Saturday, October 31, 2009

Your Boo: Turns 1. Eats thumb.

Happy birthday to Boo....Happy birthday to Boo!

Happy birthday dear donkey....

Happy birthday to - aaaaaaaaaargh (expletive, expletive, expletive)*^&%$!!!!!!

Well wishes were cut short when my thumb got in the way of the delicious birthday apple. Regardless, here's to you Boo.


The animals decided to get in the spirit of this holiday and dress up. This is actually Boo.

In other news, it's Boo's first birthday today. Happy B-day, Boo!

Man Week - Overview

One word: awesome.

After being back in the real world for a full week, I've had some time to look back, appreciate, and miss the time spent out there. It was a good week. While I don't think I got as much done as I probably should have with an entire, uninterrupted week, I also didn't try to kill myself. I got some good, quality, relaxing time to myself, as well.

Some highlights of the week:
  • The first night out there was probably the most impressive. It was the beginning of the week, so I had the whole week ahead of me. I was out there by myself, so I had time to just sit and think and enjoy. The sky was clear without a moon, so I was able to see tons of stars and listen to the night sounds. That was a happy night.
  • Friday night, several friends came out for dinner, fire and smores. I smoked a brisket all day (which didn't turn out all that great, unfortunately - but everyone pretended to like it, which I appreciated), so we dined on the picnic table after the sun had set. Shortly thereafter, we moved the party to a nearby campfire as the temperature was dropping. A cold front had just blown in, so the temp was dropping into the 50s, perfect weather to huddle around a camp fire. The sky was clear, so we pretended like we knew what the constellations above us were. And of course, you can't have a camp fire without a healthy dose of smores. It wasn't until someone looked at their watch and realized it was after 1:00am that the party started to break up. It's a sign of good company when you don't even realize 4 hours have passed.
  • I was able to get some winter rye grass seed planted, which I had been talking about for a few weeks since I bought the seed. Hopefully, something useful will come of it.
  • Several large cedar trees met their doom this week. I need to get back in the habit of taking out a couple of those bad boys every week, so that slowly the land will open up, instead of trying to clear an entire section in a single, infrequent, rampage.
  • I had limited cell phone connectivity, which was overall a good thing. It was good enough to receive texts and the occasional dropped call, so I could keep in touch with Jenna and others. However, the service was not good enough to successfully and reliably connect to the internet (I can use my phone as a modem for my laptop). This meant I was unable to consistently sign on to work and check e-mail, which I tried to do throughout the week. So, thanks Sprint for your crappy service. No really, thank you.
  • And lastly, the weather overall was fantastic. I had some gorgeous, sunny, cool days that made working all day outside a joy, and I had some rainy, gray days where I was able to lounge in the recliner with a book and a glass of wine without feeling bad for not being outside. Oh yea, and the pond filled up half way with that rain. All in all, a good mixture of weather. I couldn't have asked for a better week.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

This is why I hate mesquite trees

These suckers will go right through a tractor tire, boot sole, etc. Die mesquite!

It's a good thing I like mud

Yesterday ended up not as muddy as I expected. I did get some quality couch time before I headed out into the muck. I finished tearing down the one section behind the trailer consisting of 2 sizable cedar trees and one monster mesquite with 3 separate, significant trunks. I cut off and saved a good portion of the mesquite wood for burning later, and piled up the remaining branches making sure to get as many of the wicked thorns as possible. I hate mesquite trees (have I said that before?). Jud showed up later that evening, right as it was starting to rain again. We were able to get the grill up some hamburgers in the rain, and hung out for a while discussing various aspects of life. Then it was off to bed, listening to the rain come down...all night long. Needless to say, this morning was amazingly muddy. So muddy, I ended up just parking the tractor and doing manual clearing.

