One of the problems with pop up storms is it is often hard to get information on them, as weather announcers like to just blanket statement whatever will probably form. It is not as if they can observe a weather system’s behavior while it is heading towards an area. When the weather is ripe for it, the storms create themselves right where they are and the radar suddenly explodes with color where previously there was none. The sentence i had ahead of time was “isolated severe storms possible late Monday across the area.” Around 7 pm i heard one rumble of thunder. The dogs heard it too. It was clearly thunder. There was no mistaking it for a vehicle engine. It was close enough that it was definitively heard. I wondered why it hadn’t announced itself earlier and when i checked the radar i got my answer. It was a baby. It was just building, from a tiny yellow dot on the screen, to a blip with orange in the middle. Five minutes later the blip with orange now had 2 red spots surrounded by orange and then yellow. It was growing. It was exploding in the hot summer air. It was to the north east of us and headed in our direction once it spawned. I kicked myself for not getting the chores done earlier. I gave the dogs dinner and hurried them into the dog run for a chance to potty. Cashew didn’t want to go. She could hear the thunder and she didn’t want to be outside. I didn’t immediately see the system when i was doing the chores. It hadn’t come into view yet, but i could hear it. I hurried to the shed and got the trash can. I ran about the house collecting the trash and putting it in the can. I collected the trash from the car and added that in. Then i drug the trash can to the intersection. All the while it was thundering and Cashew was crying like a tortured banshee. I told her it was okay repeatedly while i fed the chickens and watered the plants, just in case it missed us. You never can tell with pop up storms. Sometimes they go right under or over you and miss you completely. The chickens did not have any eggs for me. I don’t know if that’s because they ate them or they just didn’t lay any. I didn’t really have time to wonder. I hurried the dogs in the house, having retrieved laundry soap and a dryer sheet from the shed. I also got more water from the well to have in the house for the night. I unplugged the internet, the electric dog fence; anything i could think of that had contact with the ground outside. I made sure both green lights were on when i glanced at the surge protector on the utility pole outside. I put a load of laundry in, in case we did lose power, so i didn’t have to worry about when it would come on again. Worst case scenario i could dry it on the laundry line and still have a clean work shirt for my next shift. Then, with thunder rumbling and the storm suddenly visible through the window, lightening ripping across the sky, i hopped in the shower. If we lost power the pump wouldn’t work to draw the well water, so i thought i better get clean now so i would be presentable for my zoom call for an exam no matter what. As i stood in the shower listening to the thunder i realized that it was the first scorching hot shower of the year. 98 degrees at 9:20 am meant that the water in the ground was now hot. When one turned on the tap, the water that came out was hot. One had to run the water a while until the well drew water from deeper in the ground to get cold water. What was already sitting in the pipes was hot. So, for the first time this year, i turned the shower dial half way rather than all the way to the “hot” side. I also had ten straight minutes of pleasant water; 8 hot and 2 very warm. I stepped out of the shower just in time to photograph the storm as it arrived. It was now a long stretch of red on the radar. The rain started immediately and obstructed my view. As i stared out the window i realized that the wind had picked up to an alarming speed. I knew what 60, 70 mph winds looked like and this was more. The laundry line tree stood at a 90 degree angle. The mimosa tree laid down against the ground and did not appear to be getting up any time soon. The rain collection buckets rolled and bounced across the property and headed for the fence. I threw the door open against my better judgment and went after them. I retrieved them before they made it to the intersection and drug them back where i braced them against the side of the house. Later i would find them on their side on the opposite side of the house so it was all for not. When i made it back into the house the sky was lit up with flashes. I checked the weather app and it stated that the nearest lightening strike was .1 miles from my location. The wind whipped the rain sideways and it began coming in under the front door and at the window unit. The spigot cover for the well house blew across the porch. It was at this moment that my phone refused to connect with internet using the phone data. It said an error had occurred and to try again later. I called my mother to see if it was just wind or a tornado warning. There were no tornados, no hail; just high winds. The lightening was touching down across the street and i began to fear it would set trees on fire. It lit up the sky and was incredibly noisy. The rain was being blown sideways into the windows and they began to quiver with each gust. The sound of the rain was loud and menacing as it hit the windows sideways. The dogs began to get antsy. Cashew began screaming and barking. I let them out of their crates and huddled them in the middle of the room, away from the windows, while the wind whipped the rain into the windows. It was quite the storm. There was a lot of wind and a lot of lightening, but we never lost power. Unfortunately, we didnt manage to collect very much of the rain water. The containers kept blowing away. I went out in the lightening twice to retrieve them but to no avail. Once the storm system had gone another developed behind it and pelted us some more. Storms were popping up on the radar all around us but they were moving away from us. When all was said and done it was 10 pm. I was thankful it had been a relatively uneventful storm. The dogs finally calmed down.
Update: i think i must have been right about the high winds. The cylindrical metal wire fencing was pulled up and over the fruit trees to end up lying on the ground. The zip ties holding the metal “no trespassing” signs on the property fence were snapped in half. The rope that was stapled to the piece of wood where i painted the property address number was ripped out from under one of the staples. It lay on the ground in front of the gate. I used dental floss and a zip tie to repair it. The property is mostly put back together but that was some wind. Not even the microburst of last year snapped the zip ties in half. The good thing was that a number of big grasshoppers died in the storm. I’m not sure how. I fed them to the chickens.
