Wednesday, June 29, 2011


That there trench is 30' of what must become 1800' in one month. In one month the trench will be filled with sand and pipes. The pipes will be connected to the meter. The meter will be connected to the main line and just like that - water. Progress happens fast around here like whoa. Watch out because there's all kinds of business about to start up at the nameless farm/ranch. It's sat dormant all these decades but just like that we're about to bring her back to life, pour some water into her veins, prune, and chop, and dig and.... Well. You'll see.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Party of One

So. I've been busy. However, as promised, I haven't said a word. And I intend to keep that promise until names are signed on dotted lines. Jeremy is out of town, and I'm all alone tonight pouring a (very) large glass of champagne and looking forward to what might happen in ten short days, and marveling how sometimes it seems things truly do happen for reasons. Even though it takes awhile to understand them.


Thursday, June 16, 2011


We were married in a crusty old dancehall at the eastern edge of the county. The hall itself and adjoining restaurant and hotel appeared to be on their last legs. They all leaned together in a line along the only street in a town so desolate that a tumbleweed actually blew down the road on our first visit. Just above the small town a sagging Victorian farmhouse perched on a hill, encircled by pecan trees. Beyond that, there was nothing. We found this place after visiting all the usual wedding venues in the area. Most of them felt wrong. Inexplicably wrong. Too shiny, too floral, too forced. At the end of the day, and without knowing why, we were drawn to the drafty old dancehall in the middle of cow pastures. The place came equipped with a mechanical bull (which broke halfway through the reception), absolutely adequate barbeque, a cowboy filled country band, and creaking antique bar adorned with the painting of a naked woman. Five years ago, it was this place that captured our hearts and felt like the most appropriate spot to get married and have a party. Even as we set out centerpieces of wildflower-filled mason jars, we had yet to articulate why the place felt right

On Saturday, I had lots of time to myself at the land while Jer ferried 9 months worth of hay to and from the propane/hay store, to the land. We worked out an efficient system that involved loading three round bales at a time, bringing them to the land, and using the tractor (and a tree - long story) to remove them. Jer would climb back into Buster and head out again for another load, while I used Bambi to set each bale in its new resting place. Moving hay in the blazing sun becomes a meditative activity, especially if you don't stay hydrated. Between loads I stretched out on Bambi's seat, rested my legs on the front loader and spent lots of time gazing at the details of a summer day on 15 wild acres. Across the front pasture, and over the hills, I watched vultures make their lazy circles in search of dead meat. Around and around and around. I kept my eyes on the vultures and the trees and remembered dancing at the wedding to lots of slow country music and feeling absolutely at peace surrounded by cowboy hats and the smell of brisket. That night, we had no idea what was in store for us. We hadn't yet had the conversation about this lifestyle - this life. I was working on grad school applications at the time and had my sights set on very different goals that loomed large and unattainable.

5 years later those boxes are checked. But now, sitting on a tractor resting between loads of hay delivery, there are new goals - also looming large. I see so much more sprawled out across the field. I see gardens and new fences. I see animals that haven't even been born yet. Tall fruit trees that today aren't even seeds. I see porches and jugs of sun tea set out to brew. A great pyrenees snoozing under the shed, resting up for his evening patrol of the perimeter. And underneath the large elm where I've parked Bambi, I can picture a fat rooster proudly prancing past, followed by his bevy of hens. He looks like Mr. Cluck. I see all that stirring somewhere underneath this cracked and dry earth. There's days ahead of rain, and grass, and plenty. This will be a hell of a lot more difficult to attain than a two-year degree. It'll require sweat and blood and many more tears than have already been shed. But it's coming.

On Saturday, we stocked up on 9 months worth of hay. That amounts to 18 round bales of grass, 1,500 pounds each, wrapped tightly in twine. It's a big investment, financially - yes, but also serves as a promise to ourselves that we'll still be here plugging away and making things tick. In 9 months there's still going to be life out here on this rough parcel. Almost 5 years ago we weren't sure what drew us out to that old dancehall, but now I see how we've always been these people - the sort that deal just fine with a sacrificial Saturday for hay hoarding, stargazing, and dirt under our nails.

