The Neighbor’s Cows

I’ve never actually met my neighbors. I prefer it that way. There is an access road to my one neighbor’s property that runs along the length of one side of my property. I see their truck and their suv drive along that dusty white road all the time but i never say hi to them and they never say hi to me. We’re perfect strangers. Best neighbors ever. My other neighbors that live across the street from me, they stop at the mailbox on the corner to empty it once in a while. I never say hi to them. They never say hi to me. I don’t know what they even look like, just their car. Again, best neighbors ever. Across the street on the other side of my property is a man that owns 22 acres. I know this because everyone in any kind of government office that has access to a map mistakes my property for his, and i have to hear about his property anytime i want to do anything from securing an address for my property to trying to get a private contractor out to stack and assemble some furniture. This man and his wife apparently owned 22 acres and they had a small herd of cows. I figured that detail out one day when i was standing in the yard and i heard “moo”. I stopped digging the hole i was working on and listened. Suddenly, there it was again, “moo”. The dog had heard it too! She was standing at attention with her ears up, a look of cautious curiosity on her face. I thought, “it couldn’t be!” I dropped the shovel and ran through the tall grass to the edge of the fence where i gasped. There stood 5 big healthy cows, tucked in amongst the trees and brush. They looked funny standing amongst the cedar trees. I had only ever seen cows in open fields. They looked so out of place between the branches, like stealthy secret cows; camoflauged. Sili and i stared at those cows for a good half hour. Sili had never met a cow, and i hadn’t been up close to a cow in over a year. I was beyond ecstatic that my neighbor had cows. It meant i would get to hear them and see them frequently without having to worry about deworming, keeping the flies at bay, feeding, and housing them. Over time, i began to realize that the cows only made noise at a particular time in the evening. They were only ever near the fence next to the road (and across from my property) at this certain time every evening. Soon i found out why. One day the dog went nuts barking and snarling and running through the tall grass in the direction of the fence. I followed her to see what the ruckus was about. I couldn’t see the men well through the trees, but there were two of them. I could see jeans and boots next to the pickup. In the pickup was hay. The hay was deposited near the fence, the gate was closed, and the truck disappeared. The cows descended upon the hay, mooing. Each evening i found myself in the yard doing chores, i would listen to the clank of a chain on a metal gate, the engine of a truck, and the mooing of contented cows living their best life. I hoped they were pet or dairy cows. I couldn’t bear to think of them slaughtered for meat. But, they were not my cows so it wasn’t my business. A couple months later the cows were all standing at the fence on a saturday. I looked over and noticed a calf. One of the cows had a calf with her. It was so precious. She was a really good mama, always checking where her calf was and nuzzling his head. If she walked in a certain direction, she turned to see if her baby was following. Sili and i stood in awe for a long while. New life had been created and was growing up before our eyes. I wondered if it was a bull calf or a heifer. Since they appeared to dwell among the trees, i began to refer to my neighbor’s cows as forest cattle. I enjoyed listening to the forest cattle moo in the evenings and when i heard metal clank against metal i knew it was time for their supper.