It was 9:20 in the morning. The thermometer already read 98 degrees. I let the dogs out for about an hour. They spent most of the time in the shade of the cedar trees in the dog run. They drank a fair amount of water. An hour later i decided they had been given enough time to potty and brought them inside. They were panting heavily. They each drank water and then dripped it all over the floor, too busy panting to worry about keeping it in their mouths. I explained to them that they would be spending the day indoors due to the weather. Neither of them seemed to mind. They stretched out on the floor and panted some more. The window unit was a blessing. It didn’t limp along like our previous system had. It roared to life every few minutes and cooled the house effectively regardless of what was going on outside. That meant i could use the stove even though it was the middle of the day. I cooked food for the week and hid indoors save for a trip to feed the chickens melon rinds and seeds and strawberry tops. The dogs regained their strength once cool and began to wrestle on the floor of the tiny house. I didn’t have a problem with it as long as they didn’t break anything. Sili did her best to steer Cashew away from all the furniture, trying to remain in the center of the room. Cashew was her usual rowdy bull in a china shop self. They didn’t break anything but that’s mostly due to the fact that Sili lost every match as she was more focused on herding Cashew to the center of the room than winning. I opened the coconut i had bought during the grocery trip and poured the liquid into a cup. I would make the coconut noodles another day but the weather was so hot and dry it felt like the sun started to bake my skin the moment i stepped off the porch. I thought an ice cold cup of coconut water would be so good on this particular day. It was.
It was 1 am. I was sitting in the rocking chair trying to talk myself out of insomnia when i saw movement on the floor to my left. Because the scorpions coloring often blends in with the pattern of the floor boards i have become extremely sensitive to movement in my peripheral vision. The moment i detected this movement i knew it was not a fly or a spider. It was a large object and advancing steadily. As i turned to investigate i realized that sure enough it was a scorpion; a big one. It was walking down the middle of the floor with its pinchers out and its tail curled high above its head. I dont know why but the scorpions never just walk around the house. They are always already in a fight stance, looking for trouble. So, of course, i had to kill it before it made it over to the dogs. However, i messed up and dropped the lawn mower battery charging station i was going to smash it with. As it hit the floor, the vibration and noise spooked the scorpion who abandoned its threatening stance and ran underneath my rocking chair. I had only one more chance before it scurried away to hide in the walls only to pop out of the drain or drop from the ceiling into the shower at a later date in time. I rocked the chair back and forth. I seemed to have caught a few of its legs underneath the rocking chair and as it struggled to free itself i exited the chair, repositioned it quickly overtop the scorpion and pressed my weight down on it as i rocked it over the scorpion, smushing it. It twitched for a bit and then it was still with one single pincher open and outstretched. Thus, the first scorpion in the house during 2021 was killed.
I just had a feeling that there was more than one. I knew there was another. The temperature had reached 100 degrees and it hadn’t rained. That meant they were looking for relief. The holes surrounding the plumbing beneath the sinks and the holes around the old a/c unit in the wall were the vulnerable areas where they seemed to be making entry. The pvc pipe plumbing needed fiddling with so often that i wasn’t willing to seal anything up beneath the sinks. I kept an eye out but i didn’t see any more movement. Then, as i was brushing my teeth in the bathroom a tiny scorpion with outstretched pinchers sprinted across the floor and underneath a box serving as a table with many things precariously balanced on top of it. Unwilling to move the box to chase it i decided to finish brushing my teeth in the rocking chair. While sitting in the rocking chair i felt something land on my head. I had my hair pinned up. My immediate thought was, “no, no way. No way that this happened. It could not…”. I reached up and sure enough, there was something moving and bumpy on my head. I made contact and then ripped my hand away. I wasn’t sure if it was still in my hair so i then ripped the clip out of my hair and feverishly combed my fingers through, unsure of whether i wanted to protect my hands or my head. As it turned out, it had flung to the ground when i ripped my hand away. It was also a little scorpion. Outnumbered and over it, i hurried the dogs to bed and climbed into the mosquito net tent around my bed. It was actually purchased to keep scorpions, rather than mosquitos, out of the bed. I feel this is God’s way of solving my insomnia.
I began this day leaving my car in the middle of a highway to rescue a turtle. I ended the day waiting in a parking lot on hold with a car insurance company for an hour and a half before giving up on them, having drained my phone battery nearly completely, and pursuing other avenues. As it turns out, i could have walked to autozone. It was .3 miles away. My friend’s husband came and jumped my car and refused to take any payment for it. I drove it to autozone and left it running while i went in to inquire as to whether they had a battery for my suv. They had 1 battery for my type of suv. I bought it. They installed it. I was finally on my way home at 8 pm. There are several reasons i was a city slicker today. 1. I did not know how to jump my car. 2. I did not carry jumper cables in my car. 3. I did not have the appropriate tools in my car to switch out a battery. 4. My first instinct was to call roadside assistance instead of a buddy with a working car. It was just one of those days. There are a lot of things that i know how to do. I have to admit, cars aren’t one of them. I can change a tire, touch up paint scratches, dig tires out of mud, and put gas in it, but that’s the extent of my skill in the car department. One day i’d like to know how to change my own oil, switch out the battery, and how to jump a car. However, right now, i have to make dinner, put the chickens up, study for my exam, and get up for work tomorrow. New skills will have to wait just a bit. For today, i’ll admit, my skills are lacking. Thank God for good friends, their devoted husbands, and the broad operating hours of auto zone.
i was driving down the highway headed to work when i had to swerve into the other lane to avoid…a big old turtle! It wasn’t one of those little baby ones that lives in the creek up the road from my property. It was a big old turtle. I wondered if it was wild or somebody’s pet that had escaped. It just wasn’t every day that i saw a turtle bigger than the cute little creek ones. As i drove past i realized cars were coming behind me and thought better. I made a u-turn and went back. I parked the car in the turn lane and put on my hazards as a sedan drove right over it with the turtle dead-center between the wheels. As soon as the sedan passed over it i jumped out of my car and ran to where the turtle lay tucked in its shell on the highway. I grabbed it on either side of its wide shell and ran across as two more cars came around the bend and zoomed past us. The turtle was heavier than i thought it would be. I was impressed with its size and wanted it to live. It kicked and flailed its arms and legs as i ran with it. I set it down in the grass about eight feet from the highway, facing away from the road. I let some cars pass before running across the highway and jumping back into my suv. I turned, did another u-turn, and turned again to enter the highway once more. As i drove to work i hoped the turtle would head back to the wilderness and stay away from the road. Its shell was bumpy and warm beneath my hands, baked by the summer sun.
