Sunday, October 30, 2011

Better Late Than Never

After a  flurry of activity at the house, the exciting stuff slowed down a bit, hence the lack of photos.  But here are a few shots as she looks today, from my favorite spot - the little group of oaks in the back pasture.  She's still missing the roof overhangs and porches, but you get the basic idea.  You also get a lovely shot of a donkey herd, just in case you needed such an image to spruce up your day. 

As you suspected, the ears in this photo belong to Boo.

Guess Who

I'm sure you already have this on your calendar, but just in case, tomorrow is Boo's birthday.  His third birthday.  Where has the time gone? 

I guess time flies when you're having...well...being followed around the pasture by a biting donkey isn't fun, per se.  But you get what I'm saying.  Time: it flies.  And suddenly your adorable baby donkey

Turns into this:

Happy third birthday, to the most obnoxious creature I've ever met.  And I've met a lot of creatures.

PROOF!  Sneaky finger attack as I innocently show that he's three.

That's better.

Monday, October 24, 2011

Character Assessment via Wallet

I just emptied the contents of my wallet on the kitchen table in an effort to locate a business card shoved into the crevices months ago. It's time for propane set-up at the new house and I could have sworn I grabbed a card from the propane place the last time we picked up hay. (Cuz, remember, you get hay and propane AND a carwash all at the same joint in our 'hood).

What I found in the grimey depths of my old battered wallet was pretty eye-opening. I'm a very interesting person apparently, or so it would seem, if you do a snap judgment based on what I choose to store in there. Sure, there's all the usual suspects like the rarely-used check-book, miscellaneous credit cards, most of which we opened just for the build. (If you're gonna spend a ton of money, you may as well earn 5% cash back on pedicures and dinner at Joe's Crab Shack, right?). Then there's the year's worth of receipts stuffed into a pocket, placed there out of guilt after some purchases I shouldn't have made, hoping I'd convince self to return the things. And the old id's (I WAS 21 ONCE?!), the college id, the grad school id. The gym membership id. Let us all pause and laugh for a moment at our woefully forgotten, and shamefully hidden (expired) gym memberships. You know you've got one in there.

The bottom pocket is crammed full of a colorful assortment of business cards: cards for shops I loved so much I wanted to remember (O'Brien's antiques in Lockhart!), cards of friendly people met in the spring milking class (why didn't I ever give that chick, Laura, a call?), cards for professional folks met at old jobs who I thought would be handy members of my network (that sounded less pretentious in my head), and the punch cards of good intentions - punched only once. These are the: "buy 10 loaves of bread and then we'll donate the cost of your 11th loaf to the local foodbank," or the "buy 10 sandwiches, and we'll donate the cost of your 11th to the Nature Conservancy," or the less charitable, "Buy 10 cups of coffee, and get your 11th upgraded to a vente grande XL super duper oversized cup - for free!"

On top of the pocket crammed full of these incredibly essential cards, I've stuffed four wilted and bruised old fortune cookie fortunes. At one point each must have really struck a chord, since they somehow enjoy the honor of display in my crumb-filled wallet. The first fortune is just a fact I must have felt quite proud of. I remember pulling it from a cookie during a period of my life while I was simultaneously completing grad school, working as an analyst full time during a legislative session, and feeding cows: "Your ability to juggle many tasks will take you far." A funny "fact" to read now as I sit at the kitchen table at noon in my pj's feeling stressed at the prospect of grocery shopping. The second, among my favorites, "Allow your curiosity to lead you to the answer you seek." OOOHHH!! So true so true!! But what does it mean?! It's deep and lovely in a way I can't articulate. I think it makes me feel philosophical. Or metaphysical. Or something. The third is a "duh" statement, but made the cut anyway, "Luck helps those who helps themselves," and the fourth, which I probably pulled out of a cookie when I was feeling like I didn't have lots of choices, "Life is about making some things happen, not waiting for something to happen." Oh, how clever. Take THAT, life! I won't be bullied.

And in the pocket with those shameful receipts, folded into the tiniest triangle, is this letter I got from a kid I used to mentor waaaay back when. During my Americorps service. After college when I still thought law school was in the cards. And I was going to work for Legal Aid. And save the world and right wrongs, and all that. In the letter, this student wrote some sweet things about what I meant to her in such a way that I can't bear to open the note without literally shaking and crying. Maybe because she meant a lot to me too, and maybe because I didn't end up in law school, and I haven't saved the world.

