down next to the rocking chair and yawned. Her tongue flopped down and then as she closed her mouth it snaked around her nose, retrieving the moth. For the first time i realized that she really hadn’t known it was there. The sheer look of surprise on her face as she tasted the moth was priceless. It was a combination of “what the…?” And “oh that’s where that went!” She was truly delighted with herself that she had found it and promptly ate it. Extra protein.
In Johnson city my mother had handed me a bag of japanese yams and a frost protector for the windshield of my car. That night it had frozen but tired from the day’s activities, i had forgotten i’d had it in the car and missed an opportunity to try it out. Two days later i got another chance. The morning temperature was set for 29. As the sun set i fumbled around in the dark trying to figure out which way was up and which way was down and where the straps were supposed to clip onto. I finally settled on closing the straps in the car doors. Weights in the sides of the black windshield cover prevented the wind from lifting it from where it lay. Satisfied that i had secured it in place on the windshield i headed inside to go to bed.
The following morning i got up and went about my routine. When it came time to defrost the car i suddenly remembered about the cover. It was coated in ice! It was absolutely stunningly beautiful! All of the ice was on the outside of the windshield protector and there was not a single crystal on the glass. I opened the car doors and let the cover slide down, folding it and tucking it into the trunk. I was ready to drive to work. I thought, “this must be what people with garages feel like!” I was living large. No more scraping for me. What an awesome tool for the homestead!
Since i was working Christmas Eve and Day, my family and i got together on my next day off. We met in Johnson City and took a tour of the Johnson homestead. It was quite magnificent and i was glad my grandmother had wanted to go there, as it wasn’t something i typically would have sought out to see by myself. I tended to shun the idea of anything touristy, but it was really quite an enjoyable hike and neat to imagine what the land must have been like when the Johnson family first bought it.
Before i could leave for Johnson city there were chores that had to be done. The temperature outside was 26 degrees. I would wait until it was 30 degrees to turn the heat lamps off and throw the blankets over the boxes. At 26 degrees the blankets weren’t going to do any good but if i waited until it was above freezing, i’d never make it to Johnson city on time.
It was the only day off that was scheduled for sunny weather so the laundry would have to be washed and hung before i left. It would dry in the yard while i was gone and i would remove it from the line upon returning while the pest control man did his routine scheduled carpenter ant spray. This meant i rose at 3 in the morning, put on my coat and down slippers, trudged to the extension shed in my long johns, coaxed a dollop of frozen detergent into a cup, dumped it in the washing machine, pushed the button, and collapsed in bed for another hour while the washing machine ran its cycle. At 7:00 am i stood in the yard with a hat, a scarf, a winter jacket, and bare fingers hanging the laundry on the line. It was 26 degrees. I had waited until the first hint of dawn light appeared because i figured i could either have sight or sensation impaired and still achieve hanging the laundry, but not both. I waited until i could see what the fingers i could no longer feel were doing. It seemed like the task took twice as long as usual and my hands burned as if they were on fire in the sleeves of the wet laundry, trying to right-side-out things and make my fingers work to pinch clothes pins. When i finally got the laundry hung i headed in to warm up but much to my dismay, there was no time. The tree boxes had to be switched over to the blankets and the car had to be loaded.
The car didn’t only have to be loaded…the windshield had to be scraped because below 30 degrees my defroster would not be tackling it. It would simply melt two little circles at the base of the glass and there they would stay while i spent ten minutes willing them to travel to the rest of the windshield and reveal the car from under the blanket of winter.
Of course Gigi made an appearance. She was part of the family and so she attended the family gathering. If they were not holy terrors to manage on leash, i would have brought Sili and Cashew but, they were really more free-range type dogs…not so good on a leash.
The Johnson homestead was full of huge old live oak trees. There were 3 of them that must have been over 200 years old, their branches large enough to be formidably sized trees themselves. There was one that would have taken three or four people touching finger tips to hug all the way around its trunk.