I have noticed for a while now that Cashew is no longer eating her turds. She poops and runs off rather than turning and eating it. I was thrilled by this and wanted her to keep it up so i didn’t call any attention to the change and pretended i didn’t notice. I expected that i would encounter a lot of dog poop in the dog run when i mowed the grass but there was barely one pile of turds and it appeared to be freshly laid within the hour. My heart sank and i wondered if Cashew had gone back to consuming her own turds. One thing bothered me though. Cashew had eaten her own turds since puppyhood, but as an adult, for some reason, she wouldn’t touch her sister’s. She would eat deer poop, rabbit poop, coyote poop; the whole gamut, but she would not touch her sister’s turds. I could not find a single one of Sili’s turds. The freshly laid pile was Cashew’s. They were different sized dogs. They made different sized poops. Something was taking the dog poops out of the dog run and it wasn’t Cashew because she wouldn’t have eaten Sili’s and left her own. I was glad i didn’t have to step in it when mowing the lawn but i didn’t know what to make of the mystery. How could so much poop disappear?
One morning i encountered a couple of dung beetles working hard to get a perfectly round sphere of dog poop rolled under the porch steps. They were very dedicated and had a stellar work ethic. I was surprised by how quickly they moved the rather large ball of poop and i suddenly realized that the dung beetles must have single handedly cleaned the dog run for me.
Nature is amazing isn’t it? The mosquitos breed in the chicken water tank and then fly around in the chicken pen. As soon as night falls the toads emerge from the dirt and hop into the chicken pen to eat the mosquitos. The dogs poop. The dung beetles dismantle it and roll it away. Nature has all these beautiful systems in place. Its a shame humans disrupt so many of them.
Where do i begin? The first chicken to begin displaying broody behavior was Petunia. She began “incubating” the unfertilized and ceramic eggs in the nesting boxes. With relentless enthusiasm and patience, she sat on those eggs day and night. She skipped the commotion of the feeding frenzy when i arrived each day with scraps from the kitchen. She did not emerge with the others when i opened the door to the hen house each morning. The only way i could get her to eat was by placing a handful of feed in the nesting box before her sisters ate it all. She’s still alive, so i assume she left the eggs at some point to visit the water tank in the pen. She seemed so focused. She had one singular purpose, and that was to incubate babies. I began to feel sorry for her. I had taken the rooster away. No matter how hard she incubated those eggs, they were never going to hatch, partly because most of them were clay. I remembered my own struggles with fertility and how painful the years of longing and cautious hope were. I didn’t want to be cruel to Petunia. If she wanted to be a mother; if her instincts told her it was time to be a mother, i felt i should let her. I was not going to be purchasing another rooster. That was out of the question. I would not be borrowing one either. No roosters. I decided on a different route to get Petunia the experience her hormones told her she needed. I drove to the feed store and bought a single week old chick. I brought it home that morning and snuck it carefully underneath Petunia amongst the eggs. The chick knew exactly what to do. It nestled in underneath Petunia’s feathers and enjoyed her warmth. It was tucked in there so good that i couldn’t see it at all and none of the chickens noticed it. I stayed in the hen house with the chickens, petting them and just hanging out because i knew the chickens hadn’t discovered her yet. They were young chickens. They had never been moms. I wasn’t sure if they would know what to do with it. I wasn’t sure if they would accept it. I was pretty sure the other chickens who were not broody would try to peck it to death, as was the chicken way. Peck everything. It was more a matter of whether Petunia would feel broody enough to protect it from the other adult chickens and fend them off. About 10 minutes into this little experiment the chick began peeping. The noise startled Petunia and she swung her head around and lifted her bum off the eggs a little to see what was going on under there. She was met with a fluffy little face and a tiny beak sticking out from beneath her bum. I exclaimed, “Look Petunia, you had a baby.” As if that was going to convince her that one of the eggs had hatched and miraculously produced a week old chick in the ten minutes i had been squatting in the hen house with them. She cocked her head and stared at the chick. The other hens gathered near to examine the chick as well. All was going swimmingly until the chick moved. It took a step, emerging from beneath Petunia about half way. At this point all the chickens panicked. Buttercup ran out of the hen house squawking bloody murder. Lily and Rosie flew about the hen house, bumping into the walls and the roosting bars, sending feathers flying everywhere. petunia immediately set to pecking the tiny chick in the head forcefully and repeatedly. Daisy, seeing Petunia’s idea of how to handle the situation, stepped forward and also began pecking the chick in the head. I reached in and grabbed the chick, lifting it out of the commotion and tucking it into my shirt. I exited the hen house. Daisy followed me. She was going to make sure it was dead. I swept her carefully to the side with my shin and opened the door to exit the pen. Once standing safely on the outside of the pen, Daisy on the other side of the door, eyes locked on the poor traumatized chick, i breathed a sigh, “Well, i guess i’m raising a chick.” She had been so dedicated to the incubation of the eggs, i hadn’t even formulated a plan for if she decided she did not in fact want to be a mother badly enough to adopt. She had been rolling the other chickens eggs onto the shavings on the floor of the hen house and then pushing them up the wall and into the nesting box her others were in so that she could sit on them all at once. She had been doing this for weeks. No matter what box i put the ceramic eggs in each morning, by the evening, they were all in the box by the window and she was sitting on them. Some eggs went to the dogs because during this little ritual of hers, she would crack lily’s eggs which were always somehow more brittle and thin shelled than the others. It had not occurred to me that she would go from broody to homicidal at the prospect of adoption. She seemed rather willing to adopt her sisters eggs. Perhaps she just had an instinct to incubate and nothing more. I wasn’t sure, but one thing i knew was that Daisy, the bossy pants of the group, was having none of it. If i put the chick back in there she would likely kill it dead within the first few minutes of its stay. She had often tried to claw her sisters in the face because i had held them in my lap and that was HER spot and HERS ALONE! Though she was super cuddly and as a result my favorite, she could be quite aggressive when she felt she’d been wronged. I examined the poor chick. She had taken three good solid pecks to the head before i swooped in and lifted her to safety. I wondered if she would have brain damage. I wondered how durable a week old chick could possibly be. I kept her warm against the skin of my chest while i walked about the yard, visiting various sheds to collect supplies from last year. I dug out the chick lamp and luckily the bulb in it was not dead. It still had some life left in it. I grabbed the bathtub and fashioned a lid out of the window screen i had removed to install the window a/c unit. I drug a bag of wood shavings to the house and gathered the old chick water and feed dispensers. Once i finally got everything plugged in and set up it hit me that i’d doomed myself to the same experience as last year. I’d effectively lost my bathroom for the next few months. What did i do?