It's not that I cherish all this stuff, but I just can't make myself throw it away, no matter how dirty, overstuffed and battered my wallet becomes. Also, it seems the anatomy of one's wallet is, in and of itself, a tiny ethnography of your own cultural self. What snap judgments would someone make if all they know of you is what they see in your wallet? I'm saying this today because of all that's been going on recently and how life can somehow cause you to go all introspective. Am I a good person? Do I make good decisions? Based on what my wallet may say, and despite any ugliness and frustration occurring in our current endeavors, I'm still pretty confident that I'm decent and, basically, doing ok.

That incredibly annoying line in that incredibly annoying credit card commercial just took on new meaning, and here it is to annoy you : What's in your wallet?

Tuesday, October 18, 2011


I have both hands covering my mouth.  It's a self-created muzzle, of sorts.  And right now, it's oh-so necessary.  On top of all of the other drama that recently threw a big 'ol house sized wrench in our plans, the septic guy now has to increase his prices significantly due to a loss of equipment in the September Bastrop fires.  Not his fault, of course.  Of course. 

Of course.

But, what else will go wrong?  Let me refer back to the past two years after which a normal, lucid person would have put the place on the market and found a home already standing:  Don't. Build.  Don't. Do. It.  At the end of this project I do plan to create a list of "lessons learned," turn it into a hand-written manual that I'll likely sell on street corners out of a shopping cart, along with dead flowers and trash.  At that point I'll probably just be mumbling to myself in gibberish and petting imaginary kittens - because by then - I assume I will have thoroughly lost my marbles.  Although maybe I already have.  (DON'T BUILD!).   

Sunday, October 16, 2011

Blue Door Farm?

I'm trying the name on for size in honor of the color chosen for 2 of the 3 doors.  The third is blue also, just a different shade.  With such a cheerful color the barndo has suddenly taken on a cozier feel.  Or maybe that's just my perception.  Regardless, she's coming along very nicely.  Very.  

And Now, A Word From Our Sponsors

In case you were wondering, the donkeys are fine. Well, better than fine - they are flourishing. How does one know their donkey herd is flourishing, you might ask (humor me)? It has something to do with their added weight, bordering on obesity, and general confidence around the cows. Lately, when Matilda goes in for her standard head-butt-against-any-random-donkey's-bottom-but-usually-Boo's-bottom maneuver, Boo opts for the undeniably courageous action of simply planting his feet, tucking his tail, putting his ears flat back against his head, and glaring at her angrily. This is in stark contrast to his regular response to a horn in the rear which was, the crowd-pleasing, sideways kick and run into the forest. Boo is many things; brave he is not. So in addition to the herd's relatively exorbitant weight gain in the midst of the drought, all the donkeys (Boo in particular) seem a little more carefree around the previously dominant cows. So what gives?

I'm not about to waste much time deciphering animal behavior, especially within the realm of the donkey kingdom. I mean, I've spent an embarrassing amount of time around donkeys for the past 2 + years and my major takeaways are these:

1) Donkeys only care about 2 things:
  • Food
  • Getting their way; and
2) Donkeys only care about food

Oh, I already said that, but you get my point. It's not the most sophisticated animal culture we're talking about here. My best guess about the recent tide-turning has to do with the five asses putting their heads together and doing some math. I mean the fact is, they outnumber the cows. Maybe they're fed up with being bullied at the hay ring, arbitrarily chased through the cactus for sport when Matilda's bored, and generally subservient to their bovine cousins. Once and for all, I think they realized they're the majority and decided to stop taking all the crap (i.e: they don't wait in line to eat hay anymore). I've said it before and here it is again: you can learn a lot from a donkey. And, it's true. I've said this before, like in my every day life to people I talk to. I'm full of brilliant observations.

Why all this livestock chatter? Probably because we've let the build so completely overwhelm our lives that I want to consciously remember why we started seriously talking about moving to the land in the first place. After all, the original plan was to use the land only as a weekend getaway for five or so years. Because of the livestock, I started missing the land during the week. I don't have a lot to thank them for, but I do thank them for that. And whether or not you understand why, I'm happy to admit how completely I look forward to seeing their stupid, smelly faces every. single. day. 

Saturday, October 15, 2011

Warning: I'm gonna quote Yeats in this one

It may appear that things have been quiet on this end, but they have not.  We spent a long weekend in Taos and Santa Fe and then work and house took over as soon as the plane landed Monday night.  It's been one of those weeks.  The only appealing activity is a glass of wine and back-to-back episodes of Modern Family.  You know, mind-numbing drink and above-average comedy.

Not to be overly dramatic but (Yeats, comin' at ya) it appears that things, truly do, fall apart.  It would be unfair to go into details, and they're not necessary anyways, but we've had a few issues with the build combined with irrational expectations on the job front and you've got a big 'ol pile of frustration.  The build itself has gone in lightning speed.  The house is dried in meaning all of the siding has been installed, windows and exterior doors in place, framing is done, house has electricity, HVAC, etc.  However, even though the build itself started and neared finish in under two months, it's this monster project we've lived with for over two years.  To come this close to the end and hit some roadblocks leaves me curled in a ball, sucking my thumb.  We are so ready to be done.  And that is a gross understatement.