First we toured the homestead where there was an old wooden house with two rooms separated by a wide porch for air flow; a bedroom and a kitchen. We saw several stone barns that had held up considerably better than the wooden house. In fact, it looked as if the stone barns could have been built yesterday, made of limestone blocks in the style of today’s stone structures in texas. There were a few longhorn bulls and a couple horses who let me rub their noses. No doubt they were looking for treats but the sign clearly said do not feed the livestock and i’d brought none with me. On the homestead i took no pictures. I was lost in thought, looking around me and realizing all this land belonged to one family. I wondered what their lives must have been like and what size the trees were back then. It wasn’t until we visited mr johnson’s childhood home that i began snapping a few pictures. It was a truly magnificent little house with screened in porches and a beautifully detailed screen door. They must have been a pretty financially comfortable family to afford all that land and this house down the road in their day. I imagined what it must have been like with little children running round the yard back in the day, before it was a museum with strangers peering in the windows at the nailed down furniture.
Before i left to head back and meet the pest control man my mother gave me my Christmas presents…a cover for the windshield so it wouldn’t ice in the freezing temperatures and….the biggest bag of japanese yams anyone had ever seen. I should have been super excited about the wonderful life hack my mother had just given me for winter use on the homestead but all i could see was glorious purple japanese yams! My eyes lit up like a christmas tree and i squealed in delight. What precious precious cargo i would be carting home! One had to drive all the way back to Austin to get them as the hill country didn’t carry japanese yams. She had hit the nail on the head. I was beyond happy and practically salivating thinking about cooking them, peeling them, and eating them plain in the tiny house, grainy, slightly firm, and sweet like sugar. I headed back to the homestead with the images of 400 year old oak trees in my mind.
There were 3 things one could always count on to foster corruption in people; money, power, and greed. As a child, when unpleasant things were going on around me i fought them to an extent and then when i could bear no more i withdrew into my mind. As an adult in my thirties i found myself returning to old coping skills. Unable in life to steer the train away from its direct course to the bermuda triangle, i withdrew into my daydreams every chance i got. On the commute to and from work, while doing chores, cooking dinner, getting ready for the day in the morning…i would return to my daydreams. In my dream i had excellent job security. There was a steady monthly paycheck coming in and no crazy budgeting was necessary. We had the green light to start new projects and since there were 10 day weeks and 5 day weekends, there was plenty of time to work on these projects. In my dream i built a chicken coop and a roofed enclosure to protect against hawk attacks, i fixed all the problems with the current compost pile setup, i added a pen and enclosure for pigs. There was a small flock of buff orpington hens and 1 surprise rooster. There were 2 kune kune pigs, “plum” and “peanut”. There was a big greenhouse next to the extension shed where it got full sun most of the day. There were sky-lights that could be opened to let the bees in or kept closed on cold days. I had stacked bricks to create termite/carpenter ant proof raised garden beds of dirt and there were all sorts of vegetable plants and hibiscus and rose bushes growing out of them. There were new fruit trees too; a persimmon tree, a pear tree, and one of those little apple trees from the orchard in Medina. All the grass hoppers were carried away in the wind and Cashew had somehow miraculously lost her taste for extension cords and electric wire. In my perfect world these were the projects i was working on and the improvements myself, cashew, and sili were making to the homestead. I lived in this world during most of my free moments because in reality the budget was on lockdown and there would be no big improvements or additions to the homestead in the next year. The focus would simply be on maintaining what we already had. I was no longer watching the tractor supply store put chicken coops on holiday sale or my favorite pig breeder post pictures of the new polka-dotted piglets. I wasn’t reading the instructions for how to assemble the kind of green house i wanted. I had set down all the plans and for the time being i was living in la la land with plum and peanut and a whole bunch of make-believe beige chickens. At night i would put a pot of water on the stove and add a tea bag once it came to boil. I’d rock in the rocking chair, sipping my tea and dreaming of my perfect world in which justice reigned and joy was abundant. At my feet lay both dogs stretched out in front of the heater. The homestead was in hibernation, but just as during childhood, my imagination failed me not.