I watched the little chick explore her new surroundings. She took a few sips of water but didn’t touch the chick feed. Instead, she began peeping incessantly and turning her head to look at me through the window screen. I lifted her out of the tub and placed her against my chest. I sat in the rocking chair and tried to make sense of what just happened. She tucked herself into the crook of my neck and folded her head against her body. In the camera app of my cell phone i could see that her eyes were closing gradually. She had stopped peeping incessantly. Instead, she began to snore. She made a soft little snorty noise every time she breathed out and slept happily against my neck under my chin. I decided to call her Ellis.
Ellis did not appear to be brain damaged from the attack. She was, however, lonely and became increasingly needy. As much as i grew to adore her, i had so much school work to do and i was exhausted from all the hours of sprinting at work, and i began to resent her for the incessant overbearing noise that she made every time i put her down. How could so much sound come out of something so little? She cried all night unless i removed her and put her on my chest and then she pooped on me. I was running out of towels to wear. Finally, i made a decision. I drove to the feed store and bought another of the chicks that had been in the week old cage. They were now 2 weeks old. This chick was a little more wild and a lot less interested in me. She bonded with Ellis immediately and Ellis focused on the other chick and stopped crying for me. I named the other chick Oakley. She ended up being the dominant of the two and hogged the chick feeder, thus gaining weight faster than little Ellis. Occasionally she would pick on her because she was bigger and because she could, but they still slept against each other during nap time. Ellis was a lighter tan and Oakley was a bit darker. I imagined that Oakley would lay brown eggs like Rosie and Ellis would likely produce cream colored eggs like Lily and Buttercup. So, that is the story of how i came to have 7 chickens on a homestead where the hen house supported a maximum of 6.
The chicks were at an age where they ate, pooped, and slept a lot. I would place them on my chest and rock them in the rocking chair while wearing a towel (to catch the poop) and they would sleep on me while i listened to the recorded lectures for my online classes.
They were super cute but as they grew i started trying to find one of the chickens a home. I was trying to rehome Buttercup or Oakley. My sweet little Ellis was so attached to me, i really wanted to keep her. However, a friend of a friend was willing ti take two chickens. She wouldn’t take one because a flock would bully a new lone chicken. She would only take two, so the pair would have a shot at successful integration. I agreed to let go of both babies and keep Buttercup, my sneaky hen with a history of pecking legs and stealing articles of clothing and paper plates right off of your person. I continued to socialize the chicks, trying to make them as sweet as possible in preparation for their new owner.
They hit the teenage phase and began looking kind of scraggly with their half unfurled feathers.
As you can see, Oakley got quite a bit bigger than poor Ellis.
Though she picked on her at times, Oakley always slept against Ellis and when i removed her from the tub she would call to her and look for her until i placed her back in the tub with Oakley.
I was going to miss Ellis. By now she knew her name and would come when called. She would cock her head and search for me if she could hear my voice. Her favorite thing to do was cuddle and she would hunker down and nap on me whenever possible. Oakley was a bit more feral. I got her to like petting, but she still wasn’t down with being held.
They were getting to be big chickens. They didn’t fit in the tub anymore. They had their feathers, were off the heat lamp, and ready for their new home.
The night before i gave the both of them away i spent some extra time with Ellis and said goodbye. She will make a very good laying hen/pet for Sara.
Update: Petunia is back to her regular rambunctious self. Now Daisy is broody. She sits in the box all day every day and pecks at anything that comes near her treasures, puffing herself up to look as big as possible in an effort to intimidate me while i’m collecting eggs. I promptly informed her that we’re all going to die childless old spinsters together. It is what i’ve decreed because i’m not falling for that again. I’ve removed all the ceramic eggs from the nesting boxes. We’re done raising chicks in the bathroom. I told Daisy, “That’s a lot of work you know, but you wouldn’t know because your first instinct was (‘kill it! Kill it dead!’)” sigh.
I checked the forecast before i left the house. Rain. Lots of it. I made sure to take my hat. However, i didn’t own a rain coat. I had boots but none that were fitted to my feet and would last an 8 hour shift without rubbing blisters. The company provided us with extra large banana-yellow ponchos that were so big you could barely get your arms through the sleeves to hold the smart phones. This of course was so that they could fit the largest people. It was a one size fits all situation. (That’s a lie, by the way. Even with socks, when it says “one size fits all” it means it fits large people snuggly and it fits small people in a stretchy manner with extra fabric where it is not needed).
The rain began shortly after i arrived. The skies opened up and it poured. The parking lot quickly became a lake. We all donned the yellow ponchos but the water was not only falling from the sky…it was seeping into our shoes. There was an inch to an inch and a half of water standing in the parking lot at all times during the next 3 hours. During my second order delivery, the water ran into my shoes through the breathable mesh on the sides. It just soaked in. It was cold and thorough. I stood there loading the groceries into the customers car and telling her to have a good day, all the while knowing i was doomed. I trudged back to the building, more water entering my shoes with each step. As i walked, the water traveled from the bottoms of my pants legs in an upward motion until my jeans were soaked halfway to my knees. It was cold and wet. The sensation felt wrong, as if i’d gone swimming in my clothes.
