This red wasp had come in through the hole i had made for the bees to enter and exit the mosquito net tent. It had been in the tent for about three days when i noticed it wasn’t present anymore. I scanned the mesh walls looking for it when i realized the wolf spider that usually hung out in the corner next to the pumpkin plants was holding something. He was sitting on a squash leaf, having run down his prey, caught it, and paralyzed it, he now stood over it, poised to consume his meal. Ultimately, my presence disturbed him and he abandoned the meal only to return to haul it away once i had climbed on the other side of the tent. I lamented that i had missed the chase. Watching a wolf spider hunt was a pretty good treat when you could get it. They stalked their prey like lions and then ran it down, pouncing on it to subdue the struggling insect. I decided this spider needed a name. I settled on Artemis. Artemis the wolf spider lived in the mosquito net tent and hunted whatever bugs got stuck in there and couldn’t remember the way out.
There was a big summer storm brewing. It was a bit early in the year for such a thing but i had been through plenty of them last august and i figured it would be more of the same. Whirlwind storms developed out of thin air on the radar and built and built until they were violent and menacing. High winds thrashed trees about, they dumped loads of water in short periods of time, overwhelming creeks and low water crossings, and there was usually hail and maybe a power outage just to throw the a/c and refrigerator out of whack.
The last storm i had endured had left me without power for 6 hours and the one before that fried my electric fence and required an electrician to remedy the absence of power to the back of the house. I figured my biggest worry would be lightening. Since my property was at the top of a hill, lightening was a problem rather often and i seemed to have more than my fair share of electric incidents during storms. However, i was wrong. Lightening would not prove to be my biggest problem during this particular storm.
I saw it building on the radar long before it became visible in the sky, making its approach from the north. It started as a little dot of red surrounded by yellow and then green. That dot stretched and morphed. Then more dots appeared. Circles of red cropped up everywhere as green turned to yellow. Then each red blob developed a little purple circle at the center of it. That is when i began to see and hear the storm approaching outside. At first i was worried for a friend of mine that lived one town over because it appeared they were being hammered by the storm. I reached out to her to see how she was weathering the storm and make sure she knew more was headed her way and to hunker down and avoid driving. I then realized that i was in the direct path of the storms cropping up behind the one that was dumping buckets on my friend’s homestead one town over. I checked the radar again. Two pockets of purple were coming straight for us. I peered out the window. It did not look good. Something ominous and black was brewing to the north and moving fast by the looks of it. The black clouds spit jagged edged slivers of blinding light that traveled across the sky and sometimes to the ground. There was a distant low grumble each time one flashed across the sky. I thought to myself, “This is not good.” She was a mean one. I could tell. Usually i liked to stand on the porch and read the weather, take pictures, watch for lightening-sparked fires, and collect any hail that fell for examination. I could tell by looking at her, even from afar at this point, that it would not be one of those storms in which any of that was possible. It would command a deeper respect and there would be no photo opportunities or hail examination time. When i saw her building in the distance i hurried about the yard, running this way and that, struggling to get all the chores done before she arrived amidst a chorus of distant thunder. After i was finished with the chores i collected well water for the night, did all the cooking i was going to do in case the stove went out in the storm, and took an apple out of the refrigerator and set it on the counter in case the power went out and i needed to refrain from opening the door. When both the dogs had been out, the chickens had been given their june bugs and zucchini for the night, the rain collection tub was placed securely in the yard, the car was parked underneath the oak-tree “carport”, and the chores were done i said “okay, now it can rain.”
As i stepped out onto the porch my toes curled and the hairs on my arms immediately stood on end. something terrible was brewing. The air felt different. I don’t know exactly how to describe it. I knew there was a tornado before anyone told me it was there. I could feel it.