It was Bambi's turn to sit and watch me do the work. So, with chainsaw in hand, I went on an old fashioned cedar tree killing spree. The approach is to pick a point in the wall of trees and just start cutting until you're pinned in from all angles and have to cut your way out. This is probably not the safest thing to do while I'm alone with the trees falling around me, various thorned plans scraping across my arms and face as I plow through the undergrowth, and the ample opportunity for any upset snakes to let me know that I am not welcome on their turf, but it's hard to control the tree slayer side of me once I let him loose. Eventually, I run out of gas in the chainsaw and realize my arms are dripping blood from the scratches and I have a maniacal grin on my face. At this point, I realize it's time to relax a bit. So, beer in hand, I start a couple of small fires (still too windy for a large burn pile) over a couple of small mesquite stumps. Later, Jenna arrives for the night. She actually gets to stay with me tonight...I'm so excited. Not that Jud wasn't excellent company, but I am a little starved for companionship. Matilda is only so understanding. So, we go for a little tractor ride and then sit around a camp fire as the temperature drops to about 50. Now we're back in the RV (with the heater on because we are wussies) and it's time to get ready for bed. Tomorrow is burn day. It's supposed to be relatively still, so I have 3 large piles that need to go. And maybe, I'll get to use my tractor tomorrow.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Man Week - Day 4 - Wet start

It looks like today is either going to be a relaxing day inside or a messy day outside (or maybe a little of both). It started drizzling over night and turned into a full fledged rain this morning. Needless to say, that made for a nice sleeping environment. So, here I sit drinking my mimosa (finally) debating whether to curl up on the couch with my book or go clomp around in the mud. While both do have a certain appeal, I'm leaning towards the former for now. But rest assured, I have no doubt I will be up to my elbows in mud before the day is through.

Breakfast of champions

Man Week - Day 3

So, I didn't get to enjoy my mimosas yesterday because I had to make an impromptu trip back to town to take Simon, our cat, to the vet. Apparently he's not a very good fighter, so have to take him in about once a year to get his latest fight injuries patched up. And, I wasn't able to burn since the wind picked up a little bit. Probably not enough to prevent burning, but I'd rather not chance it. I've never had a fire get out of control, and I'd like to keep it that way. So, yesterday was kind of a bust. No mimosas and no fire. I know you're probably feeling sorry for me right about now. Don't feel too bad for me, I was able to get the backhoe back on in record time (Bambi looks kinda naked without anything mounted to the back), and began clearing (see a description of my technique below).

While I appreciate nature and am doing everything we can to move out here to get to work with nature more, I get a sick pleasure in the destruction of it, too. There is something immensely satisfying about pulling a tree over and hearing the root system "pop" out of the ground. Then when you pull the fallen tree out of the way, you can appreciate this new opening you just created. On one hand, I feel kinda bad about destroying these natural artifacts that have been growing for several years, but on the other more primal side, I relish tearing shit up!

As for the clearing, I decided to focus on this little patch behind where I park the trailer. Nice clump of cedars and a couple of huge mesquite trees (I hate mesquite).
I was able to make some progress on the patch before it got too dark, so I'll have to finish that up later and take some after shots. I spent the rest of the evening preparing for the rain that came today. This involved gathering up the miscellaneous tools, bags, chairs, etc. that had been used and strewn about over the last couple of days. Oh yea, and I got to cover up Jenna's new purchase (see previous post). With everything buckled down and covered up, I went to bed pretty early. It's amazing how tired you can get when you let Bambi do all the work.

Technique I use for clearing trees:
1) Prepare Bambi. This involves mounting the backhoe (to break up the roots of especially stubborn trees), mounting the fork lift attachment (to carry away said trees), and giving a pep talk to psych that bitch up!
2) Drive a properly excited Bambi to the area to clear.
3) Assess initial tree to determine if Bambi alone can handle it or if the chainsaw (not named) is needed. For trees 5-6" in diameter, Bambi can normally handle by herself. Anything larger requires the saw.
4) Remove the tree.
4a) for trees less than 6" in diameter, this involves wrapping one end of the chain around the tree about shoulder height and the other end to Bambi. Once the three pieces are properly connected (tree, chain, Bambi), shift Bambi into low gear and start pulling. At this point, the tree will start to lean towards you, hopefully it will be pivoting at the base meaning the roots are breaking away, but every once in a while it will start to bend/break in the middle of the trunk. Once the tree leans almost level to the ground, then it's just a matter of will power. Bambi vs. tree roots. Bambi will complain and probably start to spin her tires, but a few words of encouragement and a couple of rabbit starts (prolly not good for her, I know) and you usually get to hear that satisfying pop as Bambi lurches forward pulling a newly freed tree, stump and all.
4b) for trees greater than 6" in diameter, ignore it and find a tree less than 6" in diameter. Then return to 4a.
5) Use the fork lift attachment to load the fallen tree and haul it off to a new burn pile.
6) grab a beer to celebrate your (Bambi's) feat
7) repeat

A few things...

