Wednesday, February 29, 2012


It's too soon for details but let's just all agree that goats have always been a part of our future and were always a part of the motivation for this place.  Recently, Jenna over at Cold Antler posed the question: What are your winter goats? (In reference to her anecdote of wishing for goats in the winter during a time when it didn't seem to make sense to have them).  I'm finishing a house, have possible legal messiness because of the house, have my footing between two lives still, and a heart planted squarely where it has been for more than 30 yrs.  32 years and 3 months actually - but who's counting?  This blog, and my over-share-y personality means I've opened our world to scrutiny and criticism.  That is not unexpected or unwelcome.  It also means lots of decisions are made here that might not make sense, that we don't always plan to justify.  So, in response to Jenna's question about fulfilling dreams before they seem to "make sense?"  My winter goats are...winter goats.  And they're imminent.  If I'm more absent than usual it's probably because I'll be very busy doing this:

Friday, February 24, 2012

Lemons into Lemonade

In the vein of my recent post and new outlook on life in which I make the most of things, here's to making the best of a bad situation.  By "situation" I mean a lack of a kitchen - although there is an UPDATE of epic proportions.  Four (count 'em - FOUR) important events either already have or are about to occur:

1) A microwave has been installed, but I never use microwaves on principal.  There's something about the technology that's never sat right with me.  Invisible rays of energy shooting at food to cook it in seconds makes me think that eating said food will turn me into the Bionic woman.  Although being the Bionic woman certainly has its advantages, so I'll reconsider the microwave.

2) The counter tops will be installed in two weeks - a mere TWO WEEKS! This is directly related to:

3) The sink will be installed this weekend, without which the counter tops cannot be installed and finally,

4) We secretly (and cleverly) plotted to lure a few strong friends (note: flattery) over this evening by way of free fajitas in order to casually ask them to help us lift and install our ovens and oh, hey!  While you're here, maybe to also lift and set the farm sink in place!  But this wasn't planned at all.  (So much for "cleverly" and "casually" since I think they read this).  Here guys, have another beer.

Since most of these thrilling events are going to occur in the future and mean that cooking has posed an interesting challenge recently, I wanted to share my version of making the most of a difficult situation (and no, it's not lost on me that cooking with a glass of wine alongside a beautiful fire is something less than difficult).  So here it is - Jeremy's greatest love (wood stove) preparing my greatest love (food):  

Jumping Creeks

As a deeply analytical person, constantly overwrought with emotion, I’ve been thinking a lot about metaphors lately.  Living in the trees forces me to notice the rough, the raw, the basic components of life on a level that’s easily missed when you’re comfortably wrapped in the embrace of a city.  I take notice now of the fundamentals: leaf buds, the way water pools in places and doesn’t in others, and the pattern of coyote songs.  They come closer when there’s no full moon.  We hear them barking at such a proximity that I expect the sound of nails clicking on the porches.  I imagine them loping and panting along the fence line.  It makes my hair stand on end.

It seems everything in the forest or pasture is a minor parable.  The budding leaves and wildflowers sprouting are reminders of second chances.  Seeing saturated earth after such a desperate and miserable drought says something about getting too much of good things.  And those coyotes pacing?  I haven’t figured that out yet but their hungry presence is reminiscent of those gnawing feelings that motivate.  Yearning?  Persistence?