Old School Bathtub

It may have taken me forever and a day to realize that the heater was broken but i noticed early on that the hot water heater was not up for the job. I could manage around 6 minutes of warm water in the dead of winter and 10 minutes of hot water in the blazing heat of summer. With a sub-par water heater and a well pump that didn’t have a holding tank, the thought of a bathtub had crossed my mind. I could always boil water for a bath but i couldn’t fix a cold shower. I wasn’t looking for a major bathroom renovation. I was dead broke at the time. So i turned to the pioneer days for a rather basic solution. Way back in my childhood i remembered watching an episode of little house on the prairie. There was a bathtub without a drain. It was the basic model; before we came up with all the fanciness that hooks up to city plumbing. The main problem with this kind of tub was that i had to be able to lift it to drain the water after the bath. That little detail effectively governed which size tub i could look at buying. I was determined to find a tub that wouldn’t rust and wouldn’t weigh a ton. So i went to our local everything store; Gibson’s. I bought the smallest steel tub i could find that i could still sit in. I drove it home and set it in the bottom of my shower. I filled the pasta pot with water and set it on the stove to boil. Once the water was bubbling i switched off the stove and carried the pot into the bathroom where i carefully dumped the contents into the steel tub. Then i turned the shower knob all the way to “hot” and emptied what warm water there was in the water heater into the tub. Once it was 3/4 full, i dipped my hand in. It was nice and hot. I sunk into that bath like butter. That water felt so good on my tired sore muscles. It was better than a cup of iced tea to a dying man stranded in the desert. I sat in that tub until my fingers and toes looked like raisins. It was so luxurious to be able to soak in hot water. That settled it. No more showers! I began getting up an hour early to boil water and soak in a hot bath every morning. I was more sleep-deprived but so refreshed. When the water had lost its heat i would step out, wrap a towel around myself, and tip the edge of the tub, gradually pouring the bath down the shower drain. When the tub was empty i would set it in the kitchen on the cool stove to dry. Eventually it came time to put flea and heartworm meds on Sili. She could only tolerate the topical ones. Once a month i would make a bath in the evening, soak in it until it felt comfortably warm instead of muscle soothing hot, then hurry over and remove Sili’s collar, lifting her into the tub before the water lost any more heat. I used a bowl to pour the water over her to rinse away her coconut oatmeal shampoo. Once all the greasy medicine was washed off i would lift her out and wrap her in a towel, tipping the tub to drain the muddy dog-hair laden soapy water. I would scoop the dog hair off the drain and put it in the trash bag to protect the septic tank. She would sleep on the kitchen floor afterwards, giving her fur a chance to dry. Showers were bearable during the summer; even enjoyable in August. However, during the winter this steel tub became a very important piece of our daily routine.

Occasional Supply Runs

Living an all-natural chemical free lifestyle is hard to do when the grocery store in my town is the shell station up the road. So, i end up buying all my shampoo, conditioner, deodorant, perfume, and makeup online. However, amazon is not always cost effective. Each person listing an item can decide what they want to price it at and if the buyer wants that item badly enough, they will pay it. I have in the past seen one bottle of the shampoo i use listed at 55 dollars + shipping. I will wait until i am almost out of an item trying to see if someone will list it at a reasonable price. If they don’t, i have to dedicate a weekend to driving into a big city for a supply run. Whether i buy online or in the city, i generally buy in bulk to save on shipping/gas money/wear and tear on the car. I try to have at least 3 of the large items, 6 of the medium items, and 20 of the small items in the box under the bathroom sink following a successful supply run. It’s important i stay stocked on the day-to-day items and keep inventory of what i have because i can’t just run down the road and pick another one up if i’m out of something. Its a long drive back to the products i was brought up with.

The Quiet

My favorite time of the day is dawn on a weekend. I’m at work long before sunrise on the weekdays so i generally miss this time throughout the week. However, on Saturdays and Sundays i can catch the quiet. The quiet is the time right before the sun comes up, when the sky is lightening but nothing is awake yet. The time when the nocturnal animals have turned in for the night and the daytime ones haven’t woken up yet. Not a bird sings. Not a cricket chirps. It’s just quiet. It is light enough to see your hand but not yet light enough to make out colors. Everything is either shadow or other. There is no red, green, or blue. It is my favorite time of the day. It is best experienced in silence, with a good dog at one’s side.