Pay attention to your natural inclinations - is what I've learned. I've been told they can lead you astray, but I've found that they lead you where you're meant to be.

Wednesday, June 15, 2011

A Shot in the Arm

Inspiration - whatever you want to call it. Cold Antler does it again. Go forth and watch.

Monday, June 13, 2011

Good Morning, Sunshine

(Early morning donkey roll.)
At precisely 6:23 a.m. on Saturday morning, approximately 2 hours after having finally gotten to sleep inside a sweltering metal trailer that had absorbed the rays of a 100 degree sun the previous day....I woke up to donkeys. The dogs were already outside. They tend to wake us up early at the land. All of the morning noises are entirely too exciting to keep them calmly inside and sometime between 4am and 6:23 a.m. - one of us let them out. Groggy and disoriented I awoke to Jer ushering the dogs back inside, cursing loudly, a slamming door, and the image of donkey ears moving past the bedroom window. Since the donkeys were securely behind the fence the night before, it was a little jarring to see them munching sunflowers outside the trailer. A moment later Jer came back inside and announced that they'd pushed through one of the gates, and he saw them marching down the gravel road into the front pasture in just enough time to shoo the dogs into the trailer. See, if a dog goes head-to-head with a donkey, the dog loses - every time. Our donkeys have a particularly malicious curiosity about dogs, and Jer's quick work definitely saved lives.

What followed is pretty much a blur almost entirely because it occurred before I could stick contacts into my eyeballs. Jer grabbed my hand and forced me, against my will, out into the front pasture in order to watch the sunrise and the happy farm animals during their jailbreak. For approximately 30 minutes the air felt bearable for the first time in over a month. The ladies quietly chewed their sunflowers while Boo walked excitedly back and forth, tail swishing mischievously. He sampled the picnic table, a plastic bowl, my toes, Jer's toes, and only stopped when he discovered the three dogs staring gloomily out of the trailer.

It's hard to tell here, but this situation really tested the bounds of Winston's comfort level. He was growling in that high pitched, barely audible way he does that sounds too comical to ever be intimidating. Luckily, Boo quickly grew bored with this pointless endeavor and walked away, taking a bite of my shorts as he sauntered by.

In a way, it was peaceful to be startled awake in the early hours of what became a HOT day. When the air still blows a little cool and damp, it makes you feel hopeful that today the stifling heat will subside. Makes you remember back when there was a chill in the air. Makes you wish so desperately for a cold breeze to blow away the oppressive heat for just one moment. From approximately 6:23 a.m. - 6:51 a.m. on Saturday morning, it was quiet and cool.

What follows are pictures that embody the idea of perseverance. There's been no measurable rain in almost 9 months and still these beauties shoot out of the parched earth, three and four feet into the air. A few morning glories have managed to creep over piles of downed trees, and they open feebly in the morning sun. Every day.

Thursday, June 9, 2011

Porch Dwellers

Tonight I had dinner and drinks with two of my oldest, closest friends. We are incredibly classy individuals when dining together. It's sort of like the dinner equivalent of "ladies that lunch" except with hard liquor, greasy bar food, and obnoxious, snorting laughter. Tonight, my friend suggested a new establishment on the east side of town designed to mimic the patios of a south Texas ranch. The food, drink, and ambiance were amazing, so I highly recommend Contigo if you're ever passing through.

Today it registered 100 degrees (again, again, again) on the thermometer. To say it's unseasonably warm is just being polite. It's too freaking hot for early June. So it struck me, on the way home - my skirt still plastered to the back of my thighs, shirt stuck to back - how distinctly we fall into a category. On this 100 degree afternoon and evening, we did not even consider a location with frigid, conditioned air. We happily sat in the shade, under a fan but out on the porch, this lovely evening. As soon as I plopped down into the chair, the sweat started flowing, but so did the drinks and food. And a breeze kept blowing that sultry air so it was, by all accounts, a mighty fine way to eat a meal.