The others waited until the intensity of the rain had lessened, a couple hours, and then they called their mothers or boyfriends to bring them a new pair of shoes. However, i lived alone and had no family in the area. There wasn’t anyone who had a key to my house besides me. My house was an hour round trip. I knew there would be no heading there to fetch dry clothes and there would be no calling anyone to bring any either. Once my comrades were all in dry shoes i sighed and settled in for a long shift. My socks were soaked. My shoes were full of water, and my pants were sticking to my legs. My toes went numb after the first couple hours of my shift. The smart phones tracked everything we did and we were timed throughout all of it. The poncho sleeves extended over my hands and prevented my ability to hold the smart phone, pushed bag handles away when i tried to grab them, and got hung on everything in sight. The ends of the poncho kept getting caught under my shoes and tripping me as i attempted to run. My shoes were leaking water with every step so i was hesitant to sprint because i had multiple things working against me in the “staying upright” department. It was a giant mess. I was dealing with that. Others were opening and closing umbrellas with each order and loading the groceries with one hand while they held the decorative mini lightening rod above the basket. I knew our time scores would be atrocious but i felt they would have to put themselves in our shoes. We were drowning. There was no way we could move faster in these conditions. We were doing alright just to maintain ability to speak and keep the water off our glasses and smart phones. The customers were all very nice to us that day. I was surprised and made a remark about it. A coworker told me it was because they felt sorry for us having to work in the rain. I hadn’t thought about it and assumed they were all just in really good moods at the time. Half way through the shift my team leader began asking me to do shopping runs in the store. That meant i would need to get twelve orders done in under an hour to maintain my time scores. I would have mere seconds to grab each item, with soaking wet socks, shoes, and pants. I dutifully obeyed. However, i did not want to lose my shopping time scores. So, i put my physical sensation out of my mind and ran like the wind, sprinting up and down the aisles like usual, raw and pruned feet rubbing against the wet socks within my shoes with every step. I finished all my shopping runs with good times and the runs took longer than deliveries, taking my mind off the progression of the shift. Finally, it was near time for me to go home. I had 5 minutes left in my shift. They put me back on parking lot deliveries for the remainder of the shift. I expected i’d only deliver an order or two before heading home but the end of my shift came and went and my team leader did not release me. I picked up order after order, waiting to hear the words, but she still did not release me. We were in the middle of a rush and short staffed so i figured they had decided to keep me until the rush died down. This is in fact what ended up happening. When the rush finally died down the team leader checked the phone to see who was due for a break. I was not listed as “on shift” as according to the smart phone i had already gone home. It turned out they had just forgotten to release me in the chaos. I was given the verbal notification that i was good to go and thanked for staying through the rush. I managed to clock out and gather my items. I walked through the building and scanned my badge at the door. I walked to my car and stepped in. As soon as the weight was off my feet and i allowed myself to focus on something other than the task at hand the waves of different pain hit me. My feet felt warm and there was a burning and tingling sensation shooting through the middle of them. All of my toe nails seemed to be digging into the wet swollen skin i had been running on for 8.5 hours. All of the joints in my toes ached in an unbearable way. This kind of dynamic pain came in waves with the shooting pains, burning tingles, the sharp toe nail pain, and the aching joints all working in tandem to make it very difficult for me to drive the car fast enough to match the speed limit. I cried “oh! Oh! Oh! Oh!” throughout the whole 30 minute drive and i begged God to give me a better ability to shoulder the pain. When i arrived home the pain was lessening and only the joint aches were left. I did the evening chores quickly and put the dogs in the house for the night. Only then did i take off my socks, pants, and shoes. As i peeled the first sock away from my foot i saw that the bottom of my foot had become a field of blisters. I peeled the skin away from my foot at each little puffed up pocket. I made a little pile by the chair. I placed my raw peeled feet on the little folded towel i used as a bath mat in the bathroom and tried to soothe them by finally getting them dry. It took a good 15 hours for the blisters to close up and dry out completely. I babied my feet through the next day and wore memory foam boots and loose cotton socks. I bought knee high rain boots online and had them set to deliver to the tractor supply in town. The ponchos often dripped water from the edges onto pants or into shoes. They also drug on the ground and collected the water there. My thought was that knee high boots would eliminate this problem. Next time, i will be dry. I may still be catching the sleeves on everything in sight and the smart phone will probably be wet but i will be dry. No more 8.5 hour shifts with prune feet.
Well, the boots arrived at tractor supply. They were not quite as long as they appeared in the example picture. However, i think they are still tall enough that the ponchos won’t be able to drip into them when its raining buckets.
Last semester began with broken toes, no internet, and a debilitating storm. I feel like i’m having deja vu. I broke my pinky toe. There was a big storm. There’s no internet. Here comes the mandatory orientation zoom call for the redemption semester in which everything was supposed to be different. Everyone keeps telling me that i will appreciate the roadblocks so much more once i’ve already climbed the hill. I’ll feel proud about having overcome them. I don’t understand this. I don’t ever feel pride in overcoming roadblocks; just a sudden relief that i’m done with that ridiculousness and a desire to prevent it from happening in the future. That is why when i realized i lived at one of the highest elevations in my town and lightening struck near the house during a storm causing a surge to travel to all the outlets in the structure, i had an electrician come out and install a surge protector on the utility pole outside. I didn’t think i’d be standing in those shoes again a year later.