The temperature had dropped 20 degrees in 1 hour. Before the storm approached it was nearly 100 outside. It was still warm and humid but now an icy wind blew. I didn’t know what to make of the contradicting sensations. It was sticky and humid, with a chilly wind. That was bad. Blackness descended on the yard. It was as if someone had pinched out the sun instantaneously. One minute evening rays streamed through the curtains. The next, everything went dark. The wind whipped the tree branches around outside. I began moving things out from under the bed. I knew, we needed some place to go. Living in a tiny house, there just wasnt any structure or room for me to go to in the event of a tornado but it was coming…it was here. I shoved photo albums, light bulbs, bags of rice, boxes of oat milk, and bars of soap out from under the bed. The wind was coming under the door now. It was eerily cold and persistent. I needed to hurry. I kept shoveling until supplies littered the floor and there was a space cleared out under half of the day bed. I opened the crate doors and the dogs ran out. Cashew paced the floor. I grabbed Sili and threw her under the bed. She didn’t want to go. She resisted and clawed at the floor as i struggled to shove her in. I pushed her hard and she slid under the bed towards the wall. I turned for Cashew. I could see the sky had gone from black to a strange blackish green outside. It looked like something out of a movie. Low clouds hung beneath the others and lightening split the sky. The wind picked up and began to seep through the edges of the doors and windows. I could feel it from where i crouched. I grabbed at Cashew but she wriggled away. She was frantically pacing the house. Thunder shook the ground. The cold air hit my arm and the hairs stood on end once again. I looked at Sili waiting for me underneath the bed. I couldn’t spend any more time on this. She was here. Sili knew it, i knew it. Cashew would have to fend for herself. I slid underneath the bed and sandwiched Sili between my body and the wall.
Sili tucked her head into my armpit and pressed against me. She was scared. I tried to pat her reassuringly but my focus was on Cashew, my wild child, pacing the empty living room amongst the debris of supplies while the air coming through the door swayed the curtains. There was a large clap of thunder. It scared her and she buckled next to the bed. I saw my opportunity, reached out, and grabbed a fistful of fur. In one swift motion i dragged her under the bed, still flipping and flailing her legs about. I pulled her to my body and held her down. She kicked and jabbed me in the ribs. I didn’t let go. The wind whipped through the house, moving the curtains, and the rain began to fall. I could feel the floor boards vibrating against my skin. I laid my ear to the ground. A quiet grinding rumble filled my head. I reached around Cashew, pulling at bags of rice, trying to build a wall around us, in case the windows shattered and we needed protection from shards of flying glass. Cashew took the opportunity to bolt and i let go of the rice to grab a fistful of fur again. I held her with an iron grip, pressing her against my torso, letting go only briefly to pull bags of rice around us one at a time. When i’d blocked everything but my legs with rice i laid still and held the dogs.
My phone made a noise. I had stuffed it in my waistband when trying to get the dogs under the bed and now i began squirming about, trying to fish it forwards for me to see who it was. My coworkers in town were on a text thread talking about the storm. Some of them had emergency weather radios and were updating the group on the existence and whereabouts of several tornados. There were two in town. My heart dropped through my feet as i read the words. There was a tornado down the street from our location. I realized that was probably what i was hearing in the floor boards. I put my ear to the ground once more. The noise was gone. There was a tornado five miles from us headed our way. My neighbor was on the text thread and notified me that she’d loaded the kids and the dogs in the car and they’d driven out of town when they’d seen it coming. They were waiting underneath a bank drive-through in a neighboring city to see what the storm did. This was a normal response for someone living in a mobile home. We didn’t have foundations or bathtubs. If a tornado hit a mobile home or a tiny house, there would be nothing left. Throwing the dogs under the day bed was a last ditch effort when i realized what i was looking at and it was too late to get out. I called my mother and told her i loved her, just in case. You don’t want to leave things unsaid if its your time to go. Then i laid under the bed behind the bags of rice, coated in a year’s worth of dust, probably covered in chiggers from the dogs by now and clung to the dogs, to provide Sili comfort and security and to keep Cashew in place. My mother and my coworker occasionally sent updates on the strength and movements of the tornados but cell reception was hit or miss and i was having trouble sending and receiving texts. I held the dogs in the dark under the day bed as the storm raged on for hours, one after another red blip surrounding purple rotation on the radar cropped up in junction, fredericksburg, kerrville, medina, and in our town, up the street from us. It was a cluster **** of tornados. She was a mean storm, not to be toyed with. I laid there clinging to the dogs on my sore ribs against the wood floor and prayed for hours, “Dear Lord, please protect us from this storm. In Jesus name i pray, amen. Dear Lord….”.
