A Porch of My Own

A Porch of My Own

Friday, November 6, 2015

Heading For The Hills

My people are on the move today! Not my family, although we still have a few that hit the road this time of year. But the kind of people I grew up with, sometimes worked with, hung around with, and married. The people that head for the hills (and the woods and the bayous) for opening weekend of deer hunting season.

I made a trip to Kerrville today to get some flooring material. No other time of the year will you see the traffic out this way like I saw today. And these people don't travel light! Every pickup bed has at least one big cooler - some high priced Yetis and some ancient Igloos. There are portable fence panels to keep the cattle away from the feeders; there are 4-wheelers, Gators and Mules, and duffle bags of camp clothes and boots. There are all variety of travel trailers on the road from expensive 5th wheels to ancient cabover campers.

You won't see any blinds or stands. Those were brought out weeks ago, back in September. Cedar trees trimmed to make room to slide them in; rolling secretarial chairs, the preferred seating for hunters, in place.

The pickup truck lines at the feed store I stopped at were out into the street, waiting their turn to be loaded up with deer corn. Most feed stores have some kind of hunter appreciation meal and open house today and the one I stopped at was no different. Tables loaded with food and the Meals on Wheels ladies selling baked goods on the side. In a mood of good cheer the hunters will often pay more than the asking price, helping out the local organizations. Some feed stores will have raffles and door prizes and all have sale items for today only.

These hunters have planned all year for this weekend. Some have saved and budgeted and carefully monitor their expenses. Some spend like they're rich, and many are. They all have one thing in common. They want to get away and go to the country. They want to hang out with friends and family that enjoy the same thing. They want to bring back some meat for the freezer. They want to sit around the campfire and tell stories. They want to make memories. And they're willing to make it happen, whatever it takes.

For more than half of my life this weekend has been a memorable one for me. Even back in the early days of our marriage and owning this place, back when I didn't go with Rick, there was still a flurry of activity that swooped me up and carried me along with it. If you're in a hunting family, you know what I mean. If not, you're probably wondering what I'm talking about!

This is my first opening day without Rick. He wasn't just a guy who went to work and did everyday things we all do. There was a whole slew of activity swirling around him, like Pigpen's little dust cloud in the Peanuts cartoons. When he walked into a room, especially this time of year, the whole feel of the room changed. As if it was charged with electricity, as if he brought a source of power with him. I could slip into a room without being noticed. When Rick walked in, stuff happened!

So when I lost him I lost everything that went with him. It's closing in on a year since he's been gone. The loss, the grief, the absence of my partner, the pain, it doesn't go away but I've become familiar with it.

And if there's a happy hunting ground somewhere I know Rick is there. And he's sitting quietly on the edge of a field, cedar trees at his back, a cold wind blowing from the north. Waiting.


Thursday, October 22, 2015

Christmas Shopping

I was at Lowe's yesterday getting some more paint for my project and there was a couple about my age checking out next to me. Maybe a little older but in my age bracket. They had a cart with two artificial Christmas wreaths in it. Ones made of greenery with red bows. Nothing over the top, just simple wreaths.

As I was loading my paint and caulk in my truck I saw them on the next row loading their purchases in their SUV.

Something about it touched me. It was an ordinary kind of thing. They acted the way couples long together act, not much talking, a calmness about them. As if they had decided before they left home what they needed. Maybe the kids were coming over for the holidays and they wanted to freshen up the decor, buying early to beat the crazy rush later.

The kind of thing you do when you're retired and have plenty of time to think about these things and make plans. The kind of thing Rickie and I would have done. Just a little ordinary thing that goes on in the lives of people living an ordinary life.

The kind of thing I miss the most.


Tuesday, October 13, 2015

The Addition Progress Report

The addition project is coming along really well. I think I may move the bed into the bedroom this week even though it's not finished. I have the half where the bed will go finished except for trim and the floor. I considered going ahead with the floor but decided against it. I'll wait and do that after everything else is done. I did get the plywood for the subfloor down.

I reached a goal this weekend that I wasn't positive I could reach. I got to the peak of the ceiling! Most everyone I know was concerned about it and I know it scared the kids some to think of me on the ladder way up there. Except maybe Sarah, my daughter. She's seen me do a lot of things and she was like, yeah, mom can do that. I promised them if I got to a point I wasn't comfortable with I would get another plan. I understand how they felt because when we did the cabin 11 years ago I looked at the ceiling and said, oh, hell, no, I can't do that, even with Rickie doing most of the work and me just as the helper. We ended up hiring someone to do that ceiling.

