Surprise!

The nest in my stacked planter boxes had been empty for some time now. The baby birds had grown up and flown away. I was curious if the mama bird would still view the nest as home or be done with it now that it had served its purpose. I occasionally lifted the cardboard to see if she was in there squatting over her nest but she never was. It was always empty. For several days i didn’t check for her. When i finally did i got a surprise! As i lifted the cardboard out of the way i saw 5 little speckled eggs sitting in the nest. I was immediately thrilled! Not only would there be more birds to eat the biblical amount of grasshoppers on the land, i would get to watch another batch of babies grow up! I was so excited that the birds liked this spot so much as it was a good height for me to look in on without climbing a tree. I decided that the planter boxes would stay stacked just like they were forever so that birds could reuse the nest time and time again. I wasn’t sure if it was the same mother bird that laid the first batch of eggs or a different one but the edges of the nest had been revamped with new material pulled from the scraggly bark of the cedar trees. The renovated part of the nest was very organized and tidy. What amazing creatures!

Well, i didn’t have to wait long to get the answer to my question. It was in fact NOT the same bird. Instead of an oak titmouse i discovered a little brown bird with a white stripe about the eye and a striped tail sitting on the nest. I can’t be certain for i’m no expert but i believe she is a carolina wren. she returned to the nest and laid a 6th egg. She’s been diligently incubating them ever since. I can’t wait to see how the tiny baby wrens differ from a baby finch, a baby swallow, or a baby titmouse!

There are now 7 eggs in the nest. That’s a lot of babies! i am so curious how many of them will hatch.

The little bird ended up laying 7 eggs. For a while she sat on all of them. One day i checked in on her and she had pushed one of the eggs out of the nest. 6 eggs were in the nest and one egg was just lying all by its lonesome on the nearby cardboard. At first i thought maybe it had been ejected from the nest accidentally. It was a very small nest and was full to the brim with eggs. I snuck it back in the nest and tip toed away. The next day i came back and there were only 6 eggs again. This time the seventh egg was nowhere to be found. It had completely disappeared. It became apparent to me at that point that she meant to eject the egg from the nest. Either she knew it wasn’t fertile or she just made the decision that seven eggs was too many for each baby to get the food they needed to grow into adulthood. Either way, it was her call and it wasn’t my place to interfere. So i left her to her business and returned to my chores. There are now 6 potential babies.

Update: Sadly, none of the seven eggs were fertilized. One by one the little wren pushed an egg out of the nest over an extended period of time. Sometimes she would leave it there. Sometimes she would eat it. 7 eggs became 6, became 5, became 4… i knew something was wrong. Unlike the finches, the swallows, and the little titmouse of my past, this bird was not fiercely guarding her babies in the nest, she was throwing them out. She sat on the remaining 4 eggs until i went outside one day and found only 2 eggs. There was 1 egg on the cardboard under the nest and 1 egg in the nest. At this point i consulted a family member with a birdwatching business. What would make a bird behave this way? I was curious if they were all duds. I took the egg that had been adjacent to the nest and opened it. It had been incubated to term before being discarded…plenty of time for something to develop if it was fertilized. When i opened it, there was no baby inside; just some yellow liquid. I sighed. They were all duds. I read on the internet that if a bird did not have contact with a male she would still lay and incubate the unfertilized eggs until it became apparent nothing was going to hatch. Then she would abandon the nest. I never saw the wren again. She never returned to the nest. Poor thing must not have found a mr. Carolina Wren and motherhood was not to be for her…at least not this year. As i thought about it, i saw many finches, titmice, cardinals, white winged doves, and blue jays, but i didn’t see too many wrens. Maybe they were not as prevalent in this area as the other birds. Finding a mate must not have been as easy as it was for the cardinals that are everywhere or the finches that fly around the yard daily. I felt sad for her. She had spent so much time incubating the eggs and to no avail. I told myself that now she would eat well, as whatever she caught would be for her and she wouldn’t have to run herself ragged bringing food to 7 babies. Still, i really wanted to see what baby wrens looked like.