Growing up, we spent our summers outside of Taos in the small community of Arroyo Seco, near the ski valley.  I have lots of fuzzy, golden memories of that place.  Lots.  I haven't been back in a long time.  Turns out, the smell of sage, burning pinon, and cold dry air make me woozy.  The sight of adobe with a chili ristra hanging from the porch? Oh lord - forget about it.  So this week I've been browsing through pictures from last weekend, wishing I were still sitting by a kiva fireplace, coffee in hand, the blue mountains standing beyond, like they always have.  Looking just the same as they do in my earliest memories. 


Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Surprise! More house pictures!

If you're reading this then it can only mean three things: 1) You're back hoping for more unfreakingbelievable photos of the house; or 2) You're back hoping to finally read content that has absolutely nothing to do with the house (sorry); or 3) You're here by absolute accident in which case Hello! (and probably) Goodbye!

Regardless of why you're here, it's nothing but pictures today - we'll be back to our regular programming soon-ish.  At least by late winter. So sit tight folks, it'll be a lot of slideshows for a while.  

One side of house almost completely sided.  The color we chose from the whopping 15 or 20 color options was "burnished slate," a grayish/brownish muted color that seemed the least offensive against the forest.  As you can see, she's still a metal building, even though we're trying to dress her up a little. 

The very first of my salvaged pieces being installed.  That's an old 1930's door off a Blanco farmhouse.  Original hinges and everything.  Brings a tear to my eye.  (You think I'm kidding?!)  These doors have been sitting in piles for a few years so it's exciting to see that they clean up nice and are functional still.  And, in my humble opinion, a lot more interesting than anything for sale at Home Depot. 

Just a shot of the living quarters since most photos to date have been the open living/kitchen spot.  That hallway leads to.......

Laundry/mudroom!  This is the exterior shot of the door you see from the inside (in the photo above). 

Oh, hello there!  That's how she looks if you happen to be standing in one of the dry creek beds that cuts through the forest. 

Front porch at sunset.  There are donkeys in that pasture eyeing my granola bar. 

Sunset from kitchen window.

I just like this picture.  I don't know why.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Mythology and Other Truths

It's only been a short time, but I'm pretty sure I've fallen for this place all over again.  It seems pretty decadent, in a way, to get so much out of one thing over and over again.  But then, when you set your expectations low chances are better you'll be pleasantly surprised.  And that about sums up how we're feeling most of the time right now; stumbling around, goofy grinned and smacked-silly-happy.  We're pleasantly surprised with the whole she-bang.  

If I'm acting completely obnoxious, then I'm sorry.  Actually, I'm not sorry.  Actually, at this very moment, Jeremy is sitting on the couch beside me reading an article from a local magazine that featured the education system of our new little "town" in its pages.  It's a bleak reminder of some of the disadvantages of this area.  As a person in the thick of education politics and policy - maybe I should care.  No, I should care. But then.....

With this front porch view?

And this bedroom window sunrise?

Like all things, the novelty will fade.  But until then, it's pretty spectacular to see a place.  Again.  For the first time.  Again.  We knew about the school system, and bad roads, and "interesting" neighbors - well before we signed the title work for the property.  You weigh your options, you take good with bad, find a view you like, shrug your shoulders and then - well, I guess you just hope for the best.  I think it has a little to do with imagination or optimism.  Either way, so far, thinking outside the proverbial box has paid a huge return in intangible currency.  You've got to love the prospect of a place to love a place like this.  And, oh boy, do I.

This weekend we turned the crooked purple shed into a boarding house for wayward horses starting with one tenant whose owners needed a spot until they can build a suitable enclosure.  Layla is a wild-eyed yearling.  She whinnies often, and it's thrilling to hear a horse prancing around just beyond the house.  

A house in the forest and a horse in pasture was, for a long time, as likely as spotting a unicorn at the hay bale: not very likely.  Seriously, I spent the entirety of winter-spring 2011 doubting that living at the land was anything beyond a myth I'd created.  And now there's a horse in the pen, a house on a hill.  One girl leaning on a cedar post looking at the dirt and seeing grass.  A myth turned from fiction into fact.  

Sunday, October 2, 2011

...And Framing Is Done.

A whole 5.5 days later, the framers packed up and left for good. All of the (enormous) windows are installed. Next steps: run plumbing and electrical, and install exterior siding. Stay tuned.