Saturday, January 29, 2011

Winter into Spring - soundtrack

We try to be fairly narrow in our scope here when jotting down notes about the progress at No Name Farm/Ranch. I mean, aside from all the random talk about house stuff and house parts and other obsessions -- we do try to keep it relevant to the general topic. But MAN there's been a lot of stuff making narrow focus, on any topic, almost impossible. Between jobs, and state budget crises, and house builds, and housing markets, and hay prices, and animal welfare, get it. Life has been chaotic the past month or so with lots to consider. It struck me today, when listening to this, how very much it sounds like the inside of my head lately. Most of the obstacles during this overwhelming winter may ultimately affect when we move on, out to the property - which is, as you know, all I care about. So I guess my brain as a song, right now, is a little loud, a lot frustrated, but still sounds pretty damn good:

The Thaw.

I can't quite put my finger on it, but something has changed around this place. And I'm not just talking about the briefly warmer weather. A whole group of tiny little events have converged: a chicken finally laid an egg after a three month hiatus, one teeny bluebonnet stem is sprouting at the property, and there is, what appears to be, some progress with the house. Oh yes, it's true. I know this for sure, not only because of a million little details that are too early to share, but because Jer agreed to look at wood stoves today for "the new house." If tides do turn, then they're surely turning here. The last two days were spent outside either pulling trees into piles, or sitting by a fire, or feeding donkeys sunflower seeds, or staring at the blue, blue sky. Weekends. Are. Amazing - don't you think? But no one in this family appreciates weekends more than the pups who take full advantage of their country digs when given the chance. Unfortunately for us, LuLu and Winston discovered the "fresh" water in the pond from last week's rains before we could stop them. The aftermath of this situation was horrifying, as illustrated below:

And in his usual fashion, Romeo managed to epitomize exactly our own feelings towards the balmy weekend, without saying a word:

These dogs, god love 'em, always take their cues from me. And since this winter's been gloomy for me, it's been gloomy for them. The season hasn't ended, but it's ending, so here's to the coming thaw.

Sunday, January 23, 2011


We bought us a farm truck in nearly the same lightning speed, impetuous manner that Land was acquired. He ain't much to look at but purrs like a kitten, came with a mean toolbox, and, in his former life, worked for a plumbing company. So, without further ado, may I introduce.......
Buster the Busted Farm Truck. Ta. Da:

As you can see, he's already made nice with Bambi and Marta. Also, yes, I get that it's rather odd we've named all of our farm "equipment" without actually naming the farm. (Or maybe it's just odd that we named the farm equipment in the first place.)

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Making room.

This is less post and more statement. The land shall heretoforth be referred to as "Land." Just Land. When Jer left the house tonight to wrap the faucets at the property, 2 nights after another trip out there to put out hay, and approximately 7 days after patching holes in the driveway with piles of rock - I threw up my hands and announced that CLEARLY, there are officially three of us here in the relationship. You've got the original family (Jer. Myself.) but now -- there is Land. Not sure why it took so long for us to realize this thing was as living and breathing a creature as any other. Except bigger. And super high maintenance. That fickle b*%$h. But a happy Land is a happy couple (triple?), so it's definitely worth all the back and forth.

Family picture: The donkeys pose with Land.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

About luck.....

Took a jog yesterday through the park, down the road from the land. That park was the cherry on top of what we thought was an already pretty sweet cake. Not only was the land close to town, nicely wooded, and affordable - it was walking distance to a 200 acre municipal park. And it's not like this is your run-of-the-mill-patch-of-grass-chipping-swing-set-overflowing-trashcans sort of park. It comes with stocked fishing ponds, gazebos, covered tennis courts, wooded running trails, a swimming pool, baseball fields, SOCCER fields: the whole deal. Lucky, lucky, lucky - kept thinking to self while I was jog/walking along the trails. Luck brought us here. And that luck's caused a lot of frustration and second-guessing. But luck makes us hopeful things will work out. And hope makes us give it another shot when it goes wrong the first time(sss). And giving it another shot has something to do with persistence. And persistence means you want something bad. Badly enough. And wanting something makes you try.

So. Hmm. In the end, it's not actually all about luck, is it? Just a thought I was thinking while I jog/walked (ok. walked) and considered the new appraisal we'll be requesting, with the new builder, new lender, during a year with some new worries and considerations. I'm glad we haven't relied entirely on luck to achieve some good fortune, but yesterday on my walk in the "neighborhood" park, I felt pretty darn lucky.

Tuesday, January 18, 2011

Hay in the Moonlight

Today was: rushed coffee and cereal in the darkness, early morning traffic and fog, packed parking garage at downtown office, work presentation, meetings, presentation, meetings, work, phone calls, email, work, parking garage, traffic.

Another coffee.