11.3 Miles

Between semesters i had a week and a half to get a lot of things done. I knew i only had a certain amount of days off to do them in. To maintain my license and certification to practice occupational therapy in case i ever wanted to use my degree again, i would need to complete 40 hours of online courses by the deadline for renewal. I also desperately needed to mow the roughly 1.5 acres of cleared land on my property as the grass was over 4 inches tall in all areas now and if i didn’t do something about it right quick it was going to be another year of constant unbearable chiggers for myself and the dogs. I needed to steam and hang dry all my masks for work on the clothes line during the only forecasted sunny day in two weeks. I was also in the process of writing and formatting two projects i needed to get finished before starting a new semester. On top of this i thought it seemed like a really good time to learn Russian. Sometimes i do that; throw something else on the plate that i want to do more than what’s in front of me that will cause me to exert a herculean effort in getting everything else done so i can focus on what i really want to do, which is whatever last task i threw on the heap that seems super important in this moment.

I had worked an 8.5 hour shift which meant i had sprinted down the aisles gathering 8 to 15 objects at a time, wedging the corners of chip bags between my fingers, stacking boxes in a tower and tucking them under my chin, and stuffing spice bottles in my jacket pockets to carry them while i sprinted back to the cart. The carts were too bulky for the customers to navigate past so we weren’t allowed to bring them down the aisles. You just had to stuff your arms and sprint. Every second counted and the smart phones tracked everybody’s performance. I had a quota, as most jobs do, but beyond that there was an expectation of performance in order to keep people content. So you run. I mean literally sprint for 8.5 hours minus two fifteen minute breaks and a 30 minute lunch break, but you still have to run from the front of the store to the breakroom and vice versa. I usually run around 8 miles per shift but on this particular day i came home, took a look at the land, and decided that i was not going to sit down just yet. I put my headphones on, got out all my lawn mower batteries, and ran about the yard until sundown. I say ran because each battery lasts a total of 40 minutes at full charge. I had 3 of them. I needed to mow 1.5 acres of 4+ inch grass. In 40 minutes the battery would be dead and the mower would turn off. How much grass got mowed in those 40 minutes was up to the one mowing the lawn and the speed at which they ran. So i sprinted back and forth, back and forth across the land to some good tunes. When all was said and done i had run 11.3 miles. I had to quit because the batteries were all dead. I still needed to mow the front field and the back half of the dog run but that would have to wait until the following day when the batteries were charged again.

Round 2 began the following morning when the batteries had each had their turn on the charger. I set about mowing the lawn but every 20 minutes i had to stop and put another 2 masks in the instant pot, replace the water, and turn it on again, then start timing when the steam had built up and was coming out in a steady stream. I would wash my hands, switch out the old masks, hang them on the laundry line, place new ones in, and reset the device. I was also washing laundry in the house. By the evening i had the whole property mowed down to a buzz cut in comparison to the wild inches of flowing grass it had been just the day before. Now the jack rabbits had nowhere to hide and i could see the toads when they hopped. I even mowed up by the orchard and reclaimed some of the wild area over by the pin oak tree. The land looked more expansive after i cleared the brushy weedy area over there.

The next task on the list was the 40 hours of courses. It was actually a requirement of 36 hours but i always did an extra course in case the organization rejected one of my submissions (which does happen sometimes) either because it was not considered an approved course or because they didn’t feel the topic was treatment centered enough. i made myself a big breakfast, sat down, and got it done. During my break between semesters i had managed to cross everything off my list except clean the chicken coop.

I left the boxes undisturbed, hoping that the bird would return and raise babies in the nest under the cardboard layers again next year.

Sili watched me cut the grass in the dog run from afar, always being careful to stay out of range of whatever whirring monster i was pushing. Cashew, on the other hand, rang alongside me, lunging and snapping at the mower every time i slowed, turned, or got hung up on a branch or rock. She seemed to be intent upon herding the mower in some direction. She wasn’t sure what that direction may be, but she felt the need to herd it, pretty much because it was moving. I’m not going to lie; i was relieved to be done with the dog run. I was trying to protect her from the mower, the mower from her, not dull the blades on rocks or stumps, and refrain from injuring myself. I probably should have put her in the house but it was the one sunny day in two weeks of forecasted weather. I thought that they should be out to enjoy it. Eventually i would collapse into bed, physically and mentally exhausted, but the semester break projects were done.