There is a lot to say, and I've been thinking about just how to say it several different times and in several different posts. Everything I planned to write has a corresponding picture. All of which reside in the computer that went on the Man Week 2009 vacation. So it's just me, the pictures in my head, and three suburban dogs sleeping at my feet. I will do my best.

Eye on the Prize
First of all, Jeremy stumbled upon an author/blog writer/homesteader who completely re-newed my goals for the land. Also - her name is Jenna so the chances were good I would like her. Cold Antler Farm chronicles the daily life and adventures of a woman living her homesteading dreams on a small rented farm in Vermont. She is doing the whole sheep/chicken/goose/rabbit/gardening/fence repair/clearing thing - by herself. Oh yea, and she has a full time desk job, too. For anyone with even a small flicker of interest in growing a plant, baking a loaf from scratch, or keeping an animal that actually earns its keep then she is more than worth the read. Jenna is able to absolutely articulate whatever it is that draws people like us to land, to animals, to dirty work. Not only has reading her blog renewed my own goal to turn the property into something more tangible than just dreamy conversation, but she literally turned a light on and made me realize that this doesn't have to be an either/or situation. We can both generate something from land and continue to work. Now, it was always a foregone conclusion we would do both since the land is not necessarily feasible without those pesky desk jobs. However, the idea of attempting to merge these two very different lives seemed overwhelming. Impossible. Thanks to Cold Antler Farm I have a little daily inspiration that helps me envision us out there. I could go on about what her stories have meant to me but I will not because it doesn't really matter what it means to me personally. Her story is pretty damn inspirational in the general sense that she knew what she wanted and she shaped her life around that goal. Is this paragraph exceedingly corny? Perhaps. But its important to remember every now and then that there is actually a reason why we chose to ignore all sense and reason and got the land in the first place. That goal gets lost in the daily shuffle of traffic and laundry - so you have to tease it out of the background fabric and keep it at the forefront. Always. Every day. It's the only way I know how to get this moving along...

Cross Country Crazy
Speaking of - I have been busy making plans for the house, finding deals, striking bargains and driving to strange places to retrieve the loot. And here's your "for example:" I spent yesterday driving from central Texas to north Texas, then back to central Texas. For a bathtub. (In this state central to north or actually anywhere to anywhere else is...far) This was a justified trip since I managed to attend a work conference in Dallas between all the driving. Of course, this meant I had to haul my loot (tub) to the conference. On a trailer. In a suit and heels. Does a professional looking woman pulling a claw foot tub cause a scene, especially when said woman is unable to reverse with said trailer (and tub) in front of the conference building (picture the worst parallel parking attempt ever but 10 times worse. And with a trailer)? Oh yes, oh hell yes. Turns out I can make quite the spectacle of myself in front of co-workers and colleagues without even breaking a sweat. To my gawking audience I asked whether they'd never seen an old tub before, adjusted my skirt and sauntered into the conference center. Is an 8 hour round trip drive worth it in this case? No, of course, not. But if you're slightly crazy like myself, it's perfectly reasonable. And it's an awfully nice tub.

Man Week: A Rebuttal
You think you're so awesome with your week off and RV and your shmancy mimosas and campfire evenings. With your beautiful sunrises and guitar. Your tractor and bbq. You know who you are. Your pathetic attempts to engender some sort of envy from the rest of us is ridiculous. As IF we would rather be there than here! As if all of those things sound even somewhat appealing! You know, I spent the entire day IN MY OFFICE. And I have a window!! Now who's jealous?

Alright. I got nothing. You win. Man Week is fantastic.

Boo Takes a Walk
Boo the Belligerent Baby Donkey might have turned a corner in terms of maturity. Recently he has has morphed into some odd character - somewhere between donkey and lap dog. We had a significant breakthrough this weekend when, on a whim, I attached the lead rope to his halter and walked, just turned and walked - and he trotted along behind me! And, ok, yes, fine, I did have a large amount of sweet feed in my pockets. But it was obvious he was following for the purpose of my company, not to retrieve my coercive treats. Regardless, we walked, and walked. And walked - out of the gate, down the road and onto the main street that runs in front of the land. We turned and walked back. It was brilliant. Photos to follow.