I had a Christmas quite typical to most people who made their living in healthcare. I put on a pair of scrubs, went to work, and did my job just like any other day. I did notice that in an attempt to make things cheery and convince themselves they were not missing out on the festivities with their families the nurses had brought in some ornaments from home and hung them about the computer station. Everyone brought christmas cakes and cookies and even spicy chex mix in little plastic cups from the nurse’s cart. The aids on the halls began dressing the patients in their christmas outfits they had laid out the night before. I began making the rounds, convincing people to exercise, demonstrate transfer techniques, and go to the toilet on a holiday. All morning i would hear, “But it’s Christmas! Why do you think i must work with you on Christmas?!” I was always slightly amused that the patients had zero insight into the fact that we also wanted to go home and be with our families, but, we had a job to do and so trudged on convincing people to work towards rehabilitation….arriving at work at 6 am in order to get all the patients seen by the time they had their big Christmas dinner with the families in the main dining hall.
Around noon the Christmas music began to play. Families were arriving and taking their seats at the pushed-together banquet-hall-style card tables covered in holiday themed table cloths. I heard rhetoric like “Are you warm enough mom?” And “We brought you a slice of Sarah’s lemon merengue pie for later. She made it with lemons from her neighbor’s tree in the yard.” I finished up my paperwork, locked up the gym, and headed out. I had been invited by my sweet friend and coworker to spend Christmas dinner with her and her family at their property 1 town over. It was closer than the 2.5 hour drive to my family in Texas so it was feasible to make it there in time after work. I loved my friend and her family members. I also thoroughly enjoyed visiting her property, the very thing that planted the seed for homesteading in my heart in the first place. I spent the day with them. They were very kind to include me and allow me to be part of their holiday. They were a beautiful family full of love and i counted myself lucky to be in their presence when the opportunity arose. I had made a decision recently that would change the trajectory of my life. Not everyone privy to the decision was happy about it. Some thought it was a right awful idea and they had lists of reasons, but, it sat firmly on my heart with a peace about it that i couldn’t explain. Many tried to show me the error of my thinking with arguments of logic and reason. I asked God in prayer to give me a sign if i had interpreted his will for me correctly or if i had gone down a wayward path with this decision of late. On Christmas day my friend gave me a present. I never expect a present because i’m not actually part of her family and just the food and the company alone is plenty enough of a present in itself. But she always gets me a little something, which prompted me to come prepared this time with a bag of local pecans and elaborately decorated christmas cookies from our mutual friend, the cajun cookier. As i unwrapped the present from its tissue paper i realized that i had my answer from God. There was the sign i had asked for. The little brown leather book would quickly become my second most cherished possession, surpassed only by my simple red bible whose binding i had glued back together once already and followed closely by my favorite machete from Nepal. How fitting that God had used my friend to answer my inquiry. She was one of a handful of people in my life who seemed to walk very closely with God, in her sorrow and joy alike.
As the sun began to set i headed back to my homestead to tend to the dogs who had patiently waited for my return and not done poopapalooza in the house (may have been in response to some mention of hickory smoked turkey earlier in the morning). I let the dogs out and let them run and wrestle in the dark for a while. Then i fixed them each a bowl of dog food topped with a small mound of smoked turkey pieces from the grocery deli. I was so exhausted and the dogs were so filthy; Christmas presents would have to wait for another day, but i would at least get them a tasty Christmas Supper before sleep overtook me in the rocking chair.
It wasn’t until 2 days later that i had an early day of work, got a good 30 minute nap in, and became inspired to continue Christmas for the girls. They had been good and no one had gone wee in the crate at all. It was the perfect opportunity for presents. They weren’t even as dirty as usual as a front was expected in later that evening so a rain storm had come through while the temperature remained in the 60s and i ushered the dogs into the grassy, mulchy dog/chicken/something run to get a nature bath minus the mud. Once they were dry in front of the heater in the house i went to the shed and fetched their presents. First my Uncle and Aunt had sent them chewy tooth brushes with insertable toothpaste. Cashew loved it! Sili, was still boycotting everything in life because i had made her wear a cone.
Then i went to the shed and got the Christmas present i had been hiding in there since i saw it on sale at walmart months ago. I brought everything inside, put them in a sit stay position, laid their present out on the floor, and then released them from the sit stay position to check it out. Both dogs seemed very pleased with their present. I had made a decision to get them both 1 big present instead of one each after watching Cashew take both bones, both water bowls, and both food bowls for herself. I figured, if i got an item big enough for them to share, they’d use it together. If i got two smaller ones, Cashew would likely take Sili’s, stack it on top of hers, and sit on both. So, 1 XL it was.