A Rainy Day at Home

There were a couple pop up storms that rolled through and dumped a couple of inches in our rain collection containers. There was a fair amount of ground lightening so i spent the majority of the time soothing Cashew and trying to convince her we were all going to be fine with one hand while typing on my laptop with the other. I had worked four days straight, running an average of 8 miles per eight hour shift; lifting bags of charcoal, 28 packs of water, deer corn, bags of salt chips, and pulling the weight of bulk carts over the carpeted sections of the floor to get back to the box. My arthritis was killing me. It not only hurt to move, it hurt to be still. I tried to lay stretched out without bending my knees at all. That hurt less. I never admitted to my comrades at work that i was in agony. I didn’t need the young spring chickens having reasons i wasn’t as adequate a worker. However, you’re just damned if you do and damned if you don’t because then they resented me for my time scores. If only they knew how i paid for those time scores every night they wouldn’t have felt the need to punish me further. It was my first day off in 4 days and i decided all that would get done was charging the lawn mower batteries and writing on the lap top while listening to the rain on the tin roof. That’s exactly how productive the day was.

The agricultural termites always made an appearance during humid weather. They had tunnels beneath the whole two acres and it was always a surprise where they would pop up next.

I went to retrieve the trash can from the intersection and stepped right over the biggest grasshopper before i realized what i’d just done. I hurried to step on it. For some reason it moved but did not jump. I smashed it several times before it crunched and then i carried it to the chickens who couldn’t even swallow it in one bite. It was so big that two of them had to pull it apart and each got half because buttercup couldn’t fit it in her beak. That was a gift from God for the chickens. Usually a grasshopper that large could fly 30 feet easy in one jump and i’d never be able to catch up with it before it took off again. I knew that the tool shed would be teeming with pill bugs after the rain as the environment would be dank and humid inside. I headed over there with a cup. Sure enough, the floor was crawling with them. I picked them up one by one and dropped them in the cup. Then i locked the shed up and dumped the cup in the chicken run where the girls feasted. I added a couple of centipedes i found as well. Because i didn’t free range them, i needed to collect the bugs they would normally eat if they were free from the confines of my chicken fort knox, or be forced to buy dried mealworms from the feed store. I preferred to catch the chickens protein rather than buy it. I felt that way it was fresh and didn’t cost me a fortune.

Rain for 2 Days Straight

i have never in my life had this much rain water collected at once. I kid you not. It rained for 2 days straight non-stop. One storm system after another. It was so dark i never turned off the night light. My phone was constantly going off with flood alerts. All the creeks and rivers had jumped their banks. The low water crossings were rushing rapids. We were told to stay in our houses and not drive unless it was absolutely necessary for medical emergency or because the house was filling with water. My house was on pier and beam, meaning it was actually raised off the ground and not level with it. So the water did surround the house and the whole property became a standing 1 to 2 inch lake but it never came in…just went underneath the skirting and out the other side. The chicken pen flooded and made the most awful form of primarily chicken poo quick sand so that i managed to get them feed while sinking ankle deep in it and decided they could keep their eggs for the day before heading off to de-gunk my toes and shoes underneath the spigot. I was thrilled to have all the rain water in my possession. However, it was a little bit exhausting dealing with the flooding, the dog terrified of lightening, the leaking window, and the power outages during my online tutoring session. When it finally stopped raining i let the dogs out after being cooped up for two days.

A Surprise in the Cardboard Bin

Note, this clever bird has used my molting chicken’s feathers to line her nest.