Then: home, feed dogs, pat cat's head, trade heels for boots, slacks for jeans, load the car with donkey treats, back into traffic, head east, empty country roads, a pock-marked gravel drive,

Despite the busy schedules today, the animals needed hay. We take hungry cows pretty seriously around here. If we don't, then they'll bust through fences for greener pastures. Literally. It's kinda funny how quickly one can go from standing in the office to standing next to the hay ring. I thought about how "funny" this is as I lifted the thing up on it's side to make way for the new bale. Well, specifically, I thought about these funny contrasts when a small pile of manure landed on my head, whilst lifting the ring. I suppose the minor chaos of days like today sound stressful. But you can't knock a day that ends with the last few minutes of daylight on a tractor, manure on the head, donkeys within petting distance. Well you can knock it, but if you do, then I invite you to end a hectic day with moonlight and happy farm animals, instead of cocktails at happy hour. It's a better tonic, every time.

Sunday, January 16, 2011

I'm Up to Something

At all times my brain is equally divided between thinking about architectural salvage items/the house build AND the farm/ranch. It's a confusing situation. In order to maintain some level of sanity, I've gone ahead and created a new spot for ramblings devoted entirely to salvage stuff - with the possibility of some build-related outbursts here and there. In time, I'll sell some pieces on the new site and talk about the refurbishment and renewal of old things to make them useful again. If design, recycling, and build-related rage interests you at all - then by all means - stop by the new place! Hope to see you there (but still here, too).

Introducing (a very early version of) Anatomy Home Salvage. The link's also over there to the right -----> under "Design Links."

Sometimes a girl gets a little tired of dirt and donkeys and wants to make a pretty house. Or, is that just me?

Thursday, January 13, 2011


Even here, right now, it is very cold. Something about the chill and damp causes everything to retreat - into the ground, into itself. I know many spend this season bundled while planning for the next weather change. But for me, it's just a time for luxurious laziness. The dogs follow me with their eyes as I pad around the house in the evening, making no effort to engage them. They wait for some sign from me that the hibernation has ended. It hasn't.

January is not my season.

Last night an owl tried to take one of the hens. We heard them screeching, ran to the door, and saw the enormous bird take flight on our approach. The owl itself - an embodiment of this winter - hung low and gray against the freezing night. Its wings spread with a "woosh!" as it flew overhead, air passing over feathers, and in a second it was gone.

Monday, January 10, 2011

Bigger than Texas

In the odd, ODD chance you've ever stumbled across the awkwardly produced miniseries of James Michener's Texas book, then I want your opinion. It's like a really bad show, right? We're truly not maniacal Texas-philes but when we saw the Texas miniseries listed on Netflix, filmed in the late '80s, narrated by Charleton Heston, and rounded out with a cast including Randy Travis and Patrick Duffy, we just couldn't pass it up.

Of particular note is the exquisite dialogue, hopefully not written by Michener himself. The main point of the thing is to tell the story of how Texas won its independence from Mexico. However, the majority of the miniseries seems intended to create opportunities for a squinty-eyed Patrick Duffy, as Stephen F. Austin, to look off into the distance and say things like, "Nothing is bigger than Texas," or "What happened? Texas happened, Maggie, TEXAS happened." Truly riveting stuff.

If you're from the Lone Star State and need a boost of patriotism, then this is the show for you. Why? WHY? "Because," as Duffy would say, "of Texas."

Saturday, January 8, 2011

The War and the Woodpecker

Today we launched a full throttle assault on the trees. It's nothing personal, and it's certainly not that we hold anything against them. Jeremy and I both are avid arboreal enthusiasts. It's just that they're in the way. And they're multiplying, it seems, exponentially growing thicker, fuller, denser, more tangled. Trust me when I say that our assault was a last resort type of situation. We've tried peace talks and all sorts of negotiations involving trimming and pruning. When the drought struck 2 years ago (and returned recently) we silently hoped it would do the dirty work for us, choking them off at their source. But these are Texas trees making them stubborn and hardy in the most inconvenient way.

I feel terrible about the war we've declared. They were here first, after all. Which makes us, sadly, The Occupiers. I hoped it would not come to this.

This particular spot is being attacked for base camp, i.e.: Marta. Each species of tree at the land is represented in this little patch, and it's wrapped up in ribbons of devil's vine. Devil's vine = thick vine with dagger-like thorns all around and thrives on pure air. It is, truly, the Devil. Jer went into the heart of the beast, tearing down the vital pieces with his chainsaw. I stood by to pull out limbs and other fallen soldiers, tossing them onto a somber pile.

It's grueling work, destroying a forest one limb at a time.

But once the tall trees are downed, the wee sprouts and grasses have a better shot at a good life. So actually it was Operation Sprout Liberation, which makes our actions completely justifiable. And in case you were wondering, fighting for the freedom of small trees and grasses everywhere is an exhausting endeavor.