Cat-Proofing my Grandmother’s Rocking Chair

When i lived in apartments i had separate rooms and if something was off limits to the cat i could just close the door. In the tiny house, everything is open. So i had to come up with a way to cat-proof my grandmother’s rocking chair. I stretched trash bags over the cushions and put them on top of the free standing closet when not in use. However, there was still a square of felt stretched across the seat of the rocking chair. The cat would definitely christen this if given a chance. I decided a piece of wood would be the way to go; a flat piece of wood i could slide in place when the chair was not in use. Just to make sure she abhorred it, i would rub it down with lemon oil. I bought a piece of plywood at home depot. I knew from past experience that they did not do diagonal lines. They could only cut things into perfectly straight squares and rectangles with their jigsaw beast. So, i watched a youtube video and taught myself to use a circular saw. I laid the board of wood on an overturned bucket and marked where i wanted it cut. I anchored the piece with my knee and made the cuts. Then i sanded all sides and edges of the piece of wood and drenched it in lemon oil. Once it had dried i blotted the excess oil away with paper towel and tested it out. As soon as the lemon scented piece of wood came within 3 feet of the cat she squinched up her nose and ran. I slid the piece of wood into place on the rocking chair and my place was officially cat ready. Eventually our cat would pick something else to pee on (the stove burners) at which point she would join my friend and her family. However, at this point in time we were still moving mountains and air trying to make sure the environment was set up for her best level of success in our family.

Bambi Bones

One day Sili emerged from behind the shed with this in her mouth. Now, my dogs are diggers, so it would do no good to give the poor bambi a proper burial. It would essentially be like putting the skull in the refrigerator for the dog to snack on later. I didn’t feel right throwing the skull of an animal in the trash. It was once a deer with a promising young life. Its story didn’t deserve to end in a white forceflex trash bag. So, i put it on the fence railing of the porch. We had a couple windy days and it blew off the porch railing, so now it sits amongst the pots in the herb garden on a chair. Every so often from winter all the way into autumn a dog would show up on the porch with a femur, a vertebrae, or a rib. So proud. Just beaming, walking around with their prize in their teeth. I put the other bones in the trash. They were not especially clean bones and it appeared other animals may have had a turn before the dog chewed them. I didn’t want any dog of mine eating after a coyote or fox whose vaccination records i couldn’t check. So, every time i found a bone it went in the forceflex trash bag for weekly collection. But, poor bambi’s skull sits on the porch surveying the land of its scattered remains.

Ah-Ha Moment

I’m sure the a/c – heating unit was broken a long time before i realized it because it hadn’t been heating since i moved in. However, i didn’t know how strong this little unit should be. I thought maybe the weather was just too much for it. I didn’t realize i needed a repair man until the day we skirted the house when the handyman pointed to my block of powdery ice in the yard and said, “you know that’s broken right?” I turned and looked where he had pointed. He dusted some of the powdered ice off of the unit and said, “it’s not supposed to be like that.” I had thought the ice had come from the sky, as we were standing in the freezing rain, but he assured me it had nothing to do with the weather. So i called a repair man. He gave me a very fair price but i would have to wait for the part to be ordered and shipped from out of town. For a week my daily routine involved de-icing the a/c unit with a butter knife. There were some metal tubes coming out the back of the a/c unit in a loopy motion that reminded me of a hotwheels track. The repair man said this was a problem. It would have to be cut and sautered back together in a straight line. The a/c repair guy was an honest guy that came highly recommended and did good work. The job was done earlier than expected and the unit has worked great ever since. The minute hot air came out of that thing i had an ah-ha moment. I had been cold all winter because the heater was broken.

Ranch Boots

There were multiple reasons for purchasing the boots. I was having a problem with ants and spiders getting in my shoes when i walked through the tall grass and i worried ticks and scorpions would soon join the list as the months passed. I also dropped a very heavy box, shipped ups freight, on my tennis shoe, crushing a couple toes, which made the whole “steel toe” idea sound pretty nifty. So i bought myself some tall, lace-up, steel-toe work boots and had them shipped to me in the mail (my feet are small so i usually have to buy online). I did not take to them right away. Boots with steel in them are heavy. I felt like my feet were strapped to blocks of lead. It did not suit my preferred speed in life. In the beginning i rejected them and set them in the cabinet. They were too stiff. They didn’t bend when i walked. They were insanely heavy. I was not immediately fond of them. It would be months before i figured out what i had done wrong. There was nothing the matter with the boots. I just didn’t know what to do with them.