I have always loved birds. I think it is such a privilege to watch them hatch and raise up their babies. It happens so fast and teaching them to fly is such an exciting and nervous day. Several people i knew had swallows who returned every year to nest on their porch. They would glue newspaper to the side of their house so it would fall off when the birds started constructing their nests or they’d bat the new progress down with a broom each day. These birds were so determined to make their nest in the same place every year that they’d spend the whole season trying to rebuild and rebuild a nest and they’d never lay eggs. I thought it was so cruel. The poor birds never gave up. I killed bugs and left them a trail to my porch from my neighbors, but they ate them and then continued trying to make a nest in exactly the spot they had the first time. As much as i wanted to provide a haven for the poor swallows, they didnt choose my porch, and so i had no swallows. One day i was just fuming mad about something that was said to me by a customer at work. I was just fuming mad about how awful humans could be to each other at times and i had torn my work shirt off, threw it in the laundry, stormed about the yard in a furious manner getting the chores done, all the while muttering about how i’d swear off humanity altogether if i didn’t have to pay the mortgage and property taxes…when i saw a mass of sticks peeking out from my cardboard pile in the old bins with holes in the bottom that i had once used as planter boxes. Could it be?! As i lifted the cardboard gently i expected to find a bird’s nest but what i found surprised me. 5 little fuzzy pink mounds with unopened eyes sat wobbling beneath my gaze. A nest full of babies!!! Oh hallelujah! I finally had birdies! The rest of the day fell away and i couldn’t care less about the people who had been just wretched and awful earlier in the day. My whole brain was consumed with birdies! I named them uno, dos, tres, cuatro, and cinco. Im getting less creative in my thirties. The mother ended up being a little gray bird with a long skinny tail. I wondered if she was maybe an oak titmouse. She was a very attentive mother. She fed them constantly, except for when it rained. Then she shielded them from the weather. I fed the babies crushed bugs a couple times when she was away but ultimately, she was such a tireless and attentive mom, i didn’t want to get in the way of her doing her thing so i started leaving bugs directly beneath the tree she was in or the fence she was perched on. She began taking caterpillars and pill bugs from me and then bringing them to her babies. Whatever i found i put in a cup to leave for the bird next time she returned. I tried to check on the babies growth but it rained for two days straight and before that every time i went to check them she was sitting on the nest.

The next time i got to check them was directly after our two straight days of rain. They had feather tubes and their eyes were open! She had kept all five of them alive during all that drenching rain and wind and cold. I sure was glad there were holes in the bottom of each stacked toy box so the water couldn’t pool. Their mum was a pro. I wondered how old she was. This was not her first rodeo. She had fed all five of them until they were fat and feathered and kept them all warm and dry while she got rained on during the storm. For the first time i noticed an intact egg. I wondered if it wasn’t fertilized or if it had just never hatched. The babies were nearly grown. It was a little too late for it to just be a late bloomer. I suddenly remembered the nest that was in the satellite dish when it came down off the roof. I had put it in the tree behind the house not far from where it had been in the dish. There was one little unhatched egg in that nest too. I hurried over to the tree behind the house to check. Where the nest had been, there was a mass of sticks wedged between a couple branches. It had been taken apart and recycled. She had come back to her nest, found it gone, located it, and rebuilt it with the old materials in a more protected and sturdier spot. It was barely in the tree when i had placed it there. I was preoccupied with all the thorny plants beneath the tree against my bare feet in flip flops. I hadn’t even known the nest was up there until the satellite came down. I missed a whole generation of birds being raised on my roof. But i was going to be able to see this batch, and this meant mama had clearly chosen my house as a nesting place 2 years in a row. This meant she would likely make it a tradition and i would get to see future birdies grow and learn to fly. I was so thrilled! I finally got birds!

Here they are with feathers. I had a couple of finches make a nest in a hanging plant on my patio about 3 years ago. They raised 3 babies. If these birds are anything like the finches they are getting ready to fly.
Almost grown
The nest is empty. All 5 baby birds survived, made it to adulthood, and flew the nest.
The random egg that never hatched was left behind. I had a hunch that it was never fertilized but i wanted to see if my theory would be right, or if a chick had developed and then died before hatching.
My theory was right. It wasn’t fertilized. It was quite rancid. The smell was pungent to say the least. The ants immediately took over and i left them to their work.

A Miscellaneous Update

Though things are rather uncertain at the moment, Sili and Cashew are unaware and living their best life on the land. They are operating business as usual while i stress and fret over work and school and sometimes that’s very helpful.

Yes, that is a whole tin of blueberries smashed into the packing there.

i cancelled our subscription to the fedex food delivery service. The price for foods suddenly sky rocketed so that not only was it no longer cheaper than the foods i could get at the grocery in town…it was more expensive and you still had to pay shipping, which they raised by a dollar. Also, the food was always arriving damaged or missing. I had a theory that they raised the price so high after losing so much money refunding items that were damaged due to poor packing and fedex’s handling but i had no evidence to base this on, only a hunch. Once i began shopping in the grocery again i had such a wider variety to choose from and never had to worry about what state it would arrive in if it even arrived at all. However, by cancelling the service i had given up access to food at a level of ripeness that could not be achieved in the super market. This food was so ripe and so sweet it was near spoiling…at the perfect time for maximum flavor. However, financially it just wasn’t feasible to stay and i was upset that the service offered no explanation for nearly doubling the price of every vegetable and fruit on their site a few months ago. I think i was most upset that they were taking advantage now that people were dependent on them for groceries.