Yesterday I took the dogs (and my new Crocs) down to the pond for a swim.  The path down is sliced by small, dribbly creeks right now, none too wide, but none pleasant enough to attempt barefooted.  Normally I take this walk in knee-high rubber boots, but it was an oddly summer-like day yesterday and the boots were too hot.  I wore the Crocs instead forgetting that they would mean lots of creek jumping rather than wading.  Jumping creeks is all about sizing up a situation and some basic risk analysis.  Depending on the soil, it’s hard to know what weight the other side can bear.  If there’s grass sprouting from the mud on the other side, there’s a decent chance it will support you, the root structure bolsters the dirt and holds things together.  If there’s a pile of gravely rocks, then chances are even better it will hold.  But if all you see is a smooth plane of spongy dirt, then it’s best to find a different landing spot.  Walk further down the creek for a spell.  I made some good choices yesterday considering how many times I had to hop across the mucky water, and how many opportunities there were for sinking ankle deep into a mixture of scum and donkey manure-filled puddles.  After five successful jumps, I skipped (Yes, I really do skip around out there.  This is a true story.) up the hill towards the house realizing that, of all the metaphors I’ve noticed lately, none is better suited to our lives right now than jumping creeks.  If our life is the land, then the murky creeks that rise and flow each time it rains are just the troubles that get thrown before us.  We have to hope for the best, and cross them.  Find our footing, look for grassy landings, bend our knees, and leap.  

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Yes, that's my foot in my mouth

Disclaimer: Nothing I'm about to say is a judgement against anyone's personal tastes and is entirely a reflection of my own tastes, which I have never claimed are "good."

With that said:  I despise Crocs.  Hate 'em.  Detest them.  Cannot stand to see them.  Although, don't get me wrong, you stick them on a toddler and they're passably precious.  However, one can argue that tiny shoes on tiny toddler or baby feet are always precious.  You could wrap deli-meat around baby feet, and I'd still find the look alarmingly cute.  But once I see a pair of Crocs on anyone moving into their early adult years and beyond, I hear the faint but distinct sound of nails slowly scraping across a chalkboard.  It's just got that effect on me.

So when Jeremy came back from Academy sporting a pair of army-green Crocs, I rolled my eyes until they got stuck and told him they weren't allowed in the house.  I then made all sorts of unsavory comments about how his legs now appeared to be attached to dinosaur feet and wasn't he embarrassed to wear shoes that smelled like a plastic factory and looked like flotation devices?  He rolled his eyes right back and kept them on.  In time, I started to notice how convenient these flotation devices actually are.  He could slip them on as quickly as slip them off.  He could stomp through the mud, hose them off, and then stomp right inside without batting an eye.  Meanwhile, I was the chump unlacing, re-lacing, getting my fingers dirty with the mud that's inevitably glued to the laces.  And let's face it.  I'm an outrageously busy person.  Lacing and unlacing shoes is just inefficient.  Then one day I (purely by accident) happened to accidentally trip into his shoes on accident and then accidentally walked around in them by complete accident and came to find out, accidentally, that Crocs are, hands down, the most incredibly comfortable, versatile, most wonderful shoes on earth.  

Who.  Knew?  (Oh, the rest of America, you say?)

One week ago, I turned a monumental page in my personal rule-book.  I ordered my own pair of Crocs.  And I'll be damned if they're not the cutest little things.  Today I wore them around the house doing chores, then outside onto the porches, then down the path and out into the rivers of mud and slime that have saturated our un-graveled driveway, then into the pasture, through another creek, and down to the pond.  When I got back up to the house, I hosed those babies down and wore them back in the house.  It reminded me of the first time I met the "neighbors;" those glorious people who saved our sick cow.  Despite the blur of activity that occurred that day, I will never forget the surprise of seeing that each were wearing Crocs (yes, Crocs.  While roping, pushing over, and administering shots to my cow).  It was a real head scratcher for me that day; these incredibly legit cowboy people doing their cowboy-ing in Crocs.  Of course now I understand.   

This experience should probably teach me some sort of lesson about snap judgments and criticism in general.  It probably should.  However, I am an old dog, and changing my lifelong habit of making snap judgments would be considered a "new trick."  At least though, now, while criticizing others, you can be rest assured I'll be comfortably shod in sensible shoes. 