But I've learned how to do a lot of things since then and I thought if I took it one board, one row at a time, and moved slowly, I could do it. I had been working on the walls and had learned a few tricks to make it easier. I just needed to work out how to handle the cordless nail gun, which is a little heavy, and the other tools I would need. Two of the ladders have a place to hook the nail gun but the tallest one didn't. I bought a clip called a Gorilla Hook, that goes on a belt and you can hang the nail gun on that. But it was too heavy. I already had a tool belt and this would just be too much. Women learn ways to make things work that we don't have the strength to do, so I hung the belt with the hook from the top rung of the ladder!

I had offers of help. Some friends who did this type of ceiling at their home offered to come out and get it done. And my neighbor offered help, as did the kids and siblings. My brother-in-law, who has been undergoing radiation treatment, fretted that he and my sister weren't able to come help me. Nieces and nephews from Texas and Louisiana offered help. The framing carpenters told me they would come help me. And I have others that would come if I called.

But I feel the need to do things myself if I can. I have some friends who will walk the Camino de Santiago in Spain next year. Martin Sheen, starring in The Way, completed this walk for his son who passed away in the movie. This project is sort of my walk. I have a list of things Rickie didn't get to finish and I want to finish them for him. It's important in a way that's hard to explain.

But I'm not crazy and if I can't do something I will get help. The shell, the plumbing, and the electrical and AC are beyond me so I had someone else do that. And my son John and grandson Zac came out and helped me with the frames for the corrugated metal skirting that I'll add once the contractors all finish. I don't like creepy crawlies so I was glad to have help with that and I find it hard to deal with 2 X 4s since I don't have an impact drill or a framing nail gun. Also it was fun working with the kids. Zac came out to help, along with his dad, when we built the cabin. He was 6 years old! He's 18 now and he's a pretty good carpenter himself. At the rate things are going, they may be back when it's time to put the frames and metal up!

I was worried about how I would get to the ceiling above the bathtub once it was set. Then one night I had an idea! I got up the next morning and framed a little drop ceiling above the tub and put the tongue and groove boards up. Sarah was here and helped me frame it before she left but then I realized my method was wrong so I had to take that down and start over. I decided I don't want to be a framing carpenter! I'm going to splurge and get someone to do the tile around the tub. I've done a little tile work before but mainly I don't want to fool with the cement board that goes under the tile or work around the tub.

When we built the cabin I dislocated my knee. When we built the bunkhouse I injured my rotator cuff. I've had sore muscles this whole project, comes with my age, and the up and down on the ladders got my knee to hurting so I've been wrapping it each day. After two days of painting the walls and gables, my shoulder was threatening me last night. I've been clear coating the ceiling before I put it up and that saves a lot of pain!

But you can't get anything done if you aren't willing to have some pain. If there wasn't a cost to accomplishments they wouldn't have as much value. Some mornings I think there's just no way I can go back out there and get on that ladder or cut any more boards to fit. But somehow I do. And now I can see the end in sight.

I'm hoping to be finished in a few more weeks then I'll just have to wait on the plumbers and electricians to set the fixtures. In addition to boards leftover from the cabin that covered most of a wall, I ordered 270 12' pieces of tongue and groove. I've got about 70 left. Half of those will go to the remainder of the ceiling. I've already cut boards for some of the bathroom walls so I think I'll have enough.

Slowly but surely it's coming together!


Monday, September 14, 2015

On This Day

Facebook has a feature that shows you what you posted on the same day in years past. I love this because it's like a journal. Things I've forgotten about show up and make me smile. It keeps a record of the weather and what has gone on here at our place. It's a history of our time here and of our family.

The last few days I've had a lot of photos and posts about Fall and the changing season. Sitting on the front porch wrapped in a throw drinking our morning coffee. Feeling that first North wind on your face. Harvesting pumpkins and onions from the garden. Making pepper jelly from the last of Rick's jalapeƱos and serranos and some of our friend Martha's bell peppers.

Planning our first trip in Bernie Ann, the little camper we had just bought. Working on the bunkhouse, trying to get it ready before hunting season and the family that comes out in November. Watching the whitetail deer, the babies growing and the bucks losing their velvet.