God answered my prayer. we lived and the property was undamaged. I wouldn’t see the level of devastation until the following day with the coming of daylight. It wouldn’t be until then that i realized just how blessed we were to have survived. In our little town a tornado lifted the roof off the gas station. In Kerrville they had endured biblical amounts of hail and roofs were destroyed, shingles and roof panels laying all over the ground, windows busted out and shattered, there were trees that didn’t have a single leaf left on them. There was a green carpet of shed leaves on every sidewalk and stretch of asphalt. Trees and tree branches were down everywhere. The power was out. In areas where the tornados had touched down trees were missing their tops. It hit the walmart. I didn’t go look but people told me it picked up the basket returns and threw them out of the parking lot and uprooted trees. Somebody said to me “Walmart looks like a war zone.” In my car my tiny hand soap had exploded. Then the pictures began surfacing. It seemed people in town had been having a worse go of it than me huddled under the bed all night.
Disclaimer: These are not my photos. They were taken by friends and acquaintances. This is all hail.
The following day the weather forecast would predict that another storm capable of much the same would be developing between 1 and 4 pm. Storm chasers arrived in droves, having taken notice of the previous night’s storm and hoping to see more of the same. I hurried to finish my work and then drove like a bat out of **** to beat the black beast in my rearview mirror by seconds as i raced its arrival at my home. Lightening cracked across the sky as i jumped out to chain the gate. I ran the car up on the mulch pile and under the oak trees, gathered my things, hopped out, and ran to the house, black clouds on my heels. It began to rain. I flung the door open, herding the dogs outside and screaming “go potty” over the wind and thunder. Both dogs squatted without fuss and ran back to the house. The chickens, as usual, were standing in the rain like the crazy birds they were. As a huge clap of thunder shook the ground beneath my feet i leapt up the porch steps and twisted the knob, letting the dogs in the house. I didn’t feel that same hair-standing-on-end feeling i had yesterday so for a while we just relaxed in the house and kept an eye on the rain. However, an hour into the storm i began to get uneasy. The dogs seemed antsy. The cold air came through the sides and underneath the door like it had the day before. The sky didn’t look right. The wind picked up, and i had that bad feeling in the pit of my stomach. I began pulling things out from under the bed once more. I moved things frantically about. When i got the space cleared enough i shoved Sili in once again, joined her, and called Cashew. It took some yelling and pushing but both dogs finally laid down instead of trying to stand up under the mattress. Again i made a barrier out of bags of rice. I called my mother. She said that there was a tornado on my street, four streets down from my intersecting street. It was set to move right underneath us, just to the south of where we were crouched under the bed. Both mom and i prayed that it wouldn’t move north at all as it rotated. It didn’t. It skirted underneath us so close that had i been outside i probably would have seen it. I went ahead and ordered an emergency weather radio. It was set to arrive in 5 days. I had to do something. This, was too close.
When i first erected the mosquito net tent i bought a tomato plant called the “candyland” tomato. I had been growing husky red cherry tomatoes for as long as i could remember because they did well in pots. There were so many varieties of tomato i had wanted to try but the majority of them required the roots to grow to a certain depth in the ground before the plant would make flowers that could become tomatoes. Now that i was going to put plants in the ground, i could finally get an exciting new type of tomato plant. I was going to put one of the deep purple colored tomato plants in the basket when i saw this thing called a “candyland” tomato. They were supposed to produce little orange tomatoes that were listed as “flavorful” and “sweet like sugar”. I was fascinated. I wanted to see such a tomato grow and i wondered whether it would really be sweet like sugar or just a little sweet. I bought the candyland tomato and planted it in the ground under the mosquito net tent. It grew up and up until it was a sizable bush, full of flowers, but none of those flowers ever got pollinated. One by one, each flower shriveled and dropped off the plant. I had this massive tomato plant taking up all the space in the mosquito net tent and not one tomato to show for it. I tried to pollinate the tomato flowers with a little fuzz brush on a wire stick. I tried to use the vibrating wand to extract the pollen onto the waiting spoon rigged below. Nothing worked. The tomato flowers were open but displayed no visible pollen to speak of. The cucumbers were not getting pollinated either. I was missing all these flowers, these viable opportunities to pollinate and grow a vegetable. Cucumber and tomato flowers came and went in droves and they were all wasted, for my paintbrush pollinating wasn’t working. One night i marched into the house and grabbed my step stool and the scissors before i could change my mind. I cut a hole in the mosquito net tent ceiling so the bees could get in, hoping maybe it would be too high for the grasshoppers to take note of. As i climbed down i realized the bees wouldn’t know the hole was there. I remembered my days trying to attract bees to concrete apartment balconies. Bees were attracted to blue objects. I had hung empty