The Chickens Ruined Dinner
To be specific, they ruined the dinner I planned to eat sometime at the end of November/early December. For the first time, I made a concerted effort towards a prolific fall garden. This required planning, digging, mulching....watering. I really went all out on this one. In the wee interim period between summer and fall gardening (since these seasons smudge together and aren't distinct here) we allowed the chickens into the garden since the chicken blogs and books directed us to do so. "They'll LOVE IT!" they raved. "They will actually turn the garden FOR YOU!!" These chicken gardening cheerleaders gave glowing reviews about the benefit of allowing the beasts into the interim garden but neglected to warn that old habits die hard. Especially for chickens. The first morning the garden gate was officially shut to them, the ladies nervously paced around the perimeter scratching half-heartedly at the inferior grass and dirt outside of the garden fence. Every morning they marched in a line from the coop to the garden and every time they were deterred by the impenetrable gate. And one day they gave up, changed their habits, found a new plot of suitable grass to ruin. Until my garden began to grow. Daily now I find a few chickens inside the garden when I return home. Of the nine girls, only two appear to have the smarts to fly over the fence but it only takes two chickens to totally destroy this girl's hard work. In three days I have lost my broccoli, my brussel sprouts (almost certain Jeremy went in and ruined that himself and blamed it on the chickens. Brussel sprouts make him gag), two heads of lettuce, and the odd sugar snap pea and arugala have lost a leaf or two. These two small soldiers march from one plant to another, scratching at the base and then picking leaf, after leaf. It's lucky they're still laying eggs because they owe me. Big.

He is a lover, not a fighter.
Have I mentioned that we also have a cat? No? It is because I'm not a fan of cats and do not feel it's worth discussing him at any point except for when he disrupts the daily balance of my life. Like today. You see, Simon (cat) got in a fight. Simon lost. For perspective, let me re-phrase: Simon lost another fight. Today we found ourselves at the vet yet again for antibiotics, for a patch job here, a patch job there. He will be just fine, and he wouldn't want it any other way. Simon's entire purpose in life revolves around the activity of marking his territory and then attempting to defend it. He's just not very good at it. Luckily, this loss was less embarrassing than the time he actually backed down from a fight. We know this happened due to the bite mark that was firmly placed on his bottom - an attack as he was fleeing the fight! I believe that, in the cat world, this is the equivalent of a sucker punch. Poor guy.

In closing
It appears that a lot less has happened than I previously thought. We're just trucking along, cutting down the odd tree, feeding the domesticated feathered monsters, just the same old. Same old. But still I can't help feeling like anyone not at all involved in growing some of their own food, sharing a part of their lives with an animal - they're missing out on a little piece of connectivity that important. There's something very basic, humbling, and gratifying about turning a gallon of milk into cheese, putting a seed in the ground and later eating a salad it produced, or just coming home to some little beast that depends on you. Is this just me? I doubt it. We have a cold(ish) winter ahead to start planning spring gardens and backyard chicken coops. It's easier than you think and feels a whole lot more awesome than you might imagine.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

"Roughing It"

I am totally taking advantage of the RV and all it has to offer this morning. Again, it was a brisk 60 degrees inside and outside (windows wide open) when I woke up. I quickly turned on the generator for my coffee and water heater for the dishes after breakfast. As I write this, I have coffee brewing, biscuits in the convection oven cooking, and champagne chilling in the fridge for my mimosas. I could get used to this.

Oh yea, and as usual, the land is gorgeous in the morning with the sun coming up over the neighboring hills.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Man Week - Day 2

It's not often that I'm disappointed when a Monday ends. 1 day down, but it was a good one. I woke up about 8:00am to a 57 degree cabin. I slept with the windows wide open, which was great for the night sounds but made for a chilly morning. I fired up the generator for the first time to brew a pot of coffee (what's that saying, "it's like using a sledge hammer..."). With the coffee steaming and my sweatshirt on, I wandered around the immediate clearing and said "good morning" to the livestock. Most of the day was spent working (read: playing) on the tractor. I got some good seat time using the box blade to flatten a couple of rough areas and to break up the ground before spreading some winter rye seed. Hopefully this stuff will grow over the winter and give the animals something else to munch on besides hay. I was supposed to have dinner with Dwayne, so I started smoking some ribs around noon, but he had to bail because he was having hot water heater issues. So, as the sun was setting, I enjoyed a smoked rib dinner complete with corn on the cob and potato salad. Pretty damn good, if I may say so myself. Then it was on to post dinner entertainment in the form of a campfire and an adult beverage. I even broke out my old guitar that hasn't been touched in about a year. Sitting under the stars by a campfire just screamed guitar opportunity. Combine that with the fact that nobody else could hear how bad I am, I couldn't pass up the chance. Needless to say, my lady like fingers didn't lend themselves to a lengthy jam session, but I enjoyed trying to remember some of the songs I had memorized a long time ago. Now, it's shower time and then off to bed for another installment tomorrow.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Man Week - Day 1 (cont...again)