The shift began just like any other. There was a chance of rain in the evening but when i arrived at work there was nothing on the radar. I remember just before sundown people began asking if they could go home and put the dogs up real quick so they wouldn’t be out in the lightening. Anyone who was given a chance to go home early due to overstaffing hurried to their car to “beat the approaching storm”. I had been working in the store all shift and hadn’t gone out to the parking lot. I asked, “what storm? Are we getting rain?” People looked at me as if i had asked what the statue of liberty was or whether kiwis had seeds. I went to the glass door and looked out on the parking lot. To the far side of the lot something dark and angry was brewing. It stretched out over the next 20 minutes and covered most of the sky. It was riddled with flashes of lightening and cast shadow on the far side of the parking lot. Thunder rumbled in the distance and the temperature began to drop. It went from 84 to 66 degrees within a span of twenty minutes. At this point i had been put on parking lot duty and i ran orders out to the cars under the increasing darkness of the looming storm. It began to drop little dollops of rain here and there. I tried to keep the smart phone and my glasses dry by placing them in the customers’ trunks briefly while loading the orders. They all wanted me to hurry so they could get out of there before the storm unleashed its wrath. It was the first time i had felt fear working at my job. I was assigned to the parking lot. I couldn’t leave. So, as the storm rolled in i had to continue running orders out to the cars. The lightening became closer and closer until it was all around us. The thunder was deafening, and the sky was completely overtaken with the view of the impressive storm structure. When the wind picked up and the temperature dropped i had a nagging feeling that i should get inside, but i couldn’t go. I had to stay there with the storm and do my job. Then in my absentmindedness i missed the handle of a bag i was retrieving from a slot and a can fell onto the floor. It ruptured and spun round and round in circles, spewing the contents in a high powered stream all over my shoes, my pants, my jacket, my arm, the floor, the carts, other bags, and the wall. I was immediately sorry for the mess that would have to be cleaned but my sorrow deepened when a coworker announced after taking a sniff, “is that wine?” Indeed, it was wine, not soda. What rotten luck. I avoided the wine tasting samples and cooking connection like the plague. As long as i didn’t smell it, there was no memory, no craving. If a wine bottled busted at checkout i walked all the way around. Wine and vodka had been a past time numbing agent for me. I had been sober over two years and had no desire to unravel everything i’d built. I immediately had a desire to change clothes. I knew i had to get the smell of wine off of me. However, i didn’t have a change of clothes in my car and nothing we sold in the store was appropriate to work in. I knew i had to stay until 8 pm and finish my shift out. I would have to do so stinking of canned wine. I willed my limbs to move and get back to my work but i guess i was nervous and fidgety because my team leader asked, “you okay?” The answer was yes. I got back to work. When the time came to break out the ponchos i refused mine. With every breath i took my mask filled with the scent of fermented liquid. I wanted it to cease. I thought maybe the rain would wash it off of me. I delivered the orders in my clothes while the others went into the rain rocking our banana yellow ponchos. Two orders later i was pulled from the parking lot and sent to the refrigerator to condense the cold carts. People were asking questions about why their curbie smelled of wine when delivering their order. I was grounded to indoor work for the rest of my shift, much to my dismay. At 8:03 i waited at the door while my team leader held an umbrella over my coworker’s head in the dark as he stood in the 70 mph winds and sideways rain, loading the groceries into someone’s trunk directly in front of our sliding door. When the lightening became too close and too prolific, they refused to have us in prolonged contact with the metal baskets, running them through the parking lot. Each customer was called when their order was in the basket and ready to go. They pulled the car up to the door and our team leader went out and held the umbrella over the curbie’s head while he loaded the groceries. They didn’t have to do that. It was up to each team leader how to treat the curbies. She was putting herself in danger with the metal umbrella so we didn’t get soaked or have to worry about electrocution ourselves. When she returned i waited eagerly for her to tell me i could go. I could see she wanted to ask me to stay late but she took another whiff of me and told me that if i wanted, i could dock my phone and go. I went.
I told myself, “you cannot have wine. There will be no drinking tonight”. However, something selfish and needy had awakened from its slumber in me and it would have to be appeased. I gathered a bag of chips, a package of popsicles, and a peanut butter bar. i said, “there. That’s plenty enough salt and sugar to keep you busy for a while. You cannot have wine. You can have snacks. Then we’re going to bed.” There was no place in my town that had a license to sell liquor. I knew, once i got to my town, as long as i didn’t drive back to the city, there would be no obtaining alcohol to drink. I was thankful for that. I was opening the store the following morning. I would need to wake up at half past midnight and start getting ready to come back. I needed to hurry up and get home so i could wash the wine off my clothes and put my shoes in the dryer. I knew they’d be soaked by the time i got to the employee parking lot. As i approached the doors to exit i was met with a crowd of people gathered, calling their husbands to come get them. They were basically willing to leave their cars in the parking lot overnight. The weather was so horrific they called home and told their spouses to pull up directly to the doors and come get them. Other women gave their husbands who were with them a shove and said, “go pull the car around. I’ll wait here.” I wondered what it felt like to view oneself as “fragile” and be protected by the spouse who will go out into the weather and procure a vehicle in which to carry precious cargo home.
I tucked my car key in my bra, zipped my phone, wallet, and house keys in my lunch box, secured my cap, and took off into the darkness. I heard some of the ladies gasp. One of the women exclaimed, “oh she’s really going to do it,”. Someone else said, “oh my gosh!” I was immediately drenched in ice cold rain. The wind was whipping it sideways at 70 mph. The lightening flashed often enough for me to see that the entire parking lot was sitting in ankle deep water. My shoes squished as i walked through it, water kicked up in front of me with every step. As i headed down the road to the employee parking lot i stepped over a tree branch and continued in the ankle deep water rushing downhill. A truck full of young men pulled up beside me and one yelled, “get in, we’ll give you a ride!” I surveyed the situation. There were 5 or 6 men crammed into the king ranch truck. Somebody who had enough money to purchase a king ranch truck might be used to getting their way. With 5 or 6 people in the truck, i would likely not have my own seat or personal space. I had ridden in a stranger’s car before but there were no other passengers at the time. Its hard to overpower somebody while also driving a car. In this situation there were plenty of them to my one and if things went south i would not have the upper hand. A gut feeling as well as an analytical assessment of the scene told me that my answer was “no”. I told the men that i was already soaked so they wouldn’t be saving me from anything at this point and that i didnt want to get their seats wet, that i was almost to my car, and i thanked them for the offer but told them i’d walk because my car was just in sight. The men began driving alongside me as i walked yelling, “C’mon girl, get in! Just get in! What’s wrong with you? Get in!” I refused and continued walking, a little closer to the curb now. The men were hanging out the window and slapping the truck with their hands. I found their body language aggressive and wasn’t sure what these young bucks might do. Fed up with my insistence the driver peeled off as one of the guys in the back shouted, “whatever, man!” I continued on towards the car. I made the right decision. It was clear that these men were a bit less refined than gentlemen and it didn’t take much to piss them off. Me disagreeing with their predetermined course of action for me wouldn’t have been the last thing i said or did to soggy their potato chips. We wouldn’t have become friends.