blue glass wine bottles from the balcony ceiling and the bees had arrived. I searched the tool shed for something blue. I found a roll of blue tape on the shelf. Unfortunately there was a mouse in it. I climbed through the cardboard mess in the middle of the shed and all the racket i was making caused the mouse to hop out from the middle of the ring of tape and scamper down the length of the shelf and onto the floor. I could not get the mice out of the tool shed, for the life of me. Every time i got one out, it just climbed back in through one of the holes in the bent area i was always trying to fill in with plaster. They pooped on everything and they made nests with the cardboard and packing material i was storing in there. Anyways, i grabbed the roll of blue tape and headed back to the house. I had a blue pen. I grabbed that too. I would make it as blue as i could. I colored in all the puffy letters of the tent brand surrounding the hole and put a square of blue tape pieces around that. It was like a blue bullseye with a hole in the middle by the time i was done with it. But how would the bees know to fly in the direction of the tent, to look for anything blue tucked into a secluded tree-shaded area? I suddenly remembered why i had to stop washing dishes in the yard. The bees LOVED my blue rainforest scented dish soap. The moment i popped the cap off 5 or 6 of them appeared. I ran to the house as darkness fell around me and grabbed the bottle of dish washing soap. I put some on my fingers and rubbed it all around the tape and the tent surrounding the hole. Now the hole in the tent would be blue and smell good. As i stood there examining the hole i’d poked in my perfectly good tent i wondered if i was crazy or if this would work. Only time would tell. I put the door on the chicken coop for the night and took the dogs in. Hopefully the bees would get the message.
For almost a week i didn’t see a single bee. I didn’t see grasshoppers in there either. It seemed nothing had found the hole i’d made in the top of the mosquito net tent. My heart sank. Well, i had to try.
Then one day i was watering the plants in the mosquito net tent, trying to hurry in order to beat the approaching storm that was rumored to be carrying hail and threat of tornadoes. I was hurrying about when i noticed something round. I stopped hurrying. I set the watering can down. The cup fell from my hand and i dropped to my knees in the dirt. I put my face right up to the tomato plant. There were 7 baby candyland tomatoes on the plant. I couldn’t believe it! I threw my hands up and made a noise of elation, “Woooooooooo!” I danced around the yard like a wild woman screaming at the dogs, “They found it! They found it! They found the hole!!” There were two yellow squash that i had pollinated by hand, 7 candyland tomatoes pollinated by the bees, and some self pollinating beans. I felt a sense of relief wash over my body. For once lately something had gone right. Tearing up the tent was not for nothing. It was working. I had made a door for the bees. Now we had candyland tomatoes. I spent the rest of the evening going about the chores grinning ear to ear. I was ecstatic. It was a huge lesson for me, one that i had suspected but now confirmed; humans were about as good at impersonating bees as hippos were geese. Every day i ducked into the mosquito net tent to admire the bees handiwork. I thought about how many hundreds of times i had tried to pollinate those flowers to no avail and how easily the bees had done it in a week. Thank you Lord for creating the bee; the farmer’s one true partner.
The forecast was for rain but the grass had to be cut and the chiggers were getting out of hand. Something had to be done. With no break in the rain scheduled on the weekly forecast i saw an opening between storms and got out there with my 5 blade reel mower to get the job done. The reel mower wouldn’t cut the tall wispy weeds so i had to pull those by hand as i went. I had spent a good 2 hours working on taming the landscape around me when it began to rain again. I had to run back and put the dogs in but i couldn’t leave the mower in the rain; it would rust. I dragged it with me backwards as i ran through the now pouring rain up to the gate of the dog run to retrieve the dogs and let them start for the house. As i pulled something gave way and i thought it odd that the mower felt lighter and then much heavier and lopsided. I turned around to see the mower was almost in half. At some point i had lost a little half moon shaped piece of metal that held the top half to the blades on the right side. I had no idea where i had lost it. I hoisted the mower up onto the porch of the house and unlatched the gate, releasing the dogs with the command to go to the house. They clamored inside, happy to get away from the cold and steady rain. I put them both in their crates to dry off and went back out to look for the missing piece of metal. It would be the size of a thumbnail and gray. I combed the grass, retracing my steps from the gate to the laundry tree where i noticed it was missing. I could not find it anywhere. I prayed aloud to God, begging for a miracle, that i would find this tiny gray thing amidst the grass, somewhere in the 100 feet i had run from the gate to the house when the rain had started. As the rain continued my clothes, my baseball cap, and my hair became soaked. All around me i could hear the water droplets hitting the earth and little grainy particles of mud began splashing up and clinging to my pants legs. The water was beginning to pool where the saturated ground showed no interest in absorbing yet another downpour. Soon i was standing in a small pond; one that began to move downward towards the driveway, taking sediment and