Last year when i built the chicken coop i put it inside a covered pen so i decided to leave the “run” part off of the design and just have it be open so they had access to the whole interior of the pen. I saved the wire fence panels thinking i would at some point construct a chicken tractor that could be pulled about the yard so they could graze various spots without worrying about hawk or coyote attacks. However, i never got around to doing it. One day i just decided that i was going to finish this idea today. I dragged an extension cord across the yard, fetched my drill and some 3 inch construction screws i had left over from the shed porch railing, and the panels. Within an hour i had constructed a chicken tractor. I had to drive the screws in 2/3 of the way so that the pointy end didnt stick out and i used shorter miscellaneous screws i had in the lid of my toolbox where i could but eventually i ran out so i just made the longer ones work. I put the chickens in it one by one and let them eat grass and hunt bugs for a couple hours before placing them back in the pen. Everything was about predator protection where i lived. I would give them as many food sources as i could but not at the expense of safety. in the chicken tractor, hawks couldn’t swoop down and carry them off.

I began noticing a dramatic reduction in eggs. Only one chicken was molting at the time so there should be more eggs than 1 or zero per day. However, there weren’t. Then one day i ducked into the coop to find Daisy, my favorite chicken, stooped over the nesting box with her rump up in the air. She had yolk dripping down her beak and she had completely eaten the top half of the egg shell. She was working her way down, eating every last bit of the evidence. I was horrified. The proper thing to do was eliminate the chicken from the group before she taught the others, but i couldn’t. If it had been buttercup, well she bites, she’s sneaky, and she never liked me anyway, but it wasn’t. It was Daisy, my favorite; the one that wants nothing more than to sit in your lap for hours and be petted. I couldn’t get rid of her and soon i had a whole flock of chickens eating their own eggs. I decided there was only one thing to do. I purchased 6 ceramic eggs at the feed store; 2 for each nesting box. I tried to collect the eggs multiple times a day and immediately after they had laid if possible. I left the ceramic eggs in place in the boxes. The chickens pecked at the ceramic eggs, which didn’t open and probably hurt their beaks. After 1 day they stopped pecking the eggs and i began getting a full batch daily once again. During this time though, i had the opportunity to examine the broken eggs they had pecked. The shells were very thin and brittle and the yolk was yellow instead of orange. I was alarmed by this. The only thing i could attribute it to was a recent change in their feed from scratch to pellets. They were wasting half of the scratch. They only liked select bits. They sorted through, ate their favorites, and left the rest. Also, i got 3 bags that were contaminated with beetles and moth larvae. They pretty much ate the corn and left the chickens droppings to consume in its place. It was a local store. I knew the whole batch was contaminated and refunding us all would put them under. I didnt try to bring it back. I used all 3 bags and then i switched to a different feed, one that wasnt made in house, so that if it was defective i could go after some corporate company for a refund. Well, apparently the vitamin content of the all natural pellets i switched them to was just not the same. They were getting less vitamin a, vitamin d, calcium, and who knows what else. The only thing i knew to do was put them back on the scratch that they waste so much of. It wasn’t what i wanted to do but within a week of switching back, their eggs were thick shelled again and the yolks were nearly orange.

I hate that they waste half of it but it keeps them so shiny and healthy and makes great eggs. Sometimes out of frustration i take the bits they dont want and have spread all over the floor to pick through and put it back in the dispenser, trying again to convince them its food.

Yet another thermometer dismounted from the post in the middle of a storm and i had to buy a replacement. This time i took a different approach and ordered a basic metal one from hobby lobby rather than a vintage decorative stucco or tile one. They were too fragile and hard to find. However, the metal one was bigger than i anticipated when i looked at the picture. They need to include a hand or a quarter for size reference in the advertisement photo. It was too wide for the porch post. I hung it on the house. However, the house is 4 degrees warmer than the porch post so i quickly realized that i had to subtract 4 from whatever temperature the new thermometer displayed for the sake of accuracy.