They were quite adorable with it. Sili wanted to lie down and nap immediately. Cashew set about wriggling all over it and mashing her scent into every bit of it. At one point Cashew, true to form, sat on poor Sili’s head, cone and all. No spacial boundaries. None.
Living surrounded by forest i feared fire more than i feared anything. I refused to have anything in the shed that could be remotely ignitable. Though i had a charcoal grill i kept neither charcoal nor lighter fluid. All my power tools were electric. The mower was powered with elbow grease. There were no candles; only battery powered lanterns. I knew fire and i understood its progression. Fire was not simple. If your property was on fire determination, will, stubbornness, knowledge, or even skill…none of it meant anything. In the hill country fire was considered a tool; not one that i trusted, but then nobody asked me my opinion and i didn’t give it. People had a right to do with their land what they pleased. Farmers would burn fields in order to prepare the soil for the next crop. They would let the fire department know ahead of time and round up a handful of men to stand on the edge of each side of the field with boots and a fire extinguisher. They would stamp the flames out with their boots or put them out with the fire extinguisher if they traveled out of the designated burn area. I didn’t view man as a formidable opponent to fire. I found some ran a more careful operation than others but fire did not play fair and the farmer who thought he’d mastered it was a fool in my opinion. I was more comfortable with brush piles than field burns. They would pick an area void of grass and far away from trees; out in the open. They’d pile up branches and old stumps and then set fire to the whole thing. They’d make a day of it. Someone had to sit out there in a chair with a fire extinguisher and watch it just in case. Some people out in the country burned their trash in a metal barrel. This was also done away from grass and trees. At night i dreamt of fire. I dreamt of people flicking cigarettes out of their car windows while driving. I dreamt of field burns getting out of hand. I dreamt of a brush pile too close to the trees igniting the branches above it, the flames spreading rapidly from branch to branch, dripping glowing embers onto the ground below and igniting the grass there as well. The thought of fire haunted my sleep. It was nearly 1 am. I was watching “only the brave” on youtube on my cell phone. I had begun the movie and was so invested in the thing that i hadn’t put it down even though my eyelids were drooping and i had needed to pee for over an hour. Finally, i couldn’t hold it anymore. Off i went to pee. The bathroom was the only room closed off from the rest of the tiny house. I think it was the transition into a room that was closed off from the rest of the space that alerted my nose to a difference that made me sit up and pay attention. Something was on fire. My thyroid did not function at max capacity as it should and as a result, i had a reduced sense of smell. I knew that by the time i smelled something the scent was likely very strong. I also had a tendency to mix smells up. I thought cigarettes smelled like toast and i thought bread smelled like meat. This smelled like fire to me and the fact that i smelled it meant it had been warning us for a while. There was no time to waste finding what was on fire. I ripped the curtain back and studied the tree boxes. All heat lamps were intact and no boxes were on fire. Just perfect orange squares in the darkness. I checked the stove. All the knobs were turned to “off”. All the burners were cold to the touch. I turned to the space heater. To my horror, Sili had her face a foot away from it. What she didn’t account for was the plastic cone on her head being taller than she was. I grabbed her by the legs and yanked her backwards hard. I dragged her across the floor, away from the heater. The smell was stronger now that i had her close to my face. Burning plastic. I touched her face and neck. Cold. I touched the plastic cone. Searing hot! I resisted the urge to pull it off of her. The fur of her head, neck, and torso was cold to the touch. It was only the plastic that was hot, and she would only make contact with it if i brushed it against her face in trying to remove it over her head. I pinned her to the ground and held her head directly in the middle of the cone, away from the edges. I tried to bend it back into shape as it cooled. She had warped the plastic into a non spherical shape with the heat. I breathed a sigh of relief. The burning thing had been located. The dog was unharmed. The property was not on fire. We would all live to see another day. I moved Sili far from the heater and closed the youtube window. That was enough tv for one night. At 1:45 am i was wide awake. I feared i knew the theme for my dreams that night.