Sunday, February 19, 2012

10 Sentences or Less

It'd be a lie to say that a crazy work schedule and constant house completion has kept me from normal-ish life stuff like: happy hours, lunching with lady friends, clothes shopping, leisurely facebook stalking, etc, etc.  Lately, what's keeping me from all of those types of things is a combination of inherent laziness, pointless stress, and also the following two triumphs of literature and television:  Tina Fey's Bossypants and Arrested Development.  If I'm not frantically searching for completely random and inexplicably essential house items (I must find the perfect laundry basket!  I MUST!) or gnawing my fingernails over the house to-do list that's met another to-do list, settled down, and had a whole family of to-do lists - then I'm self-medicating with my good buddies Tina and the Bluth family.  I challenge you to persist in self-absorbed worry and stress after watching Buster Bluth fall in love with Liza Minnelli.  

That being said, I can't muster more than about 10 sentences of anything lately (halfway there!).  So, for now, it's just pictures. Of house stuff.  Cute dogs.  Muddy creeks.  Moon rises.  Aren't you glad you visited today?

Friday, February 10, 2012

Forgetting to Remember

Our lives right now are pretty scattered.  75% of our stuff is in Austin, but the rest, and arguably most important, parts of ourselves are at the new house.  If home is where your heart is, then I can feel it beating under the forest branches, along the muddy paths, in the porch eaves.

We've stayed at the new house consistently for a week.  This translates into some creative clothing options when I'm on the fourth day at the new house, am lacking a functioning washer and dryer, and too hunkered down to make the trip into Austin.  I finally did manage to load into the car with a list of things to grab.  The entire experience felt annoying.  After so many years of planning this move, it's frustrating to have the house built and still be suspended since we're unable to fully move in (since it's not complete for many reasons beyond our control, at this point).

I felt the waves of anger overtake my senses as they have for over a month now; the feeling that building was such a dreadful mistake, wishing again that we'd fallen for some other piece of dirt with a home already standing.  I carried those dark thoughts with me all the way into Austin, as I parked the car in the drive, walked through the house, out the back door, and to the chicken coop to fill up their feeder.  I grumbled about the "stupid" chickens whose existence is questionable since they haven't laid an egg for months.  But I checked the nestbox anyway, out of habit and optimism.  And nestled there between some feathers and old straw were four new eggs.  Each so imperfectly shaped and tinted varying shades of creamy olive, that they were, in fact, perfect.  Little globes to remind me what that land's all about and that there's lots more to it than just the broken house.  It was eggs like these, purchased at a farmer's market back in 2008, that first started the discussion about suburban chickens, and chickens led to the discussion about life in the country, and that led to a Sunday afternoon drive.  We've been feeling bruised and battered these past few months when realizations about the house and builder came to light.  It's comforting to know that solace still lurks at the edges of all this and is as close as the eggs in my own backyard.             

Monday, February 6, 2012

Under the Full Moon

Tonight I found the donkeys curled up in bundles along the fenceline of the pasture just outside the front door.  Without even thinking I threw on boots and a jacket, grabbed some pears and opened the gate to feed them and scratch a few velvet ears and noses.  Because I can, now.  Even at 10pm.  Without a flash light.  Just me and a herd of over-fed, spoiled asses.  Under a full moon bright enough that our shadows stretched out to the cedar trees. 

Then I came inside and took this picture of a door made in 1905 that's hanging on the closet of a new house in 2012.  The door is from a rural town in Texas where it's likely its first owner walked into his own pasture at night and fed the animals by moonlight. 

After the Deluge

It's been raining here.  7 inches in two weeks.  The pond is a lake and the dry creeks are, well, wet creeks.
Fences are bent over with the weight of debris and water rushing through them.  And the grass is thick, green and abundant.  This means that the livestock have been grazing in the front pasture again, trotting and kicking and displaying signs of general merriment and joy. 

You don't even have to be particularly fond of cows to get all warm and fuzzy watching them.  Joy is joy whether it's human or otherwise. 

The other day I walked down to this pasture from the house to check on the animals and got a bit worried when I realized Seamus was missing.  Until I heard a soft belching sound and looked up to find the gentle giant chewing his cud in his old house, the purple shed.  He stayed in the shed all afternoon, watching the world from behind the rotting slats of wood.  I think this was his way of asking for a barn; a request I've been making for years now.  Someday buddy, someday.