Getting the Fall decor out and stacking pumpkins on the front porch. Pulling the wool throws and blankets out of storage and putting them on the bed within easy reach when the cold settles in. Loading up the truck with jackets and fingerless gloves, ready for a sudden change in temperature, the drop of 30 degrees in 20 minutes.

Cutting and stacking firewood with Rickie, both for the fireplace and the campfire. Checking the pantry to be sure Hershey bars and fresh graham crackers and marshmallows are in stock. And that there is whiskey, Bailey's, and hot chocolate for those bitter cold nights.

Watching Gus and Woodrow's coats start to thicken. Making trips to the feed store to begin to load up on alfalfa. Noticing the water in the stock tanks begin to clear as the high temps of Summer wind down. Hoping the heron doesn't come back and eat all the goldfish this year.

I walked around our place this week, checking the trails that the deer follow. There was a slight breeze from the north with a trace of the coming Autumn. Not as cold as we've been in previous years but a definite change. The smell and taste and the way that wind feels on your face. I hope you have experienced that. It triggers a lot of emotions for me as it did for Rickie.

Memories of past years, past hunting experiences for him, and for me the part I played in some of those. Memories of my father and grandfather and uncles. Thoughts of chili and cornbread, and kale from the garden. Visits with friends, laughing and happy, the relief of the long 100 degree days coming to an end.

The leaves changing on the Spanish oaks, the smell of cedar that the breeze stirs. The lesser goldfinches and butterflies showing up; the hopes that the Monarchs and hummingbirds make it safely to their Winter homes. A rare year when we see the sandhill cranes or whoopers pass overhead.
All these thoughts flood over me as I walk the trails. In my mind I see Rickie walking ahead of me, as he did so many times when this time of year rolled around, me hurrying to keep up with him. He rarely slowed his pace to match mine. He knew I would keep up. It was his favorite time, and I see him walking in the cabin door, a huge smile on his face, a fake shiver at the cold weather, wearing the heavy green and black buffalo plaid wool shirt he wore every year for as long as I can remember. And I stop breathing and my knees threaten to give way and the tears fall.

But I'm grateful for these memories. And I'm grateful that I realized when they were happening how precious they were. How important. How they were the very essence of what life is about.

Take your time out there, slowing down with the season if you can. Make some memories that will comfort you later and document them if you can. Live each moment. Choose to spend time with those you love and who love you. Make it count.

Monday, September 7, 2015

Gettin' 'er Done!

I've started my part of the work on the cabin addition. First thing I did was build the little deck to cover the odd shaped area by the chimney. This will make it easier to skirt and also helps tie the addition to the cabin. Once I finished the deck I immediately dismantled it. WHAT!!!!! I know but I wanted to give the AC/electrical guys more room to get in the crawl space. The duct work ends right near this space. It's a tight fit under there and this is the easiest way in. I numbered all the boards and stacked them on the front porch. I'll reassemble as soon as I can. I have a center support board cut for the front edge that's not in the photo and some trim pieces that run along the side. I'll probably spray the chimney with some deck cleaner once I finish. We intended to let the cabin gray but the boards there have grayed more than the rest of the cabin. Just want to clean it up a bit.

Before I dismantled it I sat quietly on the deck for a while. It makes a great wildlife viewing blind! The deer walked all around the yard without noticing me. I'll have to take the binoculars out there and sit a while once it's finished.

Yesterday I finished the insulation except for the bathroom walls. I'm waiting on the plumber to do the rough-in first. Then I can wrap that up. I don't mind doing insulation. It's a perfect DIY job because it's pretty simple. But it's a messy job and I'm glad to be finished with it. I wasn't sure I could do the ceiling but I gave it a try and got it done, slowly and carefully. I've found that if you just concentrate on one piece at a time and not think about the whole thing it usually gets you through it.

Before I did the ceiling insulation I had to move some lumber out of the way. I had enough tongue and groove left over from the cabin to do almost one whole wall. I decided instead of moving that around again and again I'd just put it on the wall and be done with it. So I did that first. It was actually the first time I've used a nail gun. That was always Rick's job. Because I'm a little scared of the air compressor I had bought a cordless nail gun. I love it and recommend it! I put the nails into the tongue of the boards so they don't show, just the way Rickie did the cabin walls. I've learned how to do a lot of things since we worked on the cabin. You can learn a lot just by being a helper.