unlucky ants with it. I watched as the water moved, hoping to see something gray and small dislodged from the grass by it. I saw no such thing. The water began to move faster and soon i realized there was a good chance the piece of metal could be carried down the driveway and off the property right under my nose if i wasnt in the right place at the right time when it went by. I stayed out there in the pouring rain looking for that piece of metal until my boots were full of water and my toes were swimming. The fabric of my shirt clung to my torso and anything that was in the water’s path was well down the driveway and towards the intersection at that point. I turned and went in. The dogs were happy to see me. Ever since the lightening strike Cashew had developed ptsd and seemed to think thunder indicated imminent death for us all. I pulled open the drawer and grabbed a tube of steel stix and a pair of plastic gloves. I pinched off a chunk and rubbed it together until the two substances were thoroughly mixed. I cleaned the area of the mower in question with a paper towel. Then i fashioned a new half moon out of steel stix and pressed it to the part of the mower i needed it on. I set an alarm for two hours. I still had three sections of the property to mow. In two hours the steel stix would be set and i could resume my task. I couldn’t find the piece of metal i had lost in the yard, so i made a new one.
Summer storms in Texas tended to be quick and violent. They came on fast and they arrived with a strength and fury that was to be respected and not ignored. However, this storm fought dirty. It was a series of storms that converged on the radar and just when we had survived one bought of red, another cropped up behind it. I’m not saying we experienced rain falling from the sky for 12 hours. I’m saying, we experienced a 12 hour storm; complete with 4 different bouts of hail, incredible displays of lightening, flooding, and winds that bent ancient trees to the ground and snapped less fortunate ones in half.
The storm came on suddenly. It wasn’t the type of weather to creep into view, signaling its arrival with an immense show of thunder and lightening ahead of the precipitation. One moment it was overcast but still light out and the next, the yard had gone to darkness. I hurried across the yard in the eerie absence of light and hopped in the car. I put it in reverse and backed the car up onto the mulch pile under the oak trees. As i checked the radar the dogs barked and jumped wildly in the dog run, upset and anxious that i was in a running car without them. The storm would likely produce both damaging hail and damaging winds. I had to make a decision about which one i thought would pose the biggest threat to my vehicle. In the end, i chose to protect against hail more than wind. I hoped my decision wouldn’t come back to haunt me. I just couldn’t shake the memory of last year’s storm with baseball sized hail shattering windows just up the street from me and totaling cars. I sat and thought for a minute, staring at the tree trunks beside the car. I then resituated the car so that it was about a foot farther from the tree trunks than i normally parked it, in case i was wrong about the hail being a bigger threat than the wind. If the tree trunks swayed, that would give them room to do so without scraping the car.
At first i imagined that the storm would come, we would weather it, and at some point we would go to bed. I was wrong. As the weather began i ran from the car, collected the dogs, put them in the house, and gathered one more pitcher of well water for the house before the storm really opened up. As i was screwing the lock back on the spigot i saw the trees at the northern edge of the property bend over and i felt a blast of cool air hit the side of my body, whipping the hair out of my face. I ran to the house as the rain descended upon the property. As soon as i got in the door i recognized the familiar ping of hail on the tin roof. As i watched out the window i caught my first glimpse of the pellets. They were pea-sized. Sili cowered behind my legs, pressing her head into the backs of my knees. Cashew darted around the interior of the tiny house, whimpering and pacing with purpose. I crated both dogs. Cashew hadn’t been the same since the lightening strike by the house. For her anxiety, i put her in the crate. I put Sili in the crate beside her for moral support and to give me the freedom to walk about the house without something attached to the backs of my legs. As i watched out the windows in the front door i saw the trees thrashing wildly about the yard. I searched for a tornado. I hadn’t ever seen trees thrash like that and i was worried there might be a twister behind the wild motion. My neighbors would later tell me it wasn’t a tornado that had snapped their trees in half, but something called a “microburst”. After assessing the damage to their properties, i decided a microburst wasn’t much better than a tornado. My trees had all been trimmed into pretty stubby looking things by the sellers of the property. They looked like broccoli stems after the florets were removed for cooking. I found them ugly without their big sweeping branches and couldn’t figure out why the sellers had trimmed them the way they had. After the microburst i had a deep respect for the couple that had sold me the property. They had clearly known something i hadn’t. My neighbors lost many of their trees and one friend even lost half the trees on her property; snapped clear in two by the winds and lying on the ground. Some people in kerrville had branches fall on their roofs or into their kitchens. It was an incredible storm. I lost zero trees, thanks to the sellers giving them their awkward “haircuts”.