I spent Easter with my dear friend’s family. Her granddaughter made me this baby chicken from her clay set. I treasure it and it lives on my kitchen shelf where i can see it daily when im cooking or packing my lunch.

Her family dyed eggs and filled them with confetti. We hid them all over the property and the children found and deployed them. I do so love the look of mischievous optimism on a child’s face as they are deciding which relative needs more confetti in their hair. It was a rare break from the duties of life and the responsibilities that need tending to. It was a moment where it was okay to just be present and watch kids being kids.

One day i walked by my mulberry tree and noticed it was covered in little green knobs. I was just thrilled that it wasnt dead when it sprouted leaves after our winter-pocalypse, as people in the community are now calling it. i was in awe of this tree that it was going to put out fruit right now after clinging to life by a thread. Literally, if someone said a fire is on its way to your property, this is the one tree i’d turn the hose on, i’d save it before all the others if i only had one choice, because you just can’t beat a tree that not only survives the apocalypse but puts out fruit directly after. What a tree. I had planted it last year and this was the first time i had ever seen fruit on it. I was beyond excited.

The berries turned from green to pink, pink to red, and then finally black.

The first batch was barely enough to taste. Two chews and they were gone. However, it registered that they were good.

For about a week i got 20 to 30 berries a day, enough to have several mouthfuls and really taste them. I was enjoying the dickens out of the berries but it meant something more to me. It meant the tree had established itself. It was here to stay. It had rooted and it was producing. It felt like some giant monumental step in constructing my fruit orchard. Since i was not wealthy and had to dig the holes bu hand, most of my trees were very young. It would be a long time before they produced, but the mulberry tree was an adult. It was ready. I now had something besides sumac to harvest yearly.

I was worried what the freeze meant for the mimosa tree in front of the house, as it was regularly dormant at this time of year so there were still no signs of life. I was so relieved when it sprouted leaves and then fragrant pink fuzz balls. It survived being run over by a fedex truck and then winter-pocalypse. Though a flimsy thing, it sure was pretty. I was trimming it yearly to look more like a tree than a bush, as i tended to do with all my cedars. Its looking more and more like a tree. I recognize that once it gets older it will be a hazard to the house during wind storms but it is so pretty and the birds enjoy it so, im willing to deal with the consequences. I havent the heart to cut it down.

There were two little elm trees only a foot tall on the property that i discovered last fall. They were pretty lifeless after the winter storm and i feared i shouldnt have turned my friend down when she offered me a baby elm tree she had in a pot. Then all of a sudden both little sticks sprouted leaves near the base. They were coming back from the roots. Two leaves even emerged at the top of one of the tiny trees.

I tried desperately to water proof the window with a giant a/c hanging out of it. Each time it rained i would find new points of entry for the water and seal them up. Unfortunately, this just meant i was rerouting the path of the water to somewhere else, and i didnt get to figure out where that was until the next time it rained.

Eventually i put down the caulk and picked up the gorilla glue. I needed something liquid that would seep down in the crevice and then poof up to twice the size when it dried. Gorilla glue did the trick. It worked too well. Next time it rained i realized everything was so sealed up the water was being routed to one of the only unprotected areas left, and in great quantity.