The restaurant sits on the eastern edge of town. Just 12 miles away the land was bedding down for the night. I pictured the donkeys circling the hay, the cows tucked up along the front pasture fence chewing their cud, and a lone, lost roadrunner tentatively walking through a field of sunflowers on the front acre. My friends didn't realize, probably, but between conversations I concentrated on the sounds I bet they couldn't hear. There was cicada song just as the sun dipped low, overtaken by a chorus of crickets. In the intermittent, strong breezes, the large pecan leaves nearby danced on the branches. In that last sliver of sun above the horizon, I knew what we all could have heard had I stood on a table and screamed at everyone to "shut up!" for one second. The whippoorwills were out there, somewhere I know they were hunkered down in their beds of leaves in the dirt, calling out to each other in that haunting way they do. Only in summer. Only in the last minutes of dusk, or first moments of dawn.

I get what Contigo is trying to construct for its patrons. Somewhere in south Texas is a lovely ranch with lovely patios, and they recreated that piece very nicely. But the attributes of porch dwelling go beyond enveloping heat and breezes. No amount of "ambiance" can re-create country noise and silence. Tomorrow we'll head out to the land after dinner and bed down for the night along with the livestock and all the wild things. It's the best porch view I've seen.

Friday, June 3, 2011

Friends with Benefits

If you've read this here little blog for more than a minute, you've probably picked up on a few things quick:

-I like old stuff.
-I've been thinking about building a house out of old stuff.
-I am obsessive/compulsive (as in, "Hi, my name is Jenna. I can't stop searching for and buying old stuff.")
-Which means: Craigslist is my kryptonite

Not really surprising then that I "accidentally" found a luscious slab of antique marble up in Dallas. A 1930's warehouse was being closed, and this slab needed to go. For cheap - like real cheap. As in, "Hi, my name is Jenna. I can't pass up a deal on old stuff even if the purpose of the stuff is inexplicable." Except, on this beautifully rare occasion, I knew at once that this marble slab had a special purpose (The Jerk reference = totally intentional). Instead of building an elaborate bar area off of the kitchen in a future homestead, we'd use this baby which matches the other counter tops already salvaged. Way back when, I found another set of marble slabs, also located through the evil enchantress - craigslist. Remember that??

Of course, it's likely I lost you when I brought home the first lead-paint-encrusted door from the asylum. I mean, who wants to read about chippy old doors and antique sinks anyway (me me ME!). The point is just that me and the old-stuff-obsession go way back. This isn't much of a problem as long as it doesn't affect other, innocent people. And generally it doesn't, aside from Jeremy who doesn't count because he knew what he was getting into. For all other bystanders, my personal problem is harmless. Until we get into the heavy stuff. Joe and Kelley graciously helped us load the first round of marble which was salvaged here in Austin and was, in retrospect, as flimsy and light as cardboard.

My recent find in Dallas posed several problems, among which were 1) distance, but most importantly 2) weight. Being almost double the length and thickness of the first few, measly slabs, retrieving this one would be impossible. But when has "impossible" ever stopped people like us (Ok. Me. Just me.)?? Due to a lucky convergence of events and circumstances, it just so happened that The Most Amazing People on Earth would all be in Dallas at the very same time. What a fortuitous coincidence, made even better since our good friends Scott and Alicia live in Dallas. It's like the marble was meant to be in our future kitchen.

Because we happen to be friends with The Most Amazing People on Earth it required only minimal amounts of coercion to obtain their assistance with this most essential task. As always, however, I seriously underestimated the weight of what has now been dubbed Big Bertha, the most obnoxiously large piece of marble in Dallas, probably in the U.S., and definitely in Texas. Through the magic of cinema, and because of the incredible patience of Alicia (who was brilliant enough to catch it on her phone), I actually have proof of the lengths to which folks will go for a free meal. And also because they are, inherently, The Most Amazing People on Earth. Clever edits of the full 1 hour and 15 minute debacle are entirely the work of my genius producer friend Kelley who suffered an unfortunate finger injury through the ordeal. As you'll see, moving marble is a whole lot more than just that. It's an allegory of the human condition: our conflicts, hopes, fears, defeats and, ultimately, victories. In summation: We're stronger together than apart. Deep stuff, people. And now I give you: "Big Bertha: Man vs. Marble"

***Special thanks go to Scott, Alicia, Joe, Kelley, Jer, Phil (who I still owe dinner) and Sara (to whom I definitely owe dinner AND a drink due to the totally accidental placement of my hand. You'll see.).