Sunday, February 5, 2012


This week I temporarily ruined my finger.  As usual, it's no one's fault but my own.  Greed and thriftyness took over, and I over-exerted a tendon while extricating a(nother) new purchase from the gleaming shelves of IKEA.  In one gloomy moment it became apparent that my finger was more than just a little hurt, the pain of which momentarily caused me to contemplate upchucking right there in the middle of my beloved store.  Thank goodness that passed quickly and was overtaken by pure anger.  We've got a house to finish.  I don't have time for crooked, bent-backwards fingers.

Finger ruiner

Although my recent trip to Swedish paradise ended in tragedy, my purpose was fulfilled.  With the help of my mother and a sympathetic employee, the new mattress and bed were somehow loaded and strapped into the truck, and I managed the drive home one-handed, using my knees to steer (Don't try this at home, kids).  Since then, I've been operating with the use of one fully functioning hand and a forearm, palm, and thumb, which gets you pretty far in the world - in case you were wondering.  In lieu of a trip to the doctor, we fashioned a splint out of electrical tape - you know - the kind of miscellaneous item one has lying around in the midst of a house build.  In fact today I was again (again, again) at Lowe's and checking out when the cashier sweetly asked about the state of my fingers, wrapped obnoxiously in electrical tape.  "Oh, that?" I said with an exaggerated sigh and smug shrug, "eh, you know, I'm building a house" as if the injury was procured while single-handledly installing rebar into a foundation and not actually from frantically pulling a mattress off an IKEA shelf.  The "I got it while building" explanation somehow makes me feel tough and legit in a place like Lowe's where most women likely come to peruse lighting and paint chips.  I'm incredibly tough, is what I'm trying to say.  At least, I'd like the world to think so. 

The reality is, of course, a completely different story.  We're not really building a house so much as completing what was started (and definitely not finished - more on that later) by someone else.  While Jer still toils with the literal nuts and bolts of completion, I've moved on to icing this glorious cake.  I am in 150% nesting mode.  This means that the perfectly lovely items that have filled the old house for years seem to have suddenly lost their purpose.  Pillows look flat, pictures seem dull, furniture appears ragged and insufficient.  HOW, I ask, how can one possibly bring such useless items into a structure we've worked so hard to make comfortable?  Unfortunately this translates into a re-imagination of the entire house and of my own personal style.  Am I an industrial-rustic person?  A vintage-modern person?  Am I farmhouse-traditional?  A week ago I shamefully spent one, entire, beautiful day driving between three home decorating stores, buying and then returning, and then re-buying a series of throw pillows for the living room.  This is a true story.  And while I'd love to be the person I aspire to (a selfless, crafty, homesteader) the reality is that I'm an instant gratification junkie with a real need to feel like things are completely tied together.  Meaning: there's no half-assing home decorating with me.  It's either all or it's nothing.  And it's never nothing.

Chair #1 of 2.
So.  Here I sit in a beautiful new chair, just purchased from my favorite store's annual warehouse sale.  Please note that it is a larger version of the same chair I just bought last week.  Which means I have two versions of the same chair with space for one and money for neither.  You see what I'm getting at here?  Consider this my cry for help.  An intervention is in order. 

On the other hand, this behavior is fairly standard, I think.  Most of us tend to feather our nests when there's a big change or move.  And in light of all of the unspeakable building drama, focusing on picture frames and towel colors has been a welcome change.  A most welcome change. 

Speaking of welcome changes, I've been stomping around the property in this get-up all evening:

Picture me in these leggings and boots, hoodie, woolen scarf, holding a glass of wine in the right hand, electrical tape wrapped around the bum finger of the left, throw pillow under one arm and a bucket of cow food under the other.  It's not always pretty people, but it's my life, and you can't get away with this in the 'burbs.  And if that's not beautiful, then I just don't know what is.