Ok, so the night experience is still so new since I've only camped out here a couple of times. I took a shower (yes, this thing has a shower), fixed a stiff drink and went and sat outside...awesome. It's amazing what you notice when you turn off all electronics (Ok, I had to turn the computer back on to capture this moment, but forget that for a sec) and just observe.

Here's what I saw/heard:

-There is no moon tonight. Combine this with the fact that the only light is from our front neighbor's "street" light that is barely filtering through the trees, and you have a perfect setup for stargazing. And man, are there a lot of stars out. I have no idea what I'm looking at, constellationally speaking, but I can recognize the difference between looking at the stars in the suburbs of Austin versus in the country.

-A lone firefly that didn't get the memo that summer is over. I kinda felt sorry for the guy. Hang in there buddy, we'll see you again in about 6 months.

-5 dark lumps about 50 feet from the RV. Those lumps turned out to be the 3 cows and the donkeys. I appreciate them keeping an eye on me, and making sure this city boy stays safe during the night.

-An amazing, loud concert put on by the local crickets. Again, I don't think they got the memo that summer is over and fall is in full swing with the 70 degree weather (it's about 60 degrees as I write this, forcing me to put on a sweatshirt I had to dust off). While I feel bad for the singing insects, I still appreciate the soothing background "noise".

-An uncomfortably close coyote howl. I'm not going to lie, this beautiful sound made the hair on my neck stand up. I was equally fascinated and scared shitless at the same time.

-A cow burp. Luckily this happened shortly after the coyote made me uncomfortable. Thanks Roony.

Overall, this has been a very good night. The only thing that could have made this better was if Jenna was with me, but we'll just have to replay this "movie" later this week (score one for Jer).

Man Week - Day 1 (cont.)

So, today didn't go exactly as I expected it, but I'd have to say it was a pretty damn good day.

My vision of Day 1:
Wake up at Jenna's parent's house (we're dog/house sitting) and have some REAL coffee with breakfast (Jenna's parents are coffee snobs, and by coffee I mean espresso, so whenever we stay over, I know we'll get the real deal in the morning). Read a couple of inspiring entries from the Cold Antler Farm blog. Continue to annoy Jenna about how excited I am about Man Week until my parents pick me up on their way home from church. Begin loading up the RV and head out. Hopefully have some sunlight left to play with the tractor, make a fire, etc.

How today actually went:
Everything went according to plan, except for the last two sentences above. Once we got back to my parent's house, they enlisted me to help move our 30 year old upright piano that nobody in my family has touched in about 15 years. It turns out they donated this old monster to a local group, but we needed to deliver it. Maybe this doesn't sound so bad so far, unless you've ever had to move one of these suckers. It's heavy! Luckily, with my mom, dad and I and 8 pieces of plywood, we successfully played a rather complicated game of position the puzzle pieces in order to maneuver the heavy beast through the saltio tiled living room, around the front entry way
wall, and onto the front porch without cracking any tiles, dinging any walls, or crushing any fingers. Oh yea, and then we had to load it into a flatbed trailer. Needless to say, 3 hours later the piano was loaded, the plywood puzzle pieces were picked up and we were ready to get started on prepping the RV. While not what I was picturing how I would spend my early afternoon, I can't complain about that deviation because my parents do so much for me (case in point as I type this blog entry inside of THEIR nice RV) without even blinking. Now we're back to prepping the RV, and the excitement is creeping back. As my dad is explaining what the myriad switches and levers do, I'm off picturing waking up, drinking some coffee while I eat breakfast on the picnic table at the land. I hope I don't need to turn on the heater, because I missed that explanation. Next thing I know we're on the road with me at the helm and my dad playing co-pilot. We get to the land and set up in no time at all. Right about this time Jenna shows up and keeps the animals entertained while dad and I finish everything.