Apparently we've got another breed of soldier attacking oaks in the woods.

At first sight we felt certain this was a weird sign of witchcraft. The holes lined up so perfectly, ringing the trees from the base to their tippy-tops. In fact it was so reminiscent of something out of a Blair Witch type of story, that I suggested we burn down the forest. (A little dramatic, yes, but then, you can never be too careful). Of course then our arborist/geologist/naturalist friend Jeff assured us that the holes were just a typical woodpecker calling card. I remembered seeing the red mo-hawked birds sailing above the trees and hopping in the limbs many times and called off the forest-burn. I'm pretty open-minded in this way. So if you've ever wondered what a woodpecker hole looks like, then here ya go. Luck you! And, you're welcome.

Wednesday, January 5, 2011

Dwayne called.

A typical voice mail from our good buddy Dwayne. Transcribed. Verbatim.

"Jeremy this is Dee-you-wayne. I just wanna let you know I'm sorry I didn't get by to visit with you Monday when you were out there workin' on your place. I, ah, I kinda got on a witch hunt, uh, you know those ribs that I cooked for us were just about the last straw to cook them on those lil' New Braunfel smokers so I was goin' on the hunt for 'em. And I hunted and I found, well, a friend of mine owns a welding shop, owns one that he wants to sell on a trailer. Told him I didn't want a trailer cuz that means everyone'd borrow it from me. Anyway I ended up buyin' it, well I ended up "stealin'" it. Weighs about 700lbs and you can easily get like 6 briskets on it. Big 'ol square firebox about a quarter inch steel. But anyway, ah, I guess you know what that means! I gotta check it out and see if it's worth a damn! So lemme know if you guys gonna be out at your place this next weekend. I might go fetch a big 'ol brisket or somethin' and throw it on. I'm lettin' it season as we talk. And, anyway, gimme a holler whenever you get a chance."

I can't count a single conversation we've shared with this man that hasn't somehow included brisket, smoking meat, or feeding us. Damn fine cow-less cowboy.

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Out With the Old

I had the whole week off of work last week. The. Whole. Entire. Week. I would love to say that in this time I managed to finally clean my car, mop the floors, organize the closets, create and execute a business plan to make the land profitable, and halter break all of the donkeys. Really, I would love to be able to say this was done. Of course, the truth is always less heroic and less ambitious. Mostly I just window shopped my way around Austin, sometimes (Jer, cover your eyes) actually shopping, and watched every last episode of HGTV's Property Virgins that I could find. All in all, a completely unproductive use of this precious free time. The total lack of ambition was due in large part to how much time was spent wallowing in self-pity over the whole house debacle. Wallowing is time-consuming, have you noticed? And wallowing for reasons like mine is particularly, shamefully, stupid. See, usually when situations become out of control, people just concede and try to manage those things that can be controlled. For the whole of my life I've admired this trait in others; the shoulder shrug or a "well that's that" attitude when stuff turns sour. People who can wipe their hands clean and turn a page when disappointment strikes are basically my personal heroes - real "boot straps" type of folk.

Unfortunately for me (and all of those near and dear to moi) I'm not that type of folk. Rather, I'd prefer to nest deeply in a well of doubt and self pity. I like to let all of the "what could have been done differently" questions wash over me until I start to moulder. And stink. Once a good long period of wallowing has passed, I generally emerge fresh and ready to chuck the old plan and start anew which often leads to quickly made, poor decisions. It's a stunning display; the despair-ridden-to-problem-solver maneuvers that I usually manage in a five day period.

Anyway. The point is that the majority of a perfectly lovely week was almost wasted. I say almost because it certainly had its shiny moments, including one drizzly afternoon drive out to my favorite salvage shop in Gonzales. The store opened a new room upstairs; a starkly beautiful space that offers a panoramic view of the tiny town square and tree tops. It's old and airy and bright and drafty in all the best ways.

To enter the new room, you have to go through an incredibly long hallway and up an intimidating flight of stairs. Because I believe that all old spaces are haunted, I had to pause at the bottom of the flight of stairs for some courage to walk up to the empty (haunted) second floor. I paused long enough for a picture.

At the beginning of this particular new year, I can think of no better photo to summarize how I plan to head into 2011. The hallway here is clearly narrow, tall - almost restrictive - but at its end stands a grand yet simple path up to the light. At the bottom of the stairs sits a bag of trash. I'll use the bag as a metaphor for 2010, and with my favorite fortune cookie quote in mind ("Despair is criminal"), I'll mount the damn stairs, setting the bag aside. Nowhere else to go in this scenario, in this picture - but up.

Very sincerely, wishing you a wonderful New Year!