I'm going to paint the walls. I have a white/cream color of HGTV Sherwin-Williams paint from Lowe's. It's imaginatively called Creamy. For the trim I'm using a white called Marshmallow in the same line of paint. I'm going to clear coat the ceiling and leave it natural.

Several people have asked me if I was going to use drywall on the walls. I'm not, for several reasons. First off, I don't think it goes well with a cedar cabin. Second, it's not something I can do myself. It's very heavy and has to be finished well to look good. Third, and as important as the second reason, or maybe more important, is that Rickie hated drywall. He was always annoyed trying to hang stuff on the walls, making sure there was a stud where it needed to be. Which there usually wasn't. He swore (literally) many times that if he ever had a choice he would never have drywall in his house. Personally, I kind of like it. It is the closest modern thing to adobe walls which is about my favorite kind of house. Adobe has a peaceful look to me. If I was living in Santa Fe or Taos that's the kind of house I would want. I'm living in the Texas Hill Country and we always thought the house ought to match the location. Here it's a cedar cabin.

I've tried to think of different wall coverings to kind of mix it up and save money. But nothing saved enough to make it worth the extra work of using something else. The beaded board paneling we used in the bunkhouse and the kitchen and bath in the cabin is a real pain to handle on your own, especially trying to cut it and cut outlets.

I love corrugated metal but being concerned about creepy crawlies, it would require a lot of sealing along edges and some trim work. It also involves a bit of extra work for the outlets since it doesn't lay flat. And again, anything big is hard for one person to handle.

We used reproduction tin squares in our cabin bathroom ceiling. But that requires plywood to be put up first. I considered fish scale shingles for the gables but they are very costly and should have plywood first also. So, in the end, I've decided to do the whole thing with the 6" tongue and groove lumber. It's easy to install and with some painted and some natural I'll have a bit of a mix.

I got all the fixtures for the bathroom. I was able to offload most of them from the truck to the Mule and then to the front porch. The bathtub presented a problem. It was too long and big to offload to the Mule. So I cleared things out and was able to drive around to the side of the front porch, back up, and "walk" it off onto the porch. That worked great! Except for the two screws I picked up in my tire. I had tried to find all the screws and nails from the shell construction but I missed these two. I had to make two trips to the tire store. One to repair the holes and a second to get a new tire when the repairs didn't hold.

I'm happy with how it's coming along and proud of each thing I accomplish. It's peaceful working there and I both spend time thinking of Rickie and time keeping occupied so I don't dwell on it. I have a couple of tool belts but I've been using a shotgun shell bag Rickie got long ago when he took a couple of trips to Mexico to go dove hunting. It's lighter and keeps him close. Not that he's ever far.

I'm going to town tomorrow to order the lumber. The price is a little higher there but it's local and they will deliver, saving me many trips to Kerrville. While I wait on the lumber I'll go ahead and paint the one wall I have done. And do some things in the yard I've neglected. I've got a leaking float valve on one of the water tanks and I need to tend the garden. John and Zac are coming out this weekend to help build frames for the skirting and we've got a new deer blind being delivered. But that's a whole 'nother story!

Sunday, August 16, 2015

The Pink Door

I'm not sure why I decided to paint the back door to the bedroom addition pink, but about three weeks ago I had a notion to do just that.

Usually I stay in the subtle nature color scheme on things like this - the front door to the cabin was black for 11 years - and add color with accessories and fabrics. Yellow, orange, red, and green are the colors I usually go to. I've never painted anything pink before.

Rickie and I love the Southwest and after working in San Antonio for a couple of years we found ourselves drawn to color. The formerly adobe colored pump house got a coat of terra cotta paint. The door on it has been purple, blue, and is now a yellow gold. Rickie actually liked the purple and wanted to keep that color but it didn't make me happy when I saw it so I changed it.

So why pink? Maybe it's because without Rickie I feel I'm a fainter shade of the red I like. Maybe because it's a softer version of the warm colors I go to, and without Rickie I've faded a bit. Maybe, although we don't do boy-girl colors in our family, it's because with me working on this project without Rickie it's a nod to girl power.

Maybe I just tired of other colors and wanted a change.