We had a storm system come through that brought two straight days of steady to pouring rain without any breaks. The property flooded. The chicken pen flooded. Water was going under the house and coming out the other side, then flooding the dog run…they issued an emergency weather statement for the area asking everyone not to drive and to just stay in their houses because all the river banks were swollen, the creeks and streams had overflowed, and the low water crossings were impassible in a big way. My land was so water logged there wasn’t any getting the car out even if my life depended on it. I sunk ankle deep in the water and mud just trying to bring feed to the chickens or make it to our shed. The dogs had to potty directly into the flood water because there wasnt any break in the rain to hold it til. It was during this storm that i realized the new vulnerable area of the window unit water proofing configuration. Water began pouring in from the left top corner. I cut the tip off the container of caulk which i had left loaded in the gun in the house because there wasnt any sense in putting it back in the shed seeing as i would need it each and every time it rained. I plugged up the hole with caulk and prayed that it would dry in the middle of a downpour. The next time i looked at it the whole top of the unit was covered in water. I felt around and realized it was dripping from the foam that had been placed in between the top of the unit and the bottom of the window. The foam was so wet i didnt think there was much chance of getting the caulk to stick to it but i knew i would have to create a pretty extensive wall of caulk once the weather was better to cover the whole exposed strip of foam on the interior side. When the water began pouring in and dripping down the sides of the unit i decided it couldn’t wait. I adhered a massive amount of caulk to the foam as best i could and tried to keep it from peeling off. It wanted to stick to my finger much more than the wet foam and i was using a plastic bag to smooth it because i’d run out of gloves, so, it was more than a bit slap dash. However, it stopped the leaking for the time being. One of these days there wont be any more areas to plug and we can just enjoy the rain.

my hand towels have become permanent fixtures on the window sill.

Signs of Life

I expected everything to be dead. I mean, it was 4 degrees. At that point, the water in the aloe vera spines should have frozen within the plant and the thawed aftermath would be mush. I pulled the towels off of the aloe vera expecting to say goodbye and i realized that 3 of the 4 aloe vera plants still had green spines that had held their shape in the very center of the plant. I wondered how on earth that was possible. Was it like a human succumbing to hypothermia…did the plant lose its arms and legs to save the torso? I just couldn’t imagine that the plant had any means to generate enough heat under that towel to keep the center spines from freezing at 4 degrees. Over the next couple weeks the pill bugs ate away the dead plant matter and the center spines grew bigger. One of the three survivors died. It looked like it might be okay for a few days and then i found pill bugs in the center of the plant as well and knew the thing had lost its battle and was rotting. I still have two aloe vera plants and am nursing them along in the hopes that they will get bigger and one day generate pups that i will place where the two dead ones lie now. When i realized the aloe vera had a chance i started wondering what else had a will to live. Directly after the storm everything looked very dead but sometimes looks can be deceiving. I wondered if God would revive any of my beloved trees and if so which ones. I started walking around the property and removing the towels and blankets from everything.

The biggest surprise by far was the apple tree. One day last year i opened an apple and the seeds had sprouted inside the apple. I put them on a wet paper towel and eventually into a cup of dirt. Then later in the year i had put it in the ground. Cashew had bulldozed the fencing and run over it a couple times. It froze and lost its four tiny leaves during the winter storm. It was an inch tall. I thought for sure that was the end of it. It literally appeared to be a shriveled 1 inch stick in the ground. It resembled a gnarled toothpick for about a week. But, when i removed the towel i saw a cluster of green perched at the top of the stick. It was a few leaves huddled together, just beginning to unfold. I was in awe. It was just a twig and here it was opening new leaves! What a will to survive! What a great little apple tree!

The barbecue rosemary was actually in fairly good shape considering the circumstances.

The native rosemary didnt fare so well. However, there were green bits. I could work with that.

Arguably, the brown turkey fig tree was the whole point of the orchard in the first place. It seemed the most important tree on the whole property, and yet, it appeared to be very dead for the longest time. Long after other trees sprouted new leaves the fig tree stood grey, leafless, and shriveled. Just at the moment i decided to stop watering it and give up hope, i noticed around 6 little green buds protruding from the branches. It was alive! Within the next week these green nubs would continue to grow and 6 tiny fig leaves would open.

The pomegranate tree was the second biggest surprise after the apple tree. I bought it last year in Austin as a couple of twigs in a pot. It cost me 11 dollars. It was such a tiny tree. I was sure it was dead. But, one day i noticed two little redish green leaves poking out from one of the sticks. Within the next 5 days both twigs were covered in new leaves.

I lifted the blanket from the loquat tree carefully. There was a rather large and easily agitated spider that had made a web on the underside of the blanket that included some of the leaves on the loquat tree. He hated being disturbed and had a lot to say about it every time i lifted the blanket to check on the plant. I got the shock of a lifetime. The loquat tree was fine. It was whole, upright, and all of its leaves were green. There was the spider, mad as ever that i had lifted the roof off its lair. I wondered how the spider had survived. I wondered if it had gone underground or stayed underneath the blanket in its web. What had kept the loquat warm? The spider? If so, what had kept the spider warm? The loquat tree was the only plant on the property that didn’t suffer any damage. Perhaps it was because my grandmother had sprouted it from a seed and it was still somehow under the protection of her green thumb from where it stood. A week later it would open two new leaves, signifying the first new growth to happen to it while on my property.