I managed to get the door open and slide myself into the seat of the car. I was absolutely soaked. My clothes had become heavy and were dumping loads of water on the floor. It was soaking into the seat as well. I could feel that even my underwear were wet. The smell of wine wasn’t so strong now. I pulled my jacket off and put it in a grocery bag on the floor. My mask was soaked and the make-up was bleeding from the interior to the exterior surface, turning it blotchy and beige. i set everything down and unzipped my lunch box to find my house keys. I was so wet that my fingers drenched the phone as i picked it up. I wiped it with a jacket i had in the car and placed it in the back seat. I then put the key in the car. The rain was pelting the car so hard it was consumed by a deafening roar. Water streamed down the windshield in a gel-like blur. The wind rocked the car when gusts hit the side of it. I felt i needed to get home and get showered, get the wine all the way off of me, and get the clothes and shoes i was going to wear the next morning in the dryer. I set out down the road. Firstly, the road was a stream and secondly, i could not see where the lanes were, both because they were under water and because the rain and darkness were so blinding i could see little more than the blur of stop lights at the intersection. I couldn’t see the lanes for the entirety of the journey home. Myself and every other car trying to make it drove 20 miles under the speed limit if not 30. All along the way i saw cars pulled over to the side of the road. I wasn’t sure whether that was smart or dumb as they could get caught in accumulating water and be swept away while they were waiting for driving conditions to improve. A couple of them seemed to decide this as they climbed up out of the draining runoff and joined us on the road. However, most of them stayed put as the water rose against their tires. We were driving blind. I often didn’t realize i was halfway into the lane of oncoming traffic until lightening illuminated the little reflectors under the water on the road and then i slowly corrected, veering back into the intended lane. Sometimes the lightening would flash and show me branches in the road. I would drive around those. It was a stressful drive. It was hard to see through the massive amount of rain that was being dumped from the sky. I ate the peanut butter bar and half the chips in the car on the way home in what was probably the definition of stress eating. I was cold but i couldnt turn on the heat because of the popsicles. Instead i left the air on. It was a long cold drive. When i made it to my town the lightening picked up so much i thought i was in a night club with a strobe light. There was no break in between strikes. The sky was alive with light and the noise of the thunder was deafening. There was almost no gap between lightening and thunder. The storm was right on top of me. This was the center of it. The main road was flooded and the water kicked up on either side of my tires as i drove through. As i approached the winding back roads i realized that i would have to go over two creeks to get to my property. I turned the high beams on as i approached each of them. The water was over the road but with each, by the time i realized it, i was in it. All of the roads were under water. It was hard to tell what was standing water and what was moving water in the dark. I kept my foot gently pressed down on the accelerator and coasted through to the other side. I was surprised the car made it as my suv sits unusually low to the ground and is very heavy. It’s not the ideal vehicle to take to the back country during a flood. Finally, i pulled up to the gate of my property. I parked the car on the road, as the driveway was pure slush. Lightening was everywhere. Flash, flash, flash, flash, flash, flash, flash. The thunder shook the car, over and over again. I wanted to stay in the car, but my timeline moved me to action. I had to get the laundry going. I had to wake up and go open the store in a few hours. I said, “this is a bad idea.” I turned the music up real loud, loud enough to drown out the sound of thunder. I put my game face on, and then i went for it. The name of the game was park the car without getting stuck in the mud. The lightening had let me know that the whole property was in standing water. I would need to keep grass under the tires if there would be any hope of maintaining control of the car. I jumped out and unchained the metal gate, lightening flashing all around me. I jumped back in and put the car in drive. I drove slow until i caught the grass underneath the tires on the left side of the car. I put them on the grassy median between the tire tracks in the driveway. The tires on the right side of the car had no traction and a blinking light on the dashboard told me this, as if i didn’t know. I drove further than usual, ducking underneath the laundry line with the nose of the car, catching the built up gravel of the septic tank drainage field. Once i had that bit of traction under the front tires i threw it in reverse and gunned it through the slush behind me. The car was sliding. I used the momentum from my push off and turned the wheel sharply, angling the rear of the car straight for a tree. I knew the mulch was higher right around the base of the trees. Sure enough, the back right tire caught the mulch and i straightened out the car before it hit the tree. I pressed the gas one more time and the car slid into place under the oaks. The flood waters washed away more and more of the mulch each time and it was no longer a pile. I turned the wheels to the left, providing resistance against the current of water leaving down the driveway for the intersection and turned the car off. I gathered my things and ran through ankle deep water in the lightening illuminated yard until i got to the house. I turned to see that my wind chimes were suspended horizontally in the air due to high winds. It was an eerie sight. I realized i had left the house keys in the car, cursed my stupidity, and ran back through ankle deep water to the car. I retrieved the house keys, ran back to the house, and tried to open the door. As i struggled to see which key was which in the dark the wind picked up and began whipping my wet clothes against my back. I felt pressed against the door and i began to fear a tornado. Why had the wind suddenly picked up so much?! I hadn’t heard anything about tornados. As far as i was concerned we were only supposed to get quarter sized hail. I had seen some lying on the ground as i drove past the gas station coming into town but in all the rain and chaos it was hard to tell if i was looking at ice or rocks. It appeared to be floating so i guessed ice. I flung open the door and made it inside. The dogs eyed me from their crates, whimpering in the light beam of my lantern. I thought i heard the air conditioner running but it turned out to be the noise of my aussie’s nails clicking against the crate bottom as she shook uncontrollably. I pieced this together when i flipped the light switch and nothing happened. The power was out. The ac unit couldnt be running. What motor was on? I shined the light in the dog crate and found the aussie shaking uncontrollably. The crate was wet. I asked, “Did you pee?” My question was answered when i found 8 links of dog turd strewn in small piles about her crate. My first thought was, “well, at least she didn’t eat them. That’s progress.” I