Originally I brought home a hot pink color and tried a sample. But it was too jarring when I saw it each time. So I mixed a bit of it with some white I had and got the color I used. Maybe I'll later step up to a darker shade but maybe not. This is a peaceful color and changes with the light, sometimes looking purple. And that's a nod to the pump house door Rickie liked, if not the bright purple it was.

I need a bench for the small new deck. Maybe I'll paint it the hot pink.


(Though I mixed this color by adding Hot Gossip to Marshmallow, it almost perfectly matches a Behr color called Youth Blush.)


Tuesday, August 11, 2015

From Tiny House To Small House

There's no changing my mind now. For better or worse, the tiny house now has a 344 sq ft addition!

The carpenters from Spring Branch Trading Post got the job done in 5 days, working late most days to finish. Spring Branch built the original cabin shell, plus the bunkhouse shell, and a couple of sheds we have.  They're very reasonably priced and the people are great. 

The first night the foundation was done and most of the stud walls were up. It was a few days before the full blue moon and from the window by my bed it glowed with moonlight. It's been my plan that, though I will move our bed into the addition, I will probably keep sleeping on a twin bed I plan to use in place of a sofa in the cabin. I've always slept here and it's by the fireplace, which is nice in the winter. If you've ever lost a loved one you know there is a tendency not to want to change things. But when I saw the room lit with moonlight, I wanted to move the bed right then. And dance in the moonlight again. (Dancin' In The Moonlight 2014)

Then the next night as I looked out the window, I started to cry. What had I done? Why did I add this? It changes things. I wanted to just tear it all down and go back. As if going back would make things like they were before. When I was happy. When I had Rickie.

By the third day, my swing high, swing low moods were pretty much passed and I settled down to dealing with the here and now. I could not have asked for a better team, a father and son, to put the shell up. Not only did they get the job done, they had an appreciation for the wildlife and natural world we have here. Most people living this way do, or else they go somewhere else. 

This country, more so than hospitable moderate places, requires a certain toughness of the people that live here. It requires and deserves to be inhabited by people that love it deeply. It's not the kind of country that can get along with indifferent caretakers. I try to live up to its expectations.

I'm waiting now on contractors to do the things I can't. Extend the AC duct work, electrical, and plumbing. I'm back and forth on whether to finish the bathroom. Yesterday I was definitely not going to do it and today I am going to. So, we'll see. I can't begin most of my work until these things are done.

In the meantime I've replaced the doorknobs with ones I like better. I have an old glass set we bought years ago that I've been holding for the right time. I'm using it on the door to the addition. Right now I'm waiting on some missing set screws I had to order online. Modern ones at the hardware store don't have the right thread size. I need to decide what to do with the door. It's kind of boring as it is but I don't want it to compete with the mesquite fireplace mantel we have.

The way I asked them to add the room gives an odd shaped little area outside by the chimney. It's a little place with several turns. I'm going to put a little ledge/deck there to fill the space in and make it easier to skirt. Yesterday I knocked down the stone skirting that was there. I have my lumber so I'm getting ready to do that project. 

I'm going to skirt the addition with corrugated metal. Rickie and I used that to skirt the bunkhouse. We weren't sure how to add it so we created our own method but I was trying to find a better way. So I asked the carpenter and he told me to make some frames and attach to the underside of the room. This gives support to the bottom and sides of the metal. I got the pressure treated lumber and as soon as the contractors finish I can do that. John and Zac said they are going to come help me when it's time. They are both good carpenters so the work should go fast!

Several times a day I have doubts about working without Rickie. I say to myself what the hell was I thinking!! But then I hear his voice in my head telling me I can do it, as he always did. He never doubted we could do something, even when we didn't know what we were doing! 

I've told you before about the little injured doe that I call Tougher Than Leather. She's been disappearing for long periods of time these months since Rickie died. Every time I think she is a goner, she shows back up. She gives me courage. A few day ago, after missing for many weeks and presumed dead, she showed up right outside the yard fence. And she had a little fawn with her! 

This morning out the back door I saw a picture of what courage is. She was walking her slow, painful (and heartbreaking to watch) limp across the back pasture. A few feet behind her, matching her pace, was her baby. When she paused the baby paused. It broke my heart at the same time it made me happy. 

This country requires a certain toughness of the people - and the animals and plants - that live here. I'm trying to live up to its expectations.