One day i went out and the mulberry tree had erupted in fits of little green leaf buds. In a week and a half it was covered in leaves and flowers that eventually turned to little green berries.

Pears are my favorite fruit. So, i was holding out hope that the pear tree would follow suit. I kept checking and kept checking and still no signs of life. But i kept watering it and kept praying to God. One day i noticed two little green leaf buds poking out of the branches and i danced about the yard whooping and hollering and shouting “it’s alive! It’s alive!” If somebody had walked by they would have thought i created Frankenstein the way i was carrying on. Within a week and a half the tree was covered in beautiful rounded waxy green leaves with rosy edges. It looked beautiful. It was the best and most thorough comeback out of all the trees!

I knew the lemon trees, the mandarin tree, and the avocado tree were dead. There was no reviving them. They were snap-in-half dry as a bone; no water running through them. If it was a human, i would have said “no pulse”. So, i understood and didn’t expect those to come back. However, the pecan tree had been about to bud when it froze. All the tiny brown buds were right where they had been and they were all still brown, but if my eyes weren’t playing tricks on me, they appeared to be getting bigger. I wondered if i was losing my mind or imagining things. It had not a single green thing on it but these brown buds appeared to be growing. Then one morning i went out and saw that two of the buds had split and green leaves were now peeking out. All the brown buds had been incubating green inhabitants. Within the next 5 days i watched each one split open and give birth to jungle green leaves. The pecan tree lived as well! So i’d lost 2 aloe vera and the tropical plants, but, everything else came back. I did not replace the citrus or avocado tree. There was no point. At some point in every season it was going to freeze hard. There was no sense in wasting money replacing that which wouldn’t survive long term. I would one day put a persimmon tree where the lemon had been. It was a good tree and had given me a few lemons over multiple years. It will be remembered fondly as will the mandarin. I realized God was infinitely amazing and had so many talents i didn’t anticipate. His creations are so much more resilient than mine. I have no idea how any of these trees came back, and yet, here they are.

An Outdoor Day

Having my dogs back was incredible. It was a feeling i couldn’t describe. I was supposed to be studying for my exam but at this point we still didn’t have a/c and it was getting stuffy in the house. A front was blowing in. It was warm and sunny. A fierce and wild wind blew the mailbox and plant pots about the yard. It crashed the wind chimes together and made the telephone and power lines dance. I brought my notebook outside and sat down in the dirt in the dog run. I knew i could only do this in the winter or very early spring. Otherwise the ground would be crawling with ants and scorpions. It was a thing i could only get away with during the colder months. There wasn’t a bug in sight. They were all underground, despite the warm front. I took off my shoes and placed my feet in the dirt. It made me feel grounded. I felt better. I sat in the dirt and the dogs sat with me. I listened to the wind rattle through the trees. It made an eerie sound, almost like wind traveling through a metal tunnel. Having grown up in the city, i was fascinated by and never tired of this noise. I was hearing the wind whistle through a multitude of trees, not just rattle leaves on one tree, but move through acres of trees to get to where i was. It was a different noise that was like music to my soul. It meant that i was surrounded…right where i wanted to be.

I thought about the trees, how i viewed them as good company. The trees creaked and rustled in the wind. It was as if they were talking softly amongst themselves, but even on still days, i found them to be better company than humans. I knew on some subconscious level i viewed them as peers and others viewed them as the landscape. I knew this was not normal, but i never professed to be normal. I enjoyed the company of the trees, the music of the wind, and the antics of the dogs and song birds. I was having a peaceful, grounded day and in that moment, experiencing it seemed more important than anything else i could be doing with my life.

That being said, i did manage to read through my notebook and memorize all the material for the written part of the exam by nightfall.

I was surprised to see that my toes left tracks just like any other animal when i wasn’t wearing shoes. I think some part of me was more animal than participant of society, but the human bit of me realized that if i didn’t participate in society i would have no land upon which to sit barefoot in the dirt.