I stood at the window as the hours stretched on. The trees continued to sway and thrash about wildly in the wind. The house creaked and the hail alternated between pea sized and garbanzo bean sized pellets that came and went in waves, filling the yard with ice balls to be carried away by the water that was now flowing down the driveway, taking the mulch and the top soil with it. I hoped that the trees shielding the car would hold. I hoped that if a branch did fall, the roof rack would take the brunt of the force and help it slide down the side and away from the windows. Through all of this, my five chickens and one crazy rooster stood with necks outstretched, leaning into the wind, soaked by the rain, feathers dripping. I wondered why they wouldn’t just go in the coop. It had a metal roof. I wondered if they were worried about the lightening. They reminded me of the mermaid carvings at the front of old ships, leaning forwards, necks outstretched.
Eventually it became dark. There was a slack period for about three minutes between colliding storms where no precipitation fell. I heard the absence of noise on the tin roof and ran. By the lamplight i could see the soaked and ratty looking chickens standing together in the coop. They looked bewildered. I slid the door in place, closing them in for the night, and ducked back under the porch roof as the rain picked up again. I sat in the rocking chair waiting for the rain to stop. Just then there was a blinding flash of lightening and the room was in darkness.
Thunder unfolded across the hills as i sat, trying to process what had happened. The power was out. I crossed the room to where i knew the lantern to be and felt around on the dusty floor until my hand found it. I pushed the rubber button and the camping lantern filled the room with dim white light. I brought it over to the rocking chair where i sat down again. I dialed the number to the electric company to report the outage. The line was busy. It would be busy for hours. I would hope that somebody from my zip code was one of the one’s tying up the line and that they would get the message and begin trying to restore power to our area, because at some point, i couldn’t use the battery to the phone any longer to try to get through. I sat in the rocking chair and prayed that they would get the power back on in time to save the food in the refrigerator and air condition the house for the dogs the following morning so i could leave them at dawn to go to work. I didn’t dare open the refrigerator and let out all the cold air that remained. I skipped dinner. I wouldn’t have had any way to cook it anyways. The best i would have done was to retrieve and eat an apple, which i wasn’t really all that interested in anyways. I had thought to put my rainwater collection system up before the storm hit so as i sat in the darkness and listened to the rain, i imagined i’d have a lot of rainwater to give the chickens in the morning.
Around 2 in the morning i woke up in the rocking chair to realize every light in the house was on. The electric company had done it. They had restored power to my area. From the clock on the oven i was able to deduce that the power was out for 6 hours before the clock resumed counting. During the storm that had produced the lightening strike near the house, the “report an outage in your area” number had said that 26 meters in the area were affected. During this storm the recording advised that 2982 meters were affected. I climbed into my bed and pulled the covers around me. I had one hour to sleep before i had to get up for work. I was just glad all the food in the refrigerator and freezer hadn’t spoiled.
All together, from start to finish, the series of colliding and developing storms had lasted 12 hours. At dawn i went out to survey the damage.
The chickens were all alive, though still somewhat damp and shaggy. The canvas roof to the chicken pen had held up through the wind.
Cashew had recovered her confidence and was making her presence known about the yard, stomping about, letting her sister, the birds, and the rabbits know who was boss.
The car was safe, and very clean. The trees had held and no branches had fallen. Something was strange about the pin oak though. as much as i looked, i couldn’t find any area where branches had broken. However, some of the branches were resting on the ground. It looked rather strange. It was as if the tree had become fatigued and just couldn’t hold its limbs up any longer, so it let them down, and there they lay, resting against the ground. A couple weeks later, the branches would return to a more usual position but i would fret about it until that moment.
As the property recovered and the excess water dripped from the trees onto the already saturated ground i began to realize something. Firstly, the weathermen didn’t know ****. It wasn’t even supposed to rain that day, and it stormed for 12 hours. Secondly, the bugs could be used to predict the weather. Just before the storm had arrived, i had been watering the garden. It was suddenly alive with little red chiggers and pill bugs, crawling feverishly about the soil. The air started to smell and feel humid. The sky became hazy; my view obstructed by rain falling some distance away. There were signs and i had missed them. I deleted the weather forecast app from my phone and began to listen more closely to what the environment and the animals were telling me.