opened the door briefly to retrieve the turds before she changed her mind. I kept both dogs in the crate while i tried to sort things out in the darkness. Without electricity there would be no power to the well pump. Without the well pump there would be no water for a shower, tooth brushing, laundry… without electricity i couldn’t run the machines, get the wine smell off of me, do hair or make-up. Without electricity i couldn’t open the refrigerator or cook. Supper consisted of the remaining potato chips and a whole bag of popsicles i couldn’t open the freezer to store. I stood at the sink and hurried to eat them before they all melted. The electric company recording said 302 structures in my area were without power. That was basically the whole town. The gas station had lights but that was about it. For 6.5 hours the power remained off. Every hour i reset the clock to wake up and see if it was back on. Every hour it wasn’t. When i finally decided to call in because i couldnt leave the dogs in the house without a/c and i couldn’t leave the windows open for a cross breeze because it was supposed to storm something fierce again the following morning, the power kicked on at 5 past 2 am. I said, “whelp, we’re going to work!” I ran to the shed and got a towel for the car seat. I grabbed an old jacket and dug out an old pair of dry tennis shoes with the tread worn off the bottom. I grabbed a clean pair of pants, a work shirt, and hopped in the shower. Then i fiddled with the breaker panel until all the outlets had power. I brought the washing machines back online. I threw the wine smelling laundry in and washed it after running to the shed to get laundry soap. It was still raining but no longer storming. I couldn’t believe it but i had a full bucket of rain water to dump in my collection toy box, so i did. I put the lid on and ran back to the house to do my hair and makeup. I was surprised to find that my jaw was locked when i tried to remove my night retainers. Stressed out, i had clenched all night and now my tmj was working overtime. I knew what had to be done. I poked my fingers between my teeth before i could let the fear get the best of me and yanked in opposite directions with both hands. In the mirror i watched as my bottom jaw popped to the side and then down. It released but popped two more times as i worked my jaw up and down to open and close my teeth. That hurt. I was not able to open my mouth very wide at first but an hour later it was back to normal. I left the house just in time to make it to work by 5 am. As i was leaving, another big storm was rolling in. I was upset it would hit the homestead while i was away again. The house would lose power briefly one more time and the second storm would drop 2.5 inches of rain for the collection box. However, i wouldn’t fully understand just how accurate the words “deja vu” had been until that evening when the internet wouldn’t turn on. Upon picking up the lifeless router i realized that it rattled. The innards had been destroyed. That was a sure fire sign it was unrevivable. I couldn’t understand why the surge protector on the utility pole outside hadn’t protected it. All the outlets still worked. The router was thoroughly dead and because of the holiday the telephone company would not be able to restore it before my mandatory orientation zoom call for my online summer course. I began calling friends to see who would let me use their internet for an hour at 5 pm amidst their holiday get-togethers. It was truly deja vu to last semester. I couldnt figure out why the surge protector had not worked when i discovered a strange black box sitting on the floor across the room. It ended up being the outer shell of the power supply cord for the interior part of the electric dog fence that was mounted on the wall. It had apparently been blown across the room. The indentation in the back of the cardboard box that served as a table to hold my pasta maker and lawn mower batteries told me it had been blown into the back of the box, left a dent, been catapulted back into the wall, left a gray mark on the cream paint, then skidded across the room where it came to rest on the floor. As i examined the part of the power supply cord that remained plugged into the additional surge protector i had plugged into that outlet, i realized it had exploded. The screws were melted. The electricity had torn through the length of the plastic ribbon horizontally and left it with burned jagged edges. The wires were torn in half. 3 white plastic rectangles remained white but one was singed dark gray. All of the plastic bits were singed and mangled. The ends of the rubber coated wires that used to be red were now black. I wondered if it had popped and that was it or if it had been in flames. I couldn’t be sure. I was grateful nothing caught fire. Now i understood why the dog had pooped and peed herself and stood shaking in the dark. I also understood why the surge protector didn’t work. It did work. It protected the appliances. The electricity didn’t come through the wire. It came through the ground. Something was struck by lightening; either a tree, the ground, the water…something transferred electricity to the ground, and the two devices that had contact with the ground outside of the house absorbed the electricity. The dog fence wire was buried in the ground. The wire for the internet at some point before entering the house also made contact with the ground. Lightening had struck near the house and killed my devices that absorbed the shock from the ground. I would need a new router. I would also spend over 200 bucks replacing the dog fence, again. But it could have been much worse! The place could have burned to the ground. I am glad it didn’t. If you asked me which i was more afraid of, lightening or tornados, the answer would be lightening. Because of our elevation, we get it more often than twisters and it leaves a memorable mark of its power.
I think i just found the tree that took the lightening. behind the house were a couple of young oaks growing underneath the power lines. Now there is one living and one dead. The live one is a regular gray color and has leaves. The dead one is singed black with all its parasitic moss also black. There are no leaves on it and it stands a bare skeleton, a black silhouette against its healthier luckier sister. I probably have the hours of torrential rain to thank for putting out the fire before it could harm any of the touching trees. Poor unlucky juvenile oak. I will have to cut it down at some point in the near future to prevent the carpenter ants from nesting so near to the house. It now makes sense why i had to flip the breaker switches for the back part of the house to restore power to the laundry and the bathroom whereas the front of the house was fine. The lightening strike was in closer proximity to the back of the house. I got lucky. If it hadn’t been raining so hard, my place may well have burned to the ground. My hope is that one day extended family will live on the land with me and they can tell me if i need to rush home and handle a disaster. For now i must rely on luck and prayer. Thank you God for not letting my dogs burn.
I have always thought of the sky as God’s canvas. Just like a mortal artist, i believe he paints. Only, he works in mediums other than oil or acrylic. Dust/smog, light, and water are blended together on the daily to make thousands of beautiful pictures over time…the paintbrush being wind.