At this point, the sun is starting its descent, and my mom shows up with a Sonic dinner. So we sit at the picnic table and enjoy the company. We even share some with the annoyingly pushy donkeys (who apparently really like Sonic hamburger buns, go figure).

After that, my parents take off and Jenna and I enjoy the sunset before she heads out. Now it's just me, the RV, my tractor and 15 acres. Life is good.

Man Week - Day 1

Man Week 2009 is about to officially begin, and I'm so freaking excited. "Say what?" you may be asking. Man Week 2009 is a week long stint at the land where I will be sleeping in my parent's RV, playing with my tractor, clearing, cutting, planting grass seed, digging holes, shooting stuff, smoking meat, drinking beer, hanging out with neighbors, etc., etc. As if this weren't exciting enough, it looks like I happened to time this on the best week of weather in about 6 months. Ok, let's step back for a little background.

The idea of Man Week 2009 came about when I learned that I was going to be required to use up a significant amount of vacation in 2009 as part of a cost savings initiative at work. I started thinking about how I could use that time off at the land most effectively (and enjoyably). I determined that I could really do some damage if I could stay out there for a few days in a row without having to drive back and forth. We've camped out there, but a few days in a tent without the usual amenities didn't sound very appealing. Then I thought of my parent's RV, which is nicer than my current house in some ways. If I could borrow that, I would be set. Next, I started thinking about other ways to improve efficiency while at the land and came up with the idea to rent a large piece of machinery and really CLEAR the land. So, I did some research on bull dozers and industrial strength backhoes and got really excited. Realizing this wouldn't be cheap, but unable to pass up this opportunity of an excuse to play on some big-ass machinery, I proposed my plan to Jenna. She didn't even put up a fight. I was all prepared with 2nd and 3rd arguments, but I didn't even have to get out my note cards. So, a few months ago, I settled on this week of October and began telling everyone that would listen of my plans. So, the week has arrived, but Man Week 2009 was scaled back to not include the heavy machinery. When it came down to it, I couldn't swallow spending the money. Oh well, maybe Man Week 2010.

So, it's Sunday, and I'm just waiting to meet up with the folks to load up the RV to take out the land. The weather is supposed to be high of about 75 and sunny all week, so I couldn't ask for any better weather.

Yesterday I spent most of the day preparing for the rolling luxury resort, clearing low hanging limbs and flattening out the uneven "driveway" with my new/used box blade (that was fun). I even made dinner plans with the neighbor Dwayne for Monday, who stopped by to say hi yesterday.

It's going to be a good week.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Moral Support is Underrated

I don't have many tricks up my sleeve when it comes to working at the land. I'm not handy with an ax and the chainsaw is fairly frightening (Hello...there is a movie named after its violent capabilities). The tractor is my one shot at glory since it only includes about 5 levers and gears, all of which are easily mastered, but hogging this would infringe upon Jeremy's one true joy (manning large machinery) - so it's not worth it. Besides Jeremy still lets me take some of the credit when asked how I spent my weekend. I casually respond to this question with: "Oh, you know..." plucking lint off sleeve, shrugging shoulders, nonchalant sniff...."we mostly just cleared the land." Yea right.

Truth be told, I've taken on the slightly minor role of Chronicler, Moral Supporter, and Gate Opener (not listed in order of importance). In a few weeks, Jeremy will bring his parents enormous RV to the land in order to "rough it" out there for a week and chop down trees instead of going into the office. Because of this gigantic visitor, we (Jer) have been forced to widen the treacherous and narrow road leading to the land. And let me tell you - this is (looks like) incredibly hard work! Basically it involves the removal of many tree stumps, which requires using the tractor. I'm not much use in this department and therefore have relied on my other skills to be helpful.

Mostly I just stay out of the way and photograph the progress....

And the incredible grass growth...

The new flowers that are sprouting...

Along with documenting the growth of the belligerent baby donkey.....

And Rooney's remarkable tiny-ness....

It's at about this moment, after the 52nd picture I've snapped, that Jer notices me lying on my back counting mesquite thorns and tosses me a garbage bag suggesting I start cleaning up the place.

Me?! could I possibly?! On such an empty stomach? With so many gnats? And I didn't actually get much sleep last night. And the dogs probably have had too much of the humidity. There are groceries to buy, clothes to wash. It's actually time to go. But good job up there!! Look at all those stumps you pulled out! Whew! Long day. Time to go.

Works every time.