Well, i had learned to be a roofer when the roof began to leak. I had learned to be a plumber when the sink began to leak. When the replacement electric fence control panel arrived in the mail I figured, why couldn’t i also learn to be an electrician?
First i flipped the switch to turn off the electricity to the area of the house i was going to be working on. Then i took the cover off the old fried control panel and memorized the placement of all the screws and wires. I got my screw driver and removed all the screws, taking the control panel off the wall and separating it from the wires. Then i places the new control panel on the wall where i screwed it into place and then trapped the wires between a metal piece and each screw, just as they had been sandwiched on the first control panel. I plugged the wire leading to the outlet and the wire leading into the wall into the bottom of the new control panel. then i flipped the switch and turned the electricity back on. The control panel lit up. I went out and tested the fence. It was working.
I had done it. I now knew a little bit about roofing, a little bit about plumbing, and a little bit about electrical wiring. Knowing how much money i had saved myself in not having to pay someone to come out and rig it up for me, i paid myself four dollars for the deed. I promptly took those four dollars to the health foods store in town where i bought myself a bar of rich dark chocolate with black currants and almonds on the inside. It was so heavenly. I was having the time of my life sitting in the car eating that magic, savoring every melting sweet morsel. I secretly wished i’d have to hire myself for something again as an excuse to pay myself in chocolate.
I was reading a book about a woman homesteader called “Half-Broke Horses”. It was opening my eyes to something. The woman had wanted to be a school teacher more than anything. Her father had spent money on her brother’s education while keeping her home to help him run the ranch. Then, when it was time to pass the ranch to someone, he gave it to her brother. She had been attending a girl’s school for a time but her father ended up spending her tuition money on a pack of breeding great danes who were promptly shot by the neighbor. Instead of crying over it she became a child-lawyer in that moment and stood up in court to negotiate the trade of some horses for the lost property of the dogs at the hands of the neighboring rancher. She was conned by her first husband who turned out to already be married and have 3 children by the other woman. He had used the paychecks she was putting into their joint account to support his first family which she didn’t know about. She had her marriage annulled and set out to be a teacher. There was a war going on and many of the teachers had been drafted. There was a shortage of teachers so they were not requiring that the teachers for small farm towns be certified. She was sent to one after another small farm town where she taught the children. However, when the war ended, she was told that the teachers were back and she was no longer qualified. Her younger sister became pregnant out of wedlock and hung herself despite all of her efforts to convince her it was going to be okay and she would help her. The town wouldn’t let her bury her sister in the graveyard because she had taken her own life, which they believed was an unforgivable sin. She decided she wanted to bring a baby into the world and got married. She had a daughter and then a son. Try as she might, she couldn’t get her daughter to steer away from the things she felt had led her sister astray and ultimately contributed to the abrupt end to her young life. The harder she tried to reign her daughter in, the further she wandered. Her son fell out of a tree and was unconscious for several hours but she couldn’t take him to the hospital until she had driven all the school children home to neighboring towns. She and her husband lost pretty much every ranch they had ever worked, either because they were managing land for an owner that sold or because the bank came and took their own land in the midst of an economic downturn. They ended up purchasing land with no water. They had to build dams to trap rain water but then a particularly wet season threatened to break all the dams, which would mean losing the town’s water supply for the whole year. She lost all her teeth to rot and had dentures by her thirties. Her daughter married a con man just like her first husband and she had to struggle to be a part of her grandkids lives as they moved all over the country from one scheme to the next. When her father died, there wasn’t enough money to go pick his body up from the nursing home in the car, but he wanted to be buried on his land, so she had to beg the people at the diners and truck stops along the way for gas money. She and her daughter did so until they made it to bury her father on his land.
I sat on the porch and thought about the book i had just finished. I thought about all the things that had gone so drastically wrong in her life. Her life was full of tragedy and hardship and yet she never threw her hands up and said, “oh well. I guess we’re done for.” She forged ahead, at all times. No matter what, she always got back up and started again. The part that stuck in my head the most was them losing the homestead. I could not imagine losing multiple homesteads and having to start again from scratch with a completely new piece of land all over again. In the end, her daughter seemed doomed to repeat the kind of life her sister had gone after and there was nothing she could do to steer her towards stability and an honest living. In the end, she was powerless to control anything…and it didn’t break her. i thought, “that must be as close as i’ll ever come to understanding the meaning of life.”
One morning i was getting ready for work. I was on my way out the door. I opened the cabinets under the sink to throw something away in the trash bag when a smell hit me. It was that stale mildewy stench that signified the presence of sitting water. I yanked everything out from under the sink. Everything was soaked and dripping.
I placed the lantern on the floor near the cabinet and ran the sink. The water came pouring out of a joint in the pvc pipes. I sighed. I needed to go to work, but i couldn’t have the homestead without a sink. I put my bags down and got under the sink in my scrubs, trying everything in my power to force the little rubber ring that had come loose back into place between the two pipes. However, it had morphed into a kind of warped oval shape and was no longer round. The rubber had become hard and brittle. It was no longer pliable and wouldn’t bend where i was asking it to. I threw my hands up. I wiped the excess water from the bottom of the cabinet, left the cabinets open to dry the area out, and made a mental note to stop by the home depot on the way home. I needed at least one piece from the plumbing aisle…maybe an extra plastic part to go over the pvc pipe where the two pieces were connected if it still leaked upon replacing the first part.
The best things the sellers had done was to leave the tags on every single thing in the tiny house, including the windows. I felt all houses should come in such a state, so trips to the home depot could be made more easily. I pulled the original tag from the pvc pipe and stuck it in my pocket. I would bring it to home depot to make sure i got the right sized piece i was looking for.
The little rubber rings came in two-packs. I purchased the corresponding size for the pvc pipe i had under the sink. Then i took out the old brittle ring and put in the new soft rubber ring. It immediately smushed between the pipes and i tightened the plastic ring that sat atop both pipes as far as i could get it to one side. Then i turned on the sink. Dry as a bone. I had fixed the water leak. I put the remaining rubber ring in the kitchen drawer. When this one wore out i would be prepared.
On the way home i had stopped at the gas station up the street from my property to fill up my car. as i put the nozzle into the car it leaked gas everywhere. I thought that was strange, as i hadn’t paid for it yet, but didn’t immediately connect the dots. As i entered my credit card, it did not ask for my zip code, which the pump had always done before. I stood there pondering the differences as the gas pumped into the car. It was then that i noticed a tiny orange sticker the size of a nasal bridge strip placed on the left bottom corner of the pump. It was nowhere near the keypad or the place to insert one’s credit card. It was upside down but if i craned my head i could make out the words written in orange against an orange backdrop “tamper evident”. As my head swiveled to the red sticker next to the keypad i noted that it was indeed sliced through. Well, shit. I spent the next two hours cancelling my credit card and calling all the establishments that i had on auto pay to tell them i wasn’t purposely evading scheduled payments but it would be a few business days before i could get them my new card number. I also had several items on back order. The companies had not yet charged my card for those items. So i had to scramble and call them to let them know not to cancel my order and that a new valid card number would be in their possession within a week. All in all, it was not the most positive day, but i was learning that i could handle more than i thought i could.
I was talking to the a/c repair guy when i first heard it. It was kind of a “oodle-ooo”. But it was clear as day. Ira had made his first rooster noise. As i stood in the yard talking to the repair man Ira tried again and again to perfect his new ability. My face lit up as i informed the repair man that the rooster was a baby and that had been his first crow! I said quietly, “i’m so proud of him!” All of my friends had told me not to praise the rooster for crowing, so i didn’t, but secretly i loved that noise for it reminded me that i was far from the city and that was the way i liked it.
Originally i used a bag of frozen strawberries from walmart to make the non-dairy yogurt cups i enjoyed with breakfast. However, after i stopped going to the grocery store i relied on whatever fruit i received in my fedex box to dictate the weekly flavor of the “yogurt” cups.
Apple was the most common flavor as i usually received 6 apples a week in my fedex box. It was the fruit i usually had on hand.
One week i ran out of the frozen strawberries so i combined apple and strawberry pieces to make it so that there were five pieces of fruit in the bottom of each jar.
One week i received two mangos in my fedex box of weekly produce and i was so excited to make mango flavored yogurt!
I had every intention of taking the orange pieces out of the dividers in a large enough quantity to put five pieces in the bottom of all seven jars one week. After realizing how much work it was i did one jar of orange yogurt and filled the rest with apple.